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Hurricane Idalia Makes Landfall in Big Bend Area of Florida; Tallahassee, Florida, Experiencing Uncharacteristic Weather and Flooding Conditions Due to Hurricane Idalia. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired August 30, 2023 - 08:00   ET



PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: -- the category three storm that has rapidly intensified throughout the course of the morning, before decelerating slightly, has now made landfall near Keaton Beach in Florida's Big Bend region. It is a category three storm. This, what you are looking at now is less than 20 miles from Keaton Beach. You can see the water levels start to rise. They have been rising throughout the course of the morning.

To give you some context here, particularly in this Big Bend region, this hurricane, hurricane Idalia, is now the most powerful storm to make landfall in that region in the past 125 years.

Sara Sidner is standing by, has been standing by all morning live in Crystal River, Florida. We have full team coverage all over Florida's gulf coast. John Berman and Brian Todd are in Tallahassee, Florida. Derek Van Dam has been in Tampa throughout the course of this morning. And Bill Weir is in Steinhatchee where the expected, or where landfall happened just 20 miles away. That storm has been picking up there. The effects have been rapidly intensifying there as well.

We're going to get to everybody throughout the course of this hour, but I want to start, Sara, with you, and have been following you, looking at your live shots throughout the course of this morning, talking to you, and just the intensity, the up and down, the bands as they have gone through, it has been something to see. And we experienced landfall about 15 minutes ago.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we have vacillated from beautiful to terrible, beautiful to terrible, back and forth. That's just the way hurricanes work. But this is a very dangerous storm, no matter how beautiful it is where you are on the west coast of Florida. It has made landfall in the most dangerous position for people in that area, the Big Bend area. They need to shelter in place according to authorities. They need not to try to evacuate if they haven't already at this point in time. You will have to wait until eyewall passes, and then that second major band of destructive wind and rain comes through past that eyewall.

I want to get to Derek Van Dam who is in Tampa. He has been watching this storm. He has been watching it from the satellite images and from the ground where parts of Tampa are inundated with that storm surge, with that floodwater. Derek? DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: All right, Sara, so we are going to

step away from this -- the seriousness of the storm for just one second. You've got to bear with me, because this is something you don't see every day. Guys, what are you doing? Literally, we are -- this is a very new way to beat rush hour traffic on Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa. These guys are kayaking down this major thoroughfare of Tampa over my shoulder here. I mean, look at that. I don't want to minimize the serious nature of this storm, but this is what people are dealing with in Tampa as we speak. People coming out to be more spectators than anything.

But the storm surge threat has been realized, five-and-a-half feet at one of the tidal gauges just down the road from us, and that is why we see this storm surge event that is unfolding across much of the Big Bend all the way to Tampa Bay where I am located. And that is an angry ocean there. You can see the waves just spilling over this coastal floodwater area. And in all of my years of reporting, I don't think I have ever seen people take advantage of floodwaters in that particular way.

So, look, I am not going to minimize the risks, the ongoing risks that are real, and they're dangerous. But the storm surge that they are anticipating and experiencing from where I'm standing now all the way to the Big Bend, remember, this is the strongest hurricane to impact the Big Bend in over 125 years. We are at record level storm surge in Tampa Bay. This is incredible to see unfold behind us. And just look all the way down Bayshore Boulevard. It is completely flooded with water, and that water is lapping up to the front yards of these homes here as well.

SIDNER: Derek, it cannot be understated how dangerous this is. It cannot also be understated that we are in Florida, and my people in Florida, like to take risks sometimes. And was that a, like what was that? Was that a floatie for a pool that they were in? What was that vehicle, craft that they were in?

DAM: There is. That was a rubber ducky. And he is busy doing laps on Bayshore Boulevard. It looks like others are doing the same. The spectators here, they want to go see this unusual event that's unfolding in front of their eyes. They don't see this every day. Yes, Bayshore Boulevard floods because of rain sometimes, but this is different. This is a storm surge.

And where we are right now, we are safe, OK? This is up to my knees. We can get to higher ground very quickly. But the reason we are showing you this is because people evacuated from these areas, zone A, Pinellas County, for instance. And reason is because of the storm surge, right. So yes, spectators are going to come and see their properties. Are they OK? Are they safe? Yes. People are going to take advantage of this moment, clearly.


SIDNER: All right, the only thing is, I hope that they are safe, because this is actually extremely serious and extremely dangerous.

DAM: One-hundred percent.

SIDNER: Especially where the storm is tracking and the fact that has hit landfall.

DAM: And we take it seriously.

SIDNER: And I know you take it seriously, but you always have some jokers in your life. And I guess we need them as well. Thank you so much, Derek. Let's go John Berman, my -- we do -- co-anchor and buddy who is in Tallahassee, Florida, the capital of Florida. We have been listening to Ron DeSantis tell us what is going on there, the emergency managements folks. What are you seeing right now, John? What are you experiencing? Because I see you are experiencing a little rain there.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, it's raining and it's windy. If you see me keep looking off in that direction, that's because the wind is coming from there and we are getting gusts that feel like 40, 45 miles per hour. Just want to keep an eye for debris and things that may be going through the air.

Tallahassee is about 60 miles from Keaton Beach where this storm just made landfall. So here where I am is inland. This is where it's now going to get worse. The situation here will deteriorate for several hours as this storm moves in, which mean more rain. They're expecting maybe six to 10 total inches here and more wind.

Tallahassee has never experienced hurricane-force winds since they have been keeping records. All the storms that have passed through here have come through as tropical storms, 74 miles per hour or less. They could get hurricane-force winds here over the next few hours as this storm moves over us and into Georgia. And 200,000 people live in Florida's capital city. This is where Governor Ron DeSantis has been speaking to the state, warning them to stay safe. Meanwhile, the people here where he is speaking from, they need to stay inside also because getting around is really just going to continue to get much, much worse.

You can see some of the trees here. There are trees, much bigger trees than this all over Tallahassee, big, gorgeous trees, that are just going to be soaked into their roots. And as the wind picks up, they will be so vulnerable and there will be such a great risk of tree damage, power outages. Right now, there is still power in this downtown area where we are. But that could turn, again, very quickly. They are expecting things to get worse here potential, as I said, Sara, a situation they may have never seen before here in Florida's capital city making it challenging, I think, perhaps to coordinate, coordinate the storm response throughout this day. More rain coming in now, Sara, and there is the wind. Cue the wind.

SIDNER: Cue the wind. John, you are always so great in these storms. You have been in so many. But it is significant that you say that this is the first time ever that Tallahassee, the capital of Florida, has ever experienced hurricane-strength winds and rain. That is significant. That is why they have been telling people to get to safety if they are near low-lying water. People need to understand, Tallahassee is inland. It is not right on the coast. And yet, here is this massive storm. Thank you so much, John. I appreciate you. We will check back with you in just a bit.

I want to go now to our Bill Weir, who is in Steinhatchee, Florida, which is also getting pounded by this storm and these bands of wind and rain. What are you experiencing at this hour?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Sara, it's been interesting. We haven't had the tornado-level gusts that you would expect since the storm made landfall less than 20 miles just to the northwest of us here. But we are keeping an eye on the -- this is the Steinhatchee River. You can see it coming up now. It is well over the road along this harbor area here. This is where we were doing live shots last night, standing in those sheltered areas. We have heard a couple of times that sort of cymbal crash of a big sheet of corrugated steel coming off of one of these docks here as well. And we just saw one of the floating docks go down the road. That's starting to float here as well.

So this right now, water is more of a concern than the wind we have seen so far. But, again, just made landfall, so we are not sure. Oh, I just saw some lightning. We just ducked out of our spot. We will give you a little perspective as to where we are riding this out. This is the River Inn Motel. It's full of -- oh, in comes some flowing debris from -- mostly Spanish moss from these big grand trees that are out here. But this is a brick construction. Thankfully we found it. It's about 28 feet above sea level, which would keep the cars dry, we thought, in that case. So we just ducked out there to get a gage on how fast the river is coming up. But we want to stay close to here if the winds pick up and send the flying debris around. About 1,000 people in this town. A lot of them remember 2016 when a hurricane sent a six-foot storm surge into this area.


And you have to think about ultimately what comes next. I am wearing a lucky charm Snappers Bar and Grill in Key Largo is where I was as hurricane Irma was coming into the Keys in 2017, interviewed the owner. They were having a hurricane party, a few cocktails in he dropped some f-bombs on CNN, charmed himself to the audience. But then the next day, Snappers was gone, completely obliterated. But within a few months, thanks to the community and some official help and insurance help, they were back open for business.

So the hope is along this beautiful nature coast, so many anglers here, birders, that this place will come back. The good news is, it's hitting one of the least populated areas in Florida, and given the insurance crisis right now, so many big insurers refusing to cover folks in this state, it's just too risky, it would be nice if we avoided the kinds of losses we saw during Ian, Sara, last year, $112 billion, $113 billion storm.

SIDNER: I remember that interview. I remember that gentleman. I remember loving him even though I don't know him. But the thing about these hurricanes is it can go from happy to heartbreak in just a few minutes. That is the reality of them. I do want to give you a sense of what has happened here at Crystal

River. This is where people normally dock their boats, way over there. They bring them in to go see the manatees. We have been standing here on actually very dry ground, literally minutes ago, and now we are seeing the water come up. It's come up, oh, a couple of feet here. This is completely normally dry ground. You would never want to put a boat on this. If you look to where the sort of awning is there with that pontoon boat, I mean, where you see the lights, that's the end of the pier, which is normally dry.

So you can definitely see the storm surge is happening here. The fear is it will get up to nine feet, potentially. Right now, it's only at a couple of feet, and the flooding is not extensive yet here in Crystal River. That could change. We hope it doesn't. We hope this is it. But this storm is still going, it's still dangerous. And so we will be checking in with bunch of different people. But I'm going to go back to Phil Mattingly, who, hopefully, is safe and dry in the studio. Phil?

MATTINGLY: You're going to make me feel bad when you lay it out like that, Sara, especially given the work that you --

SIDNER: Yes, I did that on purpose, yes.

MATTINGLY: -- and your photojournalists have doing.

SIDNER: How is the hot coffee?


SIDNER: How is the hot coffee?

MATTINGLY: Throughout the morning you guys have been showing fantastic picture, great context, as our team has been doing up and down the Gulf Coast of Florida, especially now that we have seen landfall and what we expect in the coming hours.

We want to straight to CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar. She's been tracking Idalia's every move from the CNN Weather Center. Walk me through. What are we expecting going forward?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right. So yes, now that we have actually had official landfall that was at 7:45 eastern time this morning, just near Keaton Beach, now that we have had that, the focus begins to shift. Now we are starting to look at more of an inland threat for a lot of these communities. Along the coast you are still going to have storm surge concerns. You are still going to have dangerously high winds. But now we are also going to start to see some of those communities inland dealing with some of these extremely high winds. This is an extreme wind warning. This is valid until to 10:15 a.m. We have seen it expand farther inland, because, again, we expect as that storm continues to make its way across the state of Florida, it is going to bring those high winds with it.

You also have a lot of these outer bands that could also produce tornado warnings as we go throughout the day. We have had already had a dozen of them. But also, to the amount of rain. This is not a fast- moving system, so it's got a lot of time to drop a lot of rain. Also, too, because it was a category three at landfall, it is still expected to be a category two or even a category one as it slides across the state of Georgia before finally dropping into tropical storm status across South Carolina. So even neighboring states are likely to have significant impacts.

In fact, this purple area here that you see stretches into portions of Georgia, you are still looking at the wind gusts that could exceed 100 miles per hour, and in the surrounding areas still looking at 75 to 100. So still hurricane-force winds as we extend into other states.

Looking at the forecast, again those outer bands continuing to push across the state of Florida, across the state of Georgia, into the Carolinas as we go through the next 24 to 48 hours. So I want to emphasize, just because the storm has made landfall, this is not over yet. In fact, we have got a long road ahead of us over the next 48 hours for some of the neighboring states.

Widespread rainfall totals of our to six inches. But there will be some spots that could pick up eight, even 10 inches of rain before this is said and done. So you have some significant impacts here still to go even for areas way away from the coast. That's why you have got this excessive rainfall risk. All of these areas you see here in red, that includes Columbia, South Carolina, Wilmington, North Carolina, again, folks, cities that are nowhere near the Florida coastline are still going to have the significant potential for heavy rainfall and subsequent flooding as we go through the next couple of days.


So do keep that in mind. We did see in the latest update at the top of the hour, winds have decreased now down to 120 mph. It is a very strong category three storm. The forward movement north

northeast at about 18 mph.

So it's going to make its way across the state and into Georgia and the Carolinas as we go through the next several hours.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, remarkable that it could still be a category two hurricane according to forecast, as it heads into Georgia. Allison Chinchar, you've been keeping us posted throughout the course of the morning.

We'll definitely get back to yours this continues to progress. Now where things stand right now, the hurricane is a Category 3; 115-120 miles per hour winds. Hurricane Idalia has made landfall about 20 miles north of Steen Hatchie. You're seeing a picture of Steen Hatchie right now. I want you to look closely at that picture because what you see are roofs. Those are not full houses. Those houses are already mostly underwater.

The biggest elements, the biggest impacts of this storm, talking storm surges from twelve to 16ft based on projections, wind and tornadoes in the outer bounds of this storm, they are still to come, particularly in the areas where landfall was made. As state, local and federal officials have been warning throughout the course of the last several hours, stay in your homes. If you're in the Big Bend area, hunker down. Just because landfall has happened, or even if it seems like things have eased up, the most significant impacts are still to come. We are going to be covering those impacts.

We're going to be talking to people on the ground, in the state and local level, as well as federal officials in the hours to come. Stay with us. Our special coverage of Hurricane Idalia, a category three storm, major storm that has now made landfall at Florida's Gulf Coast, will continue when we come back.



MATTINGLY: You are looking live at pictures of Perry, Florida where you see the wind in the rain just ripping through the screen and the shot that you're looking at, you see the trees right now. Hurricane Idalia, a category three storm, a major storm has made landfall in Florida's Gulf Coast. It's big Bend region.

We are watching as that storm progresses. And just a little bit north of inland of where that storm was expected to hit is Tallahassee, Florida. We're going to get to our team in Tallahassee in just a minute, but I

want to start with as Hurricane Idalia has made landfall in Florida, we want total to the National Hurricane Center's director, Michael Brennan. Director Brennan, we talked to you I think 2 hours ago.

Now at this point, now that we have seen landfall, what should people be looking out for?

MICHAEL BRENNAN, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Well, near the core of Idalia in these areas here, like into Lafayette, Sawani Counties, Dixie, Taylor counties, these are the areas where you're going to want to hunker down and treat it almost like a tornado right now. Get to an interior room in your home, you're not going to want to be outside. We have a lot of debris blowing around, trees coming down.

There could be structural damage. So, these areas near the eye wall as it moves inland are going to see some significant wind impacts. We're also still seeing water levels rising along the coast along the Big Bend region. Significant life-threatening storm surge is going to continue here for several more hours.

We're seeing elevated water levels all the way down into the Tampa Bay region still with significant inundation there. So, we're just starting to see the impacts ramp up now as Idalia moves inland across north Florida, southeastern Georgia later today and into tonight.

And we're going to see significant impacts all the way up into the Carolinas during the day tomorrow.

MATTINGLY: You know passed this precedent, we've seen storms, particularly of this scale slowdown when they start to move inland. What type of risk does that pose to those communities as it goes further? Could even still be a hurricane when it enters the next state over in Georgia.

BRENNAN: That's right, yeah. But largely because we expect the forward speed to be quite fast. It's moving at almost 20 mph now, so that's going to bring the center pretty far inland before it has a lot of time to weaken. That's why we're still expecting it to be a hurricane even when it reaches the coast of Georgia and South Carolina.

Be at or near hurricane strength as we get into tonight. So that's why we have that hurricane warning and storm surge warning in effect for portions of the Georgia and South Carolina coast and those inland areas in Georgia and South Carolina under hurricane warnings as well.

So, again, substantial impacts that are going to spread inland with the center of Idalia and not to mention the flooding, heavy rainfall, especially to the left of the track.

Areas farther inland like Augusta; Columbia, South Carolina; Fayetteville, North Carolina; W could see the substantial rainfall, flooding risk play out over the next 24 to 36 hours.

MATTINGLY: All right, Michael Brennan, you've been keeping us updated all morning throughout the course of the last couple of days. We appreciate it. Certainly, listen to what you're saying. I'm sure we'll be talking to you soon with more updates. Thank you.

BRENNAN: Thanks.

MATTINGLY: And I want to go now to CNN's Brian Todd, I was talking about Tallahassee. He is in Tallahassee. We heard from Governor Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor in Tallahassee, earlier this morning. I actually saw the power go out before the generators kick back on.

Brian, tell us what you're seeing a little bit inland from where landfall took place.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Phil, interesting that you saw the power go out when Governor DeSantis was addressing people, because just a few minutes ago we heard a loud boom just down the street from us. We believe that was a transformer blowing. Of course, that's going to be repeated throughout this region. It already has been.

But here's what we can show you is going on in Tallahassee recent, just in the last few minutes, intensification of wind and rain. Wind really blowing the rain sideways and then it'll kind of slough off a little bit, then it will intensify again. We're under these trees, these old oak trees with the Spanish moss hanging down right above me here.

Of course, this makes this area very distinctive. It makes Tallahassee beautiful, but it also makes these trees a little bit more vulnerable, makes them heavier. When they become uprooted, a lot of them just come crashing down, causing a lot of damage. Here is another problem.

A lot of these trees with the Spanish moss take a look up there on those wires, those power lines right there. Look at the proximity of those power lines to the trees. And of course, these trees are vulnerable to coming crashing down just in the last few minutes.

My colleague David Brooks, this photo journalist I'm working with, and I had a lot of these branches like this come crashing down right near us here's, a branch with a lot of Spanish moss that just came down. We've been also keeping our eye on that banner over there.

These are the kinds of objects look at that thing just completely being whipped around. It looks like it's almost about to become uprooted. When it does, if it does, that's going to be like a javelin flying around on the street. If you venture out into this stuff, which you're really not supposed to do, that's the kind of thing you have to really have an awareness of not only things like that, but branches.

You have to always look around you. There could be debris flying off rooftops. We've seen it in the last several minutes. I just spoke to an emergency management official here in Leon County ----


And she said that really now is the time to shelter in place and what they want people to do is to stay in place. And even when you think this thing may have passed, don't be deceived by it. And you've got to stay in your home because that's when the first responders and the emergency crews have to go out.

And especially in this town when there's going to be a lot of trees blocking roads, they've got to go out and try to clear the trees. Do not venture out. Stay in your home. Give these people some space. The responders and the crews who are trying to get your power back and trying to clear your streets of the trees, they need the space to move around and navigate.

It's going to be very difficult for them to do it. So, you've got to stay in your home. We just came here last night from a town about 20 miles away, St. Mark's. We're going to try to venture back there soon because that place could really see some significant flooding Phil.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, it's such an important message, Brian, one that we've been hearing from state and local officials. Stay in your homes just because you think landfall has occurred and the storm might be easing to some degree. This is one of the most complicated times and certainly want people to stay out of the way of first responders, emergency workers as they have an opportunity to start going out in the hours ahead.

Appreciate you, Brian Todd your photo journalist David Brooks as well. We are going to --- one thing that Brian's talked about that I want to focus on really quick because we saw some pictures of power lines and what's been happening given the scale of the wind in Perry, Florida. Watch this video where you see the pop in the boom and it's somewhat

akin to what you heard Brian reference.

This is a different video in a different place, but it's the type of thing that you heard Florida officials talk about preparations for in the lead up to landfall. Governor Ron DeSantis saying up to30 to 40,000 linesmen were prepared. The question will be when can they actually get out to do their work? They were certainly doing it in advance.

Now, it's worth noting we have the mayor of Tampa, Jane Castro will be upcoming next and there's a dire warning from the city of Tampa from her. Take a listen.