Return to Transcripts main page
At This Hour
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) Is Interviewed About Hurricane Ian Making Its Landfall In South Carolina; Ian Leaves Staggering Scale Of Destruction In Florida; Hurricane Ian's Fury Decimates Fort Myers Beach. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired September 30, 2022 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Heavy rainfall and a powerful storm surge are expected to cause widespread flooding and be a big part of the damage that we're going to be talking about there.
And in Florida, the staggering scale of Ian's devastation is truly heart wrenching. This hurricane may be the largest natural disaster in the state's history. Just look at the video. It says it all. At least 21 people have been killed but they do unfortunately believe that that number could still and will likely rise.
Nearly two million customers are still without power. Crews have been rescuing already hundreds of people trapped by the record flooding. All across the state thousands of homes, businesses just destroyed. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I lost everything last night, I had been in my house since 1987, pictures, memories just gone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got the front door open and there was a surge in took me to the middle of the yard, and I fought to get back on the porch.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: About I knew it was going to be this bad, I would have gotten me and my family out ahead of time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just is destroyed and it's ruined. And then you have to start all over again. And honestly, where do you start?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: That's a question so many people are asking right now. In just minutes, President Biden is going to be giving an update on the federal response to this disaster. We're going to bring you those remarks live when it happens. But before that, let's get to CNN's meteorologist Chad Myers with where the storm is headed now. We're talking about its second U.S. landfall Chad, what are you watching? What are you seeing?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: A third landfall officially two, including Cuba, yes, two in the USA. This is an 85 mile per hour storm still, Kate. It is between Myrtle Beach and also Charleston. And that's the area that's going to see the greatest amount of surge moving into these estuaries. It's called low country for a reason. These are very low marshes through across parts of South Carolina.
And we're seeing that spin on the radar, not that far from Charleston right now, going to slide a little bit farther to the north. But there has been a tremendous amount of tropical rain this morning, somewhere between four and six inches of rain, prompting flash flood warnings even for Charleston. Charleston, you're probably going to get to about 7.5 in the harbor. And that's not the nine that we were talking about, about an hour ago.
Those numbers have come down because the storm is going to slide to the east of Charleston and not put Charleston on the bad side or will be called the dirty side of the eye. Winds are already gusting right now 50, 60 miles per hour along the beaches. Things are now going bump, and water is coming up. We are going to see this water into the Pawleys Island area all the way into Georgetown, Murrells Inlet, Garden City, Surfside and all the way up even as far north as Myrtle Beach and farther in Cherry Grove. That's where the water is going now.
I'm even seeing some big tides here in into parts of North Carolina because of the onshore flow that we're seeing at this point. That's where it's going to be. This is where it's headed on up to the north and watch the very end of this. By tomorrow morning, it's going to be raining in New York City because of Ian. This is what it looks like right now in Myrtle Beach just looking to the north here on the right, obviously the Atlantic Ocean, these waves still coming up for about another 45 minutes.
I assume, Kate, that they're going to get into the marsh, get into the dunes here and we are going to see street flooding especially where a king tide will make it flood into Garden City and also up there into Cherry Grove.
BOLDUAN: Yes, they are about to be in it in the next minutes. So we're going to stick close, Chad, thank you so much. So as Chad was just laying out perfectly, in South Carolina, Charleston is bracing for a big hit. CNN's Miguel Marquez is there, has been there for us, Miguel, what's it looking like right now?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, I can tell you we are in it right now. This is as bad as we've seen all day long. Ronnie if you could just show. So this is the bay, the estuary where, you know, right near the battery at the very end of Charleston and this is where they get a lot of flooding. As Chad said, there was a nine foot tide talked about earlier, swing over this way Ronnie, look at this street. This is sort of the very last street here in Charleston.
There was a nine foot tide they were calling for earlier. Now it's 7.5. The other thing that's happened even though it looks miserable out here, because that storm is going to be north of us, it's going to blow a lot of that water and a lot of that storm surge out to sea and away from Charleston. So while they still expect maybe some flooding in here, they've already closed some streets.
I mean Charleston, floods on a good day when they just have a little bit of rain. So they expect to see some flooding here but it looks like the worst may not come to Charleston but perhaps other areas. So they are warning anybody in those much lower areas just stay away from the ocean, treat the storm with great respect. We saw what it did in Florida. And right now it is punching as hard as it can here in South Carolina. Kate?
BOLDUAN: Absolutely, Miguel. And as we've seen in Florida perfect example of don't anticipate, you know where this hurricane is going to going to hit, and where the worst of it's going to land as we've seen all across the southwest part of Florida. Miguel is there for us. We're going to be checking back in, thank you Miguel.
Joining me right now is Republican congresswoman Nancy Mace. Her district stretches right along the coast includes Charleston. Congresswoman, thank you so much. I know that you're back home to help. What are you most concerned about right now?
REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): Well, right now, looking at the high tide and the rain that's coming up in this potential storm surge. As you all just mentioned, when it rains, it pours and it floods here. And, you know, fortunately right now it's only at 7.5 feet for high tide, we're expecting 9 feet. So it will be slightly better than before, but we will have flooding throughout Charleston.
Right now the winds, some of the roads and bridges are shutting down because of higher sustained winds. There are places that are seeing gusts of over 65 miles per hour. So that is also a problem. Then here in Charleston where I am, I'm along the beach in Folly Beach, Isla Palms, and Sullivan's Island and Mount Pleasant. We have power outages coming in and out. More power has been out probably 10 times on and off all morning. So that's another concern that we have for residents who are here.
BOLDUAN: We know that en is now a less powerful hurricane as it's heading your direction. But when you see the power of that storm and what it did to Florida, how does it make you feel?
MACE: Well, it's devastating to see the amount of destruction yesterday. There were almost 3 million people without power. We saw houses that were floating in the water. One of the more horrifying images I saw were people that were entering the surf on the beach when there were over 100 mile per hour winds. And one of my cautions to people here in Charleston, in and around the metro area is don't come to the beach today. Stay away. A storm surge is real. Rip tides are real and they and they kill people.
We want people to be safe. They want -- we want people to go to higher ground, make sure that they're taking care of themselves, their family, their neighbors, and looking out for each other right now. Now is not the time to go outside. We need to stay inside and just hunker down for the next few hours. BOLDUAN: Yes. And you mentioned high tide. I mean, you also have high tide setting it around exactly the same time that this storm will be making landfall. Do you think Charleston is ready and prepared?
MACE: We are. And in fact, the President also approved Governor Henry McMaster's emergency orders a few days ago, the county Charleston County had a has an emergency order that allows us to close roads and bridges, setting curfews and also access federal funding as needed, depending on how bad the storm gets even a tropical storm.
When we had Irma several years ago, we had four or five tornadoes in Charleston. And there was a significant flooding across the region. And so that allows us access to other resources at the federal level as well. And I want to thank the President for his support of Florida and also South Carolina and thank Governor Henry McMaster.
BOLDUAN: Yes, no place for politics here today, that's for sure. Everyone is in this together, a beautiful part of the country. It's going to taking a hit today. Congresswoman, thank you so much for coming on. Good luck.
MACE: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Let's head slightly further south from where Congresswoman Mace says. She's in Charleston. Let's go a little further south in South Carolina. Joining us right now is John McCann. He's the mayor of Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. Mayor we've heard that it's gotten a little more east. And if you're going to count good news, I guess that is good news for you guys. What are you seeing right now?
MAYOR JOHN MCCANN, HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA: Yes, it is good news. It's good news. But in the meantime our hearts and prayers go out to all the Floridian that suffered so much over the last 48 hours and tragedy.
BOLDUAN: It's all of the -- all the words you use don't seem to do it justice. The how surreal it looks, the devastation, it's hard to imagine and it must be pretty unsettling as the mayor of a town that could be, you know, could be seen some damage to know that that same storm is coming your way right now. How are you feeling?
MCCANN: Well, you're an island you take a lot of precautions to prepare for all these years. I mean, we have a world class EMS and fire department. We prepare for this all year long. You know our tourists and people know that we're ready. We've been very blessed this time it looks like we're the bulk of is going to pass us by. We'll get a high tide, we'll get some flooding. The winds have subsided a lot. But God has been good to us this time.
BOLDUAN: God has been good, your lips to God's ears on that one. I mean you have not needed to see a need to put in place a mandatory evacuation order for people in Hilton Head. What's your message to everyone and what -- just in your town as well as along the coast of South Carolina and what the next several hours could bring?
MCCANN: The message is that if we all use common sense, we'll get by this with a minimal amount of damage, both physical and human damage. Stay off the roads unless it's an emergency. Please don't cover the beach, even just to look. This is a very, very dangerous thing because you never know when it's going to turn. It turned it off favor now, it could turn back. Common sense, check on your neighbors, we'll get by this fine.
BOLDUAN: Mayor, thank you so much for coming on. Good luck the next few hours.
MCCANN: Thank you. Appreciate it. Bye-bye.
BOLDUAN: Thank you. All right, let's go to Florida now. And it's utter devastation. We're just starting really to get a sense, a good real sense of how catastrophic the damage from Ian is. CNN's Randi Kaye, she's live in Fort Myers, where some of the worst damage is being found. Randi, what are you seeing now?
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Kate. We are just on our way to Fort Myers Beach. It's just that way and so is the Gulf. We're having a hard time getting through because there's so much devastation. But after this truck goes by, I want you to take a look here this boat and two, actually two other boats and the one on its side at the edge of this Captain Tony's Fishing Adventures, they were all in the water tied up together. And they made their way, they were actually tossed over during the storm onto dry land. That was of course not the plan.
We spoke to the man named, Mike, who actually was riding out the storm on the boat that's behind this Captain Tony's one, he said it's 50 tons, he was in the water, tied up to the dock, the winds came in, the water came rushing and he felt himself being carried along with the other boat that he was tied to onto dry land. This is what he told us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't really think it was going to be that bad but the steel boats probably saved for the most houses were, self- contained, generator power, solid steel, I mean, most trailers and houses went in support with that boat would support.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: He said he rode it out like many people did Kate because he didn't think it was going to be that bad. Well, look what happened to him. Luckily he's OK. And he is trying to get his boat back in the water but it has a huge hole in it as well. But let me show you what else is happening just right here on the street. This is the street you take to Fort Myers Beach. You can see there, that was a marina. I'm told by some of the local folks here that has been destroyed that yellow building, there's a car in it.
And then if you look over to the right, there's actually another place that's a restaurant, the water was as high as the roof there, I'm told by the guy inside. The water went all the way above the roof during the storm, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Yes. And another boat thrown up on it like a toy. I mean, when you say that boat is with 50 tons just tossed around and that he was in it the whole time. Yes, people are made of stronger stuff than me. That is remarkable and so thankful that he's OK, Randi, thank you. You've been doing an amazing job bringing the stories of survival and like as people are making it through this and what they're all up against now, thank you so much.
Another hard hit area in Florida is Sanibel Island. The storm just tore apart entire sections of its causeway. You can see it right there, cutting off the barrier island from the mainland. CNN's Bill Weir, he traveled in there with the Cajun Navy to see what was left and also who needs help.
BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After Ian's violent visit, this is what's left of the Causeway Bridge from mainland Florida to Sanibel Island, and this is now unpassable bridge to Pine Island. So for residents of both, boats and helicopters are the only exit options.
And while Coast Guard Blackhawks and Chinooks buzzed over the Barrier Islands on the grim day after, two of the only boats in this part of the Gulf, carry civilian volunteers from the Cajun Navy, those good old boys vast boats and big hearts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give us some individual or tell us somebody to go pick up, we'll try to go get then.
WEIR (voice-over): And a newer outfit known as Project Dynamo led by a former military intelligence officer more accustomed to saving Americans from Russians in Ukraine or the Taliban in Afghanistan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Americans are in trouble in bad spot, usually we do war zones and conflict zones, but Hurricane Ian qualifies.
WEIR (on camera): And you're named after Churchill's operation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct.
WEIR: To get the troops off of Dunkirk.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now here we are, we are going to rescue some people off of Sanibel which is cut off from the world right now. So it's very apropos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you need help out if they need help?
WEIR: Do you need help?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to get out of here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm in the bedroom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give us a minute, we'll come up there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll come there.
WEIR: We follow the cry for help ashore on Sanibel to find a gentleman eager to take the boatlift but unable to convince his better half.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going. We're going.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To where?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fort Myers. The bridge is out. The bridge is knocked out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not ready to go.
WEIR (voice-over): A cursory stroll around this part of Sanibel reveals plenty of hazards, like the hiss of natural gas spewing from a broken tank. But in one of the most coveted zip codes in Florida, the construction mostly held up, which is in stark contrast to Pine Island.
(on camera): Look at this one. It's absolutely flattened.
(voice-over): Especially the mobile homes of the working homes and retirees living in Saint James City.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, ma'am, are you OK? It's your daughter called us.
WEIR (voice-over): When their phone cut out early in the storm, the grandchildren of Nancy and Robert Sharon (ph) were so scared they called the Cajun Navy and Project Dynamo and begged them to go check for proof of life.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard they weren't going to do anything after the bridge closed down. But my granddaughters are in Ohio, and she was crying hysterical when I talked to her on the phone. She's like, we were thinking that you had gotten hurt. And I said, no, there's no service. There's no service.
WEIR: That's the thing. The uncertainty brings so much here, and stress, right?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I knew it. And that had me more worried than what was going on at the time because I knew my family was worried.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's terrible what we're going through. There's a terrible set of circumstances. The destruction is unbelievable. The suffering is going to be bad. Hundreds of people are dead right now, we just haven't found them yet. So the, you know, this is true carnage. It's a war zone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, gentlemen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But at the same time I'm really happy that we could be here to help.
BOLDUAN: Bill thank you so much for bringing us that. Coming up still for us, CNN is going to take you on an aerial tour of Fort Myers Beach. Most of the scenic coastline is completely destroyed, the extraordinary view and the heartbreaking images, that's next.
BOLDUAN: Hurricane Ian is likely the largest natural disaster in Florida's history. The places hardest hit, the barrier island is along the southwest coast. One local official saying 90 percent of Fort Myers Beach is just gone. CNN's John Berman was able to jump on a helicopter with the Lee County Sheriff. He gets one of the first looks at the devastation there.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): All that debris just littered everywhere. These were buildings. This was the building right there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were buildings, restaurants, and what used to be the Fort Myers pier.
BERMAN (voice-over): How far back does the sand go?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It goes straight through to the base side --
Empty spots that you see there were homes.
BERMAN (voice-over): I'm sorry, so these on this beach here, there used to be homes?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to see the empty lots right here. As you see those lots right there, those were homes. Those were hotels. Those were real property, two, three, four, five-storeys high, washed away.
BERMAN (voice-over): How many rescues have you done today?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've done dozens as you can see, look, look to the front of our -- these are major, major boats thrown into the mangroves.
BERMAN (voice-over): Where? Boats up in the mangroves right there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not just one, dozens thrown everywhere.
BERMAN (voice-over): How long will it take to get this back?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I look at this, this is not a quick fix. This is not six months. This is long term.
BOLDUAN: It's definitely hard to put a number on that when you see those images. Thank you to John Berman.
Joining me right now is Charlotte County Commissioner Chris Constance that includes Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, two of the towns that have also been really decimated by Ian. Commissioner, thank you for coming in. Your county also has recorded the most deaths so far from this hurricane. As of last night, I know that you told CNN there were 10 deaths, 10 confirmed deaths. And this morning, the numbers climbing still, what's the update?
CHRIS CONSTANCE, CHARLOTTE COUNTY, FL COMMISSIONER: Well, I don't have a firm update, because we have so many crews out doing search and rescue. By the way, thank you for having me on your show, Kate. You know, this is a very long process now because they're basically going street to street, home by home. And trying to clear, most of the major roadways are open. But our biggest issue right now is the fact that we just don't have electricity to 90 percent of the homes and businesses around the county.
And my understanding is there's only one gas station open and there's a line that's four miles long to get gas. We have only one hospital operating, it's code black, which means they're not even accepting anybody in the emergency room because they just don't have any capacity. So we're pleading for help. We're getting it from the state. But it's slow to come. And it's coordinating.
We have assets. We have food. We have water. But it's just setting up the locations. Hopefully today we're going to have a location to put a point of distribution for food and water. One thing I did want to say is folks out there if they want to help, we stood up our communities, active or Community Organizations Active in Disaster or COADFL.org is the website, COADFL.org. And they can donate. But at this point, it's just going to be a very slow process.
I've been through the Charlie recovery 18 years ago, and this is a much bigger storm. It encompasses all of the county, not just Punta Gorda as we had last time. And so it's just going to be an incredibly slow process. And while we have not lifted the evacuation order, we don't do that. We ask that folks that are coming back please just be safe understand that some roads are not passable. There are still tree debris and powerlines, and just, you know, be very safe and cordial. We don't have traffic lights. So every intersection is basically a stop sign. I mean, everybody's got to take their turn.
BOLDUAN: You mentioned the hospitals. And by way of background for everyone, you're also a physician, not just -- not only a county commissioner, you're also a physician in the area, you work with local hospitals. They took such a big hit from the storm.
You have flooding in the ICU. We've seen the video of that, the loss of power, as you mentioned, patients having to be moved and transferred. How big of a problem is this? Can you just put that in perspective for us for the county when you still only have one hospital operating and it's not even really fully operational?
CONSTANCE: Sure, it's a tremendous burden, because faucet was one of the biggest emitters, the equal size hospital took everything from them. And then there's a third Hospital in Punta Gorda, which was evacuated pre storm, because it's low lying. And we expected the surge, which, unfortunately for our neighbors to the south went down there. And you know, you know about that devastation.
So we feel, listen, we're, we're in bad shape. But we feel so bad for those others, you know, around us. We're all in this together. But we're hoping to stand up that hospital that was evacuated, if we can get power and water back to that hospital. I think water is being restored now. But power again, is the big issue because that that does everything for us.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. I mean, that is absolutely critical in this moment, with 85, 90 percent of the county still without power. Thank you so much for coming on, Commissioner. I really appreciate your time.
Commissioner was talking about ways that you can help. For more information on how you can help victims of Hurricane Ian, you can go to CNN.com/impact for more information on a lot of great organizations getting involved.
Coming up still for us AT THIS HOUR, I'm going to speak with a man who rode out the hurricane in one of the hardest hit cities in Florida. Our coverage of Hurricane Ian continues after this quick break.