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Don Lemon Tonight

Ian Leaves Catastrophic Destruction Across Florida; Ian Heads Toward South Carolina. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired September 29, 2022 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: So, hurricane Ian is just hours away from another landfall, this time taking aim at South Carolina, at the South Carolina coast. Charleston County declaring a state of emergency tonight. It comes as Florida is dealing with catastrophic damage from Ian. At least 17 people dead tonight. There are fears that that number will go up.

CNN's chief climate correspondent is Bill Weir, and he joins me now. Bill, hello once again to you. You say today is some of the worst damage you have ever seen in your career covering these disasters. Tell us what you saw.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, by that, I mean, Don, there are certain sort of moments and scenes in storms that are just burned into your brain. Katrina, for a lot of the reasons that we all know, that was such a man-made disaster in so many ways. Same with Maria in Puerto Rico, you think about those communities. Michael, which took apart the panhandle.

But I will always remember, at least, I will equate Ian with what I saw today in St. James City. That's on Pine Island. And this is a tight little community, a lot of manufactured homes, mobile homes, people whose vote might be more -- worth more than their home. And all of it completely jumbled and shattered and mixed up as if, you know, like bathtub toys with careless children. And it takes your breath away when you see the pieces of people's lives, the personal mementos, you know, photo albums laying out in this way. It really is devastating.

But it's a striking contrast to what I saw in Sanibel Island, which is a much wealthier zip code, much stronger construction, and not nearly the visible damage there. Now, I didn't go all over Sanibel, so I can't speak for the whole thing. And there was a house that was burning with no one to put it out on fire there, and natural gas leaks that we actually witnessed as well.

But the contrast, sort of the tale of two storms is what we'll see between the haves and have-nots when it comes to just basic protection. And hurricane Andrew, early 90s, really completely wiped homestead Florida off the map, changed a lot of people's minds about building codes. It revolutionized the way people think about adaptation and fortifying against these storms. So, I've got to wonder, Don, if Ian will accelerate that in any way. Who knows?

LEMON: Bill, you are with the Cajun Navy. They always come and help out in these situations. You're with them as they made rescues. Tell us about it.

WEIR: Yeah, so, these guys are pretty much volunteers who take fundraising dollars, donations, one or $2, big donors, and they go out in their own boats and just try to help people. They've been doing it unofficially out of Louisiana.

These (INAUDIBLE) fishermen and duck hunters, we saw then at Harvey, around Houston, and now they are officially a nonprofit. And they went out with a couple other groups, including Project Dynamo, which is named after Winston Churchill's mission to pull soldiers off the beach at Dunkirk by using civilians in every boat. Of course, if you remember the movie. And that's -- they're motivated by that. So, these combined forces.

We went out today to Sanibel, to St. James. And on St. James, we are actually -- they are going to answer a distress call placed by a child of this couple, seniors who are there, who are scared, who had ridden out the storm, and we talked to them as they were gratefully accepting a ride back to the mainland.


WEIR (voice-over): You are saying the water came up really fast?

UNKNOWN: It did. It was so fast.

UNKNOWN: If it wasn't for the water, this would've been a wind storm. Not that bad really.

UNKNOWN: No. We got the surge -- the one person that I spoke to at the end of the block there, the surge was higher than nine feet.



WEIR: Yeah, Robert and Nancy (ph) are very sweet. And to see Nancy (ph) -- she started to break down in tears with emotion when she realized her daughter had sent the Cajun Navy to come and pick them up. It really was a touching moment.

LEMON: Yeah. Bill, you know, I went out in a small boat with Orange County Fire and Rescue earlier today. Governor DeSantis says that there have been 700 confirmed rescues across the state. I mean, this is a massive, massive effort.

WEIR: It really is. I mean, we saw Coast Guard and Florida Army National Guard, chinooks and black haws buzzing over the barrier islands all day. We were -- Cajun Navy boats were some of the only boats we saw in that part of the Gulf of Mexico. There are volunteers. Chef Jose Andres and World Central Kitchen is here. They've got these big amphibious trucks. So, it's private sector, it's charities, it's government, it's all-hands-on-deck.

What we really wondered about going out there and the guys from the Cajun Navy and Dynamo were talking about, there just has to be fatalities that we haven't found yet. And the question is, how many?

I remember Irma, how they go door to door, and you'll begin to see this through this week as they spray-paint, you know, the sort of marks of checking for proof of life as you go house by house to see who made it out as well.

As you were reporting earlier, we were in Punta Gorda last night. Punta Gorda, eight or nine fatalities, in Charlotte County. So, you know, you can only just hope that that count stays as low as possible, but you fear that it's going to climb over the coming days.

LEMON: Yeah, hopeful, but I fear that it will and you're right about every sentiment. Bill Weir, thank you very much, sir. Be safe. We'll speak soon.

So, I want to bring in now meteorologist Derek Van Dam. He is in Fort Myers tonight. Derek, appreciate you joining us once again. What kind of damage are you seeing?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, these are the words from the Fort Myers mayor, he said that his city looks like a war zone, and unfortunately, we can echo that statement by our team. As we arrive in the Fort Myers, we attempted to go to Fort Myers Beach, but it was impossible. The roads were completely impassable, flooded neighborhoods. It was quite remarkable to see.

What you're looking at, directly behind me over my left shoulder, is literally a drop in the bucket of the destruction that was unleashed on this area. And I don't say that lightly because we're talking about an incredible force of nature known as storm surge. It was forecast. And unfortunately, the worst of our forecast from the CNN Weather Center and all the meteorologists hyper-focused on this storm came true.

I want to take you to the sky because you have to see this Fort Myers yacht basin for yourself from the sky because that really just gives you an indication of how powerful the storm surge actually was here. It tossed around these boats like they were toys.

Some of these docks were made out of cement. They were actually taken inland a few city blocks, downtown Fort Myers. We had boats that were wedged in between buildings just behind my camera crew and I. Incredible force, incredible nature just at play here with this.

There is storm surge of up to eight feet, and it's still slowly receding from some of the low-lying areas across between here and Fort Myers Beach, which is about 16 miles to my south and east. Really incredible sight to see, Don.

LEMON: All right, Derek Van Dam. Derek, really appreciate you joining us. Stay safe.

South of Fort Myers, the city of Naples and some of the communities are beginning to survey the catastrophic damage from Ian. I want to bring in now Dan Rodriguez. Dan is a deputy county manager of Collier County, and he joins me via phone.

Dan, thank you so much. I'm happy that you're here. Sorry about what's happening. But we're grateful that you're here to give our viewers some information and tell us about what's going on in Naples right now. So, tell us about the damage you're seeing there.

DAN RODRIGUEZ, DEPUTY COUNTY MANAGER, COLLIER COUNTY (via telephone): Sure, Don. Thank you for the opportunity. It's tremendous destruction here. The coastline all the way down from the Everglades, coming up to Everglades City, through Goodland, through Marco Island, the city of Naples, Central Naples, of course, moving up to North Naples, and then the southern part there of Bonita Springs, just complete devastation.

When you look at our coastline, as you quoted earlier, it does look like a war zone. That eight-foot surge took out every first and a half floor of every building, home, along the beach all the way down through Everglades City.


RODRIGUEZ (via telephone): So, construction debris laying everywhere, our dunes (ph), the main roads, all just wiped clean. Boardwalks from our beach access points and the majority of that material just pushed inland into the estuaries (ph), into our streets. Just complete havoc here. We've got a large project ahead of us to get this beautiful community back into shape.

LEMON: Dan, our search and rescue still being conducted throughout the city. I mean, should residents be calling 9-1-1 even now if they need help? I'm not sure if you have the manpower with the capacity at the moment.

RODRIGUEZ (via telephone): We actually have a very robust 9-1-1 system, thanks to our sheriff and our emergency service operation. Yes, they should always call 9-1-1 if they have an emergency. But we will tell you that the rescue operation ceased this evening.

Thanks to the hard work of our sheriff, our police, and the city of Naples, Marco Island, as well as our firefighters. They've gone building to building, complex to complex, through the different areas to ensure that anybody who needs help, they got the help that they needed. So, that ended this evening.

LEMON: Dan, sadly, people's entire lives have been uprooted. And officials in Naples have said that recovery will take weeks, if not months. What is being done to take care of people until then?

RODRIGUEZ (via telephone): Actually, with our EOC operation, we're in close coordination with the Red Cross and many other agencies. As you know, here in Collier County, government as well as in Naples, Florida, we got a lot of different organizations that provide support and help, whether it's temporary housing or meals or things like that.

It's a robust community that comes together during this -- as you know, this isn't our first hurricane. We've had Irma, which was potential (ph) direct hit, Wilma. And over those years, we've had lessons learned, where we reinforce our plans, our severe weather plans.

And we've just -- it's sad to say we've gotten good at recovery, but we've gotten better at becoming a tight community and supporting each other with our different agencies with great communication, whether it's the state of Florida or the federal government, that reaches down and brings the resources.

If you could be here at our EOC operations building, you could see folks from our county, other cities, the fire department, the sheriff, the police, but also state representatives with the emergency services group providing fuel, resources, food, water. And then, of course, FEMA representatives here also helping us through the different paperwork and project work sheet in order to get the heavy muscle down here that we need as well.

LEMON: Dan, you'll be well. Take care. And once again, we're story this is happening, but we're grateful to have folks like you who are doing such great work. Thanks so much.

RODRIGUEZ (via telephone): Appreciate you for the time. Thank you very much.

LEMON: Thank you. Hurricane Ian has strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane again and is now taking aim at the South Carolina coast, the low country. Landfall expected there tomorrow afternoon. We're going to go live there, next.




LEMON: Hurricane Ian taking aim at the South Carolina coast. Landfall expected just hours from now. CNN's Nick Valencia is on the scene in Myrtle Beach -- let me grab this mike here. There we go -- in Myrtle Beach. Nick, good evening to you. What's it like where you are tonight?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Don, good evening. It is soggy here but the brunt of the heavy rain is expected to come in the overnight hour and peak in the early afternoon. But so far, we're just sort of in a wait and see mode here. You can see it is kind of windy but the rain has stopped in the last few minutes.

We were at Myrtle State Beach Park earlier, which I believe we have video of. You can see these waves starting to come in a little bit more aggressive. There are rough waves out there, some gusts of wind of about 25 miles per hour, and residents trying to see the conditions that they are about to go through. But here further inland, you're not really feeling the effects of those conditions just quite yet. Horry County, which encompasses Myrtle Beach, this area that we're in, is under a local state of emergency. I did speak to the emergency management here during the midday, they said that at that point, they had yet to operate their emergency operation center, but it was only a matter of time, and as I mentioned, it is just sort of a wait and see mode here right now in Myrtle Beach. Don?

LEMON: All right. Nick Valencia, thank you very much, appreciate that. I want to bring in now Travis Glatki. He is the emergency manager for Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Travis, thank you so much. Hurricane Ian is on track to strike South Carolina tomorrow. Biggest concern at this hour?

TRAVIS GLATKI, EMERGENCY MANAGER, CITY OF MYRTLE BEACH: I mean, obviously, I think like the rest of South Carolina, we are hoping that Ian was going to stay a tropical storm and not strengthen when it out to the Atlantic. But there's not much difference in our preparations from a tropical storm to a hurricane.

Our biggest concern is really that storm surge. You start getting to that seven feet where the storm surge put in with the wind and the rain. The coastal flooding is really our biggest issue right now, our biggest concern.

LEMON: Travis, how are you preparing for this storm?

GLATKI: So, we have already closed down the beaches. We did that today. It will be in effect all day tomorrow. We have our emergency operation center opening up at 8 a.m. in the morning.


GLATKI: We have up staffed our emergency services and our public works. We are really focused on the water rescue personnel with the fire department. We feel confident that our preparations have gotten us to this point where we feel somewhat secure. The hope is that this is a fast-moving storm. Either way, we're ready.

LEMON: Yeah. You got a message for the people of Myrtle Beach tonight, Travis?

GLATKI: Yeah, the big thing is if you don't have to be out on the roads, please don't go out in them. Our beaches are closed. So, even if you do want to go out today to the beach and take some pictures, when the winds start gusting at 65, 70 miles per hour, that's pretty dangerous. So, we encourage everyone to stay indoors, wait until the officials say that it's okay to go outdoors again, you know, and hunker down. We'll get through this.

LEMON: Travis, thank you. Be safe. We wish you guys well, and we appreciate you appearing on CNN.

GLATKI: Appreciate it. Thank you.

LEMON: So, I want you guys take a look at this. This is near total destruction. It's in Fort Myers Beach. CNN's Randi Kaye is on the ground there, one of Florida's hardest hit areas. We're going to hear from her next.




LEMON: So, hurricane Ian is causing catastrophic damage in Fort Myers. And tonight, the mayor is saying upwards of 200 people were rescued by the fire department, and that search and rescue operations appear to have come to an end. And despite the extent of the destruction, the mayor says that Fort Myers is not reporting any fatalities.

CNN's Randi Kaye is there for us. Randi?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Don, if you want to talk about the power of this hurricane and the power of this storm surge in the Fort Myers area, we have a perfect example for you. This is not a board yard. Let me just say that up front. This boat, though, is now on dry land, carried over from Legacy Harbor, which is just on the other side of where we're standing, that's where the water is, carried over here by the force of the winds, the water, and the storm.

Not only that, but you also have this massive piece of concrete here. This is part of the dock. This is not supposed to be here. It's supposed to be well on the other side of us, back in the water, but was also carried over here. This is incredibly heavy. You can only imagine.

If you look out there in the distance, there are some more boats not supposed to be here, completely out of place. There's maybe one, two, three, four, five, six boats out there, all smashed together, definitely not supposed to be here, carried over by the storm along with other pieces of the dock. There's a couple of oars scattered around and other miscellaneous pieces of boats.

And then, if you just go over here, I want to show you something really interesting, this right here is another boat, of course, on its side, this is the boat line. If you follow this boat's line, it goes all the way over here. It took -- this is a piece of dock. It's still attached to its dock. This boat carried its own dock through the wind, through the storm surge over to dry land.

So, if you come with me, let me get my photographer come in with me, okay, great job, as we walk down here, I just want you to know we're also looking to talk with some of the boat owners. They apparently live on some of these boats or lived on them, and are completely distraught because this was their home, this was their livelihood. Like so many other people in this storm, they lost everything they had. And now, they're trying to figure out how to put it back together. So, if you look at this right here, this is the other side of that boat in a sort of makeshift boat yard now. You can imagine the force of the water and the wind that that could carry this size of a boat here and do this much damage to it, Don. It is just incredible to see it up close. And imagine the force of those winds, it is just absolutely remarkable, Don. Back to you.

LEMON: No doubt. Randi Kaye, thank you very much. I appreciate that. Let's bring in now Scott Carlos, who rode out the hurricane in Fort Myers. Scott, appreciate you joining us. I want to know how you're doing since you rode out the storm in your fourth story condo in Fort Myers Beach. What was it like? What do you see out the windows?

SCOTT CARLOS, RODE OUT THE STORM IN FORT MYERS (via telephone): Yes, everything now is just a bunch of debris fields and sand everything. I mean, a lot of the roads broken away as well. The houses are just completely demolished.

LEMON: You saw water rise over your neighbors' houses. So, tell me about that. How high do you think it got?

CARLOS (via telephone): I would say at least 10 feet high. So, you know, looking across the way we watched the water with the waves crashing against the homes' gutter systems up top and smashed through the actual roof, it had to have been anywhere from 9 to 10 feet across the street from us. And we're 300 yards off the water ourselves with (INAUDIBLE) very long.

LEMON: I understand that you have hurricane glass in your condo that's four-storey up. Was that enough protection for you? You said the water still seeped through the building?

CARLOS (via telephone): Correct, yes. So, with the pressure and every time the waves hit, it was forcing water through like the cracks of the sliding glass doors and even the windows in the bedrooms as well. We had to keep putting towels up and stuff.


LEMON: The pressure is pushing the water into the condo. So, I can imagine all the other homeowners as well, what they were going through.

LEMON: You know, you've been riding scooters through the streets, you've been helping people, you're watching the Coast Guard pick up people. Tell me what you've seen, and what is it like outside?

CARLOS (via telephone): So, just kind of walking around and riding around. There were two or three homes that were ripped from the foundation, still intact, sitting in the middle of the street right in Fort Myers Beach. It was pretty well (ph).

LEMON: You've also seen helicopter rescues. Can you tell me about that, please?

CARLOS (via telephone): Yes. So, there was a woman who actually approached us for help (INAUDIBLE) anything we can do. Luckily, everybody (INAUDIBLE) the Coast Guard, which circled around one time, landed directly on the beach, not even maybe 100 feet from us. We watched the whole thing. He had helped her out. He picked her up and carried her away.

And then we watched another rescue where they picked up two people in stretchers with the hooks and everything and pull them up as well. They were working night and day nonstop.

LEMON: Well, my goodness. I'm sure people are wondering why you stayed. But as I understand, you came to check on your condo, then you decided to stay. You didn't think the storm would be this bad. Would you have stayed if you had known?

CARLOS (via telephone): Definitely not. Now that I was stuck here and now that we actually saw the devastation that was created by this, the family back home and stuff, not being able to put them through that. Luckily, I didn't lose too much cell service. I was able to keep in contact with them the whole time. So, you know, they did know I was safe. But if I have to do it over again, no, I definitely would not come back.

LEMON: You're from the Midwest. I doubt that you've ever seen anything like this. I mean, you probably have to deal with tornadoes and such. Have you ever seen anything like this?

CARLOS (via telephone): Nothing even close to that. Back home, we get some rain. Our creek may rise 10 feet, we might jump on a kayak and have fun, but there's no danger involved. So, this was definitely dangerous and something I will never forget.

LEMON: Yeah. Listen, we're glad that you're okay. We're glad that your family is able to see this and you're able to speak to them, and they know that you're doing fine. Thank you so much for appearing.

CARLOS (via telephone): Thank you. Have a good night.

LEMON: Thank you. You, as well. So, hurricane Ian obliterating parts of Florida. The governor calling the damage historic. I'm going to talk to Florida Congresswoman Val Demings next.




LEMON: Hurricane Ian moving north, leaving catastrophic damage in its wake. And I spoke with Florida's Democratic Congresswoman Val Demings about the challenges ahead for the state.


REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): The people in this area and all of this -- they need help because this happens time and time and time again, where you got to get the fire department to get out in boats and rafts to rescue people from their houses. That is a problem.

LEMON: They said they have never seen anything like. People are calling this a once in a lifetime storm.

DEMINGS: Yeah, I think this one is -- let's hope this is once in a lifetime because of the amount of rain, the storm surge we have seen that is dumped into this area. You know, 8 to 12 inches, in some places 16 inches? That's a heck of a lot of rain, especially for low- lying areas. And so, there is a lot. This process is just beginning. We have a lot of work to do.


LEMON: Florida's Democratic Congresswoman Val Demings speaking to us at the scene of those rescues today that we witnessed.

I want to bring in now Juliette Kayyem. She is a former Department of Homeland Security official. Juliette, hello to you. I really appreciate you joining us. The cleanup is going to be long, hard, and expensive.


LEMON: The largest national disaster in the state's history. Where do state and local officials even start right now?

KAYYEM: Right. So, once the recovery ends and we are essentially over with search and rescue, which still will be a couple of days, we will begin the process of recovering. There are different from the mechanisms to help communities do that. The funds are going to go to infrastructure just simply to get the streets redone, to get the bridges rebuilt, and then there are going to be homeowners and individuals.

This is a very long process, and it is not at all clear what kind of coverage many of these residents will have. Less than 20% of the residents in the evacuation zone were covered by flood insurance under the National Flood Insurance Program. That means that they essentially will get no funding at least through a private or a public insurance system.

LEMON: Yeah. Listen, how much help do you think that they are going to get from the states? As you said, a lot of people are under insured here.

KAYYEM: Yes. So, there will be a quest for funds, I have no question about this, in the same way after hurricane Sandy in which additional funds will be authorized for the state to help people rebuilt. But there is an important discussion to be had.


KAYYEM: I think you're going to start to hear people have it, which is -- and I don't mean to contradict Val Demings at this a stage, but these are not once in a lifetime anymore. The idea that these areas are inhabitable at this stage, we really have to have our eyes open about that.

We have to use these disaster relief funds to help people move from where they think they might be moving back, to areas where their lives are protected and their property is protected. It's called managed retreat. They're doing it in parts of New York now. I think you're going to start to hear it as well in Florida because these storms are just getting bigger and they're wiping out communities. Let us hope the fatality rate isn't similarly devastating.

LEMON: What is it called again? You said what?

KAYYEM: It's called managed retreat in my field. It is essentially -- we pay people now, under our disaster relief system, to build back (INAUDIBLE). That make sense if you think nothing bad is going to happen there again. But I don't see how you can look at the coast of Florida and say people should move back to certain areas.

And so, across the partisan divide, this is something that has a lot of support. Let's use that disaster relief funding to help people move to areas that are safer. It happened after hurricane Sandy. You're going to hear a lot about it after this hurricane.

LEMON: Listen, that was the thrust of a lot of my questions over the past couple of days because, you know, at some point, you have to wonder if these places are inhabitable, as you say, but you're talking about the coast. But listen, we're in central Florida right now. We're in Orlando. This place was just decimated as well. Are we going to be replacing people, managing the retreat of the entire state of Florida at some point?

KAYYEM: No, I think what you want to do -- I mean, honestly, coastal areas, fire-prone areas, we are just going to have to look at it differently. But places like in Orlando, you can -- some of these places are insured and others will get support through public insurance system and help people build back either where they are but stronger so that their buildings can withstand the kind of flooding that we're seeing.

Look, flooding is -- you can live through flooding. In other words, there's lots of different kinds of climate threats --

LEMON: Do we lose Juliette? I think we lost Juliette. But what you should know is that President Biden is expediting some major funds and recovery efforts here in the area. The governor, Ron DeSantis, and President Biden said they have been, you know, they have been working together.

There has been no partisan divide in that in trying to get people help here. The governor has asked for it and the president has said, whatever he can do for the state of Florida and beyond, Carolinas as well, he will do.

We will continue this discussion about managed retreat, as Juliette said, and what happens to people who live in those coastal areas, many of which -- the areas, obviously, cannot be built back and some of the homes can't be built back as well. That is a problem and an issue that we're going to be dealing with in the future and as a matter of fact dealing with right now.

We'll take a break. We'll be right back.




LEMON: So, Ian has gained strength again. It is a Category 1 hurricane tonight, now taking aim at South Carolina. I want to get back to our expert now. Tom Sater is in the CNN Weather Center. Tom, hello again once again to you. What can we expect next from Ian?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Don, we've got some changes here. In fact, it has been kind of interesting in the last hour. Let me break this down for everybody.

Remember, at the beginning of the week, we were watching the tracks that are issued by the National Hurricane Center every six hours. And since Monday, that track continued to trend eastward. And we watched that center leave, of course, around the Tampa area and slide down to the south. We are seeing the same trend now on the Atlantic coastline. The track seems to be trending eastward or northward up toward the Carolinas.

Now, at 11 p.m. hour, we saw the pressure dropped a little bit. The winds were at 80 miles per hour. However, the National Hurricane Center said, wait a minute, hurricane (INAUDIBLE) increasing, it's now at 85 miles per hour sustained winds and the gusts are at 100.

Infrared satellite imagery, the last few images showing a little bit more brighter colors, so there is some convective activity that is trying to slide around on the south side. Now, it's not encompassing the entire center just yet, but here's what we have. Hurricane warnings still in effect from the border of Georgia, South Carolina, all the way up toward the Cape Fear, and it goes into a couple of counties in South Carolina. The tropical storm warnings are well inland.

So, a lot of people may be shocked that this wind field is 600 miles wide and it's going to continue to hit with force, with tropical storm-force winds up into the Carolinas. There will be heavy rainfall and there will be a surge.

Here is what's different, however. Let's start with the radar. The rain has left now the state of Florida and the peninsula. It's a little bit up, of course, southeast areas of Georgia and Carolinas. But if we look at the center of this, all of that rain is still to the north, so they're starting to get into the rain.

But let me take you to the track because this is significant. Charleston, you're not out of the woods just yet, but it is improving for you somewhat. Here is the shift to the right. This puts a landfall somewhere around the town of Georgetown.


SATER: However, Surfside Beach, Myrtle Beach now, you are into that dirty side. Instead of it being to the south of the eye, on the other end of the coast, it's to the north. So, Myrtle Beach now could really see some significant surge. The surge heights have not changed for Charleston, but it will improve somewhat, still 4 to 7.

But now, we are seeing that shift a little bit toward Myrtle Beach. That could still be a problem. We are still looking at inundation across Charleston and into the Harvard, all the tributaries. But a lot of this is marchland. But if we shifted up northward somewhat, Don, and that trend continues eastward, it will be interesting the next couple of days.

We are still looking for a landfall sometime mid-afternoon tomorrow as a Category 1 with significant wind, surge, and heavy rainfall. We could have water rescues up here to the north as well in parts of south and North Carolina, Myrtle Beach.

LEMON: Not over yet. Tom Sater, thank you very much. I appreciate it. Thank you so much First responders have been working nonstop all across Florida to help people in danger. Earlier, I got a firsthand look.


LEMON: This is what we're seeing now in Orlando, rescues for people who have been stuck in their homes. One of the boats that they are using, if you go around here, you can see all the folks who were on the scene and the people who have been rescued here.

How are you doing? What are you thinking about all of this?

DAVID PHILLIPS, RESCUED FROM HOME: It's kind of crazy. I'm actually -- I've been (INAUDIBLE) trained, community emergency response team. We have -- did the training here in the park for this type of thing, but it's like no one can plan for this type of thing.

LEMON: There are people who are wading in the water, this very dangerous water, to try to get these people out. The water really in some places, neck-deep for some of these folks who are going in. And it is dangerous because we are being told by the rescue people here to be careful because there are gators in this water.

Lieutenant Fernando and Lieutenant --

UNKNOWN: Rotondi.

LEMON: Rotondi. And they have been going in. We are told there have been at least 150 rescues from this area?

FERNANDO ASTACIO, ORANGE COUNTY FIRE RESCUE: Yes, at least 200 starting at about 4:30, 5:00 this morning.

LEMON: So, you launched here and you don't know what's under this water, how deep it is or what you are going to hit?

ASTACIO: Absolutely not. At the start of this morning, part of the big issues that we had is navigating these waters. Even though we know we are in a neighborhood, you know, the streets, you know, dictate where we go. We've gotten hidden mailboxes.

LEMON: The street signs. Here, you can see where they are. Some of them are covered and others are just peeking out of the top here. So, explain how -- this area is prone to flooding, but it has gotten more water this time, I think the highest water level so far.

ASTACIO: This is the highest it has ever been. It happened some five years ago. And these three lakes that -- the small lakes, they're joined together by small canals, they (INAUDIBLE) it sometime early this morning. This whole area here is a super low-lying area. This one in the neighborhood we were at this morning, which was also family dwellings, completely devastated, completely underwater.

LEMON: I mean, if you look right here, this is a basketball -- you know, 8 to 10 feet tall and just poking out of the water here. You see the jungle gyms and swings, whatever. That just gives you an indication of how high the water is. What our folks are saying? I understand, lieutenant, that the pumps went out. They said that they had electricity, but the pumps even went out before the electricity?

JAMES ROTONDI, ORANGE COUNTY FIRE RESCUE: I believe that's what it was. They failed. They failed this time, yeah.

LEMON: The pumps failed.

ROTONDI: I believe so.

LEMON: And how much water do you think they've gotten in here so far?

ASTACIO: Oh, no. We are looking from just -- just from looking right now, we are looking at eight feet of water, 6 to 8 feet of water at a minimum. The neighborhood that we were at this morning, single family, were halfway underwater.

LEMON: Yeah. And look at this. This is usually a street. I mean, this looks like a river that you are usually navigating through on a boat. That's not meant to be a waterway. But we are also told that many people decided to stay. What are they saying when they got on the boat?

ROTONDI: A lot of them are, you know, they want to stay because it's their home, it means a lot to them, you know. And a lot of these people, they lost a lot. So, those who do come into the boat, they are very thankful that we were there.

LEMON: Look, the folks right here, lieutenant, the mailbox, and the cars still in the driveway.


LEMON: Imagine a malfunction with the battery or whatever, the lights are still on.

ASTACIO: We run into that all day. When we started this morning, it was pitch dark. All the cars were just -- all of them, alarms going off, lights going on. No control at all.

ROTONDI: Some of them you can just barely see the top of the roof.

LEMON: It's unbelievable. If you turn around, look at these cars and the mailboxes. I mean -- and there are people who are still inside of some of these homes.


LEMON: Alex, why did you decide to stay?

ALEX WHITE, STAYED AT HOME IN ORLANDO: A lot of it had to do with -- there weren't many places. I know the shelters are open and they're relatively close, but there wasn't many places we could go with our stuff. I got my dog in here, too. The flooding is more than we thought it would be. But I still -- I don't feel terribly, terribly like my house is about to float away. It's pretty sturdy. We've been through things before. But --

LEMON: This much water though ever?

WHITE: This much water, no!


WHITE: like I said, the level that is at right now is very surprising. It came in very fast. I was awake last night. It was still in the road around six. And by seven, it was up to the first stare down here. So, it did rise very fast. But it's been decently stagnant for the past few hours.

LEMON: Has it reached your floor?

WHITE: No, it's not inside yet. All of our -- again, as other people around, we've all been waving and checking in on each other. We are mainly concerned about our cars because our cars are shot.

LEMON: We're good.

WHITE: Thank you so much.


LEMON: Everyone, we appreciate you joining us now. We are going to continue our live coverage here on CNN over the next hours. We are going to be live the entire time, so make sure you stay tuned. But I appreciate you joining us while we are here in Orlando. We'll see you soon. Our coverage continues with John Vause right after this.