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South Carolina Bracing for 10-Foot Storm Surge; Charleston County Emergency Preparedness Division Director Jason Patno Discusses Hurricane Dorian & Rain, Winds, Floods, Storm Surge & Sheltering in Place, Staying Off Roads; Rescues Under Way after Dorian Devastates the Bahamas; Harrowing Accounts of Surviving Dorian in the Bahamas; Hurricane Dorian Spawning Tornadoes in the Carolinas. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired September 5, 2019 - 13:30   ET

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


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[13:34:01]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Live pictures out of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, as we follow Hurricane Dorian's path. We are approaching high tide right now in Charleston, South Carolina, adding to the flooding fears there as Dorian is battering the coastal city. They could see as many as 10 feet of storm surge.

We have already seen neighborhoods flooded by heavy rains and our Athena Jones is in one of them in Charleston.

Tell us what's going on where you are, Athena.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna. Well, you can see I'm on a street that's been flooded pretty much for the last several hours. You've mentioned how we're in the midst of a lot of rain. And 15 to 20 inches are expected to fall in this area all told by the end of the day.

That's the concern is about flooding. We're in a low-lying area, on a peninsula surrounded on three sides by water. Right about now, between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m., is when we're supposed to see the next high tide. We'll watch closely to see how much worse it gets in terms of water.

But I can tell you we've been getting a lot of updates, steady updates from the Charleston Police Department talking about road closures. Some of them due to flooding.

[13:35:06]

We have the latest numbers from the last hour from the city of Charleston. And 148 trees are down. There are 108 road closures. And there are a lot of power lines down. More than 30-something power lines and power situations have been falling down so there's very dangerous conditions.

And that's why authorities are telling folks to stay in your home. If you don't have to go anywhere, stay where you are. Stay sheltered in place because they don't want first responders to be at risk out in these flooded roads should someone drive around a barrier and end up in a situation where they could be washed away.

Again, Brianna, the big thing we're looking for is what happens at high tide around now to see if the water continues to rise.

Back to you.

KEILAR: All right, Athena, we're glad to see no one on the streets behind you. That has not been the case in all of the reporter hits that we've been seeing.

Athena Jones, for us from Charleston.

Emergency officials in Charleston are telling people stay put, do not get on the roads. They want people sheltering in place as the winds and floodwaters are getting worse.

Let's talk to Jason Patno, who is the director of the Charleston County Emergency Preparedness Division.

Are you seeing a lot of rescues, or do you feel like people have heeded the order to evacuate and also the orders to stay put? I will tell you, I have seen some cars moving behind some of our reporter live shots coming out of Charleston.

JASON PATNO, DIRECTOR, CHARLESTON COUNTY EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS DIVISION: We think that largely everyone has heeded the warning to stay off of the roadways. We still have dangerous conditions present and will continue to have those conditions for the next few hours. We're, again, advising everyone to stay off of the roadways. There's no reason to travel at this time unless you absolutely need to.

But everyone should have been prepared to withstand the impacts from this storm. There are many dangers on the roadways right now. You heard about all of the road closures earlier. We have downed power lines, downed trees, standing water on roadways, just creating very dangerous conditions.

Just let the weather pass through the system. Let's get through the worst of this storm. And then, it's safe to travel on the roadways. Listen to local officials, heed their warnings and stay updated on those road closures.

KEILAR: And we are actually watching some video that one of our crews caught there in Charleston of a downed power line. We understand from our other reporter, Athena Jones, there have been dozens of situations where you've had power lines or other power equipment that has fallen.

What's the risk associated with that and what do people need to do?

PATNO: Obviously, downed power lines are extremely dangerous. There's the hazard from being electrocuted. You don't know the status of those lines. Let the utility crews go out there and handle those lines. Do not try to handle them themselves. If you see a downed power line, report it to your local utility provider.

Again, stay inside. There's no reason to go outside. We have a few more hours to go before the storm leaves our area. Let's all be safe and reduce the potential for getting injured or harmed.

KEILAR: Indeed.

Jason Patno, thank you so much. We really appreciate you talking about what's going on there in Charleston.

PATNO: Thank you.

KEILAR: Rescues are under way in the Bahamas as teams reach communities that have just been left in ruins by Hurricane Dorian. The concerns facing those stranded after the storm.

Also, Dorian is still hours from a possible landfall in the Carolinas. It's already bringing down trees and power lines, though. We've got a firsthand look at the devastation.

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[13:43:23]

KEILAR: In the Bahamas, emergency crews are carrying out rescue operations across the hardest-hit areas. And the U.S. Coast Guard has reported that they have rescued 135 people and six pets since Hurricane Dorian began.

Even though the weather has improved, the conditions there remain treacherous. The death toll from Dorian now stands at 20, but that number is expected to rise.

As the catastrophic devastation comes into sharper focus, the prime minister said Abaco and Grand Bahama had suffered, quote, "generational damage."

Latrae Rahming is joining us from Nassau. He served as the press secretary to former Bahamas prime minister, Perry Christie.

Latrae, we've been seeing these pictures, it is awful. We've been hearing the stories, they are heartbreaking. Earlier today, you tweeted that there are bureaucratic problems that are hindering aid. Tell us about that. What do you mean?

LATRAE RAHMING, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY TO FORMER BAHAMAS PRIME MINISTER PERRY CHRISTIE: Thank you for having me. The challenge now in any natural disaster is to process what has happened. I think the government must make a determination to ensure that we can reach the people quickly. I think the challenge we have experienced of the national emergency agencies are awesome. We have to boost that staff in a crisis like this.

KEILAR: So you feel like they're understaffed. Do you believe that they are not responding as quickly as they could? And if that's the case -- (CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: Sorry.

[13:45:56]

RAHMING: No, I don't think -- when I said that they were understaffed, I think they have historically been understaffed. No one anticipated that this issue would be unprecedented like it is today.

I do believe that there are some structural issues in the Bahamas because of our geographic nature that makes it very difficult to respond to a crisis like this.

Currently now, the airports are opening up. You may be able to see the kind of response that can be organized because, prior to that, there was only helicopters being able to bring relief to designated impacted areas.

KEILAR: So what do you need from people who want to help and also from the United States where -- I mean obviously the Coast Guard is involved and the government here stands ready to provide aid to the Bahamas. What do you think the Bahamas needs?

RAHMING: I think there's a dire need. To be quite frank, the situation in the Bahamas is dire. The circumstances are deteriorating day by day. There must be a national -- there should be a global appeal to those who can help to help, whether it's medical necessities.

Of course, the concern is rising that casualties as well as those who were impacted medically. So there's a need to bring attention to the medical concerns of persons.

If you can and people have the capacity to donate, I think that they should. I'm urging that they do because the situation is historic.

I've been dealing with hurricanes for the last three years and I've never seen something like this, of this magnitude.

KEILAR: No, it is unbelievable what we are witnessing in the Bahamas.

Latrae Rahming, thank you for joining us.

RAHMING: No problem. Thanks so much.

KEILAR: As the humanitarian crisis unfolds, we're hearing from more survivors who are describing the damage around them as apocalyptic.

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JOY JIBRILU, DIRECTOR GENERAL, BAHAMAS TOURISM MINISTRY (voice-over): People of both Abaco and Grand Bahama who have lost everything. I mean, when we say everything, it is actually hard to comprehend. SHERRIE ROBERTS, SURVIVED HURRICANE DORIAN ON ABACO ISLANDS: Words

can't describe it. I don't wish it on nobody. Nobody. Words can't describe it. They could never categorize this, never. It was like an atomic bomb went off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My brother was clinging onto a tree. We are unable to locate his wife at the moment. We hope that she's OK.

SHARON ROLLE, BAHAMAS RESIDENT (voice-over): There's no neighborhood. There's nothing here. As the water dries up and the sun comes out, it's so unreal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many, many people without homes, without basically anything but the clothes on their backs. Many with grave injuries living in and around this sort of government complex trying to figure out what's next.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a disaster, man.

Everyone is homeless, man. Everyone is homeless. This was definitely the worst storm ever. It's history right here.

KELLIE MACKEY, BAHAMAS SURVIVOR (voice-over): I've never seen anything like this at all. And I pray to God we never experience something like this again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: And as if the pounding wind and rain was not enough, Hurricane Dorian is also spawning tornados that have ripped trees right out of the ground. We'll take you there, next.

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[13:53:12]

KEILAR: Hurricane Dorian is pounding the Carolinas with heavy rains and high winds. It's also producing tornados.

CNN's Rosa Flores is in Little River, South Carolina. This is just north of Myrtle Beach where a tornado touched down this morning.

Tell us what you're seeing, Rosa.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, we're starting to see the damage and the destruction of Hurricane Dorian. And Hurricane Dorian is not even here yet.

Take a look at this house behind me, and you'll see that the tree is snapped. Portions of the roof have been peeled off. And the siding has been buckled.

I talked to the owner of this house. He says that he and his wife are safe. Thank goodness their insurance is taking care of them. So they're staying at a hotel. They're counting their blessings today. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT NORRIS, HOME DAMAGED BY TORNADO IN MYRTLE BEACH: It was around 4:00, 4:15 this morning. We just heard the loud rumbling noise. Kind of sounds like a train in a sense. And went to the window to see what was going on. A lot of wind. The trees were about sideways. We're were lucky we didn't have any damage. We lost a few shingles, but that's about all.

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FLORES: As you take a live look, you can see the power of this tornado how it uprooted a tree.

Now, according to the fire department, the direction of this tornado was in that direction toward the west. You can almost see it because of the destruction.

Now, here this, Brianna, this area is on a tornado watch until 4:00 p.m. So it's not over yet Brianna?

[13:54:47]

KEILAR: Rosa Flores, thank you so much, in Little River, South Carolina.

Any moment now, we're getting an update from the National Hurricane Center on Dorian's track as this continue to hammer the Carolina coastline. Up to eight feet of storm surge expected to flood cities there. We have our special live coverage continuing next.

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ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Alisyn Camerota, in for Brooke Baldwin today. And this is CNN's special coverage of Hurricane Dorian.

[14:00:04]

The deadly storm has devastated the Bahamas. And we still do not know the complete death toll there.