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Hurricane Dorian Batters Southeast U.S. Coast; Freeport Airport Damage Breathtaking; Hurricane Dorian Again A Category 3 Storm; U.K. Prime Minister Hit With String Of Parliamentary Defeats; Johnson To Meet With U.S. V.P. Pence In Coming Hours; Hurricane Dorian Batters Southeast U.S. Coast; Search and Rescue Efforts Underway in the Bahamas; Climate Crisis Town Hall. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired September 5, 2019 - 01:00   ET

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


[01:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The news continues when I hand it over to Robyn Curnow with CNN NEWSROOM.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Thanks for joining us. I'm Robyn Curnow. So we begin our breaking news coverage of Hurricane Dorian with this information.

The storm we know has lost -- had lost some of its strength after devastating the Bahamas but this is a hurricane that should not be underestimated. So in the last few hours, Dorian has been upgraded again. It is now back to a dangerous category 3 hurricane.

As it picks up strength, Dorian is bringing strong winds and heavy rain from parts of Florida, north to the Carolinas. The National Hurricane Center is warning of life-threatening storm surges, dangerous winds, and flash floods. These are live pictures from Charleston. Now, some places could see 15 inches. That's about 38 centimeters of rain.

And as the U.S. starts to feel these early effects of the storm, we're certainly getting a better idea of the devastation Dorian left in the Bahamas. In just the past few hours, the death toll there went up to 20, but that number is expected to go much higher.

The prime minister of the Bahamas addressed the nation on Wednesday night. He had a message of thanks and reassurance. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUBERT MINNIS, PRIME MINISTER, BAHAMAS: Bahamians are deeply grateful for our first responders who are putting their lives on the line, and for their fellow Bahamians and residents. We know there are many Bahamians who are in need of help. I want to assure you that more help is on the way. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: So we have reporters covering the story from the Bahamas, to the Carolinas. Patrick Oppmann is on Grand Bahama, Paula Newton is on Abaco, Derek Van Dam is standing by in Charleston, South Carolina, and Pedram Javaheri has the big picture from the CNN Weather Center.

So let's begin with the stats on the storm and the forecast. Pedram joins me now. So where is it now and what's the kind of impact we're seeing?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Robyn, what an incredible storm. It's sitting about 100 miles south of Charleston at this hour. It is a category 3 as you mentioned here, as impressive as a storm as you'll see here.

And of course, the impacts for the mainland of the United States are going to be the highest within the next a few hours as the storm approaches Charleston and eventually the coastal region there of North Carolina as it comes in with category 3 wins. But radar image right here a 50-mile diameter for this eye. Of

course, as it approaches, we're beginning to see some of these heavier bands of rainfall, already seeing reports of tropical storm force gusts out of Charleston, out of Savannah, Georgia, and the storm makes its closest approach to Charleston later on this morning into the late morning hours potentially bringing in wind gusts close to 100 miles per hour across this region.

But again, the thick of it is going to begin inside the next couple of hours. We know how susceptible Charleston is to significant flooding. And when a storm of this magnitude, a major hurricane now approaches within say 40 to 50 miles of land as we go in towards later this morning, a lot of water going to be pushed onshore into Charleston Harbor.

Some forecast here put it among the highest levels we've seen across the Cooper River since Hurricane Hugo in 1989. And then the storm here kind of parallels the coastline we think some are off the coast of Wilmington as early as later on Thursday evening and into the overnight hours of Thursday, into the early morning hours of Friday when the best likelihood here for landfall.

Forecast occurs somewhere between Wilmington towards the Outer Banks of North Carolina. And notice how quickly it departs the picture here once we get past that. But again rainfall amounts ten to 15 inches in some of these regions within the next 12 to 24 hours, and the storm surge potential going to be significant.

But look at the timestamp. About 10:00 a.m. on Thursday morning, winds gusting up to about 86 miles per hour out of Charleston, major hurricane sits just offshore, really begins to near end towards Myrtle Beach, Wilmington, Morehead City. And the models suggest landfall would be somewhere between Morehead City towards the Outer Banks of North Carolina where winds could be upwards of 114 or so miles per hour for some of these guts which would be category 3 system. And of course, we know the system itself, the sustained winds should

be somewhere in the upper level of cat two to the lower end of Cat 3. Storm surge becomes the main threat, Robyn, and upwards of eight feet storm surge which would topple some properties on the immediate coast so this is going to be a big story here in the next couple of day.

CURNOW: It certainly is. OK, we're going to check back in with you in just a few moments, a little bit later on in the show to see -- to update us even more. Thanks so much, Pedram Javaheri. I appreciated it.

OK, so for two days, Dorian's category five winds of relentless rains devastated Grand Bahama Island. The airport in Freeport is usually one of the busiest in the country and one of the main entry points for tourists headed to the island paradise.

Well, our CNN team made it there on Wednesday and describes the damage is breathtaking. Patrick Oppmann filed this exclusive report. Here's Patrick.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[01:05:19]

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 were 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 ten 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, and this Airport right now is 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. Look at this. 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've seen a lot of damage on this island. This is the absolute most devastated area I've seen so far. It will be impossible for anybody who was injured or just wants to get off the island to leave from here. Aid will not be able to come in this part of the airport if it's an airport at all because it's just 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 and 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. And at one of the terminals which is four 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 working 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: Thanks Patrick for that. Extraordinary reporting from Patrick and his team there. Now, Paula Newton is also on the ground in the Bahamas. We spoke a little bit earlier and she told me how many people they are just still so traumatized by what they went through. Here's Paula.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, I have to say, the one thing that's dark is that I'm looking at stars, Robyn, and that is good news. This is the first time they have seen clear skies. And what it is showing us, the light of day, and now even as quite eerie in the night time, it is absolute destruction because you actually see all the debris thrown everywhere.

The extent of the damage, buildings that were supposed to withstand the hurricane-force winds just completely crumpled and torn apart. And that's the kind of devastation. I mean, you're seeing appliances thrown everywhere that will just go flying, boats turned upside down but then flying through the air.

You would see people's furniture from one house end up in another person's backyard meters away. It is indescribable. Air conditioners pulled out from their homes and tossed upside-down. It is just an absolute mess, an absolute mess. And when you see that, when you see the debris, you witness that for yourself, you realize how lucky people are to come out of this storm alive.

CURNOW: What are people saying to? I mean, is there -- is there any sense of just how big the loss of life is?

NEWTON: There's no sense of it yet and people are afraid to hear about what it may be like. When you look at the devastation and you see the amount of people that are missing. It was traumatizing just listening to people talk about all of the people they could not account for, Robyn, and that is the terrifying thing for everyone here right now. And in the middle of all of that, they're trying to put together their lives.

They're doing the best they can. Today was a good day in terms of trying to at least get the people that needed medical help. There was a lot of traffic in air medevacking people out and that was a good thing. But it is going to be a struggle each and every hour out here for several months if not years.

[01:10:32]

CURNOW: Yes. And what -- the people that you have spoken to, Paula, just tell us what they described it being like, and the fact that this hurricane just sat over them and just didn't go away. Give us a sense of what it was like for them?

NEWTON: They felt -- they thought it's like torture because as I said, they were experienced. So yes, the wind came up, and yes then, you know, the rain started. And it went on and on and on like water cannons being thrown into your home with that kind of force.

And just the washing, Robyn, I'm looking at trees just right in front of me. The trees -- the treetops are completely blown away. There is nothing left but a barren trunk. And when you see that kind of devastation and then you talk to people about what they went through in their home scrambling from room to room trying to find a safe place, pulling mattresses off their beds to hold them against windows so the windows won't go through their homes, absolutely terrifying.

And here's the thing, Robyn, it went on longer than any storm they had ever been through. They had gone through about eight hours of it and thought clearly this must be over now and they would go through yet another 12, 14 depending on the location they were in that storm. And this is really what has so traumatized all of them having to live through all of that.

Many of them are still beyond words for having gotten through this in one piece and also unsure about what to do next.

CURNOW: Paula, the big question then is what's next for those who survived.

NEWTON: The families and the old -- the elderly people -- the elderly people, a lot of them have decided to try and leave some of these islands to go stay in a more stable place. There are people that have remained with their families, there are children that are supposed to have starting school and they want to know what to do next.

But I can tell you, the people that have remained here and really not been able to leave anyway, there is no way to leave, things like sanitation, disease, those kinds of things are preoccupying people. We're not there yet. People have the food and water and there has started -- they've started to bring in some kind of medical help, but the sanitation issue and the disease issue is an important one.

And many people in these communities are starting to understand that the longer this goes on, the more fragile they become, and the more susceptible everyone becomes to disease. And so that's why they have to make a decision as to you know, how much they can actually rebuild and reconstruct and what frame of time and understand if whether or not they're just going to have to leave and rebuild and come back or some people are talking about never coming back, Robyn.

CURNOW: Paula Newton, thank you very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: Now, so far, the U.S. has only seen glancing blows from Hurricane Dorian, but that could change in the coming hours. And one place on high alert is Charleston, South Carolina and that's where we find our Derek Van Dam is standing by for us right now. OK, Derek, so far this hurricane has been skirting, skidding around the East Coast. What's it like where you are right now?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Yes, well, we're in Charleston, South Carolina, as you mentioned a city on high alert because it is a particularly vulnerable coastal city. Robyn, there are a trio of threats currently that we're facing right now.

Storm surge is one. Pedram talked about that a moment ago. We also have the potential of flash flooding and also dangerous hurricane- force winds. We know that the hurricane has strengthened past that major category threshold so now sustained winds of 115 miles per hour as that eye edges closer to shore.

We have seen here just in the past 15 minutes the sky illuminate bright green, a tall tell sign that transformers in the distance are starting to blow. I would be surprised if we hold on to our electricity for much longer here in Charleston. We also hear the tell-tale signs of tropical-storm-force winds starting to encroach on this area, sheet metal flapping in the distance.

We also have seen some of the captains of the boats in the harbor directly behind me that are staying at the hotel that we're at, they're going to ride out their storm in their boat to make sure that their most prized possessions are taken care of during the height of the storm. Robyn?

CURNOW: OK, good luck to them. So let's just talk about Charleston and where you are. Anybody who's visited Charleston knows its topography. And that also makes it pretty susceptible to any flooding, in particular, these storm surges.

VAN DAM: Yes. Without a doubt, Robyn. All you have to do is look at a map of Charleston Harbor. It is open to the Atlantic Ocean.

[01:15:03]

For our international viewers, Robyn, this is similar to a Hong Kong, for instance. There is nothing between the open ocean waters and the city itself, nothing to protect it per se. So, an approaching storm will bring that tidal surge up the harbor. The heavy rain inland will come back through the rivers and tributaries. There will be competing water sources that will allow for that water to rise right near the city center. And we know that this area sits very low. We expect, the potential, at least, for some of the forecast to have over 10 feet at its highest storm surge cycle. And maybe that will bring flooding through much of Charleston, three to six blocks inward -- inland from the coastal areas where we're standing now. Robyn?

CURNOW: OK. Thanks for that update there, Derek Van Dam. Thanks, Derek.

VAN DAM: Absolutely.

CURNOW: So, stay with us throughout the coming hours. You are watching CNN. And we will continue to track the path of Hurricane Dorian. Coming up as well, we'll look at what's being done to help those already devastated by this powerful, powerful system, and tell you how you can help as well.

And also, Britain's Prime Minister is 0 for 4 when it comes to parliamentary votes, aimed at implementing his plans for Brexit what comes next for him and the U.K. ahead on CNN.

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[01:20:15]

CURNOW: Welcome back. I'm Robyn Curnow. Our top story this hour, Dorian has strengthened to a Category 3 hurricane again. It's battering the southeastern coast of the U.S., as you can see here. It is expected to brush the coast of the Carolinas for many hours to come. More than a million people in North and South Carolina are under a mandatory evacuation orders. And now, the National Hurricane Center warns there could be dangerous storm surges and winds weather Dorian makes landfall there or not.

And the British Prime Minister's Brexit plan is in tatters. His hardline approach triggered a revolt in his own party. The House of Commons dismissed his demand for an election and it voted to prevent him from taking the U.K. out of the E.U. without a deal. That's all left for Boris Johnson, weaker than ever. We get the latest from Nic Robertson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Over the past little more than 24 hours, Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister has faced crushing defeat after crushing defeat. He's now last four votes. These votes now mean that his plan to exit the European Union without a deal, his threat for negotiations, he says has now been taken away from him. His answer was the core for a general election. He needed to get a two-thirds majority in Parliament. He didn't get it. He didn't get the support from the opposition and he castigated them for that.

BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: 48 hours ago, he was leading the charge to stop the coup, let the people vote. Now, he's saying stop the election and stop the people from voting. I would say this, I think there's only one solution. I think he has become the first, to my knowledge, the first leader of the opposition in the democratic history of our country to refuse the invitation to an election.

ROBERTSON: Now, the opposition have long said that they would call a vote of no confidence in the government, essentially trigger a general election when they thought the time was right for them. The leader of the opposition giving his rationale now. Essentially, he doesn't trust the Prime Minister. He wants to get this legislation firmly on the law books.

JEREMY CORBYN, LEADER, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY: They offer the election today is a bit like the offer of an apple to Snow White and the Wicked Queen, because what he's offering is not an apple or even an election, but the poison of a no deal. So, Mr. Speaker, I repeat -- I repeat what I said last night -- last night, let this bill pass and gain Royal assent. Then, we will back an election, so we do not crash out with a no deal exit from the European Union.

ROBERTSON: But Boris Johnson's problems aren't just from his own party, Ken Clarke, a former very senior member in the Conservative Party, the current father of the house, most venerable, respected figure if you will, eviscerated the prime minister in front of the country, live on national television, telling him that he should stop playing games.

KEN CLARKE, FATHER OF THE HOUSE, CONSERVATIVE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: We now have a bill, which is the beginning of a pathway.

ROBERTSON: The Prime Minister now in a much-weakened position. And the longer this goes on waiting for a general election that he cannot determine the date for, the weaker it seems he's going to get, certainly not to his advantage. Nic Robertson, CNN London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: Nic outside 10 Downing Street. Let's go to CNN's European Affairs Commentator, Dominic Thomas. You're joining us from Berlin. So, has Boris Johnson painted himself into a corner here?

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Yes. Robyn, I mean, if you think about them a few weeks ago when he was selected as the new leader of the Conservative Party and therefore Prime Minister. In his victory speech, he evoked the acronym DUDE, D-U-D-E, that he was going to deliver Brexit by the 31st of October, unite his party, defeat Jeremy Corbyn and energize the country. But in fact, what he has done is divided his party, first, through his initial cabinet that is extremely an exclusive and not representative of the Conservative Party. And the process of the selection promulgation and so on is not only alienated people within his party, but also one could argue, energized and mobilized the opposition, which is exactly what he didn't want.

And for somebody who is himself, you know, unelected and unable to legislate having lost his majority in Parliament and then subsequently losing vote after vote after vote, his position is, of course, extraordinarily weakened. The question is, of course, is if we do ultimately end up with a general election, whether the British people will come out and reflect the real conversation and discussion in Parliament. And there's some uncertainty there.

[01:25:13]

CURNOW: Uncertainty. I mean, there's been uncertainty for the last three years, and it's continuing right to the wire here. You mentioned Boris Johnson and his party, I mean, are we seeing an implosion of the Conservative Party? He kicked out a whole bunch of M.P.s. I think we got a couple of their mug shots, but -- including -- there they are -- a lot of very respected M.P.s, including Winston Churchill's grandson on the anniversary of the beginning of World War II. There he is there, Nicholas Soames. What does this mean for the political landscape in the U.K.?

THOMAS: Yes, well, I mean, it's absolutely extraordinary. What you have is ultimately a Conservative Party that is forever changed. Either they move towards trying to bring back into the fold those voters that went in the European election and supported the Brexit Party, which means moving further to the right, sticking to this idea of the -- of a No Deal, which is really the red line for Nigel Farage and the Brexit party. But in so doing, they will alienate what has historically been a traditional base of the Conservative Party.

So, no matter what, it's either fractured and becomes electorally irrelevant, or is a party that is able to continue moving to the right and capture this electorate. Now, the question is, when you look at polling and so on, for the time being, at least, the Conservative Party leads in all polls. The opposition is powerful, but divided. There isn't a one single political party at the moment it looks like it has a chance of emerging as the -- as the sort of unequivocal leader of the general election.

And I think what's so important here is that the opposition find a way to work together if they are going to defeat a new Conservative Party going into a general election. But there's so much mistrust, so much antagonism between these different political players right now that one has to wonder how this will play out in a general election.

CURNOW: Yes. And broadly, the kind of pattern that it's setting so much fracture -- so much fragmentation, and what that means for -- like I said, for the political landscape. So, for all of us watching this day by day, what happens next, what do we watch for on Thursday?

THOMAS: Right. Well, the big question is whether or not the opposition is going to -- I mean, it's so interesting, of course, because this new fixed term of Parliament act is specifically designed so that a sitting government cannot, and we see the problem that Boris Johnson faces here, just simply called out an election whenever they feel like it's appropriate. So, we have here, really, the controls are with the opposition. It's up to them now to decide when they feel ready to call a general election.

And the big debate is whether or not this is going to happen before the October 31st Brexit deadline, which is a great concern to many people, because they feel that if the Conservative Party with Boris Johnson is able to win and has a majority in Parliament, he could potentially repeal all the hard work that is being done right now to try and prevent No Deal. Or, they go after the 31st of October and hold a general election then.

What is interesting, though, is in the last few hours, the House of Lords has basically said they will support this bill, they will pave the way for Royal assent, which means that by early next week, we could be in a situation where a general election has been triggered. The big question is going to be the date.

Clearly, for Boris Johnson, if the date is after the 31st of October, and he is forced by law to go to the European Union to ask for an extension, his whole position of promising to deliver Brexit considerably weakens him. And the big question will be whether or not the Brexit Party supporters will follow him into that general election, or whether he has been irreparably damaged, which is ultimately the goal of this now newly empowered opposition here.

CURNOW: And of course, let's not forget the incredibly frustrated Britains on both sides of the divide, no matter which way they voted. This has been agonizing in many ways. Thanks so much for joining us, giving your perspective there, Dominic Thomas. Thank you.

THOMAS: Right. Thank you, Robyn.

CURNOW: OK, so a few hours from now, the Prime Minister is to meet with the U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, who arrived in London late on Wednesday from Ireland. His boss, the U.S. president has been an outspoken supporter of Boris Johnson and his Brexit agenda, hasn't he?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Boris is a friend of mine and he's going at it. There's no question about it. He's in there. I watched him this morning. He's in there fighting. And he knows how to win. Boris knows how to win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: Before arriving in London, the Vice President irritated his Irish hosts when he urged the E.U. to negotiate in good faith with Boris Johnson. Some in Ireland saw that as the U.S. siding with the Brexiteers.

[01:29:55]

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: And coming up Hurricane Dorian is making its way up the southern U.S. Coast. Several areas will soon be facing a triple threat of wind, rain and storm surges. And the results could be devastating.

We take a look at the forecast. That is just ahead.

You're watching CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CURNOW: Welcome back to our viewers watching in the United States and all around the world.

Thanks so much for joining me. I'm Robyn Curnow.

As the southeastern U.S. braces for Hurricane Dorian, there's been a new update. It's back to being a major Category 3 storm. We're now seeing also the scope of what the Category 5 storm did to the Bahamas.

Want to show you some pictures here. This is what's left of houses and buildings in Abaco. Some areas are now ravaged like a wasteland surrounded by water.

And at least 20 people have died. We know that that number is likely to rise. Search, rescue, and recovery are now priorities. The U.S. Coast Guard has rescued at least 61 people but food shortages are also a concern. The World Food Programme says some 60,000 people on the islands may be in dire need of food relief.

And as the recovery starts in the Bahamas the southeastern U.S. is bracing for Hurricane Dorian. As we can see from these images more than a million people in North and South Carolina are being told to evacuate.

The National Hurricane Center warns there could dangerous storm surges, whether or not Dorian makes a landfall or not.

So Pedram Javaheri is here with the latest on Dorian's latest moves. And I'm looking at my email, Pedram, and I'm just seeing, you know, a news flash coming in from emergency services saying that downtown Charleston is now being flooded. What can you tell us about that and what that means in terms of the hurricane's movement?

[01:35:02]

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, Charleston is historically been such a city that's prone to significant flooding, not just because, of course, being a coastal community but the low lying elevations there. The way the channel itself funnels water into the harbor, you've seen water levels across that region of historic values of previous tropical systems.

And this particular storm has the potential to get into that threshold within the next several hours. And you notice, a storm surge threat up and down the eastern and southeastern coastline of the United States at significant values.

Anytime you get to three to four feet that essentially can knock a person out off of their feet. Once you get up to say five to eight feet, that begins to flood not just the first floor of your property but potentially getting very close to the second story of homes as well.

So these are significant values and even when you look at what happened down in the Grand Bahama island region there with the Category 5 storm that came ashore, it was not really necessarily the wind damage that left behind the damage that we're seeing there. It was the storm surge damage that was up to 22 feet high because water, of course, has for more force behind it than wind does. And that is exactly what the concern here is with the moving water directly toward the city such as Charleston.

But when you talk about storm surge, you've got to take that water level essentially what is above normally dry ground. So again two to three feet knocks you off on your feet. And then you get up to seven or eight feet and get up close to ten feet, that is when you can have properties right on the immediate coast begin to be pushed off of their foundation and that leads to severe, severe damage, of course, across the coastal communities. And we know about 80 percent of all damages or lives lost with tropical systems are related to storm surge, the and heavy rainfall and flooding, and also the high surf.

So this is really going to be something to watch carefully here with this particular storm. In fact, the forecast crest across the Cooper River in Charleston Harbor is up to ten feet high. That is just shy, second all-time there behind Hurricane Hugo which moved ashore in 1989 and brought 12.5-foot levels across that region.

Impressive storm surge, so just about 100 miles south of Charleston at this hour. Category 3 winds of 115 miles per hour. And unfortunately it gets uncomfortably close here to Charleston within the next several hours.

So at this hour we're seeing gusts upwards of near hurricane force out of Hilton Head. Notice Charleston's wind gust at this point around 43 miles per hour. We expect those winds to double to close to the upper 80s there -- about 85 to 90-mile-per-hour gusts by the time sunrise comes around. So really going to be a wild Thursday across the southeastern U.S. -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Yes. It certainly is in these next few hours crucial.

Pedram Javaheri -- thanks so much for that update.

JAVAHERI: Thanks.

CURNOW: Now, earlier I spoke with the mayor of north Charleston about Hurricane Dorian. Keith Summey says his city is bracing for this dangerous storm surge and flooding. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR KEITH SUMMEY, NORTH CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA (via telephone): Well, we're expecting somewhere probably between six or seven feet of storm surge to go along with higher than normal high tide already. So our low lying area's we are expecting some flooding.

We are not as out as fore (ph) as the peninsula of Charleston, and as low, but we do have our areas that we have major concerns about. But we keep, you know preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.

CURNOW: And what kind of preparations have you been engaged in? sandbags, no doubt -- a lot of them being handed out, and mass evacuation?

SUMMEY: We have handed out roughly 45,000 to 50,000 sandbags filled to different communities, the people wait or pick up in four different location. But then we make deliveries to areas we know that we've had flooding issues in the past. And actually deliver them to those locations, and help people get them put out in their homes.

CURNOW: And have people heeded the evacuation call?

SUMMEY: I don't think as many from our area. I think more of the beach area and very low-lying areas have. Most of our folks have gone in to shelters in the local areas. We have some that have gone but not nearly as much as in the city of Charleston or even maybe (INAUDIBLE) island and especially the beach areas.

CURNOW: Yes. and many of us know Charleston very well. This is the historic city center. Those beach areas very low-lying. Clearly, this is a concern in terms of those areas as well because we can see the kind of storm motoring towards it.

SUMMEY: Absolutely, I mean I was on county government when Hugo hit 30 years ago. And I have been mayor now for 25 years so we've been through a lot of them and we've learned from each one.

But you know there is only so much you can do to water coming in, especially when you're talking about six to seven feet above a normal high tide. So, you know, we are just preparing the best we can, encouraging our people to stay where they are when the flooding starts. Don't try to leave. Just get yourself secure as you can in your home and we'll be to you as quickly as we can.

[01:40:02] CURNOW: What are the major lessons you've learned from Matthew and Hugo?

SUMMEY: Well, that trying to get people in the low lying areas to leave, if they don't want to leave the area go to our shelters and wait it out there. But it is hard to get people sometimes to do what they think they can.

And each storm is a little different so we learn from each one of those. But you know the basic line is to be safe. We can replace property, we can replace homes, we can't replace lives.

CURNOW: Am I correct in saying that you have warned people that if the winds get over 50 miles an hour you won't be able to come and rescue anyone, that you'll suspend emergency response?

SUMMEY: We have to suspend at 50 miles per hour. And until it gets down below that we won't be able to respond. We can communicate as long as there is the ability to communicate by phone and tell you what to do, how to do it.

But our emergency vehicles when it gets to a certain wind level we cannot go out.

CURNOW: Any final comments -- Sir, as you prepare for the next few hours?

SUMMEY: Well, we're just hoping for the best but preparing for the worst, and continuing to be ready to respond as we have to. And we just ask our people to hunker down, and get ready. And we will be to you as quick as we can to help you out if you have in trouble but in the best we can as everybody pray that everything works out the best for all of us.

CURNOW: Thank you very much -- Sir.

SUMMEY: Thank you.

CURNOW: Keith Summey there -- mayor of North Charleston.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: Pictures and video are giving us a small and initial idea of what Hurricane Dorian did to the Bahamas. But that only really scratching the surface. Up next we'll talk to rescue workers who are there about what the people devastated by the storm need the most.

Stay with us. You're watching CNN.

[01:42:02]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CURNOW: Welcome back. You're watching CNN.

I'm Robyn Curnow.

Now a farmer in Florida is doing his part to help those in Bahamas. The man, who wants to remain anonymous, walked into a supermarket in Jacksonville, Florida and walked out with a hundred generators and some food. All of that is now on its way to the Bahamas by boat. His mega purchase cost nearly $50,000.

Getting the goods to the Bahamas though could prove to be challenging. The ocean is rough, of course, and there is still a lot of debris from the storm.

And earlier I spoke to Americas (ph) relief worker Lisa LaDue (ph) who described the rescue and relief effort that's happening right now in the Bahamas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LISA LADUE, AMERICAS RELIEF WORKER: Right now, I believe that everybody is in the assessment phase. So everybody is taking a look at what is really needed, trying to get out and get that done.

Of course, it's very complicated with the lack of safety and the lack and inability to get to some of these areas. But the government is basically saying at this point in time search and rescue is underway and there is a need to provide food and shelter for people. CURNOW: And how difficult is the coordination -- in any of these

situations, coordination is key. The government is central to that no doubt?

LADUE: The government is working really effectively with the model that is used by a lot of countries of coordinating the different types of services in different sectors or as we do it in the United States with emergency support function.

And it's a little challenging, and it's a very overwhelming disaster. And there is a lot of relief workers flying in as you mentioned. So it can be incredibly challenging to coordinate all of this.

CURNOW: How does this disaster compare to others that you have been involved in? Can you give us a sense of the scale of what folks are dealing with on the ground right now?

LADUE: This seems to be one of the worst that I've experienced in my many years of responding to disasters. I think the fact that it just has robbed people of shelter and their basic needs so it's instantly is immense. And then we know right behind that will be -- will have health and mental health needs as this all unfolds and move into slowly into a recovery phase.

CURNOW: You talked about mental health. No doubt the trauma for survivors will also play into all of this. The exhaustion the survivors must be feeling but if the devastation is what it looks like. It's certainly going to be a long term in terms of trying to deal with sort of people of the Bahamas.

LADUE: Absolutely. And that affects everybody, as you mentioned. Not only the people who experienced it directly and who will be - -who have the possibility of being deeply affected by the trauma. But the providers who work with it daily and may have been affected themselves.

As well, government officials who not only are struggling with all of this but then have the normal pushback of people who want something done a different way. So it's an incredibly challenging situation for full recovery.

CURNOW: OK. Thank you very much for that perspective there from (INAUDIBLE) Lisa Ladue, a relief worker with Americas. Thank you.

LADUE: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: And if you would like to help those affected by Hurricane Dorian, please do go to CNN.com/impact. There you can find a list of organizations that can help people with medical supplies, food and water.

Now, the frequency and severity of storms like Hurricane Dorian it's one of the results of climate change. President Trump has rejected climate science. He's reversed Obama era initiatives and withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord.

But in a CNN town hall, every Democratic challenger stressed the urgency of doing something about climate change. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are fighting for the survival of the planet Earth -- our only planet. How is this not a major priority. It must be a major priority.

SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Life on earth is at risk and if we don't make this commitment, we not only cheat our children, we cheat their future, and their children's future. And that is morally wrong. We have to be all the way in.

[01:49:55]

SENATOR KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I strongly believe this is a fight against powerful interests. And leaders need to lead. So lead, follow, or get out of the way, and get out of the way starting with Donald Trump.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've got to start choosing science over fantasy here. The fact of the matter is that what he did by removing the United States as the leader of the Paris Climate Accord, he in fact dissipated the enthusiasm across the board, the rest of the country is saying whoa, wait a minute, why are we engaged in this if the United States is stepping down?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: Most of the Democrats favor plans to eventually get the U.S. off oil, coal, and gas.

Coming up -- in the early days of Hurricane Dorian, President Trump warned that the state of Alabama was there to take a hit, but it wasn't. Still he's doubling down on that claim with the help of a magic map.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CURNOW: Hurricane Dorian is once again a major Category 3 hurricane. The National Hurricane Center is warning that there will be life- threatening storm surge with significant coastal flooding.

[01:54:58]

And Dorian is now battering the coast of Georgia and the Carolinas, as you can see here. Flooding is going on right now in downtown Charleston.

And finally, the U.S. President does not like to admit when he's wrong. In a barrage of tweets over the weekend, Donald Trump warned Hurricane Dorian would hit Alabama. Almost immediately the National Weather Service in Alabama corrected him in no uncertain terms saying the state would not see any impact from the storm. But President Trump took his insistence that Alabama was in the forecast to a whole new level on Wednesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That was the original chart and you see, it was going to hit not only Florida but Georgia and was going towards the Gulf. That was what we -- what was originally projected. And it took a right turn and ultimately, hopefully we're going to be lucky.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: Well, a closer look at that National Hurricane Center map shows it was apparently altered with a black marker to include Alabama. And note here, it's actually against federal law to alter an official government weather forecast.

Mr. Trump followed that up with a tweet showing another map that does include Alabama in the path but it was dated August 28. By the time the President tweeted his warning on Sunday none of the projections included Alabama.

So you've been watching CNN's breaking news coverage of Hurricane Dorian. I'm Robyn Curnow.

Thank you so much for joining me.

There is much more news coming up with Rosemary Church right after this.

END