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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Florence Turns Deadly as it Stalls over the Carolinas; Rain & Flooding Hamper Rescue Efforts; Rescues in Hard-Hit New Bern; Man & Dog Ride Out Storm but Waters Rising; Rescues Underway as Florence Slams Carolina Coasts. Aired on 7-8p ET
Aired September 14, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] RONAN FARROW, JOURNALIST, NEW YORKER MAGAZINE: Thanks, Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Our breaking news is about to continue right now. Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT" starts right now.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan, in for Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, Florence now a deadly storm. Five people, including a woman and her infant daughter, died after Florence roared ashore early this morning. The storm at a near standstill now over the Carolinas.
Governor Roy Cooper, of North Carolina, calling it a 1,000-year-rain event. Florence is expected to dump potentially historic amounts of rain, as much as 40 inches in some areas. High winds, a problem as well. Some gusting up to 110 miles per hour. Here you can see just ripping the canopy off of a gas station.
And the relentless rainfall flooding roads from the coast to miles and miles inland, making many roads impassable for rescuers and first responders. Rescuers, though, working through the night and through the day to save hundreds who stayed behind. Especially in hart-hit New Bern, North Carolina, with over 100 swift-water rescues overnight in this town alone. And forecasters say the worst of the flooding could be still yet to come.
We have reporters fanned out across the region to cover this massive storm for you.
Let's begin with Miguel Marquez, OUTFRONT right now in Carolina Beach, North Carolina.
Miguel, I hope you can hear me because you're getting thrown around right now. What are you feeling?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Shockingly enough, I can hear you. It is amazing how this storm will just not quit. Florence has thrown everything at us for the last 24 hours and it just keeps going. The sad situation with this woman and her child that was killed in Wilmington, it is very understandable right now given this wind. We are looking at some of the highest winds we have seen in the last 24 hours. And this is supposed to be a category 1 or a tropical storm, and it's supposed to be on the tail end. Of all the hurricanes I've covered, they typically blow through in a few hours, maybe six or seven at the most. This is now 24 hours into this event.
We have seen heavy, heavy amounts of rain here in Carolina Beach. We have seen storm surge where I was up to my waist in water in Carolina Beach today. And now we are seeing wind that will not relent. This wind has been going for about an hour now, and it shows no sign of letting up. In fact, I thought it was going to get a little less. It seemed to be lessening up a bit a minute ago and now it's only getting stronger.
The concern that officials here have is that at midnight tonight, they will have another tide come in. With the wind blowing and with the storm surge, they expect more flooding tonight. They're not exactly sure how bad it's going to get. They're not sure when they can open the island back up and get people on and off. There's a single way in and out of Carolina Beach. It's a town of 6,200 people. About 600 people have been -- decided to ride out the storm. They may be regretting that now. For the last 24 hours, we have seen a lot of rain, some wind, but not nearly as bad as many people thought might be coming when it was a category 4. But now, this is something that we have not seen so far, and this certainly doesn't feel like a category 1. This is -- or even tropical storm winds. This is just a sustained wind that is going to cause a lot of damage in neighborhoods around this area with the amount of water they've had so far, trees coming down, and structural damage to buildings. It's going to be a long night here in Carolina Beach -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: A long night after they had already had a long night. And I think you said it perfectly, Miguel, which is it just keeps going. That's what is so unusual about this storm. It's -- the wind hasn't been maybe the biggest problem, but it's a real problem where you are right now. And Carolina Beach has already been battered.
MARQUEZ: It has been battered. What's amazing is that we will talk to other reporters who are just a few miles away from us and they have a much different experience.
The other thing that's interesting is that this is the same direction the wind was coming in last night when we started off 24 hours ago, it was coming in off the ocean. Today, it was coming in from the south. Now, it's coming out of the west, back toward this way. So in some ways, that may help with the storm surge. It may push some of that water out. But I think all bets are off with this storm. It is very unpredictable. It just will not stop. And I think authorities are just hoping that there are not serious issues with the many people who have decided to stay in town here -- Kate?
All right, Miguel, we're going check back in with you. Thank you so much. Take a break if you can, my friend.
Let's go to Martin Savidge in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Martin, you saw the difference between where Miguel is and where you are but this storm has proven deadly where you are. A mother and her infant child killed. What's the latest there?
[19:05:10] MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. It has. Well, this proves that this is why the authorities were taking the precautions to try to tell people, hey, don't go by that. This is really a killer storm. They knew that already as it was coming in.
Wrightsville Beach is just behind us here. This is where the storm made landfall 12 hours ago. The conditions we're in are the same conditions we were in 24 hours ago. So, if anything, just as Miguel had pointed out, for our position here, even after landfall, the winds have gotten worse. The rain has only continued if not to increase.
As for Wrightsville Beach, we can't get to it. That main causeway remains closed to any public. Only first responders and emergency crews can go in. The initial assessment after the eye came ashore was they had made it through pretty good. However, as the day has worn on, the glimpses that we've been getting through social media and by posting by law enforcement, it appears that Wrightsville Beach is getting hammered. It's clear that the Atlantic Ocean side is being churned into like a table saw. It's also clear that the Intercoastal is now seeping into the roadways and into the town itself. And then there's the wind damage. It's been 180 from what it was last night. The wind loads back and forth have been under tremendous strain and there's the endurance over time. Older buildings can't take this kind of punishment over long periods of time. The emergency crews can't really assess beyond what they can see, briefly, outside of their windows because it's just too hazardous to go out. And 24 hours, it's been like that, 12 hours after it made landfall.
It's going to get dark soon. If you are in the dark, if you're hunkered down, it's the most terrifying time, because you hear it but you can't see it, and you envision all sorts of horrible things and we've got another long night ahead.
BOLDUAN: And a lot of folks are in the dark.
Martin, thank you so much.
Let's get over to Jennifer Gray in the CNN Weather Center now.
Jennifer, we've seen a lot of change just in the last few minutes. What are you looking at with this storm right now?
JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The storm is just not going anywhere and that's the problem. That's what we've been talking about the last couple of days is it's not the winds, it's the duration of the storm. It's the fact that we are going to get these conditions for 24 to 36 hours. These areas along the coast in North Carolina and even well inland are going through their second night of these conditions. It's actually hard to believe. Moving to the west at three miles per hour, it's going at a snail's pace, and all of that wind and rain and storm surge and flooding is just continuing to push west. It's continuing to push inland and so that's what's going to back up those rivers even more and continue with that flooding. The torrential rains are slowly moving to the south. These brighter bands, that has the heavier rain, several inches an hour and as that slowly starts to slip to the south, it will give some of these areas, like New Bern, finally getting a little bit of relief, a break in the rain. But you're still getting the wind pushing inland. The coastal areas will still get that surge tonight during that high tide -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: They could really, really, really use a break at this point. How long is this flooding going to last?
GRAY: Well, the flooding's going to last a lot longer than the storm will, and a lot of that is due to the river flooding. We have 20 gauges that are major flood stage and the problem is we have some that are cresting now at record levels. Cape Fear River in Wilmington is right now above the record flood stage. But keep in mind some of these rivers aren't going to crest for some time now. And so take, for instance, this northeast Cape Fear River, it's not going to crest until Monday at three feet above record flood stage. This will be the highest the river has ever been on record. And it's not going to happen until Monday. So, well after the storm is gone, the rain has stopped, these rivers are still going to be rising -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: All right, Jennifer, thank you so much. Stay close. We'll be checking back with you.
Let's go now to South Carolina. Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune is joining me by the phone right now.
Mayor, can you hear me?
BRENDA BETHUNE, MYRTLE BEACH MAYOR (via telephone): I can hear you. Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for getting on.
The storm has slowed down. Jennifer was laying that out. It's essentially just sitting on top of the coast and really it's going to be sitting on top of Myrtle Beach. That does not sound like good news for you guys.
BETHUNE: It isn't. It just means a lot more rain and people just really -- this is one storm that we have had to really be patient through, patient and waiting for it to come. And now it is just stalling over us, and patient for the aftermath of it.
BOLDUAN: And patience, if we're being honest, that's tough in this -- in these kinds of conditions. Folks leaving their homes, folks in shelters, folks who don't know what their property's going to look like. Patience is maybe the toughest thing to ask right now.
[19:10:05] BETHUNE: It absolutely is. And I'm so mindful of that, especially with everything so many people have gone through and the unknown, the fear of the unknown, and what is ahead of us. And it's a dire situation. We can't control it. But what we control is how we handle it. And I just feel like part of my job is to try to keep people uplifted and positive and just share the information. I think when people know what's going on, they feel more at ease about it. They just need the information.
BOLDUAN: Yes. And that is what we are trying to give them, the best information we can at any given moment as things have been changing so much.
With that in mind, where is your biggest concern or where is your biggest focus as we head into tonight?
BETHUNE: Well, believe it or not, Myrtle Beach held up quite well so that really is not the problem. Our crews will be out early in the morning doing damage assessments. But what we are the most concerned about is we have five major rivers that surround us, and we only have one road, major road, into Myrtle Beach, but all of our major roads are going to be affected by this flooding within the next three to seven days. And when that flooding gets here, it can last up to 10 to 12 days or longer from what we are being told. And we do not have a major interstate here, so what I am very scared about is the fact that all of our grocery stores and gas tanks have been depleted by people who were getting ready for the storm and to evacuate, and now we don't have a way to get fuel into the city or food resupplied. And we have businesses that are in Myrtle Beach that can't get to their customers outside of the area. So this is going to be a truly devastating impact for our economy.
BOLDUAN: I mean, Mayor, when you lay it out that way, of -- you've got the -- it's like a punch in the gut and then a slap in the face after the fact. The punch in the gut is the damage on the front end and then you've got the flooding -- if you said it could last 10 to 12 days -- and then the slap in the face of not being able to get resources in to try to get things back up and running.
BETHUNE And these poor people that were -- that listened to the warnings and they did evacuate, and now they're coming home, they don't know what their homes look like. They don't know what they're walking into. And there's a possibility that they may not be able to stay home because their homes may be in those flood areas.
BOLDUAN: Right. Yes. That's -- that's the worst of it.
There's a curfew in place. I did want to make sure that I asked you about that. There's a curfew in effect right now until 7:00 a.m. tomorrow. Do you think you're going to need to extend it?
BETHUNE: We will assess that on a daily basis. And the most important thing for me is just to ensure that our city is safe. Because we do have people that can't get back home to check their homes and their businesses. And you know, unfortunately, during situations like this, we have people that want to do bad things. And what I want to make sure is that our police and our first responders are out there protecting these businesses and these homes to prevent those types of things.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Mayor Brenda Bethune, thank you so much. Really appreciate it. I'm
sure the last thing you want to do is check back in with me, but I think we're going to have to as this event is going to be a long one for Myrtle Beach. Thanks so much.
BETHUNE: Everyone's just been great. Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Thank you Mayor.
OUTFRONT for us next, hundreds of people calling for help, stuck in the rapidly rising waters. We're going talk to one man who's taken part in dozens of rescues just in the last 24 hours.
Plus, I'll talk with one man who decided to ride out the storm. He's now holed up on the fourth floor of his House.
And we'll check in with Accuweather storm chaser, Reed Timmer. He's been with us all week. Why he says it's going to get worse before it gets better.
[19:17:40] BOLDUAN: We will get to you, but it may take a while. That's the message from officials to residents in one of the towns hit the hardest by Hurricane Florence. New Bern, North Carolina, about 100 miles away from where Florence made landfall. Hundreds of people rescued so far in that town with more rescues under way as we speak. So far, nearly 500 people in the county have need help.
Ed Lavandera is OUTFRONT with me.
Ed, you rode along with one rescuer today. What did you see?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We jumped on with a few, actually, Kate, here in the town of New Bern, where, overnight, people started discovering water pouring into their homes in neighborhoods like this that have been flooded out in various pockets of these neighborhoods. More than 300 people had to be pulled out of their homes. And what we saw here, Kate, was very reminiscent of what we saw a year ago in Houston during Hurricane Harvey where a number of private citizens showed up with their own boats and started launching their own boats into these flood waters to pull people out. Like I said, more than 300 people. There were professional swift-water rescue teams here as well. But there was a real urgency to get into these homes as the water was quickly rising. And it was chaotic throughout most of the day. I spoke with one woman who was rescued and pulled out of her house with her husband and 2-year-old son. They said they had had to wait 12 hours for teams to be able to navigate the flood waters and get to their homes. And that's what we heard repeatedly from people is, just how quickly these flood waters rose into their homes.
Some people didn't evacuate because they're stubborn. Other people told us they didn't have the means to evacuate and weren't exactly sure what to do, given the situation. And that's the situation we found ourselves in with hundreds of people descending on these flood waters throughout the day in New Bern, North Carolina, to pull these people out -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: And how quickly those conditions change with the water rising up.
Thanks, Ed. Really appreciate it.
OUTFRONT with me now on the phone is Lieutenant Mitchell Ruslander. He's a swift-water technician with the Benedict Fire and Rescue Team out of Charles County, Maryland, who's helping out.
Lieutenant, can you hear me?
LT. MITCHELL RUSLANDER, SWIFT-WATERTECHNICIAN, BENEFICT FIRE RESCUE TEAM, CHARLES COUNTY, MARYLAND (via telephone): Yes, ma'am. How are you.
BOLDUAN: I'm good, thank you.
You were supposed to be on camera with me but just before the show, you were dispatched for another rescue. What happened?
[19:19:57] RUSLANDER: We got down along the -- mile 70 off of the avenue for a -- collapse on to the house. We made it to the house and rescued the females and the dogs they had inside the residents.
BOLDUAN: You're talking about safety.
How many rescues have you and your team done at this point?
RUSLANDER: Last night, we did 57 and today we've done 84.
BOLDUAN: Can you describe the conditions that you're up against when you're out there in it?
RUSLANDER: It's absolutely horrible. Yesterday, at 4:00 in the afternoon, we got to our area, and about 9:00 last night, and then we decided to go south and points along -- upon entering New Bern, we received multiple phone calls from rescue and were advised by -- rescue because of the storm and the -- we knew we were going to have -- they explored anyway and basically cut our way through all the trees and everything else. And then we had a foot of water up to 12, 14 feet of water.
BOLDUAN: Lieutenant, I'm having a little bit of a hard time hearing you. Did you say that you were in some water that was up to 12 or 14 feet of water?
RUSLANDER: That's correct. Yes. We have -- our teams -- (INAUDIBLE).
BOLDUAN: Wow. What are the circumstances of most of your rescues? You were just at a garage collapse. Are these folks that are in their homes, are you getting people in their cars? I have no idea.
RUSLANDER: It's everywhere. Based on the homes and wait it out and the water comes in, they're in the attic. They've gone to ones where people were trapped last night and -- gotten trapped. As far as I know, we've been pretty much -- and -- definitely - (INAUDIBLE).
BOLDUAN: And from what I could -- from what I'm gathering from everything out there, your job is not over yet.
I really appreciate you coming in, Lieutenant. Thank you very much.
RUSLANDER: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT for us next, one man who's riding out the storm on the fourth floor of his home as waters rise. How long can he and his dog stay there?
As the storm winds weaken, some may be getting a false sense of security but I'll speak with a storm chaser who says things could get worse.
[19:26:44] BOLDUAN: We're back with our breaking news coverage of Florence, now a deadly storm responsible for five deaths. The eye of the storm is now headed south toward north Myrtle Beach.
And that is where our Nick Watt is.
Nick, the winds have been off and on, kind of coming and going, picking up even just compared to the few minutes ago. What are you seeing right now?
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the wind has just gone a whole lot worst, and it's also coming from a different, more dangerous direction. As this storm is turning, as it's moving slowly through the Carolinas, we are now getting winds coming on shore. Now, if we get on-shore winds, coupled with a high tide in the middle of the night, that could cause some problems in terms of storm surge here in north Myrtle Beach. We have not seen the worst of this yet. All day, we have had winds, we've had gusts in the 70s, gusts so high that first responders couldn't go out to respond to 911 calls. That has died down. We thought the worst may even have passed, and that this started about a half hour or an hour ago.
I was just texting with local officials who say, so far, they've only had some trees falling down, knocking down some power lines and let's hope it stays that way. Their words, and mine.
Back to you.
BOLDUAN: Nick, I mean, if you had a moment when you thought maybe the worst had passed, you know there are a lot of people in north Myrtle Beach who thought the same. Do you think there's been kind of a false sense of calm there?
WATT: Well, I mean, there certainly was over the past couple of days. We were speaking to people who just decided not to evacuate as the storm was being downgraded, category-wise. Of course, that's just wind. That's not rain. I mean, listen, we will see overnight tonight whether those people who stayed were sane, brave, or stupid. Hopefully, everything will be OK here.
I mean, listen, you know, this place has flooded before. It flooded in Matthew back in 2016. You know, a few feet of water, people are used to that. A lot of these houses along the water front are built on stilts for exactly this reason so that storm surge water that comes in does not inundate homes, just flows underneath them. But if it is flooded here, there are plenty of homes further inland that may well flood that are not on stilts and there could be damage. Maybe around 2,000 people right now hunkering down in this little beach town, hoping for the best.
All right, Nick, thank you so much. We'll check back in with you.
OUTFRONT with us now on the phone is Billy Sample. He's been riding out the storm in his home in Carolina Beach, North Carolina.
Billy, can you hear me?
BILLY SAMPLE, CAROLINA BEACH RESIDENT (via telephone): Yes, I can, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for calling in.
Your house is about four blocks, if I'm correct, from the water. Can you describe to me what it's felt like at the height of the storm?
SAMPLE: I'll tell you this, the height of the storm didn't feel as bad as it is now.
BOLDUAN: What are you feeling?
SAMPLE: The house is shaking back and forth, much more violently than it was during the -- when the eye wall came through. The rain is at least three or four times heavier. It's coming directly now from the east, so I'm sure that's part of the reason it feels worse, because our house, it would be a direct hit on it now, the wind.
And the rain, I can see it actually building up now on the streets and we may be getting some storm surge.
BOLDUAN: Billy, I was just showing our viewers a picture of you and your wife and your pet. How is everybody doing inside?
SAMPLE: We're doing pretty good. She's downstairs grilling, and the cat's right next to me eating and the dog is sitting over on the sofa. She's still pretty shaky. She doesn't like storms, so it's been pretty traumatic on her.
BOLDUAN: I think a lot of people are right there with her, not liking these storms.
One of our reporters was out on the beach in Carolina Beach and he says that what he was feeling at the top of the hour, Billy, was some of the strongest winds that he has seen. That's probably exactly what you guys are feeling right now. I mean, this would be kind of a second night of these conditions for you.
I mean, you've ridden out hurricanes before. How is this one different?
SAMPLE: Well, this is -- this one's a whole lot longer, I'll tell you. By now, usually, it's well-finished and, you know, you're sweeping up things. But this is a pretty long, and I hear we're going to have another day of possibly weather like this.
So, you know, extended like this, it really wears on your nerves. I can't really explain to you how stressful it starts to be and the fun sort of gets out of it.
BOLDUAN: Billy, thank you so much for getting on the phone. Please stay safe. Really appreciate it.
SAMPLE: Thank you. I appreciate you.
BOLDUAN: Thank you.
I want to get over to Dianne Gallagher. She's in New Bern. She's on the phone right now. She's embedded with the North Carolina National Guard, I believe.
Dianne, can you tell us what's going on right now?
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Yes. So, Erin, we're out here with the North Carolina National Guard. We were on our way to a rescue. I'm sorry we can't show you the vehicle we were in, an extremely large vehicle that's been going through a lot of the areas, you can see the background. This is my producer here, we're trying to get things together.
It's tipped over so we're attempting to get out right now. We're waiting and doing what the National Guard is telling us to. We're being as safe as we possibly can. We are in New Bern, North Carolina, but of course this is sort of the danger.
I apologize for the shifty camera angles. This is just because, again, we are sort of in a precarious situation here where we were going to go rescue and now we are the ones being rescued. We are with, again, the North Carolina National Guard. They are capable. They have been rescuing people. They had 16 people last night, more than 60 today and we've rescued.
It's difficult because the water is so high, and these locations that they're on sort of just tip down. What happens here, they believe, is just the wheel of our vehicle kind of chipped over, causing our vehicle to kind of slide a little. Now, again, we're OK right now. We're looking at a rescue from our rescue, but these guys have been rescuing people all day long.
They're asking us to kind of stay on the side right now, which is why we're not really moving, because we don't want the vehicle to tip even further and continue filling with water even more. What you're seeing now is they're right in front of my camera. I know what's going on a little bit here. They need to do their job and pull this over.
BOLDUAN: Dianne, we can hear you. We haven't been able to get your shot in quite yet. Can you just describe -- so there's water, obviously, water coming in?
GALLAGHER: Yes. Yes, there's water coming into the vehicle right now. Again, we have national guardsmen with us who have done 60-plus rescues just today. They're very experienced. Two of them are here with swift water experience as well. While the rest of them doing nothing but what they're trying to do is tip the vehicle back over, because the back of it is filling with water right now where I'm standing.
It's up to my knees at this moment. We're going to be doing a rescue where I think we might be trying to get on top of it. The road was washed out is apparently what happened. We're just getting information about this right now.
But we can't see it because the water itself was way up high, Erin, trying to give you and explain what we're seeing here, but they're kind of trying to push us back again here. I'm sorry you can't see our shot because the national guardsmen are doing such a great job right now, bringing -- trying to bring everything here. We have flotation devices. We have our life vests on. We are -- our equipment is still working.
What we're going to do right now, Erin, is there's a boat that's going to come get us and we are supposed to call 911 as soon as we get to dry ground. We're working to do a pin now, drop pin now for this.
This is why these rescue missions are so serious when these evacuations happen and they have to go get people. We can't see what's going on underneath the water. They're coming out in these vehicles and they have training but they still can't see underneath and predict things like a washed out road or when -- so some of these rescues that we've been on here, you do sort of feel the danger. Again, we're trying right now to get out here, push the vehicle a little bit as the water is filling up even more in here.
[19:35:06] BOLDUAN: Let's do this. Dianne, let's do this. You do what you need to do. You do whatever the National Guard is tell you to do. When you guys get into a safe location, we'll check back in. You get safe. You get everything situated and we'll check back in with you.
GALLAGHER: Sounds good, Erin. Thanks so much.
BOLDUAN: Thanks, Dianne. Really appreciate it.
She is in the middle of something right now. We're going to check back in and make sure Dianne Gallagher, her crew and the National Guards, North Carolina National Guard that she's with everything is okay. We'll let you know. OUTFRONT for us next, we're checking back with our Miguel Marquez who's feeling the brunt of the storm right now on Carolina Beach in North Carolina.
New Bern, North Carolina, one of the hardest hit towns in the Carolinas where forecasters say another foot of rain could be headed. My next guest, a woman who decided to ride it out there.
BOLDUAN: We're back with our breaking news, watching this massive storm battle the Carolina coast. It just won't quit.
Our Brian Todd is joining me right now from Wilmington, North Carolina.
Brian, what's it like where you are right now?
[19:40:04] BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the rain is still relentless. A couple of minutes ago, it really was like a wall of water. It's the closest thing to that that I've ever experienced covering one of these hurricanes and I've covered a lot of them. Right now, we're at an area where it's getting much more dangerous. This is the Cape Fear River right behind me.
Now, in far lesser storms, this river often does rise above flood stage. In this storm, authorities are very, very concerned that the Cape Fear River could rise several feet above normal levels, several feet above some of its record flood stages, and we could be getting to that point right now, because some of the water, I'm standing in some of the water that the river and the storm surge has pushed on to water street here.
Now, in some of these areas -- the good news for people in this neighborhood, Kate, is that just to my right, your left, there's an incline, there's a little bit of a hill that goes up to some of these streets where there are homes and businesses up here. The key question now, is this incline going to save them from potentially catastrophic flooding? That's what we're going to be watching in the days ahead because as of now, this rain has just been completely relentless, it is not letting up. And this place is abandoned except for journalists and some stragglers who just want to come down and have a look.
But this river behind us, you know, you can't see it too well right now because it's just so dark. But there are white caps all over. The current is little ripping down, and this is kind of what people are fearful of here, this river and other tributaries here rising way beyond flood stage. You know, we saw this in New Bern, North Carolina, just north of here, a lot of high water rescues. That's what people here are really biting their nails over tonight, Kate.
BOLDUAN: And this could push for miles and miles inland from the coast, when you talk about the Cape Fear River and other rivers. Great to see you, Brian. Thank you very much. Please stay safe. Let's go to another part of Wilmington, though, right now. That's
where AccuWeather storm chaser and meteorologist Reed Timmer is. He's been tracking the storm and joining us all week with updates.
So, Reed, what have you been seeing today?
REED TIMMER, ACCUWEATHER STORM CHASER: Well, earlier today, we were in New Bern, North Carolina. Our team split in two with one focusing on the eye wall here in Wilmington, we went up to New Bern where there is substantial flooding, mainly tidal flooding as well but there's also a rainfall being measured in the feet.
We saw many of these water rescues unfolding right before us with the Cajun Navy bringing people in from that coast just as that high tide was increasing and it's those high tides that are the most dangerous. We saw white water just ripping down the road there in New Bern. Abandoned vehicles with car doors opened and people just must have left when the water rose. We went to the fire department and saw one of those meetings with the Cajun Navy.
There's also local law enforcement pulling people out there and it's just every single high tide with that persistent easterly wind with this stationary tropical cyclone that continues to pile up that water and the more that falls upstream, it just can't go anywhere with that on shore flow blocking it and that's just exacerbating the flooding situation up in New Bern and now developing here in the Wilmington area with this prolific rainfall continuing.
BOLDUAN: I want to show our viewers one of kind of the before and after shots that you've posted. When I show them, it's -- this is union point in New Bern, and you can see quite the difference between the before on the left side of your screen and the after on the right. Can you tell me about it?
TIMMER: Yes, it's just incredibly scary out there in New Bern. It's well removed from the coastal location, but they're well familiar with flooding there but nothing of this magnitude and something that came up 10, 15 feet with waves on top of it. It's a very scary situation.
You can see currents in there as well. And you can just be driving along and suddenly high tide will start to approach and a wall of water will just come ripping down the street and that's why it's so dangerous in areas like New Bern as well. And this rain just continues to fall as we said earlier, there's nothing more dangerous than a stalling out tropical cyclone as we saw last year with storms like Harvey, once these storms stall out, these rain bands just hammer the same areas over and over again, and you have onshore flow as well piling the water in these inlets and all that river flooding, flash flooding, storm surge and every single high tide cycle is making a horrible situation here in Wilmington.
Now that the sun is setting, it's pitch black everywhere, the whole town is without power and that's creating an extremely dangerous situation because you could just be driving along and then hit those flood waters and be swept away and that's why nobody is allowed, really, outside out here driving around because it's just that dangerous in the Wilmington area.
BOLDUAN: And look, the storm made landfall around 7:15 this morning, right near Wilmington. What are folks in the -- what are folks to the south needing to be looking out for now?
TIMMER: Well, now, we -- you can't let your guard down with a storm like this. Just because it made landfall as a category 1 hurricane, it's just sitting here, spinning, and we always knew that the main impacts of this would be the flooding and these prolific rainfall rates. And so, we feel that the most dangerous part of this storm, believe it or not, even after all these catastrophic impacts and the flood damage and the water rescues, I think that the worst could still lie ahead with all this rain falling.
[19:45:11] I mean, these are warm rain processes and these tropical cyclones, the rainfall rates are incredible and they have to drain somewhere and here in the Wilmington area, they're all going toward the Cape Fear River and there's several low-lying areas on either side that are going to continue to get inundated by flooding.
BOLDUAN: Yes, we are like 24 hours into conditions starting to be felt on the coast. Reed, thank you very much. Thank you for joining us all week with this.
OUTFRONT for us next, her house sits on ten-foot pylons. Still, the flood waters reach up toward the first floor. Does she regret staying behind now? We'll ask her.
And more than 700,000 without power. Officials say it could be weeks until the power is back.
BOLDUAN: We have an update right now with our Dianne Gallagher. She's in New Bern. She was embedded with the National Guard and they were actually caught up in the flood waters themselves on the way to a rescue. Dianne's back on the phone with me right now.
Dianne, I assume everything's safe. What's the latest?
GALLAGHER: Yes, Kate, right now, my producer, Jay Tim Garcia (INAUDIBLE), my photographer and myself we are now on the closest thing you could call dry land.
[19:50:07] We're still in water but we're fine. Just about, you know, ankle or a little more deep. A boat came and got us from the overturned military vehicles with Charlie Company in Elizabeth Town, North Carolina National Guard, and we are waiting for the guardsmen to come in.
The boat of the man who lives here in New Bern, he is going back to get them now. He has other guys on the boat that he was helping out, and had a full boat and put us on the boat. The guardsmen would not get on it, and one came to guide with his, and he has gone on the boat to go get his brother is there and we're waiting, watching. We were on our way to rescue three people from the rising floodwaters,
from Hurricane Florence. And it appears the road is washed out. This is extremely deep water, Kate, much deeper that I've been in. Even in some of the boats. We were in an extremely large vehicle.
So, it appears the road must have watched out completely underneath because it just disappeared. We began taking in water in the back which is where our crew was. It was up pretty high. So, we were sort of gathered to the side, as it took on water. There were plenty of flotation devices in there for us.
The guardsmen were incredible coming in to assist, we're trying to get the vehicle to turn back over because again, this was a rescue mission. So I need to help the people who are trapped and they're still trying to get the vehicle turned back over, they said. That's why they wanted us to go first so they could get it. I don't see how they'll do it. The entire back bed is almost full of flood water at this point now.
Again, they have plenty of flotation devices in there to get out but we were lucky, because there are so many rescue crews coming around here, looking for people, trying to get people to leave their homes because of the high floodwaters, that there was somebody in the vicinity that saw our overturn vehicle and was able to try of come and get us out right now and they'll be they know National Guard as well.
I can tell you that the New Bern fire is arriving as well to try to assist. I can still see the flares, a little like floating flares. I apologize, I'm using the wrong terminology. I can see it in the distance.
So, it looks like everybody is going to be okay but this is the danger in these rescue missions when they have these mandatory evacuations.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. I mean, this is a horrible example of it. I'm so happy to hear, I know our viewers are, that everything is okay with you. We call you like really in the middle of it.
But this shows --
BOLDUAN: -- how dangerous these rescues can be. And also, the goodness of people looking out for people and the communities coming together to help out. The National Guard, hopefully, they'll be safe and they can continue on the rescue mission as I know they want to do.
Dianne, thank you so much. Stay safe tonight. Thank you.
GALLAGHER: Thank you.
I want to go back to Carolina Beach, our Miguel Marquez. We talked to Miguel at the top of the hour. I want to get back to Miguel right now. Miguel, you were being beat out at the top of the hour. It looks like nothing has changed.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Nothing -- well, one thing has changed. It is not just wind now. It's rain as well. There's a lot of water coming down. So, perhaps it's a little hard to see but there is a lot of water with this wind. It is just -- it's incredible. This storm is not relenting.
And Dianne got a little situation there and that's what rescuers are concerned about here as well. At this speed, certainly we're up over 50 miles per hour. The city of Carolina Beach no longer wants to send out its EMS folks to try to help people. And that's the situation they're in right now.
The wind, which they thought would come at 2:00 yesterday, came overnight, certainly. And now it is back again on the back end of this storm and it is just not relenting. It is incredible how strong this wind has been for as long as it's been. It's about three hours of unrelenting wind.
Today, we saw a lot of rain. We saw the tide come in along with the surge, the flooding of a pretty good section of the town, the section that does flood when it rains here. It came up very quickly within a half-hour, 45 minutes up to waist high through town. They have another tide coming in tonight and they will seek --
BOLDUAN: I think we just lost Miguel's shot. This is just how it goes when they're in the middle of it. We'll get back to him when we can.
We want to go though -- up and down the coast, as we will know, residents have gotten stopped in their homes as Florence was crawling through. We've been talking about some of the rescues today.
I want to show you the video from one of these homes in New Bern, North Carolina. It's already -- this home has already raised at least ten feet off the ground and now it is an island, as you can see, in the middle of a raging river in this video.
OUTFRONT now is the woman who shot the video whose home is surrounded by water. Bethany Richards.
Bethany, can you hear me?
BETHANY RICHARDS, RIDING OUT HURRICANE FLORENCE (via telephone): I can. How are you?
BOLDUAN: I'm okay. I care more about how you are. I mean, you shot this video hours ago. What does it look like now?
RICHARDS: Well, it's been a rough 24 hours and we're back to nighttime which is very unsettling. It's been a rough day.
And right now, we're actually having the better conditions in the last 24 hours. Much of the water has receded. So, we're sitting at about three feet of water under our house and around our house.
Last night, all night into this morning, we had about ten feet under the house, which is where our house is raised to on pilings on the Neuse River. So it was constant wave action, beating up against basically our flooring with water seeping in through the sliding glass door and up on the deck and just coming up under the flooring.
So, actually, the conditions right now have allowed to us actually take a breath, because the wind has died down. We've still got a lot of rain but conditions are actually a little bit lighter in comparison.
BOLDUAN: What have you been seeing through the day outside your window?
RICHARDS: It is just unnerving. Lots of debris. There are refrigerators, there's benches, there's a pontoon boat in the neighbor's yard. Our one neighbor has a couple trees down.
And the biggest thing is the swells of water that have just been lapping into our yard. You would think that you're standing at a pier on the beach with the wave action we've had today. I mean, we've had seven to nine-foot swells and people are communicating with us, telling to us get out. Well, we can't get out in seven to nine-foot swells.
And we are saying that we are safe. We have higher ground, so our house, the top floor is 20 feet. So we would not have stayed if we were only at this level and we didn't have anywhere to go.
BOLDUAN: That's, let me ask you, do you regret now sticking it out?
RICHARDS: You know, that is a good question. I don't. You know, my husband and I were confident with our decision. Our house is established and it's high. It's a round house. It has 15 sides. So, it is actually built to hopefully withstand a hurricane.
Call me back this few days and check with me. But we were confident in our decision. We're both retired firefighters, so we feel like we're pretty responsible and have good enough skill sets and are prepared enough, if we need to exit, we had an exit strategy and we were going to be prepared.
BOLDUAN: Bethany, well, I'm glad to hear things, maybe the conditions are getting a little better and you're getting a breather right now. Thank you so much for calling in. I appreciate it.
RICHARDS: Thank you. Have a good night.
BOLDUAN: Thank you. You too. Good luck.
So, more than 700,000 customers are without power in the Carolinas right now. South Carolina's governor says many parts of the state will not have electricity for days or weeks.
Jeff Brooks is a spokesman for Duke Energy. He's joining me right now.
Jeff, when will your crews be able to get out there and start restoring power, do you think?
JEFF BROOKS, SPOKESMAN, DUKE ENERGY (via telephone): Well, Kate, these conditions are very challenging for our crews. Certainly, they are sheltered just like all the citizens in the area are. They're waiting for the winds to die down for it to be safe to go out. And it's still be a while. I mean, you saw just in that -- what you heard it.
The winds are still very, very strong along the coast. It's going to be many, many more hours before they go down, perhaps days. So, it will probably be a couple days before they can get out and do restoration. They've got to do assessments of the damage. And, of course, in some areas, there is a great amount of flooding that's going to be a great challenge for them.
BOLDUAN: Right. Absolutely. So, I mean, do you have any guess at this time when you think all the customers are going to be back up online?
BROOKS: Well, you know, we expected about 1 million to 3 million customers to be affected by this storm. And that's moving in that direction, certainly. I think we're looking at many, many days, you know, at least a week for most customers, weeks for some areas where you have the hardest hit.
So, you know, we're in it for the long haul. We've brought in 20,000 line workers and crews with more in reserve. So, we're going to keep at I until we get it done but this is a very challenging and historic storm.
Jeff Brooks, thank you so much for calling in. It sounds like your job, the big work for you is only just beginning at this moment.
We are going to continue to follow the breaking news of hurricane -- of now tropical storm Florence. All of our crews are out in it. We'll be bringing all of this information to you.
Our breaking news coverage continues now with "AC360."