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Hurricane Florence Stalls on Carolina Coast Battering Cities; S.C. Officials Give Strom Update; Rescue in Progress in Wilmington; Mother, Child 1st Storm-Related Deaths in Wilmington; Cajun Navy Carries Out Search-and-Rescue Missions. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 14, 2018 - 14:30   ET



[14:32:17] DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Don Lemon, live here in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. This is our special coverage of Hurricane Florence. It is really on top of us now. The worst where I am won't happen for a couple of hours. We're still getting bands of wind and rain and gusts of wind of up to 40 miles per hour. That's the issue here. The wind, yes, a little bit. There's projectiles and things blowing around. Rescue workers, emergency workers are concerned about that. But the big concern is the water and the flooding. Not much of a storm surge where I am, but there's flooding happening all over New Bern and many areas in the Carolinas. The problem again will be water. This thing is sort of sitting and spinning, whipping up all that water that collected out in the Atlantic.

We have witnessed, many of our crews in the areas are witnessing live rescues going on for people that chose to stay and ride this particular hurricane out, which emergency officials warned don't do it. People decided to stay in homes. We've been seeing that.

We have also been seeing issues of flooding. In New Bern, flood waters up to 40 feet. Imagine that, 40 feet of flood waters. On top of that, you have surge of up to 15 feet, and that's major. That's going to go on for quite some time.

Our meteorologists have been telling us this is really the end of the beginning here, as you can see the wind now picking up where I am as well.

My colleague, Nick Watt, he has been watching this thing, not far from me, a couple miles up the road, 10 miles or so in north Myrtle Beach.

I don't know what you're getting there, but we're getting a band of wind and rain now where I am, Nick. What are you seeing?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Don, bands have been coming through all day. My worst fear was high tide. It just passed here. I thought at high tide where I'm standing I might be underwater, and I'm not. That's probably because the main eye of the storm hasn't started to move southwest towards where you are and where I am.

Here in north Myrtle Beach the local authorities have stopped sending out first responders on 911 calls unless it is a life-threatening situation. They're worried about gusts of winds, which here are picking up all day. Through the night, we started hearing them. Our house, which was on stilts, was hard to sleep because the house was moving around in the wind. Today, gusts got stronger and stronger. An hour ago, maybe longer, was the first one that I thought could take me off my feet.

The issue we might have here is, we're on a sliver of land between that ocean, the Intercoastal Waterway that way, water on both sides, water coming from above. And if that storm keeps on going at the slow jog of a pace and keeps dumping all of this water over where we are, this town could flood. This town flooded in the past, and it could again. So wind and rain.

[14:35:18] Also, the issue with the wind, the longer the storm hangs around in a place, if you're getting 50-miles-per-hour winds for 24 hours, that will damage buildings. The-135 miles-per-hour storm barreling to shore does damage, sure, but a slow moving one of sustained 50-plus-miles-per-hour winds will cause damage.

Here, so far, we haven't seen the worst of it yet. Few downed power lines. About half the customers in the town do not have power now, but no serious flooding so far. But as you and I know, where we are, the worst is still to come -- Don?

LEMON: Nick Watt, thank you for that.

Officials, governors, emergency officials have been giving updates through the day and throughout the evening in the Carolinas, updating us on the number of people without power. At last check, about 650,000 people without power here. And that's going to go on quite some time as the storm continues to turn here. Also, at least 12,000, up to 15,000 people as a matter of fact who spent the night in shelters, 126 shelters in North Carolina alone.

My colleague, Martin Savidge, is watching this thing. He is in Wrightsville Beach where it made landfall this morning.

Martin, I can't see you but I can only imagine what you're dealing with. What's going on?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let me be clear, Don, we are right at the edge of the Intercoastal, and Wrightsville Beach begins on the other side. We can't get there because the bridge is closed. It is closed because of the fact we're still dealing with very high winds. Probably not hurricane, tropical storm, I would say. Every now and then, gusts are really strong. We have been dealing with this for 24 hours now. The wind load on buildings, as Nick was pointing out, is a marathon kind of thing. They can take it for a while. But when you start talking about a full day and beyond, the weaknesses will show up, especially in the older buildings.

We are looking across the water at Wrightsville Beach. The new buildings look fine. However, we can't see far inland. We know from talking to authorities there that there's tidal flooding occurring in there. It seemed to happen around midmorning this morning when we were approaching high tide. Looks like there's still water that's inundated certain areas, close to the Intercoastal. We want to get there as soon as we can, but of course, not until the authorities say it is all clear. We continue to monitor from here. Also, you should know the Atlantic Ocean is battering it heavily from the oceanside. And we heard there's some heavy beach erosion as well.

As far as this particular area where the storm came ashore, the buildings are doing OK but right now it is still blowing hard. That's the amazing thing. It is still howling through here. The rain continues to pour down, and it is driving a lot of water for the Intercoastal onto shore. It eased some as the tide backed off. It is amazing the longevity of it -- Don?


Marty, thank you so much. You can feel it watching your shot, the cameraman wiping off the lens, you and the helmet and life jacket in Wrightsville Beach. Martin Savidge, thank you so much.

We'll come back to Don Lemon in a bit in Myrtle Beach.

Meantime, after this break, we'll talk to a member of the Cajun Navy, commander here, dealing with all of the high-water rescues, getting folks high and dry and to safety. My live interview with him coming up next.


[14:43:15] HENRY MCMCASTER, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR: Impassable roads, washed out, maybe landslides in the mountains. Do not drive around the barricades. These are the same urgings we have been doing throughout. Be careful, be smart. If you have any questions, call the authorities. Go to, get in instructions there. Call the numbers that's been given. Call the sheriff's office, 911. A lot of numbers will still be operating that have been given before. But don't take things into your own hands and take a chance. The last thing we want to do is lose lives in South Carolina because of impatience and because of not being smart.

We have been in constant communication, as you have noticed, over the days, with these conferences and talking to people around the state. And we're not forgetting any part of the state. Point out particularly, in Marion County, Nichols really was hit last time. They're liable to get hit again. I talked last night to the mayor, the chairman of the county council, the country's administrator, current and former House members and Senators, and I assured them, and they knew because they have been in constant communication as well, that we are pulling for them, praying for them, working with them. And we want to keep damage to the minimum, keep loss of property to an absolute minimum. The whole team in South Carolina is backing them, not only them but every other part of South Carolina, the populated, densely populated and sparsely. We have been on the phone, those of us here, talking face to face as well with the coastal mayors, coastal council members, sheriffs, emergency officials and all on the coast. And particularly --

[14:45:06] BALDWIN: South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster there with an update for people in his state.

We want to get back to Wilmington, North Carolina, as Brian Todd and his crew has been essentially posted up at this home for hours, witnessing a rescue in progress.

Brian, when you were talking last time, you spoke of a potential amputation for someone in the home. I saw a stretcher. Tell me what's happening. Give us an update.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, they just moved us to this part of the street. We had a better vantage point, we could see the rescue going on. They moved us to bring in an ambulance. That's coming through right now. As it comes through, I will tell you what the update is.

Yes, there was a situation where they had a potential amputee, but they brought a surgical team in. They thought they may have to amputate his leg. They found out they could move some objects and didn't need to amputate the leg. They extracted that person. We are told it was a man. They took him for medical attention. There were two other people as far as we know trapped in this house. It is just over my right shoulder. You can't see it from here, but just to the right of the emergency vehicle with flashing lights. A massive tree fell on the house this morning early. Three people inside the house. Two people trapped. We do not know their conditions. We probably are going to be finding out pretty soon. The noise you here, you're going to see it in a second, the ambulance backing up. This thing is coming to some kind of resolution, obviously.

What we can tell you is there was a woman and child still trapped in there. When I spoke to the battalion chief a short time ago, I asked are you communicating, he said not at this time. Don't know what it means. They have been at it for hours. The 911 call came in roughly around 7:00, maybe earlier than 7:00 a.m. They got here, have been working at this for hours. They're physically exhausted, Brooke. They are bringing in large cutters, chain saws, cribbing equipment to try to get to these people. I'm trying to adjust and move the camera a little bit, so sorry about this jagged nature of this. Anyway, they have been frantically trying to get at them with heavy equipment, again, chain saws, cutters, cribbing equipment. They've had to cut through --


BALDWIN: Brian, let me cut in. Let me to cut in. I want you to listen. This is the information we just have gotten. I don't know if you have this. My executive producer got in my ear and said the mother and baby in that home have been killed. So we have two storm- related fatalities there in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Do you know, was there anyone else in the home?

TODD: Right, Brooke. They're going to bring those two out then at this time. Looks like actually you can see -- it is a bit of an obstructed view. We saw a stretcher being carried to the ambulance, confirming then, as you did, that the lady and child in there were deceased. We had gotten unconfirmed reports of that. We couldn't confirm it. Now we can.


BALDWIN: Well, we're confirming it now --


TODD: -- the first known fatalities of the storm. Right.

BALDWIN: Yes, it is the mother and the baby in that home.

TODD: First know fatalities of this storm.

BALDWIN: Obviously, our hearts go out to this family. We have also learned that the father has been taken to the hospital. So that's the status in Wilmington. So tragically, we have the first two fatalities in Wilmington related to Hurricane Florence.

When people can't or don't evacuate during a hurricane, first responders are inundated with emergency calls, volunteers from the Cajun Navy stand at the ready to help. They've already carried out more than 100 rescues in North Carolina, many in New Bern.

Toney Wade is the commander of the Cajun Coast Search and Rescue. He is with me on the phone.

We are looking at pictures of all of this water, Commander Wade. Tell me, are you in New Bern now or are you headed there? Tell me about the rescues you have been involved in.

TONEY WADE, COMMANDER, CAJUN COAST SEARCH & RESCUE (via telephone): Yes, I am actually enroute to New Bern as we speak. We have teams on the ground now, had teams on the ground all day. Multiple groups have come together. It's fascinating to see all of this happen. Once again, see it year after year, but it is fascinating.

Reports I am getting is a lot of water, a lot of calls from people for help. There's a lot of calls from people coming in for people to help. Just doing a wonderful job trying to get responders out to the calls.

The bad part of it, we have to watch for our safety real close. We have to take calls and respond to calls as it is safe for responders to get out there. We want to get to everybody we can, as fast as we can, but it is a horrible situation with the amount of water and the amount of people that stayed and didn't evacuate before the storm.


WADE: Rescues will go on quite some time.

[14:50:05] BALDWIN: Do you know how many rescues you have been in involved in since the storm hit?

WADE: Like I said, teams are dispatched all over, working with other groups. My communication with my lead guy has been sparse this morning.

BALDWIN: Sure, sure.

WADE: Last I heard, there were hundreds of rescues throughout.

BALDWIN: Hundreds.

WADE: So how many my guys were involved in, I honestly can't tell you. Communication has been sporadic.


Let me ask you this. I read one of your fellow commanders said, if people can go to the highest point in their home to make sure they have something to penetrate the roof for ventilation or escape. Can you talk a little more about that?

WADE: Yes. First off, we don't advise anybody to go through the attic if possible. A number of things can happen. You don't have the proper equipment to bust a hole through the roof or cut a hole through the roof and you have to get out. If they're trapped and watch water rise, unfortunately they have nowhere to go. Like to see if you can get on top of the home, get to the highest point. If you have to stand in water, at least you're not in a situation you're trapped. You have to have an escape route in place. Never close the door if there's no way to get out. We're asking everybody to bear with us. We'll try to get there. Get as high as you can. Make sure you have an escape route to get out of there. If you lock yourself in a room or inside your home, make sure you can get out. We don't want the water to rise and trap you in there. We don't know how much the water will rise at this point. All the precautions you can take. If you have a cell phone, call 911. Please do. If you think you're getting in trouble, make the call now. We can try to get to you before it gets life-threatening. Just take all of the precautions you can for your safety.

BALDWIN: Sure, sure.

WADE: It's a dangerous situation. There's a lot of weather to come.

BALDWIN: You be safe, too, please, sir.

Toney Wade, with Cajun Coast Search and Rescue, we appreciate all you have done, all that you are doing. I will let you go so you can do, what you need to do to save some people trapped in homes.

And we're going to take a quick commercial break. Breaking news, we tragically reported two storm-related deaths in the Wilmington, North Carolina area, a mother and her infant.

We'll be back.


[14:56:52] LEMON: Our special coverage of Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas continues now here on CNN. Just to show you what's happening on the streets here. This is Ocean

Boulevard in Myrtle Beach. You can see most of the people on the streets now, emergency officials and some news media.

I want to back up here. This is what's happening now. Storm drains are working overtime. The problem will be flooding. It has not been an inundation of water yet. It wasn't a big burst of water to start with, but it will be steady, steady, steady. Storm drains are working overtime. We are watching police officers come and go, emergency officials on the streets. Here is one police officer coming down the street as well.

The sad news we have learned now is that two people have died. We have gotten the first confirmation of the first two fatalities here in the Carolinas.

That's the issue when it comes to these particular storms. You don't know, you don't get all of the information in right away, you don't know what's happening, the fatalities, injuries and what have you until sometimes after, a long time afterwards. We're continuing coverage. We'll continue to follow it sadly. We have the first confirmation of two deaths, an infant and mom, sadly.

We'll continue coverage in the Carolinas. I'm Don Lemon. We'll be right back.