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A Million in the Carolinas, Virginia Under Mandatory Evacuation Ahead of Florence; FEMA: Act Now and Get Out; Hurricane Threatens 9 Hazardous Waste Sites in Carolina. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 12, 2018 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I know, so sweet. We have to put it in one of those glass cases and put it in the nursery.


HARLOW: Good job, dad.

Thanks for being here. I appreciate it. We will keep an eye on the games.

Thank you for being with me today. I'm Poppy Harlow, in New York.

"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

We do begin with breaking news on Hurricane Florence. The monster storm changes course and a critical new update just in. And 20 million people are in the storm's path. The latest projected forecast shows the powerful category 4 hurricane shifting south. That means South Carolinians wake up this morning to a much more serious threat than yesterday afternoon. Some highways in South Carolina have turned into one-way streets, all lanes dedicated to a mass evacuation.

A million people in the Carolinas and Virginia are under orders to leave the coast and go inland.

North Carolina's governor putting it in pretty stark terms, telling me this.


ROY COOPER, (D), NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR: Do not try to ride out a monster. You put your own lives at risk and you put the lives at risk of first responders who may have to try and rescue you.


BOLDUAN: That from North Carolina's governor.

This is the view from space of Hurricane Florence. You can see the hurricane's eye very clearly, sharp and ominous. One forecaster with the National Weather Service says the Carolina coast could be facing the storm of a lifetime, is how they put it.

We have teams fanned out across the region for you covering the storm and the growing threat to millions of people.

I want to start with Meteorologist Chad Myers. There's a new update just in from the National Hurricane Center, just in. He's joining me right now.

Chad, what is the latest on Florence?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The big change in the 11:00 advisory compared to the 5:00 a.m. is the forward speed, 15 miles per hour. Earlier it was 17. That doesn't seem like a big difference but we know this thing was planning on slowing down anyway because of the lack of flow currents to push it along. Right now, we are still 130 miles per hour and the track is still pretty much on track to where we were yesterday. This storm hasn't moved very much. We are still kind of spinning in the middle of the Atlantic in warm water. Not the warmest water in the Atlantic but getting a little bit warmer by tomorrow morning and still has a chance to get stronger. Maybe 145, 140 as it approaches Wilmington. That is still exactly where we were yesterday.

Here is where things changed overnight. Not planning on moving up towards North Carolina and making all of that rainfall. It's planning on turning to the left. The left. Who ever thought of that? How can it be turning to the left? There's nothing to turn it there. If fact, there isn't, and that's the point. There's nothing to move it here. The sky just said, I don't have more wind for you, I'm not moving you along, you are just going to have to drift by yourself. That is what it is going to do.

There are still some models that have it in the ocean by this time still gaining strength and making landfall further to the south. There's just not a perfect scenario yet. After 48 hours, this isn't a perfect scenario. I know it is terrible to not know whether you should leave or not. Here's the reason why. We have had the low right here. This is the big high pressure and it's pushing it that way. You see the round rings. It's always going to go that way. All of a sudden, I will push this ahead another day. We move towards the coast and the rings aren't there anymore. There's a high here. There's kind of a high here keeping it to the south. There's some wind here. But nothing that's pushing it along. And then we go one more day and it says, OK, well, now we really have a problem. Now we have winds that are north of here not allowing the storm to go that way. We have winds east of here not allowing the storm to go backwards. And then we have this doing this so the storm can't go to the left. It sits there and it travels slightly to the south. We'll see what happens after that. That is 72 hours away. We have to take that under control. We have to keep our 24/48 hour forecast under our heads because that is what we know is going to happen. After that, it is basically something we have to hope for the best.

If you need to leave it is time to go today. Governors are telling everybody, if that turn to the left makes you mad or makes you nervous, go. BOLDUAN: Slows down and sits there. These are not words that you

want to hear when you are in the path of this storm. That's what a lot of folks, millions of folks, are facing right now as Hurricane Florence moves along.

Chad, thank you so much. We'll check back in throughout the day.

Let's go to the ground now.

First, to North Carolina. CNN's Kaylee Hartung is in Carolina Beach, North Carolina, an island community south of Wilmington.

Kaylee, where you are could soon be cut off. What are you seeing there now?

[11:04:55] KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kate. North Carolina's governor saying disaster is at our door step and it is coming in. These beach front shops in Carolina Beach are starting that process. If you look behind me, in a couple of minutes, these sub shop owners will be among the last to board up their doors. We have sand bags to my right. How prepared can you be when you are expecting life-threatening storm surge here? The sand berms at the beach are 12 foot high. Those are expected to be toppled. You are talking about life-threatening and catastrophic flash flooding and hurricane-force winds on this barrier island and many like it along the North Carolina coast.

There's an 8:00 p.m. deadline that the clock is ticking towards, a mandatory evacuation order for this island. Once 8:00 p.m. rolls around here, there will be a 24-hour curfew for anyone who chooses to stay. The bridge, the one way on or off this island, will be shut down at 8:00 p.m. or when winds reach 25 miles per hour sustained winds, whichever comes first.

The mayor here telling me he believes about 50 percent of the 6,300 people who live here have gotten off the island. He anticipates about 100 people who will try to ride out the storm. Those folks if they are still here at 8:00 p.m. tonight will get a knock on their door from local officials and then will be asked for contact information for their next of kin. The town manager telling me it is not meant to be a scare tactic. He wants to have a very serious conversation with the people who say they want to take the risk of staying here, reminding them it is a life-threatening risk that they take if they try to ride out the storm here -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Officials are taking no chances, all the precautions you can see. You see all of the buildings being boarded up as you were walking along.

Kaylee, thank you so much.

Let's go to South Carolina where the governor has ordered the coast to evacuate. CNN's Nick Valencia is outside Myrtle Beach in Conway, South Carolina.

Nick, I see cars on both sides of you, obviously, heading one way, away from the coast. What are you seeing and hearing?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a main thoroughfare, Kate, out of Myrtle Beach. We are about 20 miles inland in Conway, South Carolina. These lanes have been reversed. All of these cars that you see are evacuating currently. They are heeding the precautions.

We want to bring in the city administrator here.

Adam Emrick, thank you for taking the time with CNN. Appreciate it.


VALENCIA: What kind of preparations are going on right now?

EMRICK: In Conway, we are a historic river city. We are located on the banks of the Waccamaw River, which we know will flood probably in this hurricane. It's flooded in other hurricanes. We are preparing for the flood. We are making sure low-lying areas, the people that live in those areas know this is coming and know to evacuate if they want to evacuate. We are not in an evacuation zone. Our job is to facilitate the evacuation and make sure we're prepared for the storm.

VALENCIA: One of the things we are hearing from the mayor of Myrtle Beach is that the hospitals will be closed, emergency rooms will be closed. That will put a little more on you guys here if people get injured. Are you guys going to help out?

EMRICK: Absolutely. Our hospital here will be open. We are not in the evacuation zone. We are open and ready and as prepared as we can be, we're prepared. And we're ready to go.

VALENCIA: You talked about you have been through this scenario before. This is a coastal city. Have you guys recuperated from the past storms? For those who have gone through this and saying this is just another hurricane, we'll stick this out, we talked to a lot of them yesterday, what do you tell them?

EMRICK: I don't think this is another hurricane. We have been through several. But this will be different. This will be worse. We need to prepare for the worse. Hurricane Matthew was pretty scary to a lot of people. It came on as a category 1. We had a lot of flooding and wind. This is going to be more and we need to be prepared for that.

VALENCIA: We wish you the best of luck. I know a lot of people are watching at home keeping an eye on this storm. We really hope you guys staff safe.

Kate, this is what is going on in real time here. Lots of cars moving.

It is worth noting that police tell us that traffic is a little bit lighter. You see it has lightened up here during our report. They attribute that to people getting out of town already. Even still there are some that remain trying to get out before this storm lands -- Kate? BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Nick, thank you so much, preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.

Someone definitely doing that right now, let me bring in the mayor of Myrtle Beach, Mayor Brenda Bethune. She's joining me on the phone.

Mayor, can you hear me?

BRENDA BETHUNE, (R), MYRTLE BEACH MAYOR (via telephone): I can. Good morning.

BOLDUAN: Thank you for coming in.

Where is your biggest focus right now?

BETHUNE: Right now, our biggest focus is to make sure that businesses are secured, that people are continuing to evacuate. Today is the last day that people will have to get their important items together, their papers, and to leave town. So we are stressing today the critical need for people to leave Myrtle Beach. This is not the place where you want to be.

BOLDUAN: Mayor, are people listening to the warning? Are you getting the sense that people are heeding the warning or are people telling you they will stick around?

BETHUNE: We always have a few that say they will not leave. Our focus right now is just to keep pushing this message out. I hope that people are paying attention to the news, to what is going on, and how the storm has changed. This morning was a huge difference for us, like waking up to a sucker punch. We need to take this very seriously. This storm is massive. It's catastrophic. I don't say that to create panic. I say it to create a sense of urgency that people do need to take action and evacuate.

[11:10:26] BOLDUAN: You have said today that you guys are evacuating hospitals and nursing homes. That's a massive undertaking anytime. What does that all entail and how is that going?

BETHUNE: That requires a lot of coordination and it has gone very well, but the process is complete. Our local Grand Strand Hospital, which is a HAS affiliate, they worked with their other hospitals to accept patients. And the nursing homes did the same. Of course, our first responders helped to transport when needed. We are now focusing on our elderly, making sure that we can get to the people who cannot get to a shelter. Today we will be trying to find out if there are people left that do need help.

I encourage those of you who have decided to stay, if you know someone who needs help, please make sure that they get it especially our elderly.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Mayor, as you mentioned, this morning was like waking up to a sucker

punch with the change in the track. It can change again, of course. As Chad Myers was laying out, this is a very unusual storm. One thing that they are saying is it is slowing down and it has a chance of just sitting, essentially, and battering the coast for what could be a couple of days. How bad could that be for Myrtle Beach?

BETHUNE: That could be significant damage for Myrtle Beach, especially with the water. I don't know if this is right for me to say or not, I'm not as much worried about the wind at this point, but it is the water that truly concerns me, especially when we look at the storm surge and the amount of time that Florence is going to be just stalled over us. That's why I think it is so important for people to really pay attention to what is going on and listen to these warnings.

BOLDUAN: One meteorologist I was speaking to yesterday was saying, up in North Carolina, he was in Wrightsville Beach, and he was said this shore line could maybe never look the same again if this storm comes through and does the damage that they're looking at. Do you think there's a chance that your shore line never looks the same again?

BETHUNE: I don't know that I want to go there right now. I'm trying to stay focused on what we need to do today, what is ahead of us today. I know that we have the best team in place with our crews here in Myrtle Beach, with our county. Our governor, McMaster, has been incredibly supportive. So has our federal government. And I feel very confident and a sense of peace that whatever the aftermath of this storm is, whatever our coast line looks like, we will rebuild. We are Myrtle Beach Strong and we will continue to be. We will be OK.

BOLDUAN: Mayor, thank you so much for coming on. Good luck. You have a very tough couple days ahead. We'll check back in with you. Thank you so much.

BETHUNE: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, one last ferry boat is on its way to evacuate folks from the Carolina coast before Hurricane Florence hits. CNN's Brian Todd is there. That's next.


[11:18:15] BOLDUAN: We are following breaking news. Hurricane Florence now expected to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast. That is the sobering description coming from FEMA this morning. As this monster storm barrels that way, FEMA says it cannot stress enough that people need to act now and evacuate because time is running out.

CNN's Brian Todd is in Swan Quarter, North Carolina.

Brian, what are you seeing there?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the place where we are standing is Swan Quarter, North Carolina. This is a ferry landing here. This represents one of the final destinations where people can come to, to get out of a crucial area, a barrier island that will be isolated once the storm hits. Ocracoke Island is about 25 miles east of here. The only way to get on and off the island in normal circumstances is by boat. Just a few minutes ago, this ferry landed with dozens of cars offloading, several people offloading. It was full. Just a few minutes later -- I will take you to this ferry landing over here. Again, Ocracoke Island we are told has evacuated about 2,000 people so far. That includes visitors to the island. There are about 900 permanent residents on the island, we are told.

I just talked to the commissioner of Hyde County where Ocracoke is located. He is staying on the island. He said he estimates about 200 people are still there and are going to stay. In less than an hour, the last ferry will come to one of the terminals and that will be it. There will not be more ferries today or tomorrow. They have to moor them after that and make sure they can ride out the storm, Kate. This is where they moor the ferries. These two ferries have already come in. They are done. This one is probably done. It will be moored over here. And another boat coming in, we think, around noon, maybe a little bit after. That will be the last chance for people to get off that island.

We talked to people who are staying. A lot are concerned about trying to get back to their homes after the storm. That is one reason they are going to stay. They want to ride it out. A lot of them have been here for other hurricanes and they think they can endure this despite all the warnings, Kate. But a lot of them are about to be stranded.

[11:20:17] BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Brian, thank you so much. Really appreciate that.

Joining me right now to give another perspective on the storm and what could be coming, from Southport, North Carolina, is Logan Poole. He is a field meteorologist for Weather Nation.

Logan, you are about to go up in a helicopter over what could be the bull's eye of where the storm will make landfall where we going to see a lot of these impacts. What are you looking for?

LOGAN POOLE, FIELD METEOROLGOIST, WEATHER NATION: We want to see the preparations being done. We want to see that everybody has done what they need to do and has boards up and ready to go. Like you said, here in Southport, it could be in a really bad spot, potentially being impacted by wind and surge and all of those hurricane aspects that we are anticipating as Florence moves northwest and officially comes here by Thursday night or Friday morning.

BOLDUAN: So the storm right now in the 11:00 a.m. update it looks like it is slowing down a bit and is still on the path where it could just cover and essentially sit on the coast for a couple of days. What is that going to look like? What is that going to mean for folks in North Carolina?

POOLE: Put into a word, disaster. It is bad enough already when you have a hurricane coming in that keeps on moving through. That is the standard procedure for a hurricane. It comes in, goes north and goes away. It's bad, but it leaves. When you have something that sits and spins and spins and spins, particularly this close to water, that means not only will it continue to push the high wind and surf into the land, but it will dump tremendous amounts of rainfall. Being in the vicinity of the ocean, it will not weaken too terribly fast. It is a dire situation. The forecasts don't get any worse than what we are saying right now.

If you are in the area in the path of the storm, even several dozens, maybe a hundred miles to the side of it, you have to be rushing the preparations to completion because this is going to be one of those that goes up in the record books regardless of how it pans out now.

BOLDUAN: What the talk is now is three or four feet of rain and flooding that is going to -- three or four feet of rain and like a storm surge in the double digits in some of the areas. I don't want to imagine what that is going to look like. This is kind of Harvey- esque in terms of the flooding in the way it is slow moving seems to be -- would you say even more of a concern than the wind right now?

POOLE: When you say the word Harvey-esque, there's two ways. Oh, no, that's impossible. But, man, when you see a storm of this nature that comes in and sits still for days and has the open Atlantic and the gulf stream, very warm water to continue to power in that moisture, it really could be that bad. Not only that, the geography in the Carolinas goes up very rapidly into the Appalachians and Smoky Mountains and the western portions of those states. So that is going to help create rainfall even much further inland and higher volumes than maybe elsewhere. When you have the steep terrain, you have the issue for water to run quickly. We can't stress enough how dire the situation is right now. I don't want to sound like we are trying to overhype anything but I don't think you can. It is bad.

BOLDUAN: Logan, you have been in a lot of storms so this is saying something. They will start feeling the effects, I think, tomorrow morning. People will start feeling the winds. What are you going to be watching for as this starts getting closer to the coast to gauge how bad things are going to be?

POOLE: We will keep an eye on our observations. We have hurricane hunter aircraft reconnaissance planes that fly in on a regular basis. As the storm gets closer, they are going to fly more and more. They're flying out of Atlanta, Georgia, right now. They are feeding us real-time data as they are looking at the storm there. It is not like we are guessing what is going on. As the real-time data comes in, we watch the satellite, we watch our computer guide kind of shifting around and kind of give us an idea of what's going on. We will be keeping a really close eye on it to figure out what exactly is going to happen.

[11:24:23] BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And we're right there with you.

Logan Poole, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

Coming up for us, as Hurricane Florence heads for the Carolinas, right where Logan is, concerns now about nine hazardous waste sites along the coast line. What is being done to protect the sites? We will get a live report. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: We are staying on top of the breaking news of Hurricane Florence shifting its track along the Carolinas, but no less a threat. The monster storm is now threatening nine hazardous waste sites along the Carolina coast, known as superfund sites. Federal Emergency Management officials briefed reporters on this just a short time ago.

Let's go to CNN's Rene Marsh who has the details on this.

Rene, this was a big concern after Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. What are FEMA officials saying now?

[11:29:53] RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION & GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Kate, aside from hammering home that today is the last safe day to evacuate, they made it clear that they are paying attention to a wide variety of factors. This Hurricane Florence, they do know that the storm surge will be an issue. That storm surge threatens to unleash toxic chemicals in the area, the Carolinas.