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Hurricane Michael is the Strongest Storm to ever Slam into the Florida Panhandle; Hurricane Michael Decimates Roofs, Floating Houses, Sinking Even Storm Chasers; Is the White House Doing Everything It Could about the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi? Aired 9-10p ET

Aired October 10, 2018 - 21:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, Anderson. Thank you for keeping us up to date.

I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

Hurricane Michael, the strongest storm to ever slam into the Florida Panhandle at nearly a cat 5, now making its way further I understand inland in Georgia and beyond. Tonight, it's a category 1. That means winds up to 90 miles an hour, that is so well in the range of doing tons of damage.

I hope some of you are coming from the part of the country that weathered Hurricane Michael already. If you are, you are among lucky.

Close to half a million or more now maybe without power. Flooding, catastrophic. There's been only a limited window for rescue. The night is still very young for those in the path of this monster.

The rampage started near Mexico Beach, Florida, this afternoon. Homes ripped into shreds. Roads raging rivers now. Trees tossed like twigs, too often into homes and businesses, multiplying the mayhem.

The challenge for us, to capture what the storm has left behind, the need that exists, and where it is headed next. And we have the best information available. We have reporters all over the place, people willing to put themselves into the worst of it.

And we have weather legend Sam Champion, the one and only, back with us to walk us through the toll and what's still to come.

It is all hands on deck. Let's get after it.


CUOMO: All right. Here's what we know right now. Hurricane Michael barreling through Georgia. This storm is moving fast. It's so different than what we experienced with Florence.

What's the plus/minus on that? Well, the plus side is you're not getting hit and soaked as long. The downside is there is intensity to this as it moves and more areas are getting hit.

We have Scott McLean there in Albany, Georgia. Scott, situation?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Chris, look, we've seen over the last couple of hours the conditions really pick up here. The wind has been really driving. The rain has been coming down as well.

But we seem to be in a bit of a lull right now. That is good news because first responders here have said that they will not respond to calls if the sustained winds be it 35 miles per hour or above. We think that if it is lower than that, then they'll be responding to calls.

We're in touch with the county right now. We think the crews are now responding at this point. That is obviously good news for people who need help.

But, look, there are a lot of people in this area that might have been caught off guard by this, maybe didn't go to the shelters. There are five of them in this area. Only a couple hundred people are in them, though.

Authorities here, I spoke to the fire chief earlier, had been saying, look, the time is now to get off the streets. Hunker down in your homes and try to stay in a safe structure.

But there are widespread power outages that are adding to the problems here. In fact, the power just went off at the hotel where we are broadcasting from about 20 minutes or so ago. And so, you can't see anything beyond the one camera light that we have that's running off battery power right now.

So, not a lot of people are going anywhere. Everything is closed --

CUOMO: All right.

MCLEAN: And here's one more indication for you, Chris. There is a waffle house on the other side of the parking lot. Obviously, you can't see it now. It closed at 6:00 tonight. They say they won't open until tomorrow morning.

CUOMO: All right. Well, look, they got to get safe. You've got to batten down the hatches. What have they told you about the eye? How far is it from you?

Scott? All right, I lost his comms. Totally normal, been dealing with it all day. Just because the picture looks good doesn't mean that he can actually hear things.

All right. So, look, let me show you this real quick. We're talking to Scott, he's here, right, in Albany, Georgia. I'm crossing it out, because I don't know how to say it right anyway for the people down there.

Here's the eye. This eye is moving so fast in this direction that it's going to increase just how many people are expose today this. Now, you want to contrast this with what we saw with Florence.

Florence was all up in this area. Do you remember this up in the Carolinas and down to about here? It never really made it south.

But it sat here. It sat in this area for the better part of a day. Now, what does that mean? That's a soak situation. However, the danger of the soak is replaced here by surge. There is so much storm surge in places that are very low lying.

All of this stuff here along the panhandle and into Alabama, this is so shallow. There is a Continental Shelf here and it makes the water more shallow as you get closer to shore, but it exaggerated fashion because of the Continental Shelf. That allows the waves to increase in amplitude. Plus the king tides, the really high tides of this time of the year. That's why we're seeing so much surge.

Miguel Marquez is in Southport, Florida, just north of Panama City, right around here where the storm has just moved through. And behind it now, devastation. Just look what he's standing in.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is a major road here, Chris. I'll show you these cars going through here. This is 77 where it meets 77-A.

We're trying to get to Mexico Beach, but it is blocked by just about everything that Mother Nature can throw at you. Trees snapped and crossing the road just about everywhere. Electrical lines down everywhere as well. Very hard to get through those, and lots and lots of water.

I mean, cars at this hour -- it was pretty easy to cross this much earlier today. Now, it's much more treacherous because it's hard to see as you're coming down the road, it's hard to even tell this is water if there is nobody else on it.

But this is a major intersection. There's no lights. It is completely desolate, and nothing is open. Most of the cars we see coming down the road here are emergency vehicles.

This is a piece of scrap metal or -- it is scrap metal now, but it's a piece of metal from a gas station. This was a gas station sign. This is a sort of pile that came through here. Everything is just done.

Cars going in the road here.

CUOMO: Right.

MARQUEZ: There are thousands of people who stayed in this area. They couldn't get out for many reasons, and it is getting cool here tonight as well. Cold, wet in the panhandle of Florida. It is going to be a very long recovery, Chris.

CUOMO: I'll tell you what, they'll take those mild cold winds on the backside of the storm for a while, because you remember what the alternative is. It's going to get hot and muggy there. There's no A.C., it could be days and weeks in these more remote areas ad we fan out and get away from the coast.

Miguel, be safe. Take care of your team. I'll check back wit you later on. Let me know if I need to come back to you sooner.

So, my friend and veteran weather anchor Sam Champion joins us now from Miami.

Brother, always good to have you. This is one of those ones we were hoping we would be wrong about it, but it proved to hit every bit as strong and then some. What have we dealt with so far? Let's start there.

SAM CHAMPION, WEATHER ANCHOR: All right. What's shocking about this storm, Chris, is really its strength. The rapid intensification immediately started.

Remember, we're talking about two days before it makes landfall and 80, 90 mile per hour barely category 1 storm, Chris. And then this thing just moving through the gulf, cruising through the gulf, rapidly intensifies to almost the highest level storm. We got a 155 mile per hour wind at landfall.

When that center moved across that Mexico beach area, 155 miles per hour, that's 156. Above 156 is a cat-5. So, we almost made the whole ramp just in that travel of the gulf in just less than two days. So, I mean, that's incredible.

The other thing, Chris, that the center of this storm held on to cat- 4, cat-3 strength, all the way through the panhandle of Florida, as it got into Georgia, finally diminished that center of circulation to a cat-2, now a cat-1.

The strength of this storm is overwhelming and the damage is just going to be when we get some daylight into these areas, it's just going to be horrifying.

The other thing I want to tell people in Georgia tonight, Chris, while we're talking about them, is the fact they've not seen anything like this. Only once did a cat-3 system ever make connection with Georgia. This one as a cat-3 entering Georgia will be a cat 1 as it moves through South Georgia. That means they're in for 30, 40, 50 up to 90 mile per hour wind gusts.

Those 30 and 40 mile per hour winds will be steady. There will be thunderstorms. There will be tornadoes in this all night long. It is going to be a challenging night for people in South Georgia.

And then we begin the process tomorrow in South Carolina as you correctly mentioned, Chris. South Carolina and North Carolina still dealing with the flooding and the aftermath of flooding from Florence, still could get more than 6 inches of rain in some of those areas, and that doesn't help anybody.

CUOMO: No. And that water as you were explaining as we were dealing with Florence, so much saturation there already. I have a map up of the track of the storm.

So, Sam is saying, look, we know what happened here in these areas along the coast, especially with the continental shelf and the rapid buildup of strength. All of these areas, we don't really know yet how people were affected there.

They're rural. They're remote. We're told a lot of people didn't evacuate. That's the primary concern for Sam and all the experts.

But now you have this track. It's coming into place that's already got hit. Wilmington is in such rough shape. The kids just got back to school there. Now, they have saturation where the ground can't absorb any water. They get three to six inches of rain like Sam was saying.

And all these storm winds -- look, look what we're watching, hurricane here, right? Tropical storm all here. They're not ready for it. They can't handle it given what they've already dealt with.

Sam, thank you for the perspective. Do me a favor. Stick around so we can forecast what's to come and what we need to watch out for. Thank you, brother. It's great to have you. Need you tonight.

Right now, I can't ask Sam about what's already happened and the devastation. You see that we have people on the ground.

But here's the problem. It's too soon to tell. It's dark everywhere. Again, these areas are remote once you get outside these major population centers.

And we keep being told a lot of people didn't leave. Why? I'm not wagging a finger. It was category 1 here. So then it starts to get close. All of a sudden, it sped up in time with their windows shut and they couldn't leave.

So, what happens to those left behind? We have much more on the path and the wrath of Hurricane Michael. Please stay with us.


CUOMO: All right. Michael is the tale of a fast storm, all right? Take a look at the board here. You'll see that it made landfall as a category 4, almost a category 5, but it was that acceleration from Monday to Tuesday afternoon into the night.

By this morning, this rapid progression of the storm wound up making for a smaller window for people to make the choices about whether or not to leave. And the problem now is the worst is far from over. This hurricane is still packing fierce winds.

It's still a hurricane on land. Now moving northeast, impacting obviously Florida and the Panhandle, Alabama, Georgia, tens of millions of people in several states still in the hurricane's path, the toll already great. And we don't even know the half of it because it's dark and a lot of these areas are remote and there are no comms, no communications. So, let's get the latest from CNN Meteorologist, Tom Sater. We also

have Sam Champion here to guide you through. We couldn't have asked for better help.

So, Tom, I've been listening to you. So, I know I have the first part right that a lot of people got caught short here because of how quickly the storm moved. But what did that acceleration mean in terms of its impact on landfall and what we've seen since?

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, we've got to back up a little bit. On the air Sunday, it was scheduled to make landfall as a category 2.

CUOMO: Right.

SATER: Then the following day, last night at 5:00 p.m., it became a category 3 at landfall, with the potential, we were mentioning the time and space, a 4. What we found out today, though, is last night, the computer models were hinting that extreme acceleration and the storm hitting its peak before landfall, the last thing we want to have the apex.

But now, we're finding out the water temperatures were four to even 6 degrees warmer than they should be this time of year. So, that fuel was rapidly developing.

There was a cold front in the west and the last two days, it's providing tornadoes from Texas up to Iowa. So that front is now stretched from Wisconsin to Louisiana. It's just off the west. That is pushing the system quicker.

Winds at 85 just dropped another 5 miles per hour in the last update. So, gusts around 100, Chris.


SATER: It says 155 here. The National Hurricane Center updates the gust about every six hours. But, yes, you are right, and Sam as well wrapped it up nicely.

Even though the infrared imagery here is breaking down, there is rainfall in the northern half of the storm. And even though we may see gusts at 100, we're not going to have them like at Tyndall Air Force Base at 130.

CUOMO: Right.

SATER: I mean, the wind gauge broke at 130. So, it could have been much higher.

CUOMO: So --

SATER: But there will be isolated tornadoes. We had one in downtown Atlanta, southwest of Macon, seven homes destroyed.

CUOMO: All right. So, also, let's bring in Sam. And let's discuss one of the coefficients of this acceleration, which is the acceleration is like a catapult. It's like a sling shot. So, now, this thing hits land and it's got more juice, Sam. And it's going to have more of a stretch than was initially anticipated.

CHAMPION: Yes, this thing is going to run and it's going to run at least this strength of tropical storm strength. The forecast, Chris, is for it to still maintain some kind of rotation, maybe even tropical storm strength by the time it exits near Norfolk, near that North Carolina border.

And if you follow the line, they actually have it intensifying a little bit once it moves out into the Atlantic. But, Chris, one of the things I want to tell you is when we look at a hurricane develop, we have -- for each storm, we have what called a P.I., potential intensity.

And we look at the storm and say, what could slow it down? What could speed it up? And when we looked at the beginning of this storm, we just didn't think it had enough time to really make the ramp as it moved into the Gulf. So the potential intensity, one of the things, it didn't have sheer, it had warm water, it had an open field, nothing was going to disturb it. But we just didn't think it would have time.

Then, all of a sudden, we saw that eye tightening, strengthening. And realize, wait a minute, something is really going on. This thing is going to have plenty of time. And yesterday, we were thinking, this could easily be a four and maybe even get close to a five.

So, it's that rapid intensity. He just pointed out something incredibly important here to note to everybody who talks about warm water temperatures and the strength of storms. We are four to six degrees warmer in the gulf right now than we usually are at this time of year.

So, this storm, the one thing that just wasn't factored in to how quickly it would strengthen was that additional water temperature there that just fueled this thing.

CUOMO: Right.

CHAMPION: And it ran the whole ramp.

CUOMO: You know, and, look, we'll deal with the urgencies right now and the immediate crisis. But no small irony, fellas, that on the same day that the U.N. global climate change report comes out talking about exactly these kinds of conditions, how 100 year storms are every year storms. We're now dealing with this.

Now, Tom, pick up on Sam's point and one of the things we're watching. On my screen what we're watching in different areas, we see obviously what is the hurricane threat in this area. But tropical storm which everybody always mitigates its intensity, you know, tropical storm, that's not that bad. It's horrible, especially in the areas that are already saturated.

What is the additional risk there, Tom?

SATER: In 2003, Hurricane Isabel moved into the outer banks and went into the Delmarva and Washington, D.C. area. It wasn't that strong a storm but it dropped over 10,000 trees.

This is pine country, heavy, tall trees, weak shallow root systems. They go down very easily across the entire southeast. So tropical storm force winds easily in this area.

And so, when we watched the storm, even though it lost its center, you've got to take the circulation that will continue and couple that with its forward progress. So it heads toward Augusta by 2:00 in the morning, almost as the crow flies. Columbia, South Carolina, about 8:00, 9:00 in the morning, and then Fayetteville and Raleigh.

That line and a little bit eastward could lose trees. So, I mean, to anyone who has been leery of a tree --

CUOMO: Right.

SATER: -- near their home on this line for years, stay at the other end of the home just to be safe because if we lost 10,000 with Isabel which was much weaker, this system is going to continue with the forward progress to create more power outages and more damage.

CUOMO: All right. And, Sam, one of the things I was talking about earlier I want your take on -- you know this part of the country from the ground perspective so well. You've been there for so many storms.

We don't know about all of these areas back behind the main population centered along the panhandle yet, those rural remote areas where people were told to get out. The comms aren't good. It takes time to get there.

We don't know about the impact on all those communities. You could have tens of thousands of people affected. What's your perspective on that?

CHAMPION: Yes. No, Chris, and you're right, and that's a really important point tonight to make, because right after the storm cleared enough for people to get in, we got to dark. So, it's impossible to get into some of these areas.

And the video that you saw, the numbers and measurements you saw from Apalachicola all the way to Panama City, that's the most populated area of that cost. You get into the other side of the Apalachicola forest, and you get into the big bend, where we may have had a storm surge that's just about as intense as the one we saw where it made landfall actually. We don't know anything about that area.

We really don't have journalists in there. We don't have people reporting. We don't have people sending video out. So, it's going to take some time to get in and see.

And the other point that you made, some of these zones are not big cities. Some of them are small towns. Some of them are people -- places where people live and they're not likely to leave because they've been through storms before and they just haven't been through anything like this.

So, you're dead on with this. We're likely to find some things happening when we get daylight into that area that we don't know about now.

CUOMO: Yes, God for bid. But that's the concern.

I'm hearing from my FEMA guys that are down on the ground, and they keep saying, you know, we keep seeing people in places. We keep seeing people in places, and that's what they're worried about is that they see some. That means there are more there.

Sam, Tom, thank you for helping us understand what is happening and what is yet to come.

So, here's what we know: Michael came fast and furious leaving little time for those in its path to seek safer ground. That's just the reality.

That creates so much pressure on the first responders and on local leaders. How did they meet an unanticipated need?

Tonight, we have Florida's Senior Senator Bill Nelson, with us next. He'll bring us up to date.


CUOMO: All right. We have some of the latest images for you from what Hurricane Michael is just doing everywhere that it goes. Take a look at this. Decimated roofs, floating houses, sinking even storm chasers.

This is all about the storm. There's just more of it than was expected because there's more intensity. This storm just sped up when normally we're expecting them to slow down. Why? It turns out there was an x-factor that we hadn't built in.

The water is warming at this time of year than was expected. Why? Lots of reasons. All of them point to climate change. So the Florida panhandle has never seen anything like what they're dealing with right now.

I want you to take a look at this moment when storm chaser Brett Adair, you've seen him on this show, and other CNN shows, his own truck was hit by the storm surge.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in trouble. We're in bad trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I get that. I mean, right here we can -- the side of this house. You can't drive and the tires get stuck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get up into the house?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to look now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) all of this, that's what I say. It's not, not an option now.


CUOMO: Look at the size of the stuff floating by them as they were live streaming there. You know, don't let their drawl confuse you. These guys are calm in the moment. But let me tell you, this is a scary situation. Thank god Brett is okay.

But there are a lot of people who got stuck in situations like this who thought, you know what? Category 1, maybe category 2. I can deal. Then all of a sudden, Michael becomes a 4 and stays sustained at that on the upper reaches, stays a hurricane well inland. We didn't expect that.

Let's get now to the challenges. We have Democratic senator from Florida, Bill Nelson.

Senator, can you hear me?

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA (via telephone): I can hear you, Chris.

CUOMO: So we understand why we're dealing with certain things. But please tell us what you know about the reality on the ground. What are you hearing?

NELSON: Our reality is that when daylight comes, where the rescue teams have not been able to get into, to the east of the eye wall is where your real damage is going to be because of the wall of water whipped along with the winds. And your former report was right on. There are so many rural places in there that people will have hunkered down and it's just going to be a question of the potential loss of life and property when the search teams get in there in the morning.

CUOMO: You know, we had heard a report about one person having the misfortune of having a tree come through their house and took their life. I haven't been touching any reports about casualties because I know it's early. And I'm hoping that when we do wind up reporting them, that it's not what the worse could expect here.

But if you don't know who is in the areas, and you don't know who stayed behind, and I keep hearing from first responders that everywhere they are staging, they see people trying to get out of, you know, the storm, trying to get out of it once it's past. It's not a good indication, Senator.

NELSON: That's true and this is a -- it's a sparsely populated area as you go east from Panama City. You've got Mexico Beach, which got it straight from the gulf. There is not a barrier island. In the little town of Port Saint Joe, it is protected by a peninsula

called Cape Sandblast. And then you go east to Apalachicola, and you're going to find -- there were reporters in Apalachicola, but we haven't had anybody tell us what happened in Mexico Beach. The road is going to be completely impassable. They're going to have to get chain saws out to get through. It's going to be a laborious task.

And, Chris, your report about the gulf being 4 degrees warmer, when are we going to wake up and realize that the earth is heating up and 90 percent of that extra heat is absorbed by the oceans?

CUOMO: There's no question about it. The science is strong on it. People don't want to hear it, but it doesn't make it any less real.

Let me ask you something. This is a vicious political time. You're near the end of the political cycle. We've been told that the campaigning would stop, and that people would put leadership before partisanship.

What are you hearing from other elected officials? Are people working together? Are you getting what you need and getting the right minds and the right collaboration?

NELSON: Nell, I was there before the storm. I'll be there tomorrow and then I can answer your question. I suspended my ads up in the entire panhandle and we'll see what degree of cooperation.

Now, Andrew Gillum, who is the Democratic nominee for governor, is the mayor of Tallahassee. He's going to have a clean-up, because there are so many live oak trees. It's a canopy city.

There are be a lot of trees down, along with electrical lines. That's going to be a job that's -- here he is in the last 3 1/2 weeks of the campaign.

CUOMO: Right. Well, look, you know, he's campaigning for a job. He might as well show people he can do it.

Senator Bill Nelson --

NELSON: That's right.

CUOMO: -- thank you very much for joining me. As you get more information and you want to pass it along and you start finding out what is needed and what's right, and what's wrong, please see us as a resource. I'll be there for you.

NELSON: OK. Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. God bless, be safe.

All right. So, Michael slammed into the panhandle, and it wasn't just a two, as expected. It was closer to a four, close to a five. So, we're going to take you to some of the areas that felt the brunt of the impact so you get a taste of what way too many have been exposed to, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Michael is moving fast. It hit the panhandle between Florida and Alabama like nothing else ever has. And we're going to see destruction that is unmatched.

Now it's moving its way out of the Gulf Coast and it's moving into areas that are already saturated with water, areas that were already hit by Florence. So the danger is far from over.

We have flash flood warnings active in many different areas. Rescue crews trying to get out. They have to wait for a window. Then they have to try to navigate their way through crushed homes and collapsed buildings.

Brian Todd is in Panama City Beach, Florida, that place is going to really look so different from what people remember it as when the sun comes up.

What's it been like for you, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been devastating, Chris. You know, of all the dangerous periods associated with the storm, people sometimes take this period, you know, when the brunt of the storm is passed, they take it a little less seriously. You cannot take it less seriously because of what we're looking at here.

Right now, it's pitch black around here. We've seen reporters talking about this in the towns they are. No less serious here. It's pitch black. The only light hire is from our camera crews.

And this is what makes it so dangerous. When it's pitch black and you're trying to move around, maybe you want to come in to your neighborhood, check out your house, you want to walk in and check the damage and maybe take pictures, you're going to come across places like this. Like this downed power line that you won't be able to see normally because, you know, you're not going to have lights like we have. And you're going to walk right into it. You're going to drive right into it and that is extremely dangerous.

Look at this house over here. The roof got completely sheared off on the right-hand side. The wall over there, where you see these cinder blocks got completely ripped apart and all the debris just got pushed against that sliding glass door there. We also smelled gas here a short time ago. That's a hidden danger here, but it's all over the place, and again, why officials are warning people not to go out right now.

Now, this house was the scene of some very dramatic video earlier today. We're on Surf Drive here in Panama City Beach. This video showed basically this house getting ripped apart. You know, as you were watching it, you saw the roof getting torn off. You saw part of the side of the house getting torn off.

But right now, I'm standing right at the aftermath. We talked to a gentleman and his wife who came here. They are not the owners, but the wife's mother owns this place.

Luckily, no one was in here at the time. The mother lives in Missouri. This is kind of a vacation home they come and use on occasion. And the mother is just devastated seeing this on the news and they were devastated.

Here's what they told us about this house. That was the kitchen and living room up there. Now look at it. You have the wall torn off. You got the roof completely torn off. It was thrown down the street about 75 yards.

Now, again, luckily, no one was here at the time, but I was able to speak to a beach patrol official who said they pulled three or four people out of homes in this neighborhood, Chris, not because they were trapped, but because of situations like this. They needed shelter. They're trying to get those people to shelters right now.

CUOMO: A lot of people stayed behind. The need is going to be great, you know, and even though we're just thinking about the end of summer, the holidays will be here before you know it. For so many families it's going to be a trial like one they've never had before.

Brian, thank you. Be safe. I'll check back with you soon.

So, Hurricane Michael, you know, the trail of damage is just amazing. Look at Tallahassee there. You're going to have a unique challenge because of the foliage in that city, the population centers, the need.

CNN's Nick Valencia is there.

What are you seeing? You know, you got one of the main examples right behind you.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and this is some of the worst of it, Chris. You hit the nail on the head.

Part of the picturesque beauty of Tallahassee is this canopy of trees. But that's exactly what governor was very worried about. I spent some time with him earlier this morning in the emergency operation center. And he's worried about scenes like this.

You could see this big tree which is clearly blocked the road here, smashed in the back of this car. Narrowly missed a house but took a power line with it. And dozens of home in this area are without power. We see neighbors come out to check on one another here.

But just take a look at this. This is about a 40-pound tree limb here. Imagine that as a projectile with winds upwards of 100 miles per hour.

It was a couple of hours ago that we heard from the city, they were going out to assess the damage in the area that inspired us to check out the same. The same roads are by and large clear. There's a lot of Spanish moss, and some tree limbs down, some bent light poles, things like that that are obstructing travel. But for the most part, those main roads are clear. It's in the neighborhoods where you're having major problems. You've

heard some neighbors here down there yelling that they want their power restored. Evidently, this is one of the communities here that gets their power restored last and is something that they are always affected by here especially with these wind gusts which have been a major issue all day long -- Chris.

CUOMO: It was a major issue here. You're right. In 2016, it was. But now, the scale, the scope, the depth, the number of people who made the wrong choice based on what they thought was going to happen versus the reality, that may exacerbate all of the usual tensions.

Nick, take care. I'll talk to you soon.

All right. Now, there's another big story that demands our attention. A "Washington Post" contributor is missing and feared dead. He's been a sharp critic of the Saudi regime. The question is, was he murdered and did the kingdom itself order the hit?

Now, the larger question here in the United States is, is the White House doing everything it could about his disappearance? There are lots of twists to this unsolved mystery. We have a friend of the missing journalist who is an expert in the area politically as well.

We'll give you the skinny on this, next.


CUOMO: A columnist for "The Washington Post" walks into a building and as far as we know, he never comes out. Two fronts in this search. What happened? And is the U.S. government, specifically the White House, responding the right way?

Now, on the second front, President Trump's connections with the Saudi ruler are raising familiar questions about conflicts and potential compromise of interests. Some of Trump's biggest congressional supporters are demanding more urgency here and now we have the fiancee of the missing man pleading for any answers about what happened.

Now, who are we talking about? The man's name is Jamal Khashoggi. He is a Saudi journalist. He's also a vocal critic of the Saudi royal family, especially Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, all right?

Now, you're going to start hearing that name more and more especially in connection to Trump. He has spent the last two years dramatically seizing power, even arresting members of his own family.

So, just over a week ago, Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Turkey. He went in to get papers for his upcoming wedding. His fiancee was waiting outside in the car.

All right. So, we have a direct witness at the scene. She says he never came out.

Now what happens? "The Washington Post" says that U.S. intelligence picked up conversations between senior Saudi officials saying that they were aware of a plan to abduct him. Now, we don't know if he was ever told about those conversations. We just don't know. It's one of the question marks here.

Turkish authorities privately say they believe Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate. They are looking into 15 people who flew in from Saudi Arabia just before all this went down. They are believed to not be site seers, but operatives of the ruling family.

Khashoggi's fiancee took her appeal directly to Trump, to Donald and Melania actually. That's proving to be tricky because of Trump's relationship with the Saudi ruling family.

Well, what do we know about that? Well --


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, we really have a great friendship and the relationship now is probably as good as it's really ever been. And I think it will probably only get better.


CUOMO: Now, is that just about politics? No. Trump has financial reasons for being a big fan of the Saudis. Back in 1995, he sold New York's Plaza Hotel to a group that included a Saudi prince. That deal helped keep Trump from defaulting on his loans, that and money he had from his father.

He even bragged about that relationship at one of his rallies. Listen to this.


TRUMP: Saudi Arabia and I get along great with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.


CUOMO: Yes, but you got to dislike them when they do something wrong, right?

Now, there's another level. A key player in this current relationship between the relationship and the Saudis, isn't just Trump, it's his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Now, the prince and Kushner are both in their 30s.

Kushner is one of the people the White House says is now trying to get answers from the Saudis on what happened to Khashoggi. That may be complicated due to Kushner's reported friendship with the prince.

Do they have business entanglements as well? They're apparently so close that they met privately just before the prince started purging his political opponents. For that, Trump was pretty much silent if you'll remember. And by the way, you probably won't remember and that's the point he didn't say anything about it. This time, though, political pressure did prompt him to say at least



TRUMP: We are very disappointed to see what's going on. We don't like it. We don't like it at all. And we're going to get to the bottom of it.


CUOMO: Yes, but remember, his own intelligence people already found what could take us near to the bottom of it. There was a plot involved from some of his friends who are involved in the Saudi side. The question now is, what is he going to do about it? The search for him isn't for information. It's for what actions to take.

And all of this is a far cry from what some of Trump's strongest supporters are now saying.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Never been more disturbed than right now. If it did happen, there would be hell to pay.


CUOMO: What does that mean, hell to pay? What does that mean? All right?

So, in the meantime, let's get the latest with CNN Global Affairs Analyst, Aaron David Miller. Not only is Aaron an expert in this part of the world in the politics and the potential entanglements, he knows Jamal Khashoggi.

And for that I am sorry for being with you, ADM, in this situation. I'm sorry for your friend. I hope what we fear is not true.

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Chris, on behalf of -- certainly, my prayers go out to the family and to his fiancee. You know, I didn't know Jamal as well as some of my colleagues, but he was the kind of guy that was very easy to like. Irreverent, funny, and frankly like you, he put a premium on clarity and honesty. And I'm very concerned and worried as everyone is that that might have gotten him killed.

One additional point. He really wasn't a dissident. Jamal Khashoggi was actually part of the Saudi establishment. He managed -- managing editors of a couple Saudi newspapers. He was an advisor to Prince Turki, who was Saudi ambassador to the United States.

He loved his country and he was a Saudi patriot and a nationalist and his criticism, if you read it in his "Washington Post" columns, frankly, was directed, some of it at MBS, Mohammed bin Salman. But it was the love of a Saudi nationalist and a patriot. He wanted MBS's reforms to work, but he was profoundly concerned about the unilateral nature of -- and recklessness and repressiveness of the crown prince.

CUOMO: So, look, if the reporting is right, whatever he said, whatever he did made them angry enough to send a team over that had a very specific mission. And we know there are a lot of ugly incidentals that may go along with that. We'll spare the details until we get to it.

But there are two considerations here, ADM, what is the United States supposed to do ordinarily? We'll get to the Trump factor second.

But what are you supposed to do in this situation? Saudi says they didn't do anything. Turkey says they definitely did. Your own intel people tell you, well, they were up to something.

What do you do?

MILLER: You know, we have a relationship with the Saudis. We've enabled the Saudis in previous administrations, both Republican and Democratic. But never have I seen an administration more determined, it seems to me, to placate and assuage the Saudis.

We have tremendous leverage. The president himself several weeks ago reportedly told the king of Saudi Arabia if it wasn't for the U.S. military, you wouldn't be around in two weeks. So, the reality is the phone call that probably should have happened from Pompeo to Mohammed bin Salman or from the president to the king, we need an accounting, and we need it now. We need to know exactly what your role was in Khashoggi's disappearance or worse.

And what's at stake here is nothing less than the future of the U.S.- Saudi relationship. We have the leverage on paper to have that kind of conversation, and I would argue eventually we're going to have to have -- Congress as you know, Chris, tonight --

CUOMO: Right.

MILLER: -- ranking member and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent a letter to the president invoking the global Magnitsky Act --

CUOMO: Right.

MILLER: -- which forces the president in 120 days to investigate and then to impose sanctions if it's determined that in this case the Saudis, upper echelons of Saudi senior leadership, had any role in Jamal's disappearance or worse.

So that forced the administration's hand frankly. You know, I'd like to give them as neither an "R" or "D," but as an American, I would like to give them the benefit of doubt on this one. But I don't think if there hand wasn't forced by Congress, you would have seen much in the way of pressure. CUOMO: Well, we've certainly seen President Trump move faster even

with allies than here, and it does raise the specter of whether or not his own personal relationships are influencing his presidential prerogatives, but we'll have to see. We'll have to see what the next steps that are taken.

Aaron David Miller, I'm going to come back to you on this. And again, I hope what we're hearing about your friend is not true, but we have to prepare for the worst and report it that way, and we'll bring you back as soon as we know more. Thank you, sir.

MILLER: Likewise, Chris. Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. Look, the hurricane is the big story, but we've got to talk about that. I mean, how often does this happen? If this man is actually dead by somebody else's hand, a state actor directed by that state, do we really do nothing?

So, as Michael was just rampaging all over the panhandle, where was the president in that time of crisis? Stumping at a rally in Pennsylvania. What is wrong with that and how it may actually lead him to what is the right thing to do is the closing argument, next.


CUOMO: I wish we were wrong, but we weren't this time. Hurricane Michael was feared to be a horror, and it is. People were told to leave, and not enough did.

According to the Red Cross, hundreds of thousands stayed behind in the Florida Panhandle. Many are in remote areas that are going to be hard to contact and harder still to reach.

Then you have places like Mexico Beach in the Panhandle, which is now unrecognizable and uninhabitable.

God bless all those who stayed and those first responders, the angels among us who may now have to take tremendous risks to save them.

This is one of those moments that exposes "us versus them" for the farce that it is. Not here. Not in America. Here we are all in it together, and we see that truth in times like this.

And we need to remember that because recently it seems we keep repeating a mistake. We assume that stories are over when they're not. Hurricane Florence, thousands are still crippled by that storm.

The kids on the border, that's still a crisis. There are still far too many waiting for their parents. Thousands more stuck in a system that increasingly doesn't seem to care.

Puerto Rico, too many roofs there are still tarps. Everything is fragile. The place reeks of being neglected.

And now, we have Michael, a new wave of need added to the swollen ranks of the storm stricken in the south. It is not over just because the sun shines the next time you're watching TV. That often marks just the beginning.

So here's the good news. No one brings their best to the worst life has to offer the way we do. We see that thousands are already there, first responders from all over, volunteers leaving their own to take care of the unknown.

Now the key variable, Trump. Tonight, he's at a rally in Pennsylvania. It is a legitimate question. Is that the best use of his time in this crisis?

I would submit Trump has answered that question in the negative about another president, and here's the proof. A tweet from 2012, hitting then President Obama for campaigning during Superstorm Sandy. You see that.

Yesterday, Obama was with Jay-Z and Springsteen. Hurricane Sandy victims still decimated by Sandy. Wrong. But not wrong for him?

We'll see how the administration reacts, and hopefully the president rallies around the people in need, many of whom are in states he won, as he did for the faithful at his rally tonight. It only costs you a nickel to know what matters most in a situation like this.

On a nickel, it says e pluribus unum. Out of many, one. That is who we are, and that is who our challenge to be right now.

Our hurricane coverage continues. We've got Don Lemon and "CNN TONIGHT."

Don, we thought it was going to be bad, and it is.