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Tropical Storm Dorian Strengthens to Hit Florida as Category 4 Hurricane; Trump's Personal Assistant Abruptly Exits White House; DNC Planning to Reject Iowa Virtual Caucus Over Security Concerns. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired August 30, 2019 - 09:00   ET

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


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[09:00:01] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a peaceful place.

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CHATTERLEY: And if you want to see more of Mark's work, go to CNNHeroes.com.

BERMAN: Great to have you with us here this morning.

CHATTERLEY: Thank you.

BERMAN: Please come back. It's been a busy morning with Hurricane Dorian headed right towards the Florida coast. CNN's coverage continues right now.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Friday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto in New York. Poppy Harlow is off today, and we're following breaking news this morning.

Florida residents on high alert as Hurricane Dorian slowly churns towards Florida's east coast continuing to grow in strength. Now predicted to become a potentially catastrophic category four hurricane. Dorian could be the strongest in nearly three decades, possibly as powerful as the devastating Hurricane Andrew which caused dozens of deaths, billions of dollars in damage.

The entire state of Florida now under a state of emergency, and at any moment Florida Governor Ron DeSantis will hold a press conference as the state prepares for a direct hit from Dorian. He's already warned residents to stock up on enough food, water and medicine to last at least a week but supplies in stores are already running low. Floridians dealing with empty store shelves, long lines at the gas pumps as you can see there. We have correspondents all over the state of Florida as we cover every

angle of this storm. First, let's go, though, to Chad Myers. He's at the CNN Weather Center.

All right, we've been talking every day about this. What's the latest on its strength and the track?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The pressure's going down, which means the strength is going up. The wind speeds are going up to 110, so now if we're already 110, 130 or 140, it's not that big of a stretch. This will have now almost 72 hours in the very warm water, so that's where we are right now, and making landfall at 140 miles per hour as a category four hurricane. As it makes its way onshore it'll lose a little bit of punch. That's just what happens. But that'll be Monday night into Tuesday morning somewhere in there.

And then for Orlando it doesn't even go that much farther in the next 24 hours. Only about five miles per hour and that will cause flooding, significant flooding, and we will keep you up-to-date on that.

SCIUTTO: Thank you, Chad Myers. We know you're going to be on top of it. Of course, as we learn more about it, we're going to share it with you.

This is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaking now live. Let's have a listen.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: -- are making determinations I think today about evacuations, whether to issue evacuations and then how you're going to do those vacations. We are just asking Floridians, please heed those directives from your local folks. They're considering a variety of factors and obviously monitoring the storm's path and so those decisions are not made lightly. But if you're in an evacuation zone and you're ordered to evacuate, please do so.

Put your safety first. Better to evacuate and then not end up hitting you than to remain in there and end up being in jeopardy of loss of life. Know if you're in an evacuation zone, know which zone you're in and know your evacuation route.

Now we, in terms of our highways here, the Florida Department of Transportation has already cleared the shoulders of all our major highways like I-95 and I-75. And so they've been swept cleared. We will open those shoulders for traffic once evacuation orders are handed down. As of right now the DOT has not identified any abnormal traffic patterns but obviously we know that, you know, once counties make determinations for evacuation orders you're going to see people start to get on the road.

Nonessential lane closures, they reduce capacity throughout the state are being opened to deal with the storm. Fuel is an issue. There's gas stations that have run out of feel. We in the emergency declaration waived service and truck rates for fuel trucks so that we can increase capacity of fuel that's being brought in. We're also going to be starting today implementing Florida Highway Patrol escorts for fuel trucks so we can facilitate refueling in critical parts of the state.

I mean, there's some parts of the state where you have major lines for gas, cars are lined up. It makes it more difficult for the trucks to get in and replenish the gas supply so we think those escorts will help with that.

We have a lot of fuel in Florida, it's just we have limited capacity to bring it from the port to the gas stations because you can only have so many trucks at one time doing that. And so recognizing that, we've worked with FEMA to get fuel from out of state. So FEMA and Jared have worked with Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia to waive their service and truck rates so we can facilitate fuel coming in from out of state. And so that is happening as we speak.

[09:05:05] You know, in terms of these nursing homes, obviously that's been an issue in the past. The Agency for Health Care Administration is making site visits or calls to all facilities where the state does not have updated info about generators. As you know we now have a Web site through the Agency of Health Care Administration where you can go and each county and see who's got the generators, who doesn't, and so we think it's statewide about, what, 120 that we don't have the information for.

So, there's going to be site checks. There are 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'll 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.

The Web site for the AHCA generator is just FL-generator.com. And so we've been putting that out to the local folks in our countries, in the emergency offices there, so that they have a sense of where they may need to offer assistance, and we encourage everyone to take a look at that.

Today at my direction Volunteer Florida activated the Florida Disaster Fund. The official private fund established to assist Florida's communities as they correspond to and recover during times of emergency or disaster. And to donate please visit www.volunteerFlorida.org or text Disaster to 20222 to make a $10 contribution and we appreciate that.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is preparing officers and resources for potential deployments in the coming days, using a variety of specialized equipment including shallow draft boats, ATVs, airboats and four-wheel drive vehicles. Jared has also requested vehicles from the federal government that are able to navigate some potentially flooded streets and obviously General Eifert is sensitive to that as well. I mean, you know, you're looking at potentially significant water event, you know, throughout major portions of the state and so we want resources to be able to navigate that.

There have been a number of school closures. Daytona State College, Eastern Florida State College, Indian River State College, Valencia College, Seminole State College, the University of Central Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida Polytechnic, Florida International and the University of Central Florida have issued closures starting today through Tuesday. The school districts in Martin County and Volusia County have also announced closures for Tuesday, September 3rd. As you know, Monday is Labor Day so the schools were scheduled to be closed anyways.

Our Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is extending the deadline for local governments to submit applications for the $85 million Rebuild Florida Infrastructure Repair program. And Visit Florida has activated the Expedia Visit Florida hotel accommodation Web portal so that if there's evacuation orders you can get a sense of what would be available in terms of accommodations.

We have close to a million gallons of water. Jared has requested I think another two million for FEMA. We have almost two million meals ready for distribution. Now, we have not necessarily received a request for that yet, but we stand ready to distribute the meals when we can. And the state -- and then we're also working with some of the retailers like Publix and Walmart, you know, to make sure that their stocks are in shelf. We do want them giving the state the water, we want that water going back on the shelves because a lot of people are preparing, which is good, but obviously the flip side of that is the water is going off the shelf and requires restocking in a quicker fashion.

If you want up-to-date information on Hurricane Dorian please visit FloridaDisaster.org/info for local media updates and updates as we do. You can do my Twitter account. You can also do the state emergency response Twitter account, which is @FLSERT. And the state is also activating a toll free hotline for Floridians to receive information and that number is 1-800-342-3557.

So this is major event. We still have some degree of uncertainty, but I think if you look at the different forecasts you see potentially places in south Florida, potentially going all the way up the coast of Florida. Some forecasts have it going through the center of the state similar to kind of what Irma did in terms of going up the middle. And you still have some forecasts that say it's going to go across the state and end up in the Gulf of Mexico. So we've just got to be prepared for all those circumstances.

[09:10:03] I think the probabilities of all those are not necessarily equal, but it's much better to be prepared and then not have to face it then to go into one of these things unprepared. And finally I did speak with the president on Wednesday night, and the administration has been great and they've assured us they're going to provide all the resources we need. The president was scheduled to leave the country and has canceled that trip because I think the administration recognizes this really, really serious event.

With that I'll be happy to take some questions for myself or Jared or the general.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor, what's the status of the National Guard? General Eifert?

DESANTIS: They're mobilizing.

MAJ. GEN. JAMES EIFERT, FLORIDA NATIONAL GUARD: We are mobilizing as we speak. We expect about 2,000 soldiers and airmen from the Florida National Guard mobilize by end of day today. By the end of day tomorrow probably be doubled by about 4,000. We're trying to be responsive but not overzealous in implementing whatever requirements the Department of Emergency Management levies on us. So we're prepared to respond.

We have 12,000 soldiers and airmen in the state and every one of them that is able and in the state not deployed will be ready to step up as needed. In addition, we have Emergency Management Assistance compacts with various states in the southern region especially to be able to fill in any voids that we have or gaps in our formations that might need specialties like aviation, engineering, high water vehicle transportations and those kinds of things.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor --

DESANTIS: And we also -- the general is talking with other states. We anticipate getting support from other states. I know I spoke with the governor of Alabama and she authorized some National Guard personnel from Alabama, so that is ongoing. And I'm sure we will provide those updates once we get them.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor --

DESANTIS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: This is just an observation. I notice there's a lot more FEMA personnel and ERC, and obviously the trucks are previously across the street at DFS are now right here in the parking lot. Is this a change on your part with the -- you know, with the new administration or is this just happenstance, or is it a new approach, I guess?

DESANTIS: I think this is just what we planned, right? Yes. No, I mean, I'm not exactly familiar in terms of how FEMA did, in terms of where they were before I was here but, you know, when we did the (INAUDIBLE) exercise, I mean, this is how we've anticipated it happening. And, you know, Jared has developed a really good relationship with folks in FEMA. And they really appreciate all the hard work he's doing, so I think we're on the same page and I think we'll be able to work constructively together.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor, this is your first major hurricane as governor. I'm wonder if there's much of a learning curve for you going into this, and do you see like your political future tied to how the state performs during this?

DESANTIS: I don't view it politically at all. We're trying to protect the state, protect people and assist these local folks who are out there. You know, they're all activated now as best we could. I grew up in Florida so I'm not a stranger to hurricanes. And of course we've had a number of active hurricane seasons recently. As a U.S. congressman we had Hurricane Matthew where my district was the district that was most affected. Now granted, that could have been worse than the path it ultimately took.

And then obviously Hurricane Irma, that affected almost everybody in the state. And so, you know, I have a lot of experience just understanding kind of how some of the wheels go in motion. And then we've done an awful lot with Hurricane Michael since I've taken office. And so this is something that we didn't want to see a hurricane this season. I know Jared and I both did what we thought we could in different respects to try to head that off, but we also prepared for one and, you know, did a major hurricane exercise.

You know, I would ask Jared, hey, what's it look like in the Caribbean, what's this, because we knew that this is something that could potentially happen. So at the end of the day, you know, we're going to be working really, really hard to do our best to help the folks in the state of Florida.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What can you tell us about cellphone coverage and how long people should expect to go out? That was a big problem at least for some providers after Hurricane Michael, and that's what's everyone's on and going to want to know about. How they're --

SCIUTTO: We've been listening there to the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, as the state of Florida makes preparations for Hurricane Dorian.

Some headlines there, one, he says that they will be making determinations about evacuations later today. That's how seriously the state of Florida is taking the storm. He says there have already been school closures. And another big issue is the shortage of fuel. We've been showing you pictures of those long lines at gas stations. A lot of them already running out of fuel. Of course, people need gas to be able to evacuate. So they're taking steps to address that issue.

I want to go back to Chad Myers in the CNN Weather Center.

As you were listening to the governor there, clearly they're taking this very seriously. But the government made the point there are a lot of options as to what could happen with this storm. It could sit off the coast, that would be bad in some ways. It could cross the state, that would be bad in some ways. It could go right up the coast. So it doesn't seem like any of those options is a good one for the state of Florida.

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MYERS: Nothing is good out of 140 miles per hour, Jim. The only thing that's good is if we get into the cone and as we know it's going to start slowing down, it gets a shove to the north and it just ends up out here in the ocean.

That is the only thing that could actually help this state at this point in time. If this makes landfall at 140 miles per hour, people will lose roofs. I don't know where or what town, people will get storm surge 12 feet, not just on the beach but in the back bays, up the rivers, into the canals where people have their boats.

There'll be 8 to 12 feet of water there, and most of those homes will likely be wet as well. There will be -- we have all of this inland flooding possible because there's going to be 20 inches of rainfall. Not only are you pushing the salt water into those creeks, canals, streams, bayous, back waters and the beach.

But you're also going to rain 20 inches on top of it, now water is going to try to run out, so we have all of these things. A lot of times we'll say, well, this is a wind event or this is a surge event or this is all three. This is surge, flood and wind. There will be all of those things depending on where it hits.

Hundred and forty miles per hour, making landfall somewhere in the southern half of Florida. I won't say whether it's going to be north of Miami or south of Space Coast, but that's kind of a -- that's the middle ground at this point. And the storm is still getting stronger and we know that because the hurricane hunters are in there, they're finding lower pressure and they're finding higher winds, and this is not what we need. This is a big event for many -- it could be millions and millions of people.

SCIUTTO: Well, Chad, we know you're going to stay on top of it, and of course, as we learn more, we're going to share that with you at home. We're following --

MYERS: Yes --

SCIUTTO: The storm from across the state of Florida, stay with us, we'll be right back.

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SCIUTTO: Welcome back, we're tracking Hurricane Dorian as it heads towards the Florida coast. That is the latest track there. We just heard from the Republican Governor Ron DeSantis as preparations are being made for a possible evacuations along the Florida coast.

Already schools closing there as well. I want to get right to CNN's Rosa Flores, she's in West Palm Beach, Florida, which is in the current path of the storm. Rosa, tell me how seriously folks are taking this there?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim, I just talked to a woman who was in tears, her name Deborah Thomas, 69 years of age, she says she remembers Hurricane Andrew very clearly, she described it and its aftermath as an atomic bomb hitting Homestead, and she lives in a mobile home, so she was here buying batteries and also plywood to board up her home. Here's what she had to say, take a listen.

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DEBORAH THOMAS, FLORIDA RESIDENT: I live in a mobile home, so I stand to be homeless, but that's not really what's worried me. I have animals. I can replace my home, but I can't my animals. I've been through this a couple of times in the last 15 years, and this is the worst so far.

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FLORES: And she plans to ride out the storm with her daughter in an actual house, but she also said that if an evacuation order is issued, that she does not plan to evacuate. I want to show you around because Home Depot has been very busy today, there's been a lot of speed shopping, people getting what they need very quickly, a lot of plywood to protect their homes and then heading to their homes to board them up.

Now, we just heard from Governor Ron DeSantis that the National Guard has not only been activated, but it could be mobilized as early as today. We know that at least 2,500 member of the National Guard had already been activated, another 1,500 are on standby.

State officials asking people to have seven days worth of water, food and medicines at the ready, at the go. That's why a lot of those items are flying from the shelves. We have seen empty shelves all across this state and also very long lines of people trying to get gas. And Jim, in that press conference with Governor DeSantis, he also mentioned that because he has declared a disaster -- declaration within the -- state of emergency within the state and its 67 counties that allows them to bring in more fuel which will help as people try to get gas to prepare for a potential evacuations.

SCIUTTO: Rosa Flores there in West Palm Beach, thanks very much. Joining me now is Bob Davis; he is the CEO and president of the Lodging and Hospitality Association of Volusia County in Florida. Mr. Davis, thank you for taking the time this morning, this is of course a holiday weekend, typically, you'd have a lot of visitors this week. Are you seeing a lot of cancellations because of the storm?

BOB DAVIS, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER & PRESIDENT, LODGING & HOSPITALITY ASSOCIATION, VOLUSIA COUNTY, FLORIDA: Yes, a tremendous amount of cancellations and of course, what to whether being -- what it is, people need to protect their property. And generally speaking in our particular area, they come from Ocala in Jacksonville in Miami in Saint Petersburg, and so they're home battening up the hatches and taking care of their children, taking care of their pets, taking care of their families. And so we see a tremendous decline in occupancy and cancellations.

SCIUTTO: Now, of course, lives, safety is the number one concern at this point. But are you able to estimate how much money has been lost to your industry as a result of the storm, particularly in a weekend when I imagine you have a lot of visitors? So this would be -- this would be lucrative for business as it will depend on visitors --

DAVIS: Well, I know, I don't have the actual -- I don't have the actual figures, but I could tell you this for every dollar spent on renting a room in Volusia County, Daytona Beach area, 21 cents would go to the hospitality industry, 27 cents would go to shopping, the malls, knick-knacks and stuff like that, and 52 cents would go to restaurants and amusements. [09:25:00] So, as we don't bring in the tourists, everybody in the area will go down and that's unfortunate. But in Daytona Beach, and I've been here for many years and seen many hurricanes come through, the best idea is take precaution and take care of everybody, make sure the guests are safe somewhere.

And I know that eventually what will happen if the storm moves and there's still on this -- venue, we'll be readied for it. The county is ready for it, the city is ready for it, the evac and police departments are ready for it, and we as (INAUDIBLE), we worry about our employees, we worry about our guests and so we will take precautionary measures.

If it means to shut down the entire Daytona Beach, beach coast, we will do that and protect everybody. And strangely as it may be seen, we'll reopen and we'll be having a great season after that. We are residual, we did it after Mathews, we did after Irma, and we'll recoup again.

And the governor is exactly right, we have to worry about human lives and what's going on and the dollars will flow.

SCIUTTO: Well, listen, we wish -- we wish you the best, we know this is going to be a big challenge for the whole community in Florida. Bob Davis, thanks very much for taking the time this morning. Coming up this morning --

DAVIS: Well, you call me back and I'll tell you how sunny it is in Florida.

SCIUTTO: Fair enough, we'll check in with you after Dorian. Coming up this hour, she has been with the Trump administration since day one. Her office directly in front of the Oval Office, but this morning, the president's personal assistant no longer works at the White House.

Plus, a new report says that the DNC will reject Iowa's new virtual caucus plan. A move that could throw the state's first in the nation status into question. The concern there about hackers getting into that system.

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