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Hurricane Florence Is Hammering the Coast of North And South Carolina; Super Typhoon Mangkhut, Equivalent of A Category 4 Hitting Luzon, Philippines; Mangkhut Wind Rips Window Frames from Hotel, Poor People in Huts in Severe Danger; Former Trump Campaign Chief to Cooperate with Mueller; Deadly Gas Explosions Rock Three Massachusetts Towns; Kremlin: Absurd to Accuse Russia of Lying. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired September 14, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: We are getting you up to speed on two major international news stories this hour. Hello and

welcome, everyone. I'm Hala Gorani. Hurricane Florence is hammering the coast of North and South Carolina. Take a look at the video on the screen

shot at a marina at Wilmington. And further inland, the massive storm is trapping people in homes, flooding entire towns and threatening more


But this hour, we are also tracking another huge storm. This one heading for the Philippines. It is super typhoon Mangkhut, equivalent of a

category 4 hurricane and 4 million people are currently in the path. The country deployed soldiers to help people in the northern part of the

country get to safety. We will have a report from the Philippines soon. Let's get the latest on Hurricane Florence. It made landfall as a category

one storm just after 7:00 a.m. in North Carolina.

The punishing winds brought down this gas station's entire awning basically. And take a look at these pictures from New Bern. The storm's

powerful surge completely flooded that town. About 150 people are waiting still to be pulled out of the area. And we are also seeing water rescues

under way taking place in River Bend among other places. We are hearing from FEMA, that's the federal emergency agency, that 1,300 people deployed

to help local authorities. Also, Florence has knocked out the power to more than 600,000 people. Our colleague Derek Van Dam was out in Carolina

Beach when he experienced that for himself.


DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Let's say 30 minutes as we noticed that inner eye wall. There it goes. There goes the lights. That's it. All

right. That's what I expected.


GORANI: Despite days of dire warnings to get out, some are riding out this storm. Our Scott McClean spoke to a Myrtle Beach resident saying, well, he

is not going anywhere.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've stayed here in Hugo and I hadn't left. Didn't leave in Matthew. And I just going to ride it out.

SCOTT MCCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is supposed to be worse than Matthew.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. But I think because winds blow offshore, I think it won't be a surge problem. So --

MCCLEAN: You're not worried about flooding?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. We are up on the Sand Hill.


GORANI: Now, CNN has correspondents fanned out across the region. Look at this video of John Berman. He was in Wilmington, North Carolina, as the

storm made landfall. Maybe you can make him out between the wind gusts and the sheets of rain. How does it feel to be inside this storm?

Let's bring in Nick Watt in North Myrtle Beach. Obviously, you're -- raining very heavily. What's the situation now where you are?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hala, where we are, I just spoken to local officials here and they have suspended basically the emergency

service. 911 calls, they will not send first responders out unless it's a life-threatening situation. And the reason for that is the gusts of wind.

Up maybe 130, 140 kilometers an hour. Expected this afternoon. They have been picking up since last night when the first bands of this hurricane

started coming over where we are. We are actually staying in a house right on the beach. The house is on stilts so that any storm surge passes

underneath the house but the flip side of that is during the night it was hard to sleep because the house was actually moving in the wind.

The winds were that strong. The gusts were that powerful. Now, water is the big story, though, of this hurricane. And, you know, we have already

had 50 centimeters of rain reported in places. There's a forecast for 100 centimeters of rain to fall in just a few days in certain parts of the

Carolinas and that could be devastating. The issue where I am in North Myrtle Beach, we are on this beautiful 60-mile stretch of sand, the grand

strand, attracts 14 million tourists a year. Should be sunny right now and holiday time. Instead -- at the grim reality of what people face on the


About 2,000 people have decided to tough it out here. And stay in North Myrtle Beach. You know, since the storm was downgraded category-wise from

a 3 to a 2 to a 1 people said it won't be that bad. I'll stay. Those categories are just for wind speed. You know? This storm is still, you

know, 15,000 miles across. Twice the size of the state of Massachusetts. And packing so much rain that, you know, 10 trillion gallons to fall on

North Carolina alone. Where we are, the issue is going to -- ocean you can see behind me.

[14:05:00] Coming up to high tide now and the issue is going to be that water comes in and inundates this is village, this town. 2016 Hurricane

Matthew, this whole place flooded. We are if between the ocean and something called the intercoastal waterway, a big sort of canal that runs a

couple of blocks inland from us so later today there could be a time when the eye of the storm is actually inland from us and we are in between the

eye of the storm and the ocean. That's when it's bad. But the other major thing about this hurricane, it is moving so slowly and because it's moving

so slowly it dumps a lot of water. Previous hurricanes moved with very, very high wind but they have moved faster through here. This one is

crawling. You could jog faster than this hurricane and going slowly and just dumping, dumping, dumping rain. That's going to be an issue. That's

going to be the story of the next few hours and weeks maybe.

GORANI: Certainly, we're going to be keeping an eye on that. You mentioned potentially that the water could rise still and flood parts of

north myrtle beach. Has the worst of the storm in terms of wind gusts passed now?

WATT: Well, the winds in this hurricane are dropping but the gusts are still up at, you know, 90 miles per hour, 140 kilometers per hour. That's

another issue with the storm being so slow so, you know, can a building sustain winds of 100 kilometers a hour for 24 hours? You know? That's the

issue. So, you know, even if the winds drop a little bit, the fact it's so slow, there's wind damage and seen downed power lines around where we are

already right now. This town about half the people here have lost power and only gets worse because the storm actually hasn't started to move down

towards us so here in North Myrtle Beach it's only going to get worse. Hala?

GORANI: Nick Watt, thanks very much, in north myrtle beach, North Carolina. Miguel Marquez is inside the storm. He is in Carolina Beach,

North Carolina, right now. Miguel, tell us what's going on where you are.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, struggling to stay standing because the wind is blowing so hard and in knee-deep water because the

storm surge has come in and even though we near a waning tide it is still very high. It goes several hundred meters back up into the town of

Carolina Beach. This is Carl Winter Boulevard and myrtle avenue in Carolina Beach and inundated.

This area does flood often in this town but they have -- folks I have been talking to this morning haven't seen it come up quickly. In a half hour,

the area was flooded and not sure when it goes back down. I spoke to the city manager a little while ago and he said that it may be Saturday or

Sunday before they're able to open the bridge that will allow people back in and out of this area because there's just so much water.

This storm will not quit. It just continues and continues to dump rain and wind and bring the storm surge. We were up during the eye of the storm.

There was literally not a breeze in the air and now it is back to hurricane conditions. What you are looking at right now is the marina here in the

Carolina Beach. It is clearly overflowing. All of the boats in there remaining moored and in good shape.

But the one thing that emergency managers are asking here, they haven't had a lot of major issues other than flooding and some minor damage. But what

they're asking across the county, New Hanover County, if you need assistance, make sure that it is dire and life threatening because their

911 operators are overwhelmed. Hala?

GORANI: Yes. I was just going to ask you about that. The structures are still standing. The boats are fine. But the big concern of what you are

saying is sustained rains. Right? And then that you have water levels that are high for many, many days. This is not a fast-moving storm.

MARQUEZ: Yes. It is just sitting on top of us not going anywhere. So, rain coming down from the heavens and then water pushing in from the ocean.

That storm surge, the two of those together just a mix that's going to make life miserable here for days to come. Hala?

GORANI: All right. Miguel Marquez, thanks very much, Carolina Beach, North Carolina.

Joining us, I want to speak to Natalie Gomes now. She lives in Wilmington, North Carolina. One of the areas hit hardest by the storm and took

pictures of downed trees in the neighborhood. She joins me now on the phone. Thanks for being with us. We're showing the viewers all over the

world pictures of trees coming down. A lot of them caused damage to homes. Is your home OK?

[14:10:00] NATALIE GOMES, RESIDENT, WILMINGTON: Yes. We are just fine. We don't have power and lost power around midnight here. Other than that,

we're OK.

GORANI: What's the situation in your neighborhood? Because it looks like there was a lot of damage in a short period of time.

GOMES: Yes. We had really, really intense winds come through last night. We don't have power and lost power around midnight here. Other than that,

we're OK.

GORANI: What's the situation in your neighborhood? Because it looks like there was a lot of damage in a short period of time.

GOMES: Yes. We had really, really intense winds come through last night. They were really loud. About 3:00 in the morning. You know? I could feel

the house just sort of moving with the wind, as well. Lots of tree limbs down. We don't have any flooding here thankfully.

GORANI: Thankfully. Did you sleep in your basement or -- I mean, it must be scary with winds so strong.

GOMES: Absolutely. Most of the houses here don't have basements actually. We spent it in our bedroom and just sort of heard the onslaught of leaves

on the windows and things like that from the big gust of wind.

GORANI: I imagine that most people were expecting at least some damage. But is this more than you thought would happen so quickly in just a few


GOMES: Honestly, we have so many big pine trees here and they're the ones that tend to break in the storms. So, it isn't necessarily more in my area

than I was expecting but from some of the friends around town with pictures there were definitely places around town hit harder.

GORANI: You don't have any flooding. That's a good thing. Those standing waters are absolutely terrible. I hope everyone around you, the neighbors,

is safe. No one was hurt?

GOMES: Everyone appears to be fine. There were a lot of people that did evacuate in our neighborhood. But my neighbors who did stay appear to be

just fine today.

GORANI: Good. And you obviously stayed in your home. Why did you make that decision?

GOMES: We have seven dogs.

GORANI: Oh wow.

GOMES: And a few cats. And honestly, evacuating would have been really difficult. We looked at the directions the winds would be coming from and

the direction our house sits and actually sort of figured out that we thought we would be OK with it.

GORANI: Going forward, you've looked at the forecast. What's in store for your part of North Carolina?

GOMES: Continued rain, continued winds. It should probably be raining through tomorrow is what we're expecting. And the winds have died down a

lot. That's a good thing for us here.

GORANI: But the issue, obviously, I used to live in Atlanta and sometimes after the storm, the trees were standing and a little gust would take one

down. They come down from the root. Hopefully there's -- you don't have any issue, any trees like that that could potentially fall on your home,

your structure.

GOMES: My husband went out and measured the distance to the trees and calculate the height. He's in the military and kind of preparing for these

sorts of big events and figured out we didn't have any at risk of falling on us.

GORANI: That's good news. I'm glad you're safe. Thank you so much for sending us the pictures. It gives the viewers everywhere around the world

an idea of how quickly, quickly a storm like this and high winds can cause a lot of damage to buildings. Thankfully everyone is safe on your street.

Thank you. A storm like this carries obviously many risk factors, given the projected path. Florence set to make a slow meandering crawl on to

land for days of rain and flooding.

Ivan Cabrera at the CNN Weather Center with more. So, we have been saying over and over again it is not the wind. It's the rain. It's the rising

water levels. What's the forecast for this weather system?

IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Hala. That remains the case over the next several hours. We have 120 kilometer per wind hurricane. One

tick down, 119, a tropical storm. I haven't seen anything near 119 kilometers an hour for the wind speed. That's not an issue. The wind

direction, though, still poses a threat because it is still pushing water on shore and that water has nowhere to go.

I'll show you some of that in detail in a second but here's the latest radar with Hurricane Florence continues as you mentioned. Wobbling down to

the south and west. Incredible amounts of rain and of course the story, as well. We just checked in with Nick down across North Myrtle Beach. Not as

heavy as far as the rainfall and the wind direction changes in a couple of hours and then push the water ashore so I think they're actually going to

get in trouble in the next couple of hours as far as the surge.

[14:15:00] There is Miguel. Continuing to see that stream of wind coming in off the water. And I'll go ahead and zoom in here to see some of the

rainfall here. Incredible amounts. Taking the radar out. I think that gives you perspective as far as why we have a significant issue here, look

at these rivers here. The water has nowhere to go.

The wind continues to push the ocean in and continue to pile up. You add the high tide on top of that. A few cycles, higher water and then there's

the water falling from the sky. That's also adding to the problem. That water's trying to drain out, Hala, but it can't go anywhere until the winds

turn direction and they're not going to for quite sometime and holding the storm surge in. Here's the wind gusts. 80 in Wilmington. 78 in Myrtle

Beach. Nothing to sneeze at here and not what we had when it first landfall. The wind speed not as much of an issue, diminishes.

The wind direction is still a problem and the while dumping several -- well, at this point here talking the potential for half a meter of water

additional rainfall coming in. Happening in the next three days as the storm slowly heads off to the south and west and curls up to the north.

We'll track this throughout the weekend because the danger is going to continue I think through next week.

GORANI: Yes. Right. Absolutely. We are going to be covering this with our team of correspondents and meteorologists because this is a story that

will go -- that will certainly last throughout the weekend. Thank you.

A larger threatens southeast Asia. We'll hear from a storm tracker and an aid official as the super typhoon hurdles toward the Philippines. We'll be

right back.


GORANI: We have been talking about Florence but an even stronger storm is threatening millions in southeast Asia. Typhoon Mangkhut is making

landfall right now, taking aim at Luzon with more than 4 million people in its path. The massive storm threatens flooding, landslides and power

outages. Now, evacuations are under way as military personnel make emergency preparations. Alexandra Field is on the ground as the storm


[14:20:00] ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Parts of the Philippines on the highest alert as Typhoon Mangkhut comes in from the sea. Millions of

people are close to the storm's projected path. Mangkhut has already torn through Guam in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, (through translator) We still fear for our safety here at the church because the floods can reach here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, (through translator): They said this typhoon is twice as strong as the last typhoon. That's why we're terrified. We don't know

what will happen to our houses.


FIELD: People crowded into shops to buy up supplies before the worst hit. The government has canceled school and closed offices in much of the north.

Essential emergency teams already at work. International aid groups on stand by.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These areas based on our experiences in the past emergency responses including the Typhoon Haiyan are poor areas.

International aid groups on stand by. And the families living in these areas have no capacity to recover quickly.


FIELD: Along with strong winds, there's the risk of floods and landslides. Mangkhut is on track to move into southern China, 12,000 people have been

evacuated there because of an earlier tropical storm. The Hong Kong observatory warns Mangkhut poses a considerable threat. The Philippines

felt the affects of similarly strong typhoons before. In 2013, parts of the country devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. Mangkhut may be the 15th to hit

this year and likely to have the biggest impact. Alexandra Field, CNN, Philippines.

GORANI: So, it appears as though the typhoon has made landfall. Northern region of the Philippines is expected to get the brunt of the storm

including the cities of Santa Ana and Santiago. It's 2:00 a.m. there. You can see in this video, the super typhoon is whipping trees with just

some intense, intense rain and wind.

Storm chaser, James Reynolds joins me now by phone in the northern region of the Philippines. Has the typhoon made landfall, James?

JAMES REYNOLDS, STORM CHASER: Hala, I wish I could give you more information but we have had like a data blackout for two hours. I have

been unable to get online and see any of the details of where the storm is exactly and all I can tell you is it is raging out there. It's gone

absolutely wild and it's quite fortunate that we are able to talk right now.

GORANI: Right. I'm very thankful that we are. We had issues just full disclosure with the viewers getting in touch with you on the phone and

would make sense because it's a violent storm and tell us what you're seeing exactly from your vantage point.

REYNOLDS: Well, it's the middle of the night here. The hotel room which we were originally checked into but will ride out the storm in has become

uninhabitable. The windows blew in and smashed in. Basically, the doors and windows of the room have smashed in. So, we're in the interior room

just hiding. I usually try to film these events but I can't do that now because the safety is priority obviously. Just waiting for daybreak. The

winds to die down and get a better idea of what's happened out there.

GORANI: Right. And we are actually showing our viewers video that you shot there in Santa Ana. You are saying that essentially the windows

exposed to the winds have blown out. Have shattered. And you're basically people need to hunker down in parts of the structures. They are living in.

Away from any of these windows.

REYNOLDS: That's exactly it. And the corridors of the hotel are hazardous. The typhoon is entering the building. Glass, shards of glass

everywhere. And it's -- Yes. It's just a case of finding an interior room, surrounding ourselves by concrete and waiting for the winds to die


GORANI: Is it that it's entering the corridors of the hotel?

REYNOLDS: Well, it's just sheer force of the wind. The whole window frames themselves have just collapsed. Blown in. Because of the force of

the wind exerting on them. And, you know, no matter how well you board up a window or how strong the glass is facing a category 5 super typhoon, the

winds find its way to destroy the things, applying maximum pressure on them.

[14:25:00] GORANI: If this is happening in a hotel, I can't imagine what's happening to the homes of people that might not be as soundly built.

REYNOLDS: No idea to be honest. That's something we were talking about. It just must be hell to the people out there who are in -- you know?

Smaller, more fragile houses, some people live here in little huts. It's the middle of the night. Pitch blackout there. It must be terrifying.

GORANI: And I obviously -- talking about huts and flimsily built structures. No basements. No -- in the U.S. you have much more

sophisticated contingency plans and rescue operations. That's not the case where you are.

REYNOLDS: Yes. Right now, it's everybody's for themselves. And obviously, we'll get a better idea of the scale of the damage in the

morning. But it just goes to show we are in one of the most solidly built buildings in the area and in this building, it is dangerous right now so

what it must be like for people in the ordinary homes, thatched buildings or made of mud. Yes. It's -- it must be a very, very perilous situation

for them right now.

GORANI: Thank you so much for joining us there on the phone. I hope you and your team stay safe and thoughts obviously are with the people in the

path of the terrible, terrible storm. Thank you very much, James Reynolds, for joining us from Santa Ana in the Philippines. Richard Gordon is

chairman of the Philippine Red Cross joining me by phone from Manila. Were you able to hear our guest on the air?

RICHARD GORDON, CHAIRMAN, PHILIPPINE RED CROSS: Definitely, Hala. He's -- tells it the way it is. It's total darkness right now. There is no power.

There is no power. Still water. But the roofs are being blown already as I speak in the -- my people are in the headquarters of the local chapter of

the red cross and they got here, roofs flying about and one of them hit the building and it's not nice out there. Everything. Branches flying.

Leaves flying. Wires have been cut off. Literally. And we have to wait out in the morning to see the extent of the damage.

GORANI: So, you spoke with some of your staff in Santa Ana and the northern regions, correct?

GORDON: No. They're in the capital town.


GORDON: And it is north from there. And they have traveled a long distance from manila. Some of them in -- our people are with them

payloaders to clear in the morning. Water tankers and, you know, supplies for non-food items including sleeping kits because we are anticipating a

lot of people will lose their homes. Hopefully they don't but that's going to be an anticipation that I'm sure will happen.

GORANI: And but the Red Cross workers themselves are in harm's way here.

GORDON: Definitely. That's why they're in the Red Cross building, some in other places where they have -- in Santiago, Isabela with heavy equipment

and many of the people, I told them to stay down. The wind is noisy. And a lot of rain is pouring down. The enemy right now is wind and rain.


GORDON: An awful lot, awful lot of rain. When you have five-meter ocean surge and the area's surrounded by the longest river in the Philippines,

and also, you have all buckets of rain and all the water dams in Luzon, particularly in the area, the dam is approaching tipping point. I hope

that this -- that typhoon will get out. When it gets out, it dumps more rain. That is a problem. Water and wind.

GORANI: You are saying that essentially your staff are saying they're hunkered down. Entire roof tops have been smashing up against the


GORDON: Pieces of tin. Tin roofing is flying. Debris. Very dangerous. Some of them cut and slashed the wires. There's no power. Two have been

electrocuted in some portions of the Philippines in the north. That's where power is cut off. I'm sure it was due any time anyway because of the

strength of the winds.

GORANI: Do you have enough in terms of supplies, of personnel, to respond to this?

GORDON: Of course, this is an area covering four million to five million people. This is the same problem we had in Haiyan. We were able to -- it

took us about four or five years now. We are on the fifth year after Haiyan and built already 80,000 homes. Nonetheless, we have a lot of

volunteers here. 10,000 Red Cross youth just waiting for the weather to clear and about another 10,000 teachers who are volunteering to tell us

what is going on. We are in good shape. We have trained so many first aiders. Thousands are here in this area. They're well trained. So, we're

connected with doctors and nurses and hospitals. We have the doctors and so if we need doctors we are call them out in the daytime to see more and

do a lot more.

GORANI: The staff of the Red Cross, the volunteers all do such amazing work in very difficult conditions. Thank you very much, Richard Gordon, of

the Philippines Red Cross for joining us on the line there and good luck to you.

Still to come, Hurricane Florence slams on the Carolina Coast. We'll show you the impact so far through unbelievable footage. Next.


[14:30:30] GORANI: So in the last 24 hours, we've seen two monster storms winding their way toward populated targets. We're tracking a huge storm in

the Philippines. It's a super typhoon Mangkhut. It's now making landfall. We had some dramatic there descriptions of what's going on with the storm

chaser. Hopefully we'll get back in touch with him soon.

Half a world away on the U.S. East Coast, it's already been a dramatic day as Hurricane Florence lashes the Carolina Coast. Here's how it's unfolded

so far. Take a look.


DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: As we noticed that inner eye wall -- there it goes. There goes the lights. That's it. All right. That's what

I expected. OK. Let's just get out of here, guys.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The eye on the shore. The outer eye wall directly over Wilmington, North Carolina, where I am. Chad Myers telling

me we're getting three inches of rain for an hour. It feels like that and it feels like it's coming right in our face from every single direction.

Behind me is the northeast --

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have experienced these winds for not just a short while. It's been going on here since early evening last

night. So as the intensity and the prolonged nature of how long this storm is taking to come ashore, it's just a relentless feeling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you look all the way down, that's beyond those people, you might be able to make it out. That is the ocean. It's not

supposed to be there right now and that ocean, part of the storm surge, came all the way up Pollock Street. You can see all this debris washed up

with it.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These are good Samaritans, these are heroes who chose to come here and help people who did not evacuate. Now,

our mission right now is not for human beings. Our mission right now is to go get other boats. This can help out with the rescue missions, this can

help out just people getting their property, as well. But we can help get more people, if we have more boats. Simple math there.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look at the tree over here downed in the yard. Power lines down all over the place. You can see this storm is

still whipping through here. It is still a very dangerous situation for some of these residents. We were told just a short time ago.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What's significant about this, this water has come up in the last half hour, 45 minutes or so. Very quickly.

And it's rising. Just over here, this is the marina. This is an area that often floods in this town, but the speed at which this water has come up is

what they're concerned with. The winds have shifted direction since --

[14:35:04] LAVANDERA: This is the scene kind of -- the chaotic nature and the improvised nature of how all of this is unfolding this afternoon in

Newbern as people are racing out into the streets in the torrential downpours to help people in the neighborhoods that have taken on so much

water here over the course of the last 24 hours.


GORANI: There you have it. Tick tock, of how it all unfolded and, of course, this is still going on. As we mentioned, it's about the rain, it's

about the flooding.

Let's get over to Mike Theiss, he's a professional storm chaser, as well as a photographer for National Geographic. He joins me not live now from

Wrightsville Beach, North cardinal, on the phone.

And, Mike, what's happening where you are currently?

MIKE THEISS, PROFESSIONAL STORM CHASER (through telephone): Yes. Actually, I rode it out in Wrightsville Beach when the eye came on shore,

but such (INAUDIBLE) I've following it within the eye and eye wall and I'm going to follow it all the way down to Myrtle Beach.

We're projecting very extreme winds. We have big trees coming down all over the major roads here. There's a lot of flooding going on. We don't

even know what's going on at the Barrier Islands just yet but I know there's going to be a lot of destructions out there. But this category one

hurricane definitely packed a really big punch.

GORANI: Yes. So we're showing video that you shot and posted on your Twitter page, I believe. What is it like in the eye of the storm?

THEISS: Oh, it is just surreal. It's incredible. The reason is if you go through an eye wall for several hours and it's very loud outside and

there's big banging with your ears are ringing just from all this noise and then you get into the eye that's like a sudden silence. There's birds

flying around and it's like a sigh of relief. But as we all know, it's not a sigh of relief, because the second half is coming. So it's a quick

breather. Get into position to record the second half as the eye wall came on shore.

GORANI: So you're able to drive within the eye of the storm as it progresses?

THEISS: Yes. But I have a vehicle called the HERV, the Hurricane Eyewall Research Vehicle. And I developed it to penetrate the eyewall of

hurricanes. I have the windows protected with metal cages. I have lots of modifications done to this vehicle. I will now ride in like a category

three or higher. But in category one or two, I can drive around, I can take wind measurements with calibrated anemometer there, put pressure and

other scientific data.

GORANI: And what are the wind speeds now?

THEISS: Right now, they're around 65 miles an hour. But last night, we recorded a wind gust of 86 miles per hour, at Wilmington Beach. As well as

a (INAUDIBLE) of 958 millibars. So that's pretty -- that's pretty much where I'm sitting with the National Hurricane Center was going to happen.

GORANI: Sure. And are you seeing any damage to structures? I mean, we showed gas stations, for instance with awnings that had collapsed. What

else are you seeing around you?

THEISS: Yes, there's lots of typical of typical damage in the category one. It's quite building damage. But the big thing I'm seeing mostly is

big trees have come down everywhere. The soil has gone so soft and there's trees coming down on buildings and blocking roadways and such. And like I

said earlier, I'm sure the Barriers Islands have the very same position, but I was not able to stay out there this week.

Will not let anybody stay no matter what. So I did have to leave the island. But I'm sure at first light there should be some images coming out


GORANI: And what about power outages?

THEISS: Yes. The entire area of Wilmington where I was staying and I was documenting, the power did go out last night. And actually when it went

out, there's power flashes and that's when the transformers explode in the air. And I did capture some video of that happening and it's like a

fluorescent blue tint on the horizon and it just lights up the entire night sky and you can see the sheets of rain that are blowing when it lights up

fluorescent blue.

It's very -- it's very scary to see because little bit later one of the transformers blew up right next to our chase vehicle.

GORANI: Well, Mike Theiss, I hope you stay safe as you continue to track this storm. Mike Theiss speaking to us on the phone from Wrightsville,

North Carolina. Thanks a lot.

Still to come tonight, Donald Trump's former campaign chairman has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Does this mean he will turn on the

president? I'll ask our crime and justice correspondent when we come back.

Also, homes burned across Massachusetts as more than 60 gas explosions hit three different towns in the U.S. state. What's going on there? We'll be

right back.


[14:40:34] GORANI: Few weeks ago, Donald Trump praised Paul Manafort as a man who, "refused to break." Just hours ago, Paul Manafort broke. The

former chairman of Mr. Trump's campaign for U.S. president pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the U.S. and conspiracy to obstruct justice. And

most significantly, Manafort agreed to cooperate with Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian influence in the campaign.

And while Manafort's guilty plea has nothing to do with anything he did on the Trump campaign, it predates all of that. It is worth noting that he

was one of three Trump allies who actually attend that meeting at Trump Tower a group with a group of Russians in 2016.

CNN's Crime and Justice Reporter, Shimon Prokupecz has been following all these events in court and he joins me now live from Washington. Do we know

in what way Manafort has pledged to cooperate with Mueller and prosecutors into -- prosecutors associated with the Mueller probe?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, we actually do, because they just filed the plea agreement, special counsel there here in

D.C. filed with the court. It was released and it says that he's going to cooperate basically in everything and anything they ask him to cooperate

on. That is he will have to testify before a grand jury if they ask him to. That is he will have to testify at any trials that he's needed at.

And really, essentially, what it does it makes the government own him. That is he will have to do everything now that the government wants him to

do in any investigation that he could be helpful in.

The other thing that's important here for Paul Manafort is that he's been in jail now for a couple of months, several months during the last trial

where he was convicted and he's facing a substantial amount of jail time from that conviction.

And what the government has agreed to do in this case is write what's called a 5K letter to the judge, that is, in this letter they would

basically tell the judge, well, Paul Manafort has been cooperating so this -- therefore, we should give him less jail time and it is perhaps the case

that Paul Manafort in the end here can go free and not spend the substantial jail time that he was expecting before this cooperation


GORANI: So what do prosecutors hope to gain from giving Manafort a deal?

PROKUPECZ: It's a great question. We really don't know. When you think about all the people who have now cooperated in this investigation that

we're working on the campaign, close to the president at the time. We know that Paul Manafort was a key player in a lot of meetings, in a lot of the

things leading up to the election, leading up to various campaign strategies. The Republican National Convention.

So there's a lot here that Paul Manafort knows. We know that the special counsel is investigating Russian collusion into the election. So itis a

whole host of things that Paul Manafort could perhaps provide the special counsel with. We know that his cooperation was something that they have

been looking for since this investigation began.

It is really why they went after him the way they did in some of these charges. Yes. The president has the right, this is nothing to do with the

campaign, but it gave the prosecutors leverage in this case and they used that leverage, and finally seems to have broken Paul Manafort.

He knows a lot in sort of in the political wild here in Washington, D.C. He's a lobbyist. He's worked on different campaigns in the United States.

And also really in the Ukraine. And he knows a lot about various Russians, certainly Russian oligarchs that are a focus of some of what the FBI here

and the special counsel has been looking at.

[14:45:03] So there's a whole host of things that Paul Manafort could provide information on. We just don't know everything and you have to

wonder, you have to really wonder what's next because with this cooperation, it changes the game, entirely changes this investigation.

GORANI: It is absolutely huge. This is what Manafort's lawyer had to say, by the way.


KEVIN DOWNING, ATTORNEY OF PAUL MANAFORT: Tough day for Mr. Manafort but he's accepted responsibility and he wanted to make sure that his family was

able to remain safe and live a good life. He's accepted responsibility and this is for conduct that dates back many years and everybody should

remember that. So thank you, everyone.


GORANI: So Ken Downing is saying everybody should remember this is for conduct that dates back many years. But given the fact that he's

cooperating, he could certainly be a key element in an investigation into wrongdoing that doesn't, at all, date back many years, that could be, in

fact, very recent.

PROKUPECZ: It could be very recent, because of his time that he spent on the campaign. It could be recent to the time that he was out on bail

waiting to go to trial on the Virginia case where he was convicted on. There's really no telling for us right now. We don't know exactly

everything that Paul Manafort knows.

But what we do know is that he's been around Washington, D.C., he's been around political life a long time. He's been around Ukrainian government a

long time. He's been around Russians a long time. So we have to think of it in that sense. And I think there are a lot of people who hired Paul

Manafort. Paul Manafort did work for or probably really worried now because what he knows we don't know, but they certainly know and the

special counsel is now armed with and we will likely see the results of this, you know, in the coming months.

And the other thing, I think, is important to know here is that this is not going any way any time soon. This cooperation opens many more doors for

the special counsel and it seems that they have information that they could not get at, at least legally present as evidence without Paul Manafort's

cooperation. And now that they have it, they likely will be able to do so.

GORANI: Because an investigation can start, you know, narrowly and then expand based on what prosecutors and people looking into the case find or

who decides to cooperate in the case -- in this case it's Paul Manafort. So we could -- it could become a much wider probe.

PROKUPECZ: It could become a much wider probe. And this agreement has to do with not just the special counsel. It's the Department of Justice as a

whole. So if there are any other investigations that the special counsel or the FBI has that are ongoing where Paul Manafort could be helpful, he's

going to have to help them in that case.

And the other thing, you know, when I talk about legally is because -- so we know that the FBI and special counsel and all these investigators here

in the U.S. have had all sorts of information that they got from intelligence sources that are not really -- it's not really information

that they can use in a court of law.

This may now change that. That they have Paul Manafort. We know that he was on a lot of intelligence intercepts, whether or not it's actually his

voice, but we know that information pertaining to him and his involvement in different aspects of this investigation did come up with his


Now, they may be able to tie a lot of the loose ends and be able to use this information in court whereas before without him, they would not have

been able to.

GORANI: Shimon Prokupecz, thanks so much for joining us live from Washington.

A word on what's happening in Massachusetts. It looked like Armageddon are the words of the Andover fire chief in that U.S. state. He was responding

to dozens of gas explosions as homes were engulfed in flames in three different town just north of Boston.

An 18-year-old man was killed when a chimney from a home landed on the car he was driving. 8,000 people were unable to return to their homes and

almost 18,000 people lost power. Fire rescue teams described it as an overwhelming event.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has accused Moscow of, quote, insulting the public's intelligence after the two Russian men suspected of carrying

out the Salisbury poisonings claimed they were merely tourists. Sampling the delights of a sleepy British city.

The Kremlin says it will consider any requests by the U.K. to question the man, in strict accordance with Russian law." He also said it was absurd to

accuse Russia of lying.

Matthew Chance has been following the twist and turns in this case and has the latest from Moscow. Matthew?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hala, Russia has again lashed out at Britain amid allegations that its military intelligence agents carried

out that nerve agent attack in the English town Salisbury early this year. The prime suspects in that attack named as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan

Boshirov appeared on Russian television on Thursday denying any role in the poisoning of a former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and, of course, his

daughter, Yulia.

[14:50:12] Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov speaking in Berlin alongside his German counterpart said there were no facts in the poisoning

case that Moscow could meaningfully address. Take a listen.


SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): The principle of highly likely is not good enough. Our British colleagues are

using it exclusively to defame Russia and to rally all their European partners against us. They're doing it as part of Brexit. This is why

London is doing this.


CHANCE: Well, separately, the Kremlin has poured doubts on the suggestion that the two suspects could be interviewed by British investigators

accusing Britain of refusing to cooperate with Moscow in their television interview. The two suspects said they were simply tourists sightseeing

around Salisbury's historic landmark, including its 13th century cathedral.

British officials say that story is an insult to the public's intelligence. Back to you, Hala.

GORANI: Thank you, Matthew Chance.

More to come tonight including an update on one of our top stories this hour. The Philippines inundated with rain and wind. Super typhoon

Mangkhut has made landfall. Our meteorologist has the latest developments, next.


GORANI: We have been focusing this hour on two major weather events. The hurricane hitting the United States, of course, Florence. And a much

stronger storm threatening millions in Southeast Asia. Super typhoon Mangkhut is making landfall over the Philippines right now.

It is taking aim at the northern island of Luzon, it is threatening massive flooding, landslides, and power outages which have happened already. It's

about 3:00 a.m. almost there. And earlier this hour, I spoke to James Reynolds, a storm chaser. He described a scary scene.

JAMES REYNOLDS, STORM CHASER: Well, it's the middle of the night here. The hotel room which we were originally checked into and we're going to

ride out the storm in has become uninhabitable. The windows just blew in and smashed in. Basically all the doors and windows of the building we're

in which is exposed to the wind have smashed in.

So we're in an interior room now just hiding. I usually try to film these typhoons, but I can't really do that now because the safety is a priority,

obviously. So we're just waiting for daybreak. The winds to die down.

GORANI: This was just minutes ago. Let's get back to the forecast there for Mangkhut. Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera joins me now.

So, Ivan, another thing James Reynolds told me was that shards of window glass and pieces of window frames were flying down the hotel corridors.

That's how strong the winds are there.

CABRERA: That's exactly how strong the winds are. And my goodness, I've lost count of how many times I've been in the studio with James Reynolds

covering the storm in the middle of it here and this is another one. A monster storm. There are going to be all sorts of projectiles flying and,

of course, he knows to keep safe. Hopefully folks have heeded the warning across the northern part of the archipelago.

But let's talk about the differences here and I have to mention Haiyan, because how can you talk about a super typhoon without Haiyan? The

difference is Haiyan was a bit stronger. Not by much. A bit stronger, but it's the topography, it's where it may land fall. There are some benefits

here, as far as the coastal range and some of the mountains buffering some of that wind.

There will be significant damage, but I don't think we're going to be talking about that storm surge that Haiyan had. Watch this. I'll get out

of the way, because you don't see this every day. I'll put this in a motion. There's the eye. And there's landfall. The middle of the night.

Northeast Luzon, coming in at 02:30 with 270-kilometer per hour winds.

[14:55:15] This is what the wind field looks right now. You have to remember, this is a counter clockwise flow and the wind direction is hugely

important, as well. There are the mountains here. So I don't think we're going to have much of an issue here for two reasons. Not many people live

right here across northeastern tip of Luzon. But also and the winds are coming offshore.

Here's Santa Ana though and that's a different story. I'll go around here so you'd be able to see the difference here. The winds are coming on shore

here, because of that circulation. So all that water is going to begin to pile up and we have beaches here and we do have populated areas here.

Casuarina Beach, very popular here across the north tip of Luzon. That area, I must imagine, would have had to evacuate. Otherwise, we're going

to be in big trouble here, as far as the water coming in.

Three to six meters, certainly not out of the question, right where the northern tip of Luzon here, because that's where the strongest winds are,

right? And you get a little further south, two to three meters, that's still significant. And then again, offshore winds on the eastern side, so

we're talking not as big of a threat here. One to two meters. Of course, the rainfall is still going to be an issue.

By the way, this is the first phase, right? We have the first landfall. There will be a second landfall and that will be very close to Hong Kong in

the next 48 hours. It'll traverse to South China Sea, dumping all sorts of rain across the Philippines. And then round two will be for Hong Kong,

we'll be covering that, as well, throughout the weekend, Hala.

GORANI: All right. Ivan Cabrera, thanks very much.

And we were hearing from James Reynolds that they are hunkered down in that building. Which is one of the most solidly built buildings where he is in

Santa Ana. And that, of course, there is huge concern for people who live in huts, in mud -- in homes built with mud that are certainly a lot more

vulnerable to strong winds. That really the hope is that the people who are in the path of this storm have found a safe place to ride it out.

The hurricane in the United States, Hurricane Florence, we have some breaking news there. Unfortunately, two fatalities reported. A mother and

infant were killed when a tree fell on their house. The father was transported to a hospital with injuries.

Now, the storm there has weaker wind speeds than Mangkhut but it is gigantic. You see it there on the map. High water is trapping hundreds of

people who didn't or could not evacuate. And remember, Florence is not stopping soon. It's moving at a speed not much faster than most of us

walk. So, for many, many hours and days it will be dumping trillions of gallons of water on that part of the world.

So there you have it on your screen right now. The effect from Hurricane Florence over right now the Carolinas. North and South Carolina. And

Mangkhut which is making landfall this hour as we speak and that has already caused, according to the people we've spoken to, a lot of damage.

We'll be following both.

Do stay with CNN. I'm Hala Gorani. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is next.