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Don Lemon Tonight

White House Shifting Focus To Domestic Issues After Troop Withdrawal From Afghanistan; Ida Inundating Northeast With Tornadoes And Flash Floods. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired September 01, 2021 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Tonight, the Biden administration moving to shift the nation's focus away from Afghanistan back to the issues here at home as U.S. officials express growing concern that far-right extremists and white supremacists are praising the Taliban for toppling the U.S.-backed Afghan government.

Also tonight, Ida is still a very powerful storm pounding the mid- Atlantic and the northeast with drenching rains, flash flooding and tornadoes. We are going to check in with our weather center. It is some really, terrible weather here in the northeast.

And President Joe Biden is harshly criticizing the new Texas law banning abortion six weeks into pregnancy, calling it extreme and a blatant violation of the constitutional right to an abortion.

I want to bring in now CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem and political analyst Astead Herndon. Good to see both of you. Thank you very much.

Astead, President Biden is trying to move past Afghanistan, focusing on the crises here at home like the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, we are still dealing with it, surging COVID cases. Is that possible because there are a lot of questions about his handling of the withdrawal?

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yeah, it's certainly the effort from the White House. I think that comes as no surprise. This has been a challenging moment for the administration and this is frankly not the territory they want to be playing on.

I think about back to the campaign trail from both the primary and the general. This is a very domestic-focused campaign. It was all about Donald Trump. It was all about the coronavirus. It is all about issues being based on the home front.

Frankly, the White House's bet is that that is still where the voters' interest lie. That if they re-shift that focus back to the domestic issues, then they will see those poll numbers go up, they will see that approval ratings move, and that is where Biden is most comfortable on his home turf.

That is going to be difficult as we still see those images from of Afghanistan but also because the issues facing him at home are very tricky. It is not as if there's an infrastructure bill that still needs big support. There is a filibuster that's blocking a lot of this voting rights legislation.

So it's not just that they can switch from foreign to domestic. It's that the challenges that were just as tricky there are very tricky here, too.

LEMON: Juliette, also, you know, we are learning, we have been reporting on this, white supremacists and anti-government extremists are praising what they say the Taliban accomplished, calling it a model for a civil war that they want to see in this country. Again, that is according to Homeland Security call that CNN obtained. How concerning? This is pretty scary.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, FORMER DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY OFFICIAL, PROFESSOR AT HARVARD'S KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: Yeah, I think leading up to the anniversary of September 11th, a week from a Saturday, the 20th anniversary, is a moment that we have to focus on both because of international terror threats but also the domestic terror threats.

There is going to be a desire by domestic groups to target a certain day, the day that are viewed as vulnerable in particular because it's a president that they don't like.

This idea that the Taliban sort of toppled the United States is very, very appealing to the right-wing groups. There's an organization, a terrorist group called the "Three Percenters." Most of us have heard of them. Canada has banned them.

"Three percent" actually stands for their beliefs. It is a debunked belief that only three percent of the colonists brought down the British monarchy here in the United States. It's probably 25 to 30 percent. So this idea of the ragtag army, the people sort of going after the establishment is something that's been very appealing to the white supremacist group. They see similarities with themselves with the Taliban right now.

LEMON: Astead, you know, we have heard a lot of talk from right-wing republicans, far-right Republicans stoking fear about Afghan refugees coming into the United States. Is this kind of talk that is feeding into this white supremacist narrative? This sort of -- I guess it is -- is it a great replacement theory or something like that?

HERNDON: Right. That puts a more formal name on a feeling that we know is widespread, particularly among the conservative base, the idea that there is a cultural and political loss of kind of traditional power.

Folks who have really maintained that power feel like it is being threatened. And that is a kind of grievance (INAUDIBLE) we see mostly white voters that has motivated things like Donald Trump. [23:04:57]

HERNDON: You know, I was at a Marjorie Taylor Greene-Matt Gaetz rally in Iowa a couple weeks ago. I got to tell you that immediately after Afghanistan, that was the main concern of the folks there, about how the influx of refugees will change the racial makeup of our country.

We know our democracy does not belong to white people. We know that -- we know that taking in immigrants has been a historic place for America. But that is the fear among this portion of the base, is that the influx of new people and the growing cultural and political power that they represent is what is taking things away from white Americans. They see it as a zero-sum game of power and that is what is motivating them particularly on these issues.

LEMON: And sadly, with all of that said, when you look at what the studies show, what the intelligence shows, there is possibility, Juliette, that this could get far worse and probably will. What should officials be doing right now to deal with the threat from these extremists?

KAYYEM: They're not just extremists. They are terrorists. I think we are beginning --

LEMON: Right on. Right on. Say that again. Say that again.


KAYYEM: They are terrorists because remember terrorism, the definition of terrorism is misused or threatened use of violence for political purposes. So everything that you are hearing from members of Congress about fighting and guns, all of that is a form of terrorism.

And so now we have a white supremacist group that is -- groups, excuse me, that are using the threat of violence. And so we have to treat them as terrorists. I think it took a while for people to get their head around that.

So that means deplatforming the leaders, surveillance and disruption, stopping recruitment which is the big thing, stop money flow, shaming works, right? We have to do all the tools because in the end, foreign terrorist groups fail when they can neither get money or recruit new bodies.

LEMON: Yeah.

KAYYEM: And so we have to get the white supremacist groups to be viewed as failures. Unfortunately, the GOP, you know, lures them, attracts them in a way because of the political agenda behind it, which is, of course, you know, suppressing the vote of a diverse America.

LEMON: Yeah. Hey, thank you very much. I appreciate it. I got to let you guys go a little bit sooner. We got to get to our breaking news. We have some breaking news. So thank you very much. So, here we go with our breaking news. We are going to get to our meteorologist Pedram Javaheri on this. But there is still this Ida, Pedram, wreaking havoc, moving through the northeast, bringing tornadoes and flash floods right now.

I'm going to show some of -- what's going on. Pedram, I want to get to you quickly because we have got New Jersey being declared a state of emergency right now from New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. And also New York City subways, services suspended on almost all lines due to weather from Ida.

So, this is serious. Look at that. We have that tornado as well. Take it away, Pedram. What is going on? Pedram, excuse me.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Don, I can't overemphasize what's happening here across portions of the northeast because you take a look at what has played out here, it's nothing short of remarkable. The rainfall amounts are staggering.

Here's what's left of Ida. You think just a remnant low, formal tropical depression wringing itself out. It's almost in its last breath. But it really goes out with an incredible bang across this region.

We've seen some reports of tornadoes, five to be precise, now coming in. One of them is across Mullica Hill in New Jersey region. I want to show this to you, across Western New Jersey, significant damage with this particular tornado to be had. Not unusual to see tornadoes touched down when you have a tropical system moving across because there's plenty of rotation in the atmosphere and that friction between the rotation and the storm, the terrain on the ground sponge up small tornadoes.

This particular one is not very small. You see damage again, impressive. Trees down and property damage as well with this particular tornado. And that was just part of the element of what Wednesday brought across the northeast. Rainfall amounts, Don, as staggering as it gets. We've seen rainfall like this in a few hours across the Gulf Coast. Maybe that is more usual with the tropical system.

Around parts of New Jersey, around portions of Pennsylvania into West Virginia, these are what we call a recurrence interval. The probability of this amount of rainfall to occur in this region is a 500-year rainfall. Look at the numbers and that gives you --


JAVAHERI: -- about 0.5 percent chance of this amount of rainfall happening as it just played out across the northeast. That's why we have the emergencies.

In fact, the National Weather Service in New York City for the first time in its history issuing a flash flood emergency. Not a flash flood warning, but a flash flood emergency which means water rescues are imminent or occurring and it's a life-threatening catastrophic flooding that is taking place across New York City area and of course parts of the northeast.

Again, the rainfall amounts as incredible as it gets. An observation here for Central Park in the last couple hours showed a one-hour rainfall amount of 3.15 inches. They've been keeping records in New York City since the 19th century. That's a one in a 200-year probability of occurrence there.

LEMON: And Pedram --

JAVAHERI: -- lot of rainfall happening across --

LEMON: We are looking at the video of that, exactly of what you are saying here. I experienced it actually on my way into work.


LEMON: We are on high ground. I mean, it was -- there were streams of water outside the building, incredible wind.

Pedram, I want you to help me through this. Danny -- Director Danny (ph), if you could put up that tornado video from New Jersey earlier, and then Pedram can walk us through it. But all of this is happening now. Walk us through this, Pedram. A tornado in New Jersey, you know, now -- I mean, just incredible.

JAVAHERI: When you have tropical systems -- yeah, when you have these tropical systems, as I mentioned, the rotation within these storms sponge tornadoes. Often about 70 percent of tropical-induced tornadoes are about EF0, EF1. So, generally, winds less than 100 miles per hour. That's pretty impressive when you put that into New Jersey, of course, and you see the damage that's been left behind --

LEMON: There it is up on your screen, by the way.

JAVAHERI: The tornado watch has been expanded -- yeah, it has been expanded until 6 a.m., Don, for tornado watch that includes New York City, includes portions of Connecticut, also Northern New Jersey, so plenty of storms into the overnight hours.

And Don, what is really dangerous about these storms, nocturnal tornadoes as they are, they are about twice more likely to be fatal for obvious reasons, because people are sleeping and not able to get to safe areas of their house quickly enough. It's going to be one of those nights where a lot of dangers are in place there with the active weather in the northeast.

LEMON: Yeah, we are dealing with some incredible weather here, very dangerous weather. There is a new tornado watch issued, as Pedram just said, in the northeast and it includes New York City. Third tornado watch has been issued for northeast by Storm Prediction Center. The watch includes portions of Northern New Jersey, Southern New York, and Connecticut.

The watch included New York City and it lasts until 1 a.m. Eastern time, Eastern daylight time. It is 11:00 now, Eastern daylight time, 11 p.m. That is up for at least the next hour and a half or so. New York Liberty Airport air traffic control evacuated due to wind. Apparently, they are back. That is happening as well.

And so we are getting all of these new warnings about what is happening. You can look at the flooding there. This is Bloomfield, New Jersey that you are looking at. The New York City subway, we've got these incredible images.

Listen, the weather has to be bad and the water has to be high for New York City to flood. New York City subway services are suspended on almost all lines due to the weather from Ida. That is according to the MTA. Also on the (INAUDIBLE), which we don't know as this is local stuff, it said really operating with delays. So it is happening all over the metropolitan area, New Jersey, and all over the northeast, really. We've got some strong stuff going on.

So Pedram, clearly it is not over when it comes to what Ida has done and what Ida has left behind.

JAVAHERI: Absolutely. That's the thing, people often let off their guard when you see a system be downgraded to a Category One, a tropical storm, a depression, now a remnant, but this has origins and of course the history of significant damage.

Plenty of moisture has been entering into the storm system. All of that moisture has to go somewhere. This is one of the last land masses it is interacting with. Unfortunately it is going out with a significant bang across this region with historic amount of rainfall and the damage that we are seeing.

LEMON: Pedram, there were at least five flash flood emergencies issued on Wednesday evening by the National Weather Service, stretching from West Philadelphia through Northern New Jersey. Dozens of water rescues were taking place, numerous roads have been closed. Again, the governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, declaring a state of emergency right now and urging residents to "stay off the road, stay home, and stay safe," a quote from him.

Again, earlier, as I was coming -- there were sheets of rain, as I was watching, and there were concerns from the drivers coming into work that they wouldn't be able to get us into work because the weather was so bad and the flood warnings as well. This is tough stuff. Imagine what they've dealt with down south, right? We are getting just the remnants of that.


LEMON: Imagine what they've dealt with in Louisiana and Mississippi and so on.

JAVAHERI: Absolutely. We've talked about this being a historic storm, one that we haven't seen as far as how slow it's moving once it made landfall, maintaining Category 4 strength across Southern Louisiana for almost six hours. Now, it pushes across the northeast. The population density in this region is far greater, so the impacts are going to be far greater even if the storm doesn't have the same ferocity when it comes to winds. But again, you've noticed, tornadoes already spawned. Flood emergency is impressive or as serious as it gets because water rescues are taking place because this is a catastrophic flood. So flood warnings happen very frequently with storms almost every single day. The National Weather Service in New York City has never issued a flood emergency for that area, so it really speaks volumes of what's happening there.

LEMON: Speaking right now, there's a flash flood emergency in effect until 11:30, about 15 more minutes.


LEMON: I don't know if that is going to be extended, Pedram. It was also issued for New York City. That is according to the weather service. It is covering be Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx and areas as far north as White Plains. We'd already seen up to 3.5 inches of rain. You talked about the rainfall in the New York City area and also in Central Park. Is this among the highest since they have been keeping record?

JAVAHERI: For one hour, yes. The one-hour observation was 3.15 inches there in Central Park. That beats a record from a couple weeks ago, Don. Incredibly, the one-hour observation record was set with a previous tropical system that came ashore in Connecticut a couple weeks ago. That brought in almost two inches in one hour. We've up to three inches. Again, kind of shows you 2021 coming again with the number one and number two heaviest rain events in the short duration there for New York City.

It began absolutely saturated. We have kind of seen this play out. I often talk about this when it comes to the climate change angle. We know that for every one degree Celsius our planet warms, our atmosphere holds about seven percent more water vapour. So, it makes complete sense to meteorologists that when you warm the atmosphere, you're able to retain more moisture and what goes up must come down and that is what happening here across New York City.

LEMON: I think, Pedram, correct me if I'm wrong. I mean, we expected to have some bad weather here in the northeast. I'm not sure that they expected this amount of rain and also to have tornado warnings in the northeast and actually there was a tornado. We saw the video of it in New Jersey.

JAVAHERI: Yeah. We had a couple. Storm Prediction Center did give us a high risk of four out of four for the excessive rainfall. Of course, you can never predict those are going to be historic rainfall but we knew it is going to near the top of the charts. So that is certainly verified. And then you look at the tornado threat. Any time you have tropical systems, tornadoes are not unusual.

Hurricane Katrina prompted almost 60 tornadoes when it made landfall. This storm had about 12, I believe, across Louisiana and the south as it moves to shore. You could see half of that number already with many more hours left tonight before it's said and done. It's going to be dangerous to go here. LEMON: Yeah, you're right. If you're just tuning in, listen, we are following some breaking news here on CNN. An incredible weather is happening in northeast. As a matter of fact, right where we are now where I am broadcasting from -- in New York City.

If you look at your screen now, you are seeing -- these images are coming from Pennsylvania. This is earlier in the day but it is not over yet. Rain is still coming down. There are flash flood emergencies, including Newark, New Jersey right now. The governor declared a state of emergency. Phil Murphy telling people, urging residents to stay off the roads, stay home, and stay safe. It is very dangerous out there right.

Of course, it is one of the most populated areas and densely populated areas, I should, say in the United States. So, many more people in the path of this incredible storm, the remnants or the last of Ida before it goes out to sea into the Atlantic as it moves further east, further northeast.

I'm here with our meteorologist, Pedram Javaheri, and he is covering it for us. Pedram, how much longer do you expect the northeast to be dealing with these incredibly dangerous weather situations?

JAVAHERI: It's going to continue through at least around sunrise. I was looking at the model just before coming on air here with you and the system does look to finally clear up, push towards the Canadian maritime, as we get to 7, 8, 9:00 a.m. Much of the northeast is going to be under the impacts. The heaviest rainfall is taking place now into the next couple of hours. It continues up through Boston and into portions of New England before it's all said and done.

Really important to kind of highlight that when it comes to getting these heavy rain events in a major metro area and much of this area, of course, major metro populations, as you noted there, with highest populations in the country, that urban landscape is all concrete.

With heavy rainfall, when it hits the ground, if it's concrete and asphalt and a populated environment there, studies have shown about 55 percent of what hits the ground becomes runoff, where if you are in, let's say, a countryside landscape on a farm area where you have soil, about 10 percent of that becomes runoff. So 90 percent of it is absorbed.

This is going to have a much different impact than the amount of rain you would see elsewhere in the country just because of how populated it is and how much concrete there is to be had when the rain falls on the ground.

LEMON: Flooding in New York City, the bad weather suspending subway service on all lines due to the weather from Ida, and there is a new tornado watch for the northeast, which includes New York City. We are on top of the breaking weather situation. We will be right back.



LEMON: So, our breaking news tonight is that we are covering devastating flooding here in the northeast and we have a tornado watch that is in effect now until 1:00 a.m. Listen, we are going to stay on the air for you until at least 1:00 a.m. So I'm just getting the information. So a lot of it I am seeing just as you are, so I'm going to walk you through it.

This is in Mullica Hill that you see right there in New Jersey. That was a tornado captured by Bob Thomas. So there you see it blowing through. Later, we are going to get you some images. I believe there are stills of the aftermath of this tornado going through New Jersey earlier.

We also have shots of our subway system here in New York City inundated with water, flooding. You can see it. The entire subway service all over the city of New York City suspended because of the weather from Ida, which includes rain, flooding. Look at that, see the very back of that, look how that water is just pouring into the New York City subway. The entire New York City subway system is out of commission right now.


LEMON: And then there are other trains that could feed into New York City, the seven trains, Staten Island railway and all of that, they are on delays. The MTA checking it out and they're going to update us.

In New Jersey, the governor has declared a state of emergency. Governor Phil Murphy is saying, urging residents, stay off the roads, stay home, and stay safe.

Look at all of the floodwaters. This is tonight in the northeast. This is Bloomfield, New Jersey. If you look at this, you can see why the governor of New Jersey has declared a state of emergency.

There have been at least five flash flood emergencies issued Wednesday evening by the National Weather Service stretching all the way just west of Philadelphia through Northern New Jersey. Dozens of water rescues happening, taking place and numerous roads have been closed. So we will get the images up as we get them.

The latest flash flood emergency included Newark, which is New Jersey's largest city. You're looking at the images from Newark, New Jersey right now. These are the rainfall estimates for parts of central and eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Range from four to 8 inches of water with some isolated locations approaching 10 inches. Some parts saw three to four inches of rain, an hour throughout Wednesday.

We've been speaking to our meteorologist, Pedram Javaheri, who has been telling us about the rainfall, the one-hour rainfall totals in New York City, which is measured in Central Park, the highest since they started keeping record. Let's go to our meteorologist now, Pedram, to give us some perspective on what's going on. Listen, this tornado watch in the northeast, which includes New York City until 1:00 a.m., I'm not sure if they're going to extend it, but this is some really bad stuff.

JAVAHERI: It is. We are talking about tornadoes in this region. I just pulled up the latest numbers on that. You're looking at New Jersey. It gets one tornado on average per year. They've had 10 this year, by the way. This would be number 11 if confirmed. From what we can see, it'll be confirmed over the next 24 hours.

But then you noticed, we've had reports of at least four other tornadoes across Maryland, and this is the setup here tonight. We do expect to see at least several additional tornadoes just with the rotation of what is left of Ida. When we have tropical systems or even the remnants of tropical systems, they are still rotating pretty well into the atmosphere, so that creates the friction needed to spawn tornadoes.

Usually, they stay on the smaller side, about EF0, EF1, even EF2 at the greatest when it comes to tropical-induced tornadoes, but when it happens into the overnight hours, the threat levels increase just because people, of course, will be in bed and potentially caught off guard and that makes that much more dangerous.

The rainfall amount is really what is the most staggering to me, Don. You noted the three inches, 3.15 inches in one hour that came down in Central Park. They've been keeping records since the 1800s in Central Park for weather observations, almost every single day. Never have we seen a one-hour observation pushed to that value.

The National Weather Service in New York City issuing a flash flood emergency order, which is rare as it gets. They've never issued a flash flood emergency either. That differs from a warning. Warnings mean floods are imminent or occurring. Flash flood emergencies means water rescues are taking place and is catastrophic flooding that is occurring. So this is another level above as far as the severity of what is happening in the northeast.

LEMON: Pedram, I'm glad you mentioned New Jersey. Stand by. I want to get to CNN' Brian Stelter, who is joining us this evening from New Jersey. Brian, water rescues, state of emergency issued by the governor, stay home, stay safe and definitely stay off the roads, he is saying. What are you seeing where you are?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Big change from just two hours ago when these counties were experiencing, you know, moderate rain, the typical summer rains that people are used to. As you've been hearing, the difference tonight is the torrential downpours that are overwhelming local and county systems.

So we've heard about rescues in Mercer and Middlesex, and then closer to New York around Newark Airport. It's remarkable to think about the breadth of this, Don, from Philadelphia up to Trenton, up to New York, and now in Connecticut. We are talking about some of the most populated areas in the United States. It is incredible that Ida started New Orleans, started in Grand Isle in Louisiana, did so much damage there and is now doing so much damage a thousand miles north on the coast of New York and into Connecticut.

As you mentioned, those flash flood emergencies are incredibly unusual. My phone has been going off every 30 minutes with new versions of these warnings for people. It is largely around rivers and streams and low-lying areas. You've got an environment here where there are six inches of rain that have fallen in my home in Northern New Jersey, an environment that is simply not able to keep up with that kind of moisture.


STELTER: You are going to hear a lot about climate change in the hours to come and we should because this is a climate change story.

LEMON: Hey, Brian --

STELTER: In the short term, it is also a story about trying to evacuate people in floodwaters.

LEMON: Brian, you've been there in New Jersey, you said in Northern New Jersey, off and on. Has it been steady or you've become inundated later on this evening? That is what happened here in New York City. There was light rain and then it would stop throughout the day.

And then this evening, we were just inundated. I looked out of the window in the building that I live in, sheets and sheets of rain just coming down. And when I got out of the building, rivers -- got to CNN, rivers -- I mean of water just flowing through the streets of New York City.

STELTER: And that's the point when the infrastructure cannot take it anymore. It's that initial burst of energy that I experienced here, that you experienced at Hudson Yards that the system cannot take. And that's why the New York City subways are now suspended. And that's why there are so many cars under water in Newark, New Jersey.

LEMON: Brian, I want -- standby, Brian. I want to alert people to what they're seeing on the screen. Is this New York City we're look at, guys? This is New Jersey. So look, a lot of these images are just coming in. Brian, I don't mean to be rude, but I just want to --


LEMON: -- make sure that viewers know what we're talking about. And by the way, stand by, Brian, because this is from the mayor of New York City, okay? I just got this in. This is coming across. The mayor says and I quote here. "I am declaring a state of emergency in New York City tonight. We are enduring a historic weather event tonight with record breaking rain across the city, brutal flooding, and dangerous conditions on our roads."

"Please stay off the streets tonight and let our first responders and emergency services get their work done. If you're thinking of going outside, don't. Stay off the subways. Stay off the roads. Don't drive into these heavy waters. Stay inside. We're keeping our eye on the power grid. We've seen about 5,300 customers without power. We expect the rain to stop in the next few hours. But until then, again, if you're not inside, get inside."

So as I was reading this, I didn't see the images. These images are what? Is this still New Jersey? Is this New York City that we're looking at right now? This is a New York City bus. So, the water that's coming in, that was the bus, not the subway, correct? All right.

This is what people -- look at the roads here in New York City. This is what people are driving through if they're out on the roads now. This is what folks are experiencing on New York City buses. Mass transportation is at a standstill really here in New York City, especially on the roads.

But I should say especially in the subway system where the entire subway system is shutdown now, suspended. Subway service is suspended in New York City. And now, the mayor of New York has declared a state of emergency because of the damage that Ida is doing to the city right now in the metropolitan area.

If you look at the back of your screen there all the way at the back, you can see that water pouring into the subway system. To the left there, where you see those columns, that's where the trains usually are. And if you look hard enough, you can see that that entire area is flooded, almost like a swimming pool on the tracks of the New York City subway system. And there are feeder railways that go in and out of the city also having issues.

Look, Jefferson Street subway. Look at the water pouring into the subway system. And you see the subway on the other side still rolling, and now this one coming in. And now, they have suspended subway service in New York City. What a mess.

You're looking at Queens Boulevard in Queens, New York, one of the boroughs of New York City. And I'm just going to keep going through this video as we get it. Look at that. Does that look like a city street to you? It looks more like a river. Queens Boulevard, that is what we're looking at. Ida, as you see on your screen, inundating parts of New York City.

This is Harlem that we're looking at now. Again, new video is coming in at every moment from New York City. What we're looking at now is still Harlem and it is -- what a wild scene. And the mayor is right. If you don't have to be out in this, you should not be. And I'm sure this snuck up on a lot of people.

Now images from New Jersey are coming in. And Brian Stelter joins us now. Brian, you're in Northern New Jersey. As we look at this, it is flowing. This water is just flowing down the stream -- down the road here in a stream. It is unbelievable to witness.

[23:34:59] STELTER: And the same -- I hope you didn't hear the thunder, but the same state of emergency you described in New York has also been declared by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, saying we'll use whatever resource at our disposal to ensure peoples' safety.

You know, what happened earlier this evening, Don, closer to Philadelphia, severe thunderstorms and tornados ripping across Southern New Jersey. That was an early indication of what the storm was capable of as it moved into the northeast.

There are certainly lots of viewers in other parts of the U.S. that think, you know, what's the big deal with some flash flooding? The difference, I think, in New York City is the city is not built for this and it is so shocking, as Mayor de Blasio said, stunning to see this kind of flooding happening so quickly.

It happens in part because, you know, it's something that saturates the system, the subway system, other infrastructure there. And we're seeing the same thing in Connecticut, in New Jersey, parts of Pennsylvania.

Flash flood emergency is a very rare term that the National Weather Service uses. But at one point tonight, 18 million people were under a flash flood emergency. That's a term usually only used for life- threatening situations. We know there are cars and folks stranded, evacuations happening in many counties in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and now up toward New York.

LEMON: Yeah. And also those rescues. And when it gets to a situation like this, no doubt, undoubtedly, Brian, there are going to be rescues going to happen because this is catching many people off-guard. As you say, the metropolitan area really not built for this. It doesn't get this kind of weather very often. But when it does happen, man, oh man, does the metropolitan area take a beating.

STELTER: The most remarkable data point that we have is from Central Park. I'm sure you mentioned it earlier. To have a record hourly rainfall when you were at the concert in Central Park, and now to have that record smashed a week and a half later, you know, this is really history making weather that's happening right now.

LEMON: Yeah. Let's go to our meteorologist. Brian, I want you to standby. We're trying to get our other correspondents up and about around the New York City, New Jersey, Pennsylvania area to try to bring you some of the live coverage from there.

Our meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us now. Pedram, you're able to see these images coming in. Look at this. This is Queens Boulevard in Queens, New York. Brian Stelter is right on. This city is not built for this situation. When you get weather like this, rain, people can't get around, we depend very heavily on our mass transportation system, and that is basically shutdown right now.

JAVAHERI: We had tropical storm Henri too made landfall across parts of Connecticut a couple of weeks ago, kind of meander across areas of the northeast. That's what brought in the previous record rainfall which again hadn't been seen since the 1800s and we break that by an additional inch here in the last couple of hours. But I was just looking to the three-hour rainfall total in Central Park 5.3 inches has come down in Central Park in the past three hours.

You take an area such as across the western U.S. Go to Spokane, Washington. They've picked up five inches since January 1st. This happens in three hours. New York City, of course, completely different population density and that's going to lead to significantly greater impacts, and that is exactly what's playing out here.

Brian really made a great point when it comes to the impacts of climate change and how these events are happening more and more frequently. Here we go. We have upwards of 70 million that are underneath these flood alerts, whether be warnings or watches.

But I noted earlier that when it comes to our temperatures on our planet warming up and only warm by average about 1 degree Celsius, which is what has been observed across the world since preindustrial times, the moisture content and the atmospheric water vapour has increased by about seven percent as a result. So for every one degree we go up, almost 10 percent increase in water vapour in the atmosphere, so rain events become heavier.

And so many studies have been done on this, Don, kind of looking at why this happens. And guess where the most likely area in the country, the highest likely area to see heavy rain events take place as a result of warming of our planet is right there on the northeast, 71 percent increase from a study that looked at 1958 through 2012 for increased heavy rain events, and that puts the highest likelihood scenario right there around the northeast that has been playing out.

LEMON: Look at that water pouring into the New York City subway system. I have another warning coming in from New Jersey, Pedram. The mayor there, Passaic, New Jersey, saying -- Hector Lora saying stay off the streets of the city tonight, warning residents to stay off the streets as flooding associated with this post-tropical cyclone Ida begins to fill the roads, leaving some motorists stranded, he said.

This is a quote from him. The mayor says, "We have vehicles stuck in the street. Water has risen so high that we have four to five vehicles stuck in the middle of the street," saying, "emergency vehicles are also getting stuck in the rising water. We've also had people get stuck. We've had fire trucks stuck. We have had ambulances stuck. We've had people that are still stuck that are not getting out of the water."


LEMON: And that is a quote from the Deputy Chief Louis Gentile. And you can -- there's a video of all of that. So there you go. This is people --where are we looking at now, guys? That was Queens.

This is what the National Weather Service has tweeted just now. We are seeing way too many reports of water rescues and stranded motorists. Do not drive through flooded roadways. You do not know how deep the water is and it is too dangerous. Turn around. Don't drown. So that is from the National Weather Service in New York City.

This is what you're looking at, the Grand Central Parkway in Queens now. And this is -- water -- many of those cars or vehicles are going to get stuck because they're going to flood out. And so traffic at a standstill, water up to the door, probably going inside of some of those vehicles. And this is what's happening all over the northeast at this moment. Our meteorologist, Pedram, said much of this was predicted but not the amount of water that we're getting.

This is what we're looking at in Pennsylvania now. North Hampton, Pennsylvania -- North Hampton County, I should say, Pennsylvania. This is why they're telling you do not try to drive through this. Do not try to drive through this. Don't drown. Turn around. Turn around. Don't drown.

I want to get now to CNN's Shimon Prokupecz who's joining us now. Shimon, we're looking at these images of this water just rushing into the New York City subway system. I know that you're out and about covering this because that is your job, but talk to us about what you're seeing and what's going on.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER (via telephone): Don, right now, I'm actually at the 59th street, the Columbus Circle Station, and there are just trains just parked here at the station for quite some time. One of the things obviously happening is that the subways are flooded. Water has seeped through every which way you can imagine into the subway system and all that is now flooded.

Just to think about this, that almost all of the subways in New York City, which is the lifeline of this city, are now shutdown, they're not running, the mayor I was listening to in earlier, he said there were people actually stuck on trains and they were getting some of them out.

People stuck in between tunnels because trains are just parked at stations. So they can't move the trains through. So right now, all of the subways are shutdown, and people are just sitting on the trains, you know, trying to get home from work. Most of the people that are on the subways at this point are coming from work.

And this sort of the way, the mayor has described, what we have seen, is the way that storm hit New York. It just came sudden, it came fast, and it's very clear that the city was not prepared for this, that they certainly were not expecting it to come as fast as it did.

The NYPD and the fire department have probably at this point responded to hundreds of 911 calls from people asking to be rescued from their cars. As you can see from the pictures you've been showing all across different roads and really all of the five boroughs of this city, people have been stuck in their cars as water just came rushing in and rising very quickly. And this has been probably what the NYPD has been dealing with.

And again, just seeing at this point at least and certainly from the mayor, that the city was not expecting this to happen as quickly as it did, and it's really unprecedented when you think about, you know, meteorologists in this city are all saying this is such a historic event, to see this kind of rain come down across the city as heavy as it was at times, and right now that's what they're dealing with. They're dealing with heavy, heavy flooding and heavy rain that continues --

LEMON: Shimon, I want you to standby. I want to get to the governor of New York now. Governor Kathy Hochul joins us on the line. Governor, thank you very much. I appreciate you joining us.

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY) (via telephone): Thank you.

LEMON: Listen, we've got the mayor of New York City declaring a state of emergency. We've got the governor of New Jersey declaring a state of emergency. So, governor, what are you hearing about the conditions? Give us your perspective on this, please.

HOCHUL (via telephone): They're rather devastating. I just got off the phone. I spoke with Mayor de B1asio within the last hour. I also spoke with our commissioners who are in charge of our response. We literally deployed assets starting this morning in anticipation of this, but this is far more than anyone really expected, and so we're dealing with a situation where it's not safe for people to be out, number one.

Our subway system has effectively shut down. Every line is either limited or suspended due to the excess of water.


HOCHUL (via telephone): So we want people to stay away from there. They should check a website called -- it is to find out when the service will be restored. We can't guarantee it's going to be up and running by tomorrow morning --

LEMON: Say that again, governor. What is it? What is the website?

HOCHUL (via telephone): It is

LEMON: Got it. Go on.

HOCHUL (via telephone): Yes. They should check that for service disruption and also service restoration. We have assets on the ground. We are ready with our swift water rescue teams to be deployed where necessary. We have tree crews (ph) and on the ground to be able to address situations where wires are coming down.

We have about 31,000 people without power right now primarily Long Island, maybe about 5,000 in New York City. So it's -- you know, it's spreading and it's hitting the lower Hudson area, Westchester, Rockland County, and Putnam County. So it's a widespread storm and the flooding is just extraordinary. And I just --