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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Hurricane Michael Currently Slamming Georgia with Rain, Catastrophic Winds. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired October 10, 2018 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:22] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Normally, I'd say good evening. It's hard to say that when it's a difficult evening for so many people right now.

Hurricane Michael remains a very dangerous storm as it makes its way through Georgia and Alabama and it was far worse when it hit Florida's panhandle, the strongest to hit the continental United States since Hurricane Andrew more than 25 years ago. Winds approaching category 5 intensity. Homes and buildings simply torn to pieces.

The video you're about to see was taken in Panama City Beach, Florida. We're playing an extended clip so you can really see what people there went through late today and get a better idea of the devastation they'll be dealing with when the sun comes up tomorrow. Take a look.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

COOPER: Those scenes were repeated across the panhandle. Forecasters predicted that wind would be punishing and it certainly was that. Local officials warned of heavy flooding and they were right.

Trees and power lines are down throughout the region. Nearly 400,000 Floridians are without power. Destruction in places is especially heavy.

Tyndall Air Force Base, which sits on an ocean front property across the bay from Panama City, took a direct hit. The base is reporting extensive damage. No injuries, thankfully, or loss of life. Some of the worst damage appears to have been in Mexico Beach, Florida.

Take a look at a video taken by a 12-year-old girl, Tessa Talarico (ph), who I spoke with her mother, Patricia Mulligan, by phone, just a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Patricia, the video that your daughter took, I mean, how bad is that flooding, and is it still there?

PATRICIA MULLIGAN, RIDING OUT STORM (via telephone): Yes, the water's still high, but it has subsided quite a bit. Now that the flooding has gone away, all you have is boards and doors and refrigerators and people's belongings and upside down boats and just -- it's devastation. It's very sad.

I'm trying to keep from crying right now. It's very, very sad.

COOPER: And do you have a sense of how high that water was when that video was taken? It looks like in some cases, it's over houses.

MULLIGAN: Yes. It was palm trees, so I guess these might be 10 foot, 11-foot palm trees and it was up to the top of the palm trees. So --

COOPER: Wow.

The hurricane gained strength overnight quickly. At what point did you decide you were going to stay in place?

MULLIGAN: Well, we were going to stay from the beginning and then, you know, we were having second thoughts but at that point, it was almost too late because to get out of Mexico Beach, you have to go over a bridge. And they were closing down the bridges. So, you know, but we were in a safe place. This condo that we were in is extremely safe. There was no damage to this condo, you know.

COOPER: That's good.

MULLIGAN: Or other surrounding condos.

COOPER: I heard you say, though, that the condo was actually rocking at some point during the worst of the storm, is that correct?

MULLIGAN: Yes.

COOPER: Wow.

MULLIGAN: Yes. Yes.

COOPER: How was your daughter during all this?

MULLIGAN: She was fine. She actually, you know, she's -- it was something to witness. I mean, to see all of this and to see how -- how Mother Nature can turn on a dime and -- but she's fine, we're all fine. Everybody here that was in the condo is fine. Nobody was hurt. And there was no damage, so -- to this condo.

COOPER: And as you -- I assume you don't have electricity now, is that right?

MULLIGAN: No, we don't have electricity. We don't have water. No.

COOPER: And you said outside, there's just debris all around?

MULLIGAN: Everywhere. Everywhere. You can -- I mean, my brother ended up walking down on beachside to go -- he has a house on the beach, and it was three or four level, and it split down the levels in half and the top half was across the street.

COOPER: Oh, my gosh.

MULLIGAN: So, yes, and other houses on the beach were across the street. [20:05:00] Same thing. The top parts. A huge truck ended up across

the canal. And it was over where -- my truck was, too.

They all got -- they're all totaled because of the water damage. But his truck ended up somehow, an F-250, getting across the canal and on the other side of the canal.

COOPER: Wow, that's incredible.

MULLIGAN: Yes.

COOPER: I understand you moved from Miami to Mexico beach a few month ago. When you moved, did you ever think it would be hit by a storm like this? Not the kind of thing you would expect.

MULLIGAN: No. They never really had that problem here. You know, I've had to run away from them in Miami a lot.

COOPER: Well, Patricia, I'm glad you and your family are doing okay. I'm sorry about your brother's house and your neighbors. I wish you, you know, to continue to stay safe and let's hope it gets cleaned up quickly. Thanks so much for speaking with us.

MULLIGAN: OK. You're welcome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Patricia Mulligan.

As we said, the storm is now hitting southern Georgia hard. I want to go to CNN's Scott McLean in Albany, Georgia, about 100 miles north of Tallahassee.

So, Scott, describe conditions where you are.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson. So we're really starting to see and feel the worst of it. The wind is whipping up. The rain continues to come down in sheets. The county is measuring the wind speed at 41 miles per hour sustained gusts into the 50s.

You take a look at this tree behind me. We've been watching this for the last hour or two. And it seems like a miracle that at least a branch has not snapped off of this because it is really getting caught up in that wind.

Here's another indication of the conditions here, Anderson. Those who have been through hurricanes before know that one of the only things that is reliably open during them is often the Waffle House restaurant. There's a Waffle House just on the other side of this parking lot.

It closed at about 6:00 local time. It won't open again until the morning. So that might give you some indication of the conditions here.

I also spoke with the fire chief not long ago. He said that emergency crews, first responders, they are no longer responding to calls. They said that they wouldn't do it if winds reached more than 35 miles per hour sustained. They have reached that level. They say it simply is not safe to go out.

(AUDIO GAP)

COOPER: And that's one of the problems, obviously, occurring with a hurricane like this, a storm like this, is the satellite also often goes down.

By the way, what he said about the waffle house is pretty much true. They stay open pretty much through anything. Even when I was down in Florence, we found a waffle house that was open.

Florida state and local officials have been pointing out again and again, it is not safe to go out anywhere the storm has hit. There are live wires and debris in many places, damaged and weakened structures, flash flooding and storms. Just where the storm has already been, not where it's going.

For the latest on where it is and where it's going, I want to turn now to CNN meteorologist Tom Sater.

Tom, just give us a sense of where it is and where it's headed.

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, right now, we've seen this drop to a category 1. Still a hurricane. But this has been breaking records.

And that's the reason, Anderson, the National Hurricane Center used the words, historic, yesterday. Records go back to 1851.

Since the beginning, we've seen 293 landfalls. When it comes to the pressure, this storm here ranks number three behind the Labor Day storm of 1935 and Camille of '69.

Not only is it the strongest ever to make landfall in the panhandle, it's the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. during the month of October surpassing Hazel in '54.

We have probably seen a good miss from Tallahassee getting into those eyewall winds staying to the northwest of this, but because we continue to have the circulation and that forward progression, we still have the possibility of numerous power outages with numerous downed trees. It could have thousands of them, even though we're down to a category 1 status.

The record for water level in Apalachicola was 6.4 before today. Flooding happens at 3. And the last report is up to 9 feet. So, historic records are being broken around the region for surge, wind, and of course, just the stage of the storm all together at its core.

COOPER: Hey, Tom, I want to come back to you, but we just got recontact with Scott. And I just want to try to get him while we still have him.

Hey, Scott, if you can hear me, what are authorities there most concerned about now?

MCLEAN: Well, at this point, short term, Anderson, because the wind speeds are so, so strong, above 35 miles per hour sustained, they are no longer, first responders are no longer responding to calls and they won't be for probably the next little bit until those winds calm down.

Obviously, they are getting calls in this time. And they're going to respond to them, but not until they say that it is safe to do so.

Also, there are power outages, widespread, more than 7,000 customers in this county, alone, without power. You can bet there's a whole heck of a lot more than that across the state of Georgia, and elsewhere as well. The good news is that there are out of state power utility companies and services that have come in to help to try to get the power reconnected as soon as this is over, but that won't be for some time.

They also have not yet seen the flash flooding that is really concerning them, though that could still very well happen as this rain continues to come down, really in sheets at this point, Anderson.

[20:10:09] COOPER: Hey, Scott, if you could hold on, I want to bring tom back in so you can hear as well as our viewers. Tom, if you can give us a sense of what Albany should be expecting and when.

SATER: Well, they're pretty much into some pretty good rainfall. But it's going to get worse in the hours ahead. The system is moving at about 17 miles per hour. We have had a few tornadoes earlier from around parts of Florida. This is a tornado watch. We even had a tornado warning inside the perimeter of Atlanta, downtown Atlanta.

So tornadoes are going to be possible. We haven't seen as many as we typically do, but that's a good deal. But because we still have the core, even though we've lost the eye, the core winds around this are still sustained at 90 miles per hour. So as that moves to the north, we can expect wind gusts maybe up to 110.

Again, it's going to continue to lose strength, but even though it's a category 1, that circulation, Anderson, has to be coupled with its forward movement. So, again, power outages and downed trees are going to be the big factor. I mean, this was a storm that was predicted to drop up to 10 and 12 inches of rainfall and that really wasn't a big concern because of all the other life-threatening issues that was brought with this storm.

COOPER: Hey, Scott, are there shelters that people have gone to in Albany? Or most people kind of staying in their homes?

MCLEAN: Yes, so obviously the message at this point is for people to stay inside their homes. Stay off the streets.

But, look, there are shelters. There are five of them set up in this area for people to go to if they don't have a stable structure to be in -- mobile homes comes to mind, or something like that. They don't want people staying in that because the winds, obviously, that could be really dangerous, really damaging. So there are a couple hundred people that have gone to shelters.

But, look, the fire chief, I spoke to him not long ago. He said, look, it won't be until tomorrow that we really know whether or not people expected this this far inland, whether or not they heeded the warnings and stayed indoors or whether or not there are going to be injuries or even deaths.

And just a little context as well, Anderson, Tom was talking about the tornadoes. This area last year, January last year, got a massive tornado come through this area. It was deadly and there were homes destroyed and so this area knows a thing or two about devastation -- even recently, Anderson.

COOPER: Scott, thank you. Hey, Tom, can you just give us a sense, I mean, from Albany, where is this going to go, how long is this going to be a system that people should be concerned about?

SATER: Through the night tonight, really.

Most of the rainfall, Anderson, is on that northern flank. You know, just south of Macon, we had a tornado that damaged seven homes. So, again, it's occurring right now.

Interesting to note, however, it was a category 3 in toward Georgia. I mean, going back to those records in 1851, that's only happened once before, an unnamed storm in 1898 was a 3 in Georgia but came in from areas of the Atlantic. When you look at this and can see the circulation, again, your heaviest rainfall and greatest threat for wind damage at this time is near that core.

But, again, because it's moving so fast, I just think a couple of hours for Albany and moves up toward the Macon area up toward the northwest. But this did produce some crazy numbers. Again, the landfall pretty much right around Tyndall Air Force Base. Yesterday, the authorities took all the aircraft and flew out of the area with support apparatus as well, 130 miles per hour.

And then, of course, our wind anemometer broke. So, it could have been much higher than that. You can see in this area the devastating winds of course associated with that, we had that storm surge that we mentioned over and across areas of the bay to the east and the Big Ben.

COOPER: I want to thank you, Tom Sater, and Scott McLean in as well.

A moment ago, a woman we spoke with also lived through Hurricane Andrew, told me this one, hurricane Michael, was just as bad. And the numbers, as Tom just said, bear it out. Nearly cat 5 intensity when it hit. Still a powerful storm right now as it moves through Georgia as we've been seeing.

Our "NEW DAY" anchor John Berman experienced some of the worst of it in Panama City Beach. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We knew we were going to get slammed with this hurricane. Wow, there we go.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": I don't know if you can see that, if the camera can push in to that metal sheeting. Come a little bit this way. You can see that metal sheeting over there. Imagine that hitting you or your car if you're trying to drive, at 100 miles per hour, which I can't imagine people are doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: John Berman joins us now.

How are things there now, John?

BERMAN: There's a lot of damage here, Anderson. I'm about a mile from where I was in that shot. We decided to get on the road and see what we could find here. Didn't have to travel far before we got to this gas station, or what was a gas station.

You can see what was the canopy here, the awning of corrugated metal, simply shredded all over the ground here. Pieces like this, you know, you can find them anywhere.

[20:15:01] In that shot, you heard about that metal siding. I was telling you about the metal siding hurtling down the parking lot we were in. That's the kind of thing that was being sent simply everywhere.

We had 100 mile an hour plus winds sustained for about an hour. Gusts of about 120 miles an hour. That was in Panama City beach over where it made landfall about 30 miles east of here, was at 155 miles an hour as you said.

I want to show you one other thing. Here's the gas station, right? See the damage to structures. If we pan around here in the dark, we set up a light so you can see down the street nearby. You can see I think some of the trees that have been snapped in half, blown over.

You can see all the power lines down. I understand there's about 490,000 customers in 3 states without power. I think that number is going to go up based on what we're seeing here. There are a lot of power lines down and not a lot of crews trying to fix them just yet. That will take some time. So, I think that number will rise.

And here in the Panama City Beach region, we got an alert about an hour ago warning people there is now a curfew in place until 8:00 a.m. tomorrow. And anyone found out here will be arrested. They don't want anyone out tonight.

I can't imagine why you would be out. It's completely dark. No street lights. No traffic lights. A very dangerous situation with the power lines down.

There's plenty of standing water as you noted, you know, 10 to 12 inches of rain in some places. The storm surge did come in. So there's standing water. You don't know what is underneath it. It could be a very dangerous situation, still, Anderson. COOPER: Yes, and as we know, John, it's the water that kills most

people during and after a hurricane. People don't know what they're driving into or walking into.

John, I appreciate you being there. I know it's been a long day for you. Thanks for staying up with us.

After the break, we'll talk to people who rode out a storm in a crawl space under their home. First, what it looked like in Apalachicola this afternoon with the water quickly rising.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN WEATHER ANCHOR: We're in Apalachicola. We have sustained hurricane-force winds where we are. What's the most surprising, and the most astounding, to be quite honest is how quickly the storm surge has taken over this town.

Look at the streets behind me. You can see we've had measurements within the past hour of about 6 1/2 feet above low tide. So high tide hasn't even occurred yet, and the water is still filling in this area.

We've seen submerged vehicles. We've had dumpsters floating by us. We've had all kinds of debris. It's, frankly, just getting a little bit difficult to stand up in these conditions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:21:54] COOPER: Welcome back.

I want to show you new drone video of the destruction in Panama City. We're seeing this along with you really for the first time. It's a high school basketball court. Watch as this drone actually goes through the building where what's left of the building.

It gives you a sense of the power of the storm. You see the water there that's still left actually going over the net there past the basketball hoops which remain, but just incredible shot. And, again, we're just seeing this really for the first time, just one example of the power of this storm that came ashore close to a category 5. This from Panama City.

We're told this is a school gymnasium. Unclear what, if any other buildings associated with this school were impacted or touched, but certainly this is just an extraordinary glimpse, a snapshot, if you will, at the power of this storm, what it did to this building, ripping off both sides of this building, obviously taking out a lot of the windows on the far side.

The drone there just moving around. Now you're seeing some of the other destruction as well. From Panama City, where this was shot, the storm moved northeast.

I want to get the latest now from Tallahassee where Nick Valencia is standing by.

Nick, how are things?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Anderson. This is probably the worst damage that we've seen here in Tallahassee. If you've ever been to this part of the United States, you know part of the picturesque beauty of this city is its canopy of trees. Trees like this one which become deadly during hurricane-force winds, or certainly life threatening.

And this is part of the damage here caused by this huge tree which blocked this whole road, smashed into this car, narrowly missed this house. It did take down some power lines which is why we're essentially in the dark with the exception of the camera light that's keeping us lit here.

These neighborhoods all surrounding this area, just dozens and dozens of homes. Part of the tens of thousands of people without power here, going to go to bed tonight in dark homes. We see a house here that has a light on, it's being powered by a generator.

The good news in all of this, though, Anderson, is that the rain has stopped and the wind gusts for the most part have died down. Just as I say that, though, we're getting a little more gust of that wind. Tallahassee was expecting to get hit very hard and the concern from the governor who I spent some time with earlier today were these trees and how life threatening they could be.

For the most part, though, this storm circled around us. We did feel the outer bands of it. These wind gusts, starts and fits of those wind gusts throughout the day.

Now, though, the conditions have improved and they've gotten good enough for these emergency crews to go out into the streets and assess the damage. It inspired us to go out and see what we could see. As you can see behind me, these huge trees not the only block in Tallahassee that looks like this tonight -- Anderson.

COOPER: How difficult is it getting around?

VALENCIA: It is especially dangerous. I mean, you know, you covered storms like this. The concern as we were driving around especially in the dark are these downed power lines, making sure that, you know, we're watching each other's backs as a crew for projectiles and things like that.

[20:25:06] The wind has died down, though. It's been a little bit difficult to navigate in this neighborhood. Getting here through the main streets, though, it hasn't been as bad. You saw earlier on your Facebook show just the debris down in the streets that we showed you here.

Behind me, though, the worst of the damage that we've seen so far, but it seems as though not only on this side of the street, but also on the street behind the camera, Anderson, you have downed trees everywhere. It's going to be a mess to clean up here in the city -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Nick Valencia, I appreciate it, from Tallahassee. Thanks very much.

Joining us by phone in Panama City is Congressman Neal Dunn.

Congressman, I appreciate you being with us. You spoke earlier about reports of looting. What can you tell us?

REP. NEAL DUNN (R), FLORIDA (via telephone): Well, those are very early reports and we think we nipped that in the bud. A nice little town like ours and the sheriff was -- he was irate and imposed a curfew on the city starting at 6:00 and it will be dusk to dawn for the next couple of days or so until we get everything under control. But I fully expect that to stop promptly.

COOPER: Just -- can you tell us what you have seen, how you think things have weathered the storm?

DUNN: So we actually spent the entire storm at the emergency operation center. We're blocked in here because of trees that are down on the road and power lines are down and high water.

So we have -- all of our information comes in the form of videos that some of the first responders with the high-water vehicles, special equipment, have been able to bring back to us. It's devastating. There's no question.

The entire county has suffered a terrible swath of damage. That holds true for all the counties that are reaching out to the east of us, some to the north as well. It's going to be an amount of damage we have not seen in living memory in this part of the country.

COOPER: Do you have a sense, it's very early hours, you may not, of how long people may be without power?

DUNN: It is too early to say that. I will say, I was here for the big storms, Opal and Ivan. A week is a reasonable guess. There's just an amazing amount of power outages. We don't have a single transformer that was operational in Bay County.

COOPER: Wow.

DUNN: In the storm, when it came through. Not one.

COOPER: That's incredible.

Well, Congressman, I appreciate you talking to us. I know you have a lot of work ahead of you. So does everybody there. Appreciate you letting us know about the situation.

Congressman Dunn, thanks very much.

Again, we're looking at some of these drone shots, really as we get them. They give you a sense of the situation in Panama City, just kind of the scope of some of the destruction. It gives you really a unique vantage point, not only from street level but a bird's-eye view as winds have died down there.

It's only really now that the scope of destruction is coming into focus. Obviously, darkness has come there. For crews, it's going to be particularly difficult with downed power lines, water still out there, and debris. Just to get around. A lot of the assessment is going to have to be done once first light comes tomorrow, which is also why there's curfews in so many of these areas right now.

They simply do not want people out and about, obviously for the protection of property, but really also just for the protection of life. As we often say, it's the water that kills people in these kind of events. Not so much the wind. That's where the vast majorities of fatalities take place, often after the storm in standing water, people driving into fast-moving water or hitting electrical lines.

Just ahead, two people who rode this out underneath their home. We'll talk to them, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[20:32:56] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The eye wall coming through right now making landfall in Mexico beach. That's about 45 minutes from where we are. We're told the winds are 155 miles an hour. 157 miles an hour is what would make it the most powerful category storm. A category 5. So right now, you are looking at the strongest, most powerful category 4 hurricane to exist. And this is one for the history books. This is going to be a record breaker. And unfortunately, we are so very concerned for those in the path.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: A local reporter witnessing, sadly, a hurricane that now lives in the record books. In Tallahassee, Loretta Denes and her husband, Martin Kendall Reid, rode out Hurricane Michael in a crawl space under their home. They're safe thankfully, they join us now.

Loretta, Martin, thanks for being with us. At what point during the storm did you move down into the crawl space and what made you decide to seek shelter there?

LORETTA DENES, TALLAHASSEE RESIDENT: We had decided to stay in our home. We had talked about our plan of action. My husband suggested this idea, and I thought he was crazy. I'm afraid of certain bugs and I assumed they would be under my house and he came actually down here and vacuumed it and cleaned it and laid down blankets and made it very inviting and when the storm got really going and limbs, large limbs, were falling, it became a very inviting space to be.

COOPER: Well first of all --

DENES: So all credit to him.

COOPER: You have the nicest husband who would vacuum underneath the crawl space. I can't even imagine.

DENES: I know.

COOPER: Crawl spaces are not very fun to hang out in. That was very nice of him to do. What was it like riding part of the storm out down there? Because I would imagine people would think, but wait a minute, isn't that, you know, on the ground, isn't water going to come in through there? I guess -- are you in an elevated position?

DENES: We are not in a flood plain area. And when we -- I moved into this house 10, 11, years ago, they put down a moisture barrier. It's required in the state of Florida to have a moisture barrier. So it's covered in very heavy-duty plastic and it is as dry as can be.

[20:35:17] I knew that going in that it was going to be dry because the plumber had been under here to, you know, handle another problem. So we've got a fan. We've got lights. We've got blankets, pillows, and a little bit of alcohol.

COOPER: Well --

DENES: We're OK.

COOPER: That's a good preparation right there. Can you -- are you in -- I assume, are you in the crawl space still right now?

DENES: Yes. We are.

MARTIN KENDALL REID, TALLAHASSEE RESIDENT: Indeed, we are.

COOPER: Can you just show us around a little bit? I mean you don't have to move around. Just kind of show us on your phone

DENES: Yes. It's just, you'll see beams and it's probably, I don't know, two feet high. We keep bumping our heads. There's cables, wires. I don't know how much you can see. But it's a cinderblock house. It was built in 1956. Those type houses, I'm a native Floridian, they are sturdy. They hold up to just about anything. So we're safe. We're fine.

COOPER: When the storm came, I mean, did you -- did you hear the house, you know, creaking or shifting or moving? Because, I imagine being underneath the house could be scary if you hear that kind of stuff.

DENES: No, what made us get under here quickly is large limbs beginning to fall out of my beloved oak trees. When we saw the -- and since it was a daytime storm, we could visit, see this with our eyes. And I think that's the worst part is watching it. And when things start falling and you're concerned about your roof and branches and things coming through your roof, it becomes very good idea to sit under a solid surface. And we're near the exit of the crawl space, so we could get out if we wanted to very quickly.

COOPER: Right. Well, I'm so sorry about the oak trees. I know, you know, it's such -- when you love trees like that, it's just awful to see, but Loretta and Martin, I'm glad you both are safe. And Martin, again, kudos for the vacuuming and the blankets and whatever alcohol you brought down as well. I wish you both the best. And hope you're able to come out quickly.

DENES: Thank you so much.

REID: Appreciate it.

DENES: Thank you very much.

COOPER: You take care.

Joining us, a very busy man, Andrew Gillum was the mayor of Tallahassee. Mayor, we just talked to two of your constituents who were in a crawl space. What are your biggest concerns for everyone in the city of Tallahassee tonight?

ANDREW GILLUM, MAYOR, TALLAHASSEE: Well, thank you, Anderson, and wishing well wishes to both Loretta and Martin. Right now, obviously, our hearts and minds are going out to those on the coast to -- we watched all the horrific images come in from, you know, and basically water, I mean just washing away communities out there. Obviously, our issues in Tallahassee are somewhat different than that. We have a huge tree cover in my community, almost half the community is covered with trees, which is quite unusual for an area as urbanizeded as ours.

And so obviously, we knew going into this thing, but our biggest worry was going to be wind and that wind it was a saturating ground bringing down trees, onto homes, onto utility poles, onto property. And, you know, God knows we didn't want them falling down onto people.

Fortunately, things could have been a lot worse. And I say that with due respect to those who may have had trees come through their home. And I know there have been reporting instances of that in our own community, but it certainly could have been much worse. We right now, last estimates, have about 90,000 of our residents that are without power right now.

We, in fact, Anderson, I'm coming to you from a field truck out in the field. I spent the last several hours going to various parts of our city to see the damage and the impact. And we've got a little bit of cleaning up to do tomorrow. And I'm hoping folks will be patient with our utility crews as they get to work and we cut some of this debris out of the way. That way we can get our community back up to normal.

COOPER: Because you've been driving around, you know how difficult is it getting around, you know, not for residents who, you know, obviously you don't want people out and about right now, but for those crews to try to get the power back? How tough is it for getting to places?

GILLUM: Yes, I mean, what we're experiencing right now is, I mean, we had to basically do several u-turns and go down different streets. There are a lot of impassable streets there right now. Our crews are out there, but they're working in the dark trying to cut and toss things out of the way. I want to underscore, if you are in our community, please, please, please avoid coming out until you get an all-clear from your government, from emergency responders. There are too many parts of our community that are still impassable, and while our law enforcement is trying to, you know, head some of this stuff off, it's just important that folks kind of stay settled in their own homes or wherever it is that they rode out the storm tomorrow until we can get can get an all-clear and folks can get back out and get back to normal.

[20:40:14] COOPER: Well, Mayor Gillum, I know you've been up for a long time. I appreciate you talking to us tonight. I wish you and all the first responders the best. Thank you.

GILLUM: Thank you so much Anderson, take care.

COOPER: Well, coming up next, we're getting a better pictures sadly just how much damage the hurricane has done. We'll get a live report next from one hard-hit area. Our storm coverage continues.

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COOPER: Well, as you've seen, new video is coming in of the destruction in the Florida panhandle and it's bad. Right now a view from the ground of one area where it's especially heavy. CNN's Miguel Marquez joins us now from south port.

Miguel, explain what you've been seeing around you.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just damage everywhere. Trees down. Wires down. Homes utterly destroyed. This is a major intersection here 77 and 77A. You can see, I mean, it's just -- it's creepy. This should be lit up. This should be a major part of the area just north of Panama City. And there is not a light on.

[20:45:02] You have a lot of law enforcement coming down here sort of checking things out in different areas. There's been lots of reports of looting in certain areas. Now, this is -- I mean it's fairly deep. I can't go all the way in. I have boots on that go up about a foot. But I think I would probably go right down into a ditch here. This is a piece of corrugated metal from a gas station that was nearby. Just down this way is Panama City, but I mean, it's completely dark. The only thing we can see is an antenna for a radio station, it looks like.

We have spoken to many, many people. There are a lot of people who stayed in this area saying that they didn't think it was going to be that bad or they had somebody that was sick and they couldn't transport them or they didn't have the money to get out of the area and now they are stuck. The temperature has come down tonight, it's probably in the 60s. Still a little breezy. It is cold. It is wet. It is damp. It's going to be a long, miserable night here in the Florida panhandle. Anderson?

COOPER: And just, obviously, there's a lot of folks without electricity now. Have you gotten any word on numbers of people in shelters still or how many people may be -- may be without power right now? MARQUEZ: In this area of the panhandle, there were thousands of people in the shelter, 4,000 was the number they had earlier today. There may have been people who were able to get to the shelters after the storm came through. But for the most part, the shelters were full up. The hope is, I think, that the American Red Cross and other organizations will be able to come in and open more shelters for those who's now homes are destroyed. They don't have power, they don't have food, they don't have water. All those sort of issues.

I mean, this is the sort of stuff people are facing if you go out right now. Most of the vehicles that we see come through here are either law enforcement or some sort of service vehicle, but it is -- it is not kind circumstances here right now. It is really, really tough. That person was just flying through the water here. It's about a foot deep. So you can get through it, but it does look, you know, pretty daunting if it's dark and you don't know how deep it is. So a lot of people just crawling through it.

COOPER: Well that -- I mean, that's one of the, you know, the things that's so difficult is, I mean, if you're on a road, it's easy to veer off the road even a little bit and all of a sudden you're -- you know, on the side of the road and your in very deep water. There's really no way to tell, you know, when you're in your vehicle, especially at night, how deep the water may be.

MARQUEZ: That's right. I mean look at this. That's the danger. These -- yes these are sedans and some people are getting out and about. And they're going into this water. Now they're following other people, but, you know, when there is nobody out here and you can't tell how deep it is, it is really a concern. There was another car that was came sort of -- wanted to make a right turn, was coming sort of toward us near where we are, it gets much, much deeper.

So it would be very easy to get stuck in a ditch or get yourself in some situation that you just can't get out of. And if there's no one around, you're going to be stuck in a very uncomfortable place. Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Miguel, you and your crew, thank you. Be careful. Appreciate it.

Again, we have been seeing some of the pictures that we have just been getting. Again, this is a drone shot that came into us from Panama City. And it's really just extraordinary. I mean, again, it's -- we believe it's a school gymnasium. Not sure if it's a high school or middle school, but just both sides of it destroyed. The walls on both sides, and, again, you just get a sense of kind of the scale of the destruction. We've all become familiar with the work, of course, the Cajun Navy. They have been out in force conducting rescues as they often are.

Joining us on the phone from Linhaven, Florida is Jason Gunderson.

Jason, appreciate you calling into us. What have you been seeing?

JASON GUNDERSON, CAJUN NAVY: Well, I'm standing in many the middle of the street right now, and it looks like a third-world country. And that's not an exaggeration. Average street is unpassable. All the power lines are down. All the trees down on everybody's houses. There's no power. It's a very creepy situation. We came down the block knocking on doors and had a roof crushed in by trees. A garage on top of the car. And we found a lady inside. She was down in a fetal position with -- there was no roof and a tree right over her head. And we were -- we had to go in and try to rescue her and moved a lot of things out the way. Very dangerous, sketchy situation.

We had to cut the trees out the way so the ambulance could come down the street. Power lines down everywhere. It's -- it's a sight to see, and very sad. Very horrible. So we're going to do our best to be out here and --

COOPER: How difficult is it right now even for you to operate? Obviously, you know, you've got a boat. People have -- you know, many people in the Cajun Navy have experience doing this, but without electricity, without lights out there, I mean, you're driving around blind often.

[20:50:13] SCOTT BOUCHARD, CAJUN NAVY: So Jason Gunderson, we actually lost him. He's in the field. This is Scott Bouchard, fourth member of United Cajun Navy.

COOPER: OK, hey.

BOUCHARD: In contact with Jason. How are you, sir?

COOPER: Good. Good. Thanks for -- thanks for jumping in, we appreciate it. How -- do you know how many people, volunteers are out there right now?

BOUCHARD: So close we have about a thousand people from boats to high water rescue vehicles that have been placed in avalon to -- for pre- staging and we have been dispersing throughout the whole night. I can tell you our Facebook -- our call center is getting inundated right now. We're having a hard time keeping up. Not as many people evacuated as we thought were going to do it. We have people on oxygen that we're frying to rescue. When i spoke with Jason Gunderson on the phone a while ago, the lady is -- is suffering from significant injuries. She was covered in blood. And the main priority is to try to save a life.

COOPER: And at this point, how do people reach out to you? I mean you talked about your Facebook page. Are you getting calls? Obviously land lines for a lot of people are out. I'm not sure, are cell towers still up?

BOUCHARD: So, we're getting calls from people that have evacuated that have friends that stayed and they're giving addresses. Our Facebook is up. Its United Cajun Navy is the Facebook page you want to go to. Submit the request. We have a dispatch team of about 20 people that are logging in dispatches. When I was speaking with our dispatch lead about 10 minutes ago, we feel right now that there's over a day's worth of rescues to be done with over a thousand people trying to rescue. COOPER: Wow. Well, Scott Bouchard again, I appreciate talking you -- I'm sorry I thought it was Jason earlier on but I appreciate you --

BOUCHARD: It was Jason early on --

COOPER: OK.

BOUCHARD: -- you're 100% correct.

COOPER: But you drop off.

BOUCHARD: He dropped his cell phone signal. So you actually talked to somebody who just saved a life.

COOPER: OK. Well, listen I appreciate what all you're doing. As always, it is just extraordinary, you know, this brings out the best in people and you are the best in all of us. So, I appreciate it and I wish you God speed and we'll continue to check in with you.

I want to check in also with Chris, see what he's working on for "CUOMO PRIME TIME" at the top of the hour. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, to a large extent we're going to be doing more the same, Anderson. We've got to stay focused on this and where it's going man, this storm is moving fast. It's such a different story than you and I and the whole team were dealing with down there with Florence. And we're going to try to get in front of the storm with the people that we have on the ground and show where it's heading, and what its doing. It's beating up Georgia badly.

You know, you have these old growth trees that are all through that region of the country that you and I have traveled so many times, but there are shallow root systems --

COOPER: Yes.

CUOMO: -- because of the water table. They're falling, they're hitting houses, they're destroying homes. And then the big headline that we're dealing with is what the Cajun Navy guys we're just telling you about, people were told to leave and they didn't. And this isn't just the metropolitan issue. A lot of them are in remote areas that are hard to get to. That's going to be a big story for us.

COOPER: All right, Chris. Chris is going to take over coverage about seven minutes from now. Chris, look forward to that.

A closer look at the damage on the ground in Panama City when we come back after moments like this one.

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[20:57:27] COOPER: Well again, some of the pictures we've been seeing both live and on tape really take your breath away. At the top of the broadcast we showed you video of a roof coming off in Panama City beach, Florida. Here's more of that powerful moment. Just incredible. As you might imagine that video, there is now widespread destruction in Panama City beach. Brian Todd joins us now from there.

Brian, just talk about what you're seeing, what the latest is.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Anderson. That video that you just showed, we are at that very spot where that house got damaged and here is the aftermath. Up there on the second floor, we were told by a relative of the owner that that was the kitchen and the living room up there. And then you see the wall just got sheared away on the side there. The roof that got torn off blew down the street here about 75 yards. It's kind of embedded on a fence over there. We talked to the son-in-law of the owner who came by here with his wife. Her mother owns this place.

Luckily no one was here at the time. They were just devastated looking at this. The mother who owns this lives in Missouri. But they were just, you know, thinking that she was very distraught, they said, and they're just going to come back and assess some more damage a little bit later on. Luckily no one was there at the time, but they have been pulling people out of the houses here for the last couple of hours. People who are not necessarily trapped, but just need to get out of their houses because there's no shelter.

Here's another one here. The roof got shorn off here and debris was flying around. You can see some of it through that sliding glass door there. So, another, you know, situation where a lot of these houses just got devastating damage. And, you know, whether they're going to be able to get this -- come back and inhabit these houses, they won't know that for several days.

Here's another peril that we're looking at tonight. I heard the other reporters talking about how it's pitch black out. And this is what you're going to run into. Downed power lines here like this one. And if it's pitch black and you're trying to drive or you're walking, you're not going to realize that it's right in front of you until you either step into it or drive into it and that's why officials are saying stay off the roads. Do not come out until we tell you to. And they've got to, you know, they've got -- just get people to stop coming out --

COOPER: Yes.

TODD: -- and they're having a difficult time. We've also heard, Anderson, there's been some looting in downtown Panama City beach. But a local sheriff's official told us they got that under control. They do have people --

COOPER: Yes.

TODD: -- under arrest. Anderson.

COOPER: Well, Brian, I appreciate you being there. Be careful.

A reminder, we'll have more coverage on "Full Circle", our daily interaction new cast on Facebook, tomorrow you'll get to pick some of the stories we cover. Obviously be focusing on this a lot tomorrow, that's at 6:25 p.m. eastern at facebook.com/andersoncooperfullcircle.