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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Hurricane Ian Makes Landfall As A Monster Category 4 Storm; Sen. Rick Scott, (R-FL), Is Interviewed About Hurricane Ian, Florida; Ian Slams Florida With 150 Plus MPH Winds, Record Storm Surge; Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Gives Update On Hurricane Ian. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 28, 2022 - 17:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And we start this hour of THE LEAD. We are continuing with the breaking news on Hurricane Ian, a monster category four, almost category five storm that has made landfall this afternoon on the southwestern coast of Florida with winds up to 150 miles per hour. The conditions are already being described as catastrophic.

The wind so strong and Englewood, Florida, almost sounds like a freight train. We're already seeing record breaking and terrifying storm surges throughout Florida. In Fort Myers, the water so high, pickup trucks are almost completely submerged. Measurement show the water levels in Fort Myers have risen more than six feet in the past seven hours, higher than has ever been observed in that city and the waters continue to rise.

Let's get to Meteorologist Tom Sater. He's in the CNN Severe Weather Center.

And Tom, an updated forecast for Hurricane Ian should come any minute now. What should you expect?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it was just handed to me as I was waiting for it. So, forgive me for reading off. But again, here's what we have, we still have a category four hurricane. It's currently just five miles east of Punta Gorda here, the winds are down to 140.

That's not much of a drop, so it's still a major hurricane. And most likely, Jake, will stay at hurricane strength all the way up toward Orlando. So, this is going to rake the entire peninsula.

We had Grove City, a gust of 128. Now, when we talk about the southern side here, a better picture on radar will even give you an indication of what we're looking at. But first, here's the new track, keeps it as four, of course, as now moving inland, but notice it's category one, it will lose some strength now that it's interacting with a landmass, that's typical.

However, the winds have expanded now as the storms do. In fact, in the last advisory, hurricane force winds now extend outward 50 miles in each direction. That's 100 mile swath that will rake the entire peninsula with hurricane force winds. We talked about this yesterday that every one of these tracks from the National Hurricane Center was inching a little bit to the east and to the south. Because of that, it changed the timing of our landfall which was 103 and at category four.

But instead of landfall at between 5:00 and 8:00, we thought maybe between two and four, and so it was earlier. But also because of that projection and that movement, it's now instead of just crossing, you know, the northern quarter, the northern half of the peninsula, it moves up and the entire peninsula now will be feeling the effects. Tropical storm force winds extend outward 175 miles on each end of the storm.

For the last couple of weeks, they've been inundated with heavier than normal rainfall, almost twice as much as they would typically have. This is the rainy season for them. When you look at the radar, and we'll show you some of the rainfall estimates, this is a big deal here. First of all, notice how it's kind of this little common shape, we're getting dry air filtering across the south into the southwest and to the southeastern quadrant, that's going to cut these rain totals off big time. That is wonderful news.

That was never the problem. The problem is, Jake, we've had this trough moving in from the eastern U.S., that's the trough that was going to push the system and nudge it toward the coast. However, there has been a battle between these two air masses, which was going to win out. Well, it looks like Irma is pretty much winning even though it was edging a little eastward.

But the problem is underlying in this rainfall. That trough is sending winds from the north at the surface. Irma's winds at the surface are moving northward, where they both converge from around the Tampa St. Pete area to the Lakeland toward Orlando, that convergence causes the air to rise, that's going to squeeze out much, much more in the way of rainfall.

Take the landfall of Ian out of the equation, and we've got ourselves one to two feet of rain. Rainfall rates at two to three inches an hour, hour after hour after hour. No community can withstand that. So, considering how far away so many communities are to the north, we're going to have 911 calls, numerous of them.

You can start to see radar estimates right now over 10 inches right now north of Fort Myers. Now the worst surge, of course, is down to the south where you get to around Naples. Now the surge, we believe, got as high as seven feet in Naples until the monitoring equipment went dead. It's much higher than that.

I fear the pictures we're going to see out of Naples and areas of Fort Myers, and it's going to be quite a saddening scene tomorrow. But this band already of 10 inches of rain is going to lift northward as the storm lifts and that's where the convergence sets in, Jake, and that's where the heavy rain sets in. However, it's not over with, remember I told you how much rain they've had in the last couple of weeks, the ground has completely saturated, the soil type in Florida can only absorb so much, sandy type of soil, water runs quickly across it. [17:05:13]

We're getting some pretty good wind gusts, in fact, I just mentioned the 120. Here's the problem. The root systems of trees are going to be extremely weak and saturated with rain and more rain to come. You toss this band of rainfall on that area and then you toss a swath of tropical storm force winds well over 350 miles, you're going to have 10s and 10s and 10s of 1000s of trees down, down in power lines, got over a million without power now, that's just the beginning. Water rescues, power outages across the entire peninsula of Florida.

So, as a meteorologist, we need to look forward even though the reporters and photo journalists are giving us a picture to the south. We're going to have problems. In the last advisory on with this, more watches and warnings for the Carolinas. We'll get into that a little bit later in the show.

TAPPER: All right, Tom Sater, thank you so much.

Let's bring in CNN's Derek Van Dam again. He's live in Bradenton, Florida for us.

Derek, tell us what you're seeing.

DEREK VAN DAM. CNN METEOROLOGIST: Jake, this -- the wind here is extremely violence. It's the strongest that we have felt up until this point. And I know we're getting so many of those consistent pitches, but we were anticipating this because earlier this morning we had a northeasterly wind that was coming up. And now that the eyewall is just scraping to the south of us, the direction of the wind has changed.

And why that's important is because it's literally making these kinds of vortexes, it's almost little eddies of wind off of the building and they become so violent, they almost slap you in the face when they come off of these buildings. And it becomes extremely intense.

We have walked around within this area been doing live shots for several, several hours and we've noticed transformers lighting up the skies, literally knocking out some of the communication to my producers, the electricity and the blocks behind me, the all too familiar sounds of alarms going off in the buildings here as the water seeps into some of the local businesses within this area.

I don't know if you just heard that sound, but that's the sign -- that road sign they're shaking back and forth and that is why we take the precautions that we do. I've got people on either side of me looking out for that type of thing. But those things can become projectiles very easily and winds like this. So we're going to monitor that.

And we have also seen a reversal of what was the easterly winds taking the storm surge or the river water from the manatee river over my left. There's one of those intense wind gusts out of the river here. And now that the wind direction has changed, we have seen that water start to come back in. So storm surge here still a concern. When we talk about the rapid intensification of major Hurricane Ian upon its arrival -- you guys got to bear with me on this. These gusts are making it difficult for us to stand up.

TAPPER: Derek, why don't you go someplace safe right now. I'm getting concerned about you. Why don't you guys go to someplace safe.

VAN DAM: I appreciate that. Thank you.

TAPPER: Do you want to go to someplace safe?

VAN DAM: We will. We will do that.

TAPPER: Please do that.

VAN DAM: We do have shelter.

TAPPER: OK. Please --

VAN DAM: Thank you.

TAPPER: Please go do that right now.

Let's go to Bill Weir in Punta Gorda right now. And Bill, you're in the eye of Hurricane Ian. Tell us what you're seeing.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, welcome to the eye. It's a dirty eye, we don't have blue sky but we have parrots flying around. We have folks who have been hunkered down walking their pets, a Floridian tradition in the eye of the hurricane.

Tom Sater talking about the saturated ground and the trees coming down. Lots of examples here in Punta Gorda. This trailer from downtown, Bait and Tackle, flipped twice and rolled over in the storm, the wind put it back on its wheels as luck would have it. We've got pieces of siding wrapped around this tree over here. And wow, look at the size of this big tree down at the end.

Now, of course this is not over, we're only halfway through this as a result of the eye moving over us right now. Those folks not familiar might be lured into thinking, oh, the worst of it is over, but the back end of the storm could still be nasty and that is what will bring up the storm surge that we're most worried about.

Our toll, this is our hotel here. Luckily we have a generator. We hope they crank that thing up because we lost our power a few hours ago. But the -- I'm sorry guys, I'm just getting distracted by what I'm seeing up here. Wow, look at the size of this tree coming down.

Again, this is one of those times when the authorities would say, don't go check your properties during the eye the hurricane. Don't do this. We're doing this for you, but it's just a little taste of what's happened due to those 110 mile an hour plus wind speeds we had here at Punta Gorda. That is -- they probably were higher than that, but the wind meter at the instrument actually broke at the Punta Gorda airport, so we don't know exactly how high it got. But wow, there's just one little example of the force of these winds here as well.


So many of the homes in this area and going south of us are on canals. So we're really interested once it's safe to get out into these areas, Jake, and look at the flooding, because that is the life changer. They really batten down the hatches in this town after Charlie 18 years ago, up the building codes. But these storm surge warnings that we've gotten are really unprecedented. This will be a first time test for how you adapt to these new, stronger storms on a warmer planet as a result of climate change.

But we're going to head back inside and brace for the second end of storm.

TAPPER: Yes, that's what I wanted to ask you, Bill, because -- yes, you're in the eye of the storm right now, that's why it's calm. When are you expecting to be hit by that -- the other semi-circle of the storm coming your way?

WEIR: Within an hour, probably. We've been watching it, it's hard to tell exactly. And who knows where the storm could turn. I mean, sometimes they could take a left and surprise everybody.

But of course, as we've been talking about the damage going north, if this thing does what Donna did, say, you know, back in the '60s and goes cranking up the peninsula and even over to the East Coast, it could be much, much more destructive. We don't know. We're at the mercy of the end.

TAPPER: And how long will they'll take you to get to shelter if you saw the other side of the storm, the other side of the hurricane coming your way?

WEIR: It would take me as long as it would take to walk over those stairs. We're staying very close. Here Randy Kaye (ph), our amazing colleague, she's a few blocks away from us in a parking garage. Up high (ph), unfortunately, the alarm is going off this you know as a result of the power outages now.

We've seen -- I guess Florida Power and Light announced it's over a million customers now without power. It's no surprise around here when you see this kind of tree down action. But Randy is there we are fully prepared to hunker down for the back end of this thing when it comes around.

TAPPER: And Bill, when the -- I mean the town looks abandoned behind you, I don't know how many people are just hunkering down and how many people have evacuated?

WEIR: Yes, it's really -- it's hard to tell. Again, the eye is a good gauge of that because that's when people kind of sneak out and want to drive around and take selfies, you know, and check out the damage. We've seen a little bit of that just during the eye. But most of what we saw driving around this morning, we saw no real signs of life other than officials from the state who are out checking on things, thankfully.

So, again, this is a town that that went through some real hell 18 years ago with Charlie. It's a town of about 15,000. The majority of folks well over half are retirees. And so, you got to wonder some are more vulnerable than others in that particular case.

But this isn't, like you might see in Daytona or, I was watching this morning on one of the local stations there knuckleheads like swimming under the pilings of appear as the waves were crashing in. We see that with every storm. Thankfully, I haven't seen a lot of that out here right now. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Bill, we're going to check in with you in a little bit. Thank you so much.

Let's go to Tom Sater right now.

Tom, when can Bill expect to be hit with the other side of the eye?

SATER: Yes, he' got maybe I think within the hour. It's interesting to watch the system. If you look at the radar here, look at the brighter colors and where they are, they're on the northern, northwestern and western flank. Notice how light green it is in areas of the southeast, that's that dry air that we were mentioning that's infiltrating the system. So the rain totals are lower here.

However, with this brighter colors in this heavier rainfall are still some tremendous winds. So here he is in Punta Gorda, and there's a little bit of rainfall trying to squeeze in on that left hand flank. But as this whole system moves off in this direction, he's going to be hit by these back winds, but it's going to take a while because they're really out here to the west. As the whole system slides, he's got a massive eyewall that he has to contend with. Just as long as it took him to get to the eye, it's going to take him that much time to get to the -- through the other side of the eyewall, maybe longer because we're seeing that expansive range shaft that's back into around that western flank.

So, even though this part of that wind -- down tree problem we're talking about, that when this system moves north on the saturated ground and all this heavy rain, these trees are putting up with wind direction coming from one angle for, let's say, six, seven hours and then that tree is going to be blown in the other direction just as strong. And that goes for every structure. And typically we find it, some of the structural damage you'll find as some of the structural damage you'll find in some of the homes is not on that initial band, it's on that return band as well, because there's almost -- there's only so much that these roof shingles can take.


So I think we give him about maybe an hour at the most. But again, he's going to get hit just as hard. And that wind force and that wind direction is going to go on completely in the other direction, and the surge will change as well for many locations. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Tom Sater, thanks so much.

Let's bring in the mayor of Fort Myers, Florida, Kevin Anderson.

Mayor Anderson, you're in Fort Myers right now. Tell us what your city's dealing with.

KEVIN ANDERSON, MAYOR, FORT MYERS, FLORIDA: Well, Jake, I'm standing at first in Henry Street, which is in the center of downtown, I'm about two blocks away from the river, I'm watching this FedEx box. When I got on this phone call, it was about two feet from the top. Within that period of time, it's the water has risen six inches.

TAPPER: Six inches, just in that brief amount of time. Your city could experience a storm surge. It's anticipated up to 16 feet. In the county just north you, Lee County, the sheriff says a storm surge could be life changing. Are you anticipating something similar where you are?

ANDERSON: I can tell you I'm looking at the businesses downtown and they're all flooded, windows blown now. Yes, it's going to be a significant or already is. Now, we just got to wait and see. We're coming out of the edge of the eye and who knows what the next couple hours will bring.

TAPPER: Now, at first, it's stronger up north in the Tampa area, then the forecast shifted downward slightly, are you worried that that means that there were residents who may not have been able to evacuate in time?

ANDERSON: There are always residents who choose not to follow the evacuation orders and to hunker down. And so as it is right now they're stuck. I mean, the streets are flooded and emergency services couldn't get to them if they wanted to. It's unfortunate that people decide not to leave. But that's what we deal with.

TAPPER: What reasons did they give because this is, I'm sure, not the first time you've been through something like this and wondered why anybody would stay.

ANDERSON: I've been here since the mid-'70s, this is actually by far the worst storm I've ever seen. I am actually watching a guy out in the intersection right now, the water up past his knees and he's out there taking pictures. Why people choose not to do the prudent things? Who knows?

TAPPER: What resources will be available to those individuals who have decided to stay in Fort Myer?

ANDERSON: I'm very confident that we as Floridians are very resilient when it comes to hurricanes. Our emergency management team is on standby. They are ready to respond and start the recovery as soon as it's safe.

I've been in contact with the President, the governor and the senator, as well as several other mayors and there's the resources that are available are going to be very helpful, water, equipment, whatever it takes. They both said we're going to make this recovery happen.

TAPPER: What are you hearing about conditions on Sanibel and Captiva Islands, which are just off Fort Myers?

ANDERSON: I was watching the news prior to losing power and I could see the flooding. I can tell you if we've got this much water in downtown Fort Myers in the beach and the islands have to be much worse.

TAPPER: I can't imagine Sanibel right now. Thank you so much Mayor Kevin Anderson, the mayor of Fort Myers. Thank you.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

TAPPER: Really appreciate your time.

ANDERSON: No problem.

TAPPER: We're tracking the breaking news, you can see the choppy waters there in Bradenton, Florida. Hurricane Ian delivering historic blow, pounding Florida with winds up to 150 miles an hour record breaking storm surge. The eye is over Punta Gorda right now. We have much more to come. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Were following the breaking news, Hurricane Ian making landfall along the southwestern coast of Florida. Winds as high as 150 miles per hour making in a high end category four hurricane, almost a category five. Already more than 1 million customers are with without power in the state of Florida. Let's go to Brian Todd in St. Petersburg, Florida right now.

Brian, tell us what you're what you're saying.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK, Jake, we got wind of a some damage here at a manufactured home park and we're here right now, we just checked it out. We consulted with a local policeman who said that there's another one here, another home here in similar condition. But check this out, a roof almost completely ripped off this mobile home here in Largo, Florida, which is just outside St. Petersburg. You see the debris over here, police tape here.

We knocked on the door of this one, no one answering. We're also checking out some of the neighbors to see if anyone in here was hurt.

We did get word from the Pinellas County Emergency Management Office that there were other roofs ripped off of this -- of homes in this area, they told us initially that no one was hurt, but we're kind of sweeping the neighborhood to see if anyone is around and anyone can tell us if anyone was injured in this building here. We have some other updates for you, 78,000 customers in Pinellas County without power, that is according to the Pinellas County Emergency Management People. And there -- again, we're just bracing for the worst of this because we still could get some really strong wind and rain in the next few minutes to an hour as more of these bands come through here.

But this whole area in Pinellas County really got slammed just a short time ago. As you can see some of the damage here. Our photojournalist, Mike Love (ph), can just kind of pan around this area with all the debris here and everything. You know, again, we've been sweeping around these neighborhoods trying to ask people, you know, how they've been holding up. A lot of people have evacuated this area because we have found that a lot of these homes are not occupied right now.

And we were told by, again, by Pinellas County, that at least one of these houses that they had the home -- that they had the roof ripped off, no one was here and no one was injured. I'm not sure if it was this one or the other.


We also got word of a home that was burned down completely but no injuries in that. So, this area, we're just kind of now starting to be able to get out and sweep some of these areas around St. Petersburg. But they've got all sorts of issues there. They've got downed power lines, because of downed trees, the ground was saturated in St. Petersburg already. And so, they're going to be sending emergency response crews out to places like this.

We did see one police officer here but no one else responding to this so far. Again, this is the time when some emergency responders might just be able to get out and start to respond. But even then, Jake, in a lot of cases, at least we're told by officials in St. Petersburg, they may not be able to get out just yet because the danger hasn't passed yet. We're getting another really strong burst of wind and rain here, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Brian Todd, thank you so much. Appreciate it, in St. Petersburg there.

And we have a Senator Rick Scott in studio with us right now. Your reaction to what we're seeing. You heard the mayor of Fort Myers talking about how he's been in Fort Myers since the 1970s and he's never seen anything this bad.

SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): Yes, I talked to Mayor Anderson this morning. And yes, you look at all those pictures in this unbelievable storm surge. And so there's a lot of low lying areas and all this area. So -- and you're going to have that when these trailer parks are going to be -- people are going to -- if they're in them, you know, they might not survive. The water has pushed up so high and it takes a long time for that to receive.

First, you look at the look at the map how much rain we're going to get. We're not even close how much rain we're going to have. We're going to have a lot more power losses. Hopefully don't want losing lives, but this is not over at all, and we're going to have the rest of our state impacted by it. So it's pretty scary.

TAPPER: It's just the start really, I mean --


TAPPER: -- don't you think? I mean, so we've seen really devastating effects on Sanibel Island, Fort Myers, and then you just saw Brian Todd up the coast in St. Petersburg, is that because the storm is moving up the coast or just because it's so giant?

SCOTT: First of all, it is giant. It's moving up the coast. We were getting as, you know, on the left side we're going to get a lot more rain. It looks like way, way, way more rain.

You get 20 inches rain was saturated land. I mean there -- it's going to be a hard time for -- as it goes up these rivers it's going to be have a hard time coming back down. So it's -- we're going to have water for a long time here.

TAPPER: And we were talking about this earlier, but -- the how most people die, not when the storm hits, but in the aftermath. And you saw Bill Weir in Punta Vera (ph) and he's -- there was a -- Punta Gorda rather, sorry, and there was, a tree a giant tree, that had just fallen because -- here's some live pictures of Punta Gorda, and that -- and these trees are falling because the ground is so saturated.

SCOTT: And they're going to keep falling. They're going to keep falling. So you got to be careful.

There's people -- if you're not careful, there's going to people lose their lives afterwards because a tree falls after this happened because it's so wet. But on top of that, these have power lines, you got to watch those. And everybody's needs -- if you're going to use a generator, learn how to use it, you're going to use a power tool, learn how to use it, just be cautious.

I'm -- you're scared to death of losing people before the storm during the storm and then afterwards, when people make decisions that they shouldn't have made, that they could be safe.

TAPPER: And how are the citizens of your state going to handle the next few days with all of this water?

SCOTT: It's going to be hard. They're going to -- I mean first off, all the water, they're going to lose power. So, they're going to lose power, they're going to be careful and they're going to be careful -- have to be careful where they go, because there will be places you can't get anywhere, partially because it's flooded, maybe partially because there's so much debris out there.

So, all these first responders are going to have to get down there as quickly as possible. Highway Patrol and others be cleaning this areas to get down there and do it. What you just heard, checking those trailer homes and see if there's anybody in there, they're going to be doing that all across all up and down the coast, they'll be doing that.

TAPPER: Let's go to Derek Van Dam, who assures us that he is in a safer situation right now in Bradenton.

Derek, tell us what you're seeing and what's going on there.

VAN DAM: Jake, bear with me. I'm not, you know, I'm not a very heavy guy. So, these winds are not going to be around pretty heavily. But this violent, violent wind and it stings when it picks up the water from the sheets of rain that continue to blast through the city streets of downtown Bradenton.

We're in the historic district of Bradenton. We've moved into almost a sheltered area just so my team can stay somewhat stable during our live shot.

That's not the most important thing here. The idea is to pass along to people why we are doing this. We are showing people what they evacuated from.


Why did you leave your homes in Manatee County in further south towards Fort Myers and Punta Gorda, this is the reason why because these conditions are grueling and it has been a snail's pace with this monster, monster storm that continues to grow in size.

You know, as a meteorologist, looking at all the available tools that I have at my disposal, including radar imagery, and what it's telling me is that this storm is still feeding off of the Gulf of Mexico right now. We're on more or less the northwestern side of the strongest part of Hurricane Ian right now. And that is still taking in some of that energy from the warm, shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico. And it's allowing for these thunderstorms and the intense wind and rain bands to form over Manatee County where I'm currently located right now.

So this storm hasn't weakened just yet. Even though, we've had incremental decreases in the wind, I'm still feeling maximum, maximum hurricane force, the violent waves of energy that continue to come through here. I mean, if I can summarize it, this is the best way I can do it.

I've got a four-year-old son. He loves car washes. This reminds me of walking through a carwash or literally driving through your carwash and rolling your windows down. My son would understand that comparison, but literally, it's just spraying you in the face. Almost stinging as it does.

And I can't imagine anyone who decided to ride this out what they must be thinking at this moment in time. My producer has friends in the area here, closer to Fort Myers that decided to ride the storm out. And in my mind, I was thinking, Jake, you know, if there is one family who decided to ride out this storm, then there are multiple families who decided to ride out this storm.

We have seen transformers blowing across the skies lighting them up, like fireworks. We have seen debris like some of the awnings of the buildings as we were driving around earlier, getting lofted into the sky becoming projectiles as it does. I had seen something today that I had never witnessed before after the numerous hurricanes I've covered for CNN. The storm, the winds from this storm were so intense that it drew the water out of the Manatee River. We saw that in Tampa Bay as well.

It was almost an eerie, just cathartic experience, because we knew that this storm meant business. And now that the winds are changing direction, we expect that surge to really come in earnest here in the coming hours. Jake, it's intense.

TAPPER: All right. Great reporting, Derek. Please -- I know you're in a safer place now than you were but please continue to stay safe where you are.

And Senator Scott, we've seen this phenomenon now, these rivers get emptied. And then sadly, some people go out there and enjoy the freakish nature of this fact and don't realize that water's coming back and it might come back --


TAPPER: Yes, it's going to come back fast.

SCOTT: You know how fast is going back. You know, it's going to come back fast. It's going to come back higher, right? And so, I mean, just don't -- I mean don't take chances like this with your life. And don't take a chance that you put a first responder or your family member at risk. I mean, you just can't do that right now. You got to kind of stop and think about this and be careful.

TAPPER: All right, Senator Scott, always appreciate your expertise when it comes to this. You've sadly supervised a response in Florida too many of these events. Thank you so much for being here.

We're standing by for a news conference from Senator Scott's successor Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as Hurricane Ian slams the state with winds up to 140 miles per hour. We're going to bring that to you live. Stay with us.



TAPPER: New video just in. You're looking at a water rescue that just took place in Naples, Florida. You can see the devastating storm surge. Their water waste high as people just try to get to safety. We're standing by for an update now from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is scheduled to hold a press conference any minute now as this monster Category 4 hurricane, almost a Category 5 slams his state.

Until that time though, let's now talk to the Mayor of Orlando, Florida Buddy Dyer. Mayor Dyer, you're starting to get some heavier rain in Orlando as the storm makes its way into the state moving east. How worried are you about scenes such as the one we saw in Naples just a second ago playing out in Central Florida?

MAYOR BUDDY DYER, ORLANDO, FLORIDA: So, we've finished our preparation and we're kind of in waded out mode. We think we'll get the worst of it tomorrow. And certainly, we anticipate at least tropical storm. Strength winds, if not hurricane force winds and it's on a path kind of like Charlie was back in 2004. But we think we'll have it for a much more extended time Charlie came to Orlando and about an hour and it looks like we'll have this storm for many hours.

And when Charlie came through, we lost 10,000 trees. So we're anticipating that we'll have a lot of damage to our trees, a lot of power will be out. So we're extremely concerned. But I can say that the citizens have responded to heat call, to understand that this is going to be a very powerful event.


TAPPER: Your colleague, Fort Myers, Mayor Anderson told us he's been in the area and been in Florida since the 1970s. This is the worst storm he's ever seen.

DYER: I -- well, Charlie is the worst storm that I've seen and this is certainly going to rival Charlie my estimation.

TAPPER: Floodwaters in effect in your area, at least until tomorrow evening, how concerned are you about all the lakes you have there overflowing?

DYER: So we had the ability to reduce the depth of lakes. So we've drawn them down to the extent that we can. We're still extremely concerned about flooding, because there's a possibility that we get 20 inches of rain over the course of 36 hours. And we have never experienced that type of event. So the water has to go somewhere.

TAPPER: What have you -- what's the situation with people in retirement homes, or assisted living facilities who don't have the ability to evacuate? What precautions have been taken for them?

DYER: Well, we're really not a place that you need to evacuate from. People from other areas of the state are evacuating. To us, we're one of the higher points in the state. We're 90 to 100 feet above sea level. It's kind of funny in the case of Charlie as well, a lot of people evacuated to Orlando thinking that Orlando was going to be spared. And then it turned and kind of that same thing has happened here.

We've had people that have evacuated from the West Coast and it turns out, they're still going to be in the path of the hurricane. So we have checked on all of this senior facilities and various places that we would do wellness checks on. And everybody's in good shape from now.

TAPPER: Oh that's good news for now. Mayor of Orlando, Florida Buddy Dyer, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.

We are standing by for that news conference --

DYER: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: -- from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. This Hurricane Ian slams into the state of Florida with winds up to 140 miles an hour. We're going to bring that to you live. The pictures from Ian are unbelievable. The storm has made landfall with wind so strong. One of our crew's wind meters broke.

Hold on, here's Governor DeSantis. Let's listen in.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): -- areas in southwest Florida, Lee, Charlotte, and counties even beyond that. We have seen life threatening storm surge as was predicted. We've also seen major flooding in places like Collier County, Sanibel, Fort Myers Beach. You're also seeing inland flooding because of the inundation that you're seeing. So some of the counties in the interior of the state are seeing major water events as well.

We do know that Lee, Hendry, and Glades, 911 Call Centers, are being rerouted, those comms are down. So calls are being answered and teams are -- in the people that are calling are being noted. And then those local first responders will deploy as soon as it's safe to do so.

Now, obviously, local responders can make decisions. But by and large, until the storm passes, you know, they are not going to go into a situation for rescue and put their own folks at risk. And so we know that there are folks who are in the really high wet Risk Zone A evacuation zones, who did not evacuate, some have called in, and those people are being logged and there will be a response. But it's likely going to take a little time for this storm to move forward so that it's safe for the first responders to be able to do.

We are getting reports, but it's going to take a little bit more time to know exactly in terms of structural damage, but we are getting some reports of structural damage in both Lee and Charlotte counties. But I would say, overwhelmingly, it's been that surge that has been the biggest issue and the flooding that has resulted as a result of that.

In some areas, we think it's hit 12 feet. Now it is our meteorologists view that the storm surge has likely peaked and will likely, you know, be less in the coming hours and it has been up to this point. But we know that this has been a big storm and it's done a lot of damage as it is. It's going to continue to move through the state of Florida.

You're going to see hurricane force winds in places in Central Florida, perhaps. It's clearly a very strong tropical storm all the way until it exits the Florida peninsula in the Atlantic Ocean. There are -- as much as we're focused on Southwest, Florida, very important obviously when you have a storm of this nature. I think at landfall, it's going to be behind only the Labor Day hurricane, Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Michael in terms of intensity.


I think we're going to end up seeing that. It may end up being a Category 5, but at a minimum, it's going to be a very strong Category 4 that's going to rank as one of the top five hurricanes to ever hit the Florida peninsula. So that damage is ongoing. That's very, very important.

But the fact is, there's going to be damaged throughout the whole state and people in other parts of the state, be prepared for some impacts. And you are seeing counties in different parts of the state issue evacuation orders. Clay County in Northeast Florida, which we do anticipate some major, major flooding events in Northeast Florida. I think folks that are familiar with the St. Johns River know that when you have weather like this, you will see this. And so, Clay County has issued mandatory evacuations of low-lying areas along the St. Johns River.

Flagler County has issued mandatory evacuations of its barrier islands, low lying areas and mobile homes. NASA has issued evacuation orders for low lying areas. St. Johns County is evacuating coastal and low-lying areas, including the city of St. Augustine, as well as the city of St. Augustine Beach.

Putnam County has recommended evacuation for low-lying areas and areas that have a history of flooding. And Sumter County is advising evacuations of mobile homes. And so those are places that are hundreds and hundreds of miles away from the initial impact in southwest Florida. And yet they are having to evacuate folks that are living in vulnerable areas.

We have over 1.1 million reported power outages. Now there are crews that are still working outside of Southwest Florida. But just to understand, that number is going to grow. You're going to see more power outages as the storm moves through the center part of our state, and before it exits into the Atlantic coast.

There are 100 portable cell phone towers ready to be deployed into Southwest Florida once it is safe to enter and should that be needed. We want to make sure people are staying out of the way of emergency crews and out of floodwaters and away from all downed power lines. As soon as emergency crews can get in, they are going to get in. As soon as it's safe to go and clear the roadways, the Florida Department of Transportation is going to go in and clear those roadways.

These are all on standby. They are ready to go. They understand the importance of a really, really quick response. As I mentioned earlier today, we have now officially sent the letter with the request to the Biden administration for a major disaster declaration for all 67 counties requesting the federal government do 100 percent reimbursement upfront for 60 days to ensure that we can quickly move forward into this response and recovery phase.

And I know sometimes they wait until different damage assessments are made. But in this situation, we've got a massive Category 4 storm that -- if you compare Charlie to this, this is way, way, way bigger than Charlie. It was as strong as Charlie coming in. But Charlie was much smaller. So this is a big one. And I think we all know there's going to be major, major impacts.

We are -- not only there are 42,000 linemen, they are positioned all across the state of Florida. As soon as it's safe to go, those power, those personnel are going to go into to resume power. And that's something that's very, very important. In terms of rescue efforts, obviously, there's robust efforts in each of these counties. I mean, some of these are major counties in our state like Lee County, Collier County, you know, they've got great response teams, the state of Florida, you know, we are providing a lot of support that stage and ready to go. We have over -- we have almost 250 aircraft, more than 1,600 high water vehicles and more than 300 boats of all drafts and sizes, including 250 already stationed in the major impacted areas and a nearly 50 that are staged and immediately ready to come in.

And so, with water this high, you know, these operations may need to be waterborne operations. Now there are some where you're going to need to use the water to get to some of the barrier islands anyways. If you look at like Collier County, I mean, downtown Naples is flooded. That's probably going to subside as the time goes on. But they're prepared for a lot of different eventualities. So we're thankful for the states that have sent us resources and we're very, very appreciative of them stepping up and helping Florida.

As this storm passes your community, understand it's still a very hazardous situation. You're going to have downed power lines, you're going to have a possibility of harm's way because of standing water, misuse of generators. I asked the Department of Emergency Management Kevin to produce for me the rundown of the fatalities through direct impacts of storms versus the aftermath.


And in Hurricane Irma, there were seven fatalities directly because of the storm. And there were 77 that were a result of post-storm. And a lot of that is standing water, downed power lines, misuse of generators. So please, just take precaution. Obviously, a ferocious storm coming in, very hazardous, very ominous.

We know the life-threatening nature of that. But once the storm goes, once there is a parent calm, there are still plenty of hazards out there. So just please make sure that you're taking the proper precautions.

I'm happy that Volunteer Florida has now activated the Florida disaster fund. Sometimes people say hey, we want to help, what can we do? And there's really two things you can do. One, send some donations, money. The other can be donate your time. What's not helpful is sending items and sending things to us.

We have a lot of stuff preposition. If there's a need for other stuff, Kevin has team, will work, FEMA. All these other groups can work to provide that. But if you provide money to some volunteer organizations and charity groups, they can make a big impact in people's lives. And if you're willing to volunteer your time, there's going to be ways you can be put to work. There's going to be a lot of people that are going to need help on the back end of this thing.

So if you want to contribute, you can go to Florida disaster, or text disaster to 20222. For those who want to come and volunteer, we have an official volunteer portal at Volunteer Florida, to find volunteer opportunities. This storm is doing a number on the state of Florida, it is going to continue to move through the state today and through much of tomorrow. And there's going to continue to be a number of adverse effects. I can tell you that as soon as it moves beyond southwest Florida, you're going to see a massive surge of personnel and supplies, to be able to help those who are in need, get people back on their feet and help to rebuild those communities. Kevin?

KEVIN GUTHRIE, DIRECTOR, FLORIDA DIVISION OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Thank you, Governor. I think everybody should know that the governor is extremely committed to being involved in this response. And he is -- he was here with me to late last night and he was here with me early this morning. And he has not been anywhere of a very near me the entire time. So Governor, thank you so much for your leadership in that area. I mean, it means a lot to me, it means a lot to leadership.

As the governor said, Hurricane Ian has made landfall this afternoon as a Category 4, winds of 155 miles an hour. I'm not going to read all the statistics that the Governor has mentioned, but I'll bring a couple of new ones here. 1,100 resource requests have been -- we've received 1,100 resource requests. We have fulfilled 900 of those. Again, the difference of the 200 stuff that we just cannot get out on the road right now.

We're working as quickly as possible to address those needs. We have well over 200 shelters open. We have 42,000 restoration personnel. We literally have with first responders across the state and additional ones coming in, there's well over 10,000 responders statewide ready to do stuff.

As the storm makes its way across Florida, I remind Floridians do to stay indoors if you're on the path of the storm. If you're sheltering in place in the path of the storm, and you still have power and Wi-Fi, please visit to fill out our shelter in place survey. We've had a really -- we've had a lot of people answer that and give us that information that helps us provide critical information to first responders about the demographics of your household so that they can aid your family as soon as possible.

Please keep in mind that first responders may not be able to immediately enter impacted areas to assist you do the safety hazards. I will say we are planning a three-prong response to handle that specific issue. We have personnel staged to come in via ground, via vehicles. We have personnel stage to come in via air with aerial deployed search and rescue assets. And then we also have the Coast Guard and the Florida Official Wildlife Commission ready to come in by sea for those barrier islands and beachfront properties. So we will have a response mechanism that involves all three of those arms.

Shelter in Place survey, again, I just reiterate this If you need immediate assistance, please dial 911, that site is not a replacement for 911.


If it is calm outside, you may be in the eye of the storm. As the eye of the storm continues to move inland is getting ready to enter areas such as Henry County, Glades County, do not go outside, if all of a sudden the wind stops. In this situation, that means you're in the eye of the hurricane. Seek shelter immediately, get into an interior room and protect yourself.

Do not walk or drive for flooded areas. Floodwaters can still -- I'm sorry, floodwaters can stall your car and sweep you and your car away in the blink of an eye. We receive reports of isolated tornadoes across East Central Florida. If you're in a tornado warning, again, seek an interior room free of windows, get low and put something over the top of your head to protect yourself.

If a tornado warning -- I'm sorry, self-deployments. We do not want individuals self-deploying out on their own. That is very, very dangerous. Leave that to the professionals that are trained in how to do that. Do not take your personal boat out in these situations, we do not want to have to respond to yet another problem.

The governor mentioned, there are more deaths as a result of indirect situations than the actual direct situation of storm surge wind at the beginning of a storm. So please, what we want you to do more than anything else is stay safe. Please be careful out there. Again, Governor, thank you.

DESANTIS: We have the Cajun Navy, they're on the way, right?

GUTHRIE: There were reports that they are on the way.

DESANTIS: You know, so I think the Cajun Navy is on the way and, you know -- OK, there we go. I mean, like we really welcome, I mean, those are some really battle-hardened folks. And so, Florida welcomes their support. And honestly, particularly Louisiana, because they've dealt with so much and so the governor has been great.

And, look, we've got a long way to go before the storm exit the state. And there's going to be a lot of need to get into these communities, particularly in southwest Florida, and offer the immediate assistance. But I do think the three-prong strategy, we're going in by ground air and by sea, means that all hands are on deck. And there's going to be people that are going to be in harm's way.

And what I've said is the folks were -- what we're told in these areas of the hazards, they were given time to be able to make arrangements and to leave. Some chose not to do that. They would have probably been better off doing that. Nevertheless, if people are in harm's way, you know, we're going to go and do whatever we can to help those folks.

And so that is going to -- those operations are going to commence as soon as it's safe to do so. Certainly, I would say what no later than first thing in the morning?

GUTHRIE: Yes, sir.

DESANTIS: Yes. No later, as soon as it's light outside and people are able to do it. And then it begins with the clear on the roads, making sure that the electrical folks can get in there. I was able to thank a number of these linemen. We went over to Lake City were number were stage. You know, these are great folks. They're coming from all across the country.

I mean, I've met people from Alabama, from Texas, from Louisiana, they're all coming to Florida. When we were driving back to Tallahassee from Lake City, I saw this beautiful sight of all these electrical vehicles coming where they had all the electrical equipment on. And these are folks that are going to help put people's power back on, it was just a procession of them. So we talked about 42,000 a batch after today, there's probably going to be significantly even more. So you really are seeing just a great logistical effort to put all hands on deck in this response.

OK, any questions?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Getting calls from people who have not evacuated calls for help, about how many calls people are we talking about here?

DESANTIS: Kevin, you want to take that?

GUTHRIE: So, right now, it's -- I don't want to give you a solid number, because it'd be -- yes, I know, earlier today, we had -- the initial report was 21. And then we -- because of 911 issues in that Southwest Florida area, we had one small rural county that was answering calls for the larger county saying that they had hundreds of calls. So I can't really quantify that right now. But just go with the words that the emergency management directors have -- I'm sorry, the local level told me.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you spoken to the President all about getting that 100 percent coverage? I mean, does he -- I know, there's a lot of folks out there who are pushing for Florida to get that outside coverage but I know --

DESANTIS: So when we spoke yesterday, I mean, he said, you know, all hands on deck that he wants to be helpful. And he said, you know, ask whatever you need, ask us, you know. So he was inviting us to request support. And so that we think that this is probably the best thing that we can get at this juncture given what we're dealing with. And so hopefully, we'll get a favorable response on that.