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New Track for Hurricane Dorian; Interview with Senator Rick Scott (R) Florida about Hurricane Dorian; Tear Gas and Petrol Bombs on Hong Kong's 13th Weekend of Unrest; Trump: WH Aide has "Enforceable" Confidentiality Agreement; Sanders Unveils New Healthcare Plan; Florida Residents Urged to Stockpile Week's Worth of Supplies; Interview with Palm Bay, Florida Mayor William Capote; 911 Dispatcher Tells Drowning Woman, "Stop Freaking Out"; Real World Impact of the Climate Crisis. Aired 11a-12a ET

Aired August 31, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[10:59:41] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. And welcome.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We're following breaking news this hour. Brand new details now about the path of Hurricane Dorian. The major Category 4 storm shifting east putting millions more Americans in its dangerous path as the strike zone now widens to include Georgia and the Carolinas.

The storm is rapidly intensifying with winds of 150 miles per hour. Considered extremely dangerous, the storm is now projected to pound Florida for several days as it then skirts northward along the shore and threatens the southeastern coast.

We have team coverage of reporters this morning. CNN's Allison Chinchar is monitoring the developments for us from the Weather Center first. So Allison -- bring us up to date.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right, yes. So they have increased the speed on this particular storm, now up to 150 miles per hour. This makes it a very high end Category 4, simply only a few miles per hour off from a Category 5 storm.

Movement is now west at eight miles per hour, so it has slowed down a little bit, but it's still continuing on that due west track.

Now, there are hurricane hunters out there investigating this particular storm. They've had wind measurements, a couple of them, up around that Category 5 threshold. The NOAA flight measuring 159 miles per hour, and the Air Force flight measuring around 166 miles per hour.

They will continue to take measurements of this storm to really get a better idea of what the current conditions are, and we then use those measurements to get a better idea of where the storm is going to go from there.

This is the brand new track that just came out at the top of the hour. Again, we still maintain a very strong storm as it crosses over the Bahamas and makes its way toward Florida. At this point, technically we are not looking at perhaps a landfall, except maybe on the extreme eastern coast of Florida, and then it begins to turn off to the north and head up towards states like Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina.

But all of those areas need to pay very close attention to this storm because it is continuing to intensify. The eye of the storm is about 15 nautical miles wide. It's a very large, very impressive eye for a storm that, to a certain extent Fred, has nothing in the way to really weaken this storm.

The Bahamas really aren't much. They don't have the high enough elevation to break the storm down. There's very little shear, and very warm ocean temperatures here.

So the question ultimately becomes does this end up getting into a Category 5 storm before it makes its approach towards the Bahamas, which we'll likely start to see some of those outer bands as early as tonight.

WHITFIELD: All right. We'll check back with you -- Allison. Thank you so much.

So Florida's space coast is preparing for whatever Dorian just might bring.

CNN's Nick Valencia is there for us on Cocoa Beach. So Nick -- mandatory evacuations are set to get underway tomorrow morning for certain parts of the central Florida coast. You know, but given this storm is still so unpredictable, how are people responding?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, sure. There is a lot of uncertainty, but that hasn't stopped preparations. We wanted to first show you the beach here. You know, this is a holiday weekend, Fredricka. And you'd think that there'd be a lot more people on the beach here in Cocoa Beach. Some families have just shown up but not what you'd expect.

We want to show you some fresh video that we shot last hour. CNN photographer Jerry Simonson went up in the air with our drone. And it shows just how empty the beach is here on this holiday weekend.

You mentioned those mandatory evacuations though. We did hear late last night from the Brevard County sheriff's office. They are doing some mandatory evacuations in this county.

It includes where we are. It included our hotel as well as far south as Merritt Island. So those evacuations expected to get underway at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow.

We're not quite seeing the panic or the fear that we heard earlier this week when we thought that landfall would be Sunday night into Monday morning. Now that's been pushed back. It seems as though it might be farther north. But officials here really stressing the residents to not let their guard down. They want you to proceed as if this storm is going to make a direct hit here in Florida because as you know -- Fredricka, those models can change at the last minute so officials here want everyone to be prepared -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Nick Valencia -- thank you so much. We'll check back with you throughout the morning and afternoon.

All right. While Florida may be spared a direct hit, life-threatening storm surge and devastating hurricane force winds are expected to batter the coast.

Joining me now from FEMA headquarters in Washington, Florida Senator Rick Scott. So Senator -- thanks so much for being with me.

You have been through quite a few of these storms before, you know, at your time as governor of Florida. So what is your message to residents of Florida right now?

SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): Well, first off, I'm here at FEMA. You've got your federal agencies all working here, working with state and local efforts to make sure people first are informed. And then wherever the storm hits they're ready.

So don't take the middle of this path saying that's where it's going to hit. Look at that whole cone of uncertainty, and take this seriously because not only is there unbelievable wind. We've got -- we're going to get a lot of rain, and we've got this storm surge.

I remember in Michael, I can say it was very difficult for people to understand that nine foot of storm surge is deadly. And so we don't know where the storm's going to go for sure. Everybody's got to take this seriously along the coast.

[11:05:03] WHITFIELD: In fact, you know, a lot of people will receive this or look at the latest hurricane forecast, see that it bends, you know, turns upward, doesn't appear to, you know -- based on the current models that Florida would take a direct hit.

And when folks heard the governor say you need to have seven days supplies of you know, water, gas, et cetera -- is it your concern that many people will ease up on that because of the latest tracking?

SCOTT: I wouldn't ease up. You can download the FEMA app. They'll give you a lot of information about what you should be ready for and the shelters, evacuation orders, things like that.

I would take this very seriously. Look, we always hope for the best, but think about it. If you wait and this thing turns due west, are you going to have time to get to a shelter? Are you going to have time to evacuate? Are you going to have time to get to the store?

It's going to be a very difficult time then because as it comes along up close to Florida. So I think we all have to take this very seriously.

WHITFIELD: Who are you most concerned about? SCOTT: Well, I mean, look, we've got a lot of new residents, about

400,000 people move into Florida a year. We've got a lot of tourists that come down.

So I tell people is follow the news. Follow the news, follow evacuation orders. The local sheriffs take this very seriously. When they say you should evacuate, evacuate. When the governor says you should have seven days of water, seven days of food, you ought to do it. So don't -- so just listen and take this seriously.

But the people have never been through it before, or here's the other thing, people said oh, I've been through a Category 2 or a Category 3, but they might not have been through nine foot of storm surge. That's what happens to a lot of people. We lost lives in Michael because of that.

WHITFIELD: And of course, you have a lot of tourists, it's a holiday weekend.


WHITFIELD: for those who had already embarked on their trips, you know, to Florida for the big Labor Day weekend. But what about among the most vulnerable, particularly those who are, you know, the elderly or perhaps people who are in medical facilities. How do you anticipate assistance for them where --

SCOTT: Sure.

WHITFIELD: -- they may not be in a position of mobility like the general populace.

SCOTT: Well, first off, if you're in a nursing home or if you're in assisted living, you ought to make sure that that facility has a generator. We made -- I got that law passed while I was governor. Make sure that's happened.

And then make -- don't just sit there and be complacent about it. Ask, ask, ask, ask and say why aren't we evacuating. If this thing is getting close, let's go and put ourselves in a safer position.

We open up shelters all across the state for those with special needs, but you ought to know where those are early so you don't wait until the last minute. We also have shelters in Florida for pets. Know where those are. You can download the FEMA app and they'll tell you these things.

WHITFIELD: The President is going to be at Camp David this weekend. Apparently he is scheduled to also attend a hurricane briefing at FEMA headquarters, which is where you are. That will take place tomorrow.

What will be, you know, your conversations? What kind of conversations will you have or perhaps have you already had with the President given your experience with tropical storms and hurricanes in Florida? SCOTT: Well, he was very helpful in the storms that we had while I

was governor. He declared emergencies early. He made sure FEMA was ready.

I mean -- and this week I've talked to FEMA a variety of times. I've talked to HUD. I've talked to AG, I've talked to most of the cabinet members, and they're making sure that the federal government is going to do their part. But it starts with you as an individual doing your part and then local efforts, state efforts and then federal efforts.

Everybody's got to do this together. So I'm going to continue to talk to the President about this. But I know he's very concerned. He canceled his trip.

I'm also going to the Red Cross a little bit later. They're gearing up to open up the shelters around the state. I'm sure they're doing the same thing in Georgia and the Carolinas.

WHITFIELD: All right. Senator Rick Scott -- thank you so much. We're hoping for the best for all of you in Florida and along the South Carolina and now Georgia coast as well.

SCOTT: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: All right. More breaking news now, incredible images coming out of Hong Kong this morning.

You're looking at fires in the streets as pro-democracy protesters clash with police, tear gas and water cannons were deployed after protesters threw petrol bombs into police barricades.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is live for us now in Hong Kong. So Paula -- some very tenuous moments there. In some cases police sprayed the protesters with water dyed blue. We hear volume behind you. What's going on?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right -- Fredricka. I mean that particular area has now been cleared out by police. And there were a number of arrests that we saw.

But this is a movement that once it calms down in one area, it pops up in another area. So police are really trying to chase their own tails trying to find out where the next protest is going to be.

[11:09:58] Now, we know this particular area is where there have been some protesters, many of them have dispersed at this point. But there is a lot of bystanders that are shouting at the police. They've blocked this road off. They just want to get home. There is definite anger as well.

But we have seen, Fredricka -- the level of violence just since Sunday and now again this Saturday night and afternoon is increasing.

I mean just a few weeks ago when the water cannon was even out or seen on the streets, then that would concern protesters. But they are becoming hardened to things like that. They are becoming hardened to the tear gas, and we are now seeing for that reason the violence increasing.

They are throwing petrol bombs. We have seen that a number of times. They have been digging up parts of the pavement, the sidewalk just a bit further down. We saw, there was a big gap in the sidewalk and all the bricks that had been used to throw at the police.

So this protest has been going now for 13 weekends. This is the 13th consecutive weekend. It is showing no signs of letting up. Protesters want their five demands to be considered by the chief executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam. It appears that she is not in the mood to consider any of them, even the one which many critics would suggest would be the easiest to give, which is the complete withdrawal of that controversial extradition bill, the entire reason these protests started in the first place.

But at this point the protesters say that they are not going to end this. They are not going to give up until they get some give and take from authorities here in Hong Kong.

They are concerned that democracy is being whittled away here. that the one country, two systems is being whittled away by Beijing.

It is worth pointing out though, not everybody in Hong Kong feels this way -- Fredricka. There are some who support China, who believe that these protests shouldn't be going ahead. It is a very polarizing issue in this city.

WHITFIELD: So Paula -- what's going to be the indicator that, you know, these protests are helping to lead to any kind of resolution? I mean what is the signal that perhaps these demonstrators would be looking for?

HANCOCKS: Well, I think at the beginning what they would have been happy with is the withdrawal -- the full withdrawal of this extradition bill. And there was also a report on Friday from Reuters saying that Carrie Lam had suggested to the central government in Beijing, that if they fully withdrew that then that could diffuse the situation.

According to Reuters we have calls in to authorities on all sides to find out if this is accurate. They believe that Beijing said no, do not give in to any of these demands from the protesters.

But I think we've moved beyond that now. One of the main calls that these protesters are asking for is an independent inquiry into police activity, many protesters think they've used excessive force. The police say they haven't.

WHITFIELD: All right, it's taken many, you know, shapes and forms in terms of the demands coming from demonstrators in 13 weeks now. And it only seems to be intensifying.

Paula Hancocks -- thank you so much. We'll get back to you to find out what's going on right in your vicinity right now.

All right. Still ahead, President Trump says he forgives his long- time personal aide for her conversations with journalists that got her fired.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She said she was drinking a little bit and she was with reporters, and everything she said was off the record. That still doesn't really cover for it. Mentioned a couple of things about my children.


WHITFIELD: New this morning, the President's tweets suggest not all may be forgiven or forgotten.


WHITFIELD: All right. President Trump this morning tweeting about his personal assistant who was fired from the White House this week for comments she made about Trump and his family. The comments were made at an off the record dinner with reporters. The President saying, I'm quoting now, "While Madeline Westerhout has a fully enforceable confidentially agreement, she's a very good person and I don't think there would ever be reason to use it. She called me yesterday to apologize, had a bad night. I fully understand and forgave her. I love Tiffany, doing great."

So the President is referring to and denying a Politico article that said he didn't -- the President didn't like having his photo taken with his daughter Tiffany because of her weight.

Jeremy Diamond is CNN's White House reporter and David Swerdlick is the assistant editor at the "Washington Post" and a CNN political commentator. Good to see you both.


WHITFIELD: So Jeremy -- you first. You know, Westerhout, you know was considered a personal gatekeeper, worked closely with the President. So apparently she spoke about both Tiffany and Ivanka, and that was the line crossed?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, it appears that that was the case, at least according to that Politico report. What we do know is that Madeline Westerhout reportedly discussed the Trump family and intimate details about them in this off the record gathering with reporters.

So Madeline Westerhout who served for two and a half years as the President's executive assistant and personal secretary. That was obviously viewed as crossing a line, and her status as a gate keeper to the President is also why we now see the President talking about confidentiality agreements and whether or not Madeline Westerhout may have signed one herself.

We know that Madeline Westerhout was sitting outside of the Oval Office for two and a half years. She was surely privy to a number of sensitive discussions, whether it's about the President's family or about goings on at the White House. And definitely privy to the President's moods day in and day out.

And so what we see here is the President on the one hand suggesting that he has forgiven Westerhout trying to curry favor with her perhaps so she doesn't go on to bad mouth him in the future. But also issuing a fairly thinly-veiled threat here when he references other lawsuits that he has carried out against individuals with confidentiality agreements.

That doesn't really seem to smack of forgiveness, particularly after the President forced Westerhout to resign.

WHITFIELD: So David, thinly-veiled or, you know, pretty blatant? I mean the President makes reference to a confidential agreement. A, I mean, is this an agreement that may be typical when working for the Trump Organization? But is that fairly unusual when you're talking about a confidentiality agreement for a job in public service at the White House?

[11:20:03] SWERDLICK: Good morning -- Fred.

I think it's unusual for a White House aide, it's not unusual in the Trump era in any Trump Organization including the Trump White House. You have a couple of things going on here. The "New York Times" yesterday reported that it was not thought that Madeline Westerhout had a confidentiality agreement and that she may be in talks to write a book.

I'm sure that is part of what prompted the President to come out and tweet that perhaps she did have a confidentiality agreement. It is sort of a shot across the bow, and as you say, it's not that thinly- veiled. Certainly suggesting to his former personal aide that, look, you know, we're going to come after you legally, if you talk if you write a book, if you go on camera.

On the other hand, this is the kind of role where you would think that the President or any elected official could expect that confidentiality -- Fred. She's not a policy aide. She was a personal assistant.

WHITFIELD: And then Jeremy -- what more can you reveal to us about this off the record dinner with reporters? I mean that's -- that's peculiar.

DIAMOND: Look, White House aides frequently do have off the record conversations, off the record social gatherings with reporters. It's a way that reporters can get a little bit more insight into the thinking of an administration, but also simply sometimes the personal motivations of individuals that help us better inform our coverage.

That being said, the notion of the President's secretary meeting with reporters off the record does, I think, raise questions particularly because this is somebody who isn't necessarily in a policy role, isn't somebody who is in a press facing role.

So that is interesting and clearly while off the record gatherings should absolutely be respected by any reporters who attend those and those should not be discussed with anybody else, the fact that she was discussing these items reportedly about the President's family certainly crossed a red line in Trump's eyes.

WHITFIELD: So David -- something else the "Washington Post" is reporting about the national security adviser John Bolton and not being invited to a meeting about the President's plan of pulling out troops from Afghanistan. That is highly unusual.

SWERDLICK: Yes, Fred, that's unusual and it suggests that Bolton who represents sort of a more hawkish view of the world is losing out to people who want to take a more diplomatic approach and de-escalation approach in terms of the U.S. military footprint there.

The President wants to bring the troop levels down to 8,600 to make good on his promise that he was going to get out of foreign entanglements. And you have people like Bolton who say no, we can't step back from our role in the Middle East, including in Afghanistan. And it's a question of whether or not these negotiations with the Taliban will be effective.

It suggests that Bolton is losing some influence similarly to he lost some influence when we did not strike Iran in response to them downing a U.S. drone strike, but it is very strange that the national security adviser, a key player in any administration in terms of security and foreign policy is basically on the sidelines.

WHITFIELD: Yes. All right. We will leave it there for now -- gentlemen. Thank you so much. David Swerdlick, Jeremy Diamond -- appreciate it.

SWERDLICK: Thanks -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Bernie Sanders says he's going to eliminate billions of dollars in medical debt. Coming up, details on his new proposal and how it would work exactly.


WHITFIELD: Senator Bernie Sanders is unveiling a new plan to eliminate billions of dollars in medical debt.

CNN's Ryan Nobles has more on the 2020 presidential candidate's big new proposal.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred -- this did come as a bit of a surprise Friday night in South Carolina. Bernie Sanders holding a town hall where he was asked about the problems with medical debt and how he plans to take it on. This is how he responded.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In another piece of legislation that we're going to be offering, we will eliminate medical debt in this country. I mean just stop and think for a second why should people be placed in financial duress? What crime did you commit? You had a serious illness, right? That is not what this country should be about.


NOBLES: So that was a surprise, not something that Sanders had talked about before. And his campaign says that in the coming weeks they'll release a more fulsome plan as to how Senator Sanders plans to take on medical debt. But they did tease out a few of the key highlights.

They say that Sanders will release a plan that will cancel $81 billion in existing past due medical debt. They also want to repeal parts of a 2005 bankruptcy bill that they say led to a cycle of debt for people dealing with serious illness. They're also going to protect the credit score of people impacted by medical debt.

But what they haven't revealed yet is how they plan to pay for this plan. And that's something that we expect in the coming weeks. But of course you do have to add this on to the many other promises that Bernie Sanders is making including implementing Medicare for all, which would be free health care across the board for all Americans.

He also wants to allow for free college tuition at public universities and community colleges. And he also wants to cancel all student loan debt as well. This price tag continues to increase. Sanders believes that's not a problem. He believes this is not only what Democratic primary voters want but what the American people want. He says this is going to be his opportunity in his administration's plans to bail out the American people. This is his -- basically the crux of his campaign for president -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much -- Ryan.

All right. Still ahead, long lines in Florida as residents wait at gas stations trying to stockpile ahead of Dorian as concerns grow about the fueling stations running out of gas.


WHITFIELD: Welcome back.

This breaking news: the National Hurricane Center says Dorian is now an extremely dangerous hurricane capable of causing catastrophic damage. Right now the storm is churning in the Atlantic with sustained wind speeds of 150 miles per hour.

It's expected to slam into the northwestern part of the Bahamas by Sunday. From there, Dorian's path is a little less certain. The storm has shifted east meaning Florida may not take a direct hit after all, though much of the state is still in the cone of uncertainty. Updated forecast tracks suggest the storm could make landfall anywhere from Florida to the coast of Georgia and the Carolinas.

Florida officials are urging residents to stockpile a week's worth of supplies ahead of Hurricane Dorian. As a result, many gas stations across the state are dealing with long lines and fuel shortages.

Let's get to CNN's Brian Todd in west Palm Beach. So Brian -- you are at a rest stop along the Florida turnpike, and what are people saying? What are they doing?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka -- a short time ago the governor of Florida Ron DeSantis, said there's still a decent chance that Florida could take a significant strike from the storm, even though we know now that the forecast calls for it to possibly stay a little bit further east, maybe sideswipe Florida a little bit and move north.

Still, evacuation plans are a little bit in flux right now. County officials here in Palm Beach County and elsewhere not quite sure yet whether to order those mandatory evacuations that they expected to order tomorrow.

This is the northbound lane over here of the Florida turnpike, the main evacuation route out of south Florida during hurricane season. And I'm going to talk here to a gentleman who despite the changing forecast, he says he still wants to evacuate, Rafael Gonzalez.

[11:34:59] Rafael -- what made your decision to get out even though the forecast is changing and the storm could be moving away?

RAFAEL GONZALEZ, WEST PALM BEACH RESIDENT: Well, normally it becomes a chaos, you know, trying to stay here because the power goes off, you know, there's no gas. There is no food. There is a lot of food gouging, you know, people get like crazy, you know what I mean. Like the end of the world. So I decided just this time like I did the last time, to go out, you know.

TODD: You said you lived here for more than 40 years. You lived through Hurricane Andrew.


TODD: And yet this storm still worries you even though it may stay away. Why?

GONZALEZ: More than any one because of the size and the power of the wind, you know. That's my main concern. Not the water, it's just the power of the wind.

TODD: How far are you planning to go north, and when do you think you might make the decision to come back?

GONZALEZ: You know, last time we went to Georgia, and this time we're going to do the same thing and wait until, you know, to see, you know, what the trajectory is going to do, you know. But as long as it takes, we're going to stay out, you know.

TODD: All right. Rafael -- thank you very much for talking to us. Good luck in your travels. Thank you very much.

So there you have it. At least some concerned Florida residents wanting to head north. You know, one thing that the Palm Beach County mayor told us is that they don't want too many people heading north because they know the track of the storm is heading north. What they're concerned about is people maybe like Rafael and others getting caught in this thing as they move north with the storm.

But of course, you know, people these days, especially Floridians, Fredricka, are very good at monitoring the progress of the storm, keeping -- you know, obviously watching a lot of TV, social media, keeping just very close touch with the track of this thing.

So I'm sure Rafael will be one of those people monitoring it as he travels north.

WHITFIELD: Right, people there have been through a lot. But they also understand the unpredictability of the path of this storm and so many prior.

Brian Todd -- thank you so much. Appreciate it.

WHITFIELD: All right. So Florida may not take a direct hit from Hurricane Dorian, but the governor is still telling everyone to take the storm seriously. Much of the state will experience life- threatening storm conditions, strong winds, storm surge, and flash floods.

Joining me right now, William Capote, mayor of Palm Bay, Florida, which is kind of sandwiched in between West Palm Beach and Melbourne, Florida. So Mr. Mayor -- what are you most concerned about with this unpredictable path of this storm?

MAYOR WILLIAM CAPOTE, PALM BAY, FLORIDA (via telephone): The surge. Really on the other side, what we call the barrier island, inland here it's the winds that will get us from the right side as it swirls through.

Hopefully it stays out like you're mentioning, but even Matthew -- we had power outage with Matthew here, and Matthew packed the same kind of impact as Dorian.

WHITFIELD: so tell me about your population there. These, you know, folks who are -- who have been subjected to a lot --


CAPOTE: We're about 116,000. Yes, yes -- everybody's getting prepared. We're about 116,000 residents here in Palm Bay. We cover about 100 square miles, so we are a large community, but only about 35 percent of it is populated, so there's a lot of open land. So there's room for a lot of things.


WHITFIELD: So then a number of the residents there, what do you know about them and how they would respond to these kinds of warnings? Would they be, you know, more inclined to hunker down? Are they stockpiling? Are they getting out of town? Are they paying attention to potential evacuation orders? What?

CAPOTE: Right now everybody is hunkering down because they feel that we've been through this before. We've dealt with Francis and Gene in the past in 2004. I was living here during that time.

And I think for most of the residents here, they have gone through that experience. And through notifications, usually when I'm on TV being interviewed, I always ask those residents that are new here in Palm Bay to talk with their neighbors because we've been through this before.

And our city staff is prepared and you always prepare for the worst and pray for everything good to happen.

WHITFIELD: What are your biggest concerns?

CAPOTE: My biggest concern is the trees, you know. We have a lot of trees near houses and things like that. It's always -- it's unpredictable.

And flooding, if it stays around for as long as it says, 24 hours, I know that when we had Faye back in the 2000s it stood around for 18 hours that tropical storm, and it dumped a lot of water, and there was a lot of flooding.

So that's a major concern. The part of the flooding.

WHITFIELD: And where will you be as you continue to watch the path of this storm? Will you be at home? Will you be at an office, emergency preparedness location? What are your plans

CAPOTE: Right now I'm securing my own home. You know, mayors still do have to secure their home. For most people they think mayors get their home secured. But no, I have to secure my own home.

[11:39:55] Once I'll make contact with the city manager, and see where we're at with the police chief, fire chief and make sure that we're all good to go by the time this arrives.

WHITFIELD: Mayor William Capote of Palm Bay -- we are wishing you and everyone there the best. Thank you so much.

CAPOTE: Thank you for having me.

WHITFIELD: Straight ahead, an Arkansas woman drowning in her car calls 911 desperate for help, but newly released audio reveals that the 911 dispatcher is anything but comforting.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're not going to die. I don't know why you're freaking out. It's ok, I know the water level is high.



WHITFIELD: A desperate 22-minute call for help. That's how long an Arkansas newspaper delivery woman pleaded with a 911 dispatcher before she drowned in flood waters. And now newly released audio reveals that the 911 dispatcher is anything but comforting. Police describing the operator as callous and uncaring.

[11:44:56] CNN's Polo Sandoval joins us now from New York with the latest.

So Polo -- police say the 911 dispatcher had turned in her two-weeks notice as well as a result?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is. She was. She no longer is on the job -- Fred.

But I can tell you, having listened to the entire audio, it is upsetting to hear the desperation and the panic in the voice of Debra Stevens. She's a 47-year-old woman whose final words were recorded a week ago during a 911 call that she made into the Fort Smith, Arkansas police department. Some background here.

Rising flood waters started to overtake her SUV as she was out on her normal newspaper delivery route early in the morning. Audio of the call reveals the tone of a dispatcher, as you point out, and as Fort Smith police are calling and describing "a callous and an uncaring" tone at times.

So I want to play for you a portion of the audio, and it does come with a warning. It is extremely upsetting.


DEBRA STEVENS: Please help me. I don't want to die.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're not going to die. Hold on for a minute.

STEVENS: Well, I need -- I'm scared. I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I understand that you're scared, but there's nothing I can do sitting in a chair. So you're going to have to hold on, and I'm going to send you somebody, ok?

You're not going to die. I don't know why you're freaking out. It's ok, I know the water level is high.

STEVENS: I'm scared.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I understand that. But your freaking out is doing nothing but losing your oxygen up in there. So just calm down.

STEVENS: When are they going to be here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As soon as they get there.


SANDOVAL: The interaction gets even more disturbing as the call continues to go on. I want to read you a portion of the transcript. In the call, you can actually hear Debra Stevens say "I'm scared. I've never had anything like this happen to me before." The dispatcher replies, "This will teach you next time, don't drive in the water."

Debra Stevens then says, "I'm going to die." The dispatcher tells her "Miss Debbie, you're breathing just fine because you're screaming at me. So calm down, I know you're scared. Hold on for me."

Stevens is not heard again after that. Rescuers did eventually reach her SUV 58 minutes after the end of the call. Sadly they could not revive her. The interim police chief had this reaction to the audio.


DNNY BAKER, FORT SMITH INTERIM POLICE CHIEF: I completely understand the disgust and the concern that we all have. I understand that listening to a person going through the panic that Miss Stevens was in those final moments of her life. And we would all hope that we would get a little bit better response than perhaps what she was given.

don't want us interacting with anybody in that way, whether it's a life and death situation or not. I don't think the dispatcher realized or understood the severity of the situation. She did nothing criminally wrong. I'm not even going to go so far as she violated policy.


SANDOVAL: Even before the call was made, the dispatcher was already scheduled to leave her post. You see police saying that she had turned in her two weeks' notice two weeks before the call. And this call, Fred, actually came in on the last day of her shift.

WHITFIELD: All right -- Polo. Has there been any reaction even from the chief's response?

SANDOVAL: You know, at this point the police chief, as you just heard him say, they've listened to the call. They've gone over this, and at this point there doesn't seem to have been any crime committed. So you can put that aside, and then you also heard the chief say that at this point there are no policy violations either.

However, when you listen to the call in its entirety, it certainly at least begs a closer look at some of the tones that dispatchers could be using when they're receiving calls from desperate people.

WHITFIELD: All right. Polo Sandoval -- thank you so much.

SANDOVAL: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Straight ahead, a climate crisis -- Hurricane Dorian raging towards the southeastern coast as the rest of the world appears to be burning. The real world impact climate change is having on earth.

[11:48:44] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: As Hurricane Dorian bears down on the East Coast of the United States, other severe weather disasters threaten communities around the world.

Rising global temperatures and drought are causing devastating wildfires in the Amazon, threatening to destroy an irreplaceable ecosystem. And even some of the world's coldest climates, Alaska and Siberia, are seeing unprecedented fires. All of these disasters are calling attention to the growing climate crisis.

Joining me right now is Nathaniel Keohane, the senior vice president for climate with the Environmental Defense Fund. Good to see you.

You know, we're seeing large numbers of extreme temperatures and now wildfires, too. And that kind of adds to the mix, even though in the Amazon it's being, you know, blamed on intentional, you know, fire setting.

But how do you look at these things and use it as a barometer of what really is happening to, you know, the earth's atmosphere and environment?

NATHANEL KEOHANE, ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND: Well, thank you. And I think we do see a growing numbers of signs that the climate crisis which we've always talked about as being in the future is happening today.

You mentioned Hurricane Dorian bearing down on the Bahamas and potentially the East Coast. We've seen flooding and wildfires around the country and around the world. The Amazon is a symptom of the deforestation that's happening there.

And indeed as you say, we're seeing these signs around the world and voters in the United States and citizens of the United States are seeing these impacts in their own communities. And that's why I think we're seeing it become much more of a relevant issue as we head into the campaign, but also as people go about their daily lives.

WHITFIELD: Are you seeing an acceleration of these kind of, you know -- shall we call them environmental disasters or environmental threats?

KEOHANE: Well, certainly when scientists take a look, they're increasingly able to link the sort of extreme weather events we're seeing. The hurricanes, the severity of hurricanes, the severity of the flooding and droughts. And they're able to link that to the changing climate and to what humans are doing in terms of putting climate pollution in the atmosphere.

So all of that pollution in the atmosphere is making those events more severe, in some cases more intense. And so I do think we're starting to see those signs. And again, we're starting to see them today and that really demands that we take much more action in the U.S. and around the world to address this crisis.

WHITFIELD: What kind of action are you talking about? [11:54:52] KEOHANE: Well, I think it needs to start in the U.S. with

policies that get this country on the path to 100 percent clean energy economy. That's something that would not only help address the climate crisis but it would create good jobs, it would restore American growth and American leadership in the world. That's the kind of transition we need to make towards that clean energy economy.

We know we can do it. We have the technologies to get started, but we're going to need the political will and political leadership in Washington.

WHITFIELD: So is it your feeling that if it's not legislated, there really is nothing that could make a dent? Or is there anything that folks can do on a regular or day-to-day basis as they wait for potential legislation or policy change?

KEOHANE: Well, of course I think there are things that all of us can do in terms of thinking about how much we drive versus walk or bike or take public transportation or the kinds of things we eat, the decisions we make in our daily lives.

But fundamentally this is a major transition we're talking about to a clean energy economy, and that's going to require government at least to set the playing field, at least to set some of the rules and create the incentives so that entrepreneurs and innovators and businesses around the country, that their incentives and profits are aligned with clean energy.

So it will take action ultimately in Washington. We're seeing it around the states now, but it will take that kind of action.

WHITFIELD: All right. Nathaniel Keohane -- thank you so much. Appreciate it.

KEOHANE: Thank you very much.

WALLACE: And be sure to tune in for an unprecedented CNN Democratic presidential town hall even on the climate crisis, Wednesday beginning at 5:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

We'll be right back.