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Hurricane Florence Unleashes on Carolinas, Set to Dump Rain for Days; Rescue Crews Staged Across Carolinas as Florence Strikes; Hurricane Florence Lashes Carolinas with Torrential Rain, Wind; Island of Carolina Beach Out of Power as Florence Approaches. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired September 14, 2018 - 09:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

[09:00:06] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Florence. This storm has made landfall just outside Wilmington, North Carolina. 430,000 plus customers are without power.

What does that mean? Well, they do it by customer but who knows if each house -- how many people are in it? Who stayed? Mandatory evacuations ignored. There is a lot of untold story here and there'll be many chapters to go as more and more duration of this storm unfold.

We're showing you some of the best live picture of what we can account for so far in New Bern, North Carolina, parts north of Wilmington. 150 people were stranded there. First responders forced to go out in conditions far worse than what we're seeing here in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where the storm is yet to come. They went out. They made the rescues. The calls had been early and often from people who got caught by this storm.

And, remember, it is not a four, six or nine-hour event. It will be days of downpour. All right? And again, that number 430,000 customers without power.

Here in South Carolina, North Myrtle Beach, this is where Florence is coming. Throughout the day conditions will be deteriorating. What are we seeing here? By storm standards, reasonable fair, 30, 40-mile- an-hour sustained winds, gusts of about 50 miles an hour or so. It makes for a dramatic looking ocean. It sounds dramatic if I put the microphone directly into the wind.

But by hurricane standards, very light. However, here is what's going to change here. This is a tide just starting to come in. When the wind shifts as this storm rotates and moves southwest by west, by the time it gets here, you will have another high tide, and it will have the wind working with it that time. So now you'll have surge, you'll have tidal action and you'll have wind all coming together.

What will that mean for this area, we don't know. We'll see. They added five feet of sand to this beach not many weeks ago and it's already having a hard time dealing with high tide without any storm conditions, so we'll see. Jacksonville, North Carolina, has seen very dramatic activity throughout the morning. That's where Ed Lavandera is.

Ed, tell us, what have the people there had to live through so far on this day?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've been told throughout the night that there were a number of homes along rivers that were taking on water. A full assessment of just how much flood damage has occurred here, we don't quite have yet. But there is also some structural damage. A hotel overnight had to be evacuated here in the Jacksonville area, after part of the building started collapsing. First responders evacuated about 70 people from that hotel.

Though the winds, Chris, and the rains have been relentless and some parts on the north side of this storm, if you go up to Morehead City, North Carolina, the heavy rains started around midday. So we're approaching nearly 24 hours of intense rains and strong winds. Not as long here in Jacksonville, but the winds are sustaining the trees that you see behind me. Those are about 100-foot tall trees that have been -- just almost seem stuck. Almost like a 50-degree angle.

It's intense just how strong the winds are here that really kind of gives you a sense of just how long these winds have been sustained for here in this area, on the north side, the topside of this storm. And that concern is growing, not just in New Bern, as you mentioned, Chris, off the top, but that flooding concern is really spreading throughout many areas here on the north side of this storm, coupled with sustained length of this storm, coupled with the low-lying areas and that's a recipe for very treacherous and dramatic situations that we're monitoring, that we're already seeing unfold. And as this storm continues to batter away here at the coastline in the inland communities, we'll continue to see that as well -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Ed. Stay safe. Stay in my ear. Let me know when you want me to come back to you with a change of development.

And just so you can understand what Ed is talking about, we're going to go to Brian Todd right now in Wilmington. But as we do, put up the satellite picture. Let people see what the radar means so they understand the descriptions of this duration and change.

Ed Lavandera was talking to you about the north side of the storm. You'll see it. It's the topside as you look at the coastline of the rotating storm, the hurricane. So the topside has heavy wind coming with it. Now you're going to have to deal with that for many hours. And then once it's gone, you have to deal with the backside of the storm as it rotates past and moves west-southwest.

Wind changing direction, similar intensity. What does that mean? It creates more vulnerabilities of every area that it passes over. Ground that has been soaked for many hours. Root systems of vegetation. Structures that have been taking a lot of water. So vulnerabilities increase over time and so does the pressure on people who'll have to hunker down.

[09:05:04] For that let's go to Brian Todd. And again they thought they had seen the worst but it's going to last now throughout this entire day and into the night.

Brian, what's it like right now?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, we're pretty much getting pummeled in downtown Wilmington. The eyewall made the landfall less than two hours ago. But they have been dealing with this pounding rain and the rising water and the storm for several hours. This is Dock Street (PH) in downtown Wilmington. I'm going to show you kind of what the situation is like. You've got downed trees, downed power lines not far from here.

This street filling up with water. We're only about a block away from the Cape Fear River, which of course, as we've been told for days, is going to be just way, way beyond flood stage for much of these next few days.

The mayor of Wilmington, Bill Saffo, told our colleague Kaylee Hartung that they've had already about 100 calls for rescues, and they are trying to get to as many people as possible. But these are the kind of conditions the first responders are going to be navigating. A lot of standing water, rushing water on these streets. You don't know how deep it is. This is what causes injury and deaths in these situations, in the hurricanes. It's the water on the streets. It's, you know, gusting wind -- are going to be up against it.

CUOMO: All right. Brian Todd's shot is taking trouble because of all this, you know, electric activity in the air and the wind and the force. Communications are always a problem during storms. It is not necessarily a sign of distress for Brian and his team. We are checking in as often as we can. People are doing this coverage as safely as possible.

Anderson Cooper is of course staged there in Wilmington and they are up against it right now.

Anderson, how are you doing?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Chris, it has been pretty miserable here now for several hours, as you know. Made landfall around 7:15 a.m. this morning. We have been getting these gusts. Actually this town, Wilmington, is actually seeing the biggest gust, the strongest gust and hurricane that they've experienced since 1960. It's an extraordinary statistic. They mentioned some 92-mile-an-hour wind gusts. That's not sustained wind. That's a gust. And they're coming by every now and then, blowing things around.

Part of the roof came off of part of a hotel. We've been seeing some debris. And according to the mayor a lot of trees are down in Wilmington. He's also especially concerned about -- of communities about 10 miles or so outside of Wilmington, North Carolina. Some migrant populations, about what may happen to them, especially near the Cape Fear River. Very concerned. Obviously, it is too -- it's too early really to get an assessment of exactly how everybody is.

They have been receiving calls here in Wilmington for assistance. And it's really being done on a case-by-case basis. We've been watching the Cape River, the white caps on it. But at this point, it actually -- this is actually better than it was when John Berman was here even just about 20 or so minutes ago. The rain seems to have slowed down at this point. This is probably just one of those -- you know, the differentials in one of those bands of the storm that we keep seeing.

We've been watching obviously just the marina very closely. It still seems to be in good shape. This is what we anticipate seeing all throughout the day today, this grinding, slow-moving storm moving about six miles per hour. At last I heard electricity is out pretty much everywhere in Wilmington. The hotel here, most of the buildings. There is a lot of customers, more than 300,000 customers in North Carolina who are without power right now. And that number is only likely to increase.

I think there is a lot of people who are just going to be spending the day inside. They can't even watch it on TV anymore. And all they have to do, though, is look out the window. And it is miserable. When we -- when I woke up this morning a couple of hours ago and looked outside, you can hear the -- you can feel the windows, the buildings kind of rattling. You can feel the gusts of winds. So it's a big difference from what it was when we were -- when I was last on air about midnight last night. It certainly deteriorated. Definitely got a lot stronger. The storm has made landfall. And as we know, it is just going to be sitting for 12, 24 hours. So there is some long hours ahead.

I want to go over to Dianne Gallagher in New Bern where there have been -- there are people trapped in their homes. A very dangerous situation for residents there.

Dianne, explain where you are and what you're seeing.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK. So Anderson, I am in a community called River Bend. We're a few miles away from where we started this morning in New Bern but it took us almost 40 minutes to get here because of all the downed trees and power lines and flooded roads.

[09:10:03] And behind me here, you can see these rescue operations. They have got lots of people. They say they're not exactly sure on the number right who are now trapped in homes.

Now I can't show you exactly where the water begins just yet because they've asked us to stand back. We don't want to get in the way of them doing their job. But what I can tell you is that there are eight swift water rescue teams here right now and they're coming from all over. We spoke with one from Maryland, his name is Mitchell. He says that when you go back there, the water is about chest deep on him trying to rescue people.

In fact he said that they had to go down and get a woman, bring her back on a boat on a backboard. You are dealing with people who are standing on their roofs, who are trying to get in attics if they have them and basically outrun the water until these boats can get to them.

Now again, we can't see it anymore here, Anderson, what heroes these people are because they are out here. The wind is strong every once in a while. We're still getting those and the rain is coming down, which means the water is continuing to rise. We've had at least seven inches of rainfall in the New Bern-Craven County area and a storm surge of 10 feet as the water just keeps coming down and rising up.

Now they are going around the entire county and doing this at one point in New Bern. This morning they had more than 150 people who needed rescuing. Now the city said we will come get you. We will rescue you. Stay where you are, get to higher ground.

But, Anderson, I have to point out here, they started their evacuation processes in this county on Monday because they know what storms bring to this area. They flood. They've got the Neuss River, they've got the chemicals down. We have the channels. They've got the Atlantic Ocean. This is an area surrounded by water. That's why people want to live here, but that's why they have to listen to authorities when they tell them to get out.

This is a county under a mandatory evacuation and they have hundreds of people who have already been rescued. More than 200 and hundreds to go. So this is why you need to listen to those evacuations. You don't know if your home is going to be the one that has you up on a roof waiting for swift boat rescue teams from another state to come get you.

The Cajun Navy is here as well, Anderson, helping with these rescues. But the flooding situation in the New Bern, in the Craven County area right now, it is dire. We're going to continue here in River Bend. We're going to attempt to get a little bit closer. Maybe go with some of these swift water teams to see if we can get a firsthand look of what it is out there. But again our main goal here is to observe. It is not to impede their rescue missions or investigations.

Anderson, I'm going to send it back to you. But again the rain is coming up here. It is getting -- the water is getting deeper and it is rising quicker. We are coming across it on roads. It is hard to get around here. They're asking you just to stay at home if you can.

COOPER: And Dianne, if you could just say it again, how many rescues do you know have already taken place? And how many calls have come in for aid?

GALLAGHER: They have had hundreds of calls come in and more than 200 rescues have already taken place. They still have more to go. And as this water starts to rise in different parts of the county, they are having to see different areas as well.

We actually came to this part of the county because a woman who had evacuated, she lived here in River Bend. She was in our hotel, Anderson. She started showing us pictures of her neighbor who chose not to evacuate, her house that she was sending this morning, and she was like it's really bad there. And the emergency managers offered their assistance there, Amber, she told us, this is where I live. We talked to the town hall manager and at around 2:00 this morning there was four feet of water standing on the road right next to the town hall. So this has been something that has been rising overnight. But a lot

of these people here just got trapped. I talked to some neighbors here, the water at this point this morning came all the way where I'm standing up to the houses that are back there. If I can get Mad Dog to pan this way. The houses that are back there they showed me the water line at their home this morning when the storm surge was coming in, and it reached up to the bin part, the bottom part of their door.

We are up on a bit of a hill right here. So the conditions seemed to have improved from that moment there. But I can see the water right now from where I am coming up and rising as it continues to rain. So we're dealing with a situation where seconds and minutes matter for some of these people. And again I cannot say it enough. When people tell you to evacuate in your community, please do it.

Craven County, Anderson, provided free buses to shelters inland for people for days on end. It has been a mandatory evacuation for more than two days now, voluntary since Monday. So please, when they ask you to evacuate, leave town.

COOPER: Yes. Yes. Now of course you have a situation where they're needing to be rescued, which puts a lot of other people's lives in danger. It is a difficult thing.

Dianne, stay safe. We're going to continue to check in with you. Dianne has been all over that area. That's really been one of the epicenters where we've seen some of the worst images -- some of the earliest flooding in New Bern and now with the location she is now where that volunteers and others are staging in order to try to go out in their boats, try to continue to rescue people as they have been. Just extraordinary work, it's the kind of thing we saw in Houston, in Harvey.

[09:15:06] Again, this is just one of those gust of winds that's coming by, it's a kind of a stinging rain. There's a little bit of debris in the air. And also, you obviously always conscious of any kind of the possibility for any kind of flying debris.

There's a couple of a light poles, light poles that have some metal on top of it that has flown off for one or two of them. So just keeping an eye on that. I want to check in with our Chad Myers at the Weather Center, just get an overview of where this storm is right now for anybody in this area who is listening and everybody else just to get a sense of what we should be anticipating over the next 12, 24 or even 36 hours. Chad, talk to me about what you're seeing.

CHAD MYERS, METEOROLOGIST: Well, certainly, what you are going to see depends on where you are, north of the storm or south of the storm. What I'm seeing right now is that the center is right over Carolina Beach. If there is an eye and it still appears that there is an eye with the storm, it would be directly over Carolina Beach.

Now, earlier today, when John Berman was getting so wet, it was here. So it has been traveling toward the south and toward the southwest. And what's southwest of here? Ocean. The land ends right there. So this could quickly be back in the water, maybe in that warm water trying to strengthen.

Well, we've been seeing most of the day up to the north here, I'll take you to New Bern. New Bern, you've been in this band of weather right through here, and right now you are not. And so it was really amazing to see -- there it is, live shot right there with very little wind because the shift water rescues today were going on with wind gusts to 60.

Little bitty rubber boats with motors and guys and ladies in there, trying to rescue these people and the winds are blowing 60 miles per hour. So it was nice to see that, that has calmed down just a little bit for the people that are there because they really deserve those rescuers there.

So Wilmington Airport, a brand-new record for you other than for Hurricane Donna, 105 miles per hour. And looking at you, Anderson, compared to where we were looking at with John Berman just hours ago, it's like you're either in two different spots or he was outside and you're inside because it really has changed significantly as the eye has gone down.

What hasn't changed is onshore flow that will push water into Jacksonville, that will push water into Wilmington all morning long where John was and where you're standing right now. The wind was blowing offshore, down the river.

Now it's beginning to turn around and it will blow up the river stopping that rain from coming down, and there is a lot more rain. Everywhere that you see white, that's still 20 inches of rain to come. It's still there. This is a big storm, the pressure is still very low, it just doesn't have more than a category one wind in the eye.

That's the only difference between this storm and a category three is the eye wind. Everything else is exactly the same. Wilmington, North Carolina normal to date, you should have 42 inches. Right now you're up to 63.

So that is just so much water in the system, you'd get the trees blowing down, you have the roots that are wet, these loblolly pines are falling on each other, so we have 17 moderate stage floods and 14 major floods going on right now and obviously it's still raining.

If it gets back in the water tonight, that could be the next step for our Chris Cuomo who is down there in north Myrtle Beach, that's where it's going.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, this thing obviously is going to be moving, and that is but moving very slowly. Chad, appreciate it, we'll check in back with you. I'm going to take a quick break, when we come back, we're going to have a live press conference from FEMA officials to find out the latest on how they are seeing the situation in North Carolina and South Carolina. We'll be right back.


COOPER: And coming to you live from Wilmington where they have seen the strongest wind gusts that they have seen in nearly 60 years, not since 1960 have they seen wind gusts of 92 miles an hour which were recorded at the airport here in Wilmington earlier today.

I want to go to Miguel Marquez who is in Carolina Beach just to get a sense of the situation there. I know there's a lot of folks without power. Miguel, how is it? How are you doing?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Very good. Carolina Beach is out of power and they've had some flooding and they've had some damage throughout town. For the most part, it's been small bits of damage.

We are in the eye of the storm, and the one -- I just want to show you what's going on here. We're in the eye of the storm, and the one significant thing is that the wind as Chad Myers mentioned has changed directions. It's now coming in from the ocean.

It had been blowing from the west all night, and now it's changed directions and it started to pick up again. When that calm hit, my colleague Derek Van Dam was up all night long, they were recording 90 miles per hour gusts. It was knocking people over, they could not stand up.

I came out, fresh as a daisy, and there was literally zero wind. It was unbelievable because we had a very long night last night, it was getting very intense last night, and then this morning in the eye, zero wind. Now it's starting to pick up, the wind not blowing this way, but blowing this way from the ocean.

So this is where they are concerned that that storm surge and a lot of that water is going to come up into the areas here and do even more flooding. Nothing major right now, power is out, but so far everybody is OK, Anderson?

COOPER: And Miguel, just in terms of evacuations, I assume most people have left.

[09:25:00] MARQUEZ: Most have, about 90 percent of the people here. It's a community of 6,200 people, they're guessing about 600 people are still here, just being out and about this morning just near our hotel, lots of people out sort of surveying damage.

But everyone seems to be OK, they affected no rescues overnight. There has been very few calls for rescue, we've had some ambulances and fire trucks out, but so far everyone is all right here -- Anderson?

COOPER: Miguel, I want to go to the director of the National Hurricane Center Ken Graham, just to get an overview of where things are at. Ken, thanks so much for being with us. Can you just give us a sense of what you're seeing, what your concerns are?

KEN GRAHAM, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Yes, good morning, Anderson, let's look at this. I mean, we have just a large system here and really not moving very far, still the center of it hugging along the coast. And it's really because it's so slow, you're putting a lot of people right in the eye wall for a long period of time.

But not just that center, look how far these rain bands stretch out. And Anderson, a big point to make here, the slower the system is, the longer these rain bands start stretching this -- putting this rainfall and these winds and tornadoes over the same area.

None of these move very far as long as the center doesn't need us. So we are pushing a lot of water in-land, and I tell you, water becomes the biggest threat, 90 percent of these fatalities ends up being the water.

COOPER: And just in terms of --- you were talking about how slow this is. Do you know how many miles an hour it is moving? I had heard reports of anywhere from 4 to 6 miles an hour.

GRAHAM: Yes, that's what we're looking at. And it's a good point because 4 to 6 miles an hour is hardly any movement, and looking at the churn on radar, it's barely moving at all. So that is not helping us in this situation. And then think about it, even with time, you know, it'll be stretching in the next few days, we're not moving very far.

I mean, if you look at even Saturday afternoon, that's not a lot of real estate to cover. So the prolonged event -- and interesting enough, with time, some people even further to the south that have offshore flow and having seen the water, give it some time, be patient because as this moves in land, that could switch the wind direction and start pushing the water in.

COOPER: And we have seen a change in wind direction. Miguel Marquez was just talking about that in Carolina Beach, we've seen that here in Wilmington. So tell how that impacts the feeling on the ground.

GRAHAM: Yes, it makes a big difference, and you start getting these wind shifts, but with time it really becomes about the water. So when we talk about the wind shifts, let's think of it this way. When it changes the wind direction, you can actually change where the water goes.

So with time, we are still forecasting point south, possibly 4 to 6 foot of storm surge in South Carolina. So that's when you start getting the system to sit in land and the rotation around that is where you can get the onshore flow.

And the size is a big issue where such a large wind field, that's where you're starting to push some of the storm surge into New Bern and places like that where you can get up to 11 feet where the water really piles up.

COOPER: Yes, we appreciate your expertise and appreciate talking to us this morning. The water seems -- the rain at least for now seems to have subsided somewhat, it's actually but not raining much at all which is very nice.

And the wind, you know, getting some gusts, but really not too bad. Obviously, this is going to be a very long day for long -- a lot of people. I feel bad for John Berman who was out here for some six hours sopping wet. I just got out here, and I'm pretty dry still.

We're going to take a break, we're going to have more from North Carolina and South Carolina, we have correspondents all over this whole area, we'll be right back.