Return to Transcripts main page


Hurricane Dorian Devastates Bahamas; Hurricane Dorian Approaches North Carolina and South Carolina; Pete Buttigieg is Interviewed On How He Would Tackle Climate Crisis. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 5, 2019 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Allison Chinchar at the Weather Center. Allison?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, so it is still a category three storm. The big thing that we noticed that changed is the forward movement. We're finally starting to see it begin to go north- northeast at this point. Great news for folks in Charleston is it's trying to make its way out to sea rather than inland.

Now, with that said, it's picking up speed at about eight miles per hour, but it's just not fast enough. So we still do expect likely a landfall at some point in the next 24 hours here across the Carolinas. One of the concerns going forward is tornadoes.

Look at this newly expanded tornado watch now including portions of both North and South Carolina. This is valid through the afternoon hours today. That's because we've had tornado warnings off and on, all morning long. At this point in time right now we have four active tornado warnings. Reports of them coming in both North and South Carolina, this likely to continue off and on as these outer bands continue to push onshore. So please keep that in mind.

The National Weather Service also, this is the map of where we expect the best chance for tornadoes and waterspouts, now an enhanced threat here. So you can see that threat has actually increased in just the last hour. This does include cities as Hatteras, Morehead City, Wilmington, as well as Myrtle Beach.

Rainfall is going to be one of the big concerns as well as storm surge and probably the biggest concern for a lot of the low-lying coastal communities here. Widespread rainfall amounts of about four to six inches, John. But you see these colors here, right here, the reds and even the pinks, this is where we're talking 10, 12, if not even as much as 15 inches of rain before this system is finally able to exit the area.

BERMAN: Yes, I don't know need to see the red to know that we're getting a lot of rain here in Charleston. Allison Chinchar, thank you very much.

And you can see the winds picking up right now as well. I want to give one update which is that we now understand that more than 200,000 people are without power in Georgia and mostly South Carolina, and I do expect that number to go up over the coming hours.

As we said, as bad as it is here, nothing, nothing compared to what happened in the Bahamas, and the recovery effort there with so much need still on the ground. Let's go to Patrick Oppmann who us in Freeport, been there for days now. And Patrick, I know you've been able to see more of the island now, and the situation in some cases even more dire than you expected.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Every time we get out, John, every time we are able to go into a new part of this island, places that were blocked off just a few days ago, the picture is worse. Yesterday we went to where people's homes were flooded, hundreds of them.

And to see people coming back to see how destroyed their homes were, they were all submerged under water for days, or to go to the homes of the missing and realize that their relatives, their friends, their neighbors were not there was absolutely heart wrenching.

We got to the airport as you know. It was destroyed. One terminal was completely torn apart, there was a piece of an airplane inside. Other terminals we were not allowed to go in and film had been under water for days and completely unusable.

One update, residents have been in touch with me this morning, and they say the airport runway is now clear, but still no idea of when the airport will reopen. As you know, that is so vital to getting in aid, to getting people who are injured. There are people with broken bones, there are people who have been hurt after the storm. By and large very few of them have been medevaced out. Those people need to get out where they can get real medical attention.

We need see aid start pouring in. And behind me, it's a beautiful view of an ocean. For me it is incredibly frustrating to see an ocean with no boats on it. It is now possible for the first time, like it was yesterday, to bring in boats full of aid, full of water, full of food, all the things we're all running out of here, and we are not seeing that happen yet. We tried to hire a private boat to bring in things for us, and we were told private boats are not allowed onto Grand Bahama Island because of all the debris, because of safety reasons.

It is a bit of a mystery at this point, day two now, clear conditions, why there are not more boats coming to this island with the things that so many people so desperately need here, John.

BERMAN: I can give you two quick updates on that. We spoke to Admiral Eric Jones of the U.S. Coast Guard who says they're going to send in a cutter to the harbor there to make sure it's clear. They just don't know, they say, that the harbor is clear enough to land vessels. And they also pointed out that Air Force engineers were on the ground at the Freeport airport at Grand Bahama Island to try to make sure that runway was clear. Good to know, Patrick, that perhaps, as some people are telling you, that some of the debris has been removed.

What about food and water, Patrick? I know that you say that you guys are close to running out. What about the other people in Freeport?


OPPMANN: You know how well we prepare for these storms, John, but we've been here -- tomorrow will be a week. I've got a great team here of Jay Garcia (ph) and Jose Amiho (ph). We are sourcing stuff as best we can. We had a lovely breakfast this morning of peanut butter and crackers. we're going to be OK. But for your average Bahamian who does not have the resources, it is a dire situation.

We saw maybe a four hour line yesterday at Kentucky Fried Chicken, the only restaurant that we saw that was open when we were doing a tour. I think more things are going to open, but there's no food that's coming to the island, so whatever food there is is going to quickly run out.

BERMAN: Patrick Oppmann, hang in there. You and your team have been doing fantastic work and shining the spotlight in the areas of need, and hopefully that aid does get to you. Patrick Oppmann in Freeport.

I want to go now to Ken Graham, the director of the National Hurricane Center, to get the latest on the forecast for hurricane Dorian. Ken, thanks for being with us. Still a category three storm, but our Allison Chinchar told us it has begun to make that turn to the northeast. What more can you tell us?

KEN GRAHAM, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Just starting to turn, starting to see that movement towards the north-northeast. That means right along the coast still seeing the potential for those hurricane force winds. But John, look at these areas for the tornadoes through portions of South Carolina all the way into North Carolina, all those rain bands producing tornadoes. But along the way we're going to keep moving to the north-northeast, but look how close we are to the coastline. So anywhere in that hurricane warning area you can still see hurricane force winds.

BERMAN: And I know a lot of these areas, we're dealing with Charleston, when you start getting up to Wilmington and those parts of North Carolina, those are the very same areas that dealt with so much flooding just one year ago for hurricane Florence. What's your concern in terms of storm surge there?

GRAHAM: The storm surge always the leading cause with these tropical systems of fatalities. That's why we have to watch out. So the rainfall on top of the surge, these values are significant. So around the areas that got hit before, four to seven foot. And John, that's water up your pant leg. That is above ground, that's significant. And it's not just your barrier islands here. It can stretch well inland at times, too.

And everybody has to remember, in some places, the oceanside, that water gets there early. But on the sound side when the winds turn around to the north and also the northwest, some of that water comes in late, it comes in fast, and it could be there anywhere from five to 10 hours even later after the storm moves by.

BERMAN: And of course, there's the other threat, too, of all the rainfall here in Charleston. We could get more than 10 inches. That doesn't help either. What happened overnight when the storm went from category two to category three, actually picking up speed. Explain how that happened.

GRAHAM: John, right when you're on the border of those categories, one or two miles an hour can make the different of the categories, but the impact is really still the same. So even if you go from the cat two to the cat three, the wind is fluctuating five or six miles an hour, the impacts stay the same.

You're still going to have the rain, still going to have the storm surge, and you're still going to have the winds right along the coast. So either way, big impact. This is a life-threatening situation when it comes to the water. We just remind everybody don't drive your car where water covers the road. We lose so many people in automobiles, and we have to remember turn around, don't drown.

BERMAN: Yes, please, that is an important reminder.

Ken, joking here a little bit, but I can hardly remember a time when we weren't talking about hurricane Dorian. It's been around for so long. When will it finally be no more a concern to people on the east coast?

GRAHAM: John, we've been all hands on deck here for 10 days and we continue to watch this. So it's just been a long time dealing with it. You think about Puerto Rico through the Bahamas and now the northeast. So look what the timing is here. So we have this morning, 2:00 a.m. Friday off the North Carolina coast, and by Friday afternoon we'll start seeing it pull away from the outer banks. So we still have today, we still have most of tomorrow, and eventually getting this system back out to the Atlantic.

BERMAN: That will be good riddance to say the least. Ken Graham, thank you very much for everything you've done for us. I really appreciate it.

So joining me now is Josh Morgerman who rode out the storm on Abaco Island, rode out hurricane Dorian where it hit as a category five hurricane, made it to Nassau, and has since gone back to visit Abaco to get a sense on the situation on the ground there and take some new video. Josh, we got a chance so speak with you yesterday before you went back. Now that you've gone and assessed the damage again, what did you see?

JOSH MORGERMAN, HOST, "THE HURRICANE MAN" ON SCIGO: It was really eye opening. After I rode out the storm, I was just in survival mode for a few days, just kind of sleeping in my car, living on bread and peanut butter. I got off the island and then I came back to actually assess it a little further, and the destruction is jaw dropping. Two areas that I looked, one was the main commercial strip of Marsh Harbor which is the main town of Abaco, and it is just wiped out. The combination, one-two punch, of 185-mile-an-hour winds and the storm surge just flattened it.

And the other really really heavily affected area -- the whole island is heavily affected, but the other really devastated area this is low- lying area called the mud and the pigeon peak. They are very well lined. The construction isn't so good. A tremendous storm surge came in and just wiped the place clean. It is shocking. And you're seeing the footage that I sent.


BERMAN: Josh, any aid? What's your sense of what is reaching the people in need there?

MORGERMAN: I think it's slow in coming, but I think it's starting to. I felt the first couple of days that there was a feeling like there were a lot of refugees in the government complex, this big sturdy building that withstood the storm really well. But there's people sleeping in office cubicles and everything. And I didn't sense that there kind of anyone in charge, but I started to feel yesterday, and when I went back yesterday that it seemed like there was maybe a little order was coming in.

But I do think that people are desperate. People are hungry and they're thirsty. There's human suffering going on. There's a medical clinic on the island. They don't have a whole hospital. They've got a big medical clinic. And that is just overflowing with various cases. And they're only able to treat the most traumatic injuries. And the staff there are heroic working around the clock, not sleeping to try to close the wounds and flying debris, deal with broken bones, and get the most urgent cases evacuated out via helicopter.

But it's a tough scene right now, and they need help. They really need help. And that's why it was important to get those pictures out, because you can use all the words you want. When you see a whole section of the city flattened like my footage shows, then people on the outside understand how serious this is and how much people need help there.

BERMAN: I couldn't agree more. You run out of words to describe it. The one combination of words an official used was generational devastation, which I think may be the only way to describe what's going on there. You talk about had helicopters reaching the island. Patrick Oppmann was saying how frustrated he was in Freeport that they haven't seen any boats yet able to arrive. Right now is it just helicopters reaching the Abacos?

MORGERMAN: That was what I saw. And I can't comment comprehensively on what's going on, but you see a lot of helicopters like yesterday, a lot of helicopters buzzing around, an occasional small plane. I don't know that the airports is open or not yet. The airport was really smashed up and underwater, but I haven't seen anything. But I definitely see a desperation for help from the outside.

BERMAN: I'm having a little bit of a hard time hearing you. I think it's me in this case, which is new, because I have so much water all around me now. Josh, you talk about the food, you talk about the water. Where are people living on these islands right now?

MORGERMAN: Well, the Bahamas government complex is this huge building in the center of Marsh Harbor. And during the eye of the hurricane, so we went through the first half, and it was so violent. And then most people, myself included, were in buildings and houses that were damaged or destroyed and we had to relocate to a new pocket. So the only building that was pretty solid, which was the government building. So everyone went into that building during the eye, and that has become a home for many people. So days later that government complex, it's an office building, is just this home for hundreds of refugees.

It was raining for days, so people were cooped up inside these, just hot, uncomfortable conditions. Yesterday the sun was out. People were sort of camped out on the hills, they were hanging their clothes on tree branches to try to dry stuff and wash up a little. It is tough conditions, but my sense was that is the government complex has become like a hub.

BERMAN: Josh Morgerman, thank you for joining us again this morning. Thank you for providing us this video, this window into what's going on in the Abacos. Hopefully it helps get the aid there as quickly as possible. And as we let you go, I want to tell people that they can stream the latest episode of your show, "Hurricane Man," for free online to get a real sense of the dire situation there on the ground there. We really appreciate it, Josh.

MORGERMAN: My pleasure.

BERMAN: And Alisyn, as I go back to you, Alisyn, in New York, again, the winds here have been fairly consistent, over 50 miles an hour all morning long, and the rain, it has been raining so hard. You can see the rain coming off the ground where it's bouncing. So you have the rain falling, you have the storm surge coming in. The next four hours here will be crucial.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, John, your live shot is giving us all a real sense of the situation on the ground in Charleston. It is incredible just how much it has changed since the beginning of NEW DAY. So stay safe. We will be back with you momentarily. But we also want to give viewers information about how you all can support the nonprofits that are working to help the victims of hurricane Dorian. So please go to There's a list there how you can help.

Also, there was this unprecedented event here on CNN, 10 Democratic presidential candidates answering questions and pitching their plan to address the climate crisis. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg will be here on NEW DAY next to talk about his plan and how faith plays a role.



(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 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, perhaps even more challenging than that.

Does anybody really think we're going to meet that goal if between now and 2050, we are still at each other's throats? It's not going to happen.


CAMEROTA: That was Mayor Pete Buttigieg last night at CNN's town hall event on the climate crisis.

So, what is his plan?

Joining us now is Pete Buttigieg, Democratic presidential candidate and mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

Mayor, great to have you here in the studio.

BUTTIGIEG: Good to be with you.

CAMEROTA: OK. So, the climate crisis, is that the very first thing if you were elected president that you would tackle, or are there other things on day one that you would do first?

BUTTIGIEG: It needs immediate attention on day one because this is a threat to our entire way of life. Hundreds of millions of lives are on the line. I know usually the way we talk about it is save the planet.

I'm interested in saving lives.


And there are lives in danger every time we see more frequent and more severe storms, when we're looking at droughts, what's going to happen to food supply.

And this is upon us. This is no longer some distant theoretical thing. This is no longer just happening on the North or South Pole. This is happening to our country right now. It's getting worse, and we've got to act.

CAMEROTA: I think that it makes a lot of people feel very helpless because, yes, we can all do away with our plastic straws and I haven't drank out of a straw for the past six months because I'm so worried about what's happening in the ocean, but people feel helpless when it's something that existential.

BUTTIGIEG: Right. And that's --

CAMEROTA: So, what do we do about that?

BUTTIGIEG: That's one of the things. I think the downside to us facing just how colossal of a challenge this is, is it can feel paralyzing. But we can rise to meet this and be proud of it.

That's part of what my climate plan is about. It's not only about all of the things we've got to do technologically and with regulation and so on. It's about summoning the energies of this country to do something unbelievably hard.

If you look at the moments when this country rose to a major challenge, overcoming the Great Depression, winning the World War II, going to the moon, it required something out of all us, and I think we could be standing taller.

So, right now, we're in a mode I think we're thinking about it mostly through the perspective of guilt. You know, from using a straw, to eating a burger, am I part of the problem? In a certain way, yes, but the most exciting thing is that we can all be part of the solution.

So, my plan not only calls on ways to make sure that we use the powers of our government to ensure that industry is held accountable for their pollution, that we clean up our electricity grid, that we have more electric vehicles on the road, but also that bring something out of all of us in terms of, for example, how rural America, American agriculture could actually pioneer some of the solutions to capture carbon in the soil, how the military could be a huge part of the solution by leading the way on biofuels and green vehicles.

This is something that will require the public and private and academic and social sectors of this country to unite and rally. And then, instead of our main emotion around climate being guilt, it could be pride because we get this right. We'd be proud of how we change the path of this country and this planet before it's too late.

CAMEROTA: But on all those things you just laid out, what can you really do on day one?


BUTTIGIEG: Oh, so much. First of all, you've got to have somebody in charge of environmental protection who actually cares about protecting the environment, not a former coal company lobbyist. So, first of all, it's who do you put in charge.

Also, specific policies. The Clean Power Plan that the Obama administration was implementing and this administration has killed.

Our role overseas, not just rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, which I think is vital, but establishing the U.S. as the leading nation in climate diplomacy. As a matter of fact, it may be just what we need to restore U.S. credibility by leading on this major world issue at a moment when our credibility is very much in tatters around the world.

CAMEROTA: OK. Well, speaking of credibility, I just want to show you a moment that happened yesterday in the Oval Office. President Trump was trying to prove that Alabama was in harm's way, that Hurricane Dorian was heading to Alabama.

So, he held this event in the Oval Office which shows the official National Weather Service projection. And I don't know if -- right there perhaps you can see with the untrained eye that someone has drawn in black magic marker Alabama because since the projection didn't really include Alabama, the president wanted to make his point, and so, someone just drew it on there.

So, what is your reaction to that?

BUTTIGIEG: I'm really worried about -- I feel sorry for the president. And that is not the way we should feel about the most powerful figure in this country. Somebody on whose wisdom and judgment our lives literally depend.

I don't know if he felt it necessary to pull out a sharpie and change the map, I don't know if it's one of his aides believed they had to do that in order to protect his ego. No matter how you cut it, this is an unbelievably sad state of affairs for our country. If our presidency is not in good shape, then our country is not in good shape.

And on one level, it's laughable. On another, it is exactly why we got to do something different.

And, by the way, I also think it's why you're seeing a lot of independents and people who have voted Republican over the years saying, you know what, this has become something we've all got to pull together and create an alternative to because we just as a country cannot go on with these.

This is humiliating. This is an embarrassing moment for our country, and we seem to see a new national embarrassment every day.

CAMEROTA: And so when you say you feel sad, you feel sad for the president or you feel sad for the country, or both?

BUTTIGIEG: Both. Look, when the presidency has been reduced to this, all of us are diminished because the presidency is supposed to be something we all look up to, even when we disagree with the president. It's not supposed to be a disagreement over -- something in disagreement.


What we're seeing there is literally pathetic. It makes you feel a kind of pity for everybody involved. And that's now how I want to feel about a president whether it's for my party or the other one.

CAMEROTA: President Trump doesn't believe in climate change. I mean, he's on the record saying weather changes, he doesn't believe in it.

So, what he's focused on is building a wall.


CAMEROTA: Building his promised wall.

And he is going to be basically siphoning off some military construction funds in order to build the wall, something to a tune of like $3.6 billion.

So, now, the Pentagon has come out what will be lost with that. So I'll read it to you. This is from "The New York Times".

The Pentagon plans to divert funds from military construction projects in nearly half of the 50 states, three territories and 19 countries. The cuts involve projects such as rifle ranges, aircraft simulators, hangars, port repairs and a cyber operations center in Virginia, with the biggest impact in Puerto Rico, Guam, New York and New Mexico.

So, listen, we all know there's a lot of pork in military budgets. Can't some of those things be done away with? Is that a big loss to be losing money from those projects?

BUTTIGIEG: Yes, let's look at our priorities. Look, a cyber operations center sounds to me exactly the sort of thing we need more of in the 21st century, because we know 21st century threats include things like cyber threats, as well as things like dealing with climate security.

And here you have a president focused on what amounts to a 17th century security solution which is putting up a wall, at a moment when the biggest threats to this country aren't things that are stopped by walls. They are things like hurricanes and cyber attacks, in addition to stateless terrorism and all the other things that our country is up against.

I would rather have the rifle ranges, the hangars and the cyber operations center because that's involved in keeping America safe.

There's no question that the Pentagon budget can be bloated, but it's also extremely important that we have the best equipped military in the world. And when I was in the military, I knew that I had the advantage of the resources that this country puts into our national defense. The idea that you would divert that, that would gut that at a time like this, and especially taking it out of things that are a lot more relevant to keeping us safe today than putting up this wall shows you just how upside down and frankly just how antique the president's security priorities really are.

CAMEROTA: You know, one of the interesting things is that the Pentagon has talked about the effect of the climate crisis on the military.

BUTTIGIEG: Absolutely. Look, a large or shockingly large proportion of our military assets and bases are endangered by climate change. Needless to say, especially from a Navy perspective, a lot of that is going to be on coastlines that are impacted by everything from sea level rise to the increasingly frequent and severe storms.

But also, we're seeing more and more instability around the world. You know, there's evidence that droughts that might have been partly worsened by climate change contributed to everything from the Syrian civil war to the migration out of Central America that's starting to hit our own borders.

And this is just the very beginning. We could see climate wars in the future. Let's not let that happen.

There's a reason why some of the most sober-minded and unsentimental people in this country, insurance companies that are in the business of just determining risk and military officers and leaders who are in the business of keeping this country safe are saying, hey, we've got a problem here.

And the bottom line is: the president of the United States cannot keep us safe. And the reason he cannot keep us safe is that he doesn't want to admit that there's even a problem.

CAMEROTA: Last, last night, you talked about this as being a matter of faith, that maybe that's a new approach, maybe that's the approach that you would take as president, to address it through people's religion and through people's faith. Have you tried that in South Bend, Indiana? And what has the response been?

BUTTIGIEG: Yes. Look, I'm going to tread carefully here because it's very important to me never to impose my religious views on anyone else, because I know what can happen when people in government decide to do that. But we're having a national conversation, and I think it's absolutely appropriate for us to speak to people whose moral and political choices are guided by faith. And I think that very much comes into play when we talk about the climate.

First of all, the faith tradition I'm part of and a lot of others, too, emphasize the way that we're responsible for creation, that we don't -- that we're just passing through, and we have a responsibility to make sure that the world is in better shape when we leave than it was when we got here.

But there's also a much more immediate dimension, which is climate really is about harm coming to people. This isn't just about saving the planet. It's about saving the people. People who are alive today, and the younger you are, the longer you're planning to be here, the more you have to lose. And that means it's a matter of justice and fairness.

And, you know, certainly, my religious tradition calls on us to be exceptionally concerned with the marginalized, with the poor, with the endangered. And a lot of people -- there's disproportionate harm from climate-related impacts happening to communities of color, happening to low income people, and then, overseas, happening to some of the countries that can least afford another drought or another flood.