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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

New Forecast: Idalia Intensifies, A Major Hurricane Soon; Idalia Intensifies, Lashing Parts Of Florida Coast; Evacuations In At Least 22 Florida Counties; Prigozhin Buried After Small, Private Funeral; Famed Ukrainian Pilot "Juice" Laid To Rest In Kyiv. Aired 8- 9p ET

Aired August 29, 2023 - 20:00   ET


ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: We will be sure to keep you posted on any of those developments.

I'm Erica Hill, in for Erin Burnett tonight. Thanks so much for joining us. Our coverage of this breaking news continues on AC 360.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Tonight, a special 360 from the Gulf Coast. We are just getting a brand new forecast and track for Hurricane Idalia. It has strengthened.

Officials are warning that in some low lying areas, this storm will be un-survivable.

Good evening, I'm John Berman in Steinhatchee in Florida. This is right on the Big Bend and this is right in the path of Hurricane Idalia, which is a Category 2 hurricane that has just strengthened. The wind speeds are now at 105 miles per hour, and they are gaining. But it is not the wind that has people the most worried about this hurricane, it is the water. It is the storm surge predicted to be 10 to 15 feet, right where I'm standing in Steinhatchee.

The Steinhatchee River right now is at low tide, at high tide, it is another five six feet higher than where it is, add 10 to 15 feet on top of that, and the area where I am standing right now is feared to be just completely covered in water about eight hours from now. That is the concern along the Florida Gulf Coast.

About 45 minutes south of where I am in the town of Cedar Key, the mayor there issued his town and his people a stern warning.


MAYOR HEATH DAVIS, CEDAR KEY, FLORIDA: We're here to beg our citizens to heed this warning. This storm is worse than we've ever seen.


BERMAN: "It is worse than we have ever seen," he said. A storm like this has not passed in this direction in over 100 years. It is why Florida's governor, Ron DeSantis is telling people that if you are in these vulnerable areas, the time to leave is now. Listen.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): You really have got to go now. Now is the time. If you don't, if you stay hunkered down tonight, it's going to be too nasty tomorrow morning to be able to do it.

Now, if you do choose to stay in one of the evacuation zones, first responders will not be able to get you until after the storm has passed. That's right, they're not going to be able to get there till after the storm has passed.


BERMAN: If you're going to go, you need to go now. That was Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

As I said, we just got a fresh update from the National Hurricane Center. Let's go to Chad Myers right now.

Chad, what is the latest track?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: John, 105 is the wind speed going to 111, which would make it a Category 3 major hurricane. Track hasn't changed much. There was a wobble in the past hour or two, and if you're keeping score at home, you could see that wobble, it did kind of try to jog toward land, but then it went right back to where it was and this happens all the time. Kind of like a top that has too much weight on one side, it doesn't want to spin all the way around, and so you get those wobbles every once in a while.

Right now, what you're seeing, John, way up here is a wind that is still offshore. So for Tampa, still offshore, so you almost have a negative storm surge right now. But when you take the center of the eye, and you move it over your latitude, all of a sudden the southern half is when the wind is coming in from the west and will push that water towards you.

Here's the center of the eye and you can almost see a little bit to the left, but then it went right back to the right then it went to left and then back to the right. So this is kind of what we're seeing now.

But what is noticeable is that there is an eye, because for most of this storm, you couldn't find one. The eye means the storm is intensifying and that is absolutely true because hurricane hunters are flying through it and they are fighting the pressure going down, haven't found the wind speed going up yet, but that will come.

Sometimes, it takes a while after the pressure goes down, goes lower, lower pressure like a big low pressure center, even in the wintertime. The lower the pressure, the bigger the wind and then still a Category 3 at landfall.

If this thing continues to intensify, overnight, it could do something even higher than that, but I don't see it just yet. It is going to take more time and this storm doesn't have that much more time.

This will be onshore by about eight or nine o'clock tomorrow morning. That's the good news. You're not going to have another 30 hours in the water.

There are the wind speeds. There is St. Petersburg, Sarasota, 30; Venice, 32; St. Petersburg, 23, but those winds are away. Toward the top of the storm, we are back on the bottom side, that's where you start to see the true effect of what's going to be the surge itself.

Now you have to be careful where you evacuate, too. You don't want to evacuate to the six-inch rainfall totals and get yourself in a flash flood warning from freshwater, from the rainfall out there.


So you have to be very careful where you're going with this system. Try to get away from the surge. That's the most important thing, away from the surge, and if you get yourself into some rain, you may have to deal with that in a couple of days. But surge certainly is a big story -- John.

BERMAN: Yes, talk to me more about the forecast for the surge explaining why sheriff deputies in this town in Steinhatchee had been going door-to-door telling people to get out.

MYERS: Sure. It is the shape of the land. Look, this is a catcher's mitt, this is going to catch all the water. Think about if you're trying to cool off coffee in the morning, you blow on the top of your coffee, and you see little waves and they all blow away to the top of the other side of the cup. Well, that's what's happening here.

All of these waves are blowing up into this catcher's mitt, and if there was no land here, it would just keep going, but there is land that's going to stop it and that is going to be the problem. That's why we're going to see these huge amounts of storm surge, probably 10 to 12. In some spots, I could see a little bit more. The shift has gone a little bit to the left over the past couple of hours. So taking away maybe some surge from New Port Richey, only four to six for Tampa.

But Tampa, you're not going to get your surge until this wind comes this way. And it's not doing that just yet, but it certainly, certainly will.

So here's the big story about where you are. The story is that there's so much land before you get any topography. You have to go three or four miles inland just to get 10 feet above sea level. Well, okay, if you're going to put a 15-foot storm surge, that may take four miles to actually come all the way to a stop, then all of a sudden, you've got all the tree roots in water.

What's going to happen if you blow an 80-mile-per-hour wind over tree roots that are in water? Those trees are going to come down, and then you take four feet, and then you take 12 feet, and all of a sudden you are miles and miles inland, before you actually get that saltwater to stop, and then you've got water on roadways, low spots that aren't going to drain. And it's going to be very difficult for people to get out of there tomorrow. That's why the governor said you have to go tonight.

BERMAN: Yes, and you could understand it. You drive in here, it is flat for miles and miles and miles, nothing to stop that water if it comes in from the Gulf there.

Chad Myers, thank you so much. Please keep us posted.

All of that new data that Chad was just going over, a lot of it is coming from these hurricane hunter aircraft that are flying in and out multiple times of Hurricane Idalia.

Right before we came to air, we spoke to someone on one of these planes, Lieutenant Commander Josh Rannenberg.


BERMAN: Lieutenant Commander, I understand you've just flown through the eyewall of Idalia. Tell me what you saw.

LT. COM. JOSH RANNENBERG, NOAA HURRICANE HUNTER PILOT (via phone): Yes, sir. We just did, and right now we're on the north side of the storm. We are about 200 miles west of Tampa, and we saw mostly what we expected. We saw an intensifying hurricane and we were able to find the center of the storm successfully.

And right now, we're going just north of it, getting ready to go back into the eye of the storm.

BERMAN: What's it like to fly through the eye -- the eye wall of a hurricane, which we all know, is the most intense, most powerful part?

RANNENBERG: It can be a little bit unpredictable and at times, scary. But you know, as a pilot, we're trained to do certain things inside the aircraft to make it perform the way that we want it to.

The unnerving part comes when you are doing these things, when the aircraft is getting tossed around a little bit by the storm and you know, our aircraft is over 120,000 pounds when it flies through the eyewall at times, so when it gets pushed around like a leaf in the wind, it's a little unnerving, but it's exciting.

And what we're doing up here to get this research and help improve the forecast is really something that I can get behind.

BERMAN: To me, it sounds a bit more unnerving than exciting, but I do get how important that is.

What is the data that you've been able to collect so far on Idalia?

RANNENBERG: We have a lot of information that's running as we go through the storm. We're going to go through the center of the storm, we'll hunt through the central wall and identify the exact low pressure center and if we do it right, we'll find the surface lanes where they are exactly as zero knots and that is how we recalibrate the forecast.

We also get a lot of tail Doppler radar data that can help feed into supercomputer forecast models and that's what helps reduce the margin of error between forecasts and what actually happens and that'll help not just for the storm, but for every storm in the future.

BERMAN: And you said you're headed back in. How many more times will you fly through this hurricane?


RANNENBERG: We're going to fly through at least one more time, possibly two, three more times. We have some scientists on board with secondary objectives. So depending on how much fuel we have and the conditions of the storm, we may decide to go back in and reach some of those additional objectives.

BERMAN: Based on what you're seeing, is this a storm that is intensifying as it heads toward landfall?

RANNENBERG: Yes, so far, the forecast has been true of that. It is intensifying and it has been throughout our flight.

BERMAN: Lieutenant Commander Josh Rannenberg, thank you for the work that you do and thank you for taking time to speak to us from the sky. We really appreciate it.

RANNENBERG: Thank you.


BERMAN: That is such an important -- such important data being given to everyone by the hurricane hunters there.

Now a short time ago, you heard from the mayor of Cedar Key in Florida, about 45 minutes out, telling people that they will not be able to get help if they are stuck there overnight as this storm hits, and the storm in that area could very well be un-survivable, the storm surge of 10 to 15 feet.

Now, many people, if not, most have chosen to leave, but not everyone. Joining us now is Michael Bobbitt, who I understand is standing outside right now as the storm begins to creep up the Gulf Coast. And Michael, you have chosen to stay on Cedar Key. Why?

MICHAEL BOBBITT, DECIDED TO RIDE OUT IDALIA: Well, we've got some elderly and infirmed people here on the island that has just refused to leave, and I just felt a responsibility as their neighbor and as a person that loves this island to try to stay behind and to see what I can do to help.

We've got a stone invincible church building here that we're going to be holed up in that we believe will withstand the winds, and it is at the highest point on the island. So we believe that even at the highest bit of storm surge, we will be okay. And it is just a place that I love, and I couldn't bear the thought of our neighbors that had no chance to take care of themselves getting stuck in something that I could be here to help them with.

BERMAN: What's your plan if things get worse than you've anticipated?

BOBBITT: Well, I mean, at some point, the plan would be to hightail it out of here, but I believe we've got a solid plan to be able to stay. We've got some rescue boats lined up in places staged where we believe that as soon as the storm passes, that we'll be able to get to get to people.

But I'll tell you, when you live here on the Gulf, you get used to the natural presence of things, but right now, you can feel the pressure dropping in your belly, and it feels like the hand of death. And I've never been an alarmist about hurricanes, I always think it's going to be just fine.

But I'm concerned about this place that I love so much. We haven't had anything like this since the Great Cedar Key hurricane of 1896, and I think it's going to be three times as bad as that. So this island that we all love, I have great concerns. We will largely not be here as we know it 48 hours from now.

BERMAN: I can understand your concerns given the forecasts, given the gravity of the forecast. And given the fact that storm surge of all the things that happen in a hurricane, there's really so little you can do. I do understand, you just talked about it. You've got a couple boats, what do you plan to do with the boats?

BOBBITT: Well, when just after the storm passes, and after the surge has reached its maximum height, if there are people that are stuck, we're going to get out the boat and go try to find them. We've got kayaks, we've got a 16-foot skiffs tied up to a three, that even if we get the 15 foot of surge, I believe it'll still be usable. I could be wrong about that, but, you know, in addition to clams and beautiful sunsets, one of the things we have an abundance here on the island is boats. So I believe we'll be able to find one to be able to get out and see what we can do to help folks.

BERMAN: Have you been in touch with any of your neighbors who have also chosen to stay? And what are their reasons if they have?

BOBBITT: I have and I have implored them to leave, I begged them to leave. And there's just -- there's just a certain quality of folks that live and make their living here on the water. We're an individualistic type of people, and there's just a certain amount of folks that just aren't going to leave.

And I mean, I'm on my high horse preaching about leaving, but yet here I sit, so there's just some percentage of the folks in an island community that are going to ride it out with the island and to the extent that I can try to be as safe as I can and help my neighbors, you know, you've got to draw a line in the sand somewhere in your life and say, this is what matters to me and this is what I care about. And for me it's Cedar Key and the people that I live with here, so I'm going to do my best to see what I can do to help.

BERMAN: And do I have it right, Michael that you're actually a playwright in that you've written a play about someone trying to ride out a storm on Cedar Key? That was a work of fiction, right, and now you're going to live through it.


BOBBITT: It was. It's a bit of cosmic irony where a man literally rows a rowboat out to the storm to punch the storm in the face, to try to save the island. I mean, he was obviously deranged, and I think my mom and some other folks think that that's probably afflicting me right now as well.

But I have no intentions of going out in the storm and doing anything crazy during the tough part of the storm. I'm going to ride it out. And so I have a novel coming out in the fall here set in the island and I wrote a horrific hurricane scene that takes place at this very spot where I'm standing.

And I'm starting to wonder that I need to put the pen down and just quit because it's coming true.

BERMAN: Yes, either that or write about good weather, write about sunny skies and calm seas.

Michael Bobbitt, listen, we wish you the best of luck. Please, whatever you can do to stay safe over the next 10 hours, do so. You know, get to higher ground. Hunker down. Wishing you all the best.

BOBBITT: All right. Godspeed, Cedar Key. Thank you so much.

BERMAN: Good luck.

All right, coming up, Hurricane Idalia, how does it compare to other storms? We will explain to you some of the comparisons and why frankly, they are so worrying.



BERMAN: All right, live pictures now, what you're looking at is a buoy off of Key West in Florida, the southern-most place in the United States and you can just see the wind and the waves from Hurricane Idalia starting to have an impact there. Actually, it's having an impact as you move up the Florida peninsula, that's all the way down at the bottom right now. I'm at the top where now it is starting to rain some with my rain jacket in the car by the way. I'm all the way at the top.

About halfway up the peninsula is the city of Tampa. Where I am right now, Steinhatchee is a town of some 500 people. Tampa, one of the more populous urban areas in the entire state, a thriving metropolis and while the eye of the storm is not going to hit there, there is serious concern even in Tampa about the storm surge. With us now CNN's Carlos Suarez, who is standing right by the sea wall there. Carlos, explain what you're seeing.

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so right now things are dry at this hour, though, a quick look at the radar shows we are in for a strong line of thunderstorms coming at the top of the hour.

There are two mandatory evacuations at this hour. One of them is here in Hillsborough County, which is home to the Tampa Bay area. And then the other is just to the west of us, in Pinellas County, that is home to St. Pete and Clearwater.

As you mentioned, John, the concern going into tomorrow is that we are going to see flooding associated with this storm. We're talking about a storm surge anywhere between four to six and seven feet. And so going into tonight, the concern from emergency officials are for the folks that live in these low-lying areas. They want them to get to higher ground, they want them to get inland.

Right now, we're told that a number of hurricane shelters are open across Pinellas and Hillsborough County. We are experiencing low tide at this hour. But come this time tomorrow, of course, things are going to change.

We are expecting to see a lot more rainfall over the next couple of hours. As the storm continues to make its way north, it of course is going to push all of that water into the Tampa Bay area. And then of course, all of that at some point is going to mix up in with high tide. And so you can understand, you can appreciate why emergency officials are worried that folks right now are still deciding whether or not to leave their homes. Again, these emergency shelters that have opened we're told can house up to 20,000 people -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Carlos Suarez down in Tampa, I'm up here in Steinhatchee, which still is now beginning to get some of the outer bands of this. We are now standing in the rain. This will continue to happen as the eye bears down here.

Back though to Tampa, where Carlos just was, and with us now is Tampa Police Chief Lee Bercaw, and Chief, thanks so much for being with us. What's your biggest concern in Tampa right now?

LEE BERCAW, TAMPA POLICE CHIEF: Obviously, right where you're at, it is flooding. That's the biggest concern. And what's even more of a concern is after the storm passes tomorrow, the sun potentially could come out and people will think that they're in the clear and that's not the case.

We're going to expect the storm surge from anywhere from four to seven feet right there on Bayshore Boulevard. So just because the sun is out and the storm pass does not mean we're in the clear. We do not want anybody to drive in flooded waters. Don't drive in flooded waters, don't walk in flooded waters, you could ruin your car, you could drown, you could get electrocuted.

Be safe. Use commonsense, that's what we're asking the community to do. And don't just assume because the storm has passed, that you're in the clear.

BERMAN: So four to seven feet, if it does reach those higher levels, what would that do? Where would the water go?

BERCAW: It would go all over the street. The street would be -- Bayshore Boulevard will be covered, and I'll tell you, I have my entire police department in working. And, you know, the community has done nothing but praise our officers' efforts that are out there.

You know, they are humans, too. They have family, they have lives, and they've sacrificed to make Tampa safer together. And the praise and outpouring of support for law enforcement in this area is just unbelievable. It is heartwarming and I'm glad to see that the community comes together with their law enforcement to make Tampa safer together.

BERMAN: Do you get the sense, obviously, I was down there a year ago for Hurricane Ian and people often think hey, we've been through this before it wasn't as bad as they said then, it won't be so bad now.

To what extent are people heeding your warnings?

BERCAW: Well, it's a great point and last year, if you recall, that hurricane was coming directly for us, and it was approximately six hours before where it made a hard right turn towards Fort Myers.

If that were the case, and it makes a hard right turn for us, we would be in much worse situation. So we get it, we understand it, and we know that that happened just a year ago, so that's why nobody is putting down their guard.


BERMAN: What's the timing over the next 12 hours for the people of Tampa? When will it be worst and when will they know that it's okay to come back out?

BERCAW: Well, tomorrow when the sun is out, we're expecting the high tide to come in midday tomorrow. So we need to wait until tomorrow is done and the high tide is done and the storm surge is out before it's safe to come out.

BERMAN: So your ask, to the people of Tampa your ask tonight and for tomorrow is what exactly?

BERCAW: Stay inside. Even if the sun comes out and the storm has passed, the storm surge, especially in the low-lying areas, in Tampa specifically, the high tide is around noon tomorrow.

So just because the sun is out and the storm has passed doesn't mean that the storm surge won't affect us and that is the forecast now. Four to seven feet storm surge tomorrow afternoon.

BERMAN: Tomorrow afternoon and that would be serious in Tampa.

Chief Lee Bercaw, thank you so much. Always great to speak with you. Thank you.

BERCAW: Thank you.

BERMAN: Obviously, we keep talking about this storm surge, the threat in Tampa, the threat where I am in Steinhatchee of 10 to 15 feet. What exactly does that mean? What's the significance?

Our Randi Kaye takes a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is what it's like in downtown New Orleans right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's hard to estimate how much water that is.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina barreled into the Louisiana Coast. The storm was a powerful Category 3 hurricane when it made landfall with winds near 127 miles per hour. But what made Katrina so deadly wasn't so much the wind as the water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I tried swimming to higher ground, but there was no higher ground.

KAYE (voice over): According to the National Hurricane Center, storm surge flooding measured 10 to 28 feet above normal tide levels. The storm surge that poured into Lake Pontchartrain breached the levee system flooding most of New Orleans. Catastrophic flooding spread for miles inland, destroying residential neighborhoods.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It came in so fast. It was from one inch to about 10 feet in a matter of 10 minutes.

KAYE (voice over): Nearly 1,400 people perished during the hurricane and the floods that followed, most of them drowned. Katrina is a prime example of how deadly a storm surge can be.

In 2008, Hurricane Ike made landfall as it swept over Galveston Island on the Texas coast. It was a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of 110 miles per hour.

Much of the area so devastating storm surges of 15 to 20 feet above normal tide levels.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The ocean came through the house. It came -- literally, it came through the house. There's sludge and snakes and you name it.

KAYE (voice over): Years earlier, in 1995, Hurricane Opal made landfall near Pensacola Beach, Florida as a Category 3 storm. Again, the story was the storm surge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Totally gone. We didn't do anything but lock door on our way out. KAYE (voice over): With Opal, the storm surge spanned about 120 miles from Pensacola Beach to Mexico Beach. That surge combined with breaking waves soaked portions of the Florida Panhandle's coast with water as deep as 10 to 20 feet. The maximum storm tide, which combined storm surge and regular astronomical tides was 24 feet recorded near Fort Walton Beach.

Hurricane Hugo made landfall as a Category 4 storm in September 1989, just north of Charleston, South Carolina. Records show sustained winds reaching 120 miles per hour in some areas. And the storm surge, it's soaked the South Carolina coast with maximum storm tides of 20 feet observed in some areas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wind is picking up so dramatically.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is no water and then the eye hit. And when the eye hit, it was just -- it just started, it is just like filling up a bathtub. There's no way, there is no nothing, just like it about 10 minutes.

KAYE (voice over): Decades ago in 1969, it was Camille a Category 5 hurricane that made landfall along the Mississippi Coast. The winds were so fierce, they destroyed all the wind recording instruments in the area.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, we will start over again. I've got the clothes I've got on, and $22.00 in my pocket.

KAYE (voice over): The winds at the coast were estimated to be about 200 miles per hour, and with those winds came water, lots of it. A storm tide of 24.6 feet occurred at Pass Christian, Mississippi, according to officials.

Randy Kaye, CNN, Palm Beach County, Florida.


BERMAN: Our thanks to Randi Kaye, and a wonderful explanation about why these warnings are so stern, so urgent, up and down the Big Bend area where I'm standing right now.

We are actually in a marina rather famous marina in Steinhatchee, the Sea Hag Marina. The people who are letting us shoot here, they are going to ride out the storm at the marina.

When we come back we'll speak to them and understand their plans.



BERMAN: All right, welcome back to Steinhatchee right on the Florida Gulf Coast, right in the path of Hurricane Idalia, which is now a Category 2 storm, a strengthening Category 2 storm. It's got wind speeds of 105 miles per hour. It's expected to get up to 110 miles per hour, maybe 115. It will make landfall. It is expected as a major hurricane.

It's not the wind speed that's of the greatest concern, though. It's the storm surge expected to be 10 feet to 15 feet in some places, including right here in Steinhatchee. Now, we are lucky enough to be at a marina right now. It's dark, so you can't see it, but we're standing at the docks of the Sea Hag Marina right on the river here.

And with me is one of the members of the family that operates this marina, Chase Norwood. Great to see you, Chase. And also with us is our Chief Climate Correspondent, Bill Weir. Chase, you and your family -- first of all, thank you for letting us be here tonight. But you've chosen to stay despite the warnings to leave. Why?

CHASE NORWOOD, FAMILY OWNS SEA HAG MARINA: So this marina is pretty much our livelihood, and we've done all the work we possibly could to prepare our marina for the storm. And so we're going to stay and just kind of monitor the surge that we have tonight and just kind of protect what we have. So we got a nice piece of property that's upon a hill that we're kind of really high at, that we're not worried too much about getting flooded there.


So, like you said, you know, we're more worried about the water coming up rather than the wind. So we're just hoping that the water doesn't go over our first floor in our marina.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: And just to add to the excitement, your sister is expecting any minute?

NORWOOD: Yes, sir, my sisters in Gainesville --


NORWOOD: -- and just ready for -- she does go into labor.

WEIR: Best wishes for her and the whole family.

BERMAN: You got her out of here to deliver the baby.


WEIR: But I understand you actually helped respond to Ian last year for people who lost their boats.

NORWOOD: Yes, sir.

WEIR: And even if the storm, regardless of where the storm hits, it adds to an insurance crisis that's crushing on people who live off the water, who live near the water. Explain all that.

NORWOOD: Yes. So we got to see the destruction Hurricane Ian did down in Fort Myers. We took a crew of team down to Fort Myers last year. We took a big barge down and craned boats out of people's yards, on top of people's houses. And we've seen stuff that I didn't know a storm could do.

And so it was a real big eye opener to my whole family. I think my dad's worried that, you know, worst case scenario, he doesn't want it to end up being like, what happened in Fort Myers. And so, you know, with the insurance and stuff going on, I mean, we're all worried. And that's why we're kind of staying here to, you know, see if there's anything that we can do to protect what we have, so.

BERMAN: Chase, Hurricane Hermine, which was a Category 1 storm, it did pass through here. It had a 6 foot storm series. Now we're standing down by the water. There's a bar area up here in the building, which is about 6 feet higher than us. How high up on your body did the water get with a 6 foot storm surge for Hurricane Hermine?

NORWOOD: So it was like chest high in our store, which is about 50 feet from our river. And so, I remember for that storm, you know, it was kind of up in the air that if it was going to turn into a hurricane and we didn't prepare that much at all for Hurricane Hermine. And so we boarded up the doors that time for that hurricane.

But I remember it was going to hit in the middle of night. Similar kind of like how this one's going to hit with the high tide in the middle of the night. But I had my -- my dad's like, you all go down there and check to see how the water level is. And I remember coming down and seeing that it was like 1 foot over our little deck right here.

And I was like, man, we better go get my dad up and have him come down here. And our house is literally right across the street. We get him up, walk him back down here. And it's about knee deep in our store. And the water came in like a flash.

BERMAN: And that was 6 feet.


BERMAN: That was 6 feet. They're expecting 10 feet to 15 feet this time and that could be a lot worse.

NORWOOD: Yes. So, if it's double of what Hurricane Hermine was, it's going to be tragic for our area. And we're hoping that that's not the case, but, you know, we're prepared for that case. We moved everything from our first floor up. We moved pretty much everything that is ground level up on higher ground, at least 15 feet elevated.

And so, we'll have to see. I mean, if it's more than 10 feet of a surge, I mean, we're -- it's going to be bad.

BERMAN: Listen, Chase Norwood, I wish you the best of luck to you and your family. Thank you for letting us be here. Thank you for what you do to the community. I know this is a landmark that people come to, you know, for safety and security. Thank you.

And Bill, we're going to be hearing a lot more from you --

WEIR: Yes. BERMAN: -- in the coming hours.

WEIR: Yes, just beginning.

BERMAN: All right.

We're going to have much more, obviously, on the storm coverage with Hurricane Idalia due to hit overnight here. But there is other news, including the funeral for the Wagner mercenary chief who died mysteriously in that plane crash, Yevgeny Prigozhin.



BERMAN: All right, I'm John Berman in Steinhatchee in Florida, right on the Big Bend, right in the path of Hurricane Idalia, which will make landfall late, late tonight, really early tomorrow morning, right around dawn. Wind speeds right now at 105 miles per hour. They are expected to strengthen north of 110, which would make it a major hurricane at landfall.

Now, there is other news, including the funeral for Wagner Chief Yevgeny Prigozhin. We want to take a moment now to mark that. It comes six days after he and nine others died aboard a still unsolved plane crash in Russia. And more than two months after the short lived rebellion against the Russian military and by connection Vladimir Putin.

Our Matthew Chance in Russia tonight, where even Prigozhin's funeral site is shrouded in secrecy.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Don't believe the evidence of your own eye. Not in Russia. Police checkpoints and metal detectors at the main cemetery gates are merely a diversion, it seems, to confuse and hide the Wagner leader's actual funeral from public view. Both the Kremlin and state media have been tight lipped.

(on-camera): Well, I mean, talk about secrecy, because we've just heard that actually, Yevgeny Prigozhin has already been buried, but not at the cemetery we were at, but somewhere else, you know, way outside of St. Petersburg. And so we're on our way now there in this heavy traffic to try and get to the actual gravesite. But I have to say it's extraordinary the lengths to which the authorities seem to have gone to mask the actual location of the ceremony.

(voice-over): And it's not just for Prigozhin. The funerals of the Wagner deputies killed alongside him in last Wednesday's plane crash are also shrouded in secrecy, amid rumors and misinformation that seem almost choreographed. These aren't just burials, quipped one Russian commentator, but a special funeral operation designed to mislead.

(on-camera): Well, we've come to the cemetery where Prigozhin has actually been buried. You can see, look at all the security around. These are people from Russia's National Guard essentially.


And if you come over here, there's more police back there. You come over here, you've got, you know, armed members of the Interior Ministry guarding the entrance.

(Speaking Foreign Language). Is it possible to go and see the place where Prigozhin laid at?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Foreign Language).

CHANCE (on-camera): Can I go?


CHANCE (on-camera): No?


CHANCE (on-camera): Closed. Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Foreign Language)

CHANCE (on-camera): OK, but we can't go. We can't go. All right, OK. But we can look. Thank you.

Go down there. Look, another soldier. And all along here, look, there are people standing at guard at sort of 5 meter intervals all the way up there. Look, right the way through, across the boundary, the perimeter of the cemetery.

(voice-over): And this is what they don't want us to see. Shielded first by a complex deception and now by a military cordon designed to keep the public away.

(on-camera): But it's unbelievable, isn't it, the security that they put in place here? But come over here because you can see why. If you just look through the branches here, you've got a pretty good view of Yevgeny Prigozhin's gravesite. You can see there's some flowers there, a Russian flag. There's a very simple wooden cross as well. But, you know, because of this security presence, this is as close as we're going to get.


BERMAN: And Matthew Chance joins us now from St. Petersburg. Matthew, what's the significance of this funeral being hidden?

CHANCE: I think it's pretty significant. I mean, look, first of all, it was a massive covert operation. It involved security services from all different sort of branches, putting up metal detectors, trying to distract people and to make sure that this did not become a rallying point for supporters of Prigozhin. And his very outspoken views, for instance, about the conduct of war in Ukraine. I think it also speaks to the Kremlin's insecurity about the blame that's being leveled. Of course, they've said it's absolute lies, these allegations, that it was involved in the plane crash last Wednesday that killed Prigozhin and nine other people. But despite those denials, many Russians simply don't believe it. They think there was some involvement of the state, and some are very angry about that. And that's something that concerns the Kremlin, John?

BERMAN: All right, Matthew Chance in St. Petersburg. Matthew, thank you very much.

And we do have another funeral to mark tonight in the region, this one in Ukraine, for a well-known, perhaps, the most well-known Ukrainian pilot, sort of the face of the Ukrainian Air Force known by his call sign "Juice". He was laid to rest in Kyiv today, four days after he and two others died during amid air collision on a combat mission.

His real name is Andriy Pilshchykov. He was part of a unit known as Ghost of Kyiv that defended the area around the capital. According to officials, he, quote, "helped Ukraine survive the first terrible days of the invasion".

In the early days of the invasion, right after Russia invaded, he was on 360, and he was talking to Anderson in full helmet and gear to hide his identity in, only going by the call sign. His call sign, which is Juice. Listen to what he said.


ANDRIY PILSHCHYKOV, UKRAINIAN PILOT WHO DIED: So our people, and including me, we are ready to fight Russians, and we are ready to defend our country, to defend our people in absolutely any ways.


BERMAN: Now, he also explained how he got his call sign "Juice". He trained with the California Air National Guard, and when they would all go to bars after training, he wouldn't order alcohol, he would order juice. Hence the nickname. May his memory be a blessing.

When we come back, we're going to have much more from here, from the Florida Gulf Coast, from the Big Bend area, which is expected to bear the brunt of Hurricane Idalia in just a few hours. Storm surge of 10 feet to 15 feet. Why officials are so nervous in giving such stern warnings ahead.



BERMAN: Live pictures from Indian Rocks Beach in Florida. Well, south of where I am. People checking out the waves and the wind and seeing how Hurricane Idalia is affecting things. Now, never a good idea, by the way, to go that close to a water when a hurricane is bearing down.

Needless to say, where I'm standing in Steinhatchee, along the Steinhatchee River, you will not be able to stand here. A few hours from now, where I am will be covered in water. If the forecasts are correct, the water would be well over where my head is right now.

We've seen the effects of storm surge in Florida. Last year, Hurricane Ian, the storm surge devastated Fort Myers Beach and Punta Gorda. Not too far from there is Clearwater Beach, which is where Gloria Pazmino is tonight. Gloria, what are you seeing?

GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, and, you know, and I was speaking to people who were walking along the beach. Just about two hours ago as the sun was coming down, they were walking, taking in the scene, taking in the waves that were coming in. And they told me that they were riding out the storm right here in Clearwater Beach, even though this is a mandatory evacuation zone.

They said they live about 5 miles inland, and that was giving them a little bit of comfort about what might happen in the next several hours.


Now, you talked about the storm surge. You are about 200 miles north of where we are. We are to your south right now. So the storm is moving in your direction. And here, we are starting to feel it's raining steadily now. The wind is starting to increase, but we are expecting conditions to deteriorate here significantly over the next several hours.

Now, we have spoken to residents who told us that they were staying put and riding out the storm, while others, as we understand, have actually heeded those warnings. This is an area where there are a lot of resorts and a lot of hotels, and people were told to evacuate. As of 11:00 this morning, they've done so for the most part. It is very desolate here and that is exactly what officials want.

As that storm surge comes in, it could be catastrophic, as you said. 4 feet to 7 feet of water forecast for this area here. That could do a lot of damage. John?

BERMAN: Yes, I mean, 7 feet. When you're talking about the 10 feet to 15 feet where I am, it doesn't sound like much, but 7 feet could be absolutely devastating, which is why the people do need to heed those warnings. I like the fact that the people say they live 5 miles inland, but they weren't inland. They were walking on the beach and checking out the waves.

Gloria Pazmino, great to have you on. Thank you very much.

Well, much more from Steinhatchee. The storm bearing down in just a moment.


BERMAN: CNN's special coverage of Hurricane Idalia continues. The Source with Kaitlan Collins starts right now.