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Trump White House; Koreas Tensions; A Dangerous Precedent; Concerns on Repatriation; Myanmar Violence; Rohingya Crisis Plan. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired September 14, 2018 - 02:00   ET


[02:00:01] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

GEORGE HOWELL, NEWSROOM ANCHOR, CNN: Welcome back to viewers here in the United States and around the world. I am George Howell here in Wilmington, North Carolina where we are feeling the force of Hurricane Florence as it pushes in to the U.S. east coast. Now I have to tell you. This hour, we are feeling the strongest gust, the wind gusts from this storm that we've felt so far.

We've experienced wind gusts perhaps around 60, 70 miles per hour. We understand that there have been wind gusts right around there, anywhere from 85 miles per hour to 60 miles per hour in this region. Right around the eye wall, the wind gusts sustained around 90 miles per hour and up to 120 miles per hour. Here's the latest on where the storm is now.

Moving at us a snail's pace, mind you, six miles per hour. You could equate that to someone walking through the park, slow walk through the park. While it does that dumping a lot of rain, bringing a great deal of wind and storm surge is a big concern, storm surge, anywhere from 9 to 10 feet of storm surge. I want to show you some video. You get a sense of exactly what this storm is doing.

This right along the coastline of North Carolina, you could see a pier there. That pier, you get a sense of the flooding during the day. Take a look also at during the night. You can see that the flooding certainly will be a problem along the coastline storm surge and from all of the rain that is coming down. And I also want to show you what we're monitoring here in Wilmington.

I told you about the wind. You can see the rain coming down. But if you look closely, this river that is right over there, the river, it is rising much higher than we've seen it before. So that's something we have to keep a close eye on. You can tell from the boats over there, you know, just how powerful the winds are as they come through.

And you can the white caps there, you know, the water is certainly turbulent in that river right now as this storm pushes in. Let's now go to my colleague who is also following this here in North Carolina that, in Carolina Beach. Derek Van Dam is live there. And Derek, I know you've been experiencing and feeling a lot of the same things we're feeling here in Wilmington. Tell our viewers about it.

DEREK VAN DAM, METEOROLOGIST, CNN: George, you summarized it really well at the beginning there. Just that -- there's a marked difference in the wind speeds now, the eye wall starting to edge closer and closer. It is at a snail's pace. I mean that is why this storm is so threatening for the residents along the Carolina coast. It is a long, prolonged duration event. That means it is not going to be a one punch and done.

This is going to be a one, two, three, punch, all the way to the end, 12 rounds. And it is going to take its time, moving on, and that means that the wind and the storm surge and the heavy rain potential is just heightened because of that slow, slow movement of Hurricane Florence. We're bracing ourselves for these gusts that come through more frequently now within the past 15 minutes.

If you look in the latest radar, you'll see that really co-intrinsic eye wall edging closer and closer to right where I am standing. Fortunately, we are in a safe position, but these -- there's another one of those gusts. If you're not ready for it, it will knock you over. There's so many of my senses that are getting heightened during these storms.

And it brings back memories from last year when, George, you and I and our colleagues were covering Hurricane Irma and Maria back in Puerto Rico and South Florida, the smell of the generators providing us the electricity.

HOWELL: Right.

VAN DAM: All of these things just remind us of those moments. What people are going through who decided not to heed the evacuation warnings, they are all --they (Inaudible) but we're safe, and we're going to bring the story to our viewers, George.

HOWELL: Derek, one other thing I want to ask you about. As this storm pushes in, that northeastern quadrant of the storm that's described as the dirty side of the storm, right, where tornadic activity is not uncommon. How concerning is that as this system pushes in?

[02:04:54] VAN DAM: Well, it's -- the thing is that Hurricane Florence has travelled across the entire Atlantic Ocean. So think about all the energy that it's had and gained over that long stretch. It has pushed up the wall of water along the Atlantic Ocean because of the strong winds that it had and still has. Remember it was only two days ago, three days ago, when this was a category four hurricane.

So all of that momentum, all of that build-up is coming towards the shoreline, that's why the storm surge potential continues to be talked about, continues to be heightened here. So we know that those are the threats going forward, and I think -- you know, at this late stage, we're prepared to take whatever mother nature decides to throw at us.

HOWELL: Derek, you know, I am thinking about those viewers again. Who are we serving right now? The people who left, right, people watching our air, wondering is my property OK. People who maybe hunkered down in their homes, you know, wondering what is happening with the storm. From where you are right now, what could you tell those viewers who are listening on?

VAN DAM: All right, well first, the people who actually listened to the evacuation orders and who are watching us this morning, I applaud you for leaving. But I also beg of you not to let your guard down, because -- just because the storm has weakened marginally, that doesn't mean that it is safe to come back to your homes.

So really important, we've got a two-day stretch of at least tropical storm force winds, at least another 24 hours of hurricane force winds as the storm approaches. And that means that your home and your property won't be available to come back to along the coastline until the storm has cleared. So that would be my number one recommendation to everyone, George, listening tonight.

HOWELL: And Derek, you know one other question to you. Can you give us a sense of, you know, the storm coming through there. Are the wind gusts sustained? Is it something that picks up and drops off?

VAN DAM: It is amazing. If you turn your back for five seconds, my crew, producer, my cameramen who are working diligently behind the scenes to bring us these shots. If you take your hands off the equipment, all of a sudden you got a camera and a light that is thrown to the side because of the gusts that come through. But they're becoming more sustained now.

We're still tropical storm force here with hurricane gusts. But I would give it another hour or two hours and we're going to be in the thick of it, George, you too, you're not far away from me. It's just a 20-mile drive up the road. But there's nowhere for us to go, because we're disconnected from the mainland, our bridge that connects us to you has been closed down now for 24 hours. So we're left alone.

HOWELL: Derek, we wish you safety and appreciate your reporting today there, live in Carolina Beach, North Carolina. Thank you so much. Let's now bring in Steven Ray. Steven Ray is the Director of Emergency Services for Carteret County in North Carolina. You know, from what you're seeing right now, Steven, from what you're hearing from your contacts throughout the region, what are your thoughts about this storm pushing in?

STEVEN RAY, DIRECTOR, DIRECTOR, EMERGENCY SERVICES FOR CARTERET COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA: This is a historic storm. We've had a lot of rain, a lot of flooding, and a lot of wind during this storm. And we're expected to see a lot of damage once the daylight comes.

HOWELL: You know this region best. What are the things to watch out for -- look as the storm is here and then as the storm pushes on. Is it the flooding of the water coming down from inland? What are your thoughts? What do people need to watch out for?

RAY: Well, our biggest concern is the storm surge that comes from the storm. We'll get a lot of flooding from that storm surge itself.

HOWELL: Steven, you know, I know that a lot of -- you know, things have been prepositioned that are ready. We know that FEMA has some 1100 emergency personnel in place right now prepared, you know, to search and rescue, you know, after the storm pushes through. We know that there are 300 some ambulances that are already in place. And according to the army corps of engineers, several generators, we know that 105 generators are here, 15 more on the way. How important is that, that prepositioning of these assets in a storm like this?

RAY: Well, it is extremely important, especially during our post storm recovery. We will need those assets to help us recover and help our citizens at Carteret County to recover from the storm.

HOWELL: Steven, again, you know, I think about the people that are watching, those people who maybe, you know, have the generator, they're watching on the televisions, of people in their homes, people who left also who may be far away from their homes concerned about their property, what would you tell them given what you're seeing, experiencing right now?

[02:09:54] RAY: For the people that stayed that have their generators, we want them to be safe. Stay inside until they get the word from emergency management, and continue to follow our Facebook pages for the latest update. And the ones that have evacuated and are waiting to come back home, they need to be patient. It may be a few days before they can make it back home, and they just need to be patient, and let everything be safe before they come home.

HOWELL: All right. Steven, you know one other thing, you know, we're feeling the effects here outside. The wind gusts, they come and go. The rain feels sustained. It continues on. Compare this storm as it is right now to other storms that you see come through the region.

RAY: Well, the most recent one was Matthew that came through our region, and it caused severe inland flooding. This storm has caused more coastal flooding, and I am sure there is going to be a lot of inland flooding off of this storm. But that's the only one that we could compare it to at this time.

HOWELL: Steven Ray of Carteret County, Steven, thank you again for your time today. We wish you safety as well. Let's get a sense of the metrics, you know, the particulars around this storm with our Karen Maginnis. Karen, live, in Atlanta the CNN Weather Center. And Karen, you know, we're feeling it out here. It ain't pretty, you know, but it certainly could have been much worse had it been a stronger storm.

It is still very strong, a lot of risks involved, if you could tell us the particulars of what we are feeling and experiencing right now.

Karen Maginnis, Meteorologist, CNN: Yes. The National Hurricane Center just sent out an intermediate advisory. Not a lot has changed. One thing has though. Instead of moving to the northwest, it is moving towards the west northwest. It is moving fairly slowly, six miles an hour. We've been saying all along. This is not going to be a wind event that is going to be a powerful (Inaudible) 100-plus miles an hour winds.

We've seen hurricane force winds along the coast. This is going to be a long-term sustained rain event, bringing out along coastal sections of North Carolina that into the piedmont sections of South Carolina and then moving up towards the Tennessee North Carolina, South Carolina borders. That's what the computer models are suggesting now.

It is category one, sustained winds of 90 miles an hour, some higher gusts. All right, here are all the rivers. This is a low lying territory, but there we see the purple, 14 major rivers at flood stage. You have to remember, there are a lot of river basins across this region. There is the noose river basin. There is the Cape Fear river basin. And you go down to South Carolina.

There is the (Inaudible) river basin, a little bit further south in the Charleston (Inaudible) river basin. That's a little further to the south. So all these river basins filling up, they try to go the ocean. We got the storm surge pushing it back on shore. So everything just spills out of those rivers, goes into people's homes, into people's agricultural areas, into their growing areas, into their livelihoods.

Service stations, they have been out of gas for a long time, also anybody who is looking for food, going to find it very difficult to sustain any of this if you stayed behind in your home, especially difficult for the next -- at least several days, probably weeks. That's what we saw during Hurricane Hugo. That was a powerful storm system, 1989.

I'm from coastal South Carolina, from Myrtle Beach down to Charleston. Those are areas that are low lying -- are going to be greatly impacted with this broad shield of wet weather. So Charleston's (Inaudible) just moved through. Wilmington, yes, George, and looks like for Derek the winds have been gusting between about 50 and close to 60 miles per hour. What about that storm surge?

It is going to be very persistent. Over the next 12 to 24 hours, and we think it will make landfall sometime within the next 6, 8 hours or so. But the storm surge could be six to nine feet even into some sections of Virginia, two to four feet possible. That's enough to flood some of those coastal areas. So it is a dangerous situation still, even though some of the numbers don't really indicate.

It's not a category three anymore. It is a category one. But it is the rain that does bear watching.

HOWELL: Karen Maginnis, thank you. And yeah, important to reiterate, it is not about the number really, it's about how long this storm stays around, you know, how long it stalls out over the southeastern part of the United States, how much wind it brings, how much rain it brings. And then the storm surge is certainly an immediate threat, life threatening storm surge along the coastline that we'll all have to monitor very closely.

[02:15:07] Karen, thank you again. You know it is interesting to talk about the numbers around the hurricane. We've been doing a lot about -- of that. But there's another story that plays out when storms like this come in. Again, it was a category four, a category three. People made precautions as they saw the storm coming in. Some people decided to leave. You know as I was driving into

Wilmington, I remember seeing on the other side of the highway, everyone was going this way. I was going that way. But people made a very personal decision to leave their things behind, to hope for the very best. There are also people who decided to stay in their homes to ride this storm out. Some saying look, you know, I can't afford to be away from my home for too long.

I don't know if I will be able to get back to it anytime soon. We also spoke with a person today who decided, who made that personal decision to ride the storm out on his boat. Here's that story.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. This is my boat. And I have extra lines out as you can see. I also have an anchor chain.

HOWELL: The boat will rock, roll, and pitch. The waters here sure to rise but Joe (Inaudible) is preparing for the rough ride in the hours ahead. You're going to ride the storm out in here.


HOWELL: All right, as the full force of Hurricane Florence pushes into Wilmington. I have to tell you, I mean I have been on this boat for just, what, a few minutes, and I am already a little dizzy. You're good with this, right?


HOWELL: Inside these tight quarters, Joe says there's no place he'd rather be because he's been through big storms here before. You worry about this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a plan. I have a plan. And I have options. There will be a point where I won't have options. And that time may come sometime early this morning when the wind is very, you know, high. But I am monitoring the conditions. So 100 miles an hour, I don't have a problem.

HOWELL: Joe will be in his boat. Many others decided to hunker down in their homes, and thousands already hit the road to escape this storm. Wind speeds have decreased over the past several hours, but FEMA warns the risks remain high.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please do not let your guard down. The storm surge forecast associated with this storm has not changed. It has remained the same.

HOWELL: Its storm surge and heavy rains coupled with the slow moving nature of Florence that will cause flooding throughout the southeastern part of the U.S. for the next several days, North Carolina that feeling the effects first, the eye of the storm tracking directly toward Wilmington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're on the wrong side of this thing. This storm will bring destruction to North Carolina.

HOWELL: Weather conditions will continue to deteriorate over the next several hours. But come hell or high water, Joe is most confident on his boat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a lot of rain involved with that. So you'll have flooding in the low land areas. But here I am on the river. I am already floating. So as long as the dock doesn't go above the pylons, we're safe.


HOWELL: So it is a rough ride -- the storm out on the ground. But what is it like to ride a storm out on your boat? Well, you can see right behind me, several boats here in Wilmington. You get a sense of what is happening on this river that we're monitoring very closely. You get a sense of exactly how turbulent that water is.

And if you're worried about Joe, don't worry too much. We have Joe (Inaudible) on the phone with us right now in his boat. Joe, I want to ask you right now. We're feeling these wind gusts. They're strong. But when we spoke with you several hours ago, you know, we heard the wind. We felt the wind coming in now. It has got to be stronger now than we experienced before. What are you seeing and hearing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. The wind is hitting but the boat is not heeling over to the degree that it was when it would be under sail. The stability of the boat is good. The key thing is the lines will remain intact and the hold of the boat in the position, so far so good.

HOWELL: You know we are getting -- I wanted to say we're getting a break, but the wind just picked up. I am sure you appreciate these breaks in the wind just as much we do, Joe. Look. One of our viewers who understands you are an experienced mariner, some 40 years on the ocean. You know a thing or two about this. And you explained to me that you do have a plan in place should things get worse.

[02:19:55] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is correct. I was waiting until these times after midnight to determine whether or not I would need to, you know, grab my stuff and go. But as it turns out, the boat is riding very well. I do expect it to get a little more tumultuous. And, you know, with the higher winds in the morning. The rain is not really a factor in my case where I am. However, I could see where people on the ocean front barrier islands that are really going to see a lot of high water.

HOWELL: And Joe, you know we've been watching this river as well right behind me and you're on the river there. The water is rising. We'll keep in touch with you. We wish you safety as you continue to ride this storm out over the next several hours. Thank you so much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're welcome.

HOWELL: You're watching CNN breaking news coverage. We're monitoring Hurricane Florence as it pushes into the U.S. east coast. Stand by, more right after the break.


[02:24:58] HOWELL: Our breaking news coverage continues here from Wilmington, North Carolina. I am George Howell following Hurricane Florence as it pushes into the U.S. east coast right now, moving at about five, six miles per hour at a snail's pace. And take a look at what it (Inaudible) here, the winds strong enough to rip off the roof of a BP gas station.

Again very strong winds, this is not something to take for granted. This storm packs wind right around the eye of the storm, 90 miles per hour wind gusts can get up to about 120 miles per hour. Here where we are, live right now. I have to tell you. We've experienced some of the strongest wind gusts that I've experienced so far.

Maybe around 60, 70 miles per hour, they come and go. There are moments of peace and then moments of pure fury as this storm pushes through. I want to now bring in my colleague, CNN Correspondent Natasha Chen, who has also been following the effects of Hurricane Florence throughout the day. And Natasha, I know that there are a lot of people who are watching right now, people who may have left.

Keeping them in mind, because they want to know how bad is this storm here in the city that they call home, the region that they call home. Tell us about what you've seen and heard.

NATASHA CHEN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, today just driving around, I can tell how much effort people have put into really protecting their homes, boarding up their windows, etcetera. There are certain objects that I saw that might be flying around though in all of this, saying that there will be a lot of debris tomorrow, a lot of downed trees, downed power lines.

And the mayor of Wilmington is actually asking you to think about that before you come home. Here's what he had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want them to stay inside when the event begins. We want them to be very cautious when they come out. I know people are going to be concerned to see, you know, what kind of damages had to the houses. We do really do not want people out there sightseeing to see, you know, the damage that is out there, because we got to get our resources out, get the power lines situated.

Because we're going to have some downed power lines. We know -- and trees are going to be down. We -- give us the opportunity to get out there and assess the damage. Get the roads cleaned up. Get the roads accessible. And then get out there when we tell you, you could get out there.


HOWELL: Natasha, that is important because there will be a lot of debris and damage presumably after this. CHEN: And I already saw a downed tree earlier today. And that was

before even the worst of this hit. You were mentioning how we're seeing the strongest wind gusts we've gotten so far in the last few hours. If it was like that today driving around with very little wind, imagine what that's going to be like tomorrow.

HOWELL: All right. CNN Correspondent Natasha Chen, thank you so much for your reporting. And again, you're watching CNN breaking coverage here in Wilmington, North Carolina. This storm moving closer to us, not here yet, but it is on its way. Stay with us.



[02:31:11] GOV. ROY COOPER (D), NORTH CAROLINA: Don't relax, don't get complacent. Stay on guard. This is a powerful storm that can kill.

BRENDA BETHUNE, MAYOR OF MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA: It is such a massive storm and we need to pay attention to that and not get lulled into that false sense of security.


GEORGE HOWELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Officials given the -- giving the warning there. And you can see the reason why. You can feel -- I can feel and you can probably see how this storm is coming through quite intensely. We felt some of the strongest wind gusts that we felt here -- sorry, I have to just make sure that I got my balance here. The wind gusts, they come and go. We felt some of the strongest wind gusts so far that we felt in Wilmington.

Maybe around 60 or 70 miles an hour, this storm moving at a snail's pace around five to six miles per hour moving toward Wilmington. We will eventually feel the eye wall of that storm to our understanding, according to our weather department around the eye wall can get around sustained 90 miles per hour, very strong winds. Wind gusts getting up to 125 miles per hour and don't discount the storm surge.

That is something that everyone along the coastline will have to keep a very close watch on storm surge anywhere from nine to 10 feet. This is a very powerful storm. Let's talk about what happens through this multi-day event. Again, the storm is making its mark for sure now. But as the storm passes, it is important to point out that FEMA has already prepositioned a great deal of infrastructure. We understand and people, search and rescue personnel.

At least 1100 search and rescue personnel are already in the region prepared to do what is necessary as the storm passes through. We know that some 300 ambulances are already here. That's according to FEMA. And according to the Army Corps of Engineers, we understand that there are 105 generators that are already in place there. Here, 15 more are on the way. These generators are very important because they are strong enough to power schools. Strong enough to power hospitals. Very important to point out that these things are here as people find the storm and move on and the damage that is left behind. We have our correspondents throughout the region monitoring what is happening. Our Nick Watt filed a report just a short time ago from North Myrtle Beach. Here is the scene from there.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, here in North Myrtle Beach, they are still waiting for the full effect of this hurricane to hit about 5:36 in the evening. Thursday we could see the outer bands of this gigantic storm moving towards us. There some rain, there's some wind but Friday is when this is going to really make its mark on North Myrtle Beach. And this 60-mile stretch of beautiful Carolina coastline called the Grand Strand.

Now, most people have evacuated from this time. The officials tell us that 85 percent of the people have left in a town of about 15,000 people but plenty of people are staying and some of them are staying because they are seeing this storm being downgraded by category but that category is just for the wind. This storm is still full of water that it is going to dump on the Carolinas over Friday. Over the weekend and perhaps even into next week.

And that is going to be the danger. There's going to be a storm surge and where we are here, there is almost nothing that stops those waves coming across the beach and into this town. And of course the intercostal water ways is just a couple of blocks that way. There is a chance this level of land could be covered in water. Now, this area has seen hurricanes in the past, Hugo in '89, it was massively destructive, a Category 4.

[02:35:00] But it did not have the rain that this is going to have, 40 inches expected in places, that is going to be the big danger. Nick Watt, North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

HOWELL: Nick Watt, thank you. And again, North Myrtle Beach, very important tourist area. So, this is certainly an inconvenience for sure but a lot of people watching to see what happens as this storm pushes through that area. You can see right behind me here, I'm sure you could see it, this storm chasing truck. I want to bring in Mike Theiss. This is Mike's truck. Mike is a storm chaser and also a photo -- a photographer with National Geographic.

Mike, what is it like for you to drive around in a situation like this and get important readings, understanding of the storm?

MIKE THEISS, PHOTOGRAPHER, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: Yes. Well, I just feel like it's my passion in life and my purpose and that is to collect scientific data in hurricanes. I've always been passionate about them since a little kid. So I developed the HERV which stands for Hurricane Eyewall Research Vehicle. And that's why I can penetrate those dangerous situations with flying debris, the windows can't get smashed out.

And I have calibrated anemometer so I could take, you know, official wind gusts which I reported 83 miles per hour much earlier today. So now as this eye wall comes in which is very close, we'll see if I get a higher wind gust than that. But it may not be too much, it might in the 90 to 100-mile an hour range. But the big story here is definitely that surge in that inland rain flooding.

HOWELL: It is good to get information with you right in line with what we've been getting from, you know, our readings on the ground, our weather department, wind gust right anywhere between 80 and 60. It seems like they come and go. What are your thoughts -- as you're monitoring this storm, what are your thoughts about what happens when it gets over this region and starts to stall out?

THEISS: Yes. That's the big concern. When it does stall out which coming in very slow with all the rivers around by, it's going to be a big problem with flooding for sure. But the big -- the good news on this is it's not a Category 4 anymore, so it doesn't have those extreme winds of Category 4, but we do got some winds as you can in but definitely the big story here is the water, the rain, the storm surge.

HOWELL: Let's talk about what we're experiencing right now. You know, we're talking to all the facts and figures right and we're talking about, you know, what people have done to prepare. But we're feeling it right now, right? The winds are pretty intense as they come and go.

THEISS: Oh yes. These winds are wrapping around the building here. And we get these really strong gusts that come through and then it's weird --


HOWELL: And it stops. Like it just stopped right here. Yes, yes.

THEISS: Then all of a sudden you walk and there's big gust that come back through and that's just the nature of the nature of hurricane. And, you know, they have this real gusty winds. And once you start getting into that eye wall situation, that's when you get the stronger winds coming through.

HOWELL: The gusts strong enough really to just knock you over if you're not paying close enough attention. I also want to ask you about storm surge, I know as you're traveling around and you got to be hitting the coastlines, right? How dangerous a threat is that as this storm comes through? There's a gust.

THEISS: Oh, it's there.

HOWELL: Yes. As the storm comes through over this multi-day event.

THEISS: Yes. That's the big danger. I mean, storm surge is a major concern. It's the number one killer in hurricanes, so that's why we always emphasize how dangerous it is and you need to get away from that coastline. And in this case you had a Category 4 hurricane. And even though it weakened it's still going to possess this really big storm surge waves. Just like the Hurricane Katrina which was on a weakening phase when it came in. Not to compare this to Katrina but just that idea of a weakening hurricane can still possess that storm surge.

HOWELL: Mike, you know, people always ask this question of us as we cover the storm, what are you doing to be safe? Of course we find the safest places to bring you accurate information, a, you know, scenes that are of what's happening. I pose the same question to you. People will ask, you're driving around in the storm. What do you do to stay safe?

THEISS: Right. I have a location nearby. It's not very far. It's concrete structure. So, if I really didn't need to go there I could. But, just stay, you know, I rigged this car to feel safe enough, not from storm surge. If there's storm surge, I'm not, you know, this car does not float of course. But I feel like I know the route back to my safe spot and I can get there with no issues of storm surge.

But, you know, there's really no -- if anybody comes into a hurricane and just says 100 percent they know what they're doing and I'm not going to get hurt, that's the bad attitude. This hurricane, Mother Nature is number one, you know, and so, you just got to respect her and heed the warnings when we're telling people about them. And I -- that's a good thing. When I went around the barrier islands earlier, there was nobody there. So that's great.

I feel good about warning the people and I think everyone is doing a great job of keeping people safe.

HOWELL: You know, Mike, we have viewers around the world watching, we also have viewers here in the states who decided to leave, right? They're watching and wondering about their property. We people who are hunkered down in their homes and wondering what's happening out there. Tell us, you know, what would you share with those viewers from what you've seen and heard so far?

THEISS: Well, I can tell you, earlier today on those barrier islands, those waves are already coming across during the high tide. So, everybody that evacuated those islands, you made a great decision. You know, don't think the storm if it's Category 1, oh, maybe I shouldn't left.

[02:40:01] No, it's a good thing you left and , you know, good for you.

HOWELL: Mike Theiss, thank you so much. Be safe out there and we appreciate your time today.


HOWELL: Again, you're watching CNN Breaking News Coverage. I'm George Howell here in Wilmington, North Caroline. This storm, it's moving closer, walking at a snail's pace, six miles an hour. It will get here but until it does, we are feeling the effects and it is not pretty. Stay with us, we'll be back after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HOWELL: We look at the scene in New Bern, North Carolina, and you can see exactly what this storm is doing. To the water as it pushes into the U.S. East Coast. It is intense and it is on its way moving very slowly but it is causing serious concern along the coastline. Storm surge could get anywhere from nine to 10 feet. We're getting reports of that already and we're not even near the eye wall of the storm which has wind gusts around sustained 90 miles an hour.

120 miles an hour possible gusts as this eye wall approaches here in Wilmington, North Carolina that. Let's bring in our meteorologist Karen McGinnis tracking it all in the CNN Weather Center. Karen?

KAREN MCGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: George, this is going to spell it all out. Here is Wilmington, this is our radar imagery. Here is Wilmington and about 35 miles, that's where the eye of Hurricane Florence is located. So, if we do the math, it's about six hours before it makes landfall. But it's a little erratic being this close to the shore but for anybody who doubts just how much moisture is getting wrapped around Hurricane Florence, just take a look at this.

Very evident that it is picking up that moisture off of the Atlantic, dumping it on shore and where George is right now in Wilmington, also Derek Van Dam, we had wind gusts reported in Wilmington, a 59 miles an hour.

[02:45:01] Now, we have seen wind gusts in some of the other coastal areas up to about 99 miles per hour. All right. The latest information from the National Hurricane Center, 90-mile an hour winds associated with Hurricane Florence.

All right, it's a Category 1, but I showed you all of that moisture that is just making its way on shore. It will inundate these areas already in three counties between 80 and nearly 100 percent of the residents are without power.

That's the type of thing that if you were to have stayed, that you'd be without power perhaps for days, perhaps for weeks. But this is low-lying area. It's going to move erratically along the coast a little bit.

We think by late morning landfall as a Category 1, and then meander around areas across the coastal regions of South Carolina into the Piedmont region so Myrtle Beach, Pawleys Island, Murrells Inlet, heavy rainfall for Charleston. Very easily to flood in Charleston. And then, perhaps some of the remnant precipitation moving on off into the southern Appalachia.

There's a lot to consider here, especially when you think about that by Monday into Tuesday, we're still looking at a significant rain event. All right, so what happens when those river basin still up?

The Neuse River Basin that's just about over central North Carolina. The Cape Fear River Basin, the Santee River Basin in Northeastern South Carolina. That water is just going to spread out. The rainfall totals in some of these coastal areas, 10 or 20 inches. Some computer models are saying we could see 30 inches. Some other computer models earlier had said 40 inches of rainfall. So, where's that rain going to go? Well, we've got that slow that's moving onshore.

And then, the rivers are just going to fan out. So, you could be way inland in North Carolina, way inland and South Carolina, and you are still going to see the potential for extreme flooding. Remember Matthew, even interior sections of South Carolina -- Columbia, South Carolina where some of the homes are still just sitting there after water was up on the second floors. That was two years ago, 2-1/2 years ago.

All right, here's a different perspective with a hurricane. You get a lot of dynamics in the atmosphere. So, we have this tornado watch in coastal sections of North Carolina. Here is the eye, let's look all that impressive, it's still holding together though, 90-mile an hour winds where we just got that update from the National Hurricane Center.

They're sitting -- sending out a full advisory coming up at 5:00 a.m. Eastern Time. And take a look at these peak wind gusts that we've seen. Davis North Carolina that's in that southeastern quadrant of North Carolina.

108 mile-per-hour wind. Cape, lookout, 106. And the rainfall totals that we've seen, what you can imagine that these are going up rather significantly. And it is so close to shore that now, we're really watching for that potential as that storm surge moves in seven to 11 feet possible. Especially, in that quadrant right where you are George. That's how it's looking. Back to you.

HOWELL: All right, Karen McGinnis, with the very latest. Karen, thank you so much. Again, you're watching CNN "BREAKING NEWS" coverage. We are following Hurricane Florence as it pushes inlands. Stay with us, we'll be back after the break.


[02:50:50] MCGINNIS: All eyes on Hurricane Florence. This threatening the coastal section of North Carolina within hours of making landfall. But already has produced a destructive storm surge at some of these low-lying coastal regions all the way from Morehead City, North Carolina down towards Wilmington.

But we're not finished yet. It is a Category 1 hurricane. But it isn't going to be the winds that were most concerned about. It will be the day's long rainfall that will inundate a lot of these low-lying areas not just in North Carolina, but also extending into South Carolina eventually into a tri-state area of Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Now, it is expected to continue to weaken but the rainfall across this area could be staggering. Then, we look across the Caribbean, we watch a tropical storm. It looks like it's going to weaken over the next several days. Right now, the winds associated with it at 65 kilometers per hour some gusts, it is moving very rapidly though, unlike what is happening with Florence.

All right, then another disturbance, a 50 percent chance of developing into something tropical over the next five days about a 50-50 likelihood that we will see that. So, lots of tropical activity to watch over the next few days, and we'll keep you updated on that.


HOWELL: Tracking Hurricane Florence, I'm George Howell, here in Wilmington, North Carolina. You see the wind pushing me around a little bit. We're feeling the wind. Certainly, plenty of rain coming down as Florence moves closer here toward Wilmington. The eye moving very slowly but closer and closer.

And we're also watching the water if we can show you the shot of the Cape Fear River, just behind us here of a Whitecaps on that river very telling of the water much higher than it has been in the last several hours.

That's something we all have to watch here for sure, but it is an indicator of what's happening as the storm pushes in. Also, when you see the satellite loop, when you see the sheer breadth of this storm, it is a very big storm that's pushing in. It will cause a life- threatening storm surge already being experienced, realized along the coastline. 9-10 feet of storm surge that has been reported in some places.

And the wind gusts as the eye of the storm pushes in closer right there around the eye, 90 miles per hour sustained winds. And that 120 mile per hour gusts possible. So, it is a very strong storm pushing in.

CNN has been covering this storm now for several hours, in fact, days. And our correspondents have been fanned out in many parts of the region, bringing you reporting, showing you this storm as it has rolled in. Here are the sights and sounds as we moved to this point where the storm is now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is just the beginning, it hadn't even got here yet. There's already water bottom parts of people's houses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have to get out of the facility because of flooding and we don't know what the game plan is just yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Evacuating from the T.V. station. We're now, here getting rained on, we'll get to drive around at some point.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We made it out. We hope you're safe and OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God bless. [02:54:59] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're watching businesses right now, and I'd be careful because I'm going to be stepping up on a curb right here. But you can see, they've got there they're boarded up windows, New Bern strong here. We're seeing this across the entire city right now.

Unfortunately, we've already been able to see some of that flooding go inside of these businesses in downtown right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can tell you as this car here, these people are just kind of taking a look at the storm surge. We're getting hit with another really heavy band of win here. The rain has lightened up just slightly, but we expect that it's going to come back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're seeing some of the hardest rain that we've seen all evening tonight. Right now, this on top of what they expect is a storm surge of about 11-12 feet or so, with the tides that come in every 12 hours. They could -- we've been looking at something like 18-19 feet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're watching very closely the river which -- you know, we're not expecting to crest until Tuesday. So there's, there's, there's a long -- you know, couple of days still to come. It's going to be miserable for a number of days for people. And you know, that's got to buckle down, and stay where they are, and try to get through this as best they can.


HOWELL: And now, we are in the outer bands of that storm. The wind is here, the rain is here. Storm surge, a big concern as Florence pushes inland. I'm George Howell in Wilmington, North Carolina. Our coverage continues here on CNN with "EARLY STARTS", after the break.