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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Hurricane Ian Now A Category 3 Storm; Ian Battering Florida With "Catastrophic Surge, Winds, And Flooding" Hours After Making Landfall As High-End Cat 4 Storm; Slow-Moving Hurricane Ian Bringing Record Storm Surge As High As 18Ft; Extreme Wind Warnings For Central Fl. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired September 28, 2022 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: One hurricane tracker who has flown into 76 storms in his career said today was the worst flight he'd ever had. There was a moment of real fear and he said he's never seen anything like the winds or the lightning and turbulence.
More than one-and-a-half million people have lost power and that number will probably more than double. The danger is also the tornadoes, there have been multiple reports of that and forecasters say the storm could strengthen again as it moves back into the Atlantic coast where it will, by the end of the week hit Georgia and South Carolina by Friday.
I will pass off our breaking coverage now to Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
Tonight, for people in Florida, there is one story tonight. It is far from over and will not be over anytime soon.
When Hurricane Ian made landfall on Florida southwestern coast this afternoon, it came ashore as a near Category 5 strength, as a High- Category 4 after building for hours as it approached.
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COOPER: Right now, it is still a Category 3 storm, still a major hurricane with damaging winds spanning out 175 miles from the center.
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COOPER: No less troubling than the winds tonight, potentially even worse, Hurricane Ian is still pushing a massive storm surge on shore. Forecasts as high as 18 feet in places where building and living close to the water, it is why so many people moved there.
Take a look. This is Fort Myers Beach and that is a community outreach center knocked off its foundation and floating down the street. Making matters worse, the floodwaters affecting residents are doing the same to rescuers. A fire station here in Naples is what first responders are up against, along with anyone needing emergency help. And again, these conditions are not expected to improve throughout the
night. If anything, forecasters say they are likely to get worse. As the storm surge comes in, more rain falls on already saturated ground and high winds continue.
Now already, more than 1.8 million people are without power. Millions more are in the storm's path.
We have two hours of live coverage tonight starting with our Randi Kaye in Punta Gorda, who has been in the teeth of this storm now for hours.
Randi, first of all, give us a sense of what is going on right now.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we are here in just downtown Punta Gorda, and it is quite a situation we have had now for hours these pounding winds, pounding rains here.
Earlier, we had the eye of the storm, Anderson, it came right over us. It was so calm, the birds came out and that is what happens when you experience the eye and then now, we're on the backside of the storm for hours.
We have clocked 124-mile-an-hour winds here in downtown Punta Gorda, and I can show you just some of the some of the debris out there that's been coming down. We've had trees that have come down. We've had a stop sign that came flying down the street. We've seen some of the pieces of metal as you know. I mean, this is what happens in a storm of this magnitude.
There have certainly been a fair amount of debris and palm trees. What we haven't seen, Anderson is any real storm surge to speak off. We are only a few blocks from Charlotte Harbor. And as you recall back in 2004, that is when Hurricane Charley came racing across Charlotte Harbor, and that brought a lot of wind, but not a lot of storm surge and a lot of rain.
So this is -- Hurricane Ian is a completely different animal.
But we were taking cover earlier, expecting that the storm surge was going to be here in downtown Punta Gorda. We also raced -- we took our cars up to a high floor of a parking garage here, but still we do see some water and we are expecting still they're still forecasting this eight to twelve-foot storm surge here in Punta Gorda and in Charlotte County. But Anderson, we have not seen that yet, but we are now on the backside of the storm.
It is supposed to sit on top of us here still for several hours to go as we continue to watch and wait and see what happens. We know that there are high-water vehicles on standby here, 1,300 of them in the State. Also the search and rescue teams will be out.
But in terms of what we're seeing and feeling here. It's just been very, very strong winds and a lot of rain, Anderson, but still not a lot of water in the streets, which is good news for the business owners here in downtown Punta Gorda -- Anderson. COOPER: Yes, Randi, you clearly have gotten yourself some protection
it looks like on your left shoulder like a wall there, and should to be out of the wide sleets to bear out the brunt of this, if you can have your team, your camera person just kind of show us the wind as it whips behind you because that scene in the white light it really gives you a sense of just how fast this wind is moving and that rain is just pummeling.
KAYE: Sure. Jerry (ph), if you could just step out a little bit, we just want to show the viewers here what they can see in terms of just the wind whipping. Actually, to probably give you a pretty good idea, you can see it in the light, Anderson. It is painful -- painful to stand in, as you know. You've covered enough of these to know we just want to obviously keep our cameras safe and the rest of us, but you could exactly what is happening here in downtown.
COOPER: Because that's the thing people don't think about in in a situation like this. There's the wind, there's the water, but there's also stuff just whipping through the air -- debris, you know, trees that the branches get ripped off, the palms get ripped off. Those become projectiles flying through the air in the darkness of night.
KAYE: Absolutely. That's why we have one light up just so we could show, but to my left, it is all pretty dark. So, I'm keeping sort of one eye on you and one eye on the camera here and one eye on the darkness there because you just never know. Hopefully, you hear, but we were down here earlier and there were pieces of metal flying through the air and as I said there were stop signs and pieces of palm trees.
Whoa. You just never know with the wind gust what's going to come and get you.
COOPER: Yes, Punta Gorda obviously it hit hard in 2004.
Randi Kaye, we will check in with you throughout these next two hours.
Shortly before airtime, I spoke with a couple, Don and Belinda Collins. They are in their flooded home in Fort Myers. We taped the interview because their phone battery was running down. I talked to them about 30 or so minutes ago.
COOPER: Don, how are you holding up tonight? What are the conditions like right now?
DON COLLINS, TRAPPED IN HOME IN FORT MYERS (via phone): Well, the rain has slacked off a little bit, but we don't know if it's going to come back around from hurricane in the backside of it.
It's been pretty, pretty hectic. I think it started about 11 o'clock or so. Eleven or twelve o'clock and it's just kind of set in the Gulf Coast probably for -- I'm going to say for about four or five, six hours just setting there, not moving at all.
COOPER: You said --
D. COLLINS: As kind of my check, it is pretty much --
COOPER: You said it has calmed down a bit. Do you feel like you're in the eye or it is often hard to tell if you're in the eye?
D. COLLINS: I don't think we're in the eye, because I think it's gone further north above Tampa. We're not in Tampa, but above Fort Charlotte in that area. I think we still might get some of the bands from it. But right now, I think it's gone a little bit further north. Probably, I'd say thirty to forty miles, fifty miles north of us.
BELINDA COLLINS, TRAPPED IN HOME IN FORT MYERS (via phone): But we think we're on the better side of bands, you know the good side.
COOPER: Yes. Now, Belinda, I understand part of your roof was ripped off.
B. COLLINS: Yes. My husband was sitting -- he was sitting with his phone just doing nothing in the dark and I came out and he says there's dripping -- something is dripping on me. He got and the ceiling, the family room ceiling just caved in and we have solar panels, but we have -- you know, we live in Florida, we have a cage around our pool, and we think that we're that -- we know it's gone and we think that it just slipped up and it took a piece with it and then the water just sat there for a while and finally came in.
COOPER: So how high did water get? Or how high is it?
D. COLLINS: Well, we're ten-and-a-half feet above sea level right now and the water is coming into our house right now. So I'm going to say, probably 11 feet maybe a little more and we are about seven miles from the beach, maybe a little more than that.
B. COLLINS: Yes, about seven miles.
COOPER: So, you have what a couple inches of water on your ground floor.
B. COLLINS: Well, we have it from where it caved in and at the front door, it is right at the cusp of coming in and at the garage door, coming into the laundry room, it is beginning to seep, so it's coming up those three steps also. My car is in there, his is outside. So, we don't -- really, we have no way of going anywhere.
D. COLLINS: Yes, I mean, our lanai itself has probably -- we probably have three or four inches on the lanai. It's probably receded down to about two inches right now.
COOPER: How -- I don't know how many storms you've been through, how long you've been in Florida, but have you seen anything like this?
D. COLLINS: No.
B. COLLINS: No, we were here for Charley and it wasn't like this.
D. COLLINS: So, we've been here 23 years now, and you know the only one we weren't really here for, we were up in Disney, but you know, we were worried about -- we couldn't get back. Everything was closed down coming south, but this is the first time we've decided that we're really going to ride it out. The first one we went through, we went over some neighbor's houses and you know, all got together. But this is totally different from anything I've ever seen before.
COOPER: Because Charley in 2004, I mean, I was down in Tampa Bay at that point. The storm didn't hit Tampa Bay, which would -- it was expected to, but it's taken a similar track this one, although obviously this one is much bigger than Charley was. Is there anywhere else you would go right now? Or are you just planning to, you know, you're there and going to stay through.
B. COLLINS: Well, they told us not to leave.
D. COLLINS: I mean, at this point, the streets are flooded. When you call the 9-1-1 number, they're going to call us back when we can get out of here. I mean, at this point, I don't know whether we're going to have to go to a center. We can get a hotel or something, probably hotel is going to be out of the question. From that point on, I'm not really sure what we are going to do.
COOPER: How long do you think it'll take to fix all the stuff that's damaged?
D. COLLINS: Depending on, I would say if you got somebody to do it right away, you're probably looking at four to six weeks. But I know as bad as it is going to be everywhere, I'd be surprised it's going to be fixed that soon.
COOPER: Yes, it would be hard to find workers -- enough people there to do the work.
Don and Belinda, I'm glad you are safe, at least and I appreciate talking to you. Thank you. Be careful.
D. COLLINS: Okay, thanks for the call.
B. COLLINS: Thank you.
COOPER: So let's get a sense of the big picture. Jennifer Gray is in the Weather Center for us with an important alert. What is the latest?
JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, we have a Flash Flood Emergency. This is for DeSoto County in Florida and you can see it includes Venice, Port Charlotte, Arcadia. They are receiving about two to three months of rain in just 24 hours. We have already seen up to 18 inches of rain here with the storm and another three to eight expected. So, we have huge problems here with the flooding and that is what we're going to see, Anderson.
This storm is still a Category 3. It is still a major hurricane. We've got winds of 115 miles per hour, and it is only moving at eight miles per hour. So, that's a huge concern moving forward. It's how slow the storm is moving, not only for the wind damage that it's going to create, but also the flooding that we're going to see today, tomorrow, and on into Friday.
COOPER: What should we expect to see over the next couple of hours?
GRAY: Well, you saw that shot from Randi. We've seen Bill out there as well and it is just incredible the winds that are whipping through. They've been in these winds since two or three o'clock this afternoon.
They did get a tiny break when they were in the eye, but are were seeing those winds and the debris that's coming, so when you have winds of 100-plus miles per hour for hours on end, you know, it is going to wear down those tree canopies. It's going to wear down people's roofs, it's going to wear down these street signs, and so that's why you're seeing more and more debris litter the streets because of everything just being worn down by the wind.
So, we have a lot of gauges that are now out. They have reported well over 120-mile-per-hour winds were Randi is, multiple times throughout the day, as the storm continues to venture off to the north and east. Their conditions should start to improve within the next hour or two, but you're going to see the center portion of the State dealing with those hurricane force winds, the torrential rain for the next several hours throughout the nighttime hours.
And then Anderson, a lot of these places down across Southwest Florida that we haven't been able to get to, when we see first light tomorrow, we finally start to get helicopters in the sky looking at aerials over these areas. I think we are going to be shocked at some of the damage that we're going to see tomorrow.
COOPER: Do you have a sense of sort of what cities now are in the path of this or towns?
GRAY: Right. So we're going to see places like Orlando as the storm moves up to the north and east really be impacted by the storm. Hold on one sec, I'm trying to click through, here we go. Places like Orlando and then as it exits off of Daytona Beach as a tropical storm, this is by Thursday afternoon, tomorrow afternoon.
So, it is basically -- it is going to just cross over the State. This is the area, Central Florida where we could see up to 30 inches of rain potentially and then as the storm continues to push back out in the Atlantic, we're also going to see another very vulnerable coastline, places like Charleston, Savannah, be impacted by storm surge. We could see three to five feet of storm surge by the time this crosses again into Georgia and South Carolina by Friday afternoon. So this is far from over.
COOPER: All right, Jennifer Gray, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
Curfews are in effect up and down the coast, including in Fort Myers where Tracy McMillion is Fire Chief.
Chief McMillion joins us now by phone.
Chief, so we've seen images of massive flooding at Fort Myers over the last several hours. How dire is the situation there?
FIRE CHIEF TRACY MCMILLION, FORT MYERS, FLORIDA (via phone): Yes, sir. We're holding tough here.
We were getting one of our last bands coming through now in the City of Fort Myers, but it is hitting us pretty hard. We still have got those hurricane force winds and rain coming down.
MCMILLION: We actually lost a lot of power. We even lost power at our ELC, went to generator backup, and our generator actually went out also with all the wind and the rain and the terrible conditions that we're dealing with.
So in our ELC, we're actually flying blind here, but we've got some great responders, have great backups and contingency plans. We've actually made a first push somewhat to actually take a look at our area, and we have downed palm trees. You know, being Fort Myers, you know, the City of Palms, there's palm trees down, there's trees down, there's buildings that actually have been hit pretty hard.
Our charming downtown has been hit and impacted with a lot of water, a lot of flooding. We're hopeful though, even though we've gotten to that 7:00 PM or 7:42 PM when we actually get dark down here and then when we have a high tide, high tide is actually starting to roll back into our Caloosahatchee River. So, we're hopeful that it'll take this storm surge that we actually experienced back with it, and we will actually be able to get out and make some more pushes to start getting to our residents that we've actually, for the last, you know, six, seven hours have been actually waiting to get to.
COOPER: I know earlier today, you said that you were not going to be responding to calls while the roadways aren't safe. When do you think you might be able to go out and answer calls because obviously, for first responders, it is incredibly dangerous out there in the dark with stuff flying around through the air.
MCMILLION: Absolutely, and this has been one of the challenges when it comes to, you know, Hurricane Ian. It has not been cooperative at all. So it's -- we're on Plan D right now. There are so many different contingencies that we're actually working through.
So our goal here with this particular plan is that once we get through this last band of winds and the winds die down whether, you know, below that 45-mile-per-hour, we're actually going to start doing some recon on the roads and see how safe it is.
We're actually looking at working with our FP&L partners to actually cut some grids of power. Not that we have power here, but we want to make sure that there's nothing in water that's actually going to be live to actually put our first responders in harm's way, because we have to actually make sure that they're safe.
COOPER: So, what is your message to people in the city who are facing serious flooding? Who may be in their homes? What should they do?
MCMILLION: Number one, be encouraged. Number two, what they should do is actually take heed. The City of Fort Myers actually put out a curfew that is what we are counting, so we don't want anyone leaving their homes. The last thing we need to do is put more people into an unknown situation.
So, they can be encouraged, hydrate themselves, get situated. We're coming for them in the morning. We have assets, we have resources that have been set from the State, other different areas that have actually sent resources, we are coming. What we need to do, and I know, it's a tough thing to say, Anderson, it's a tough thing to say to our folks is just to hold on. But we want to make sure that they do not venture out. It's not safe to go out, but we will come to them as soon as possible.
But be encouraged. If they're still here, if they are able to -- you know, just be able to think for a little bit and thank the lucky stars that they're still here, their family is still here, just wait for us. We're coming for you. Be encouraged. Do not go out.
COOPER: Chief McMillion, it is good advice. Thank you so much. Appreciate what you and all the folks there are doing. Thank you.
Coming up next, what a storm chaser saw when the eyewall crossed over Punta Gorda.
And later, Florida's top emergency management official joins us to talk about what his agency is preparing to handle as Hurricane Ian hits the State.
COOPER: So, we just got this footage in. it is pretty remarkable. A time lapse video taken from a webcam in Fort Myers. Now, what you're watching is the storm surge rolling and going down one street and then going down the street quickly, relentlessly flooding the entire neighborhood. You see the storm surge there.
The city is seeing record flooding tonight and the full extent of the storm surge, well, that is yet to be felt in some places as we continue to watch this. I mean, it's incredible to see this water just moved down that road.
In Punta Gorda, where as you saw Randi Kaye's report before the break, they are experiencing punishing winds.
Joining us right now is Thomas Podgomy who is trapped in a home in the City, in Fort Myers. Thomas, how are you doing? Where are you and what's happened? THOMAS PODGOMY, TRAPPED IN A HOME IN FORT MYERS (via phone): We're
good. We're safe. We're in the second story of a North Fort Myers home the Caloosahatchee River. The Caloosahatchee River has flowed through the bottom floor of this house and we're safe on the second floor.
My concern, if you're showing the pictures that I've sent in, is here on East North Shore Avenue in North Fort Myers, we have multiple resiy houses that probably had 10-foot ceilings and seven foot floodwaters.
The wind has subsided. Basically, it is much calmer. I feel like these people could be rescued, which is why I agreed to talk to you all.
COOPER: Hey, Thomas, let me ask you. We are showing the video that you sent us and the camera is on, I take it you took these images, the camera is on what looks like the second floor landing. You're looking at the windows and then you pan over and he look down kind of a circular flight, octagonal flight of stairs and it looks like water and debris floating. That's the ground floor of the building you're in.
PODGOMY: That's the ground floor of what was my beautiful home, and again, you know, my concern is that's how high that water is, you know in a one-story house. I've got a neighbor two doors down, she is maybe 80, she is trapped in a house that at most has a 10-foot ceiling in the same six, seven feet of water I have on my bottom floor.
COOPER: Wow. How deep do you think that water is in the video that we're looking at your shot?
PODGOMY: I think five to six feet.
PODGOMY: See my thing is, I think these people could be rescued before morning. These people on this street are in dire straits.
COOPER: Have you been able to contact emergency officials obviously, you know --
PODGOMY: My family has, you know, but the story is, when it all calms down.
PODGOMY: But, you know, we've been through the worst of it. We're on the back end of it now. I would love to see these people in these first floor houses rescued tonight. I totally think these people are in trouble.
COOPER: Yes, let me ask you, Thomas. We've frozen the image now looking out one of your windows, and you see water in the distance? How deep is that water?
PODGOMY: That water is maybe five feet, six feet. It varies, okay. COOPER: Okay.
PODGOMY: But you can see it as in relationship to the houses.
PODGOMY: Okay, for some of them, it is halfway, three quarters of the way up. Those people have say either be standing on furniture or whatever. And you know, some of these cars floated away. We had cars float away.
You know, these people need to be rescued as soon as possible.
COOPER: You know, we just talked to some first responders and obviously, you know, one of the things they were saying is, you know, in the dark, debris flying through the air becomes projectiles. They wait to the winds are below 45 miles an hour and that's when they can go out. Obviously, you know that.
PODGOMY: Yes. I feel for them and I know how hard their job is. But that part of this risk is mostly past us. They would have water depth to deal with, maybe more than flying debris. I mean, we've had everything go by us previously. Boats, docks, houses, everything is flowing down the river. But the debris is a lot. The debris through the air is much more manageable right now than it has been.
COOPER: And you have supplies on the second floor?
PODGOMY: We do. Yes.
COOPER: Okay. Good.
Well, Thomas --
PODGOMY: And you know, I feel like we have our situation under control. Very concerned about people in the one story houses here.
COOPER: Yes. Well, it's -- you're a good neighbor to call and be concerned.
Thomas Podgomy, appreciate it and thank you so much for the video you took. It really helps us get a sense of, you know, if each of these spots. Thank you, Thomas.
PODGOMY: Much worse than expected, I mean, you know, Irma hit here without anything quite like this. This is much more than we expected.
COOPER: Yes. Were you there for Charley?
PODGOMY: No. My parents were here for Charley. Charley was very bad. They were hunkered down in the shower forever. But Irma was, you know, a Cat 5 basically direct hit on this same house and this is much worse -- much, much worse.
COOPER: Wow. Thomas, you take care of yourself. We'll check in with you. PODGOMY: Okay. Yes. Thank you.
COOPER: CNN's Brian Todd is in Largo, Florida for us tonight.
Brian, what's the situation there?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the danger is still not past here. We're still getting pounded with wind and rain, but we have been able to fan out and come across some areas of real devastation.
This town of Largo, just northwest of St. Petersburg, this house completely burned out. This was a large fire that started in this house this afternoon when a powerline snapped off of a transformer in the front and our photojournalist, Wayne Cross is going to kind of take you and peer into the windows here of what's left of this house.
Now some of the structure is still standing as you can see, but just about every room -- room after room here just burned out, debris everywhere.
We spoke to a neighbor who actually gave us video that we sent in earlier, excuse me of this house, actually, while it was burning, very dramatic video of that from this afternoon. The neighbor told us that the people who lived here -- who live here, this house has been in their family for generations. There was a death in the family recently and the people who own the house came back here to renovate it. They have just started to try to renovate this place when this happened.
Thankfully, they were not here when this fire occurred and they were not hurt. No one was hurt here, but you can see just the devastation of the house and what was burning in the fire, and now here.
And again, we went to a manufactured home park not far from here in Largo. We saw roofs ripped off of homes there.
This is just our initial fanning out, Anderson in this area of St. Petersburg. And of course, this is just as you talked to your previous guests, which I heard just repeated, just a neighborhood after neighborhood in this section of Florida -- Anderson.
COOPER: Yes, Brian, how hard is it getting around? As you said, you've just been fanning out. I'm not sure how long you've been at this location. But what was it like? If you were driving, what was that like?
TODD: I can tell you around the St. Petersburg area. It was not too bad to drive around this afternoon and then you know this evening after the storm hit in earnest. They have kind of been a little bit fortunate if you can call it that in the St. Petersburg area, flooding not as bad as they thought it would be, some of the wind damage not quite as bad as they thought it would be, but again, they are just getting initial assessments now.
They can't even send first responders out just yet because of the -- not only the darkness, but the wind just now dying down to the point where they might be able to send some of them out. So, some of those assessments won't be coming for some hours.
But I can tell you the driving around at the St. Petersburg area wasn't too bad. I know that points further south are just devastating.
COOPER: And it's so strange you've been there, you know, it's one of those things you don't expect to fire in the -- you know, in the middle of a major storm like this, but as you explain it a downed power line. That's what can happen is one of the things that first responders are most concerned about downed power lines when they are out and obviously the debris in the air.
Brian, I appreciate your reporting as always, thank you. We'll check in with you.
Next, a storm chaser who's trapped along with others in Punta Gorda, Florida. We'll be right back.
COOPER: So just before the break, we were talking to a man who is stuck on the second floor of a flooded home concerned about his neighbors in Fort Myers who said he's very worried about the people living in single story dwellings nearby. Across the area though first responders being hampered by the same flooding in the highway and joining us now from Punta Gorda storm chaser Ben McMillan who is trapped himself with several other people.
Ben, what's happening? Where you are in Punta Gorda, Florida.
BEN MCMILLAN, STORM CHASER: Yes. Hey Anderson, kind of a devastating story but a small town on the western coast of Florida about 20,000 people. This is the third major hurricane in the last 25 years to impact this town. We had Hurricane Charley in 2004, Hurricane Irma in 2017. And now this one I was here for Irma, and this one was a whole another level today. Anderson, Ian being only two miles sort of that category five, the strongest hurricane on Earth at a much wider wind field, with that slower speed coming on shore. We've talked to so many people on your show tonight who really are still dealing with the devastation of that eyewall it just was so slow, and it really didn't subside until after dark.
So, I don't think we're going to really know the, you know, devastating things that the sites that we're going to see until morning and we start to assess what has happened out here.
COOPER: What's the biggest danger right now? I mean, is it wind or storm surge?
MCMILLAN: Well to our south here, Punta Gorda on the southern part of Charlotte Harbor and Fort Myers, who you've been speaking with people there, you know, it's definitely the water, it's going to take several days for that water to subside. But there's wind damage across the region as well, those extremely strong winds today, creating many power outages of which I'm in the middle of one right now, there's probably 20 to 25 people stranded at this hotel lobby that will have to spend the night here and do what they can to try to get back to a place of shelter and food and water. And it may take some time, several days or several weeks to get this area back on its feet.
COOPER: Now, you said you're trapped with a group of people. What does that mean exactly? Where are you?
MCMILLAN: Well, at this point that we really don't have a way out of the hotel because they've shut all the doors the eye is still kind of churning in the area. I mean, we can leave out the backside door if we had to, but it's just not safe. There's debris everywhere scattered around the streets, and there's no power you're not able to really see where you're going. And I think the important thing is having those roadways cleared by crews and public officials as they slowly work their way in the area. First responders of course, we'll be out in force at first light trying to figure out which roads are safe, where to go first and where the people are that need rescuing.
COOPER: Yes. Ben McMillan, appreciate it. Thank you.
We continue to get footage of the flooding in Fort Myers take a look.
It's something. The son of the man who captured that video tells CNN his father lives on the second floor of a condominium in Fort Myers Beach. He's lost contact with his dad. Last word the father was on the third floor in a stairwell. Right now, I want to check in with the mayor of nearby Cape Coral, John Gunter, who is himself trying to account for people who may be trapped in his community.
Mayor, I appreciate you joining us. First of all, what are conditions in Cape Coral like right now?
MAYOR JOHN GUNTER, CAPE CORAL FL: Well, right now the wind has subsided somewhat. We still have tropical storm winds. We've also have storm surge that we're still dealing with throughout our city. We've been getting many phone calls from people that are have rising water in their homes. But because of the winds, we still have our public safety or first responders are sheltered in place until those winds subside. And then they will as of right now we have about 300 fire calls in the queue and at least 100 police calls that we haven't responded to.
COOPER: I know emergency personnel, as you said, have gotten a lot of calls. What are the criteria for when you can respond?
GUNTER: Basically, it's the wind speed, it's got to be less than 45 mile an hour before we will give the first responders the green light to respond out into the community for their safety. And that's the most important thing, once that wind subsides less than 45 mile an hour, then we'll be out there.
COOPER: And what about infrastructure utilities, you know, electricity and water where do things stand. GUNTER: Right now, our city is about 90, 95% without electricity as far. As water and sewer, we do have experienced some water main breaks. So, we do have some areas of the city that is without water. And we have been getting phone calls from residents all afternoon and all evening. We know we have a lot of downed power lines. We have some structural damage out there. We've had some roofs collapse on residents.
So, we are waiting to go out and do what's called our first push to probably be daybreak. Right now, we are anticipating the winds to be below the 45 mile an hour about 5:00 a.m. in the morning.
COOPER: John Gunter, Mayor, I appreciate what you're doing. Thank you so much.
GUNTER: Thank you.
COOPER: I'm joined now by CNN John Berman who is in Tampa. John, how are you?
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Wet Anderson. Very, very wet. The rain here has been pouring all day. We're seeing some of the worst of it now and the wind has picked up some of the strongest wind we've seen yet 30 to 50 miles an hour and it could stay like this really, all night long. The rain though, the biggest concern. You've heard Jennifer Gray talking about how several counties adjacent to here have put in these dire flash flood warnings, expecting anywhere from 12 to 18 inches of rain over this 24-hour period. That's as much as they usually get in about three months. You just saw a car driving by here they've asked cars to get off the streets here. I'm thinking I take my hat off will blow away. They've asked cars to be off the streets here most of the cars we've seen down our police in this area.
But you get a sense now have the concern here. The winds could knock out power lines, they might lose power here obviously a very large city with hundreds of thousands of people but it's the fresh water flooding they are most concerned about. The idea of as much as two feet of water coming down swelling, the rivers and streams that then flow in here to Tampa and the Tampa Bay area even as they're a little bit less concerned with the storm surge now, there still could be some push up from the bay into this area. But they're watching this very closely Anderson and it could go on for many, many hours to come.
COOPER: And is there a sense of when that storm surge if it is to come? Sort of what time of the storm that would happen?
BERMAN: It's so quirky as you know, Anderson storm surge can be such a strange thing depending on the topography and the bends and the twist of the coastline. We've seen the water gets sucked out here. The other end of though tell from where I'm standing is the Hillsborough River which dumps in to Tampa Bay literally itself. We've seen that river gets sucked out but it's been out there for hours and hours and hours and hasn't come back in yet. And it's just impossible to know right now when it does come back in if it comes back with a vengeance, they downgraded their storm surge warnings here to four to six feet maybe seven feet. If it's four feet even four feet would be a real problem because so many people live so close to the water here in the Tampa area and these rivers and canals go right up practically to people's home.
So, if they got that that would be a problem hasn't happened yet. But it is something they will be monitoring throughout the night.
COOPER: John Berman, appreciate it. Thank you. Be careful John.
Coming up, frightening moments not far from Tampa our crew was there. We'll see how things are looking tonight in in Bradenton, next.
COOPER: Number of tense moments in this hurricane including this one when transformers blew near our CNN crew which includes our meteorologist Derek Van Dam. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Brings -- oh. We just, we just had some transformers. Yes, Transformers just blowing behind us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Derek Van Dam joins us now from Bradenton tonight, just south of Tampa. What is so strange to see that up close, because I've always seen an eerie early from far off great distance to see and so up close is that's worrying. What's it look like now?
VAN DAM: Well, I mean, that video was shot a long time ago, this earlier this afternoon, right? We're in hour nine now of tropical storm force winds. Hurricane Ian doesn't want to give up on us even though the eyewall is moving, slowly marching across the central parts of the state. We continue to get these violent gusts of wind that makes it difficult for my team and I to stand up. We're taking shelter in a safe place. But you'll see behind me there are a few cars in and about even though we're still under our mandatory evacuation here. But most of Bradenton has been plunged into darkness. I guess we're joining the 1.8 million customers without power across the state of Florida. But were included within this at our hotel that were hunkering down. And at the moment, of course, there's general generator power across the area.
But what was some of the most astounding things that we saw today was debris flying and getting lofted into to the air by some of the strong gusts. And then also a phenomenon that I had never witnessed before as a meteorologist was this reverse storm surge that we witnessed in the Manatee River that runs east west here just directly behind me. This The winds were so powerful that it actually pushed the water out where we can see the exposed riverbed before the tide started to surge back in and covered it back up. But Anderson that was an incredible sight. And I think it really caught a lot of people off guard because those types of things are a rarity and only come around when you have this powerful of a storm bearing down on you.
COOPER: Yes, it's remarkable to see. Derek Van Dam, appreciate it. Thank you so much.
Coming up next --
VAN DAM: Yes.
COOPER: -- a storm chaser who says he narrowly avoided being killed by flying debris is what he calls the most intense storm he's ever seen came ashore.
COOPER: This one it looks like it's hurricane in came ashore with 150 mile an hour winds in Venice, Florida.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOGAN PARHAM, FLORIDA STORM CHASER: On the break, right? Yes. Holy. How is this possible? (INAUDIBLE). They're all for what? Gosh. Yes, let's go down.
UNDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
PARHAM: If we can, but please be careful. It's going to be so sketchy. You want to wait till it --
UNDENTIFIED MALE: Dies down.
PARHAM: -- dies down. Or maybe -- oh my god.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Storm chase Logan Parham took the video. He joins us now by phone. I understand you experienced the second eyewall. And we're in a kind of dire situation. Describe what it was like?
PARHAM: Yes, you know, the first firewall was bad enough and then we got those (INAUDIBLE) after the first eyewall was, you know, clear into the eye. But that second eyewall it really hit and, you know, we expected it to but when it hit it hit very, very, very strong. Honestly, a lot stronger sustained wind speeds than the first eyewall and then it got very scary because the parking garage that we're in, still in right now with no power is it was buckling, it was shaking the all the cars including our vehicle was bouncing up and down, like it was going to just straight lift off. So, it was a scary moment, you know, everyone was rushed into the stairwells into secure vehicles. Should very strong winds.
COOPER: What was the first eyewall?
PARHAM: Well, the first firewall it was, it was kind of a slow build, honestly. I mean, it had us very, you know, I guess you could say doubtful at first, because, you know, it came on very, very slowly, and then it built and built and built. And then it got to a point where it was like, OK, like this is the eyewall and, you know, radar confirmed that for us. And then eventually, when we got past the sustained winds, we just ended up in these mezzo vortices which are basically like mini tornados that kind of rotate around the eye of a hurricane. And those were, I mean, we're getting thrown mezzo vortices, left and right up until an almost clear eye.
COOPER: How does the storm compared to others you've been in?
PARHAM: For me personally this is the most intense storm I've ever been in.
COOPER: Has the storm surge reached your area?
PARHAM: Also, as far as we know, with the we got some, you know, some general like street flooding at the moment, but nothing too insane believe it or not. So that's a very good sign. But nonetheless, you know what's preventing us from moving from this parking garage is really just the amount of debris around in the roads right now.
COOPER: Yes. Logan Parham, appreciate, thanks for what you're doing. Appreciate it.
PARHAM: Absolutely. Thank you, guys.
COOPER: Massive storm surges of swamped street to many parts of Southwest Florida downtown Naples, a popular tourist destinations submerged today, power lines knocked down. I want to go to mayor of the city for more. Looked at the transformer that fire. Wow.
More of the devastation there. Teresa Heitmann is the mayor of Naples. Thank you so much Mayor Heitmann for joining us.
Well talk about a little bit about the immediate needs at this point in the storm. Hey Mayor Heitmann, I don't know if you can hear me, it's Anderson Cooper. I think we need to try to get back in touch with the mayor. Mayor Heitmann of Naples, Florida, will try to check back in with her, you can see some of the down cable electric lines there and the fires starting we saw Brian Todd earlier showing us a residence that had been burned completely really because of downed electric power lines is one of the concerns that first responders have about going out in this especially in these high winds. They wait as, you know, to winds died down past about 45 miles per hour.
I just want to try the mayor, Mayor Heitmann again in Naples. Mayor Heitmann, it's Anderson Cooper. Can you hear me?
MAYOR TERESA HEITMANN, NAPLES FL: Hi, Anderson. I can. Thanks for touching base with Naples.
COOPER: So, what are the immediate needs right now?
HEITMANN: For everyone to stay inside and continue to be hunkered down until we can go out and assess the situation. We still have water on the streets. We have downed power lines. And it's a dangerous situation. We've already had several citizens that have just had to be retrieved. And right now, we just need people to stay inside. We'll let them know when it's safe to go back out.
COOPER: At this point. I mean, if someone calls 911, our first responders even able to go out? I know in many jurisdictions, it's the rule is you know, if the winds are higher than 45 miles an hour the law enforcement doesn't go out.
HEITMANN: Law enforcement is out. Or they'll be out shortly. The city manager Jay Boodheshwar is going out now with police and fire to assess the situation. We were not able to do that earlier. So, I really hope that I know a lot of people are watching through CNN, please stay calm. Be patient. We probably won't open the city until tomorrow because we're under an emergency curfew and please, we have already had to recover people that were just around city hall where I have been since the storm started with Mr. Boodheshwar. And we really need you to stay safe and stay inside.
COOPER: Can you talk about the incidence of people having to be recovered in your city hall? What what's what kind of things were happening?
HEITMANN: Well, we just had some citizens that were out on paddle boards or thought they could swim. And it just happened to be within our neighborhood and the fire department was able to help assist through paddleboards and recovery for them. We really are in a dangerous, devastating situation. Now we have abandoned cars everywhere. We have again, downed power lines and it's dangerous. This there is no need for this to be entertainment. We do have webcams up so you can see the peer and when it's safe and sound, which really will be in the morning, we'll open the city back up in little announced that through the media again.
COOPER: Yes, definitely not a time to go paddleboarding. Mayor Heitmann, appreciate what you're doing. Thank you.
HEITMANN: Thank you.
COOPER: We're live ahead with the mayor of another hard-hit city Fort Myers, a town official in Fort Myers Beach says the damage there is very serious in their words and the extent of Ian's impact still unknown. Our breaking coverage continues in a moment.