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Forecast for Hurricane Dorian; Charleston Flooding with More to Come; South Carolina Resident Talks About Dorian; Images of Hurricane- Ravaged Abaco Island. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 5, 2019 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to CNN's special live coverage of Hurricane Dorian. I'm John King in Washington. Erica Hill in Charleston. As you can see, she has a front-row view of the storm's power.

This is the view from the International Space Station. Take a look. Beyond words.

Dorian weakening just last hour to a category two storm, but its impact is still being felt up and down the coast. Multiple tornados have touched down this morning. Parts of downtown Charleston already under water.

2:00 p.m., a couple hours from now, is when the next high tide arrives. And with the storm surge, officials worry tide levels could reach 10 feet. Those worries were the reality in the Bahamas, where rescues are still underway today.

Our CNN crews on Grand Bahama spotted U.S. Coast Guard choppers flying over the wreckage just this morning. The Coast Guard says they have rescued 135 people and six pets across the island so far. On the Abacos, at least 80 people have been rescued according to a government official.

The view from above shows everything below leveled by this storm. At least 20 people were killed in the Bahamas. And as we've been saying for days, that total, sadly, likely will rise.

Erica in Charleston now where the 200,000 are still without power. That makes plotting the next hours, never mind the next few days, more than difficult.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, it does. And it's -- and, obviously, the hard part now, John, is that we are still in the thick of it. So there are still hours of rain and wind to come, which means that it delays getting out there and being able to assess what's happening.

I just spoke with the mayor of Point Pleasant a short time ago and he said that is one of the things, obviously, that will delay that process because it has to be safe for crews to be out there. And I can tell you, in the last hour or so, the conditions here have really picked up in Charleston. We are feeling the force of these wind gusts. And despite that being downgraded to a category two, that difference of five miles an hour, you don't really feel that difference when you're here on the ground.

I want to go to the CNN weather center. Meteorologist Allison Chinchar is standing by.

And, Allison, just give me a sense as -- as we are feeling this wind pick up, I would imagine that the eye wall is getting closer to us because that is where the strongest winds are. Because it also seems these gusts have been more consistent and they seem to be sticking around for a little bit at this point.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, that has to do with the fact that this storm is getting closer to you. And that's what's going to happen, not just where you are, but for North and South Carolina. As the storm edges closer to you, those wind gusts, those strong wind gusts are going to get more frequent and you're not going to have quite as many gaps in between them. The rain is going to get heavier, things of that nature.

Also, one of the other main concerns with this particular storm is the potential for tornados as well as we go through the day. And it's all from these feeder bands, right through here, these outer bands as they make their way onshore. They have been producing numerous, more than a dozen tornado warnings so far today. We have one active, you can see here just to the north of Wilmington at the moment. But much of this area is under a tornado watch through the afternoon hours today. And it's portions of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina that have the threat for not only tornados but also water spouts.

And the reason water spouts are important is because we've already noticed that at least one of them this morning originated as a waterspout and came on land causing damage across portions of Morehead City. Now, here's the thing. This area right here, the orange, that is a level three out of five for severe weather. So, again, the threat is relatively high for those tornados.

In addition to that, you also have to worry about the flooding. This is likely to be the biggest widespread problem from Dorian going forward, not just in the form of storm surge, but also very heavy rainfall. Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, you are talking widespread amounts of four to six inches, but you will have numerous locations, especially where you see those shades of red or even pink where you're talking eight, 10, if not even a foot of rain coming down.

Now, you factor that on top of the storm surge, this is why coastal flooding is likely going to be pretty significant. These red areas right here, Erica, you're talking about Wilmington, Myrtle Beach and Hatteras. We're talking four to seven feet of storm surge.

HILL: And that is a lot to contend with.

Allison, thank you.

We are still under a flash flood warning here in Charleston, in north Charleston, as well as Mt. Pleasant. That goes through 1:15. And the flood, of course, of major concern, because, as Allison touched on, we have not only the high tide coming, it is supposed to crest at 2:00 at around 9.5 feet is the forecast, but the consistent, heavy rains and that storm surge. And when they all come together at once, where does that water go.

My colleague, Brian Todd, is in the historic downtown area down by the battery.

And, Brian, I know you found a significant amount of flooding where you are. You're also seeing some of these transformers blowing as we hear these reports of power outages. We're also seeing lights flickering around here.


What more have you found, Brian?


We're at corner of East Bay Street and Market Street. I'm going to have our photojournalist, Harlan Schmidt, just go right past me down the street on Market. You can see that downed power line over there sparking and you might see it explode any minute now because we rolled up on this thing about 30 minutes ago. There, you can see it whipping around and causing sparks.

But it -- it really explodes every few minutes and then the lights flicker on, you know, on and off where we are. Clearly it's knocked out power down Market Street over there. Significant flooding here on Market Street and other streets here in Charleston. There you see it going. Get ready, it could explode because there's a transformer that really exploded violently a few minutes ago when we rolled up on this thing.

We are a safe distance away from it. We're probably about 150 yards away. And we are on the other side of a cross street here. But we've been having to warn people who have kind of walked around this area to clear out and not go down that street and not drive down that street because obviously that thing is still whipping around and still very much of a danger.

Officials here in Charleston tell us there are also more than a hundred downed trees in this area. They've got 85 road closures in this area, 26 of them flood-related, including one not far from here near the Ashley River, which is a very low-lying river. There you see it sparking again. This thing could really blow in a second because it's been very, very violent at times while we've been here and very, very dangerous, obviously, for anybody all along these streets.

You know, Charleston is used to this kind of thing, but this is the third major hurricane to impact this area in the last three years. You had Matthew in 2016, you had Irma in 2017, now this. They also had a 1,000-year flood event in 2015. The city is kind of wondering how much more it can take.

You can see that thing still sparking.

We'll get some information also from the mayor's office about power outages. The power is out down here.

Interestingly, every time that thing blows, the power kind of goes on and off where we are and kind of kicks back on. So there are currents running all over this area. Very, very dangerous here, Erica.

We'll toss it back to you.

HILL: All right. And I know you said you and your crew are a safe distance away, but I know that there will be people watching this at home, in case you missed that, we know that you are doing your best to stay safe. So, Brian, appreciate that and appreciate you keeping us updated.

I want to go down to Art Perry. He is on James Island, which is actually just across the Ashley River from where I am, just across a bridge.

And you are riding the storm out there, Art. You've been posting some videos of what you've seen.

What are you experiencing right now?

ART PERRY, JAMES ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA RESIDENT (via telephone): Well, right now I'm watching this tree dance with these power lines right above the house here. And I believe it's going to make it. But I don't know. It's been -- it's been interesting here --

HILL: So --

PERRY: Go ahead.

HILL: Are -- are you worried that that tree -- you say you're watching this tree dance with some power lines above your house. Are you worried that that could in fact fall towards your home?

PERRY: No, ma'am. No, ma'am. It's not going towards us. But -- I mean we haven't had power since about 1:00 this morning. So it ain't going to make no difference to us right now. But it's definitely a whole lot worse right now than it has been the rest of the time. It's a solid, constant, strong wind.

HILL: Yes, that's definitely what we're feeling here right in downtown Charleston.

You know, we talked a lot -- we heard from the mayor of Charleston yesterday saying if you had flooding during Irma, if there was flooding for you during Matthew, then you need to get out because you will likely see flooding again.

What made you decide to stay? PERRY: Well, you know, the local -- the local news and weather and all

the police and the emergency did a really good job of getting everybody ready for it. And this is the third one we've had in three years. So you don't really get used to it, you just kind of learn to adapt to it. Once you're in it, you're in it. So we just went ahead and took a stance. It was risk/reward. We knew what we was getting into.

HILL: Have you ever evacuated before?

PERRY: We left during Matthew, I believe. Matthew, yes. We left during Matthew, but we stayed during Irma. And so we figured, why not. We -- we knew it was going to be a pretty good one, but we'll take our chances.

HILL: And what about the folks around you where you are? Did many other people decide to stay or are you the lone holdout there, Art?

PERRY: So it's -- our neighbors, we're all pretty close knit. We've all been in contact with each other. I believe everybody but two houses stayed. And then I got out in it this morning at about 4:30 and -- oh, sorry, hold on. OK, good, it's safe. I thought that tree was coming there.

HILL: Oh, my goodness.

PERRY: But everybody that we've talked to is doing well. We've got kids -- there's some kids next door and they're well taken care of. And we're just riding it out.

HILL: Art -- well, Art, well, I hope you'll keep us posted. We'll keep checking your Twitter feed as well. Be careful. Be careful of that tree. We are glad that you are safe and we want it to stay that way.

Art Perry joining us there from James Island.


As you can see, the conditions are really picking up here. Art noticed he's feeling it on James Island. We, again, are just across the river from him in downtown Charleston and Hurricane Dorian really making itself known in these parts.

Our live coverage continues after this short break. Stay with us.


KING: Welcome back to our special live coverage of Hurricane Dorian.

The prime minister of the Bahamas calling it, quote, generational devastation in his country after Hurricane Dorian.


Harbors, shops, workplaces, homes, even the Grand Bahama International Airport, demolished by Dorian. At least 135 people have been rescued so far in the Bahamas, that according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

CNN's Paula Newton joins us now live from Nassau.

Paula, you're just back to Nassau. At this time yesterday, you had just arrived at Man-O-War Cay. And we spoke to you then. In the 24 hours since, you have gathered some remarkable images, heard some remarkable, sad stories. Bring us up to speed.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and, John, yesterday, when we had arrived, it had been about an hour on the ground, and then after that the devastation that we saw was incredible. I want you to see some of it now.

John, you were talking about each and every home. Probably about half of them when I went through, the area we went through, were completely destroyed. You can probably see it now. They said the first thing that happened was those rooftops would come off. And then after that, they had debris from their own homes, from other homes, air conditioners, all of it spinning around and potentially lethal projectiles headed everywhere.

Keep in mind, when you see this video, at the time that the storm was hitting, a lot of people didn't have rooftops. They were trying to get to other homes or other places of shelter. It could have been a bathroom. But look at this video, John. I mean you're talking about unrecognizable -- we had shown some of this very footage to some of the islanders, even they could not recognize what was what.

You had boats completely turned upside down, barges turned upside down. Boats that had been flung, you know, tens of feet away from their original location. And these all became very dangerous scenes, as this storm spiraled out of control really in front of them.

And, John, they want you to know that as much of these -- as horrible as these pictures are, John, that, in fact, they don't begin to describe, they say, the horror that they felt in their own homes or when they all tried to find any neighbor's house, any neighbor's bathroom, any neighbor's shed that was still standing and they would move over hours. And you're talking more than a day and a half, John, from house to house, from room to room, pulling mattresses off of beds to hold together windows and doors so that they wouldn't blow open, all the time trying to shelter the most vulnerable among them, the elderly and the children.

I want you to hear now from Sherri Roberts and her experience. Take a listen.


SHERRI ROBERTS: It's not just us.

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.

ROBERTS: Yes. 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. My husband.

NEWTON: Hi there.

ROBERTS: My daughter's (INAUDIBLE).

NEWTON: I think I met your daughter, Christine?

ROBERTS: Yes. Yes.



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. I don't wish it on nobody. Nobody. Words can't describe it. There's -- they can never categorize -- categorize this, never.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My grandfather ran out in the middle of it (ph).

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. 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 listen to Sherri there and the emotion, so warranted, John, after all the trauma.

They tell me they can't process it. They can't process what they've been through or what they're seeing in their own community with the complete and utter devastation of a community that's been built really over decades.

John, they're wondering what to do next.

KING: And, Paula, so you have these people, like an atomic bomb. I mean that I -- is a very apt description from that woman there. God bless her for keeping the family together and keeping her wits about her.

As you spent the night there without electricity, you see the drone footage that you showed with us. You also brought back these amazing still images of the devastation. For people who don't understand, this is their livelihood, tourism, fishing, recreation. And when you look at these pictures, it is gone. What -- what are the people you spoke with, what do they plan on doing now and next?


NEWTON: Yes, you hit it straight on there, John. That's the problem. John, they don't know what to do next. And when the prime minister of the Bahamas says this is a generational issue, it's all staring them at the face, isn't it. They don't have any infrastructure. Their main concern now, obviously, is their health. Even dealing with things like sanitation, water, food. They'll be OK for a week, but then what then?

And I think the issue is that this is transformational for these communities, communities that may no longer exist, John. And that's what's really hurting them.

At Man-O-War I spoke to families with little ones wondering, we want to get these kids to school. How will we get them to school. Their schools are completely destroyed. Will we ever return to the islands where we were born, where we want to raise our families. And we are wondering now, can we raise our families there, and that is the issue.

John, you start from a to z, they need it all. This is from the ground up. But worse than that, right, because they need to get rid of all this debris that's on these islands. They need that heavy equipment to start cleaning up and get rid of things that are hazardous and also toxic.

There are so many issues piling up now, John, and they are trying to process it all. They don't even know about the -- you know, they have no communications. I had to tell them, in terms of what went on throughout the entire Bahamas, and they were shocked and horrified by that. So they're trying to come to grips with all of that.

Where they might have gone to Freeport, let's say, they then heard that Freeport is suffering its own ordeal with Dorian. And those are the kind of stories that they are trying to come to terms with and deciding what they do next and if they can return to these islands or if they're going to have to leave permanently.

KING: And, Paula, when you add the isolation into the devastation in the sense of how difficult is it still to get between the islands for those who -- whether it's medical attention, whether it's food and water, whether it's some temporary help with the sanitary conditions you talk about, or just any temporary help, how difficult is that challenge at this moment?

NEWTON: I want to make it clear, it is immensely difficult. These are resourceful, self-reliant people. The Abaconians know what they're doing. The problem is, as I was saying, they have to start from the ground up.

So feature it, John, when I went to you live yesterday, they had cleared, just the hour before, the baseball diamond, the baseball diamond, cleared it of debris because they knew a helicopter had to land. So they started with that. They thought, OK, let's at least be able to get a helicopter in there. We were the first helicopter to get in there.

Now they've been ferrying some people to other locations, still in the Abacos Islands, unclear about where they can go, people who need medical attention, those families that have small children, starting to get them out.

They're good for food and water for about 10 days or so, but that's not the half it, right? The issue in some areas, not on Man-O-War, thank goodness, but certainly in Great Marsh is they still have to recover bodies, John. And people there know that there is a limited time to do that before disease, things like cholera, start to set in. And, as you mentioned, the sanitation is also going to be an issue in the coming days.

It is a monumental task ahead, John.

KING: Well, I hope that people around the world understand it better in part because of the hustle of you and your crew in the last several days. We appreciate your work as well as we can bring attention to that devastation and to those families who need help and to that point.

Paula Newton, thank you. For more information about how you can support nonprofits and others

working to help Hurricane Dorian victims, please go to

Coming up for us, Hurricane Dorian very much at the top of the mind for 2020 Democrats. At last night's big town hall on the climate crisis, we'll have highlights for you. That's up next.



KING: Welcome back.

We're continuing, of course, to track Hurricane Dorian. We'll have the latest on that storm coming up.

But for now we turn to the climate crisis and last night's remarkable town hall marathon right here on CNN where Democratic candidates for president laid out their vision for what they say is an urgent necessary, a cleaner, greener future. The key here, ten candidates trying to stand out, 10 separate town halls spanning seven hours of live television. So, plenty of spots where the candidates disagreed or pitched some distinct ideas. But on the whole of the big picture, the Democratic field agrees on the big problem.


JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What you've described is the most existential threat to our country's future.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But an existential threat to who we are as human beings.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What the scientists call an existential threat to this planet.


MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The entire way of life is being threatened.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The most existential crisis to our country and to the planet earth.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A very real and present crisis that we have in this country.


ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And we need to take urgent action.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can do something. We have to act, now. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Ten candidates talking about an issue that we have seen in the polling. And when you travel and talk to voters, important to Democratic primary voters, especially younger Democratic voters. This is an urgent concern for them.

So what are the differences? Let's start with one. Senator Cory Booker last night disagreeing with says Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren among those who say get rid of nuclear power as part of this getting to a cleaner, greener future. Senator Cory Booker says that's unrealistic.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My plan says that we need to be -- are -- at a zero carbon electricity by 2030.


That's ten years from the time that I will win the presidency of the United States of America. You -- and right now nuclear.