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At This Hour

Eyewall Of Hurricane Ian Coming Onshore Now; Hurricane Ian Strengthens To 155 Mph, Just Shy Of Category 5; Hurricane Ian Knocks Out Power To The Entire Island Of Cuba. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired September 28, 2022 - 11:30   ET



RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Made a move from we're just on the outskirts of downtown near the water but we move to higher ground and safer ground. But just take a look here. You can see it's certainly getting windier. As you mentioned, the storm is certainly getting closer out in the distance there is where we were, and if you look beyond those buildings, that is where Charlotte Harbor is. And that's the real concern because the storm is going to push that ocean water into Charlotte Harbor, which of course, is not going to be able to hold that water, it's going to overflow very likely and end up here in the downtown area of Punta Gorda. That is the big concern.

When they had Charley here, John, back in 2004, it was more of a wind event, there was the very little storm surge. So when you're talking about 12 to 18 feet of storm surge, you can understand why the businesses here in downtown have put the sandbags in place. They've boarded up many of them. But you can tell just from the wind and what we're feeling already and the rain already getting much heavier, this could be a while. It's going to sit here on top of us because as you know, it's very slow moving so people here are prepared, John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Randi Kaye for us in Punta Gorda, Randi standby if you will for a moment because joining us now on the phone is the Mayor of Punta Gorda, Lynne Matthews. Mayor, if you can hear me, just give us a sense of your current area of concern.

LYNNE MATTHEWS, MAYOR OF PUNTA GORDA, FLORIDA (voiceover): Well, Hi, John. Good morning. I think the biggest concern for us is obviously going to be the storm surge. We have anticipated all along until yesterday that it would be possibly six to seven feet, then it went to seven to 10 feet. And now we're just not sure where it's going to end up because we've got a storm that is potentially going to be a bullseye on to Punta Gorda. So, we have relocated all of our emergency services vehicles, our police and fire and EMTs are off the roads for the time being as they will be staying in higher ground area where everybody's protected and the vehicles are protected.

So, you know, everybody's got to shelter in place at this point. It's not an option to continue moving around, you know, while this weather is at its peak hours. So the last I've heard is that it's supposed to be hitting landfall in Punta Gorda somewhere between two and three o'clock this afternoon. And that being said, that will hopefully be the worst of it, and then we'll gradually go down from there. So, storm surge is going to ultimately be the biggest problem we're going to be dealing with.

BERMAN: Yes, a storm surge which could reach 18 feet, it's almost hard to imagine. I know the last sentence is about half the population in Punta Gorda is senior citizens, 65 or older. What precautions had been taken with that portion of your citizenry?

MATTHEWS: Well, the community that we live in is -- you're right, it's about -- it's at least 55 to 65 percent retirees, very mobile retirees. They're very active and very mobile so a lot of them have already moved to other areas for the period of the storm, and they will stay where they're currently at until this is over with. I don't foresee anybody returning home much before Friday because of that. As far as the assisted living facilities, all of the Charlotte County Emergency Services assisted with getting some of those facilities vacated and relocated people to other areas where it was safer for them. So, you know, we're in -- we're in pretty good shape as far as that's concerned.

Honestly, having lived here 26 years, you know -- I lived through Hurricane Charley so -- and I had a brand-new house at the time, and we did not have storm shutters. So, this is a much better situation for me personally. And I think a lot of people in the community have also gone and put storm shutters on their homes since that time because of what happened during Charley. But, you know, we're in a much better place, the homes are being built to much higher standards and I think -- I think we hopefully won't see quite as much of a catastrophic loss as we did during Charley.

BERMAN: Let's hope you're right. And there has been a lot of talk about Charley back in 2004. Did hit as a very powerful Category 4 storm but the difference is, you know, Charley was like this big you know, I'm showing people like my fingers very close together. It was a tiny narrow storm.


BERMAN: This is a much wider bigger storm, but a much greater storm surge storm. Surge wasn't an issue in Charley, was it?

MATTHEWS: That's correct, yes. We were expecting storm surge for Charley because that storm was intended to go to the Tampa area, and it did a 90-degree right turn right before the landfall. And so you know, we didn't have any notice. Nobody could leave, nobody could move to higher ground or go to safer places and so we rode the storm out in horrible conditions. But you're right, that storm was much more small and compact and it went through and was here and gone in two hours. This one's just kind of hanging around and going very slow so it's a little concerning because it's going to keep going on for several hours.


BERMAN: Mayor Lynne Matthews, please stay safe. Thank you so much for being with us today. We know how hard you'll be working over the next several days. And the message to your people right now. Stay in place.

MATTHEWS: Shelter in place.

BERMAN: If you haven't evacuated, you need to stay where you are.


BERMAN: The next several hours are just going to be so dangerous. Mayor, thank you very much. All right, that was Mayor Lynne Matthews. This is CNN's special live coverage, Hurricane Ian barreling down on the coast. Stay with us.



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Florida is bracing, everyone, for what officials are now warning could be a catastrophic impact from Hurricane Ian. And we are seeing some of this impact already as we've seen with our reporters from Fort Myers in the south to Tampa and St. Pete in the north. You're looking at two images that show you that it's becoming quite messy. Ian is leaving its mark. This is a powerful hurricane and it is huge.

The Miami Herald headline today, so this storm is twice as wide as the entire Florida peninsula. It will make landfall on the state's vulnerable west coast. The eyewall, the most dangerous part of the storm is showing maximum sustained winds of 155 miles per hour right now. That's just shy of a Category 5 hurricane.

The eye of the storm is expected to make landfall in the next few hours. The National Hurricane Center is forecasting what they're describing as life-threatening and historic storm surges of up to 18 feet in some areas, saying just a few minutes ago, that the next 24 to 36 hours will be a very dangerous situation from Southwest Florida over to the eastern portions of the state as well. FEMA is warning that people who have not evacuated, they need to make sure that they put themselves and their families in a safe place now.

The terms officials are using to describe what is coming is catastrophic, it is historic with a dangerous storm surge projected and also major flooding expected from Sarasota to Naples. Two and a half million people have been put under evacuation orders ahead of this but many people as we know have decided to stay behind and stick it out, including our next guest, Heather Lundy McDonald. She lives in Sarasota. She's riding out this hurricane from there. Heather, thank you for jumping on with us, what are you seeing right now? What's it like in Sarasota at the moment?

HEATHER LUNDY MCDONALD: Um, well, I'm actually about 17 miles inland at Lakewood Ranch. And we've got big gusts. There's a lot of debris coming off of the palm trees, some like whistling that I can't actually open my front door. So, I'm sure in a few hours, it's going to get much worse.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. You're not in a -- you're not in a mandatory evacuate zone where you are. And you told my producer that this is I believe you said the 24th storm that you've weathered living in Sarasota since 1991.


BOLDUAN: Why did you want to stick this out, you know, whenever one from the governor to the FEMA Administrator or using such scary language about this storm?

MCDONALD: Right. So, I definitely don't want to discourage people from evacuating, especially in their in flood zones or -- you know, or in older homes. To be honest, we just moved out of our house on Thursday, and I just couldn't bear packing up again. So, we're in a vacation rental now while our house is being built. And now I sort of feel responsible for this -- looking after this place.

BOLDUAN: Are you nervous, Heather?

MCDONALD: A little. A little. I got to say every time they come, you know, you get worked up about it, but I am prepared. I've got all my supplies. I've got plenty of water. We still have power. I've got everything charged up so, you know, I will make the best of it.

BOLDUAN: I was -- I was looking at the latest -- the latest storm surge map put out by the National Hurricane Center and it shows that the storm surge in your area could reach looks like six feet -- six feet or more, maybe six to eight feet. What are you -- what's that going to look like?

MCDONALD: Yes. That is going to mean staying put for a couple of days for sure. I'm ready, I'm not going to be driving anywhere, and just wait it out and let them -- you know, let the rescue workers clear the roads, fix the power and you know, just stay put.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Your mom's even closer to the coast, I believe you said, and she is in a mandatory evacuation but -- evacuation zone. She's decided to stay home. What's the plan for her?

MCDONALD: Well, you know, I asked her to come out and stay with me but again, she's also been here for many, many years. She's ridden out a few storms. She's in contact with other people in her building so you know I know that people are looking after her. They're looking after each other.

BOLDUAN: Yes. How have you prepared?


MCDONALD: Um, well, I've got my safe room ready. We have a second bathroom with no windows. I got a bed in there, I've got the dog, food, water, the bathtub is full for if we need to, you know, flush the toilets. I've got my cooler ready and ice in case the refrigerator goes I can, you know, stick -- some of the perishables in there. And I'll eat those first and then I'll go for the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches later.

BOLDUAN: Well, Heather, thank you so much for coming on and speaking with me. We're going to be checking back in with you as the hour progress because as you know, going through now, you're -- this being your 24th storm. These things can change and change very quickly in terms of the conditions. Thank you so much. Good luck.

MCDONALD: All right, thank you.

BOLDUAN: All right -- thank you. So before Florida, Hurricane Ian pummeled Cuba, and we've now learned at least two people are dead in Cuba from the storm and it wiped out power to the entire country. CNN's Patrick Oppmann is live in Havana with much more on this. Patrick, what is the latest there?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate. And yes, even though it doesn't look that bad right now, of course, looks can be deceiving. Ian has left Cuba, of course, but is left behind some damages that can take weeks to recover from. Most of this island, if not all of this island is out of power. The electricity was knocked out in Havana and to the west of us that led to a rolling blackout that really for the first time has cut out power to this entire island. They're working around the clock to restore power. But, of course, people don't have electricity in their houses. We're only able to broadcast because we have a generator, which is a privilege most Cubans don't have. And so that means the food is spoiling in their house and that conditions will get worse going forward if power is not restored.

And just to give people in Florida an idea of how long the storm will go on. Late last night, I was driving home and -- on the Malecon, Havana seafront Boulevard. We had probably five to 8 feet of storm surge. This was hours after the storm left. There was so much water on the road. You could feel the waves rocking the car. I had to get it quickly off that main avenue because these waves certainly could have flipped the car or worse. And you know, you just think with a storm like this that it's over. And it's not -- very, very dangerous storm people need to take the utmost caution again.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Thank you, Patrick, for being there. Thank you for being safe and bringing us that. I really appreciate it.

So, coming up, everyone, we're going to be taking you back to Florida. We're going to take what the very latest is, where the storm track is headed --

OPPMANN: Yes, I'm fine. I'm fine. I've got --

BOLDUAN: And how soon Hurricane Ian is going to make landfall? CNN's breaking news coverage of Hurricane Ian continues after this.



BERMAN: Hi, I'm John Berman, live in Tampa, Florida. I have some pictures I want to show you from Naples, Florida, about 150 miles south of where I am. This is from an EarthCam. You can see the footage of this rough surf right now. The water is rising. They're measuring a storm surge there now of five feet, which is high. That's a serious storm surge, five feet and still rising. The forecast for the surge there is between five and eight feet. They're already at five so it could get worse, perhaps much worse. As you move further north, they're expecting a storm surge of up to 18 feet which could just be devastating.

Joining me now is the mayor of Sarasota, Florida, which a little bit south of where I am, kind of on the other end of the Tampa Bay area. Erik Arroyo joins me now. Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for being with us, the outer bands of the eyewall making landfall south of where we both are, what are you expecting over the next several hours?

ERIK ARROYO, MAYOR OF SARASOTA, FLORIDA: You know we just made the decision just now to withdraw all of our police officers from the streets just to because of the sustained wind pressure that we've been - we've been having. Over the next few hours, we're anticipating that everyone's going to heed the governor's warning and stay hunker down, it is -- it is too late to evacuate at this point. So everybody in Zone A and B is going to be feeling the effects of this hurricane. First, they're going to be feeling the storm surges in the winds and that's why we tried to evacuate them a while back.

But our main priority is the safety of our residents. And we have been preparing for this for years. For this particular hurricane, we've been preparing since last week. We saw the impact that could have so our utilities department ensured that our generators were ready to go, public works began clearing the storm drains. We have fortified all of our city buildings and assets. Our parks and rec department has removed items that could become projectiles. Our fuel forms are operational and ready to go.

Florida Power and Light right now has thousands of individuals that are stated -- have a staging ground in the city of Sarasota and are out right now fixing our infrastructure as thousands of Floridians are losing their electricity. And our police of course has a -- has a -- an evacuation plan and they're redirecting traffic but we're withdrawing them from the streets because of the hazardous conditions.

BERMAN: Yes, just in case people missed that, I want to reiterate what you just said. Now, Sarasota, let's add that to the list of these coastal cities in Florida that are saying emergency services cannot reach you now.


You need to stay in place. And most of the cities along the west coast of Florida right now, your evacuation plan is that time is over, stay where you are, shelter in place. Mr. Mayor, we've been hearing 12 to 24 inches of rain possible. What impact will the freshwater flooding have on Sarasota?

ARROYO: I mean, let me just tell you that 10 inches of rain is enough to have your car floating around. So, these are -- these are very serious conditions that everyone should take seriously. You know, preparing for this, we had numerous sites with sandbags being distributed. We had 12 different sites designated as shelters. We had transportation hubs for those that could not find transportation. We had supplies being handed out by numerous charities and nonprofits in the area. So, at this point, all we have is ourselves as a community, so take care of your neighbors because we're in this together and we're going to make it through.

BERMAN: Yes. Mr. Mayor, Erik Arroyo of Sarasota, Florida, you are -- everyone is in this together at this point, please do you and your family stay safe.

ARROYO: Thank you. Stay safe.

BERMAN: All right. The sky is starting to dark in here in Tampa, Florida, with another one of these rain bands passing over. Hurricane Ian barreling down on the coast, a historic storm, it could be the most powerful storm ever to make landfall on the west coast of Florida. This is CNN's special live coverage. Stay with us.