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Hurricane Irma Relief Efforts Continue; Irma Takes Aim at Georgia, Carolinas After Slamming Florida. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired September 11, 2017 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon, and welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Irma's destruction is not over yet ,as the former hurricane, now tropical storm, is continuing north with millions of Americans still in its path. Right now, streets in downtown Jacksonville, Florida, are so flooded that the National Weather Service says this flooding has surpassed the city's previous flooding record from 1864, the year before the Lincoln assassination.

And a short time ago, Governor Rick Scott of Florida said some of the storm surge across the Sunshine State reached eight to 10 feet high, and the governor also warned that the biggest threat remains river flooding, especially in the northern part of the state.

In Charleston, South Carolina, heavy rains are causing a flash flood emergency, with widespread flooding being reported in downtown.

Navy ships loaded with supplies are headed to the Florida Keys right now, where Irma of course made its first U.S. landfall yesterday morning, and the second landfall has left all of Marco Island in Florida without power or water, according to authorities.

In Miami, the streets, of course, yesterday became raging rivers. Miami International Airport remains closed. Even at points inland, where many from the coast evacuated to, well, those spots were not spared either, and in the Orlando area, 125 rescues were made in a single hour today.

And now 65 percent of the state of Florida, and that is six million customers, are without power. It could take weeks before that power is fully restored.

CNN has a team of correspondents spread out across the southeast, where the storm went and where it is headed now.

And we're going to begin in Northwest Florida, where we will find CNN's Kaylee Hartung. She's

And, Kaylee, the rain has apparently stopped there, but you been watching the rain get worse over the last few hours. Tell us about it.


We have watched the waters rise over the course of the day. The waters here are still two blocks inland as the Saint Johns River pours into downtown Jacksonville, but, if you can believe it, this is a better scene than what we saw a couple of hours ago.

The best way to illustrate, this pile of debris you can see over here at the edge of this parking lot. That is how high the waters of the Saint Johns River came into downtown Jacksonville.

Where we are standing outside of the Omni Hotel, as you said, unprecedented for anybody to see anything in this area of this nature, but it has been explained to me that this curvature of the Saint Johns River behind me is one of the narrowest points of the river, and so not surprising to many that this could be an area where the storm surge could push water up.

But no one ever anticipated that it could come up this far. With these waters being as unpredictable as we know they can be, local officials are saying go up, but not out, but many people not heeding those warnings.

You can folks here to my left taking some photos and taking in the sights downtown. What we have learned from a lot of people in the area -- like said, I'm just outside of the Omni Hotel -- people came here because they thought it was a safe place to shelter.

People from other parts of Florida, whether it be down south, Boca Raton, or Hollywood, or even Ponte Vedra, not far from here, but now these waters are rolling up right here onshore, Jake, of what Jacksonville will see next.

TAPPER: All right, Kaylee Hartung in Jacksonville, stay safe. And thank you.



TAPPER: Irma continues to pound Charleston, South Carolina, right now, where flash flood warnings have been issued, of course.

And joining me now on the phone is the mayor of Charleston, John Tecklenburg.

Mr. Mayor, thanks for joining us.

Tell us about state of conditions on the ground right now.


And Tom mentioned Charlotte a couple times. We're Charleston, of course. And we got a little extra water here right now we could share with Charlotte if they needed it. But we have had a remarkable event, with storm surge really occurring

over 200 miles away from the center of this storm, and the wind came from offshore and continued to push water into Charleston Harbor.

We say that we have is one of the best natural ports on the East Coast, so ships can easily come in and out. Well, water has been coming in, and it hasn't easily been getting out because of the wind pushing it in.

But here is the big difference between this year and last year With Hurricane Matthew. This event occurred exactly at high tide midday today. And a year ago, even though we had a direct hit from Matthew, it happened at exactly low tide, and that six-foot differential in tide made a world of difference in the amount of flooding that we have received.

TAPPER: Mr. Mayor, what are your biggest concerns in these immediate hours coming up?

TECKLENBURG: Well, in the immediate hours, I'm just a little concerned about the tide going back out.

It is not going -- decreasing, as it normally would, because winds have continued to push into the harbor. And so we may have to wait a cycle or two before we really get the drainage, when low tide occurs.

We stand ready. We have pumps, and as soon as the tide goes out, and we're able to pump out and drain out, then we are going to clean up, and we will be back to normal.

My heart goes out to those in the Caribbean and Florida that have really sustained a lot more damage than we have. We are going to be just fine after we dry out. But it has been a unique event.

TAPPER: And what is your message for the good citizens of Charleston?

TECKLENBURG: For the rest of the day, stay put still until this storm passes, and when it does, we are all going to clean up and we're going to get back to normal real quick, and invite everybody to come visit us in Charleston, as we love to do.

TAPPER: All right, Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it. Good luck to you and your city.

Coming up, sailboats on football fields, planes flipped upside down like toys, trees ripped out of the ground like weeds.


A look at the damage and destruction left in the wake of Irma as the storm moves into Georgia and South Carolina -- that story next.



MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The entire marine is completely devoid of any seawater.


TAPPER: Take a look at that shot.

We're back with the national lead.

Look at this. That was yesterday in Punta Gorda, Florida, just north of Fort Myers, Florida. You're looking at CNN's Miguel Marquez. He's standing in what was a marina as Irma came ashore yesterday.

The winds were so strong, they pushed most of the water. Boats were left sitting in mud.

Miguel is now back at that same marina in Punta Gorda.

Miguel, how does it look today?

MARQUEZ: A heck of a lot different.

And it blows my mind how powerful this storm was. So, I was in the same place yesterday, except about five feet over and about 12 feet down. This entire marina was nothing but mud.

[16:15:03] People who have lived there their entire -- here their lives haven't seen this, even when Hurricane Charlie blew through here 13 years ago. That did not happen to this marina, and Irma is still raging.


MARQUEZ (voice-over): The entire (INAUDIBLE) Irma slamming Florida with heavy winds, strong rains, and it is still on the move, making its way up the southeastern edge of the U.S.

Now weakened to a tropical storm, the danger is not yet over. Streets flooded from the Florida Keys to South Carolina. Tonight, more than 6.5 million people are without power in Florida alone.

Jacksonville hit with a record Irma-generated surge turning the streets into rivers. Storm surge warnings in effect for much of the western Florida coast and the entire Georgia coast. Charleston now feeling Irma's wrath as the waves crashed onto its shores.

Ripping through the middle of Florida late Sunday, Irma battered the entire state with sustained winds and massive wind gusts. Rescue efforts continue for those who stayed to wait out the storm.

In Martin County, Florida's treasure coast, a marine unit dispatched after two people tried to ride out the storm on their sailboat. They survived. And a scuba diver, his life dangling by a rope, rescued near West Palm Beach.

The storm delivering more than just destruction. Coral Springs emergency crews were called out to help deliver a baby in the height of the storm, using their armored vehicle to navigate through strong winds and high water.

Miami streets flooded and left with huge sinkholes, leaving hazardous conditions as the cars tried to steer through the murky waters.

The devastation felt across the Caribbean where the category five hurricane made landfall, killing at least 36 people in its path, including at least 10 in Cuba as it passed over the Caribbean island over the weekend.

The cost of the damages is yet to be assessed. One estimate, it will top Hurricane Katrina even before it hit Florida.


MARQUEZ: Now, the people here in Punta Gorda really dodged a bullet yesterday when Irma sort of jogged to the right or eastward a just little bit sparing them a direct blow. There is about over 60 percent, over 60 percent of the people in Charlotte County are without electricity. They are cleaning up a lot of trees downed and there is some local flooding. But thankfully, that is the worst of it here -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Miguel Marquez, thank you so much.

Naples, Florida, of course, did take a direct hit from then Hurricane Irma. We're going to talk to the mayor next about the state of his city. Stay with us.


[16:21:58] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD and we are continuing our coverage of tropical storm Irma, as it continues its path north.

But just last night, of course, the eye of the storm was over Naples on the west coast of Florida. You can see in this clip, Chris Cuomo getting hammered by wind and rain as then Hurricane Irma barreled toward and through the city of Naples. Today, officials there are beginning to get a sense of the damage.

And joining me now on the phone is the mayor of Naples, Bill Barnett.

Mr. Mayor, thanks for joining us. What's your biggest concern right now, sir?

MAYOR BILL BARNETT, NAPLES, FLORIDA (via telephone): Believe it or not, power. You know, we're -- it's hot, and we -- us along with 5 million other Floridians are without power, and they are saying that it could be maybe up to a week. And it gets -- you know, it makes it difficult on top of the damage that we have sustained yesterday, and to be without power is really going be -- you know, it just gets ugly, that is all.

TAPPER: The eye of the storm obviously passed through your city last night, do you have a sense of how extensive physical damage is to the structures are? And also, how are the people of Naples? BARNETT: Well, sure. The people of Naples are really doing well.

The early evacuation helped, and Harvey was a real wakeup call. I don't -- I didn't see any complacency, with getting out. And those that didn't or chose not to, a lot them went to the shelters, and we had 27 shelters here, and people were great.

As far as the -- as far as the damage, it's just very depressing to ride around with neighborhoods that we can't get into yet, because of some flooding, and fortunately, we did not get the huge storm surge, you know. But still, flooding and trees blocking streets, and just -- all of the beauty just seemed to have been kind of sucked out of the city. And it's going to be a massive cleanup, and, you know, it can only be worse.

So, I listen to you, and I look into parts of the states that have been hit a lot worse than us, but it still -- it was definitely not a pleasant experience that one wants to go through.

TAPPER: All right. Mr. Mayor, stay in touch. We know that the beauty of Naples will return, and we want to stay in touch with you. Thank you so much for your time today.

BARNETT: Thank you so much. Bye-bye.

TAPPER: Many places in Florida are getting their first look at the damage left behind by Irma. CNN's Bill Weir is in the Florida Keys, which is one of the hardest hit areas.

Bill, what's it like there?

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, it is devastating, and we have not seen the worst of it yet. We are in one of the ritzier neighborhoods of Key Largo, with proof that when it comes to destruction, Irma did not discriminate based on the class.

[16:25:04] The very latest on the search and rescue efforts beyond the damage here, they are looking for bodies down south, and the Navy is going to help out. Details when we come back.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

As Irma once a hurricane and now a tropical storm moves north, we are starting to get our first looks at its catastrophic damage to the Florida Keys. Homes, businesses, boats, livelihoods ripped to shreds after then Hurricane Irma made it first Florida landfall on the Keys as a powerful category four hurricane.

Getting to the Keys can be a challenge. The storm damaged some bridges that connect the island.

CNN's Bill Weir has been in the keys throughout much of the storm. He joins me now from Key Largo.

Bill, walk us through what you're seeing? WEIR: Well, Jake, we are going up and down the coast, really just

trying to find a strong enough cell signal to report back to you. That's how we powered these live shots, and we just happened to find one in the richest neighborhoods of Key Largo. If you can imagine, these are all multimillion dollar homes, with pools on their backyards.