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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Ian Makes Landfall In South Carolina As Category 1 Hurricane; Destruction Across Florida "Indescribable". Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 30, 2022 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Now Hurricane Ian is making its third landfall in Georgetown, South Carolina, just south of Myrtle Beach. And you're looking at the surging ocean washing away the pier at Cherry Grove along North Myrtle Beach. South Carolina's Coast being counted with high winds, rain and the dangerous storm surge that's causing flooding in North Myrtle Beach. The water has been rising and is now past the mailboxes.

Let's go back to Nick Valencia who is in Myrtle Beach.

And Nick, Myrtle Beach already seeing some signs that things are going to get better?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they're getting some reprieve here, Jake, and some welcome reprieve. For the first time, all day the sun is out and it seems as though the worst of Hurricane Ian has come and gone. It made landfall just a couple of hours ago just south of us in Georgetown, but it did bring some significant damage here to Myrtle Beach. Thousands are without power still at last check with the emergency management, 13,000 were without power. Portions of the pier, as you reported had been broken off into the Atlantic and there was some localized flooding with roads inundated with water causing road closures.

As it stands right now though, we do not know of any reports of injuries. We've been checking with the local emergency management here so far, it's just some significant damage to the piers. And there wasn't cause for concern a short time ago.

About an hour ago, as we were reporting a shrimp boat appeared along the Atlantic Ocean just really out of nowhere getting hammered by those still very choppy waves at the time. It was unclear if anyone was on the boat at the time. Initially when we were reporting, we did walk over there and talk to the sheriff. He said they were -- the crew on the boat was evacuated yesterday by the Coast Guard. It was anchored a couple of miles away from here, but that intense wind caused it to drift onshore here.

There's just to the off camera, there's a huge crowd surrounding that boat. In fact, somebody tried to climb on top of the boat and was arrested. But here though, there is a welcome sign of a rainbow here behind me. I don't know if you can make that out. And people here are on the beach trying to check out what they could see, some treasure hunters as well.

All of this was underwater just a couple of hours ago, that water has receded. The biggest thing that happened here was the storm surge. At the height, there was 10 feet of water. And I think no one, even the local residents expected about seven feet of that storm surge. Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Nick Valencia, thank you so much.

I want to bring in the mayor of North Myrtle Beach with -- South Carolina with Marilyn Hatley, she's on the phone.

Mayor Hatley, Cherry Grove pier is now destroyed. The power is in and out. There's reports of some bad flooding already in parts of North Myrtle Beach. What damage have you seen so far?

MAYOR MARILYN HATLEY, Well, Jake, I have been out all day. And yes, we have had some damage to our pier in the Cherry Grove area. We have had a tremendous amount of flooding from Hurricane Ian. Many of the streets around the marshlands and between the marshlands and the ocean have been underwater, some are still underwater, that the tide is going out and we are hoping to see the reprieve from the tides and not -- and the very near future.

TAPPER: And Mayor Hatley, what's your biggest concern right now?

HATLEY: Well, my biggest concern right now is the damage that has been done by the surge of the water. The winds did some damage, we had some routes to come out. We've had some tire lines down. We've had people, of course, people are out of electricity. Not everyone, but quite a few people in our area are out of electricity.

We've had trees down. So, just going out and surveying everything and seeing what kind of shape our city is in, and that is something that we'll be doing in the next few hours.

TAPPER: Do you think that people in South Carolina may have underestimated the strength of Hurricane Ian?

HATLEY: Well, when you the -- we were going to get some effects from the hurricane. And we've been preparing all week with repairing our drainers, checking all our drainage systems and wanting people to be prepared of heavy rains and winds up to 40 miles per hour. But I don't think that we were expecting it to come in as close to the North Myrtle Beach area as what it did. The eye made landfall about 30 miles -- 35 miles from our community.

And of course, we receive winds around 60 miles per hour. But the storm surge, the timing of the storm was not good for us because it came in around the high tide air time.

TAPPER: All right, Mayor Marilyn Hatley will be thinking about you and all the citizens of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Thank you so much for your time.


So how strong is Hurricane Ian right now? CNN's Jennifer Gray joins us from the CNN Weather Center.

Jennifer, what's the latest forecast?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, now it is a post tropical storm. It loss its tropical characteristics as the storm continues to push inland, we'll continue to see it weakened.

It is still breezy along the coast. But just as you saw from Nick's shot, most of the energy is on the northern side of this, so the sun's already starting to come out along the coast. We'll still deal with breezy conditions tonight, but all of this rain is going to push inland. So you see places like Charlotte, Raleigh, Norfolk, all those areas will see rain now.

The water is receding, the storm surge has peaked, all of that is now going back out and going out fairly quickly. We did have the third highest storm surge though ever recorded in Myrtle Beach. So, the storm was significant for that region. And we do have a tornado watch we can't forget about and this is until 10:00 tonight. So some brief spin ups are possible, although that threat will be going down in the coming hours as well.

So here's your forecast radar, and you can see those showers basically just driving up to the north. We're going to see a dreary day in D.C. on Saturday, all across West Virginia and even into the Northeast, you can see all this moisture from the storm is really just going to head that way. And so we are going to see quite a few showers going into the weekend across the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast. So we could see some pretty decent rainfall could see anywhere from two to four inches, some areas getting up to five, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jennifer Gray, thanks so much.

Hurricane Ian left a wave of destruction in Fort Myers Beach part of Lee County, Florida. Officials there say 90 percent of the island is, quote, pretty much gone. CNN's Bill Weir is in Fort Myers, Florida.

Bill, what have you seen?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we wanted to head to Fort Myers Beach to see exactly what had happened there. We'd have those staggering reports that it's been wiped off. We hit sort of a roadblock which had incredible damage that we're able to capture because we weren't able to get past there. Let me give you a little sample of what that look like just a few minutes ago.


WEIR: These are shorebirds and pelicans walking across wreckage in what used to be San Carlos harbor. It seemed better days as you can see. This is the destructive path of Ian, it came raking across here. A lot of the businesses here, of course, have to do with recreation here in paradise, kayak rentals, bait shops, completely split open by the wind.

But what's most striking about this particular spot is the boats that have been tossed into the mangroves across the street here. We have a bit of a bottleneck of human activity because this is the road to Fort Myers Beach. And the sheriff's department is not letting anybody on. If you haven't seen any pictures of Fort Myers Beach, this is why.

There is a first informer law in Florida that's supposed to give us access when there's a state of emergency, but you got to feel for the sheriff's deputies just trying to manage the crowds here now that are piling in. You've got journalists, of course, you've got first responders, you have residents who are just curious who are coming by and that's creating this huge pile. But this is what I wanted to show you, this is across San Carlos Boulevard. And just get a load of this, just wanton, indiscriminate destruction.

I think about how a family saves up their whole life to buy a boat or if you're a fisherman, you dream of being a captain one day and how perilous that is even in a good year sometimes. But now what this will do to the maritime businesses around here, the insurance, the marine insurance companies that will have to deal with the aftermath of this.

And this is what I really wanted to show you guys, look at this. I will always remember the site of Captain Greg's boat, the Crackerjack, which is now parked on top of this Chevy Suburban. You can hear the alarm going off inside the boat to alert the captain that something's wrong it's heartbreaking in this setting.

And then, you've got laundry baskets up in the mangroves there. Another bait shop over here. And then you find stuff like this, look at this. Just a random. This is Nicolas Rollins (ph) MGM rewards card, just sat down there by the most violent storm to hit this part of the coast in history.

And meanwhile over here, you have the beeping of earthmovers as they tried to shove these grounded sailboats out of the way. As we learned in Irma and Maria, cleanup can be as much of a manmade disaster as the hurricane itself if not properly managed. But we can only hope that all available resources will manage unjumble this mess as soon as possible for these poor folks.



WEIR: And Jake, I've just seen word that we are getting our first sort of drone pictures of Fort Myers Beach. I can't see them where I am, but we'll just roll them and we can talk about the destruction we're seeing now and just thinking about, of course, there's the human life factor that that toll continues to rise. But also the cost, the economic hits on this, the livelihoods, the last days of work there as well.

We are starting to see some things come back to life. We saw our first open gas station on the way here, we saw our first open sandwich shop, and this is South Florid, so we saw our first open bar where folks were easing the stress of this day out there as well. But it struck me with the power out now. We're under 2 million, I think, without power, 1.4 or something, I don't know the latest, but a huge swath of the state is just in the dark.

No stoplights are working. It really tests the politeness of folks, you know, taking turns at a dead intersections. And then this, of course, is a state with so many senior citizens struck me today in our hotel, these folks trying to help a 90-year-old woman down seven flights of stairs just to get some fresh air. And a lot of seniors live in these high rise condos that have no elevators now. So I think about that layering on as the -- it's starting to heat up here as well, Jake. It's going to be a tough stretch for a bit.

TAPPER: And Bill, you have covered a lot of hurricanes in the aftermath of hurricanes, what you're just doing in that piece reminded me of covering some of the reports of you that you did after Hurricane Katrina when we you and I were both at ABC News. How does the wake of Hurricane Ian compared to some of the other hurricanes you've covered?

WEIR: Well, I think it's just, you know, they're like fingerprints, right? Every storm is different, has different characteristics. This one, when you see what it did to these pockets, she has complete annihilation of everything that's recognizable about that society, next to communities that fared pretty well. It's the massive loss of power that I've never seen before here. We saw it in Puerto Rico, their infrastructure was really failing for a lot of other historic reasons there.

And we should remember those folks who are also recovering from a hurricane that just happened a couple of weeks ago. But really it comes down to -- for me, Jake, is there is the unnatural, now unnatural disasters of these storms that are supercharged by a warmer planet. But a lot of times they are followed by manmade disasters of poor management or contracts that are get inflated and given to cronies and, you know, cleanup efforts that you realize are money sinks and those sorts of things. So you have to hold back on judging these sorts of things.

I've seen some amazing cooperation from the residents and folks here and amazing spirit, that gets worn down over time. And so, it really depends on how we remember the storm really depends on how officials manage it from here forward.

TAPPER: Yes. And you know, there's another channel that accused you and I have a politicizing this because we dare to mention the fact that according to scientists, experts, the storms are intensifying because of manmade climate change. There's nothing political about this. We're just stating the facts. For example, scientists say that hurricane Ian's rainfall was at least 10 percent because of climate change, there's nothing political about that statement. That's science.

WEIR: You can just look at the track of people like to say, well, what about the great hurricane of 1900? Yes, those things happened in the past. The Earth is a complicated system. But if you look at the trend lines, the number of category four and five storms in the recent history has gone up, and you may not notice it as it is.

But now it's -- this is just physics. You can prove the problem behind the climate crisis in a seventh grade science class, unfortunately, has been politicized. And we've been misinformed by the special interests who profit off of the system that got us here. I didn't know that about another network. Sometimes you glad to be head down in the coverage sometimes, you know.


WEIR: It's unfortunately.

TAPPER: No, I know. It's too bad. But it doesn't matter. It's the science, it's not politicizing anything, it's the science. Bill Weir --

WEIR: And here's the other thing.


WEIR: You say -- let me just say, Jake, I know you got to go, but let me just say it is our obligation to show people who care about this and plan and concern for the next storm to talk about. That's where we were, the community Punta Gorda, they had the first climate resiliency plan. Are they part of the conspiracy?


TAPPER: Right.

WEIR: You know what I mean? It doesn't make any sense, that misinformation just cost people more pain and suffering down the road.

TAPPER: Yes. Bill Weir in Fort Myers, Florida, thank you so much. Excellent report as always,

Fort Myers will never look the same. Beachside landmarks erased by Hurricane Ian. It raises questions about what's next for these communities.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: How long will it take to get this back? When I look at this, this is not a quick fix. This is not six months. This is long term. Long term, I mean, you're talking about, you know, not refurbishing structures. You're talking about no structure left.



TAPPER: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis just started giving an update on Ian's aftermath in his state. Let's listen in.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): So, it's sad to lose your belongings anyways of course, but there's a lot of history in that part of the state and many parts of our state. So you see that, it's hard to just replace that. So there's going to be things you need to do, infrastructure wise, bridges, some of the other stuff down there. But I was pleasantly surprised to see 48 hours after a massive impact.


I saw Publix is reopening, I saw Walrus (ph) opening, I saw this happening in Lee County. And so, the quicker that the broader population can get back to normal, that's going to make it easier to help those who have been displaced.

We also toured over in Central Florida with the Seminole County Sheriff's Office, some of the flooding there. And I can tell you what we saw in Central Florida was more standing water than what we saw in southwest Florida where the big storm surge came in. It's just because of the way they have the Caloosahatchee, the -- I mean, the sand. For whatever reason, that really dissipated over the last 24 to 36 hours.

You go in places in Central Florida, there's a lot of standing water. Some of these places, you know, had water still up a couple feet on some of the homes. They're bracing for more impacts as you see some things with the St. John's and other things that happen. So, that was -- we knew there would be flooding but to have more standing water, 200 plus miles away than that is saying something.

And then we knew we've seen the impacts in this community up here in Northeast Florida before. We are going to be asking -- Kevin is going to be working with FEMA about potentially expanding individual assistance eligibility beyond the counties that have already been added. So right now it's southwest Florida into Central Florida. It stops before you get up into St. Johns.

I don't think Flagler or Volusia ended either. So you look Flagler Volusia, you know, they've had some big impacts, too. So, that's something that we're going to be working with them on. We think that that will be something that will be helpful for the residents of this area.

Fuel, by and large has done really well, even with the ports having to shut down because of the storm. You have fuel flowing in, it was good to see these gas stations open in southwest Florida. You know, that's something that we've had storms in the past where people without fuel for weeks or a long time. And that's a pain, it makes it harder for people to get back. So we appreciate the attention that's been paid on that.

And then in terms of like telecom service, it is getting better in southwest Florida, they are putting more towers in because of the towers that have been destroyed. But I would say that, you know, all the companies I think now are allowing the other consumers to other customers to roam on their network. And so that makes it very helpful. So if you're down there, just don't try to do WiFi calling, that's not up where it needs to be. Just do normal calling with roaming.

And if you're a Verizon, you can't get that, you may be able to get AT&T. And so that's something that's very, very important.

I want Kevin to come up and give an update and then we'll have the administrator come up as well. Kevin. KEVIN GUTHRIE, DIRECTOR, FLORIDA DIVISION OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Thank you, Governor, thank you for your leadership all day long today. Here in St. Johns County, St. Augustine's, I know some of the public safety officials know this is my home. So, I'm, you know, I'm coming back home, this is not the way that I like to come home on the weekends. But you know, I'm here to help not just the state of Florida, but also my hometown.

So, we're out here walking the streets. Myself, the administrator, the regional administrator, we're sitting here talking about, you know, different aspects of this particular neighborhood, other areas around St. Johns County to potentially get them into the declaration for individual assistance.

You know, I think one of the things that we have in this particular community that I want to just talk about, because we don't get an awful lot of time to talk about this is just down the road. Here we have a house that's being raised with FEMA funding as a part of the flood mitigation assistance grant program. There's a similar program called the hazard mitigation grant program that will be coming as a part of this particular storm disaster.

I know they're complicated and complex grants to work through, they take a little bit of time, but at the same time, if you're in a situation where you continually flood, then we can elevate your home. And those are good ideas to do in this neighborhood just like this. So, highly encourage you folks in this area to consider those programs. I know the city and the county will be reaching out to individuals that want participants in that program. So please continue to be a part of that program.

As the governor has mentioned, infrastructure is -- we're seeing the results of infrastructure hardening. The chief was telling me that some of the lift stations and whatnot were more resilient in this storm than they were in Matthew. So, things are, you know, we're getting better at what we do as far as hurricane response.

If there's things that you need, please make sure you reach out to your local emergency management agency, reach out to the fire chief, the police chief here. Make sure that we know about them, get those things rolled up to us. We're going to be here to continue to support not just St. Johns County and the city of St. Augustine, but all Floridians across the state. So, Governor, appreciate your leadership on this. Thank you.

DESANTIS: OK, and joining us That from FEMA is our administrator, Deanne Criswell.


DEANNE CRISWELL, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: Thank you. I really appreciated the opportunity --

TAPPER: All right. We're going to break away now that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has stopped talking and he was joined obviously by other officials updating the public on the devastating -- devastation brought on their state by that powerful Hurricane Ian. Next we're going to go to a hard hit Florida County where at least 10 people have been killed and there is only one hospital that is operational. That hospital is regrettably unable to accept any new patients. We'll talk to them next.




TAPPER: Let's go now to Charlotte County, Florida where Punta Gorda is located. Let me bring in the Public Information Officer for the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office Claudette Smith.

Claudette, tell us what your county's facing right now.

CLAUDETTE SMITH, CHARLOTTE COUNTY SHERIIF'S OFFICE SPOKESPERSON: Well, we're basically a tragedy. It's a national disaster down here we have many of our committee members without homes without water without electricity. So it's a very chaotic time right now.

TAPPER: Charlotte County commissioner says that there's only one operating hospital right now in your area and it's at capacity, and that no one has been accepted in the emergency room just because there isn't any room. Tell us about that?

SMITH: Well, we're facing a lot of issues right now, between getting the necessities, the essential to our folks, setting up those comfort stations to provide electricity, food, water, necessities to the community, let alone still responding to those emergency types calls and domestic disputes, those types of things, you know, they rise in these scenarios. So, the hospital being down, it's devastating. We have a lot of third party entities, outside entities who are coming to assist us, and we couldn't be more thankful.

TAPPER: But what does somebody do right now if they have a medical emergency and they go to the hospital, they get turned away, what happens to them right now?

SMITH: So we are -- we want you to call 911. Our medical professionals in Charlotte County are going to be able to find those services, they're not going to turn you away. If they have to triage you in the ambulance, they're going to do so. And they're also transporting people out of the county to those medical facilities.

TAPPER: What resources do you all need right now either from the state government or the federal government? What do you need right now?

SMITH: We need everything. To put it plain and simple, we need everything. We need all hands on deck. I know, you know, the people who have come to our assistance have been tremendously helpful. But we do need everything.

We need resources. We need to be able to get our community back together. And it's going to take some time, but we can get through it. TAPPER: We know that tragically 10 people in Charlotte County lost their lives because of Hurricane Ian. Is that the final number? Do you expect that number to rise?

SMITH: It is not. That is not the final number. I'm not exactly sure where that number came from as we haven't really confirmed the death toll and we're allowing the medical examiner in our district to provide that number to the media and to the community. But I do know there were several deaths.

TAPPER: Is 10 not the correct number? I mean, is there another number you can share with us?

SMITH: No, I do not have a current number so I can't give you -- I can't speculate on the final death toll.

TAPPER: All right. Thank you so much and keep in touch so we can keep shining a light on the people from Charlotte County and the fact that they need as you heard just now everything. They need everything to help their people survive. God bless you and please stay in touch so we can help shining a light on you.

It is startling when you see what parts of Florida look like before Hurricane Ian hit. This was Sanibel Island, you're looking at right now, this is what it did once look like full of resorts, businesses, vacation homes, now look at it, piles of debris ground into mountains of sand. Every structure on one property gone, basically just wiped off the map, some of the houses scattered across the road light like toys, others pulverized, places with. Beachy names like Mitchell's SandCastles that evoke happier times, they no longer exist. All that's left is sand where those buildings once stood.

There are growing concerns that excessive rain and storm surge from this monster storm and from future hurricanes like it will cause flooding in many areas that are not even in designated floodplains. The state of Florida and 20 other states do not legally require home sellers to disclose past flooding or flood damage to potential buyers. It's not required by law. And as CNN's Rene Marsh reports, that means millions of Americans are at risk of ending up underwater in more ways than one.


JACKIE JONES, PROPERTY FREQUENTLY FLOODS: Even now on a bright sunny day is psychologically traumatic for me because on constant alert waiting dreading the next rainfall.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Jackie Jones moved into her Reedsville Georgia home four years ago, she had no idea rain in the forecast would also mean her property would flood. Heavy rain caused this February 2020 flooding and one month later, Jones says more rain caused more flooding.

JONES: The water was literally over three feet high. Up at the house at the window seals where it got to it was almost four feet. MARSH (voice-over): No one told Jones the biggest financial investment she was making her new home was prone to flooding. FEMA maps say the risk is low and her home state of Georgia does not have flood disclosure laws that require home sellers to reveal flood history.

JONES: If I had better information, up to date information, accurate information I would not have purchase this house. So now I'm trapped in a 30-year mortgage I can't get out of.


MARSH (voice-over): Jones is not alone, the Natural Resources Defense Council tracks state flood disclosure laws and says the majority of states either have inadequate laws or none at all, leaving homebuyers completely in the dark as climate change supercharges rainfall storms and floods.

ROB MOORE, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL: If you're buying a home in the majority of states, you're not going to be told up front about past flood damages.

MARSH (voice-over): The Natural Resources Defense Council data shows a whopping 21 states including flood prone states like Florida and West Virginia have no flood disclosure requirements. One study estimates that homebuyers can incur 10s of 1000s of dollars over the course of their mortgage if they purchase a previously flooded home.

MOORE: We are talking about some of the most populous states in the nation that lack adequate disclosure laws. We're talking about Florida, states like New York and New Jersey.

MARSH (voice-over): As climate change makes severe flooding more intense and more frequent, especially in low lying places like Florida, NRDC says there's even more urgency for federal flood disclosure laws similar to the Lead Disclosure Act, which requires homeowners to tell buyers if there are lead hazards in a home. In the meantime, real estate tech company Redfin is trying to fill the information void by making flood risk data available with listings based on climate projections, information that would have protected Jackie Jones from unknowingly buying a flood prone home.

JONES: If you don't know how you supposed to make informed decision, you can't, something's got to change. Something's got to change.


MARSH: And Jake, population growth is exploding in many of these hurricane prone areas. And that simply means the number of Americans left in the dark because of nondisclosure is skyrocketing too. Now, just late last year, two bills that call for federal flood disclosure laws, they were introduced to Congress, but they have not passed yet. But in the meantime, Jake, homeowners and renters are like should ask pointed questions about the properties they're considering because even in states that don't require disclosures, sellers cannot misrepresent what they do know about a property's flood history. Jake. TAPPER: All right. Rene Marsh, thank you so much. And one of the big questions in Florida going forward, will homeowners be able to buy flood insurance? Stay with us.



TAPPER: Florida homeowners have long faced and expensive and difficult market to insure their home storms such as Hurricane Ian are only going to make things worse, even for the lucky ones who escaped any major damage. That's because for the better part of two decades, the nation's major insurance companies have steered clear of Florida altogether. CNN's Marc Stewart joins us now live.

Mark, why aren't the big insurance companies insuring homes in Florida anymore? What options do Floridians have?

MARC STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right Jake, let me just point out the obvious, insurance is a business, it's an industry that depends on a lot of money, and a lot of risk. And as one analysts told us recently, some of this reluctance by these big insurance companies may be because Florida simply sees a lot of hurricanes, a lot of tropical storms.

So, then that leaves the question what are people in Florida supposed to do? What are they doing? Well, they're depending on smaller independent insurance companies. But the track record has been challenging. Within this past year, six of those smaller companies became insolvent. The state also has a program that is picking up a big part of that burden.

But then there's also a question of cost. If you look in Florida, the national average for insurance in Florida, for homeowners policies, it's nearly three times the national average per year, $4,200 a year in Florida compared to about $1,500 in the broader United States. So, it is a big cost burden on a lot of families.

And Jake, I was in touch with someone from the industry today, and I said, what's the biggest challenge right now? He is telling me that adjusters have so many claims, they may not be able to handle it, that is the big burden right now, fulfilling all these claims, and that too, can certainly impact price in Florida.

TAPPER: And it's important to remind viewers who have never personally dealt with hurricanes before that for insurance purposes damage caused by wind is different than damage caused by water in a hurricane. And that means the storm surge, the flood damage is not covered by homeowners insurance, right?

STEWART: Right. That's a very important point. I'm glad you brought that up. Homeowners insurance is not necessarily one size fits all.

A lot of the damage we're talking about is only specifically covered by flood insurance. Some mortgages actually require it, but in some parts of the country that's not required. So, this may be a very good moment, no matter where you live to talk to your insurance provider. Did what you have in the past, is it working in the present and will it help you in the future perhaps?

TAPPER: All right. Marc Stewart reporting for us in New York, thanks so much.

It's a fight not only for their lives but to take back their homes. Ukrainian forces beating back Russian troops and we will take you there. Stay with us.



TAPPER: The Biden administration has announced it is imposing what it calls severe new sanctions on Russia after Vladimir Putin announced the annexation of nearly 1/5 of the country of Ukraine. National Security Adviser Jake Solomon today called Putin's action, quote, a flagrant violation of international law.


JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The United States will never recognize these actions. The world will never recognize these actions. We will sanction and impose export controls on any individual, entity or country that provides political or economic support to these attempts at annexation.


TAPPER: Putin's attempt to annex and absorb 1/5 of a sovereign country comes as President Zelenskyy of Ukraine officially signed an application for Ukraine to join the NATO alliance. That happened today.


Let's bring in CNN's Nick Payton Walsh was in Kramatorsk, Ukraine where Ukrainian troops are continuing to make advances into occupied territory that Moscow has just falsely claimed as now part of Russia proper. That includes, Nick, where you are standing right now. What's the reaction among Ukrainians there?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, look, I mean, there's been no difference for this town, Kramatorsk, from this morning when it was part of Ukraine to this evening when Russia now thinks it's part of Russia. What we saw today in Moscow was startling messaging by a Kremlin that's really been on the rocks for the past week or longer, frankly, a real sense of them wanting people domestically to know that they're on the course towards victory.

The ground matters here weren't changed by Vladimir Putin standing on stage and signing pieces of paper with the four Moscow appointed leaders have occupied territory here in Ukraine. But it was essentially a chance for him to say we'd like a ceasefire, that isn't going to happen, because Ukraine's on the front foot here. Talk about negotiations, nobody really trusts Russia at the negotiating table at this stage.

And also, without directly threatening the use of nuclear weapons to protect what Russia now falsely called expanded Russia. The threat of nuclear force hung in the background in the speech for quite some time. But fundamentally, nothing has really changed here in terms of the front line, although Russia may think it has more cars that can play or may have generated more domestic support for what looks like a long war for it. Instead on the ground here, we are seeing around the vital Russian held hub of Lyman, a railway town, Ukraine essentially encircling that and that could have significant follow on effects for Russia position elsewhere here in Ukraine. And we've seen just the sheer force of Ukraine's advanced in the past weeks, in recent days.


WALSH (voice-over): Hidden but unstoppable, Ukraine is not bragged much about its march south from Kharkiv towards the price of the Donetsk, but every rooftop or tree line suggests they've just been too busy advancing. Day by day, reducing how much have occupied Ukraine Moscow has this day falsely declared Russian territory with the ultimate goal in circling the vital railway town of Lyman at hand. No quarter given all the way through the forests to the monastery town of Sviatogirsk.

(on camera): The drive to this point probably the most depressing two hours we spent on the road for the whole six months of this war, just laying bare the utter ferocity of the fighting and also to the speed of Ukraine's advance to this town, which itself is shocking. Eight years ago at the start of the conflict, I lived on off here for six months and just learn to appreciate its normality, it's a piece of metal, the pines here, and that's just gone.

(voice-over): It is the most fragile who remained when Russia moved in. Anna is one of nine people left in her block. She almost didn't make it.

ANNA, SVIATOGIRSK RESIDENT (through translator): The scariest was when the Russians one night were in a firefight in my courtyard. I was in the doorway and tried to hold a steel door shut. But a soldier pulled at the door, so I jumped down and fell in the basement. He tore open the door, shot his gun into the darkness and missed me.

WALSH (voice-over): Some seek survival in there God here who's monastery looks down on the mess. Lyuba asked me if they'll come back, the Russians. They made such a mess of venue post office she says. On her shirt, a lock of hair from her local beloved priest killed by shelling in June.

I attached it as a protective amulet, she says. Tell me, can I leave her now?

Even the carcass of here still rocked by shelling. But the church bells finally rang again two days ago. They brought Lyudmila to tears. It rang and I heard it, she says, and I listened and it got louder. They are now out of the church basement where they hid from the bombs and still try to live. (on camera): She's just saying it's cold down here and you can feel that seven months underground.

(voice-over): Anxious to not show their faces, their plight down here is their private tragedy one says. Lyudmila's disabled son was injured in shelling and taken to hospital she tells me she last saw him alive. But that is all she knows down here.

There is little salvation here, only ruin turning to rust. There is no letup in Ukraine's advances or of Moscow's imminent annexation. They absurd claim this land is now actually Russian territory. The land here testimony to how the collision between this right and that's wrong shred the very thing both covered.



WALSH: So, no sense of anything approaching recognition of those ceremonies in Moscow that things are not going well for Russia on the front lines here. And there is the potential, as I said, in the days ahead, as Ukraine moves around Lyman and disrupts Russian supply lines that we see another chaotic failure to regroup amongst Russian forces that could alter yet again, their control over an area which Russia has just claimed is now part of Russia. Putin's war not going to plan despite the messaging they tried to give in Moscow. And you have to wonder how he's going to bridge the gap between what he says is happening and what will happen and what is clearly happening here on this battlefield, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Nick Payton Walsh in Kramatorsk, which remains Ukraine. Thank you so much. Appreciate it. We'll be right back.


TAPPER: Don't miss State of the Union this Sunday, both Florida Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, along with the FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, that's Sunday at 9:00 a.m. Easter, and again at noon here at CNN. Until then, I will see you on Monday. Thanks so much for watching.