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Jane Castor is Interviewed about the Storm's Impact on Tampa; Hurricane Idalia Makes Landfall Near Keaton Beach; Coastal Cities Hit by Idalia. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired August 30, 2023 - 08:30   ET




SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: You are looking at live pictures there of the onslaught of Hurricane Idalia, which has made landfall in the past 20 minutes. The strong storm, a category three storm, sustained winds of more than 120 miles an hour. We are watching that storm come onshore there in Florida.

I want to go now to our affiliate reporter who -- from WKMG, who was in Perry, which is about 20 minutes from where the storm made landfall.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just the wind is changing just a little bit to where we were dry standing under this overhang even just a few minutes ago, which is, obviously, a fair indication that the eyewall is moving through and we're starting to get the other side of it.

The cars I was talking about driving by, it seems people have parked, at least for the next few minutes, which really is a good idea because this is the thick of it. We are in the middle of it right now.

You can hear that roar. I mean, it is the sound of a category three- ish storm. And this is the power. So, when we talk about it moving through, you know, the concern is that all of this stuff flying through the air, and it is really, I mean, you know, shooting across the ground and through the air, any of this stuff, if you're outside -- so the fence just wept down, that construction fence went down -- if you're outside, you are in the line of fire.


SIDNER: There you have it from Perry. Again, that's about 20 minutes from where Hurricane Idalia made landfall. That's why you were hearing that roar of wind and seeing all of that rain.

I will tell you, we are outside of the most dangerous part of this storm. We are just getting basically tropical force winds here where I am standing in Crystal River. But the storm surge, definitely, look at this, it is coming up even further.

Now, when we first started, you go to basically where that boat slip is, the dock is. The water was there. It was far back from where we are. Now it is all the way up. It has definitely come up about three feet now. It was about one when we started this morning. And it was dry just before that.

All right, I want to go to the mayor of Tampa, Mayor Jane Castor, who is standing by live for us.

We appreciate, ma'am, your time in the midst of this really dangerous storm.

I know that Tampa has seen some serious flooding. Can you tell us what the situation is in Tampa right now that people need to know about?

MAYOR JANE CASTOR, TAMPA, FLORIDA: Right. What our people need to know about, we have had some damage from the winds, downed trees, limbs, those types of things. But what we are mainly concerned with is the same thing that you're experiencing up in Crystal River. The -- we have flooding, extensive flooding along our coast right now. We have about 126 miles of waterfront land hear in Tampa. And that is only going to rise. We're at low tide. The tide is coming in. We expect that king high tide around noon to 1:00. And that's going to bring in several additional feet of water. And so the flooding that we're experiencing now is nothing compared to what we're going to see in a few hours.

SIDNER: You know, that is really important to let people know. They see where I am. They see where you are. They see a little bit of flooding and they think, oh, well, it's starting to be light out and it's not so bad and maybe we can go out and see what happened. And that's just not the case at this point. It really is -- it's going to get worse, the flooding.


And so people need to understand that this is not over. This event is not over even if it's not raining or being very, very windy where you are.

Ma'am, I think you're standing in the emergency center. Can you give us some sense of what happens in there as this storm is pounding the west coast of Florida and how you get the information out to people?

CASTOR: Right. We are in our EOC right now, which was activated - full activation yesterday at 7:00 a.m. And we have representatives, not only from the city of Tampa, but from the county, from the state. So, we are prepared to address any issue that - that comes our way.

We are right in the midst of our morning briefing, talking about the shelter capacity. We have our push crews that are throughout our community. They are the ones that are going out to clear the roadways once the winds stop. So, we're hearing from them. We're hearing from our first responders. We have three bridges that connect Hillsborough County with Pinellas.

Currently, two of those are closed and probably will be closed until 5:00 or 6:00 this afternoon. We have our islands, both Harbor and Davis Islands, and Davis Islands are inaccessible right now, unless you've got a boat.

So, those are the issues that we're dealing with. And communicating to residents to let them know that that water is going to continue to come in. So, we appreciate your efforts to inform our residents.

SIDNER: Madam Mayor, I am a Floridian. I am a Florida Gator. I needed to mention that. Sorry if you went to another one of the other schools here, which I shall not mention. But I love the people of this state and the beauty of this state. And there's a reason why people live in places like Tampa and St. Pete because it is beautiful.

But, unfortunately, during hurricane season, it is also extremely dangerous and people need to be listening to you and the folks from the emergency management not to go out, even though it is quite beautiful seeing this storm come through. It is still extremely dangerous. It can be very perilous. And that storm surge, you can't stop that. You can't stop that. You can't - your body can't take that kind of pressure when the water is being swept in. So, people need to be really cognizant.

And, again, let's just mention again how important it is. The two -- two of the bridges there that connect Pinellas County with Hillsborough County have been closed. You just heard that from the mayor of Tampa.

Thank you, ma'am, so much for taking the time to talk to us.

CASTOR: Thank you.

SIDNER: And to let people know exactly what is going on there in your community that I know you live in and you love. Appreciate you.

CASTOR: Thank you. Thank you very, very much. It's paradise with the exception of hurricane season, and people need to pay attention to Mother Nature because she wins every single time.

SIDNER: Every single time.

Thank you so much, Madam Mayor.

I'm going to toss it now back to my colleague, Phil Mattingly, in the studio.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: You know, Sidner, I appreciate getting in the Florida Gators. I'm surprised you got about four and a half hours through this show without mentioning the Florida Gators. Just as long as you don't chant SEC.

SIDNER: I mean -

MATTINGLY: We'll be - we'll be good with it. SIDNER: Why wouldn't I.


SIDNER: I don't know where you come from. Oh, Ohio. Oh, The Ohio State or whatever.


SIDNER: Why do you do that anyway? I'm sure I'm going to get a lot of hate mail, but whatever.

MATTINGLY: Yes, me, too. We appreciate it.

Continued great reporting. Great work. Great interview with very important messages particularly now that there has been landfall and we have seen kind of what landfall brings and what it's continuing to bring, including here in Steinhatchee, about 20 miles away from where landfall took place, the direct landfall in Keaton Beach. You - take a look at the building that you're looking at, the structure. They are half under water at this point.

We're going to be going to our correspondent, Bill Weir, in Steinhatchee when we come back. Also checking in a little bit more inland in Tallahassee. We have reporters up and down the west coast of Florida telling you all about what's happening as this category three storm, Hurricane Idalia, which made landfall about an hour ago, and now, when you listen to local officials, like the Tampa mayor that Sara was just talking to, very real concern about the surge, about flooding, about winds, about the aftermath of what will be moving through and is expected to move through as a hurricane up into Georgia over the coming hours.

Stay with us.



MATTINGLY: Welcome back to our continuing breaking news coverage of the landfall of Hurricane Idalia, the category three hurricane that made landfall about an hour ago about 20 miles away from the pictures you are seeing right now, in Steinhatchee. It is in the big bend region that was expected to be hit. And no real precedent for a storm of this size to actually land in that region over the course of the last really more than a century.

And I want to go right now to CNN's Bill Weir. He is live from Steinhatchee.

Bill, you've been keeping us updated throughout the course of the morning. What are you seeing right now on the ground?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Phil, we're really watching the rapid rise of the Steinhatchee River. To give you perspective, those buildings down there, that's the marina. This is a little harbor area here along the river.

We were doing our morning live shot standing on the banks of the river down there. It is now completely overcome the road here. And we're watching -- we have another camera up high that we can show you, a zoom shot of the debris now floating up river, including huge floating marinas. These are on floats and they've slipped their moorings and we've watched entire docks wash by with sailboats still attached.

And the folks who run the place here, we're at the River Inn Motel taking shelter, they're really worried about friends of theirs who stayed. In particular, there was one sailor who stayed on his sailboat just around the corner. There's a causeway just around the corner. I don't know, Ev (ph), if you can peek around the corner and give them a perspective on where we are. To the right, there you can start to see some of the docks that are piling up along the river there.


Be careful, Ev. Don't -- watch that wind.

We're taking shelter behind the one motel wall here. We have a cinderblock construction. We were fortunate enough to provide shelter in this wind right now. But, wow, it's come up fast.

We heard of the six-foot storm surge that hit here in 2016. There were worries that this could be twice that. We talked to some local business owners who were completely terrified about what that means in terms of insurance implications. This state is going through such a crisis because they've been hit now -- this is the third major hurricane to make landfall in 12 months. And so even if you don't live anywhere near the big bend area, everybody in this state will feel this storm, you know, in their wallets, as essentially there's now a hurricane tax for living in this state. The risks are so great now that the last -- insurer of last resort, Citizens (ph), is asking for a big rate hike.

Those are worries for - at least for folks who live in these areas for another day. But I'm telling you, you hear it again and again, I didn't know water could rise that fast. And we're seeing it happen, play out in real time here.


MATTINGLY: All right, Bill Weir.

Just, again, for context, where Bill was at the start of this morning versus where he is right now. You look at the structures that his photojournalist is showing. This is moving very, very fast, rising very, very quickly in an area that does not have lots of history with storms of this scale. We'll certainly be checking back with Bill throughout the course of the morning.

Right now, though, I want to toss it back over to Sara Sidner.

And, Sara, what are you seeing at this point? SIDNER: We are getting another one of those gusts. I mean this is the

story of the day. But I do want to quickly tell you that we just learned some information here. What you are seeing now is low tide. Low tide. The water has come up about three or four feet. Actually probably more like four feet at that point. They are saying that this may get up to nine feet.

When might that happen? When is there a possibility that this is going to get really nasty, other than, like, right now? It is going to get really dangerous at high tide, which is around 4:00 or 4:30 in the afternoon. So, we are by no means in the clear yet here in Crystal River. And we're just getting tropical-force winds. We're not even getting the strong winds, the category three winds of Hurricane Idalia.

We are going to check back with all of our reporters who are up and down the coast of Florida, the west coast of Florida, and we will be right back.



MATTINGLY: As our special coverage of the breaking news that the landfall of Hurricane Idalia, the category three major storm continues, you are looking at two pictures right now, Steinhatchee, Florida, and Perry, Florida, where you are seeing the effects of a storm that just made landfall in one of the central two areas where it hit directly.

We've been covering this throughout the course of the morning up and down the Gulf Coast of Florida, but this big bend region, where landfall was made, very real concerns about the storm surge, about the wind, about what may be coming in the hours ahead. Even in the wake of landfall, people in the region being told to stay indoors, hunker down. In the words of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, don't do anything dumb if you're in that region right now. Very real risks even as the storm passes over.

And I want to get back to Sara Sidner, who has been on the ground, watching this and reporting on this throughout the course of the morning.


SIDNER: It has been five hours out in the same spot and we did that so we could show you what that storm surge is starting to look like here in Crystal River. And don't get it twisted, you are not seeing the effects right now because one of the bands has not made it on shore here where we are. We are only getting tropical storm force winds and yet the storm surge is supposed to be enormous.

We are seeing just a little of it. This is basically a low tide and we're seeing at least four feet of water sort of coming up. Now, we were right on the water, so that's why you're seeing it and it's not flooding the rest of the city of Crystal River. However, there is going to be -- about 4:30, that's going to be the

height of this event for this particular park. We are about 50 miles from where the storm made landfall. And 80 miles from me that is where we find Derek Van Dam.

And you can see up and down the west coast, here we're getting another band of wind -- up and down the west coast there are differing variations of what this storm is doing to the population there, to the buildings, to the water, but everyone is going to feel this in some way, some worse than others. It is by no means over yet just because this storm has made landfall.

Let me toss it over to Derek. He is in the thick of the storm surge there in Tampa.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS CERTIFIED BROADCAST METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Sara, that's really the nature of hurricanes, right? I mean it's all the water that goes up the nooks and crannies of the shoreline where it has pushed the water into those little areas.

Now, we're standing on Bay Shore Boulevard. And I think this is notable, so I'm going to mention it. I've seen several bystanders, so this is people from the community, who have come out to take pictures of this particular flooded thoroughfare. This is a main artery for Tampa, which is directly over my right shoulder.

And why that's significant is because we know that Bay Shore Boulevard floods in a rainstorm, for instance. But this is storm surge. And, unfortunately, we're in low tide at the moment. And according to the mayor, which we had on the show just a few moments ago, the worst is still yet to come.

Have a listen to what she had to say just a few moments ago.


MAYOR JANE CASTOR, TAMPA, FLORIDA: What we are mainly concerned with is the same thing that you're experiencing up in Crystal River, the -- we have flooding, extensive flooding along our coast right now.


We have about 126 miles of waterfront land here in Tampa. And that is only going to rise. We're at low tide. The tide is coming in. We expect that king high tide around noon to 1:00. And that's going to bring in several additional feet of water.


VAN DAM: That's really a symphony of cataclysmic events that are all coming together to create this storm surge. Super moon, high tide, inland flooding and a surge of water from Tampa Bay, all working together to create what you see behind me. The worst is still to come.


SIDNER: That is a reality.

Derek Van Dam, thank you so much, there from Tampa.

I am live here from Crystal River, Florida, the home of the beautiful manatee.

Things are going to get worse as far as flooding. But I want to send it back now to Phil.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Thank you, Sara, for yours, Derek's, the entire team's great coverage over the course of the last five hours.

We're going to hand the baton off, but the special coverage does not stop. Hurricane Idalia, it continues on "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starting right now.