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CNN NEWSROOM

Hurricane Florence Lashes Carolina Coast with Heavy Rain and Wind; Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired September 14, 2018 - 10:00   ET

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


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

[10:00:26] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. I'm Anderson Cooper live in Wilmington, North Carolina. The storm here continues the slow grinding march as it has made landfall about 7:15 a.m. this morning. Seeing some images out of Nags Head of water coming in. We have seen water coming into homes. Some of the more dramatic images from there as well as from New Bern, where overnight dozens of people have been rescued by volunteers in boats.

We earlier just talked to Dianne Gallagher who was out with a team of volunteers who were actually out in New Bend, not far from New Bern, trying to find some more boats they could do even more water boat rescues.

There's a lot of folks who have brought their boats and staged them here, ready to go out when the winds die down, when the water dies down. In fact, let's check in with Dianne Gallagher.

Dianne, are you still -- I can't see you obviously. Tell me, you know, what's been going on.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Anderson, we're in a new boat now. Those of you who saw us before can probably see this is a boat that we went to go get. This is part of our mission here. That's our old boat right there. And we apologize for the bar here. We cannot change the way that this was designed. But they're coming through. We're in a deeper area right now. You may have seen before where my friend Mitchell was walking next to us to get us through here.

To kind of give you an idea, you can see some of the street signs where it has risen up to. We are in River Bend. They experienced an extraordinary amount of flooding here. And a lot of people have said that they weren't expecting it to flood like this here because maybe their street was a little higher than, say, their neighbor's street. So they weren't expecting their street to flood, but the problem was their neighbor's street prevented them from getting out and so forth. So we're going with them. I'm going to talk to Mitchell a little bit while he is guiding our boat here.

And Mitchell, you guys are volunteers from Maryland. You came down here, talk to me a little bit about your trip down here and what you guys did last night. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I am a fire and rescue lieutenant with a

volunteer fire department which is out of Charles County, Maryland. Also part of the swift water rescue team. We deployed an eight-person team with five boats. We knew it would be catastrophic. We left yesterday up there about 4:00 p.m., got down here about 9:00 last night. We decided to go out last night just for -- just go to area, see where we were going to go today, and ended up getting several calls last night, hundreds of calls for service last night. We reported like, say, about 35 to 40 people out from water anywhere between 2 feet to 40 feet.

We've fought our hardest to make our way down 17 north to go into New Bern and we couldn't -- we got as far as we could. We have to cut our own path down there with chainsaws. We were out until about 5:00 this morning. Finally took a break because it was too dangerous to be out, waiting for the sun to come up about an hour later and we have been out here since.

GALLAGHER: And you guys did -- I mean, you guys are were rescuing people. We were in downtown New Bern last night. You guys were rescuing people down there who didn't think anyone was coming for them at the time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. We rescued a couple people that were posted on Facebook, their addresses and stuff. We -- elderly people, blind people, medically problem people, everybody. Anybody and everybody who needed help, we were there.

GALLAGHER: I saw -- and earlier here in River Bend, we actually ran into them. They were going down to get somebody who needed to come out on a back board, basically.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, when the water came in last night, it knocked her down. And we aren't sure if it dislocated her hip or broke her hip, but we took every medical precaution necessarily to make sure we got her out safely and to the treatment she needed.

GALLAGHER: You know, you guys are down here out of the goodness of your hearts, out of dedication to your craft, but, you know, again this town, this whole entire county was under a mandatory evacuation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct, it was. But there's still several people that obviously stayed and that's why we're here.

GALLAGHER: And you guys, after we're done here in River Bend, you're planning to just continue this. You're on like three hours of sleep here. It is miserable, the conditions right now. But -- and just if I can get Mad Dog to kind of show you guys here, I mean, talking about the varying, like, we're on a bush right now, if you saw us kind of -- we just went over a bush. You can kind of see our boat that again we're bringing.

This belongs to somebody who lives here right now. So we came to get this boat. This boat can then help them with additional rescues. Because you guys can only bring down what you bring down, right? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct. We can only fit so many people in our

boats. And we can only get so many people in a certain amount of time. So we're doing our best. We'll be here until we get everybody out of this neighborhood and then we're going downtown and then we're (INAUDIBLE) and get on to Wilmington.

[10:05:09] GALLAGHER: And talk to me a little bit about -- because I know some people saw, you were sort of walking our rowboat, if you will. I know it's not the proper term, but you're walking our smaller boat in certain areas there. And it was, you know, up to like your mid-thigh, a little up to your waist, your hips. It's pretty varying, isn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, some areas are very shallow, going anywhere from 2 to 3 feet. Others go 6 to 7 feet. So you have to be very cautious, very careful. We try not to get in the water unless we actually have to, but we try to only send the people that are actually trained.

GALLAGHER: And, you know, we're seeing here as well and you can probably hear our boat struggling a little bit because we're kind of going over people's front yards, and so there are bushes, there are mailboxes, and you know, the people who live here, unfortunately, Anderson, you've got to think about the fact that, look, they're not going to be going home anytime soon, because here in this particular area, in River Bend, and in Craven County to begin with, they deal with things like the Neuse River pretty regularly.

And it seems like we're having a little bit of an issue here. I'm going to send it --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shallow water.

GALLAGHER: It's shallow. OK. We're in a shallow point is what is. So this is what we're talking about. You can see that he can then push this boat some because we're in a more shallow part of this. But earlier before, we couldn't do that. And so that's what also makes this dangerous for people trying to get out on their own because they think that they can do this, and then they run into six or seven feet of water.

Just because you can walk through two or three feet of water doesn't mean that it's going to be two or three feet the whole way. And so, Anderson, that's something that a lot of authorities and volunteers who are proficient in this kind of water rescue are concerned with because people are just ready to get out because they're afraid because that the water keeps rising.

So we are going to send it back to you real quick here so we can maybe assist some on getting this through the shallow area if that's all right.

COOPER: OK, Dianne, we'll check in with you a little bit, because really that -- the area that you're in is where we've seen at this stage the most number of people who have been in need, as you heard from those volunteers who came down here from Maryland. They were working all night, only took a couple hours off. They've got a long day ahead of them, no doubt. As the wind has changed direction here, it's really pushed some of the rain away.

So the rain really here has lessened but we're still getting some of those wind gusts and anticipate again another band of that -- of the rain. We want to get -- try to get a sense, though, it's hard in this area because -- to get a sense of how much water there may be on the ground in other parts, particularly around Wilmington. When we had talked to the mayor yesterday, he had been talking about 20, 30, even in some cases 40 inches of rain falling over the next three days.

They are expecting eight months worth of rain over the next three days and with the potential for storm surge. But that storm surge may not even bring this river to a crest until Tuesday, according to the mayor. So it gives you a sense of how long a timeframe people here are going to be focused on water on the ground.

I want to check in with Brian Todd, who is elsewhere in Wilmington. He's been out and about.

Brian, have you gotten a sense or have you seen areas where there is water on the ground?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have, Anderson. And I'm standing in one of those areas. This is the kind of damage that the mayor was talking to you guys about, trying to get their arms around this damage here in Wilmington. This is downtown Wilmington on Nut Street. A lot of water here pushed up from the Cape Fear River.

He talked about the cresting of the Cape Fear River. And that may not come for a couple of days because a lot of storm surge pushing up from Cape Fear River. We're only about a block off that river.

Downed trees here where I am, a lot of water on the streets. Again that storm surge pushing up from the river. More downed trees over here. Power is out all over the city. That tree over there, to my left, to your right, looks like it's about to be uprooted and we're getting a lot of strong gusts of wind.

They had the strongest gusts of wind since 1960 here in Wilmington from any hurricane, up to 90 miles per hour, close to it. So when that happens, and that tree is about to go, I think. These trees, these small trees get uprooted. You've got to be very careful if you're going to venture out in this.

Anderson, we do have some word from the mayor of Wilmington, Bill Saffo. He told our colleague Kaylee Hartung that they've had about 100 or so calls for people in distress, people in need of rescue. They're trying to get to as many of them as they can. But these are the kind of conditions here along this street and other streets right near us that they have to navigate, just a ton of standing water. And we know there's going to be more of it in the days ahead.

I've also got some information just in from a local hospital. The New Hanover Regional Medical Center. We talked to Carolyn Fisher, the spokesperson, for that hospital. She said that parts of two roofs on the hospital campus were torn off. One roof was in a construction area. One roof was in an administration area.

[10:10:04] No injuries or evacuations as a result of that. And they say the damage right now, they don't think it's going to cause any need for any evacuation. But they are monitoring it closely, trying to patch it up. They said their ambulance service is down. They're going to try to work with local responders to get people in there if necessary. But they've got 450 patients in that hospital.

And the hospitals around here, Anderson, are starting to be compromised. That's something we have to keep our eye on.

COOPER: Yes. Brian, keep doing what you're doing. We're going to check in with Chad Myers just to try to get an overview for all our viewers of the size of this storm, what to anticipate.

Chad, what are you seeing?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The eye is to your south. Almost due to your south. It moved over Wrightsville Beach. There's Wilmington right there. The center of the storm really only about 15 miles from you right now. The good news is what I'm noticing is that there's some dry air along the land and it's wrapping itself into the storm. Drying out the storm, maybe even by 20 percent would help just a little bit.

Now, obviously, there's still 50 percent of the storm that's over water, so we're not drying it out all that much, but it's still -- it's a help. We'll take anything we can get at this point in time. Talking about the wind gusts. Davis, the biggest wind gust, 108 miles per hour. But Wilmington, there you go, 105.

Just as John Berman was getting off the air, I've really never seen a person so wet in a live shot for any hurricane ever. This was one of the wettest storms that I have ever seen on record. Honestly, that I have ever seen. We also have the potential -- there's one right there, tornadoes across parts of North Carolina. Every big cell that comes onshore, because the entire thing is twisting, it's a hurricane, any one of those storms can twist as well. Putting down some smaller tornadoes. Typically, EF-0s or 1's, not big storms, more like water spouts that come onshore.

But this is what I want you to look at now for the rest of the day. This is 18 hours of what we believe the future will look like with the radar. So we go to 9:00, 10:00, we're going to go around this again. That's OK. Almost to midnight right now, and then a little bit past to 1:30 a.m. Now we're going to go back. I want to start all over again and watch here. This is where the rainfall is the heaviest. And it's still the heaviest. And it's still there. And it's still there.

And I can go all the way to 1:00, but they just gave me a wrap so I don't want to go any farther than that. You get the idea, the storm isn't moving very much. Even Chris Cuomo in North Myrtle Beach tonight, the storm will be creeping toward him. It's 60 miles away, Anderson. COOPER: So, Chad, just in Wilmington, because there's still a lot of

people here, even though a lot of people have already left. I mean, is it rain all day long? Because right now, the rain has subsided somewhat.

MYERS: Yes, you know, I'll go back to this radar here because I think this shows probably about the best we can do. There is a small break back out here, Anderson, some dry air that came from Columbia, all the way across into the storm. And that cut off this normal -- this northeast quadrant, but this entire thing is going to slide this way, so this part of the rain, the heaviest rainfall will get back to you, but that may be six hours from now before you get truly back into the John Berman rain, which was 4 to 5 inches an hour.

So I think this is OK for now. We're going to see this wrap around, come back into Wilmington, but that's two inches an hour, not the devastating rain that we saw earlier.

COOPER: All right, but that rain is still coming because that's good for people to know.

Chad, we're going to continue to check in with you.

Going to take a quick break. We'll have more coverage, show you a scene out of New Bern as we take you to break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:18:34] COOPER: Our coverage continues of Hurricane Florence, category-1 storm, made landfall 7:15 a.m. this morning. I want to go over to our Drew Griffin who is over at Myrtle Beach, to get a sense of I think the tide has been going out there.

Drew, what's the beach like?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think we're finally beginning to feel it, Anderson. It's been two days of anticipation here. Power in the county starting to go out, 20,000 and climbing. And as you can see, at least tropical force winds are starting to build as a band of rain. But I want to show you a phenomenon that I really haven't witnessed before in a hurricane.

The wind here, Anderson, is moving offshore. The hurricane is pushing the water out. And as we go out here, the tide is actually coming in. High tide is at noon. So this water should be well inland by now, but as you can see, it looks like low tide. And those white caps, if you can see them, are actually the water being pushed out to sea. So it's the opposite of what you're seeing, and of course, that's daunting because whatever is being pushed out to sea eventually will be pushed back in.

Just a very odd phenomenon here in Myrtle Beach. The storm surge, I've talked to a county official. They're not really thinking that's going to be as big a problem as the flooding inland. Conway, further inland, when the slow-moving storm keeps coming down here. But right now, Myrtle Beach holding pretty strong as these winds just now starting to pick up, Anderson.

[10:20:11] COOPER: And Myrtle Beach, I mean, just in terms of evacuations, what were the sense was? What, most people had left?

GRIFFIN: Yes, most people did leave. And interesting, we had that like day and a half lag time. The people who left were starting to want to come back. So officials had to convince them, you need to stay away because so many have thought that once the hurricane was downgraded and it looked like the path was going a little north, that Myrtle Beach will have dodged a bullet, but they think 60 percent to 85 percent of the town did evacuate. Certainly, the low-lying areas, people who know they're going to flood. Now they've just got to convince them to stay away as this event continues to make its slow trek southward -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Drew, thanks very much.

I want to talk to a member of the Cajun Navy, Taylor Fontenot.

Taylor, tell me where you came from and where you're at now, what you've have been seeing.

TAYLOR FONTENOT, TEXAS CAPTAIN, AMERICA'S CAJUN NAVY: I drove in from (INAUDIBLE) Wednesday morning. We got here late. And we thought we were going to get some -- we got a call by the fire department out here and we deployed at 3:00 a.m. And I'm just now getting back into the truck. It's been a long day.

COOPER: How -- yes, talk to me about what the night's been like. What have you seen?

FONTENOT: I haven't slept since Wednesday morning. Thought we would get some last night. And we got here, briefed the fire department. They gave me full reign of the equipment, and that's pretty cool for them to do with America's Cajun Navy. And we went out with a navigator and a firefighter and police officer, and from about 3:30 a.m. to about 8:30 a.m. evacuated well over 500 people. And I'm exhausted.

COOPER: Did you say over 500 people?

FONTENOT: Yes. Between the PD out here and our guys in the water after we went out in the initial one. I dropped my phone. I came back from my boat, the water was 40 foot down the street, my boat was in the street on concrete. So it's been a wild one this morning.

COOPER: I mean, that's incredible. That you were able to get that many people out who were in need. You must be exhausted. The people -- what sort of -- what were the people who were coming out, what were they saying? Obviously, they knew it was a mandatory evacuation. They decided to stay. Had the water just come up too high in their homes?

FONTENOT: Yes. The whole drive here, we thought we'd have some help from other Cajun Navies. But that wasn't the case. So we showed up. We went out, just two of us, two of the officers, and it's bad hearing about people trapped in attics and on roofs, but actually going in the homes and having to help people out of their attic and knowing the consequences of them being up there, how they're not supposed to go in there.

And it's just kind of one of those things that they're about to get hit with 30 more inches of rain. Low tide actually helped us out a lot today. And then you have all the rain after this stalls and goes north, coming down the rivers. Their houses when they come back next week might be completely submerged.

COOPER: What's your expectations for the next couple of days? Because I mean, obviously, you know, they're saying this water, the surge is going to continue to come. The rain is going to continue to fall as much as 40 inches in some areas.

FONTENOT: This is insane. You have the surge of Katrina with the rain of Harvey. This is a horrible combination with the way it's kind of laid out over here. Every high tide with the surge, you're going to be having to come down here to the coast and then once this moves inland, you have to worry about places like Lumberton flooding since it's a little fishbowl, and you saw what happened with Matthew in Lumberton. And then that's also going to drain down here. It's going to cause more problems down here so it's one of those things that you just can't win down here. All you can do is keep going and do as much as you can do with as little as you have.

COOPER: So what's your plan for -- I mean, I assume you've got to get some rest.

FONTENOT: Yes, we're on a stand down for about the next three hours. It would have been really nice to have some help, but I guess other things were more important to other organizations, but we got out there and we did it. We had a really good day today.

COOPER: Well, it's incredible what you have done. And there's a lot of folks obviously who appreciate it. And we appreciate talking to you and wish you the best. I hope you get some sleep and keep doing what you're doing.

Taylor Fontenot, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

It's amazing, you know, this is the kind of thing we saw so much in Houston during Hurricane Harvey. We saw, obviously, in Katrina, in New Orleans, along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. People just reaching out, coming down to help, grabbing a boat where they can, and doing what they do best. It's an extraordinary thing to see.

[10:25:08] The situation in Wilmington, the mayor had said that they had received about 100 calls. We're not sure on exactly the seriousness of those calls or the exact nature of those calls. But certainly, you know, there are -- that's something that authorities here are assessing, and their ability to get to people. It has -- you know, the winds here, though they have reached a record wind gust that they haven't seen since 1960, wind gusts here that are this strong, it's relatively calm right now compared to what it was even just a couple hours ago. We just heard from Chad Myers earlier who is saying that the rain is

now down to, you know, maybe an inch or two an hour. It's going to go back up, though, he anticipates, maybe in a couple hours. Maybe even as much as six hours. But this is a rain event and a surge event all day long, is what people in this entire area are expecting. They're going to just have to deal with. We're going to hear a lot more about people being rescued by boats. There's no doubt about it.

We're going to take a short break and our coverage of the hurricane continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)