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At Least Five Deaths from Hurricane Florence; Typhoon Mangkhut Slams into Philippines; Manafort Pleads Guilty. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired September 15, 2018 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:00]

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GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Our breaking news coverage continues this hour, two major weather events on opposite sides of the globe. I'm George Howell in Wilmington, still feeling the effects of tropical storm Florence and it will continue for several hours.

ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And I'm Anna Coren in Hong Kong, where we're bracing for a powerful typhoon threatening millions in the Northern Philippines.

HOWELL: And that is a major storm. We'll continue to follow that with you live in Hong Kong.

But first let's start in the United States. Tropical storm Florence, what is a major mess on the southeast part of the U.S. East Coast and again, we are in the middle of it. A tornado watch here in Wilmington, North Carolina, that will continue through 7:00 am Eastern time.

On the map you see this big blob. It ain't going anywhere anytime soon. It is moving at a snail's pace but it is powerful, it is dangerous. And that is the problem with this system. It is not leaving anytime quickly.

The rain keeps falling and it is causing a great deal of floodwater. And you see here the northeastern quadrant of the storm, where it seems to be moving like a train, that is the concern. That is the dirty side of the storm where we are.

This storm has also proven to be a deadly storm. At least five people reported to have died as a result of Florence and the damage along the East Coast, the Carolinas, it is extensive, both from wind and water.

And the recovery will be long, slow and no doubt an expensive process. Nearly a million without electricity. And hundreds have had to be rescued from the rapidly rising waters.

And here in North Carolina alone, some 20,000 people staying in shelters. CNN covering this, of course, with our correspondents throughout the region. Let's check in with our Derek Van Dam, he is in Carolina Beach, North Carolina.

Derek, tell us the situation there right now.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: George, we're still getting battered. You probably are, too. You are only about 20 minutes away from where I am. But being on the coast, we are susceptible to the strong, strong winds of the feeder bands that are coming off of the Atlantic Ocean.

And just when we think that there has been a bit of a calm, a lull in the storm, then we'll get smacked sideways by some of the tropical storm force gusts that are easily 8 0 to 100 kilometers an hour.

It doesn't take much for some of that wind to spin around, so I have to brace myself for some of the stronger wind gusts that come through. We currently are part of the millions of people without electricity where we are located in Carolina Beach.

But that also means that we don't have much communication as well. We're doing whatever we can to keep our cellphones charged. The crew that I have, the cameraman, producer, technicians, we'll go into our vehicles just so we can get a little bit of signal and a little bit of electricity for our all-important cellphones.

And just sitting in the SUVs, they are rocking back and forth because the wind continues to batter us in this region so hard. We have had collapsed walls, fences blown over, multiple trees knocked to the ground, power poles snapped.

And electrical lines on the ground, sometimes in some of the standing water that we have seen here around Carolina Beach. So lots of hazards across this area. And we know that the tornado threat is real tonight. We know the flooding threat is real because we've already experienced over a foot of rain.

There are places that are reporting nearly 2 feet of rain already. And there is no turning back, really no turning off that tap from the Atlantic Ocean because we continue to feed it in.

And I know you experienced this with me a couple hours ago, when the eye of Hurricane Florence came through, everything went eerily calm. The birds came out, I saw a little blue sky. It was so strange and it was a false sense of security here.

People came outside, the ones that decided to ride out the storm. They checked on their property and all of a sudden, 10 minutes later, the wind picked up and the hazard started right back up. And that is where we are right now, the dirty side of the storm. It is hazardous and the threats continue. Back to you.

HOWELL: Derek Van Dam live for us in Carolina Beach. And thank you for your reporting.

Throughout our broadcast, you may see some technical issues here. But again, that is all part of it. When these storms are passing over, it certainly causes problems. Audio, communication. But again, good to get that information out to the many people, the thousands who --

[04:05:00]

HOWELL: -- are wondering when can they come home or the people who are hunkered down in their homes, wondering what things will look like as the storm passes through.

Of course, what can people expect in the coming hours?

That is the big question.

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HOWELL: Rescue work, that will be very important over the next 24 to 48 hours. Many people who will be in need of rescue and these rescuers risking their own lives to do that work.

Our Dianne Gallagher was with some of those rescuers earlier and when the National Guard members drove into water, they found themselves in an unpredictable situation. Take a look.

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DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, situations like this really do illustrate just the kind of danger that these first responders take on when they come out to do these rescues.

We were embedded with the North Carolina National Guard. We were in a vehicle just like this one here with a different paint job on. It's called an LMTV. You can see the area with the canvas over it. It's empty except for some seats there.

We were sitting, myself; my producer, Jay; my photographer, Mark; with a member of the North Carolina National Guard back there. We were on our way to rescue three people who were trapped by floodwaters.

Now look, the neighborhood we were in was extremely flooded. The water was very high. And it appears one portion of it, the road had washed out in a certain area. And so the back wheels of this type of vehicle here ran off the side. It caused the vehicle to kind of dip down. We started taking water on in that back area where we were sitting.

Now look, the National Guard, they train for stuff just like this. They are trained. They did everything they needed to do. They got us out. They made sure we were wearing our life jackets, that we have flotation devices.

But we didn't end up needing all of that because there happened to be a boat with some teenagers --

[04:10:00]

GALLAGHER: -- from the New Bern area nearby. They came over. They got us and our crew out, our news crew out. And they were able to help some of the members of the National Guard as well.

Now they stayed around. They ended up getting their vehicle out and the three people who we were originally going to rescue, they did get rescued. But again, we cannot stress the danger that some of these first responders are putting their lives in when they go out on rescues.

I think we take it for granted sometimes because they're all so successful for the most part. And it's scary for them. Almost every first responder I've spoken to has talked about some sort of frightening horror story they dealt with over the past two days here in the Craven County area because there is so much water and there are so many rescues being done.

More than 300 rescues at this point in this just immediate area because of Hurricane Florence. So everybody in this situation is OK. Our situation is not the story. But the story is the fact that, look, know the risks that these people are taking when they're coming to get people after these hurricanes in these conditions.

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HOWELL: Thankfully, Dianne Gallagher, good to know she is be OK and the rescuers are OK as well. And that is the story and play over the next several days ahead, these rescue workers who will go into these communities where flooding has taken place, where rivers will be rising to make sure that people are OK, people who need help.

Our coverage continues here on CNN. Breaking news coverage of two major storms affecting both sides of the globe. CNN live following the story across the Philippines, this deadly typhoon bringing high winds and a lot of rain. Anna Coren is covering that story from Hong Kong as our coverage continues after this.

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[04:15:00]

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HOWELL: Back live here in Wilmington, North Carolina. Feeling the effects of tropical storm Florence, the storm that has proven to be a deadly storm. Five people lost their lives in connection with this major storm you see here over the southeast U.S.

It is a slow moving system that has hit the Carolina coastline, hit the Carolinas, quite frankly, with a lot of rain and much more to come. A mother and infant were killed when a large tree fell on their home. Firefighters you see here paused to pray for the victims.

Falling trees are also a big problem. Downed power lines as well. And across the region, a million customers without electricity. A gas station canopy was torn off. Take a look at that. By the very strong winds.

And first responders have identified hundreds of people who have needed rescue from the rising floodwaters.

Again, we're covering two major storms, one here, of course, on the U.S. East Coast and another affecting Asia. Our Anna Coren picks things up from Hong Kong.

COREN: Thank you, George. At its peak, Mangkhut was a super typhoon, the strongest storm anywhere on the planet this year, packing winds of up to 285 kilometers an hour or 180 miles an hour.

The storm has been downgraded to a typhoon after slamming into the Northern Philippines but it has turned deadly. Within the past hour, we have learned of two deaths and there are dozens of landslides and hundreds of homes that have been destroyed.

The storm is headed for Southern China, which is where we are based and could gain strength as it crosses the South China Sea. Alexandra Field is standing by live in Santiago City on Luzon Island.

Alex, what are you hearing from authorities, confirmed those two deaths. Any other updates?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it has taken many hours to understand the impact. We know two deaths are linked to the super typhoon, two first responders who were found in the Cordillera region where dozens of landslides have now been reported.

And certainly there is a concern that there could be additional landslides to come in the coming hours, that is the effect when you have hours and hours of the heavy rains that were experienced in this part of the Philippines overnight and into the day.

In that region, they have about 20 roads shut down right now, part of that is a precautionary measure as landslides continue to be a risk. West of that in the northwest part of Luzon, concerns still about the storm surge.

And we're learning more about what happened in the northeast part of North Luzon where this super typhoon initially made landfall here in the Philippines. Officials have discovered about 1,000 homes have been destroyed in that area alone. And certainly we expect these numbers to climb as responders make their way to the affected areas.

We're talking about coastal areas and also mountainous terrain. They are not easy to get to. You had a storm that lasted about 12 hours, that hampers the efforts of responders to make their way to the areas hardest hit.

But there were preparations in place. We do know about a dozen helicopters are at the ready if needed to conduct rescue operations. There are cargo planes full of supplies that can be sent into the area if those are needed as well. Still a lot to learn in the coming hours.

COREN: Obviously a huge operation will be carried out in the coming hours and days as those crews access those very remote areas.

How difficult will it be getting to these parts of the country?

FIELD: There are a number of challenges that are faced here. This was a storm that was projected to affect about 4 million people but they are spread out. It is not a densely populated region. It is pretty rural. A lot of agricultural land.

We're learning that a lot of what was damaged is the agricultural land. That will have a big impact. The issue with this storm has been communications. The storm cut off a lot of those phone lines, so it was difficult in the early hours for first responders to have a handle on exactly where they needed to go. That is the work that has been happening now --

[04:20:00]

FIELD: -- in the daylight hours and since those heavy winds have started to subside. That means that first responders can figure out where they need to go. You also have to depend on the weather clearing in order to bring in aircraft if it is needed. So a number of challenges, not the least of which is figuring out where people need help.

COREN: A huge operation ahead. Alex Field joining us there from the Philippines. Many thanks for that update.

George in North Carolina, back to you.

HOWELL: Anna Coren, thank you so much.

And look here in the States, in a few hours it will be daylight again. Daylight you could say but we'll be under thick clouds so you won't see the sun. At the same time, rescue crews will venture out again to see who needs help. These first responders have identified almost 500 people needing rescue from the rising floodwaters.

Earlier I spoke to Lieutenant Mitchell Ruslander of Swift Water Rescue. He and his team have been working around the clock to rescue people. And he told me how he believes the next few hours will be very important.

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LT. MITCHELL RUSLANDER, SWIFT WATER RESCUE: The expectations have nowhere close to the work that I have coming to me. That was only since I've gotten here yesterday evening. It's just way more than I expected.

HOWELL: And when you talk about that, explain to us what is the bigger factor of this storm.

Was it the storm surge?

Is it the flooding that's been associated with the storm?

What are you seeing? RUSLANDER: I'm seeing a little bit of everything, yes. But the absolute worst is the flooding. It's like the part of (INAUDIBLE) I'm in tonight, high tide came in at midnight, it rose up an additional 12 feet from the already 3 feet of flooding there was.

So we tried all day, trying to get everybody else as quickly as possible that still remains to stay. But we still get calls to constantly keep getting more and more people out. So it's definitely -- it's definitely tough.

HOWELL: You know, Mitchell, a lot of people, they see what you do. They respect and really greatly appreciate the risks that people take, people like you take, you know, to help people in need.

But look, there are many people who are watching us right now, people who left, wondering when they can come back.

What would you tell them, as far as making sure that the coast is clear, that things are safe enough for them to return?

RUSLANDER: I would honestly say just play it by ear and continue to keep an eye on the storm. Just because, you know, once the hurricane is over with, people will think it's OK to return home.

That's not necessarily true. You have the aftermath to come in, the more rain. It's going take several days for all this water to go away.

HOWELL: Mitchell, what have you seen so far as far as the rescues that have been in play?

RUSLANDER: With the storm coming, it definitely affected a lot of people so quick. I don't think a lot of people down here that were affected thought it was actually going to be that bad.

Like I said, it came to a point when we were out all night last night, actually even cutting holes in people's roofs, trying to remove them because the water level rose so high so quick. It's just dangerously quick. And you never know how quick it's going to move or what it's going to do. You need to get out while you can.

HOWELL: Mitchell, one other question for you. Again, with Swift Water Rescue, you've seen plenty of this. But look, this storm sitting right now overhead, it's dumping plenty of rain, dumping plenty of water, in rivers, in low-lying communities.

Is there a concern, you know, about when the storm passes on, that water's got to go somewhere and the flooding along rivers, et cetera?

RUSLANDER: Absolutely, yes. The biggest concern is that it's just going to sit and it's an unknown period of time how long it's actually going to sit. A lot of the main routes in and out of the smaller counties around here are definitely way overflooded. Definitely got to keep an eye on it and, like I said, play it safe. It changes so quick. Some of these roads instantly flood quickly. The part I was in

earlier on Riverbend, where it was a foot and a half of water and, an hour and a half later, we're talking about waist deep. It comes quickly and moves quickly. Definitely need to keep an eye on it and do what you need to do.

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HOWELL: Lieutenant Mitch Ruslander there, telling us the situation with Swift Water Rescue. And they will be very busy in the days to come. Take a look at the radar and you see --

[04:25:00]

HOWELL: -- exactly what we're dealing with right now here in Wilmington, North Carolina, right there on the dirty side of the storm, that northeastern quadrant, that is the side that can produce tornadoes.

You see the training effect of the storms that continue to push in. Floodwaters could linger for several days, of course, from this storm. And that could put lives at risk, causing catastrophic damage to homes and businesses.

Stay with us. Our breaking news coverage continues right after this.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

HOWELL: Welcome back to viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell, live here in Wilmington, North Carolina, where we are still feeling the effects of tropical storm Florence.

Right now we are under a tornado watch here in Wilmington. That tornado watch lasting until 7:00 am Eastern time. This storm no longer a full blown hurricane. But look at the map there, you see this big blob moving ever so slowly. It is still very powerful and dangerous.

That is why the system is creating so many problems. It is not leaving quickly enough and it is dumping a great deal of rainfall, record amounts of rain and, again, strong winds.

In fact one record-breaking report at the airport of a 105-mile-an- hour wind gust. You get a sense of how strong the storm is. Take a look at this TV station --

[04:30:00]

HOWELL: -- as well. This station that was flooded out after the staff had to leave due to floodwaters.

The storm has also proven to be deadly. At least five people reported to have died as a result of Florence.

The damage across the Carolinas is extensive. Just in the area around where we are, we have seen roofs torn offer of buildings, we've seen beautiful 100-year-old trees toppled due to the strong winds.

Also tonight a million customers without electricity, including us here as we cover this storm. And also we know some 20,000 people are staying in shelters here in the state of North Carolina alone.

The next 24 to 48 hours are all about first responders in this area. They will be working around the clock. Tropical storm Florence just won't quit, it seems. And by the time the system finally moves out, this area will have been hit with record rainfall and flooding.

Many people who thought they could ride the storm out, they are calling 9-1-1 for help and these rescuers are in position to do the good work that they do.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In a matter of seconds my house was flooded up to the waist and now it's up to the chest and we're stuck in the attic. There's four of us.

HOWELL (voice-over): Trapped and waiting for help as waters continue to rise. Tropical storm Florence is becoming more life threatening.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My husband (INAUDIBLE) yelling for help. And he tried to go outside (INAUDIBLE). But then the water got up like above his chest. And he had to come back inside. And it's the worst feeling in the world. (INAUDIBLE) You can't do anything.

HOWELL (voice-over): Emergency crews across the Carolinas are working to rescue as many people as they can from catastrophic flooding, worsening by the hour.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rain and that flooding equals danger. That means we have to have patience.

HOWELL (voice-over): In the meantime flying debris downed power lines and uprooted trees show the force of Florence battering the Carolina coast for more than 24 hours.

Here in Wilmington, North Carolina, a family of three was trapped when a tree crushed their home. Crews worked to save them. Some firefighters even prayed outside but the storm claimed the lives of a mother and her infant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This loss of life is devastating.

HOWELL (voice-over): The tragedy adds to the death toll officials warn may worsen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This will be a very trying period. This is something that we have not had before.

HOWELL (voice-over): Powerful, slow and relentless, the deadly storm is inching further inland, promising days of severe flooding.

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HOWELL: During times of crisis like these, it really shows the strength of community. In Lumberton, North Carolina, residents came together to do what they could to protect their city against the storm. Polo Sandoval has this report for us.

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POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Everyone after the rain stops and Florence eventually dissipates, the flooding threat will remain for the community inland throughout the Carolinas, including here in Lumberton, North Carolina, where, on Friday, we witnessed something truly incredible, where neighbors came together to try to defend their community against potential flooding from Florence.

As we saw, strangers came together, filling sandbags, creating a barrier under an overpass along Interstate 95.

You see that location had been identified as a problem spot when Hurricane Matthew swept through the region two years ago. That is when water essentially flooded much of the community, particularly on the west side of the city.

So this time neighbors determined not to let that happen again. A call on for social media for people to come together to join city workers to create this barrier here. Now they are with their families, waiting for the worst to be over in terms of the weather.

But the potential flooding threat will remain. The forecast calling for some of the rivers and streams in the region to reach a major flood stage in the coming days -- Polo Sandoval, CNN, Lumberton, North Carolina.

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HOWELL: Again, a lot that we're covering here with two storms on opposite sides of the globe and other news this day. My colleague, Anna Coren, is live in Hong Kong to pick that up for us.

COREN: Yes, that's right, George.

Donald Trump's week ends on what could be a sour note. His former campaign manager has joined the list of those flipping. Details on the implications of Paul Manafort's guilty plea -- coming up next.

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[04:35:00]

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HOWELL: The rains come and go, the winds pick up and they stop. We are still feeling the effects for sure of tropical storm Florence, inching its way inland. But at a snail's pace, moving ever so slowly, causing flooding and endless rainfall.

Officials are concerned the impact of all that water could be catastrophic before all is said and done. Keep this in mind. Florence was once a category 4 hurricane, so it is bringing onshore major storm surge and leaving behind a great deal of debris.

The storm has proven to be deadly, at least five deaths associated with Florence. Hundreds of people who did not follow the warning to evacuate, many who were unable to leave, many had to be rescued from the rapidly rising waters.

More than 900,000 customers this hour are without electricity. And there is no clear idea of exactly when power will be restored. That is the latest here on the U.S. East Coast in the southeast part of the country. Our colleague, Anna Coren, is now following other news of the day live in Hong Kong.

COREN: George, at its peak, Mangkhut was a super typhoon, the strongest storm anywhere on the planet this year, packing winds of up to 285 kilometers per hour or 180 mph. It has been downgraded to a typhoon after slamming into the Northern Philippines but it has turned deadly.

At least two people have died. There have been dozens of landslides and thousands of homes destroyed. The storm is headed for Southern China here and could gain strength as it crosses the South China Sea.

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[04:40:00]

COREN: Turning now to other news that CNN is following. U.S. president Trump's former campaign chairman is now among those who are cooperating with the special counsel.

As part of a plea deal, Paul Manafort pleaded guilty to conspiracy and agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department. In exchange, a number of other charges are being dropped. Sara Murray has the details.

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SARA MURRAY, CNN 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 is 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 is 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. 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 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)

COREN: One remarkable woman is braving Florence's wrath in South Carolina all to help out some of the state's most vulnerable population. Her story and much more coming up.

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[04:45:00]

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HOWELL: Welcome back to our breaking news coverage here in Wilmington, North Carolina. I'm George Howell, where we continue to feel the effects of the tropical storm Florence now, the winds just now picking up again. Not as strong as we've seen in the last several hours but, again, the winds certainly here, the winds are a factor in this storm. And rain also a major factor as this storm continues to creep throughout the southeast United States. The storm has proven to be a deadly storm. We understand that five people have died as a result of this major storm. And about a million customers without electricity.

Recovery is going at a slow, expensive pace. First responders have identified hundreds in need of rescue from the rising water. And here in Wilmington, it is important to keep in mind, we are under a tornado watch. And that is because we're in this northeastern quadrant of the storm.

You hear the emergency cue there. Because again, we are still under a great deal of risk. You see that square there, the red square, Wilmington right there in the middle, as the train effect happens with these storms that continue to bring in moisture, bring in that water from the ocean and just dump it on land.

Wilmington right there in the middle. New Bern, it seems, in that tornado watch area. But, again, not experiencing as much rainfall as they have seen in the past several hours. Very, very significant rainfall over the next several days for sure.

Certainly this is a dangerous storm. A lot of people here across the Carolinas are being impacted by it. CNN's Nick Watt has been following the storm from North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and explains why it is such a serious threat there.

[04:50:00]

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NICK WATT, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): We are on what is known as the Grand Strand, a 60 mile stretch of beach in the Carolinas that is normally sun kissed and welcomes 14 million visitors a year. Hurricane Florence has changed all that now.

We are still a little ways away from high tide here and the water is already coming up and up this beach. The fear here is that onshore winds, this could be a deadly combination of onshore wind, high tide in the middle of the night and a storm surge.

This town has flooded before. Hurricane Hugo back in '89 destroyed all of the homes along the beachfront here, that is a fear. Listen, this house has been rebuilt, up on stilts but there are houses behind not on stilts.

And since 1989 a lot more people have moved to this area. There are a lot more people that could be impacted now. Over 400,000 people have been evacuated from the coast of South Carolina, expecting Florence to come.

Here in North Myrtle Beach, 85 percent of people left. Maybe 2,000 or so hunkered down, hoping for the best. They told us that -- one guy told me, when it was downgraded from a 3 to a 2, I decided to stay.

But listen, the winds may be not as strong as feared. But this storm is still carrying so much water and moving so slowly and dumping all that fresh water inland. And then as I mentioned we have the threat of the ocean -- Nick Watt, CNN, North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

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HOWELL: Nick, thank you very much.

Now cities and counties throughout the region are now trying to assess exactly what is the impact of this storm. Earlier I spoke with Tim Harper, the county administrator for Marion County, South Carolina. And he told me how his county is preparing.

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TIM HARPER, MARION COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR, S.C.: We're experiencing some of the rain right now and a lot of wind. We still got a little bit of wind to go but we're expecting probably another 10 to 20 inches of additional rain on us in the coming days.

HOWELL: Tim, are you concerned about the need for the work of these rescue crews that are in position?

Are you concerned that there are people who will certainly need that help and assistance?

HARPER: We are concerned. We experienced a lot of flooding in 2016 with Hurricane Matthew. But we're seeing more people are taking heed and are responding to the emergency notifications that we're putting out, to seek higher ground and to find shelter.

So we have three shelters open now. We have over 350 people in our shelters right now.

HOWELL: Tim, I want to ask you -- we're hearing right now that there is a tornado watch where we are right now.

Is there a concern that the weather we're hearing, that we're seeing is going to get worse for you in the coming hours?

HARPER: We expect it probably will in the coming hours. We expect to have more wind coming in on us as the storm passes through our county and then especially the flooding that's going to come afterwards.

And so we're expecting to have some more serious problems coming up soon.

HOWELL: Tim, you know, over the next several hours, what would you tell people?

There are going to be people who are certainly going to be affected by this as the week progresses. People will, you know, obviously have to delay some plans.

How important is it just to wait, to give it a beat for this storm to pass through and give your crews time to be prepared? HARPER: We hope that people will take notice that, if they live in a flood prone area and there's any possibility that there are floods, especially after the flooding of Hurricane Matthew, they need to seek shelter or get inland or, you know, get to higher ground because this storm is a dangerous storm.

They need to take -- be aware of that and to make what changes they need to be prepared.

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HOWELL: Thousands had to evacuate ahead of this storm. Many forced to leave their pets behind. Many shelters wouldn't allow pets. I spoke earlier with Crystal Webb in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Crystal chose to ride the storm out from her home and now she is on a mission to help those animals that were left behind.

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CRYSTAL WEBB, ANIMAL LOVER: One of the main reasons I stayed behind, when I stayed behind with Matthew, I became aware of just how many people, when they evacuate, they just leave their animals to fend for themselves. And these animals needed rescue.

So you know, I took that chance just to put my faith in and said I'm going to be OK, I'm going to be here. And before the storm, I was out looking. You know, I was getting messages from people all around, saying, hey, we've heard there is a dog at this address or there is a couple of dogs at this address or, you know.

And people have left their --

[04:55:00]

WEBB: -- dogs in pens or chained up. These dogs don't have a chance of survival, especially when the water starts to rise. They'll drown. If we can't get to them, they're, you know, nobody is going to help them if we don't.

HOWELL: You know, Crystal, a moment ago we were just talking about risks, the risks that people take associated with these storms, certainly a risk to stay and hunker down through a storm.

But also, you know, because you care, right?

Because you care to make sure that these animals are protected, given these strong storms that come through.

WEBB: Well, it is a risk. And it's something that you take, you know. I do rescues throughout the year and any rescue is going to be a risk. I have been injured doing rescues before.

But, you know, it's worth it. When you save that dog and you know that that dog shows you that love, you bond with that dog because he is showing you appreciation for saving him -- because animals know when they've been rescued and they're going to show you that love, that appreciation.

And they never forget you. I have seen dogs a year or two after I've rescued them and they act like, you know, I was their long lost friend and just happy to see me. But they never forget.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: In the middle of chaos and crisis, you always find incredible people doing amazing things.

We thank you for being with us for our breaking news coverage this hour. This tropical storm slamming the east U.S. I'm George Howell in Wilmington, North Carolina.

COREN: And I'm Anna Coren in Hong Kong. For our viewers in North America, "EARLY START" begins shortly. For everyone else on CNN International, stay tuned for more of CNN's breaking news coverage with Natalie Allen.