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Hurricane Dorian Gaining Strength as It Heads Towards Carolinas; Rescues Underway as Dorian Leaves Devastation in the Bahamas; Dem Candidates Spell Out Plans to Combat Climate Crisis. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 5, 2019 - 07:00   ET


COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS: Back to you, Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Coy, very exciting. Thank you very much.


So of course, we're tracking Hurricane Dorian as she bears down on the Carolinas. So NEW DAY continues right now for you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The forecasts now putting the Carolinas on high alert.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got people evacuated from the low-lying areas. We put out 45,000 sandbags.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hurricanes aren't something to be messed with. I think it's for the best that we're leaving.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States Coast Guard on the Bahamas right now.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look how destroyed it is right now.

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

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My plan actually calls for new civil rights legislation to address environmental injustice.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don't sit around and tell me what's not possible. Look around and look what happens if we don't make change.


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 NEW DAY. And this is CNN's special coverage of Hurricane Dorian. I'm John Berman in a very windy Charleston, South Carolina. Alisyn Camerota is up in New York.

And the big news from this storm overnight, it gained strength. It regained major hurricane status up to a Category 3 with wind speeds of 115 miles an hour. It is off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, moving northward at this point. Could make landfall in South Carolina or North Carolina over the next 24 hours.

Fifteen to 20 inches of rain expected here in Charleston. One hundred thousand people without power already. That number will go up. Some areas in this city have flooded already, and that could get worse as the day goes on. Another high tide just after noon.

And the wind speeds here, I'd say consistently around 50 and, occasionally, we're getting gusts of near hurricane strength. As bad as it is here, certainly much worse in the Bahamas, where the rescue and relief crews are only now reaching some of the hardest hit areas. The airport there, which will be such an area of need, because they need to get planes in, the airport in Freeport and Grand Bahama Island has been devastated.

We will check in with Patrick Oppmann in the Bahamas very shortly. But first, let's get the latest forecast in the track of this storm from Allison Chinchar in the weather center -- Allison.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. So let's take a look at what we know right now. Still sustained winds of 115 miles per hour. That is a Category 3 storm.

We have started to notice that forward movement beginning to slow down, but what we really need to see is it start to shift away, meaning going to the north and east away from land.

Otherwise, we're likely going to end up seeing a landfall either today in South Carolina or tomorrow across portions of North Carolina.

Here's a look. We also have a new threat. Tornado watch in effect until 4 Eastern Time this afternoon for several counties across portions of North and South Carolina.

We're already seeing tornadoes begin to push inland from some of those bands offshore, in addition to the heavy rain and the very gusty winds that are out there.

Right now, you've got a handful of them right there in portions of North Carolina. This is expected to go on off and on throughout the day today.

But the biggest widespread threat is still going to be the flooding, both from the rain coming down, as well as storm surge. You can see the map here. Savannah looking at 4 to 7 feet. Wilmington also 4 to 7 feet.

But this area from Charleston up to Myrtle Beach is the biggest threat area of about 5 to 8 feet. And again, John, one of the other concerns is the rainfall. Widespread amounts, about 4 to 6 inches, but some areas likely to pick up 10, 12, if not even 15 inches of rain before it finally exits.

BERMAN: All right. Allison Chinchar, thank you very much. Please stand by for us. We'll come back with you as more data comes in.

In the meantime, we want to check in with Patrick Oppmann and his team in the Bahamas where their -- the recovery will last years. Generational devastation, it's been called by officials there. And Patrick, who joins me now, I know you've had a chance to see the airport, tour some of the areas. So just get a sense of how bad things are. What do you see this morning?

OPPMANN: And it was worse than we could imagine. We thought with the first Coast Guard planes and helicopters flying over this island that the airport would soon open. We got there, and we saw something that took our breath away.


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.

(END VIDEOTAPE) OPPMANN: And -- and John, it is frustrating to see the airport totally destroyed. It's also frustrating the sight behind me. It is, for the second day, there are calm seas here. It is beautiful weather. And so far we've not seen any boats coming in with aid. You only hope they're on their way.

BERMAN: The help has got to get there, Patrick. It just has got to get there. Our thanks to you and your team for shining the light on what's going on on Grand Bahama Island. We'll get back to you just as soon as we can.

In the meantime, I want to go to Ken Graham, the director of the National Hurricane Center. For a sense of the latest forecast. Ken, as always, thank you so much for joining us. The storm now off the coast of Charleston where I am. Any sign it has made the turn away from land?

KEN GRAHAM, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Now, still moving north at 10 miles an hour. Just still so powerful with those 115 mile-an-hour winds. And look at these outer rain bands, as well. We're seeing some of that rain stretch into North Carolina, as well.

There's actually tornado warnings been issued in some of those rain bands. Tornadoes, one of the big threats. But John, this was a life- threatening situation with that storm surge and the rain still yet a come.

BERMAN: And I know you say don't worry too much about exactly where it'll make landfall. Because you feel the impact well off the center of the storm. But will this storm, the center hit land over the next 24 hours?

GRAHAM: John, looking here at our plot just right along the coast, our forecast takes it along the coast of South Carolina, North Carolina. But with those hurricane-force winds stretching out 60 miles. Even if it's off-shore, you're still going to feel the wind. You're still going to get the rain.

And the storm surge is going to be significant. Life-threatening storm surge. Feeling it already, and it's going to continue through the day and into tomorrow.

BERMAN: I know one of the things I was surprised to wake up to this morning was the news that the storm got even stronger overnight. Up to a Category 3 storm again.

And tell me about the storm surge. Four to seven feet in some areas on top -- on top of these king tides. That could be a real problem.

GRAHAM: Yes. It's life-threatening. We're going to look at this here. Got this map of the rainfall on top, some areas getting 10 to 15 inches of rain.

But look at the storm surge values. John, we've got areas in South Carolina 5 to 8 foot of storm surge. And by the way, that's above ground. That's water up your pantleg, which makes that so dangerous in some of these low-lying areas.

And even into North Carolina, 4 to 6 feet. And stretching inland. Some of these areas inland, miles and miles inland could get some of that storm surge. Some of it early. We get some of the storm surge early with that large wind field.

And then even afterwards, it's so important to stress to everybody even after the storm as those wind shifts on the sound side, the water can come in well after the storm.

BERMAN: All right. Ken Graham, the director of the National Hurricane Center, as always, thank you so much for being with us. We'll check back in with you next hour.

Joining me now is Rear Admiral Eric Jones of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Admiral, thank you very much for being with us. We're ping-ponging back and forth between covering the impact of the storm right now where I am in Charleston and up the U.S. coast and the rescue and recovery efforts in the Bahamas. You've been involved in that.

And I know the U.S. Coast Guard has been airlifting people in need off those islands. What can you tell us about those efforts?

REAR ADMIRAL ERIC JONES, U.S. COAST GUARD: John, absolutely. We've been very busy. At this point, we've rescued almost 150 people moving them to higher levels of medical care. Helping to survey the island, helping to get it ready.

I know one of your previous commentators was noting the state of the airstrip. I'm happy to report that the U.S. Air Force was in to look at the airstrips both in Freeport and on Great Abaco. The Treasure Cay Airport. To take a look at what it will take to get those strips up and running as quickly as possible.


BERMAN: That's fantastic news that I will pass on to Patrick. Because he told me the airport there was devastated. And based on what he saw, he couldn't imagine it getting back up and operational soon. Do you have any hope that you'll be able to land aircraft at that airport in the coming days?

JONES: We do. Big thing is we've got to get some equipment there and to clear out debris and some engineers to take a look at repairs that need to be made to the airstrip. That's beyond the capabilities of the Coast Guard.

So in the meantime, we're going to continue to overfly, move critical patients to higher levels of care in Nassau to ensure folks are not caught in isolation who are in immediate peril.

We've seen some areas that we've seen absolute devastation, cut off from other parts of the islands. On the other hand, we've also seen groups of people coming together to work through issues and to help each other out in places such as Freeport. BERMAN: They have. The people have really banded together. They're

going to get through this, in some cases rescuing each other to bring them to safer spots.

So what can the Coast Guard do in terms of reaching these people? I know you've been landing helicopters just consistently. And that number, 150 rescues, is much higher than I had heard only a few hours ago. So thank you for that update.

But what about surface vessels? Any chance that boats will be able to get to them any time soon?

JONES: Well, obviously, we've got to balance our resources between what's going on in the Carolinas and the Bahamas. Obviously, the best way to get lots of equipment in is to bring it in from water.

The problem is a day and a half of a Category 5 hurricane blowing overhead, the hydrography in the area can easily have been altered. You have sunken vessels, the potential for things that vessels could catch on and get damaged or sink. And so we've got to get those harbors surveyed.

And so the Coast Guard, one of our cutters, the James, will be in there to do an initial survey today. And then we can expect, hopefully shortly thereafter, to get some side scan sonars in there, whether from NOAA or from DOD, to make sure that the bottom's clear. And then we can look to get vessels in from the outside.

We're working closely with the State Department's USAID, OFDA, to get those supplies flowing that way. We'll have more cutters on scene today.

BERMAN: That is terrific news. I know it's not lack of desire. I know the conditions are fierce and difficult.

Tell me what you've been hearing from your personnel that have been making these rescues about the state, the condition that the people are in when they reach them.

JONES: The good news is, there's a lot of support on the ground, people coming together. The doctor that we put down yesterday that worked with the group. The hospital in Freeport, even though very badly damaged, does have some spaces that are usable.

And the Bahamians have already conducted a lot of their own triage, so that when our doctor got there, he was able to immediately start looking at the most critical cases and was also able to work with the doctors there to determine a lot of the supplies that will need to be brought in and be able to communicate that back to NEMA, which is the Bahamian equivalent of our FEMA.

BERMAN: Admiral Eric Jones, thank you for being with us. Thank you for the work you're doing. The Coast Guard has been terrific over the last few days keeping us posted, keeping the world informed about the situation in the Bahamas. So we really appreciate it, sir.

JONES: Thanks, John. A lot of good men and women doing great work out there.

BERMAN: Yes. That's an understatement.

All right, Alisyn. As you can see here -- I think you can see as I'm blown around here. The winds periodically picking up. In the next several hours here, we will see the worst of it in Charleston.

CAMEROTA: Yes, we can see those wind gusts hitting you. And I'm so glad that the Coast Guard pointed out that the Bahamians are having to do all this on their own, from the triage to the cleanup, to the rescues that we've seen in some of Patrick Oppmann's reporting. But obviously, they need help.

John, we'll be back with you very soon.

So for more on how you can help and support all the nonprofits that are working to help the Hurricane Dorian victims, please go to They need you.

All right. Meanwhile, President Trump appears to think that, if you use a black Sharpie on an official weather map, you can trick people in Alabama into worrying about getting hit by Hurricane Dorian. The problem? That's illegal. We discuss coming up.



CAMEROTA: Democratic presidential candidates promised to take aggressive action to combat the climate crisis during last night's first-of-its-kind CNN primetime event.

Joining us now to dissect the different plans is Gina McCarthy. She's the former EPA administrator under President Obama.

Director McCarthy, great to see you.


CAMEROTA: OK. So I know you watched with great interested, and we want to tap your expertise in this environmental area to kind of dissect with us the different candidates' plans.

So let's just begin with Elizabeth Warren, who believes that we are all focused on the wrong things. Listen to this.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is exactly what the fossil fuel industry hopes we're all talking about. That's what they want us to talk about. This is your problem. They want to be able to stir up a lot of controversy around your lightbulbs, around your straws, and around your cheeseburgers.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CAMEROTA: So Director, what did you think of that? That, really, as

we all worry about using our plastic straws and what kind of lightbulbs we're using, that that's not really where the emphasis should be?

MCCARTHY: Well, I think she was trying to point that there are areas where we really need to tackle systemically the challenge of climate change.

And the issue she was bringing up is, certainly, we all have individual responsibility. And I love the idea of everybody doing something, even if it's a small thing.

But her point was that the more the fossil fuel companies can focus on those issues and stop us focusing on the really big things we need to do to save not just the planet but our own health and our kids' future, then they win and we get distracted.

So I think it wasn't about telling us we shouldn't do what to do individually, but it was more about let's have a conversation at the level we need it, like we did last night, on climate change. That it's not a little issue. It's a big deal.

And I couldn't be more excited both by the fact that climate change is getting this kind of attention. But by the way each candidate sort of personalized this issue, made it important.

And frankly, Alisyn, I thought the format was great. I know it was long, but it gave everybody an opportunity to see people, get to know them a little bit on this issue.


MCCARTHY: And get an understanding of how they're really going to tackle it.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I agree. I mean, I liked -- what I liked is that you could dip in and dip out. You didn't have to stay there for seven hours.


CAMEROTA: You could dip in and dip out and just get a lot of substance from all the candidates.


CAMEROTA: And the questions from the audience were also really fascinating.

I want to bring up Pete Buttigieg, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.


CAMEROTA: Because he talked about kind of approaching people in a different way. Using a different tact. So let me play this for you. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's talk in language that is understood across the heartland about faith. You know, if you believe that God is watching as poison is being belched into the air of creation and people are being harmed by it, countries are at risk of vanishing in low-lying areas, what do you suppose God thinks of that?


CAMEROTA: What did you think of that argument?

JONES: Well, I actually love the fact that -- that he -- this is how he's personalized it.

You know, he is obviously a man of faith. And if you don't think that climate change is a faith issue and a moral issue, then you haven't thought about it long enough.

That's what I loved about the discussions. Basically, there are a lot of things that came out that people don't normally talk about. And he pushed on the moral responsibility to the kids. He said if you're religious, we can talk about this as a creation issue and our obligation in our faith. But he also said all of us can talk about it as a moral issue. And I love that.

There were issues that came out even during his discussion from the questions and answers that sort of brought out climate change as a health issue. You know, we have to start talking about climate change as not about polar bears and glaciers but really embrace this and recognize that each of us really does have to put our own spin on it. And think about it and make it personal to us.

CAMEROTA: Andrew Yang's spin on it, of course, is through his lens of math. He prides himself on being sort of the math candidate. So let me play this for you.


ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to have a carbon tax, because we need to have polluters internalize the cost of their pollution. These companies only operate on the bottom line. You can't say do the right thing and then have all the executives get paid for making tons of money at the expense of the earth.


CAMEROTA: Is that the answer?

JONES: Well, I think Andrew is very familiar with the private sector. And to him, everything seems to come back to those issues. And it's one answer. It's not a complete answer.

You know, but none of them were standing there trying to give the full breadth of what they're going to do. So, you know, from his standpoint, it was a correct thing to say, but there's lots more to say and I'm sure he would agree with that as well.

You know, we do need to provide the right incentives to companies. And we do need to think about putting a price on carbon. But it's one issue.


JONES: I also think you need to have the government act and make sure that every company is doing what they're supposed to do. So regulations play a part; and there's many things that we need to do in the private sector and the public sector to tackle this problem.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Very quickly, Gina, we only have a few seconds left. But there's been a controversy -- there was a controversy that sort of cropped up last night about Vice President Biden today having a fundraiser that is connected to Andrew Goldman. who is connected to the fossil fuel industry. Vice president said he didn't know that. Can I just get your take on that?


JONES: Yes. Well, my take on it was it put him on his heels a little bit, but I think he really made his point that he understands climate change.

Clearly, he does. I worked with him during the Obama administration. We were all out on the issues of climate change. And he personalized it, as well, by talking about his youth and how he understood both the problems of pollution which carbon is as well as the ways in which we can tackle it. So I think he I epitomized the challenges we face today. Fossil fuels are everywhere. We have many friends that disagree with us on climate change. But we have to talk about this. We have to get the issues out. And most of all, we have to take action. This is the biggest existential health challenge we face.

CAMEROTA: Former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, thank you very much. Great to get your take on all of this.

JONES: Not at all. Thanks very much.

CAMEROTA: OK. John Berman has been in the -- well, the bands of the storm. And John, every time we check in with you it gets worse. You're in Charleston, South Carolina, and it looks like it is really picking up there.

BERMAN: You know, we are much closer to the center of the storm here than we've been so far along the East Coast. It's just 80 miles off the coast, and the storm is growing in size. And it's now a major storm, a Category 3 hurricane, picking up strength overnight.

Charleston is going to feel it for several more hours. The big concern here is the water.

When we come back, we're going to speak with someone who's been chasing this storm up the East Coast. Stay with us.