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Forecast for Hurricane Dorian; Resident of Freeport Talks about Damage; South Carolina Prepares for Dorian; Dorian Gains Speed; VP Office Gives Changing Stories. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired September 04, 2019 - 13:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, Hurricane Dorian slowly moving closer to landfall. The category two storm is already battering the Florida coast with high winds and rising surf and there are evacuations ordered in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, and we are watching Dorian and the effects of the storm as it's tracking up the coast.

We're also seeing new pictures of the devastation that it left behind in the Bahamas. There is debris scattered everywhere. So many homes reduced to rubble by the hurricane winds and surging waves. Tens of thousands of people now in desperate need of help. We will go there live.

The president spoke about the storm just moments ago. Let's listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can give you an update on the hurricane. We got lucky in Florida. Very, very lucky, indeed. We had actually our original chart was that it was going to be hitting Florida directly. Maybe I could just see that, Kevin. It was going to be hitting directly and that would have affected a lot of other states, but that was the original chart. And you see it was going to hit not only Florida, but Georgia. It could have -- was going toward the Gulf. That was what we -- what was originally projected. And it took a right turn and ultimately, hopefully, we're going to be lucky. It depends on what happens with South Carolina and North Carolina, but it's heading up the coast. And Florida was grazed, mostly wind. And we're going to have a report on that.

We have been sending through the United States Coast Guard, who have been incredible. They're on the Bahamas right now. And they're helping with the Bahamas. The Bahamas was -- a big section of the Bahamas was hit like few people have seen before. But we're helping in a humanitarian way.

We've been asked to help by the government of the Bahamas. And we have numerous helicopters and we're sending some people to give them a hand. And they need a big hand. And what's going on over there is incredible. Few people have seen anything like that.

Although I must tell you, over the years, there have been some hurricanes that were bigger and stronger and more powerful that hit us very hard also.

But I just maybe like to start, Kevin, if you could just say a few words about where we are, and then I'll ask the admiral to talk a little bit about what you're doing in the Bahamas and then we'll get back to South Carolina, North Carolina and what we expect, OK?

Thank you.


KEVIN MCALEENAN, ACTING HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Yes, sir, Mr. President., we have Acting Administrator Pete Gaynor from FEMA on the line.


KEILAR: Let's get the latest now on Dorian's path as we are watching it track up the Florida coast towards Georgia and the Carolinas. Our Chad Myers is in the CNN Weather Center.

Tell us what you're seeing where this is heading.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I am seeing this storm get stronger by the minute. It's in the Gulf Stream right now. It's in very, very warm water. When it was over the Bahamas, for a while it was over warm water. Then it used all of that.

But I'm going to zoom in to this eye and show you what's going on in the colorful radar picture here, the satellite picture. This is the bright white clouds, a very, very high thunderstorms. Tall, big and nasty storms, rotating now around the main eye. Even though we're 105 miles per hour, I do believe this hurricane will increase in strength. I believe the pressure will go down and it's going to make a run at Charleston. It's going to try to turn before it gets to Charleston, but it's going to be very close.

Charleston, if you get the eyewall, don't worry about the eye in the middle. The eyewall will contain winds to 120 to 125-mile-per-hour gusts, certainly there, and then on up toward and north of there into the Cape Fear area, right along the coast and skirting through all of North Carolina, exiting somewhere around Moorhead City.

But here is the storm itself right now. The eye getting smaller, which means that skater, with one skate down, bringing the arms in, trying to get that spin in the middle stronger or faster. And that's where we are.

As we take a look right now, we're in about the 40 to 50-mile-per-hour range. But this white, that's 100-mile-per-hour wind. And that's going to be right along the coast, moving along the coast for a very long time, pushing a lot of water into the coast. So storm surge is somewhere between four and seven feet for sure.

One thing you may have -- I know you have water now and you have this and that. One thing you may not think about if you're in Charleston or on up even toward Hilton Head and Myrtle, go get some cash because if the power's out for 48, 72, whatever hours, you can't buy anything with a credit card. Go get a few dollars out of the ATM. You may need it. That would be the best thing I -- that's one of the things, when we take crews into the hurricanes, we always have cash because we know we're going to need it when that storm is over.



KEILAR: Yes, that's a very good point.

And, Chad, talk about these low-lying --

MYERS: Sorry, Bri.

KEILAR: That's -- I know you know who I am, Chad. But talk about these --

MYERS: I've done so many shows.

KEILAR: I know you have.

Talk about how low-lying these areas are and why that is of particular concern when we're looking at where this storm is tracking.

MYERS: Yes, the potential right now is for the surge to go into Charleston Harbor at 10.3 feet above low level datum (ph). Above low tide. That's about four to six feet above where you would be at a high tide. That happens tonight overnight and again tomorrow.

And we about Hugo, one of the bigger storms ever, that only had a 12.5 foot storm surge. So we're only two feet below Hugo. And everybody there knows exactly what Hugo did to Charleston.

Now you move up toward Myrtle Beach. You can get the same type of surge moving into there. Move up toward Cape Fear, Wilmington, all the way through these areas, this entire area will see that surge because that's where the storm is going to go. It's going to follow the coast. And we do think -- I believe that this will make landfall somewhere. I believe at least the eyewall will do damage at 110 miles per hour.

Think about that. I know it's not 185 and I know it's not what the president is talking about what happened to the Bahamas, but 110 or 115 for this entire length of coast, that's going to do billions in damage. So be prepared.

KEILAR: All right, be prepared. Chad Myers, thank you so much. We know you're keeping an eye on this for us.

And right now we're finally getting a clearer picture of just how much damage the Bahamas sustained from Dorian. The storm hit the Bahamas as a category five, the strongest ever to hit the islands, and then it sat nearly stationary over the Bahamas for two days.

So here's what we are now finally seeing in some areas like Abaco. More than half the homes are damaged or destroyed. The government is sending in hundreds of police officers and defense officer right now to try to help deal with the devastation they're seeing there.

And then just take a look at the satellite images. On the left of your screen is Grand Bahama before the storm. We're going to try to pull this up for you because it really shows you just how stunningly the difference is. You can see in one of the satellite images that we've been looking at, the Grand Bahama, and then on the other, almost half of it is under water and that water that has receded left in its wake a lot of damage from Dorian. You can see the yellow outline there where land should be.

Joining me now from Freeport, on Grand Bahama, is Rashema Ingraham, she -- the executive director of Waterkeeper (ph) Alliance Bahamas with us.

And vast areas of Grand Bahama were under water as we saw in that map. How bad is it across the island and in Freeport now where you are?

RASHEMA INGRAHAM, FREEPORT RESIDENT: At this present moment, the water has completely receded. There is no water in any of the homes or any of the neighborhoods. But that does not diminish the impact that the water has had on these communities. We have not seen anything like this in the Bahamas, in Grand Bahama, particularly, where we know that there are expected to be some types of flooding, but we did not expect that flooding, that storm surge to reach to the level that it did. And that's really what caught us off guard.

KEILAR: Tell us about your home. How much damage did your home suffer?

INGRAHAM: My home has some water damage. I think we've got maybe about a foot and a half worth of water, which is nothing compared to some of the homes of my family. My mother has had about five feet of water in her home, which is only about eight feet high. I've had friends and other family members who have completely lost their homes. You just really only have the shell that's standing. It's a very devastating situation that we have here.

KEILAR: So what are the conditions now that your friends and your family are living in? What do they need at this point?

INGRAHAM: We basically need everything. But in terms of just recovery and trying to get back to some normalcy, I know we definitely need chainsaws. We have a lot of large trees that fell in persons' yards, on their rooftop, whatever is left there to be able to be repaired. So we need chainsaws. We need generators. We don't know how long it will take for power to be restored in some of these neighborhoods. Not because the power company has not been prepared, but because there has been so much water damage we don't know the situation as it relates to electricity in those homes.

We also need a pure supply of water because the water table may have been compromised. We don't know how soon we'll be able to get fresh water on the island. So we definitely need water, cleaning supplies, large garbage bags, gloves, hazmat suits. There's a lot that people will be needing right now in this present situation.


KEILAR: Rashema, thank you so much for telling us about how you're doing, how your family is doing. We're looking at the pictures and what we're seeing is just pure devastation. We really appreciate your insight on this.

And at this point in time, Hurricane Dorian has moved, obviously, past the Bahamas. It's moving north along the coast of the United States. There's an increasing risk of strong winds, dangerous storm surge along the coast of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and residents there started evacuating. In South Carolina alone, approximately 245,000 people have left the state.

CNN's Athena Jones is in Charleston.

And, Athena, Charleston is -- it's already susceptible to damage from really any high water, let alone the strength of what this storm is bringing.


That's exactly right, there are parts of this city that will flood just at high tide, let alone 10 to 15 inches of rain, which is what's expected. It just started picking up again here, but it's going to get steadier over the next couple of hours.

And the big news at the moment is that Governor McMaster has ordered the lane reversal on Interstate 26 heading out of Charleston, inland from Charleston. That was to be suspended at noon. They were supposed to go back to normal. That's being extended until at least 2:00 p.m., around 2:00 p.m. They say that the traffic coming out of Charleston is at capacity, or near capacity, and they're telling folks that the governor, the department of transportation, the emergency folks are telling people, if you're going to evacuate, you need to be in your car now.

But it's a sign that they're heeding the warning precisely because of the high, high risk of flooding in this area. Charleston has historically -- I mean you heard from Chad Myers -- seen very high water during some of these storms, the highest being Hurricane Hugo back in 1989. Forecasters are saying that we could see a surge in water, water level almost as high as Hugo. Not -- a little higher than Irma and Matthew, which were also bad.

And the National Weather Service points out just how dangerous a storm surge can be. They say that the storm surges account for about half of the deaths from any tropical cyclone, storm like this in the U.S. So, very, very dangerous.

There's been a sort of a pickup in traffic here. The area we're in, downtown -- historic downtown Charleston has been a ghost town when it comes to the sidewalks. We have seen a steady flow of cars. And it's possible that those folks are also heeding the warnings. Otherwise you see the preparations behind me, boarded up buildings, sand bags. Folks who aren't getting out of town are being urged, if they're in an unsafe areas, to go to shelters. All of that information being shared via various social media and the news.


KEILAR: All right, Athena Jones in Charleston, thank you so much.

Right now the wind and the rain is picking up in northern Florida. And we're going to take you there.

Plus, the trauma of family separations at the border. A disturbing new report shows how devastating the Trump administration's family separation policy has been to the kids victimized by it. Some believed their parents had abandoned them.

And a leading veteran's advocate calls it outrageous after the Pentagon takes away money for projects for the construction of the president's wall.

This is CNN's special live coverage.



KEILAR: The city of Jacksonville, Florida, is keeping an eye right now on Dorian, the center of the hurricane just under 100 miles off the coast. And while it is not forecast to make landfall there, this is a category two storm still and it has the potential to do damage.

Let's go to CNN correspondent Drew Griffin, who is there for us in Jacksonville.

What are people looking for, what are they bracing for?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're looking for the forecast to be correct, Brianna, which means it's going to pretty much miss Jacksonville. What they're bracing for is that the forecast could somehow be errant and if this storm wobbles even just a little bit, they could have much stronger winds than obviously we're experiencing here now.

There are high winds in Nassau County. They began closing two, at least two intercostal waterway bridges out towards the beach because of gusts reaching 40 miles an hour. But we drove up from Titusville this morning in Brevard County, came actually through the bulk of this storm and have beat the storm now to Jacksonville. And it wasn't really that bad, as this storm progresses. Although we did have some pretty strong wind in Brevard County.

Jacksonville itself, like the rest of Florida, has been bracing for this. There's nobody on the water. The shrimp boats are all in the harbor. There's nobody on this river walk. Even the iconic main street bridge, which many people know over the St. John's River here in Jacksonville, is all but empty. But it looks like this storm really will pass us by today as it makes its way up the coast.

We will see. We're getting a few bands, but nothing really of significance here yet in Jacksonville.


KEILAR: Yes, nothing like they were worried they would get. Drew Griffin, thank you so much, in Jacksonville, Florida.

And as this storm is approaching the U.S., the 2020 candidates are rolling out trillion dollar plans to combat the climate crisis ahead of CNN's town halls tonight. We're going to be taking a look at their plans.

Also, the Bahamian prime minister calls Dorian the greatest national disaster in his country's history, as we're getting a clearer picture of the devastation left in its wake.



KEILAR: We have brand new reporting this hour.

President Trump is said to be irked that he's being linked to Vice President Pence's controversial decision to stay at a Trump property in Ireland. Pence has spent the last two nights at President Trump's resort in Doonbeg, despite the fact that it's on the completely opposite side of the country from Dublin, where all of Pence's official meetings are scheduled.

Just to travel between the two places, Pence has had to take a one- hour car ride and then a 40-minute flight. And originally Pence's office said the VP chose to stay at Trump's hotel at the president's, quote, suggestion. They have since walked that back and blamed the media for misrepresenting their exact quote.


Let's get to CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins with more on this.

Take us behind the scenes on this.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, this trip was supposed to be about diplomacy and talking about the vice president's family ties that he has in Ireland. But now it's being overshadowed by one thing, where he decided to stay during one of his stops on this multiple stop trip throughout Europe. That's, of course, the president's property in Doonbeg, Ireland, this town that's less than 1,000 people but where the president's five-star property is.

And when they initially showed up there the first day, reporters asked the vice president's office why was this the hotel that was picked? Were cheaper options considered? Were you worried about the optics of conflicts of interest here? They were told no, that this was the president's suggestion, they were staying here.

Of course, that answer only prompted more questions from reporters and even led to the president being irked that he was being blamed for the fallout from where the vice president decided to stay, according to what our sources are telling us.

Then the vice president got involved, he cited his family history here and also said that essentially because he was sent to Poland at the last minute they had to shift some things around and this was the best place for him to stay with his contingency of staff and Secret Service alongside with him.

Of course, even those answers still did not put this to rest. So about 3:30 in Ireland last night, that's when the vice president's chief of staff, Marc Short, put out an additional statement explaining this, blaming it on misreporting, even though a lot of what had been reported was just quoting of the vice president and of his chief of staff, Marc Short.

Now, of course, they were facing fire from the White House, who also were realizing the uproar over this. And we should note that as we were reporting out this story, our sources told us that there are other people that the president has suggested stay at his properties when they're traveling abroad, from cabinet secretaries, his advisers, even sometimes his friends outside the White House. So far in the past, people and aides have ignored those suggestions from the president because they knew it would cause a fury, like what we're seeing with the decision from the vice president's office to stay here.

And now not only is it getting -- they're getting hit from the outside, the president himself is also upset, we're told, about the uproar over this. So, of course, this trip, the vice president still has one stop left in London, where a key U.S. ally is facing a political issue of his own, but still the focus for this trip has been entirely on one hotel choice from the vice president and how they've responded to it.

KEILAR: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much for that reporting.

I want to bring in CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash.

And I guess the question is, you could see this coming if the vice president did this.


KEILAR: So why? I mean you heard Kaitlan reporting there, other officials have had these suggestions to stay at Trump properties. They don't -- they don't take the suggestions. Why did he?

BASH: Well, look, he has argued, as Kaitlan just mentioned, and his staff has argued, that this particular town is important to him. That's where his family is from, and -- which is why he, the vice president, brought his mother and other family members on this trip. But, you're right, you could smell the controversy from a mile away,

or 181 miles away, as it were. That's how far this resort is from Dublin. And it might not be as big a story had this not been a pattern. A pattern of the president going to his own golf courses, own golf clubs, you know, hundreds of times now during his presidency. But, more importantly, at this -- you know, on this particular issue, it's taxpayer dollars, right? It's what we pay to help -- and to help facilitate government officials' trips and so forth. That is really the question. And that is really the key.

And the original sin, and that's actually how the "USA Today" editorial board put it recently, is the fact that the president did not divest from his businesses. And so every time you have something like this, it is inherently a conflict of interest. It just is.

KEILAR: I want to talk about tonight's lineup of town halls that we have going on. So starting at 5:00 p.m. tonight, there's 10 Democratic presidential candidates who will be back to back in these town halls, and they will be talking about one thing, the climate crisis. CNN actually received question suggestions from 16,000 people from across the country.

BASH: It's amazing.

KEILAR: That just shows you how important this is going to be, how interested people are in this issue. So, people are going to be watching this.

BASH: Yes.

KEILAR: What should they be looking for?

BASH: Well, yes, I mean it's -- it broke records here at CNN. We've done a lot of town halls on a lot of different issues here and you mentioned the number of submissions, over 1,600 people around the country, more than ever -- more than any of these town halls. And it does mean that there is tremendous interest. And there's a tremendous appetite.


And, more importantly, you and I were talking about this in the break, the fact that all of these candidates are going to come on CNN and talk about a single topic, a topic that is very important to the Democratic voters and should be and is to Americans in general means that they have to have