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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Hurricane Ian Makes Landfall As A Monster Category 4 Storm; Dangerous Eyewall Of Hurricane Ian Moves Onshore. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired September 28, 2022 - 16:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is like 40 percent of the rainfall they normally get in a year could fall over a three-day period. That's very difficult to deal with.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: It is. I know you have a long night ahead of you, my friend. Stay safe. Stay dry if you can. I know you will keep us updated.

Stay with us. Our breaking news coverage of Hurricane Ian making landfall continues with THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER. That starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we start today with breaking news, Hurricane Ian has made landfall on the western coach of floors just after 3:00 p.m. East Coast, the eye crossed over Cayo Costa, a barrier island near Ft. Myers, Florida.

This is a live look at the satellite right now. You can see the immense size and strength much of the hurricane. The winds are topping out 150 miles an hour. That's just shy of making this a monstrous category 5.

Now, this was the scene just ahead of landfall captured by a storm chaser in Pine Island, Florida. These conditions are expected to worsen in the coming hours, believe it or not. Right now, more than 850,000 customers are without power across the state of Florida.

Another major concern today is the storm surge. The storm surge is the abnormal rise of ocean water that's generated by the storm. The Lee County sheriff expects that to be, quote, life changing today. Now, that area includes Fort Myers and the city of Cape Coral where the emergency management manager tells CNN, Hurricane Ian will likely be one of the worst hurricanes that the region has ever seen.

Now, we are covering the storm as only CNN can with our team of journalists around Florida to bring us the latest. North of Ft. Myers, more than 100 mile per hour winds have been whipping the coast.

Let's get right to CNN's Randi Kaye and Bill Weir live from Punta Gorda. Bill, let me start with you. Tell us about the conditions where you are.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we are in the north part of the eye wall. We anticipate the eye, we may see blue decide here, and we may see lessened winds as it moves over. But this within the last hour and a half or so, we have seen such violent wind. We have been spending so much time talking justifiably about the danger of the storm surge. But the wind hit 106 miles an hour at the airport here in Punta Gorda, and the wind meter broke.

So have no idea if it got stronger after that. We were told to brace for possibly nine feet of storm surge here. We are a good six blocks from the water's edge. Thankfully, we haven't seen that kind of storm surge kicking up in this part yet.

The emergency managers of Charlotte County had a press conference a few minutes ago. They said about 60,000 people are in the red zone. They have no idea how many people refused to evacuate, but thankfully, no critical calls. Even if someone were to call 911 right now, no one could come help them. It's too violent right now.

We are bracing right now. Randi is not far from me. Randi Kaye?

TAPPER: Randi Kaye, what are you seeing?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, we are at the top of a parking garage in downtown Punta Gorda. And you're looking at some of our pictures here from our camera. This is this house that's right across from us. We have been watching it just get whipped. All these trees, you can see many of them have come down. Just in the last hour or couple of hours or so, the winds have picked up to the hurricane force winds.

But it was raining so hard, violently. We saw lightning and there was loud thunder. That has lessened. We were told that the eye would pass over us and we would see a little bit lighter rain, possibly lighter winds, although it doesn't feel like we are getting the lighter winds.

You can see just what's going on. We have been watching the transformers as well have been shaking on the poles just outside here. So, there's a lot of concern those could come down. But just as Bill said, we are not far from Charlotte Harbor, where I'm standing, even though we are on higher ground, we were told about the 12 to 18 foot possible storm surge.

I'm inside the parking garage. This is how fierce the wind is. We haven't seen the storm surge down in the streets below us that we were expecting or being warned about. So, that doesn't seem to have come just yet. We will see if it comes in the hours ahead this evening.


But for now, the streets are still just pretty (AUDIO GAP) a little bit of water, the wind still very, very dangerously strong here. TAPPER: And, Randi, you have lived in Florida for a long time. Some

of the experts are predicting this could be one of the worst hurricanes to ever hit the state of Florida.

KAYE: Yeah. I have covered them here as well, Hurricane Irma, covered that one years ago in 2017 that hit in the keys. We know about Charlie that hit here back in 2004. This one is tied as far as the winds that -- 150 mile an hour winds.

But this is serious. I have not experienced a hurricane or winds like this one before. I can't imagine people who have just moved here, or people who do live here and have never experienced a hurricane before, this community is a lot of retirees. You can imagine they had to get to safer ground, I'm sure. A lot of people have evacuated, thousands of people have evacuated.

But it's not anything this force of wind that I have ever experienced living in Florida, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Bill Weir, you are a veteran coverer of hurricanes. You have been covering them now for decades. What is it like in terms of the experience you are going through right now?

WEIR: The winds are up there in terms of the strongest I have experienced personally, the kind that can take your breath away. They are so violent. The concern of this was the water. We haven't seen, thankfully, that storm surge that had so many people worried.

But there will still be so many homes flooded in this storm that weren't flooded in years previous for a lot of reasons. More people, more construction near the most vulnerable areas.

Punta Gorda, more than any other city in Florida, has heeded the warnings of climate scientists. After they went through Charlie 18 years ago, the first community to really harden their town against storms like this. Building codes -- whoa.

The roof of the emergency management center got blown off by Hurricane Charlie. They moved that. This is a huge test for them right now. I think the thing that I'm thinking about -- thinking back to Katrina or Irma, Irene, it's what comes next, the heartbreak that's in store for folks who will deal with flooding for the first time.

There's an insurance crisis in the state of Florida. Governor DeSantis mentioned he had to put $2 billion into that a few days ago. It's the long-term affects of these storms. What it does to the productivity and jobs and businesses.

Charlie tore apart 11,000 homes and 300 businesses. Charlie cost this county alone over $3 billion. Whoa. As a result of that storm, they retired the name Charlie. There will never be another storm with that name. I would hazard a bet that there will be no more storms named Ian after this one.

TAPPER: Bill, we're seeing things flying by you. Can you give us an idea what that is, what the debris is? WEIR: It's garbage. It's palm fronds. We have a dumpster structure

over there. The steel doors have come loose and are banging. I wonder if the hinges will hold.

Let me just -- I'm not a big fan of wind acrobatics. Let me show you. This is minor. This is minor to what we have had in the last hour or so. It looks like the eye is actually coming our way.

A little bit of relief. Again, for those people who are experiencing this for the first time, you can't be lured to go outside and let your guard down if you are under that eye, because the back end of the storm is coming, and you have no idea what's coming next.

TAPPER: Bill, you are about six blocks from the ocean you say in? When the storm surge comes, you will have time to get on the second or third floor?

WEIR: Yeah, we'll be -- we have - we are fine when it comes to that sort of thing. We are six blocks from the -- from the harbor. Sheltered from the Gulf of Mexico.

The harbor is that way. I'm being blown around. The harbor is that way. Thankfully, we're not seeing any proof that was rising water here. But in other places, Naples, they storm surge report was four feet. They have broken that by two feet.

So, we don't know what's coming next when it comes to the water.


And we have been downplaying the wind as the second sort of supporting actor in this disaster film. But right now, it's a featured player. It's really -- it comes in these waves. It comes in these waves. Sorry. Where you think you can relax a second and a gust comes out of nowhere.

TAPPER: Yeah, those are brutal.

All right, Bill, we're going to -- we're going to come back to you. Let's go to Derek Van Dam right now. He's in Bradenton, Florida, which is a little farther north than where Bill Weir and Randi Kaye are right now.

Derek, tell us about the conditions where you are.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, I can echo what Bill was saying a moment ago about how the strong hurricane force gusts, they have been coming in waves. Just by the pure nature of being in this downtown setting of Bradenton, you get swirls that ricochet off of all of the buildings and literally it's difficult for my team and I to stand, including my cameraman. You will likely see that through the course of this live shot.

We have had the opportunity to drive around. What we saw was flying debris, debris becoming aerial within Bradenton, downtown. We also say some of the transformers actually being blown behind us. That took out the communication.

There's one of the -- every time those wind gusts come through, we get shrapnel, pieces of debris that wedge themselves in your mouth. They're like splinters when they hit your face. This storm is progressively, slowly edging closer and closer to us.

We know that the eye wall, as it makes its way inland, will bring some of those outer -- the outer eye wall winds to this particular location. It's hard to imagine that in the coming hours, Jake, we have the potential here to have double the winds that we are experiencing now.

And the storm surge, we actually experienced earlier, was considering negative storm surge, because the Manatee River just to my left was literally void of water. We could see the dried up riverbed because the winds were so powerful from the northeast. Remember, we are on the northern side of the storm. It pushes the water out, and literally, some of the sailboats were on their keels.

Now that's starting to change because there's a marked difference in the winds. It's coming from a more northerly direction. We will see the water and surge come right back up the Manatee River, back into Bradenton, the nooks and crannies. And this is when things will get extremely serious once the worst part of the storm arrives in this area, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Derek Van Dam, live from Bradenton, Florida, we will come back to you. Thanks so much.

At the top of the show, we told you more than 800,000 customers are without power throughout the state of Florida. That number has been updated. It's more than 1 million Floridians no longer have power.

Let's go to our meteorologist Jennifer Gray. She's in the severe weather center. So, Jennifer, show us what's going on in Florida as this hurricane makes landfall, specifically where our reporters are experiencing Hurricane Ian's eye wall.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right. You were talking to Bill and Randi at the top of the show. They're in Punta Gorda.

And I'll show you exactly where that is now. Here is Punta Gorda. Here is the eye around them. You would expect they would be seeing clearing, they would get calm winds. But the winds were nothing but calm where they were, and a lot of that has to do with this area.

You can see the eye filling in. Sometimes within the eye, you will get these swirls of wind. Very, very strong winds inside the eye. So, I do think that's what they are dealing with now.

Of course, what's going to be questionable is if they actually get that clearing. They will be so close to the back side where they will continue to get very strong winds. They were in winds more than 100 miles per hour for more than an hour and a half consistently. So, they have really gotten the brunt of this. Bradenton is 50 miles to the north. You saw how the strong the winds

were for direct as well. So, this storm is very big and that's what makes it different from Charlie. Charlie was a small storm. This one is massive.

What's also very concerning for me is down to the south, the storm surge is going to continue for Ft. Myers and Naples. We have seen record storm surge. As long the winds are continuing in this direction as they are -- you can see the motion of this storm -- that water is going to continue to push inland.

And so, the water is going to continue to rise as long as that is happening. That's the worrying part about this storm. This has winds of 145 miles per hour. It's slowly starting to back down. These winds will stay over 100 miles per hour for hours and hour hours on end.


So, at the backside of this storm comes on shore, that's where we're going to see more of those 100 per hour winds. This is going to cross the state. It is going to weaken as it does so.

But, Jake, we can't forget the rainfall that's going to come with this storm. We could see areas in Florida that receive more than two feet of rain. And so, when you talk about the rain with a water, in addition to the storm surge, we are going to see major flooding. We've already seeing pictures out of Ft. Myers where the water is up to the roof line.

And so, the storm surge is incredible. The rainfall will just add to the storm surge as we get into the overnight hours into tomorrow. So, more than a million, I believe you said, power outages. That number is climbing quickly. Here is a look at the radar.

You can see the rain is far reaching. There's the center of the storm right there. The rain stretches all the way up to north Florida as this crisscrosses across the state and then impacting portions of the southeast coast. We are going to be continuing to talk about this for the next several days, Jake.

But, right now, the strongest winds are still right there on that southwest coast. We are far from seeing this over. We will be in this for several more hours in that same spot.

TAPPER: And, Jennifer, let me -- answer a couple of my ignorant questions here. I'm nowhere near the expert on weather. First of all, the risk that the hurricane just stays over a major metropolitan area and hovers for a day or two -- we have been talking about that risk for a while now and we have seen it in previous storms -- when will we know whether or not it's going to do that?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, it did slow a little bit. The good news is, it didn't slow as much as previously forecast. We were talking about this slowing down to three miles per hour. Right now, it's moving at about ten miles per hour, maybe just a touch less. This storm is moving very slowly. So, basically, that simply means the impacts are going to be felt for hours and hours on end.

What we love is a storm to move quickly. It gets in and out. When you have a storm that sits over an area for long periods of time like this, it makes the storm surge worse. That wind is continuing to push that water inland, into the rivers, into the canals. You know, Florida has so many canals along the coast and inland, and all of the rivers. So, that's going to continue to pile up.

And then the rainfall with the slow moving systems is what is hugely impactful. We saw with Harvey, remember how slow that storm moved. We saw 40 inches of rain with that storm. With this storm moving slowly like this, you can expect totals topping two feet around central portions of Florida. We are including places in that like Tampa and Orlando. So, even though you are not right in those 150 mile per hour winds, you could get huge impacts from the rainfall.

TAPPER: My other question right now, Jennifer, I'm going to have them throughout the two-hour period I'm given a show here. When should Bill and Randi expect the storm surge, that flooding from the ocean? When will that come?

GRAY: It's going -- they are going to have to have a shift in the wind. I don't think they're going to see the storm surge that was predicted because the storm is coming in to the south of them. You have to have the onshore wind to get the storm surge. When the winds are pushing offshore, when they're pushing from east to west, you actually get the water pushing out.

So, where they are right here, we need a wind that's going to come in from the west. I think on the back side of this storm, once the storm pushes inland, they may get surge then. They will get surge then. I don't think it's going to be to the heights of, say, ten feet. I don't think it's going to be that at all.

TAPPER: All right. Well, let's hope you are correct, Jennifer, and I will come back to you in a little bit.

Hurricane Ian is just getting started, unfortunately. This is Collier County in the Naples area. CNN has reporters covering this monstrous storm across the state of Florida as it makes landfall with 150 mile per hour winds and historic storm surges in parts of the state.

Don't go anywhere. We'll be right back.



TAPPER: You are looking right now at the west side of South Tampa, Florida, the churning water. We are following the breaking news down in Florida, Hurricane Ian officially making landfall about an hour ago along the southwestern coast. Winds near 150 miles per hour, just devastating, making Ian a high end category 4 hurricane, almost a category 5.

Let's go to CNN's Carlos Suarez. He's in a different part of Tampa, where the water is being pulled out of the city.

And, Carlos, Tampa's mayor was warning residents, don't let your guard down ahead of the storm. Is the city prepared, do you think?

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, their hope is that folks don't venture out just because there's not a lot of rain and wind to speak of right now. That being said, some 50,000 customers across the Tampa area are without power at this hour, and over 7,500 are at a hurricane shelter.

As you said, this is how the bay looks at this hour. You can see the riverbed out here. Ian's strength has taken the water out into the Gulf of Mexico. It's pulling water from the nearby Hillsborough River. Of course, all of that water has to make its way back in.

And so, the expectation is, the worry is when the water comes back in, we are looking at a storm surge between five to six feet. Then when you add into that the nearly foot or so of rain that is expected to fall across the Tampa area, that is when officials believe we might start seeing some of the severe flooding along Bayshore Boulevard, which hugs the river out here.

Officials for the last couple of days have been telling people if they live in one of the two evacuation zones, they really needed to get out because they were worried about the storm surge associated with Hurricane Ian. Folks have been coming out here to look at the site because it is quite rare.


When we first got here this morning at around 5:00, 5:30 in the morning, you couldn't see the riverbed. Now you can make out debris that's out there, including these crab traps as well as other items there. And officials are trying to say, look, don't come out here. Don't try to take pictures. Don't try to record any video. At some point this afternoon, as Ian makes its way north, all of this water will come back in and the last thing they want is folks anywhere alongside the Hillsborough Bay or the river out here.

Once you start seeing that surge, it becomes quite unpredictable. The rain, it's not going to let up. The wind is not going go anywhere. They are urging folks to go ahead and stay put.

TAPPER: Carlos, I'm going to ask your cameraman -- pass this on to him -- to pan over the riverbed you are describing. If you could explain, while he does this, what this normally looks like and what happened so that we are seeing all of these river instead of river, if you could ask him to do that.

SUAREZ: Yeah, of course.

Dom, if you can, just pan over so we can show the riverbed. See that trap right there, that crab trap? You couldn't make it out this morning. The water used to come all the way out here to the very beginning of where we are live at. We are being told by our meteorologists that at one point out here,

Ian's strength was so powerful that during high tide -- when the water was supposed to come in, Ian's strength was going against it. It was taking the water out. It was more powerful than high tide at that moment. You can see it doesn't get better.

That overpass over there, you can see it's pretty much just all riverbed. Take this all the way down for a few more miles and it's the exact same thing.

Tampa's mayor was out here earlier this afternoon. She got a look at the site herself. Tampa police, they have a number of officers going up and down Bayshore Boulevard trying to get folks away from going inside of this river of this bay, because the concern is, once that water starts to fill back in, then we might have serious problems with any folks that find themselves on the other side of this bay.

TAPPER: Carlos, how quickly does that happen when the water returns in this bizarre phenomenon of a hurricane? How quickly does the water come back? Is it the kind of thing where you can be trapped and the water life-threatening?

SUAREZ: Oh, there's no doubt. You could be out there and not realize the water is coming in. That said, we have been here since 5:00, 5:30 this morning. It's been going out, out, out.

I don't know, Dom, if you can go ahead and show the mouth of the river. That goes up along the Tampa General Hospital out here. That right there, that current has been going out the entire morning. It has not stopped once.

That water at some point is going to make its way where we are coupled with all of the rain. The timetable for when that happens really depends how fast this storm moves and just how much of the rain ends up falling in this part of Tampa.

TAPPER: All right. Carlos, it's fascinating. Thank you so much. Please stay safe.

Let's talk about the dire situation in Florida right now with Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

Senator, your Twitter feed is full of your expressions of concern and dire warnings to Floridians. One thing you wrote about the storm surge, quote: If you ignore evacuation orders, you are going to drown. I assume these kinds of warnings need to be said this starkly because people don't necessarily heed them.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): When we talk about storm surge and how it kills people, that's how it kills people. We want to be blunt. I mean, that's -- people that die in storm surge, people that die in water, it's because they drown.

We are talking about projected between 12 and 18 feet. The National Hurricane Center had to redo the map. They didn't have a color for 12 to 18 feet. We see some of the images now. Luckily, most people heeded the warnings. A few may not have. Some of

the people sending us videos did not. But part of the challenge now is, how do you get to people?

That water is not just going to go away for hours. It leaves behind dangerous conditions on the ground. The storm surge, the wind, this is already a catastrophic event. And I think the worst is yet to come between the rain and the areas it will go through. It will march up northeast Florida, maybe Jacksonville, Daytona. Huge swath will be impacted by this in one way or another.

TAPPER: The I-4 corridor as it's know from Tampa St. Pete, all the way to the east coast of Florida. There's likely going to be widespread damage up and down this coast.

Tell any Floridians watching, where can they go for resources that they're going to need after the storm passes?


RUBIO: Well, obviously, we have been posting that on We're going to have it up there, have it on my political website, which we will use for the next few days just to put out information about that as well, But then, look, there's the that -- in Florida, that does that and has it available. So, that's obviously assuming that you have access to the Internet.

I'd ask them to tune in to local news and broadcasters because they're going to be putting out this information. After the storm passes, people are going to be eligible for FEMA assistance, maybe SBA assistance. We proactively a couple days ahead began to put out some of the documents that people are going to need to have to access that.

We spoke to FEMA director this morning. They have simplified their process coming into the hurricane season to make it easier for people to access it. There will be people without homes, without access to money and food for a substantial period of time. We want them to know we'll be out there helping to make those resources available after the storm is passed and conditions are safe.

TAPPER: So, Governor DeSantis recalled earlier that it took several days to reach Mexico Beach after Hurricane Michael in 2018. I assume post-storm access is a real concern.

RUBIO: Well, there's two things that limit access. First obviously is standing water because this is not just storm surge. It's the amount of rain. You know, this Peace River, which going through multiple counties, the low lying areas, they're going to be flooded by both rain that's been happening a few days along with the storm surge.

So, there's the water impediment, but then there's road debris. We talked to FEMA about is the removal of debris that something needs to happen because without the debris removal, without the bulk collection and moving trees and all the stuff on the road, you can't get emergency crews in there. You can't get power restoration going. So, that's one of the first tasks once it's safe and conditions allow

is debris removal, in addition to the water situation in these low- lying areas, which could stand for some days.

TAPPER: Industries across Florida are going to feel this storm acutely. Maxar Technology says at least 75 percent of Florida's citrus belt is under threat of heavy flooding. The fertilizer company Mosaic which is based in Tampa bracing for substantial impact at its mining and production facilities in the state. That's obviously important because high fertilizer prices have made food prices soar worldwide.

What resources are going to be there to provide to these industries if they take these projected hits?

RUBIO: Well, for the first time ever, back four years ago, we were able to get the Department of Agriculture to include agriculture in some of those catastrophic losses in as part of the losses. We're going to have to do that again. The citrus industry in Florida is already teetering on the brink because of citrus greening. They lose this year's crop, you can't just restart that. That takes time in the planting season and the growing season and so forth. That's a big hit for them.

The phosphate industry, fertilizer industry, that's a new dynamic, and were just two issues of concern. One is environmental, the impact it might have because the water will flow back if other places.

The other is the loss of the fertilizer supply. It's one we will have to examine. It's the first time we will face that kind of loss. We will see how we work that into any disaster relief. It's hard to tell until there's a full assessment. This is going to be a multi-billion dollar event, unfortunately.

TAPPER: We'll stay in touch. We want to help you and the citizens of Florida to get the message out as much as we can. Appreciate it.

RUBIO: Thanks for your coverage.

TAPPER: If Ian holds its current intensity, this will be the strongest hurricane to ever make landfall on the west coast of the Florida peninsula. More of what that looks like in real time, next.



TAPPER: Welcome back.

I want to dip into our affiliate WXJT and a reporter in Northport, Florida. Just watch and listen.

WXJT REPORTER: We are 45 minutes from Fort Myers. People here say they have never actually had a direct hit from a hurricane, until now. They are certainly getting it. That is the powerful Hurricane Ian right behind us. You can see it's absolutely just punishing these trees, the vegetation and everything in its way. We have seen trees snap. We have seen trees come down the road. All of

the stop signs are gone and some roofs from nearby buildings have been ripped off.

You may be wondering how I'm able to stand up in this when the wind gusts are over 150, 160 miles an hour because we are at this fire station. This is Fire station 81. The firefighters keeping watch on the area and us.

So, this is a category 5 rated building they tell us. Certainly, this is the only thing keeping us from being out in this. I want to show you what it looks like. We saw this tree come down before our eyes. We have seen roofs, we have seen pieces of metal coming down the road right there. Branches going into fire rescue.

I talked with firefighters, police officers, sheriff's deputies here. They are not responding to any calls right now. They are not responding to any 911 calls. They can't rescue anyone, because it's just too dangerous for them to be out on the roads. We have been looking. They have been getting calls.


Unfortunately, people out here who were told to evacuate days ago, just have to fend for themselves until the worst of this storm comes through.

You know, I have been in a lot of hurricanes throughout the state of Florida, throughout the southeast. This is an incredibly powerful one. It reminds me of Hurricane Michael back in 2018 out there in Florida's panhandle, absolutely devastating parts of Panama City, wiping out Mexico Beach.

Hopefully, hopefully, this area fares better, but we won't know until this storm goes away.

TAPPER: All right. That's from WJXT.

I want to bring in Dave Reuter. He's the chief communications officer for Florida Power and Light.

So, Governor Ron DeSantis is warning Florida resistance to expect widespread power outages. Already, more than 1 million people in Florida without power. How many people are you anticipating will be affected ultimately?

DAVID REUTER, CHIEF COMMUNICATIONSD OFFICER, FLORIDA POWER AND LIGHT: Yeah. Good afternoon, Jake. With the nature of this storm and the fact that it's now made landfall and making its way across the peninsula, it's hard to say how many power outages we will have. There are several million Florida Power and Light customers in the path of the storm.

I can tell you that right now, we have just about 1 million outages. We have been restoring power for the last 24 hours. As the outer bands come through our service area, we have restored power to about 350,000 customers so far. Presently, we have about 1 million customers out of power.

TAPPER: Are you expecting all or most of the outages to be on west coast of Florida? Or could they go into the center part of the state as well?

REUTER: We are expecting power outages throughout the service territory, through the path of the storm. The reality with the storm like this is, of course, you expect power to be out as the category storm will hit the coast line. But as it goes through the state, there will also be additional outages due to tornadoes, flooding and the high winds that will accompany the storm all the way across the peninsula.

You know, the expectation from the National Hurricane Center is that this will still be a category 1 storm when it exits Florida on the East Coast possibly tomorrow.

TAPPER: How quickly are you able to restore power? Or do you need to wait for the storm to pass before you take any action to try to restore power?

REUTER: So, generally, we can get out and start assessing the damage and figuring out how long it will take to restore power about 24 hours after the storm has passed a specific area. That's our intention.

The challenge will be tomorrow, particularly on the west coast of Florida, what does it look like in terms of storm surge, in terms of flooding? Will we be able to get into those areas? We will use all of the tools that we have at our disposal, our drone technology, the diagnostic systems we have, to figure out where the power is out and what we may be able to do to get it back on safely and as quickly as possible.

However, the expectation is, that floodwaters will be the biggest challenge that we're going to face in the next 24 to 48 hours.

TAPPER: So, after that initial 24-hour period after the storm has passed, after that, how long does it typically take to restore power?

REUTER: So, in the case of this storm, it could be a complete rebuild of the system in certain parts of the West Coast. Obviously, if it's a windy storm, a cat 1 or 2 or 3, depending on how it comes in, generally, we can restore power in a matter of hours to a matter of days.

When you are talking about a system -- a storm of this magnitude and what we are seeing already from some of the early visuals, we expect that there are going to be parts of our system on west coast which will need to be rebuilt. That is going to take longer. Could be a number of days, could be a matter of weeks depending on exactly what the nature of the damage is.

TAPPER: All right. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Florida Senator Rick Scott is here with me in studio to discuss.

Senator, what are you hearing about this storm? Have you been briefed on the very latest?

SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): Yeah, I've been talking to sheriffs and mayors, state officials all day long, FEMA. The first thing we have to make sure is everybody is safe.

My hope is that everybody took care of themselves. They are in a safe place. I know that we got in my hometown in Naples, as an example, I talked to the mayor a few times today. Unbelievable amounts of water. I have been talking to the sheriff in Lee County, unbelievable amounts of water.

The problem we have is that if you look at the west coast, you have a lot of low lying areas. Some of the homes are built in pre -- not that far above tide along the river and bay. So, we're going to see a lot -- we're going to see a lot of damage.

I hope we don't lose lives. That's my biggest concern is keeping everybody alive. As you know, you can rebuild your house. You can't rebuild your life. So, we're going to have a lot of damage, a lot of damage.

TAPPER: So, you were governor for two terms. You know from hurricanes. I'm used to seeing you with your navy hat on in the emergency response center in Tallahassee.

What is the reason for people losing their lives? I mean, obviously, the storm. But is it people who decide to stick it out and they are in the storm's path? Is it people who are lulled into a false sense of security because of the eye of the hurricane or because of water being removed from an area?


What is the most dangerous part of this?

SCOTT: So, in our four storms, the one that was the hardest to make sure we didn't lose somebody was Michael an d here's why --

TAPPER: 2018, yes.

SCOTT: It happened like that. Four days it went from a storm to a category 5. Then what people focus on is, it's a 4. I have done -- 1, I have been through a 1. That's not the problem.

The problem is storm surge. Water kills you. The wind might be a problem. The water is what kills you.

You know, 6, 7, 8, 9 foot of storm surge, you can't survive that. Maybe your building can't survive that.

So, we're trying to figure out -- I've been talking to the hurricane center, the national weather service, how do we get people to understand storm surge?

It's happening. There's better graphics all the time. You guys put out good graphics. The National Hurricane Center has. That's the biggest -- the state was saturated. First thing is,

evacuate. Be careful.

And then afterwards, you got -- you're going to have downed power lines. You're going to have a lot of downed power lines. The state was saturated with water. Then this wind is going to knock down a lot of stuff.

You're going to have standing water. You're going to have people use generators that don't know how to use generators. You're going to have people, they go -- use power tools, they don't know how to use them.

TAPPER: A lot of aftermath.

SCOTT: What I worry about is -- everything can get rebuild. Keep everybody alive. What you do to educate people is really important.

TAPPER: So, that's another reminder for me is to tell people, as you just were suggesting, don't go anywhere near downed power lines. It's why it's -- one of the reasons why it's so dangerous out there, those downed power lines.

People -- in some of the emergencies, more people die after the storm than actually during the storm.

SCOTT: Most of them. While I was governor, you will see trees fall afterwards. We have had an individual die afterwards because a tree fell on him. You've had people touch power lines. People hurt themselves with a power tool. People use a generator and don't know how to use a generator.

You got to -- think about it. Don't take risk. Stay alive. Don't take risk.

TAPPER: And the storm surge we're talking about, this is twice as high anticipated as Hurricane Charlie, which hit in 2004. You must be very worried about catastrophic flooding.

SCOTT: So, if you go back to Michael, if you remember the pictures of Mexico Beach, nine foot of storm surge. It moved homes. It moved homes to the other side of the road.

Unfortunately, the day after I was there -- and their families lost loved ones. They had been through hurricanes, stayed there. And they were swept away.

TAPPER: So, anyone listening right now who is in Florida, what's your message to them?

SCOTT: Just stay safe. If you are along the coast, you have made your choice. Be careful. If you are up -- as you can see, it's going to flow up. We will see a lot of flooding, a lot of downed power lines. And so, be careful.

TAPPER: What about the people in the center part of the state? What about the people in Orlando? What about the people on the East Coast? SCOTT: So, if you go -- if you go all the way up, you go through

Orlando, go up through Jacksonville, here's what they're going to get. You're going to get a lot of downed power lines. The state is wet. You're going to see a lot of trees falling, downed power lines.

You're going to see a lot of flooding. So, don't drive into standing water. You can't tell how deep water is. You cannot. You can't do that. Don't take a chance.

I have a high water vehicle. I mean, who knows? Don't do it. Don't put anybody else in harm's way, your kids, your family members or first responders.

TAPPER: Yeah, absolutely. Senator Rick Scott, former Governor Rick Scott, thanks for being with us and sharing your expertise sadly on this subject.

Listen to some of the wind gusts along Florida's west coast, 107 miles per hour at Sanibel Island, 112 clocked at Naples Grand Beach, 126 miles per hour in Captiva. Again, these are wind gusts.

What to expect as Ian crosses the state of Florida. That's next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Sticking with our breaking news, the powerful Hurricane Ian, the strongest storm to make landfall in the west coast of Florida since 2004. You see the eye passing right there, right over Punta Gorda.

Experts warn the effects could be greater than 2004 given the huge size and slow speed of Hurricane Ian.

Let's bring in the mayor of Holmes Beach, Florida, Judy Titsworth. Holmes Beach, a small community in the barrier island west of Bradenton, south of St. Pete.

Madam Mayor, thanks for joining us. You're riding out the storm. We're showing a map showing where Holmes Beach is.

There is a mandatory evacuation order, of course. Why did you decide to stay?

MAYOR JUDY TITSWORTH, HOLMES BEACH, FL (via telephone): Well, I really wasn't going to stay. I evacuate at the same time as the police every time since I've been in office to offer my support.

At 9:30 this morning, the police decided that the gusts got up to 40 or 45 miles an hour that they decided they would leave and at that time, everything showed that the Santa Maria was in the clear from that storm surge. That storm surge would have been devastating to the Anna Maria Island. They were talking anywhere between 10 and 15 feet. People couldn't have survived. So I'm very, very, very proud of our residents. I believe we have

probably a 95 percent evacuation. It was a ghost town here. I'm very, very proud of everybody.

TAPPER: What I think people might not know from the map that we showed, which was rather a large map is that Anna Maria is on the top of a many peninsula near Bradenton Beach. It looks vulnerable. Do you know how many other residents chose to took the risk and hunker down at home?


TITSWORTH: I do not know how many residents, but it's a very minimal amount. Probably from the people that have reached out to me, I can count them on two hands. People really -- I've never seen as many people at the sandbag piles. We've had -- we continue to bring more and more loads of sand.

The city hall has never been as pre paired prepared to deal with a hurricane of this magnitude. We went further on the storm than we did on other ones previous.

TAPPER: All right. Mayor Titsworth, thanks so much. Good luck to you and the citizens of Holmes Beach.

Live pictures now in Punta Gorda, Florida, calmer image right now because the eye of the storm is traveling over there. We're going to have more live coverage next.

Stay with us.