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Rescues Underway after Dorian Destroys the Bahamas; 2020 Dems Release Climate Plans Ahead of CNN Town Hall; Pentagon Diverts $3.6 Billion to Build Trump's Border Wall. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 4, 2019 - 07:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Joins me from New York. The breaking news this morning, the storm is on the move, not just moving up the Florida coast. About 85 miles or so off the coast from where I'm standing.

[07:00:14]

But we just got word from a hurricane Hunter, a flight director from NOAA who told us that he is seeing signs that the storm is beginning to move to the west. That's bad news.

Why? Because ever as it moves west, it makes landfall in Charleston, South Carolina, and the South Carolina coast much more likely. He now thinks that is a much more likely scenario.

Also, the storm is getting bigger in terms of size, which means that there will be more of an impact across a wider stretch of land.

Several thousand power outages on the Florida coast. More than 200,000 people have already evacuated from the South Carolina coast in preparation. That's what the storm is doing now and will do in the future.

What it has already done is devastating. The Bahamas this morning as the sun comes up there, only now are they beginning to truly understand how much damage was done.

Only over the last 12 to 20 hours have they been able to get out and see some of the places, towns wiped off those islands nearly completely. There is so much need, and there is so much hope that today will be the day, finally, that more government resources can be brought to bear and get to the people who are in need.

Friends have been helping friends. So far there have been some U.S. Coast Guard rescues, but there is so much more need. And we're going to check in very shortly with our Patrick Oppmann, who is in Freeport on the Bahamas.

But first, I want to go to Chad Myers in the CNN weather center. And Chad, I know you were listening. We were talking to the hurricane Hunters 45,000 feet in the air. And they say they are seeing signs of a bit of a more westward path now for Hurricane Dorian.

CHAD MYERS, CNN AMS METEOROLOGIST: And that's exactly what the Hurricane Center had. So this is not -- I know it seemed like breaking news at the time, but I will show you the path that the storm is on and the path that the Hurricane Center said it would be on and then it would start making its turn.

Now, we wait for that turn all the time. Luckily, the turn did take place for south Florida. Unfortunately, the turn did not take place in time for the Bahamas when it made landfall down here, 105 miles per hour. The pressure is the issue right now.

There are no winds of 105 miles per hour at the surface of the storm right now. The hurricane Hunter is staying with that number, because the pressure is low enough that it could actually be a Category 3 hurricane if it got its stuff together.

But right now, it does not have its stuff together. We have rainfall all along the coast of Georgia. Also into Jacksonville, all the way down to Lady Lake and Orlando.

But here is the eye itself. There are many openings, especially on the north side of the eye. So it isn't getting that wind maximum that it could. It doesn't have the potential that it could with this pressure. But it could still get its act together, because the water is warm. This is the Gulf Stream water.

John, here is the path, and here is why the director said that it is moving toward the west. There is the center right now. Here is the center about three hours ago.

So is there a westward component? Absolutely. But that westward component is exactly what was forecast. And then it will turn to the north, we hope. And then it will turn to the northeast, we hope. But if it does not -- if it does not turn in time, that's when the coast of the Carolinas will come, really, into effect.

Another thing going on here is that the eye, from one side of the eye to the other, is about 50 miles. If this storm is 30 miles offshore, that means the Carolina coast does, in fact, get the eye wall. It may not get the center of the eye, but who cares. But the center of the eye is calm.

It is the eye wall that is the most important part. And as it turns on up toward the north, very, very close contact to that. Even if it's offshore, the eye wall could be very much on shore. The models are very, very close to shore. We'll have to keep watching it. Not for Florida but for the Carolina coast.

Also, here's the wind speed rolling on up here. Charleston, Myrtle, Wilmington, and anywhere that you saw white, those right there, those were all 100 mile-per-hour gusts. John, we'll keep you advised.

BERMAN: And I think the important thing for South Carolina, Chad, and you'll agree on this, is it doesn't have to make a direct landfall for it to have a serious impact. It's going to get close enough where that storm surge and those winds, particularly in the low country and places like Charleston, there could be some serious problems there, which is why more than 200,000 people have moved off the coast already.

Chad Myers, thank you very much. We'll check back in with you in just a little bit.

The worst impact so far, no doubt has been in the Bahamas. Our Patrick Oppmann and his team have been in Freeport for days, hunkered down when it was hitting as a Category 5 hurricane. They've been able to go out and look and assess some of the damage.

Patrick Oppmann joins me live now from Freeport in the Bahamas -- Patrick.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning again, John. And I'll say this is just a small part of the island that we were able to get to yesterday. We first tried to go to the hospital. It was blocked by submerged cars. We tried to go to the airport, which has been destroyed. There was a river instead of a road in front of us.

[07:05:14]

And then we got to a place where we saw an amazing sight. Regular Bahamians coming together, using their own personal boats and Jet Skis to rescue the fellow citizens.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the worst experience I have ever had in 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.

PRIME MINISTER HUBERT MINNIS, BAHAMAS: 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, like, they were exhausted. Some we had to carry. Some couldn't even make it.

First one we found was my brother. He was clinging to a tree. And he made it 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. Anybody working as a team, 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 because of the storm surge flooded neighborhoods. He survived. His wife did not.

HOWARD ARMSTRONG, HURRICANE SURVIVOR: 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: U.S. Coast Guard's 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. Almost 48 hours now of nonstop carnage.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OPPMANN: And, John, there's a sight behind me that we haven't seen in days. The sun is shining. The weather is again beautiful in this part of the Bahamas. And that means there are favorable weather conditions to bring in aid.

We've been completely cut off from the outside world. No aid has come in. That aid has to start coming in today, John, because there are people still out there waiting for rescue. They don't have much time left, John.

BERMAN: The sun shining is a great sight. Patrick Oppmann, please tell us the minute you see one of those helicopters land so we know that the aid has begun to arrive. We'll check back in with you in a little bit. Thank you to you and your team.

So joining me now is someone that there was a great deal of mystery about over the last 24 hours. Hurricane chaser Josh Morgerman, he rode out the storm in Abaco Island, which received a direct hit. It went dark for more than a day. And people were wondering if he was OK.

Josh joins me now from Nassau.

Josh, there are going to be thousands of people excited to hear your voice this morning. They did not know if you are OK. They did not know what happened. You were on Abaco Island, where you were going to ride out the storm, like you have dozens and dozens of times in hurricanes before. Tell me what happened.

JOSH MORGERMAN, HURRICANE CHASER: Yes. Like dozens and dozens of times, but man, this one. I have to say, I've been chasing hurricanes for 28 years, and this is either No. 1 or 2 on my list in terms of the ferocity.

I was going to ride it out on Treasure Key and then, at the last second, I kind of got spooked by the storm. And I decided you know what? I'd better ride it out on a solid building on high ground in Marsh Harbor, which is the main town. So I rode it out in a solid concrete school which was a designated shelter.

And just to give our viewers an idea of what 185 mile-an-hour winds were like, despite us being in a solid concrete building, it was so badly damaged. By the time we got to the eye, we needed to relocate during that calm so that we wouldn't die in the building on the backside of the storm.

And the other thing I noticed was the cars in the parking lot thrown every direction and a lot of them just mutilated, just torn apart. Engines ripped out by the force of the wind. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen. It was -- this thing was just off the charts.

[07:10:00]

BERMAN: And you used the eye of the storm to relocate. Tell me about that.

MORGERMAN: Yes. Literally, I realized in this storm, the eye of this storm saved lives. So when we realize when the calm came and we came outside and just looked at how bad the building was, we realized we had to relocate.

A bunch of us piled into the few cars that were still functioning, one of which happened to be mine. And we got to a government complex nearby.

And residents from every direction were rushing to this building from the poorer, low-lying neighborhoods that had been swept by a tremendous storm surge from some of the wealthier communities on higher ground that had been flattened by the winds. Literally, people from every direction rushing to this building to get inside of it before the backside of the storm hit.

And then everyone got inside it, and it hit. But yet thank God this is a really well-constructed building. The Bahamians have very strict building codes. And they really know how to build for hurricanes.

And what's -- what really I noticed about this hurricane was how much structural damage there was, you know, on an island that usually just does not have structural damage in hurricanes. But that government building held and protected everybody.

BERMAN: Yes. There's not much you can do when 185 mile-per-hour winds are sitting over you for 24 hours.

Josh, what's the state of mind of the people on Abaco as you lived through that storm and survived the days after? What were people saying? What were they doing?

MORGERMAN: The people there -- I'm glad to have this opportunity to get on TV to say that there's tremendous human suffering there and help is needed. So many people have lost everything. They've lost their homes. They've lost all their belongings. And they're literally just living -- they're sleeping on a small space on a floor in an office in a government building.

There's not enough help there yet. And -- and the outside world needs to know this is a catastrophe. And there's -- there are apparently a lot of casualties. And I talked to a lot of people who saw, you know, people die and drown. I mean, this is -- this is really serious. These people really need help. They've lost everything.

BERMAN: How were you able to get off of Abaco?

MORGERMAN: On a military chopper with a couple of other Americans. They were basically -- they were going back and forth to the medical clinic to lift out critically injured. And whenever there weren't any critically injured to lift out, they took some American citizens. And so we just took some spaces that were available and got out.

BERMAN: Listen, Josh Morgerman, as I said, there are thousands of people who will be thrilled to hear your voice this morning. You've been doing this for 28 years. This is No. 1 or 2 on the list of the most devastating, powerful hurricanes you've ever been through. We're glad you made it. Thank you for telling your story.

But more importantly, shining a light on the need on Abaco island. Now, hopefully, now that the weather has cleared up some, aid will be able to get where it is needed over the next few hours. Thank you so much, Josh.

MORGERMAN: My pleasure.

BERMAN: All right. There is so much need on the Bahamas. And we are only now getting a sense of how much damage was done now that the sun is coming up. Patrick Oppmann said the conditions there are much better.

So hopefully, he will begin to see some of those rescue and relief crews come in. We will tell you as soon as he does see them.

In the meantime, joining me now here in Daytona Beach is Vanessa Shockey. It's amazing. It's not raining, for the first time in a long time. It's not raining here, which is good, because you're not dressed for this.

VANESSA SHOCKEY, DAYTONA RESIDENT AND STORE EMPLOYEE: Right.

BERMAN: Vanessa Shockey, you work in a store on the Intercoastal Waterway. What's the name of the store?

SHOCKEY: It's Nicole's Beach Street Mall. And we're right, yes, right across the international on the other side of the river.

BERMAN: And what's interesting about this is during Hurricane Irma -- and I was here down in Miami for that. Hurricane Irma shut you down for how long?

SHOCKEY: Approximately six months our store was closed down for renovations due to the flooding.

BERMAN: And as you see or saw Hurricane Dorian inching toward the Florida coast and by Daytona, what was your concern?

SHOCKEY: More just worried about the storm surge, the river. Because it was the Halifax River that came over -- over the banks and flooded the whole Beach Street area, where all the small shop business owners are. And everybody just took a toll.

BERMAN: So it took, what, eight months to recover from Hurricane Irma?

SHOCKEY: Yes.

BERMAN: If -- Right now it's clear. It may not stay clear for very long. If Hurricane Dorian does take a toll on the store, what happens then?

SHOCKEY: We don't know. It's just hard, because we have probably 40 to 50 different vendors that lease space from Nicole. And people are going to be looking for new places to go. And it just takes business away, you know, from our area and the other shops, as well.

BERMAN: Do you think you could handle another recovery the length of time that Irma took?

SHOCKEY: Probably not. Probably not.

BERMAN: Like I said, hopefully -- hopefully, you won't need it. Hopefully, it will pass far enough by. I don't think we're out of the woods just yet. What has it been like? You moved from Cleveland, right?

SHOCKEY: Yes.

BERMAN: What has it been like to live here in Florida and be through not one but now two of these?

[07:15:02]

SHOCKEY: Yes. I mean, we love Florida. My husband and I always wanted to move down here, get away from the cold winters in the Cleveland area, east of Cleveland.

We were -- we're just so happy this has not hit us like we thought it was going to, because Irma was pretty bad for being our first hurricane.

BERMAN: You didn't evacuate. You stayed a little bit inland. What precautions did you take?

SHOCKEY: Just bringing everything in. All our patio furniture, anything that could be small flying debris. Any lawn decorations. We did sandbags around the house, in front of the garage. Because with Irma, our street did flood. It came up to the tree line. So we're just being precautious.

BERMAN: Careful is the best way to go. Listen, we're glad you and your husband are doing well. Our fingers are crossed for the store. And hopefully, the storm will keep -- keep its distance off there. Thanks so much for being with us.

SHOCKEY: Thank you.

BERMAN: Alisyn, you can really tell, it's a tale of two countries almost with this storm. The devastation in the Bahamas that we keep on hearing about Florida. Everyone here just watching -- (AUDIO GAP) bigger impact here.

And now the word that South Carolina very much in the crosshairs of this storm as it moves a little bit further west and could expect landfall, maybe tomorrow -- Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, and John, that's the point. You just never know with these things. Even our best models can't predict perfectly where these things are going to go, which track they're going to take. And it is just very, very nail-bitingly scary to wait and watch to see if your house and your -- and worse would be destroyed.

But John, thank you very much for all of the work you're going there in Daytona Beach. We'll be back with you momentarily. So for more information about how you all can support the nonprofits that are working to help Hurricane Dorian victims, you can go to CNN.com/impact.

There are also breaking developments out of Hong Kong for you this morning. After months of unrest there in the streets there, the protesters just won a big victory. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:21:26]

CAMEROTA: The Democratic presidential candidates are releasing their plans to fight the climate crisis ahead of tonight's unprecedented CNN primetime event focused on the climate issues.

Joining us now with a preview of this and more, we have David Chalian, CNN political director. So David, what should viewers expect tonight?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, they should expect something unprecedented, which is going deep on a single issue that we've seen in polling, Alisyn, that is clearly of importance to Democratic primary voters.

You know there's been a demand for a debate on this issue alone. But the DNC has said they're not doing single-issue debates. But here's CNN that's dedicating hours of primetime --

CAMEROTA: Seven hours from 5 p.m. until midnight.

CHALIAN: Till one by one, these top 10 candidates that have all qualified for next week's debate to go deep on their climate plans and taking questions from voters on it who clearly are showing up in polls is really interested in, passionate about this issue. CAMEROTA: I'll just put up the schedule for everybody. It looks like

every candidate has about 40 minutes to do this. And so this will be -- is this -- are these just questions from viewers and voters, or will they be able to kind of spew their complicated -- spew is probably the wrong word. Explain their complicated climate plans that they've all adopted now?

CHALIAN: Yes. All these candidates are pretty skilled at getting their message out. So I'm sure they will find a way in each answer to tie back to their plans. And you're right to note that they have, indeed, used this moment to roll out these climate change plans. I think in the last 36 hours, five of the ten candidates have rolled out their climate change plans.

CAMEROTA: In the last hour and a half Kamala Harris has.

CHALIAN: Yes, exactly. And I don't think we're done yet. I think we're going to -- We had Cory Booker and Julian Castro and Kamala Harris all just in the last several hours.

CAMEROTA: And do they differ much?

CHALIAN: Well, this is what I find interesting about the difference. I mean, there are differences, if you go into the weeds on all it, but it seems there's a battle for who can be most aggressive.

Who can put out the biggest price tag on it and be the most aggressive in the terms of the timeline of getting the United States to sort of carbon net neutrality. Right? A carbon zero-emission automobile fleet.

Can you do that sooner than your competitor? I think that is one thing that we see in sort of the differences in the plans. Interesting to me is that one of the candidates, the front runner, Joe Biden, his timeline is not necessarily as aggressive as his competitors'. His price tag is not necessarily as high.

But I think I'd be surprised if we didn't hear him make the argument tonight that he thinks his plan is probably more achievable than some of his competitors who he may point as having a bit more pie in the sky when it comes to these issues.

CAMEROTA: In the meantime, let's talk about the announcement that the Trump administration has made, not about climate but about the promised border wall.

So the plan now is to siphon off $3.6 billion from existing military construction projects, it sounds like, to begin building the wall. Do we have any information about what -- which other projects are going to be put on ice for this?

CHALIAN: Well, first and foremost, hat it seems like, if you hear from Chuck Schumer and other Democrats in Congress, they're going to be attempts to try and stop this from happening. I believe the Trump administration begins they can do this.

But I think we're going to see this battled out between -- battled between the branches.

CAMEROTA: And it's an emergency declaration. He's already gone around Congress.

CHALIAN: He has gone around Congress, but I think that you're going to see efforts both in Congress and in the courts from the Democrats on how this money gets distributed.

[07:25:05]

CAMEROTA: OK, back to the Democrats for a second. Joe Biden, I know that he is -- is sort of explaining, I guess, to the press a new line of rationale for how he is the best candidate? I mean, explain this -- this phone call that you were on where the team, the Biden team explained the argument they'll be using.

CHALIAN: Senior Biden advisers got on the phone with reporters yesterday, first and foremost, I think, to start level-setting expectations. Because they -- they see so much coverage about the candidate, largely because the candidate's making this argument, that he is the most electable. Right?

I mean, even in his debut television ad in Iowa, Alisyn, he put up a chart up of the poll numbers showing that he's the one who can beat Donald Trump most effectively. We know that's an important quality for Democratic voters. A really important quality.

CAMEROTA: The most important. Didn't they say that?

CHALIAN: The most important quality. They want somebody who can defeat Donald Trump. Here's the thing. The campaign is now, it seemed, a little concerned, well, what if we don't win Iowa? We don't want to be written off as not having a chance here. We have this deep organization. We have a really diverse coalition. We can go all the way through Super Tuesday states.

So they started just trying to make the argument to the press, don't write Joe Biden off if, indeed, he loses Iowa or New Hampshire. He can go deep into this race. They're trying to somehow now calibrate that electability argument. Because you don't want a big, bad mark on electability argument is? Losing.

So that -- that's what they're concerned about. Losing a contest. And then all of a sudden being concerned that he is not seen as the most electable.

CAMEROTA: Really interesting, David. Thanks so much for sharing it all with us.

So what would you like to see done about the climate crisis? You can join CNN and ten presidential hopefuls for this unprecedented Democratic town hall tonight. These 10 candidates on your screen will take the stage on one night only to address this very critical issue. It starts tonight at 5 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

OK. John has been standing by in the elements for us. John, it looks like it's getting worse where you are in Daytona Beach.

It's never been that great, let me put it that way. It's been raining pretty consistently throughout the morning. Here on Daytona Beach. It bills itself as the world's most famous beach. This morning it might be the world's emptiest beach, as the water has been pushing up all the way to the sea wall.

Much more from here in a second. Plus, we're going to speak live to the launch center at the Kennedy Space Center just down the coast from where I am. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:30:00]