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Millions Ordered to Evacuate as Dorian Starts Hitting U.S.; Hurricane Dorian Growing in Size as it Starts Hitting the U.S.; Indian River County Lifts Mandatory Evacuation; Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) Discusses Hurricane Dorian, Devastation in Bahamas. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired September 3, 2019 - 13:30   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Welcome back to CNN's special live coverage of Hurricane Dorian. I'm Victor Blackwell, here in Jensen Beach.

This is Martin County. Officials are pleased with the latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center. They have reported now that they are going to lift the mandatory evacuation orders and reopen soon some of the bridges onto the barrier island. Hutchinson Island, I could say.

But not every community along the eastern coast of Florida is prepared to make that move as Dorian is still a hurricane, just one mile an hour off of hurricane status, 100 miles off the coast of this state.

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

Brian, what are you seeing and hearing from officials where you are?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, they say we are not out of danger by any means yet. And storm surge and wind are really the issue now even more than rain. And we've gotten a lot of rain. Not raining at the moment but we're still getting a lot of storm surge.

Look at this jetty where I'm standing just off Sewall's Point. A local police officer told us this is about three or four feet above its normal stage. He told us, normally, you can walk down to a beach area right here, but you can't do that now. The surge from the Indian River lagoon behind me is pushing up against this jetty, spraying us with water.

Here's the danger here. This is Sewall's Point to your left, my right. You can see Sewall's Point over here and nearby, Stuart. They're very low-lying towns. And they are right where three bodies of water converge, the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian River lagoon behind me and the St. Lucie River.

[13:35:09] We've already seen water from this river push into Sewall's Point and flood some of the streets. Power crews scrambling to restore power to some of those areas.

But, again, very low-lying areas. And you can see the power of the storm surge behind me the way it is washing up here on the jetty.

Also, we were told by the local police chief here at Sewall's Point that about three-quarters of the town has evacuated.

But they are telling people, again, you cannot let your guard down because the worst parts of the storm that are going to hit Florida are basically starting to hit right now and it's only going to get worse in the next 24 hours, from this region of Florida up past Daytona Beach and then toward Jacksonville.

We are right underneath a key evacuation route. This is the Stuart Causeway that goes out to Hutchinson Island. You're nearby us, Victor, in this general area.

As you've been talking about, Hutchinson Island is a barrier island. They have told people to evacuate. They are telling people now, if you get in trouble from now until a day or two after the storm passes, they are not going to be able to get to you.

This bridge will be closed. First responders cannot get over there. These people are going to be cut off. And the water to Hutchinson Island has been shut off to preserve the infrastructure. So if people do not have their bathtubs filled with water, they'll be in a tough spot -- Victor?

BLACKWELL: Brian Todd for us there at Sewall's Point.

For people who don't know the geography or topography of this part of the state, Hutchinson Island is a barrier island that crosses several county lines. So it will go through Indian River, through Martin, through St. Lucie Counties. So you'll see our reporters along that barrier island at several different points.

Let's head north now to our Drew Griffin, who is in Titusville.

What's the view from where you are?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, the wind and rain is definitely picking up here, Victor. It is expected to get worse over the next 24 hours.

What we are seeing, and you can see behind me, is the Indian River getting pushed up. That is the northwest circulation that is coming in.

But right now, they do feel like they have dodged a bullet, at least with the forecast. And that creates this tricky scenario where the county emergency officials are trying to keep everybody aware that just the least little bobble in this track could be the difference between escaping anything and really facing some nightmarish situations.

So while they watch this track, they are trying to decide and balance opening, closing, mandatory evacuations, and allowing people to go back to their homes. It's really kind of a delicate situation. But right now, everything is pretty much in control.

Wind is what they're expecting to be their worst nemesis right now. Maybe some storm surge up on the coastal areas. But that is about it. Not expecting a huge amount of sustained rain that would bring flooding.

Emergency management officials say they have got it pretty much under control. People obeying all their orders right now. And we're just waiting and waiting and waiting for this storm to churn on up the coast and get out of here, which they expect about 24 hours from now -- Victor?

BLACKWELL: Yes, the next 24 to 48 hours will be critical.

Drew Griffin, for us there in Titusville.

And as this hurricane heads up the eastern coast of Florida, central Florida, the Disney parks there in and around Orlando, they will be shutting down at the top of the next hour, at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. The Disney parks there in Kissimmee in central Florida will be shutting down.


We'll take a quick break. And we'll take you to Vero Beach, Florida, for the latest on Hurricane Dorian, next.



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: We are back now to our breaking news. Hurricane Dorian is slowly churning closer to Florida. And the effects of the storm are already being felt along the coast with increasing winds and a whole lot of rain.

Let's go to Miguel Marquez. He is in Vero Beach in Indian River County.

Miguel, there are mandatory evacuations that went into effect yesterday. What are you seeing right now?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, interestingly, those mandatory evacuations have just gone out of effect in Indian River County and here in Vero Beach.

I can tell you, the conditions are almost exactly the same as they were 24 hours ago. The wind is about the same. What is different is the tides are coming in a bit more. I'm holding on to this railing because the waves are coming up. As the tide comes up and the storm surge pushes in, the seas are really big. But what it's really having an effect on is the beaches here. Look at

the erosion here. In just the last couple of hours, they have lost several feet of beach along the coast here.

And as those evacuation orders have come out, look at the number of people who have come out as well. A lot of people stayed in town here. They did not evacuate.

And, you know, it is luck of the draw. Officials here now feel that they will have wind, they will have rain for the next 24 hours. They're telling people to stay alert, but they are opening the bridges, they are letting people back in, and life here at least is getting back to somewhat of normal.


But they aren't out of the woods yet. That storm is going to sort of chug up the coast very, very slowly to other areas. If it takes that slight jog, that's when things could turn ugly for places in Florida or farther north -- Brianna?

KEILAR: All right, Miguel Marquez, in Vero Beach, Florida, thank you so much.

As Dorian is continuing its relentless assault on the Bahamas, officials in Florida are taking notice.

And any moment now, we expect to get an update from the National Hurricane Center on Dorian's next move as hurricane watches and warnings are expanding across the southeastern U.S. coast.



KEILAR: Well, the hurricane-force wind gusts begin to batter the east coast of Florida, there are also tropical-storm warnings that are farther inside of the state.

In Orlando, around 50 miles from the coast, theme parks are closing early today because of the storm.

We have Florida Senator Marco Rubio joining us now on the phone.

Sir, thank you so much for taking a few minutes to talk to us on this day.

And just give us a sense of where your state is, and how you're feeling about the storm right now.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL) (via telephone): Well, obviously, it could have been much worse. It's not going to be a direct landfall, it doesn't look like, and that's good news.

That doesn't mean there aren't dangerous conditions. In fact, every time we get bands from the other part of the storm that come sweeping through, it brings some really nasty weather. I'm talking about torrential downpours, high winds. We're already getting 30 or 40- mile-per-hour winds reported in some places You just talked about that. So it's not ideal conditions to be outside or to be doing anything today in a lot of these places.

And I would caution people -- even on the highway last night here in Broward County, we don't know if it was weather-related, but in the middle of one of these storm, somebody crashed into the wall. They went over the side of I-95. They died. Two people lost their lives in bad weather.

At a minimum, it's going to be a really nasty weather day in many parts of the state on I-95. I just think it's a good day, if you don't have to be on the road, not to be out there. Everything will be back to normal tomorrow.

KEILAR: The Bahamas is essentially a neighbor of Florida. The story there's very much different. Being hit by a category 5, just sat on top of the Bahamas for days.

You spoke to the Bahamian ambassador to the U.S. Tell us what you learned.

RUBIO: Well, a couple things we know. The Coast Guard is already there conducting evacuations of critically injured people. We're going to have to do more of that. There are people on dialysis, special medical treatment. They're going to come back to the states.

We've worked very closely with the Bahamians all the time, the U.S. government does, the Coast Guard. They have very capable domestic forces as well.

But really, until we get the all-clear, we're not to be able to send anybody in there until we get a full assessment.

The storm is set on top of them, the storm surge is powerful, on top of the rain being dumped on them. I think the water damage is the most concerning.

And the one thing we're really focused on, we've seen a lot of generosity. People coming forward, wanting to send help. It's really, really important that people don't just get on boats and head over there or get in airplanes and try to land.

We need the all-clear. And we should really be coordinating with the U.S. government, with the Bahamian authorities to deliver goods. Make sure we're delivering what they need, delivering where they need it, by the way, because you've got to get it to the people that need it. It makes it no good to get to Nassau if there's no way to get it over to Freeport.

So there's a lot of work to be done. But we've been in touch with them already and working closely with them. I know there are folks, the Coast Guard and U.S. Navy and others, who are chomping at the bit to get behind that storm and provide assistance.

KEILAR: Senator Rubio, thank you so much.

RUBIO: Thank you for having me.

KEILAR: We're standing by for the latest update on Hurricane Dorian at the top of the hour. We are going to take you back to Florida live.


Also just in, a major announcement by Walmart in the wake of the mass shooting in one of its stores in El Paso, Texas. Hear what the company is going to stop selling.



As we continue to track Hurricane Dorian's slow churn toward the U.S., we want to know, what would you like to see done about the climate crisis. Join CNN and 10 Democratic presidential hopefuls for an unprecedented town hall event to address this critical issue. The candidates take the stage tomorrow starting at 5:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

That's it for me. Our special coverage continues right now.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Brianna, thank you so much.

Hi, there. Thank you for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin, in New York.

Victor Blackwell is in Jensen Beach, Florida, where a lot of rain is falling on him right now.

And that is just one of the coastal communities being pummeled by Dorian's outer bands.

This hurricane is a category 2 but Florida is beginning to feel the potential it has for destruction after the storm that destroyed 13,000 homes in the Bahamas, 13,000.

Right now, more precautions are being taken in Florida. All Disney theme parks are getting ready to shut down operations. And many counties all along coastline are under a mandatory evacuation order.


So let's first start with CNN meteorologist, Jennifer Gray, with an updated track.

Jennifer, what are you learning?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, the 2:00 advisory out. The storm has winds of 110 miles per hour --