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Hurricane Michael Now a Monster Cat Four; Ambassador Haley Bids Goodbye to her Post; More Questions Than Answers for Khashoggi's Disappearance. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired October 10, 2018 - 03:00   ET



GEORGE HOWELL, CNN HOST: Welcome to viewers here in the United States and all around the world.

Our CNN special coverage this hour, hurricane Michael it is now a category four hurricane and it is headed this way as we await it.

I'm George Howell, live in Destin, Florida.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN HOST: And I'm CNN's Kristie Lu Stout, live in Hong Kong as we follow a major political shakeup in Washington, D.C. As Nikki Haley she announces she is ready to leave the Trump administration.

HOWELL: Breaking news this hour. Hurricane Florence it -- rather, hurricane Michael. Keep in mind, this is a strong storm compared to hurricane Florence which came in. It was a category one storm left a great deal of flooding. This storm it's moving fast, it's going to pack a punch. Right now it is a category four storm.

The areas of most concern, Panama City is right there expecting the eye of the storm. Later today, later around mid-afternoon that's when they will expect to see the sheer force of the storm.

East of Panama City in the northeastern quadrant of that storm, that's where they'll see very strong winds. Winds anywhere in excess of 130 miles per hour and winds that will certainly come and pack a punch.

Our meteorologist Pedram Javaheri is following the story. And Pedram, many people remember the impact of hurricane Florence just a short time ago. That was much different than what we're about to see right now.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. This is a much storm but it's a quicker moving storm. So at least that's one element of good news with a storm of this magnitude.

In fact, once this makes landfall sometime into the early afternoon hours of Wednesday as a category four, this would be the first category four to do so on the mainland of the United States in the month of October since hurricane Hazel did back in 1954. So that alone tells you the rarity of such a storm this late into the

season and only .09 percent of all hurricanes that have ever impacted the U.S. have done so as a category four. Less than one percent. Think about that again and talk about this particular storm.

Going from a category three in the past couple of hours to a category four, it's an exponential increase in the amount of damage that's left in place. A lot of people think with categories much like with earthquakes, once you go from one scale to another it's a one fold increase. Not so the case.

About a five times increase in the damage expectation on the coastal communities there where it makes landfall somewhere just east of Panama City, again into the early afternoon hours. And already seeing the outer bands of Michael pushes at shore right now. Some strong thunderstorms reported around Panama City. We'll begin to see some of those tropical storm force winds with this as well as we approach sunrise.

And then, of course, going in from nine, eventually to noon, eventually to 3 p.m. Then we talk about hurricane force winds and then category four force winds they are coming ashore with 130 miles per hour sustained. Gust is much as 155 miles per hour.

Of course in a place like Panama City when you're talking elevated buildings, a lot of people think well, they can elevate and go up vertically and get away from the damage down on the coast. Not so the case.

Once you go up about 20 or 30 stories, you're increasing the wind speed by about 20 percent. At a higher altitude of course, there's less friction and the wind tend to be stronger above some of those high-rise buildings around Panama City.

But there we go again. The storm moves very quickly, pushes through southern Georgia into the afternoon hours of Wednesday and the evening hours of Wednesday and then into the overnight hours of Wednesday to Thursday morning.

That's the next concern of course. You get heavy rainfall here on top of finally receding rivers across the region. That's bad news all the way around for folks across the Carolinas.

Look at the storm surge, you know, we don't talk about hurricanes of this magnitude in this region of Florida very often, this would be only the fourth category three or stronger storm to make landfall across the Florida Panhandle in recorded history. And none have come in as a category four until Michael does so in the next few hours.

But notice the storm surge. As much as 13 feet high. And must see get up to a couple of feet, not only does the water kind of begin to get up above of course, normal sea level, once you get say, two, three, four feet. You begin pushing that up really encroaching towards some of those homes.

And then once you get above 12 plus feet, which where we're expecting with this particular storm you're essentially submerging the first level of some of these homes and pushing water into the second story if there any second stories to be had on some of these communities there.

And of course, the storm surge tends to carry several blocks inland. So it's not just right on the coast, it's also inland. And lastly, George, the power outage concerned is going to be really significant and widespread from Panama City just to the east, mainly into Tallahassee where plenty of oak trees across this region, they expect a lot of that to come down with the winds that we're expecting in this forecast later on today. George.

[03:05:01] HOWELL: All right. Pedram Javaheri in the CNN international weather center. Pedram, thank you so much.

Again, this is a historic storm. Pedram laid out all the metrics. You understand this part of the country really has not seen anything quite like this in some time. People think back to 2005, hurricane Dennis, that was a strong storm.

This right now is something that officials warn you have to be prepared for. Some people have decided to ride this out. It is going to be a rough couple of hours ahead for people who made that choice. Others decided to evacuate and they'll be looking on to see the impact of the storm and what's left behind.

We know that in the state of Florida they have 22 counties, 22 counties that have given orders of evacuation to their residents. Twenty two counties. Throughout this part of the country, some 28 million people have seen some form of a watch or warning associated with the storm. Some 2.5 million people have been told to seek safer ground.

One of the city certainly that is right in the center of this, Panama City, Florida. Again, that's where the mayor has told people there to either evacuate or find a very safe place to ride the storm out because it promises to be one hell of a storm. Listen.


MAYOR GREG BRUDNICKI, PANAMA CITY, FLORIDA: In the past we had lot of storms that turned out to not be that big a deal. And so, you know, people get complaisant. But this one we are directly in the path. We've been on the edge of several over the last few years. This one we're right in the path.

So my advice to the people that are now staying that -- you know, once the winds get over 50 miles an hour our first responders, police fire they're not going to be able to get to you. So hopefully you got enough water and food and stuff to take care of yourself. You know, we've done everything we can do to get people to leave. But right now, they're going to have to hunker down.

What they need to do is get in a safe place. Wherever you are, hopefully it is a safe place. And you know, we'll see in the morning, we're going to get some wind. We're starting to get a lot of wind right now. And in the morning, it's going to probably get up to the 40 and 50-mile an hour range and by tomorrow afternoon, you know, we might be hitting 125 miles an hour winds.

So do not leave your home or leave wherever you are, you know. Stay inside. Don't go out star gazing the night and don't go out tomorrow looking around because there could be downed power wires and you know, there could be things being blown around an people could get hurt. So, our number one priority is to keep people safe. And we keep you safe if you stay home.


HOWELL: Different storms have different characteristics. You know, I mentioned just a few minutes ago, hurricane Florence as it came in, you'll remember it dropped down to a category one. It sat over that part of the country and dropped a lot of rainfall and cause significant flooding.

This is a different situation. As Pedram even explained, it is a fast- moving storm as hurricanes go. As it moves in it is packing a punch category four. That means winds in excess of 130 miles per hour, that's more than 210 kilometers per hour, that means there will be down trees there will be down power lines. There will be buildings, possibly destroyed in the storm as it moves very quickly through the southeast part of the United States and on out into the Atlantic.

Our Derek Van Dam is in one of the areas that is expecting the storm. We're starting to feel it here to see the effects the rain and some winds here in Destin. Derek is in Apalachicola, Florida.

And Derek, earlier, I spoke with the mayor, he said, look, you know, the best advice I give to people is to get out. He said, I'm leading by example. I left. So, you're there in Apalachicola. Tell us about what you're seeing what you're hearing from people who may still be there.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, well, it's positive really good to hear that the mayor is leaving himself. The script words to listen to.

We've had a difficult night just finding our location to be safe and the Apalachicola region is so low to sea level. The previous live shot location that we try to come to you earlier this evening was at four feet above sea level, so with predicted storm surge of 13 feet you can imagine how dangerous that was.

It was enough for my crew and I to say hey, you know, this is something that is not safe. We need to leave, so we found a higher location and we finally to make it live to you early in the morning hours here obviously.

But I think that's the story around this general area. We're in the Big Bend of Florida. If you look at the topography just the geographical layout of Florida in the Panhandle region, it is almost in the shape of a sea. You can think of it as a catcher's mitt anyone who plays cricket, perhaps for anyone who plays baseball knowing that when you catch the ball with a glove it forms the shape of the sea to get that best, that best angle.

[03:10:06] And that's what the geography of Florida's Panhandle looks like. So, any time that the water starts to rush in that area just caught right within that Big Bend location of Florida and that's why it is so susceptible to storm surge and that is why this particular location is particularly dangerous because the sea level is just so low here.

There's an interstate highway 98 that runs right along the coast here, and as we were trying to find safer ground say, for live location, George, we could already see waves coming and crashing next to the interstates or the highway, I should say.

And we also came across a high watermark from hurricane Dennis back in 2005, which is kind of one of the benchmarks storms that came through here, but that was over a generation ago. So you got to remember that a lot of people here may have forgotten what it's like to ride out a category three or higher hurricane.

And now that we are a category four, the stakes even more (AUDIO GAP) to George that people aren't necessarily evacuated for the wind but they should listen to evacuation orders if it's just to get away from the storm surge, right?

HOWELL: And Derek, you know, it is good that you kind of, you know, lift the veil and put the spotlight a bit on what you and your team have experienced here in the last several hours because yes, there is a great deal of importance into safety so that we can tell the story and show people exactly what's happening despite what is certainly a dangerous situation.

Derek Van Dam, be safe. We'll stay in touch with you as we continue to track the storm. Again, category four storm, hurricane Michael is moving this way ever so closer to the coastline of Florida.

We go back to Kristie Lu Stout following other news today. Kristie?

STOUT: George, it looks clam where you are, but we know that conditions will quickly deteriorate. Take care out there. We'll talk again soon.

Now the search is on to replace President Trump's ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley announced on Tuesday that she is leaving the post at the end of the year. This surprised to White House officials but the president insist about the exit months ago.

Jim Acosta (AUDIO GAP) departure from the White House.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: At a time when the White House is struggling with female voters (AUDIO GAP) President Trump as United (AUDIO GAP) Nikki Haley, one of the highest ranking women in the Trump administration is stepping down.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We hate to lose. Hopefully, you'll be coming back at some point, but we want to just -- maybe at different capacity you can have your pick.

But I just want to let you know, so at the end of the year Nikki will be leaving and will be in constant touch.


ACOSTA: Haley wanted to make one thing clear. She's not leaving to pursue her own political ambitions.


NIKKI HALEY, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: And I will say this for all of you that are going to ask about 2020. No, I'm not running for 2020. I can promise you what I'll be doing is campaigning for this one. So I look forward to supporting the president in the next election.


ACOSTA: But read between the lines and there could be a sign of things to come. As Haley praised members of the Trump family, Ivanka and Jared Kushner.


HALEY: I can't say enough good things about Jared and Ivanka. Jared is such a hidden genius that no one understands.

(AUDIO GAP) has been a great friend and they do a lot (AUDIO GAP) the scene that I wish more people know about, because we're a better country because they're in this administration.


ACOSTA: CNN has learned Ivanka's name has surface in discussions about Haley's replacement but when told about the internal speculation a source said Ivanka laughed. That didn't stop the president from engaging in that speculation later in the day.


TRUMP: I've heard Ivanka. I've heard how good would Ivanka be. The people that know, there's nothing to do with nepotism, but I want to tell you the people that know, know that Ivanka would be dynamite. But you know, I then be accused of nepotism if you can believe it, right, even though I'm not sure there's anybody more competent in the world.


ACOSTA: There are more tea leaves earlier in the day when the president appear to set a high bar for the next U.N. ambassador, saying Haley had made the job more glamorous.


TRUMP: We have a number of people that would very much like to do it. It's a great position and Nikki realized it. I mean, I think she's helping make it a much better position if you want to know the truth. I think it's become a more glamorous position that it was years ago.


ACOSTA: The glowing praise is a far cry from the jobs they were exchanging during the campaign when Mr. Trump tweeted the people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley. And she responded "bless your heart."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe Nikki Haley when she says she doesn't want to run for president in 2020? You guys used to clash with one another.

TRUMP: She supported somebody over in the primary. It turned out very well for me. She respected it. And after that we got along as you would say very well.


[03:14:58] ACOSTA: There are also questions about the timing of Haley's departure as her resignation was dated last week when she wrote, "As a businessman I expect you will appreciate my sense that returning from government to the private sector is not a step down, but a step up."

But just yesterday, the government watchdog crew raise questions about flights on private plane Haley took last year, writing, "In this case, Ambassador Haley's relationship with these individuals appear to have significant political and professional components."

President Trump says he'll select his new U.N. ambassador in the next few weeks. Ivanka Trump is taking herself out of the running putting out a tweet, saying she will not be the replacement for Nikki Haley.

Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.

STOUT: You're watching CNN Newsroom. And up next, graphic accusation and insistent denials. Coming up, what we know about the disappearance of a prominent Saudi journalist.


[03:19:54] STOUT: Welcome back. An update to our breaking news. Hurricane Michael now a category four storm is on track to be the most powerful storm to ever make landfall in the Florida Panhandle and the strongest to hit the U.S. this year.

This monster hurricane grew to a category four in the last hour. Landfall is expected in just a matter of hours.

Nearly 2.5 million people has been urged to evacuate as Florida's governor has warned of total devastation from the storm. And we will continue to closely follow that story for you. Now we are also tracking developments out of Washington, D.C.

President Donald Trump ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley has resigned from her post. And for more on that story I'm joined now by James Davis. He is the dean at the school of economics and political science at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. And James, thank you for joining us.

Let's first dig into the reason why she is leaving. You know, Nikki Haley says that there is no personal reason here why she stepping aside. So why did she choose to resign now?

James, it's Kristie in Hong Kong, can you hear me? OK. Unfortunately, it seems that we're having some technical issues. We'll try to reestablish contact with our guest there in Switzerland to continue that conversation about Nikki Haley and her decision to resign from her post, decision that is made early on Tuesday.

Now meanwhile, we're learning I think graphic and disturbing details about what a prominent Saudi journalist may have faced when he entered the Saudi consulate in Turkey and then disappear.

The Washington Post reports that a squad of Saudi men were waiting for Jamal Khashoggi last Tuesday. He was last seen in this surveillance video. A source tells the Post that U.S. intelligence intercepted Saudi discussions of plans to capture him.

Now New York Times reports, quote, "that senior official saying that Khashoggi was assassinated under orders from the highest levels of the royal court." Now the officials said the Saudi agents dismembered his body with the bone saw. The Saudis have vehemently denied killing Khashoggi.

Now Jomana Karadsheh is live for us outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. And Jomana, while these reports coming out are very graphic. We are working to confirm them. But if true, you know, does this confirm that Jamal Khashoggi was indeed captured, targeted by the Saudis inside the consulate behind you.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Kristie, for the past week, you know, we've been speaking about this the one thing that is missing, we've been hearing all these allegations, accusation this report of theories is what may have happen behind closed doors in this building behind me the Saudi consulate here.

And these are leaks coming from some officials within the Turkish government, but what seems to be missing so far, Kristie, is evidence or any kind of explanation from Saudi officials or from Turkish officials as to how they may have reach that conclusion. I mean, we've also been told this by one senior advisor to President Erdogan saying they believe that he was killed. But so far, absolutely no evidence.

And as you mentioned, the Saudis have been denying all these reports saying they are baseless allegations. They've continue to say that Khashoggi left the consulate after a brief (Inaudible). They haven't provided any evidence or proof to show that that is indeed the case. The one thing that we know for certain is he disappeared after walking into that consulate on October 2nd, and we know that there is an investigation going on this criminal investigation into this disappearance that was launch by Turkish authorities and that they are looking at everything.

One thing they are really looking at closely is the group of 15 Saudis that you mentioned. Now, according to officials this is a group that included Saudi officials and that they were in Istanbul for the 24 hours during which the disappearance of Khashoggi took place.

They say that they arrived in Istanbul. They were at the consulate at the same time that he was there and then they left the country later on that evening.

Now we know that two private jets, executive jets from a company that is frequently used by the Saudi government were likely used to transport those - that group of 15 to Istanbul.

So a lot of questions still and we're waiting to see what comes out of this investigation. It is very important to point out, Kristie, there is nothing official yet, nothing from the Turkish government on the record confirming any of these allegations.

STOUT: Yes. So, still so many ended questions. Authorities want answers but also family members as well. Jomana, we know that the fiancee of Jamal Khashoggi she has written this op-ed for the Washington Post. She is desperately pleading for any information. I know that you met her. What is she going through, how is she coping through all this?

[03:24:57] KARADSHEH: You know as you can imagine, Kristie, and we talk about this story about the implication from the seriousness of this. When you talk about regional politics here with the two countries that are involved.

But of course, this is such a personal situation for his fiancee, Hatice Cengiz who we met out here outside this consulate 24 hours after Khashoggi disappeared. And she was so emotional as you can imagine, she broke down into tears at one point blaming herself for the situation, saying that, you know, the only reason he went into that consulate is to obtain that paperwork that would allow them to get married. She said she was feeling very guilty about that.

And as you mentioned she wrote this opinion piece for the Washington Post and she's really asking for help from President Trump, from the first lady to try and get answer. And this is been the hope that the United States would step in, use its relationship with the Saudi leadership with the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to try and get answers.

And of course, she also in that opinion piece, Kristie, ask the King of Saudi Arabia, the Crown Prince telling them to help with answers too, release that security camera footage that they say, you know, saying that he left proven, basically. And she's asking for help. And you know, she ends this piece by saying that she still believes that he is alive but with every passing day the hope fades, Kristie.

STOUT: Yes, because it's been more than a week since he disappeared. Jomana Karadsheh reporting live from outside the Saudi consulate there in Istanbul. Jomana, thank you for your reporting.

Now Florida's Gulf Coast (TECHNICAL PROBLEM).


HOWELL: Welcome back to viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell live in Destin, Florida where we are waiting for Hurricane Michael. Hurricane Michael here in the last two hours has been upgraded to a category four storm that means it has really strong winds. Winds in excess of 130 miles per hour that's more than 210 km/h and compared to other storms. It plans to pack a real punch here on the Florida coastline again Panama City right there, target bull's-eye, it seems the eye of the storm moving directly toward Panama City and everything East of Panama City that will be in the northeastern quadrant of the storm. That's where they will see really the stronger wins the possible tornadic activity.

What you're seeing right now here in Destin, Florida, you are seeing rain come down for sure were not feeling the winds and keep in mind that's what this storm really seems to be about. It is strong it is fast, it is moving in quickly. It promises to pack a punch again, some 2 1/2 million people have been told to find safe safer ground for some 20 million people more than 20 million people certainly will feel the impact of the storm in one way or another, have been under some sort of a watch or warning associated with hurricane Michael.

To tell you better about this. Let us go to our meteorologist, Pedram Javaheri, in the CNN International Weather Center and Pedram, this is a big storm, it is moving in quickly and it is historic, because of its power.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely, you know, you take a look at the presentation on satellite imagery even at these hour George, stretches all the way the clouds filled from portions of Louisiana all the way to the Eastern preferably there in Florida Panhandle and we are talking about a storm that we've not seen across these region and really in recorded history and the rapid nature of how the storm intensified going in from what was essentially a low- grade category one on Monday evenings, update after 5:00 p.m. to not go to the early morning hours of Wednesday. A healthy category four and still see some straightening potential with the storm system.

And in fact, when you breakdown the numbers 292 hurricanes had made landfall on the mainland U.S. soil from 1851 to 2017, less than 1 percent had done so in other categories four. So it kind a shows you the significance of the storm and of course would never have one that has a category four in the Panhandle region of Florida and Once you go from a category three to category four, is exponential increase in the amount of damage that typically left behind, and people often think it's one category stronger and that's what it is and often has this similar comparison. Not to this case, about a five times increased there in the amount of damage that is going to left on the immediate path of the storm, which would be somewhere east of Panama City when it makes landfall around lunchtime on Wednesday.

And the outer bands is already beginning to push in, so you are getting some of those tropical force, guts across Panama City that are pushing in an association with this as well. And of course as it goes in towards on (inaudible), begin to see category four winds which are 130 miles per hour sustained which roughly equivalent to a commercial airliner or a takeoff, some kind of put it on perspective of the ferocity of the storm system as it moves to shore and then quickly moves out of here. That is really the only piece of good news with this is, unlike Florence, which kind of lingered along the Carolinas for a couple of days that caused significant damage there when it comes to the rainfall damage.

These storm will move out very quickly, but because of its sheer magnitude getting up a category four strength. The storm are spread much, much higher in what we saw across the coastal region of the Carolinas. And of course, it kind of a concave nature there that is alluding to a baseball myth as set up there with the idea of topography on this landscape really allows the water to funnel in.

So once you get up to 13 plus really inundating the coastal communities. Not only that, but also taking out water up essentially be on the first storey of these homes up to the second storey of the home. Potentially several blocks in with. This is why mandatory evacuations are in place across this region of a Florida.

And George, lastly you will see the storm system once it moves out of here, we are expecting significant and widespread power outages to be left behind. Really because, this part of Florida as you work your way towards Tallahassee, very wooded here, quite a bit of the canopy of the oak trees there. It will take a brunt of the storm system with the winds and of course tremendous rainfall that is going to come down with us as well as much a 6 plus inches in some areas and up to 10 inches of rainfall, that allow these trees to come down very easily. Once the storm system moves ashore later on today in until tonight, George.

[03:35:07] HOWELL: Pedram Javaheri, in the International Weather Center, Pedram, thank you very much again -- starting --

STOUT: OK, unfortunately we just lost that connection. You All right watching CNN Newsroom. I will come to you live from both Destin, there in Florida with George Howell has been reporting. We will continue a live coverage from there on the storm, you are watching Newsroom. We will be back right after this.


[03:40:00] HOWELL: Welcome back to our special coverage of hurricane Michael. It is now a category four hurricane that is moving toward the Florida coastline and it's affecting millions of people in its path. Some 28 million people have seen some form of a watch or warning in the past several hours, some 2 1/2 million people have been told to find safer ground. Many people have decided to evacuate to leave these areas here along the coastline. Some have decided to ride it out and again this historic nature. It will be very strong something that has not been seen here in this part of the country in quite some time.

Let us take a look at the image of the storm from space, you get to see from the satellite. This is a big storm but different in nature. If you think back to hurricane Florence that was a storm that drop- down to category one, it lingered over that part of the country and drop a lot of rainfall not so much about -- the winds were strong, but it was more about the rain event. This is going to be about the strong winds. This category four storm it means that winds are in excess of 130 miles per hour that's more than 205 km/h that is very, very powerful and as it comes in land, the coastline, especially Panama City and East of Panama City, they will feel the impacts.

I want to bring in now Mike Theiss. Mike is a storm chaser and also a photographer with National Geographic, Mike, you and I talked about hurricane Florence. We covered it together, talk to us about the difference in nature as you see this storm.

MIKE THEISS, HURRICANE CHASER, PHOTOGRAPHER: You know, certainly George, but this is definitely a different base here. The big story here is going to be the extreme wind that are also associated with the storm surge where it forms with a fully different animal. This is, you know this has got, disaster written all over and we are going to have really big storms surge come through here in the Panama City area and all point East or several hundred miles along the coastline, there is going to be storm surge coming in. This is going to be a big disaster.

HOWELL: And Mike, you know, I want to talk about those areas East of Panama City, because again they are going to be in the rougher side. I do want to note that the rainfall stopping right here just a bit like it so interesting, because at one moment it's just raining heavily. All of a sudden the rain stops. The winds come in the wind stop. It's going to be like that on and off as you know throughout the rest of the night and into the early morning hours, but let's talk about what people are going to expect there in the northeastern quadrant of the storm that tornadic area as it pushes in.

THEISS: Right, it is the core of the hurricane comes in, in that eyewall, you are going to see winds up -- you are going to see sustain winds of a 100 miles per hour with wind gust to a 130, maybe 140 miles per hour, but possibly even higher. Depending on the location that you are.

But again, the big story is going to be the storm surge as well, because it has been pushing up and coming up in that perfect angle in the Panhandle, Florida. It is going to push all of its water towards in front of it and that water is going to have nowhere to go but up along the coastline. We are predicting that anywhere from nine to 12 feet of storm surge.

Imagine a basketball rim, when you are shooting hoops that is 10 feet tall. That will give you some perspective, imagine that -- I know that two or three feet on top of that, but that is the kind of storm surge height that they are predicting here in Panama City area and East up here. HOWELL: And you know, the other things so people made a choice right

as some people decided to evacuate. They left there watching on their hoping that their property and everything will be as safe as possible. It will be so be here after the storm passes on many people decided to ride it out. What are your thoughts to people who may be watching on television, seeing the rain, feeling the winds pickup who are going to a hunkered down to this?

THEISS: I really hope, you know, people aren't riding it in evacuation zone, because this storm is not weakening. In fact it is still strengthening, I mean, this is the real deal, this is not a drill. This is going to come in hard. It is going to come in powerful and you do not want to be on the immediate coastline in the building.

You know, hope you're not in an evacuation area, it is probably still not too late to get out here tonight, but in the next several hours, conditions are going to start deteriorate real fast and by daybreak, I think we are going to see probably and possibly tropical storm and force wind already.

HOWELL: Mike, just a share of our viewers, you know again. We talked at the last storm just about how important safety is, we know that you will be taking the utmost of precautions as you continue to track the storm as we will as well. Thank you for your time. We will keep in touch with you and wish you safety.

So again, cities right there around Panama City. Certainly here in Destin were feeling the effects we will feel as tropical storm, force winds East of Panama City.

[03:45:00] That's where they will feel the stronger winds, quite honestly, again, that dirty side of the storm in Apalachicola, Florida that's a point of that many people are certainly are keeping an eye on many people were told to evacuate, especially by the mayor of that city. The mayor said look, I'm leaving by example. I am getting out of here. I spoke with him earlier, here is what he had to say.


MAYOR VAN JOHNSON, APALACHICOLA, FLORIDA: I was surprise that I was given all the resident and that is to evacuate. This is a storm that have a significant life threatening impact in the word that we was putting out on the street is to evacuate. So I want to leave by example, so I'm here with my family hoping for a safe situation.

HOWELL: Let us talk about what Apalachicola has seen before in strong storms that come through here really the last since 2005, the intensity the possibility of damage with a storm like this.

JOHNSON: They are predicting this to be the worst storm that will see, perhaps in two decades. I remember 1985, which (inaudible). I rode that one out. And that was a category three and I said that would have again right?

HOWELL: You know, some people they may look back at our stores like Florence, still a very, very strong storm great deal of flooding. But as it came in land drop-down to category one. Some people say, well, you know, maybe I can ride this out. Maybe it will weaken, but it's in the Gulf of Mexico. The water is warm, this storm has the potential to get up to category four that is 210 kilometers per hour.

JOHNSON: In a three-day complacency because we had those near misses of people not taking it serious, but I am telling you, all the prediction and projections of this storm in the case that we need to take it as serious as possible. And those people who decide to stay, I wish them well and those people that decided to leave, they did the right thing.

HOWELL: One other question to you, sir. For people who did take that advice, people like yourself who left after storm passes through a people wonder well, when can I go home, but many times it takes officials time, right? To move power lines to clear those trees, because it's still a very dangerous situation. How long would you say for people to wait to hear from officials about coming home?

JOHNSON: We are probably going to be early Friday. In fact we are going to declare a curfew as soon as the storm passed. Because we don't want the people that stayed start wondering out and to give way to the people that is actually kind of work and clear this storm, the debris.

HOWELL: Van Johnson, we appreciate your time, the mayor of Apalachicola Florida and again will keep in touch with you as that city braces for what is a very strong storm.

JOHNSON: Thank you.


HOWELL: And that interview itself up for international viewers. Just a few hours earlier really shows up before and after right were in the clothing it don't really the rain gear. Here we are now a category four storm, the rain coming down. We will continue to cover it here on CNN. Stay with us.


HOWELL: As hurricanes go this part of the country is really had the luck of dodging several bullets only four major storms through this part of the coastline. The Gulf coastline and the Florida Panhandle since 1950. Our Randi Kaye has more on the history of storms in this part of the country.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In July 2005 hurricane Dennis slammed into the Florida Panhandle as a dangerous category three storm with 120 miles per hour winds.

It made landfall near Navarre Beach, causing widespread flooding throughout the area. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is highway 98, it goes along the coast in the

port of Panhandle and what is going on here is that the ocean, the Gulf of Mexico is breaching the road.

KAYE: Three people died in the aftermath of the storm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is very, very similar now -- the hurricane in 95, it made it up to 150 mile per hour wind.

KAYE: hurricane Opel hit the Panhandle 10 years before Dennis making landfall just east of Pensacola. The deadly storm hit land as a category three with 144 mile-per-hour winds more than 100 miles of Florida's Gulf Coast virtually destroyed from the winds and rain.

There were at least nine fatalities blamed on the storm. In 2004, the year before Dennis, four major storm struck the state of Florida within the span of six weeks, hurricane Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jean caused widespread death and destruction throughout the entire region including the Panhandle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to be a large scale every single on the roof is going to be gone.

KAYE: Frances landed on the East Coast of the state as a category two in September and then made a second landfall in the Panhandle as a tropical storm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The winds had become significantly stronger in this particular area, right off the beach. By the way what you see flying by me is (inaudible).

KAYE: Hurricane Ivan hit Gulf Shores, Alabama, and a Cat three that same month. The hurricane force winds extended into the Florida Panhandle, causing even more damage to the already battered region. If hurricane Michael makes landfall as a category three is predicted it will be the first major storm to directly hit the Panhandle in 13 years. Randy Kaye, CNN, Naples, Florida.


HOWELL: Hurricane Michael a category four storm. Its effects are now being felt here. I'm George Howell in Destin, Florida.

[03:55:04] LU STOUT: George, thank you and take care. I'm Kristie Lu Stout, stay with us for more hurricane Michael coverage. Early Start is next.