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Two Giant Storms Barreling in Two Different Countries; Syrian Civilians on Crosshairs for Idlib's Retake; Pope Francis Meets Cardinals and Bishops. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired September 13, 2018 - 03:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[03:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Rosemary CHURCH, CNN HOST: Dueling storms bearing down on millions of people. We're following hurricane Florence and its path towards the United States East Coast and super typhoon Mangkhut barreling to the Philippines and Hong Kong. We will have the latest forecast and live reports in areas in both storm paths.

And we are following the developments from Syria on the front lines in Idlib as government forces close in on rebel fighters. A live report from Damascus is just ahead.

Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church. And this is CNN Newsroom.

Evacuation orders have been issued, windows have been boarded up and supplies have been stock piled.

Now tens of millions of people are bracing for the arrival of two massive storms, the larger of the two, super typhoon Mangkhut is barreling towards Southeast Asia, it is expected to make landfall in the northern Philippines on Saturday before heading straight for Hong Kong and Macau.

And in the United States, hurricane Florence is now a category two storm but the National Hurricane Center warns its impact is still life threatening.

We will get to North Carolina that in a few minutes. But first we got to Hong Kong where Ivan Watson is monitoring that massive typhoon. And Ivan, let's start with the island of Luzon because that's where it is barreling towards the population there. Talk about the preparedness of the Philippines for just such a typhoon.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I'm going to actually ask you to back up a few days prior. Because it first hit the U.S. Island of Guam, Rosemary, and that's where that American island is still trying to recover from some of the damage there. They've gotten the electricity back to 84 percent of the island, U.S. authorities say.

And there's some 300 people still in shelters after their homes were damaged or destroyed by that storm which is now headed towards as you mentioned, that northern Philippines island of Luzon, expected to make landfall sometime on Friday according to the Philippines weather surveillance agency.

It is moving at a speed of about 20 kilometers an hour. Now CNN's weather specialists say that in comparison with the hurricane that's headed towards the eastern seaboard in the U.S. that this super typhoon is bigger, it's stronger and more dangerous. It's got stronger winds. It covers a larger area. Some 75 miles and it will hit maximum speeds of 285 kilometers per hour or 180 miles per hour.

Now different disaster relief agencies in the Philippines say they are on high alert. That they prepositioned food for up to tens of thousands of families. The Philippines Red Cross saying they're worried about the potential impact of about 10 million people in those northern provinces, especially people that were already displaced by monsoon rains in July and August.

The Philippines is no stranger to typhoons, Rosemary, it's been hit by at least 15 this year alone. So they're taking it seriously but as history has shown quite tragically, they have suffered in the past with that horrific storm surge with typhoon Haiyan in 2013 that resulted in death toll of more than 6,000 people in Tacloban.

Now as that storm continues to move, it is expected to hit Hong Kong, Macau, southern China sometime over the course of the weekend. And the authorities here are getting ready. As you can see it's quite calm now, even though a weaker typhoon just passed through within the last 24 hours.

This city still had a low level typhoon alert as of this morning, but as you can see, for now, everything is quite calm here. Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes. So, certainly looking calm. How concerned are people there about the approach of this typhoon? And of course we've heard from our meteorologist Pedram Javaheri the possibility it may actually go a little further south and Hong Kong may not get a direct hit here. We don't know. It's very unpredictable in these sorts of instances. But what are people saying to you about how concern they might be about this typhoon?

WATSON: Again, like much of the rest of the region, Hong Kong is prepared and takes these typhoons very seriously. If there's a warning above a certain level, schools close, classes are canceled, and employees are told not to come to work.

[03:05:00] In a severe case the whole city will feel quite shut down. In this case the storm is expected to pass by over the course of the weekend. So that may not be a concern at that point.

But the city authorities have already begun kind of preparatory meetings just in case between different departments of the city government. The airlines have already issued alerts and urged travelers that they can change their flights at no expense.

I have to say I was out on the one of the beaches yesterday as the weaker typhoon was passing through and there were sirens blaring but there were people out trying to surf the very choppy waves. I tried, did not do well. I can say that the conditions for surfers were a lot of paddling and a lot of closeouts and I was force-fed a lot of salt water but I'm still here. Rosemary?

CHURCH: You're certainly very brave. Our Ivan Watson bringing us a live report there from Hong Kong. We'll keep checking in with you. Many thanks.

Well, our meteorologist Pedram Javaheri is following super typhoon Mangkhut's latest movements. And he joins us now from the international weather center. Pedram?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Rosemary. We'll touch on what's happening here with this particular storm. Because very impressive presentation on satellite imagery. In fact, if you take the cloud fill from this western periphery all the way out there towards eastern periphery that is 2500 kilometers across or essentially take western areas of France to western areas of Russia.

That's how long the system is from one end to the other. And of course, 270 kilometer per hour wind, 325 kilometer per hour gust, that is a healthy category five equivalent that is surging towards this region.

To the weather agency in this region, certainly taking it seriously. Starting off with a signal one, as it approach landfall on Saturday morning, takes back a very rare signal five to be issued across the east coast of Luzon.

What does that mean? That means significant impact as far as structural damage and properties would be decimated under such winds and of course, power outages could be extensive across the island as well. In the area of the system, it makes landfall, landfall once again, expected to be overnight hours of Friday into early Saturday morning

The mountains here should disrupt the storm system enough to where will have a weaker storm reemerge over the South China Sea. And then a second landfall possible somewhere around Guangdong which could pass for potentially around Hainan as it comes ashore early Monday morning.

So here we go. Look at the landscape across this region. Very mountainous region with plenty of communities across this region as well. So the mountains what they often will do is squeeze out all of the rainfall with these tropical systems and essentially disrupt the flow of the system at the same time as they're squeezing the rains out.

So you notice some of the heaviest amounts of rainfall on the mountains of the eastern side and an additional round of the heavy rainfall on the mountains back on the western side of the island. And this will continue into the South China Sea and eventually bring in tremendous rainfall potentially to Hainan.

But notice Hong Kong, yes, heavy rains are possible but far lesser amounts than initially estimated as the system shifts little farther south. Rosie?

CHURCH: Thank you so much, Pedram. I appreciate that. So let's turn now to Wilmington, North Carolina where my colleague George Howell is tracking hurricane Florence. Good to see you, George. What is the situation there? What's your sense?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN HOST: Rosemary, good to be with you. Again, the good news here the storm has been downgraded from a category three several hours ago to a category two. It still packs a punch, it is barreling toward the U.S. East Coast.

And look, many hours before this many people had to make a very important decision. Do I stay or do I leave? That's a very difficult decision that we found as we spoke to people as the storm is moving toward this city.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: So you're literally going to lock yourself in there?

JOHN BENNETTE, RESIDENT, WILMINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA: Yes, once we get the storm starts, once the storm starts, then I'll put a couple of screws like this inside to hold the door shut.

HOWELL: John Bennette he hopes that experience will count this time around. He and his wife have been through hurricanes before in this this house so he knows what to look out for.

BENNETTE: That's some problem when there's flood and the door blows open, and we're ruined, we can't stop it. Once it comes in you're done, you might just go away to get a boat and paddle you way out.

HOWELL: You worried about this one, John?

BENNETTE: Yes, I'm worried about the storm. I'm worried about the flood.

HOWELL: And that's the common concern here, from those who decided to stay to the thousands who have already left, no one knows exactly the impact Florence will have on this community and what will be left behind and how bad will it be? Everyone seems to agree, though, this storm is a beast.

JEFF BYARD, ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR, FEMA: This is going to be you know a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast.

HOWELL: Despite blue skies across the Carolinas, officials are preparing for the weather to take a dramatic turn come Thursday. More than 25 million people are inside the forecast cone from the National Hurricane Center extending from the states of Virginia to Alabama.

On the roads law enforcement is keeping traffic moving for those who decided to leave. Fuel is also limited with many gas stations at the region running low. The officials warn the window is narrowing.

[03:10:02] GOV. ROY COOPER (D) NORTH CAROLINA: The time to prepare is almost over. Disaster is at the doorstep and is coming in. This storm threatens life. BENNETTE: Can't afford to leave or can't to stay. You know, it is one of those things. It's like, we got to stay. This is our home. You know, we can't leave. One thing about leaving, you can't come back for a couple of weeks sometimes because there won't be no power.

HOWELL: It's a complicated call, John admits. Many of his friends he says are staying. But he knows very well the risks.

You worry about what it is going to be like in there when the lights are out, you're locked inside and you're hearing. I mean, you know what it's like. There's howling, screaming winds--

(CROSSTALK)

BENNETTE: Yes. When trees fall on your house you can't go out and look to see what's happening. When a tree landfall and you hit and you don't know if it went through it or if you're laying in bed and, you know, a tree, one of big trees could come through like submerge into your bed. You don't know, you know, what's going to happen but you just got to give to the man upstairs and deal with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: That is the decision that people have been making the past several days leading up to this day. Do I stay, do I leave. The window certainly narrowing, though, for people to leave especially along the coastline and that's one thing that remains certain. This storm will certainly impact the large stretch of the Carolina coast; people feel the raw effects of the storm.

And following the storm from Carolina Beach, North Carolina my colleague and meteorologist Derek Van Dam is there just about 20 minutes to the southeast of where we are here in Wilmington. And Derek, what do people tell you there?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, George, what we know is that Florence is a massive storm, it's steering us down just off the shore here in Carolina coast, the Carolina beach coast, I should say. This storm is so big.

I'm talking about tropical storm force with that extends nearly 500 kilometers in diameter, hurricane force winds are roughly about 300 kilometer in diameter. So this up the potential impacts from the storm will be far stretching regardless of where the eye wall actually crosses land or makes landfall.

This area is no stranger to hurricane. They've been to Bonnie, Floyd, Matthew, the benchmark was hurricane Hugo back in 1989. They know how to prepare, they know the hazards, they know the threats some people still refuse to leave as you just mentioned in the story just a moment ago.

Walking up and down the beach earlier today I saw people doing their last minute preparations boarding up their houses. This is a residential community, a lot of this are vacation homes are rented out to beachgoers but there are also a lot of businesses around this area. And with this island that I'm on right it's actually not connected or

it's only connected by a bridge to the mainland. It's about four kilometers wide and 15 kilometers long and really only about five meters above sea level at its highest point so it easily floods.

These businesses in these homes will be inundated especially with storm surge that's forecast to be upwards of three to four meters if that does come into play.

Now with this large of wind field that hurricane Florence currently has right now, there's a lot of momentum and a lot of wind strength that push up the Atlantic Ocean and bring that storm surge right into this area. And where I'm standing right now if all goes according to plan, George, in 24 hours' time this area will be underwater. Back to you.

HOWELL: You know, Derek, I'm curious to ask you because here in Wilmington, again, the eye is tracking here toward Wilmington about a 400 kilometers away from where we are now. Derek, I'm starting to feel just a bit of the wind picking, nothing significant but notable because there really hasn't been wind earlier than this.

So, I'm curious to ask, are you feeling of seeing any differences there?

VAN DAM: We're starting to feel the wind has pick up as well but it's not dramatic yet. We can call this I guess the verbal calm before the storm, right. I mean, we know that it is still offshore. We see the satellite images but you know, we are expecting winds really to pick up an intensity as we go through the morning hours of Thursday and then really start to peak late Thursday night into Friday from Wilmington all the way to where I'm located on the coast.

HOWELL: Derek, I think we should just enjoy this last few hours of being dry because, you know--

(CROSSTALK)

VAN DAM: I agree.

HOWELL: -- the weather is free, to fell it's not.

VAN DAM: You too.

HOWELL: So it will not be good. Derek Van Dam, thank you so much. Again, many people here, millions of people in the path of the storm. All eyes on what happens in the next 24 to 36 hours as conditions, Rosemary, deteriorate and this storm that is a beast in the night right now tracks inland moving toward Wilmington. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Thank you so much. Our George Howell there keeping an eye on the situation. We will of course come back to you shortly. Thank you so much.

[03:15:03] Well, President Trump says he is already getting praise for his team's preparations ahead of Florence. And in the wake of continued fallout over his response to hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year, he went to Twitter saying this.

"We got A pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida and did an unappreciated great Job in Puerto Rico even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent mayor of San Juan. We are ready for the big one that is coming."

Now this comes as just in the past few days some 20,000 pallets of bottled water were found on the remote runway in Puerto Rico. The water had been brought in by FEMA after hurricane Maria and was never distributed.

Well, as nuclear negotiations hit a roadblock, the U.S. is preparing a hardest stand on North Korea getting ready to name and shame North Korean sanctions violators.

And fast moving developments in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis as the pope's popularity takes a serious hit.

Plus, tens of thousands of Syrians are fleeing for their lives as the Syrian army appears ready to launch an all-out offensive on Idlib province. A live report from the region when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: Welcome back everyone. Warnings from the international community are growing with each passing day. But the Syrian army still appears ready to launch an all-out offensive on Idlib province. It's the last remaining rebel stronghold and home to millions and the U.N. has called on all sides to avoid a bloodbath.

Our Fred Pleitgen is one of the few western journalists on the front lines and he joins us now live from Damascus. Good to see you, Fred. So this is a real concern. What is the latest on this and what would be the consequences of an all-out offensive on Idlib province?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think everybody agrees, Rosemary, that the consequences would be dire because of course that's a very densely populated area right now with some three million civilians according to the United Nations on the ground there along with many hard line Islamist fighters as well. That's how we see the big concern for the Russians and for the Syrian military as well.

[03:19:59] Now we manage to get to a town that's right on the front line between the rebels and Syrian government forces. And that town has also borne the brunt of some of the cross border fire that's been going on.

But of course, people there are also concerned about even heavier fighting if that offensive kicks off. Here's what we saw.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PLEITGEN: Driving to one of the final frontlines in Syria's seven- year civil war. In the distance Idlib province, the last territory held by the rebels.

This artillery position is pretty much as close as we can get to the front line. Now the rebel held territory of Idlib province is about two kilometers in that direction, that fighters say.

They say of course there's been increased air strikes by the Syrian air force and the Russians. But they also say that the rebels have increasingly been firing back.

The Syrian military has cornered the remaining rebels, many hard line Islamist fighters in Idlib, while the U.S. and U.N. are concerned about a reported three million civilians also trapped inside, a commander tells me government forces want to defeat the opposition fighters.

"All of us have been letting blood for seven years," he says, "so that Syria can stand with its head held high and fight terrorism. And we're fighting it here to keep it away from Europe and America."

The U.N. has warned Idlib could become one of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent history. But this village about five miles outside Idlib is suffering as well. A recent rocket attack killing 10 here, folks tell us. Including Lin and Salina Salud (Ph) while they were running errands. Their uncle grieving, the only one capable of speaking on camera.

"These kids were so young," he says. "They were flowers, they were angels. These children what crime did they commit to be killed by these rockets?"

Across the plain, Idlib province lies in the crosshairs of the Syrian army as the international community attempts to find a way to postpone or prevent a final assault.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PLEITGEN: And the big question is, Rosemary, whether or not that something that could still happen. Certainly if you speak to the fighters on part of the government forces of the Syrian military and also some of their proxy forces that they have with them, they seem to be very confident that they could conduct an offensive like that.

But at the same time it still does appear to be the case that the big powers behind all of these sides are still talking and are still trying to prevent all this as the Russians and the Turks and Iranians are certainly are saying that there is still room to try and negotiate something.

Now what we're hearing here from the ground inside Syria as long as the wheels have not been set in motion, Rosemary, there is still a chance that an all-out offensive could be averted, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Our Frederik Pleitgen reporting there live from Damascus in Syria, where it is nearly 10.25 in the morning. We thank you so much for that live report. Well, in the past few hours, Russian President Vladimir Putin attended

what is billed as Russia's largest war games since the fall of the Soviet Union. At least 300,000 Russian troops and the thousand aircraft are taking part, also joining in thousands of troops from China and Mongolia.

According to a statement, Putin watched intently as forces from Russia and China practice ways to counter an enemy offensive. Putin says Russia is peace loving but his country will continue to strengthen its Armed Forces for protection.

Well, fast moving developments in the sex abuse crises rocking the Catholic Church right now. Pope Francis is to meet to U.S. cardinals and bishops at the Vatican. It comes just as Germany's Catholic Church is expected to acknowledge the thousands of children were abused by priests there.

And an embattled U.S. archbishop is to travel to the Vatican to ask Pope Francis to accept his resignation portrayed in a grand jury report as having a record of protecting predator priests.

So CNN's Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher joins me live now from Rome to cover all of this. Delia, a lot to look at. So, you know, as the pope deals with a plunge in his unpopularity he's also trying to tackle the sex abuse scandal that has dogged the church now for years. What's expected to come out of this meeting at the Vatican that's planned.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, this meeting is going to get underway in just under three hours. And according to the leadership of the U.S. bishop they want two things out of it. One is a full investigation into what happened who knew what when as regards former Cardinal McCarrick and alleged abuse of seminarians over a period of years yet it was allowed to rise to the ranks to become a Cardinal.

The other thing is some kind of streamlined process for reporting bishops who might have been accused of sex abuse or who have been accused of cover-up of sex abuse that is reporting them to the Vatican and what happens at the Vatican once those reports are received.

[03:25:05] Those are the two main points that the U.S. bishops say they would like to raise with the pope. Of course it's very tricky because a lot of it has to do with what happened at the Vatican once those reports are received.

And one test case for that might be the current archbishop of Washington, D.C., Cardinal Wuerl, and as you say is going to come to Rome and offer his resignation he says to Pope Francis to discuss the possibility that resignation, because of course he has been at the center of a lot of outrage in the United States after the Penn -- Pennsylvania grand jury report accusing him of mishandling cases of sex abuse.

So what happens to Cardinal Wuerl is there an investigation, what is going to be the penalty for him will probably be a test case for going forward in the future. And another important announcement as you mentioned, yesterday, Pope Francis as he's going to convene all of the top bishops from around the world in February at the Vatican to discuss sex abuse.

It's the first time this is going to happen, Rosemary, and you can see with that report which is just due to come out in Germany. Some details have already been leaked. Some 3,766 cases reported of clerical sex abuse in the years from 1946 to 2014, and that's just Germany. There are many countries that still haven't begun to reckon with their past when it comes to sex abuse.

So certainly this meeting in February will also be important for that because they cannot move forward until they had a reckoning of the past and exactly what has happened and then of course, they've got to have the process for moving forward and holding people accountable for this. Rosemary?

CHURCH: The wheels move slowly, though, don't they? Delia Gallagher reporting there live from Rome, covering those many developments. We appreciate that.

Well, the U.S. and its allies may soon go public with North Korea's violations of U.N. sanctions. Until now the U.S. does not wanted to risk irritating North Korea in the wake of the Trump-Kim summit earlier this year.

But U.S. defense officials tell CNN that's about to change. They say North Korea is regularly employing deceptive tactics to evade U.N. sanctions. And as negotiations with Pyongyang have hit a standstill it's time to quote, "name and shame to sanction violators."

We'll take a very short break, but still to come, a super typhoon in the Pacific Ocean is taking aim at the northern Philippines. And the Eastern United States braces for storm of a lifetime. An update on hurricane Florence as well.

We're back in just a moment.

[03:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: Welcome back everyone, I'm Rosemary Church. I want to update you on our top stories this hour. In the southeastern United States residents have been warned if they choose to ride out hurricane Florence, they are on their own. The category two storm is expected to bring hurricane force winds and storm surges by late Thursday. And nearly 100 centimeters of rain could fall in the coming days. While the U.S. braces for a hurricane, Southeast Asia is facing a powerful super typhoon, Mangkhut is expected to hit the island of Luzon in the coming hours before moving on to Hong Kong and Southern China. Our Lynda Kinkade reports.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

LYNDA KINKADE, CONNECT THE WORLD, CNN: Traffic in Manila inches along the already flooded streets as the city braces, the Mangkhut. The eye of the storm is forecast to pass within 400 kilometers north of Manila that will likely see extremely heavy rain and high wind as early as Friday. Billboards are being folded or taken down ahead of Mangkhut's arrival. Elsewhere in the Philippines, the outlook is even worse. The northern coastal provinces are expected to see heavy rains and wind gusts up to 270 kilometers per hour as early as Friday. The officials are coordinating emergency plans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When worst case.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (TRANSLATOR): Well, the worst case scenario in places that will really get hit are strong winds that can topple poorly built houses, storm surge, heavy rains and floods.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KINKADE: Disaster equipment and essential supplies are already been positioned in areas likely to be hit. After it clears the Philippines, southern China and including Hong Kong and Macao are squarely in Mangkhut's path. About 43 million people could be affected. Lynda Kinkade, CNN.

(END VIDEO)

CHURCH: All right, let's go back to our George Howell in Wilmington, North Carolina for the very latest on hurricane Florence. George?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN NEWSROOM SHOW HOST: Rosemary, the storm tracking directly to where we are right now. Here in Wilmington the eye of the hurricane about 400 kilometers away at this point where I'm standing right now, rest assured it will be a very different scene in the next 24 to 36 hours. Take a look at this massive storm now from outer space. You get a sense of how big hurricane Florence is. The good news, it has been downgraded to a category two storm.

At this point again, that is very good news for people here, but there's more to it than just a category, in fact, don't get caught up in the category. There's more to it because this storm brings a great deal of rain as it comes inland. It brings very strong winds capable of causing great damage, the storm surge also very important, especially along the coastline and then the nature of this storm moving at a snail's pace, that will lead to severe flooding throughout the southeastern part of the United States and that rain may stick around for several days to come.

Throughout the Carolina, preparations are under way including the popular tourist destination the Myrtle Beach South Carolina. That is where my colleague Drew Griffin filed a report from there.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is Ocean Boulevard Myrtle Beach, usually crowded. Right now Myrtle Beach tonight under a curfew. Mandatory curfew that started at 10:00 last night actually and then now it goes into the night of course. This area really caught somewhat off-guard by the change in direction. They thought they would have a glancing blow. Wednesday morning that forecast changed and now they realize they could be a direct hit of Florence.

The businesses all were ordered shut at 5:00 last night. They boarded up. They sand bagged as best they could. You could see the up and down this street here. They're concerned not just about the surge that could come in and the wind that could come in from the ocean which I can see in the dark, you can't see here, but also just the sheer amount of rain they expect is going to fall because of the slow moving nature of this.

It really did change everything from Myrtle Beach and for South Carolina. It led to many, many more people being evacuated. On this day, they are still going to have a few more hours of daylight, tomorrow they can evacuate. Even more some of the hangars owners, they are trying to convince to leave. But I want to show you something else. This big Ferris wheel, it is kind of iconic spot here in downtown Myrtle Beach. There are no cars on it. They took all of the cars off of that Ferris wheel during the daylight hours. Shipped them away so that they could hopefully put them back on a fully intact Ferris wheel when this thing is all over. Right now hundreds of people are in shelters, 1300 across the state, probably more than that by now as South Carolina and Myrtle Beach awaits for slow moving Florence to come in and move out.

(END VIDEO)

[03:35:00] HOWELL: And look, a lot of people are taking precautions. With us, now Megan Canny and Megan you are a resident here in Wilmington. But you're going to be riding out the storm here where we are at a hotel. How did you make that decision? Why did you make that decision?

MEGAN CANNY, WILMINGTON RESIDENT: We heard it downgraded. I felt better staying here and we had an option. Matthew is that the major roads closed. So it is hard to get back. I want to make sure I was able to stay here and get back here.

HOWELL: When you heard the storm was downgrade, I mean, what was your thought about that?

CANNY: I felt more comfortable. I'm still nervous about the rain and storm surge that is coming, but I felt much more comfortable staying here.

HOWELL: Right. But again a major storm coming in. You mentioned the storm surge. You guys are certainly in a more protected stronger building I suppose with your dog buddy, right? We should get down to buddy. Buddy, how are you? You doing well? He is kind of hanging out. Like, you know, I'm tired. It is overnight here in the states. I'm curious, to ask you did buddy seem a little nervous or apprehensive with the storm coming in?

CANNY: He was antsy when we got him here and he is antsy in this environment today. He hasn't been here before. We can tell he is nervous.

HOWELL: Right. And I'm curious to ask, I mean of people that you know here in Wilmington, those who decided to stay, many people have seen big storms come through here before. What are the dangers? How susceptible is this city?

CANNY: The flooding. I am very nervous about that. Especially with the storm surge to be this bad. I'm glad that the beaches were evacuated. People are safe. I'm nervous with the wind too, but it is not -- I heard the water will be the worst.

HOWELL: Yes. A lot of water. A storm has been out in the Atlantic for a long time brought in a lot of water with it. So we'll all get to see it, I guess tomorrow. Megan Canny, I appreciate your time.

CANNY: Thank you.

HOWELL: Thank you so much.

HOWELL: So, again, we've been following the storm's path, we've been following the projections again, downgraded to a category two now, but it still packs a punch. Let's bring in our meteorologist, Pedram Javaheri in the International Weather Center. Pedram, what is the latest?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The latest to the storm system that it actually has slowed down just a little bit when it comes to the model guidance moving forward come into Friday and eventually to Saturday. So, the rainfall amount certainly could be a little more widespread than even initially estimated. Certainly you see the category drop and you think the storm system has weakened and potentially some complacency in place there should not be the case.

It is going to slow down further than it already has. Certainly that is concerning, but you take a look at the cloud field of the system measures almost 1500 kilometers across. So, it would essentially cover from areas into the western United States and San Francisco into the portions inter mountain western of United States and to Denver, Colorado. So, that is what an expansive feature we are talking about. We are already beginning to see some thunderstorms and the land there into the eastern portion of the Carolinas in advance of it.

But here we go, 170 kilometer per hour winds that is sustain. We expect this potentially either remain at this point or maybe it will strengthen a little bit. Just one kilometer more. We're talking about a major hurricane category three. So that negligible amount really -- not something that people should let off their guard and when you look at what has already gone over the open waters, a 25 meter wave height measured. That is very, very concerning.

In fact you bring it close to land potentially could see 12 or 15 meter wave heights across some of outer banks of North Carolina as the system approaches land by this time tomorrow morning. So, we look that -- we look at what is happening here as far as how slowly this will migrate. Because as soon as it makes landfall, sometimes Friday morning until later Friday afternoon. It will essentially walk at a human walking pace here and move inland.

So, you noticed the icon is almost atop one another that is a 30, 40 kilometer movement within 12 hours, where we had several hundred kilometer of movement within the previous 12 hours. So, this right here, essentially creates a situation where the storm system produces rainfall that is going to be historic in some of these areas and in some cases rainfall that is comparable to what you would get in an entire year in some regions across the northeastern United States, you will get over the course of the beginning of the weekend across this region of the Carolinas.

And of course the storms are coming at a few kilometers per hour. Five, 10 kilometers per hour. They produce 700-plus millimeters of rainfall. You move along at 20 and 30 kilometers per hour, these will not be the case, that typically reduces your rainfall amount and these elements have not changed one bit when it comes to the storm system regardless of the category change at this point, because the energy, it has been in motion for too many days leading up to what is now near landfall.

[03:40:00] HOWELL: Pedram Javaheri, thank you so much. And Pedram really makes the point, you know, we talked about the category, category two, many people you know, taking a sigh of relief there. But maybe that is not the number to think about. Maybe the number is 36 to 48 hours of this massive storm system, Rosemary, sitting on top of the Southeastern part of the United States dumping a great deal of rain and slow walking, slow moving, Rosy. I mean, you could think of a person walking down the street, that is what this big storm is doing, just walking at a snail's pace dropping a lot of rain. So, it is a very significant storm moving in Rosemary that we'll continue to track here in Wilmington, North Carolina. Back to you.

CHURCH: Yep the slower it goes, the more damage it does. People want to see it come in and move out quickly. But that doesn't look like it is going to be the case. So, many thanks for our George Howell. You stay safe, my friend. I appreciate all of your reporting. Thank you.

All right. Coming up, what will be the fate of North Carolina's wild horses when hurricane Florence arrives? Plus, businesses in the U.K. are bracing for a hard Brexit where shipping to France could be as complicated as sending goods to the Far East. We'll take a look at that. And two communities close in distance, but politically worlds apart. We will look at a striking divide in the U.S. Mid-term election. We are back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: Welcome back everyone. Well, battles continue over Brexit and exactly what the terms will be for the U.K.'s withdrawal from the European Union. The debate is so contentious, that there's been renewed talk of Prime Minister Theresa May's ouster. With Downing Street saying, she will fight all attempts to challenge her leadership. May, holds a special cabinet meeting Thursday, on preparations for a no deal Brexit.

And joining me now from London is CNN's Anna Stewart. Great to see you Anna, so, Theresa May insisting she will hang on. She seems to be hanging on with her fingernails. How is this special cabinet meeting likely to play out do you think? ANNA STEWART, CNN PRODUCER: Yes, Rosemary. She is hanging on and she

is -- she is really very adamant that she wants to get the checkered flag that she (inaudible) with her cabinet. She wants to push that through E.U. but she is facing such division within in her own government, within party.

Today this meeting will set out the preparations should that plans fail and we fall out of the E.U. with no deal at the end of March.

[03:45:06] The government already gave industries not so bad technical note basically looking at what they could do to plan any event on the no deal Brexit. And one of the biggest issue of course is trade, any businesses that trade with E.U. have to fundamentally change the way they do business. And I went to a port to take a look at what that would really look like.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART: They glide into persons (inaudible) port carrying cargo from all corners of the globe. Four million containers each year, filled with foodstuff and furniture and cars and consumer electronics. Three-quarters coming from beyond Europe.

What is this? Where does it come from?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is wooden flooring and it comes from China.

STEWART: George Baker (ph) is the customs broker. Matching groups like this up to the animal feed additive through the port.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got a big responsibility to keep the ports and the airports moving along.

STEWART: Non E.U. imports, exports raising transits until levies paid and paperwork completed. The U.K. Government says firms with business in Europe should prepare for.

Any events of a hard Brexit, all goods coming and going from the E.U. will have to clear customs. The container port like this one, the country's largest, that could mean severe delays and congestion come Brexit day. The E.U. is the U.K.'s biggest trading partner. A hard break and British ports will have to clear about 200 million extra shipments a year. Four times on what they do today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We would anticipate a 500 percent increase in the volume of work that we have to handle. If we have to suffer our Brexit and I say suffer, because it would be a difficulty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the commission invoice.

STEWART: An invoice from China, it leaves of just how one souvenir could stall the supply chain.

Dollar toilet roll, glasses, what do you do with it next?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So far the coast, we go into the custom tariff here. This is -- this is -- this will tell me how much duty. This code is 95059.

STEWART: A 2.7 percent tax on a light up drink glass. That has to be paid before it leave here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

STEWART: Business like Nigel (inaudible) is the impact could be devastating. (Inaudible) is across the E.U.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A speaker is going to be a 25 pound charge and it makes it really difficult.

STEWART: a costly plans to pass it to the consumer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And there lies the issue. We got competition in Europe, we got hard against a large German company and they got the rest of Europe to export it.

STEWART: He said he'll have to hire more staff and maybe open a Europe office to head off the red tape and taxes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That would really affect our margins and make us less competitive.

STEWART: The waves of a no deal Brexit rippling far beyond the country's ports.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART: Rosemary, today the government will publish more technical notes of businesses to help them prepare for a no deal Brexit. It is not that they do not want that they may have to have, if they cannot come to an agreement between themselves in the government and the parliament and of course the 27 other E.U. members.

CHURCH: And Anna, before you go, just one very quickly ask you about Theresa May, because she is battling to hold on to her leadership there. What are you hearing about that behind the scenes?

STEWART: Certainly a rebellion with her own party, but at the moment, Rosemary it appear that not quite enough to really go for a leadership challenge. You need 48, M.P.'s -- sorry, conservative party members to push that to a re-vote. She said she'll fight off any challenge. And I don't think they will have enough people for vote for bats to really oust her. So, currently she looks, well not safe, but she will be there for a little while longer.

CHURCH: All right. We will keep a very close eye on that. My thanks for our Anna Stewart for that report. I appreciate it.

The U.S. mid-term elections are just 54 days away and if you thought voters were divided in 2016, well, that divide is more like a canyon. In the state of Georgia, we look at two counties around Atlanta. They aren't far away from each other when it comes to distance. But politically they are worlds apart. Here's our Robyn Curnow.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On the streets of County Georgia, the liberal message is loud and clear. People here are fed up with the Trump administration and plan on voting for Democratic candidates in November.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are really scared of Republicans right now, they're super racist. Nationally I want Trump out. I want the Democrats to take over the house.

[03:50:00] CURNOW: No surprise since four out of five people here voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been more disappointed than I expected that I would be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like there's a moral vacuum that is -- insidious.

CURNOW: This County is also diverse, only 50 percent of the people that live here are African-American. And Hodgepodge Coffeehouse, we met (inaudible) who is also probably liberal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would say we're as divided as we could be.

CURNOW: Like many Democrats we talked to. She said she struggles to find common ground with Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I cut off complete ties with any of my friends who are somewhat even somewhat Republican.

CURNOW: You cut off any friends or family who are Republican?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

CURNOW: You can't be around them?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I can't be around that person who doesn't understand how it affects me.

CURNOW: As you could hear, people in this part of Atlanta feel they have little in common with Republicans. And they certainly going to vote against this presidency. Well, just an hour away, you have a community that is the complete opposite. And we get a listen to what they have to say.

Even though the whole county of Georgia is only about 80 kilometers away, but the politics here could not be further from the County. Barely 75 percent of the voters here supported Trump in 2016 and many people I talked to at Pigtails barbeque restaurant plan on supporting Republicans again this election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One thing that I'm looking for in next election and all future elections is a leader. Somebody that can- that can get people from one side of the aisle to the other.

CURNOW: How divided is America?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I say quite divided.

CURNOW: Do you blame the President for this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't like how Trump's been treated. I think he is man of action.

CURNOW: For some diehard supporters of the president, provoking liberals has become a business. (Inaudible), who ran a company making pro-Trump t-shirts. What are some of the stuff you put on your t- shirts?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like racial issues. We live in the whole county, this is Georgia. I don't see racial issues here. But it is always talk about. So there seems to be a divide that has been created. I'm not sure why.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am really tired of political correctness. I don't hate anybody, but I don't like people calling me a racist or a bigot, because I'm a Trump supporter.

CURNOW: Do you find it difficult having conversation with Democrats?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I find it difficult reasoning with them.

CURNOW: Have you cut out any Democrats from your life?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, but they certainly cut me out.

CURNOW: a political and personal gulf between Americans that is repeated across the country. Robyn Curnow, CNN, Georgia.

(END VIDEO)

CHURCH: And we'll take a short break here, but still to come, hurricane Florence isn't just threatening people, where will North Carolina wild horses go? We are back with that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: Welcome back everyone, it is that time of year, the big reveal from Apple, touting its newest line of iPhone and smart watches. The company unveiled three new iPhones on Wednesday, though most of the improvements were already expected, their upgraded versions of the iPhone 10 with better cameras and a few new bells and whistles.

[03:55:09] The 10S max model with the most storage will be the most expensive iPhone ever, how about this? Price over $1400 if you haven't. There are also upgrades to the Apple watch. The new series four watch has a larger display. It can alert emergency contacts if you fall as well as monitor your heart. There is concern, even worry over what will happen to the wild horses

that call North Carolina home. Hurricane Florence is bearing down on them too. CNN's Jeanne Moos says, their horse sense will help them ride out the storm.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you know who isn't watching TV to find out when the hurricane hits? North Carolina's wild horses, there are over 200 of them on outer banks. Normally they are scratching or strolling the beach, or even rolling on the beach, but already they sense changes in the air pressure and are changing their behavior.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They started huddling up together. They group up together. They go to high ground.

MOOS: Meg is the herd manager of the Corolla Wild Horse fund. The Facebook page is a magnet for concern. So worried about them, not their first rodeo, wild horses have more horse sense than people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If anything can survive the storm, the horses can.

MOOS: Forget evacuating them, too stressful for the wild horses, too difficult and expensive for the humans, but the experts say the horses wildly popular with tourists should be fine. Usually they're territorial like these two stallions fighting over mares, but when bad weather hits they band together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They just hunker down under the trees.

MOOS: Horses have drowned in hurricanes, five were lost when Isabell Struck 15 years ago, but the expectation is that most of the horses should make it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They wait it out. They wait it out.

MOOS: Instead of us riding horses, it is the horses turn to ride the storm. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO)

CHURCH: Very clever horses there. Thanks for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. Connect with me any time on Twitter @rosemarycnn and be sure to stay with CNN for our continuing coverage of hurricane Florence and super typhoon Mangkhut throughout the day. The news continues now with Hannah Vaughan Jones in London. You're watching CNN, do take care.