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Hurricane Dorian Pounds the Bahamas, Heads Towards U.S.; Texas Killer Fired from Job Hours Before Mass Shooting. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired September 2, 2019 - 06:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is a special edition of NEW DAY. It's Monday, September 2. It is 6 a.m. in the east. John Berman here in Jensen Beach, Florida. Erica Hill joins me in New York.

You can see all around me the wind is already starting, beginning to blow. The sand kicking up on the beach. Intermittent rain showers here. But the real concern over there. Not even 100 miles east of where I am, Hurricane Dorian, the most powerful storm ever to make landfall in the Atlantic basin is over Grand Bahama Island right now, causing devastation. Catastrophic devastation.

This storm has all but stalled over the Bahamas, wreaking havoc there. It has been there for hours now. Hours more still to go.

The wind speeds at this moment are 165 miles per hour, but they've been much greater than that, and they've had gusts upwards of 200 miles an hour. The storm is inching through the Bahamas, and the concern is what happens then.

Again, over my shoulder now, just about 50 miles, it's expected to take a turn to the north. But if it wobbles, if it drifts, it could have a devastating impact here on the Florida coast, as well. Even if it doesn't move from its projected path, hurricane-force winds expected up and down the Florida coast, not to mention Georgia and South Carolina, as well.

There are hurricane warnings already in several counties in Florida, including where I am right now. That means they can expect the power of a hurricane.

Storm surge warnings, as well. Where I'm standing, they're expecting a storm surge of 4 to 6 feet. It's low tide right now. Very likely that where I'm standing will be covered in water as this storm moves up the Florida coast.

Mandatory evacuations underway in several Florida counties. A little bit later today, they will declare mandatory evacuations in Georgia and South Carolina, as well. We're going to stay on this all morning long, because the forecast is

so very crucial. There really hasn't even been a storm like Hurricane Dorian.

So let's get right to Chad Myers in the weather center to get a sense of where things stand at this moment in the very latest modeling. We've got an update from the weather center not long ago.

Chad, what are you seeing?

CHAD MYERS, CNN AMS METEOROLOGIST: We did literally four minutes ago, John. One sixty-five, still moving west at one. Although we are beginning to see a northward bump. Let's call it that. The one that we expected, the one that we hoped for, and the one the Bahamas are praying for right now to get it away from the islands.

Just an impressive eye. Here you can see it on the radar from Miami. Maybe a little bit of a slight northward drift. Freeport right in the bad side of the eye right now. There's no good side of the eye. Even the backside here is making wind gusts over 140 miles per hour right now.

And the storm has been here now for 24 hours. All weekend long, this computer model was left, right, left, right. People were OK. Then there were warnings. Then they were freaking out. Then they were OK. I had so many e-mails from all our friends down there.

What you need to know is that this storm is going to be about 50 miles offshore in the middle. This is not a line storm. This is so wide. The arms of this storm are out a hundred miles. There will be hurricane conditions along the Florida coast, the Georgia coast, and also up into the Carolinas.

Here on the forecast wind gusts, even at noon where you're standing, John, 51 miles per hour. Later on today, someone around and into the 60s by tomorrow morning, if you're still there. Sixty-seven miles per hour at Stewart, Florida; 77 there moving through Melbourne, down to 62 by tomorrow afternoon into tomorrow morning so -- and into Wednesday morning. So this is still going to be a significant storm rolling up the coast with storm surge, as well, 4 to 7 feet.

The models are still, some of them, still on shore. So that eye wall could be on land, making winds of 130 and not that 77 or 80 as forecast. It's still too early to tell. But the turn is happening, at least as we look at it right now. Let's hope it doesn't wobble back to the left, because sometimes these are only just wobbles.

But you are in it. And if you're going to be staying there for tomorrow, you will have a totally different day.

BERMAN: Chad Myers, thank you so much.

Two important messages there. The turn, it does look like it's happening. Chad, you'll keep monitoring that.

And No. 2, here on the Florida coast, you will see hurricane conditions no matter what. People need to be prepared for that.

But here in Florida at least now, nothing -- nothing compared to what is happening at this moment in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island. As Chad said, they've been in this for a full day, 24 hours.

Our Patrick Oppmann riding out the storm in Freeport. Patrick if you can hear me, tell me what you're seeing. What's going on?


Well, we've just been taking a beating for hours. It sounds like a jet engine right next to your year. All night long we've been without power. The whole city is without power. Probably the whole island is without power. And it's just been this sound that you know quite well, this complete roar of a hurricane overhead.

One of the -- I don't think anybody slept here last night on the island of Grand Bahama. We have seen videos that people have been putting out on social media of flooding taking place in their homes.

And the great concern here, as the storm moves away is, of course, the storm surge. Because we've heard reports, predictions that there could be a storm surge over 20 feet. Why is that so terrifying? Because the Bahamas is incredibly low lying. There are islands around us that are at sea level. People I know told me they were going to ride out the storm on those islands.


And where we are here in Freeport, the highest point of land is only 30 feet high. So a storm surge coming in 15-, 20-feet high will wipe out houses, will flood whole neighborhoods, would be devastating for this island, John.

BERMAN: All right. Patrick Oppmann, please stand by. Keep everyone safe there. Keep us posted as to what you see. We'll come back to you as much as we can throughout the morning.

In the meantime, as I said, there are evacuation orders underway up and down the Florida coast, as well as hurricane warnings.

I want to go to Nick Valencia, who's in Brevard County, up by the space coast, to get a sense of where things stand there -- Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, hey, John. I want to show you around where we are. We are in the evacuation route. Mandatory evacuations go into effect for Brevard County at about 1 p.m. And if you're not ready by now, it's starting to get too late.

I think the uncertainty of this storm has led a lot of people here in this community to dismiss that this is going to have an impact altogether. And I want to show you what I'm talking about.

This storefront here faces the beach. They have shutters, but they have yet to deploy them. There are many businesses that have chosen not to board up, not to sandbag down this main stretch of road. Some businesses have taken the precautions. You see one across the

street that has some plywood up. But a lot of them don't.

We were on the beach yesterday and talking to a lot of residents who were trying to enjoy the holiday weekend. And they said even though those mandatory evacuations are in place, they are not planning on leaving, that they are going to take their chances.

But conditions just in the last few hours have changed. The wind has picked up just a little bit. And we found our first rain band that came through related to the storm. But you can see behind me here right now, it's pretty quiet in these early morning hours. And residents say that they're going to take their chances with this storm -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Nick Valencia up in Brevard County. Nick, you'll get what we're getting now in a few hours, which is this steady wind which will only strengthen. We're getting 30, 35 miles an hour where I am right now. And that will increase, as Chad Myers said, to 50 or 60 by tonight. And tomorrow morning could see gusts over 75 miles an hour.

Not far from where I am is Port St. Lucie, the city of Port St. Lucie. I'm joined now by the mayor of that city, Greg Oravec.

Mayor, thank you very much for being with us. I hope you are safe and keeping your city safe this morning.

As we were driving to this location, we drove over some water. It's clear that the tides and the wind have already brought water up onto some of the roadways in some areas. How concerned are you of the storm surge?

MAYOR GREGORY J. ORAVEC, PORT ST. LUCIE, FLORIDA: Well, we're very concerned about all aspects of this storm. And it really boils down to whether the storm stays on its projected track or it comes a little bit to the left, to the west.

To add it to your point, this is the summer rainy season and most of Florida, and especially right here in Port St. Lucie. So the ground is already saturated. So Mother Nature is not going to be able to absorb that extra rain as it falls.

So any shift to the left that brings up that expected rain total will be problematic. But we're going to be able to get through a tropical storm or a Category 1 hurricane winds, especially with the way the people of Port St. Lucie have prepared for this storm.

BERMAN: What do you want the people in your city to know this morning, Mayor?

ORAVEC: Let's not get caught off-guard if something as powerful as Dorian, one of the most powerful hurricanes ever, decides that it doesn't want to follow the lines, the imaginary line drawn on a map by a man.

BERMAN: Yes. I think that's a great point. People shouldn't be their own meteorologists right now, trying to judge if it's going to wobble left or right. You have to assume that things are going to get bad.

And even if it doesn't shift westward, as you were saying, and make a direct hit over -- over St. Lucie County, for instance, there will be impact. Tell me how St. Lucie has prepared over the last several years, really, to be ready for flooding.

ORAVEC: Thank you. Now, we were having a conversation, of course, with some of the media as part of our preparation. And people want to talk about Hurricane Irma.

Well, our community's been formed and hardened going back much farther than that. We go back, especially, to 2004 when we experienced Category 2 Francis, Category 3 Jeanne. Three weeks apart from each other, where they'd had the same essential landfall in our community in Martin County, Florida.

So having two hurricanes back-to-back and being without power for roughly 40 days as a result, I think it put a sense of resolve and preparation in our community.

And even with the newcomers, you had that bedrock of support that helps the newcomers and the elderly get ready, some of our vulnerable populations.


So we could always do better. But as I drive our 120 square miles, we're a very large city geographically in population with 200,000 people. I think the people of Port St. Lucie have done a very good job. And we're just watching it.

And as you said, we shouldn't be meteorologists, but at the same now, with it being under radar, we can all pick our favorite station and watch the radar in real time and just be sure of exactly what it's doing.

It was hard for me to go to sleep last night, quite honestly, because we're only about 112 miles from Freeport where I stand. And even at 5 miles an hour, if Dorian would have continued, it would have gotten here pretty -- pretty quick, too quick, certainly, for our comfort.

BERMAN: Too quick, to say the least. Mayor Oravec, thank you very much. And it's such an important point. Again, the Bahamas only a hundred miles that way.

This storm, you're getting hurricane winds 45 miles from the center, so you can see how little space there is to deal with. And you can see by the winds already that, no matter where this hurricane goes, no matter where this storm goes, they will be feeling the impact here in Florida, Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: They certainly will. John, thank you. And as you pointed out, we're going to stay with you. We will stay with Patrick, as well, throughout the morning.

We do also want to, though, fill you in on another mass shooting in America over the weekend. This morning we are learning more about the killer in Texas. And also renewed conversation about the debate over guns. That's next.



HILL: New details emerging this morning about the killer who took the lives of seven people and wounded 22 others in West Texas. "The New York Times" reporting the gunman had been fired from his trucking job just hours before he went on a shooting spree.

Scott McLean is live in Odessa, Texas, with more this morning -- Scott.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Erica.

It wasn't a hurricane, but the people here in Odessa experienced their own slow-moving disaster on Saturday. It all ended here behind a movie theater after a shootout with police.

From start to finish, the gunman, who was armed with an AR-15-type weapon, was on the loose for about an hour. He covered several miles and even, at one point, hijacked a postal service van, which added to the confusion as to where exactly these shots were coming from.

That van was driven by 29-year-old Mary Granados, who was actually on the phone with her sister at the time. Hearing her screams and then the line goes silent, she actually drove to the scene, only to find her sister lying dead on the pavement.

The shooting continued for several more miles after that along a busy stretch of roadway. One of the victims shot along the way was just 17 months old. Her name was -- is Anderson Davis. She had surgery yesterday to repair a hole in her bottom lip and her tongue and also remove shrapnel from her chest. She's set to have another surgery today. A GoFundMe set up for her has raised almost $200,000 and amazingly, she is expected to make a full recovery.

As for the shooter, as you mentioned, "The New York Times" is reporting that he was fired from his trucking job on Saturday. Investigators were combing through his property yesterday. It's in a rural area about 15 miles west of here.

A neighbor told CNN that the shooter would actually sit on top of his roof and shoot down at animals in her back yard. She says that she had a confrontation with him last month. He was armed with a rifle. She says she called police for that incident, but they never responded, perhaps because her address is hard to find and doesn't show up on GPS, Erica.

HILL: All right. Scott McLean with the latest for us from Odessa. Scott, thank you.

Also with us this morning, Joe Lockhart, former White House press secretary under President Clinton; Bianna Golodryga, CNN contributor; and Philip Mudd, former CIA counterterrorism official and CNN counterterrorism analyst.

Inevitably, in the wake of this, we come back to the conversation on guns and potential gun legislation and what can be done. The president saying in the wake, this really hasn't changed anything. Is he right, Joe? This hasn't changed it? I mean, will anything change anything?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, in one way, it was a moment of rare honesty from the president, because I don't think it changes anything. Because the president has chosen not to exercise any leadership.

This is a situation, you know -- we went through it in the Clinton administration. Obama went through it, where it's very difficult to get the Republicans to move.

But this president has a lock on Republicans. He can get them to do what he wants. If he stepped up in any way and said, "I want to do things," I they can get things passed. You know, maybe not an assault weapons ban, which is what's really needed here, but get some things passed and get it started.

But he's chosen to abdicate that. He says he's open to ideas. It was a very cynical, you know, 25 seconds yesterday when he talked about things not changing and there's a package, and we're talk -- I mean, he's not talking to anyone. There's nothing that he's gotten behind. He could have called Congress back and said, "We have to deal with this," when El Paso and Dayton happened. He didn't do it. You know, he chose to go play golf this weekend. That's -- that's -- you know, it's a lack of leadership.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He does seem to be in a political frame of mind, given that we have the election next year. He is reciting a lot of the NRA's talking points, talking about it. It's not that the gun is doing this. It's the person holding the gun. They're really dug in on mental health now. How you define people who are mentally health -- mentally ill? That seems to be his talking point.


You don't hear anything from Mitch McConnell, who is obviously following the president.

And this happened on a day when you had expanded provision laws in Texas, expanding rights for gun owners for open carry, for having guns in your car on college and school campuses.

So this is becoming an issue that, clearly, people are digging into either side politically. You're going to hear more people from the left saying this needs to be one of the biggest issues going into 2020. The president focusing on current talking points. specifically those from the NRA.

HILL: There also -- well, there may be support in the country to do something, as we know. And there is broad support for universal background checks. Even in this most recent polling from Quinnipiac, 93 percent supporting universal background checks.

You know, Phil, we've heard a background check wouldn't have stopped this shooter. And we hear that consistently. It wouldn't have stopped this attack, so therefore, let's move on to something else or let's sort of stop the conversation.

What do you think is missing from this conversation? Whether it be about background checks or any other way that could move the conversation forward, Phil?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: A couple of things are missing. First, obviously, there's the conversation about an assault weapons ban, which we had in this country a few years ago. It seemed to work pretty well.

I think the second thing missing here is we need to get more background on those conversations, those confrontations this individual had with neighbors. So that that contributes to the national conversation about red flag laws.

In other words, are we learning things about his engagement with neighbors that could lead you to say people like that should be confronted by law enforcement and, potentially, in front of a judge to have their weapons removed?

One quick comment. I agree with Joe. I don't think this changes anything on the Republican side. Clearly, the president doesn't want to go down this path.

I do think over the past couple of years, the conversation going into an election will change during debates between the Democratic candidate, whoever that is, and the president. Two, three years ago, I don't know if guns would have been as prominent as they are today. But that's got to be part of a debate next year.

HILL: The reaction each time we see one of these shootings is something to look at, too, especially when you look at where it happens. So I just want to play a little bit of what Governor Abbott had so say in the wake of this shooting in Odessa.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: I'm heartbroken. By the crying of the people in the state of Texas. I'm tired of the dying of the people of the state of Texas. Too many Texans are in mourning. Too many Texans have lost their lives. The status quo in Texas is unacceptable. And action is needed.


HILL: It's unacceptable. Action is needed. Not clear exactly what he means in terms of action.

But if you contrast that what we heard from Gavin Newsom. And again, two different states, two very different electorates in the wake of what happened just a few weeks ago there. He said, "I have no problem with the Second Amendment," but citizens shouldn't have access to, in his words, "weapons of goddamn mass destruction."

It is fascinating to see that and really, I think, illustrates what the divide is that you're referring to.

GOLODRYGA: And as someone who's a proud Texan, I spent my -- most of my entire life in Texas and grew up there. One of the few issues that both Republicans and Democrats can agree on in Texas is how strongly they support the Second Amendment and the rights that come with that.

When it comes to assault weapons and those that are out on the streets in Texas in full force, you heard nothing from Governor Abbott. So when he talks about saying "Something needs to be done", maybe it's more on the mental health issue. Maybe it's more red flag laws.

My question about that is how do you implement that? This man was shooting at animals. So you're going to have police come out every time an animal is shot or somebody's outside with a rifle? How do you know when somebody is going to commit an atrocity like was committed over the last few weeks?

And it happens every day. Let's be honest. It happens in this country way too often.

So implementing these red flag laws is something that I still question, how you're going to accurately find the people who are going to commit these -- these atrocities.

And when it comes to looking at the differences in rhetoric from these two governors, they're on completely different ideological sides.

LOCKHART: Yes, I mean, Governor Abbott famously tweeted in 2015, when California overtook Texas for the number of gun purchases, like, "Texas, get with it. Start buying more weapons."

So I don't believe -- I certainly don't question that he's heartbroken by this. But I don't believe he has any commitment to solving the problem.

As Phil said, we did ban assault weapons for ten years as part of the 1994 bill. It can be done. That is -- that is the result.

I also agree with 00 with Phil's political assessment. I do think it's going to change. This election of 2020 is going to be decided primarily by suburban women. Trump is so far in the hole with them. And this is an issue that resonates with them.


Democrats, I think, historically, have been reluctant to take this on in a political context. Because of the power of the NRA, their money particularly in rural states. That's changing. And I think the changes you're seeing, the positive changes you're seeing on guns are happening in the states. And that message is going to get translated. And they've actually had results, you know, in states -- Colorado, Washington, you know, around the country.

So I think politically, this is moving in a way that we -- but we do need another election cycle to shake up the Republican Party.

HILL: Really quickly, Phil, before we let you go, too. We talked about what's missing from the conversation. Who in particular do you think? Which voices would help move this forward?

MUDD: Let me add one quickly. That is law enforcement. There's nobody in law enforcement who wants to go out on the streets and be confronted by an assault weapon. So adding to the conversation people who are known as being law and order saying that they don't want assault weapons on the streets, I think, would be important.

HILL: Phil Mudd, Bianna Golodryga, Joe Lockhart, appreciate it.

John, we'll send it back to you in Florida.

BERMAN: All right. Erica, thank you very much.

Again, we're here on the coast of Florida in Jensen Beach, where we expect to hear the -- feel the greatest impacts from this storm tomorrow and the next day.

But we are just getting word of the first reported fatality from Hurricane Dorian from the Bahamas. An 8-year-old boy. We'll tell you what we know when we come back.