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Interview With Florida Senator Marco Rubio; Hurricane Michael Batters Florida. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired October 10, 2018 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: As Hurricane Michael made landfall this afternoon, this metal railing was caught in more than 150-mile-per- hour winds. The railing there was shaking, almost like a piece of plastic, before eventually being toppled over by the hurricane.

Let's check in now with CNN's Erica Hill. She's in Destin, Florida.

Erica, how are the conditions where you are?

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Jake, we were on the edge, right, of this storm and on the western side, which, if you're going to be in a hurricane, that's where you want to be, because it tends to be a little bit calmer.

So things have died down here. It is still windy. In fact, where I am, it's a little bit protected. But I walked out to the boulevard just behind me a short time ago. The wind is definitely stronger out there. And from that vantage point, you can see the bay, which is behind me.

And that's where folks are really concerned about here, and that's where we're told from officials there was definitely a lot more water. Because of the way this storm moves, in that counterclockwise position, it went up and around in the bay behind me.

And we do know of at least one rescue from the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office, and they sent us some video of that rescue, a man who had been living on his boat in the bay. It got loose from its moorings, and they were able -- he called in for help, for a rescue.

The sheriff's department and other folks were out there. They were able to get him to safety. He is OK. At last check from the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office, that was the only rescue they had had of that sort.


They did have a number of calls during the storm, some of them early on for folks who wanted help at getting to shelters, which they were able to follow through on.

I can tell you, too, we have been in touch all day long with a man, Hunter Reynolds (ph). He a 31-year-old first mate on a charter fishing boat. But he was spending the storm on his 46-foot sailboat in the middle of Destin Harbor, anchored there, because he said he just couldn't move it out, he was waiting on a new motor, he wasn't able to get himself towed out.

He was a little nervous. He sent us some video, which I think we may have. I checked in with him a short time ago. He said he thinks he's doing all right. He weathered the storm. I do want to stress, though, officials say this is not the message they want people to hear, that in a storm like this, when they tell you to evacuate, they want you to go.

And, Jake, we will be out there a little bit better as we're trying to get a sense of the damage around here. We know of some flooding at local restaurants, and that's really happening more in the area that I was just telling you about that is on the bay behind me.

So just to give you a sense, too, if the bay is behind me, we're on basically sort of like a barrier island, and then on the other side of that is the Gulf. There's Holiday Isle, which is part of that. We do know of beach erosion on Holiday Isle. There was significant flooding even early this morning, before the storm had even made landfall, obviously, further east of us.

Before that happened, the sheriff was already sending me pictures of the flooding in those homes on Holiday Isle. And this is an area, Jake, that is not -- they are used to storms, obviously. But when they talked about this storm coming, the one hurricane that was referenced over and over again by people was Hurricane Opal.

This an area where people know how to deal with storms. They know how to weather them. But even that, they said, taught them so many lessons, specifically about evacuating. And officials say the good news was, ahead of this, most folks heeded that warning -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Erica Hill in Destin, Florida, thank you so much.

Joining me now on the phone is Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

Senator, now that this storm is moving inward, what's your top concern?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Well, you know, the backside of these storms is really problematic. It's -- that wind is still swirling around. It's still going to push more water.

I think my top concern is that somebody is out there hearing that this thing has passed through and now is the time to go back and check it out, and then you get the storm surge come in and kick in on the backside of it.

So, I really think it's important for everybody to kind of just relax, wherever you are right now, and stay in place and wait until authorities say it's safe to go out. And then even then, be very careful. There are going to be downed power lines everywhere. You're going to see them. And some of -- you never know when one of those comes live. And so I just think it's a time of incredible caution. We have --

every time we have these storms, somebody loses their life in the aftermath for a lot of different reasons. And so that remains our concern. And, obviously, this thing is still coming through.

It's moving pretty quickly, which the good news is, it's moved that quickly, and didn't just sit on top of it. But there will be some substantial damage to assess in the days to come.

TAPPER: Senator, when Floridians went to bed last night, it was a Category 2 storm, Hurricane Michael.

They woke up, it was a Category 4, teetering on the precipice of being a Category 5. Too late for many of them to evacuate. In many ways, it seems as though, and I'm certainly not ascribing any blame, but it almost seems as though many people in Florida were caught off-guard by how quickly this storm got worse and became much more devastating.


Look, this is a force of nature. I mean, it doesn't behave according to how we want it to behave. It doesn't necessarily going to do what we think it's always going to do. We have gotten better at telling you it's a hurricane. We have gotten better at explaining to people where it's probably going to go.

But, in the end, these things are not things we have a control over or 100 percent understanding of. Our forecasts have gotten significantly better over the last 10 years. But they are still not 100 percent. The deviation in the storm by 50 miles one place vs. another, 10 miles increase in intensity, these are not things that are easy to predict.

And that's why we tell everybody, the Category 2, Category 3, it's a hurricane. That's what you need to know. And it could be life- threatening. And these things can intensify at the end. And they can take a last-minute change in the route.

And suddenly you have got a very different situation. So that's why the caution and the warnings that are put out there are so broad, because you just don't know how it's going to behave until it's happened.

TAPPER: The administrator of FEMA, Brock Long, said earlier today that he's concerned not enough Floridians evacuated. Do you agree?

RUBIO: That's what we hear from some local authorities. Franklin County believes they got most of the people to move. But I personally know a couple people I talked to on the phone this morning in Panama City who felt like, oh, I'm in a strong house and we're elevated.

And I couldn't convince them to get out. And these are smart, important people that have done very well in business that didn't want to move and didn't want to go anywhere.

And, you know, it's their choice to make. I advised them not to do it, because you just don't know what you're going to face. And I hope they're OK. I think they have lost -- the cell phone towers are down. So, I'm sure the phone -- we tried to get to them a little while ago and it didn't work.


But we're going to find out soon enough. I think that whether -- I'm sure people stayed behind, there's no doubt, in every storm. And I think you're going to find that some of the areas where people have lived through a few of these, similar to the Florida Keys, you know, there are some folks that just aren't going to go. They're just not going to do it.

TAPPER: Seems to be the worst storm to hit the U.S. and Florida, certainly, since Hurricane Andrew, and the worst storm to hit the Panhandle perhaps ever.

What do you think the next 12 hours are going to look like?

RUBIO: Well, Opal was pretty bad. We will see how this compares to it in terms of intensity of it.

I think the next 12 hours are going to be a time where the effects are still going to be out there for some time. You're still going to have tropical storm winds. You're still going to have things flying around.

That's the thing to remember. Even as I watch some of these reporters on TV, these things -- there's stuff still flying around, coming off rooftops and the like with tropical storm winds. So, I think, by later tonight, certainly by morning, when the sun comes out is when the first damage assessments will happen.

My sense is we're going to start hearing about some rescue operations coming in. People are going to start calling in because they got themselves into some trouble. And then I think the relief efforts begin. And I'm very concerned about I-10.

It's a major -- I talked earlier this afternoon with our transportation secretary, Elaine Chao. And they're keeping a very close eye on that main artery, I-10, because that's what they need in order to get supplies down there and relief efforts and mutual aid when it comes to road clearing and power restoration.

TAPPER: Just for those people who are not familiar with Florida, interstate 10, or I-10, as the senator referred to, it cuts across the state. It's a hugely populated area. You have like St. Petersburg, Tampa/St. Pete on the west and I think it goes to Daytona Beach on the east, is that right?


So what we're watching here now with this corridor is, it runs from Pensa -- from Jacksonville across that...

TAPPER: Oh, I'm sorry. I'm thinking of I-4. Go ahead.

RUBIO: Yes. You're thinking about I-4. I apologize. Yes. You're thinking about I-4 that goes down the center of the state.

This runs from Jacksonville through Tallahassee down to Pensacola and on into Louisiana. So it's an east/west corridor. And it's going to be one of the major thoroughfares that's going to be used, for example, to bring in aid across from the east and west. And so we're worried, right, because there are going to be trees down, there are going to be signs down.

There's going to be potential of some damage.


TAPPER: Have you heard reports about the damage to the interstate?

RUBIO: We have got no -- yes, there's no reports in yet. I'm keeping an eye.

There is a DOT web site that kind of keeps people up to date. But that's obviously being updated, based on information they're receiving. My sense is the eye of the storm at about the 4:00 p.m. Eastern time was just approaching I-10.

So I think the damage is ongoing. And then we will see. And the key is not that I-10 is going to collapse, per se. But it is that there will be debris on that roadway that will have to be cleared in order to bring in the supplies and the trucks that are standing by to deliver not just aid and equipment, but also power restoration.

TAPPER: And, of course, the other big concern is Gulf Power and the electricity. Gulf Power serves nearly half a million customers in Florida and says some of the hardest-hit areas might not have power for weeks, if not longer. I assume that's a concern of yours as well.

RUBIO: It is.

And let me tell you, when you lose power, it was one of the things that really made what happened in Puerto Rico so problematic. It just begins to cascade. The sun comes up, it gets hot again, you don't have power and that's where you run into some of these tragedies we saw at a nursing home in South Florida last year.

The gas stations don't work without power. Then you have got to people running generators and they're dying of carbon monoxide poisoning. And then a lot of the vital functions, things, dialysis, a lot of the -- we had a hospital in South Florida a year ago basically run down to five hours of backup fuel before and they would have patients in a very difficult situation. Almost had to evacuate them.

Without power, the other things don't work. So trying to get that going will be a big challenge. And these guys are better at it than they have ever been. But, you know, with water standing and things of this nature, it may take a little longer. And I would imagine we're going to have power outages for some time.

TAPPER: All right. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, thank you so much. If there is anything you hear that we need to know, if there is

anything the state is not getting from the federal government that you need to bring attention to, whatever, we are here. Please let us know.

RUBIO: Well, thank you. I appreciate that.

And I talked to the president earlier today, and I'm confident that FEMA's positioned to provide the assistance the state needs, but this is going to take a while. We have got to wait and see what the damage is, and we're just getting images.

But when we're finally on the ground and get to see it and the assessors get in there and start looking at it, we will know more about what we're dealing with here. Obviously, there will be some people whose lives have been turned upside down after this. And we will make sure the federal government is there to help.

TAPPER: All right, Senator Rubio, thank you so much for your time.

RUBIO: Thank you.

TAPPER: We're really appreciate it.

More than 30 million people across six states are under storm warnings or watches. Our breaking news continues after this short break. Stay with us.


[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Some dramatic new video just in to CNN. This is a boat warehouse that has been torn apart by Hurricane Michael in the coastal town of Niceville, Florida right near Destin. You can see the building is missing, a roof it appears to have completely collapsed in the center. I guess I should say what used to be a boat warehouse. Let's go back to CNN's Ryan Nobles who's in the capital of Tallahassee. Ryan, tell us about the destruction where you are.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake this is exactly what you were talking to Mayor Gillum about, what we have warned the viewers about at the beginning of your broadcast, and that's these big trees that have the potential to be toppled over on 100 miles an hour winds. Take a look at this limb that's come down from this tree above me. It's enormous. This one here another side of it, it's as tall as I am.

Now, imagine that whipping through the air at more than a hundred miles an hour. That's what officials are worried about. And these are just branches that are coming off these big trees that line these streets. As Mayor Gilliam told you, 50 percent of Tallahassee is covered by trees in some way shape or form. We're already getting reports of trees as big as this also starting to topple over throughout the city.

And the thing we should point out, Jake, is that the wind has not even reached the levels that we expect it to over the next couple of hours. And when those winds pick up as we've seen them in gusts at time, they're knocking over street signs like this one. Again, imagine if this were to come lodged free and then hurtle through the air in what could be a mini tornado that could pick up here over the next couple of hours.

So the worst is still yet to come here in Tallahassee. There is a lot that they need to be careful about and we're going to continue to stay on top of it and keep you updated. Jake?

[16:50:33] TAPPER: All right, stay safe. Joining me on the phone now is the Mayor of Destin, Florida Mayor Gary Jarvis. Mr. Mayor, Dustin has a population of just over 13,000. How many -- how many citizens have evacuated and how many of stay do you think in a rough estimate?

MAYOR GARY JARVIS, DESTIN FLORIDA: Good afternoon, Jake. We don't have other than rough estimates. I would say about 30 percent of our population left that are permanent residents. Now, we had very good amount of visitors here for Fall Break and most of our visitors first they pretty much all left when we had mandatory evacuations yesterday at 11:00 a.m. They heeded those warnings and left.

TAPPER: So the tourists left, but you still -- but you think about two-thirds, a rough estimate, two-thirds of the population of Destin Florida 13,650 four has stayed. Are they up to speed on the dangers not only of the storm but what comes after the storm?

JARVIS: Oh yes. Most of us are veterans of this type of thing. During the whole course of the warnings and the approach of the storm, we were always kind of on the western side of the impact point. And when that happens that means we're going to get predominantly north or northeast winds which it reduces the chance of surge tide. Since we had Hurricane Opal in 1995, all the new construction has those stringent requirements.

And even though it's there's some anxiety involved with staying as the storm approaches, there's also a level anxiety of having to evacuate. And some people just don't have the wherewithal to evacuate. You know, the money or the resources. So it's a tough decision. You have to watch the weather close. You have to at some point make a command decision on what you're going to do.

And the people that stay, most of all of us are very well prepared. We have generators, food, water. We've been without power for weeks on end and so we understand the risk and I think if the forecast would have been a little bit different, you would have seen a different amount of evacuation. I give myself usually a Cat Three with a 50 percent chance at hitting is time to go and we didn't see that in the forecast so we just say.

TAPPER: No, that's right. You went to bed, it was a Category Two, you woke up it was a Category Four, almost a Category Five. What's your number one piece of advice for the citizens of Destin, Florida, right now, who are in Destin, Florida?

JARVIS: Well, number one is we're not -- it's not over yet. In fact, in the last hour and a half, we've probably received higher sustained winds than we did prior to the storm making landfall. So I've encouraged everybody to stay home, stay inside. Don't go out sight- seeing. We just lost power at my house about 25 minutes ago. So there's still a risk of falling trees and downed power lines. So tomorrow morning the tropical force winds and gale force winds will be diminished, and we can do our damage assessment at that time.

And hopefully, for us, we were very blessed to miss the fury of the storm. Hopefully, we can get power going and get ready for our community for the tourists that have booked their vacations for next week. So the whole month is not lost. So we're trying to be thoughtful, prayerful about our friends to the east but at the same time, tomorrow morning I think everybody is going to be ready to roll up their sleeves and get our town back opened up for business.

TAPPER: All right, well, we're going to be thinking about the citizens of Destin, Florida. Mayor Jarvis, thank you so much. If there is anything you're not getting from the state or the federal government, you let us know.

JARVIS: You got it, Jake. Thank you so much.

TAPPER: Utility crews from more than 20 states are responding to Florida to assist with the recovery effort. More on our breaking news on Hurricane Michael coming up next.


[16:55:00] TAPPER: Listen to that wind. Look at that devastation. Brand-new video into CNN. You're looking at roofs being ripped off homes, Panama City Beach, Florida. You can see debris flying in the air. Hurricane Michael bringing 155-mile-per-hour winds as it makes landfall. Let's go back to Tallahassee now, the capital of Florida. Conditions worsening there and Nick Valencia is on the ground. Nick, tell us what's going on.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're not seeing the level of catastrophic damage or destruction that you're seeing there in Mexico City Beach or Panama City Beach for that matter, Jake, but what you are experiencing here in Tallahassee are fits and starts of wind gusts and rain. Just shortly before we start this report, we felt another one of those outer bands from Hurricane Michael.

And just to get a sense of what you're seeing here in Tallahassee, take a look and walk with me here on these streets. This is the big concern, of course, the trees here. This canopy of trees that are just -- make this area so beautiful but just so life-threatening when it comes to severe weather like this. I spent some hours earlier with Governor Rick Scott, you could tell just looking in his eyes how worried he is about this storm. Jake?

TAPPER: Nick Valencia, stay safe. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.