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Hurricane Dorian Leaves Entire Neighborhoods in Bahamas Under Water, Heads Toward the U.S.; Hurricane Dorian Heads Towards the U.S. After Devastating the Bahamas; U.K. Parliament to Vote on Bill to Stop No-Deal Brexit; Tropical Storm Conditions Hit Florida as Dorian Moves Towards the Carolinas. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired September 4, 2019 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:24]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

Dorian is now moving slowly up the coast of Florida after leaving just absolute devastation over much of the Bahamas. It is spinning just offshore for now but still close enough to hit the state with tropical storm force winds, coastal flooding and power outages.

HARLOW: As this storm continues its move northward nearly a quarter million people are in its direct path and have evacuated their homes. There are hurricane watches and warnings in four states right now. In the Carolinas, the cities of Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Wilmington are all still at risk of a direct hit from Hurricane Dorian.

SCIUTTO: And have a look at this. This is really where the focus is now. In the wake of this historic storm there is near total destruction in parts of the Bahamas. Just places wiped off the map by the winds, by the flooding. There is no power there. There is no running water. Entire neighborhoods simply gone. So far seven people are dead. Of course, the worry is that as you look at all those -- that devastation there, that others lost their lives. They're just beginning to search for victims.

HARLOW: The storm hovered over those islands for two straight days, battering them with hurricane force winds of up to 200 miles an hour, tons of rain, that resulted in the flooding you're seeing right there. That's an image from Freeport in the Bahamas. Survivors were scrambling through those waist-high waters trying to get themselves and their pets and their loved ones to safety.

Right now, you have rescue teams moving in, racing against the clock because of all that flooding. Disaster relief organizations expect to find tens of thousands of people in need of food and in need of water.

SCIUTTO: Those waters just rise so quickly. They are hard to escape.

CNN is covering the story like no other network can. Our Patrick Oppmann, he is live Freeport. Correspondent Paula Newton is on her way right now to the Abaco Islands. That's the most devastated area. More from her later this hour. We're going to bring you some of the first pictures from there. But we begin with Patrick Oppmann in Freeport.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, good morning, guys. It's day three now. The sun is out as you can see, but there are still people trapped in their homes we're told. Yesterday when we met out and met those brave Bahamians going on their own jet skis and their own boats to rescue their neighbors and loved ones, they told us there was still hundreds of people out there awaiting rescue.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OPPMANN (voice-over): The view from above the Bahamas, apocalyptic, revealing communities flattened and rows of homes under water, others scattered in the long stretches of debris.

KEVIN TOMLINSON, HURRICANE SURVIVOR: This is the worst experience I've ever had of a hurricane.

OPPMANN: This is just a small glimpse of the scale of destruction here after Hurricane Dorian battered the Bahamas for days. The deadly storm leaving behind catastrophic devastation on Abaco and Grand Bahama Islands, making rescue efforts nearly impossible.

HUBERT MINNIS, BAHAMIAN PRIME MINISTER: We are seeing the courage of Bahamian volunteers who are coming to the rescue of others using whatever resources they have available at their hand.

OPPMANN: This all-volunteer crew doing what they can by any means necessary. Using boats and even jet skis.

ROCHENEL DANIEL, RESCUER: Some people, they were exhausted, some we had to carry, some couldn't even make it. (INAUDIBLE) my brother, he was clinging on a tree and he made out safe but we were unable to locate his wife at the moment. We hope that she's OK.

OPPMANN: The team banding together to save the lives of family members, neighbors and even complete strangers.

DANIEL: We have a lot of people supporting us. Everybody working as a team here, you know. It's very hard but, you know what I'm saying, but we shall overcome.

OPPMANN: Howard Armstrong was rescued after his house flooded to the ceiling. One of hundreds lost as the storm surge flooded neighborhoods. He survived, his wife did not.

HOWARD ARMSTRONG, LOST WIFE IN HURRICANE FLOODING: My poor little wife got hypothermia and she was standing on top of the kitchen cabinets until they disintegrated. And then I kept with her, and she just drowned on me.

OPPMANN: The U.S. Coast Guard rescue missions are proving difficult. Cars under water blocking the roads. Along with fallen trees and downed power lines leaving people in the dark. Hoping conditions will improve after experiencing the unimaginable.

MICHAEL HYNES, HURRICANE SURVIVOR: Nothing, just nothing compares to what we went through just in the past two days. And then also at 48 hours now of nonstop carnage.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[09:05:09]

OPPMANN: And today, Jim and Poppy, is the first day that weather conditions allow for helicopters to come in, for boats to come in. We have not seen any yet. Just like the Bahamians do, we all hope, and I know you guys as well, that help comes in as soon as possible. Time is running out for so many people here.

HARLOW: And we know the president has said that the U.S. will continue to send that aid, Patrick. You and your team have been remarkable, reporting to this, so thank you for that. Before you go, can you tell us a little bit more about that man we just heard from who lost his wife? They were standing on top of their kitchen cupboards trying to stay out of the flooding.

OPPMANN: There's so much to that story. His name is Howard Armstrong. He's a crab fisherman that everybody seems to know here. After his wife died in front of him, he was able to make an amazing escape from that house. He had to swim down in the dark and go out his front door. He was absolutely battered yesterday. He showed his bruisers all over his arms from the debris hitting him.

He didn't try to save himself. He went over and swam to a neighbor's house who had been calling for help. He went to the house. She had also passed away. He was rescued. He remained there where we saw him yesterday at that bridge that is now under water. He remained there when we left him waiting for his body's wife to be recovered.

One of the boat captains that we've been in touch with told me last night that they had recovered a body. They were not sure, though, if it was the body of his wife, Lynn. We are hoping to go back there today, try to find Howard to see how he's doing and see if we can go out in a boat and see if there's still people out there.

SCIUTTO: Patrick, let me ask you this because you were there yesterday as residents were rescuing people on their own on jet skis. You know it seems like so much of this is driven as they wait for help from elsewhere including from the U.S. by people taking care of themselves. How are they managing to do that?

OPPMANN: Yes.

SCIUTTO: And is there frustration there that they're not getting more resources now from the outside?

OPPMANN: People who live on islands are just a different breed. They know that they could get cut off. Everyone says they've never encountered anything like this before. What those men and women did yesterday was insanely dangerous. There were still hurricane force winds kicking up when we tried to get on the boat and thank God they told us not to because later on we heard that both boats and jet skis were flipping out there as they tried to get out to their neighbors, their friends, their family, and complete strangers. They are pulling these people out of the water and they're just wasted. They cannot walk, they've not had food in days. They've been out there for three days. You cannot even fathom what people are going through here.

SCIUTTO: Listen, Patrick, stay safe. Goodness. It's -- you guys are right in the middle of it as well.

HARLOW: Yes. We're so grateful you're there. Thank you for putting -- you know, you and your team are at risk, but it's important that you bringing us this reporting.

In a little bit we're going to put up on the screen ways that all of you, our viewers, can help the people from afar in the Bahamas. We'll do that in just a minute.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And they need the help.

Let's speak now to another reporter on the ground there in the Bahamas covering the aftermath of this horrible storm. Rachel Knowles, she's with the "Nassau Guardian." She joins us now.

Rachel, you look at those images from Abaco in particular. It looks like tsunami-like damage. I think these are homes, communities, wiped off the map. Does anyone there have a sense now of human losses?

RACHEL KNOWLES, STAFF REPORTER, NASSAU GUARDIAN: Well, I'm still reporting from Nassau. So we only know what has been confirmed by officials, the official death count is seven. But of course there have been rumors of other people having died in the storm.

HARLOW: Rachel, we were reading some of your reporting this morning, and there was, you know, a few anecdotes that really struck us. One, of a woman who told you that this has been so devastating it feels like she should completely pick up, move to another island forever, completely start over. Another person told you Marsh Harbor is finished. There is no more Marsh Harbor.

KNOWLES: Yes, that is the sort of devastation that people are reporting there in parts of Abaco, unfortunately. It's really tragic.

SCIUTTO: Is there any update on getting help into those communities there? I know that the residents, they're overwhelmed. The government is overwhelmed. Do we know how soon more boats, more aircraft, helicopters can pick up the slack that really it seems like the locals are doing themselves to carry out rescues?

KNOWLES: Well, I know that the government I believe is doing assessments in Abaco today, so they are getting in there I think that some people are planning to go over by boat, probably already on their way in some cases to take some aid.

[09:10:14] HARLOW: OK, Rachel Knowles, thank you for your reporting. I know you've been up all night trying to get the information you can. We really appreciate it.

Let's jump over to Chad Myers. He's our meteorologist again with us this morning in the Severe Weather Center.

Chad, I understand you just got an update within the last hour. What can we expect in terms of landfall for Dorian in the U.S., up the East Coast?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Let's hope that there isn't a landfall.

HARLOW: OK.

MYERS: Because literally the middle of the line stays offshore. But it isn't the middle that we're worried about because the middle is the eye and the eye doesn't have any wind. It's that eye wall, Poppy, that we're worried about. And the last few frames that I'm seeing here on the satellite, this storm is trying to re-intensify. We are getting the brighter whites around the center of the eye that we haven't had all morning.

We've had a broken-up eye. It had a very difficult time after it left the Bahamas because it cooled the water by itself. These hurricanes want warm water. Where we are now is back in the Gulf Stream, the warmest water up the East Coast. So forecast at 105 miles per hour right now. I haven't seen 105 for a while. Any hurricane hundred going back and forth, maybe 95, but it's not that. It's the pressure that hasn't gone up. The pressure has stayed low.

So now this hurricane is trying to catch up with its pressure and then eventually try to make landfall somewhere in the Carolina coast as the land gets in the way of the hurricane's path. The hurricane doesn't know where land is, but the land there starts to turn off to the right. And if that model, if that computer doesn't like it to turn off to the right fast enough all of a sudden the hurricane may not do the same. The hurricane may not turn in time.

There is the storm. It is getting closer. The wide part of the eye will make landfall here I believe somewhere near Charleston. That is the possibility because we're only going to be about 30 or 40 miles offshore. And that's how far it is from the center to the eye wall. Lots of storm surge in Jacksonville, also in Charleston. Heavy wind damage here along the coast, but really only along the coast.

It's more of a surge in Charleston that we're worried about. Somewhere around the 10.3-foot range, and that would only be two feet lower than the surge we had during Hugo in 1989. So that's a pretty big surge for the people there. 10.3 feet above low sea level, about a four to seven- foot surge on top of what they usually see in Charleston Harbor.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, and remember for people, I was thinking of this, surge -- that goes this way, right? Four to seven feet of surge is a lot of water.

Chad, thanks for being on top of it.

Joining me now from Daytona Beach, Florida, CNN's Rosa Flores.

Rosa, you're there. We heard Chad describe how the outer bands of this storm, they push a lot of water, they push a lot of winds. How is that playing out on Daytona Beach?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's been windy, it's been wet, and if you can see behind me there's some pretty rough seas here, but this is pretty much it, Jim. I can tell you that the eye of the storm is about 85 miles offshore. We have seen winds spike at about 40 miles an hour here in Daytona Beach. And if you look closely at the water behind me you'll see that it doesn't look like the surge that we were expecting actually materialized.

We were expecting between four to seven feet. But that's because it's low tide. At about 12:30 today we're expecting the water to rise a few feet. Now this island where I'm standing is on a mandatory evacuation. But not everybody evacuated. The story of one man stands out because he is a retired Marine. He is 57 years of age. His name is Jay Estes, and he's on a noble mission. He learned that about six senior citizen ladies on his block decided not to evacuate, and so he decided to stay to take care of them. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY ESTES, RESIDENT, DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA: We have some senior citizens here that have been living in this neighborhood for a long time and they're just scared and got nobody. And I decided just to stay not just to protect my home but to protect them, too. If the power goes out, I'm going to be there for them. I'll start cooking meals for them and make sure they have water and everything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FLORES: And Jim and Poppy, we've been checking on Jay and all of the ladies here along this barrier island, and he's taking care of. And you can see pictures, he cooked for them last night and we checked on them this morning and they're doing just fine -- Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: I'm glad to hear it.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Good for him.

SCIUTTO: People taking -- I mean, you see people rescuing folks on jet skis in the Bahamas. You see people taking steps like these, really rising to the occasion.

HARLOW: You see the best in folks in the worst of times certainly.

[09:15:00] OK, we have a lot more in Dorian ahead, still to come though, after facing a stunning defeat in his own parliament over Brexit, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson could decide to call for a brand new election -- he's still in power but not in control. This morning, we'll take you live to London.

JIM SCIUTTO, CO-ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: And as Hurricane Dorian grinds past the coast of Florida, could the Carolinas face a major impact from this historic storm? More of CNN's special live coverage coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:20:00]

SCIUTTO: Hurricane Dorian is now spiraling close to the Florida coastline after just estimating the Bahamas. The storm is expected to be particularly bad even if it doesn't make landfall at all. Still packs a lot of power in those outer rings. Let's get over to the Florida coastline now where our Nick Valencia is live in Indialantic. So, Nick, tell us what you're seeing there on the ground, storm surge seems to be the real focus now.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A storm surge is the focus, and officials here are also worried about beach erosion. It was just a short time ago that I spoke to the police chief, and he says the message here is that they really dodged a bullet. Up until about 1:00 and 2:00 in the morning, they were keeping a close eye on this storm because they know that we're sitting about 60 to 80 miles off the coast of the Indialantic.

Things are getting slowly back to normal here, the hurricane warnings have expired, bridges and causeways have reopened. And you see here, people have come out including surfers and residence to take a look after what the effect is of the storm. It was earlier that I spoke to one of the town council members here, Dick Dunn, he gave me his assessment of Hurricane Dorian.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK DUNN, COUNCIL MEMBER, INDIALANTIC, FLORIDA: It frightened me when it was down in the Bahamas, 180 mile -- 85 mile an hour, and I thought that this little community would be wiped away if it got up here. And then of course, it hesitated down there for so long --

VALENCIA: Yes --

DUNN: High -- a lot of the people, we left the island and stayed over on the mainland. And I came back when it started looking better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VALENCIA: No reports of major damage or injuries, but council member Dunn did point out that a 68-year-old man and just a resident here off the beach here was putting up some plywood to his residence and he fell off that ladder and he did die before the storm. Officials here though are very thankful, they're calling it a

blessing, though. They're saying that blessing was at the expense of the Bahamas, already, residents, Jim, that I've spoken to here say that they've donated to the Bahamas because they know, and any variation of this storm, that what happened there could have happened here, Jim.

SCIUTTO: And the Bahamas clearly need help, Nick Valencia, good diving on the ground there.

VALENCIA: Yes --

HARLOW: All right, so, with us now is the Mayor of Jacksonville Beach, Florida, Charles Latham, mayor, thank you for being with us. Good morning.

MAYOR CHARLIE LATHAM, JACKSONVILLE BEACH, FLORIDA: Good morning, Poppy, how are you?

HARLOW: I'm well, thank you. You guys are in a precarious situation as you often find yourself in these weather events because you're on a Barrier island, and the big concern is the storm surges. What are you expecting?

LATHAM: Oh, that's a 100 percent correct. Right now, my biggest concern is, you know, we're a Barrier island just like many others around us. Now, we've got some low-lands on the waterway side which borders to the west, and we've had some flooding, historical flooding with Matthew and Irma, and I'm concerned for our residents over there.

I think our wind is expected to be between 50 and -- I'm sorry, 40 and 50 knots gusting to 70 between 10:00 this morning and 4:00 p.m. So, you know, the winds will have some impact, but I'm really worried about these surges.

HARLOW: You've got the ocean to the east, you've got the in-land waterways to the west, and then you've got, you know, a mandatory order to close all of the beaches that you guys put in place at midnight last night, I believe. But then I was reading some reporting this morning that a surfer had to jump in to rescue a woman who just jumped off the edge of one of the piers there, you know, trying to have a little bit of fun. Are you concerned that people aren't seeming to heed those beaches being closed?

LATHAM: Well, it is a concern, thankfully, the majority of our citizens are respectful of our request to evacuate and we did also establish a curfew a few days ago that goes from 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m., and most citizens are in compliance with the requests.

You know, we do have a lifeguard patrol that patrols via truck and gets people out of the water. I'm not familiar with the particular incidents that you're talking about, but we have measures in place to make sure that we're looking after the safety of the residents that aren't punning(ph).

HARLOW: And how will residents know or where would you point them to find out when it's safe for them to come home if they have evacuated?

LATHAM: Well, depending on what the wind speeds reach today, the winds reached 70 -- I'm sorry, 40 miles an hour, the bridges will close in the Barrier islands and remain closed until they come down significantly below the 40 miles per hour, and then they have to be certified by DOT.

So, it could take several hours once the winds drop down. So we'll keep people apprised through -- we have our reverse 911 system where we notify residents --

HARLOW: Sure --

LATHAM: And also our website is being maintained 24/7 to keep people informed.

[09:25:00]

HARLOW: OK, Mayor Charlie Latham, thank you so much for being with us --

LATHAM: Thank you, Poppy --

HARLOW: Good luck for the next few hours here, you got it.

SCIUTTO: There's just so many communities along the coastline there that have to prepare and the storm track is constantly changing, maybe it's a difficult decision that always --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: Communities have to make.

HARLOW: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: Still ahead, a changing story, conflicting accounts over the reasoning behind the Vice President's stay at a resort owned by who? Well, President Trump.

HARLOW: We're also moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Stocks looking to rebound from the losses yesterday. Atop of mind of course is the U.S.-China trade war, those new tariffs took effect over the weekend. Investors are also going to watch Wal-Mart after the major announcement on guns from Wal-Mart's CEO yesterday. What does that mean for the company and the stock? They decided to stop selling handgun and short barrel rifle ammunition.

Also, they will no longer sell handguns in any of their stores. Wal- Mart's CEO Doug McMillon is also calling on lawmakers to do more as they ask customers to no longer carry weapons into their stores. Concealed carry weapons will still be allowed by customers who have the permit, but Wal-Mart is discouraging everyone from bringing any guns into their stores.

It's a big development, much more on that ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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