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At This Hour

Hurricane Ian Leaves Catastrophic Destruction across Florida. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 29, 2022 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. We want to welcome viewers in the United States and around the world. We're following the devastating impact of Hurricane Ian right now.

And some of the first pictures of the devastation and destruction left behind; here's a look in Ft. Myers, of the destruction there. New aerials just in here of the catastrophic damage across southwest Florida, which took a direct hit from this storm.

The storm surge and relentless rain really causing widespread damage that officials are already acknowledging will take a very long time to recover from. And it seems obvious when you see this kind of damage -- bridges, roadways wiped out.

The bridges, the only vehicle access to Sanibel Island and Pine Island are now impassable, says the governor. Entire sections of these bridges have been washed away, essentially cutting off those barrier islands.

In Port Charlotte, the monster winds blew the roof off the intensive care unit at a hospital and also flooded the ER, just really scary moments playing out in many different parts of the state.

Florida's governor gave an update this morning and the way he put it, he says, Ian is producing a 500-year flood event for cities far from the coastline where Ian first made landfall.

The city of Orlando got more than a foot of rain in just a few hours overnight and, right now, more than 2.5 million customers in Florida are without power, which is a huge problem and a major focus, as this day, this first light comes up and the day continues.


BOLDUAN: So the harsh reality of how extensive the damage is just starting to set in, in many parts of southwest Florida, going to take a look at these aerial images from Ft. Myers.


BOLDUAN: The city was just pummeled by storm surge and torrential rains. CNN's Randi Kaye is live in Ft. Myers for us.

Randi, you've been watching all morning.

What are you seeing right now?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of water still and a lot of concerned residents. There's been a steady stream of residents in the community. We are in north Ft. Myers. The Caloosahatchee River came through here and just walloped this community.

People here we spoke to were describing it as a wall of water came crashing through their door, crashing through their windows. You can see it's still pretty deep. Their personal belongings are just all over the place.

Even right here, there's a pair of pants just missing -- just laying there in the street. And a lot of neighbors have been helping neighbors. The Cajun Navy here as well. These boats have been all around.

People helping, rescuing their neighbors, fire, rescue was here searching, knocking on doors, seeing if they could do some search and rescue, see if people had stayed here during the storm.

We have a drone shot, too, we could show you, just overhead of what this community looks like. You can see how much water. The problem is people were surprised by this because they thought, Kate, it was going toward Tampa and then it ended up coming this way.

And if you take a look here, you can see just how strong the winds were. This is a shed over here in the distance. And that was just obviously straight up on somebody's property and just got blown around by the force of the wind.

People were not expecting wind. They were expecting some storm surge but the wind was quite strong.

We spoke to a fair amount of residents this morning and this is what one very emotional young woman had to tell us.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very flooded. It's ruined, completely ruined. The fridge is on the floor. The couches are turned upside down. The toilets are on the floor. There is water seeping in our cabinets. Everything is flooded, everything is ruined. We grabbed, you know, what we could most of. But we didn't think it would be this bad.


KAYE: We came here and we spoke to one woman who was 85 years old, in her home, Kate, when this all came through. She was bounced around, thrown around by her own furniture that had gone afloat and threw her up against the wall. She had bruises all over her and she was taken to the hospital by friends and neighbors, Kate. BOLDUAN: My gosh, Randi, thank you so much for bringing us the

stories and showing us the images and bringing us what people are saying, trying to get a handle on what's left behind. We're going to check back in later on the show.

On the right side of your screen, live pictures of a water rescue of families in Kissimmee, which is south of Orlando. Again, this is a good picture. You've got Randi reporting on damage in Ft. Myers. And you have now water rescues happening in Kissimmee just south of Orlando.

Chad Myers saying this is widespread damage across the state. The governor saying this is a 500-year flood event in places that are far from where this storm first made landfall in southwest Florida.

Exhausted, I'm sure, this family is but as you say that sweet little face, very grateful to be on drier land in this moment and for all the people helping each other out.

Ian's catastrophic storm surge caused sections of bridges to barrier islands on the southwest coast to just wash away, making it impossible to get to those residents, whoever is left on those barrier islands.

Florida's governor Ron DeSantis announced he has 100 engineers at the ready to do inspections on bridges, so they can be re-opened but saying, especially this causeway and the Sanibel Causeway is going to take a lot of work to rebuild structural damage there. Listen to this.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We do have reports of structural damages to bridges such as the bridge going on to Sanibel Island. And I anticipate there will likely be other bridges that have suffered damage.

But once bridges are inspected and determined to be safe, they will be re-opened as soon as possible. But we know Sanibel Causeway and we also know Pine Island bridge, those two are not passable. And they are going to require structural rebuilds.


BOLDUAN: Reporter Gage Goulding takes us to the Sanibel Causeway for a firsthand look at the damage.


GAGE GOULDING, NBC2 CORRESPONDENT: I just want to step out and let you take this in for a second. This is 50 feet, approximately 50 to 60, maybe 65 feet of the bridge that has collapsed into the Gulf of Mexico during the Hurricane Ian that we experienced for the last 48 hours here.

This is a monumental piece of the bridge. I don't know any other word than to say monumental piece of this bridge that collapsed.

And, Paul, can we zoom in here to this actual piece of roadway.

This one here, you can still see the guard barrier, kind of the jersey barrier, if you will and see the center line. It's just laying in the Gulf.


GOULDING: It's truly a breathtaking sight. Whenever we walked up here in the middle of the night, it was kind of like one of those moments where you say, it can't be so. It can't be so. We're being as safe as we can.

Paul, can you kind of look down here and show where it crumbled.

And the sand and the concrete underneath this bridge that once held it up and carried travelers, you and me, your loved ones, friends and family and all of our friends that visit us, to the beautiful islands of Sanibel. Now it is entirely collapsed.

Go back this way, now that we have daylight. It's much more to take in.

Let's look at this light post. It is about level to my eyes right now. But it is actually sitting about 20 feet below me in the Gulf waters.


BOLDUAN: Thank you, too, Gage Goulding, for bringing us that firsthand look. There will be a lot more to report on that as the day continues and what they'll be able to do to fix that. Let's go to Naples. Another city that took a very hard hit, historic flooding there, water rescues are underway. CNN's Brian Todd is there.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All up and down the west coast of Florida, people are waking up, assessing damage. But also local officials have to still conduct rescues. We have heard from Collier County officials just south of where we are, that they've had to conduct at least 30 rescues so far.

Coast Guard officials have said they're still trying to pull people off roofs in some areas. So as the water recedes, still a lot of water danger, still a lot of rescues, still a lot of people trapped in houses.

(INAUDIBLE) the problem of coming back to try to assess damage at your home and business, we're in Port Charlotte, making our way to Naples. We came across this gas station. It's closed obviously.

Some parts of this, just blew off during the hurricane and, look. This is devastating here.

Now when we talk about rescues and damage they do run in tandem because officials all in this region are saying to people, do not rush back to your homes or businesses because it could still be dangerous. Why?

Because there are a lot of loose items in a hurricane, cables that are dangerous. This line right here runs to this side and runs to the pump there. There could be gas leaking out or could be some danger there that could start a fire or something else.

So officials are saying if you rush back to your home or business -- and it's understandable you want to assess your damage and try to get your life back together to start on that process. It's still dangerous and we won't necessarily be able to rescue you if you come back to assess damage like this. We're prioritizing rescues elsewhere.


BOLDUAN: Brian Todd, thank you so much for that.

Joining me now on the phone is the mayor of Naples, Florida. Teresa Heitmann.

Thanks for jumping on the phone and I'm sure you're just now getting an assessment of the damage.

What are you seeing and hearing has happened to Naples?

TERESA HEITMANN, NAPLES, FLORIDA: Well, our pier has severe damage, so the pier is closed until we can have it repaired. We are working on broken lines, sewer lines, gas lines. And we have a curfew until 12. We are clearing debris and we still have some flooding in most areas. But I will tell you we are still assessing the area.

BOLDUAN: I'm sure you are.

HEITMANN: Catastrophic.

BOLDUAN: I was going to ask you, how would you describe what's happened to Naples, Mayor?

HEITMANN: Catastrophic, devastating. I will tell you, though, our prayers are for those up north, Ft. Myers. They're without water. At least our water and sewers are working. And they're having to send patients from Ft. Myers to Naples Community Hospital.

But our teams have expertise in this. They've been with us for a long time. And we'll recover quickly and make sure that our residents are safe and sound.

BOLDUAN: Do you have any reports of injuries or fatalities?

HEITMANN: Not at this time. We have a 3 o'clock update for the community. And that will be live on our channel, local channel here. And we'll record it to put posts on our website.

BOLDUAN: Is it safe for people to be out and about now, Mayor?

HEITMANN: No, no, thank you for asking. Just until we make sure that power lines are up because we don't have power in most of the areas. We don't know whether the lines are live or not. And until we get those lines repaired and up, which, you know, they're working fast and furious about that.


HEITMANN: Just like the water coming in yesterday evening, when our beaches, our ocean met our bay and created the almost eight, nine feet of water. The city manager and I were at city hall next to the fire station.

We lost a couple of fire trucks because they're at a low grade, even though our station is a category 5. So we're just trying to recover here.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Eight to nine feet is -- it is super scary to think about what that means for your community.

You've lived there since 1988, I believe, I saw, and you've seen many a storm there for sure.

How do you rank this one and what you're just starting to get a handle on?

HEITMANN: Enormous. I grew up in Tampa so I'm accustomed to storms and hurricanes. I don't -- I've never, ever seen anything like this. This was an enormous storm that had a surge of water like we've never seen.

BOLDUAN: Mayor, thank you for your tireless work and getting the word out. And thank you so much. We will be checking back in with you.

HEITMANN: Thank you for your coverage.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much.

All right, coming up for us, we're going to show you live pictures right now out of Kissimmee, of water rescues that have been going on, families being rescued from floodwaters. And this is in central Florida.

The Orlando area which is also seeing record flooding as Ian goes in from the southwest, scraping across all of Florida. It is now ready to create another path of destruction further north. Much more ahead. Stay with us.





BOLDUAN: All right, welcome back. Orlando has been getting some of the heaviest rainfall this morning.

The city has already been hit with more than a foot of rain coming down in just a few hours. CNN's Ryan Young is there for us, joining us at this hour.

You've seen a lot already this morning.

What's happening now?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, when we talk about this, as we know about this rescue that's going on in Kissimmee, look, there's water behind me. And we have seen cars flooded out. But it's the airboats that are going all over this area and first responders, are trying to get the people trapped.

That's what stands out to us right now. Of course, you can see the water from Lake Eola that came out onto the street where I'm standing. And several cars got stranded in this location. But at this point, it's all about that rescue. We've been told we actually have sound from one of the rescue efforts going on in the last few minutes. Let's take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's a little scared.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They lost everything. Their whole apartment was flooded.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She said they got her -- everyone is safe. All her family is safe. Yes, that they took them out of the window.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's telling us that these bags are everything that she was able to grab from her apartment.

(Speaking Spanish).

So ...


YOUNG: Yes, Kate, this is so tough. You can think about the fact that so many people are dealing with water they've never seen before. We talked to several residents who say they've never even seen the water get into the streets like this. And several folks stayed at their homes because they thought they

could ride out the storm. For seven hours straight, we had water falling. More than 20 inches and we know rescue efforts are going on throughout the city.

Even a reporter who tried to save a nurse on her way to the hospital this morning; as we were out at one location, people were driving toward water as people were trying to get in terms of like there was a man and a woman who was pregnant. They were trying to get to the hospital.

They had to drive around that water situation. So you can see people wading through this water right now. Of course, some people think this is a joke. But on top of that you know the rescue efforts are going on throughout this area as they continue to deal with the water all throughout Orlando.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, Ryan. You'll be seeing a lot today, as you're seeing rescue efforts from, I think I saw the Kissimmee -- looked like fire and rescue helping these people off these boats. Sweet little faces of children, happy with their little backpacks, one with their own baby blanket.

People walking behind you, someone on someone's shoulders. There is a lot happening in Orlando right now. We'll check back in with you, Ryan.

Joining me now is Bill Litton. He is the emergency management director for Osceola County, south of Orlando.

Bill, Mr. Litton, can you hear me?


BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for jumping on.

What are you seeing throughout your county right now?

LITTON: We've got unprecedented flooding. Started early in the morning hours of 2:00 to 3:00 am We were projected to flood some of our river gauges we knew about in our river basins. But some of the flooding you've shown to your viewers in Kissimmee is unprecedented.

We have never had this flooding in these areas. Two of our hospitals are currently surrounded by water and we've had to divert our Kissimmee airport, our gateway airport there, small executive airport. Their offices have taken on water as well. So we're working through these rescues with our first responders.


LITTON: And I also have additional resources coming in from the state from the National Guard at this time as well.

BOLDUAN: It seems like it surprised a lot of residents and a lot of people how quickly the floodwater came in.

Is that what you're seeing?

LITTON: Yes, ma'am, yes, correct. We know where most of our river basin was. And that's where we're projecting to (INAUDIBLE) to be prepared, especially our low-lying and our flood-prone areas. That's where we gave our evacuation voluntary orders.

But a lot of these areas we had this inundation early in the morning, we've never seen water that was (INAUDIBLE) manageable in these areas. So definitely a historical event here in the central Florida area.

BOLDUAN: I'm looking at these pictures of more water rescues. People who look exhausted but grateful. One woman saying she had to be rescued out of her window. I know, as Ian was approaching, you said your county was facing a worst case scenario.

Is that what is playing out?

LITTON: Correct. And we were planning on three threats, Kate. We were looking at not only the water issue and the rainfall, because we were unprecedented last night when tracking 10 to 15 inches of what we were planning for, definitely arrived at that early this morning.

We looked at about 12 inches. But still -- we got just another 2 inches just in the last couple of hours. So we're still tracking that. But our other concern late last night was a tornado threat.

Fortunately for our county, that subsided after the threat decreased. So we didn't have any concerns there. And the high winds, we did not see the winds that were projected for our area so luckily there on our damages for high-speed winds we did not see it.

But the flooding is going to be very, very high risk for us and we'll be dealing with it for days on end here.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I was going to ask what your major focus is right now and if people can hear you. Because I mean I'm looking -- really heartbreaking images of people just with whatever they can grab, being rescued in these water rescues.

Obviously they're grateful to make it to dry land.

But what is your message right now to people who can be listening in and what is your first focus right now?

This is really in the middle of it for you guys.

LITTON: Yes, it's right in the middle. Our concern, Kate, right now, we have first responders making rescues.

But we also want our general public that don't need to be out and about, that's our concern now, because we don't need to be making more injuries or more fatalities and causing more issues for our first responders, who are trying to get people out of harm's way. So we'd like the rest of the area, if you're safe and secure, please

stay put right now as we work through these issues with these flooded residents currently.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Do you have reports of fatalities incoming?

LITTON: We actually have one right now, was a hospice patient, confirmed early in the morning.

BOLDUAN: I'm so sorry to hear that, not only that they're in hospice but then they're having to deal with this in the midst of it.

Bill, thank you very much. You have busy hours, days and weeks ahead and we'll be checking back in. But thanks so much for jumping on.

LITTON: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Really appreciate it.

All right, CNN's breaking news coverage continues after this quick break.