Return to Transcripts main page


Hurricane Florence Begins Battering East Coast. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired September 13, 2018 - 15:00   ET



DAVID FOUNTAIN, NORTH CAROLINA PRESIDENT, DUKE ENERGY: We are taking additional precautions to be sure that we're able to mobilize our crews as soon as we're able to. We're bringing in special equipment, some amphibious vehicles, boats.

We're also bringing in a number of other technological pieces of equipment that we're able to draw upon and use data analytics in order to project where floodwaters are going to recede, so that we can get in and start this power restoration effort.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: David, do you think people anticipate, because there are a lot -- listen, a lot of people heeded warnings. A lot of people have not.

Do you think people anticipate not just the inconvenience of losing power, but the danger of it, because some -- you don't know when it's going to come back on, when it's going to be restored?

FOUNTAIN: Well, that's exactly right.

This is a very, very significant storm, as we all know, and we're talking about outages that will last not just days, but weeks. And so we have really asked that all residents who are within the evacuation zones obey the evacuation orders issued by Governor Cooper in North Carolina and Government McMaster in South Carolina, because we don't know how long it's going to take us to be able to get out and even assess the damage done by this historic storm.

So it will be a multiweek outage restoration effort.

LEMON: Yes. Listen, I got to let you go. But how many millions of people you're expecting to lose power again?

FOUNTAIN: Well, yes, We're expecting about up to 75 percent of our customer base, which is about seven million customers.

And I will just say this, Don. I have lived in North Carolina my whole life. And I know the character of the people of this state, and we're resilient, and we're going to get through this together. In Tar Heel State, we're known for sticking to a task until the job is done, and that's just what we're going to do at Duke Energy.

We're not going to rest until the last restoration is restored. LEMON: David Fountain, thank you very much. We appreciate your time

from Duke Energy, especially in a very busy time.

Anderson, you heard him, seven million people. That's a lot of people losing power. And, again, I know he said they're bringing in armies of people, not just from the Carolinas, but from surrounding states all over.

But when that electricity goes out, when you have that flooding,who knows when it's going to be restored, if you're going to be able to get your -- your food and your electricity or what have you. It's just not going to happen. You don't know when it's going to come back.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, that's just one of the many unknowns that folks are facing over the next couple days.

We're going to continue our coverage here. I'm in Wilmington, North Carolina. Don is in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Chris Cuomo is in North Myrtle Beach.

You're watching our special coverage of Hurricane Florence. It has arrived today, after days of warnings and more than a million people ordered to evacuated. We're just starting to get some rain here in Wilmington.

The Carolina coasts are now feeling the first bands of what could be the worst storm to hit this area number 30 years of over winds. While Florence's have grown slightly weaker, as we have been talking about, the area it's predicted to pummel is now bigger.

It has doubled in size from initial forecasts. It is twice as big. Here's a taste of what is headed this way. Listen to the winds at this weather station off North Carolina with gusts as strong 60 miles per hour.

You see the tear in that flag. That just happened in the last hour. Winds are just one of storm's triple threats we are focusing on this here in Wilmington and all across this state and South Carolina. The area could see catastrophic storm surge reaching as high as 13 feet. And the downpour is expected to be relentless.

One projection estimating 10 trillion gallons of rain will for fall before Florence is finished. And as we have been pointing out, they're expecting here in Wilmington eight months' worth of rain in the next three days.

I want to go to Dianne Gallagher. She's in New Bern, North Carolina, which is about a three-hour drive north of us here -- north of Myrtle Beach.

Dianne, you're already experiencing, I, understand some flooding?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you guys -- a lot of talk about the wind when it comes to hurricanes, but here in New Bern, North Carolina, the problem is going to be the water. And that is already here.

Now, we have just started to feel some wind, a little bit of rain. But I'm going to get us to pan out over here. That is the Neuse River there. And it has come all the way in already.

To give you an idea of how much it has risen, Anderson, in just a couple of hours, at 1:00, I was standing right over there, if you see that far light pole at that fencing area, and the water was almost to my knees.

At this point, I'm not going to go back out there because it is not safe for me. It's not safe for my photographer, my producer or any of the emergency officials here.

But just to give you an idea of how much we have seen this sort of rise in just a short amount of time, we are seeing at this point the wind push almost waves. I am standing in a park. You can probably see behind me the swing sets, the trash cans which are being pushed by the water that is continuing to steadily rise.

We have ducks that are floating on water where we used to have, again, park benches and grass, where people had picnics out here in New Bern. We're standing on a roadway area where cars and people would take their golf carts and come enjoy themselves here.


So just to give you this idea. Now, again, the wind is starting to kick up right now. The emergency managers have got people waiting. They have about 700 different individuals who are waiting for after the storm to help out, people from different states. The National Guard is here. We have spoken with them already as well.

The Craven County emergency manager, Stanley Kite, said, look, we have a plan. We have been through this before. But we need people to cooperate with us to make sure everything goes the way it should.

And, again, as this is coming through, Anderson, I cannot emphasize as much this water has pushed all the way through this park, over the bench. It is now over the road, through the barriers, and it is now starting to flood downtown New Bern, where shops have got these boards above their windows that have listed all the hurricanes that they have survived before.

You have names that are so famous here in North Carolina, like Bertha and Matthew and Floyd and Fran. And they talk about it having survived this. But, again, the only way they can do it is if they aren't out here or they go to hotels.

Now, it was hard for us to find rooms here in New Bern. And I want to show you, now, look, we are not at the beach. We're at a river, but we're starting to have waves come in now on our area. We have noticed the birds are having difficulty flying as well because of the wind in this area.

And it is kind of a perfect storm in this northern part of the state. The Pamlico Sound, the Intracoastal Waterway, lots of rivers and streams, plus the Neuse River, they're going to get this again, Anderson, once the inland flooding comes back out. It's going to dump in the ocean.

So they will be victimized twice by Florence, the next couple days and when the flooding recedes again.

COOPER: Yes, Dianna, we're glad you're there. Thanks very much. We will check in with you in a little bit.

I want to go over to Chris Cuomo.

Chris, the other thing, you know, we're going to be seeing a bunch of tides throughout this whole storm coming in and out.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And the area is very vulnerable.

We're in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. And, Jay (ph), show them. This is the normal high tide. They dumped five feet of sand here this summer. This is all new sand to elevate the beach. Didn't make really any difference.

This is normal high tide pooling, right? That's the shoreline right now at low tide. Jay, swing around and show them where the houses are. They're not even 50 yards. Clearing people out of the way, so Jay can show you.

And it's not easy to clear people out of the way. You know why? Anderson, there are so many people still here. Local authorities say 85 percent left. But, look, you showed them 50 miles an hour tore up that flag. Sustained winds of 50 miles an hour can do so much damage to buildings. That's half hurricane strength.

And we're dealing with a Category 2 right now. And, again, it's not a shame campaign. The first-responders and all the efforts and all the preparations that Don was talking about with Duke Energy and we were talking about with the local chief, Chief Spain here, they have to do the job more for the people who stay behind.

They will put their lives at risk to come and make sure that these people who made their decision to stay are OK when that decision goes wrong. So God forbid that happens. We just hope everybody's making the best choice they can, and if they choose to stay, hopefully, they do it the right way. All right?

This right now, the calm before the storm.

Ed Lavandera in Morehead City, North Carolina, he is right now living our future -- Ed.


Well, we're on the north side, the top side of this storm, where we have been seeing now for several hours the strongest bands of this hurricane lash into the shoreline here. We're in a city called Morehead City. And it's a little bit weird, because the way the coast -- the North Carolina coast, we're not looking due east out into the Atlantic Ocean. We're actually looking due south down onto the store. But those top part of the of the hurricane, the bands of rain and wind that are coming out of that are actually whipping down on this, and right now the winds coming out of north and pushing the water.

You can see just how strong from this dock, how strong the currents are and the waves are. These boats -- that boat you see there close to us has taken on a good amount of water and doesn't appear to go anywhere. There's two other boats that have been pushed back into that bank of land that you see there on the other side.

This boat here off to my left has been whipping around. This is the dock area that for the most part has been cleared out and this city has really gone quiet. We were speaking with the emergency director a little while ago.

He told us that they believe that most people from this area had evacuated, but they are concerned because of the low-lying nature of this particular county that the flooding is really going to be an issue here over the next couple of days.

They have evacuated a number of elderly people. There's an elderly complex here, a retirement community, that we saw several days ago had buses lined up in front of it, moving people out. So, there's that flooding here that we're going to see and continue to see, because there's so many waterways and tributaries and creeks and rivers that push into this area.


And all of this water is eventually going to start getting pushed back up inland. And that is what the concern is here. But you can see these initial outer bands of this storm really lashing the coastline here in a fierce way -- Chris.

CUOMO: Hey, Ed, can you still hear me?

LAVANDERA: I can hear you.

CUOMO: All right. I'm told that you're wobbling around a little bit where you are. How much wind is it and what is the effect it's having on you?

LAVANDERA: Well, a little while ago, we spoke with some first- responders that were out here. They were actually checking some of these boats.

They had a team of water -- a water rescue team that was going out to these boats, checking them to make sure there wasn't anybody inside. That was about an hour ago. And they told us that wind gusts were getting up to about 50, 60 miles an hour.

I think the strongest gusts are a little bit above that now. We're at a little bit -- actually, this is one of the quieter moments that we have had here over the course of the last hour.

About 15 minutes ago, it was a complete, like, washed out. You couldn't even see that bank of island because of the intense rain and the wind pushing through here.

So it's very cyclical. As these bands come through, then it kind of dies off and then picks up again, but it's definitely intensified over the last couple of hours.

CUOMO: It doesn't take much. They put you and me in Hurricane Irma. We thought we were built to withstand wind, and it wound up not taking that much to blow us around. It takes even less to deal with boats and take them off their moorings.

Sustained wind can change the way a community looks and functions for a long, long time.

Ed, stay safe. I will check back with you.

Now we want to go to Carolina City, Miguel Marquez in North Carolina, also along the coast, starting to see more of the effects of Florence.

Miguel, what's it like where you are?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we got a good punch of rain just a short time ago, Chris.

And we are expecting more very shortly. Going to show you what the conditions look like right here right now. The waves out there, they are getting bigger and they are getting more frequent. They have already had some flooding on the north part of Carolina Beach, where the berms, where the dunes are a little bit lower.

The waves are actually washing over that, flooding about 18 inches in that area right now, but not terrible. They are expecting much, much more. The seas have just really begun to do to show the effects of that massive sort of surge, that bulldozer of a storm that's just pushing all this water on to shore.

The wind is less than officials certainly expected right now. We're in a lull at the moment, but it's been blowing probably 20, 25 miles an hour, maybe gusting up to 40 at the most. But we are not seeing those winds yet.

But I'm looking at on to the horizon here. And I'm seeing just a wall of water heading toward us. That is certainly a lot of rain coming toward us, yet another pulse, another tentacle, another band of this massive storm that will come through here.

It is hard to believe that we are at the beginning of a 24- or 36-hour rain event that will dump 20, 30 inches, perhaps more in some areas, of this town, the storm surge with the tide on top of it every 12 hours or so. They're looking at a full third of this town being underwater and being cut off for many days to come -- Chris.

CUOMO: Waves and phases. Which part of Florence do you get, how long do you get it, and what are the characteristics of the community that you're in, and how it will be able to sustain the impact of that storm, there's so many variables.

So many people here who made the decision to stay are playing amateur meteorologist and making their decision based on how they feel about what they hear.

Let's take a break.

When we come back, we will give you the latest information. There is a new forecast. So if you're in this area where Florence is coming, please stay with CNN. Listen to the forecast. Make the right decision for you -- next.



COOPER: Hey. We are live in Wilmington, North Carolina, where rains and winds starting to pick up.

We had a small band that came through just for a couple minutes. You can kind of see there's actually light over here, kind of dark clouds, low-hanging clouds, moving with some speed.



COOPER: And that's the Cape Fear River right there that we're watching very closely. It's expected to reach a new high from what it experienced during -- in 1999 during Floyd, reached about 23.5 feet or so. It's supposed to get higher than that even.

I want to get over to Don, who's in Myrtle Beach.

Don, I was just talking to a lady who, frankly, is bored in her home. So she came down just to kind of take a look at the Cape Fear River. She said that it is like -- waiting for the storm, she said it's like waiting for a turtle to arrive. It's moving so slowly.

But to hear from Jennifer that it's actually moving right now at 10 miles an hour, but it's really going to slow down once it makes landfall to about four miles per hour.

LEMON: She's better hope it's not a snapping turtle, because you don't want to get tangled up with that. It moves slowly, but then once it gets you, you're in major trouble.


LEMON: Anderson, I have been trying to be the expert here and tell you exactly what's going on.

But this man to my right knows exactly what's going on. You have been or 20 years. His name is Mark Kruea. He's a spokesperson for the city of Myrtle Beach.

You have been doing this job for 20 years.


LEMON: So, you know.

So, let's talk about the problems that we face right now. Let's walk out here. And this is one of the issues, because, as you heard Anderson say, people are -- they're bored in their homes, and they come out, and they -- they want to get out they want to see things. These folks have been coming out now. They weren't here when we got here earlier.

So, the beach is not closed, technically, you're saying?

KRUEA: No, the beach is not closed. The water is closed. We don't want to spend our resources rescuing somebody from the rough waves, when that's completely preventable.

But you can still walk on the beach.

LEMON: So, earlier, as we were getting ready and we were listening to Anderson and -- speak to our meteorologist, there was someone who was walking out here in the water.

KRUEA: Yes, technically, they shouldn't be doing that. Hopefully, they won't put themselves at risk. The waves are fairly strong. And it's going to get stronger before it's all over here.

LEMON: Right. So you should not be out in the water.

KRUEA: You should not be out of the water. There's an executive order on that.

LEMON: Does this concern you that you're seeing so many people start to come out?


KRUEA: Actually, a little bit, because most of the folks did evacuate. And I'm wondering, where did these people come from? But they may have come in for a couple of hours here just to look around.

They probably don't live on the beach, but they're taking advantage of this last little bit of calm weather.

LEMON: You said that someone else's responsibility can get -- can cause you to use more resources.


KRUEA: Yes. Our police and our fire and our EMS people have other things they need to be doing right now. They don't need to be rescuing somebody from a completely preventable incident in the water.

LEMON: Having been here 20 years, everyone talks about, oh, well, it's a Category 4, it's a Category 3, it's a Category 2 or 1.

That's -- people should not be concerned about that and they shouldn't have a false sense of security that it's being downgraded.

KRUEA: No, we started looking at this as a Category 4 on Sunday, which is when we began getting ready, because it was kind of the worst-case scenario, a direct hit from a Category 4.

It's wandered around. The forecast has changed every day. Right now, it's probably in the top five worst cases, because it's going to sit on top of us for maybe two days. That's not going to be fun.

LEMON: You were explaining what happens -- what's been happening here with the dunes. And you said, right now, you have a king tide, not so much to do with the hurricane, but with the moon. And that's why the tides are so...


KRUEA: Correct.

The tides have been high the last -- actually, this week, the tides have been higher than normal. But when the hurricane comes over, it will bring storm surge. Hopefully, we will be on the left side, the south side of the storm, so the storm surge won't be as great as on the other side.


But we're looking at six to 9 feet on top of whatever the tide is at that point.

LEMON: You have a beach restoration coming very soon.



LEMON: Just so happens.


KRUEA: I know, just so happens. Timing is everything. A couple of hurricanes ago, we lost some beach. Mother Nature takes the sand away, puts it back.

We had a $24 million beach restoration that was scheduled to start Monday. They demobilized, so as soon as the storm is over, they will be back here, and we will get a brand-new beach.

LEMON: What does that mean? What does that mean for this beach?

KRUEA: It means an extra 100, 150 feet worth of sand out here, 800,000 cubic yards.


Yes, as I'm talking to you, I'm just -- right over your shoulder, there's a crane that is there.


LEMON: And I have seen a couple of them.

KRUEA: Yes, the cranes are set to freewheel at this point. So they will run just like a weather vane. They will spin in the wind. They won't go anywhere.

LEMON: Walk with me.

Mark Kruea, thank you very much.

A little bit later on -- this is your concern now. You will have other concerns, which are?

KRUEA: We will.

We have got to make sure that everybody's safe, really that we're ready to respond once it's over. We have got people preposition so that we can get out there and clean up and make sure that it's safe for people to come back. That may take a couple of days, realistically.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you, Mark Kruea.

As you heard Mark say, if you stay, if you choose to stay, and you get in trouble, you're not putting only yourself in danger. You're putting the emergency and the rescue workers in danger as well. And they have things that need to be doing. And they want to be safe. They want to go home to their families as well.

This is CNN's live coverage, live coverage of Hurricane Florence. We're up and down the coast, as you can see, a beautiful beach here. The is weather starting to come in. Some of the outer bands are starting to come in. And that is going to get worse as the day and the evening progress.

So, we will see you back right after this break for our special coverage right here on CNN.