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Bahamian Prime Minister Says, Hurricane Devastation Is Unprecedented; Ventura County Reports Numerous Fatalities In Boat Fire Off California Coast; Governor Updates Preps As Monster Hurricane Aims At Florida. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired September 2, 2019 - 10:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: All right. Top of the hour, good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. Jim Sciutto has the day off, and we have a lot of breaking news this morning.

First, officials say that numerous people have been killed in a boat fire off the coast of Southern California. They were reportedly on an overnight dive boat. More than 30 people were on board and trapped inside by the fire. We will bring you the latest on that in just a moment.

We're also very closely watching Hurricane Dorian this morning. It is a Category 5 storm. It is now thrashing the Bahamas and slowly moving toward the Coast Of Florida.

We will hear from the governor Of Florida, Ron DeSantis, any minute. You'll hear that live right here. Again, this The Category 5 hurricane is slowly inching toward Florida. It is set to go right up the east coast, just offshore, putting millions under evacuation orders in the coastal areas of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

It's already causing catastrophic damage in the Bahamas. It is the strongest hurricane on record to hit the islands. The prime minister says that it's causing damage unlike anything they have ever seen.

We also have reports of an eight-year-old little boy dead as a result of the storm, thousands of homes severely damaged or destroyed as well.

We have our anchors, our reporters all throughout Florida and in the Bahamas. Let's begin with Patrick Oppmann. He joins us in Freeport.

Good morning again to you, Patrick. What are you seeing?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. Well, the wind and the rain just will not stop. It has been hours of this. Late last night, early this morning, first the power went out and then it sounded like a jet engine running next to where we were sleeping. My crew and I, Jay Garcia and Jose Amigo (ph), we were actually cabined (ph) into a couple's apartment that has this amazing view and we're sort of squatting with them and they're riding out the storm as well.

And in the middle of the night, you could just hear this incredibly loud sound. And let me show you this. This is something I've never really seen with a hurricane, because you usually can't be this close to the ocean. You see the ocean out there. It didn't look like that a couple days ago. It is much higher today and that doesn't make sense, except with a hurricane, it pushes the water out-and-out and then finally sort of creates a bulge of water.

But when the hurricane leaves, the danger won't be over. That water will have to go somewhere. It most likely will rush here. It will probably top the barrier between where we are and the beach. Luckily, we are on the third floor. But it would seem very likely that there would be extensive flooding here.

The Bahamian authorities said to expect up to 20 feet of storm surge once the hurricane leaves and that is, as you know, the most deadliest part of a hurricane. They say you hide from the wind and you run from the water. And in this case many, many people will not be able to run from that storm surge. Another gust right there. Dorian is not done with the Bahamas. But when that storm surge does comes in, and if it is 20 feet high, that will cover most of this island.

This water has already covered islands that were off the coast that are much more low-lying. And there were people who said they were going to ride out the storm there. You just wonder how they are doing and as well the people who are under the Category 5 eye of this hurricane and have been there for hours. You can only imagine what that has been like. Dorian has devastated parts of the Bahamas and, Poppy, this powerful storm is not done with the Bahamas just yet.

HARLOW: I know, it's certainly not because it's moving so slowly. Patrick, thank you for your great reporting, being out there for us and showing us what you're going through right now.

Let's talk about the latest on where the storm is headed and when. Our Chad Myers, our meteorologist, again, with me in the Severe Weather Center. So what are we looking at, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Poppy, I think we're looking at a storm that is using up all of its warm water. When you get a storm to stall like this one or two miles per hour, you don't get the refreshing of the warm water as the storm moves over [10:05:00] a new section of water. So it's churning all of this water and the water is cooling off.

And so we don't have as much white on the map, don't have the high cloud tops like we had just a little bit ago. Now, if you look at the visible satellite, you can't tell that. But it's the infrared that we can see. For a while this morning, we could literally see the ocean through the eye. Now the eye is slightly filling in so we can't quite see it as much.

But to the west, the movement is one mile per hour, maybe two on a good hour. But there's Freeport right there. That's where Pat Oppmann has been. This is where most of the damage were talked about already, where where the storm was 185. But we're still at 160. We're still at a Category 5 hurricane right now and there's the center. High rock has seen the middle of the eye for many, many hours. But just to the east and west of there, that's where the heaviest wind is.

Now, if you take a look at the eye, that's the center, you don't get as much wind. It's the eye wall on the outside. That's where the wind truly is right now.

Now, it moves up to the east coast. And these computers that we've been watching for days and days, they haven't been great. Finally, a couple of days ago, they started to get better. But they are human generated on human-made computers with human-made error. And so it's the error that we talk about left or right.

Could it be very close to, let's say, Cape Canaveral? Absolutely. There are models out there that take it within about ten miles of Cape Canaveral if that happens. And Cape Canaveral gets the eye wall, that's 120-mile-per-hour wind at that point in time. If it stays a little bit further offshore, Cape Canaveral gets wind around 65 or 70. It's a huge difference, just ten miles left or right. Poppy?

HARLOW: Let's hope for the best, Chad. Thank you so much for being on top of this for us. We appreciate it.

All right, let me take you to Stuart, Florida. That's where my colleague, Derek Van Dam is. Stuart, Florida, look, it's just a little bit north of Port St. Lucie. What are you seeing? What are you expecting?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN WEATHER ANCHOR: Yes. Poppy, we're about a mile inland from the barrier islands. And every 30 or 45 minutes or so, we get rain bands that wallop us with heavy rain and extremely strong tropical storm force winds as well.

Think about what's happening here. Hurricane Dorian, about 100 miles to my east, it's a giant heat-transporting engine for the planet. We are literally taking that energy and bringing it to the coastline and we're starting to feel these small little outer rain bands of the storm, a sign of things to come.

There are mandatory evacuations here in Martin County, specifically for the low-lying areas, the barrier islands, the susceptible homes to storm surge and flooding. By the way, hurricane warnings, storm surge warnings for this location as well, four to seven feet, that is the predicted forecast.

And as I walk here, just to give a little bit of a comparison, we heard Chad talk about how the storm is literally stalling out. I'm pretty much walking faster than the storm is crawling along. And that means it is an absolute nightmare for meteorologists, weather experts to predict. It is notoriously fickle. A wobble to the left, a wobble to the right means a world of difference for the residents here along the east coast of Florida.

This is a game of miles and the residents know it. They're on guard. Many of them have evacuated already. And they actually turned off the water on Hutchinson Island, the barrier island just over my shoulder a little bit to the east here. And that is going to not only preserve that infrastructure, but also get people to move away from the coast. Back to you, Poppy.

HARLOW: Of course, that's an incentive to go, right? A game of miles, that is well put. Let's hope that it veers off instead of veers into land. Thank you very much, Derek, great reporting.

So coastal counties in Florida are watching the storm very closely. With me on the phone now is Dave Kerner. Her is the vice mayor of West Palm Beach County. Good morning, sir. Can you hear me?

DAVE KERNER, VICE MAYOR, WEST PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: Good morning. Yes, ma'am, I can hear you.

HARLOW: Thank you so much for taking the time in the middle of all you have going on, which I know is a lot. I know that a lot of your concern right now is on the barrier islands and the residents there, and if they're following the evacuation orders. What can you tell us?

KERNER: They are. Palm Beach County has been through this for the entirety of our history. I think a lot of us that have been here for a long time are well-equipped to understand the dangers of a storm like this and also how unpredictable it can be. But by and large, evacuation orders are being followed and we're very much pleased to see that. And we have our shelters open and our constituencies are utilizing every resource at this point because we just don't know what's going to happen.

HARLOW: You met with the sheriff. I know your wife is actually the deputy for the sheriff. What final preparations did they tell you about?

KERNER: The Sheriff's Office and all of our law enforcement and fire rescue are on full alert on certain points depending on how the storm reacts to some (INAUDIBLE). There may be full activation of the Sheriff's Office, all of those guys and deputies.

Presently, I'm here [10:10:00] and I'm going to ride along with the Sheriff's Office to go through some of the mobile home communities in the district, ensure that these folks are complying with the mandatory evacuation order, assist them in getting to shelters, but also have the population that doesn't speak English or are possibly not here lawfully. That is not our concern. It's public safety. We want to make sure they feel comfortable and welcome at the shelters and we're communicating that right now.

HARLOW: Does this storm feel, Dave, feel different to you? I've had a number of our guests who have called in in the Bahamas as they were preparing, saying, it feels different than the other storms that they've been through. Does it feel different to you?

KERNER: There is an element of uniqueness, for sure. Typically, when we watch a storm and it's approaching, there's some level of the confidence as to where it will end up. I think as we all sit here and watch the dramatic photos and videos from the Bahamas, my heart goes out to our neighbors to the east.

And if there's something different about this storm, it's just the lack of predictability and the sheer intensity of this storm. And it's both concerning, but also it forces us to watch the mayhem that is occurring in other parts of the area where the storm is really affecting the Bahamas right now, and our heart goes out to them.

HARLOW: For sure. Thank you, Dave, very much. We'll let you get back to it. I know you've got a lot on your plate and we're wishing you guys the best.

KERNER: Thank you so much.

HARLOW: Of course. Now, back to our other breaking news, this is off the coast of Southern California. We have reports from the Coast Guard of numerous fatalities because of this boat fire off the coast of Santa Cruz Island. 39 people were on board that boat.

Stephanie Elam is covering this. She has the latest.

Steph, you heard what the Coast Guard told me last hour, that they had only -- at this point, they can only confirm five people, five crew got off that boat. They don't know about the 34 others.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. And we did speak to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, which says it's really foggy out there where the vessel is in the water. And they're also saying they're hoping, they're holding out hope that somebody was able to swim ashore. They say that when these dive boats go out, they anchor pretty close to shore overnight.

What we do know is that this is a commercial diving vessel called Conception. It left out on this trip on Saturday for a three-day cruise and was supposed to return this afternoon. We also know that those five crew members were able to get off and 34 people were passengers who were likely sleeping as this call came in just after 3:00 A.M. Pacific Time down below.

They said that the fire was fully engulfing the boat but they were putting it out and then it was reigniting. It keeps reigniting with some sort of fuel on board. They're saying the five crew members were up on top, that's why they were able to get off, while the other people were down below where they were sleeping. And so it may have made it very difficult for them to get off of the boat at this time.

We do know that one of the crew members that got off did have minor injuries. The rest of them were fine. But this is still very much ongoing. And you're looking at a place that's somewhere between Ventura County and Santa Barbara County. So you have multiple agencies that are responding to this boat fire.

But, obviously, it does not look good at this point that people may have been sleeping when this fire started and that they may have been trapped below and unable to get up above, but still hoping that maybe one of those 34 passengers who was out for this Labor Day cruise, that hopefully someone might have made it off and may be in the water, maybe swimming to shore. But at this point, it's very devastating news coming out about this boat fire, Poppy.

HARLOW: It is horrifying. Stephanie, thank you very much for the reporting, please keep us posted. We will bring all of you everything as we get it.

Still to come, at any minute we are set to hear from Florida's governor, Ron DeSantis. He's set to give an update on Hurricane Dorian. You'll see that live right here.

And new details this morning on the shooter who took the lives of seven people and injured 22 more in this rampage in West Texas this weekend, reporting that the gunman was fired from his job just hours before the attack. What investigators are looking for in terms of a motive, ahead.



HARLOW: All right. Welcome back. Of course, we are all over covering Hurricane Dorian. You're looking at live pictures out of Tallahassee, Florida. That is the State Emergency Operations Center, where, at any moment, Florida's governor, Ron DeSantis will give us all an update on what they're expecting across the eastern coast of Florida there. We'll bring you that live as soon as it begins.

But in the Bahamas, there are reports of casualties, especially on the island of Abaco. That is where the brunt of Hurricane Dorian is right now. First responders are traveling into that area, reports of many people in distress, according to the Bahamian Minister of Foreign Affairs. He continues to say, quote, we have reports of casualties. We have reports of bodies being seen. We cannot confirm the reports until we go and see for ourselves.

Let's go to Chad Myers again. He joins me from the Severe Weather Center.

So, I mean, this is the first images and evidence of just how bad this thing is right now in the Bahamas.

MYERS: Yes. We had some images before all the cell towers [10:20:00] went out and that was just very early. That was well over 24 hours ago. We know that there are storm chasers out there. I follow them on Twitter. I have not heard from them. They don't work for CNN. I have not heard from them for 19 hours. And I know that they would be sending pictures if they could. And so everything is down. All services are down. Cell towers are down. There's nothing out there to actually get any information out.

HARLOW: Chad -- let me just jump in here, Chad. We'll come back to you. Let's listen to Florida's governor, Ron DeSantis.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Hurricane Dorian is a little more than 100 miles east of West Palm Beach. It has done what the model suggested it would do and it has essentially stalled out. It's moving about one mile per hour and that was predicted to happen for most of today. And then the forecasts are that it will then begin a decent north.

Obviously, when and how that happens is going to be critical for impacts in the State of Florida. But we are -- our east coast certainly is within the cone still and people need to remain vigilant. If you're ordered to evacuate, you need to do that. From Palm Beach County all the way up to Nassau, the Florida-Georgia border, all those coastal counties have issued evacuation orders.

And it's important that residents heed those calls. Get out now while you have time, while there's fuel available, and you'll be safe on the roads. And, of course, you can go to for all evacuation updates.

I just spoke this morning with President Trump. He's fully engaged in this and just reiterated that he's going to provide whatever resources we need to be able to weather Dorian. FEMA is fully engaged. Obviously, this is a storm that can impact multiple states at this point. But FEMA is fully engaged here in Florida and we appreciate that.

We're, of course, concerned about power restoration once the storm passes. Florida power and light has most of these counties in terms of the power and they've assembled approximately 17,000 personnel that are pre-staged and ready to respond. And as soon as the first bands of severe weather hit, they will come in after that to restore power around the clock, because I think they understand how important that is. We will obviously be assisting with our assets, whether it's clearing roads, vegetation, whatever we can do to help that happen.

There have been 72 nursing homes and assisted living facilities along the coast that have been evacuated. Some Florida hospitals have begun evacuating or are making plans to evacuate. These include Advent Health in New Smyrna Beach and Volusia County, Cape Canaveral, Brevard, Cleveland Clinic South in Martin County, Port St. Lucie Hospital, Good Samaritan Medical Center in Palm Beach, Stewart Sebastian River Medical Center in Indian River and Halifax Psychiatric North in Volusia. Cleveland Clinic North Martin is a partial evacuation.

If you're involved with the healthcare facility, continue inputting your emergency updates into our emergency status system. It includes generator, utility information, evacuation status, emergency contact. If there is a need for something and you're updating us, we have people monitoring that all the time. We have people in a variety of agencies that could then respond accordingly. And, obviously, we want to do that.

We have the gas stations along the evacuation routes. We've confirmed they're going to remain open. Some of the gas stations in the evacuation zones, you may see some of those start to close soon. But the ones on the routes are going to remain open. I've expanded the suspension of tolls to include roads in and around Jacksonville, like the First Coast Expressway and the I-295 Express Lane, and, of course, we suspended tolls on a number of roads in Florida yesterday. Also the Central Florida Expressway Authority has suspended tolls on a number of roads in and around Central Florida. Now, the following five ports have been closed, Miami Everglades, Fort Pierce, Palm Beach and Port Canaveral. Jacksonville and Fernandina are in condition Yankee, obviously, as the storm moves north. Their status could change. But as the storm moves north, we anticipate some of the southern ports reopening.

We're still monitoring traffic and have not seen anything out of the ordinary in terms of evacuations -- in terms of evacuation traffic, pretty much what we expected.

So this has been frustrating, I know, for a lot of people because this seems like we've been talking about this [10:25:00] for a long time, but we are in a situation where the storm is stalling very close to our coast. It is going to make a movement and the movement that it makes is going to have a lot of impact on Floridians.

And so, please, listen to the instructions, heed the instructions, do what you need to do to keep you and your family safe. I'll take some questions.

REPORTER: Governor, at this point, are you confident that all of the nursing homes that -- because we didn't know whether they had updated with generators and whatnot, that those facilities are now safe as if we've gotten the patients out? I mean, are they in the best position they can be to weather the storm?

DESANTIS: Well, we have. So, as I said yesterday, in the coastal counties, the facilities either have confirmed generator availability or that they plan to evacuate.

Now, since that has happened, not every one of them has continued to give us updates. And so if you have a generator and something is wrong with the generator, you need to tell us that. You need to put those updates in. But they've all either indicated a generator or a plan to evacuate, but this is something that's constantly being monitored by AHCA and some of our other state officials.

Another thing that AHCA is going to be doing is we have a number of hospitals obviously on this east coast of Florida. We're obviously concerned about all of them because it's a sensitive thing. But some of the bigger corporate hospitals probably have more resources to handle this. And so AHCA has been focusing on getting updates from offering assistance to some of the independent hospitals, which may not have as many resources. And so they've been very proactive on that and I appreciate what Mary Mayhew is doing.

REPORTER: The hospitals that are evacuating. Are you hearing they are completely evacuating and do they send their patients to the interior counties? Is that the --

DESANTIS: I think it's a mix. I mean, Jared would probably know more. Do you want to speak on that?

JARED MOSKOWITZ, DIRECTOR, FLORIDA DIVISION OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Sure. Thank you, Governor. So it's a mix, each hospitals doing different things depending upon where they're locate, the type of building and what sort of level surge they might be expecting, so some are obviously moving out their most critical patients a lot of times. They have obviously sister facilities or they have MOUs in place with other facilities.

REPORTER: Governor, how has this storm impacted tourism numbers over the Labor Day weekend? Do we have any idea of how --

DESANTIS: I think it's too soon to know exact numbers. But, I mean, obviously if -- I think we started to see possibilities of this earlier in the week last week. I remember initially we're like, well, it's probably going to run over the mountains of Hispaniola, break up and then everyone will go, it didn't happen.

So I think you're obviously going to see some effect of that. But at the same time, I think the fact that it's taken an eastward track, people that had planned on being some place --

HARLOW: All right. You are listening to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. We're going to keep monitoring this for you, of course. He's taking questions right now from reporters. But the main headline from him is, look, I know you're frustrated, I know this is a slow- moving storm, but be vigilant, follow those evacuation orders for those that are in evacuation zones up and down the Coast of Florida.

He said this storm is stalling very close to our coast and the decision -- the direction that it makes is going to make all the difference. Where does it turn and when does it turn?

We're going to get to Chad Myers in the Severe Weather Center now for a little bit more on what he said. I mean, I think it's important that he said, look, I know it's slow and I know you've been hearing about this for days, but don't let your guard down.

MYERS: I think the people that may be frustrated in Florida would put themselves in Florida rather than put themselves frustrated in the Bahamas as this thing just will not stop. It will not move away. 160 miles per hour is the peak wind right now around the center.

This is a six-hour radar loop. I'll kind of zoom in and you can get a feel for it. Six hours, this has been going on in the same place. Let's just say this is down to 140. A Category 2 or F-2 tornado for five hours over your house rather than 30 seconds, like what happened in the plains, over and over and over, one storm after another. Our Patrick Oppmann is there. He's seeing it over and over and over as the surge comes up.

But where does it go from here? When it finally starts to move, does it drift to the west or does it go straight to the north? Because if it goes straight to the north and follows this line here, there will be no effect at all other than some big waves and maybe a two-foot surge. But if it follows the left-hand side of the cone and gets anywhere near the Florida Coast, we're going to see winds gust to 120 to 140 miles per hour. So just when you thought it was okay, we were panicked earlier in the week when it was coming in from the east and not going to stop. Well, now it did stop and then it's going to turn to the right. If it continues just close enough, as some models suggest, maybe Cape Canaveral or up [10:30:00] in the Atlantic Beach, these areas are going to see winds over 100. They are going to see absolute damaging winds, not 185 like the Great --