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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Hurricane Florence Strengthening, Doubling In Size; 10 Trillion Gallons Of Water May Inundate Region. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 13, 2018 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Our breaking news coverage continues right now with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT."

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan in for Erin Burnett. Out front tonight, we are following breaking news. Strengthening. Hurricane Florence right now, tearing into the East Coast and growing in size and intensity. Winds now up to 105 miles per hour. We're going to show you looking at live pictures right there out of the outer banks in North Carolina where the first impact of this dangerous hurricane is being felt.

The hurricane bringing with it potentially catastrophic storm surge forecast to dump record amounts of rain. We could also be talking about 10 trillion gallons of water, that kind of rain. I don't even actually know how to wrap my mind around that one. And that amount of rainfall could very clearly lead to historic flooding. These are pictures of flood waters already inundating homes and businesses, the ocean overtaking roads or blocks.

And as we come on air tonight, tens of thousands are already out of power. 7,000 U.S. troops are now standing by to help, and one big wild card here is how long is this storm going to just sit in one place and hammer the coast. That could mean 100 mile per hour winds lashing the coast for 24 to 36 hours and give you a sense of what that looks like. We're going to show you the scene 32 miles off the coast of North Carolina. Just listen to this wind.

The American flag there, there wasn't a single tear in that flag this morning and now you can see what the winds have done. Just a small example of what's to come.

We have a team of reporters, storm chasers and experts across the Carolinas and in the air. We're also tracking the storm's every move, of course, from the CNN Weather Center. Let's start with Miguel Marquez. He's at out front tonight live in Carolina Beach, North Carolina. Miguel, what's it like where you are tonight?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Getting more intense every minute. The rain is coming down harder. The wind is picking up, but this storm has been creeping at us. We expect it to be in a much more intense period right now, but this storm has just stalled as they're talking about and it's creeping down the coast, where they're losing power is just north of where we are right now. So we expect that to be coming down towards us very soon.

There is a mandatory evacuation order for Carolina Beach. There is also a curfew in effect and has been since last night. Anybody outside the property where they live or staying are subject to arrest. About 600, they believe, about 600 of the 6,200 people who live in this town are sticking it out, riding this one out and it is not clear where it's going.

One thing authorities suspect, the massive amounts of rain they're expecting over the next several hours and days of rain. The storm surge that they are expecting and that wind, they believe it as much as a third of this town will be inundated with water and it will also be cut off. It gets -- it floods here and it gets a lot of water in this area on a good day, on just a regular rainy day. They are expecting that people who are here in this town will be cut off for five to seven days. Kate?

BOLDUAN: That is terrifying. Miguel, thanks so much. We're checking back in with you. I'm going to go now though --

MARQUEZ: Yes.

BOLDUAN: -- about 100 miles north to Diane Gallagher. She's out front in New Bern, North Carolina, where they are already seeing flooding. I've been watching you all, all afternoon, Diane. You've been watching the water rising around you rapidly throughout the day. What are the conditions like right now?

DIANE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Kate, we're starting to feel the wind. I can see street signs starting to move in the wind right now. The rain has been coming down a bit more consistently. If you've been watching me all day, you probably notice I'm in a different location. I'm in down town New Bern now. That's because all the way back there beyond those blinking red lights, that's where I was initially at the Union Point Park there at the Nuese River.

Well, we had to leave ourselves because the situation just became too dangerous. It was sort of a now or never. We were not going to get out if we didn't leave when we did. We're seeing a lot of people here in downtown who thought it would be fun to come out and hang out and take pictures, like these people right here. They're finding the same thing right now. They can't get around streets. I'm standing in the middle of a road at this point.

For frame of reference, I'm about 5 foot 10. You can see it comes to a little above my knees right now in the middle of this street. As we go out even farther, here you can see that -- look, Kate, this is all over. The businesses have water inside of them now. We see sand bags that are already starting to be moved. These barriers right here are also starting to float away, sand bags or not.

And again, Florence hasn't actually shown up yet. So these are just those outer bends sort of producing rain, wind, and flooding.

[19:05:01] Now, we're on the Nuese River. We're not technically on the Atlantic Ocean that comes in this way. We've got the Pamlico Sound. We have several channels, waterways, and just basically it's a place that's really beautiful. This is why people come and vacation here, because it's surrounded by water. But they do flood a lot. People who live here, they will say that.

Even this seems pretty intense for the fact the hurricane hasn't even come yet, the slowness of the storm that was also why we see people like this coming out here. Most of them tell me, I was bored. I -- I just been sitting in the house all day waiting for this to happen.

So emergency officials, Kate, are asking people, please stay inside. There is a curfew here in Craven County at 8:00 p.m. They're asking everyone, just go home.

BOLDUAN: They've got a few more minutes if they want to look outside or get wherever they're going because then at 8:00 they should be indoors. And they mean it.

GALLAGHER: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Diane, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

I want to go now, let's get over to CNN Meteorologist Tom Sater. Tom, we're getting some important perspective from on the ground of these various spots right now in North Carolina. The storm is strengthening. Can you explain, what's the new developments here?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Kate, right now the worst of it is in New Bern where those pictures were. But what we've seen from last night when a couple of advisories have come in that the pressure was rising and the winds were dropping. It was weakening advisory after advisory even into today.

But last night, we were wondering what happens when it slowly slides into those warmer waters of the Gulf Stream? Maybe Florence would have a few tricks up her sleeve because if she slows down she'll be able to feed on those warmer waters. That's pretty much what's happening now.

We've got a C-130 that's been flying into the center. NOAA's got a P- 3 Orion flying around the outside. So we're getting updates by every hour now. Notice the bright red colors. This is an infrared imagery. So the brighter colors are the colder higher cloud tops, really the energy. And we're starting to see it almost complete a full cycle now.

So what this may mean here is now that it's putting on the brakes going from 15 miles an hour to 10, now to 5. It may strengthen a little bit more. I mean, we're only 3 -- 10 miles per hour from category 3. But, we really can't worry about those numbers because it's already bringing with it the life threatening elements it's had when it was way back in the Atlantic.

But however, notice some Kate, we've got the tornado warning. We've had some hurricane gusts already. The National Hurricane Center says we believe that Cape Lookout will start to see sustained hurricane winds in the very near future.

With that said, hurricane force winds now are extending outward from the center, Kate, 80 miles. That is 15,000 square miles. That's like Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island altogether. It's only now about 87 miles to Wilmington. And as that band is coming in now with the curvature of our coast line, that's why we're seeing the surge increase.

But hour after hour now of this remaining offshore is going to do more damage in the coming hours than this area has seen in quite some time if ever. We're still wondering what it's going to do next.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And then that's exactly like my next question. What is the latest track of the storm?

SATER: Well, they still have it. The National Hurricane Center, still has it making a landfall, but they push it in toward could be tomorrow morning, could be tomorrow afternoon. This is at 2:00 p.m. Sure it drops at one, but again, this is all about water. Water from the ocean, water from above and then drops it down.

The worst of it at Myrtle Beach, I think, will be later on tomorrow. Most of this is going to be northward today and then it slides through. But I've got to show you this one model here that we've been showing the last couple of days of what could happen because there's still a lot of unknowns here.

This model brings it in to where Wilmington is going to get hit hard. And they were going to get the worst of it. They're going to get the worst of it for the longer period of time, unfortunately. Looks like a landfall in a right around Carolina beach.

But then as it drifts to the south, some of these models now hug the coast from time to time, Kate, even wanting to drop it nearly off or on. There is not much of a difference on or off. It's just as the pace that you can out walk. I mean, 5 miles per hour you can outrun this.

But if it stays off shore, it's just that open siphon again of this water. Any way you look at it with this kind of a crawl, it is very much is a reminder of Hurricane Harvey in Texas last year.

BOLDUAN: That seems like such an unusual storm and the fact that there's still so many unknowns.

SATER: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Just keep watching it. Thank you, Tom, we'll be back with you.

Joining me now on the phone though, Mayor of Jacksonville North Carolina, Sammy Phillips. Mayor, can you hear me?

MAYOR SAMMY PHILLIPS, JACKSONVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA: Yes, Kate, I hear you well. BOLDUAN: Thank you very much for calling in. The latest forecast I'm sure brings you very little comfort. The storm surge, what I was looking at where you are, could hit 8 to 12 feet. What are you seeing right now, mayor?

PHILLIPS: Right now we don't see that, but, you know, it's still early in the game. We're getting some gale force winds right now. Some rain is intermittent rain. It's coming and going. The wind will slow down just a little bit.

[19:10:02] I actually saw a man just walking his dog a few minutes ago. Didn't seem to be struggling too much, but we did implement a curfews at 7:00 p.m. this evening due to the worsening conditions.

BOLDUAN: What?

PHILLIPS: We do have some high water but, you know, right now, you know, the main surge hasn't occurred yet.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. How confident are you that the structures in your city can handle, if we are talking about an 8 to 12 foot surge, that they can handle it?

PHILLIPS: Well, that's going to be a good question. That's going to be trial by fire, I guess. You know, we do have some areas in Jacksonville that are in low lying areas, and hopefully people have evacuated those particular areas. And those could be some areas that could be in trouble.

BOLDUAN: How many people have been heeding the warnings? How's it been going for you? It always seems to be a struggle.

BOLDUAN: These things it's been going real well. Yes. I'm very happy with the response that we've gotten from our citizens, our public here since yesterday. Or is it actually, since Tuesday people have been taking advantage of getting to safer areas. Also, you know, right now, you know, there's a lot of people that are still here in Jacksonville that are hunkered down in their homes, but a lot of people have left. All the businesses are closed down now and have been all day --

BOLDUAN: So, mayor --

PHILLIPS: -- except of a couple of restaurants.

BOLDUAN: So, mayor, now, what is your biggest concern at this moment?

PHILLIPS: Right now, again, the storm surge. You know, what is that going to bring us? You know, when I was last out just a short time ago the creeks and the river didn't look real high but, you know, of course, again, like I said, that's early. It's too early for that. But, you know, the big thing is the trees. You know, we have a lot of trees. And, you know, some of the residential areas, those can be real weak.

We've had a very rainy summer and that can cause a lot of trees that to be blown over at real high winds because the ground's not real secure. That's one of the big things. And, you know, power loss again is the other.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

PHILLIPS: Big concerns.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Governor saying already that there are people that are already losing power from the storm and it's all still coming.

Mayor, thank you so much for coming on. Our prayers are with you. We're going to be watching. We'll check back in.

Our breaking -- out front for us next, our breaking news is going to continue with this massive storm on this weather to the east coast. We have AccuWeather storm chaser Reed Timmer standing by for us. He's staring down the storms tonight as the winds are increasing where he is.

Plus, we're going live to a hurricane hunter who just flew over the storm. He'll give us the latest data on Hurricane Florence.

We also have breaking news, alarming details coming out of Massachusetts tonight. At least 39 buildings exploding into balls of fire. Major evacuations underway and the threat is not over. We have the latest details on this coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:16:58] BOLDUAN: Conditions are deteriorating by the hour in North Carolina as Hurricane Florence makes the final move to the coast. The storm of a lifetime as it's been called is flowing to a crawl as it approaches but still is packing a punch with winds of up to 105 miles per hour.

Out front now, AccuWeather storm chaser Reed Timmer. He's been with me all week. And tonight he's in North Topsail Beach, North Carolina. So, Reed, what are you seeing there tonight?

REED TIMMER, ACCUWEATHER STORM CHASER: The winds are increasing dramatically out here. And these winds that have (INAUDIBLE) so far and the storm is slowly approaching our location. Well, we've had winds gusting to 65 miles an hour so far as we measure with the hurricane eye wall research vehicle.

And these winds are just out of the north. So once this eye wall approaches and it gets a little bit closer, suddenly those winds are going to switch out of the east and that's when the storm surge is going to start to pummel this area here, starting about 11:30 p.m. There's likely going to be feet of water over this area with waves on top of that, winds gusting over 80 miles an hour and it's going to stall also in the eye coming in probably in the early morning hours with another low tide at 6:00 a.m.

And if this storm stalls off shore, it is quite possible that this storm surge could even include a few high tide cycles. And with a storm like this it's very likely that the outer banks of North Carolina including the barrier islands will never look the same again after a surge this substantial.

BOLDUAN: And multiple cycles as you've said of high tide. You've called this an unprecedented storm, Reed. And, I mean, it's so different from when I spoke with you last night. As it's approaching the coast, as its approaching North Topsail where you are, what do you make of it now?

TIMMER: The really scary part about the storm is how it is slowing down and the eastern parts of these barrier islands and the outer banks are just going to get lashed with a prolonged period of surge and big-time waves. There's going to be substantial erosion quite possibly. Multiple high tide cycles out here. Likely inundate homes. It is very possible that even the steeled homes could have waves crashing into them and that's why this mandatory evacuations are in place out here in the barrier islands and why you absolutely have to stay out of here because this going to be a period later on tonight where it just isn't survivable.

BOLDUAN: And Reed, the latest that I've seen in terms of the expectations for North Topsail Beach, where you are, as it you could be looking at 6 foot storm surge. Can you just give us some perspective there? What is that going to look like?

TIMMER: Well, just off to the beach there's an area of dunes. It's kind of like a seawall almost, a natural sea wall probably where the sand was piled up. But at 11:30 as that surge comes in at most winds shifts over to the east, a wall of water is going to jump over that firm and that inundate these areas here across the rest of the island.

And right here I'm probably 3 feet above sea level. So with a six foot storm surge you're going to have three feet of water right there with waves on top of it and also the wind as well. And it's the power of the water that makes the storm so scary as well as its very slow speed because you're just going to prolong the battering on the eastern shores by that storm surge and that incredible wave action with this storm.

[19:20:07] BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Reed, I want you to hang on if you can with me because I just want to go to the air right now.

Joining me now on the phone is Lieutenant Commander Nicholas Morgan. He's a flight Director for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's hurricane hunters. And he just flew over Hurricane Florence. Commander, can you hear me?

LT. CMDR. NICHOLAS MORGAN, ON PLAN FLYING OVER HURRICANE FLORENCE: Sure I can. Thank you for having me on. I'm aboard at the NOAA's Gulf Stream G-4 jet which is our high altitude platform that goes around and over the storm and samples the environment to track the steering winds and to help narrow down the track.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, Commander. So what is the very latest that you can tell us? What did you see? MORGAN: Well, we've been working all up and down the eastern seaboard today and somewhat east of the storm. I it think helping forecast -- helping the forecasters trying to figure out how quickly the system is going to move a shore. Compared to our last several flights, we're definitely seeing the storm expand in size and even despite the weakening of wind as we expect a significant surge event and heavy rains in land.

BOLDUAN: As you mentioned, the storm has gotten bigger in size but also know that it's strengthening slightly. Does it look to you like it's -- any better or -- any better organized and likely to strengthen even more?

MORGAN: We haven't seen anything indicating a significant strengthening. However, I would say, you know, stay tuned to the North National Hurricane Center web page and monitor that to get the latest information.

BOLDUAN: Now that the expected landfall is getting pushed back because it has slowed down, how many more flights do you think you have ahead of you?

MORGAN: This will be our last one as far as we know. It's moved far enough in shore that we can't really get a lot of data around it and also now that it's close enough to shore, there are a lot of weather balloons over land that also help feed the models and give it a good forecast.

BOLDUAN: Well, thank you for calling in on this final flight. I really appreciate it. Thank you, Lieutenant Commander Nicholas Morgan, calling in for us. So it's amazing when they can.

Let me bring back in Reed Timmer. Reed, let me bring you back in. You just heard -- I hope you could hear the Lieutenant Commander and what they've seen and how it's changed over the number of flights that you've had. What do you make of his assessment and what he's got?

TIMMER: Well, I think what is definitely interesting there is the expansion in size. Despite the lessening wind in speed there is a substantial expansion in size as storm and so the kinetic energy is still there. And that's what really drives this surge, when you have these very large storms and they're coming a shore. Even despite a slight weakening like this with winds of Iran, maximum sustain winds of Iran 100 miles an hour, with the wind expanding out it will make the storm surge worse and more wide spread. And then also it takes a long time for that water to die down.

Many times when these hurricanes comes a shore, for example, Hurricane Katrina, the wind speeds were about a category 3. But the storm surge a was certainly much higher than that. So it takes a lot longer for that wave action to die down.

BOLDUAN: And that seems to be exactly what we're looking at with Florence as well. Reed, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

Out front for us next, our breaking news continues as flood waters rise. What's the plan to help residents who could be stranded then for days? I'm going to talk to a coast guard commander next on preparations and what they are looking at now.

Plus, we're following breaking news out of Massachusetts. Entire neighborhoods are being evacuated right now after multiple gas explosions across an entire town. What is going on here and could there be more?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:27:36] BOLDUAN: Hurricane Florence now packing maximum sustained winds of 105 miles per hour. We're showing you live pictures off of Cape Fear, North Carolina. No you can just see from that the power of that wind already and this is before the hurricane has even made land fall.

Ed Lavandera is off the coast from Cape Fear and Jackson, North Carolina right now. Ed, where you are will be the first location to feel the real hurricane force winds. The storm surge there could hit, what, 12 feet? I mean, what are you looking at right now?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's odd because right now we're in the middle of like this dry and calm space between these bands that have been coming on shore here through much of the afternoon so it's a little deceiving given the situation we're currently in. Not sure exactly how much longer this is going to last, but we have seen -- we're on the coast just a short while ago. We have seen those bands beginning to lash out at the coast. What is interesting in this part -- on this northern side of the storm that we're on is that we're seeing the winds come out of the north and towards the south, which is -- given the way this North Carolina Coast is here, that is essentially pushing the water away from the coast line.

But we know that that is going to change in the hours ahead and that's when the dynamic here along this part of the North Carolina Coast will become much more treacherous and much more dangerous for residents in communities not just along the shore line but also further inland as well. So that is one of the things that we will be monitoring and paying close attention to here in the hours ahead.

So even though right now we're in this band of dry, relatively calm wind, it is a rather deceiving scene here, because we know here the next couple of either minutes or hours it will change dramatically. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, and we'll check back in with you when it does. Thanks so much. I really it man. Out front with me now, Captain Bion Stewart, U.S. Coast Guard Commander for the North Carolina sector. Captain, can you hear me?

BION STEWART, COAST GUARD COMMANDER FOR THE NORTH CAROLINA SECTOR: Yes Kate, I can hear you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Sir. The Pentagon says there are approximately 7,000 U.S. troops in position to respond to the hurricane. Are you confident the Coast Guard has all the resources in place that it needs right now and that you'll need throughout and after the storm?

STEWART: Yes, Kate. We have about 800 Coast Guard men and women ready to respond to the storm, including an incident command post that we've established in Goldsboro at the Seymour Johnson Air Force base.

[19:30:11] The thing about the coast guard, we are nimble and can respond. We already have contingency surge plan in place to respond to what we think is going to be a very broad scope of flooding and surge impacts from this storm.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: And the broad scope of the flooding, you say it very well, is a big concern with every local official that I have spoken to. How long the storm is going to sit, how big this storm is and how long -- how much rain is going to come down in addition to the storm surge.

With all of that in mind, what's your biggest concern of this moment?

STEWART: Well, right now, Kate, the surge is going to be the most immediate impact and I think since the storm has slowed down and perhaps because it's slowed down so much and the wind has reduced, people may get a little bit of a sense that they're kind of dodged a bullet with this one, but as all of your reporting has indicated already, this is a long-term event and the amount of water that's going to be either displaced, being pushed into the river basins and in the sounds of North Carolina or falling in the form of rain over the next several days, no one's going to be out of the danger zone, I think, for quite some time.

And that's the threat that we're trying to posture ourselves to respond to as effectively as possible. Certainly in coordination with the state as a close partner with them.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And when people get that sense of security, that false sense of security, that seems to be when you are in most need because then you have thrill seekers, surfers, boaters that want to get out there that might be bored. They think it's safe to leave their homes and get back out there.

If they do, how dangerous is this ocean right now? And how dangerous is it going to get?

STEWART: So I think it's important to note that earlier today as we were monitoring some of the wave heights, really not that far off shore, there was 35 to 40 foot waves still being pushed by this system that have nowhere to go but towards the shore and you're going to see significant amounts impact the shoreline and in addition to that mainly because of the structure of the barrier islands and the coast line of North Carolina, very, very strong, very, very strong rip currents that are also going to be a severe hazard even if the surf isn't as large as you might expect at the time.

BOLDUAN: Captain, I'm sure you have to -- as you said, you have to pre-position to be ready to come in when it's safe for you all to come in to help. How far out are you positioning out in the ocean? Where are you positioning some of those assets? STEWART: So the assets are going to continue to strategically shift.

We have several cutters. We have moved aircraft out of the immediate zone. We have multiple helicopter and fixed wing aircraft that are going to be ready to surge in as soon as the conditions are safe for them to do so. We have multiple small boats that we've positioned out of harm's way and as soon as we can get into safe operating parameters, we will be moving them immediately back into the road to do search and rescue and other operations as the effects of this storm indicate we need to move, we're going to be ready to move.

BOLDUAN: I do wonder, if someone is out on the water once this storm starts picking up because it could sneak up on some folks, how long do you think it's going to be before you can safely get out there to help them?

STEWART: Well, that's going to -- a lot is going to be dictated by the wind levels in terms -- for aircraft, that's going to be our immediate quick response asset when it comes to search and rescue and also the cutters that are out there, we have several of our larger cutters that are going to be positioned and ready to do off shore searching.

But you're right, the weather conditions can change very, very quickly and we know that people have gotten caught off guard in the past and we're going to be there as best we can but it may not be immediate. And we are going to have to be just as careful to make sure we're ready to respond by not putting our assets, our people at risk. So folks need to be very, very careful and think way, way ahead before they make any decision to get back onto the water over the next several days.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Captain Stewart, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

STEWART: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

OUTFRONT for us next, our breaking news continues. The national hurricane warning of life threatening storm surge. Just what could that look like? We'll show you.

Also breaking, homes exploding across one community in Massachusetts tonight and mass evacuations are underway as we speak, as officials are warning there could be more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:38:58] BOLDUAN: Breaking news: Hurricane Florence is strengthening tonight. Maximum sustained winds are up to 105 miles per hour and hurricane force wind gusts are already being felt along the central North Carolina coast.

Our Brian Todd is just north of there in Hampstead, North Carolina.

Brian, what are you looking at there? BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, we're entering a pretty

dangerous area. The low tide has been in effect here for several hours. Yet even with the low tide, this is Old Landing Road that I'm standing on. That's the intercoastal waterway. They're starting to become one and the same. The waterway is pushing onto the roadway here and it's going to be flooded in the next few hours.

Now, we're getting pelted with another band of rain. You know, when it starts to rain sideways you're entering the area where it's getting thick and heavy. The storm surge is also going to affect these areas here. These marshland areas are critical.

They are always very good at absorbing the storm surge. They take in all the water. They can kind of store it and prevent it from going into the homes and businesses nearby these areas, but right now this marshland over here is inundated.

[19:40:05] The water pushing straight past it and past the street line here to these houses and businesses, and you know, once high tide kicks in in a few hours, it's going to have nowhere to go. The rain is really starting to get much heavier and whip around where we are but, again, storm surge, Kate, this is where you really see the effects of it.

This roadway does end over here, so it's not like this roadway across is flooded. But it is pushing right on to this roadway. This is the scene that's going to be repeated on roads throughout this area, Kate.

BOLDUAN: It's been an important measure tonight, Brian, how far up it gets and where you get pushed into. Appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Major concern is over this deadly storm surge from Hurricane Florence. We've heard almost every official we've talked to, this is one of their major concerns. The surge could rise as high as 12 feet while the storm itself may have been downgraded, the storm surge has not. It's an important point. It remains still at a category 4 level. And that means, of course, life threatening.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.

Tom, water's accounted for, we saw this amazing statistic, more than 75 percent of all hurricane-related deaths in the United States from '63 to 2012. So, show us what this surge could look like this time.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What you saw in a microcosm, what Brian was showing you a minute ago, it's not one giant wave rushing up over the ground, it's rapid increase in the water level as the winds drive a bunch of little waves and a big bulge of water up and over the land.

And the result is, of course, in some areas you get 2, 3 feet you're going to have damage. You get up to 6 feet that's going to be enough to sink, destroy cars and do really significant damage to homes.

And when you start talking about 9, 12, 13, 15 feet in some areas, then you have enough power to eat away at the foundations of homes, to batter the top with other waves and really homes out there are simply not built to withstand that sort of damage. And a lot of them are in that harm's way, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Can you show us what the real impact of this is for the entire region?

FOREMAN: Yes. Yes. Think about where Brian was. Everywhere you see the map where there's color, they're getting something. The redder areas are getting the worst of it.

And look where they are, rivers and creeks, areas that will funnel that surging water deeper inland so that you wind up with communities like this one. Vanceboro, North Carolina. If the flooding goes where it is, this flooding could look like this by tomorrow morning or something like that, if things go as expected.

I want to point something out, Kate. That's 60 miles from the beach. Same story if you go down to New Bern, which is some distance away there. There again, they have fewer of the deep flooding pockets that are still expected, but still, you could have areas like this that could start looking like this, all because of the storm surge driving forward as Brian and the other officials have noted, because the water has nowhere else to go.

And I want you to bear this mind, you could forget everything else. A cube of water 4 feet by 4 feet, this size, weighs as much as a car. That's how much destructive potential is being pushed inland by the storm surge tonight.

BOLDUAN: And I just heard an official out of Wilmington tonight, Tom, saying they could see flooding 40, 50, even 100 miles in because of the surge, because of the waterways, because of the rivers and how it goes.

This is -- this is the event. This is what we need to be watching.

FOREMAN: And the inland waterfall. And interestingly enough, Kate, a slow, weaker storm like this produces a bigger surge than a fast, powerful, fierce storm.

BOLDUAN: That's the thing everyone's having to wrap their mind around tonight.

Tom, thanks so much.

FOREMAN: You're welcome.

BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT for us next, breaking news continues, as conditions across the Carolinas are going to start deteriorating very rapidly. I'm going to talk to one man who's going to stick it out despite the dire warnings.

Also breaking, a community is on edge tonight after homes just started exploding. Schools and entire neighborhoods evacuated. What is behind these multiple explosions? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:48:19] BOLDUAN: We are now just hours away from Hurricane Florence making landfall. This video is from Carolina Beach, North Carolina, where officials are anticipating an 11 foot storm surge and more than 20 inches of rain. The town has been under a mandatory evacuation order. Even the mayor said he was leaving town right after our interview with him last night. But not everyone is leaving.

OUTFRONT now, one of the folks who are staying put despite the warning, Mr. Skippy Winner.

Mr. Winner, thanks for coming in.

SKIPPY WINNER, RIDING OUT HURRICANE FLORENCE : Thank you.

BOLDUAN: As I said, the city's mayor has left. The governor has warned, don't risk your life riding out a monster is how he put it. So, why are you staying?

WINNER: Eighty-four years, I've been through every one of them (AUDIO GAP)

BOLDUAN: How many storms have you -- how many storms have you ridden out at home?

WINNER: I've rid them out at home. I've rid them out on our boat. I've rid them out --

(AUDIO GAP)

BOLDUAN: The audio is going in and out. This is understandable. We'll try one more time, Mr. Winner.

Tell me, what have you done to prepare? The warnings are to get out. You live near.

[19:50:02] How can you be sure that your house can take it?

WINNER: Well, it's been taking them since the late '40s. There's a lot of concrete. And in Hazel, the water was like three inches that came into this house. Before Hazel, when I was younger, this area was flooded and it flooded for days.

(AUDIO GAP)

BOLDUAN: Yes.

Well, Mr. Winner, I wish I could hear you a little better, but we'll try to check back in with you. I really appreciate it. Please, please be safe.

WINNER: We're going to be safe. We've got everything prepared. (AUDIO GAP)

BOLDUAN: All right. Here's hoping. Thank you so much, sir. OUTFRONT for us next, we'll continue to follow breaking news. A very

dangerous situation is unfolding tonight in Massachusetts. Multiple homes across one town are going up in flames. There are some new details coming in about what is believed now to be behind these explosions. We'll get the latest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:55:54] BOLDUAN: As Hurricane Florence slowly intensifies before making landfall, we are following more breaking news tonight out of Massachusetts. Fires, just look at this video, fires and explosions erupting across several neighborhoods. The cause believed at this moment to be a gas issue.

Seventy locations, 70, confirmed so far for fires, explosions, or gas odors. And that number may still be growing tonight. Some homes completely gone, burned to the ground. Numerous neighborhoods with gas service evacuated.

Jason Carroll is following this breaking news and he's OUTFRONT right now.

Jason, what else do we know about these fires and these explosions?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, we're waiting for a press conference right now from city and state officials. I can tell you that fire officials out there are describing a scene unlike anything they've seen before. This is video from earlier today. Plumes of fire and smoke filled the air as emergency crews rushed to the communities of Andover, North Andover, and Lawrence, communities located about an hour north of Boston.

It's still early, but what we can tell you is that it appears these explosions resulted from a natural gas line, possibly the result of too much pressure on the line. Again, Massachusetts state police responding to 70 reports. That includes reports of explosions, fire, and gas odor. Emergency officials out there are asking all residents who get their service from Columbia Gas to evacuate.

That includes residents now, we're being told of South Lawrence. They also are being told to evacuate, as well.

The town of Andover sent a bulletin on Facebook asking its residents if they knew how to turn off gas. The key word being "if," if knew how to turn off gas, to do so and then evacuate.

Columbia Gas, we are told, is depressurizing the gas lines there to try to alleviate the situation.

Lawrence General Hospital has received four patients. The conditions of those patients at this point unknown. Massachusetts' governor is urging residents to heed the evacuations order. There are Andover police also telling us that shelters are in place for folks to get to and to go to.

But what you can see from there, those pictures, obviously, a very tense situation for emergency crews who have been there on the ground, putting out those fires, trying to get to the bottom of the cause -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Brian -- sorry, Jason, I am also wondering, did these happen -- do we have any information how close these things happened together? Like if we're talking about multiple fires, multiple explosions, was this one right after another? Was this in succession? Are getting any kind of a timeline here?

CARROLL: Right, 70 of these types of explosions or reports of gas or fire occurring, we're told occurring across several city blocks. So, you can imagine the area here that folks are having to deal with, these three different communities, and happening one right after another. One witness was out there saying she heard a boom, a lot of explosion, and then five minutes later, about five minutes later, hearing another explosion. So it was one at after another after another -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Gosh. All right. Much more information to come and that is still unfolding tonight. Jason, thanks so much. We'll keep a close eye on that.

I do want to get you a quick update on the other very big breaking story on tonight, Hurricane Florence. Officials just announcing that some 88,000 people are without power as conditions are deteriorating across the Carolinas.

Storm chaser Logan Poole is joining me right on the phone in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Logan, Wilmington is where all the focus is, where the worst could be coming. What are you seeing right now?

LOGAN POOLE, METEOROLOGIST, WEATHERNATION (via telephone): You know, Wilmington is definitely in the line of fire here. As meteorologists, we have to know that just because it's weakening, you know, according to maximum wind speed, this doesn't mean the impact is going to be less. The pressure hasn't risen that much, so that means the storm hasn't weakened that much, and that's going to bring a lot of impact, regardless of the exact category is.

BOLDUAN: And it is still on its way. Logan, thank you so much.

And thank you for joining us. Our breaking news coverage of Hurricane Florence continues with "AC360" now.