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Soon: Monstrous Cat 4 Hurricane Michael to Make Landfall in Florida; Worst Storm Surge Likely Between Mexico Beach & Keaton Beach. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired October 10, 2018 - 11:30   ET



[11:33:33] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: John Berman, live in Panama City Beach, Florida, where the outer bands of Hurricane Michael very much in play. The wind definitely picking up. And the rain, which has been falling for several hours, now falling once again. Expecting as much as 10 to 12 inches of rain here in Panama City Beach. And you know that a storm is serious that when a foot of rain is not your top two concerns. The top two concerns, very much the wind speed, 145 miles per hour from Hurricane Michael. It is now a category 4 storm, the most powerful storm ever due to hit the Florida panhandle. And the storm surg. As high as 14 feet in some places. That is incredibly dangerous. People along this coast are bracing for the impact of that.

They have begun to close the bridges across the Florida panhandle, which means you are stuck where you are. If you have not evacuated, do not try to do so. Seek refuge, be as safe as you can where you are.

I want to go to Dianne Gallagher, who is also here in Panama City Beach.

You have been here for a few days. People have been getting ready for this. I think they have woke up to the realization it was all going to be much worse than they had planned for.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very much so, John. In fact, this was a quick-moving hurricane. A lot of people said they didn't feel like they had enough time to prepare to begin with. For it to go from a category 2 to category 4 overnight while they were sleeping, especially those who made the decision to try to ride this out, a lot of people were very scared today. This was not the decision they thought they were making themselves. We are still a few hours from Michael making landfall. We have seen a storm drain ripped off by the gusts of wind for the location that I'm at right now just about 10 minutes ago or so.

[11:35:23] We are getting bands, the hard rain that feels like it is coming from every direction as the wind blows it around. Again, we are seeing that debris now start to be pulled from buildings and picked up from other places. It seems like at this exact point we are starting to get a break from the heavy wind we were getting before. We have heard some of the howling sound that is so familiar to those of you that have been through a hurricane before.

The city manager told me that he is hoping that there are not as many people here as he thinks there are. We talked to a lot of tourists yesterday who were able to get out of town. It was fall break for a lot of families. They brought their children to have a good time and enjoy the good weather. Airlines got rid of those change fees, they got rid of tolls in northwest Florida in the panhandle area so people could evacuate. There were 200, 300 extra troopers to help with that. But a lot of people chose to ride it out because they thought it was going to be just a category 2. And I have been through that before. They have never been through a storm like this. No storm like Michael has ever hit the panhandle since they started keeping records of hurricanes. So this is going to be unlike anything they have felt before.

Again, as hard as the wind is blowing right now, we are still hours away. These are just the early bands we are receiving. We have steady rain since about 3:00 this morning. But you can feel it intensifying here, John. I know you can feel the same. You can see it getting worse. Again, talking to the city manager, he said the wind is just blowing up the waves along the shore where we were earlier today. He said it is reaching the bottom part of the pier that is there on Panama City Beach. He said the waves are reaching the bottom of the pier. And they are very concerned about the storm surge that is on its way in addition to the intense winds and flying debris.

If you are at home, if you still have power -- because 21,000 people now in Florida are out of power at this point. If you do, get to a safe place, get away from windows, and you have to stay where you are because it is not safe to be on the roads.

BERMAN: It's not safe to be on the roads. It's not safe to be really almost anywhere along the coast here in Panama City Beach.

Dianne Gallagher, thanks so much.

Diane said something that is so crucial. No one has seen a storm like this hit the panhandle before because no storm like this has hit the panhandle before. It is now a category 4 storm. We just got word that sustained winds of 150 miles per hour. It's a category 4 storm that seems to be trying to reach category 5 before it makes landfall. The damage here could be devastating. Hurricane Michael, the eyewall still a couple hours away from making direct impact on the coast. The wind beginning to pick up here.

Our special live coverage of Hurricane Michael continues right after this.


[11:43:03] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us for special coverage of Hurricane Michael. We are getting the first look at the storm surge as it is being brought in by this monster storm. The city we're showing you is Apalachicola. This coincides with the 11:00 a.m. update that the storm surge is bringing in water more than six feet above normal tide level. Low tide is set to hit just about now. So when high tide moves in, you know these waters are going to be coming in further and further and higher and higher.

There's also now, just coming in, a special update from the National Hurricane Center about the storm. And it is getting stronger.

Let's get to CNN Meteorologist Jennifer Gray. She in the Weather Center with the latest -- Jennifer?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The storm has strengthened, now 150 miles per hour winds. That is not even the gusts. Those are sustained winds with gusts of 175. To reach a category 5, it has to have winds of 157. We are still a category 4. We are a strong major hurricane. This could strengthen just a little bit more before making landfall. But with this storm about 50 miles from the coast, we will not see that much more strengthening before it does so.

The hurricane-force winds extend about 45 miles from the center. Tropical-storm-force winds extend 175 miles from the center. Apalachicola, right there, already experiencing hurricane-force winds near there, 78 miles per hour. You can see the eye of the storm just to the southwest of Apalachicola, just to the south of Panama City. This is moving north, northeast. But with storms this big, you will see wobbles. It is still uncertain where exactly the storm will make landfall.

The winds are going to rapidly increase. The storm is moving at about 14 miles per hour. We will see hurricane-force gusts all along this coast in this part of the panhandle. And then you have to keep in mind that once the storm makes it on shore we have the back side to go. So the winds aren't going to let up for the next several hours as well as that rain. And that storm surge, of course, pulling in. You were talking about, Kate, six feet of water. We could see 12 to 13 feet of water there. So that water will double from what it is now.

And not to mention Georgia needs to be on the lookout. Category 2 by the time people are driving home from work.

[11:45:30] BOLDUAN: It is quite remarkable and almost unreal the numbers we are talking about. The difference, Jennifer, between 150 miles per hour and 157 to reach the point of calling it a cat 5, I can promise you, no one knows the difference --


GRAY: You are exactly right. This will be stronger than Harvey, stronger than Katrina, stronger than Irma. This is a monster storm.

BOLDUAN: Monster. The winds it is packing already as it's getting closer and closer are just astonishing.

Jennifer, thank you so much.

That is a special update from the National Hurricane Center.

And as Jennifer has been pointing out and our correspondents are pointing out, the National Hurricane Center has forecasted that the worst storm surge is likely to happen between Mexico Beach and Keaton Beach in this area we have been focusing on.

Joining me on the phone is the mayor of Mexico Beach, Al Cathey.

Al, can you hear me?

AL CATHEY, MEXICO BEACH MAYOR (via telephone): I can.

Mayor, thank you so much for calling in.

What are you seeing right now?

CATHEY: Well, we are experiencing sustained winds of 40 to 50 miles per hour. Gusts are probably upward of 60 right now. There's a lot of rain. We have recently lost power here about 30 minutes ago. So it certainly is deteriorating rapidly here, the weather.

BOLDUAN: Your city has been under evacuation order since yesterday morning. Did everyone get out, Mayor?

CATHEY: No. Our community. We have about 1,200 residents. As of this morning, I spoke to the chief and we still have in town about 280 people that did not sign out.


CATHEY: Not everyone left. And we are just hoping for the best here.

BOLDUAN: Hoping for the best is a scary proposition when we are talking about the potential of 14-foot storm surge. The worst of the storm surge could be coming to you, nine to 13 to 14 feet. What would that look like for Mexico Beach?

CATHEY: We have never had water over Highway 98 in Mexico Beach. That would put the elevation of Highway 98 through our city is about 13 feet above sea level. We may be looking at water over Highway 98, uncertain at this point. During Opal, we had a six-or-seven-foot surge and we handled that quite well. Of course, that is nothing like what we are looking at now. Obviously, there's great concern about the water in addition to the wind. But we are going to have to -- we'll see what happens as far as where that -- we are hoping that it wobbles more to the east. That would put us on the west side. We are not sure at this point how that is going to work.

BOLDUAN: At this point, there's no telling. You just know that the power is out and it is coming your way. With that update it is nearing closer and closer to a cat 5, right now a very strong category 4.

CATHEY: Right.

BOLDUAN: Mayor, thank you so much. Good luck to you. We'll check back in with you as this continues. And things are going to start deteriorating really fast where you are.

Appreciate your time.

We have much more to come on Hurricane Michael coming up after this.


[11:53:19] BERMAN: John Berman, here in Panama City Beach, Florida.

Hurricane Michael getting ever closer to the coast here, with sustained winds of 150 miles an hour, just short of a category 5 hurricane.

I want to go to Brian Todd who's on the beach here in Panama City Beach.

Brian, the wind picking up where I am. How's things where you are?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very similar to where you are, John. We were just getting some really strong bursts of wind. I almost got knocked over a second ago. Check out the surf behind me. Violent breaks just off the coastline here. This storm surge is going to be the story in the next couple of hours, where it will not be safe for us to be standing here, we're going to move inland fairly soon.

Again, storm surge, what they're expecting is maybe 11 to 13 feet of storm surge. Right now, it could be six feet. This is much higher than normal. When we talk to people who are from here, who normally surf here, they say this is much higher than it normally is. When you see the water level and the crashing of the waves behind me, it's pretty violent.

They've already closed most of the bridges around here. I can see a bridge from here. Can't see it from the camera view, but I can see it. They have closed that bridge. And they close when the winds get to 50 miles an hour. Some of them are closed when the wind gets to 40 miles per hour. We're past that point right now.

This storm just got to the intensity of 150 miles per hour, seven miles an hour shy of the 157 mark, which would make a category 5 hurricane. We're going to see if we get to that point, because this storm, John, has continually surprised everybody. It has surprised everybody with the intensity with which it built since Sunday in the Caribbean and the intensity with which it moved fast across the gulf. And as it built strength, we woke up this morning to the news that it's a category 4. Not unexpected. But now it's approaching a category 5 status.

[11:55:12] Evacuations have been a key thing here. They have about 4,000 people in shelters along the Florida panhandle. That's according to the Red Cross. That's not enough for local officials. They say they need more people to get to shelters. But at this point, you can't really try to move. If you're hunkered down, you have to stay hunkered down. If you have an emergency, they're telling you, you can try to call 911 but they're not going to be able to get to you probably for the next several hours -- John?

BERMAN: Brian, do you have an idea of how long you can stay on the beach? Are we talking minutes at this point?

TODD: It could be a matter of minutes, John. I'm thinking maybe 30 to 45 at the most. And we have a place where we can move inland that's just more heavily sheltered and I'll be transmitting from a garage in there. I'm not quite sure how the transmission is going to go, but it's inland and it's a very solid structure. Probably another 30 to 45 minutes or so.

BERMAN: Brian Todd, please stay safe. Keep your crew safe. Get where you need to be to ride out this storm.

Again, we just got word that the storm has winds of 150 miles an hour, a category 4 storm, which seems to be trying to reach category 5 before it makes landfall -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. You can see the difference from just the top of the hour to what I can see around you right now, John. Are you feeling it there?

BERMAN: Absolutely. The winds have really begun to pick up. It's swirling around here. The rain coming down. It's just a matter of time now -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Thanks so much, John. I really appreciate you being here for us this hour. You're the best.

Also, we're keeping an eye on Hurricane Michael.

But we're also watching the Dow, sinking on some tech losses. Some tech stocks are taking a big hit right now. Down almost 400 points. So we're keeping an eye on that for you as well.

But we're also keeping much of our focus on the monster storm bearing down on the Florida panhandle. We're talking about Hurricane Michael.

Much more of our special coverage of this monster storm coming up.