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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Record Water Levels From Hurricane Ian Still Very High In Fort Myers; Slow-Moving Hurricane Ian Bringing Record Storm Surge As High As 18 FT; Hurricane Ian Now A Cat 2 Storm. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired September 28, 2022 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: It is 9 PM, six hours, after Hurricane Ian came ashore, as one of the largest hurricanes ever, to hit Florida's southwest coast. A defining aspect, of it, along with the winds, has been the water.

Take a look at the time-lapse video, from Fort Myers, earlier today, as the flooding began. It's Fort Myers, and hard to imagine what it must have been like, to look out a window, and see this pouring, into your neighborhood, as we've been learning. Numerous people are trapped in homes there, and across the area.

In addition to flooding, from storm surges, there is the rainfall, as much as three months of rain forecast, in the coming hours and days.

Starting off our coverage, our Randi Kaye, is in Punta Gorda, tonight, where she has been experiencing some of the worst of this storm, all day.

And Randi, it still looks pretty brutal, out there.

RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson. It's still pretty bad out here. This has been going on, now, for hours.

We had that little break. We had the beginning of this storm. And then we had the little break, while we were in the eye, and had that clearing. And as I mentioned, the birds had come out. But now, we have been in it, for hours, of up more than 124 mile an hour winds here.

The main thing, really, to point out to you, is just the darkness, here, in addition to the storm. So, we don't know what's really coming at us. But we did light up a little bit across the way for you.

But, of course, the power is out here, in downtown Punta Gorda, where we are. And the winds are quite strong. So, we're sort of keeping one eye, on some flying debris that could be coming our way, while also trying to show you what's going on here.

But we're just at the edge of this parking garage, where we have some safety, where we can run to, just in case. But if you take a look, you can see the rain probably, in some of that light, as it's coming down. Still very, very heavy. The streets are not flooding. That is the good news.

They were expecting a pretty massive storm surge here, anything up to about 18 feet, because we're pretty close to Charlotte Harbor. And that is where the storm, would have pushed the ocean water, into the harbor, and it would have overflowed, into downtown Punta Gorda. But so far that hasn't happened, although they haven't ruled it out.

But Anderson, I have to tell you, I'm concerned, for people, who either chose to ride this storm out, or didn't know any better, because they probably haven't seen anything like this. And if they had, they might have experienced Charley here, back in 2004, which was a very fast-moving Cat 4 storm. So, it was over, very quickly.


But this storm, as you know, has been dumping rain now, for hours, which could lead to flooding, and people are going to be trapped, in their homes, possibly for a while, before they can get the search and rescue teams, out there, and the high water vehicles. It could take a while, maybe well into tomorrow, before--


KAYE: --they can try and get those people, some help. But we know, they've been calling the emergency lines. But they're still waiting, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Those scenes, in Punta Gorda, in 2004, were terrible.

Randi, appreciate it. We'll check in with you, again, in the hour.

CNN's Chief Climate Correspondent, Bill Weir, joins us now.

Bill, where are you, and what are you seeing?

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm about maybe a quarter mile, from Randi, here, Punta Gorda.

We're on a little bit higher ground, near our hotel, built on 18-feet of fill. So, it gave us some sense of security, with those predictions of storm surge. Thankfully, we haven't seen that. We saw some nasty winds on the back-end of this storm.

But what's interesting to follow up, on what Randi was saying, about that 2004 storm, Hurricane Charley came in here, and absolutely devastated this community. Just the county alone took $3 billion in damages. 15 lives were lost in that storm. Something like 11,000 homes, and 300 businesses.

They retired the name Hurricane Charley, because that storm was so painful, for them. But they learned the lesson. So, Punta Gorda, actually the first city, in Florida, to adapt a climate resilience plan, a coastal adaptation plan, in concert with the federal government, in some stages, to really try to build up, and prepare for days like this. So, tomorrow morning, at sunrise, we'll get our first glimpses, to see whether they passed that test. It means better building codes, more strict building codes, for windows and structures.

The city here has bought up low-lying vulnerable flooding areas, and turned it into public spaces, really, at the forefront of thinking about how to live in this new planet, we've sort of built by accident, with fossil fuels.

Warm water is the steroid of a hurricane. And one way, to think about this storm that's even more sobering than what we're going through now, is that this may be medium or a low level storm of the future, if the current trends continue, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Bill Weir. Thank you, Bill. Appreciate it. We're going to check in with you also later.

The National Hurricane Center has been issuing extra updates, and partial updates, throughout the storm. They just put out another.

Let's get to CNN's Jennifer Gray, in the Weather Center.

What have you learned?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, the storm is continuing, to weaken, slightly, which is good news. It's 105 mile per hour winds, right now, so that is still extremely strong. This is a Category 2 storm, now moving to the northeast, still moving at only 8 miles per hour.

Where Randi and Bill were, all day today, they received multiple reports, of winds, topping 120 miles per hour, and they have been battered, since around 2 o'clock and 3 o'clock. Those winds should start to die down now, in the coming hours.

You can see the backside of the storm, now starting to push on shore. And tomorrow morning, the West Coast of Florida will actually see sunshine. The rest of the state, is going to be in for a long night, and a rough morning, tomorrow, as we continue to see rain. We could see 20 inches to 30 inches of rain. So, we are going to see major flooding.

And it's also going to take a while, Anderson, for a lot of the storm surge, to recede, because we still are getting that onshore flow. We've had reports of up to 12 feet of storm surge, across portions of Southwest Florida. And we've seen it up to people, at second storey, as you were showing earlier, in your show. So, it's going to take a while for that water to recede.

COOPER: Is it the wind, or the storm surge, at this point that's the biggest threat?

GRAY: I think it depends on where you are.

It's definitely the storm surge, if you're in southwest Florida, because that water is up to your second storey. It's going to take a while, for that water, to go down.

If you're in Central Florida, and along the East Coast, say, around Daytona Beach, you're going to be more worried, about the wind and the rain. You're still going to get winds of hurricane force, all throughout the night.

It's dark out. You're not going to have power. We have already 2 million people without power. That number is going to grow. And when you receive 30 inches of rain, we are going to see major flooding, across Central Florida, and along the east coast of Florida, as well, by tomorrow morning.

COOPER: And what areas are you most looking at, in the hours ahead?

GRAY: I'm most looking at Central Florida. So, there's this storm, right here, just to the north, or just to the west, I guess, of Lake Okeechobee. This is going to continue to push to the north, and east, throughout the night. We're looking at places like Orlando, Melbourne, the Space Coast. You can see Daytona Beach.

And then, the storm is basically going to come back, over the Atlantic, and then bend back into Georgia and South Carolina. So, we can't forget about that coast as well, which is also very vulnerable. We could see three-feet to five-feet of storm surge there, around Charleston, Savannah, places like that, that we know are also a vulnerable coastline.

But across Central Florida, that's where we're focused in, for tonight, through tomorrow morning, to get through this rain and the wind that we still have ahead of us, over the next 12 hours or so.


COOPER: Hey, Jennifer, I mean, is it likely it'll still be a hurricane, if it goes up to South Carolina, or Georgia?

GRAY: It's going to decrease. It should most likely be a tropical storm, by the time we - it leaves the coast of Florida. It is predicted to stay a tropical storm, by the time, it makes it to the coast of Georgia and South Carolina.

But who's to say, after it gets out over the water, of the Atlantic, off the southeast coast, of the U.S. that it could strengthen just a little bit. Right now, the forecast has it, maintaining that 65 mile per hour winds. But it only has to increase another nine miles per- hour, before it's a Category 1 storm.


GRAY: So, still a little uncertainty there.

COOPER: Jennifer Gray, appreciate it. Thank you.

GRAY: Thanks.

COOPER: As we've been showing you, the City of Fort Myers, experienced severe flooding. The Mayor, Kevin Anderson, joins us now.

Mayor Anderson, I'm sure you're exhausted. How's the situation right now?

MAYOR KEVIN ANDERSON, FORT MYERS, FLORIDA: Well, it's been long day, Anderson. Right now, the city's pretty well dark. About 96 percent of the city's without electricity.

I'm located right in the core of downtown, just two blocks away from the river. I get to watch the streets flood. We probably got up to close to four feet of water in downtown.


ANDERSON: Almost, I would say, almost every business, in the core of downtown, have been flooded (ph).

COOPER: Yes. We're watching the - we're watching the time-lapse image, of just water filling up those streets, around you.

ANDERSON: Yes, yes. They're starting to subside. Couple hours ago, at the peak, there was a fire hydrant, and I could see that was almost completely covered. Now, it's about halfway covered.


I spoke to the Fort Myers Fire Chief, last hour. He was saying that they can't go out there, rescue people, in current conditions. They got to wait for the winds to die down, below 45 miles an hour.

What's your message to people, in Fort Myers, who need help, but can't get it right now?

ANDERSON: They're going to have to be patient. We did evacuation orders. They chose not to follow them. This is what comes with it.


ANDERSON: We will get to them as soon as we can, as soon as the winds die down, the water subsides, and the roads are cleared. I would say this to the people. If you have a medical emergency, still call 911, regardless, because while they may not be able to respond, they may be able to help you, by guiding you, with some advice over the phone.

COOPER: Do you have any idea of roughly how many people - I mean, it's hard to know how many people didn't heed mandatory evacuation orders or, who were in a mandatory evacuation zone. Do you have any idea of how many people decided to stay?

ANDERSON: No. That's a tough one to gauge.


ANDERSON: But the only thing we can gauge, with some degree of accuracy, is the number of people, who went into shelters.


ANDERSON: And there were thousands.

COOPER: Thousands went in shelters.


COOPER: There's a curfew in place, in Fort Myers, for the next 48 hours. What's the number one thing, you just want residents to know, right now?

ANDERSON: It is very unsafe to be out there, moving around, especially in the floodwaters. There's no telling what's in those waters. They're not safe. You could step on debris. There's runoff from sewers. And just, it's just not a good situation. Plus, you never know with the squalls, when they can pop up, when trees and branches could fall. So, they need to stay home, until we tell them, it's safe to get out there.

COOPER: Yes. Mayor Anderson, I really appreciate your time. And best of luck to you, and I hope everyone turns out OK. Thank you.

ANDERSON: I'm looking to the sun coming up tomorrow, and the waters subsiding, and we can start our recovery. We're resilient. And we will bounce back.

COOPER: Yes. I have no doubt about that. Mayor Anderson, thank you.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

COOPER: Ahead, a storm chaser, who has been, in some of the worst conditions, in Punta Gorda, and Fort Myers, we'll talk to them.

Also, a top specialist, in storm surges, from the National Hurricane Center, joins us.



COOPER: Looking at some of the flooding, in Naples. The city set a record today, for the highest water levels, ever observed there.

Joining us now is Storm Chaser, Aaron Jayjack.

Aaron, can you just tell us about your day, what you have seen?

AARON JAYJACK, EXTREME STORM CHASER: Yes, Anderson. It's been quite a day here, in West Florida.

I started off my day, in Punta Gorda, earlier today, as the eye made landfall, just to the south and west of that location. And it was pretty horrific winds there, and intense lightning, and thunder, something I've never heard before, in a hurricane, ripped apart Punta Gorda. After Punta Gorda, though, the worst of the damage, I ended up seeing, here, where I'm at right now. I'm in Fort Myers. And it's like a warzone, here. There's hardly any cell service. Trees down, everywhere. Power lines, down, stoplights, down, really hard to maneuver around, on the roads, right now.

COOPER: How does it compare to other storms you've seen?

JAYJACK: It's pretty standard, for a hurricane. And I've been in - I've been in even Category 5 Hurricane Michael in 2018. And it's not quite as bad as that. That's the most - that's the worst damage, I've ever seen.

But West Florida's pretty well-built. Most of the buildings here are pretty sturdy. So, I didn't see a lot of building damage. It's mostly just your typical tree, power line, damage, things that are a little bit more fragile, than the really well-built houses, here, in West Florida.

COOPER: And just so I'm right, from what you saw, I don't know, if the time of day, or the time difference, between being there. But between Punta Gorda, and Fort Myers, which seemed worse off?

JAYJACK: I would say, it's definitely much worse here, in Fort Myers.


Punta Gorda, I don't know - I believe parts of Punta Gorda didn't even lose power. I saw stoplights, and stuff, still working, when I left there, streetlights.

And I ended up - I left Punta Gorda, as I was trying to get myself into the center of that eye, which I did end up getting, a little bit south and west of Punta Gorda, right in the center of the storm there.

And typically, with one of these hurricanes, you get a real calm eye, no winds. And that wasn't the case with this storm. It was a fierce storm, all the way, through the eye. We had strong winds, in the eye.

There were moments of a little bit lighter winds. We didn't get that clear eye that you normally get, where you can see the sky, you can see the blue sky and the sun. But I did get a few glimmers of sun here and there. But it was a ferocious storm, and then business (ph) from one end of the storm to the other.

Usually, on the backside of these hurricanes, the first, the front of the hurricane comes through. That's usually the worst winds. But it was almost worse, on the backside, in Fort Myers, this evening. I was getting blasted by winds there, in Fort Myers, just about, maybe even like an hour ago, and it's just now, in the last 20 minutes or so, that started to die down a little bit.

COOPER: Aaron Jayjack, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Power is out, tonight, for more than 200,000 customers, in Collier County, Florida. That includes Naples and Marco Island. Marco Island Police said the area quickly filled up with about two and a half feet of water.

With me now is Michael McNees. He is the City Manager for Marco Island.

Mr. McNees, thanks for being with us.

I know the City of Marco Island has issued a curfew, citing extremely hazardous conditions, on the road. Can you just talk a little bit about what the roadways look like?

MICHAEL MCNEES, CITY MANAGER, MARCO ISLAND, FLORIDA: Well, most of our roads are under water, or at least were, as of dark. And so, we had a high tide, kind of peak of the surge, in the 3 o'clock hour.

And so, we didn't want people, to be out. That's - and unique to our community, we don't want people out, on jet skis, in our roadways, and in our swales. So, we wanted people to stay at home. So, we issued a curfew till 6 AM, tomorrow morning.

COOPER: And to people, who have chosen to ride out the storm at home, what have you been hearing from them? Are you able to reach them, in case of emergency, or have they been calling in to you, to let them know - let you know how they're doing?

MCNEES: We've heard from a few people, today, who got concerned, as water came out, near their homes, or in their homes. We had a few instances, where people had specific emergencies, where we were actually able to send out a high water vehicle, to provide some assistance and some aid.

But overall, we really haven't had an overwhelming number of those kind of cases. We had a pretty significant surge. But we didn't have the kind of wind damage that has happened a little bit farther north. So, we were lucky in that.

And overall, we're really looking forward to sunshine, tomorrow, and to be able to get out, and do a really serious damage assessment. Because communications are not that good, right now, with cell service, and such. So, we're anxious to find out what we've really got.

COOPER: Yes. When do you think you'll be able to do that? Just first light?

MCNEES: Well, as soon as first light. I mean, we're out now, to the extent we can be. But we don't want to put our people at risk either.


MCNEES: So, we'll start the formal damage assessment process, at first light. And we want to get our utility provider, LCEC, out there, so they can start to get to work, getting power back on. And so, we'll be at it, early in the morning.

COOPER: All right. Michael McNees, appreciate it, thank you.

MCNEES: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: We're going to check in next with the National Hurricane Center.

We'll be right back.



COOPER: Hurricane Ian is making its way northeast, across Florida. The Mayor of Orange County, Florida, which includes Orlando, is warning the area could see up to two feet of rain.

I want to go to CNN's Don Lemon, who is in Orlando, tonight.

Don, what's it looking like, right now?

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, DON LEMON TONIGHT: It's starting to really come down. Just really, about over the last hour or so, we've been getting probably the biggest band of rain, the most rain and wind that we have seen, Anderson.

This is a time - as you know, we were telling people they need to get out. They need to seek shelter. This is hunker-down time. The Mayor is saying that as well. It's time to hunker-down. If you haven't left your home here, yet, you need to stay, where you are.

The problem is going to be this inland flooding. This thing is moving, sadly, slowly. You would think, if it's moving slowly that that would be - wouldn't be a problem. But the problem is when it's moving slowly, it's dumping all this water, sitting here, sitting here, dumping water, and wind, on the area.

And, as you know, the problem is going to be debris. We had been standing here, for a couple of hours. And, I mean, things have been falling off the building, as these bands pick up the pieces of the siding, and also the drain pipes, and what have you, breaking loose on the building. So, that is a big concern.

We've also been witnessing, Anderson, members of the Fire Department, going around Orlando, checking on people. And especially, there's 79 motorhome or mobile home parks here, trailer parks, where people live. And they have been going to those trailer parks, checking on people, making sure they're OK, and earlier today, trying to get them to leave, according to the Mayor. I'm not sure how successful they were in that.

But that's the issue here. They're concerned about the flooding, here. They could get up to two feet of rain here, and they're concerned about the wind, and the debris, and everything that is going to blow around.

It's about 15,000 people, in Orange County, without power, pales in comparison to the million or so plus, around the state. But still, that's a lot of folks. And they expect this to get worse. They expect more power outages. And, by this time tomorrow, the Mayor is saying that they don't believe that they'll have power, and they believe that the flooding will be a huge, huge problem by then.

COOPER: Is there a sense of when the storm will be closest to Orlando?


LEMON: It'll be here. It's coming, overnight. It should be here, by the time our show comes on, in an hour or so. You can - or in 30 minutes or so, you'll probably start to get more of this wind, from the bands.

But probably 2 or 3, in the morning, is when it's going to get worse, when we expect not to have power. Hopefully, that won't happen. But it should happen, overnight, sometime around 2 or 3 in the morning.

COOPER: All right, Don. Appreciate you being there. We'll see you up, in about 30 minutes, from now.

I want to go to the National Hurricane Center, in Miami, and Jamie Rhome, who is Acting Director, and a storm surge specialist.

Mr. Rhome, I appreciate you joining us.

What's the forecast showing, at this point?

JAMIE RHOME, ACTING DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER, STORM SURGE SPECIALIST, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: You can see Anderson that the center has unfortunately moved in, over the southwest coast, where we got this devastating storm surge, over Fort Myers, and Naples.

We're really going to have to wait till tomorrow to see just how much. But the reports, I'm hearing, absolutely catastrophic, down here. So, I'm fearful of what we're going to see, when the sun comes up.

But now, the center has moved inland. It's sort of right around Sebring, if you're familiar with this part of Florida. And if you see these bright bands, in here, this brightness, on the radar reflectivity? Those are indicating rain rates of four inches to five inches per hour.

And I know that number might not seem - it might need a little contextualization. That is a tremendous amount of rain. And I'm pretty sure, flash flooding is occurring, as this moves off to the northeast.

COOPER: In terms of a peak storm surge, I know you said you haven't seen numbers like this, many times, in your career. How dangerous is it, right now? And how long will that situation continue?

RHOME: Well, the waters are still elevated. So, the peak storm surge, I think, is past. Waters are trying to come back out, flow back out. But you can see the wrap-around winds that kind of hang on, and keep the water from receding quickly. So, it might be tomorrow morning, before it fully comes back out.

But, I think, to your question, it's a really good question, we did see observations and heard reports that the water rose, like five feet, in just a few minutes. And that's why storm surge is so deadly, and why we have to evacuate for it.

COOPER: Did you - how's the storm different than you expected it to be? Or is it pretty much what you expected?

RHOME: Unfortunately, it played out mostly as we expected. That's the hardest part of this job, is making these forecasts, and then communicating these impacts, and then you feel so helpless, afterwards, when you see people suffering and, in some cases, losing their life.

COOPER: So, what is the trend - I mean, what does the next 24 hours look like, for Florida?

RHOME: It's going to be a long night, for people, along the I-4 Corridor. As this heavy, heavy rain moves kind of slowly, the system's just crawling across the state, moves slowly up, impacts Orlando.

And then, all that rain on saturated soil. We're at the end of the wet season, here, in Florida, or the rainy season, here, in Florida. That's going to topple trees, take out power. It's just going to be a long, long night, for people, here, in Central Florida.

COOPER: It's also the end of the rainy season, for Florida. How does that complicate things?

RHOME: It does, because the soil is already saturated. It's been - if you're not familiar, with Florida, and our rainy season, it basically rains, for daily, afternoon thunderstorms, for about six months.

And so, we're at the tail-end, of the rainy season, which means the soil is just saturated, is water everywhere. I mean, I go home, and my yard is just saturated, because there's just water everywhere.

COOPER: Jamie Rhome, appreciate what you're doing. I know it's going to be a long night for you. Thank you.

RHOME: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up, we'll get the newest information, from one of the hardest-hit counties, where there are reports, of dozens of people, trapped.

Right back, we'll be here.



COOPER: As Hurricane Ian makes its way, across Florida, dumping record rainfall, on already-saturated ground, I want to show you what it looked like, as it came ashore.

Here's a report, from correspondent, for Florida station, WJXT, and what he went through. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VIC MICOLUCCI, NEWS ANCHOR & INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, NEWS4JAX-WJXT (ph): This is North Port. We're about 45 minutes, from Fort Myers. And people, here, say, they have never actually had, a direct hit, from a hurricane, until now. They are certainly getting it.

That is the powerful Hurricane Ian, right behind us. You can see, it is absolutely just punishing, these trees, the vegetation, and everything in its wake. We have seen trees snap. We've seen trees come down the road. All the stop signs are gone. And some roofs, from nearby buildings, have been ripped off.

So, you may be wondering, how I'm able to stand up, in this, when these wind gusts are over 150 miles, 160 miles an hour. Well, because we are at this fire station.

This is Fire Station 81, in North Port, the firefighters, keeping watch, on the area, and us. So, this is a Category 5-rated building, they tell us. And certainly, this is the only thing keeping us, from being out, in this.

I want to show you what it looks like. We saw this tree come down, before our eyes. We've seen roofs, we've seen pieces of metal, coming down the road, right there, branches actually going into fire rescue.

And I talked with firefighters, police officers, sheriff's deputies here. They are not responding to any calls, right now. They're not responding to any 911 calls. They can't rescue anyone, because it's just too dangerous, for them, to be out on the roads.

So, we've been looking, they have been getting calls. And unfortunately, people out here, who were told to evacuate, days ago, just have to fend for themselves, until the worst of this storm comes through.

I've been in a lot of hurricanes, throughout the State of Florida, throughout the southeast. This is an incredibly powerful one. It reminds me of Hurricane Michael, back in 2018, out there, in Florida's Panhandle, absolutely devastating, parts of Panama City, wiping out Mexico Beach.

Hopefully, hopefully, this area fares better. But we won't know, until this storm goes away.

In North Port, I'm Vic Micolucci. Back to you.


COOPER: Well, that was the beginning. As for right now, curfews are up, throughout the area, including Charlotte County, home to Punta Gorda, and other areas, taking a direct hit from Hurricane Ian.


Dozens were reported, trapped, this afternoon, on little Gasparilla Island. That's a Barrier Island, where 43 people refused to leave. The county is inundated with water rescue calls.

Patrick Fuller is Emergency Management Director, for Charlotte County, in Florida. He joins us now.

Patrick, what is the latest? How are you? How's the Charlotte County doing, tonight?

PATRICK FULLER, EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DIRECTOR, CHARLOTTE COUNTY, FL: Well, we're still experiencing hazardous conditions, here in Charlotte County.

Our residents are still hunkered down, there, at least they should be. Those who did not evacuate, and we hope most of our residents did, they're hunkered down, away from the wind, away from the storm surge.

But we do fear that there is some catastrophic damage out there that is going to - we're going to see, come morning time, to come, when the winds abate.

COOPER: What's the power situation? Are you still experiencing power loss there?

FULLER: Absolutely. We have somewhere around 95 percent, 98 percent outages, in Charlotte County, so. And to be expected with storms, a storm that has winds as strong as Ian does.

COOPER: And obviously, much of the population, in Charlotte County, is concentrated close to the coastline. What's the storm surge like?

FULLER: Remains to be seen. We're in a dark now. We haven't been able to monitor the storm surge levels. I hope it did not reach that catastrophic worst-case scenario. But I fear that, we're preparing for that, regardless. Our hope is that the impacts aren't as bad as that we fear. But it may very well be.

COOPER: Are you getting calls in for help? Because obviously, you had to halt emergency services, as a storm has been coming through.

FULLER: Right. Unfortunately, our dispatch continues to receive calls, our 911 Center. And just like every other county, our emergency response agencies, cannot safely operate. It's not safe for them or anyone else, to be outside of hardened structures. So, they cannot get calls to service, right now.

So yes, we're receiving calls of water at homes, other situations. But until the hazardous conditions end, they won't be able to answer those calls.

COOPER: Do you have a sense of when that might be?

FULLER: We're really hoping that by morning time, we see the tropical storm force winds leave our area. We've seen Hurricane Michael change forward speed, on numerous occasions. With every advisory, there's little change. So, our hope is it moves through our area, quickly, and we can get emergency crews, back out on the roads, and helping our residents. COOPER: Yes. Patrick Fuller, I really appreciate your time. Thank you.

Joining us now, on the phone, is Dr. Birgit Bodine, who's in Port Charlotte, where the local hospital, is said to be flooded.

Doctor, thanks for being with us. What is the situation?


Oh, it's actually pretty terrible. I'm actually still in the hospital. We still have not been able to leave, and we typically don't. We were - we knew, being in Florida, of course, we know that the storms can be pretty bad. However, we weren't quite expecting it to be this bad.

We'll typically plan and have a bunch of us, doctors and nurses and other staff members, sleep in the hospital. So here, unfortunately, today, we had about 160 patients, in-house, and our roof blew off, part of the roof, on the ICU, above the ICU.

COOPER: Oh my God!

BODINE: So, of course, we had torrential rains coming in, which then went down the stairwell, which then went on to other floors. And luckily, we have a super, super good staff, and everybody pitched in, and try to - try to get the patients to a safe place, as quickly as possible.

But we can't even evacuate them quite yet. We're hoping we can evacuate them, in the morning because, right now, the winds were still too strong.

COOPER: So, how many--

BODINE: For ambulance to come.

COOPER: How many - by the way, 160 patients? Is that a full hospital, or how many beds there?

BODINE: No. I think our hospital normally holds 220.


BODINE: And then a surge can hold up probably 250 or so. We--

COOPER: And so, were you able to actually move people in the ICU? Or do they have to stay in the ICU?

BODINE: Well, when an ICU patient is in the ICU, that just means that they need an air (ph), meaning a ventilator, or they're on--

COOPER: Got it.

BODINE: --certain drips, for the heart rate, blood pressure and so on. So, even though the ICU wasn't moved - was not usable, really, anymore, it doesn't, all of a sudden, make this patient not an ICU patient. But you can still take that patient, on the ventilator, on the drips, move them to a different room.

COOPER: Right.

BODINE: It has to be done, of course, in a hurry, and then kind of stabilize them there--

COOPER: Oh my Gosh!

BODINE: --and let them continue the treatment, there. So that, of course, that's always our most important thing, as medical people, to make sure that everybody stay safe.

COOPER: Right.


BODINE: And, at the same time, you're walking through puddles, and trying to just battle the logistics, of where do we put them, which room is available, which room can we plug the oxygen in.

COOPER: And but - I got to tell you. We're just now putting up some video, we got. It looks like a, I don't know, if it's a patient, or a hospital personnel, or a doctor, move.


COOPER: It looks like a doctor, slowly walking through a hallway that is just flooded with water.

BODINE: Right. Right. And that was unfortunately on the first floor. Now, we were kind of expecting, from our CMO, we were expecting that that would flood, which is why, of course, down there, we didn't have any patients. We had already moved the emergency room, up one floor, into the recovery room.


BODINE: But then, we weren't expecting that it would flood on the fourth floor.

COOPER: Right.

BODINE: And that, of course, made it difficult, because now we had water on the first floor, but we also had water coming down, from the fourth floor.


BODINE: And that was - it's just tough.

COOPER: I mean, what a day! My God! I mean, so you said the 160 beds?

BODINE: Yes, sure.

COOPER: You weren't able to evacuate any of them out yet. Obviously, that's something you'd probably like to do. But you're saying they're all still in the hospital?

BODINE: Right. We're all still in the hospital, which is why, of course, we doctors are staying, and the nurses are staying, which is fantastic. We've had to put three and four people into a room that's really meant for two people, just because what else can we do?

COOPER: Right.

BODINE: And obviously, our ICU people, we have them, in the PACU, which is like a recovery room, from the operating room, because that has the capability, of holding ICU patients.


BODINE: So, it's far from ideal. But luckily, we have good backup generators. We're still on backup generators, here. And short of the air conditioning not working, everything else that's vital is working, and that's of course the important part.

COOPER: But the air condition's out obviously?

BODINE: In the rooms that we're in, yes. We do have them in the operating rooms, those are on.

COOPER: Wow! I mean, Dr. Bodine, I appreciate all you, and the staff, are doing. I mean, I can't imagine what it's like--


COOPER: --for all of you, and for the facilities folks, who are working, clearly, overtime--


COOPER: --in many senses that word.


COOPER: Thank you so much. I wish you the best.

BODINE: Sure, thank you. Thank you.

COOPER: And we'll check in with you later on.

BODINE: Thank you. I appreciate it.

COOPER: More for now, we'll have more, from around the area, of around the State of Florida, next.

We'll be right back.



COOPER: Before the break, we spoke to a doctor, with a flooded hospital, in Port Charlotte, Florida. What's that? That is just a short way, from Punta Gorda, our Randi Kaye is, and has seen a lot tonight. She joins us now.

Randi, it still looks miserable.

KAYE: It is still pretty miserable, Anderson. And it's very dark and very eerie. You can't see any of the debris that might be flying around, out here, in these high winds.

We've been experiencing, hurricane force winds, upwards of 100 miles an hour, for several hours now. Every time I come outside, there's a little bit of a lull, and then it picks up again. So, you just never know what to expect, as you know.

But earlier, we were seeing, there was a piece of a building that came off, there was a stop sign that came flying by, there's been some debris as well.

You could see, across the way there, in that area, there's some twisted metal, just in the yard. But those are the only lights that are on, right now, because we put them there, in downtown Punta Gorda, where we are, because there are major power outages, all around here. So, certainly that's expected, with a hurricane. We saw the transformers rocking back and forth, earlier. Luckily, none of them have fallen.

But we're not that far from Charlotte Harbor, as you know. And that's where we are expecting the storm surge, to come from, and pour right into downtown here. But so far, that hasn't happened.

We are on the backside of the storm. They still are expecting some type of surge, but hopefully not the 12 feet to 18 feet that they were expecting, or predicting earlier, I should say.

We had the eye come across here, earlier. It quieted down. It was very nice for a while. But you know that only lasts for a certain amount of time. That's when people tend to sneak outside, they think the storm is over. And it's not, clearly. This is the backside of it.

But one thing is very concerning. I've been getting a lot of people, who've been reaching out to me, saying "Oh, can you - do you know if so and so, on this street, is OK, or that street, is OK."

People can't reach their loved ones, who chose to ride out the storm, at home, because there's no power, there's very little cell service. So, a lot of people are very concerned about maybe an elderly parent, or a son, who might live in town.


KAYE: And now, it's going to be ours, while this storm sits on top of us, because it's still so slow-moving, before search and rescue crews, and the high water vehicles, can get out there, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. A lot of people, just waiting to daylight, to really be able to finally assess what is exactly going on, all over Florida. Randi, appreciate you and your team's work. Really appreciate it.

We have more video of just how quickly some of the area flooded, today. Take a look at this traffic camera, in Sanibel Island. Turned to a time-lapse video, starting around noon Eastern Time, recording, for the next 30 minutes, as the water - that's crazy! That's over 30 minutes, turned the road, into a river.

CNN Meteorologist, Derek Van Dam, has been watching the storm, move through the Tampa area, joins us tonight.

Derek, it looks rough, still there.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Anderson, we are going on 12 hours, of at least tropical storm force winds. Of course, we had a period of about six hours of near hurricane force winds here. It has been brutal. It's been violent.

And just commenting, on that storm surge video, you were showing? You talked to the National Hurricane Center Acting Director, earlier. And I heard him say that they had some instances of storm surge, rising five feet, in a matter of a few minutes. I mean, that is just mind- boggling. From a meteorologist's perspective, I've never witnessed anything like that before.

Something we saw here was called reverse storm surge. As the winds were so powerful, in the Manatee River that's directly behind me, here in Bradenton, and it literally suck the water out. You could see the dry riverbed, before the water started to come back, after the winds changed directions here.


We know Hurricane Ian is just rewriting the history books, across the southwestern Florida peninsula. We have had incredible amounts of rain. We're talking about two months' to three months' worth of rainfall. Just in a 12-hour period, we've had totals over 19 inches, already. And we know that the threats here, and what we're experiencing, along the coastline, will continue to move inland, as the slow-march of this storm does so as well.

In Bradenton, we are part of the 2 million customers that are currently without power. We were plunged into darkness, when we saw some of the transformers blowing, behind us, earlier this afternoon, literally sparking up, lighting fireworks into the sky. We saw debris getting lofted into the sky, as well, as some of these powerful winds, from Hurricane Ian's mighty force, wrapped this region, through the course of the day, today.

Anderson, it has been one heck of a day, for my crew, and I. And I am fearful for the people, who have to endure this night, in the dark.

COOPER: Yes. Well, Derek, I appreciate what you're doing, and your entire crew. It is no easy task. But it's an important one. And we're thankful for it.

VAN DAM: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: We have more storm coverage, coming up. We'll be right back.


COOPER: The news continues. So, let's turn things over to Don, and "DON LEMON TONIGHT," who's in Orlando.