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CNN TONIGHT

Hurricane Dorian Is Now A Category Four Storm; Interview with Mayors of Palm Beach County and Vero Beach, and Rep. Clay Yarborough, R-FL, About Hurricane Preps; Hurricane Dorian Puts Vulnerable Populations at Risk; CNN Hero Mark Meyers. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired August 30, 2019 - 22:00   ET

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


[22:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: I hope you enjoyed this interview with Howard Stern, he's best-selling book Howard Stern comes again is out now. Thanks very much for watching.

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: This is "CNN Tonight." I'm Laura Coates sitting in for Don Lemon. Breaking news tonight, hurricane Dorian now a category four storm, 21 million people in Florida bracing this extremely dangerous storm. One, the National Hurricane Center poses says poses a significant threat to Florida.

Now, if Dorian remains a category four, that would make it the strongest storm to strike Florida's Atlantic Coast since hurricane Andrew in 1992. Now that storm causing some $27 billion in damage. And leaving 26 people dead. FEMA said it's preparing for a major impact from Dorian.

The center of the storm effective to hit sometime Tuesday afternoon. Exactly where, we don't know yet. It still is too early to tell. And that's one of the many things tonight has people on edge. All of Florida, all of Florida has been placed under a state of emergency. And authorities are urging residents to stockpile a weeks' worth of food and supplies. The president saying this as he left the White House for Camp David this evening.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't know about evacuation. We're leaving it up locally right now. We are going to see where it's coming. And we just don't know exactly where it's going to be coming. And how far in it's coming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis with this warning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): You need to take preparation for this storm. If you haven't already.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COATES: Now we'll talk about what those preparations look like

tonight all across the state of Florida. It's important to remember this, this storm has been really unpredictable so far. And basically no one can say with 100 percent certainly exactly when or where it's going to hit. So, the message for anyone in Florida tonight, whether you are a resident or a visitor. Here's the message. Keep a very close eye on the changing forecast. We'll have all the latest for you throughout this hour and all night long here on CNN.

Now correspondents are live in the storm zone tonight, but I want to go first to Tom Sater in the CNN Weather Center. Tom, I'm so glad that you're here, because this storm is looking incredibly dangerous. Tracking along huge parts of Florida East Coast. It's now a category four. So, walk us through the forecast. What exactly is under threat right now?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLIGIST: Well, it hasn't changed as you just mentioned, Laura. I wish we could do, you know, the people of Florida, you know, greater justice here. I know, their nerves are a wreck right now. Do we go -- do we not go, what do we do? The entire peninsula Florida is still under the threat.

We're a little ahead of schedule now at category four, 24 hours ago it was a category one. It's incredible development in strength. The models are still in good consensus. They are still bringing it to Florida which is not good. We're hoping that it starts to slide more east. But that turn to the north still looks to happen. It just would be nice if it happened earlier.

We have had strong area of high pressure that's been blocking it from moving north. So, therefore we're waiting on a new track from the National Hurricane Center that will come out in one hour. And therefore we'll see if a category five is in its future. One thing right now, this is going to be catastrophic at a category four scraping interior sections of a very populated part of the East Coast of Florida. This is not looking good.

COATES: Tom, catastrophic. Thank you for talking me today. You know, joining me on the phone now is the flight director of the NOAH hurricane hunters, Jack Parrish. He is actually flying through hurricane Dorian right now. Jack, we're showing our viewers a video right now from inside the eye of hurricane Dorian. Have the NOAH Hurricane Hunters by not to be clear, it's not actually the plane that you're on. We want to show just how intense it is. And you have made Jack, multiple passes through this storm today. What is it looking like now?

JACK PARRISH, FLIGHT DIRECTOR, NOAH HURRICANE HUNTERS: We saw an eye yesterday at this time. We saw a profound eye today. Very small, 10 miles across. Completely circular. Extremely strong wind. In the eye wall itself. And we only went through it once in the daylight. So we were able to look at and see the clear sky. Our next few passes were in the dark. But we do our work just fine in the dark. Just like we do during the daylight. Very big increase here of intensity in 24 hours. COATES: I mean, you and your team has been flying in and out of

Dorian for days now. Starting when it was off the coast of Barbados. And now we know it's a category four. So what about this storm has stood out to you the most, Jack?

[22:05:11] PARRISH: The biggest thing was that it really was not very well organized at all when it was down in Barbados and when it gathered with the Virgin Island, very suddenly became much better organized. The radar pictures look much, much better as far as clarity. And then we just seen this dramatic increase in intensity in the last 24 hours. So like our last picture (inaudible), with a surface winds of 125 knots. So, it really gathered steam in the last 24 hours.

COATES: I mean, just looking at the graphic right now, it looks ominous. What is it like flying through the eye wall and now into the eye of this storm?

PARRISH: It's quite a ride. We're flying at 8,000 feet. Over the water. And we drop down to about 6,000 feet as we go through the center of the storm. The radar makes it very clear where it's going to be rough. So we get everybody secured in their seats. And some of the outer bands we actually found rougher conditions for the airplane, but just amazing to get through the eye wall and then get into the eye and it's perfectly, perfectly calm in the eye.

COATES: Jack Parrish, thank you so much. This is really scary to look at. The calmness of it is just really -- it's misleading. We have Palm Beach County officials telling CNN that they expect mandatory evacuations to begin Sunday morning. Joining me now from Palm Springs, CNN's Brian Todd. Brian, we have already seen this really long gas lines. You are seeing supplies that are flying off the shelves. How blind are people preparing down there?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Laura, you mention the long gas lines they are preparing in part by making a run on gasoline as they have been at this Wawa station in Palm Springs all day long. We were just told by people here that this station is almost out of gas. That a tanker truck is close by and should be arriving very soon. But we'll show you just the kind of runs that they have been making here.

These lines have been snaking out the driveways and down the street pretty much all day long. They have got two lines here moving into one. One of them coming off another street, one of them coming off this street here that you're looking at. Now, the key question is what are Florida state officials doing to try to get gasoline to some of these stations?

Governor Ron DeSantis said, look, we've got gas, but because of the high demand all over the state, we have limited ability to get the gas from the ports to stations like this. So what they're doing is they are waving tanker truck fees and service fees for the tanker trucks to come. They are escorting tanker trucks with state highway patrol to try to get them to these places faster.

But still there's a big run on gas. They're worried about, you know, a lot of these stations running out. A lot of stations around here have already run out of gasoline. People here not knowing whether they are going to have to evacuate starting Sunday or not. And I talked to the manager of this place, Larry Peck, earlier today and I asked him whether his customers are starting to get may be a little edgy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Do people as we get closer to the storm, did they start to panic a little bit? Do tempers flare? What goes on?

LARRY PECK, GENERAL MANAGER, WAWA GAS STATION: They do. I mean, they do, they get over the antsy, but I think because of the seriousness of this storm, I see this happening a lot sooner.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: And Peck told me that on average day, he's got about 1,700 people buying gas here. He thinks that has more than tripled over the past couple of days. There have been complaints, Laura, about some price gouging of water and gas in some places. Not here. This manager here is taking a lot of steps to, you know, to not do that at all, but there have been complaints about that. But state officials, the Attorney General Office of Florida is telling CNN, they have a task force in place to try to head off that problem.

COATES: Well, thank God for that, Brian. We don't want people who are already vulnerable now being exploited in that way. Vero Beach is right in the bulls-eye of Dorian's current path. And CNN's Martin Savidge is there now. Martin, with Vero Beach facing a possible of direct hit now, what are people doing there to prepare?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, doing the same thing that you're seeing in a lot of places along the Atlantic side here in Florida. They want to board up their homes. That's why we are inside of a Hoe Depot here, just about every major hardware store here has had two really heavy days of trade.

People have been coming in here they are buying the plywood, they are buying the lumber to support the plywood. They need all the fasteners, the screws and everything else. They have been through generators several times. They're out of them again. The plywood situation here is down to about 50 sheets. They'll be gone first thing come tomorrow morning.

And then people become very nervous about, when are you going to get more. Well, they are working very hard and there are actually emergency shipments that all of this stores is trying to supply here, because they know that this storm is still several days away.

[22:10:03] People still need the supplies and food, still need the fuel if they want to leave. And they still have to secure their homes. Whether they are going to stay inside of it or whether they plan to leave it. So, that chain is critical in the thinking of peoples planning. If it gets delayed they get delayed. If they plan to leave, their departure is delayed and that could be catastrophic in a storm like this, Laura.

COATES: Martin, thank you for your reporting. Up and down, Florida is at risk now. We are going to go to Miami, where residents are taking no chances and stocking up on supplies. CNN's Leyla Santiago is in downtown Miami. Leyla, you have been seeing a lots of activity at stores all around Miami. How are people there stocking up?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I was in North Miami earlier today. And the manager of the Costco there said that he had seen foot traffic increase in the last three days by 60 percent. We were there when a truckload of water came in. That's about 1,200 cases. And that lasted most of it gone within about an hour or so. We were talking to residents there who said they were still monitoring, still keeping a close eye, but definitely starting to prepare and stock up not only on water, but also medicine.

Folks were looking for generators, extension cords. Lanterns were out within a matter of hours as well. So folks definitely taking note of this. And trying to prepare for what authorities are suggesting seven days with limited resources to make sure that they have enough for that. Should Dorian really take its toll here?

COATES: Leyla, thank you for your report. We'll keep an eye on Miami as well. I want to bring in storm chaser Aaron Jayjack. Now, he's live and joins us from Orlando. Now, you were in Cocoa Beach Florida today where hurricane prep as you know, are fully under way. We can see businesses are boarding up their windows, their doors. What else did you see today?

AARON JAYJACK, STORM CHASER: So, I just said, I mean everybody is taking this storm seriously. It is a major hurricane right now. It's been upgraded at category four. So all the building, all the businesses are starting to put their windows, put a wind up on their windows, and you know what I did notice, I went to a restaurant this afternoon, there are still people just enjoying their selves, like a regular Friday night, you know, so, isn't all just hard work right now here on Cocoa Beach.

COATES: From what you have seen on the ground is this storm being taken serious? Are people out to eat in restaurants, are they missing the point? Or are they just crazy. What's happening?

JAYJACK: No, I mean, I think it's -- right now, I think this probably people are trying to cope with some of the stress of the storm. I mean, it's still unknown where the storm exactly going to go. I mean, it looks like Florida is going to be -- take the brunt of the storm. And maybe it won't come ashore. And maybe it's just going to sits offshore.

And you know, in some cases if it just sits there offshore, that could be even worse or it just sits there for days and piles up surge, wind and rain on shore and that can just lead to really bad flooding situation. So, I think, you know, for the most part people are handling it like they should. I think a lot of people -- they are on the beach and they are probably seasoned with this type of event. And so, you know, that is what they do. They'll going to go about and prepare, but they are going to go ahead and live their lives and deal with the stress that way.

COATES: Aaron, you also saw some crowds today at a gas station in Orlando. Have residents who need fuel been able to actually get the fuel?

JAYJACK: Yes. So, I didn't have any problems getting fuel. And everybody, there weren't long lines in Orlando. This was downtown Orlando. And I actually -- I targeted the downtown area because I tend to find in these hurricane situations that, you know, more the gasoline usage is in the suburbs areas and the (inaudible) downtown areas.

You know, they were out of the premium. The non -- just regular unleaded gasoline. So there is shortages going on. And I did heard from some -- I've been watching Twitter feeds I was seeing, you know, the police are going to be escorting more gasoline trucks here. So, you know, normally there is at first -- there is a little drop in the gasoline. It's hard to finds gasoline, but you know, eventually that kind of just -- it evens out. People get that gas and more gas gets shipped in. And as you get closer to that event. Those concerns got actually end up going away. And there's plenty of gas and then the problem actually becomes just having electricity to keep supply in that gasoline.

COATES: Aaron, thank you so much for being on the ground for us and letting us know what's going on. You know, everybody on the East Coast of Florida needs to be making preparations tonight for this monster storm. We'll talk to government officials from the communities that could be right in the path of hurricane Dorian, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COATES: Hurricane Dorian threatening a huge swath of the Florida coast. As the category four storm bares down on millions of people across the entire state. It could severely affect places like Miami all the way up to Jacksonville and beyond. I was speaking with officials from several of the areas that could face a direct hit.

And we start with Palm Beach County Mayor Mack Bernard in Palm Springs. Mayor Bernard, thank you for coming on the show. I know it's an important time for your community. You know, Dorian is very much on track to do some serious damage to Palm Beach County. What is your biggest concern as it approaches?

MAYOR MACK BERNARD, PALM BEACH COUNTY, PALM SPRINGS: Laura, thank you for having me. My biggest concern is really for seniors in Palm Beach County. We have over 1.5 million residents that reside in Palm Beach County and over 25 percent of that population are seniors. And we're concerned to make sure that they are ready for this hurricane.

So, what we're concerned about is to make sure that our seniors are making all the preparation that are needed to be ready for this hurricane. So for some of the neighbors who are, if you have seniors who are in your neighborhood, please help your seniors in terms of making sure that they're ready. We hope that all of our seniors have all the necessary supplies, food, medications to be ready. We are going to be opening 15 shelters on Sunday. And also we're

opening a special needs shelter for some of our seniors who need that special needs. And also a pet friendly shelter. So, our shelters are open for the general population, but specifically we want our seniors to have the right information to be ready for the storm.

[22:20:13] COATES: Mayor Bernard, officials in Palm Beach County are telling CNN that mandatory evacuations are going to maybe begin Sunday morning? Are you concerned given your -- especially seniors and other vulnerable people, they should be starting a little bit earlier than Sunday?

BERNARD: We have had a meeting with the governor this morning to make sure that we're prepared. And so we typically would need about 17 to 20 hours to have all of our residents in the locations that are needed. So we believe that Sunday morning is a perfect time and so that we can get everybody who needs to be evacuated. But what we're doing is, we want to make sure that the residents who live in specific zones evacuate.

But if you're not in one of those zones, what we want is for those residents to stay somewhere that is close, make sure that they're in a safe place, but do not go far, because we don't want them to head on the highway. So that way they head north and in to be caught by the storm heading north. Because this storm is heading all the way north and it could hit them all the way to Jacksonville. So, that's the reason why we want our residents to stay in place.

COATES: Mayor Bernard, thank you for your time. Good luck to the community. We will look at that for you as well. Thank you so much.

Now Vero Beach Mayor Val Zudans joins me now. Mayor Zudans, you know, our latest track shows Dorian making land fall nearly right on top of Vero Beach. Is Vero Beach ready?

MAYOR VAL ZUDANS, VERO BEACH, FLORIDA: Vero Beach is very ready. I think we may be the most ready place in United States to have a hurricane. We have been through this many times before. We had a direct hit in 2004. And a near direct hit actually worse than that a little bit south of us three weeks later. So, September 5th and September 6th, we had Gene and Francis. Francis first then Gene in 2004. People who have been in the community for those 15 years know exactly what that means and take it very seriously.

I have seen all week long we got started early. People were getting their gas three days ago. They were starting to get, you know, getting boarded up and we have a new electric provider in the community, FPNL, which has about half of the state of Florida. The East Coast, we previously had a government electric, but now we're with FPNL, we're super-ready. They have incredible resources for reestablishing power afterwards.

My concerns like the other mayor you just spoke with, I'm very concerned about the elderly.

But I'm also very concerned that some of the newer residents may not have the same level of concern about this. And so I want them to talk to their neighbors, talk to some other people who have been through these storms. We had a couple near misses in the last two years with Matthew and Irma. And so people are expecting it to be just like Matthew and Irma, they could maybe let down their guard.

Everyone needs to take it seriously. The other major concern is storm surge. We are currently experiencing the king tides which makes our tide higher. If we get a storm surge during the same time that we have our high tide, it could be pretty devastating to our community. They have been talking at the emergency operation center meetings. That our storm surge could be between seven or 11 feet. And that is significant.

On top of the storm surge and on top of the high tide you can have waves in addition to that which are very large during these hurricanes. So, people need to listen. When there's a mandatory evacuation, you need to follow through. We are going to be opening our special needs shelter on Sunday morning. And our remaining shelters on Sunday afternoon. You cannot have mandatory evacuations until you have the shelters open. So, that is the reason why mandatory evacuation won't start until Sunday in this community. There will be voluntary evacuations tomorrow. We have our police going onto their 12 hour shifts. Coming up this weekend. And --

COATES: Preparedness is the key.

ZUDANS: -- as of 5:00 today. Oh, yes.

COATES: I found that you're being very prepared also giving and heeding there, I hope people would heed your actual warnings. Thank you Mayor Zudans for your time tonight in the community to give your advice.

ZUDANS: Thank you.

COATES: I do want to turn to Florida's Representative Clay Yarborough now, who represents Jacksonville, Florida. Representative Yarborough, Jacksonville hasn't had a direct hit from a hurricane since 1964, but right now the path shows Dorian hitting Jacksonville as a category two hurricane. What are you worried about most here?

REP. CLAY YARBOROUGH (R-FL): Thank you. And I think the main thing that we need to do is making sure we stay calm, but still prepared. The mayor just mention how their communities are doing that. And that is what we're seeing the folks here in Jacksonville do too.

[22:25:-3] And we have our Mayor Lenny Curry, and also Governor DeSantis who have continued to give the briefings and explain how folks can go about making their preparedness plans and doing their checklists and all of that. City and state officials have been in touch with the assisted living facilities and the nursing homes to make sure that they have the supplies and the generators ready to go.

And as you just mentioned, it's been a long time since we have had a direct hit. We're not far from the storm, but we're not close enough to know exactly where that path will be a few days out. So, we just encourage everyone to continue to watch the forecast. Continue to listen to the local officials and the state officials. And just continue to prepare and stay calm. That is the main thing right now.

COATES: Representative, you know, you have the St. John River running right through Jacksonville. Does that make your city even more vulnerable than others?

YARBOROUGH: Well, with Irma we did see quite a bit of flooding on either side of our river. As you mentioned, it runs right through the middle of Jacksonville and we have some low areas that are on either side of the river. And our downtown was significantly flooded when Irma came through. And it was devastating to the city.

We have recovered and we've gotten ready and more prepared. But again we need to make sure that our residents are heeding the warnings and not just saying, well, we haven't had a direct hit in a while. And that was bad before, but then take it for granted. We really do need to prepare and we do have some low areas.

So, we are making sure the community knows that and we're thankful that the governor has authorized a lot of resources to come in. Everything from fuel to water and working with the retailers to make sure our folks can get prepared. And everyone just again needs to continue to watch the forecast. And listen to the officials when they give those messages.

COATES: Representative Clay Yarborough, thank you so much.

We've got much more on hurricane Dorian. Miami Beach is already experiencing flooding. Days before the storm is expected to even make land fall. We'll tell you why, next.

[22:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COATES: Dorian is now a Category 4 hurricane. Now, while it's uncertain exactly where it will hit, the storm's eye is tracking directly towards Florida. The state is bracing for dangerous wind speeds, flooding, and so called "king tides." That is a term used to describe exceptionally high tide putting low-lying coastal areas like Miami, for example, at particular risk for flooding.

Joining me now is the city of Miami's emergency manager, assistant fire chief, Pete Gomez. I'm glad you're here, Pete, because this is a difficult time for the community. Miami Beach's commissioners captured these images earlier today. There wasn't even any significant rain yet, and yet you're already experiencing flooding. How do you prepare for an oncoming hurricane when you are already facing these kinds of challenges?

PETE GOMEZ, EMERGENCY MANAGER AND ASSISTANT FIRE CHIEF, MIAMI: You bring up a great point. The king tide has definitely added a new mix to a regular tough situation. But you know what? We adapt to it just like we do with other things, and we asked the residents to be vigilant and stay out of these areas.

And once we issue a declaration for an evacuation that they evacuate and they honor those requests because they do themselves in a lot of danger because of the rising tide and the flooding that is going to be experienced with the hurricane.

COATES: Chief, Gomez, this summer, Miami set daily high tide records for more than a week straight between just late July and even early August. Is your city more vulnerable at this time of the year?

GOMEZ: Ah, we are vulnerable. We're very vulnerable during the king tide. We have seen an increase in flooding, and we adapted to it. So, we have retrofitted a bunch of different vehicles. We call them high water vehicles. They are able to respond through these flooded areas like in Irma where we are standing right now.

Last year, during Irma, we couldn't get a vehicle through here. Well, now with our high water vehicles, we are able to respond to these areas. So, it's an adaptation that we have to overcome because of the king tide and the rising seas, which obviously, you know, in our opinion, is due to climate change.

COATES: Of course, you spent already millions to deal with the increased flooding. Now, what kind of a storm surge or king tide could you sustain with all those adaptations now?

GOMEZ: Well, we're going -- we don't know what the limit is, but we have been dealing with what we are getting. During Irma, we saw six to nine foot storm surges, and we saw how much flooding it caused in this area in particular. So, we had to adapt our vehicles, we had to adapt the way we respond and getting the message out to the community. It's an adaptation process.

COATES: So, when are you planning now to make a decision on whether or not to evacuate the city of Miami?

GOMEZ: Well, the decision really will be made by Miami-Dade County. But the models are still so unpredictable that we can't make the decision. It's -- they got to take a little bit more time and get more -- gather more data. And obviously, we are in contact with the National Hurricane Center.

And it's a collective decision. And you gather as much as data as you can before they make the decision. It's still too early to tell exactly when those calls are going to be made.

COATES: Miami emergency manager, Pete Gomez, thank you so much.

GOMEZ: Thank you.

COATES: You know, with Dorian now a Category 4 hurricane, we'll take a look at who is most at risk. My case, how the storm could expose the most vulnerable, is next.

[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COATES: As Hurricane Dorian barrels towards Florida, it's important to think about how a storm as strong as this one can put the most vulnerable residents at risk. For undocumented immigrants, there's the fear that authorities might arrest them as they check into shelters. And that fear might discourage people in danger from seeking help that could save their lives.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement said today that it does not conduct enforcement operations at hurricane evacuations sites or shelters.

In a statement, ICE said, "A crisis such as the devastation and destruction caused by a hurricane is not a time to compound one tragedy upon another by spreading fear in our community with false rumors of ICE operations. Instead, we must stand as one community to focus on aiding the victims."

Still, immigration groups are on edge, with one group telling the Miami New Times, "We're ready for the worst. We don't trust ICE."

Among other vulnerable populations in Florida are elderly patients in nursing homes. Remember, 12 people died when Hurricane Irma knocked out power at a Florida nursing home in 2017. A fallen tree damaged the transformer powering the air-conditioning system. The patients, ranging in age from 71 to 99, experienced hazardous heat conditions for days.

[22:40:00] Their deaths prompted then-Governor Rick Scott to set new emergency requirements that mandate nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have a generator and adequate fuel to maintain a comfortable temperature for at least 96 hours after a power outage. Those requirements have not been totally met.

According to an analysis from The Miami Herald, 60 percent of the state's nursing homes have not installed equipment that meets the new standard. That means 400 nursing homes across Florida do not have enough back-up power for air-conditioning for four days. If the storm causes damage anything like Irma, a lot of people who can't help themselves could be in danger.

Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, says they are on top of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: There's going to be site checks, there's going to be phone calls to make sure that they have a plan to deal with folks that are in their care. And then once the storm passes, there will be spot checks done in conjunction with the Department of Health to see where there may be needs after the storm and see who has lost power.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: Officials across Florida are working hard tonight to make sure they are equipped to respond to this monster storm. One of those officials is Eric Alberts, the director of Emergency Preparedness for Orlando Health, and he joins now.

Eric, Hurricane Dorian just hit Category 4 strength with maximum winds of 130 miles per hour. Tell us, how are your hospitals are going to prepare for this? How have they prepared?

ERIC ALBERTS, CORPORATE DIRECTOR, EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS, ORLANDO HEALTH: Yes, we've actually been preparing this whole week. We've done a lot of extra steps and tasks to make sure they were ready for this hurricane and really to help our community at large.

We have ensured that our generators are topped off, that they are ready to go. Sandbags are in places where we need them. We've got numerous days-worth of food on hand at our hospitals already. We're going to be getting more supplies tomorrow and also more supplies after the hurricane, tons of water and a lot of medicines and medical supplies.

And we've even had to go as far as thinking about our outpatient facilities and putting vaccinations back to refrigerated units that are on generator power. There are huge steps that we have gone through this entire week and we continue to go through just to make sure we're ready.

I will say that one of the biggest things that we plan for is not only before, during, but especially after. And we expect a lot of impacts from this major hurricane, impacts to facilities and trees and streets, but also to people, causing a lot of patients to our hospitals.

So, you know, we typically see a lot of chainsaw accidents, ladder accidents, slips, trips and falls, carbon monoxide poisoning, all those types of things. We don't want that to happen and we ask people to take extra vigilance when you're out there doing your repairs and your assessments after the hurricane. But those things do happen. So, you know, we have to be ready for those types of emergencies.

COATES: I understand, Eric, one of the things you're doing is establishing additional freestanding emergency rooms all across Central Florida. Tell us about that.

ALBERTS: Right. So, we're setting up numerous freestanding emergency departments all across Central Florida here really to help get our care out to patients and communities that we haven't been out to before.

Our plan with that is go on lockdown mode during the hurricane, with our staff in place ready to care for patients that may be incoming after the hurricane. So, they're on generator power. They will also have food and water. We will stay connected to all of our sites throughout the whole hurricane.

COATES: So, when should people start seeking help at a hospital rather than, say, going to an emergency shelter?

ALBERTS: The big thing to remember with that is, you know, hospitals are not shelters. Shelters are shelters. Hospitals are for really those who are in critical need of life-saving measures or they're really sick or they're really injured.

So, now is the time to plan. You still have time. Find the local shelter in your area and go to that, not the hospital. We really need to stay open for those who really need the help, whose lives are at risk.

COATES: Eric Alberts, thank you for your time and preparedness. You know, Dorian is now a Category 4 storm and strengthening. Just how much damage could Florida be in for? I'll ask a former FEMA administrator, next.

[22:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COATES: Hurricane Dorian now a Category 4 and continuing to strengthen. Florida is bracing for Dorian's impact and the damage that could be caused by this monster storm. Governor Ron DeSantis says there are almost 28,000 linemen, tree crews and support personnel across the state to help quickly restore power, and more than 200 generators are being delivered for pre-staging.

Joining me now is former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate. Welcome to the show, Craig. It's important to have your expertise.

CRAIG FUGATE, FORMER FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: Thanks for having me.

COATES: I mean Hurricane Dorian is intensifying. Look at this animation we have here. Now, it is showing what the various categories mean and the conditions that they cause. By the time it gets from the Category 1 to a Category 4, we're talking about wind speeds up to 130 to 156 miles per hour and catastrophic damage that can tear off the roofs. Is this what Florida is up against right now tonight?

[22:50:00] FUGATE: Yeah, it is. But I want to talk about one thing. You know, we talk about wind. That's not the big killer in these hurricanes. It's water, the storm surge and heavy rain. And as this storm is increasing in its strength, we can expect to see much more storm surge impacts in coastal areas, and that's where we want people to evacuate.

So, we want to stay focused on the most deadly part of this hurricane, which is going to be the water, particularly storm surge, and that's why it's so important that people heed the evacuation orders in these coastal communities if that's given.

COATES: Extraordinarily important point. We spoke to our weather team at CNN and asked them what other storms Dorian is like, and they made the comparison to Hurricane Matthew back in 2016, in the way that it seemed to tease the coast because Dorian's track keeps on changing, and that's one thing that makes this all the more difficult, that makes it so hard to track, right?

FUGATE: Yeah. Again, this is what -- as I said, the storm is going to slow down. It does several things. One, it gives us more time to prepare. But it also means there's less certainty of the impacts. It's all going to come down to ultimately how close Dorian come to the Florida coast. Does it make a landfall? Does it stay right off of the coast? Does it parallel the coast?

And, again, it's much too early for people to start making any plans about it. It may not be as bad or I may not be hit because we've seen this change over the last couple days. Those trends, if they hold up may be less impacts, but we still don't know.

And if the storm does -- you know, like Ed Rappaport was saying earlier today, the deputy director, if it just goes 50 miles further towards the coast, that's a landfall. So, again, we tell people don't focus on the track right now as much as heed the advice of your local officials.

They're looking at things like how soon would they get tropical-force winds. The local weather service officers are looking at these high tide cycles. Right now, this track has changed a little bit each forecast. I think the more important thing is to go ahead and prepare, know what you're going to do, particularly if you live in the evacuation zones.

And if you're not in the evacuation zones, I think the other thing you got to be prepared for is heavy rainfall and what could be potentially widespread, long-duration power outages. As much as utilities prepare for this and bring in extra crews, the reality is a hurricane this size, this powerful, we could see power outages against large areas of the state, and it would be, you know, days or more before we would expect the majority of the power to come back on.

COATES: Craig Fugate, sound advice. Thank you so much for talking to us today. You know, the new forecast for Hurricane Dorian is coming in right now. Tom Sater is in the CNN Weather Center. Tom, what do you have?

TOM SATER, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Well, I tell you what, 24 hours ago, Laura, as mentioned at the top of the hour, it was a Category 1, it's a Category 4. But just since 8:00, the pressure has dropped even more. When that happens, the winds kick up.

So now we've got winds at 140. That's up 10 miles an hour in the last -- since the last advisory. To get to a Category 5, it would have to get up to 157. I mean, we don't want that. We'd have to nuke it. We don't want to do that. I jest, but this is no laughing matter when it comes to still the possibilities of what is ahead.

And what is ahead? I'm trying to advance these graphics. We are watching the curve still taking its way toward the north, but it seems to be a tad earlier. We're still not out of the woods with this yet because it's extremely close. As we look at the track now from the National Hurricane Center, it puts on the brakes even more.

Category 4 crossing Freeport, we're close to Cape Canaveral as a 3, but now it skims up the coast. This is still a rough situation because of all the rain and the storm surge with that heavily-populated region. But, again, the trend, Laura, the trend is to the east. That's what we want to see.

If it continues that, we're looking better, but we're not out of the woods because Matthew devastated the Carolinas with record rainfall, and we don't want to see that either.

COATES: Tom Sater, thank you. We'll be right back.

[22:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COATES: Donkeys are animals we don't hear about very often. They played a critical role in American history, helping build railroads and other infrastructure. Yet today, they're misunderstood and often abandoned and abused. But they have a champion in this week's CNN hero. Mark Meyers has saved more than 13,000 donkeys, giving them a second chance at life and finding them forever homes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARK MEYERS, CNN HERO: Donkeys speak to my soul.

That lip will come right loose, won't it?

Donkeys are like dogs. They're amazing animals that nobody gets. I understand what they're thinking, and there are so many donkeys in so many places that need so much help.

There's nothing cuter than a baby donkey.

We're saving them. We're improving their lives. I want to see every donkey finds its happiness, its happy place, its peaceful place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: To see more of these incredible animals, and to see more of Mark's work, go to CNNHeroes.com right now.

Our coverage continues.

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