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Hurricane Dorian Batters Charleston, Threatening with Catastrophic Flooding; Bahamas in Desperate Need of Disaster Relief after Dorian; Trump Presents Altered Hurricane Map; 2020 Dems Tackle Climate Crisis in CNN Town Hall. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired September 5, 2019 - 04:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Hurricane Dorian regaining strength battering the South Carolina coast, flooding streets, cutting power. Rescue and cleanup efforts underway in the battered Bahamas.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And #sharpiegate. A doctored phony map in the Oval Office. The president pushing a fake narrative that Dorian was a threat to Alabama.


CHANEL MILLER, SEXUAL ASSAULT SURVIVOR: In newspapers, my name was "unconscious intoxicated woman."


ROMANS: She was raped by a college athlete, then devastated at his light sentence. Five years later, she wants you to hear her story and know her name.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Good morning. Good morning to all of you. I'm Dave Briggs. 4:32 Eastern Time right here in New York. We start with breaking news overnight.

A sudden resurgence for Dorian. The hurricane regaining strength and now once again a major category 3 storm. Officials say landfall is possible anywhere in the Carolinas. Right now, Dorian is approaching the coast of South Carolina. The National Hurricane Center warning of life-threatening storm surge and dangerous winds.

ROMANS: Dorian is forecast to run parallel to the coast of North and South Carolina into Friday, but any swerve to the west could bring the eye of the hurricane on shore. This morning more than one million people in the Carolinas are under mandatory evacuation orders.

In coastal South Carolina they are bracing for catastrophic flooding. Parts of downtown Charleston already underwater. Already more than 76,000 customers without power. Officials are asking residents to shelter in place. Meteorologist Derek Van Dam is there for us this morning. And, you

know, it's called the low country for a reason. I mean, can't imagine --


BRIGGS: -- the flooding there into Charleston right now.

VAN DAM: Yes, just flying into Charleston late yesterday, we saw the low country and all its glory, and why this area is so susceptible to flooding.

And that's just it, Christine, you know, we can't overestimate the power of this flooding potential that is -- exists right now within Charleston. This is a city on edge. A particularly vulnerable coastal city facing a triple threat this morning, not only from storm surge but also from flash flooding and hurricane force winds. We have had sustained tropical storm force winds all night.

And just having a conversation with my producer and some of the cameramen located here at the hotel that we're at. We have seen flashes of purple, green, blue illuminating the sky every few minutes. I mean, literally we're seeing this frequently here because those are transformers popping in the distance as the strong wind gusts batter this area.


We've also had sheet metal flapping in the distance as well. So these telltale signs that the hurricane is getting closer and closer. And that is exactly what it's going to do this morning as it brings that inner eye wall closer to the South Carolina coast and that is where the heaviest of rainfall is going to set up. And we've had some those feeder bands already.

In fact, new this morning, Christine, flash flood warning just alerted on my cellphone in effect here for Charleston right through 10:15 this evening. We already know of reports of flooding downtown within the historic district area. The police are already cordoning off roadways. And there's also tornado warnings that are taking place in the Myrtle Beach region just to our north and east.

So this is a very fluid situation quite literally and figuratively, I guess. And, you know, this is going to be a long grueling next 12 to 24 hours as Hurricane Dorian scrapes the coast.

ROMANS: Yes. Those wind gusts, you know, flapping sheet metal is a dangerous situation that's why the authorities are saying shelter in place. Don't be out there trying to take a look.


ROMANS: Thanks so much, Derek, for that.

BRIGGS: Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri has the latest forecast on the hurricane in the CNN Weather Center. Derek just showed us what's there but a lot more on the way. What are you seeing?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. You know, in the next couple of hours, Dave, between, say, right now and five -- right now about 7:00 to 8:00 in the morning, that's when the heaviest rain begins pushing right through Charleston. The most powerful winds also in place. The center of the storm sits about 85, 90 miles south of Charleston at this hour. But of course you're seeing the tropical storm force winds and we think hurricane force wind is going to be sustained across Charleston as early as 7:00 to 8:00 a.m. and potentially all the way until noon across this region.

So heavy rainfall must really be the theme here over the next few hours, potentially getting some three to four months' worth of rain for Charleston in a matter of 12 to 24 hours across this region. So flooding, again a major, major concern as this storm closes in on land. And then you notice the forecast totals among the highest we've seen in quite some time. Charleston could pick up as much as 10 to 15 inches of rainfall.

That's of course falling from the skies. And then you factor in the water being pushed in on shore from the Charleston harbor area, significant storm surge concern across this region. In fact, here are the areas of sustained hurricane force winds and notice the time stamp over the next few minutes into the next couple of hours. Charleston begins to push in towards the hurricane force winds and that continues until at least noon.

And then Wilmington, Myrtle Beach, you get into the hurricane force winds potentially for a period of seven to eight straight hours, and then the storm system Thursday night into Friday morning makes landfall we think somewhere around the outer banks of the Carolinas as a strong category 2 and before it skirts off the eastern seaboard. So the storm surge threat, the heavy rainfall threat really going to make this a dangerous storm over the next few hours.


JAVAHERI: For Charleston and neighbors to its north there.

ROMANS: All right, Pedram, thank you so much. Keep an eye on it for us and let us know if there's any change. We'll have another National Hurricane Center update at 5:00 a.m.

All right. Rescue and relief efforts just getting underway in the Bahamas this morning. The CNN team on the ground says the level of devastation is breathtaking. The official death toll at this hour 20. That is expected to climb. People everywhere are stepping forward to help. In Freeport, a volunteer looks for the owner of a dog he rescued from rising waters and others rescued a stranded family from the deluge.

BRIGGS: In Jacksonville, Florida, a Good Samaritan walked into a Costco and left with 100 generators, all of them bound for the Bahamas at a cost of $45,000.

And there was that emotional moment captured by CNN. A 10-year-old boy reunited with his relatives after being separated during the hurricane.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann is on the ground for us on Grand Bahama Island.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, for the first time, U.S. Coast Guard helicopters and airplanes have begun conducting flights over the island of Grand Bahama. This is incredibly encouraging because up until now, there has been no sign of any assistance from outside, from the outside world to this isolated island.

There's so much need here right now. People are running short on water, on food. We need more generators brought in because there's still no power on the entire island. So, we drove out to the airport today. We were able to get there. We tried the day before and it was impossible. But many of the roads have begun getting cleared up.

But what we found at the airport was a scene of total devastation. One of the terminals was completely ripped open. There was part of an airplane wing inside that terminal with the wheels still attached. We saw other planes swirled around like toys outside the airport.

It was hard to imagine what could have caused this incredible destruction. The storm surge from Dorian did cover the airport, did submerge the airport in water for two days, and the other terminals, while still standing, were also badly damaged by this flooding.


One of the terminals we're told was too dangerous to enter because no one had come yet to do a damage assessment. The runway was littered with metal, concrete. There's so many debris that it's impossible to imagine a plane landing or taking off.

And that is really a challenge for this island because on an isolated island like this one, the airport is a vital link to the rest of the world. That is how aid can come in. That is how people and there are many people we've seen who have injuries that need to be medivaced now, that is how they could leave. That is how they would normally leave.

And right now, although we are told cleanup crews will begin work at the airport very soon and that it is a priority to open up the airport, it doesn't seem like that can happen very soon. It certainly won't be soon enough for the many residents in desperate situations here on the island of Grand Bahama.

Patrick Oppmann, Freeport, in the Bahamas.

ROMANS: Just remarkable work from Patrick over the past few days. Thank you for that.

Joining us now from Nassau in the Bahamas, Diego Traverso. He's director of International Disaster Relief for the charity Operation Blessing Mexico.

Thanks for joining us. I know your team in there includes some water, a doctor, a couple of water purification experts. Talk to us about what you're trying to do first here using some solar powered generators, trying to get some light and some power there, also trying to get some clean water.

DIEGO TRAVERSO, DIRECTOR OF INTERNATIONAL DISASTER RELIEF, OPERATION BLESSING MEXICO: Hey, good morning. Yes, we're trying to get to the Abaco Island first. And we're waiting for the paths to clear out. It's very difficult to find a way to get there. We've been trying to get with the -- with different means to get to the island and the priority right now is search and rescue so we are in hope with all the equipment trying to figure out the best way to get there and start helping the people.

We have water equipment ready to go to desalinate the water and make it fresh so people can start having fresh water, and also some solar powered equipment so people can have little electricity at least to charge their cell phones or see during the night.

BRIGGS: If you could, just take a step back and describe for us the destruction, the devastation you are seeing there in the Bahamas.

TRAVERSO: Well, we've been like seeing all of this destruction. It's like -- we've seen like a massive relocation of people. Like there is no services at all. And destruction is total. We're talking about 70 percent to 90 percent destruction of the basic services. So it's pretty difficult to figure out what is going to be the way to go in this because pushing hard to get to the island, to start basic services, it's going to be very challenging when we have nothing there to operate.

ROMANS: So the first problem here is getting where you're trying to go to the Abacos, then you want to get some -- you want to get your solar powered equipment there so you can get some power and you want to get fresh water. I mean, these are really the basics you're trying to restore here.

TRAVERSO: The basic is water for us right now to restore. No water, no life, we said, so we really need to get there with this equipment so we can start operating the water systems and getting fresh water to the people. And -- but we know, we understand also that search and rescue is priority too right now. We see helicopters every five minutes coming in and out from the island rescued people. And also meds are very needed. We see a lot of people coming, wounded people, and we hear that on the island there is a lot of medical attention -- medical needs that need to be take care.

BRIGGS: Folks can help if they want, text obdisaster to 71777. That is obdisaster to 71777.

Diego Traverso, best of luck to you.

ROMANS: Thank you.

BRIGGS: Operation Blessing doing great things. Thanks for being with us.

TRAVERSO: Thank you, guys.

ROMANS: All right. Pay no attention to the man in the White House if you're looking for an accurate hurricane forecast. President Trump, in the Oval Office -- in the Oval Office -- showing an early prediction of Dorian's trajectory. A closer look reveals someone extended the target area to include Alabama. You see it there, that black marker line on the left? It's a false narrative the president has been peddling for days.

That map was handed to him by the acting Homeland Security secretary, by the way. A White House official tells CNN there was a discussion in the Oval Office about how the storm could have been worse than early projections so someone extended the cone with black marker. A source would not deny President Trump personally drew that extension.


BRIGGS: An archived version of a NOAA map from last Thursday showed Dorian veering left toward Florida but it did not show Alabama would be affected. CNN meteorologist confirmed one forecast on Friday showed 1/10th of one county in extreme southwest Alabama was included in one model but that map bears little resemblance to the one President Trump used on Wednesday.

ROMANS: For what it's worth, it's a federal crime to publish a phony weather report, which is essentially --

BRIGGS: Just admit you made a mistake. It wouldn't have been that big of a deal.

ROMANS: So the backstory for people, the president mentioned that Alabama was in the path. That was not true. And now the White House is trying to make it true. Is that right?

BRIGGS: And no one around him is there to say, please don't do this.

ROMANS: All right, 45 minutes past the hour. The climate crisis, a top priority for 2020 Democrats. Ten of them were on stage for an unprecedented CNN town hall. How they plan to address the critical issue next.



BRIGGS: The climate crisis is a top priority for 2020 Democrats. Ten of them talked about their plans at a CNN town hall last night.

Dan Merica has more on where they agreed and where they did not.

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave and Christine. Ten of the top polling Democratic candidates for president rolled out their climate change proposals on CNN last night over seven hours of town hall. Now they all said that the issue was a preeminent one and had to be a central focus in the next Democratic president's administration. But there were some distinct differences, such as how long it will take the United States to get to carbon neutrality. How expensive that will be. And how they will pay for their sweeping plans.

Kamala Harris, the California senator, was one of the candidates who proposed using the Department of Justice to go after oil and gas companies.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They have to be held accountable. These are bad behaviors. They are causing harm and death in communities. And there has been no accountability, certainly not by this administration, nor, and I hate to say it so generally, by the Republicans in Congress.


MERICA: Now all of the candidates spoke about climate change in dire terms. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg said it could be more difficult to combat the climate crisis than it was to win World War II. Beto O'Rourke, the former congressman from Texas, said that climate change was an existential threat and Elizabeth Warren urged people to focus on fossil fuel producers, many of whom want the debate to focus on what she says were smaller issues like red meat, plastic straws and lightbulbs.

Elizabeth Warren also compared her plan to that of Bernie Sanders saying the fact that Sanders wants to spend $16 trillion compared to her $3 trillion plan does not mean he cares more about the issue. Take a listen to what she said.




WARREN: But let me tell you why, and that is, yes, I've got plans. I've got a $2 trillion plan, I've got a $1 trillion plan in picking up how we're going to cut carbon emissions by 70 percent by 2035, but we're going to use all the tools in the toolbox. This is not a moment where we just say, you know what, we just need to put some money on it and then we're going to fix this.


MERICA: And as you might expect, President Donald Trump and his administration were the least popular people in the room last night even if they weren't there. When candidates were asked whether they would roll back some of the things that President Donald Trump has done about climate change, overwhelmingly all of them said yes and some in very blunt terms.

Here's what Bernie Sanders said when he was asked specifically about a lightbulb regulation that President Trump has instituted.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Reinstate those requirements?



SANDERS: Look, you know, it is --

COOPER: I guess I should ask how fast would you reinstate those.




MERICA: Dave and Christine, obviously all of this happened as Hurricane Dorian threatened the eastern seaboard of the United States, something that hung over the entire seven-hour event.

Back to you.

ROMANS: All right, thank you so much for that.

Apple has cast a wide net for its new credit card. Hear what the head of Apple Pay says about whether this card and your phone will replace your wallet.



ROMANS: After years of anonymity the survivor of Brock Turner's sexual assault is letting the world know her name. It's Chanel Miller. She's telling her story for the first time since the 2015 rape in a new book aptly titled "Know My Name." Miller was attacked by Turner while unconscious after a fraternity party at Stanford University. In an upcoming interview with "60 Minutes," she reads part of her powerful impact statement from Turner's sentencing.


MILLER: In newspapers, my name was "unconscious, intoxicated woman." Ten syllables and nothing more than that. I had to force myself to relearn my real name, my identity. To relearn that this is not all that I am.


BRIGGS: That went viral. Turner, who could have been sentenced to 14 years in federal prison, got six months in county jail and served just three. The decision by Judge Aaron Persky was met with outrage. He said a tougher sentence, quote, "would have had a severe impact on him."

ROMANS: And the California judge was recalled, the first recalled in some 80 years.

All right. With iPhone sales slowing, services are even more important for Apple. Apple's latest venture, the Apple Card, a sleek titanium card with no numbers and high hopes. I asked Apple's fin- tech guru Jennifer Bailey whether we're headed to a day soon where your phone replaces your wallet. She said that day is coming.


JENNIFER BAILEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF INTERNET SERVICES, APPLE: When we worked with Goldman on the Apple Card, you know, philosophy one of the things that we agreed is that we wanted to provide this product to as many iPhone customers as possible so we have a lot of Apple customers. We have a lot of other kinds of customers as well. And so our --