Return to Transcripts main page


Hurricane Dorian Gains Strength, Heads Toward Carolinas; Mayor John Tecklenburg, Charleston SC is Interviewed About Hurricane Dorian; Trump Shows Altered Map of Dorian's Trajectory; Dem Candidates Lay Out Plans for Combating Climate Crisis. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired September 5, 2019 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The forecast no putting the Carolinas on high alert.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're boarding up windows, sealing off doors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Images from the Bahamas show Dorian's wrath.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is extremely frightening.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are fighting for the survival of the planet earth, our only planet.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not a question of debating the science. It's a question of taking on powerful interests.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is the hardest thing we will have done, certainly in my lifetime, as a country. This is on par with winning World War II. That's even more challenging.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is CNN's special live coverage of Hurricane Dorian. I'm John Berman, live in Charleston, South Carolina, this morning. Alisyn Camerota joins me from New York.

And the big news is overnight, this storm got stronger. Hurricane Dorian growing back to a Category 3 hurricane. That makes it a major hurricane as it moves up the East Coast. It's about 80 miles off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina this morning. But already causing major, major problems here.

There are emergency flash flood warnings for the entire city until 10 a.m., including from where I'm standing now, more than 100,000 people are without power this morning; and that number is growing and growing quickly. And it's expected to rain up to 20 inches here over the next 15 to 20 hours, and that will be a major problem, as well.

The storm moves up South Carolina into North Carolina tomorrow. So there's a long way to go here.

Meanwhile, in the Bahamas, the relief crews are hoping to be able to get more resources to the people in need on the Abacos Island and Grand Bahama Island. We now know that at least 20 people have lost their lives. But Bahamian officials say they expect that number to go up. And we're getting our first pictures of the airport, which is such an important place on Grand Bahama Island, and it is simply devastated. We will check in in the Bahamas in just a moment.

But Alisyn, as you can see, you know, we're four or five days now into this march following this storm up the coast. And it's not nearly done yet.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: John, I didn't think you could get any wetter. But somehow, you've managed to since yesterday. So clearly, the storm where you are has definitely gotten worse. And as you say, it has offshore, as well, because it's not a Category 3.

So we'll be back to you in a moment.

We have other news to report now. President Trump is still claiming that Alabama faced a serious threat from Hurricane Dorian. And here's his proof. Well, it's an official map drawn on with black marker.

The National Weather Service has emphatically corrected him, saying that this was never the case. But hey, man, there's that black magic marker. That's the convincing, compelling case that the White House is putting out.

A White House source would not deny to CNN that it was the president himself who drew that black marker line. OK?

So John Avlon and I, John Berman, are going to analyze that awesome art project that has nothing to do with the real forecast later in the program. But let's get to more serious things.


CAMEROTA: And that, of course, is where you're standing in the hurricane.

BERMAN: It's really helpful, by the way, from the president to be doing that as this storm is hitting. Again, as we said, it is moving up the coast. There are a lot of cities watching this very closely.

So let's go to Allison Chinchar in the weather center for the latest update from the Hurricane Center -- Allison.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, we're now starting to see the storm begin to slow back down again. The new forward movement now dropping down to 7 miles per hour. But it's due north.

We have yet to see that shift off to the east yet, which means it is possible we can end up getting a landfall today in South Carolina rather than tomorrow in North Carolina. Both of those scenarios are very possible over the next 24 to 36 hours.

Winds are still sustained at 115 miles per hour. So it is still a Category 3 storm. And again, continuing to bring a lot of these very strong rain bands into the Carolinas. The biggest update we have for you is just within the last hour. We have a brand-new tornado watch in effect for portions of North and South Carolina as these storms continue to move onshore.

And you can see a lot of lightning here pushing in towards Wilmington. Again, and that Myrtle Beach area, look at this. We've got not one but three different active tornado warnings at this point in time. This is likely going to be a trend that continues off and on throughout the day as those bands continue to push inland.

Here you can see on this map where the biggest threat for tornadoes and water spouts is expected to be. This covers more than half of the North Carolina coast and a small portion of the northeastern section of the coastline of South Carolina.

Here's a look at that track. Again, it's going to brush awfully close, potentially making a landfall across South Carolina. But if it does not today, it is very possible to have that landfall tomorrow over portions of North Carolina.

Flooding is still going to be the biggest concern out of this storm. Dealing with both storm surges. You can see here the red color, indicating four to seven feet for places like Wilmington, Myrtle Beach and Savannah. But five to eight feet, potentially, from Charleston to the north.

In addition to the storm surge, you also have to be dealing with the very heavy rainfall. This map, widespread, about 4 to 6 inches here. But where you see the red color and even this pink/purple color down here by Charleston, guys, we're talking about in excess of 10 inches of rain in just the next 48 hours.


BERMAN: And I have to say, Alisyn, the water is the major concern here. It's the rain. It's the high tide. We're expecting another one at 1 p.m. This city is already prone to flooding. So over the next 20 hours or so, they are very, very wary about what might happen.

Allison Chinchar, thank you very much.

Some parts of town have already flooded. Our Athena Jones not far from where I am in one of these areas that's having some issues this morning. Athena, what do you see?


That's right. We're in the thick of it experiencing these rain bands. You can see the street behind me is partially flooded. A lot of the streets around this area look like that. We're about a block off the battery, so a block away from the coast.

And just to give you a sense of how quickly things are changing, just in driving around the last hour or so, we've seen the power go out. So we can bear witness to the power outages, the ongoing power outages, as we're experiencing at times the driving rain, strong winds.

As you've mentioned, the rain is expected to reach 15 to 20 inches along the coast. There is a -- there's a flash flood warning in effect until 10:15 a.m. And the National Weather Service is still -- National Hurricane Center is still predicting life-threatening storm surge, which is, of course, the big concern on this peninsula.

We're surrounded by three sides by water, and this is a flood prone low-lying area. This is what we'll be watching for. You mentioned those power outages. Over 100,000 customers without power.

Officials are also warning those folks who lose power, don't -- use flashlights instead of candles. Don't use portable indoor generators because of the carbon monoxide risk.

Officials are also warning anyone who may be out on the roads, of course, they shouldn't be at this hour, but -- at this time -- not to drive through standing water, because you don't know how deep it is. And also warning people to be careful crossing high bridges, given the wind gusts -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Athena Jones, thank you very much.

Joining me now is the mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, John Tecklenburg. And I have to say, first of all, Mayor, thank you. You used your mayoral privilege to bring me under cover for this interview. So that, in and of itself, and I do want to start with a bit of good news. The high tide overnight with the storm surge wasn't quite as bad as you feared. What's the situation down on the streets that you've seen.

MAYOR JOHN TECKLENBURG (D), CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, that's great news. And sorry for the inhospitable weather. So we're such a place of hospitality, but it -- this will pass soon.

And I'm so proud of our citizens for staying in and staying out of harm's way. Overnight, we received no reports of any injury of any kind, although 75,000 people are without power right now, and there are a lot of power lines down and trees down. We're starting to get reports in as people are waking up and calling in our customer hotline.

BERMAN: And this is just the beginning. There's another high tide after noon today. This is the king tide. There's a storm surge. There's so much rain. Could be ten feet, could be higher. What happens to the streets then?

TECKLENBURG: Well, if you get ten-foot tide, then you're going to have water in the streets. But at 1 p.m., which was predicted to be the worst, it was only a 7-1/2-foot tide. So we're just thrilled about that.

We've got a few hours here to pass the wind that we're seeing right now. And they're predicting a heck of a lot of rain. But in about six or eight hours we'll be through this and ready for recovery.

BERMAN: You said you wanted this city to be a ghost town, why?

TECKLENBURG: So people would be out of harm's way. And -- and late last night as I went around, it was just that. People were out of the streets. They were safe. They were either out of town or hunkered down. And so I'm so proud of our citizens for responding to that call for safety and -- and staying out of harm's way.

BERMAN: Now, I know about 300,000 people or more actually evacuated the coastal areas, a lot of them from this county also. That call was made fairly early. Did that go as orderly as you wanted it to?

TECKLENBURG: Absolutely. Governor McMaster make the call early. We supported that decision and helped with the lane reversal. And that gets a lot of folks out of harm's way, as well. When you've got weather like this, if you can shelter somewhere else, it makes a lot of sense.

BERMAN: Mayor, this is the fifth one of these you've dealt with in five years, including one from before you were actually mayor. What do you make of that? You getting sick of it yet?

TECKLENBURG: Well -- well, we've had a lot of rehearsal, so we know how to prepare now. It's just an amazing teamwork. Not only our city staff but the county and state officials all together, working to keep our citizens and our property safe. It's an amazing team effort, our first responders here.

BERMAN: In the forecast, I don't know if you heard moments ago, 15 to 20 inches of rain possible before this is over. That's a lot of rain. Where does it go?

TECKLENBURG: That's a lot of rain. Well, thankfully, as you mentioned, the tides aren't as high. So it can go out. But when the tide and the surge is high, and you have the combination of rain, that's when you really have some flooding.

So we're hoping those tides stay down, and we're also praying we don't get get quite as much rain. Final last message to the people in the city who might be watching?

TECKLENBURG: Just stay put for another six or eight hours until this passes, and then we're going to clean up. We'll get back to normal quickly.

BERMAN: All right, Mayor. I'm going to give you a wet handshake.

TECKLENBURG: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: Thank you very much for your hospitality. You guys are great even in the rain. TECKLENBURG: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right.

So that's the situation here in Charleston. The first high tide not quite as bad, but the mayor doesn't want complacency, because there really is a lot of rain expected; and the tides could get even worse as the day goes on. That's the mainland United States.

Obviously, the Bahamas a dire situation. Our Patrick Oppmann, who's been on the ground there, he was able to get out, and the devastation he saw, I've never seen anything like it. The airport in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island simply devastated.

So let's go to Patrick for the latest from there -- sir.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, John. Hope you're doing well as the storm gets close to you.

So we have been traying for days to get out to the airport. And this is a vital lifeline to the outside world. The road was impassable for days.

Finally, late yesterday we made it out there, and what we saw was worse than what we'd feared.


OPPMANN: We are 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 under water. It looked like the waves were crashing. Waves were crashing against this airport.

Look how destroyed it is right now. Just about every side 8 to 10 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 absolutely 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 and this 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 air -- this is the only airfield for this island, and it is in utter ruins.


OPPMANN: And, John, we visited other parts of the airport that were still standing but had suffered heavy flooding damage. It may just be a coincidence, but after we reported on the airport, residents who were by the vicinity told us that they began to see for the first time cleanup crews coming out and picking up all that debris or some of that debris on the runway.

And so even though the terminals are all unusable, you know, certainly, the hope is if they can get that runway clear of the concrete and the sheets of metal and all the other stuff that's out there, that it makes it too dangerous for a plane to land, then perhaps, as soon as today, planes could land.

But at this point, we are not aware of any planes that have landed to bring in people, supplies, or anything. Food is running low. Water is running low. Supplies need to come in, and they need to come in soon.

BERMAN: Patrick, what a vision. What a vision at that airport. So much devastation. It is such a need to get that up and running as soon as possible. Thank you so much for going there.

I hope over the course of the day, if that can't open at least the helicopters and maybe some boats can get in and get people what they need.

Thank you to you and your team for being there and for the reporting you're doing. We'll check back in with you very shortly.

So here in Charleston, South Carolina, what I can tell you is you may see flashes behind me. That's not lightning. We are starting to see transformer stations, you know, go up. And that's why there's so many power outages across the state, over 100,000 now in Georgia and South Carolina.

And Alisyn, as we've been chased up the coast by this storm, these are the worst conditions we have seen yet in the mainland United States. Nothing, obviously, compared to what Patrick Oppmann is dealing with in the Bahamas. But this storm is making a much more severe impact here than it did in Florida.


CAMEROTA: And it definitely looks like the wind is definitely picking up where you are, John. But those pictures from Patrick Oppmann are just incredible. It's impossible to imagine when that airport could ever open again.

Hopefully, they can move the debris from the runway and get some aid in, but that airport -- I mean, you know, that looks like they have to start over, basically, from scratch to rebuild that airport. So John, we'll be back with you as soon as possible.

And so for all of you out there wondering how you can help, for more information, go to, and that will show you all the nonprofits that are working to help the victims of this hurricane.

All right. So look at these two pictures. Do you notice something different between these two maps? Well, the White House used the one on the right last week, and the president, Trump, used the one on the left yesterday.

So we'll let you know what CNN has learned about who may have drawn with a black marker on that map, because that's illegal. That's next.



CAMEROTA: President Trump seems very determined to prove his erroneous claim that Hurricane Dorian was headed to Alabama, despite the fact that the National Weather Service says no, it was not.

But President Trump is not letting that stop him. He is resorting to hand-drawn illustrations to attempt to prove his point. Oh, and by the way, that's illegal.

Joe Johns is live at the White House.

Hi, Joe.


Social media having a field day with this one right now. And come on. Not once, not twice, not three times, but four times the president has now insisted Alabama was in the path of the storm. This last time, he took it a step further, suggesting that, once again, the White House might be running afoul of the law.


JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump quadrupling down.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But that was the original chart, and you see it was going to hit not only Florida but Georgia. It could have -- was going toward the Gulf. That was what we -- what was originally projected. And it took a right turn.

JOHNS: Again, falsely claiming Alabama was in the path of Hurricane Dorian when he said so on Sunday.

TRUMP: It may get a little piece of a great place. It's called Alabama. And Alabama could even be in for, at least, some very strong winds and something more than that. It could be.

JOHNS: The president showing reporters in the Oval Office an altered map Wednesday with a black line crudely extending the cone of the hurricane track to include Alabama.

But a similar map released last week did not include the mark.

It's a crime to alter official government weather forecasts. The president initially made the claim about Alabama on Twitter Sunday morning. But it was debunked by the National Weather Service office in Birmingham just 20 minutes later, reassuring, "Alabama will not see any impacts from Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane Dorian will be felt across Alabama."

Sources tell CNN there was a discussion about the early models of the storm before Wednesday's briefing and that a White House official in the room drew on the map to show that Hurricane Dorian could have been much worse. A source familiar with the Oval Office briefing would not deny the president drew the black Sharpie line on the map.

However, the president later denied knowledge of the alteration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That map you showed us today looked like it almost had, like, a Sharpie --

TRUMP: I don't know. I don't know. I don't know.

JOHNS: Afterward, the president tweeting this map to try to bolster his argument. But that image is dated August 28, before the forecasts became clearer and four days before the president's initial tweet.

In small print at the bottom, a disclaimer reads, "NHC Advisories and County Emergency Management statements supersede this product."


JOHNS: Now, on August 29, NOAA put out a map that does not show the -- Alabama in the cone of the hurricane at all. A source told CNN White House officials are having a good laugh at the media, trying to figure out who altered the map -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: We're also having a good laugh about whether or not -- does the White House think we can't see that black magic marker drawn on there on that official map?

JOHNS: Yes. I don't know. But it sure sounds like a "Saturday Night Live" skit to me.

CAMEROTA: Yes, it does. And I'm sure it will be. All right, Joe. Thank you very much.

So ten Democratic presidential hopefuls laid out their plans for combatting the climate crisis in a series of live CNN town halls last night. And one thing they all agree on, the conversation needs to go beyond regulating light bulbs and banning plastic straws.

CNN's Jessica Dean joins us now with all the highlights.

Hi, Jessica.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Alisyn.

You know, we've never seen the climate crisis be a focal point of a presidential race. That all changed last night when we saw ten Democratic candidates in ten separate town halls.


DEAN (voice-over): The Democrats presented their plans to combat the climate crisis in Wednesday's town hall marathon, elevating the issue higher than ever before in a presidential election.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We got to start choosing science over -- over fantasy here.

DEAN: Frontrunner Joe Biden saying it's up to the United States to lead the fight.


BIDEN: We should be in a position where we generate support around the rest of the world, and those who don't do their part, don't participate, then in fact, they face consequences.

DEAN: The former vice president making this promise to a 19-year-old voter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How can we trust you to put us, the future, over the wants of large corporations and wealthy individuals?

BIDEN: Because I've never done it. I've never made that choice my whole career. Simple.

DEAN: In between explaining her many plans --

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've got plans. I've got a $2 trillion plan. I've got a $1 trillion plan.

DEAN: Senator Elizabeth Warren warning Democrats about getting distracted by conversations like regulating light bulbs, a reference to the Trump administration's rolling back energy efficiency rules Wednesday.

WARREN: This is exactly what the fossil fuel industry hopes we're all talking about. They want to be able to stir up a lot of controversy around your lightbulbs, around your straws, and around your cheeseburgers. When 70 percent of the pollution, of the carbon that we're throwing into the air comes from three industries.

DEAN: Bernie Sanders' response a bit more concise.

WARREN: Would you reinstate those requirements --


DEAN: Defending the price tag of his $16 trillion climate crisis plan, the Vermont senator arguing it's possible to also focus on other policies like Medicare for all and free college.

SANDERS: I have the radical idea that a sane Congress can walk and chew bubblegum at the same time.

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.

DEAN: Although Jay Inslee dropped out of the presidential race, the Washington governor's ideas were still present from the mouths of his former rivals.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I also want to give a shout-out to Governor Jay Inslee, who did a fantastic job of bringing this issue to the forum of this campaign.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Governor Inslee, I'm stealing your line. And he said, you know, so Donald Trump says wind turbines cause cancer, and Jay Inslee famously and with great humor said no, they don't cause cancer; they cause jobs.

DEAN: Senator Kamala Harris also saying she's willing to take a stand against Senate Republicans refusing to pass the Green New Deal.

HARRIS: If they fail to act as president of the United States, I am prepared to get rid of the filibuster, to pass a Green New Deal.

DEAN: Mayor Pete Buttigieg arguing battling the climate crisis will not be easy.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is the hardest thing we have done, certainly, in my lifetime as a country. This is on par with winning World War II. Perhaps even more challenging than that.


DEAN: Also, this morning, the Sunrise Movement is calling on Joe Biden to cancel a fundraiser being hosted tonight by Andrew Goldman, who served as an advisor to Biden when he was in the Senate and is the cofounder of an energy company called Wester LNG.

Now, Goldman doesn't have day-to-day responsibilities with that company, but Sunrise believes the fundraiser violates the no fossil fuel money pledge that Biden signed. The Biden campaign does not believe it violates that pledge. A Sunrise volunteer asked Biden about that fundraiser during the town hall last night -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Yes, that is getting a lot of attention, Jessica. And I think the vice president has said that, if it turns out that Goldman is more connected than the former vice president knew, he will not accept that money from the fundraiser. We will see what happens today. Thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: OK. So John is in Charleston, South Carolina, for us this morning, and he is soaking wet. The winds are picking up. In fact, the hurricane has picked up power and speed, John.

BERMAN: It really is amazing when you think about how many days we've been following this, Alisyn, that it regained strength overnight. Went back to a major hurricane, a Category 3 storm with 115 mile-an- hour winds. It is just off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. We'll be pushing past all morning long. We're going to get the latest forecast right after this.