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Tropical Storm Florence Hammers the Carolinas; Massachusetts Governor Replaces Utility Company Following Blasts; Manafort Pleads Guilty, Will Cooperate in Russia Probe. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired September 15, 2018 - 11:00   ET

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


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[11:00:21] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Erica Hill, live in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where, as you can see and likely hear, Florence is far from done with this area and with much of the area surrounding us.

This tropical storm moving at a crawl of two miles per hour, just sitting over the region, continuing to dump rain and we are already seeing records being very clearly washed away.

In the state of North Carolina, we know the rainfall record has now been broken -- more than 30.5 inches of rainfall in the town of Swansboro, North Carolina. Five people confirmed dead.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper is updating on the situation now. Let's listen in live.

GOVERNOR ROY COOPER (D), NORTH CAROLINA: And if you aren't watching for them, you are risking your life. I have several important warnings this morning.

First, to the people who have evacuated -- if you are safe, stay put. We know that people are anxious to get back home. But don't go back until this storm passes and you get the official all-clear.

Second, know that the water is rising fast everywhere, even in places that don't typically flood. This system is unloading epic amounts of rainfall in some places, measured in feet and not inches.

Many people who think that the storm has missed them have yet to see its threat -- residents of Charlotte, Asheville, Fayetteville, Statesville, the southern Piedmont, the Sand Hills, the Mountains. Rivers will rise days after the rain has stopped. In the east, they will crest Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Remember, most storm deaths occur from drowning and fresh water, often in cars -- don't drive across standing or moving water.

Emergency management is sharing flood projections with local officials. If they tell you to evacuate, please do so immediately. It could save your life.

The storm has claimed numerous lives already. Five deaths have been confirmed as related to the storm and several others are under investigation. Loss of life is heartbreaking and we'll continue to pray for the victims and their family. And every hour first responders are preventing more deaths.

We now have a little over 20,000 people in 157 shelters with room for more. If those shelters fill up, we will establish more shelters. More than 800,000 people throughout the state are currently without power and utility crews are beginning to work now to restore electricity to people.

Overnight and into this morning more rescues are continuing across eastern North Carolina. We are so grateful to these rescue teams who risk their lives to save others. And they have come from all over the country to work with our local, state and federal partners.

Recovery teams are now ready with new authorization from FEMA. Last night our major federal disaster declaration for an initial round of counties was approved. That authorizes immediate assistance in Beaufort, Brunswick, Carteret, Craven, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico and Pender Counties. We expect to add more counties and we appreciate the quick turnaround by FEMA.

I want to again warn residents of the Mountains and the rest of North Carolina, especially the southern Piedmont -- heavy rain is predicted still. Fayetteville, west to charlotte and the mountains -- expect flooding and potential land slides beginning tonight and continuing into Monday.

[11:05:04] Some of the areas will be impacted that have rarely experienced any flooding. Get prepared and stay alert for forecast updates and emergency evacuation orders.

Finally, please be safe, be smart and use your common sense. Don't drive through water no matter how confident you feel or how much you want to get out of the house. Roads are closed in many places and more are closing even as we speak. Secretary Trogdon will inform you about those closings.

But when you're out there, you're impeding emergency vehicles. You're impeding utility crews who are trying to restore power. So don't get out particularly southeastern North Carolina.

Don't operate a generator indoors. Be alert for warnings and flash floods, tornadoes, high winds. And if you need nonemergency help, dial 211. Those using video relay services should dial 888-892-1162. And the ReadyNC app has information about shelters. And I'm also grateful to have Monica McGee to provide American Sign Language interpretation for us.

This storm eventually will leave our state. We in North Carolina have been through tough storms and this one is sure testing us. But now is the time for us to persevere. I have never known North Carolinians to quit in the face of a challenge and we're not about to start.

And speaking of a team that never quits, I'd like to introduce to you some of our team who are working here at the emergency operations center 24/7; they're working around the clock to keep North Carolina safe. I want to introduce to you to my right Erik Hooks, our secretary of Public Safety; beside him, Mike Sprayberry, our director of Emergency Management; beside him, Dr. Mandy Cohen, our secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources. Then we have Secretary Jim Trogdon, our secretary of Transportation; Colonel Glenn McNeill, the commander of North Carolina Highway Patrol; Major General Gregory Lusk of the North Carolina National Guard; Albie Lewis, our FEMA federal coordinating officer along with Gracia Szczech; and we have Commander Peggy Britton of the United States Coast Guard.

And Major General Lusk will introduce Lieutenant General Jeffrey Buchanan of the United States Army who's also with us.

Now I'm going to turn it over to Director Sprayberry for an update.

MIKE SPRAYBERRY, NORTH CAROLINA DIRECTOR OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Thank you -- Governor. Good morning.

HILL: And you have been listening to North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper. His message -- this is not done yet, urging any evacuees to stay put. It is understanding why people want to venture out when you're talking about days of rain that have kept people cooped up inside their homes. That is the safest place to be noting that this is an epic storm as he said -- the rainfall being measured as we know now and breaking records in feet.

He is also urging folks further inland -- and this has been a concern from the beginning -- talking specifically about the areas of Charlotte, of Asheville, of the mountainous regions of North Carolina -- that they need to be on guard. The rain is coming their way if it isn't already there yet and the flooding will be a major issue.

Part of that issue is that we won't know what's there for the next few days. Rivers expected to crest through the beginning of this week, even into Wednesday.

Want to go now to CNN's Polo Sandoval who's in Lumberton, North Carolina. Polo -- this is an area that has been hit hard over the last couple of years in 2015, in 2016 with flooding. Some of that they have not yet recovered from, I know.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. It's been about two years since that happened -- Erica.

Behind me, the actual Lumber River here -- it is currently at about 12 feet, 13 feet. It is forecast to make it all the way to 24 feet by Sunday to Monday. So this water is steadily rising. That is the concern for people here in Lumberton, including for city officials.

I want to bring in the mayor pro tem John Cantey. You were telling me sir, a little while ago, you were affected three years ago. You expect this to be even worse than what took place in 2016.

[11:09:59] JOHN CANTEY, MAYOR PRO TEMPORE, LUMBERTON, NORTH CAROLINA: Yes, we do. All reports -- all reports I have seen is telling us by Sunday at 12 noon, this river is going to crest at 24.9 feet. And that is a couple of feet more than Matthew a couple years ago. SANDOVAL: You were telling me you've seen some of the people in

shelters think that it is over, go home. That's a big mistake.

CANTEY: Yes, sir. I'm urging everyone if you're in a shelter, if you know someone who is in a shelter and you can contact them, tell them if you live in south Lumberton, west Lumberton or any of those areas, stay put. This is not over.

All the water upstream has to come downstream, and I you know, hate it -- I'm sorry, I'm sorry for everyone. We are doing all we can.

The senators and representatives have bagged up the opening at West Fifth Street yesterday -- they put in place 5,000 sandbags. The city of Lumberton has installed 11 industrial size pumps up on the dike area. So as the water comes in we're going to try to block it, and we're going to try to pump it. But please, only God is with us. If they insist, I am urging you if you live in south Lumberton or west Lumberton, go ahead and leave now while you can, please.

SANDOVAL: Thank you. Thank you for your time, sir. We'll let you so you can continue with your preparations including for your home as well.

Erica -- this is the message really from city officials all throughout the northeast. And what we witnessed yesterday was something incredible when people in the community came together answering a call on social media to try to essentially cork up that bottle, that particular vulnerability that Mr. Cantey was just telling us about where the water rushed into the community two years ago.

As we just heard a little while ago, the water level behind me is expected to be about two feet higher than people experienced during Hurricane Matthew. The message that we just heard now, the message that you'll hear from officials throughout the southeast, the worst could still be ahead for many people, even after Florence's clouds dissipate.

HILL: That is absolutely the concern. Polo Sandoval with the latest for us there from Lumberton, North Carolina.

We should point out and you heard this a little bit from the governor of North Carolina Roy Cooper, the federal disaster declaration has been approved for eight different counties in North Carolina. That is key in terms of getting resources in and getting help for people there.

We know that there are still some 20,000 people in shelters across the state. The governor saying they will open more if they need them.

One of the particularly hard hit areas Jacksonville, North Carolina. CNN's Brian Todd is there in one of our roving coverage vehicles. Brian -- what are you seeing?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erica -- this is one of the hardest- hit areas of the state in Onslow County, North Carolina. We're going to show you a shot out our front camera here. You can see this part of McDaniel Street is flooded here in Jacksonville. And cars are stranded all over the place.

We're going to make a turn and then show you a car, a couple of cars down here. And just the level of flooding that we are dealing with here.

We spoke to Cornelius Jordan. He is the emergency operations director for Onslow County. He tells us that they've had to do 20 home rescues and about three water rescues since yesterday.

I'm going to get out and kind of show you the depth of the water here, if I can make my way down the street.

So Cornelius Jordan said 20 home rescues, three car rescues since yesterday. And this is an example of some of the flooding that these vehicles can experience. They're telling people, and you heard Governor Roy Cooper say you just can't drive through standing or rushing water in this situation. And this is an example of it.

Just a minute ago, we saw another driver who was stranded in the middle of a roadway here. He was in his car with his girlfriend. We asked him if he needed help. He said no, he was waiting it out. We think he got out. We came back to check on him a short time ago.

But to give you another idea of what first responders are facing here in Jacksonville, Cornelius Jordan told us that yesterday, they had a cardiac arrest patient that they had to try to get an ambulance to. They sent the ambulance there but then that ambulance started to take on water. And luckily there was a swift water rescue team nearby. They were able to get everybody out of that ambulance quickly.

They have about 300 plus people in three different shelters here in Onslow County. A lot of them have made their way there since yesterday, thinking they could ride out the storm, and ride out the flooding here in Jacksonville. But they said they could not. No deaths or injuries, thankfully, to report -- Erica but still a very dangerous situation here.

We drove through a driving rainfall here. So, you know, just because this thing has been downgraded to a tropical storm, people let their guard down a little bit, try to venture out. You cannot venture out in this stuff. You will get stranded, especially if you're in just a sedan or something like this. You're not going to get anywhere.

[11:15:02] So that's what they're kind of up against here in Onslow County. We're going around and surveying the damage here. But, you know, with the driving rainfall and the cresting rivers and the storm surge still a factor here, this flood threat is not going away anytime soon -- Erica.

HILL: Yes. No, certainly not. In many ways it's only just beginning.

Brian Todd with the latest for us there. Brian -- thank you.

Over the last couple of days, you have heard a lot about and seen some remarkable pictures out of New Bern, North Carolina, a city of about 30,000 people.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher and her team have just had remarkable pictures. There are still a number of folks we understand at this hour who need to be rescued.

We're joined now by the mayor of New Bern -- Dana Outlaw. And Mayor -- as I understand it some 400 people have already been rescued. How many still need rescue?

DANA OUTLAW, MAYOR, NEW BERN, NORTH CAROLINA: Well, at this point most of the 9-1-1 requests are individuals that are very concerned about their loved ones here in New Bern that they are out of town and would like someone to check on their loved ones. We have 1,200 people at shelters at this time, five different locations.

And we have had water rescue crews but we have been very careful with our staff that this is very, very dangerous situation with live power lines down; 22,000 customers out of power. So we're trying to coordinate the opportunity to rescue folks but at the same time not put their lives in danger because some folks chose not to evacuate when the message was clearly out there that you needed to evacuate.

HILL: Yes. And that is so important. I know that message as well, ahead of the storm also included the warning that it could be potentially days because of both the length of the storm and conditions that you're talking about now. Of course first responders need to make sure it is even safe to get out there.

Based on what you and your teams have been able to see, can you give us a sense of the damage in New Bern?

OUTLAW: We have 4,200 homes that have damage -- damage all the way from extensive flooding to framing and roof problems. We have 300 businesses that have damages to them.

A large part of the downtown New Bern area is flooded and again it will be several days before those assessments can be done to determine just like underground infrastructure, electrical resources we have in that area.

So you know, it's going to take several days. But I can tell you that as quick as the storm is out and we can safely get our staff in, we will be taking mobilization efforts to correct our problems.

HILL: There are a number of folks from and teams from, of course, not just all over North Carolina but from around the country I know who have come in to help across the state. As these folks are coming in to help with rescues, to help with recovery efforts, what is the biggest need for you right now in New Bern?

OUTLAW: Well, probably water and, you know, food and things like that. We have quite a few displaced residents. And I don't think actually some of the areas of New Bern actually realize now that this is over how damaged that we are. We are a 300-year-old city and we have been through these, but this is one of the most devastating hurricanes we've ever had. Probably the last one was Hurricane Hazel that did this type of damage.

HILL: And there has been a significant amount of time passed between Hazel and now, as you point out.

Well, Mr. Mayor -- we'll continue to check in with you. Mayor Dana Outlaw joining us from New Bern, North Carolina. And of course, we'll continue to update folks on the situation there. Thank you.

I want to check in now with meteorologist Allison Chinchar who is in the CNN Weather Center. And Allison -- we've been hearing here locally and from you folks in the CNN Weather Center as well -- we are far from done. I mean this storm is sitting on top of us as we know, and we've got hours of rain still to come.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's right. And the latest update that came out at the top of the hour here, again still show that consistent movement of only two miles per hour. That is so important to understand.

This is why we have the flooding problems because you have the rain that's going over the same locations over and over again. And until this storm can pick up speed with its forward movement, that is going to continue.

Now the winds are now down to 45 miles per hour. That's still strong. They're still gusting well into the 60 miles per hour range. But take a look at all of this heavy rain. Again, you're talking the same locations that have been seeing rain now for well over 24 hours.

Here's the problem. That rain is now starting to add up and we have now broken a record. The North Carolina state record, not locally, for the entire state for any tropical system was 24 inches back with Floyd -- that was back in 1999.

[11:19:56] We have now picked up over 30 inches of rain with Florence. And the thing you have to understand, yes, we have broken the record, but it is still raining. So that number is likely going to go up and that spread from the previous record is likely to get bigger.

Now that record was set in Swansboro, North Carolina -- again on the eastern portion. But Newport has picked up about two feet. Oriental has picked up over 20 inches. There's a lot of other locations that have still picked up a tremendous amount of rain. And again, as you said there is more on the way.

Take a look at this. Still to come -- widespread amounts of six to twelve inches, but it is not out of the question for some of those locations where you're getting that training of the really big downpours to still pick up an additional foot of rain. This is on top of what they've already had.

I want you to understand, this is not totals -- this is additional rain on top of what we have already seen come down. That is the short-term problem because that goes to show you ok, this is where flash flooding concerns begin. But we also have to look at the long-term concerns because since this is going to take its time moving out, that water has to go somewhere. And as it comes into the ocean, it goes in through the bays and the inlets. It ends up in the rivers where all of the rain that came down also ends up in the rivers.

So you have about 20 rivers that have the potential to reach major flood stage and about 29, nearly 30 of them, will reach moderate flood stage. But the thing to note too here, Erica is that a lot of this isn't going to crest for another three to five days.

So even when the rain above you finally stops, you have the long-term concern of the rivers. And that problem likely won't go away for at least a week.

HILL: And that is certainly a major concern here in South Carolina. It's the concern in North Carolina, what we are hearing from local officials as well.

Allison -- thank you.

Our continuing coverage of this developing story -- we will have much more of it from across the Carolinas in just a moment.

We also want to update you on that story out of Massachusetts, these explosions that so many people are wondering what happened. We have an update live for you on that as well after the break. Stay with us.

[11:22:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back.

I'm Alex Marquardt. We will get back to our special coverage of Tropical Storm Florence in just a moment.

But first, we're learning new details in a string of deadly gas explosions that rocked an area north of Boston. The governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, is declaring a state of emergency in three Massachusetts towns. He is also taking the extraordinary step of replacing Columbia Gas as the utility company in charge of the recovery.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOVERNOR CHARLIE BAKER (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We took this step after it became clear to us that Columbia Gas was simply inadequately prepared to take the steps necessary to effectively manage relief efforts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUARDT: At least one person died and around 8,000 people have been forced to leave their homes. Officials are warning it could be some time before life can return to normal in the area.

CNN's Alison Kosik is in Boston for us. Alison -- what is the latest in the investigation into what caused this? ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Columbia Gas of Massachusetts

which owns the gas lines involved in these explosions -- Alex, has yet to even definitively say why this happened. Now, the NTSB is here on the ground collecting evidence, trying to figure out what triggered this sort of cascade of gas explosions in three suburbs just north of Boston.

These explosions killed one man, injured more than a dozen, destroyed dozens of buildings and homes forcing thousands of people to evacuate at a moment's notice in fear from their homes. I want you to listen to one resident whose wife had to go through this. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- frantic call from my wife, gas. Told her to get out of the house and get the car away. They've seen all the police came in and ordered everybody out of the house. Homes down the street were catching fire. By the time I got home, it was just a lot of confusion and chaos. It was just -- it was actually scary, you know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: Now one fire chief, Alex -- even described the scene as it was like Armageddon saying when he was pulling up to the scenes, he saw billowing smoke in front of him, billowing smoke behind him. He called it a war zone.

Now one thing to keep in mind as I am standing here, there are a lot of moving parts. At this moment there are teams of three actually going from house to house in these neighborhoods, in these suburbs, teams of a utility technician, a first responder and even a locksmith because what they literally have to do is get inside these homes, see if there is any lingering gas, let's say, in an attic or a basement and they need to make sure the gas is off.

So they need to make sure all is clear before they can tell people that they can get back into their homes. But here's the thing even if they get back into their homes -- there's no gas, there's no power. And as far as the gas goes, Alex -- there's no telling when that gas will be turned back on. Alex.

MARQUARDT: Extraordinary scenes -- 8,000 people who cannot go home for the time being.

Alison Kosik in Boston -- thanks very much.

All right. Let's head back to South Carolina and Erica Hill who is in Myrtle Beach with our continuing coverage of now Tropical Storm Florence -- Erica.

HILL: Alex -- thank you.

And let's just reset the scene for everyone. So here in Myrtle Beach -- listen, the situation is decidedly worse, I will say, than when we got here yesterday. It is much choppier out in the ocean behind us. The wind and the rain have not stopped, picking up overnight, and really continuing through the morning. And that's the story today.

This is a storm that is essentially sitting on top of the region, moving at a crawl, two miles per hour, which barely feels like any movement at all. And there are still hours and hours and inches of rain to come; rain in some areas now being measured in feet, records broken. The state record broken in North Carolina -- more than 30.5 inches of rain, we're talking two and a half feet plus of rain in the town of Swansboro, North Carolina.

[11:29:58] Five deaths reported related to this storm and some powerful images coming out, not just of the flooding. But if you take a look here, two of those deaths, a mother and an infant in North Carolina. Firefighters kneeling in prayer at that home where a tree fell, killing the mother and infant. It is an image that has moved so many and it reminds us of everything that these first responders are risking each time they go out there to do their job.

And that is why it is so important to heed those evacuation warnings, to stay put if you are inside today. And that's what we are hearing from both local and state officials.

There's no need to go anywhere. You may feel cooped up, having been somewhere, whether it's in a shelter or a home that is safe for the last two days. The worst thing you could do though right now is get outside because you don't know what you may encounter in terms of standing water, in terms of flooding, and downed power lines. It is just not worth the risk.

For a better sense of what's happening now at this point in the storm in terms of recovery and rescue efforts, I want to bring in former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate who's joined us now. And I'm noticing, sir, that even you were tweeting out, reminding people on your Twitter page today of those warnings --

CRAIG FUGATE, FORMER FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: Yes.

HILL: -- that it is better to stay safe, that you don't want to go out there.

You know, just set that scene for us again for people to remind them, that even when there's a lull -- we have these lulls in between the bands -- that does not mean it is time to head outside.

FUGATE: No. If you look back at the Hurricane Center National Weather Service, this forecast has been so accurate. I don't think people should under estimate what's happening and what is forecast to happen. They have been right so far. I don't think this is going to gets better.

So again, if you're somewhere safe and somewhere dry, stay there unless you are in a dangerous situation. Too often we see more deaths after storms, or preventable deaths because people got out in the storm who tried to drive.

So again, the message is stay where you are unless you're in danger. Stay off the roads. Stay inside. This is not over. It is going to get a lot worse for people that are further inland. And that's what we have been telling people the whole time of the storm.

HILL: And that is where a lot of the focus is. This is a massive effort. At the FEMA briefing earlier this morning we're talking about thousands of folks who have descended upon this area and who are also working with local officials and local teams here.

You point out what's going to get worse. We just heard from the governor of North Carolina talking about some of these rivers will not crest until Wednesday. How do you position yourselves? How do you sure that you're staged in the right places for when that does happen?

FUGATE: Well, we go back to Hurricane Matthew, we put a lot of the FEMA resources at Fort Bragg and we got flooded out and couldn't get out for a day. I think one of the things people need to be prepared for as much as we've been able to as a nation move resources into the Carolinas, getting around is getting worse.

I-95 was shut down for days after Matthew and they had far less flooding than what were forecasted now. So I think the other challenge is going to be many communities are going to find themselves as islands, as roads are flooded out and rivers crest, bridges are destroyed -- that's going to add complications to this response.

HILL: And, you know, that's what we are seeing and hearing, too. We just spoke with the mayor of New Bern, North Carolina -- a city of about 30,000 people, he knows of at least 4,200 damaged homes. But knowing that a lot of people are going to -- may not realize at this point. But where they are, they may not be able to get anywhere.

And in terms of resources and getting that information out, a lot of this goes back to, you know, things that don't require electricity -- someone's cell phone or even radio to make sure they're getting those messages, correct?

FUGATE: Yes. That's why we've always told people keep that backup battery-powered radio. Because if everything goes out, cell service gets disrupted, that may be the only way you get updates and information about what's happening in your community.

HILL: The federal disaster declaration which has been approved for eight counties in North Carolina is key for folks there getting help. Just remind us, what does that change once that disaster declaration is in place?

FUGATE: What this is really focused on is the people who have lost places to live, or their home has been damaged, who didn't have insurance. This activated what FEMA calls the individual assistance program. It's for people who don't have insurance, and probably the biggest thing they're focused on right as this storm moves through is people who have nowhere else to go that are in shelters or homes are destroyed is temporary housing assistance.

So you can start registering now at 1-800-621-FEMA or go to disasterassistance.gov. Download the FEMA app.

But the big focus still in this storm is not recovery yet. It is still very much an active threat, life safety is the priority. These programs are being turned on to help people once we get to recovery phase.

HILL: As you're watching all of this, sir -- just based on your experience, where is your focus this morning?

FUGATE: It is where the rain is coming down and about to come down. Again, you know, we used an old formula that you divide the speed of a hurricane by its forward motion into 100. That's about how much rain you're going to get. So if you're moving at two miles an hour, you can get up to 50 inches and so the forecast of being measured in feet is very realistic based on the storm.

[11:35:04] And I think the people up in Charlotte, Fayetteville -- and like the governor said, you start getting up in the Foothills, into Piedmont and the mountains -- 12 inches of rain is deadly up there because of the way the terrain -- it all goes into those creeks and valleys and hollows, and it is deadly.

And this is not yet over. And those areas have not seen the worst of this yet. So as much as we think hurricanes are coastal storms, Florence reminds us this storm is going to be deadly well inland. And that's why it's so important in areas that haven't been hit that hard yet or just now starting to feel the effects of this thinking maybe it won't be too bad.

This forecast has been very accurate. It's going to be bad and it's going to be historically bad. And you need to be prepared to save yourself and your family when it gets as bad. If you're not somewhere safe, go somewhere safe. If you're threatened, move to high ground. If you're not threatened, stay home, stay off the roads.

HILL: Former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate -- really appreciate you joining us with your insights this morning. Thank you.

Our continuing special coverage of Tropical Storm Florence continues after this short break.

[11:36:07] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HILL: I'm Erica Hill in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where we are feeling Florence's effects and the tropical storm far from done with this region.

The governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper saying it perhaps best -- this storm is unleashing epic amounts of rainfall and it is not done yet. And there will be flooding and cresting of rivers to come in the next several days.

I want to take you now to Rocky Point, North Carolina and CNN correspondent Kaylee Hartung. Kaylee -- you have been making your way around the state there to some of the hardest-hit areas. What are you seeing at Rocky Point?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica -- Florence's winds didn't do much more than knock out the power on this property and knock over that play set, but Susan Bostic (ph) and her family know what the water could bring, what this rainfall could bring and the northeast Cape Fear River that is now flowing onto your property. She and her grandson Tucker join me now.

Susan -- you guys stayed through yesterday. Now you say it is time to go. Why? What are your fears?

SUSAN BOSTIC, HOME DAMAGED BY FLORENCE: Because the river is coming up into our property.

HARTUNG: You say this isn't your first rodeo. You lived through Floyd. But tell me about the damage that Floyd did here and what you imagine Florence doing.

BOSTIC: Well, when Floyd came through, it took everything we owned -- vehicles, clothes, house, everything. And they're expecting this to be even higher. So we know it is time to go. It's already up in our yard.

HARTUNG: The river expected to crest Monday -- a new record, around 25 feet. Tucker, what all have you and your brothers and sisters been doing to help your family prepare? I watched you physically loading up trucks today.

TUCKER SPARKMAN, HOME DAMAGED BY FLORENCE: Yes, we've been moving beds, linens, clothes, as much stuff as we could to get it out, you know. So we won't lose it like we did last time.

HARTUNG: And now where to -- Susan? Where will you all go?

BOSTIC: We don't know that yet. We just know we're getting out of here.

HARTUNG: The tractors are packed up -- a lot of your personal belongings. But you just said you had an enclosed trailer on its way here but it hasn't been able to get here. What happened?

BOSTIC: Because the road down here on 210, the bridge is washed over. So my son-in-law is on his way, but he had to detour and come down I- 140 to get here. And we are hoping that -- we have been told that it is closed too, but he is going there to find out.

HARTUNG: And your county was under mandatory evacuation as the storm approached. The county telling me that they haven't yet had any calls for rescue, but those are the kind of calls that could come in the coming days. You all won't be making that call because you're getting out of town.

Thank you so much. Good luck to you, Susan and Tucker -- Erica.

HILL: All right. Kaylee -- thanks so much for that update from Rocky Point, North Carolina.

I also want to check in with CNN's Nick Valencia. Nick -- you're just a little bit north of us here from Myrtle Beach. Nick has been making his way around the area of Conway, South Carolina. And what have you found out there, Nick?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the big challenge here -- Erica, is flooding. And we have been here all morning long watching this water just flood the roadway here.

Check out what's going on behind me. Some of the good news though is that this water seems to at least in the last 30 minutes or so started to recede a little bit as this rain has lightened up.

But check out this home here. We have been showing you this home all morning long. And it is pretty much underwater, well not entirely anyway -- the first couple of steps. Water seems to be inching up closer and closer towards that first story, towards that porch there.

It is not a matter of if or when more flooding will hit Conway. This is an area that is very, very accustomed to flooding. You saw it back in 1999 during Hurricane Floyd, certainly during Hurricane Matthew back in just a couple of years ago.

In the next couple of days what officials here are extremely worried about is the river cresting. Waccamaw River is just a couple of miles away. And as that water -- you know, as that river continues to swell, that water is going to have to come somewhere.

North Carolina -- that water is going to drain down here south. Local police are very concerned about that. It is not a matter of if or when this is going to flood even more. And what we're seeing right here behind us, Eric -- is an indicator of what is to come.

HILL: That is exactly why they're keeping such a close watch. Nick -- appreciate it. Thank you.

In just a moment, we're going to hear more from the mayor of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. How her town is faring today and what her concerns are heading into the next few days as we wait and watch those rivers including the Waccamaw where we just saw Nick Valencia.

Our continuing coverage of Tropical Storm Florence continues. Stay with us.

[11:45:01] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HILL: The wind and the rain continuing to pummel us here in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I think it's definitely picked up since we have come on the air at the top of the hour.

We are feeling the effects of Florence and as we know this tropical storm not going anywhere, only moving at about two miles per hour.

I want to bring in now Brenda Bethune, who's the mayor of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

[11:50:00] We were even saying in the break this has picked up. The ocean is a lot rougher than what we saw yesterday. Myrtle Beach so far has fared fairly well but what's your concern right now? MAYOR BRENDA BETHUNE, MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, the current

concerns for me are that people don't realize that we are going to get some more weather today with this tropical storm. We still have a storm warning and high tide at 1:00.

So stay inside if you can. It just isn't really safe to be out yet. And my major concern is the flooding issue to our neighbors to the west of us and how that will affect Myrtle Beach.

HILL: And I know the rivers aren't expected to crest for another what -- three to five days so that you'll be watching and waiting. But there's some concern, too, about access being cut off -- bridges, certain roads -- that you're monitoring as well.

BETHUNE: Absolutely. And all of our main roads coming into Myrtle Beach are affected by those rivers. So that really affects business. It affects staff for people that live and work in Myrtle Beach and vice versa.

So it could be a pretty dicey situation over the next couple of weeks. But we'll get through it. It is nothing compared to what our friends in North Carolina have been dealing with. And the fact that they have lost five lives, those are the scars that never heal. The flooding we will get over.

HILL: Right. There's been a lot of coordination, obviously not just between local communities and states but we've seen people from across the country come in to help in South Carolina, In North Carolina. That must mean a lot to you as well.

BETHUNE: It is very heartwarming. Even our local county, state and federal government, we have all come together. And there's no competition. We're working very cohesively and other states reaching out to us. It's what makes America great. We're all working together, caring about each other. And that's a good thing.

HILL: About 60 percent of residents of Myrtle Beach evacuated. As you pointed out earlier, it's not the time to come back. When will that message go out? What needs to happen so that you can assess that it's safe for folks to be back on the roads coming home?

BETHUNE: The governor -- we're waiting for the governor to lift his evacuation order. They are assessing bridges and roads right now. And as soon as he does so, it will be safe to come back in.

We just ask people to please be patient. I know this has been a long process. But we are almost there. And we just want to make sure that everything is safe and secure before people come back.

HILL: This is obviously a major tourist destination. Do you have a sense of how many folks are here? I mean we were sort of at the tail end here, obviously -- a lot of kids back in school but there were still people here visiting the beaches of Myrtle -- of Myrtle Beach.

BETHUNE: I don't have those numbers yet. We will reach out to our local Chamber of Commerce to try to get that information. I think that's important to know so that when we have these storms we don't just look at the number of residents that we need to evacuate, that we also know how many of our visitors need to leave town safely.

HILL: All right. Mayor -- we appreciate it. You've been great with giving us updates over the last two days. We'll continue to check in with you as well. Best of luck -- thank you.

BETHUNE: Thank you. We appreciate it.

HILL: Stay with us. Our continuing coverage from not just Myrtle Beach but from across the affected area continues after this.

[11:53:16] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARQUARDT: We'll get back to Tropical Storm Florence coverage in just a moment.

But first, there's another big story brewing that we're following this morning.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has pleaded guilty before a federal judge. That is a big win for the special counsel Robert Mueller. Why? Because Manafort's plea deal includes cooperation with the special counsel's Russia probe.

CNN's Sara Murray breaks it all down for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort striking a plea deal and agreeing to cooperate with the Justice Department and special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

Manafort pleaded guilty in Washington, D.C. Friday to one count of conspiracy against the U.S. and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. That's after attempts to tamper with witnesses according to court filings.

Manafort agreeing to cooperate fully, truthfully, completely on any and all matters the government deems relevant, according to the plea agreement.

Now it's still unclear what prosecutors want from Manafort. But the agreement requires him to turn over documents, testify in court proceedings and provide interviews to the special counsel. Now Manafort even waived his right to have lawyers present for those interviews.

The plea deal comes after Manafort was convicted on eight counts of bank and tax fraud crimes in Virginia and was facing another trial in D.C. In exchange for his cooperation prosecutors dropped a number of outstanding charges against Manafort in both D.C. and Virginia.

President Trump's allies quickly distanced him from Manafort's legal activities which were related to Manafort's business dealings rather than his campaign work. Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani saying "Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign. The reason, the President did nothing wrong."

Still, the news is a blow for the President. He has decried Mueller's probe as a witch hunt. That even as Mueller has secured guilty pleas from Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, Manafort's campaign deputy Rick Gates and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

As for Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, he has also pleaded guilty to charges in New York.

Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUARDT: Thanks to Sara Murray.

[11:59:58] We now turn back to our special coverage of now Tropical Storm Florence which continues right now.