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NEW DAY SATURDAY

Tropical Storm Florence Causing Catastrophic Flooding; Former Trump Campaign Chairman, Paul Manafort Make A Plea Deal Just Days Before His Next Trial Date; A Decade's Old Assault Accusation Against Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Has Threatened To Impact His Confirmation Vote; Demonstrations That Were On The Streets Of Dallas Yesterday Protesting The Police Shooting Death Of A Black Man In His Own Home; Dozens Of Homes In Massachusetts Engulfed In Flames After A Natural Gas Leak Explosion. Aired: 5-6a ET

Aired September 15, 2018 - 05:00   ET

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


CHRISTI PAUL, HOST, NEW DAY: So glad to have you with us an hour earlier than usual here. Good morning to you, I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, HOST, NEW DAY: I'm Victor Blackwell in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Good morning to you, Christi. Good morning to you at home. We continue our live special coverage of now tropical storm Florence, the storm that beat on and battered North Carolina is now coming south. We're see thing those stronger sustained winds here, although the rain has died down.

But again, this is not primarily a wind event, although it is picking up. The problem here will be the water, the rain the storm surge. Now, 900,000 people across the Carolinas do not have power, most of them in North Carolina, more than 780,000 there. The rest of them here and of course, the worst has happened here. The worst possible - five people have now lost their lives and are attributed to this storm all in North Carolina.

We've got our team of our reporters across the Carolinas, we'll check in with them in a moment. But first, let's go to meteorologist Chad Myers, we're expecting the latest advisory at the top of this hour, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, METEOROLOGIST, CNN: Exactly right. We're already seeing the rainfall push water up into Jacksonville. We talked about New Bern all week now because of the surge that they had there. That water is down. They were up to four feet and now, they're down to four feet, but the New River north of Jacksonville has risen just in the past 12 hours, 20 feet. This is that push up those small little rivers.

We talk about how the surge maybe two feet, three feet here, but you push it up those smaller and smaller rivers, and the water goes higher and higher and higher, and that's what we're seeing right now up that New River, up into Jacksonville and even some more water coming up into Wilmington. Still a tornado watch box in effect here. Tornado warning not that far west of Kingston, but for now, the eye or the center is way near Myrtle Beach. So let's see here, here are the latest stats we'll be having for you

for the rest of the day. Fifty mile per hour storm, gusts still 65. Now, the pressure is still fairly low. The pressure was always low and that's the reason this storm still has so much punch to it even though it's been on land now for almost 24 hours. You expect, oh, well, as soon as it hits land, it's going to die, but think about this. At least a third of the storm is still over the warm water and that is the - this is the surge of water that's still come coming in.

See this brighter area right through here? That's the convection that started overnight and it's going to pour right into Morehead City, right into these places that have flash flood emergencies going on right now. People saying do not leave your home. There's not a safe way out of your home no matter what you think, just stay there unless you are - you just need to go up into your elevation, into your attic or whatever it is because the water is still coming up in some spots.

The beach has been eroded. I don't even know what this beach is going to look like. We can't go out there. We can't get a plane even to fly or a helicopter because the weather is still so bad. Hard to imagine, we're still talking about the weather in the same place that's been there for 48 hours.

So let's move ahead now, I'll show you what's going on for the rest of the day. Florence now is going to turn into not far from Columbia in about 18 hours and so that's what's going to happen, but there's still a big swath of 12-inch rainfall still to come into Wilmington. Wilmington, you've done pretty good so far. You're up about four feet up and down on these gauges here and I can't believe that because it's been raining now. We watched John Berman yesterday get so wet, I've never seen a person so wet in my life on a hurricane live shot.

But the water is still rising and it still could push up that river, so we'll watch that New River, watch the Cape Fear River and all of that. So the rest of the day really doesn't really look too bad for some spots especially down towards Charleston and south of Myrtle because you're on the left side, you're on the bottom side of this eye, or the center and that's where the lightest weather will be and the offshore winds will be, so no surge down here.

But the surge continues for Wilmington, into Myrtle. That's going to come up, I would say North Myrtle gets a surge before Myrtle Beach does and yesterday, Chris Cuomo was there and it's only about five feet from where the ocean was to where the beach ends. So that could be a five-foot surge. We could see water into North Myrtle, but the rainfall continues, the forecast radar doesn't stop. This is all the way to later around this afternoon and later on to this evening. Things are still going to be in the same places.

BLACKWELL: So, Chad, this wind has picked up recently and it's now - it's stronger sustained winds. Are we feeling the strongest of the winds we're going to feel in Myrtle Beach and if not, when are we going to feel those stronger winds?

MYERS: I don't think you're seeing the strongest wind yet because the storm isn't dying. Let's go back to the live radar now. We'll see the Myrtle Beach winds become more onshore and as they become more onshore, we will see that wind pick up because it's off the ocean. So far Myrtle's been offshore and so you've had friction behind you with buildings and trees and even a little bit of mountains back there by Conway.

Other than that, what we have here as the wind comes off the ocean, there is nothing to stop it. There is no friction, so I believe still maybe six hours from now, Victor, that is when you will see the heaviest winds and they will probably be somewhere around 50 miles per hour.

BLACKWELL: All right, Chad Myers there in the severe weather center. Chad, thank you.

[05:05:16 ]

BLACKWELL: Let's stay here in Myrtle Beach. This is a town right now that is under a curfew that's been placed here in Myrtle Beach. There's another town nearby in Conway and the entire Horry County area under a curfew. Our Nick Valencia is also in Myrtle Beach. Nick, you're on the street there, I imagine, what are you seeing and the reports you're getting from the city?

NICK VALENCE, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes, good morning, Victor. The curfews had been in effect all week long. They extended it a little further yesterday, last night because they thought that Hurricane Florence was just going to really hit this area hard. In fact, we've been here all week long trying to tell residents just about how catastrophic this storm could be.

Initially, you remember, earlier this week, it was predicted to potentially make land fall as a Category 4 hurricane. By midweek, the trajectory of that storm had turned a little south, putting Myrtle Beach in the cross hairs and that really got a lot of local officials nervous, a lot of state officials really here in South Carolina very nervous about the potential of the wind surge, that life threatening flash flood, storm surges, things like that.

Today though, we wake up and as you could see behind me, there's not really that much damage here on the street. Speaking on that curfew though, we are still under it until about 7:00 a.m. Eastern. Behind me it's just a ghost town, Victor, but the worst, as Chad had mentioned, could still yet be - yet to come.

According to a local newspaper, there could be spots in this Horry Count area that could receive by time this storm is done, up to 30 inches in rain. And just as I say that, the wind has sort of started to pick up. We have been reporting during these morning hours throughout the last several days and this is definitely the strongest that we've felt the wind. The rain has also sort of been a steady drizzle throughout. We were just down on the beach earlier this morning. Those waves have been crashing into the beach, but today, it seems as though Myrtle Beach, for at least for now, has escaped the worst of it.

North Carolina has gotten the brunt of the damage of course, but with power outages and damage, of course those five people that lost their lives, just a terrible situation, but here in South Carolina, they've also been dealing with power outages. In fact, it was a short time ago, the Emergency Management Division tweeted that there was 165,000 people without power.

I talk about that curfew and look, just as we're walking through, we spot one of these emergency vehicles to make sure probably checking on the area, making sure that people are staying indoors and that's been the point that the local officials, the mayor here has been trying to make is that this is not a time to get comfortable. Yesterday as we were reporting out throughout the day, we did see people, some of them starting to get a little stir crazy. The businesses had been shut down since Tuesday. They took extra precautions because they though this storm was going to be at one point, the storm of a lifetime. A storm that the Carolina coast had not seen before. It did make a lot of damage when - it did cause a lot of damage, I should say when it made land fall.

But here, reporting from the streets of Myrtle Beach, things look eerily calm at this point. Not a time though to let your guard down. Victor.

BLACKWELL: Yes, certainly, Nick. I mean, we've heard from local officials that this is not the time to come out. We see that the grounds here are saturated with all the rain over the last 24 to 36 hours and more rain to come. These trees could topple over. We have seen that in North Carolina. In fact, let's go there now and we have our Polo Sandoval who has been in Lumberton, North Carolina and he filed this report a little earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POLO SANDOVAL, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: David, after the rain stops and Florence eventually dissipates, the flooding threat will remain for the communities 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 who came together, filling sand bags, 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 along the west side of this city. So this time, neighbors determined not to let that happen again and all call issued on 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLACKWELL: All right, our thanks to Polo for that report and what we

saw in North Carolina, that storm, as we see now with the winds building and the rain that Chad Myers says is come, Christi is on its way to South Carolina.

[05:10:07]

BLACKWELL: Unfortunately, five people dead there and hundreds of thousands of people without power and the storm is so big that as we have learned, this will be a multi-day event. Of course, the hope is that things are not as bad here in South Carolina as we saw in North Carolina, but even after the winds die down and the rain become just a drizzle. All the water in those rivers will move to the South Carolina river basins and those communities are now on alert for flooding.

PAUL: Yes, I think that I heard a meteorologist say those rising rivers are really going to be watched between Monday and Wednesday of this coming week. So that shows how long an event this really is and we know what Chad is saying, a third of the storm is still over the water. We just don't know what to expect. Victor, thank you so much.

And we are going to be checking in with Victor of course, through most of the show. Now, if you want to help those who are impacted by Hurricane Florence and there are many, there are different ways to donate. You can give blood, you can get in touch with charities that are responding and I know that can be hard to decipher. So visit CNN.com/impact. We have kind of broken down some of the ways that you can help there.

Even before Florence slammed the East Coast though, the White House apparently considered replacing FEMA administrator Brock Long. A senior officials tells the ""Wall Street Journal"" that there have been discussions for possible replacements for Long, he of course, under investigation for alleged misuse of government vehicles.

Now, "The Journal" reports Chief of Staff John Kelly decided to keep Long in his role under the Department of Homeland Security until the Inspector General issues a final report, until that happens, so Long says, he will fully cooperate in that investigation as well.

The Department of Homeland Security tells CNN, the department is fully focused on repairing for, responding to and recovering from Hurricane Florence and the storms in the Pacific because remember there are some others out there still waiting to make sure that they are not going to hit the coast.

Also in the news this morning, former Trump Campaign Chairman, Paul Manafort make a plea deal just days before his next trial date telling the judge, "Hey, listen, I'm ready to talk." We're going to find out what exactly that means for his former boss, for others.

Also, a woman says Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were in high school. A lot of people wondering why we are just hearing about this now. We'll talk about it, stay close.

[05:15:16]

PAUL: Well, tropical storm Florence is just tearing through the Carolinas. We are going to have more on the storm in a few minutes here, but there are some other big stories that we're following today. One of which is this huge win, it seems for the Russia special counsel. Former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort stood before a Federal judge yesterday and said three very important words "I plead guilty." Now, as part of the deal, Manafort will cooperate with the special counsel's Russia probe. CNN's Sara Murray has the details for us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARA MURRAY, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: 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. Manfort pleaded guilty in Washington, DC, Friday to one count of conspiracy against the US and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice that's after attempts to tampering with witnesses according to court filings.

Manafort agreeing to cooperate fully, truthfully and 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 waved 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 DC. In exchange for his cooperation, prosecutors dropped a number of outstanding charges against Manafort in both DC 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Sara, thank you so much. Now a decade's old assault accusation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has threatened to impact his confirmation vote. Kavanaugh has denied those allegations. This comes at a critical juncture of his confirmation battle. Here is CNN's Ariane De Vogue. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARIANE DE VOUGE, SUPREME COURT REPORTER, CNN: A woman is alleging Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were both in high school in the '80s. The woman has not gone public with these allegations, but she sent a letter to Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate judiciary committee. Feinstein said on Friday that the individual requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter forward.

Feinstein redacted the name and referred the letter to the FBI. Brett Kavanaugh has issued a statement strongly denying the allegations. He says, "I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. And I did not do this back in high school or at any time."

In the letter, the woman alleges that Kavanaugh physically pushed her into a bedroom and along with another male locked the door from inside. They put on loud music. She alleges, the two teens were drunk and at one point, Kavanaugh was on top of her with a hand over her mouth. She feared she was in danger at that moment.

She does not say whether she reported the incident to authorities, but she does state she sought medical attention, but didn't provide details or timing on that. Republicans note that the letter was sent in late July, but it was only referred to the FBI this week, very close to the upcoming vote. One Democratic aide said that while some are frustrated that Dianne Feinstein didn't tell them about these allegations in advance, another said, she was in a tough spot. The woman would not come forward with the allegation.

Again, Brett Kavanaugh released a statement denying all of this. Ariane De Vogue, CNN, Washington.

PAUL: Ariane, thank you so much. I want to get back to Victor. He is in Myrtle Beach and apparently the winds are picking up there and with a third of the storm still over water, that tells us that this has still got so much punch to it, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Yes, Christi, and the wind has really isolated some communities especially in North Carolina. In Carolina Beach, the wind has made the bridge into an out of town completely impassable. Derek Van Dam is there in town where the people live there also do not have power. We are going to check in with him after the break when our special live coverage of tropical storm Florence continues.

[05:20:00]

PAUL: We're waiting for the sun to come up in North and South Carolina to see exactly what people are dealing with this morning. I am Christie Paul here in the studio, Victor Blackwell, well, you see him there, windblown in South Carolina, good morning, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Good morning to you, Christi. The rain is starting to pick up here as well. But what we're seeing here in South Carolina has already passed through much of North Carolina, although they are not done with most this storm yet, not even the worse of it as there is a tornado watch for portions of the coast. We know that the wind have really picked up there. I just had - okay, we've got Nick Watt who has filed a report. We're going to go to that in North Myrtle Beach here in South Carolina.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICK WATT, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: 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 of 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. On shore winds, a 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 beach front here and that is a fear. I mean, listen, these houses have been rebuilt up on stilts but there are house behind that are 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 evacuated from the coast can of South Carolina expecting Florence to come. Here in North Myrtle Beach, with 85% of people left, maybe 2,000 or so hunkered down hoping for the best. They told us that one guy told me, you know, when it was downgraded from a three to a two, a Category 3 to a 2, I decided to stay. But listen, the winds may be not as strong as feared ...

[05:25:16]

WATT: ... 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: All right, our thanks to Nick Watt there. Christie, as I toss it back to you, Nick talked about the 85% of people who evacuated there in Myrtle Beach. Here up in the south, a separate town here, Myrtle Beach, the mayor says us that roughly 60% of the people heeded the warning to get out of town. The remaining 40% were not people who simply ignored it, but there are lots of people who could not leave or decided not to leave because they had questions about what they would do with their pets or they just could not afford it.

So, we'll talk about the percentage of people that stayed here and we have the mayor, Brenda Bethune coming up a little bit later. But I'll send it back to you. The rain and wind starting to pick up here as the storm moves south.

PAUL: Yes, I was going to say, in watching you in the last 25 minutes, I can see the change that is coming towards you, so do hunker down there. Best to you and the crew as we'll be talking to Victor throughout the morning of course. Now, Florence did slam ashore in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm

yesterday, so we're just about 23 hours into this. It has since been downgraded. It is still dangerous though. I want to show you a look at some of the fury the storm has given that area since it hit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: The wind is looking stronger than it has in the last 24 hours.

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN: The eye did make land fall in Wrightsville Beach about six miles from where I am with a wind speed of about 90 miles per hour.

CHRIS CUOMO, ANCHOR, CNN: This isn't just water that's come coming this way. The ocean and the winds are forcing sand up into the air.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you look the way down, you can see all of those people, you might be able to make it out. That is the ocean. It's not supposed to be there right now.

BRIAN TODD, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: The power is out all over the city. That tree over there to my left, to your right looks like it's about to be uprooted and we're getting a lot of strong gusts of winds.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: We are in Riverbend to experience an extraordinary amount of flooding here and a lot of people have said that they weren't expecting it to flood like this here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: And we are obviously going to continue to watch what happens as it looks like more wind, more rain coming on to the coast here, and again a third of that storm still over water. So there is still a real potency to this and the flooding is the real problem. So don't let the tropical storm category there fool you that this is over by any means.

There were demonstrations I want to tell you about, in other news here, that were on the streets of Dallas yesterday protesting the police shooting death of a black man in his own home. What was happening last night and what that was all about. Also dozens of homes in Massachusetts engulfed in flames after a natural gas leak explosion. A police officer's story of loss and duty while he was helping others. Stay close.

[05:30:00]

PAUL: Thirty minutes past the hour. Thanks for being up early with us here. I want to show you this image. Demonstrators is what you're looking at there. They rallied in Dallas overnight to protest the police shooting death of Botham Jean. The group chanted, "Justice now." They were very peacefully marching through downtown but they are demanding the officer involved, Amber Guyger be fired and charged with murder rather than manslaughter. Jean he was shot and can killed inside his apartment last week by

Officer Guyger who claimed she mistakenly entered his apartment thinking that it was her own.

In the meantime, CNN has gained an exclusive look inside Botham Jean's apartment here. The family is outraged behind police evidence that was leaked suggesting that there were drugs inside Jean's apartment. Here is CNN correspondent, Ryan Young.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

RYAN YOUNG, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Unit 1478 was Botham Jean's apartment, it's where the 26-year-old's young life was cut short when he was shot by a police officer in his living room. A small memorial of flowers and a photo with his mother adorn his front door.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALLISON JEAN, MOTHER OF THE VICTIM: At 26 years old, he had done so much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: With permission from the family, we are getting a look inside Botham's apartment. It's a typical single man's apartment except for the bullet hole in the wall indicated by an evidence marking more than six feet high. There's also a pool of blood on the floor, which will not show you. There is laundry piled on the couch, and Botham's half eaten bowl of cereal still had milk in it. He may have been reading one of the many books littering the apartment before he was shot and killed by Officer Amber Guyger.

This is video, witness says, of Amber Guyger pacing around upset moments after the shooting. Officer Guyger tells investigators she shot Jean after mistaking his apartment for her own. Guyger tells investigators that after work, she parked her car on the wrong floor, walked to the wrong apartment and that Jean's door was slightly open. In her statement to police, Gugyer says she gave verbal commands before firing two shots.

Lee Merritt witnesses tell a different story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

S. LEE MERRITT, JEAN FAMILY ATTORNEY: They both heard a knock or a pounding on the door followed by a female's voice saying, "Open up, let me in." She said the voice didn't sound like an officer command, but it sounded like someone who wanted to be let into the apartment.

She said that was shortly followed by the sound of gun shots and a man's voice saying what she believed to be, "Oh, my god, why did you do that?"

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: The Jean family's attorney and the family are now upset by the leak of a search warrant that indicates officers went inside Jean's apartment looking for drugs. Officers say they did find and removed several items including a small amount of marijuana. The warrant does not indicate who the items belonged to. It's unknown if a search warrant was executed at the officer's apartment.

[05:35:10]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MERRITT: Twenty six years on this earth, he lived his life virtually without blemish and it took being murdered by a Dallas police officer for Botham Jean to suddenly become a criminal. There is a clear intent here to smear the name of Botham Jean.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: During a moving funeral service, we learned much more about Jean and his accomplishments. Family and friends talked openly about his love of people, for singing and the fact that he was a high achieving employee on a partnership track at the accounting firm, PWC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: PWC is hurting. Not just in Dallas, but all across our country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was so joyful and we know how much he loved to sing. He was the biggest extroverted accountant you'd ever find.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: Amber Guyger is on administrative leave during the investigation. The DA's office will take the case before a grand jury to determine the next course of action. CNN has reached out to the officer, Guyger's attorney and they have not returned our calls.

For a heartbroken mother, wants answers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

A. JEAN: So I am calling on the Dallas officials, please come clean, give me justice for my son because he does not deserve what he got.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: Ryan Young, CNN, Dallas.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

PAUL And our thanks to Ryan Young there. A Lawrence, Massachusetts police officer was helping people evacuate after that massive natural gas leak that sparked dozens of explosions that left homes in flames. What the officer didn't know was that his own home was burning in a nearby neighborhood while he was helping other people.

Litsa Pappas, from a CNN affiliate, WFXT spoke with him. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IVAN SOTO, POLICE OFFICER, LAWRENCE, MASSACHUSETTS: Total chaos. Fires and people screaming and crying.

LITSA PAPPAS, ASSIGNMENT REPORTER, WFXT: Lawrence officer, Ivan Soto was busy making sure his community was safe as dozens of fires broke out from gas explosions, Thursday. He saw his own home on Jefferson Street go up in flames, but once his family was safe, he went right back to work.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SOTO: We didn't know how many more houses were going to blow up and I knew my family was okay, so as long as they were okay, I wanted to make sure everybody else's family was okay.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAPPAS: One of Soto's daughters was home from school when she heard the explosion and saw smoke filling their basement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VERONICA SOTO, WIFE OF OFFICER SOTO: While I'm on the phone with her, she panicked when she felt the explosion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAPPAS: Their daughter escaped the fire but sadly, this family lost their two cats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

V. SOTO: We lost everything material which could be replaced. We did lose our fur babies, which - that's the hardest part.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAPPAS: While Officer Soto's house was burning to the ground, he was out trying to help other families. He was one of the first responders who tried to save the 18-year-old who was stuck under a chimney when this house exploded on Chickering Road.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

I. SOTO: We jumped on the car and we were trying to pull the chimney with the car. We just wanted to get it off of him. We wanted to save him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAPPAS: But it was too late. That teen died at the hospital and Soto says while his appreciates all the donations and support right now. He also hopes this community helps the family of the teen who died.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

I. SOTO: I just want to make sure that Leo's family is taken care of too and people can donate.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

PAUL: And we'll keep you posted on where that goes. I want to take you back to Victor who is in Myrtle Beach, 65 mile-per-hour gusts with Florence still associated with that storm. Victor, what are you feeling now?

BLACKWELL: We're feeling the rain continue to pick up though stronger winds have been sustained for some time now, more than two hours but we're going to take you a little further north to check on North Carolina. We've got our meteorologist who is out in the field in Jacksonville, and we'll check win him after the break. Stay with us. Our live special coverage continues.

[05:40:00]

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell live in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and continue our coverage of now tropical storm Florence where the sustained winds now are 50 miles an hour and this massive storm is still battering now two states. So we don't want to forget about North Carolina and let's go there to Carolina Beach where my colleague Derek Van Dam has been for several days now and I understand, Derek that this community is cut off because of the wind speeds and people can't cross the bridge to get in or out. What are you seeing there?

All right, so we've got some technical problems, as you might understand with the weather challenging what we have there. Do we have Logan Pool who's ready? All right, Logan Poole, we've got Logan Poole with Weather Nation. Here's the field meteorologist staying in North Carolina, there in Jacksonville. Same question to you. What are you seeing there in Jacksonville?

LOGAN POOLE, FIELD METEOROLOGIST, WEATHERNATION: It's been a change in the storm where we went from a high wind event that did a lot of tree damage and roof damage and earlier today when - and yesterday morning when the hurricane was closest by and now it's transitioning to what seems like a tornado event - severe thunderstorm event and perhaps more damaging right now is the heavy rain and flooding.

We've seen tremendous flooding just a little bit ago, we saw where water was coming up inside a gentleman's home and gave us a little bit of a tour and showed us the three to four feet of water in his garage and about to come into the living space of his home.

BLACKWELL: You say that there's a tornado warning there. Have there been reports of tornadoes or just the conditions favorable to the formation of tornados.

POOLE: There have been some warnings. I haven't heard that there was any confirmed, but they are definitely conditions favorable in the eastern side of that circulation associated with Hurricane Florence, now tropical storm Florence. That's going to continue to be the case as that circulation continues to spin ...

[05:45:14]

POOLE: ... and that moisture continues to pump in from the Atlantic Ocean.

BLACKWELL: What's the expectation for the next several hours for that area?

POOLE: The expectation is that catastrophic flooding will continue to be on going for the foreseeable future. Some areas are expected to be - to reach well above their record flood stages in some of these rivers. It's absolutely going to be a record breaking, maybe perhaps record smashing rainfall event for North Carolina, so lot of heart break and misery still to come for a lot of folks and we're going to continue to try to provide the best coverage we can.

BLACKPOOLE: All right, field meteorologist, Logan Poole there with WeatherNation. Thank you so much for giving us your view there from Jacksonville. I think we have Derek Van Dam back in Carolina Beach, so I won't waste much time tossing to you. Derek, what are you seeing there?

DEREK VAN DAM, METEOROLOGIST, CNN: All right, well, it has been a grueling 36 hours, Victor, for the residents that decided to ride the storm out. Roughly about 600 people. We are directly on the coast of North Carolina. And we have had relentless wind, relentless rain and the only real reprieve was when the eye of the hurricane made its way across this very spot early Friday morning and caused about an hour worth of calm. It was very strange, almost ethereal at times because birds were out, the sun came out for a moment and things went completely quiet, but the back side of the storm came and we had been in the "dirty side" quote, unquote of the storm since then.

So winds picked back up in the opposite direction, started swirling things around this area. We have had roofs that have been blown off of buildings, we've had walls that have collapsed. We've had beach erosion. What you would expect with a Category 1 hurricane landfall. This was a particularly strong storm when it made its presence felt here, but it's such a slow mover that we continue to feel the long- term effects of this system, at least for another 24 hours.

I'm really quite concerned looking at the latest radar, Victor, the potential for this catastrophic flooding to continue as one of these heavy feeder bands similar to what we experienced in Houston for Hurricane Harvey last year at this time, it's starting to set up between Jackson and the Wrightsville region and - or Wilmington rather and looking at that radar, it's very, very concerning that that slow band will eventually creep towards us here in Carolina Beach. Back to you.

BLACKWELL: Derek, any rough idea of many people, if many people stuck around there in Carolina Beach anticipating that bridge would be shut down because of the winds?

VAN DAM: So 6,000 people call this place home. It's an island that's connected by a bridge but is currently shut off. There is some flooding on the roadway on that bridge. It's also closed down because of the strong winds like you mentioned. About 300 to 400 people decided to ride out the storm. We talked to a few of them early this morning. They felt safer actually staying here than they were if they were to head back on to the mainland because they were worried about not being able to enter back onto the island for about a week, which authorities warned us of before we arrived here as a CNN crew.

So still contact communication is still out. Emergency personnel begging for people to only call out to them and reach out to them if they can if they're in a dire emergency. We're also still without electricity here as well, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right, Derek Van Dam for us there on Carolina Beach, you stay safe, you and the crew stay safe there. We will check back next hour. Derek, thank you.

And now Derek talked about some people who stayed there on Carolina Beach. There were many people who stayed despite mandatory warnings in many of the communities. Some of them because they didn't want to leave their pets. We'll talk with a Humane Society representative about what they're doing to help some of the pets that are still left behind or those people who have questions on what to do. Stay with us. Our special live coverage continues.

[05:50:00]

BLACKWELL: Welcome back. I'm Victor Blackwell, live in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina as we continue our coverage of now tropical storm Florence and some of the more heartwarming stories we've heard over the last several days have been people reaching out to their neighbors, but also caring for one another's pets and there have been many people who did not want to leave their homes, did not want to leave their pets and go to shelters where those animals would not be welcome.

We've got with us now, Troy Snell with the Humane Society of the United States and Troy, good morning to you, I understand you're in Greenville, South Carolina and you've got people here, what are you doing and what are you offering?

TROY SNELL, FIELD SUPERVISOR, HUMAN SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES: Hi, good morning, yes, we are staged right now in Greenville, North Carolina with staff and personnel that are ready and staged and just needs to go and help anybody that is going to be in need post the weather coming through.

BLACKWELL: Are you getting reports yet of animals that have been abandoned or stranded?

SNELL: Well, so far we have - pre-storm, we transported out over 400 animals from the North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia coastline. So we've already like - obviously before the storm hit we got animals out that were going to be in need. I haven't heard any right now of any other situation right now. We're just kind of waiting to see what the storm does and then tomorrow we're moving to a different location to start helping where it's needed.

BLACKWELL: So what do you tell those people who have been forced to make the difficult decision if they have got to leave their homes or they're going to heed these mandatory evacuation orders? What to do with their pets? What to pack for their pets and for how long should they prepare to be away with those animals?

SNELL: Well, we always encourage people to have a disaster plan ready for their pets whether large or small. We do offer tips on prepping like a disaster kit and finding safe places to evacuate your animals and sheltering. We do have our website that is up that talks about what you can do, where you can go possibly and it's always good to - before the storm hits is to find out from your local ...

[05:55:13]

SNELL: ... agencies where may possibly shelters will be set up to take in animals as well.

BLACKWELL: All right, Troy Snell with the Humane Society of the United States. Troy, thank you so much for the work you're doing and thanks so much for spending a few minutes with us here on "New Day." Christi, I'm going to send it back to you. We'll continue to check in at the top of the hour with our team of reporters up and down the coast here in the Carolinas as South Carolina is starting to feel what hit North Carolina, but we know our friends in the north are not done with it yet.

PAUL: No doubt about it. We also know there are more than 900,000 who are waking up this morning without power. So, Victor, we appreciate all the updates and finding out what's going on where you are because I know that it is a very fluid situation and things are changing there. So Victor Blackwell, there live for us in Myrtle Beach.

Our next video, I want to share with you because we've seen so many things that have been so hard to take in. This is really heartwarming. There is a WTVD reporter who helped rescue a dog from flooding. This is in New Bern, North Carolina. She saw this family - look at them - struggling to save their pet and help them carry that dog to safety and this is what we have seen from so many people.

I actually heard one woman earlier this week say it's not the storm that I'm afraid of because I have faith in our community and this is just part of that. We had another woman who had seven dogs, didn't want to leave her home because she didn't know how to transport those dogs. Somebody got her a car and got her and her dog out of the way. But look at this, I know - that dog was almost saying why are you carrying me like this? But that dog is getting to safety, thanks to these people and neighbors coming together for each other and that is the silver lining in all of this.

The resiliency of people and their generosity and their compassion for each other. No doubt about it, that's a big take away from this.

We want to tell you about rescue crews who are still risking the roads to help people who really are in need here. Dianne Gallagher was with some of them earlier, when National Guard members drove into waters that even their all-terrain vehicles couldn't handle. Look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: 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 embed with the North Carolina National Guard. We are in a vehicle just like this one here, just with a different paint job on. It's called an LMTV and you can see there that area with the kind of canvass over it, it's empty except for some seats there.

We were sitting, myself, my producer, Jade, 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 flood waters.

Now, look, the neighborhood that we were in was extremely flooded. The water was very high and it appears that one portion of it, the road had washed out in a certain area and so, the back wheels of the 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. We had floatation devices, but we didn't end up needing all of that because there happened to be a boat with some teenagers from the New Bern area nearby. They came over, they got us and our news crew out, our news crew out and they were able to help some of the members of the National Guard as well.

They stayed around. They ended up getting their vehicle out the three people who originally were going to get rescued ,they did get rescued. But again, we cannot stress the danger that some of these first responders are putting their lives in when they do go out on these 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 ot frightening horror story that they've dealt with over the past two days here in the Craven County area because there's 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 okay. 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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