Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

First Responders Rescued Trapped Hurricane Victims; Ian Leaves Catastrophic Destruction Across Florida. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired September 29, 2022 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Tropical Storm Ian is lashing Florida's East Coast right now. First responders are rescuing survivors from the hurricane and the tropical storm in Kissimmee, Florida. That's just east of Disney World. One woman telling a local reporter as she's getting off of one of these floats -- these boats that her family lost everything, a county official just on with us saying that they are looking at a worst-case scenario, unprecedented flooding in that part of Florida. The storm dumped over a foot of rain in the Orlando area.

In just a few hours across the state, more than two and a half million people are without power, which is, of course, a major concern today. New video coming in from Fort Myers, Florida shows the downed power lines and the trees that were left behind as the floodwaters began to recede. Officials from pretty much every city impacted are pleading with residents today to not return to their homes yet, to stay put if they are in their homes because it's not safe to go out in this moment.

Joining me right now for an update though is Rear Admiral Brendan McPherson. He's a commander of the Seventh Coast Guard District headquartered in Miami. They are actively conducting rescues of trapped hurricane victims. Thank you so much for jumping on with me. The Coast Guard has been up in the air. Where have you seen -- what -- where have you seen the most damage across the state? What are you seeing and what is your -- what's your mission right now?

REAR ADMIRAL BRENDAN MCPHERSON, SEVENTH DISTRICT COMMANDER, U.S. COAST GUARD: Yes. Good morning, Kate. So, we're gearing up for what is going to be a very busy day of search and rescue. In the early hours of the morning, we launched our aircraft. Even before the storm departed the area, we were able to conduct 28 rescues since then, mostly along the coast from Fort Myers up to St. Petersburg. And right now, we're responding to a distress call in Lakeland, Florida, which is between St. Petersburg and Orlando. As you talked about, they've had a lot of rain and flooding in that area. So, we've sent a helicopter up there to respond to a report of six people on a roof that needs rescuing.


BOLDUAN: Six people on a roof that you say you are into -- you're in the middle of roof rescues. I was going to ask you what type of rescues we're talking about.

MCPHERSON: We are. We've done both maritime rescues of vessels that have either sunk or been pushed up onto the mangroves. In addition to that, we did some roof rescues earlier today in Fort Myers. And again, this latest one is further inland. So we're certainly very accustomed to working in the maritime environment but in this case, we got the call for an inland rescue and we're going to respond to that one.

BOLDUAN: I will say from what we're seeing and hearing from the ground, I wouldn't be surprised if you get more of those inland rescue requests. We've got some aerial images of a Coast Guard flight over Fort Myers. How would you describe what you're hearing from your teams the size and scope of the devastation there?

MCPHERSON: Yes. As you can imagine, it is pretty devastating. You know, when that storm came on shore yesterday, making landfall, heavy wind, rain, inundation, and the search and what's really does is left the place almost unrecognizable in some places. Our crews got up very early in the morning. It's a very dangerous operation for them. As you can imagine, things don't look the same as they did before. You've got downed power lines, you've got lights that are out, fires in the area, so they have to navigate the air very carefully. But our troops -- our crews are highly trained and well equipped to do this mission.

BOLDUAN: We've also -- we've seen an -- we've seen images of Sanibel Island as well. We know that it's been cut off because there's been such damage to the causeway so that vehicles can't go in and out of there. Have there -- have you had to do any rescues there?

MCPHERSON: So, we've been out to that area and we're looking. And in some cases, we found people that are safe and they waved this off and they didn't need any rescue. But in other cases, we are certainly looking at that area. We've got eight helicopters in the air right now blanketing the southwest part of Florida looking for anybody that might be in distress. What I would tell people, if you can hear me, if you see this broadcast, if you're safe, stay where you're at, we'll come find you. If you need assistance, contact 911. That's the best way to alert emergency responders where you are.

BOLDUAN: How long do you think that your rescue operations, your services, your expertise is going to be needed here?

MCPHERSON: Yes. We're prepared to do this for many days, as long as it's going to take. I've got more than 20 aircraft, about two-thirds of those are helicopters that can duck rescues and I'm bringing in more aircraft from outside the area, outside the state of Florida. So we're in it for the long haul. We're working very closely with our partners from the local, state, and federal partners including the Florida National Guard, the FEMA, Urban search and rescue teams, and our local sheriff's office in fire departments.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Thank you so much for jumping on. I really appreciate it, Rear Admiral. Thank you.

MCPHERSON: Thanks, Kate. BOLDUAN: CNN's breaking news coverage of the devastation left behind in parts of Florida from Hurricane Ian, the problems and unprecedented flooding now taking place in more central portions of Florida. That is underway right now. We've got much more of this breaking news coming up.



BOLDUAN: All right, welcome back, everybody. I'm going to take you to Fort Myers, Florida. What we're looking at is a CNN drone live shot and we're going to show you some of what we've been seeing just as we've been able to kind of get up above the area to look -- just look at the devastation that you're seeing right there. I mean, you've got debris everywhere, water and water and more water, roofs peeled off indiscriminately. And we're also seeing as you get closer to the -- as you can see the shoreline to your right, you can see they're just boats have been thrown all over the place. Just look at the trees torn apart as this drone continues on through really showing just some of the devastation that has been described to us over and over again of the hit that Fort Myers has taken.

We know that so many rescues have been required. We're just talking to the Coast Guard and that they've been doing air and water rescues. People needing to be rescued from their rooftops from what they've been dealing with. And you can see, and you just hope that so many of these families got out, got to safer ground, got to a higher ground of course, as the storm was barreling through. Those streets are still covered with water.

You saw another image -- another shot that the drone had just a moment ago of boats capsized thrown about looking more like toys than hundreds of thousands of dollars of beautiful boats, piers just torn apart. This is just another image of what unfortunately will be many that will be coming in as lights coming up, communications are more established, and we're getting a better image of what exactly we're looking at in southwest Florida and throughout the state even further inland now as we're learning.

Joining me now is Corey Adamski. He's the Deputy Chief of Operations for Naples Fire and Rescue. Thank you so much for coming on. I mean, at a certain point, I know that you all couldn't get your vehicles out or some of your equipment out yesterday. Are you able now to get out and about and conduct rescues?

COREY ADAMSKI, DEPUTY OF OPERATIONS, NAPLES FIRE-RESCUE: Yes, we've been out and about throughout most of the city. We have a couple of areas that are still inaccessible due to large trees or debris down, but we actually have our personnel as well as private contractors and then our utilities and Community Services Department with heavy machinery working on getting access to all those areas of the city.


BOLDUAN: Thank goodness for that. What are the calls that are coming in?

ADAMSKI: You know, we get a wide variety. We're getting people reporting powerlines down, people reporting water leaks, gas leaks, many other utility issues, and then we're getting calls for welfare checks, people that haven't heard from family members. Unfortunately, cell phone reception is pretty spotty right now. We're getting regular medical calls that we anticipate every day. So it's a -- it's a good mix of everything.

BOLDUAN: Well, I'm sure there are people who are very thankful to see you coming to help and check on them. We have video of seen video that was posted of your firehouse also kind of inundated with water at one point. What happened? How fast did that surge come in?

ADAMSKI: Sure. So, we were actually running calls as the storm moved in for -- the public. We run calls for vehicles that were stuck in low-lying areas. We're calling for -- when it calls for medical calls or anything like that. And we actually left the station for a call about 20 minutes prior to water moving in really quickly. We got this special call pulled out and we realized oh, we're going to flood the truck if you do try to pull out of the station. So, we made a decision back to check back into the station, close doors, and hopefully shelter in place and prevent it from certain flooding.

The station is designed for wet flooding. The Bay areas are a little bit lower than the FEMA floodplain just because of being able to get out. The actual station itself stayed dry. But then we ended up with about three and a half feet of water inside of the bay of our station.

BOLDUAN: I spoke with the mayor -- the mayor of Naples earlier this hour and the way she described it is that she's never seen anything like this. And what Naples is going to be looking at is catastrophic and devastating. How have -- how would you describe it? I mean, you guys are out seeing this firsthand as you're trying to check on people and help people.

ADAMSKI: It's certainly different than any other storm that anybody that's working here now has seen. We had Irma five years ago and it was very different from this storm. We haven't seen a storm surge in water like this ever really that we know of. So, we're working with a lot of equipment to try and get roads open. A lot of debris vehicles were thrown onto the road. Boats were thrown on the roads. So we were making a good effort getting everybody back accessible to the city and getting our crews able to respond to every part of the city. It's definitely going to change some things moving forward as we move past the storm and into the future.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Well, Corey Adamski, with Naples Fire and Rescue, thank you so much for what you're doing and being able to get out there and help everyone, and thank you so much for jumping on. Really appreciate it. We'll be right back from our CNN special coverage here. The devastation left behind by Ian.


[11:52:28] BOLDUAN: Tropical Storm Ian is pummeling Florida Space Coast right now and expected to re-intensify into a hurricane once again. Just won't quit. Joining me now is the mayor of Daytona Beach, Florida, Derrick Henry, for what they're looking at right now. Mayor, thank you. What's happening there now?

DERRICK HENRY, MAYOR OF DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA: Well, Kate, we're inundated with lots of rain and strong winds that just won't subside so we're trying to hunker down and remain as safe as possible.

BOLDUAN: I'll tell you, I spoke with a county official -- Osceola County official just kind of west of you guys if you will, a moment ago, and he was telling me that they are looking at unprecedented flooding. How much flooding do you think you're going to be -- you guys are seeing?

HENRY: Yes, 20 inches, in some cases, maybe as much as 30. And it is unprecedented and very tough to bear. But we are experiencing minimal issues right now for my residents as it relates to safety and enclosures. So we are fortunate thus far, but we want our residents to continue to make good decisions because usually, it's when you let your guard down that accidents happen.

BOLDUAN: That's exactly what I was going to ask you. What your message is to the people of Daytona right now?

HENRY: Continue to persevere, stick it out, and be prudent and be safe. And do not -- we have a curfew in effect until I think, it's 7:00 a.m. tomorrow morning so we want you to stay in place until further directions.

BOLDUAN: The governor --

HENRY: And do not call 911 unless it's an absolute emergency.

BOLDUAN: The governor, Mayor, said that many cities could be looking at a 500-year flood event. That flooding is going to -- the flooding really in many parts of the state or is going to set records. What would that mean for Daytona?

HENRY: Well, you know, it's difficult to assess the damage until after the fact. But it will mean we know some of our areas that are adjacent to what's known as the nova canal are prone to flooding and they will have probably historic damage. But you know I dare not estimate what that will be. I just know that we'll have a long road ahead to recovery. But you know if we can come through with our lives intact, we will consider ourselves to have done what we can and we will respond to the tragedy ahead.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And recovery can come after that for sure.

HENRY: Absolutely true.

BOLDUAN: Well, you're in the midst of it right now, Mayor, thank you very much for coming on. Let's hope -- let's hope Daytona Beach doesn't get the worst of it as we were saying over and over again in so many other parts of the state. Thank you very much for your time.

HENRY: Thank you.


BOLDUAN: And thank you all so much for being here. But an important note for all of you, for more information on how you can help the victims of Hurricane Ian, you can go to for more information on vetted organizations that can help you help them. CNN's special coverage of Hurricane Ian continues on "INSIDE POLITICS" after this break. Thank you for being here.