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Category Two Closes in on the Carolinas; Possible Tornado in Myrtle Beach; Pictures and Stories from Hurricane-Ravaged Bahamas; Trump Shows Falsified Map. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired September 5, 2019 - 13:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

And underway right now, Hurricane Dorian, a category two storm, battering the East Coast with high winds and heavy rain. South Carolina is feeling the brunt right now with North Carolina also in its immediate path. And there are plenty of dangers, like flooding.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The power goes out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's blown (ph).


KEILAR: As you can see, downed power lines are an issue from the high winds there.

The storm is also generating multiple tornados on the coast.

In Charleston, high tide is less than an hour away, which just adds to the storm surge danger. And there is -- they're expecting as much as 10 feet of water to wash over the coast.

Our Brian Todd is in Charleston.

I know that was a scene just earlier from behind you, Brian, with that transformer blowing. What is the latest that you can tell us?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, we're just getting pounded right now with another band of wind and rain from this hurricane. It's lingering here. It's still very powerful. Just check out how I'm getting hit from my left side with wind and rain here as this street continues to be flooded here in downtown Charleston.

Now, just over here to my left, your right, our photojournalist Harlan is going to kind of zoom into that downed power line. Now, just a short time ago, when we rolled up on this thing, it was whipping around, just emitting live currents into the floodwaters. It was exploding, it was triggering transformer explosions, several violent explosions and knocking out power to that street and this street here and causing a lot of danger for anyone who was venturing near it.

I'm going to come on down here a little bit out of the wind and rain. I'm going to talk to a seafood restaurant owner. His name is Brett Yearout. He was witnessing this with us as we were watching that transformer down there.

Brett, you saw it along with us. That was very violent. What was going through your mind?

BRETT YEAROUT, SEAFOOD RESTAURANT OWNER: Yes, no, it was a giant fireworks show. I didn't know how -- if it was going to shoot down the water and come to us. I mean it was quite -- it was very loud and scary for sure.

TODD: And were you worried about maybe some of the currents affecting here, maybe even triggering some --

YEAROUT: Yes, well -- there's a bunch more power lines up here. I was afraid some of those may come down and hit us.

TODD: You've been here for 15 years. This is like the third major hurricane in the last three years. How are you guys enduring this? It's got to be tough.

YEAROUT: Yes, so, unfortunately, every time one of these storms starts to come our way, and they have to call a mandatory evacuation, the damage is done for -- the economic damage is done because everybody leaves town.

You know, fortunately, we'll be back open this weekend. The sun will be out.

Those poor people in the Bahamas, you know, have years to regroup.

But, you know, we'll be all good in a couple of days.

TODD: I have to ask you, with so many hurricanes like this impacting business, you know, for days at a time, do you ever have second thoughts about staying here and operating your business?

YEAROUT: No, it's a great place. Charleston is a great place. And, you know, 99 percent of the time it's beautiful and sunny and everything's perfect.

TODD: All right. Brett, thanks very much for joining us. Good luck to you. And I hope you can get that business back up this weekend.

YEAROUT: Back open this weekend.

TODD: All right. He says he's going to be back open this weekend. We're hoping he can. Just about every other business down here is closed. And, again, floodwaters still a major concern. One thing, Brianna, that we have to tell you, we're getting into high

tide. Right at this hour and through 2:00 it's going to be high tide. So you've got the triple whammy, high tide, storm surge and this pelting rain. I step out just into the street here a little bit and we're getting slammed with rain here.

This has been relentless all day long and it's going to continue. They're expecting about 15 to 20 inches of rain total in Charleston. You can see the streets behind me. Some people venturing out. They are telling people not to do that. They're not out of danger here yet, Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, and people driving through the water there, which is expected to get higher.

We'll be keeping an eye on it with you.

Brian Todd in Charleston.

I want to go now to meteorologist Allison Chinchar in the CNN Weather Center.

And it's looking like Charleston is really under the gun here. When is the hurricane going move out of that area?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right, so it's still got a few more hours because, remember, it's just not moving that fast. The forward speed is only about eight miles per hour to the north- northeast. But you have to keep in mind, as conditions finally start to improve for Charleston, they're going to get worse in some other areas, Myrtle Beach, Wilmington, Hatteras, as the storm continues to slide up the coast.

We do still anticipate a landfall either today or tomorrow in South or North Carolina as this system gets awfully close to that coastline. Regardless of whether it makes a technical landfall, there are still some very significant impacts to all of these three states. And by that we mean North, South Carolina and Virginia.

Here for two of those states we have a large tornado watch in effect through the afternoon hours today. We've already had over a dozen tornado warnings so far today.


We've got one active tornado warning right now and it's all because of these outer bands pushing onshore. And even if they begin as a waterspout, they can still make that on land. We've already had one report of damage that was originally from a waterspout that moved onshore. So you have to be very careful with a lot of these storms, especially these that can be short-lived tornados. They pop up really with so little notice. So please keep that in mind.

In addition to that threat, you also have the threat for incredibly heavy rain, not just for North and South Carolina, but also for Virginia. Widespread amounts of around four to six inches, but there will be some locations, especially where you see the red color on here. We're talking eight, 10, if not even a foot of rain before this system finally exits the area.

It's the combination of the rain, as well as storm surge, that's going to lead to some of the terrible flooding, especially along the coastal regions. This red area here that includes Hatteras and Wilmington, you're talking four to seven feet. Brianna, this area stretching from Myrtle Beach down towards Charleston, you're talking five to eight feet.

The good news for Charleston is, as that system moves away, that storm surge should go down rather quickly, but it's still going to be raining, so you're still going to notice a lot of the floodwaters on the streets, on the sidewalks and even coming into some of the homes just because the rain will not likely let up for several more hours.

KEILAR: All right, Allison Chinchar, thank you so much for the big picture there.

We're also seeing damage already in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. A possible tornado touched down there early this morning. There was video taken around 4:00 a.m., this video, and the local fire department says luckily no one was hurt here. But buildings and cars are damaged and they're warning people to stay off of the roads. So if you did not evacuate, do not try to leave now.

CNN's Martin Savidge is in Myrtle Beach.

Tell us how it's looking where you are, Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, we're facing a number of threats here in Myrtle Beach. Dorian, right now, is making its approach, so that's the number one threat. You already talked about the tornados. We, actually, this morning, starting around 7:00 a.m. We began getting the warnings about every half hour of a tornado warning.

These were not the Kansas or Oklahoma kind of varieties, the really big tornados, but as Allison was just explaining, these are the kind of weaker, spin-off ones that come from the outer bands. Still, they did damage, ripped off housing from -- siding from homes, ripped off roofs and also destroyed, we're told, a number of mobile homes. So that threat has eased actually as the storm has gotten closer because we're not getting hit by the outer bands, it's more like the inner bands.

But here's the next threat. This is the storm surge that we're starting to see and it coincides, just as you heard Brian explain, with the high tide. High tide's coming in about 30 minutes from now. And you can see already that the ocean and the surf and the shore have all pretty much merged together. It's hard to tell where the ocean ends and the beach begins.

Now, the water is going to continue to rise, combination of the storm surge and the winds, because in this particular area of the beach, we're pretty much running north and south, which means we're getting the full brunt of the force right at the time the waves are at their highest. So that's not only going to be a problem for erosion, but also likely to damage some of the boardwalks, the piers that are here and any of the waterfront buildings nearby. If you break any of those peers, if you get debris in the water, they become like battering rams and they'll just accentuate that kind of damage.

And then you've got the rain, a lot of it coming down. Already over six inches of rain here in Myrtle Beach. Much more is anticipated.

The airport has remained open, but all the flights have been cancelled. Power outages, though, over 200,000 customers in South Carolina are now without electricity, and that number continues to go up. Only about 15 percent of the people who were told to evacuate actually followed those orders, but so far we're not hearing of anyone having to be rescued.

It's going to get to a point pretty soon where they're not going to be getting out. First responders say after 39 miles per hour wind speeds, they stay hunkered down until after the storm. Watching the waves, that's what we're doing now, Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, those first responders need to stay safe as well when things get really bad.

Martin Savidge in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, thank you so much.

With each day we are seeing more of the damage that Hurricane Dorian left behind in the Bahamas. These are images that were captured by CNN's Paula Newton and her crew on Man-O-War Island in Abaco. She spent 24 hours in this tiny community of about 300 people. And as you can see, almost every structure and home there has suffered damage, major damage, or it was just completely destroyed.

Paula is back now in Nassau and she's joining us to tell us what she saw.

You talked to many residents about these stories of survival. Tell us about what they told you.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, incredible. I mean think about it, Brianna, trying to survive with your family in a storm like that. They said it was something out of an epic horror movie. You would be in one room, the roof would blow off, walls would start collapsing. And then the rain and the wind and you would look for any place in your home where you could take shelter. A bathtub, whatever it was. And you were hanging on, Brianna, literally for dear life.

They described the winds that just would not let up and then the debris flying around. These were lethal projectiles that were flying in the air. So if they tried to get to another building that looked a little safer, it was impossible to do. And they went through that for so many hours.

Brianna, they want you to know that as bad as these pictures look, it doesn't begin to describe what they went through and why. Because as we're hearing from our other correspondents about Hurricane Dorian, this is a storm that defied description they're telling me. And they say category, what category? It didn't mean anything. They clocked on that island 215-mile-an-hour winds gusting, and that's when their wind meter broke. They have no idea. It is something like they have not seen and they are trying to pick up the pieces of their lives, as you can imagine.

Brianna, I want you to hear now from Sherrie Roberts, just one of dozens of stories that we heard about trying to get through the storm. Take a listen.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it's everybody.

ROBERTS: Everybody's hurting. We're not any worse than anybody else. Everybody is hurting. And we thank God for life. We've got each other. And we thank God for life. God is good. Through it all, God is good.

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


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to be OK.


Yes, we will be OK.

NEWTON: You have children?


ROBERTS: We will.

NEWTON: Any children here with you?

ROBERTS: My grandson.

NEWTON: I see. All right.

ROBERTS: My grandson. And my husband.

NEWTON: Hi there.

ROBERTS: My daughter's (INAUDIBLE).

NEWTON: I think I met your daughter, Christine (ph)?

ROBERTS: Yes. Yes.

NEWTON: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow, you remember names good (ph).

NEWTON: Well --

ROBERTS: We appreciate you all coming (ph).

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

ROBERTS: Words can't describe it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My grandfather --

ROBERTS: I don't wish it on nobody. Nobody. Words can't describe it.


ROBERTS: There's --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My grandfather --

ROBERTS: They could never categorize -- categorize this. Never.

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

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My grandfather ran out in the middle of the hurricane when -- because the roof of the house, water was leaking in, and he ran out in the middle of the hurricane, about 220 gust of winds. He came out and he saved us. He had to go underneath --

ROBERTS: He was up in the attic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had to go underneath the house and get a ladder and get shutters to put up inside the middle of the house. It was crazy. I don't know -- I don't know how he 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 blown 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. You all are our voices and we thank you for it.


NEWTON: And here is the issue. They want people to know, of course, that they need everything from a to z to try and recover their lives now. But, Brianna, you saw how emotional she was. I spoke to one father, and, again, this storm has had so many

different characters throughout these categories. They had terrible wind there on Man-O-War, Brianna, and these were like mini tornados touching down all over the island, hour after hour after hour. In other places in Abaco, it was the storm surge they described to me. One father telling me that he slipped under when the storm surge came and he hung on to his son, who, with everything he had, pulled his father out of the water. Brianna, he told me, I just didn't want to see my son lose me that way, and that's what gave me the strength to pull myself out of the water.

Brianna, they waited for that eye to come overhead. And then, when they did, they swam to the end of their street to try and get out of danger.

And those are just snippets, Brianna, snippets of so many stories of what this storm has done to people.

KEILAR: And they are so clearly traumatized. Listening to Sherrie tell her story to you, she is very clearly traumatized, and yet focused on the positive, which is that she still has her family. And there are many people who can't say that there, Paula.

What have you learned about the number of people who are missing or dead?

NEWTON: Yes. And this is the tough part, Brianna. You know, for days now I've been listening to the radio here in the Bahamas. When we couldn't get into those islands, I would listen to the radio from those islands, Brianna. And the list, the list of people that are still missing is terrifying to even comprehend. Those lists continue. They don't know if these people are missing, if they've been evacuated from other areas. What those residents tell me, though, is they themselves recounted to me on other parts of the Abaco Islands where they have seen dead bodies that have not yet been collected.


Their concern, of course, is to try and recover these victims and after that deal with disease. Of course they're also looking at the threat of things like cholera unless they can get in there in time to bring some kind of sanity to the place because right now they say it is a picture out of hell. And that's why so many people were desperate to get out.

This is a staging area that we're at now, Brianna. They are doing all that they can. But the need is immense. And once they start to deal with those cases of people that are injured, they then have to deal with everything else.

Many people told me that, look, our communities will never be the same again. But here's the thing, Brianna, they're also telling me, our communities may not exist again. It may just not be possible for us to live there again or rebuild. And that's the prospect they're looking at now in the coming months or years.

KEILAR: So they've seen no aid on Man-O-War Island where you were?

NEWTON: Certainly not from the government, Brianna. They have had private helicopters coming in that they themselves, again an island completely self-reliant and resourceful, that they have had coming in, that started coming in just after CNN arrived. And they are starting to get that aid.

Their priority was when the helicopters came in with minimal medical supplies, but also a doctor to tend to some of the injuries on the island, they would by two or three people get into that helicopter and take the more vulnerable away.

What they need now -- they're OK for food and water. What they need now is the infrastructure to be rebuilt. They need heavy equipment to take away the debris. They need to do something about sanitation. They're OK for food for about a week, but then they'll need that as well.

These are all questions that need answers. They're getting together to try and see what they can do. A lot of it has been --

KEILAR: All right, we are -- we are losing our signal from Paula there in Nassau. But as she said, they need infrastructure, they need to rebuild.

And there are people who have lost their lives. And as people are dying, the president tripling down this morning on a doctored map that he used to back up his false claims about Hurricane Dorian's path.

Plus, new reports of tornados popping up from Dorian across the Carolinas. We have video of that.

And we're going to take you back to Charleston and the rest of the Carolinas.

This is CNN's special live coverage.



KEILAR: And we have some live pictures here from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The local report out of that area is that someone was driving along the beach in obviously poor conditions. They weren't quite as poor as they were right now. And they got stuck in the sand. And you can see now, waves are just overtaking this car there on the beach there in Myrtle Beach. Likely going to float away here, at least for some period of time. We'll keep an eye on -- we have a reporter on the ground there. We're going to keep an eye on the situation there in Myrtle Beach.

But as Hurricane Dorian is threatening lives on the East Coast, President Trump is spending time trying to prove that he wasn't wrong when he incorrectly warned that Alabama was in the storm's path. The president going so far yesterday as to hold up a forecast map that was nearly a week old and it had an addition there, a crudely drawn line apparently Sharpied in to show Alabama in a falsified trajectory.

A source familiar with the president's storm briefing yesterday confirmed that the line had been added during the briefing, would not confirm, though, that the president drew it. But the White House won't say that the president did not draw it. And we do know how he loves his Sharpie pens. He even ditched the traditional pens that presidents use for custom Sharpies, totally black Sharpies featuring his signature in gold. And he uses those, of course, to sign official documents and even to take notes. And one of those personalized Sharpies was right there on his desk yesterday when he pulled out this altered map.

Bottom line, the White House is falsifying weather reports so that it doesn't have to admit the president, who spent the weekend golfing, was not up to date on the storm's forecast.

I want to bring in former FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate with us.

You served during the Obama administration and, first off, you've actually -- you've expressed frustration that this sharpie-gate, what -- it's turned into a meme -- it's getting a lot of attention. You've said people are missing the point. Tell us why.

CRAIG FUGATE, FORMER FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: Right now we have a large search-and-rescue operation occurring in the Bahamas. People are missing. And this is a life-or-death situation there.

We have residents in the Carolinas facing the -- still the impacts of this storm. This storm's not over. Now with additional tornado threats. And we're still in response operations. And this is distracting from that. Hopefully, you know, we stay focused on what's important right now, which is life saving and life safety.

KEILAR: As the former FEMA administrator, can you speak to -- because I think this is the issue that some people are looking at when they see this thing with the Sharpied in Alabama on the map.

How important is it for there to be credibility with an administration when you're talking about something as serious as a hurricane that requires information, accurate information, to go out to people in a situation that is life or death?


FUGATE: Well, fortunately, we do have a competent, credible source of information, the National Hurricane Center. And that's what emergency managers use. They are the official forecast. Those products are what local and state officials use for decision-making.

Again, the message we always had, both when I worked for the president, but also, you know, Governor Bush, is we have to listen to our local officials. They're on the ground. They have the information. Our local weather service forecast offices and the National Hurricane Center, as well as other offices with the National Hurricane Center, like the Weather Prediction Center, Storm Prediction Center, these are the official products we use to make decisions about protective measures, when to evacuate.

And, again, that's the message is, there is an official source, it's the National Hurricane Center, it's the National Weather Service. We use those to make these decisions that oftentimes can compel people to have to evacuate out of harm's way. And that's -- that's, I think, where we need to stop.


FUGATE: If you misstate something, correct it, but don't keep dragging it out into -- the focus should be on Dorian is still a life- threatening storm and has already taken far too many lives and we need to focus on that.

KEILAR: And, you know, I hear what you're saying, people are listening to the National Weather Center, but people also listen to a president or, as you said, to a governor. I mean this is an important voice because that's someone that people are used to seeing, they expect there to be accurate information in a situation like this.

What would it have been like if President Obama or Governor Bush were saying things about a storm that were just inaccurate? What would that have been like for you doing your job?

FUGATE: Easy. We'd have quickly corrected it. They would have corrected it. We would have moved on.

When you're dealing with rapidly changing things, it's not uncommon for a situation to move faster than the information they got briefed on.

So it does happen. We do correct it. It's again important that we acknowledge when we make mistakes, we make the corrections. But it's -- again, you have to stay focused on the origination of the message from the Hurricane Center. We don't embellish. We don't add to it. We don't offer our own opinions because, quite honestly, that's -- our job is to deal with the information they're presenting and make these decisions.

KEILAR: And let's talk about the storm. And, obviously right now we're keeping our eye on the Carolinas, but let's talk about the Bahamas because the damage there is just incredible. The Freeport Airport is totally destroyed. There's no way to fly in support in the way that it needs to get in there. What is the U.S. role in relief and recovery efforts there?

FUGATE: Well, our efforts are led by the U.S. agency for international development, USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. They already had people embedded in the Bahamian operations center working with the Bahamian emergency management agency. They're coordinating resources from all of the agencies. This will be a whole government support to I think the Bahamas from DHS to the Coast Guard to Northern Command. And, again, people who want to help, again, I know what people, you

know, donating items are great, but I think cash is best. It's fast. It gets in where we need to go. And, really, we're still very early into rescue operations. And the primary focus right now has to be on saving lives and stabilizing life safety. And then, as you heard earlier, this is going to be a massive effort to get infrastructure back up just to support day-to-day living conditions, much less getting back to anything that resembles normal.

KEILAR: Craig, thank you so much for being with us. We really appreciate it.

FUGATE: Thank you.

KEILAR: Craig Fugate, former FEMA administrator, with us there.

And we are minutes away now from high tide in Charleston. The city could see 10 feet of storm surge from Dorian. So how is that going to impact an area that is already prone to flooding?

Plus, breath-taking pictures out of the Bahamas of what's being called generational devastation after Dorian's relentless assault.