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Hurricane Dorian, Now A Category 2 Storm, Drenches Parts Of Florida As It Moves Up Along The Coast; Trump Aides Who Leave The White House Go On To Write Books. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 4, 2019 - 14:00   ET

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


PAUL RIECKHOFF, FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: My podcast always talks about issues that should make everyone angry no matter what your background.

If you're not angry about this, you're really not paying attention. And I hope that the President will think otherwise, and Esper, maybe should resign over this.

I mean, normal Secretaries of Defense would draw a line and say, "No way." He needs to stand up. Folks in the Pentagon need to stand up right now for our military spouses and for our military families.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: All right. Paul, thanks so much. Paul Rieckhoff, we appreciate you being with us. And that's it for me. Our special coverage will continue with Brooke Baldwin in New York and Erica Hill in Charleston, South Carolina.

[14:00:38]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right, Brianna, thank you so much. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin here in New York. My colleague Erica Hill. They are standing by for us in Charleston, South Carolina. Where forecasters say a very dangerous situation is developing right there in the path of Hurricane Dorian. So we'll get to Erica in just a second.

The Category 2 storm, it is drenching parts of Florida right now as it's moving up along the coast. It is also growing in size threatening 10-foot storm surges in South Carolina, which could rival the destruction seen during Hurricane Hugo. It was a huge one that was 1989. More than 1.2 million people there are under mandatory evacuations across both Carolinas.

Hilton Head Hospital no longer accepting patients and the Charleston International Airport is shutting down in the next hour.

This is all coming into us here at CNN as we're getting this new video from the air of what Dorian is leaving in its wake. We showed you this for the first time, you know, this time yesterday. This is the devastation in the Bahamas' Abaco Islands. The storm is blamed for at least seven deaths there.

President Trump says the United States will assist in recovery efforts and the Coast Guard is already helping with rescue efforts. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have been sending through the United States Coast Guard who have been incredible. They're on the Bahamas right now, and they're helping with the Bahamas.

The Bahamas was -- a big section of the Bahamas was hit like a few people have seen before. But we're helping in a humanitarian way. We've been asked to help by the government of the Bahamas and we have numerous helicopters and we're sending some people to give them a hand. They need a big hand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Let's get the update on the forecast. CNN Meteorologist, Tom Sater is in the CNN Severe Weather Center with me now with the updated track for the hurricane. So Tom, what are you expecting?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, you mentioned a couple things in your lead in there, Brooke, that we're going to touch on. We're going to touch on Hugo in '89 because that's an important threshold for Charleston Harbor and the water levels.

But now when we look at this, we've got warnings that now extend from around Savannah, Georgia through the outer banks to the border of Virginia.

When you look at this infrared imagery, I want you to look at the colors of white near the core completing a circulation kind of making that circle a little bit stronger possibly. We've got winds at 105. It's in warm waters. The pressure is low enough that I wouldn't be surprised to see these winds tick up to maybe 110 or 115.

Even though it's a Category 2, we cannot really focus on that because the winds are so much broader; 115 miles right now from Jacksonville. We could have some problems at St. Johns River as those winds pushing into that, but it will get better later.

But the conditions we've seen on Florida are nothing like we're going to see on the coast of Georgia, South and North Carolina. Hurricane force winds now extend outward 70 miles. The tropical storm force winds are at 175, so it's got a broader wind field, and now we're going to be looking at the possibility of a landfall.

Conditions are going to really start to deteriorate. You get up to Charleston, we've got winds of 30; you can see a 54-mile gust there. But as this system ticks upward, it's going to get dangerously close to that eyewall getting in toward Charleston.

Right now, with the storm surge expected to move in, again, we could have five, six, it could be seven feet. But the water levels in the Charleston Harbor could get to 10.3 feet. That is only second behind Hugo in 1989, which is just over 12 feet. So that's going to cause problems. Hurricane force winds with Category 2, right, could be 110 near the

coastline, and all points northward and then inland. So everybody here from the Georgia coastline, South and North Carolina, well inland should tie down all loose objects, so make an inspection around the home.

But again, we could have a landfall then pretty close to near Cape Fear, if not there, we're moving into the Carolinas. It looks like the worst conditions for around Charleston. They're going to start to see the winds kick up later on today into tonight. But it'll be tomorrow morning, it could last all day between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. So the worst is going to be right in the middle of the day.

Now our track, it comes dangerously close, as mentioned getting that eyewall pretty close to around South Carolina and that cone of uncertainty is still well inland in the Carolinas.

[14:05:11]

SATER: So landfall is definitely possible. It's going to take some time. But those storm surges, as you see here, four to seven feet as the approach of the center gets closer to the landmass.

It still amazes me that these storms do not know the U.S. is here. But yet we're seeing that curvature just as our coastline is and then later next week, they'll deal with it in the northern Atlantic. We could see this over and northern Scotland by the end of next week. Just amazing.

BALDWIN: To see growing up in the south of course, you know, you know all about Hugo and the devastation it left and in that wake and to think that that is, you know, a storm that we're now potentially comparing this to. We'll wait and see. But Tom, I appreciate the update and all of that perspective. Thank you very much.

Let's go now to Erica Hill. She's in Charleston, South Carolina for us and Erica, what are folks there telling you?

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Well, Brooke, you know that history is very much a focus. The mayor in a briefing just a short time ago was saying, "What we're looking at here is a triple threat." There is the heavy flooding, the heavy rains, the storm surge, and of course, these winds. So we're looking at all of those.

Tom was talking about these high tides. That first high tide of 10.3 feet. Keep in mind that's without any rain on top of it. That is coming tonight in the wee hours, 1:11 a.m., so early Thursday morning, and it's the second high tide, it's going to be about nine and a half feet at 2:00 p.m. tomorrow that really has people focused on.

This is a low lying area as most people know where we are in downtown on the banks of the Ashley River and just behind us is where you'll find the marinas for the City of Charleston. That's a focus. We did see people out earlier down on their boats obviously checking them out. There are mandatory evacuations in place. Some 830,000 for coastal

areas of South Carolina as of early this morning. We were told about 245,000 had evacuated, so that is a focus.

We can also tell you that pumps have been -- temporary pumps have been positioned according to the city in low lying areas. In addition to that, there are swift water rescue vehicles, high water vehicles as well that are on hand standing by if and when they are needed in the coming hours.

And again, it's just sort of starting here. We're starting to see and feel some of these outer bands. There was a pretty strong one around 9:00 a.m. this morning. It's been on and off since then, just checking with our folks in the Weather Center. They said, we should start to feel it a little bit in the next hour or two and then really into this evening. It's when we will feel the winds, of course, and the rain pick up.

As we look at all this, there's a lot to be learned from history, whether it's Hugo, Ivan, Charlie -- there are a number of storms that have come and hit this area. And one man who knows very well about all of those is the former Governor and Representative for the State of South Carolina, Mark Sanford who is with us now.

Sir, thanks for coming by today. So as you're looking at this and you're hearing -- we're hearing these numbers and you're hearing talk of Hugo. Where does your mind go?

MARK SANFORD (R), FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR: Well, again, as threatening as this might be, it's not a Hugo and I think we should take solace in that. What you go back though is the many different checklists that folks have at the local emergency operations center level, at the State EOC level, at the Governor's level and the different Mayors that are scattered up and down the coast.

And again, a whole lot of checklists with families go into that. Did I put the garbage cans away? Did I put all the furniture away? All those kinds of things, people are going through that right now.

HILL: You were Governor in 2004. We had Ivan, we had Charlie. I'm blanking out, we had a third one as well. But a lot was learned obviously, especially in the year when you're dealing with that many storms. What changed between 2004 and 2019?

SANFORD: Well, I think the process has become more and more streamlined and I give credit to folks at the County Emergency Operation level and the State EOC level that's the really the central nervous system of the emergency response system in South Carolina. And I think they've got their hands on. They've had a lot of practice and so I think they've done a good job of, in essence, doing an after action review in the wake of each one of these storms, so that they are much more prepared for the next.

HILL: Here in Charleston, there have been three mandatory evacuations in the last four years. I was actually here last year during Florence. The city got lucky. The city got spared during Florence. Is there a concern though on the part of officials and you've been obviously in that seat, you need to issue these evacuations. Do you worry about people becoming complacent because of what they've seen in the past?

SANFORD: Yes, we've been lucky with the last couple of storms, and so, I mean there was catastrophic damage done to our Beaufort County. If you would go to Daufuskie Island, Southern into Hilton Head, I mean there was catastrophic damage.

But outside of that we've been lucky the last couple storms and so yes, you do not want people to become complacent. A hundred mile an hour wind will kill you. The flooding will kill you. All of the things that happened in the aftermath of the storm, people coming back in and all of a sudden, they get electrocuted. I mean, horror shows of all different sorts. People need to be vigilant both before the storm and frankly after it as well.

HILL: And we know that's been some of the worst damage that would come obviously, it's after. We heard from the Mayor today, "If you're not evacuating, get inside. We don't want to see you."

SANFORD: Yes, I think that cue has gone out because it's a ghost town in Charleston right now. It's just over Mount Pleasant.

[14:10:10]

SANFORD: I literally bought the house I live in because it's on the mount of Mount Pleasant, all of 32 feet. But that's a mountain down here. This is called the low country for a reason.

I mean, from here down to basically Savannah River, it is exceedingly low land, and we're prone to coastal flooding. Generally, you put a storm surge on top of that, it's real troublesome.

HILL: Mark Sanford, appreciate you stopping by.

SANFORD: Yes, ma'am.

HILL: Thank you, sir. I do want to take you now live to Freeport in the Bahamas. Patrick Oppmann. I hope you have been with us over the last couple of days as Patrick has provided some incredible reporting for CNN. He is now at the airport there and Patrick is with us on the phone and Patrick, as I understand it, what you are finding there is just devastation.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Oh, after two days of trying, we are finally able to get into the Freeport Airport. This is the only airport on the island. It is the airport we traveled the other day and is gone.

It was -- we saw video the other night of waves crashing into it that it was taking during the height of the hurricane hitting here. But the level of devastation is absolutely breathtaking.

There are no walls left to the airport. The ceiling has come crashing. We saw a part of a plane that had been picked up and deposited in the middle of the terminal.

The runway field is now a debris field. It would be impossible until all of that debris and as a lot of it could be cleared to land a plane there or for a plane to take off.

Why is this important? Because this island, we are cut off right now, and we desperately need for people who are injured, and there are many people who are injured. They need to be med evac'd. Right now that could not be med evac'd by plane. I don't think even a helicopter can land there.

And then we need water, food, everything brought in. Nothing can come in or out of that airport. It is a ruin. The fences are knocked down. The walls are -- there is not a wall left.

If anybody were out in the storm there, I don't know how they would be alive. And again, you know, anywhere else, it would just be this whole airport -- and you would fly somewhere else. This is the main lifeline to the outside, and it has now been cut off.

HILL: And Patrick is with us now on the phone and you talk about, I mean, just the description, it leaves you frankly speechless. And you bring up the point of what is needed now. And I know you talked about this lifeline, one of the hardest things to get supplies that you may be able to say get a large helicopter in, but being able to refuel that chopper to then get it off the island. That is your issue for aid as well -- Patrick.

OPPMANN: Yes, we've seen the rest of the airport now. We've continued trying to get access, and there's no power here. There's actually no one here at all. We tried to go -- there are two terminals. The domestic side of the airport is gone. That's where we walked in.

There were no fences. The security guard, he said, he had to run away from the storm or he was afraid he was going to die in that terminal and people are just walking around filming. Regular Bahamians, absolutely, you know, their jaws on the floor.

We went over to the international terminal, it is still standing. There is heavy water damage in there. Our producer, Jay Garcia was just able to walk in and take a little bit of video. There's no power. There's no one there.

The airport is still standing, so you know that international terminal is up, but it's also received -- it was underwater. The one runway here is covered in debris -- pieces of metal, pieces of concrete -- I'm sure the runway has structural damage as well.

We talked to another security guard seconds ago at the International Airport who said that they still haven't done an assessment on the international terminal, so they don't know if it's safe for anyone to go in there. I said how long is that going to take? He sort of shrugged.

And you can walk in and out of it. It's just open for anybody to go and peek in and the international terminal is low, it was underwater. You could see the water damage.

The domestic terminal is gone, and that is probably the main terminal that is used by Bahamians and really, the runway is the main thing here, and there's no way a plane could land on that runway until all the debris is cleared, until people can figure out if the runway is safe to land on and take off on for a plane or even a helicopter and that is going to take days because nothing is moving very fast here.

It is not underwater, but yesterday, the entire airport was underwater. We tried to get out here and couldn't. Only today since the waters have receded with the storm leaving were we able to gain access. I don't think even officials have been out here yet.

One or two security guards that we did talk to said they need to do an assessment, but didn't know when that would take place. This is a big setback for all of us who were hoping that the aid was going to come in and the aid was going to come in fast.

So you have one terminal that's destroyed; another terminal is still standing but have suffered heavy, heavy flooding and water damage, and we don't really know what the status of that terminal is if it can be used or when.

So, again, a big setback to the effort to get in aid that Bahamians on this island needs so badly.

[14:15:21]

BALDWIN: All right, Patrick, I'll take it from you. Patrick Oppmann, just unreal, unreal -- the images, the devastation and what he is reporting about so much of the airport. Just a mess.

Again as we mentioned, the U.S. is offering help. It will be on ground zero there in the Bahamas, so we're going to get an update. In fact, I'll be speaking to a survivor of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas coming up next. What it was like to ride out that catastrophic storm with her family, so stay tuned for that.

And even though Florida seem to dodge a direct impact, they are not out of the woods just yet. Warnings now about the life threatening storm surge, and big breaking news from Britain, chaos in Parliament after the Prime Minister there, Boris Johnson loses a crucial vote on Brexit. You're watching CNN special live coverage. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:21:04]

BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN, I'm Brooke Baldwin. In the Bahamas, the damage caused by Hurricane Dorian is becoming painfully clear today.

The storm has passed revealing all these pictures of destruction and now we're hearing the harrowing stories of survival and deaths. Howard Armstrong was rescued from the deadly storm surge, his wife didn't make it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD ARMSTRONG, LOST HIS WIFE AND HOUSE IN STORM: I've battled many hurricanes. I live just over here in Darby. We flood a little bit, but never that much. I never had it come in the house. It came over the roof. I would imagine 21 feet at least.

We were doing all right until the water kept coming up and all the appliances were going around the house like a washing machine. That's probably -- I got hit with something in there.

And my poor little wife got hypothermia and she was standing on top of the kitchen cabinets until they disintegrated, then I kept with her and she just drowned on me.

OPPMANN: I'm so sorry.

ARMSTRONG: I know. I know.

OPPMANN: What was the last thing your wife said to you?

ARMSTRONG: I'm not -- I think I'm going to die. And I said, "No, you're not," and that was it. She took a little mouthful of water and that was it. It was just so quick. It was so quick. I didn't believe it had happened. It was horrible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: We will continue to tell the story out of the Bahamas. In fact, we have just reached -- we, at CNN have just reached a hospital there and we just reached the Abaco Island, so stand by for brand new footage from up in the air of the devastation down below.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:27:36]

BALDWIN: We will get you back to Hurricane Dorian coverage in just a moment. But on the heels of a new release by the President's former Defense Secretary, James Mattis. We're learning why we will not be seeing a book by President Trump's former Chief of Staff John, Kelly, at least not while the President is currently in the Oval Office. And if the President holds up his end of the deal.

So let's go straight to our Senior White House Correspondent, Pamela Brown who has some of this inside information. And so what is this agreement these two gentlemen made?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this agreement is largely symbolic of the concern President Trump has of aides leaving the White House and going on to write books and we're told by two sources that one of the last exchanges between President Trump and his former Chief of Staff, John Kelly in the Oval Office happened when Trump asked Kelly whether he was going to write a book about his time at the White House and Kelly responded that he did have plans to eventually write a book detailing his tumultuous tenure in the White House for history's sake.

But then he wouldn't do it until the President was gone.

But he did add a caveat. He said that could change and he would publish it if the President said anything damaging about him. That deal has largely held up.

The two men haven't really said many disparaging things about one another, but what it highlights is the President's concern and all of these jilted aides who leave the White House, and you see publishers surrounding them offering advanced book deals. The latest case of course is Madeleine Westerhout, the former Executive Assistant to the President who was fired after she divulged details about the family, about the President's family to reporters.

And what we were told, Brooke in that situation was the President was fuming about this. He didn't even want to take her calls when she had called the President to apologize, but aides had told him, "Look, we don't want her as an enemy." She had close proximity to the President. She knows a lot,

She very well could tell -- could give a tell-all book. And publishers have been offering her that opportunity, and so he ended up taking her call and now, we have learned that the White House aides and others who are in Trump's orbit are now trying to give her a soft landing, trying to give her a cushy job outside of the White House because bottom line is, they're in damage control.

This is often the case when aides leave, you see this pattern, Brooke, of these former aides who leave the White House, given jobs in Trump's orbit, whether it be the campaign or elsewhere.

And then you see these Twitter threats as well that we saw from President Trump against Westerhout or how when he said, "Yes, she has an NDA, but I don't think I'll have to enforce it." -- Brooke.

[14:30:09]