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Hurricane Dorian Slowly Moving Towards the U.S. While Pummeling the Bahamas; Mass Shooting in Odessa Texas. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired September 2, 2019 - 02:00   ET

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


[02:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our special coverage of Hurricane Dorian. I'm Rosemary Church.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm George Howell. For our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world, we are keeping a very close eye on this incredibly strong storm.

CHURCH: Yes. The Bahamas are getting pummeled right now by the strongest hurricane to ever hit the islands. Dorian is a catastrophic Category 5 storm with winds of 175 miles or about 300 kilometers an hour.

HOWELL: These pictures just really tell the story, don't they? I mean, you get a sense of what's really happening there. At this point, the storm had slowed to a crawl, expected to stay over the Bahamas for the next 24 hours. The Bahamas' prime minister took a somber tone on it on Sunday, listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUBERT MINNIS, BAHAMIAN PRIME MINISTER: This is probably the most sad and worst day of my life to address the Bahamian people. And I just want to say that as a physician, I've been trained to withstand many things, but never anything like this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: That really says it all right there. The storm has destroyed homes. It's ripped roofs off of buildings. One woman trapped with her family pleaded for help.

(BEGIN VIDEIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please pray for us. Please pray for us, everyone. Please pray for us. Me and my baby, everyone's that's staying in the apartment building, we're stuck right here. Please pray for us. I'm asking, please pray for us. Pray for Abaco. Please, I'm begging you all. My baby's only 4 months old. Please pray for us. I'm begging you all, pray for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: You just feel the fear that she's dealing with in that

situation. The flooding is also a big concern -- the storm surge, up to 23 feet or 7 meters. The northwest Bahamas could see as much as eight months' worth of rain in just a few days alone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is now my house. The water is up to my calf. Lost the kitchen, stove.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: And this is what Dorian looks like from the International Space Station.

HOWELL: Wow.

CHURCH: It is the strongest storm anywhere on the planet this year. And NOAA released pictures of Dorian's eye wall showing the clouds curving outward, a phenomenon known as the stadium effect. And our meteorologist Ivan Cabrera joins us now. So, Ivan, the images that we've seen of what people are dealing with in the Bahamas just terrifying and there's so much more to come.

IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And there's so much more to come and those pictures are going to pale in comparison to what we're going to be seeing over the next couple of days over the Bahamas. Once you start getting those aerial shots, you're going to be seeing areas that are just going to be completely destroyed 100 percent across the Bahamas there.

It's just an incredible scene. And we're not going to get those pictures for several days because of the slow movement of the storm. I mean, if you threw everything at this as far as the storm surge, as far as the winds, as far as the rainfall, everything is there.

By the way, this is now an historic storm. Only Allen has had stronger winds in the Atlantic here, 190 mile an hour winds. Dorian at 185 in his last advisory, we're at 175 here. This is the brand-new update from the National Hurricane Center.

What happens when these storms get this strong, their eye can't contain itself for that much longer, and so they go through replacement cycles here, and as that happens they weaken a little bit here, but that is not a weakening trend, I don't think yet, 175 still a formidable Category 5 hurricane.

I'll go in a little bit closer so you can see just the incredible -- I mean, you just -- we couldn't have been able to forecast this eye going exactly over the length of Grand Bahama Island. Freeport about to get, again, about the worst experience right now -- that inner eye wall that will have those 175 miles an hour.

The radar, just 120 miles, such an incredible scene there in south Florida and the hurricane and how close it will come. I'll break down the threats for you here because they are going to be significant, despite the fact that we don't think this is going to barrel in from east to west.

Hurricane warnings posted from Boca Raton all the way up into Cape Canaveral and then we have hurricane watches posted up to the north. Warning these conditions, hurricane conditions within 24 hours, hurricane conditions possible within 48 hours in the watches.

The yellow you see, the winds are going to be so expansive here because it's going to be getting so close, that is the center of the storm, that we could be looking at sustained tropical storm-force winds for a day or two across central Florida, including Disney World. That is something else, right?

So, here are the storm warnings as far as the storm surge -- watches and warnings I should say.

[02:05:01] By the way, the storm warning here, the storm surge warning goes from Boca Raton all the way up into the Orlando area. That would be Cape Canaveral across Brevard County there. And then you go further north and you get into a watch from Orlando heading up towards Jacksonville. And by Orlando, I mean that latitude, not Orlando proper.

Storm surge, 18 to 23-foot storm surge. Remember, some of these islands in the Bahamas only 10 feet above sea level. So you get 10 feet above sea level and then they're going to be completely covered with 18 to 23. This is the potential storm surge for Florida.

And I say potential because we still don't know how close this is going to come. It has not turned north yet. We're expecting that to happen, but we can't precisely predict exactly when that will happen. And that's so crucial because the closer this gets, the worst the effects will be for Florida.

We could get into an outer eye wall situation here, raking the coast from south to north over the next couple of days. The other issue here is that this thing basically -- we can walk faster than the hurricane is right now. Its 5 mile an hour movement to the west and it will continue with that slow movement.

This is a 24-hour difference, right, from Monday 8:00 p.m. to Tuesday 8:00 p.m. east or west Palm Beach and then east of Melbourne. And then eventually we are going to see the coastline jet out. So, if it continues on that northerly path, we could have either a landfall or the same situation that we're having in Florida.

I'll show you and leave you with the computer model forecast here. Again, some of them indicating a more westerly movement, some indicating further east. And that is going to be the key as to what kinds of effects Florida gets. Will they be more significant or not depending on how close it gets?

But right now it looks like they're not really going to be out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination just because of how close this thing is going to get.

HOWELL: That thing is just simply going right up the southeast coast, pretty much everyone along that path is.

CABRERA: My concern has always been from the beginning that if that happens, if it gets close enough, essentially it's like multiple hurricanes making landfalls, right?

HOWELL: Yes.

CABRERA: If you get that outer eye wall or certainly the inner eye wall raking across the entire coastline instead of just punching in.

CHURCH: Right.

CABRERA: We're not thinking that's going to happen, right? But we are thinking it's going to get close enough where those hurricane-force winds and those tropical storm-force winds do extend into the coastline of Florida.

HOWELL: Ivan Cabrera, thank you very much.

CHURCH: It's so hard to predict this --

CABRERA: It is indeed.

CHURCH: Thank you so much.

HOWELL: Well, we do, again, know that the storm made its second landfall on Grand Bahama Island, just a few hours ago, as Ivan pointed out.

CHURCH: Yes, and CNN's Patrick Oppmann is there in the resort city of Freeport.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The weather here in Freeport is gradually deteriorating as Hurricane Dorian moves off the nearby island of Abaco and heads this direction, to the island where we are, Grand Bahama.

And we are sensing winds picking up, more rain coming, and that is just going to get worse and worse because this storm while incredibly powerful, a Category 5, the strongest storm ever to hit the Bahamas, it is also moving very slowly.

It's a deadly combination, particularly on an island chain where so many islands are very low-lying. Where we are right now, the highest point on this island is only about 30 feet high, the highest point of land. And so when you hear about a storm surge of 20 feet, that means in the hours and days ahead much of this island where I am standing will be underwater.

Islands around us which are more low-lying will be completely submerged. It is a terrifying prospect for the people, the many people who have decided to ride out this storm on those low-lying parts of this island and other islands around us. So, not much people can do at this point because the weather is

kicking up. Conditions are deteriorating. And this is a storm for the history books. Hurricane Dorian is going to hit the Bahamas in a way that this island chain has never experienced. It is going to hit the Bahamas harder than any hurricane ever has before. Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Freeport, the Bahamas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: And from the Bahamas we have now Kayston Pinder with us. Kayston, a fisherman and resident in the Spanish Wells. Thank you again for being with us.

KAYSTON PINDER, BAHAMAS RESIDENT: Good to be here.

HOWELL: Kayston, we do understand you're among the lucky ones. You went through this storm in an area that was spared the real brunt of Dorian, but what are you hearing from others nearby who might not have been quite as lucky?

PINDER: Terrible stories about -- we had some friends of ours send Snapchat videos and videos through WhatsApp and stuff about trees blowing through their houses and trying to stay locked down in their closets and just flooding.

[02:10:05] I had one report say that they were -- they were leaving the house in the eye of the storm because they had their roof -- they were fortunate because their roof hadn't blown off yet, but they had 5 feet of water in the downstairs section of the home.

HOWELL: Wow. And for yourself, what was it like to go through this? I mean, this was one of the strongest storms to pass through that area.

PINDER: Yes. This was probably the strongest storm I've ever lived through. But here we only had it about -- I think we had 75 mile an hour winds here because we're just far enough away, so we prepared for the worst and hoped for the best, and everything worked out pretty good.

And there are a few docks that broke down. We had the really high tide this morning and the king tide tonight. Most of the roads near the harbor are going under the water, but we haven't seen major damage. A few phone lines blown over but that's about it, one or two trees. So we're pretty fortunate right now.

HOWELL: In those areas that were hit the hardest, what do you believe it will be like for these officials to get in there to help people? How bad is the damage at this point, do you understand?

PINDER: What I understand the damage is, everything's gone. From what I've heard there's one or two houses here and there that are still standing. There's one home that we got a report there's I think 49 people in one home now because that home's still standing and they're just trying to get back now in Abaco.

And now Grand Bahama is now going to catch it in the dark, so it's going to be nighttime for them, so we're hoping and praying that they're all right.

HOWELL: And then as far as people getting, you know, those essentials, food, water, you know, getting those things across the islands, how difficult will that be given the extensive damage?

PINDER: It's pretty difficult. First of all, it the difficult to get in plenty of times just because of it's hard to tell where you're going and what debris is in the water.

And then once you get to the land -- and then if you have a big boat, a lot of the docks are so destroyed that you don't have anywhere to first dock your boat to offload water and supplies to people, so that will be difficult on its own.

Beside the fact that you have trees and everything blown down for the roads to get to the dock that you have to clear out before you can get distribute water and canned goods and gas and whatever you can.

We are planning now -- there is a town meeting tomorrow at 1:30 for us to figure out how we're going to get boats and bag up supplies to go to Abaco in the next few days.

I know there's a GoFundMe account set up and stuff to hurricane relief for Abaco and different things like that just to get the funds to buy water and supplies, and a lot of our fishing vessels too that we may take -- have distillation systems on the boats that can produce clean water.

HOWELL: Kayston, again, let's underscore it, you're among the lucky ones, but you have spoken with people who didn't fare quite as well. The entire southeast coast right now, I think they are looking to you, to people like you who went through the storm.

You got a sense of what this thing was all about. What would you tell people on the southeast coast as they prepare for wherever this storm goes next?

PINDER: Well, my sisters are on the southeast coast. They're right in West Palm Beach. That's where they go to college. And I'd tell those to prepare for the worst and just be ready because if it hits you dead on, it's going to be a lot of destruction. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, my uncle always told me.

HOWELL: I've heard that expression as well. Let's certainly hope for the best. Kayston Pinder, we appreciate your time again. Thank you.

OPINDER: Thank you for having me.

CHURCH: And hurricane warnings are in effect right now along Florida's eastern coast. Mandatory evacuations have already began in some areas.

HOWELL: Residents there are boarding up their windows and storefronts. They're doing the best they can to prepare for this thing. The Martin County sheriff delivered a very dire warning about it. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM SNYDER, SHERIFF, MARTIN COUNTY, FLORIDA: We are within 20 miles of an apocalyptic hurricane coming ashore on the treasure coast. If it does what the models are predicting, we will be OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[02:15:00] CHURCH: Well, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is not quite as optimistic. He says Hurricane Dorian is way too close for comfort, but the state is prepared.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RON DESANTIS, GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: The Florida National Guard will have 4,500 soldiers and airmen activated and ready to respond. They have 15 rotor wing helicopters available. An additional 24 have been offered from regional National Guard locations, and the active Army component has prepositioned 40 additional helicopters near our state border to respond, if needed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: So the officials are ready. You know, people have made the decision, do they leave or do they stay and the storm is walking, essentially walking closer to Florida. Our Rosa Flores has more on what's happening in Daytona Beach, Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm at the Daytona International Speed Way, home to NASCAR's Daytona 500. Except right now it is doubling as a processing center for the more than 18,000 men and women from 34 U.S. states and Canada who will be eventually restoring power to Floridians.

As you take a look around you can see that this is a mini army of utility workers and utility trucks. Now, if you look closely, you'll see there are different logos, different license plates.

Here is how it works. These utility workers drive into this processing center. They get checked in. They get a security briefing and then they get dispatched to 20 strategic locations in the state of Florida. Once power goes out, they will be dispatched to those impacted areas.

Now, this is Volusia County. It is the size of the state of Rhode Island here in the United States, and mandatory evacuations are scheduled for Monday at 10:00 a.m. Officials here tell us that those mandatory evacuations will be issued for individuals who live in the barrier islands and low-lying areas.

And also those who live in R.V. parks as well. But officials also tell us that they're telling their residents that if they want to evacuate and -- to a safer location, that they should, that they do not need to wait for that evacuation order to be issued. Rosa Flores, CNN, Daytona Beach, Florida. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: Another mass shooting leaves multiple people dead in Texas and once again people are asking, what can be done to stop the violence in America? We will discuss that when we return.

[02:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WORLD SPORTS)

CHURCH: We have new details about the man who killed seven people and injured 22 others in west Texas.

HOWELL: According to "The New York Times," the 36-year-old had been fired from his trucking job a few hours before the shooting rampage took place.

Police say he opened fire from inside his car. This taking place in Midland-Odessa, Texas. They don't know the motive yet. They're still investigating that.

CHURCH: And at a press briefing Sunday, the governor of Texas says he is tired of all the bloodshed. He has witnessed several mass shootings during his term and notably the latest massacre happened a day before looser gun laws went into effect there.

HOWELL: Notably. The U.S. President Donald Trump says background checks for gun buyers would not have stopped Saturday's attack.

CHURCH: But he insists he is working with Congress to find a solution to gun violence in America. CNN's Boris Sanchez has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Sources say that White House officials have been working on some kind of plan to try to prevent mass shootings since the back-to-ban shootings we saw at the beginning of August in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas, when President Trump as he's done before, spoke ambitiously about passing some sort of gun control legislation.

The president's position on this issue has shifted dramatically over time. Now, the president soon after shootings, speaking ambitiously about passing some form of gun control legislation, and then soon after drifting a bit. Listen to what the president said after those back-to-back shootings in Texas and Ohio about background checks. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happened to the strong appetite for background checks?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, I have an appetite for background checks. We're going to be doing background checks. We're working with Democrats. We're working with Republicans. We already have very strong background checks, but we're going to be filling in some of the loopholes, as we call them at the border.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: President Trump there talking about having an appetite for background checks. Notably, though, when the president has shifted his tone on this issue, it's come soon after conversations directly between the White House, often president trump himself, and the leadership of the National Rifle Association.

Following this most recent shooting in Texas, the president was asked again about background checks when he was returning to the White House from Camp David where he spent the weekend. Listen to his response.

(VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We're looking at a lot of different things. We're looking at a lot of different bills, ideas, concepts. It's been going on for a long while, background checks. I will say that for the most part, sadly, if you look at the last four or five, going back even five or six or seven years, for the most part, as strong as you make your background checks they would not have stopped any of it. So it's a big problem. It's a mental problem. It's a big problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: The president there broadly dismissing the idea of background checks being effective just a few weeks after endorsing the idea. We should point out Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said that he has spoken frequently with the president about passing some form of gun control legislation.

He says the president has told him he wants to pass something meaningful. Ultimately what that amounts to is unclear. Boris Sanchez, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: To put it all into focus now, we have Scott Lucas. Scott is a professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham and the founder and editor of EA WorldView, live this hour in Birmingham, England. Good to have you with us, Scott.

SCOTT LUCAS, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM: Thank you, George.

[02:24:58] HOWELL: Scott, for a moment, let's put the politics, the questions about that aside. Sort of an open-ended question for you, obviously there is a lot of heartbreak. This is hard to see personally there in my home state of Texas.

As an ex-pat yourself, living there in the U.K., seeing all of this play out in your own home country, mass shootings, one after the other after the other after the other after the other, what's the view from where you sit?

LUCAS: It tears me up, George. I mean, I've been here for more than 30 years, but you never quite leave home. And every few weeks we find out that five, 10, 15, maybe more people have died unnecessarily just because something isn't being done about the prevalence of guns, and we know that's the fundamental issue.

And I know that I talk to you. We discuss the various measures and we discuss the politics, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to be talking to you, well, in another four weeks. Just like four weeks ago you and I were talking about El Paso, talking about Dayton.

And it's like, folks, get your acts together. And I'm talking about those folks who know and can do something about this because too many of the people I grew up with, too many of my fellow Americans, they won't see tomorrow. They won't see their kids grow up.

They won't see wherever the country goes because someone has taken their life because they can get access to a handgun, a rifle or a semiautomatic weapon.

HOWELL: Our Boris Sanchez just pointed this out. The U.S. president called the shooting in Texas a very sad situation. He promised to work with Congress, Republicans and Democrats to deal with gun violence in the United States, but the president also downplaying the need for background checks on gun buyers. Politically, can the president continue to walk a bit of a tight rope here?

LUCAS: I'll leave it to Donald Trump whatever tight rope he chooses to walk on. For me, talk's cheap, and what we heard yesterday is worthless. Look, you know, after El Paso, after Dayton, Donald Trump said, oh, yes, yes, background checks, background checks.

Eighteen months ago after Parkland, Florida, we're at what, 16, 17 staff and students died. He said, "oh, maybe we'll raise the age on weapons." He said it after other mass shootings and then he talks, for example, as he did two weeks ago, the NRA had Wayne LaPierre on the phone and any talk of doing anything just sort of evaporates.

And you get this word salad like yesterday culminating in the fact, well, if we did background checks, that wouldn't help anyway. Look, background checks aren't enough. We actually need a ban on semiautomatic weapons. We need to raise the age limit on ownership. We need to talk about red flag laws.

We need to talk about a decent system, not that takes all guns off the streets immediately, but one that begins to limit the unnecessary proliferation of guns. And if we don't do that, well, Emma Gonzalez, who survived the Parkland shooting 18 months ago, she said in a powerful speech, we call B.S. And every time a politician says something but does nothing, we call B.S.

HOWELL: You know, Scott, a good friend of mine sent me a message after the El Paso shooting, told me that he and his family would have been in that Walmart, but instead they were out camping on that particular weekend, a good friend of mine from college.

So, these things certainly get close to home. We heard the governor of Texas say that he's tired of the bloodshed, but on the flip side, he did sign into law several new bills that took effect just the other day loosening gun laws in Texas.

The NRA, recently thanking Texas Governor Greg Abbot and State House and senate lawmakers for protecting Second Amendment rights. The question here, these new laws, effective now make for some awkward timing.

LUCAS: Look, you know, Governor Greg Abbot, and I'm speaking directly to the governor, you know, if you want to stop the tragedies then you don't loosen your laws. You tighten the laws around gun ownership.

If you want to do something about this, you don't boast as you did a few years ago that Texas was number two in the country in gun ownership, but by golly, we want to make it number one.

If you're really concerned about your citizens, you don't just wring your hands and cry -- well, have sort of imitation tears. You actually do something which means that responsible gun owners, fair enough, hold their guns, but you don't allow unchecked gun ownership.

My grandfather was a police officer for 34 years. He handled a gun each and every day and he knew what could be done if you were responsible. But we are beyond responsibility now. Not just the responsibility of mass killers -- the irresponsibility of mass killers, but the irresponsibility of politicians who keep shifting the blame.

HOWELL: Scott Lucas with perspective. Scott, thank you for your time.

LUCAS: Thank you, George.

CHURCH: Hurricane Dorian is ripping a path of destruction through the Bahamas and headed for the United States. Still to come, we will get advice from a storm chaser on how to stay safe. Back in a moment.

[02:30:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM worldwide. I'm George Howell.

CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church. Let's check the main headlines for you right now. The New York Times is reporting that the gunman in the Texas mass shooting Saturday had been fired from his trucking job a few hours before he carried out the attack.

Meanwhile, in Odessa, Texas, mourners gathered at a vigil for the seven people killed and 22 others injured in the shooting.

HOWELL: We've seen the protests in Hong Kong continue, but Chinese state media now has a warning for those protesters that, quote, "the end is coming." They're addressing anyone who attempts to disrupt Hong Kong and quote, "antagonize" China. It comes the day after demonstrator blocked transport links to the city's international airport. 25 flights were canceled overall. And there was gridlock there for hours.

CHURCH: Hurricane Dorian has slowed to a cruel over the Bahamas punishing the islands with heavy rain and nearly 175-mile-an-hour winds that's 300 kilometers per hour. The storm has leveled buildings and rip the roofs of homes. Hurricane warnings are in effect for large stretch of Florida's eastern coast.

HOWELL: Joining us now to talk more about what's happening is Mike Theiss. Mike, a storm chaser, a National Geographic photographer in Vero Beach, Florida. Good to have you with us, Mike.

MIKE THEISS, STORM CHASER: Hey, George, how you doing this evening?

HOWELL: Mike -- good. You know, I want to get a sense though of what you're seeing there on the ground. Obviously, the preparations are underway. This storm inching ever closer, and we understand, it's already made landfall in Grand Bahama Island.

[02:34:59]

THEISS: Yes, that's correct. And it's still heading due west. And with that trajectory, the Grand Bahama Island is going to receive northerly winds that are going to go from north to south. And if it keeps heading west all the way through to Freeport, it's going to be catastrophic damage. I mean, it's already going to be that way up eastern end of the island, but there's a chance that the entire island can get devastated.

Now, until it makes that north turn, Florida needs to really watch this close as well. We know that the north turn is going to happen, but we don't exactly know exactly what one little degree or two to make a huge difference of impact on the beaches here. So, the plan is to follow it up and document it up the coastline of Florida right now.

HOWELL: Mike, tell us more about that, again, for our viewers in the U.S. and around the world exactly what you do when these storms come in. What is your plan?

THEISS: The plan is we have the hurricane vehicle, and the plan is to intercept the eyewall and eye if it does make landfall. If it doesn't make landfall, we're still going to get to the closest proximity we can to it, to document the wind speeds and the barometric pressure that's happening within the storm.

This storm has been really tricky. We almost went to Puerto Rico to get science information. We almost went to the Bahamas, but we ended up here back in the U.S. with the (INAUDIBLE) that has all the equipment on it. And so, anything that happens along this East Coast, we will document it.

HOWELL: Mike, what are you expecting from this particular storm, because even if it makes or when it makes that hook to the north, that side of Florida, the coastline, will still be under the dirty side, the worst part of the storm.

THEISS: Well, if it stays just offshore, that side won't be quite as bad, but it'll still bring the big waves, the big surf. But, it's going to be bad regardless. I mean, what's happening also right now is the wind field is expanding. So now, that center doesn't even have to get as close for us to see hurricane force winds. They have evacuated already this Vero Beach area; this entire coastline is under mandatory evacuation just for that reason.

HOWELL: What are you seeing there on the streets and in the neighborhoods? Do you get a sense, Mike, that most people decided to take heed and get the heck out of there, or did a lot of people decided to stay and wait this out and see what happens?

THEISS: Right, from what I've seen here in the Vero Beach area, especially right on the coastline and on the Barrier Island, it's completely boarded up, it's vacated. Everyone -- I mean, everybody has left here. They've gone back to the mainland, they've heeded the warnings, which is very good to see. I think they're seeing what's happening in the Bahamas. And also, they realized this storm is a historic storm. This is something they don't want to mess with. So just evacuate and be safe.

HOWELL: And for those who are still on the knife's edge, deciding whether to stay or whether to go, what do you advise them? Are the highways pretty, pretty filled up right now? How bad is the traffic?

THEISS: The traffic actually in the Vero Beach area is not bad at all. And there's plenty of gas currently. But if you're -- heed the warnings of your officials. If in your area, they asked you for a mandatory evacuation, I would do it. I would highly suggest just listening to what they say. And you know, safety is number one.

HOWELL: Mike, you know, you talk about the flooding, and that is a big concern. This is a very slow-moving storm. And as it sits overland, it will dump a lot of water. Is that something that you think will be a big issue with this particular one?

THEISS: It could be. Again, it depends on how close that sensor actually makes it to the coast. But flooding is definitely going to be one of the hazards. There's a lot of rain associated with it. Already, this area of Florida has received a lot of rain just from their typical summertime thunderstorms. And it's already very saturated here. We've had the high tides recently to that are bringing the water at much higher. So, a combination of all these things is going to cause big problems on the Florida coastline if it keeps heading west.

I'm going to watch it closely. Until it starts making that, you know, strong north turn, we need to just assume that it's going to make it -- you know, it's going to touch the coastline, because we don't want to be caught off guard by a strong storm that is this strong.

HOWELL: Mike, I've been out there with you in, you know, covering these storms or riding through these storms, documenting what happens. And the one thing that I've learned that I think you would agree, each storm has its own personality, right? Some are more about the flooding as we just raised, some more about the winds. What's your expectation for this one? THEISS: My expectations of this one at Florida is when it makes that north turn and goes along, you know, either -- whether it's just offshore or on the coastline or wherever it is, we're going to have very strong gusty winds, there's going to be beach erosion, there's going to be a possible storm surge waves, depending again how close it gets. But it's very crucial on how close it gets. If it stays far enough offshore, we'll see gusty winds and rain and maybe it won't be too bad, but if it gets closer to the coast, it could be devastating. I mean, right on these beaches and these coastlines that when will just come right off the water and just go right down the beach line, cause erosion. It's -- we just got to pray it doesn't, you know, it make that north turn very soon.

[02:40:03]

HOWELL: Mike Theiss will be on the roads, documenting what happens as Dorian gets closer. Mike, we appreciate your time. We wish you safety as you do your work as well.

THEISS: Thanks. Appreciate it, George.

CHURCH: And we'll take a short. Here still to come, we are following the most serious cross border exchange between Israel and Hezbollah in years along the Lebanese border. We'll have a live report for you, next.

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HOWELL: We noted this earlier in the newscast, a warning from Chinese state media to the protesters in Hong Kong, "The end is coming," according to state media. That, of course, this after they say protesters have been antagonizing China. And Hong Kong Security Secretary says the protesters are now showing, quote, "signs of terror". That is after a weekend of some of the most violent protests seen in the past three months of the political turmoil there. Police and protesters got into heated battles on the streets of Hong Kong on Saturday.

CHURCH: Demonstrators threw petrol bombs and burned barricades, as police shot water cannon and tear gas to disperse the crowds. On Sunday, protesters caused major traffic disruptions to the city's airport and vandalized several subway stations.

Well, tensions remain high along the Lebanese border after the sharpest escalation in more than four years between Hezbollah and Israel.

HOWELL: Iran-backed Hezbollah says that it attacked an Israeli army base, and the nearby military vehicle on Sunday. Israel then responded with artillery strikes and helicopter fire.

CHURCH: Oren Liebermann joins us now from Northern Israel. And Ben Wedeman is in southern Lebanon. Good to see you both. So, Oren, let's start with you. What caused this sudden escalation and violence, and what's Israel's likely next move? [02:44:57] OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, this -- the tension that we're seeing here goes back about a week and a half to Israeli strikes in Syria against what they said were Iranian targets, but Hezbollah says they operatives there as well. And that's when Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, had vowed to respond. And he reiterated that promise to retaliate after a drone strike in the capital of Damascus -- Beirut. In Damascus, that was widely attributed to Israel.

For the last week and a half, the IDF has been on high alert here. Expecting that retaliation, and we saw it play out on Sunday afternoon. A number of anti-tank missiles fired from Lebanon here behind me which is that hill l behind me, towards northern Israel here.

One of those anti-tank missiles struck a building in this small military base right along the border. Another anti-tank missile struck a military vehicle right around the corner about 300 or 400 meters from where we're standing.

The IDF says there were no injuries in either of those strikes. The IDF's response, firing something like 100 artillery shells towards what they say were the spot where the anti-tank missiles were fired, as well as other military targets in southern Lebanon. The IDF also says they use what they termed very limited helicopter strikes as well.

But just as quickly as this started it was over. Within two hours, the IDF had lifted all restrictions on civilians in northern Israel. And that is a very strong indication that the IDF expects this round of fighting, this exchange sharp though it was to be over.

We've gotten a chance to speak to a local leader. He says most here have simply returned to a normal routine here. And though this border is -- they are used to living under that tension. And with the exception of a few restrictions on farmers working right on the edge of Israel and Lebanon, just about everybody here is back to a normal life it seems, as the IDF says they're ready for any eventuality.

But for now, it looks like the IDF, at least, expects that this has concluded -- this round that is. Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Ben Wedeman, let's go to you. As we said, you're in southern Lebanon. What's the view from there on what's playing out and is this over? Is it concluded?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's quiet this morning, Rosemary. In fact, does appear that life is getting back to normal. It is a national holiday in Lebanon. So, the streets are fairly empty. On our way here, we did see what appeared to be an Israeli observation balloon hovering over to the border area.

But general, it does appear to be quiet. The fields behind me, which yesterday, were on fire caused by Israeli shelling in this area. The Lebanese army saying that, at least, 40 rounds slammed into the farms -- farming from the agricultural fields behind me, where there don't appear to be any military targets.

But now, those fires are out. In fact, last night, we watched as fire trucks were putting the fires out. So, that indicates that, at least, for now, there seems to be enough confidence to send fire trucks into the field without the possibility of them being caught in a gun battle.

So, it appears that things have calmed down. Now, it was expected that Hezbollah would respond to those attacks outside Damascus and the drone incident in Beirut, this may be it.

They were able to respond in kind to the Israeli operations in Syria and Lebanon and perhaps this is the beginning of a de-escalation of the situation. Rosemary.

CHURCH: Perhaps, it is. We will continue to monitor this. Ben Wedeman, joining us from southern Lebanon. Oren Liebermann, from northern Israel. Thank you to both of you. Appreciate it.

HOWELL: All right, back to your stateside. If you live along the southeastern part of the United States, you are bracing for that thing. It's coming this way moving awfully slow and it's packing quite a punch. We'll find out more about its trajectory as CNN NEWSROOM continues.

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[02:52:47] CHURCH: Welcome back everyone. Let's get you updated now on Hurricane Dorian. The powerful Category 5 hurricane is creeping across the Bahamas at this hour with heavy rain, maximum sustained winds are 175 miles or close to 300 kilometers an hour.

HOWELL: All that means is its really strong. That's what that means. Parts of the Bahamas are now underwater from this storm with no major damage reported. The storm destroyed buildings and ripped the roofs off of homes before moving on to the Grand Bahama Island.

Residents along the U.S. East Coast now are bracing for whatever this storm does next and for many under the threat. This is not the first storm that they've endured.

CHURCH: CNN's Ana Cabrera spoke with a family in Wilmington, North Carolina. They are facing their second destructive hurricane in less than a year.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTINA DOWE, RESIDENT, WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA: I really don't know what to think. I'm just kind of on edge right now. I'm trying to get prepared for it.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: How are you preparing??

DOWE: Well, we have been trying to get perishables, getting water, getting flashlights. Just trying to get the necessity things that we need. So, we can be better prepared than we were last year. CABRERA: So, last year, there was obviously quite a bit of damage at your house. Do you feel like the house that you have now is better prepare to sustain potentially -- you know, storm force winds?

DOWE: I pray it is. I mean, I don't know, because -- I mean, it's more (INAUDIBLE) when I had last year. But, you know, no one can really tell on how strong it's going to hold up. You know what I'm saying?

CABRERA: Right.

DOWE: So, it is -- all we can do is pray.

CABRERA: And what is your plan? Obviously, we know the hurricane is still potentially a few days away. And it's still unclear exactly where it's going to hit if it makes landfall in the U.S., that's still a possibility. What does your plan?

DOWE: Well, I mean, we plan to stay here. Me and the boys. I don't know like where we would go to get away from it, because I don't want to leave, and then, we can't get back.

So, I mean, we're just going to buckle down and just pray that everything works out better than it did last year.

[02:55:18] CABRERA: How has it been in the past year trying to recover from that last storm from Hurricane Florence?

DOWE: Well, I mean, it was hard, it was stressful. It took us -- we ended up getting this house a week before Thanksgiving. But, I mean, we had a good support group, we have people that was actually -- you know, pitching in and helping to kind of ease it up a little bit. But it was hard.

CABRERA: Yes.

DOWE: It took a while but we made it through.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: I remember that storm. It was a powerful storm.

CHURCH: Yes.

HOWELL: With a lot of people in a bad spot.

CHURCH: Absolutely.

HOWELL: Yes. We want to thank you for being with us with NEWSROOM this hour. I'm George Howell.

CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church. We will be back with another hour of news next. You're watching CNN.

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