Return to Transcripts main page


Special Coverage of Hurricane Dorian; President Trump Gives Incorrect Warning About Alabama. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 5, 2019 - 14:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: And this is CNN's Special Coverage of Hurricane Dorian. The deadly storm has devastated the Bahamas and we still do not know the complete death toll there.

At this moment, the hurricane is lashing the Carolinas with high winds and torrential rains. This is now a Category 2 Hurricane. Dorian's eyewall is just off of South Carolina's Eastern Coast and it is expected to move over land later today and tonight.

Officials say, the storm surge could be as high as eight feet in some parts of the state and that is what they say will be life-threatening for anyone who is still in that area as you can see on your screen.

Here's the damage just outside of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. A tornado touched down there at 4:30 this morning. You can see that it uprooted trees, it ripped the roof off of this home on your screen. One neighbor said it sounded like a freight train coming through.

And this was the startling scene seen just a few hours ago on the streets of Charleston, South Carolina, you can see downed power lines there. They explode after falling into the water below. About a quarter million homes in South Carolina are without power. More than half of those are in Charleston County.

So let's go now to Charleston, and to CNN's Brian Todd. Brian, I know that there have been transformers exploding around you and that can be really scary to witness.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It can be Alisyn. It is still a danger at this hour. We rolled up on that couple of hours ago and it was a pretty hairy experience. But we of course keep safe distances away from it.

But some other people, we had actually warned to get out of that general area and not to go down that street. We were steering people who were walking around there and driving around there to get away from that area.

As you can see, now we're getting hit up with another burst of wind and rain. This is a particularly dangerous time period here during the day. This is high tide. We're getting towards the end of high tide here. But you've got the triple whammy, Alisyn, of high tide, storm surge here on a street like this, and the pounding rain here that we've been taking pretty much all day long. You can see how badly flooded this street is. It's coming up to my knees and even past it down here.

The latest information we have from the Mayor's Office, they have 110 road closures all around the Charleston area. They have 50 traffic lights out and they have 164 trees down. I'm going to show you one of those. This house and others like it, threatened here by this -- by the high tide and the storm surge as it creeps up on this house.

I'm going to ask our photojournalist, Harlan Schmidt to pan down here and maybe zoom down to that tree. That tree fell right on a power line and it is menacing that area down there. If anybody is walking around there, they're in some serious danger.

That large tree is leaning against the power line, and you can see beyond, there's a power pole that is in a pretty precarious position. That thing could tip over at any minute.

So that's just some of what we're looking at here in Charleston. It's been again, pounding rain, all day long. They did have, according to the Governor's Office a couple of days ago, or actually yesterday, they said more than 360 people evacuated from the Carolina coastline areas. But 830,000 people are under mandatory evacuation orders. So less than half got out.

We did talk to a lot of people who are here, hunkering down; some of them venturing out. They are told not to do that by local officials. But a lot of people here say that, you know, they just want to be close to their homes in case there's major damage.

One refrain that we always hear in these hurricane situations is why people don't want to evacuate is they're concerned that they're going to get too far away from their homes, and that they will not be able to get access to their homes; when they try to return, it will take too long.

So you know, again, we are just getting through the high tide period here, a particularly dangerous time of the day here for Charleston. These people just kind of waiting to see when this is going to end -- the third major hurricane, Alisyn to impact this area in the last three years. These people say they can't take it much longer.

CAMEROTA: I mean, listen Brian, we all understand the sentiment of not wanting to leave all of your valuables in your home behind. But you're just right in the thick of it, and it's a really scary time. You never know which one of those trees is going to come down or those power lines. And of course, the storm surge. So thank you very much. We'll check back with you.

All right, let's get right to the CNN Weather Center now because we want to bring in meteorologist, Tom Sater for more on Dorian's path.

So Tom, where is the hurricane right now? Where is it headed?

TOM SATER, METEOROLOGIST: Well, right now Alisyn, it is about 55 miles east of Charleston. We are now at high tide, which is kind of a good thing for the Charleston Harbor. The forecast called for a water level in the harbor to be just underneath what Hurricane Hugo produced in 1989. That was about 12 and a half feet, they were looking at 10.3.

But because it is high tide and we've missed now that wall of water moving in when it's circulating north of that eye, that's some good news. So that forecast is off about three feet. It doesn't mean there's not massive flooding and power outages. But now we're starting to see the back edge of those winds, it may help that harbor and withdraw some of that, help that water to recede from that entire region in that area.


SATER: However, I'm a little concerned now about the curvature of the coastline for South Carolina and North Carolina because of the angle of approach, not just with the winds, but the storm surge coming into that angle. So both of these areas are going to be quite a problem, I think in the hours ahead.

We're looking at these winds that continue through the afternoon, through the night time period until tomorrow morning. Tornado watch has been a big factor. We didn't have that, I thought we would in Florida. But the impacts we're seeing now from Dorian really creating more of a problem for not just a coastline, but inland, something we didn't have inland in Florida even though we had a couple of fatalities.

The eyewall now making its way out, but the winds -- the hurricane force winds -- extend outward 60 miles. So even though it's 125 miles now toward Wilmington, the tropical storm force winds, Alisyn, go out 195. So don't pay attention that this is a Category 2. There's a lot of really estate, of course, along that coastline. But the tornadoes we've seen over a dozen warnings, there's one now just south of Raleigh, that's going to continue to be a problem.

The winds, right now, 52 mile per hour gusts, but we're going to be looking at winds picking up into the coastline. Wilmington, 90 miles per hour. That's well into hurricane strength getting close to Category 2 in some areas, especially when we get closer to Morehead City, Cape Lookout here at 112.

So we're into this for a while, but that surge, the tornado threat and of course the heavy rain, we even talk about that dropping a foot to maybe 15 inches in some areas is going to be a cause of concern for first responders when that really starts to invade some homes.

CAMEROTA: For sure. We're going to talk about that in a second. Tom Sater, thank you very much. So joining us now by phone is Captain John Reed. He is the Charleston Sector Commander for the Coast Guard.

So his Command Post is based in Charleston, but it includes the entire coast of Georgia and South Carolina. So Captain, thank you so much. I know you're busy. Tell us what you're experiencing right now.

CAPT. JOHN REED, CHARLESTON SECTOR COMMANDER, COAST GUARD (via phone): Thank you, Alisyn. The Coast Guard's top priority at this hour in the region is to restore lifesaving capability. We're able to do that in some of our stations in southern Georgia, and we will be working our way up afterwards.

Other than that, the Coast Guard is repositioning boats and aircraft to optimize our response posture should the need arise. We will continue to move these response assets north following the wake of Dorian. This includes the five shallow water response teams from across the East Coast who have been working their way up from Florida as Dorian has and they'll be ready to move into North Carolina should the need arise.

CAMEROTA: So, Captain --

REED: As Dorian moves along the south -- go ahead.

CAMEROTA: Sorry. Sorry to interrupt, Captain. But just to be clear, are you able to conduct any rescues at this point or no? Is everyone hunkering down?

REED: As conditions permit in Georgia, we are able to conduct rescues. We have boats out on the water. And we're nearing operational limitations here in Charleston. But we will be able to get a boat out on the water here soon, at least inside the harbor.

CAMEROTA: Can you tell us how many rescues you've conducted?

REED: So we have conducted no rescues to date or at this time. The people have heeded the warnings to remain off the water, and we're very grateful for that. And that regarding that safety if there is issues of people being in the water, we need them to call 911 or use a VHF FM radio to make that distress call. Avoid using social media, if at all possible.

The dangerous storm continues to knock down trees and power lines, it's already been reported, but remain sheltered in place and avoid driving until evacuations are lifted as you risk your own safety and you hamper the efforts of those who are out to clear the road.

CAMEROTA: Captain, just one more point on what you just mentioned. Are people just relying on social media to get help if they're in a life-threatening situation rather than calling 911?

REED: It has happened in the past and it has caused a backup or slowed a response in other storms in previous and we've learned that through a couple of years' worth of responses.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, that's a new phenomenon. And that's one that you all don't like. So yes, we need to get the word out, 911 is your best friend. Of course, if you haven't evacuated at some point, even 911 can't help you, but they can help a lot better than Twitter or social media can at the moment. So Captain John Reed, thank you for all you're doing. Thank you for taking the time to update us.

REED: Thank you very much, Alisyn. CAMEROTA: Okay, so Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is in the thick of

Hurricane Dorian. At this very moment, Myrtle Beach is experiencing tropical storm force winds. Hurricane force winds are set to arrive later this afternoon. And one of the biggest threats of course, is what all the experts keep warning everyone about and that's these this life-threatening storm surge that could reach eight feet high.

Another major concern are possible tornadoes, so there's video out of North Myrtle Beach today and it shows what appears to be a fast moving tornado. As you can see on the right side of your screen there, it has ominous black clouds of course.

A city spokesman says the officials believe one or more suspected tornadoes today damaged several family homes. No injuries were reported, but many residents are riding all of this out in shelters. So let's go to CNS Martin Savidge. He is in Myrtle Beach for us. So, what's happening at your location right now, Martin?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, these are going to be the next critical hours for Myrtle Beach here as it suffers under what you can see as a torrential downpour.

Now, we've got well over six to seven inches of rain and that's just for starters and then on top of that, what they're really concerned about here is the storm surge. This is the area that is forecast to get perhaps the largest of that surge anywhere from five to eight feet.

We've just passed high tide. I'm standing on was called the grand scram. This is a stretch of beach here, it goes for 60 miles, but already the surf has come up so high that in most areas along the beach here, you can't tell where the water ends and the beach begins. It's pretty much all one are now as the ocean has made its way on shore.

The other problem we had earlier this morning were those spin off tornadoes, almost every half hour, we were getting alerts of tornadoes that were in the area.

These were coming from the outer bands. They're not the kind of tornadoes you might expect out say in Kansas or Oklahoma, they are still very much a danger to the public.

In fact, here's some sound from a man who witnessed or heard one go by.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was around 4:00 or 4:14 this morning, we just heard the loud rumbling noise, kind of sounds like a train in a sense and I just went to the window to see what was going on. There was a lot of wind, and the trees were about sideways.

We were lucky we didn't have any damage. I know we lost a few shingles, but that's about all.


SAVIDGE: Now, there is some damage to report. Trees have been brought down. There have been roof damage and we've also been told of mobile homes that have been destroyed. And there are a number of confirmed tornadoes according to official in this area.

That threat seems to be diminishing, but now, just the tropical storm force winds, maybe hurricane force storm winds later on this afternoon. And of course here, the fear is the tide and the storm surge. With debris, it could act as a battering ram, ripping up the piers of the boardwalks and any structures along the ocean front here -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Martin, I know you can't see this, but we've had a split screen while you've been talking of someone who I guess wanted to get a closer view of the waves this morning and they drove their SUV or their Jeep down to the beach, and the waves are about to lift this SUV off the beach and take it away.

I mean, we should tell everybody that the driver got out safely. But it just shows the power and strength and force of these waves that you're talking about, Martin, because that vehicle is about to go into the ocean. So Martin, thank you very much. Please, stay safe. We will check back with you, of course.

Okay now to the Bahamas. Our CNN Reporter, Paula Newton just returned from spending the night on one of the hardest hit islands, so here is what she witnessed.


SHERRIE ROBERTS, SURVIVED HURRICANE DORIAN: Words can't describe it. I don't wish it on nobody. No amount of words can describe it. They could never categorize this.




CAMEROTA: Generational devastation -- those are the words the Prime Minister of the Bahamas is using to describe the catastrophic damage to his Island.

CNN just captured these aerial images that are on your screen right now. There's just damage as far as the eye can see. There's not a square inch there that is untouched from roofs to boats to the piers.

The U.S. Coast Guard says they've rescued at least 135 people and a handful of pets. But the search and rescue missions are ongoing. The death toll in the Bahamas at the moment is 20 people. But that's expected to rise as the dented the damage becomes more clear.

So CNN's Paula Newton is in Nassau. That's the capital of the Bahamas and she spent the night in one of the hardest hit communities. Here is Paula moments ago for us.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This storm defy description. They're telling us, look, and they want you to know, as bad as the pictures are, they went through the equivalent of a 36-hour horror movie.

They were dodging projectiles flying out of the sky from debris in people's homes. They were pulling mattresses off of their beds to hold in doors and windows and garages that were coming over on top of them.

They cannot even describe what they have been through.


ROBERTS: I am from Tampa. We are Bahamian. I just want to let my family in the States know that we're okay.

NEWTON: I am so sorry.

ROBERTS: We thank God, we're alive. It's not just us, everybody is hurting. We're not any worse than anybody else. Everybody is hurting and we thank God for life. We've got each other. We thank God we're alive. God is good, through it all. God is good.


NEWTON: And you were with your family when you went through the storm?

ROBERTS: Yes. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to be okay.


NEWTON: You have children?

ROBERTS: Yes, we will be okay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will be okay.

ROBERTS: We will.

NEWTON: You had children here with you?

ROBERTS: My grandson.

NEWTON: I see. All right.

ROBERTS: My grandson and my husband.

NEWTON: Hi, there.

ROBERTS: My daughter is --

NEWTON: I think I met your daughter, Christine.

ROBERTS: Yes, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You remember names good.

NEWTON: What was it like though to ride out the storm? I mean, what --

ROBERTS: Words can't describe it. I don't wish it on nobody. No amount of words can describe it. They could never categorize this. Never.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My grandfather ran out in the middle of --

ROBERTS: It was like an atomic bomb went off. It just --

NATHAN SWEETIE, SURVIVED THE HURRICANE: My grandfather ran out in the middle of the hurricane -- went on. Because the roof of the house, water was leaking in and he ran out in the middle of hurricane about 220 gust of winds. He came out and he saved us. He had to go underneath the house, get a ladder and he got us to go up inside the middle of the house. It was crazy.

I don't know how we made it. Every one of us was screaming, telling him to come back inside. But I mean, if it wasn't for him, the whole house probably would have gone down.

ROBERTS: But the community has come together, and families have taken in other families. Everybody has been awesome. I mean, everybody has come together. Like I said, we're all --

NEWTON: I can tell.

ROBERTS: We're all hurting. It's not just us -- we're all hurting. And we can't thank you all enough for getting the word out for us, to hear our voices. And we thank you for it.


NEWTON: I spoke to one man who was basically on his kitchen cupboards. He was basically had this much room to breathe between the ceiling and his kitchen cupboards. He went under. His son pulled him up, and he said to himself, "I found the strength. Because I didn't want my son to see me die that way."

When the eye finally went over them, they swam and then walked to other safe and higher ground. Those are the kinds of stories coming out from everywhere.

They didn't even know why the storm was still there. This storm lasted at least double the time that a normal storm would hold, and they're wondering what's happening?

Every time a new gust of wind would come up or a thunderstorm would come up until the sun started shining yesterday. They had no idea. They didn't know if they were in for another barrage of hell.

And for that reason, they are now slowly starting to rebuild a little bit of communication. The satellite phones that are on those islands are lifelines right now. Everyone is spreading the word, "Your mom is okay." "Your dad is okay." "Your uncle is okay." "Your niece is okay." "I found these people." "This person was medevac-ed out." And it's all from word of mouth.

You know, we were on Man-O-War and my thanks to those people, they have no idea that -- they can't hear me obviously now, they don't have communication, but for all the friends and family that know those people in Man-O-War, our thanks go out to them.

They are doing everything they can. They are resourceful, self- reliant people, many of them born on an island two and a half miles long. It is dark. We could see the stars last night and that was a relief. You hear the hum of one or two generators. They are all pulling together.

We were in the home of Angel and Marcia Cruz. You know, we slept on mattresses that had been up against the window to save their children, Ariana and Channing. They couldn't be more lovely.

They started to take food out of the refrigerator and just cook it up because that's what we all know we do when the power goes out, just trying to get through from day-to-day, but now the shock is starting to set in.


CAMEROTA: Our thanks of course to Paula Newton for showing us the shock of that area. All right, we will go back to Charleston where you can see flooding and live wires that are actually setting fires there in the street.

Plus with rescue still underway, President Trump defends presenting a doctored map to back up his false claim about the storm's trajectory.



CAMEROTA: All right, today, it is being called map-gate or Sharpie- gate. Call it whatever you want, but it has been theater of the absurd at the White House this week as the deadly hurricane has threatened the southeast.

I'm sure by now you've seen this doctored map that the President tried to pass off as official from the Oval Office. I don't think I'm the only one who can see that black magic marker drawn on that map in a circle there. That circle was not part of the original official projection.

And we now know that that is because, well, you can see, the very same map there on the split screen. That's the real map that was used last Thursday during the briefing for President Trump, then for some reason, after his official briefing, President Trump wanted to include Alabama in the danger zone. But since it was not in the danger zone, someone in the White House decided to simply pretend it could have been.

President Trump has given that incorrect warning about Alabama on at least five separate occasions starting Sunday.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It may get to a little piece of a great place, it is called Alabama and Alabama could even be in for at least some very strong winds.


CAMEROTA: The National Weather Service in Alabama tried to set the record straight and calm any fears stating Alabama.