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Hurricane Dorian Devastates Bahamas; Florida Feels Impact of Hurricane Dorian. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired September 3, 2019 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You are watching special CNN live coverage here on this Tuesday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin here in New York.

Victor Blackwell is there standing by in Jensen Beach, Florida, where coastal towns are starting to see the heavy rain and strong winds from Hurricane Dorian. It is now a Category 2 storm, downgraded in strength, but growing in size, after battering the Bahamas for two days now.

It is blamed for at least five deaths. And officials estimate Dorian destroyed 13,000 homes.

Right now, more precautions are being taken in Florida. At this hour, Disney theme parks shut down most of its operations, as the storm gets closer and closer to the U.S.


BALDWIN: But let's turn our attention back to Florida.

That's where my colleague Victor Blackwell is live on Jensen Beach, Florida.

And we know Mother Nature has been fickle. We have seen the waves kicking up behind you. Sometimes, it's sunny, sometimes not. What are the conditions like right now?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, right now, we're between those squall lines. We're between the extreme outer bands of Hurricane Dorian.

But I want to show you, you stand here a couple days, you can tell when it's coming. Take a look out here over the Intracoastal. Those clouds and that haze you see, that rain is coming this way. And that will be immediately one of those quick downbursts of rain, and just as quickly as it starts, it will go away.


But we have seen this for several days now. And officials here say that, as the storm creeps up the coast of Florida, they will continue to see more of this. The mandatory evacuations for Martin County at least have been lifted. They will at some point reopen the bridges to allow people to go back to Hutchinson Island in Martin County.

Again, this island stretches along several counties here, so each county will make decisions for the causeways and the bridges in their territory.

Let me go to Sewall's Point. And my colleague Brian Todd is there.

The wind is picking up here. What are the conditions where you are, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Winds are picking up here too, Victor. The rain has given us a bit of a break for now. But, like you, we expect the rain to come back very, very quickly.

We're going to show you right now why officials from here all the way up to Jacksonville are telling people, you cannot let your guard down. This is the Indian River Lagoon. It's a major river, one of two major rivers that converge here near Sewall's Point, where we are.

That's the river. It's just because of the storm surge, it has pushed water all the way onto the street down there as far as we can see, and then down here. And, look, this street flooded this quickly. And this is just an area that just kind of got sideswiped, just touched a little bit by Hurricane Dorian.

This is what the storm surge can do in places like that. And that is why people here are saying, again, you cannot let your guard down. Now, we have to say this is an area that is susceptible to flooding even in a normal storm. But we have seen about a 10-square-block area here that has just been inundated with water.

And they are warning people not to drive down these streets and to be very, very careful of downed power lines. So, again, as the storm passes this area and moves north, as you mentioned, Victor, they are doing kind of a gradual soft reentry, lifting some of those evacuation restrictions places in Martin County, here where I am, and where you are.

But, again, they're telling people, again, you're coming back to neighborhoods like this, clearly, you are not out of danger.

BLACKWELL: Yes, absolutely, Brian Todd, for us there in Sewall's Point.

But, again, the beaches are closed. Schools are closed here again for another day. Normal services provided by the city are not back to their regular schedule. So, as this storm continues to creep up, and they allow people, as Brian said, that soft reentry, there are still precautions being taken.

Let's go to Fort Pierce now and my colleague Leyla Santiago.

Leyla, what are you seeing?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Much of the same. We are seeing winds picking up. Really not seeing too much rain, but the county administrator says for the next 15 hours they expect to experience tropical-force winds. They're expecting about two to four inches of rain and storm surge, while reduced from what they said yesterday, still expecting about three to five feet.

Those are the expectation. The concerns, they say, are a lack of patience from the residents here. As soon as this went down to a Category 2, we saw folks come out wanting to see, saying they have a little bit of cabin fever, didn't want to stay in anymore. And the emergency responders are worried that folks will put themselves in situations, thinking that they're in the clear, when really they're not because there are still tropical-force winds that are heading this way.

They are saying that they expect the flooding. They expect the coastal erosion, and this is not over yet -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: Leyla Santiago, for us there in Fort Pierce, Leyla, thank you.

The storm now a Category 2, with maximum sustained winds of 120 -- 110 miles per hour, gusts at 125. At the most dangerous point, this was a very strong Category 5, with gusts beyond 200 miles per hour. And, at that point, it was parked over the Bahamas.

Well, we are getting our first aerial pictures of the damage left behind by this storm. It's not out of the neighborhood yet, but it is moving slowly away from the Bahamas. We will have those pictures for you when CNN's live special coverage of Hurricane Dorian continues.



BLACKWELL: As Hurricane Dorian slowly starts to move away from the islands of the Bahamas, we're getting our first reports of the damage.

The Salvation Army estimates that 13,000 homes there have been destroyed. The prime minister says that the damage is unprecedented.

And our Patrick Oppmann, who's been on the island of Grand Bahama and Freeport for the duration of the storm, says that neighbors are now out searching, trying to rescue one another. He sees no evidence of an organized government rescue operation.

One of those rescuers who's out doing what she can for people there on the northern islands is Zelda Evans. She's on the phone with us now. She lives in Nassau, but is going to the other islands to try to rescue people.

Zelda, thank you for being with us.

Give us an idea of what you are seeing in these rescue efforts.

[15:15:04] ZELDA EVANS, ODYSSEY AVIATION: OK, so, firstly, good evening to -- good afternoon to everyone.

I just needed to clarify the information communicated. We are team members of Odyssey Aviation, which is a private (INAUDIBLE) operation in Nassau, Bahamas. We're facilitating a lot of the relief flights.

Me myself, personally, I'm part of the Odyssey Aviation team. So, we're not actually flying out. We're assisting with coordinating the airlift with the relief efforts.

BLACKWELL: OK. Tell us, what reports have you received? Give us an idea of the damage there.


So, our team ourselves, they're facilitating the -- working with the U.S. government, along with the Bahamas government, in coordinating relief efforts right now.

We have been so busy here moving around, just facilitating aircraft who is coming in, helicopters and everything, that the photos that we have seen, it's depressing.

And I'm saying to the world, our country is in need of all of the support we can get. This is a national disaster that we have never seen before to this extent. And I want to say, on behalf of our country and our team, thanks to the United States of America and their government, we are -- we were able to be mobilized as early as yesterday getting people into Nassau out of Abaco, Bahamas, who has been injured.

BLACKWELL: How many people, if you have an idea, have been rescued as a result of the flights that you have organized?

EVANS: Well, we have not organized the actual flights.

The Bahamas government, along with the assistance of the U.S. (INAUDIBLE) Coast Guard, they have been doing all of the relief. Our operations is facilitating the aircraft.

The Coast Guard has basically ran a shuttle service starting yesterday in and out of Marsh Harbour, bringing in patients. Due to all the activity that is going on at our facility, we're not in one place overseeing that.

They have set it up here where there is a group receiving the patients and they're dispersing them. Our team, in the meantime, is just trying to keep everything organized with all the moving parts that is going on here at our operation.

BLACKWELL: And we know that that will be a Herculean effort, as we see and get a better picture of the breadth of the damage created by this hurricane.

Zelda Evans, thank you for being with us this afternoon. Again, we have the first aerial pictures of the damage, of the

aftermath of this monster storm that just parked over the Bahamas.

We will have that for you, as our special coverage continues.



BALDWIN: We are back with breaking news, as we continue to cover Hurricane Dorian.

And, you know, as so much emphasis has been put on the Bahamas, because that hurricane just sat and churned and churned at a excruciatingly slow speed, we now are getting visuals. We now have pictures.

So, we will throw this video up. And this is what is left of a town in Great Abaco Island, Bahamas. Look at this. Look at this. Obliterated. Homes gone. Roofs. Cars. The level of the water is stunning.

This is the first time we are seeing how bad it really was.

Meteorologist Jennifer Gray is with me.

And, you know, when we were talking before, and Salvation Army estimated 13,000 houses gone, that number will go up.



Unfortunately, the death toll will probably go up as well, hearing the stories. You know, it looks like tornado damage. I mean, this storm had the winds of, what, an EF-4 tornado? And imagine a tornado sitting on the same spot for several days. And that's the kind of damage that you're seeing.

On top of that, you add the water.


BALDWIN: It reminds me of when I jumped in a helicopter last October and was over the Florida Panhandle and Mexico Beach. This is just even far, it appears from this aerial view, so much larger, right, the wide swathe of devastation.

Obviously, they're shooting down from this helicopter over Great Abaco Island. And, again, we don't know the specific location. We don't know if this is Marsh Harbour or elsewhere, but it just goes on and on and on.

GRAY: Yes.

And I don't think it's even going to be specific to one area, like you said. I mean, I think this damage is going to be so widespread. As we're able to get into more areas, not only the Abacos, but as well as Grand Bahama Island, I think a large portion of those Northern Bahamas, it will look a lot like this, no matter where you go.


It's incredibly sad, and it's excruciating to watch, as you said.

BALDWIN: What were -- beyond just these homes and trucks and cars just toppled like toys, what's the water situation, the floodwater?

I mean, obviously, in certain pictures, you don't see it as badly, but in others, it's so high.

GRAY: Right. And that's the way storm surge works.

BALDWIN: This is the airport, I'm being told.

GRAY: Oh, wow.

Yes. The storm surge, it's just -- it's pushing water in. And especially in Grand Bahama Island, it could take a while. The storm's going to have to pull away from there for the water to actually go back to normal levels.

I mean, you have so much energy and so much momentum with these storms, that the water pushing in just 18 to 23 feet on top of what is normal, and with it sitting there for three days, it's going to take this storm pulling away a little bit more, especially for Grand Bahama Island, to see the water recede -- recede there.


You have said it. You see the word on the screen, unprecedented. This is unprecedented destruction.

We have got a correspondent down in the Bahamas. And Patrick Oppmann keeps reporting, as the light of day, as the sun came up this morning, that the conditions were much worse than expected.

And, I mean, I think that is an understatement, when you get this bird's-eye view of Great Abaco. Again, we're hearing 13,000 homes gone. That's according to the Salvation Army. That will go up.

We have been reporting, I think it was five deaths. That will likely go up, by the looks of these homes, and also depending on how many people were there and decided to ride it out.

People, according to our correspondent, they have just been getting around on boats and on jet skis. And there have been just these harrowing tales of survivors who have just been absolutely exhausted. As we have talked to rescuers, some of them have just been clinging to roofs.

Look at this. Wow. I don't even know. There are no words for pictures like this. Just your heart goes out to the good people in the Bahamas, Jennifer.

GRAY: Yes, it's incredibly sad.

And I think about all of the homes and portions of the Bahamas that aren't very well built. And you really hope that people got out of those situations. I know, when you're in an island, it takes you either flying somewhere else or getting on a boat to go somewhere else to get out of the way of these storms a lot of times.

And some people don't have the means to do that. Hopefully, they got to a shelter, but I just think about the people that are in those homes that aren't quite as well built. And it reminds you of the images from Katrina, when people were hiding in their attics and things like that.

You just -- your mind can go wild thinking about the possible scenarios and unfortunate things that could be going on right now there.

BALDWIN: Jennifer, I appreciate you.

We're going to get a quick commercial break in. We will talk to General Russel Honore. Speaking of Katrina, he led those efforts in New Orleans. We will get his reaction to these devastating first images.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN's special live coverage.