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Report: Donald Trump Denies 3000 People Died in Puerto Rico During Hurricane; Outer Band of Hurricane Florence Reaches Coast of North Carolina; CNN Reporters Are Live on The Scene at Carolina Beaches; Many Defy Mandatory Evacuation Orders as Storm Nears. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 13, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The president is now denying the truth. He's just making this up saying 3,000 people did not die. Bill Weir is in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for a special he's going to be airing next week about the one-year anniversary of the storm and how Puerto Rico is doing. Bill, I can't imagine what people who have lost friends and loved ones in San Juan and elsewhere in Puerto Rico think about the president of the United States denying that 3,000 Puerto Ricans, or nearly 3,000 Puerto Ricans have died as a result of this storm.

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's the latest in a string of abhorrent affronts to the folks here who have suffered misery that most of us would never imagine. Let's be honest. If it had happened in Iowa where they didn't have power for eight months and were drinking rainwater, this wouldn't even be the tragedy it is now. But you're right, George Washington University, the School of Public Health using their best science, using death certificates came up with the number of 2975 putting it on par with 9/11, making it the deadliest storm in American history. That's the big picture thing. I spent time this morning with one very personal story. If you remember our coverage from a year ago you remember Miguel and Deanna. Their home had nearly been -- completely crushed by a falling high-tension line. They huddled together in their living room. They said good-bye to each other, this couple of 50 years of marriage. But they survived.

Miguel had half a vial of insulin in a powerless refrigerator. The VA saw the report and got him medicine. He stabilized. But a few months later the stress, the fumes from the generator, Miguel passed away on their 50th anniversary. I went to check on his widow Deanna to see how she is doing. She told me FEMA sent her a check for $1700 but it was in her husband's name so she gave it back. They offered to reimburse her for the funeral and she denied it. There's no profit motive. She's most emotional about the fact that the VA gave her husband of 50 years a military honor at his funeral. They gave her the flag. She teared up when she talked about that because ultimately that's all she wanted, was the respect deserved to a Vietnam veteran.

And read I read her President Trump's tweet today, she said how could he say something like that? How could he doubt that so many people died? It's there, everyone knows it. He has no respect for people's emotions. He's worthless, he's crazy. And these are words from a woman very soft spoken, Abuela, a grandmother who I'm sure does not say these things lightly but for her it's not about getting her husband's name on the official death toll, which it isn't. Miguel, you could argue, should be on that list. It should be 2976 if we include him but that doesn't matter to her. All she wants is a little bit of compassion, a little bit of empathy, a little bit of respect for a Vietnam veteran. Anderson?

COOPER: Respect is such an important word and such -- again, respect for the dead, respect for the living whose lives have been forever changed. Bill, I'm glad you're there. We'll have more throughout the next week and more. We have continuing storm coverage right now.

The top of the hour, I'm Anderson Cooper in Wilmington, North Carolina, along with don lemon in myrtle beach, South Carolina, Chris Cuomo in North Myrtle Beach. This is our special coverage of Hurricane Florence. Today it begins. After days of warnings, the Carolina coast are feeling the first band, just the first inkling of what could be the worst storm to hit this area in 30 years. This is a huge, huge storm. Moments ago, a new paper out on where the winds are. The area is predicted to pummel, it's now gotten bigger. It's doubled in size from first forecast. Listen to what winds sounds like at just 55 miles an hour. Winds are just one of the storm's triple threat. This area could see catastrophic storm surge. The downpour is expected to be relentless, estimated 10 trillion gallons of rain. In Wilmington, they're talking about getting eight-month's worth of rain over three days and they've already had a lot of rain this year. We're covering Hurricane Florence up and down the coast with crews all over.

But first let's go to our CNN weather center, our meteorologist Jennifer Grey. So, the national weather service just issued its 2 PM Eastern update. What have we learned?

[14:05:00] JENNIFER GREY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The storm is maintaining its intensity, it still has winds of over 100 miles an hour. 105 gusts of 125 moving to the northwest at 10. It's expected to slow down as we've been talking about and, like you mentioned, this storm is very, very big. The winds aren't going to matter as much knowing if they're 105 or 120 because it's the duration of the storm that makes this one so unique because structures could withstand 100 miles per hour if the storm comes and goes but the fact that it will sit here for 24 to 36 hours, a lot of structures won't take a beating like that for so long. 100 miles an hour winds tomorrow morning and then sit along the North Carolina coast Friday afternoon into Saturday, Saturday afternoon, possibly pushing into South Carolina so the storm surge, the flooding is what is the hugest concern with this storm.

Only 8 percent of people die from wind in tropical systems, in hurricanes. More than 75 percent die from the storm surge and the water. That hasn't changed regardless of the category. The storm is so big and has so much momentum and all of that is heading towards the coast. Those outer bands already reaching the coast and so it's all downhill from here. This has begun. We are starting to see the first impacts and the center of the storm is about 100 miles from Wilmington. Current wind gusts 5 3 miles per hour in Beaufort and the wind will be relentless. 20 to 30 inches of rain expected over the next several days as the storm parks itself, but let me remind you the storm surge is going to be one of the biggest threats with this because it is going to last through several high tide circles. The tide is going to come up, and Anderson, the it too won't be able to come back down because the water is continuing to push. And so, the storm surge is going to pile on itself over the next 24 to 36 hours and I was looking at one of the river gauges near where you are, near Wilmington and it's forecasted to reach a record, as we were talking about earlier, at 24 feet, higher than Floyd and at that level many of the roads are going to be impassable. Several of the roads will be under seven feet of water and many of the homes in that area will be inundated and that is one of the biggest fears with this storm.

COOPER: It's unimaginable to think of Wilmington, eight months worth of rain in just three days. I was talking to the mayor about the effects that's going to have in a lot of different areas. Chris, that's one of the big concerns that the mayor in Wilmington had and I assume folks there have as well. People thinking once the storm passes the worst is over but with all the water on the ground, a lot of bad things happen when you have deep water and power lines down. There's no telling how long this water could stay on the ground in some areas.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: That's an excellent point, something that they can't really predict but they know they have to worry about. Look, you have three waves. You have right now in the calm before the storm. Florence is going to come. She's going to make her impact felt. You'll have storm surge that, Jay, if you want to pan to the left here it's going to take out the bottom of many of these homes here. They were all gone because of Hugo back in the '80s. Now they're built on stilts. This first level you see, that's what they're expecting in storm surge.

So that wave happens, now what's the second wave? Duration of rain. As you said, eight months worth in three days. What's the third level? Water draining from areas in what has been a rainy period. What is that telling you? It's not water anymore, it's ok to sick so-- toxic soup, it's sewage. If you made the decision to stay, you have a problem. That takes us to the big concern in north myrtle beach, South Carolina. If you can go to the wide shot we set up on our house, look at the people down here, Anderson. They tell us, local officials, they believe there are 85 percent emptied out and they're saying these are the last people. We have seen a lot of people here in a mandatory evacuation zone and let's be very clear, this isn't a shame campaign, we care about one another in situations like this.

[14:10:00] There are so many kids, people staying behind because of their pets or their elderly or they're worried about not getting back so there are hundreds of people on the beach right now. There's a police pickup truck here. What happens when they can't so there are hundreds of people on the beach right now. There's a police pickup truck here. What happens when they can't leave? What happens when for 30 hours of wind and water this beach is gone? What they're calling a sand dune is a joke, it's grass that will stop maybe a foot or two of surge for a while. This could get bad quickly and stay that way. That's why this is a mandatory evacuation zone. Even mandatory doesn't mean they can lawfully force you out of your home and community so they've had to put a curfew in place. It will be from 7:00 to 7:00. So at least they can keep people inside when these bands above our heads start getting thicker, more powerful and bringing weather with them, bringing water in high degrees of wind with them. We'll go to Ed Lavandera with us. He's in Moorhead City in South Carolina. And in South Carolina one of their mottos is "while I breathe, I hope." There is an irony to that, people are staying behind and they are putting their lives at risk and putting a lot of hope in the storm not being what they expect.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, we are in Moorhead City where we're seeing the first -- the strongest bands on the northeast edge of this hurricane starting to make -- come ashore here. This is Carteret County. We spoke with the shelter director here. He believes most people have evacuated. This is an elderly retirement community. One of the concerns is the entire county is very low lying so they're not only concerned about the winds we're seeing now but they're concerned about the inland flooding. The winds are coming out of the north back out to sea. We're looking due south from where we are, the way North Carolina and the coastline curves. We're looking due south into the Atlantic Ocean. This is the sound between the mainland and the Barrier Island which you can't even see anymore. It's just beyond that bank and since we've been here, Chris, that white boat has already taken on a great amount of water. That is happening just a short while so that boat will be gone, just beyond that to the right, you see that green boat.

There was a water rescue team. There have been reports there might have been two people inside that boat. That boat has been blown into the bank on the other side. A great deal of concern. We have still seen a number of people walking around, driving around. That's one of the gust s we're talking about and that is the point here is these winds sustained at these kinds of levels. Eventually the first responders we pull off the street until the winds die back down. But there is the occasional person you see driving around. We've seen a number of people walking around the waterfront. The conditions quickly deteriorating and you get a sense of what the concern will be here over the next two days. Chris?

CUOMO: Ed, look, the first caution, we've been through the worst of it together, be safe, keep the team safe. We nowhere in terms of what the worst is. I'm looking at the radar right now and Ed is right. We're seeing the first bands of weather of this storm. Here in north myrtle beach, if you were to look at us on a map, it's 10 miles of coastline between Wilmington and Charleston, South Carolina. This is like the inside, the deepest part of a funnel of beach coming in towards the coast. That means we'll get it later here but as the radar shows, it will be bringing more energy with it and that's concern. We'll start showing you another area of North Carolina right now that is already seeing flooding, OK? Again, this is because this place is vulnerable, it's spongy, it's had a lot of water already.

[14:15:00] Look where we are here. I'm not in this for a fake water effect. This is normal tidal activity. This was just from the high tide. Now we're at low tide. High tide will be back again about 11:00 tonight. Look how close I am to the homes. This is the normal surge that they have and I'm only 80 yards from the houses and there's zero storm surge. There's zero to be concerned about right now. And that's why everybody is predicting it could be so much more devastating in areas. So, we're seeing the beginning. We will take you throughout the storm every step of the way giving people in harm's way information as long as they have the ability to see us, telling you what the first responders are telling us. So, we'll take a break right now, when we come back, CNN's special coverage of Hurricane Florence, we'll take you up and down the coast, everywhere in the zone of danger. Stay with CNN.


DON LEMON, CNN HOST: We are back live with CNN's special coverage of Hurricane Florence. I'm don lemon in myrtle beach, South Carolina. You can see winds are picking up a bit. I want you to look at this. See these tire tracks here? This is from police officers, beach patrol. They have been patrolling this beach trying to get people to get off. Special coverage of hurricane Florence. I'm Don Lemon in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. You can see winds are picking up a bit. I want you to look at this. See these tire tracks here? This is from police officers, beach patrol. They have been patrolling this beach trying to get people to get off. Most people had gotten off the beach, have evacuated because of the mandatory evacuation. A few people are out on the beach. You can see it's low tide here, I guess another 10, 15 yards to the expanse of this beach but just at high tide moments ago. Very tiny beach here, you can see it's all coming in. We're quite a bit away from landfall but the outer bands are coming in. I understand my colleague Diane Gallagher is in New Bern and she's seeing flooding there.

DIANE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, we have seen an increase in New Bern, North Carolina. We're north of you where the Neuse River and the Pimlico Sound meet. A lot of intercoastal waterways leading to the Atlantic Ocean. The river has gone through Union Point Park and it's now reaching across the road past the barriers into downtown New Bern at this point and, again, you pointed out, we're just now seeing these outer bands. Now, we haven't had too much on the part of this severe wind here but in New Bern, in Craven County, the problem is not going to be the wind. The problem is going to be the water. I am standing on a road right now.

And for reference, I am almost six feet tall so it's now reaching above my knees. That there, there are people just a few minutes ago sitting in those little benches, letting the water rush up on them which is insanely dangerous but out there this is the noose river. We have watched it steadily rise as the wind has picked up a little bit. We've seen aggressive white caps coming in but you can see on that tree how much it is growing up, the water rising in this area as it pulls out into this public park. Now, Don, unfortunately, we even had the national guard trying to make sure people weren't bringing their kids out because in a shot I'd done earlier, there were people with small children taking them out on that gazebo out here so they could experience the storm coming in.

Now once the winds do arrive, you can see. A lot of the cities and parts of the county are connected through these large bridges over the river, over the Pimlico Sound. That's when they have to prevent people from traveling there. There's been a curfew in place for nighttime since September 10 in Craven County. They have been asking people to evacuate because they knew this was going to happen. They have a lot of experience with this. They started asking for evacuations on the 10th. Before we came out to Union Point Park, there was a person who called the emergency manager's office saying can someone help me evacuate. They had to tell them sorry, at this point you have to shelter in place because we can't come and do evacuations right now. We know they are prepared. They've done this before. They know it will flood. They know this is just the beginning. I just stepped off of a curve. People were driving and enjoying this beautiful river front park, they have 700 people, plus the national guard, who are in this ready to act right after Florence hits. Whether or not they're going to get to them as this becomes -- right now they said don't count on it, we won't send out emergency officials, we won't come rescue you. Stay in your house, stay in your shelters, don't come out here right now. This is just the beginning and the water will only get deeper, Don.

LEMON: And Diane, thank you. Once that window closes, you're done. You have to stay here and depends on what that storm does as to what you have to do as well. There are some people staying around. My fellow southerners here. How are you doing? Betty and Wally?


[14:25:00] LEMON: Where are you from?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Originally Charleston.

LEMON: Where do you live now?


LEMON: Why are you staying?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why not? We feel like we're safe where we live. We have no flooding in our area.

LEMON: And you ride them out all the time?

BALDWIN: We've only become back here three years. We were born and raised in Charleston, I have -- I was 22 years in the Air Force. We have a new house, our house is high off the ground. We don't have any puddling after three falls in a row so we feel like we're safe in our new house.

LEMON: How far are you off the ocean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About two miles.

LEMON: So, you came out to see the waves and you said you haven't --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm waiting for the waves to come. They were bigger than in in July when we were on the beach.

LEMON: They're out there, trust me. We want you guys to be safe. Life is good.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Especially at the beach.

LEMON: Betty and Wally, thank you. What are you doing here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Looking for dolphins.

LEMON: Where are you from?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we're from Myrtle Beach now but originally New Jersey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New Jersey, now Myrtle Beach.

LEMON: Why are you staying?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to protect our property.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have doggies and where are we going to put them? We're here.

LEMON: I want you to be safe. One more person. Lucy has been up and down the beach all day, you're riding it out, too. You're from here?


LEMON: Can you show them why you're here on the beach today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm getting shark teeth.

LEMON: There you go. Some people are staying, they'll continue on their lives as usual. They have taken the right precautions like Lucy and like our friends over here as well. We wish them luck but, again, of course you should heed the warnings of emergency officials who are saying it's time to evacuate. That window is closing. It has closed for some people but if you have time to get out, you should get out. I'm don lemon, this is live coverage of hurricane Florence. We're live in myrtle beach and up and dun the down the coast of the Carolinas with our special