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Live Coverage of Hurricane Dorian as It Moves Towards U.S. Coast; Cause and Circumstances of California Dive Boat Fire Under Investigation; Fourteen-Year-Old Boy Shoots Entire Family in Alabama. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired September 3, 2019 - 10:30   ET

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


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[10:30:47]

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to CNN's live special coverage of Hurricane Dorian. In just the last couple of minutes, the skies have darkened, the wind has picked up and we've been hit by more of these waves that are coming in from the intracoastal.

As that storm, still a major hurricane about a hundred miles off the coast here, is creating or deteriorating conditions here, along the Florida coast.

Now, the barrier island across the intracoastal, Huntington (sic) island, has been closed to traffic from bridges in Martin County. But that island covers -- or goes along several counties, here in Florida.

Further along the coast, I want to go to my colleague. Leyla Santiago has made it onto the island. Leyla, give us an idea -- we're approaching high tide -- of what the conditions are where you are.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. We've certainly seen the wind pick up, starting to see a little bit of rain, water becoming very choppy out there. And this is what the county administrator is calling "a test of patience," that's what he just said.

Yesterday, county officials said, "OK, this is going to be the worst of it." That didn't happen. Now, they're saying, "Well, we're going to see, today will be the worst of it." Their concern is that people are going to let their guard down, and then come across conditions that will be worse than what we are seeing right now.

They are saying, "You should expect storm surge, you should expect flooding and coastal erosion, he says, is guaranteed. That said, he said we should expect two to four inches of rain, which is a reduction of what they said it would be yesterday.

But let's go over the numbers. Right now, they say they have 430 people without power, 650 people in the shelters. And the conditions are really not working in their favor right now. We're starting to feel the rain come down. I would say this is the most that we have seen all day today. Really, in the last 12 hours, as we've felt the wind really starting to come.

We've seen sunshine, then we've seen downpours. But for the folks that came out to kind of see what it looks like here, I'm now seeing many of them running back to their cars, as we start to feel the outer bands of Dorian, hitting an area that really has been waiting to see where this storm will head, as it slowly moves through the Atlantic -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: Yes, Leyla. You're about 10 miles away, so the dog that's biting you is barking at me right now. It's starting to rain a little bit more here, wind picking up, expecting more of these -- more of these outer bands, these squall lines to come in.

And, Poppy, this has been the narrative for several days now, which speaks to -- sorry, Jim, who was speaking to that concern that law enforcement has here, about complacency, about fatigue. But it's still -- a hundred miles away, it's still a problem. Today, they're hoping that it doesn't get much worse, although they say they're prepared for it.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: And, of course, still doubt about where it ends up. Victor, great to have you on the ground there.

Right now, in the Bahamas, more than 13,000 homes -- you heard that right, 13,000 -- have either been damaged or destroyed. At least five people, so far, confirmed dead.

Hurricane Dorian, still spinning, sitting over the Bahamas, only going about one mile per hour. It is expected to take a northward turn towards Florida, tonight.

Joining me now is Monte Falls. He is the city manager for Vero Beach, Florida, which could be in the path as the storm moves north.

Mayor (sic), thanks so much for taking the time. I know it's hard for you to make these judgments here because you're never sure, until the last minute, where and when and how hard the storm is going to hit. But are you confident, your city is now ready for whatever may come?

MONTE FALLS, CITY MANAGER, VERO BEACH, FLORIDA (via telephone): Jim, we are. We've been through this before. Our city is very prepared. We have residents who have been watching this. I was out, earlier this morning, with the police chief. The roads were clear, they are obeying the evacuation rules. So we're as prepared as we can be, and we just have our fingers crossed, like everyone else.

[10:35:00]

SCIUTTO: Yes. So you say people are adhering, they're heeding to those evacuation rules. It must be a challenge for you because folks watch the track of this storm, they watch the news and each day, each half-day, it could be different. Have you had any trouble convincing folks, "Listen, err on the side of caution here"?

FALLS: Well, that's the word we've been putting out. And we work with our partners at our county (ph) at Mercy (ph) operations center. And we held off on making those evacuation notices until the last minute. And we did that so people would heed those, and they seem to have done that.

SCIUTTO: Now, big concern, I know in the last few days, has been that the storm would be hitting with surge during what's known as a king tide. So higher tide, seasonably high tides. Is that combination proving to be true?

FALLS: Well, we're going to find out here shortly. I just got a text, while we were on the line, from the latest update. We're going to experience those sustained tropical-force winds here in about two hours. And they are predicted to have gusts of hurricane force over on the island. Again, I saw some minor erosion this morning. But as that storm nears, that's when we'll have the greatest chance for that.

SCIUTTO: One consistent trend has been to see more powerful storms. More frequent, more powerful storms over the last couple of years. So it means challenges like this are ones that you're seeing more regularly. And I wonder, as a community, how do you respond to that? Do you find you're getting the resources you need to make changes, to be ready for these as they come, whenever they come?

FALLS: Well, again, I don't know how you could ever be ready for a Category 5 impact. Our hearts go out to those folks in the Bahamas. But we have had experience with this since '04. We had two back-to- back hurricanes, and then -- and since then. But we do our preparations, we get help from our partners at the county, state and federal level. And we're as ready as we can be and we'll keep our, you know, fingers crossed, as I said earlier.

SCIUTTO: Well, we're doing the same for you. Good luck to you in these coming hours and days. We'll certainly be looking out, and try to share all the information as we get it.

Monte Falls, he is city manager for Vero Beach, Florida.

We're going to stay on top of all the latest information. Top of the hour, we're going to get a new report from the Hurricane Center, as to where this storm is headed. Please stay with us.

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[10:42:03]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: All right, welcome back. So the search-and-rescue efforts after that devastating boat fire off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, have turned into just a recovery mission this morning.

This is the haunting image of the boat, the 75-foot dive boat that was burned just to the shell and then sank. This all happened early yesterday morning. With 39 people on board the Conception when the fire broke out just after 3 o'clock in the morning.

Officials tell us 20 bodies have been recovered, more than a dozen people remain missing. Five crew members, who were sleeping on the deck, they jumped overboard. They are the only known survivors.

There's a lot we don't know. We don't know how this fire started, we don't know what safety measures were put in place. But listen to this mayday call, where we hear the Coast Guard asking about an escape hatch. And I should note, you can only hear one side of this call, so you're not hearing the responses from whoever it was that called in for help.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE, COAST GUARD DISPATCH: Can you get back on board and unlock the boat, unlock the doors so they can get off?

Roger. You don't have any firefighting gear at all? No fire extinguishers or anything?

Roger. And there's no escape hatch for any of the people on board.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

HARLOW: Congresswoman Julia Brownley is with me on the phone. She, of course, represents the people of Ventura County, California.

And, Congresswoman, let's just begin with what happened yesterday. You went down to the harbor right after this news broke, yesterday morning. What did you see and what are you hearing this morning?

REP. JULIA BROWNLEY (D-CA) (via telephone): Yes. I was actually on my way to a Labor Day parade, and turned around and went directly to the Channel Islands Coast Guard Stations in Oxnard.

And, you know, this is -- it's just -- this is horrific, listening to the mayday call. Just -- it's horrific. And I -- it's just a huge tragedy. And, you know, our community is really devastated by it. And I think it's probably, at this point, it has been characterized as one of the worst sort of maritime accidents in California --

HARLOW: You know --

BROWNLEY: -- in a very, very long time.

HARLOW: Certainly. Congresswoman, you -- the people you represent have really just been through it, over the past year. Two of the major California fires there, the mass shooting at -- in Thousand Oaks, and now this. I guess, what is your message to everyone? As we know, the NTSB is arriving, today, to try to figure out how this fire could have started.

BROWNLEY: Well, you're right. We have gone, over the last two years, two major fires, the Borderline shooting, and now this accident. And so the community is saddened and hearts broken. And -- but we are also a community that is extraordinarily resilient.

[10:45:03]

And the community has come together for all of these tragedies, and it will come together on this one. We have no idea what the makeup of the people on the boat were yet. So we don't know that. But it doesn't matter. Our community will come together and --

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNLEY: Go ahead.

HARLOW: I'm so sorry, so sorry to interrupt you, there, Congresswoman. Please feel free to finish your thought. And if you could just add a little bit to it on this point. We listened to that press conference yesterday, where we heard from the Coast Guard, we heard from Captain Monica Rochester, who said, quote, "The vessel has been in full compliance." And the reputation of this company, Truth Aquatics, in the diving community is very strong. Do you know anything else about the compliance of the boat --

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNLEY: No, I --

HARLOW: -- what sort of safety precautions they had in place?

BROWNLEY: No, I don't, I don't. But I do know this company's reputation amongst divers, and I've only heard very, very positive things, as one of the, you know, premier boats in terms of diving in the Channel Islands.

So, you know, I don't know if you've ever been to the Channel Islands, but they are beautiful and ecologically rich and in some sense, it is visited by people across our globe, to come and experience this richness that the Channel Islands offer.

And so in some sense, you know -- and these divers clearly were there for that purpose. And I think we all feel sort of a kindred spirit, not only to the ecological haven there, but the people who appreciate it so much. And certainly, all of the good people of Ventura County and Santa Barbara County really connect with that.

And I think that kindred spirit is strong and will continue to be strong, in terms of these families who are grieving right now and trying to understand exactly what happened.

HARLOW: Of course. Our thoughts are with all of you. I know there's really nothing we can do, but just know that you are in our heart. And I would just put up this phone number, that you tweeted out, for anyone wanting information. You can call the U.S. Coast Guard Family Center, 1-833-688-5551.

Congresswoman Julia Brownley, I'm so sorry. Thank you for your time.

BROWNLEY: Thank you, Poppy.

[10:47:36]

HARLOW: Another tragic story to tell you about overnight, five members of the same family, murdered at their home in Alabama. Police say a 14-year-old suspect confessed to the crime. We'll have the details, next.

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SCIUTTO: Welcome back. Well, Dorian is still lumbering across the Florida coast. Our Victor Blackwell, he's right down there on Jensen Beach. We can see it behind you, tell us what you're hearing on the ground.

BLACKWELL: Yes. We are seeing the wind picking up, certainly, in the last few minutes. This area, under a mandatory evacuation. And many of the people have evacuated.

Along the drive here, and driving along the barrier island over the last day or two, we've seen many of the shutters, awnings folded down, windows boarded up. And we're starting to also hear about power outages as well, for those people who decided to shelter in place. You see the intracoastal coming up as well.

We know that officials want people to take this seriously. The new update from the National Hurricane Center, it's at the top of the hour. They'll be looking for the wind speeds at the center, for those people who are still dealing with this, for now, another day, in the Bahamas.

But also, the direction this storm is moving and how fast it is moving for the last several hours, it's been stationary. The hope is, is that it turns north, stays off the coast and then kind of dies out as it moves up the east coast of the U.S. But mandatory evacuations, hurricane warnings and the wind gusting here, to those tropical storm speeds -- Jim, Poppy, back to you.

SCIUTTO; Take those orders seriously, officials don't do them lightly. Victor, good to have you on the ground there, but stay safe.

Turning, now, to a disturbing story out of Alabama. Overnight, police there say a 14-year old, 14-year-old boy confessed to shooting and killing all five members of his family. Poppy, I just throw my hands up in the air. What a horrible story.

HARLOW: I know, unbelievable, 14. Our Brynn Gingras is following this story, she is with us now. Fourteen years old, murders --

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

HARLOW: -- five family members. What else do we know?

GINGRAS: Yes. I mean, still, disturbing details are coming out at this hour. Elkmont is where it happened, in Alabama, in Limestone County. And what we've learned, initially, this is what investigators are still working. But the call came in, a 9-1-1 call, from this 14- year-old, who initially told investigators that he was in the basement of his home, and that he was hearing gunfire upstairs.

Well, of course, when deputies -- they're from Limestone County -- got to that home, they did a little investigating and realized that the suspect was the 14-year-old. And that they say, he killed his entire family. Five family members, two -- or three, rather, who were found dead in the home. Two were actually airlifted in critical condition, but have since died.

[10:55:04]

Now, according to our CNN affiliate, WHNT, those family members are described as his father, his stepmother and then three siblings. So we're still getting more details. The D.A.'s office hasn't even gotten this investigation yet, guys.

SCIUTTO: Lord help us, what a story. Brynn Gingras, thanks very much for following it.

We got a lot of news today, and in just a few moments, we're going to get some more, new information from the National Hurricane Center. They say Hurricane Dorian is weakening, now, a Category 2 storm. We'll have further updates. Please stay with CNN.

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