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At This Hour

Hurricane Ian Strengthens to 155 MPH, Near Category 5, Eyewall Coming on Shore Now. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 28, 2022 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan in New York.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman, live in Tampa, Florida, where Hurricane Ian is bearing down on the southwest coast of Florida, an historic storm, the most powerful to make landfall or that will make landfall on the west coast of Florida; 155-mile-per-hour wind speeds. That's just two miles short of a category 5 hurricane.

It's expected to make landfall about 100 miles south of here in the Port Charlotte area. Rain 12 to 24 inches across much of the Florida Peninsula, which could create freshwater flooding flowing in the opposite direction of the storm surge. The impact of this will be felt by millions in Florida.

Already 200,000 people without power. That's before the storm even makes landfall. So this will uproot people's lives. Its a life- threatening storm. This is the Sunshine Skyway Bridge that we have pictures of. You can see the surf kicking up. As I said, it will have an enormous impact.


Let's go to Punta Gorda, which could see the worst of it and very soon. Our Randi Kaye has been there all morning long.

What are you seeing now?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are seeing some pretty heavy winds, actually. I'm getting an emergency --


BERMAN: OK. We lost Randi Kaye in Punta Gorda.

The important thing to know there is Randi and her team are trying to stay safe. That's around where the storm could make landfall. That's the area of some of the greatest concern. The surge could be up to 18 feet. At the National Hurricane Center, Michael Brennan is standing by there.


BERMAN: The 11:00 am advisory just out.

Why don't you tell us what you're see now, Michael?

MICHAEL BRENNAN, ACTING DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: We're seeing the eyewall of Ian starting to move onshore, to places like Sanibel and Captiva. The warning issued is basically like take cover now.

Hopefully nobody is left in those islands. Hopefully people are away from that right now. But the eyewall will continue to move onshore. And you're going to start to see the water levels rise as the big push of Gulf water comes up.

That's where we could see the 12 to 18 feet of storm surge inundation above ground level. That's three times as tall as I am. That's really an unsurvivable circumstance.

BERMAN: You know, we keep saying this is the most powerful storm to make landfall in recorded history on the west side of Florida. You talked about the storm surge.

When do you expect the worst and how long will it linger at that height?

BRENNAN: Well, the water levels will come up, as the eyewall of Ian moves onshore. So you're going to have a huge push of the 150-mile- per-hour winds, especially on the right side of that circulation.

And then it will continue onshore southwesterly and southerly flow that will bottle that water up into those areas. I would expect elevated water levels through the night into Thursday.

And in addition, several inches of rainfall will flow in and not have anywhere to drain. It won't go out into the harbors and the Gulf. So a widespread inundation event here.

BERMAN: Talk to us more about the rainfall, the freshwater flooding that's expected. I'm up here in Tampa, where I heard 12 to 24 inches of rain possible.

How much of the state will see that?

What kind of problems could that cause?

BRENNAN: That's going to be a huge problem, especially along and just north of the track of Ian, as it moves from southwest to northeast across the state of Florida. On the north side, everywhere you see in red is the potential of 10 to 15 inches.

That would cause the potential for catastrophic freshwater flooding, including this area highlighted in pink, the Tampa metro area, Orlando, all the way up to near Jacksonville. They have the potential for widespread, significant freshwater flooding. We lose more people in tropical storms and hurricanes to storm surge

and freshwater flooding, those water hazards, than we do from the wind.

BERMAN: You know, we had been so concerned about the storm surge, we haven't talked much about the wind speed. One reason is it accelerated so quickly overnight. But you're almost at a category 5.

So when you're talking about wind speeds of 155 miles per hour, how long will people be experiencing that?

BRENNAN: Well, those peak winds are only occurring right in the eyewall here. So the very, very highest winds will only occur along the immediate coastline. The wind will come down as it goes inland.

But Ian is expected to remain a hurricane. And so there are hurricane warnings in effect all the way to places like Orlando. Now we have issued hurricane warnings along the east coast of the Florida Peninsula, includes places like Melbourne, the Kennedy Space Center area, so we're expecting a widespread damaging wind event.

We're looking at widespread power outages, tree damage, damage to homes, mobile homes. So a very unsafe environment for the next 24 to 36 hours as Ian moves across Florida.

BERMAN: You talk about the actual threat to the east coast of Florida. I know a lot of people look at the map and see Lake Okeechobee and there are often concerns about that.

Are you concerned about the rivers and streams perhaps flooding?

BRENNAN: The potential for that will be maximized a little farther north. We're most concerned about this area in central and east central Florida from Tampa to Orlando. That's where we could see the most significant severe widespread freshwater flooding.

We also have the potential to see storm surge flooding along the east coast, in areas like St. Augustine and Jacksonville, because there will be strong onshore windflow that'll push the Atlantic into the east coast of Florida. Storm surge warnings have been issued as far as up to Georgia and South Carolina.

BERMAN: That's just remarkable, the scope, the breadth of the threat of this storm.


BERMAN: Michael Brennan, thank you so much for being with us and helping us give people a sense of what they can expect starting basically now.

Let's try to go back to Punta Gorda, Florida, now.

Randi Kaye, if you can hear me, tell me what's happening?

KAYE: Hey there, John. We have moved to actually to safer ground here, because we were a little concerned we were at the water's edge. So we moved to higher ground to this parking garage.

Punta Gorda looks pretty deserted. We have been experiencing much greater winds. Our hotel is in the distance. We've had to move the cars, because they were expecting this 12- to 18-foot storm surge.

We knew that wouldn't be safe for us or our vehicles. We moved up to this higher ground here.

We know there were evacuations earlier. They were considering expanding those evacuations to Zone C, almost about 200,000 people or so have evacuated already or were under evacuate orders already.

They don't go and check on those people once they put the evacuation orders in place. If you take a look, this is sort of the same picture. Certainly very, very quiet, except for some palm trees that seem a bit angry at the weather right now. We are just waiting here in downtown Punta Gorda for a possible storm surge, 12 to 18 feet, John.

BERMAN: Randi, you're a great reporter, I know you're making the right choices, thank you so much for watching out for your team. We'll come back as soon as we can.

Brian Todd is St. Petersburg.

These bands are coming through. You're really starting to feel it.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. As you know, when you cover storms of this intensity, you will go through periods of a lull and then real intense energy.

Well, this is the latter. This has picked up energy where we are in St. Petersburg. Check out the storm surge here. They're also smashing up against the jetty behind me. My photojournalist Mike Love (ph) and I will try to give you a sense of the energy here.

What they are fearful of in downtown St. Petersburg, to your right, my left, the water levels over there, you can see in that -- along that seawall, the water levels have receded. But that's deceptive. It will be high tide in a few hours. That water level will rise.

And as it gets more intense, it will push the surge into downtown. We talked to the mayor a short time ago. What they're worried about, that neighborhood in there, Shore Acres and the Waterfront, that's going to be flooded.

He says whenever there's a storm of this intensity, that area gets flooded. We'll do a sweep over there in a short time to see what flood damage they have gotten. We've already gotten word of a structural fire that emergency crews have been responding to, of downed power lines.

The mayor says they have a lot of power outages because of uprooted trees. They're worried about people who have homes near canals. That will be a problem with high tide come this afternoon. That may coincide with storm surge.

When the rain pellets start hitting you from the side, you know it's getting more intense. Right now it is, John.

BERMAN: Brian Todd for us in St. Petersburg, starting to feel it there.

We have reporters up and down the coast of Florida, new information coming into the weather center. This is CNN's special live coverage. We'll continue right after this.





BERMAN: John Berman here, live in Tampa, Florida, just getting word that now 300,000 customers in Florida are without power. That is even before the eye makes landfall; 155-mile-per-hour wind speeds, still expecting a surge of some 18 feet in the Port Charlotte area.

Up here in Tampa we're starting to see this phenomenon of the water getting pulled out. It's happening right here. Carlos Suarez is in Tampa.

Give me a sense of what you're seeing.

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, thousands across Hillsborough County are without power. And you want to talk about the ominous sign there, this is how the Hillsborough Bay looks like.

When we got here this morning, all of this was underwater. You see just how much of it has receded. Hurricane Ian is pushing all of this water out from a nearby river and the bay itself. All of this water at some point has to come back in.

That's the surge we'll see later this afternoon. That's the surge that emergency officials have been concerned about.

When you add into that the expected rainfall we're supposed to see, up to 20 inches of rain in the Tampa area, you can appreciate why emergency officials are telling people in low lying areas they need to leave their homes.

There's 43 hurricane shelters across the area that have been open for the last 48 hours.


SUAREZ: As of 7 o'clock this morning, 6,100 people, we're told, had taken up shelter at one of these locations, quite the ominous sight out here.

BERMAN: Carlos, stay safe.

Joining me is John Gunter, mayor of Cape Coral, Florida, about 100 miles south of where I am, looking to be what will be the eye of the storm and soon.

Mr. Mayor, if you can hear us, we do have a camera which shows what's happening where you are right now.

Why don't you tell me what you're experiencing?

MAYOR JOHN GUNTER, CAPE CORAL, FLORIDA: I was outside about 45 minutes ago and the winds have picked up, very high winds. We know that it's going to continue to increase.

We're well over tropical storm winds. It's raining extremely hard, so the conditions are definitely getting worse.

BERMAN: Explain the area of greatest concern.

What would the impact of 16-18 foot storm surge be?

GUNTER: Definitely catastrophic. That's one of our major concerns. We're expected 12-24 inches of rain but the storm surge is our biggest concern. We know that would have the biggest impact involving life safety. So that's very concerning for our city because we know we are in the eye of the storm.

BERMAN: Just so people know, of course, Cape Coral is beautiful but it's a city ringed by, in line with this canal system. There's just waterways everywhere.

Have people, to your knowledge, heeded your evacuation orders?

GUNTER: We know some have. I will say that we noticed our shelters have a low head count. We thought they would be maximized by now. But unfortunately that's not the case. We are hoping that our residents have -- went elsewhere.

I do know some of our residents that went over to the east coast of Florida, so we're hoping they have heeded our warnings and have sheltered somewhere else besides here in our city.

BERMAN: Wind speeds expected of up to 155 miles per hour.

And how will your buildings withstand that?

GUNTER: Well, we have increased our building codes here in the state of Florida. But a category 4 or 5 hurricane is a substantial storm. And, you know, the main thing we are warning our residents to do, if you haven't evacuated, you must shelter in place. It's too dangerous to be on the roads now.

So we're asking residents to shelter in place, stay in an interior room away from windows. And, you know, we're monitoring the storm. We have a plan in place, once the storm does pass through.

Our emergency operation centers will have strategic teams -- assessment teams that we can deploy throughout the city. So we have a plan in place. We're just waiting to get thru the next six or seven hours, BERMAN: Mayor Gunter, please stay safe.

The people of Cape Coral, please heed your mayor. It's time to shelter in place.

Thank you very much, Mayor.

We have live pictures not far from there, in Ft. Myers, Florida, right now, that can show you the power, the power of Hurricane Ian as it makes landfall in the southwestern coast of Florida. Western Florida has never had an impact quite like this.

Stay with us. This is CNN's special live coverage. More after this.





BERMAN: I'm John Berman, live in Tampa, Florida. This is CNN's special live coverage of Hurricane Ian.

Our weather center tells us the outer eyewall has begun to make landfall in some of the Barrier Islands on the western coast, about 100 miles south of Sanibel and the like. It will be a bit of time before the center of the eye passes over.

One of the places it looks like it will pass over is Punta Gorda with 155-mile-per-hour winds.

Randi, can you hear me?

KAYE: I hear you OK, John, for now. We are here in downtown Punta Gorda. We made a move from -- we were just on the outskirts of downtown near the water. But we moved to higher ground. It's safer ground.