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Soon: Monstrous Cat 4 Hurricane Michael to Make Landfall in Florida. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired October 10, 2018 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:10] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

We are continuing to follow the breaking news this hour. It doesn't get much bigger and badder than this. Hurricane Michael is now a massive category 4 storm bearing down on the Florida panhandle as we speak. Landfall is expected in the next few hours. The impacts of the storm already being felt over the gulf. It is clocking in with maximum sustained winds of 140, 145 miles per hour. It will be bringing in a storm surge of as much as 14 feet in some places. This is so strong and moving so fast that hurricane winds will be felt over Georgia. Tropical storm winds over the Carolinas. Hurricane Michael is likely to be the most powerful hurricane to sham into the Florida panhandle. And there is a chance it could get stronger still.

My colleague, John Berman, is in Panama City, Florida, for us and will be with us throughout the hour, throughout the show.

John, you have been getting drenched throughout the morning. How is it looking now?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Kate, they just closed the bridge. I'm on Panama City Beach. They just closed the main bridge from Panama City Beach to Panama City. That's because the winds are already too strong. We are still several hours away from the most intense winds we will see. As you said, 145 miles per hour.

All morning, I was out on the beach itself about one mile from here. We could see the sea rising. It was already two or three feet higher than normal. We had to get off that beach. We had to move about a mile inland to where we are right now to ride out the storm on a little bit higher ground. They are expecting a storm surge of about nine feet. It will be enough to flood the coastal areas, the beach zone. The waterfront areas will see water maybe going into the first floors of some of the structures.

Again, the wind here could be devastating, 145 miles per hour sustained gusts in the gulf and it still has yet to make landfall. It still has a chance to strengthen even more. Kate, as you know, no storm, no storm has ever hit the Florida panhandle with as much ferocity as Hurricane Michael promises to do. Florida Governor Rick Scott earlier today said the time to evacuate

has come and gone. Now it is time to take refuge. Now it is time, whatever plan you made, you have to see it through and be as safe as you possibly can. Panama City Beach has about 12,000 year-round residents. The city manager told me he thinks about half of those people, maybe about 6,000 chose to stay. It is a dangerous choice. Let's hope, let's it doesn't prove to be a potentially even more dangerous.

I want to go to Dianne Gallagher who has been in Panama City Beach for several days to get a sense of what you have seen, Dianne, and what you are hearing from the people here.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONMDENT: You know, John, exactly what the city manager said there. About half the population is evacuating is what we have observed. This is the strongest wind that we felt. Just before this show began, we started hearing the howling for the first time today of that wind. Watching these trees kind of bend around over here where I am at Panama City Beach. Much like John, we had to leave the beach area there on the shore due to safety reasons because of the increase from a cat 2 to a cat 4 overnight.

Look, the shelters, they have a few of them and they have already filled up. Some of them still could bring in people. A lot of people thought they could ride this out because, again, it was a category 2 storm when they went to bed. You can see, as John said, we are still a couple of hours away. We are already getting wind. This major gust.

I spoke with the city manager just before I came on. He said that these big gusts of wind are now coming up onto the shore area, which is sort of an ominous foreshadowing of what they are going to see as the storm surge comes up there. In addition to the storm surge and vicious winds, we will also see between six and 10 inches of rain. Even though parts of Panama City Beach are in, even though these parts are slightly higher up on the ground above sea level than those on the coast are, we are still probably going to have flooding up here. That is why they can't have people on the roads. Unfortunately, we have seen people driving on the roads since the shelter-in-place order went into effect.

BERMAN: Dianne, to be clear they do not want people driving through this. Standing water is very dangerous to drive through. Soon, we will see power lines and trees down, as well. It will be treacherous to drive through that.

Dianne noting the rain is falling, the wind picking up as she said. And take note of the low number of people who have actually gone to public shelters. That is of concern to some public official who do worry that too many people may have chosen to ride out the storm.

Panama City Beach may be where the eye passes over. This may be where we see the most ferocious winds, but the storm surge concern, that might be greatest east of where I am, about 60 miles east in Apalachicola, Florida.

Let's go to Derek Van Dam there.

[11:05:20] DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: John, we are starting to see the storm surge in Apalachicola at the moment. We have submerged vehicles. Highway 98 is between Panama City and Apalachicola - (INAUDIBLE). The water is rushing up across this area and covering a lot of the main roadway. (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: Derek Van Dam, I think we lost you there. I'm not sure if our audience could hear you better than I could.

It is clear that Derek might be in one of the outer bands of the storm where the wind has begun to pick up. We're getting some guts here. It sounds like Derek is getting it worse where he is in Apalachicola. Even that may not be where the eye of the storm passes in a few hours.

Let's go to Brian Todd. I believe he's on the beach here in Panama City Beach.

Brian, we were on the beach earlier today. We could see the seas beginning to rise and the surf really kicking up.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, John. You can see behind me just how badly the surf is kicking up. We are getting hit with a little bit of water here. Some violent breaks of the waves just off shore here on Panama City Beach. We are told that normally the storm surge around here at bad levels is about five feet. We are told right now it is close to nine feet. Nine feet we are told could be deadly. The storm surge will get to 11 to 13 feet here. In a couple of hours, our team will not be able to be standing where we are. People will not be able to stand on this beach or close to it. We will be moving inland.

You talk to others about the evacuation situation, we talked to officials here in Panama City and Destin. There are still a lot of spillover tourists from the summer season here. In the summer time, the population swells to about 70,000. They still think they had about 40,000 people there as of yesterday. They were concerned that not all tourists got out. They are telling everybody, if you haven't left the areas, now it is too late. We did see a couple of police vehicles on the street not far from here. That is about all we saw. Again, the word from first responders and city officials here and elsewhere is that if you decided to stay, if you are in an emergency, you call 91,1 they will not be able to get there for you at least in the next several hours. That is what we are looking at here.

Look at the storm surge, John. Just violent breaks of these waves just off shore here. Much higher than normal. It is going to get a lot higher here. We are told by someone who lives in this condominium complex behind us here that they expect the surge to wash over this area and onto Front Beach Road which is the road right here. So it's going to get very dangerous in this area very soon -- John?

BERMAN: Brian, no doubt about that. We are watching the waves earlier today just simply ferocious and mesmerizing but so very dangerous. Brian, I'm curious, we were out there for about five hours. Sometimes

you see people walking on the beach to check things out. I didn't see that so much this morning, which indicates that people realized how dangerous this is. What are you seeing there?

TODD: We are not seeing anybody out here now, John, except for one other TV crew. That is good news because that means people are heeding the warnings. Right now, the wind is not hellacious. You can stand out here. That is the problem. People get deceived by it and come out and stay too long and think they can hang out here and then it catches up with them. We have heard from everyone from the governor on down, that this storm has taken people by surprise by how quickly it built in strength and how fast it moved up the gulf. That is something that people need to keep in mind here. This storm is taking everybody by surprise almost every day since it started building on Sunday. Waking up this morning to news that this is now a cat 4 hurricane, that gives you an idea of our quickly this was built.

The good thing is we are told it will be a fast mover and will not linger over here like Hurricane Florence did over the Carolinas. That's good news. But this is going to be a significant wind event and any small structures that are up now will probably be blown down. There will be shingles torn off the roofs and potentially millions of people could be without power later on.

[11:10:31] BERMAN: Brian Todd, in Panama City Beach, on the water. Brian, please stay safe.

I say that as we are now getting some wind gusts that feel to me, 45, maybe 50 miles per hour as this storm moves ever closer, about 60 miles away from Panama City Beach where the eyewall could make landfall in the next few hours. This is a very wide storm.

But the breadth of this storm, this is a very wide storm. It is going to see some towns and cities that are 50, 60 miles away will see hurricane-force winds and deal with the storm surge.

I want to go to Destin, which is a location that a lot of people know about because it is so pretty and it's such a great fishing location. Our Victor Blackwell is there.

Victor, what are you seeing?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The tourists have completely abandoned the town, John. I'm at the Harbor Walk Village where it is full of restaurants and shops. Those are all closed. There's no one really here. Officials have decided to create or institute an evacuation order for this area. Everywhere south of state road 98 there's an evacuation order. That is on the gulf side. On the northern side of the peninsula is the bay. And the low-lying areas around the bay are also under an evacuation order. Officials expect, although there are about 45 to 50 miles west of potential landfall of the storm, that there will be damage here and flooding here. Three to six inches of rain expected, a storm surge of five to eight feet here, as well. I spoke with a man who lives here in Destin and decided to move 10

miles west to get away from the storm. And he says he expects everything to be OK. A lot of his friends decided to stay. They made that decision when this was a category 2 storm. They woke up this morning and this is a category 4.

We learned overnight that more people have gone to local shelters. When I spoke with county officials last night at about 8:00 p.m., there are about 50 people at shelters. This morning, more than 300. So many people that they've run out of cots. They are asking people to bring their own mattresses.

We are told there was traffic on state road 85 heading out of town. So many people heeded the warning.

There's a family I ran into here from Alabama. They say this is their first storm. They came out to get a look at the water here. They are a bit afraid of what's coming here. But they expected that the roads would be so full and they'd get to a point where the bridges would be shut down and they didn't want to be stuck in their vehicle. I'm just a few hundred yards from the Destin harbor bridge. It is still open now, but state officials will shut down the bridge once sustained winds get to 39 miles or more.

But here from Destin, so far from the expected landfall of this storm, they are expecting that there will be damage here. We'll just see how much -- John?

BERMAN: Victor Blackwell, for us in Destin. Victor, thanks so much.

Victor said something so important. Many people made their decisions on this storm based on the fact that just yesterday it was a category 2 and they didn't think it was going to get much stronger. It did. And now it is a category 4, the most-powerful storm ever to hit the Florida panhandle. And now people have to live with the consequences of these decisions. Did they get the warnings they need? Were public officials sounding the alarms early enough? Those are questions people will ask over the next coming hours and coming days as Hurricane Michael makes landfall in the next couple of hours.

[11:14:07] Our special live coverage continues right after this.


BOLDUAN: And our special coverage continues right now of the monster storm Hurricane Michael set to be making landfall in just a few hours. The effects of this monster storm already being felt throughout the Florida panhandle.

Let's get a sense of where the storm is and where it's headed.

CNN Meteorologist Jennifer Gray is in the CNN Weather Center.

Jennifer, what is the latest update from the National Hurricane Center and what are you watching? JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: This is a major storm. This is a

category 4. Winds of 145 miles per hour, gusts of 175 moving at about 14 miles per hour. So it is moving relatively quickly. And just in a matter of a couple of hours, it will be making its way on shore. Where exactly that happens? Still yet to be determined. We know it will be in the vicinity of Panama City, to the west of Apalachicola, somewhere in that area. Those are the folks that are going to experience the strongest winds. Anyone east of that eye will experience the strongest or the highest storm surge. We are already getting five to six feet of storm surge in the Apalachicola area. So all the areas east of the eye that is where we are getting the highest water come in.

The winds are going to be picking up rapidly because the storm is moving at 14 miles per hour. So the closer it gets to shore, the higher the winds are going to be. Now, the winds will be felt far and wide. The hurricane-force-winds extend 45 miles from the center. That is a 90-mile area that will get the hurricane-force winds. Tropical-storm-force winds extend 175 miles from the center. Right now, we have gusts of 46 in Panama City. That will go up dramatically. As the storm races to the north, still possibly a category 2 as it crosses into Georgia by late tonight, Wednesday evening. So that is going to knock down a lot of trees, say, in the Tallahassee area. All of these areas inland, it will be big problems, Kate, as far as the wind goes and coastal storm surge.

[11:20:39] BOLDUAN: I think it is an important point that folks haven't really set in. I know that Brock Long, of FEMA, brought it up that Georgia needs to start waking up and paying attention to this because it could still be a category 2 when it crosses over that Florida/Georgia line as it is moving so fast. And it's starting out now as a cat 4 heading to shore. This is important for more than one state to be paying attention to at this very moment.

Jennifer, thanks so much.

Let's get to the east of where we expect the eye to make landfall.

CNN's Gary Tuchman is in Shell Point Beach, Florida.

Gary, what are you seeing right now? How has it been changing?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the last hour and a half we have had a driving rain. I'm here east of Panama City and south of Tallahassee, the state capitol, on the Gulf of Mexico, roads are flooded. We are actually about a half a mile from the beach. We were about a quarter mile away from the beach. We had to come this direction a quarter mile to get away from flooding waters. We're right outside the Apalachicola Bay volunteer fire department. To give you an idea how dangerous this is, Shell Point Beach is the name of the town, there's no one operating out of this fire department. The fire men and women are working today and so are police officers but not in the fire department here because it's too dangerous of an area.

One important thing to point out, Kate, mandatory evacuation order in this county went into effect at 8:00 last night. Most of the people seem to have heeded the warnings. It's really amazing because of all the hurricanes we cover we often see people walking along the beach and surfing and driving along the streets and honking horns. We are not seeing that at all in this area east. People are scared. They know the east side of the hurricane has the stronger winds. They know here they'll be on the east side of the hurricane. We have not seen one civilian walking along the streets here since we have been here. We have seen police officers, firefighters. But everyone is heeding the warnings to evacuate.

The worst is still to come. Already the roads are flooding, winds are blowing. And people are concerned that the homes they left here - and we talked to a woman last night, tears in her eyes. Got up this morning and said it will never be the same when I go back. And it's very likely it won't be because these winds are something that they have never seen here in Florida in recorded weather history. Never before a category 4 hurricane. This hurricane is on its way, category 4 -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: On its way. I'm sure a lot of residents share the same fears, as they leave their home last night and today, what is it going to look like when they come back? That is a huge question.

Gary, you're in the middle of it. Thank you, Gary. Really appreciate it. We'll come back to you.

Let's get over to CNN's Miguel Marquez. He is in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.

Santa Rosa is particularly vulnerable, Miquel. It's surrounded by water, the bay on one side, the gulf on the other. What are you seeing?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are expecting about a nine- foot storm surge here. Some of those areas could be hit pretty hard.

I want to show you what is happening now. The wind and the rain are pulsing at times very heavily. Right now, not so bad. A lot of these homes are second homes, vacation homes built to a very high standard. People who live here and who are staying here think that they will be fine. When they woke up this morning to find out that it was a category 4, the reaction was holy expletive. The waves are really telling us that all is something very, very big coming this way. They are just monsters. This is the Gulf of Mexico here, and just monster waves coming in right now.

We are about two hours from high tide. You can see right here there's a structure of some sort. It looks like a beach structure that was blown out and is sweeping along the coast here. We are about two hours from high tide. That will be when it is worst. And already, the water is rushing up to the dunes here. We only expect it to get worse. Look at the big breakers now. They're breaking farther and farther out. There should be 40, 50 feet of beach here and, for the most part, sweeping all the way up to where we are. So it is coming. As officials say, if you are where you are, if you haven't evacuated yet, if you are in a shelter, stay there. If you're in your home, stay where you are and ride it out -- Kate? [11:25:09] BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Miguel, thank you so much.

Bay County, Florida, is in the cross hairs of this storm. Bay County includes the area where the eyewall could make landfall. We are talking Panama City and Panama City Beach.

Joining me on the phone is Brad Monroe, deputy chief of the country's emergency management operations.

Can you hear me?


BOLDUAN: Thank you for calling in.

I want to get the latest from you. What is your biggest focus right now?

MONROE: Our focus is communicating to the citizens that did stay to continue to shelter in place. Don't wander out or be lured out by the calm winds now. We are looking at intense winds in the next hour or two as the storm comes on shore.

We do know that a great many of 50,000 to 60,000 of our residents did heed the warnings and evacuated. We certainly appreciate that. That makes our job as first responders a little bit easier. Right now our first responders are unable to respond to calls because of the high winds and debris being tossed about in certain areas. We are going through a period where we won't be able to respond to 911 calls. It's just too dangerous to put them out there.

We do have assets in place, post storm, assets to the west of us. We have EMS units, search-and-rescue units that are staged and ready to help us after the event. As soon as the conditions permit. And we are also making plans and putting together our assets for post-storm, sheltering and response. Bay County is a very resilient community. We will work through this storm to recover.

BOLDUAN: When you woke up -- or maybe you haven't gotten to sleep -- but when you woke up and saw that this has become a cat 4, what did you think?

MONROE: Well, we have a weather service representative that has been with us since yesterday and has been very helpful. He had predicted this may happen. So we were trying to communicate that as best we could to our citizens that the storm could blow up to a four and a very intense storm. But anything above a category 2 is a concern for us. It could bring a lot of damage onto our properties. I think we did as best we could. We're looking to the post-storm event and our recovery, clear the roads and get our citizens back as soon as possible. There will be possible curfews. Our sheriff will address that later on today.

BOLDUAN: It all depends on what happens in the next several hours.

Bred Monroe, thank you very much for jumping on the phone with us. Good luck. You guys are just about to be in the thick of it. Everyone now at this point, hunker down, wait, hope and pray.

I appreciate it. Thank you so much.

MONROE: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We will continue to follow -- thank you so much.

We will continue to follow this monster storm as it is barreling towards the Florida panhandle. The effects starting to be felt. We have reporters and correspondents fanned out across the panhandle. We will be bringing you the latest as the hour continues.

We'll be right back.