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Hurricane Dorian Creeps Toward The Florida Coast; Multiple Florida Airports Have Shut Down All Commercial Traffic; Thirty-Four People Feared Dead After A Horrific Boat Fire In California. Aired 2- 2:30p ET

Aired September 2, 2019 - 14:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me. I am here back in New York. Victor Blackwell, my colleague there is standing by live for us in Florida where millions are getting ready for the impact from Hurricane Dorian. So we'll talk to Victor here in just a moment.

But first, this new forecast of the Category now 4 storm, it has just devastated the Bahamas. It is creeping toward the Florida Coast with just one mile per hour, slower than a walking pace.

CNN Meteorologist, Jennifer Gray is here with the latest track and so you know, all right, so you guys are all zeroing in on what's called the cone of uncertainty. Does it look like Dorian is going to pivot northwest? And if it does, what does that mean for Floridians and the rest of the southeast?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, the cone really hasn't moved farther west which is good news, but Florida is still going to feel the impacts of this storm and it's still unfortunately too early to tell exactly how much more northwest the storm is going to go.

I think the one mile per hour is actually a generous speed. It doesn't look like this thing is moving at all. And this made landfall in the Abaco midday yesterday. We are still talking about it. It has barely moved at all, just sitting over Grand Bahama Island, 150 mile per hour winds and then moving at literally a snail's pace.

Look at this radar. This is a six-hour loop and it looks like it is just staying still right over Grand Bahama Island. Freeport getting the brunt of it right now, with all of those winds. You can't even wrap your head around the devastation that's going to be coming out of the Bahamas in the coming days. It's incredibly, incredibly devastating.

The tropical storm force winds already trying to pick up along the Florida Coast, still a little bit under that 28 in West Palm Beach. Of course, as this continues to make that northward shift, as it should by tomorrow that's when we'll really be zeroing in on this cone, especially right around the Space Coast and Treasure Coast. That's what we're going to be looking at. Its closest approach to Florida, and possibly still a major hurricane Category Three, 125 mile per hour winds.

You're also going to get the storm surge that's going to go along with that as well as the rain. So all of that water is going to be pushed in, and this is basically just going to ride the coast of Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas. It could be making landfall as well anywhere on maybe South Carolina, North Carolina coast still a little early to tell. And that could still be a Category 2 storm. So we're still talking about a lot of destruction with this storm all up and down the southeast coast.

We have hurricane watches and warnings in place all up and down the Florida Coast. Here's the wind threat. And you can see that area shaded in red all along the coast, 74 to 110 mile per hour winds in this red. And that's pretty far inland. That's well west of U.S. 1 I-95, in a lot of these places, and so as you travel up the coast, even people that have moved inland quite a ways, they're still going to get possible hurricane force conditions at their location.

Even up into Georgia, you can see that 74 to 110 mile per hour threat. The storm surge threat as well, four to seven feet up and down the coast, and as this moves farther to the west, so the possibility of that that could be adjusted even more. There is a possibility that that could even increase.

Here's your forecast rain accumulation on top of everything else. We could pick up six to ten inches of rain right along the coast, and then well inland, even in Orlando, it could pick up four inches between there and the coast, it could be four to six inches.

And then as we go into the Carolinas, the outer banks and Brooke, you know that that's a very vulnerable area along the coast, they could see quite a bit of storm surge, as well as erosion which they don't need whatsoever with the possible landfall later in the week.

BALDWIN: Gorgeous area, but indeed vulnerable. Jennifer, thank you so much. We'll stay in close contact with you. I'm still back on when she said, you know one mile an hour is generous, a generous pace.

Let's go to Victor Blackwell. He is live in Hutchinson Island, Florida. Victor, how's it looking out there?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Yes, the wind has certainly picked up here along Jensen Beach in just the last couple of minutes, about 35 to 40 miles per hour. We know that this will get stronger. We're feeling the edge of one of those outer bands coming now. The rain has just started a couple of seconds ago.

Now, earlier this morning, this beach was crowded with dozens of people coming here to take photographs, to look at the churning ocean out here, but now, virtually empty. You can see no one from this vantage point. I could see about one or two people on the other side of the camera. But that's in part due to the shutdown of the bridges onto Hutchinson Island.

Martin County Sheriff's Office just a short time ago shut down the causeway from the mainland across the Intracoastal from Stuart and Jensen Beach causeways to get to this beach.


BLACKWELL: So you probably won't see many people coming out here. Many of the locals have decided to get out of town, although there are some who are here.

Now they know, even as this storm gets closer to Florida, what they will experience will be nothing compared to what the people on the islands of the Bahamas have experienced for the last 12 to 24 hours.

I want to go now to Kevin Tomlinson, who is on the Island of Grand Bahama in Freeport. Kevin, first, thank you for talking with us. I know communications are touch and go. Tell us where you are, and what you saw overnight.

KEVIN TOMLINSON, EVACUATED TO A SHELTER DURING HURRICANE DORIAN (via Skype): Well, we are right in the middle of everything. We're being pounded with strong wind and lots of water. I just -- I am actually at a shelter. And we had to leave a few minutes ago to assist some people in getting here.

And really and truly being out there, and that experience is something I've never seen before, I've never experienced it before. But like you said, the winds are moving at about one mile per hour. And it's like unbelievable for us.

In 2004, when we had Hurricane Frances, I think and she sat over us for about two days. We know what that feels like and this is a totally different category altogether.

And you know, one thing I dread is the aftermath of this entire thing. But like I said before, we are builders here in the Bahamas. We know how to rebuild, and I'm very -- I am very confident that we're going to rebuild our island.

You know, we are world for our beautiful sunset at sea. But at the end of the day, there is something known around the else about us. We have very smart and genius people. And we know how to put things back together. So I'm very excited that we are going to work together to put this all back together.

BLACKWELL: Yes. So Kevin, when we spoke yesterday, Sunday morning, you were confident in your decision to stay in your home there on Freeport, in Freeport there on Grand Bahama. What was the indicator that you had to get out? Why did you leave and then go to the shelter?

TOMLINSON: Well, like I told you to that I lived in a wonderful condominium complex on the shoreline. The challenge was when the wind gusts picked up, I got a bit nervous because we have never experienced a Category 5 before, but I didn't know what to expect.

Even though I had hurricane impact windows, I didn't know if the wind was going to crush it out or push it out. I still don't know. I will know until I get back home. And then I have a very nagging niece who insisted that I get out. So

I had to make sure I leave, so that I can be on safe grounds. I'm glad I did because the effects that we're seeing right now, especially when we got word back from what the storm has done to our neighboring island in Abaco and the traumatic experience that people are experiencing there, and even some cases, we have some loss of lives.

You know, it's really heartbreaking. I feel it, we feel it. My government feels it. Our country feels it. Our Prime Minister spoke about it. And so -- but again, you know, we've learned a lot from you in America. You are like a big brother to us in the north. And we watched you go through Katrina. We watched you go through Sandy. We saw the responses that you had, and you knew how to come together to build and unite and to rebuild your country and that's the same way with us.

We will come together, whether it's from Grand Bahama to Inagua, we are going to come together, we are going to rebuild these broken places. We can't replace the lives, but we will rebuild the country.

BLACKWELL: Yes. You know, so many people have fond memories, photographs and emotional connection to the islands of the Bahamas, many as tourists, some have familiar connections there as well, and I'm confident that it will be rebuilt.

We've seen just a few photographs, just a few videos on social media. But what did you see as you were leaving your home and headed to the shelter? Did you see the type of destruction that you're fearing as a result of Dorian?

TOMLINSON: While I was leaving my home to head to the shelter, we weren't in the storms yet. We just had some outer bands that have been starting to pick up, so there was really nothing there.

But then I went out a few minutes ago, and when I began to look around and see what was happening, because on the street that I am at, just a few blocks down, the ocean is actually in the road.


TOMLINSON: And so you know that is something that really got me and then when you see some of the houses already in the devastating positions that they're in and the power lines and things that -- I felt the wind. The car -- we almost got swept off the road.

So I felt it and I realized, you know that this storm is not to play with and we haven't really gotten the full brunt of it yet. You know, I understand the eye is trying to reorganize.

BLACKWELL: We certainly have not seen all of the effects of Hurricane Dorian. As we get there and others, we will see the full damage there. Unfortunately, so much we've seen so far has been destroyed.

And we know that rescue efforts have begun on Abaco as they can get to people safely, that from the Bahamian government. Kevin Tomlinson, our best to you. Thank you so much for again speaking with us. And we'll check back in as the storm moves on. Right now as we know from the National Hurricane Center, moving and just one mile per hour, a strong Category 4 storm.

Back here in Florida, I'm going to go to Singer Island and my colleague, Randi Kaye is there. I wonder, Randi, if you are feeling the wind that we're feeling here on Jensen Beach, it's really picked up in the last 10 or 15 minutes.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, Victor. We are feeling -- the wind certainly has grown stronger here. We're on Singer Island which is about a four-mile stretch of beach. It's a barrier island in West Palm Beach and as you can see, the wind has picked up.

We've also been getting some bouts of rain here, and the sun now is out, but it's kind of coming and going. I just want to call your attention to the water though. That's the key story here right now.

Just take a look at that. Normally here on Singer Island, it is really calm. It is beautiful, clear blue water for snorkeling. Really crystal clear and we're seeing waves that we don't normally see here on Singer Island and people here were evacuated.

The evacuation started yesterday in this area because it is a barrier island. Around one o'clock yesterday afternoon, most people did heed those warnings and evacuate the buildings all along -- the high rise buildings and hotels all along this stretch of beach have evacuated.

There were a few people that were down in the distance there, some curious folks just coming down to see what the water looked like today. But as Hurricane Dorian is moving closer to Florida and could brush the edge of Florida or maybe even make landfall, most folks did pack up and I've got to tell you something because it's not just the people like us that are in trouble here. It's not just the human life that's at risk.

But I just want to call your attention here. This is a baby turtle egg that's on the beach here, and that's because the sea turtles come out of the ocean here, Victor, as you know, having lived in Florida, and they come out to the beach and they lay their eggs and you can see that here. And a lot of these turtle nests have now been turned up and dug up from the winds and the ocean water that's been rising here. So those are in trouble as well.

But it is quite a scene here on Singer Island. The businesses have closed up, the restaurants at the beach. This is Labor Day. So a lot of people would normally be out here on this beach, it would be packed. Kids and parents and just everybody having a good time. And that's certainly not the situation here. The Palm Beach airport remains closed, and people are certainly not letting down their guard just yet here in West Palm Beach. Victor?

BLACKWELL: Yes, Randi. We've seen scores of those turtle eggs here. They're probably maybe 10 or 15 -- within 10 or 15 feet of where I'm standing here on Jensen Beach. And we know that Florida takes great care to protect those turtle egg nests. But when this water comes ashore, it damages what is protected by the government here.

Randi Kaye for us there on Singer Island. Thank you so much for that update. Brooke, I'm going to send it back to you. We are of course going to stay here as this island has now -- you see just a few people down a few hundred yards behind me, but most of the people have cleared off of Hutchinson Island earlier in the day.

It's difficult to know if people are not on the streets or if the traffic is light because of the hour or the urgency. But now we know that many of the people are just getting as far away from this barrier island as possible. And the county has prevented anyone who doesn't live here, who doesn't have business here from coming across the bridge just to take pictures.

BALDWIN: Yes, yes, I'm glad people are heeding warnings. It has been an obstinate, obstinate storm and people haven't known whether they could ride it out or they needed to get out to dodge depending on where exactly it's going to hit. Victor, we'll chat momentarily. Thank you very much.

We'll also talk to a South Florida Mayor about what they will face in the course of the next two days. So that's coming up. Meantime, multiple Florida airports have shut down all commercial traffic. Several mandatory evacuations have been ordered in both Georgia and Florida. Leyla Santiago is live in Fort Pierce, Florida. Leyla, what's the story where you are?


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let's go and talk about those airports first quickly to make sure that everyone is aware. It is the Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Orlando, Melbourne as well as West Palm Beach. Those airports are closed right now because of Dorian.

But as far as what we are seeing, hearing, feeling here in Fort Pierce, which is St. Lucie County, it's been kind of a mix right now. We have moments like this of pretty sunshine and then downpours. The wind is starting to pick up, you can see that reflected a little bit in the trees behind me, but we're also starting to really kind of get a sense of urgency from a lot of the officials who are doing updates, many stressing that there are mandatory evacuations in place right here.

Right now, they have five shelters; four for general population and one for special needs. And right now, the county administrator is saying they have about 500 people in those shelters.

You know, the people that I've been talking to have found this to be a storm that while they're used to hurricanes here, it is hard to predict. So they're still trying to figure out how big of an impact this will have despite what officials are saying.

I actually spoke to one man who said, "I'm a little nervous because I understand that if this shifts just a little bit, this will have a very big impact on us." This is an area that is under Tropical Storm, storm surge as well as

hurricane warnings here and we're starting to see a little bit of a change in weather that could be a sign of what's to come, but nothing, nothing steady at this point. Just a lot of officials trying to make their case to make sure that people are listening to get out and be well-prepared for Dorian -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: It is significant. You're talking inland. You mentioned Orlando Airport. I started my day yesterday morning in South Florida and I was talking to an airline and they were like, "I can't believe, you know, it's that far inland that's taking those sort of precautions."

Leyla, thank you very much. Fort Pierce, Florida. As I mentioned a moment ago, we will talk to the South Florida Mayor coming up about what they'll be facing in the next 48 hours.

We are also covering the breaking story out of California. Thirty four people feared dead after a horrific boat fire. You're watching CNN on this Labor Day, Monday. We'll be right back.



BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Here's the breaking news this afternoon on just this terrible tragedy unfolding at sea off the coast of Los Angeles. A spokesperson for Ventura County says there are a number of fatalities from a fire onboard the 75-foot diving boat. Coast Guard says more than 39 people were on board, only five of them have been rescued. The five rescued were all crew members.

Multiple agencies responded to this mayday fire call early, early this morning near Santa Cruz Island. The boat named Conception sank just 20 yards off shore as the fire crews battled this fire.

And Lieutenant Commander Matthew Kroll is a Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Coast Guard. So Lieutenant Commander Kroll, thank you so much for being with me and just absolutely tragic what, you know, all of these families are having to deal with on this Monday afternoon.

When we know that the boat sank just about as I mentioned 20 yards from shore. And I understand that searches are underway for survivors. There are dozens unaccounted for. Do you have any news? Any word on any of them?

LT. COMMANDER MATTHEW KROLL, PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER, U.S. COAST GUARD: And thank you for having me. Right now, it's just important to remember that this is not how many people planned on spending their Labor Day weekend. So my thoughts are with the family and friends of everyone who is worried about people right now and their safety.

So as we get more information, and you know, the Coast Guard and our partner agencies in Santa Barbara will be giving that out to everyone. Right now, we are -- BALDWIN: So I just want to be clear, those 34 are entirely

unaccounted for still.

KROLL: Right now, yes. We are still actively searching and the Coast Guard has multiple assets on scene. Because we don't know. It was very dark when the explosion happened, and we don't know if someone was able to get off board with a flotation device prior to us arriving on scene. So there still could be people out there, so we are actively searching, but unfortunately, the more time that goes by, the more difficult it's going to be to locate survivors.

BALDWIN: Can you just describe what that sort of search entails? Since we know most of the vessel is now underwater? Divers around this boat on the rescue and recovery efforts. Can you just describe that for me?

KROLL: Yes, so right now there's two small boats, 45-foot small boats, response boats out of Channel Islands Harbor that are on scene actively searching. We've had multiple helicopters from our forward operating base in Point Mugu and air stations in San Diego just trying to cover as much ground and water as we can as quickly as we can.

And we also had dive teams coming out this morning on scene. They should be arriving on scene momentarily to help inspect that vessel.

BALDWIN: Did you use the word is "explosion"? Was this an explosion?


KROLL: No, the cause of the fire is still undetermined at this point. We don't know if it was an explosion or if it was a fire that slowly grew. But what we know now is that everything happened quickly enough that many people could not get off the ship.

And so there will be a full investigation to figure out what went wrong and how we can prevent these in the future.

BALDWIN: Of the five crew members, Commander, who have been able to be rescued, who were able to jump ship, have they been talking and what of that information can you share with the public?

KROLL: I'm unsure at this point, ma'am, because I've been trying to get down there as fast as I can. And right now, I'm at the airport as you can probably hear. They are calling me right now to the gate.

BALDWIN: OK, well then, I'm not going to hang on to you. I want you to roll. Lieutenant Commander Matthew Kroll, thank you so much and best of luck in all your efforts down there in Southern California. Thank you very much.

KROLL: Thank you for having me.

BALDWIN: Millions of people, of course, meantime along the East Coast are under a mandatory evacuation order. Hurricane Dorian is expected to get dangerously close to Florida tonight. The latest track and we'll look at conditions in the southeast part of the state, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)