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Mandatory Evacuations Underway as Dorian Heads to U.S.; Hospital Evacuations Underway Along Florida Coast; Former FEMA Director Craig Fugate Discusses Hurricane Preparations, Assistance to Bahamas; Air Force Hurricane Hunters Save Lives by Flying Through Hurricane; Gunman Fired From Job Hours Before Deadly Texas Massacre. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired September 2, 2019 - 13:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Welcome back to CNN's special live coverage of Hurricane Dorian. I'm John Berman, in Jenson Beach, Florida. This is just one the many parts of Florida that are under hurricane warnings at this point.

Just to remind you what a hurricane warning is. A hurricane watch is to brace yourself for the possibility of hurricane conditions. A hurricane warning means expect it. It's coming.

Here where I am, and all up the coast as far as Jacksonville, we're being told to expect hurricane-like conditions in the next day.

The eye itself may or may not make impact on the Florida coast, but we are still going to experience hurricane-like conditions here, which means winds higher than 75 miles an hour. Again, from where I am, south of here to Palm Beach, all the way up to Jacksonville.

I want to go to Jacksonville Beach, Florida, now. Our Dianne Gallagher is on the ground there.

Dianne, I understand you're now hearing about some evacuations there?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, we're actually seeing these patient evacuations here at Baptist Medical Center Beaches. The ambulances have been lining up right here at this place taking the patients that are here to sister hospitals that are not located inside these mandatory evacuation zones in the area. That went into effect at 8:00 this morning.

I spoke with the hospital president just a short time ago who said they have been tracking this hurricane. They started a soft evacuation a couple of days ago, getting some of the patients, more than a hundred there at the time, out.

As of right now, John, about 25 or so patients left in the hospital. All of them should be gone by 7:00 p.m. tonight. And that's because that's when they shut down the emergency room to the public.

Now, there's still going to be a few members of the hospital staff who ride the storm out in the hospital as long as officials tell them that is safe. They're moving their equipment up to higher ground to make sure just in case there's any effect from Dorian on the hospital, none of that gets damaged.

The hospital will remain shut down to the public through the duration of these evacuation orders.

It isn't just Baptist Beaches. Baptist Medical Center down in Nassau also evacuating their patients. They're closing their emergency room at 3:00 p.m.

So this is something that these hospitals have to take into consideration, making sure that they keep their patients safe. They try to mitigate any of the stress. But also keep their staff safe as well who are continuing to go to the sister hospitals -- John?

BERMAN: That's such an important thing to remind people of. People that work in those hospitals, live in that area, they have got to take care of their own families as well.

Dianne Gallagher, up in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.

You're a day away, a day behind where I am right now on feeling the impact of the storm so it's so smart they're getting ready there at this moment.

I'm joined now by Craig Fugate, former FEMA administrator.

Craig, thank you so much for joining us now.

I want to tell you, there was something on this beach that I know you'll find infuriating. About an hour ago, this beach was filled with people behind me, out here looking at the waves trying to get a sense of what Hurricane Dorian is going to do here.

What's the message to the people on the coast of Florida that they need to get right now?

CRAIG FUGATE, FORMER FEMA DIRECTOR: Well, that you're in the high- hazard area. As the storm intensifies and worsens, those conditions can change rapidly.

Local officials have been ordering evacuation and that's really what we need people to do is to move to higher ground, move out of those low-lying areas.

Don't be fooled that conditions may not be severe now, but some of these bands are coming in quite vicious. We expect that to increase.

So stay out of these high-risk areas, move to higher ground and wait for the storm to pass.

BERMAN: Now, I know some 4,000 National Guard have now been deployed, ready to respond as soon as this storm comes through. What else does the federal government, does the state government, do local governments here need to be doing now as this storm bears down?

FUGATE: Well, they're doing it. They have been ordering the evacuations, trying to get people to move out of these low-lying areas.

But they have also been staging a lot of rescue teams. There's a whole lot of teams that are converging on like the Orlando convention center, both local resources, state resources, as well as some of the federal teams.

What they're trying to do is get near where the storm may impact but not in harm's way to be able to respond immediately after the storm passes for search-and-rescue and recovery operations.

BERMAN: Immediately after. And that's such a key point because, during the storm, if you've decided to try to ride it out in one of these mandatory evacuation zones, during the storm you're on your own. Rescuers can't come until it's safe enough for them to get out and that's such an important reminder.

But I do want to ask you something because the Bahamas are right over there about 100 miles. What they have experienced nearly unimaginable, the devastation. And the pictures we're seeing are simply terrible.

What kind of assistance do you think the U.S. government can give to the Bahamas once the storm passes through?


FUGATE: Well, the U.S. Agency for International Development actually coordinates all of our international disaster response. So the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance already had people there working with the Bahamian government. They'll be coordinating, whether it's DOD assets or other assets that they provide.

FEMA has that mission domestically, for responding to our territories and our states, but we work hand in hand. While FEMA is working on the states, OFDA is working to support the Bahamian government.

BERMAN: Craig Fugate, again, thank you very much for being with us and helping to tell people what they need to be doing now.

I recommend everyone follow Craig Fugate on Twitter. He dishes out good advice there as well.

Thank you, sir. I appreciate you being with us.

FUGATE: Thanks, guys. Be safe.

BERMAN: Joining me now is Mike Brennan from the National Hurricane Center.

Mike, thank you very much for being with us.

You've been getting new data and putting it out every hour now as this storm bears down. What's the very latest you're seeing on the forecast?

DR. MICHAEL BRENNAN, SENIOR HURRICANE SPECIALIST, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: We're just getting some data from the Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft now flying through the storm. Once we get a full set of data, we'll have another update at 2:00 on exactly how strong Dorian is.

There's been some changes in the structure of the storm since last night but this is the first aircraft we've had in the air for some time so we'll get a really good estimate of how strong it is as we go into the afternoon forecast package.

Right now, the key thing to remember about Dorian, it's a very powerful, major hurricane. Grand Bahama is still experiencing the eye wall and likely will for many more hours.

The storm is actually growing in size, as we see today, and that will expose more people along the Florida east coast to hazardous conditions from those winds and storm surge.

BERMAN: That's such an important point you're making.

We understand there have been some signs of that northward movement of the storm, but even as that happens, the storm is getting bigger in size. What might that mean for the people in Florida?

BRENNAN: You're right, the storm is just crawling west-northwestward now at about one mile per hour.

But as it does turn more northward the next couple of days, as the storm grows in size, that brings those hurricane-force winds right to the coast here in that hurricane warning area, from Jupiter Inlet northward to Volusia County. And it's also going to expose portions of northeast Florida, Georgia and eventually South and North Carolina with the potential for hurricane-force winds.

Then a bigger storm means it moves more water around. That will increase the storm surge in that area that runs all the way from Lantana up to Volusia County, Florida.

Now we've extended the storm surge watch all the way up through the Georgia coast where we're expecting to see four to seven feet of inundation above ground level.

And that's what's driving the evacuations that local officials are asking for in those areas.

BERMAN: Mike Brennan, from the National Hurricane Center, we'll let you go back to crunching those numbers so we can get the new update at 2:00. We really appreciate you being with us.

Now, this data that we're getting is coming from hurricane hunters, from these planes flying through, above, all around Hurricane Dorian. The information they have been sending back is saving lives. When we come back, we'll speak to one of the people flying in those planes through the storm. CNN's special live coverage continues right after this.



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Hurricane Dorian made landfall on the Bahamas with wind speeds of 185 miles per hour, with gusts going up over 200 miles per hour. We know that because of hurricane hunters who fly into the storm to collect critical data and get pictures like this one. This is what is able to keep a lot of people safe.

You can imagine this is quite scary to be in the middle of, but just another day at the office for my next guest, Lieutenant Colonel Sean Cross, who's with us.

You flew into the core of this hurricane. This video is incredible. We've seen from one of your teammates a picture that's gone viral. Tell us about -- we were talking during the break. You said you've flown into a storm, so it could be the same storm multiple times, 165 times. Tell us about being in the middle of Dorian and how this compares.

LT. COL. SEAN CROSS, HURRICANE HUNTER PILOT, 53RD WEATHER RECONNAISSANCE SQUADRON, U.S. AIR FORCE: Hi, Brianna. Thanks for having us on, first off. Glad to be here.

Yes, Dorian is a very powerful category 4 storm. Like mentioned, it's sort of the same for us every time we go out and fly. Every storm has its own unique personality so you never really know what to expect.

But Dorian, she's very powerful. And she's been holding this very tight eye wall and a really well-confined stadium effect the last couple of days.

So the crews that are flying in and out of Dorian now, daily now -- the squadron is on its 13th mission right now. We started in Curacao (ph) Isle, we pulled back to Homestead, and now everything is flown out of the Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi.

It's a very fun job. It's very thrilling to do this. It's actually incredible to see what Mother Nature has created from the inside and what I call the belly of the beast, to be up close and personal with a hurricane that's this powerful.

It's a good ride going in. Sometimes it's smooth, sometimes it's bumpy, you just never know.

KEILAR: And it really is beautiful, as you see it.

But you must, I imagine, be thinking as you're flying through this storm, you, of course, are actually safe, which a lot of people would look at what you do and think it's very scary, but you are actually very safe.

[13:45:08] When you are in the middle of this, looking at this well-formed eye wall, knowing what that means for the conditions, what are you thinking about how that is going to impact people who are on the ground, who will be experiencing this?

CROSS: Right. I do think about that all the time. This is my 19th season flying this storm mission. I've flown many storms, like I said a few minutes ago, and I've also ridden out some major storms on the ground.

I can tell you, Brianna, I would fly through a hurricane any day before I'd ride one out on the ground if that helps the viewers out there.

I can control what I'm doing in the storm environment in an aircraft, but when you're on the ground, you experience all types of tornadic activity, things like that.

The storm surge, that's the number-one killer for people out there on the ground. It's drowning by the water.

So these storms are nothing to be taken lightly. And what I always encourage people to do is listen to your emergency management officials out there on the ground. If they're telling you to evacuate, you really need to listen.

We were ground zero for Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. We experienced about a 25-foot storm surge out front of the gulf shore on the beaches.

I live up on the back bay in Mississippi now, and where I'm at, we're looking at about 18 feet of water that came in and had major destruction around.

So these storms are nothing to play with and people really need to pay attention and heed the precautions.

KEILAR: Hopefully, they are doing that.

Lieutenant Colonel Sean Cross, thank you so much for being with us.

CROSS: Thanks for having us on.

KEILAR: I want to go back now to John Berman.

John, you are on Hutchinson Island in Florida. We're getting into the afternoon hours here. What are officials telling people there to do before night fall?

BERMAN: Take it seriously.

It's so interesting, Brianna, because as you were speaking right there with the hurricane hunter talking with how you need to take this seriously, they have started to clamp down here on Hutchison Island. This beach was full of people an hour ago. It's now empty. One of the reasons is because police are parked outside the causeway.

And if you don't live here, they're not letting anyone back in. You've got to have a reason to be here. They really want people to have evacuated, but if you're going to be here, it needs to be because you live here.

They have shut off the water so, if you are going to stay, you need to have your own water sources.

They want people to start hunkering down because, once it starts really raining, which will happen later this afternoon and this evening, it's not going to stop. It's going to happen for 24 hours and the winds will pick up at or over hurricane-force winds.

We heard Allison Chinchar say 75 to 110 miles per hour over a large swath of Florida's east coast here. That is hurricane strength and it will stay over this part of Florida for some time.

So people really need to start taking this seriously and the authorities are making sure they do -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Turning off the water, they are sending a signal there.

John Berman, thank you so much on Hutchinson Island, Florida. We'll be checking back in with you.

In the meantime, officials in Texas are looking for clues. They are scouring as many as 15 crime scenes trying to piece together what led to another mass shooting.



KEILAR: In Texas today, this beautiful 17-month-old girl is undergoing surgery after she was shot in the face and chest. She's one of 22 people who were injured this weekend when a man went on a shooting spree in Odessa and Midland.

He killed seven people. And authorities say they may never know exactly why he opened fire on several communities. But we've learned that he lost his job as a trucker hours before the massacre.

The FBI says they are searching through 15 crime scenes as they piece together this mass shooting.

Scott McLean is live for us in Odessa, Texas.

Tell us what you're finding out, Scott.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brianna. So we know that the suspect is -- was 36 years old and had a pretty minimal criminal history. Just two misdemeanors dating back to 2001 that we could find. It's not clear whether those would have prevented him or should have prevented him from actually owning a weapon.

Yesterday, officials were searching his property in a rural area outside of town.

A neighbor told CNN that he'd actually confronted her last month with a rifle in his hand. She says she called the police, but they never showed up, presumably because the property is difficult to find. The local sheriff's office says they're looking into that claim.

Now the shooter used an A.R.-15 type of weapon. He also stole a postal van and swapped vehicles midway through, which made it difficult for officials to track him.

The local FBI boss in charge of this case says the simple fact that he was moving made this rare.


CHRIS COMBS, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: It is rare when you look back over the history of active shooters. You don't see many that go mobile.

The problem here is that the crime scene is literally over the course of miles. So not only do we have numerous scenes, over 15, but that's over miles in distance, as well. So it does make it a little more complicated.


MCLEAN: And, Brianna, a quick update on the victim. That 17-month- old girl you mentioned, she had a successful surgery, according to the local sheriff today.


We can also tell you that we've confirmed the name of another one of the victims, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Afghanistan. Cameron Brown was from Brownwood, Texas. His employer confirmed the news, calling the shooting senseless and horrifying.

Police are expected to provide an update on this case in the next hour or so -- Brianna?

KEILAR: All right. Scott McLean, thank you so much.

And let's go back now to our breaking news, which is Florida, bracing for Hurricane Dorian. This is a category-four storm. It has devastated the Bahamas already. We'll have the new forecast coming up.