Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Destin Mayor on Storm; Michael Makes Landfall; Tallahassee Mayor on Storm; Live Report from Shell Point Beach; U.S. Intercepted Saudi Communications; Storm Update from Santa Rosa Beach. Aired 9:30- 10a ET

Aired October 10, 2018 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00] ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Charter boat fishing captain here. You know these waters. You know how to look at these storms. When you woke up this morning and saw that it was now a category four, how are you feeling?

MAYOR GARY JARVIS, DESTIN, FLORIDA: It was surprising. Even though they projected it a four, lots of times they do that and it doesn't materialize to get that strong. And this one apparently may even reach a category five.

So I have a lot of friends that I've worked with in fishery (ph) politics (ph) in the big bend area and over in Panama City and I have some real concerns for these guys. This is going to be an epic storm.

HILL: You've been checking in, I know, with a lot of the folks who are sheltering on their fishing boats further inland. They're in the intercostal. They're in some of the bayous. How are they feeling about their chances?

JARVIS: When you're in the intercostal waterway between here and Panama City, we call it the ditch. It is because it's a manmade ditch and 35 foot high banks on both sides. It's about the only place you can survive a category five storm. And, for most guys, when you own your boat, you make a living on your boat, storms like this, you ride on the boat. It's kind of like the Captain Dan Forrest Gump syndrome. The only way you know that it's going to survive is if you stay on it.

HILL: Right. Although we don't want to encourage people to stay. I know people have evacuated here. You guys feel good about how people were listening. We're going to keep checking in with you throughout the day. Glad we snagged you this morning walking along the border walk.

JARVIS: All right, thank you.

HILL: All right, thanks, Major Jarvis.

JARVIS: Bye-bye.

HILL: Dianne Gallagher is in Panama City Beach, where you're definitely already feeling the effect of this storm, Dianne. DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. In fact, the

rain has picked up here. You probably see the satellite truck coming in behind me, and that is because we did have to move our location from a beach front location due to this storm and the impact of it.

Now, look, you can probably see them kind of coming in, in sheets. The wind pulling the trees just a little bit here now.

Bay County is no longer responding to calls. So emergency officials, police officers, which we did see them on the road, up until about half an hour ago, no longer responding to calls. They said the conditions at this point, especially in certain parts of the county, are just too dangerous. That means that that shelter in place call, they mean it. Stay where you are. Try to get to the highest point you can. If you're in a two story home, get on that second floor. But they need you to stay where you are.

Now, look, Erica, we are talking about some pretty severe numbers here, six to 10 inches of rainfall. It's going to rain the whole day. Again, I said this last hour, but right now it's not going to get any better for several hours at this point. Seven to 11 feet of storm surge. When we were there on the beach, we were two feet above sea level at this point. And so, look, this is a low-lying area. Certain points -- certain parts of the county are a little bit higher than others, but we're an island out here in Panama City Beach connected to the mainland with a bridge. And the gust of these winds thus far, people are not going to be able to go over that. They're stuck here. If you didn't leave the island, you're stuck here.

So, Erica, look, we're seeing these -- the conditions worsen here. I'm going to send it back to you there in Destin.

HILL: Yes. And I just want to point out too, so we're here in Destin, in Okaloosa County. We are already seeing flooding in the area. And, keep in mind, again, we're 40 -- 45 miles west of Dianne on the western side of this storm. But the sheriff's office for the county already putting out pictures just as a reminder to folks that this is a serious storm that needs to be taken seriously.

Jim. Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Erica, thank you so much for being there and for that perspective on where you are versus where Dianne is, really on an island with only a bridge connecting them to an mainland at this point.

Joining us on the phone is Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

Thank you, Mr. Mayor, for being with us.

MAYOR ANDREW GILLUM, TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA (via telephone): Of course. Thank you all for the opportunity.

HARLOW: So for anyone who is watching this right now, listening to it, who has decided to stay, to not evacuate, what is your message for them right now? GILLUM: Well, obviously, we are right now beyond the point of people

making movement certainly in the area that is being impacted by the storm. We've encouraged people to take cover where they are. Even though this storm may come in bands, we don't want anyone to be lulled into comfort thinking that they've made it through, particularly in our area where my city has got a near 50 percent tree cover over it.

HARLOW: Right.

GILLUM: It can create and will create some pretty dangerous conditions with trees falling on power lines, live wires on the ground, obviously disruption to our ability to get to people in emergency situations. And so we want folks to buckle down where they are and recognize this will be a day-long event for us into the evening and that they should recognize that they are their best first responders. And once the winds pick up beyond 35 miles per hour, we are not able to put our trucks on the road, our emergency vehicles --

HARLOW: Oh, wow.

GILLUM: Which means folks got to stay put until we're getting clearance.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Mayor Gillum, Jim Sciutto here.

Governor Scott said earlier that people don't realize the impact of the storm surge. Listen, I know some of this is that the storm unexpectedly strengthened over the last 24 hours, hitting those warm waters as it approached the coast there. Are you concerned that residents did not get enough warning of how serious a storm this would be?

[09:35:08] GILLUM: Well, I mean, as you all know, I mean, this kind of sprung up for us quite quickly. We, honestly, thought we might have a tropical system and weren't sure where it would go. And now we're looking, you know, staring down the barrel of a category four storm with over 140 miles per hour sustained winds.

HARLOW: Right.

GILLUM: This did catch a number of people -- I would say, in our community, we already -- we are prepared. Unfortunately, over the last three and a half years, we're now well practiced with this being our third storm, beginning with Hermine, followed by Irma and now obviously Michael here.

HARLOW: Yes.

GILLUM: It's our hope that those along the coastal lines have decided to come to our community and to shelter here, getting themselves out of harm's way. We're going to try to do the best we can to support them while they're in our community, and as well for those who are here in modular, in mobile home units, encouraging them to get to shelter so that they can ride out this storm in safety. We can replace material things. We cannot replace lives.

HARLOW: Right.

And, mayor, you bring up what happened just two years ago, and that's Hurricane Hermine, when, you know, you and all the residents lived through the fact that Tallahassee, 90 percent of the city lost power during that. Generators failed. What are the lessons learned from that, being applied this time around, when you talk about the aftermath come tomorrow morning?

GILLUM: Well, I mean I think the first thing we've got to acknowledge is that we have bought in and pre-staged over 100 linemen in our community. That means these are folks who will be on the ground the moment we're able to give clearings. And this will likely be Thursday at some time. They're able to get out and begin the restoration effort.

We will also have, on Thursday, nearly six times the size of our normal utility employees that will be in this community working towards restoration. But given the fact that we have not suffered a storm of this size in over a century, the impacts could be pretty severe. So I don't want anyone to think that we're going to be able to magically snap our fingers and be back to normal. We've got to make sure our first step is to secure life safety, insuring that we get people out of harm's way, any life threatening incidences, that we're able to get them to the hospital and taken care of immediately.

After that, it is clearing roads, making sure that we got passage and our able to get folks and our light system back up. And then, beyond that, we want to then begin the process of recovering and getting back to normal.

But those are stages. And if for any reason anybody thinks that we're able to do that, you know, with the snap of a finger, that isn't -- that isn't the case. We're preparing for what this might be right now and then obviously what the recovery looks like beyond the storm beginning likely Thursday.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it seems like now we have a historic storm every month or so. This is the new normal.

Mayor Gillum also happens to be a candidate for governor of Florida. Thanks very much for taking the time.

Shelter in place. Florida's governor warns it is too late to leave now as Hurricane Michael gets closer to making landfall along the panhandle. We are following it all. We've got loads of people along the coastline there and we're going to stay with this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:42:12] SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

We continue to follow this storm as it makes landfall here.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: It is looking ugly on the coastline and even inland. HARLOW: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: We've got Gary Tuchman. He's in Shell Point Beach, Florida.

Gary, tell us what you're seeing there. I mean even since we last spoke to you a few minutes ago, the winds seem to have picked up.

HARLOW: Yes.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the bands have just started moving in, Jim and Poppy, and the situation is not good. The main problem here is the elevation is only ten feet. We're about a half a mile away from the Gulf of Mexico. The storm surge is expected to be up to 14 feet. So people here are obviously very concerned.

What is good to know, and this is very notable for all the hurricanes I've covered over the years, most of them we see a lot of people who linger, stick it out, they want to watch. People here in this part of Florida are gone. This town, which only has about 300 people full time, it's a boating community, a fishing community, a tourist community, we haven't seen anyone here except police. So most of the people are gone.

But the fact is back 13 years ago, 2015, when Hurricane Dennis came through, that was a category three hurricane. It was also the last major hurricane to hit this part of Florida. It caused heavy damage, destroyed many houses here, and the flooding lasted for days afterwards. This is a stronger storm. And that's really important to note. Never before recorded weather history has a category four storm hit the panhandle in the state of Florida. And that's an amazing fact because Florida is such a magnet for hurricanes. But this is the first time and people don't know what to expect.

Earlier this morning we talked to someone who lived in this town who -- and you can see the homes here. The homes are built very tall to offer protection. Most of these homes have been built since Hurricane Dennis in 2005. And people here know that when they come back it likely won't look the same. But we don't know how long we'll be able to stay here because the flood waters are expected to come from the Gulf and start cascading in this direction. We're keeping a very careful eye on it, Jim and Poppy, to see when that does indeed happen.

Back to you.

HARLOW: OK. Gary, thank you to you, your entire crew out there so that we can see exactly what's going on moment to moment.

TUCHMAN: Yes.

HARLOW: We really appreciate it.

And we'll get back to the storm in a moment.

But there is a stunning development in this story about the disappearance of the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, that we've been following very closely and we want to make sure to bring that to you. He's been missing now for more than a week after he walked into the Saudi embassy in Turkey. Well, this morning, "The Washington Post" is reporting that U.S. intelligence intercepted communications of Saudi high ranking officials talking about a plan to capture him before he went missing.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And, keep in mind, Jamal Khashoggi, he's a Saudi national, but he's a U.S. resident.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: His children are U.S. citizens here. The U.S. certainly has a responsibility to explore what really happened.

HARLOW: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: "The New York Times" reporting that Turkish officials tell them Khashoggi was murdered, his body dismembered on orders from the highest levels of the Saudi government. All accusations that the Saudis vehemently deny.

Of course, Turkey is a close U.S. ally and member of NATO. So no small thing that this is what Turkish officials are saying publically and saying to the U.S.

HARLOW: Are saying.

[09:45:02] SCIUTTO: CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson, he is in Istanbul, Turkey, with more details here.

Nic, I mean, just an incredible series of details. But the first one here that really struck me is that the U.S. had intelligence that the Saudis were discussing capturing him. This after the president said yesterday that he knows nothing about this other than what he's read in the press.

HARLOW: I'll say (ph).

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, he said that he was concerned and that there wasn't a lot of information. And then Vice President Mike Pence said deeply troubled and the world needs answers. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the Saudis should go along with an investigation. And that does seem to be at least what they've agreed to do here on the ground by allowing Turkish investigators into the consulate. But it doesn't get to that key point that if U.S. officials had picked up some intelligence that the Saudis were planning to capture Jamal Khashoggi, was he or was he not warned?

Now, his fiance has written an op-ed in "The Washington Post" today and she doesn't mention any warning coming from U.S. officials to her -- to Khashoggi. She says that he was worried that he knew that he wasn't on an arrest warrant, that he had already contact with the counselor (ph) officials here, which has sort of tamped down his concerns a little bit, but that he was worried going into the consulate here. But, again, no mention of being warned about this.

And the information from Turkish sources that "The New York Times" is reporting that he was dismembered within two hours of arriving in here is deeply troubling given that we're beginning to learn a little more about the 15 Saudis that the Turkish president says Turkish police are investigating arriving here. One of them -- one of those who arrived is identified as somebody who is a forensic doctor. The picture that's beginning to emerge is deeply troubling here.

HARLOW: Nick, I mean, given those details, that it is alleged by these Turkish officials that these 15 Saudis flew in on these two private jets, in the middle of night, one of them a doctor, to oversee, you know, what is this alleged dismemberment of him is startling.

And then, on top of all of this, from our NATO ally, Turkey alleging this, that the president still, even the secretary of state, the vice president saying, you know, we need answers, but not calling out Saudi Arabia, not calling for immediate responses when this administration has not hesitated to call out our allies to criticize publically Canada or France or Germany on the issue of trade. And now you're talking about someone who has applied to be a U.S. resident, whose a journalist for "The Washington Post," whose children are U.S. citizens, and a very different tone from the Trump administration.

ROBERTSON: And I think, you know, at the heart of all of this is Jamal Khashoggi himself, who was waiving a red flag about the increasingly autocratic behavior of the Saudi leadership, which has been even more on display over recent months. We think about their sudden spat with Canada coming not long after President Trump's sudden spat with Canada. We think about the investigation that the Saudis had when they were discovered their air force had mistakenly hit and killed civilians, including women and children, in Yemen. That was sort of washed away very quickly. The relationship with the United States, that there's -- that hundreds of billions worth of arms deals with the United States. So all of this speaks to the closeness of the relationship between the White House and the leadership in Saudi Arabia, despite concerns being raised by people like Khashoggi, the way that they behave.

HARLOW: Yes. $110 billion U.S. Saudi arms deal.

SCIUTTO: Listen, human rights matter in this conversation.

HARLOW: Right. Right.

SCIUTTO: This is a journalist who also raised the idea of an opposition movement in Saudi Arabia. Was that too much?

Nic Robertson, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Thank you.

We should also note, as Nic brought up, that Khashoggi's fiance, who was waiting for him outside of the consulate there in Turkey, and he never came out, she writes this morning in a "Washington Post" opinion piece, she, quote, remains confidence that Jamal Khashoggi is still alive. She hopes that President Trump will, quote, shed light, on his disappearance. We'll keep on this, of course.

We are following all the breaking news of Hurricane Michael. We'll get back to that right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:53:57] SCIUTTO: Hurricane Michael is taking aim at the Florida panhandle, a category four storm that is being called the worst there in at least 100 years.

HARLOW: Our national correspondent, Miguel Marquez, is in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.

Miguel, for people who don't know where you are, I mean it is just on the tip here and surrounded really on three sides by water. So the concern there has got to be storm surge, along with everything else.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed. We're just west of Panama City, just east of Destin, Florida.

I want to show you what conditions are like right now. The rain is off and on. The wind is off and on. But the waves are unmistakable. There is a massive storm coming this way. Officials in this area saying if you aren't in a shelter, if you haven't evacuated, if you aren't where you need to be, it is too late now.

That area where you were just look at. That way, that's west. That is east. That's where they think in that area is where it's going to be worse. The storm surge where we are up to maybe nine feet. In other areas up to 12 feet. As you can see, there is a very steep wall, a steep dune here about 30 feet. So homeowners that we've spoken to in here think that they are OK. But we spoke to a few today, one of them saying, when we told them it was now a category four, he said holy expletive, you know, you know what. One of his colleagues said, maybe it's time to leave. His friend said, too late for that now, we are staying.

[09:55:24] Back to you guys.

HARLOW: OK.

SCIUTTO: Well, listen, they should have listened to the warnings.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: And now there's a lot of folks in danger there.

Miguel Marquez, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Stay with us for all the breaking news on Hurricane Michael. We're going to stay with this story. There's a lot to report. Thanks very much for staying.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:00:11] HARLOW: All right, good morning, everyone. Top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow. SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto.