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Hurricane Dorian Update; U.S. Coast Guard Helps with Search and Rescue in the Bahamas; California Diving Boat Fire; Florida waits for Hurricane Dorian. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 3, 2019 - 08:30   ET



CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Slight movement. And I use that word slight lightly. One mile per hour now, John, to the northwest. We expected the motion to start today and it looks like it finally is.

It's still a 120 mile per hour storm. It's still making some pretty good waves out there, 30 or 40 feet. We are still seeing the onshore wind where you are.

I think you would be dryer on the beach than where you are because of that splashing. You've got a bathtub going back and forth with a bunch of three year olds in it.

This is the splashing we're seeing in the intercostal waterway where we only have waves coming onshore here on the beach itself. The beach able to take those waves and just kind of spread them out where that barrier that you're on isn't spreading it out at all, it's just splashing it up.

A hundred and twenty miles per hour by later on today and into tonight, so we don't expect this storm to lose any intensity.

Here's hour by hour. By 1:00, Stewart, Florida, 59. By just after midnight, Melbourne, 64. By tomorrow morning, Daytona, 62. Up to Jacksonville, only in the 30s. We're still watching for a push of water here into Jacksonville, into St. Johns, also up towards Savannah and Charlatan. Temperatures there going to be cool with the heavy rainfall. Winds somewhere around 64 for Charleston.

The hurricane warnings are in effect and warnings in effect as well. Some people will feel hurricane conditions as the storm moves up the coast. Also, a four to seven foot surge. Right now, John, what you have is right at 1.7 feet of surge.

We've been watching your location on our radar. There you are right there. And every time one of these outer bands comes by, you get blasted with the wind. Your wind goes from 30 to 50. And there are many more bands out here just kind of developing in the ocean, and they'll be at you all morning long and likely into the afternoon as well, John.

BERMAN: Thank you very much for that forecast, Chad. We will be ready. I (INAUDIBLE). Chad Myers in the Weather (INAUDIBLE). This storm hit the Bahamas. Still, in fact, lashing out at the Bahamas. Freeport still feeling the effects of this storm as it inches past those islands. The U.S. Coast Guard is involved as we (INAUDIBLE) in the rescue and recovery efforts.

Joining me now is Admiral Eric Jones of the U.S. Coast Guard overseeing this effort.

Admiral, thank you very much for being with us.

I understand you have helicopters in the air at this moment. What can you tell us?

REAR ADM. ERIC JONES, 7TH DISTRICT COMMANDER, U.S. COAST GUARD (via telephone): Thanks so much, John.

Yes, we've got four of our helicopters stationed out of an Andros Island, south of Grand Bahama, and we are getting them out at first light this morning to continue to survey the damage.

Obviously, as Chad mentioned, with the storm moving so little overnight, it's still a big question of how much of Andros -- of the outer coast we'll be able to see today, as well as if we'll be able to get in and take a close look at Grand Bahama to see the damage and perhaps assist.

BERMAN: Have you been able to land helicopters up until now on Abacos (ph) to help out? How does that work?

JONES: Yes, actually the -- the first thing the air crews do is they go in and they over fly the airstrips and look at the conditions of both the ability to land and if there's any -- it looks to see if there's any services available. And then they go in.

In the case of yesterday, when they were able to airlift some critical patients from the medical clinic in Marsh Harbor, they actually had to pick a makeshift landing zone to get those patients out and bring them back to Nassau.

BERMAN: Yes, I understand at least 19 patients airlifted out by the U.S. Coast Guard yesterday, even as this storm was still churning. I imagine the conditions are very difficult.

How hard is it to operate in situations like this?

JONES: It's very taxing. The pilots are experts at what they do. They train in Alaska. An so they're working in 75 knot winds, you know, well over 85 miles an hour to get the Helos in. But they, obviously, have to be able to see. And so they can't get too close to the storms. And we're also waiting for the -- Dorian to move on so we can get our ships into place. We have a large ship, a national security cutter coming from the north and two medium endurance cutters coming from the south to join a royal fleet auxiliary as we look to stage a response from the sea as well, once the seas calm down enough that we can approach the islands. BERMAN: And, Admiral, I understand you have a bit of news about the

services you will be providing to the Bohemian prime minister later today. What can you tell us about that?

JONES: Well, one of our goals today is to see if we can get an initial overflight of the islands where it's safe to do so. So we have a Coast Guard C-130 coming in with Vice Admiral Scott Bushman (ph) to overfly with the prime minister and have him an -- give him an opportunity to hopefully begin to assess the damage that Dorian has wrought on the northern Bahamas.


BERMAN: So it will be a U.S. aircraft actually carrying the prime minister of the Bahamas over the island so he can assess the damage there.

And I also understand you're working very closely with the British Navy as well. How does that work?

JONES: Very close coordination. Great partners with the Royal Navy here in the Caribbean because of some of the islands that are still -- associate with the United Kingdom. And they're partners even in good weather and now we're coordinating both to get our ships, boats and aircraft to work together to de-conflict and make sure we've got the islands completely covered as we move in and assess and assist as we can.

BERMAN: Have you had a chance to speak with or hear from indirectly any of the crew that was involved in the operations yesterday? Just to get a sense of the scope of the damage on the ground there, because we're only getting very little video back from the islands.

JONES: I haven't spoken to them, but I've received e-mails back and forth and they speak of, you know, high degrees of devastation, boats up on the shore, cars displaced from what we can presume was water rushing through parts of the islands. But, as always, they maintain a very cool and focused demeanor to make sure that they carry out the mission. They know that there's lots of folks there that need help. And so for every hour of daylight, they're going to be focused on providing as much assistance as they can and trying to see where help is most needed.

BERMAN: Right. Rear Admiral Eric Jones, U.S. Coast Guard, thank you so much for being with us and helping us understand this incredible international rescue and relief effort that is underway as we speak this morning.

Thank you very much, sir.

JONES: Thank you, John. Very much appreciate the opportunity.

BERMAN: And, Alisyn, four helicopters in the air as we speak headed to Abacos to do what they can and obviously the need this morning very great. ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, my gosh, what a herculean effort they

are embarking on. And, of course, we just haven't seen what the devastation there is going to look like after this storm decides to pass.

John, we'll be back with you in a moment because we're following this other tragedy.

Thirty-four people are feared dead off the southern California coast. How did a commercial dive boat become a death trap? So a dive boat owner who knows this boat well joins us next.



CAMEROTA: Thirty-four people are feared dead off the coast of southern California's Santa Cruz Island after a fire onboard a commercial dive boat happened on Labor Day. Twenty bodies have been recovered so far.

Joining us now is Ken Kurtis. He's a diving instructor and the owner of Reef Seekers Dive Company. Ken knows the owner of this boat involved in this tragedy.

Ken, thank you so much. I know how hard this has been on the dive community there.

Can you just -- do you have any sense at this hour of how a tragedy of this level, 34 people possibly killed, could have happened?

KEN KURTIS, OWNER, REEF SEEKERS DIVE COMPANY: Well, and that's really, you know, the key question. And I think it's important to understand too that the Santa Barbara County Sheriff Brown really said it best, this happened at like the worst possible time. Had this happened at midnight, you would have had a number of people up. Had it happened at 6:00 a.m., you would have had a number of people up and the outcome might have been different. But it happened, you know, roughly 3:30 in the morning when pretty much everybody's -- everybody's asleep.

So the key question that the dive community really wants to know would be, how did this fire start? It's not like we let people smoke on the boats or anything like that or vape. And it's too early probably for breakfast to have been prepared. So I don't know whether it would have been a galley fire or not. But, you know, you're just thinking, the timing of this is really weird.

And then the question is, how does it spread so quickly? And I think the dive community is always a community that's looking for answers. So I'd say as a community we're very happy to know the NTSB is getting involved.


KURTIS: But it -- but it's just a tragedy that you would not expect, you know, at all in terms of what we do. We go out to go dive and commune with nature and have a good time with the fish. CAMEROTA: I mean, Ken, I know that you've -- you say you've been

diving for 38 years. You've never seen anything like this.


CAMEROTA: And, because of that, I just want to play for you this mayday call. So this is between the Coast Guard and someone on this ship. And I just want to -- I want your help in understanding what we're hearing. So listen to this.


COAST GUARD DISPATCH: Can you get back on board and unlock the boat, or lock -- 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.


CAMEROTA: OK. Now, obviously, we're only hearing one side of that conversation.

KURTIS: Right, that's the Coast Guard guy you're hearing.

CAMEROTA: We're only hearing the Coast Guard dispatch, right, the Coast Guard dispatch responding. But he says, no way to unlock the doors, no escape hatch for the people onboard, no fire extinguishers on board. That sounds like a death trap.


KURTIS: It does, except the Coast Guard guy's got it totally wrong. I think he absolutely misunderstands what -- what he's been told.

First of all, there is no way to lock people in the bunk room, even if -- even you wanted to, which you certainly do not. There is an escape hatch at the back end of the bunk room. Whether -- whether people or not were able to access it or even knew about it, that I don't know. But that escape hatch absolutely exists.

And the boat has firefighting equipment. It has fire extinguishers. It has fire hoses. So this is a situation I think where the one side that we're hearing -- and, obviously, when you -- I've listened to this mayday call a number of times, as I'm sure you understand --


KURTIS: And you really hear -- that's a crew person, first of all. Let's not lose sight of the fact that only five of the six crew people made it off. That may be the crew person --

CAMEROTA: That that's a crew person calling for help.

But -- but are you sure --

KURTIS: Yes, that's got to be.

CAMEROTA: Are you -- I mean you know this boat. You're certain that it would have had firefighting capability on that boat, fire extinguishers?

KURTIS: Oh, absolutely. I mean -- I mean, you know, the joke would be, I'm sure I've stubbed my toe on the fire extinguishers over the -- over the many years. But boats are required to have fire extinguishers, they're required to have fire hoses. The fire hoses, I believe, to sort of suck water out of the ocean so once you turn it on there's an unlimited supply.

Now, that does not mean that the crew was able to access any of that stuff due to the severity of the fire.


Ken Kurtis, thanks so much for all of your expertise on this. We are obviously waiting to hear more information about what happened to cause this tragedy. Thank you very much for being with us on NEW DAY.

KURTIS: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right, one Florida sheriff has a stern warning for looters during Hurricane Dorian. So you'll hear from him next.

But first, free health care at a pop-up clinic. Here is this week's "Impact Your World."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We arrived here yesterday because we knew that there was going to be a lineup of people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remote Air Medical is a non-profit that delivers free, quality health care to individuals by way of pop-up clinics all across the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you're getting some dental work today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dental includes cleanings, extractions and fillings. Vision is a complete eye exam. You go home with a pair of eyeglasses that day. Medical goes from women's health, to podiatry, wound care, everything in between.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're just thankful to be here. You know, I take home $900 something a month Social Security. And she makes minimum wage. It ain't much. We're blessed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a first come, first serve basis.

Number 11 to 15.

We can only treat as many people as we have providers. So it's basically how many volunteers show up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't do it without the volunteers. Seeing people come and give of themselves and give of their talents and stepping forward and donating their time and their efforts and their energy and seeing the relief on patient's faces, that's priceless.




BERMAN: All right, welcome back to CNN's special live coverage from Hurricane Dorian. I'm John Berman in Jensen Beach, Florida.

The wind here is picking up, reaching tropical force -- tropical storm force strength. They do expect some hurricane strength winds to hit the Florida coast over the next few days. However, impact is now not expected as this storm moves past the Bahamas and up the Florida coast.

Nevertheless, counties all along the coast are remaining vigilant because every turn could bring some serious new concerns.

Joining me now is the sheriff from Volusia County, north of where I am right now, Michael Chitwood.

Sheriff, thank you very much for being with us.

I know from speaking to federal and state officials, one of the concerns is complacency, that people will stop taking this storm so seriously.

What message do you want the people of Volusia County to get this morning?

SHERIFF MICHAEL CHITWOOD, VOLUSIA COUNTY, FLORIDA: Yes, it's the same message that we put out to all of our employees, you know, hurricane fatigue has set in. This has been going on since last Thursday. And now it's game time. You have to put your game face on and you have to be prepared for what's coming our way. And we cannot implore our residents enough, if you're in an low-lying area, you still have a little bit of time to get out. We have 19 shelters that are open. We still have another (INAUDIBLE) beds that are available. So why throw caution to the wind? Why not move inland and know that you're going to be safe?

BERMAN: You know, hurricane fatigue, that's such an interesting term, and I think it's so true. This storm has moved so slowly that people all up along the coast here feel like they've been hearing about it for days and it hasn't made a direct impact so they're stopping being as vigilant as they were.

I know you also have a message for people who might decide to do some mischief in a time like this. What's that? CHITWOOD: Yes, we have a few entrepreneurial folks in our community

who would like to take advantage of people when the power goes out and liberate them of their flat screen television set or break into a gun shop or break into a pawn shop. My advice to you is, if you do it, we're coming to get you and I'm going to make sure -- personally make sure you're held at a highest accountability under the law that there is.

You know, we're under a state of emergency. Unfortunately, not too many people are heeding that warning. Last night we had several burglaries. Fortunately, those guys are in custody. And then the other thing is, you have these guys that are running around purporting to be tree trimmers or roofers and it's a scam against the elderly. So you not only have to be on guard against the weather, you have to be on guard against these nefarious individuals that are going to try to make a profit over the natural disaster.

BERMAN: And that's such an important message, too, because one of the reasons people don't like to leave their houses is they're concerned about the possibility of crime while they're gone. People need to feel safe in order to evacuate. And so often people do need to leave the low-lying areas.


Finally, and I know Daytona Beach is still one of the areas that could get the closest to the hurricane force winds. Are people paying attention? We've got about 20 seconds left, sheriff.

CHITWOOD: Yes, they are. And, you know, the mayor of Daytona Beach last night went door-to-door into flood prone areas imploring residents to leave and hopefully they'll get the message because I was the chief for 10 years there and I can tell you, there are parts of that city that are going to be three, four and five feet under water. You need to get out now.

BERMAN: All right, Michael Chitwood, the sheriff from Volusia County. We can tell you still have your hurricane game face on. Thank you very much for being with us. And I know your people will listen to you up there.

Thank you very much, sir.

CHITWOOD: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, again, as the winds pick up here, CNN's special live coverage of Hurricane Dorian will continue right after this quick break.