Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

Idalia Now A Category 3 Hurricane As It Nears Florida Landfall; Hurricane Idalia Makes Landfall Near Keaton Beach. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired August 30, 2023 - 07:30   ET




PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we've been following the breaking news of a rapidly intensifying over the course of the morning -- first, Category 4, and now a Category 3 hurricane in Hurricane Idalia. We now have the latest update that we want to give you.

You're looking right now at pictures of Steinhatchee, Florida. Just north of Steinhatchee, within the hour, is when the expected landfall will occur for this now-Category 3 storm. Winds about 125 miles per hour. A very significant concern about storm surge that could go up to 12 to 16 feet, winds, tornadoes.

The outer bounds we've been covering up and down the Gulf Coast region of Florida over the course of the last several hours -- we've been seeing -- what we've been getting from the outer limits of that hurricane. We are now planning and waiting for that direct hit.

And Sara, I know you're in Crystal River. You've been seeing a lot of the flooding, a lot of the kind of effects of the outer bounds up to this point. What are you seeing right now?

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR, SENIOR NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, lots of wind. The pushing of the water onto land. It has now gone several feet onto land.

Now, look, there is a great hope that we don't get the kind of storm surge that was expected here, which is between six and nine feet, which would be far over my head from where I'm standing, which would mean the entire city here -- that's about 3,400 people -- would be flooded all the way up to City Hall.

At this point, we're not seeing major flooding yet but the storm is clearly not over. It's still a Category 3. And we are starting to see the water move in from these incredibly intense bands of wind that come through. And every now and then you get that pelting rain as well.

I know that we have someone who is about 20 minutes away from Steinhatchee in Cross City. We've got Eugene O'Neal, who is the -- or, sorry, Edgar O'Neal, who is in Cross City. What are you seeing there? What are the effects as you chase this storm? EDGAR O'NEAL, STORM CHASER: Yes. Right now, we're seeing incredibly high winds. (INAUDIBLE) right here in Cross City. The power just went out to the whole town. (INAUDIBLE).


There were trees over the roads blocking intersections. (INAUDIBLE). Just very heavy and high winds right now.

SIDNER: You are hearing Edgar O'Neal, who is a storm chaser, who is in the midst of a huge band that's coming through.

And the hurricane is set to land pretty much at Cedar Key, which is not too terribly far away. You are much closer than I am to the eye of the storm.

And you said that there is debris, and that's one of the things that people really must watch out for. The winds are going to pick up debris. They are going to -- at a Category 3, they can start to shred some roofs and take some tiles off roofs and throw those around. Knock down power lines, which is really, really dangerous.

Edgar, can you let me know -- are you seeing people who have decided to stay even though that's an evacuation zone? Because that often happens in these hurricanes where people say you know what, I'm not leaving my house. I'm going to figure it out from here and what will be will be. Have you seen folks who have stayed around there and in the danger zone?

O'NEAL: I have seen some people say. I was in Cedar Key earlier and there were about 40 residents that were staying here -- right here in Cross City. I've seen a few people out. It's mainly law enforcement and first responders that are out right now. So it's really -- it seems like people here in Cross City are staying indoors.

SIDNER: There is at least that. There are places where you can still evacuate, like where I am. And there are places like where you are where really it is time if you have not evacuated to shelter in place.

Thank you so much, Edgar O'Neal, our storm chaser there who is in the midst of all of this and will be chasing this storm. I know you said you made it to Cedar Key as well. That will be hard-hit from Hurricane Idalia.

I am now going to toss it back to our Phil Mattingly who is in the studio.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, thank you, Sara. That is the on-the-ground view.

I want to take things back -- a little bit more of a macro view in terms of the preparations and what should be expected both on the state and local, but also federal level in the hours to come as that storm, now a Category 3 hurricane, approaches land in Florida's Big Bend region.

Joining us now is former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate. Sir, appreciate your time.

I was struck a couple of hours ago when we were talking to a local official who said this is kind of the wait-and-see moment. It's very anxious. You've done all the preparation and now you have to wait and then deploy assets afterwards.

Take us into this moment on the federal level where you're waiting for landfall and you can't really do a lot.

CRAIG FUGATE, FORMER FEMA ADMINISTRATOR (via Skype): Yes. I mean, right now, it's -- everybody is staged about as close to his as you can. And what they're going to be waiting for as the storm begins to move through. They won't wait until the sun is shining. The state is going to launch the search and rescue teams that go into the targeted areas where they expect to have the greatest risk from storm surge and wind damage.

And so, FEMA has sent teams in to support the state. They have basically surrounded this area. And so, again, the -- on the federal side, it's really supporting the state search and rescue operations. That'll be the first part.

The second part will be beginning to get an assessment of how much damage are in these areas. For the people there this isn't good news what's going to happen. But from the standpoint of a federal response, this is about the least populated area of Florida you could actually take a hurricane through.

So it's very rural. You've got clusters of small communities that are spread out. There's no real focus area that you can -- you base out of. So you're using Tallahassee, maybe Lake City, Gainesville, and places like that but -- as this storm moves through.

And it's not going to be just Florida. It's going into Georgia. So they've already sent teams into Georgia. They've got people with Georgia emergency management, and they're looking up in the Carolinas. (Feed frozen).

MATTINGLY: I think we had the feed freeze from the former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate. We will let you know if we are able to get him back.

I think it's an interesting point. And if I could bring Sara back for a second -- I'm not sure she's with us. But, Sara, to the point that was being made there -- the preparation. This storm seemed to come on fast and I think a lot of officials have acknowledged that fact of just how fast it became such a major storm and such a significant threat.

But you heard the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, and you've heard federal officials and FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell lay out what has been done in preparation in terms of assets, in terms of what will be available when they can deploy. I think the question and concern that we've heard throughout the morning is when will that actually be, particularly for those who chose to stay. SIDNER: Yeah, and that's the problem is that if you choose to stay -- if you choose to put yourself in danger then you will have to wait until the emergency services, if you need them, can get to you. That's the risk you're taking. People know that risk.


Some people don't understand how dangerous that situation is because this particular storm is going to areas that don't normally get hit with something that is this large, this powerful, this much wind, this much rain, and this much storm surge. That is going to be a key factor in whether people make it out of places that are getting a direct hit.

They may be used to seeing storms but it hasn't happened in more than 100 years in some parts of the west coast of Florida. And that's why the authorities are telling you that we know you've been through some of this before. We know you've been through something like this but this is different. It is bigger, badder, bolder, wetter, stronger. And so, people need to understand.

But the thing they always tell you in Florida -- you learn this from when you're a kid that you're supposed to run from the water and you're supposed to hide from the wind. And so hopefully, people -- the majority of people have run from the water -- the low-lying areas -- and are hiding from the wind if they have to shelter in place.

All right, I think we are moving on to check in with Derek Van Dam. Is that right? Oh, after the break we're going to check in with Derek Van Dam and all of our other reporters who are up and down the west coast of Florida. We have people in just about every spot every 80 miles or so. We'll give you a real picture of what is happening in the state of Florida, on the west coast of Florida, as Hurricane Idalia is now a Category 3 storm and will soon make landfall.

We'll be right back.



SIDNER: All right. I am live here in Crystal River, Florida where the bands of wind from Hurricane Idalia, a Category 3 storm, are hitting once again.

Now, we know that the storm is very, very close. In the next hour or so that's going to make landfall very soon now.

I want to go to Allison Chinchar who is tracking this storm for us. What can you tell us and how soon might this storm hit landfall?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I would say, honestly, Sara, in just the new few minutes. Likely, in the next 10 minutes, we're going to get that official call from the National Hurricane Center because we are now starting to see that official eyewall begin to cross over land as we speak. You're starting to see a lot of the thunderstorms on the northern side also intensify. A lot more lightning bolts starting to pop up with this.

So again, I would say at this point, landfall is underway. We are really going to see that announcement from the National Hurricane Center here likely in the next few minutes as this storm continues.

One thing to note, though. These impacts are still going to continue over the next several hours. You've got this extreme wind warning that has since expanded into new territory and it now extends until 10:15 a.m. this morning.

The emphasis there is just on the intense, incredibly strong winds that we are going to get in that area over the next few hours. You're looking at sustained winds in a lot of these areas up around that 40- mile-per-hour range with some of those wind gusts between 60 to 70 miles per hour. And those will continue to increase here in the next hour or two.

We also have the tornado watch in effect for portions of both Florida and Georgia. We've had about a dozen tornado warnings already so far today. That number is going to go up.

Keep in mind when we talk about tornado warnings the safe place is always the lowest level of your house -- say, a basement, for example. But a basement is not where you want to go if your home is being inundated with floodwaters. You want to go up. So do keep that in mind because that makes your safe place very tricky on a day like today.

Here is a look. Again, we do -- repeat that for me one more time. Monica, I believe -- yes, we do have landfall. They have just confirmed it. We have landfall as of right now. So the center of the storm has officially crossed into Florida as we speak as a Category 3 storm near Keaton Beach. So repeating, we do have official landfall near Keaton Beach, Florida as a Category 3 storm.

Again, these impacts are going to continue as this storm continues to slide off to the north and east. Those outer bands are going to continue to push very heavy rain, very gusty winds. And yes, the potential for some tornadoes also exists across these areas as well.

Back to you.

SIDNER: Thank you, Allison. That was a really great update because we now know that Hurricane Idalia has hit Florida -- a direct hit near Keaton Beach, Florida.

If you still have power and are still watching television, this is the time that you take shelter. That you get into an area that is as safe as possible inside. Most places in Florida do not have basements because the water table is so high. But get into a safe space and higher ground.

Try to stay out -- do not get in your cars. Do not try to leave now. This is not the time for it in a place like Keaton Beach where Hurricane Idalia, a Category 3 storm, which means that the winds are sustained at, like, 120 miles per hour or more. Please, please, please do not go out in this. Don't play around with this because there will be projectiles that will be whipping around that can really injure you and make some serious damage to property.

All right. Now that we know that the storm has hit there, what I can tell you about some of the other parts of Florida -- the storm has passed us by but look at what's happening. You're still seeing these wind gusts. You're still seeing -- because this is a very powerful storm and you have the outer layers of the storm that are still very active here.

We are in Crystal River. We are probably more than 50 miles away from where the storm is hitting landfall. And yet, there are still effects. We are seeing flooding. The water -- we are now -- we have now come up about three feet because the water has now come up several feet from where we were standing moments ago. So we are seeing some of that storm surge.

It is the water that is going to cause the greatest problem, likely, with this storm, especially now that it is no longer a Category 4 storm. It is the storm surge.

Please, for God's sake, be safe. Try to get your pets. If you have stayed, try to get your pets into a safe spot as well.


Let us go now to Derek Van Dam. He is in Tampa. The storm has passed by but you'd never know it because where he is it is inundated with water. That storm surge having a serious effect on Tampa.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yeah. You know, Sara, with the National Hurricane Center just calling landfall in Keaton Beach, this is the strongest hurricane to impact the Big Bend region in over 125 years. And get this, folks -- this is the third landfalling hurricane in Florida in 12 months -- wow. What does that have to say about people who try to insure their homes within this -- within this state? That's a whole nother topic.

But where I'm located -- this is Bayshore Boulevard, a major artery -- a thoroughfare for Tampa, which is over my right shoulder. And I think the pictures speak for themselves. This area has completely flooded and it has encroached on homes as well.

I'm going to have my cameraman just walk with me and help paint this picture because the surge is still coming in from Tampa Bay. We checked one of the tidal gauges near where we're located. It is currently at record levels -- 5 1/2 feet of storm surge near the tidal surge gauge that is closest to me. That is incredible. Records go back to 1991. So we're in record territory.

And this is all working together almost in a symphony of cataclysmic events, right? We have not only a powerful major hurricane pushing up the water across the eastern sections of the Gulf of Mexico -- a very shallow water basin, by the way -- but we also have inland flooding that is moving from the -- from it -- from the ground towards the ocean. So these working together in conjunction. They meet in the middle and they rise up the water levels. That is also being combined with the impacts of a full moon, which is

a supermoon, and that just has that great tidal swings with the highs and the lows. So even though we're nearing a low tide in Tampa Bay, we're still getting the surge and the impacts from this storm that is 200 miles away from us. Just incredible -- Sara.

SIDNER: It is incredible. I love what you just said there. That was probably -- very poetic. A symphony of cataclysmic events all coming into Florida.

We should mention once again that Hurricane Idalia has made landfall in the Big Bend region of the west coast of Florida. It has made landfall. It is hitting. That means the eye is going to be coming onto shore. And then those winds that whip around the other side of the eye, which can be even more devastating than the initial winds -- that is happening right now.

You are looking at some live pictures and we want to show you some satellite imagery, too. That will all be coming up. We're going to visit with someone who was riding out this storm -- this very dangerous storm in just a few moments.



SIDNER: I am Sara Sidner in Crystal River, Florida.

The outer bands of Hurricane Idalia hitting us right now with some wind and a bit of rain, but it has made landfall as a major hurricane -- a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 120 or more miles an hour.

I want to go now to Michael Bobbitt, who is riding out this storm. First of all, sir, tell us why you are riding out this storm. Why did you end up staying?

MICHEAL BOBBITT, RIDING OUT THE STORM: I have some elderly neighbors that flatly refused to leave and that's been the case around the island. And I just felt like I had a responsibility to stay and help some of the folks that had underestimated what this storm was going to be. I have a house on top of a hill that's sturdy and above the projected surge levels. And I just felt like I had a responsibility to the island to my neighbors to stay.

And so, far, we're doing OK. We're out of power. The storm surge is -- has overwhelmed our downtown, our Dock Street, our boat ramps. The bridges on the way into town. It's going to be a while before anyone will be able to get on or off the island. We're effectively cut off from the world now.

SIDNER: Michael, you are in Cedar Key, which is right there near where the eyewall is coming through -- has made landfall there. And we are seeing some video that you took also of just sort of the area as all of this was happening.

I see that it's dark in your home because you just said there is now power. It could be quite a few --


SIDNER: -- before power is restored. I know that they will get to you as soon as they can.

I think it is really lovely what you have done for your neighbors -- the elderly neighbors that you spoke of -- to make sure that there is someone there looking out for them since they didn't evacuate and weren't able to do in time.

We are looking at some of the pictures of those bands of wind and rain coming into your area. The video you took from Cedar Key, Florida, which has always been very close to the eye of this storm, if not expected to be hit full force. And those are the first --


SIDNER: -- initial winds.

You also -- once the eye passes over you get those terrible winds on the back end of the storm that can be really destructive. We see the huge surge -- the push of the water up onto shore, which is what is very dangerous.

And now, if you come back out live to me, we are now getting another band of rain. We are getting another band of wind coming through where I am, which is a good 50 miles from where you are. That's how large this storm is. And these are tropical storm winds. This isn't even hurricane force and it is causing flooding already.

I'll give you some sense. We were standing down there.