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Dorian Batters South Carolina with Heavy Rain, Winds, Floods, Storm Surge; Mayor Will Haynie, Mt. Pleasant, SC, Discusses Effects from Hurricane Dorian, Flooding, Winds, Rain, Storm Surge; Rescue Operations Ramp Up in Devastated Bahamas; Trump Defends Presenting Doctored Hurricane Map. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 5, 2019 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining us.

Hurricane Dorian is now thrashing the Carolina coast. Land fall is possible in the coming hours. The storm regained strength overnight and has been whipping Charleston, South Carolina, all morning long as the storm makes a slow march north. Tornadoes/flooding have already been reported.

Power outages are also sweeping through parts of South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina. Rain and winds are intensifying. The big concern now is the storm surge as high tide is soon going to be setting in.

We have a new update just in from the National Hurricane Center. We want to get that to you.

And we're also getting new reports this hour on the desperate search- and-rescue operation under way in the Bahamas. Rescue crews and reporters, quite frankly, are finally able to access some of the most hard-hit areas. The destruction immense. The images are just breathtaking. The death toll from Dorian now stands at 20. Again, that is expected to rise. We're on the ground in the Bahamas for you this hour. We'll bring you that in a second.

I first want to get to my colleague, Erica Hill, in Charleston, South Carolina. She, thankfully, will be joining us throughout the hour.

Erica, it's really starting to set in. We were talking before the break, you're starting to get it.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: We're certainly feeling it. It really feels like, Kate, over the last, I would say, half an hour to an hour, the winds have started to pick up and stay more consistent from what we're feeling. You can feel it when it pushes the rain into you. It's more intense. The raindrops feel more like needles than just a couple of hours ago. You mentioned that new update. We'll get more on that in a minute.

But I want to point out it is now a category 2 storm. That does not mean that anyone is out of the woods. That is still an incredibly powerful storm. As it's making its way closer to the coast, there's concern about landfall.

Here in Charleston, what we're looking at is flooding. We have a flash flood warning in effect. It's from 1:15 today. It was recently for Charleston, north Charleston and Mt. Pleasant.

The reason we're looking so closely at flooding is because of the timing and the extent of the water here. It's the triple threat of the high tides, the tides expected to peak at 2:00 p.m., forecast to peak at 9.5 feet. That's the tide.

Add to that the storm surge and the heavy rains we've been seeing from last night that will continue well into today. You can understand that when all of these three things happen at once, there's nowhere for the water to go. There are reports of flooded streets.

As we get a closer look at where the storm is tracking, what we can expect, I want to turn to Allison Chinchar in the CNN Weather Center.

Allison, I know you have more on the recent update. Downgraded to a category 2. But nothing to sneeze at and shouldn't be ignored.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: No. Especially when you consider how little the winds actually dropped. We only went from 115 to 110 miles per hour, a difference of five miles per hour. But that threshold between a category 2 and 3 falls within that. That's why you see it go down to a category 2.

Again, it's a difference of five miles per hours. Trust me, 110 miles per hour is just as capable as 115. It can knock down trees, power lines, all of those issues. So, again, this is still a very serious storm.

Forward movement, still north, northeast at eight miles per hour. It is getting so close to land. When we say it, we mean the center of circulation, which is what they would deem a technical landfall.

So the question is, does it make landfall today in South Carolina or do we have to wait until tomorrow when it crosses over North Carolina before we see a technical landfall declared.

Here's a look at the brand-new track that just came in at the top of the 11:00 hour. Again, they have pushed these products back down to a category 2 since the storm weakened some.

But again, all throughout the day tomorrow, we still expect it to maintain the category 2 strength. So this isn't necessarily going to be a huge trend where we're dropping that wind speed every couple of hours. It's really going to hold its own for at least the next 12 to 24 hours. Tornadoes are one of the growing concerns for this area today. We're

talking areas of North and South Carolina. A tornado watch in effect through the afternoon hours. We've already had over a dozen tornado warnings so far today.

Here's a look at that storm. There's the center of that circulation on radar. You can see it's starting to slide north. But it's these outer bands starting to come ashore is where the concern lies. Especially with the potential for tornadoes.


We have two tornado warnings existing right now. Again, coming off of some of the feeder bands onshore. That's what's bringing the chance for not only tornadoes but also waterspouts and damaging winds.

Here's a look at the map. It includes states like Virginia, North and South Carolina. The orange area here, that's a level 3 out of 5 risk for the severe storms and the tornados.

But that's not it. Again, heavy rainfall is also going to be a major concern here. Widespread amounts, stretching from portions of Virginia all the way down to South Carolina about four to six inches.

But you do have some of those areas, especially, they get caught up in the training rain band or especially along the coast where eight, 10, 12 inches is not out of the question to get out of this in addition to the storm surge.

Again, 10 or 12 inches of rain enough would cause plenty of flooding. But you also have to worry about the storm surge. Here you can see, places like Myrtle Beach, Wilmington, Hatteras in the four to seven- foot range. The five to eight-foot range is the area extending from Charleston, Erica, up to Myrtle Beach.

It's really a multifaceted layer of impacts here where you have the rain, the storm surge, the gusty winds, as well as the potential for tornadoes.

HILL: All of that coming together.

Allison, appreciate the update. Also good to know what's coming our way in Charleston.

Brian Todd is also here in Charleston. He's in the historic downtown district.

Brian, you're seeing flooding. I know you've been in touch with the mayor's office, too, and they were able to give you a sense of what they're finding out there as they're assessing the state of the city.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are, Erica. They're saying the flooding is getting worse. The road closures are increasing. Right now, the figure we have from them is 85 road closures in and around the Charleston area, 26 of those are flood-related. This is one of them. This is Ashley Avenue, right off the Ashley

River, only about a block or so away. The storm surge pushing the water on to this road.

Come on over here. I'll show you these houses are getting threatened here with the flood waters rising. It's only going to get worse in the next couple of hours.

I heard you mentioning high tide coming here between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m. That means the storm surge, the high tide is going to push water up. The rain, we're told, is going to increase here.

And so this house, this house over here, a lady came out of that house right there and I asked how worried she was about it coming to her door. She's very, very worried about it. She's monitoring it.

Some of the people who stayed in their houses. I know a gentleman in this house stayed. He's been monitoring that to see how close the water is to his front door. But he's got some elevation. He could be OK. But again, that storm surge, at high tide, between 1:00 and 2:00, is going to flood these streets even more.

We've got another figure from the mayor's office of 115 downed trees. That number is clearly going to increase. They're getting some information to us about downed power lines.

The lady here, you can see right there, she actually came out of her house and looking down the street trying to assess things here. She told us she's got no power. You can see her dog there just by the door. The dog staying on high ground there.

So, yes, clearly this city is going through some of the worst flooding that it's going to endure during the storm right now. And it's only going to get worse in the next couple of hours, Erica.

We're going to roam around and see where the storm surge pushes in from the Ashley River over here and some of the low-lying areas.

We talk about just how much this city has endured over the past four years. They've had three major hurricanes impact this area with flooding like this one. Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Irma in 2017. Now this.

And an official in the mayor's office told me that doesn't even count a thousand-year flood event in 2015. You've got major impacts over the past four years. The city is undergoing a major drainage project. But that takes several years to complete. This is what that project will address in the next few years -- Erica?

HILL: A lot of people looked at that and the mayor addressing that the last couple of days as well.

Brian, thank you.

The mayor also pointing out to us, if you had flooding during this area during Irma and Matthew, that was a perfect reason for you to evacuate yesterday. He is hopeful that a lot of people heeded that evacuation order.

Also joining us now is the mayor of Mt. Pleasant, which is just a short drive from where I am, Will Haynie.

I know, sir, that you are under this extended flash-flood warning as well. Can you give us a sense of what are your crews finding who are out and about? What is the state right now in Mt. Pleasant?

MAYOR WILL HAYNIE, MT. PLEASANT, SOUTH CAROLINA (via telephone): Sure, Erica. Thank you very much.

What we're getting right now is downed trees. There are about a dozen trees that are down and they cannot be touched right now because they are entangled in power lines.

This situation not only from the storm, but from downed power lines and trees is life-threatening. We urge everyone to please stay indoors and not go near any downed trees or power lines when the storm does pass until those situations are addressed.


HILL: And obviously, that's also a major concern with flooded streets. When you can't see what's in them.

The National Weather Service posting that the 24-hour rainfall record was at a park in Mt. Pleasant, more than seven inches. What are you seeing in terms of flooding?

HAYNIE: We have come out a little better on the flooding than was predicted. Although we always prepare for the worst.

Some of the areas that normally have tidal flooding, like Long Point Road near Boon Hall Plantation, it ended up not having to be closed overnight, which we anticipated it would. The anticipated 10-foot- plus tide only came in at seven-plus feet at least in the Shim Creek area where there's flooding normally. That was due to the direction of the winds pushing water away.

Now, as you're probably seeing where you are, the winds have shifted around to the west over here and we're getting tree fall and limb fall from an entirely different direction than we did when the other edge of the storm came through earlier.

HILL: We know about restrictions and we talk about this. It's important to get the message out during storms that winds hit at a certain speed, it's not safe for anybody to be on the roads. That includes first responders. That's why we want people out. That's why we want people to stay in their homes to listen to evacuation orders.

Given that, has it been safe -- I know you're talking about the downed trees that you're learning about. Even to get out there and assess the damage, these gusts that we're feeling, that puts limitations on you, and especially knowing that we have a few more hours of this to come. HAYNIE: It does. And we are not putting our damage assessment teams

out yet. They are staffed and equipped and ready to go. But until the wind subsides they will not be out.

Erica, I wanted to mention, we had a house fire earlier, overnight, that required transportation of two victims. We have a mutual aid agreement with the city of Charleston. But because of the wind conditions, their fire truck could not come over the Ravenell Bridge to back us up, which is a standard practice.

The situation remains. Do not be on the bridges and do not be out unless it's absolutely necessary. It's kind of hard in these conditions to imagine why that would be.

HILL: I have to agree with you. I can't imagine why anyone would have to be out right now.

Mayor, we appreciate you taking the time. We know it's a busy day for you. We'll continue to check in with you. Hopefully, we'll get a sense when the crews can get out there.

Mayor Will Haynie joining us from Mt. Pleasant.

So, Kate, still very active as you see here. And as we heard from Allison with the most recent update in the Weather Center. Hopefully, what we heard from the mayor, he asks that the city become a ghost town. He said, earlier on CNN, that's pretty much what he and his team have seen. In a perfect world, people heeded the warnings and evacuated.

BOLDUAN: Hope that is good news there. Much more to come throughout the hour.

Erica, thank you so much for sticking it out. Really appreciate having you there.

We'll get back to Erica in just a moment.

We'll have more of our live coverage of Hurricane Dorian as it batters the coast of the Carolinas. Right now, flooding, as we've been discussing, a big concern. And a big question: Where is the eyewall going to make land if it does? That is coming up.

Plus this: Who doctored this hurricane map? Why did the president present it in the Oval Office? And why can't he get off this? Why is he so defensive about this?

We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: We're keeping close watch on the Carolinas as Hurricane Dorian makes its slow march north. But the disaster that it left behind in the Bahamas is really just now coming into full view. The island of Grand Bahama was especially hard hit by Dorian as we've

been discussing over the last couple of days. The only airport in its main city of Freeport we knew had been flooded. We've been showing that video.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann, he made it there to see what the storm left behind and it is nothing short of breathtaking. He sent in this report.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We saw airplanes coming over this island along with helicopters. The first signs of any organized search-and-rescue effort. Any effort to bring in help from outside of this island.

We thought perhaps that meant the airport here was functional or had reopened. So we went to the airport and what we found was total devastation. We are on the runway at the Freeport airport. It has been inaccessible for days. There was a river between the rest of the city and this airport. It was completely underwater. It looked like the waves were crashing. Waves were crashing against this airport.

Look how destroyed it is right now. Just about every side, eight feet to 10 feet up, has been leveled, ripped in, torn in. Look at it now. I don't recognize it. There's not a wall standing.


You think about the need this island has right now for a functioning airport to get injured people out, to get supplies in this airport right now. It's completely destroyed. I've never seen anything like it in my life. This is complete and utter devastation like I've never seen.

Jose is going to point the camera over here. That's a wheel. This is the underside of a plane. This is what's left of the wing. You think of the force required to throw a plane from the runway into a terminal. If anybody was here, I don't know how they would have survived.

I have seen a lot of damage on this island. This is the absolute most devastating area I have seen so far. It will be impossible for anybody who is injured or just wants to get off the island to leave from here. Aid will not be able to come into this part of the airport, into this airport at all because it's a debris field now.

So if help is going to come, it's going to have to come through some other way, boats, another airfield, but this is really the only -- this is the only airfield for this island. It is in utter ruins.

So that terminal that we gained access to was one of the domestic terminals. We tried to visit two other terminals that were still standing but had been in floodwaters for days. At one of the terminals, which is for flights to and from the United States, we were told that it was simply too dangerous to enter. That nobody had been in there to do a damage assessment just yet. We looked inside and we could see tremendous damage from the days of flooding.

No one has begun work so far to clear the runway, and that debris will keep flights from landing at this airport, flights that could be carrying vital aid.

Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Freeport, the Bahamas.


BOLDUAN: That is just remarkable what he saw there. We're going to get back to Patrick and the Bahamas in just a moment.

Coming up for us, though, with a hurricane bearing down on the United States now, the president of the United States seems obsessed not with his current track, but with his prediction from days ago that it would hit the state of Alabama. So much so, that he even offered what appeared to be a doctored map to make his point. Who drew that black loop and why won't he drop this? Hear what the White House is saying, next.



BOLDUAN: As a category 2 hurricane is bearing down on the east coast threatening South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia right now, President Trump is fixated on a single mistake that he made in talking about the forecast. Not just fixated, trying to alter reality, it appears, rather than admit a mistake or simply drop it.

Look at this. This is the president, bringing in the press yesterday to the Oval Office to display a NOAA hurricane forecast that clearly appeared to be doctored, drawn on with a black sharpie to show possible storm impact to Alabama.

Here's what the president said when he was asked about that.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The map that you drew today, looked like it was drawn with a sharpie.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know. I don't know. I don't know.


BOLDUAN: I don't know. This started four days ago, Sunday, when the president erroneously tweeted that Alabama could be hit.

Despite the fact that Alabama hasn't been in the threat zone since Thursday. Despite the fact he declared he was getting hourly updates on the storm while golfing over the weekend. And despite the fact that the National Weather Service was forced to correct the president tweeting this, "Alabama will not see impacts from Hurricane Dorian. We repeat, no impact from Hurricane Dorian will be felt across Alabama."

Why did they do that? Because accuracy is important when talking about a potential emergency situation like a hurricane, of course. What has the president doing here?

To the White House we go and CNN's Sarah Westwood.

Sarah, what are they saying about this today?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, President Trump is defiant in the face of criticism that he's continuing to wrongly include Alabama in predictions of Hurricane Dorian's path.

He's been tweeting last night into today about this map stuff this morning. Also going after the press for its coverage of this map incident, writing, "Alabama was going to be hit or grazed and then Hurricane Dorian took a different path, up along the east coast. The fake news knows this very well. That's why they're the fake news."

Now earlier maps did show Hurricane Dorian hitting more of Florida and Georgia. As you mentioned, even the National Weather Service disputed that Alabama was ever at significant risk.

[11:29:52] But, Kate, here's how the White House is explaining this. They say that prior to the cameras being let into the Oval Office for this briefing yesterday, aides were discussing how much worse the storm could have been. Then to emphasize their point, one of the officials, according to the White House, picked up a black marker and drew that line around the southern part of Alabama. One White House official describing this whole incident as innocuous.