Return to Transcripts main page


Dorian Relentlessly Batters The Bahamas, Approaches Florida; Dorian To Move Dangerously Close To Florida Coast Today; Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) Says He Will Stay In Senate. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired September 3, 2019 - 10:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: All right. It is the top of the hour, 10:00 A.M. Eastern and 7:00 A.M. Pacific. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: And I'm Jim Sciutto here in Washington.

After the second spent day stalled right over the Bahamas today, Hurricane Dorian is finally starting the move northwest now as a Category 3 storm. In its path, the coastlines of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. In its wake, destruction, the Bahamas, just a horrific scene there.

HARLOW: It is. Four U.S. Coast Guard helicopters right now over the Bahamas running these search and rescue operations. Authorities say they know five people so far, at least, have been killed there in the Bahamas. Thousands of homes are damaged or destroyed and the exact toll of the devastation there won't really be clear until the storm fully passes and all of those rescue crews can get on the ground.

But this is new video from this morning, the early hours of the morning. You can see it's still dark. That's in Nassau in the Bahamas, where some rescuers are already there. Yesterday, 19 people had to be evacuated from a medical clinic in the Abaco Islands.

Rescue efforts have been slowed by the destruction of the island's airports and landing strips. This is the video. If you can believe this, it looks just like the open ocean, right? It's not. That is Freeport International Airport. It is completely submerged in water.

Meantime, thousands of people are trapped in their homes by a storm surge of 12 to up to 18 feet pushing against those windows that somehow held in that home. That's on Grand Bahama. Hurricane-force winds almost 120 miles per hour at the same time, and according to the salvation army, Hurricane Dorian has damaged or destroyed more than 13,000 homes, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Goodness. It's just amazing to live through that. This image puts it all in perspective. On the right is Grand Bahama Island from Google Maps and on the right, Grand Bahama Island now -- sorry, on the left, Google Map image, on the right, where it is now. Look at how much of it is under water.

And then look at those areas that are not under water, structures that were visible in the before photo just no longer visible. We're hearing thousands of homes destroyed on the island and that satellite image seems to confirm that.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann is live from Freeport. Patrick, I know the conditions are dangerous there. It is hard to get out and about. We don't want to take any risks. But what are you hearing? What are you seeing in the aftermath of this storm?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The light of day, the reports that we're hearing from people that have been able to reach us, because we are giving people water, we are letting them charge their phones off our generator, one of the few in the area, and they're just telling us amazing stories of getting out of the house late last night as the storm surge came in, people breaking out of their house because they could not because the water was so high.

Everything is kind of broken down here. Cell phone service is spotty at best, there's no electricity on the island. We've actually heard that in absence of government search and rescue teams, there have been sanitation trucks, Jim, going around and rescuing people. That's what it's come down to. The garbage men are going out and pulling people out of water, getting them out of flooded neighborhoods.

Friends and neighbors, and this is a very tight-knit community, are trying in keep track with one another on WhatsApp list. And when someone is in trouble, if they're able to put our message out on WhatsApp, they do that. And then within hours, hopefully, someone tries to come and rescue them. That is the system and it's a very informal system. A lot of people have not been rescued. We've heard about places where people have rode out the storm on their roofs.

But as the weather slowly, very, very slowly clears, it's still not good enough to bring in flights or aircraft, which is what we really need. But as it clears, we're getting a better picture of the devastation and it is absolutely breathtaking how hard this island has been hit and it continues to be hit by Dorian.

SCIUTTO: Goodness. Let's just hope those people manage to survive it. Patrick Oppmann on the ground there, thanks very much.

It may be weeks, if not, months before we know exactly how extensively Hurricane Dorian damaged the Bahamas.

Joining me now is someone who witnessed the destruction, Rachel Knowles. She is a Staff Reporter for the Nassau Guardian.

Rachel, just tell us what you've been able to see and hear now. Again, we know it's virtually impossible to get around on the island, but can you tell the extent of the damage at this point?

RACHEL KNOWLES, STAFF REPORTER, NASSAU GUARDIAN: Well, we are actually [10:00:00] based in Nassau, which did not get hit very hard. We didn't send a reporter to Abaco because it really seemed dangerous. So we've been seeing a lot of videos. We've been -- we got voice notes all day yesterday from people in Grand Bahama asking for rescue. We -- as you know, five people are confirmed dead in Abaco and it's just been a picture of total devastation over there.

One lady we spoke with yesterday said that her house is uninhabitable and she just feels like they should all be picked up and moved to another island to start over.

SCIUTTO: Goodness. That's concerning to hear. I wonder, were there evacuation orders for Abaco that were not heeded by some of the residents there?

KNOWLES: There were. We don't have mandatory evacuation legislation in place right now. So the government can't force people to leave. But there were evacuation orders and recommendations that people didn't heed.

SCIUTTO: Goodness. Well, listen, we see the pictures of the airport there now. It looks like, as Poppy was saying, part of the expanse of the ocean. How are authorities planning to get aid there? And if they are going to be doing evacuations, you say people are looking for rescue now, how are they going to manage that?

KNOWLES: So in Abaco, they have a few airstrips. They have one in the south in Sunday Point, for sure, that we've heard is fine. And I'm not so sure about Grand Bahama. I know a lot of people are arranging trips over by boat from various islands. The U.S. Coast Guard came in in helicopters yesterday to take people out who needed medical attention, so probably by boat and when they can find some airstrips.

I know they were trying to look at the airstrip on Guana Cay, but as far as I know, nobody knows whether or not it's usable for smaller planes, or in Harbour Key.

SCIUTTO: Now, I know, as you said, that Nassau was not as devastated as the areas we're looking at now. But as the storm was passing over and sitting there for so many hours, can you describe the strength of it, the power of it?

KNOWLES: In Nassau?


KNOWLES: So we got mostly tropical storm-force winds. We did get a lot of rain. So we had some flash flooding. A number of people did have to leave their homes here and go to shelters. That was the night before last. I'm not so sure how last night was. And we've also had some power outages here.

SCIUTTO: Well, Rachel, listen, we're sending you and your team and all the folks there our best as you fight through this and recover. Thanks very much for taking the time. Poppy?

HARLOW: Okay, thank you very much. And let's bring in our friend, CNN Anchor and Correspondent Victor Blackwell in Jensen Beach, Florida.

I mean, Victor, just to say again, the storm is not even where you are, and look at those winds.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The winds have been constant. Now, we are between the outer bands, those squall lines that bring heavy rain and it comes in very quickly and leaves just as quickly. But the wind has been constant. That means that it's stirring up the intercoastal behind me. You can see by the boats over my shoulders, they're rocking. Also power outages, Florida power and light reporting 2,400 or so outages here in Martin County alone, traffic lights are out so people are asked to be very careful on these roads.

The same thing we're hearing about ten miles south of where I am in Sewall's Point, that's where Brian Todd is right now. Brian, what are you seeing from your vantage point?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, you talked about the wind surges. We're getting one of those now, and the storm surge is still a real danger here in this area of Martin County. I just talked to the police chief here at Sewall's Point. They are still worried about storm surge. You can see how powerful it is coming off the Indian River Lagoon. And over here, you can see how close it's getting to some of the houses.

Storm surge is now about one foot or so above normal levels. If it gets to four to seven feet, as could happen in the next 24 hours or so, you can see how close the water is going to come to some of these houses.

We're also here by an evacuation route. This is the Stuart Causeway. It's now closed to traffic going over the bridge. You can see a vehicle coming out. But they are -- we talked to the police chief here. She says about 75 percent of this town, population a little over 2,000, evacuated.

But officials here all up and down the shoreline along Martin County and, really, all along this area of Central Florida are really worried about the mentality of taking the storm too lightly, people may be coming back from their evacuations a little bit too early, venturing out, if they've hunkered down, venturing out too early, thinking this is something they can withstand and they want to kind of go out and see it.

Everybody is talking about cabin fever, all of that understandable. But they're saying you are not out of danger. The storm is so slow moving and so kind of unpredictable [10:05:00]. They still could the one toggle to the west, as everybody is talking about. And then you're in some real trouble.

So they're telling people do not get complacent, do not venture out and just stay where you are and be very safe. Because again, you're going to see some flooding in these areas, this is very low-lying, this is the convergence of two large rivers and the ocean. This is the Indian River Lagoon. See how rough it's getting here with the wind surges.

You've got the Saint Lucie River just over to your left, my right, converging over here and the Atlantic Ocean coming in over here. Three really large bodies of water, all of them absorbing that storm surge, which is going to get worse in the next 24 hours, Victor.

So officials here are very concerned that people are going to take this kind of period of the storm a little too lightly.

BLACKWELL: Brian Todd also here in Martin County and Sewall's Point, thank you so much.

You know, we're getting a flash of sunshine here. Let me explain. At the outer edge of these storms, it's those outer bands and the spaces between them that sometimes can be a little deceiving for people. But usually it doesn't -- an area doesn't stay in this phase of a storm for so long. 30 hours, Hurricane Dorian has only moved 30 miles. Let's go to Meteorologist Chad Myers.

Chad, it's expected to take a northern turn. It's expected to bring hurricane-force winds to this part of the state. When is that expected to happen?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, if I went through, and I just measured what the Hurricane Center forecast would be, for this time tomorrow, the storm would have to move about 150 miles from where we are right now. Now, that's, what, eight or nine miles per hour. That's simply not going to happen unless things really get going. We're moving at one mile per hour now.

There's a high to our east and a high to our west and it's stuck in between and it just has no push one way or the other. You want one direction. We have one direction this way and one direction this way, so one wants to make it go south, the other one wants to make it go north. One of those highs will have to take over. And that's what's going to happen. That's how this thing is going to get moving. It's going to be low pressure between them, high, high in the middle and must be low somewhere. That low is going to suck this thing to the north. But it is going to take its sweet old time.

There is the storm right now about 115 miles per hour and we'll zoom in, I'm not seeing much movement. Obviously, one mile per hour would be hard to see on radar. This is six hours worth of radar and it's barely moving. I've seen some drift but that's about it.

But if we move this on up until 2:00, that's just after midnight, that's almost offshore Melbourne, and by tomorrow morning, somewhere offshore Daytona. I'm not sure if that's actually going to happen. That's going to have to really pick up some speed. We're going to have to get at some point in time to ten miles per hour, I think.

Because, here we go, this is just after midnight Wednesday, the highest wind around Melbourne around 64 miles per hour. And then I just measured this. And by this time tomorrow -- this thing is Daytona, and I just measured this. This is 160 miles from where we are now. Good luck getting the storm that far away. I just -- I don't see it actually getting there. We'll the new advisories are coming in 45 minutes. We'll see if they continue to move it this quickly, if it can get accelerating this quickly. I just don't know if it's going to get there. We're going to have to see. You're going to have hours and hours of what you're seeing right now.

Every time a storm comes across or a rain shower comes across, Victor, you are going to get that heavy wind 20, 30 miles per hour more than what you're seeing when it's not raining.

BLACKWELL: Yes, and the wind is just picking up here now. We don't know if that's going to bring rain with it. But the wind has picked up just a few seconds ago. Chad Myers, CNN Meteorologist there in the weather center for us, thank you so much.

And this is what it's been overnight, Poppy and Jim, the wind continuing, the jostling of the intercoastal. And as Brian Todd reported, they're shutting down the bridges and shutting down the roads here because it's just not safe to be out on these roads, considering that Dorian is still 100 miles away, it's creating come danger already.

HARLOW: It is indeed and we'll see what is to come. Victor, so glad you're there. We'll get back to you very, very soon. We are continuing to follow the latest all day here on Hurricane Dorian.

A new advisory on the storm expected in just a few minutes. Jim and I will be on it and we'll bring it to you.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. And listen to those driving warnings too. So often there are drownings when roads flood.

Another story we're following, crews locate several more bodies after a devastating deadly fire aboard a diving boat off the California Coast, this as investigators try to piece together what started it and why people weren't able to escape.

And five people shot and killed overnight in Alabama. Police say the gunman, just 14 years old, and a member of that family. We're going to have more on just yet another shocking shooting story coming up.



SCIUTTO: This just in to CNN, Democratic West Virginia Senator and former Governor of West Virginia, Joe Manchin, says that he will not run again for governor. He served as governor before entering the Senate. Manchin, in a statement says, quote, I believe my role as U.S. senator allows me to position our state for success for the rest of the century.

Of course, this is important for the makeup [10:20:00] of the Senate. Manchin had mentioned running for governor could have been a highly contested race in that seat there. We'll continue to bring you more developments on that news.

Victor -- our colleague, Victor Blackwell, is still on the front of this dangerous hurricane. How is it looking there, Victor? Last time we had you up, I think a wave just about knocked you over and I think it's a reminder that the conditions there are still very dangerous.

BLACKWELL: Well, a wave is going to have to do a lot of work to knock me over. I'm a pretty sturdy dude. But that water is coming in.

Now, consider this, we are just a few minutes out from the next advisory, the 11:00 A.M. advisory from the National Hurricane Center. And the two numbers, of course, everyone will be watching, the category, meaning the speed of the winds at the center of the storm, but also the speed at which it is moving. It's been stationery for several hours now moving at just one mile per hour for quite a while before that.

So officials will be fighting, of course, the storm surge that will come, the rainfall that will cause flooding, but right now the complacency.

Let's go to Vero Beach where my colleague, Martin Savidge, has been. And that question of complacency and this preparation fatigue, Martin, is something that officials are concerned about.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are. The mayor told me that just about an hour ago. Let me show you what we're seeing here. We overnighted on the barrier island. So it is the barrier islands here in Florida that are getting the full force now of this storm, and especially you want to look at the sea state here because it is really building.

As you mentioned, the tide is coming in, the waves out there are just delivering a pounding to the shore out here, and that is the real concern for city officials, beach erosion, especially on the northern side of the barrier island here. Water levels are going to continue to rise and that means pushing in of the dunes, maybe even overtopping the dunes, that's something they're worried about.

Let me show you something else too. See the stick sticking out of the ground with a ribbon. That's actually a sea turtle nest. This is that season there are many of them up and down the beach, but they're just being hammered by the water. And the fear by many environmentalist that those sea creatures will suffer very heavily as a result of what's happening here.

And this is going to be like this, what you're seeing for the next 24 hours or so, Victor, here, not only on this sea barrier island but on the others all the way up the Florida Coast as the water continues to rise. Victor?

BLACKWELL: Yes. And, Martin, we know from the officials here along the treasure coast that this area was not in drought conditions before now. Much of this area was saturated. So you add the swollen intercoastal, the rainfall that's coming, the storm surge, and they are concerned about their systems being overwhelmed to drain all of this water out. Martin Savidge for us there in Vero Beach.

Poppy, I'm going to send it back to you in New York.

HARLOW: Okay. We'll get back to you in just a minute, Victor.

Joining me now is Kathy Meehan. She is the mayor of Melbourne, Florida. Mayor, thank you so much for being with me.

MAYOR KATHY MEEHAN (R-MELBOURNE, FL): Oh, yes, you're welcome. Thank you for having me.

HARLOW: Of course. Look, we know the airport is still closed there, Orlando Melbourne has been closed since middle of the day yesterday. What are you preparing for as Dorian comes?

MEEHAN: Well, we know that the track is moving away from us and we know that it's still a severe and dangerous storm. And so we urge everyone to monitor the weather updates and to stay sheltered and safe. We know that the winds will be strong and strong gusts are possible.

Our city emergency operations center was activated yesterday, so we have crews and equipment that have been staged and we're ready to respond prior, during and after the impact.

And so right now everyone is watching and waiting for what will happen next.

HARLOW: Of course. So our Nick Valencia who is reporting right around there told us that he has talked to people who are actually checking out of hotels where they had evacuated to and going home, essentially getting complacent, tired of waiting and waiting and waiting for this storm to come, watching the track and thinking, look, I'm going to be fine, I want to go home and go on with my life. Are you seeing the same thing? And I suppose what's your message to those folks?

MEEHAN: Well, this is a dangerous storm. I would like for everybody that's on the barrier island to please evacuate and go to a safe place.

But I would like to also add that right now we are receiving calls, 911 calls for updates and I would like to ask our residents to please do not call 911. It's only for emergency reasons. If they want to find out about information on hurricane shelters and causeways, Brevard County can call the 211 number.

HARLOW: Okay. Let's talk about the shelters and places where people can evacuate if they have not already. I know as of yesterday at least you guys had 14 shelters up and running. Are there more now, and how full are those shelters? [10:25:00]

MEEHAN: That is run under Brevard County and I don't have those numbers. But all throughout the space coast, we have emergency shelters that are open. HARLOW: What about the lowest lying areas? You brought up the barrier islands. Those are part of the low-lying areas that are just most likely to flood. What is your recommendation for anyone there who has not yet evacuated? Should they still evacuate?

MEEHAN: Yes. We need to please still evacuate. I have concerns about the flooding and getting personnel there to help them. So, yes, please evacuate.

HARLOW: Thank you so much, Mayor Kathy Meehan of Melbourne. I know you're so busy and we appreciate you taking the time to call us. Okay, good luck.

MEEHAN: Thank you. All right, bye-bye.

HARLOW: You got it.

Huge flooding overtaking the streets in the Bahamas, now, hurricane Dorian is inching closer and closer to the United States, Millions of Americans in its path. We'll have the latest next.