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NEW DAY

Hurricane Dorian Devastates the Bahamas; Man's Wife Perishes in Bahamas During Hurricane Dorian; Hurricane Dorian Approaching Coast of Carolinas; Dorian Churns Toward East Coast After Decimating the Bahamas; British PM Lays Groundwork for Early Elections After Brexit Defeat. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 4, 2019 - 08:00   ET

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


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[08:03:07]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman in Daytona Beach, Florida. This is NEW DAY, CNN's special live coverage of hurricane Dorian. Alisyn Camerota joins me from New York this morning. You can see the conditions around here. Not good. The seas fierce behind me as the storm moves up the coast of Florida, about 80 miles from where I'm standing right now. The winds, occasionally the outer bands have been coming through, the winds kicking up, raining consistently here.

The focus now, where will the storm head next? Charleston, South Carolina, could take something of a direct hit. The storm could make landfall there tomorrow. That's where the storm is going. Where it's already been, there's been so much devastation. The Bahamas, they are only now waking up to the damage there. Rescue crews not able to arrive on mass yet. There have been some coast guard operations. Our man on the ground Patrick Oppmann tell us the skies are sunny today. They are hopeful, they are hopeful more aid will be arriving soon. We'll check in with Patrick in just a moment.

First, though, the 8:00 a.m. update is just in from the national hurricane center. So let's go to Chad Myers in the Weather Center to get a sense of where hurricane Dorian is headed next. Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: John, as you said, likely up towards the Carolina coast, that's where it is headed. Right now winds are still 105, although I haven't seen any from the hurricane hunter. The eye is very big right now, but the potential is still there because the pressure is still down. It could catch up. The winds could catch up to the pressure. Sometimes that happened. Moving to the north, northwest at eight miles per hour.

Here is the eye of the storm, offshore for you. Every once in a while another band comes onshore, picks the winds up to 45 or almost 50. Farther to the north, though, up into Brunswick, big storms coming through on there. Some of these may have a waterspout or two today, although that's not really the big problem.

[08:05:03]

The big problem is going to be the surge. Where does this wind that you see here, most of the white here, certainly, those are 100 mile per hour gusts, those are offshore. Moving it up towards the north, toward Brunswick and Savannah, very close. We could get a gust there somewhere along the coast of somewhere close to 90 or 100. Not sustained, but a gust.

But then when you push all this water into Myrtle or maybe Cape Fear or then eventually off the outer banks, that's when that water is going to slosh onto the shore. So we could see five to eight foot surges from Charleston up to Cape Fear. And if the outer band is going to make or the eyewall is going to make landfall, it would from north of Charleston likely, maybe towards myrtle and then up toward to Cape Fear. That would be the eyewall itself.

But the problem here for Charleston Harbor is a 10.3-foot water level coming up over two tidal cycles here coming up. That would be the second highest tidal cycle ever only behind hurricane Hugo, John.

BERMAN: All right, Chad, thank you very much. And some 200,000 people have already moved off the coast in South Carolina to get out of the way. That's how much concern there is right now in South Carolina as this storm heads their way. Our thanks to Chad for that.

Let's go now to the National Hurricane Center. Director Ken Graham joins us now. Ken, thank you, as always, for being with us. We were speaking to one of your hurricane hunters a short time ago who said from the air they were seeing signs of a westward drift for hurricane Dorian, which means that places like Charleston could expect something worse. What are you seeing this morning?

KEN GRAHAM, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: We're watching those. You're going to get a natural wobble associated with this. But some of that drift occurs when you just start marching northward. It's still not very fast, John. It's still only eight miles an hour, so you can see some of that wobbling. But look at the forecast. Even though it's off the coast now, it's dangerously close to South Carolina, North Carolina, just riding right up the coastline here. And that's where we're going to see the winds pick up, and that's where we're the dangerous storm surge as well.

BERMAN: And the storm, I understand, is spreading out and getting bigger in size. What does that mean for the coast?

GRAHAM: Yes, more impacts. When these things spread out you start to get more impacts. Ingraham, it's interesting the fact that the storm surge has more to do with the size of the storm, just pushing all that water. And also the rainfall, we start seeing rainfall amounts as well. Look at some of the forecasts, 10 to 15 inches right on the coast, and six to 10 inland. But it's the storm surge we worry about so much. These values, some places, five to eight foot. So know your zone, listen to the local officials. And, John, we have to remind people it's not just the barrier island that get this surge. Some places are very vulnerable. North Carolina and South Carolina, even the Georgia coast, some of that surge could push miles inland at times. So know your zone, listen to the local officials.

BERMAN: It's the inner-coastals and the rivers that could be at such great risk from this. What about the strength of the storm? We understand it's still a category two. It's in the open water, a little bit warmer. Where do you see that headed?

GRAHAM: We're really looking at maintaining that strength, staying a hurricane. We're dealing with this. We saw it last week with the hurricane, and all this week, too, the timing on this, 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, so 2:00 p.m. tomorrow right off the South Carolina coast, off the North Carolina coast overnight early Friday morning. We're not getting this out of here until early morning on Saturday. So we're going to be dealing a hurricane for the next several days.

Just think of the duration of this storm and how many people it has affected over time. First it was Puerto Rico there was concern, and then the Bahamas, now the entire Florida coast, and it won't be clear of the Carolinas until Friday. Hurricane Dorian, how difficult has it been for you to keep track of this storm?

GRAHAM: I think the forecast has been on track. There's always challenges with it. That's why we have that cone, you allow for a little bit of movement in different direction. But the duration is just, trying to communicate the impacts from the beginning all the way through this event. Think about every different area has different impacts from the islands to the peninsula, Florida, getting into the Carolinas. Every area has a unique need for the communication of the different impacts, and that's always challenging, because the storm as it evolves, even if the storm is weaker in the center, you still have to communicate, those impacts can still be high. So that becomes the challenge, keeping people ready the entire time.

BERMAN: Ken Graham at the National Hurricane Center, thank you very much.

And I just want to add that every official on the ground we've spoken to at the federal, state, and local levels have all pointed out how incredibly helpful the forecasts have been and how much they depend on you for this information, and they've been able to keep people safe because of all the information. So thank you so much, Ken, for being with us.

All right, we're talking about where the storm is now and where it's headed. There is concern in South Carolina. We're going to have much more of that in a second. But as the sun comes up in the Bahamas this morning, they are now beginning to realize just how much damage was done there, and it is devastating. It is devastating to see the damage.

[08:10:00]

Our Patrick Oppmann and his team, they rode out the storm in Freeport, what was a category five, for more than a day. They have now been out to assess the damage. The sun coming up there, Patrick. Thank you for being with us. Tell us what you see. PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I don't think I've ever been so

excited to see a sunrise in my entire life. I think all the Bahamians here on Grand Bahama are probably feeling the safe, not just because it's beautiful. It means the weather conditions are finally cleared up, John, for help to come in. We have not had any help or resources or contact really with the outside world since this devastating category five storm slammed into us. Now you can see it is perfect weather for flying even if the airport is destroyed. Conditions should be good enough to bring in helicopters.

All the same, though, people here are still reeling from this tragedy that is coming into a better view. Yesterday we had the opportunity to speak with a man who has lost everything.

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HOWARD ARMSTRONG, LOST HIS WIFE AND HOUSE IN STORM: We were doing all right until to 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. And then I kept with her, and she just drowned on me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OPPMANN: His name is Howard Armstrong. He's a local crab fisherman here. He only has the clothes on his back right now. When we left him, he was still waiting for his wife's body, her name is Lynn Armstrong, to be recovered. I was told by one of those boat captains we kept in touch with, they did recover a body late yesterday. We do not know if it was the body of Lynn Armstrong. There are still people out there, if you can believe it, John, waiting for rescue. They are now on day three of hoping help comes to them. You just pray that today is the day because they don't have much time left.

BERMAN: We absolutely pray today is the day. Howard Armstrong's story is heartbreaking, and, Patrick, I think this morning we fear that there are going to be many more stories like that. Thank you very much for helping us understand what's going on out there. Please keep you and your team safe. We'll check back in with you in just a little bit.

Joining me now is Vice Admiral Scott Buschman of the U.S. Coast Guard. He admiral flew over the Bahamas yesterday with the Bahamian prime minister to assess some of the damage. The admiral joins me now. First off, admiral, just tell me what you saw as you were flying over the Bahamas yesterday.

VICE ADMIRAL SCOTT BUSCHMAN, ATLANTIC AREA COMMAND, U.S. COAST GUARD: Good morning. And first off, all our thoughts and prayers are with the people in the Bahamas that went through a truly catastrophic hurricane. I was able to fly with our prime minister, with our charge, the head of the embassy, and the U.S. embassy in the Bahamas, with their minister of public health, with their minister of public works, their director of Emergency Management there in Bahamas. We were able to fly up into the Abacos Island. The two areas hit the most were the Abacos and Grand Bahama Island. We were able to cover almost all of the Abacos, could not get into the Grand Bahama Island because we hit with the outer edge of the hurricane. We saw a number of different things. Abacos Island is a pretty long island. Some areas are not populated, some areas are sparsely populated, some areas have some villages of about a few thousand people. And in the central Abacos we saw extreme destruction, extreme devastation, buildings destroyed, a lot of flooding still persists. In some cases, small villages were almost destroyed.

BERMAN: Small villages almost destroyed, and we still don't really even know in some cases how the people are doing there. As you mentioned, you couldn't fly over Grand Bahama because of the conditions, but the U.S. Coast Guard has been engaged in some of the few rescues that have been able to happen. As of last night I think it was 49 people rescued by the Coast Guard. Can you give an update on the operations now?

BUSCHMAN: That is correct. We've been preparing this with the rest of the federal government for almost two weeks now. So we've had assets prepositioned, helicopters and planes in the Bahamas, in the states ready to support. We started flying about two days ago. Our helicopters got into the Abacos. They did a number of medical evacuations for folks that were injured, some critically injured, some that were without medicine. Yesterday they continued that. We have about five aircraft flying right now. They're out there. They're going to be getting into the Grand Bahama Island today so we'll have a better picture there. They'll continue to evacuate folks, tending to get situational awareness.

In addition to that, we've had some ships coming through, some bad weather here. We have three ships off the Bahamas right now. They're going to be able to provide support for those helicopters. They can fly out there longer and they also be able to get their boats in and maybe get a look at the land and get a better situational awareness of what's going on in Grand Bahama Island and Abaco.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That is all good news.

Again, I should note, I think you're up in Virginia Beach which itself is preparing for possible impact of some kind from Hurricane Dorian. So this is difficult on many levels for you.

Our Patrick Oppmann is saying the sun is shining there. He's hoping to get some contact from the Bahamian government rescue efforts today as well as the U.S. Coast Guard.

Any sense when you'll be able to land planes on those islands?

BUSCHMAN: We're assessing the airports. I flew over a number of airports in Abaco. Unfortunately, the airports are either under water or some looks like you might be able to land a aircraft there but the roads were inaccessible.

So, I think one of the priorities today is getting a real look at those reports, which ones you could land on. We have been able to land our helicopters on some of the land to rescue some of the folks who need to be medically evacuated.

BERMAN: What's your sense of the need there on those islands from what you're hearing from your personnel?

BUSCHMAN: Yes, I think the need is going to be significant. Like I said the population of Abaco is roughly around 20,000. I think Grand Bahamas, about 50,000. We have not had a look into that, but the level of destruction I saw.

I think there's going to be a significant amount of need in terms of medical needs, sheltering needs, security needs, and then food for folks -- food and water for the affected population.

BERMAN: Listen, Admiral Scott Buschman, thank you for being with us this morning. Thank you for the work that you're doing. You've got your work cut out for you the next few days. We'll check back in with you soon. Thank you very much.

All right.

BUSCHMAN: Thank you for having me.

BERMAN: The storm is moving up the coast here.

Thanks, admiral.

The storm moving up the coast here. We're getting the forecast. We now know Charleston, South Carolina, and South Carolina coast could get a direct hit from Hurricane Dorian. And even if it doesn't make a direct hit it could be an impact very dangerous.

Joining me now Jason Patno, a South Carolina emergency management official.

Jason, thank you very much for being with us this morning. We got word of the forecast, a little bit of a westward drift which makes landfall or some kind of dangerous impact more likely. We know a couple hundred thousand people have been moved off the coast.

What's the situation on the ground this morning?

JASON PATNO, CHARLESTON, SC EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DIRECTOR: Sure, you know, we're still preparing for impact from Hurricane Dorian. We're encouraging residents to evacuate.

There is still time to do so this morning. We have shelters open. These are shelters of a last resort.

We've also activated pick up point locations throughout collateral Charleston County. I just want to remind everyone storm surge is extremely deadly in these situations and when you combine storm surge with high tide plus heavy rainfall, it could be potentially deadly for residents.

So, just be mindful it's not necessarily the wind that we're concerned about as much as we are about the storm surge. And, you know, I heard someone wise really say that complacency, you know, can lead to catastrophe. And we just want to ensure just as we're prepared to respond to Dorian that our citizens are as prepared as well.

BERMAN: Yes, it's an important message to be sure. You were talking about the storm surge. What's your area of biggest concern this morning?

PATNO: Again, it's that residents have heeded the governor's evacuation order, that they're prepared. Those that decide not to evacuate have to understand that if they call for emergency assistance, there may come a time when first responders can't reach them.

BERMAN: Indeed. Once the storm really starts bearing down, 50-mile an hour winds or higher, very hard for emergency crews to get out safety.

I understand the highway, just the counterflow situation to help people get out. How much longer will that be in effect?

PATNO: We've been told by the South Carolina Department of Transportation that the reversal will be lifted by noon today.

BERMAN: So really if you want to get out, do it now. You've got about until noon. After that, people need to start making plans to ride it out where they are to be sure.

And how about the numbers? Do you feel -- how many people first of all do you think have moved off the coast? I heard 200,000 earlier today.

PATNO: I don't have numbers at this time. That's the only way we can assure for the safety of all our residents is that they evacuate, relocate to areas that are safer that aren't going to be directly impacted by the hurricane.

[08:20:00]

You know, we know we've been spared the last few years during storms and we faced those same situations, but every year is different. And we just want to make sure that everyone is doing everything they possibly can just as we are to ensure for their safety.

BERMAN: We hear about Charleston Harbor and the possibility for storm surge there. What's the limit? How much surge can you take before it gets very dangerous?

PATNO: You know, when you combine again that storm surge with high tides and then the heavy rainfall, we have historically flooding, likely flooded and they refer to this country as low country for a reason. And it could create for a very dangerous situation if residents are unprepared.

BERMAN: And I know that's why you're warning them be careful. Get out now. If you're going to get out, you have until about noon.

Jason Patno, thank you very much for being with us this morning. I appreciate it.

PATNO: Thank you for having me.

BERMAN: So, Alisyn, here in Daytona, it's been raining intermittently throughout the day, sometimes very hard. You can see the seas behind me. That's going to be some -- I mean, Hurricane Dorian has really caused havoc all along the beaches here and this is the way it's going to be up the coast of Florida into South Carolina until Friday, Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CN ANCHOR: Yes, things are actually getting more dangerous for different areas. So, John, thank you very much for all the great reporting you've been doing on the ground for us.

And we want to let you know for more information on how you can help the nonprofits support the victims of Hurricane Dorian that you have heard tell their, some of their heartfelt stories here this morning, you can go to CNN.com/impact. They obviously need all of our help today.

So things are getting more dangerous as you just heard for Charleston, South Carolina. We're following the latest track all morning.

Stay with us.

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[08:25:52]

BERMAN: All right, welcome back. I'm John Berman in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Hurricane Dorian is churning out in the ocean behind me. You can see the force of this storm. The sea is just kicking. And they've been that way for a day, and I think they will continue for some time as the storm moves up the coast.

The news this morning is Hurricane Dorian is on the move, finally on the move, moving steadily up the Florida peninsula.

There is a sense of cautious optimism from where I am south this morning that the worst of it, that they have been spared the worst of Hurricane Dorian. There have been several thousand power outages, nothing too horrible.

But while there might be optimism to the south, in that direction to the north, I think there is increasing concern this morning, that's because the storm has drifted a little bit west. Still in the predicted path but very close to the coast as it reaches South Carolina perhaps making landfall.

And it doesn't have to make landfall to be very danger there. There's enormous concern about storm surge there in the low country. There have been evacuations. Several people have moved off the coast inland because there's so much concern about this storm, and landfall is still very, very possible there. That would happen tomorrow, so we'll be watching this storm very

closely for some time. That's where it's going, where it's already been, so much damage. We are getting a sense of the impact in the Bahamas. We know of seven fatalities so far, but that number could rise and could rise significantly.

Our Patrick Oppmann and his team have been on the ground. They've been speaking with people. There are so many stories of people who have loved ones who are missing or people who have love one that they saw pass during the storm and there just hasn't been a chance yet for the officials there to get a true sense of how many lives were lost.

The sun is shining there this morning, not here but in the Bahamas, yes, and we are hopeful rescue crews can get on the ground -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: John, the video from the Bahamas, from Abaco Island is just shock. There's not a single patch of land there that seems it's survived. Homes are ruined, cars are ruined and of course you've heard these heartbreaking stories of people who have lost their lives.

And what Patrick Oppmann was saying where he was, he doesn't think the death toll has been counted there yet.

So, obviously, we're waiting for crews to get there today and give us a real assessment of the damage that's happened there in the Bahamas and, of course, you're the lucky one. Even we're seeing you in the thick of it there, people in Daytona Beach are the lucky ones, and we're being told by all the watchers in Charleston, South Carolina, things are looking more dangerous this hour. So, we'll keep everybody focused on all of that.

John, we'll be back to you in a moment.

But we do have some other breaking news. Because there's been this raucous scene inside the British House of Commons this morning, that's where Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced his opposition leaders after suffering a humiliating defeat during his first key Brexit vote.

CNN's Nic Robertson has been watching all this for us. He's live in London.

What's been happening today, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Alisyn, today is the prime minister's first question time for Boris Johnson, and it's been a trial by fire for him. He's come out punching, accusing the opposition currently moving to pass a law that will block his Brexit plans, that will block a no-deal Brexit and ask him to go to the European Union to ask for an extension for negotiations.

He's come out firing saying, I'm making progress on my negotiations, accusing the opposition of essentially writing up what he calls a surrender bill, surrendering to the European Union. He said if this bill is passed it essentially prevents him from negotiating properly with the European Union because he can no longer threaten them with a no deal. This bill is going to very likely be passed into law later today.

It's very likely to be passed because we saw that vote last night where Boris Johnson lost by.

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