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Hurricane Dorian Devastates Bahamas on Way to Florida; 9 Florida Counties Under Mandatory Evacuation Orders; Fort Pierce Mayor Linda Hudson Discusses Hurricane Dorian; Ventura County: Numerous Fatalities in Dive Boat Fire Off California Coast. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 2, 2019 - 11:00   ET




ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. I'm Victor Blackwell, on an increasingly windy Jenson Beach here on Hutchinson Island in Florida, continuing CNN's live special coverage of Hurricane Dorian.

We just received the 11:00 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center. Our Chad Myers will have that for you in just a moment.

But, first, let's go to D.C. and Ryan Nobles has an update on the breaking news. This boat fire off the coast of southern California -- Ryan?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: Victor, that's right, we are watching for that breaking news out of Los Angeles. Keeping an eye on an unfolding rescue operation off the coast of southern California. A number of people dead after a dive boat catches fire near Santa Cruz Island. Some of them have been rescued, but dozens are still missing.

We'll hear from a local fire official in just a moment, but first, let's get back to Victor with the latest on the track of Hurricane Dorian -- Victor?

BLACKWELL: Ryan, thank you so much.

Listen, the surf is really kicking up here. We're in between those extreme outer bands of Hurricane Dorian. There were people on this beach. This is under a mandatory evacuation, but people are taking advantage of those dry moments to come out and take pictures.

But neither me, nor any of these other people, will be able to stand on this beach in about an hour and a half, as high tied comes in.

As we send it in to Meteorologist Chad Myers for the 11:00 update.

Chad, what they're seeing now, we understand, is mild compared to what they will see and nothing compared to what the people in the Bahamas have seen for the last 12 to 24 hours. CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: A storm, Victor, that just will not

move off of Grand Bahama Island. So really pounding the Freeport area and still pounding Great Abaco, which got hit so hard yesterday, which is only about 40 miles away.

Right now, the breaking news, it is at 155. You need to be over 157 to be category five. We have now finally come down to a category four. I know that's splitting hairs, but that's where we are.

Still moving to the west at one mile per hour. The center -- the circulation is still just about 20 miles east of Freeport.

Here's what's happened. We had a high pressure here all week with winds like this, and that pushed the storm like this. This high is now gone. It's completely lost its power to push the storm.

So now, all of a sudden, we have a storm without a direction. We're waiting for the next direction. And that next direction will be a low that's going to try to pull it up from the west and push it on up toward the north. When that finally happens, this stopped hurricane will begin to move again.

But that still could be another 12 or more hours before that happens. And the people here are getting pounded. One storm after another rotating around the eye wall.

High Rock here, Freeport there, it's just been in the eastern part of the eye wall for I think 16 hours. And 16 hours equal to about an F-2 tornado, usually lasts three minutes. But this has been now 16 hours of what could be equal to the wind of an F-2 tornado.

Here we go, Stewart, Florida, by Tuesday, we get winds around 70. Melbourne up to 76. This is 10:00 p.m. Tuesday. So that's 36 hours and we're still not even to the space coast yet. That's how slow this is going to lumber to the north.

Daytona right around 67 and that's on Wednesday morning. And then it finally turns to the northeast and does affect the Carolinas.

But all you have to do is move this storm 10 miles to the left and those numbers go from 70 to 90. And 10 miles to the right, those wind speeds go from 70 to 50. So that's what we're dealing with. We're really on a borderline of where the storm is.

And if we get the eye wall on land, all of a sudden, our winds are going to be 120. So we just need this thing to stay in the ocean, for sure. Even though it won't die in the ocean because the water is warm, the gulf stream, we are really just needing this thing to stay offshore.

Watches and warnings have been posted. They've been changing a little bit hour by hour. But for the most part, we are expecting some hurricane conditions along the Florida east coast.

[11:05:03] And I think the closest approach, Victor, is probably just north of you where the space coast kind of sticks out, Cape Canaveral kind of sticks out into the ocean. That's maybe only about 15 miles just to the east of there for the center of the eye.

I suspect the space coast will have the greatest winds of all of Florida if it does turn to the right.

BLACKWELL: All right, Chad.

We're expecting an update from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on conditions and preparations for Hurricane Dorian as it comes closer to the east coast of Florida throughout this hour. We'll bring you the highlights of that.

But in just the last couple of minutes, as Chad was giving us the update from the National Hurricane Center, there have been dozens of people who have come back onto this beach.

Now, again, Hutchinson Island is under a mandatory evacuation, as are most of the barrier islands along Florida's coast. But what most counties agree upon is that no matter which areas leave, those in the manufactured homes, the mobile homes, those will take the worst or show the worst signs of damage when those stronger winds come through.

Now, many of the communities have cleared out. But we've met a couple of people who have decided in Port St. Lucie to wait a little longer.

I want you to listen to what Jack and Violet Honey in Port St. Lucie are waiting for to determine if they will evacuate.


BLACKWELL: You're sitting here and Dorian is about 100 miles off the coast.


BLACKWELL: Have you made the decision to stay or go?

HONEY:: No. I'm going to depend on what the storm does. If the storm comes closer, we're leaving. If it turns and goes towards north, we're going to stick it out.

BLACKWELL: Do you think it will be too late to make that move when you see the change in direction?

HONEY: Personally, no, I don't.

BLACKWELL: Are you prepared to move?

HONEY: Yes, car is packed. The only thing I'm going to put in the car is the wife and the cat and we're out of here. Very quick.

BLACKWELL: Where would you go?

HONEY: West. Probably over near Porta Gorda, which is southwest, which the storm has not come near yet.

VIOLET HONEY, PORT ST. LUCIE RESIDENT: I have a gut feeling that everything is going to be all right.

BLACKWELL: How many people in this community have you been driving around, have you seen that are out walking the dogs who are staying?

VIOLET HONEY: I don't know. It seems like quite a few if you go by the automobiles under the car ports. I don't know. I really haven't been out talking to anybody.

BLACKWELL: St. Lucie County says, in a manufactured home like this, you are under a mandatory evacuation, you've got to get out.


BLACKWELL: You hear that and think what?

VIOLET HONEY: Well, maybe we should think about it. But I leave it up to him because he makes good decisions.


BLACKWELL: Jack and Violet Honey have given me their cell phone number. I've given them mine. When they make that call, we'll let you know.

But there are a lot of people here who, in the context of a storm even off the coast, measure everything by 2004. Within two weeks in September of 2004, Hurricanes Francis and Jean caused a lot of damage here on the Treasure Coast.

Let's stay along this area and go to Vero Beach where my colleague, Martin Savidge, is.

Martin, I've been watching your live shots throughout the morning. There have been people there where you were, at least the earlier shots, much like where I am, who have come here to the shore to take pictures. But as soon as one of those quick bands comes through, it clears out. But then they come back.

How seriously are people taking this storm where you are in Vero Beach?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's a really good question. And I'm beginning to wonder that myself.

If you take a look, this is like a typical day here. In fact, even atypical. Because there are just so many people.

Now, the police have been going by -- and they're doing it right now. There's a squad car that's going through the parking lot. And they are announcing that this area is under a mandatory evacuation order. That started three hours ago. But the crowds have only grown since then. In fact, there were foot patrols that went up individually to people and told them the same thing. The fact that the weather has been so nice is part of the reason

people have been hanging around. The other part is they truly believe the forecast, that this storm is going to veer away.

However, the warning is and we know from officials here that the winds could get to hurricane force and that the storm surge could be seven feet, which could overtop some of the dunes.

So the barrier island is not going to be a safe place when this weather closes in, which is expected in about 12 to 24 hours. A lot of these people say they'll head back to the mainland before that happens.

But remember, there are bridges and those bridges are controlled by the county and the state. If the weather and the winds get too strong, they will shut them down. If you aren't over those bridges, then you will be here and first responders can't come out in that kind of weather, as you well know.


So you talk to people here, and they're not that concerned. Everybody is boarded up, filled up and gassed up. They're just waiting for a storm. And right now, it feels like they don't take it seriously enough -- Victor?

BLACKWELL: Martin, you mentioned the bridges. The topography of this part of the state, this community relies on bridges with the intercoastal and inlets. But those people who are on the outer barriers have to make a decision pretty soon. The wind is picking up. Chad Myers says they have a little bit of time.

Our Martin Savidge for us there in Vero Beach.

Let me talk to Linda Hudson. She's the mayor of Fort Pierce, the coastal community here.

I was just talking with Martin Savidge about the bridges and when they will be shut down. Your expectation of when that will be, just for people who are making last-minute decisions if they're going to evacuate?

MAYOR LINDA HUDSON (R-FORT PIERCE, FL.): When the winds get to be 45 miles per hour. So with this hurricane, is it stalled some place, so we don't know when those winds will. But I would say sometime late tonight or maybe the middle of the day tomorrow.

BLACKWELL: Every person I've spoken with about Dorian, they bring up Francis and Jean in 2004, of course, the two storms that hit back-to- back within two weeks.

HUDSON: Right.

BLACKWELL: Dorian is off the coast. Francis came ashore. Are you concerned that that's giving people this false sense of complacency that there won't be or at least it's not expected to be, according to the latest forecast, a U.S. or Florida landfall?

HUDSON: I'm a little concerned about that, but not majorly concerned because we are very experienced in Fort Pierce with hurricanes. And so we prepare for them. We prepare for the worst. And if the storm surge comes, we're prepared for that.

And Francis, I believe it was Francis, it did flood. The storm surge was really great. So people remember that.

BLACKWELL: Of course, the storm surge for any coastal community is a major concern.

But on the drive along 1-A coming down to this location, the intercoastal was really close to a 1-A, the major road on the island. You're expecting that to flood pretty quickly if this storm gets closer?

HUDSON: I think so. I think so, especially if it lingers because it will go over more than one tide. So the tides will make a difference, too. And it's king tide time, so I think that that is a real concern.

BLACKWELL: What's your concern about all these people who are coming out? There are dozens of people -- you can't see them in this shot, -- standing around us. And every time one of those outer bands come through, it clears out but then they come back.

HUDSON: Right. We're in Martin County right now, which is not my county.


HUDSON: I'm in St. Lucie County.


HUDSON: And in St. Lucie County, I think we're going to be a little bit smarter --

BLACKWELL: Yes. I just --

HUDSON: -- and a little bit wiser.

BLACKWELL: I just got a text alert through Twitter that St, Lucie County is going to stop the rides to the shelters. They stopped at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Are there people in shelters? Have people taken advantage of that?

HUDSON: Oh, yes. Yes. We've been advertising for days. And the shelters opened on Saturday, the special needs shelters and the pet- friendly shelters. They opened on Saturday. So people have had a lot of time to get there.

BLACKWELL: In addition to the storm surge, there's a concern of rainfall. This area was not in drought conditions before Dorian came up.


BLACKWELL: I mean, you're saturated already.

HUDSON: Right. We've had a lot of rain and that concerns me very much because the ponds are full, the canals are full, the Indian River is high, as you noticed. So that is a concern.

BLACKWELL: OK. Are people heeding the warning that you're sending out?

HUDSON: Yes. Yes. In St. Lucie County, they are. We have an emergency operation center and they give briefings at 8:00 a.m., 12:00 noon and 5:00 p.m. And they are feeding all that information to the cities and then we feed it to our citizens. So everybody has been informed and they are heeding it. Yes, they are.

BLACKWELL: Now, I guess, the changing forecast here has been touch and go for all of Florida. At some point, this area was near the center of the bull's eye, then it kind of switched around. Has that made it difficult to plan for it?

HUDSON: No, actually, we've been planning and planning and we've had plenty of time to plan for every eventuality. I think what has been difficult is it's getting kind of tedious. It's been a long time and now it's hovering still, so it's going to be a long time. And I think people get inpatient -



BLACKWELL: That preparation fatigue.


BLACKWELL: What is your degree of concern? I met a waitress at a restaurant last night who wanted to leave but thought it's just too expensive to board up and to pay for the gas. People who live on pretty tight incomes and budgets can't afford to do it.

Your degree of concern for these who think they can't afford to leave although they want to?

HUDSON: Well, I'm concerned, but at least in Fort Pierce, we have older housing, we're an old city, 1901 we were incorporated. So those older buildings have withstood a lot of hurricanes. So I think that people, if they stay in place and don't leave and stay patient and don't leave too soon, I think they'll be fine.


BLACKWELL: Linda Hudson, mayor of Fort Pierce, thank you for spending a couple of minutes with me.

HUDSON: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: I know you are busy today --


BLACKWELL: -- with Dorian off the coast.

Thank you so much.

HUDSON: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: We will continue our live special coverage of Hurricane Dorian, now a category four, a strong category four, continuing to pummel the Bahamas.

We'll have more on the break on the breaking news off the southern coast of California, the boat fire and dozens of people unaccounted for.

Stay with us.



NOBLES: Emergency crews, including the Coast Guard, are dealing with what appears to be a tragedy at sea off the coast of Los Angeles. A spokesman for Ventura County says there are numerous fatalities from a fire on board a 75-foot diving board. At least 30 people were on board, according to the Coast Guard, which says it's rescued just five. That agency and numerous others are now responding to this emergency.

CNN's Stephanie Elam has been on this story since it broke.

Stephanie, what is the latest?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Ryan. We are trying to get more information on just the status of the boat.

We're now learning that the boat, according to a Santa Barbara County fire official, has now burned down to the waterline out there off the coast somewhere between Santa Barbara and Ventura County, depending on which way you approach the Santa Cruz Island. Apparently, it happened on the northern side of the island, we're also learning as well.

We do know that it was foggy out there overnight, that the call came in somewhere after 3:00 a.m. local time about a fire on this boat.

Officials telling us that the fire, they kept putting it out and it kept reigniting after they got there.

So while you're seeing that crew members were able to make it off the boat is that they were up top and able to get off the boat, one with minor injuries, they're saying. We understand some of those people are now making their way to the coastline and making it onto land and now they're pulling them from rescue boats and getting them back to land. We also know there are some 33 or 34 more people who are listed as


We do know that this boat was out for a three-day excursion. It was supposed to return back to its port tonight. So they were docked out there overnight. They may have been sleeping at the time considering it was 3:00 a.m..

But when that fire started, it was not allowing those people who were at the bottom of the ship who may have been sleeping on the 75-foot vessel to get up past the flames. That's what they're saying may have been the problem here. So this could be a very tragic situation that we are looking at here, happening out in the water.

We also know that it was very foggy. So there's some hope that maybe someone was able to get off, that they're treading water or tried to swim to shore since they do anchor closer to the coast. But at this point, it's just unclear.

So a very big tragedy happening here off the coast of Santa Barbara -- Ryan?

NOBLES: And, Stephanie, maybe you can expand upon the conditions there. You mentioned the fog. That would certainly complicate the rescue process, not only for those folks on board but the rescue crews that are out there trying to bring these people to safety.

ELAM: And also to spot them. So I know that the helicopters were not able to get up early on in the darkness. And then when the sun came up, because they were not able to see through that fog. Also, if the fog is there, depending on where they are in the water, there's a possibility they could swim the wrong direction if they were even able to get out of there.

But the fact that the fire kept starting on the boat, Ryan, they were not able to get on top of the boat themselves and get on there and try to help people get off, from what we're understanding as well. So this idea that this fire -- that they were able to quell it and it kept coming back made it difficult for a rescue.

But at this point, we do know the five people that they've been able to rescue are making it back onto land. So hopefully, they're learning more now about this. But it looks like a tragic situation unfolding here.

NOBLES: We understand this was a group of divers. They probably had some sort of experience in the water. But did happen in the middle of the night so they likely wouldn't have had their diving gear on or maybe it would have been difficult for them to get to the equipment given the fact that it looks like it happened so quickly.

ELAM: At 3.14 a.m. is when we understand the call came in. So most people were probably asleep at that time. Keep in mind, you're on a boat in unfamiliar surroundings and you're also on the water. So all of those things. But, yes, it was a three-day Labor Day diving excursion where they were supposed to return this evening at 5:00 local time.

But still, even if you have all of that, being able to navigate where you are in the boat, getting into the water, putting on a wet suit, all of that would probably be too much to deal with when you're also trying to battle flames and get from underneath the boat.

But this is all the things that they're trying to figure out.

You look at the pictures here and they look catastrophic. It's devastating to think what these people may have been trying to do and be abruptly awakened to a fire on a boat.

NOBLES: Yes, that's right. A terrible mixture and what led to be the worst-case scenario, more than 30 people still unaccounted for in southern California off Santa Cruz Island.

We'll continuing to reach out to the law enforcement officials there to learn more.

Stephanie Elam, thank you as always for your great reporting.


Still to come though, a lot of uncertainty as this monster storm steadily and slowly creeps toward the Florida coast. We'll check on conditions a little further north. This is a live picture of Hutchinson Island, Florida. We'll take you there in just a minute.

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