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Widespread Catastrophic Damage Across Florida Panhandle; Cajun Navy Member Tells CNN "it's Survival Mode" in Devastated Panama City Beach; Dow Set to Drop at Open After Historic Loss; Trump Blames "Crazy" Fed's Interest Rate Hikes for Market Plunge. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired October 11, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:16] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Very good Thursday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

This morning parts of the Carolinas that still have not recovered from Hurricane Florence are getting drenched by Tropical Storm Michael after roughly 19 hours on land. Michael is still a threat to life and property, even with top winds now less than a third as strong as they were when they blasted the Florida Panhandle yesterday.

SCIUTTO: The sun rose this morning on scenes of just heart-stopping devastation. If you didn't know already that Michael was the most powerful hurricane to hit the Panhandle in recorded history, the most powerful to hit anywhere in the U.S. since 1992, it wouldn't be hard to believe that now.

Right now almost half a million homes and businesses are without power in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. And so far there are two confirmed deaths. A man in Florida, a little girl, sadly, in Georgia.

CNN's Erica Hill is in Panama City Beach.

Erica, the mayor of Panama City just across the bridge from you told us earlier that they could not get a handle on how many people might need help or rescuing just because of phone problems there. Is that the case where you are?

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are absolutely phone problems. I can tell you most of us do not have any cell service just on our phones. I spoke with a couple who lives directly across the street from the marina where I'm standing now. They don't have any cell service. In fact, the woman, Kathleen (PH), we're showing you -- we're putting our drone up right now so you can get a sense of the devastation where we are. Again, this is Panama City Beach.

Kathleen (PH) who lives across the street told me when the sheriff came knocking at her door yesterday morning around 7:00 a.m. that's when she decided to get out. She stayed at a shelter in Panama City, walked part of the way home and then hitchhiked her way to get back here, which she said to me is a devastation in Panama City was like nothing she had ever seen before. That's even after she saw this mega barn behind me at this marina. I just want you to give you a sense, so you can see from our drone

shot how big it is, how devastating the damage is. This mega barn according to the Web site holds 450 boats. We spoke with a boat owner this morning who said he was told it was built to withstand a category four. If you look at the damage it looks much more like what we would see after a tornado. As you look at the way the metal is bent and it just ripped through here.

And the other reason it looks a lot more like a tornado is there is a similar building just on the other side of our camera that is virtually untouched. And that is a lot of what we saw on our drive in this morning. Power lines down. Power lines very low. We saw entire areas that were devastated and then you would see homes or boats next to them that seem to be untouched. To say there is a lot of damage may be putting it mildly.

I should also point out as soon as we cross into Bay County this morning, our phones started lighting up with emergency alerts about curfews, boil water advisories. There is a lot to do here. It is difficult to get around. We're staying off the roads. If they can clear them for first responders and so they can really assess the damage to get things back up and running. Electricity obviously, but also, as you pointed out, Jim, the phone service, which as we know is a major hindrance for a lot of the first responders in the area this morning.

SCIUTTO: Yes. It strikes me the difference here is just the strength of the winds at land fall.


SCIUTTO: Extremely unusual and you're seeing that in the damage.

HARLOW: Erica, just before you go, I mean, looking at this from our vantage point, you're there, it really does look like tornadoes just ripped through there.

HILL: Yes.

HARLOW: Did they have everyone evacuate? Did people survive this? I mean, it's amazing to see that kind of devastation and not hear about a death count there.

HILL: It's true. And that's a lot of what we're hearing from people this morning. We don't have exact numbers on evacuations. And I've asked officials both in Destin where we were yesterday, we're trying to get numbers today, they don't have exact numbers. But what I can tell you is the couple who I spoke with this morning who literally is a stone's throw, their home, from where I'm standing right now, she said once she saw in the morning, she said I would have rode out a category three.

When I saw it was a four, and the sheriff came knocking at my door, that's when I left. She was at a shelter at a school, she told me, in Panama City. She told me a story of being in that shelter when they got a tornado warning and they all had to hunker down for a tornado. She was trying to comfort the 5-year-old next to her who was saying to his mother, you told me there wasn't going to be anymore winds after this. She said people were distraught. A lot of people were in the shelters. But as soon as it was over they wanted to get out and assess the damage. So we're still waiting is the sort of long answer for you, Poppy.


HILL: We're still waiting on those numbers.

HARLOW: OK. It's just so good that so many people, it does sound, heeded those evacuation warnings.

Erica, great reporting all through this. Thank you so much.

I want to take you now to Apalachicola. That is where our meteorologist Derek Van Dam is. What are you seeing there?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Good morning, Jim and Poppy. You know, the storm surge was the greatest fear here along the Big Bend of the Florida Panhandle. I'm in Apalachicola, and unfortunately it was realized and we're just getting the first glimpse of the damage caused by the storm surge.

First I want to show you this marker that's used by the American Red Cross that shows previous storm surges from previous hurricane.

[09:05:04] We all know about Hurricane Dennis. That came through in 2005. That was well into the blue. Just to put it into perspective, it appears that Hurricane Michael did not have as high of storm surge, but nonetheless it was right in the middle of this yellow section, roughly eight and a half feet. But look at what the storm surge was responsible for on top of the hundred-mile-per-hour winds.

I mean, incredible sights here behind me. This is just one of the many casualties of Hurricane Michael. Of course, lots of property damage here. Boats have been completely lifted out of the marinas and the harbors for people who didn't take their boats out of the water. There are trees toppled across the roadways within the main city center. Electricity wire still dangling off of poles. Tree poles, electricity poles have been completely snapped and are covering the roadway here.

In fact, we were driving or trying to drive and navigate along Highway 98 which runs right through Apalachicola and we came across about a 20-foot by 20-foot piece of somebody's roof that came off a building. No one knows where it came from exactly. We were talking to some of the local police officers and they were commenting on it as well. It's a big mystery. That's the scene that people are waking up to this morning.

Evacuations still in place for this area but as people slowly start to filter in Highway 98, there are causeways and bridges open up again, people are going to come back to quite a mess in days if not weeks to recover and bring this infrastructure back into place. Back to you.

SCIUTTO: Derek Van Dam, thanks very much.

I mean, what a scene there. Look at the boat lifted right there in the middle of town.

HARLOW: Up and into someone's yard.

SCIUTTO: We're going now to Mexico Beach. City councilmember Rex Putnal, he's on the phone now.

Councilmember, thanks for joining us. It strikes us that one of the biggest issues now is just communications. Phone lines down. So it must be difficult for you to get a sense of how many folks need help.

REX PUTNAL, COUNCILMEMBER, MEXICO BEACH, FLORIDA: Yes. That's the -- you know, phone lines are down and a lot of our employees that work for the city live in Callaway or in (INAUDIBLE) and they're experiencing the same trouble that I would be experiencing of getting back in. It's just being able to coordinate first a search and rescue to make sure everybody is OK and then to start cleaning up. But that is a problem, communication.

SCIUTTO: Do you have any sense right now of how many people need help?

PUTNAL: I don't -- I know -- I know 200 plus stayed in Mexico Beach and rode the storm out. I don't know -- have any sense of any casualties or anything. I just know -- I know it's just, you know, to have officials there. I'm sure the people that stayed that are OK have -- you know, doing all they can do to help everybody. But as far as officially the EMS or fire or police departments, we just -- you know, we don't have anybody to report back that they're there and have been able to do that.

HARLOW: Let me follow up with you on that because Florida Senator Marco Rubio was just on CNN a few minutes ago. And he said, quote, that somebody told him, somebody told him that Mexico Beach is gone. Wow. What are you hearing?

PUTNAL: Well, I mean, I know -- I saw. All I can do is look at the pictures and see what people say. When you say it's gone, you know, it's a lot of damage done. But I've seen pictures of places I recognize, some of the newer places that are still standing. So, yes, it will -- it is, you know, forever changed it probably because we are probably one of the few just small beach towns that hadn't changed a whole lot.

The house I lived in was probably built in the '50s. I'm not sure if it's still there. And more older locations than newer locations. So a lot of devastation. Until I see it, I'd hate to just say it was gone. But, you know, I know it is a lot of devastation.

SCIUTTO: Just one final question. We know from experience, I'm sure you as well, that many storm-related deaths will happen after the storm has passed. Downed power lines, et cetera.

HARLOW: Yes. SCIUTTO: There is a lot of dangerous stuff still out there. What are

you saying to residents? Are you advising them against going back now until you have a better assessment of the situation on the ground?

PUTNAL: Yes. I would just stay put until they at least say it is safe to come in because, you know, there's -- just from the pictures, there is all kind of danger there. I mean, you just wouldn't want to be -- you wouldn't want to be traveling around. Let the experts do what they do first.

HARLOW: Yes. All right, Rex, we hope -- we hope your house made it through. As many as possible made it through. Please keep us posted. Thank you for your time.

SCIUTTO: You know, you talk to folks like that, you know, they're the leaders of the community, and they also live in the community, so they are facing similar dangers and losses.

[09:10:07] HARLOW: Yes. And him saying his house is from the 1950s, I think those new building codes just to stay in those winds of 140 miles per hour didn't go in until the late '60s. When you think about what could have happened.

SCIUTTO: Well, listen, as we speak, Tropical Storm Michael, it's now a tropical storm, is moving across the Carolinas, parts of which still recovering from the flooding caused by Hurricane Florence just last month. Meteorologist Chad Myers of course covered Florence now covering Michael, the path this morning.

Where is it now? What kind of rain is it dropping? Are the winds still strong? Tell us what you know.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The winds are still 50. Wherever there is a thunderstorm patch. When you get away from the arms or the outer bands still because they're still there. Things are still pretty circular. That's when the winds will die off. And any time you get rain coming your way, that's when the winds are going to pick up. We do know that this thing went directly over Augusta National about a couple of hours ago. Now it's moving toward Columbia into South Carolina.

The rain is heavy, but not like the Florence rain because it's not going to stop. It's just going to keep right ongoing. Columbia just had a gust of 40. Charlotte a gust of 30. Even Atlanta has been gusting to about 28 miles per hour in the past hour or so. Eventually this thing exits over Hampton Roads, but D.C., Baltimore and even New York could pick up some rain with this because there is a cold front that's going to push it this way.

So 5:00 Monday afternoon, it was an 80-mile-per-hour storm, not that far from Cancun in Mexico. And Cuba. And then just a couple of days later, almost, what, I guess, 48 hours later, this thing was 155. But let me show you what happened at 10:00 a.m. on Monday. This is the forecast from the National Hurricane Center. Here it is. Same place. Here it is, a hurricane, hurricane, hurricane, 120, 120 and now 50 miles per hour. That's 54 hours. That's 54 hours away from landfall. And this storm made landfall

somewhere in the neighborhood of five miles away from that 54-hour forecast. Kudos, National Hurricane Center. OK, we didn't get 155, but they had landfall within 10 miles one way or the other.


SCIUTTO: It's incredible. It just got stronger and stronger. Caught a lot of people off guard.

Chad Myers, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: We are all following the breaking developments after Hurricane Michael. We will take you to the hardest hit areas as they wake up to the devastation this morning.

HARLOW: Also, Wall Street is bracing ahead of the open. Minutes away from the Opening Bell. Yesterday you saw the Dow plunged more than 800 points. The president is blaming the Federal Reserve in an unprecedented move. He says the Fed has gone, quote, "crazy," but his own Treasury secretary says, no, no, no. Don't blame the Fed for the Dow's drop.

Also new this morning, CNN has learned Saudi officials discussed a plan to lure journalist Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia. More on what the U.S. intercepted and what it means for U.S.-Saud relations and what the president will say and actually do about it ahead.



[09:15:00] JASON GUNDERSON, MEMBER OF THE CAJUN NAVY: There is no power anywhere, there are no resources. We're -- it's survival mode out here, and it's very scary.


POPPY HARLOW, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: Survival mode in the Florida panhandle this morning as the sun comes up and people see the reality of the devastation from Hurricane Michael. That was a volunteer for the Cajun Navy in search and rescue mode looking for survivors right now in the hardest hit areas.

JIM SCIUTTO, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: Well, let's go back to one of those hardest-hit areas. It's Panama City. Dianne Gallagher there on the ground, Dianne, tell us what you're seeing there this morning as the sun came up.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim, this is -- I mean, it's absolute devastation. The governor called it utter devastation. That's exactly what it is. You saw those winds that we were -- yesterday, well, this is what they do. It looks like to be very honest, instead of a hurricane that I've ever covered in the aftermath, this looks like thousands of tornadoes just descended upon Panama City and ripped all of the buildings to shreds.

Now, you see what happened to this firestone, I mean, it literally twisted this building's metal up and pushed it down, just smashing the whole thing. Well, right behind this building here, there was a mobile home park, and we only knew this because one of the residents came out because he had found a kitten in the rubble and was looking for someone to help him.

It was a very small kitten. He took me back to his home and they're all destroyed except for one. There are large trees down on top of them. They are just ripped apart. Mattresses everywhere.

The man who came to us, Frank Knight survived Hurricane Katrina. He spent an hour and a half yesterday evening trying to get his wife out from underneath a tree that had fallen into their trailer, one of three that had fallen into their trailer, and said that at this point he isn't sure which surviving which one is worse, Michael or Katrina. Listen.


GALLAGHER: Why didn't you leave?

FRANK KNIGHT, HURRICANE SURVIVOR: Because just like everybody else, I didn't want to leave what we had, all right? And basically, I had no choice, all right? Because everything I have is right there, you know, just the choice we had to make.


GALLAGHER: And I talked to a lot of people in that mobile home park, at least a dozen of them stayed. They don't have anything left there right now. Their cars, if they have them are destroyed, their homes are destroyed, and most of them had reasons for staying, be it finances.

Jim, Poppy, it was too expensive for them to evacuate they felt. They didn't have a way to do it or if they didn't want to leave their pets or members of their family who wouldn't.

SCIUTTO: Well, they're lucky to be alive, frankly, this morning.

[09:20:00] HARLOW: Yes, and I think we all have to remember, you know, in less -- we can't understand the shoes that they're walking in. And, you know, for them you heard that man say that's everything I had. I just -- I didn't know what to do.

Dianne and her team have been incredible through all of this, thank you. Let's get to our friend and colleague, Brooke Baldwin, she is in the air in a helicopter right now on the way to Mexico Beach.

And Brooke, we just heard Florida Senator Marco Rubio say on Cnn, Mexico Beach is gone. You are going to see it first-hand. BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are Poppy, we just took off five minutes ago from Destin, which was spared, thank goodness. We're flying directly along the coastline, in about 15 minutes from now we should be passing over Panama City Beach to be able for the first time from the air to see the devastation.

My goal with my -- help of my pilot, Alex, here, is to get to Mexico Beach. The challenge for all of our crews on the ground has been it's simply impossible to get there on the ground because of the wind speed from yesterday, clocked at 155 miles an hour.

There are so many trees down, our only option was by air. And so, 40 miles down this gorgeous coastline here in the Florida panhandle is Mexico Beach. And what we will see, I think will be devastating.

I have seen the photos, I have talked to people who have homes in Mexico Beach who lost everything, roofs gone, homes underwater. We've seen some Instagrams from a 12-year-old girl who has been there huddled in her home with 12 people.

I am bringing water, I'm hoping to meet these people, whoever decided to ride it out. But if you stay with us through the morning, we should be able to be the first crew to be able to see with our own eyes how bad Mexico Beach really is.

SCIUTTO: Well, Brooke, as you're flying over the coastline there, what are you seeing just below you there? What's the state of the structures, the homes --

BALDWIN: Sure --

SCIUTTO: Et cetera.

BALDWIN: Sure, so far, we're mostly around the Destin area which if you think back to the cone from yesterday was on the western edge of the cone. So it still suffered, you know, high winds, storm surge, three to five feet.

But looking down, I mean, these are -- I can't -- I don't want to stick my hand out the window, I'm missing a door. But the homes, they're absolutely beautiful and intact, if you can see. Absolutely fine.

But what a difference 40 miles makes. So, we'll be able to tell if you guys stick with us in the next 15 minutes, the difference between entirely intact homes along the Destin area and then into Miramar before we get to PCP which as you can see, you're talking about crews on the ground there is just devastated.

So stay with me, it's gorgeous here, beautiful day to fly. But as we go along the coastline, it will be much worse.

HARLOW: One of the things and Brooke, we're going to come back to, you know, right when you get there. But before you go now, Brooke, what we saw from Erica Hill, Dianne Gallagher, both of them on the ground there experiencing what looks like the aftermath of devastating tornadoes, twisted metal, buildings thrown on their heads. So different than the destruction of a typical hurricane.

BALDWIN: It's exactly what I thought when I saw the pictures this morning. It took me right back to a couple of years ago when I was on the ground in Ardmore, Oklahoma. And the power from the winds, just keeping in mind it was clocked at 155 miles an hour.

That is two miles an hour shy of a category five hurricane. And when you look at the structure damage and the mangled metal, it took me right back to Oklahoma and those F4, F5 tornadoes that we covered and the days after where people's homes were gone. Were gone.

And that WAS -- that looks exactly like what we're seeing on the ground in places like Panama City Beach, and I have a feeling what we're about to see in Mexico Beach here in Florida.

SCIUTTO: Yet, the big challenge we keep hearing is just no communications, right?

HARLOW: Right --

SCIUTTO: So folks can't make calls to get in touch with family members or with first responders. Brooke, we're going to stick with you throughout the morning as you see there, and you stay safe as well.

In other news we're following, get ready for another rocky day on Wall Street. The Dow Set to fall at the open after falls in overseas market overnight. We're going to be live at the New York Stock Exchange, stay with us.


SCIUTTO: We are just moments away now from the opening bell on Wall Street, could be another brutal day for investors. The Dow plunged 831 points on Wednesday making it the third worst trading day, at least in terms of points and its history, at least, some analysts say stocks hurting due to the president's comments.

HARLOW: Yes, I mean, the president says this is the fed. You know, not China, but analysts beg to differ. Listen to the president.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the Fed is making a mistake. They're so tight. I think the Fed has gone crazy.

The trade war with China, we're taking in billions of dollars in tariffs from China, from Chinese goods and it hasn't hurt us at all. The Fed is going wild. I mean, I don't know what their problem is, but they're raising interest rates and it's ridiculous.


HARLOW: All right, a couple of points here. The guy who runs the Fed as we watched the opening bell here on Wall Street, his pick Jerome Powell and his Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said, no, this is not about the Fed, this is a normal correction.

Our chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here, down at the Exchange is Alison Korsik. Let's see how the market opens, but Romans, to you, the significance of a president saying I think the Fed has gone crazy.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Look, it just isn't done and here's why?