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Hurricane Sally Threatens Historic, Life-Threatening Floods; Trump Claims He Didn't Downplay Virus But Audio Says Otherwise; Louisville Settles Suit By Breonna Taylor's Family For $12 Million. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 16, 2020 - 05:30   ET




ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, this is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Laura Jarrett, 30 minutes past the hour. And we begin this half-hour with danger in the Gulf Coast this morning.

The National Hurricane Center, in a special advisory overnight, warns of historic and life-threatening flooding from Hurricane Sally. The storm restrengthening overnight, churning a painfully slow path toward the coast.

The category set by the wind is really not what matters right now, it's Sally's speed -- three miles an hour, which means the rough conditions will last for days.

ROMANS: Ten to 20 inches of rain are expected across Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle with rainfall of 30 inches possible in some areas.

Landfall is expected soon, possibly within the hour. Even before that happens, the storm has already brought flooding and storm surges to several coastal communities. Thousands have evacuated. More than 320,000 customers are already without power.

JARRETT: At least 18 inches of rain already falling in Pensacola, Florida. Remember, this is all before landfall. Florida's National Guard activating 175 members to prepare search and rescue operations. Water has also been shut off in Pensacola Beach because of a water main break that obviously cannot be fixed right now.

CNN has reporters across the Gulf with us this morning. We begin with Gary Tuchman live in Pensacola Beach. Gary, we saw you last half hour getting whipped around out there. How's it looking?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Laura and Christine, right now, we have sustained winds of about 60 miles per hour but the gusts have been reported to be 83 miles per hour, which is hurricane- force.

What the people here in Pensacola Beach are going to face shortly is the very tip of the northeastern eyewall. But they're not going to get the benefit of the eye -- it looks like it's going to pass to the west. And that's bad because the eastern part of this hurricane are the stronger winds and they're not going to get the break of the amazing calm winds that you experience when the eye crosses over you.

Despite the wind, the wind is not the story, as you mentioned. It's the historic, catastrophic flooding. And I can tell you that it has been torrentially raining since yesterday afternoon and it hasn't stopped. The streets here in this resort barrier island are covered with water.

I should mention if you hear any sounds -- and I'm keeping an eye open for it -- there are portions of roofs and sheet metal that are blowing around here. As a matter of fact, that restaurant behind me -- just a short time ago it ripped off and you can see it flapping around.

But it's the rain that's going to be the issue.

Fortunately, from yesterday during daylight after the sun went down tonight, we see nobody walking around. People are respecting this. They are taking shelter in their homes.

We need to mention that typically during strong hurricanes there's lot of shelters. There are not lots of shelters and there's not a mandatory evacuation order. It's a voluntary order and that's because partially, because of the COVID pandemic. People don't want to be with a lot of people.

So what they're advising everyone is take a safe place in your house, be careful, and that's what people appear to be doing.

Finally, I want to mention to you everyone always wonders about the most important thing when it comes to storms like that -- like this -- and it's casualties. Right now, there are no reported casualties.

It's too early because it's still dark out. When it gets light out we'll see the damage and most importantly, we'll start finding out if anyone has been hurt or killed. We hope not.

Christine and Laura, back to you.

JARRETT: All right, Gary. I'm glad to hear no one is out walking around out there in the middle of all that. But please stay safe out there.

ROMANS: That's Gulf Shores, Alabama. Lots of rain already whipping parts of Alabama before the worst of this storm is even there. Look at this before and after view of a pier in Gulf Shores -- what it looked like a week ago on the left, and on the right, yesterday -- a full day before landfall. Polo Sandoval live for us in Mobile, Alabama. You've been out there braving this for some 10 or 10 1/2 hours now. What's happening for you?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Yes, by comparison, the overnight hours were quite calm compared to what we're seeing here the last couple of hours, Christine.

Just to give you some perspective, we're going to be -- well, actually, Mobile, Alabama -- so that eye of the storm or at least the northern wall is making its way towards land between where Gary is and where we are right now, overlooking right now, the Mobile River. This eventually empties out into Mobile Bay, that estuary that then empties out into the Gulf of Mexico.


And this was obviously a source of some concern because when you have so much rain that's been dumped on this area and will continue to be dumped on this area in the day ahead, the concern was, of course, any potential storm surge would leave nowhere for this water to actually go.

So what we're seeing right now for the last couple of hours are certainly an intensification of those winds as, of course, that rain continues to fall. The National Weather Service here in Mobile reported at least about 20 inches of rain that have already fallen in the coastal regions. And, of course, the concern is that that is going to fall -- continue to fall into the morning hours here.

I should finally mention that there was a flash flood emergency that was issued just a short while ago for the portion of the border between Florida and Alabama. That is fairly rare according to local meteorologists here in Mobile, saying they only issue that whenever they are seeing an extreme threat to human life.

So it certainly, Christine, underscores the real threat here, which is flooding. And as authorities have been telling people all night, if for whatever reason you have not evacuated any low-lying areas, specifically near the coastal regions in Alabama and the Panhandle of Florida, then it's certainly something that may have to be considered if they find -- if people find themselves in an emergency situation, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Polo Sandoval. Stay safe there. Thank you so much.

JARRETT: Well, even as Hurricane Sally heads inland, flash flooding and substantial rainfall is forecast for Georgia and the Carolinas.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers is tracking Sally's path today and for the rest of the week. Chad, it may seem fairly obvious but explain for our viewers just why this slow crawl of just three miles per hour is actually so dangerous.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Because when you're seeing the 85- mile-per-hours winds or in some spots almost 100 right now, they last a long time. So it's like having an EF0-EF1 tornado over your house for 20 or 30 minutes rather than 20 or 30 seconds.

Also, it's the rainfall that's coming down. A very heavy rate of rain right now -- tropical rains -- probably three to four inches per hour. And if you get that for four hours, all of a sudden you're over a foot of rain rather quickly and it just can't go downhill quick enough. This is very flat land here.

So this is going to be with us for all day now. We are not seeing landfall yet. The eyewall is on land but landfall means the middle of the eye has to cross over land.

These are -- all these red boxes here are flash flood warnings all the way from Panama City, Santa Rosa, all the way back. If we haven't mentioned your town, I'm sorry -- but this entire Panhandle -- all the way almost from Pensacola and back toward about Apalachicola is flooding right now with onshore winds. So all of these towns along 30A getting very, very wet, just not quite yet with landfall.

I'll make that line. Like, there is the line of the center -- like that would be the center of the eye right now and that center is not quite onshore but it will come onshore very close to Gulf Shores. A lot of the crews that are in Gulf Shores right now actually, absolutely no wind whatsoever. It's completely calm. Pensacola just gusted to 86-miles-per-hour.

And you talk about the 20 inches that could come down, but 18 to 20 has already come down just west of Destin. So this is already on land and it's going to continue to be on land in the same spots because that number -- north-northeast at three miles per hour, as you mentioned -- is the slow lumbering of the storm system.

A lot like Harvey did to Houston when Houston got the 60 inches of rainfall because that thing just sat there for days and days and days. This isn't going to be days but it is going to be enough hours -- 24 hours, maybe, in some spots -- that we could pile up that 30-inch rainfall that Dr. Ken from the Hurricane Center talked about yesterday. Thirty inches wouldn't be out of the question if we're already at 20.

And so, take that rain all the way through Atlanta and southward and all the way into the Carolinas. There's a different story here in Alabama and the Carolinas -- not that it's flash flooding because of storm surge, but we have some mountains around and those mountains like to funnel all that water down into the creeks and rivers very, very quickly. And when that happens that's when those rivers and creeks rise rather quickly.

Flash flood expected here across these areas. You need to be at higher ground. This is obviously a dangerous situation with those winds pouring onshore.

The worst of any hurricane is the eastern part of the hurricane, not the western part where the winds are blowing offshore in Biloxi. In fact, Mobile Bay has actually gone down with surge. It's an inverse surge because the wind is coming from the north blowing the water out of the bay. So that's taking away the surge possibility for Mobile.

But anywhere to the east of there, fair hope of seeing an awful lot of rain. Gulf Shores, rain all the way along that 30A corridor. It's really in the 90 -- very, very, very heavy rainfall. And you have to watch out if you're anywhere near a creek or stream. This is a big flood event.

JARRETT: Sure. And, Chad, thank you so much for breaking all of that down. We know you'll be tracking it all day for us.


MYERS: I will.

ROMANS: Experts -- you know, experts had predicted a historic hurricane season fueled by climate change and boy, they were right on. They just nailed it this year.

This morning, there are five tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Ocean at the same time. That has only happened once before nearly five decades ago.

Now, the season has been so active there's only one name left on the list of 2020 hurricanes, Wilfred. Once all those names are used, then you go to the Greek alphabet, something that has only been done once before in 2005.

JARRETT: Well, we have much more on the hurricane coming up.

And tomorrow, Joe Biden joins CNN for a special presidential town hall live from Pennsylvania, with Anderson Cooper moderating tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m., only on CNN.



JARRETT: All right, some live pictures there from Mobile, Alabama where Hurricane Sally is hitting the Gulf Coast hard before it even makes landfall this morning.

Power outages increasing fast. And now, at least 330,000 customers in the dark.

Sally's forward (ph) crawl is the major concern here at just three miles an hour. It means this Gulf could be pummeled for days. Some states could get 10 to 20 inches of rain. Isolated areas could see as much as 30 inches of rain.

Thousands have evacuated and some coastal communities already dealing with serious flooding and storm surges.

"NEW DAY" will have much more coming up live from the Gulf in just a few minutes.

ROMANS: With the election now 48 days away, President Trump dismissed questions of his handling of the pandemic last night when confronted with the fact that he told Bob Woodward, on tape, he's always wanted to play down the virus.

Here's how he answered an ABC town hall question from one undecided voter in Pennsylvania.


AJANI POWELL, STUDENT, PENNSYLVANIA: Why would you downplay a pandemic that is known to disproportionally harm low-income families and minority communities?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes. Well, I didn't downplay it. I actually -- in many ways, I up-played it in terms of action.


JARRETT: Saying that coronavirus will just disappear like a miracle is not up-playing the virus. Repeatedly implying that COVID isn't as serious as the flu or without any evidence, saying that it's going to just get better when the weather turns warmer, that's not up-playing this virus.

In fact, at that very same town hall last night, the president once again downplayed it. Listen to this.


TRUMP: It would go away without the vaccine, George, but it's going to go away a lot faster with it.


TRUMP: Sure, over a period of time -- sure, with time it goes away.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And many deaths.

TRUMP: And you'll develop -- you'll develop herd -- like a herd mentality. It's going to be -- it's going to be herd-developed and that's going to happen. That will all happen.


JARRETT: None of that has any support.

The president also told voters he will protect people with preexisting conditions even as he tries to dismantle the Affordable Care Act in court. His long-promised alternative to Obamacare -- well, that's yet to materialize. And a million more Americans lacked health care insurance last year and that was before the pandemic hit.

ROMANS: This morning, the first real signs of a post-Labor Day spike in coronavirus. The seven-day average of new cases curving sharply upward. It's the first time that's happened three straight days since July 25th, near the peak.

Fourteen hundred twenty-two more deaths were reported in the U.S. yesterday. That's one American dying a minute and the highest total in more than a month.

JARRETT: Testing has also dropped over the last week. Less testing, of course, means, people who may have the virus are not isolating, even after all those Labor Day warnings. The rate of positive tests is also creeping up at the same time.

Now, the president loves to falsely talk about low numbers in the U.S. but look at all of those other countries on your screen. All of them have lower positive test rates than the U.S., which is at eight percent.

All right, breaking news overnight. Damning results from an 18-month congressional probe into two fatal crashes of the Boeing 737 MAX. The report cites management failures by Boeing and the FAA. It says there were missed opportunities to prevent 346, quote, "unnecessary deaths."

Also, e-mails show that during certification for the 737 MAX, Boeing tried to conceal the significance of the automated system. That's now blamed for pushing the nose down on those doomed flights. Boeing says it incorporated feedback into its redesign of the plane. No comment yet from the FAA on this.

The 737 MAX fleet, grounded since March 2019, is in the final stages of testing before it can fly again.

ROMANS: New developments on voting in three critical states.

In Ohio, a judge ruling that counties can install multiple drop boxes for absentee ballots. A directive from the Republican Secretary of State had limited the boxes to one per county.

Meanwhile, the Michigan Senate passing a bipartisan bill that would allow processing of absentee ballots to begin the day before the election -- and they could use the extra time.

JARRETT: Now, mail-in ballots in Michigan can be requested as late as October 30th and are due back by Election Day, just four days later. The State House and the governor still have to sign off on the bill.

And in Texas, the State Supreme Court again blocking Harris County from sending mail-in ballot applications to more than two million registered voters. Harris County includes Houston, the state's largest city, which leans heavily Democratic. The state attorney general argues that unsolicited mailings would cause confusion to voters.

Well, the city of Louisville announcing a $12 million settlement with the family of Breonna Taylor. It's believed to be one of the largest payouts in the United States in a case involving a black woman killed by police.

The settlement also includes a series of police reforms for the approval and execution of search warrants and the hiring of social workers in the department. It also creates a housing credit program as an incentive for officers to live in the areas they serve.


ROMANS: This settlement closes out the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Taylor's mother. But she wants more than money, she wants criminal charges.


TAMIKA PALMER, BREONNA TAYLOR'S MOTHER: I just don't understand what's taking so long. Had you or I had committed a crime we'd be picked up the very next day, not even having all the facts. And these facts have been laid out for so long for so many of us to see. It makes no sense that we're -- here we are, six months later, still waiting.


ROMANS: Breonna Taylor was asleep in her bed -- asleep in her bed when police executed a no-knock warrant at her home and ended up shooting her while they were looking for a man -- a man who was already under arrest 10 miles away.

The Kentucky attorney general and the FBI are still investigating and a grand jury has been impaneled.

JARRETT: We're getting more extraordinary details about the Los Angeles deputies who survived an ambush last weekend in Compton.

The deputy seen on this video, applying a tourniquet to her partner and saving his life -- well, she had a broken jaw when she called for help.


TIM MURAKAMI, UNDERSHERIFF, LOS ANGELES SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: We got shock, anger, but also pride. I mean, lesser people would have probably sat in the car and just bled out, where they got out and took a defensive position and rendered aid to each other and called for assistance.

You know, I think you guys put out when she put out the call, her jaw was broken, so it's amazing that she's really that tough.


JARRETT: The deputies remain in critical but stable condition. We are told they are in good spirits.

A reward for information has climbed to $275,000 for information on the shooter.

ROMANS: All right, to stimulus now. Frustration among rank-and-file House members after a new stimulus proposal was rejected by leadership of both parties, really. The $2 trillion proposal from the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus

was meant to get the House, White House, and Congress at least talking again. It had aid for small businesses and schools, another round of stimulus checks, and more jobless benefits, but top leaders rejected it.

Freshman Democrat Max Rose called party leadership, quote, "a charade."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants a more comprehensive plan. The House passed at $3.5 trillion rescue months ago. She says she'll keep the House in session until they can get a deal.

Still, the tone is bitter and 3 1/2 years into the Trump administration, norms of decency and decorum have been shattered.

Exhibit A -- listen to how CNBC host Jim Cramer referred to the House Speaker.


JIM CRAMER, CNBC HOST, MAD MONEY: What deal can we have, crazy Nancy? I'm sorry, that was the president. I have such reverence for the office, I would never use that term. But it is hard, isn't it?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): But you just did.

CRAMER: Oh, come on.

PELOSI: But you just did.

CRAMER: You know what I mean. You know what I mean.

PELOSI: I know what you meant -- I did, I did.

CRAMER: The reverence I have for the office is so great.


ROMANS: Cramer then apologized again on his program, "MAD MONEY."

All right, moving over to markets around the world, you can see Asian shares have closed mixed and Europe has opened slightly higher.

Stock index futures on Wall Street are also moving a little bit higher this morning. Stocks finished up Tuesday, the Dow basically flat. The Nasdaq up over one percent.

The Federal Reserve holds its last meeting before the November election this afternoon. Investors expect the Fed chair, Jerome Powell, to stay on message. You can expect low interest rates for longer and to get out of this crisis, we'll need more help from Congress.

Two new watches, two new iPads, and a focus on your health at the latest Apple reveal. The latest Apple watch helps monitor oxygen levels, handwashing techniques, and home workouts.

There are also two new iPads, including the iPad Air, which will come with a more universal adapter making it easier for consumers to charge it with the same cable that charges a MacBook or a Google Pixel.

Apple taking on Peloton with a new Fitness Plus service. That features workout videos to watch from an iPad or Apple T.V. And a lot of these classes don't require any equipment.

Kim Kardashian West has one of the biggest Instagram followings in the world, so she is pressing the pause button to protest Instagram's owner, Facebook. Kardashian West said she can't stay silent while platforms continue to allow the spread of hate, propaganda, and misinformation.

She's the latest Hollywood star to join the protests, following Kerry Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio, Orlando Bloom, and a lot of others.

The hashtag #stophateforprofit campaign is slated to take place today.

JARRETT: You know, it's really interesting, Christine because it's not just Facebook and Instagram. I mean, it's Twitter. The amount of misinformation out there -- think about all the false information about the fires. People didn't evacuate because of this false information.

ROMANS: I know, it's -- I mean, you're talking about law enforcement having to waste their time swatting down misinformation that is on Facebook --


ROMANS: -- for hours in a crisis. They've got to do better.

All right, thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett. "NEW DAY" is next.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, September 16th, 6:00 here in New York.

We do have breaking news -- life-threatening conditions along the Gulf Coast. We just got word that the outer eyewall of Hurricane Sally is about to make landfall. The situation getting worse by the minute.

The storm strengthened to a category two hurricane overnight and has been getting stronger. It is moving so slowly -- and that's the problem -- inching toward the Alabama-Florida border with torrential rain that won't let up. Flooding is a major concern. Storm surge is a major concern.

We have reporters right in the middle of it.