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Idalia Set to Make Landfall Soon as a Category 4 Hurricane; Hurricane Idalia Nears Historic Landfall in Florida's Big Bend. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 30, 2023 - 04:30   ET



PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. Well, we are following breaking news this morning, a very big story, a very big storm. Florida is bracing for Hurricane Idalia, which is rapidly intensifying as it nears landfall. Idalia is currently a Category 3 storm with winds of 125 mph, just shy of a Category 4 storm. The storm is currently 60 miles from the state's capital of Tallahassee, Florida and 90 miles west of Cedar Key, where they have measured sustained tropical storm force winds and gusts of 47 mph.

Now Florida's West Coast is already being whipped by the outer bounds of this storm. Streets in Tampa are flooding, and in Pinellas County, the storm surge is already impacting roadways. This hour tornado watches are in effect for 7 million people across western Florida and flood watches are in effect for 21 million people across Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

For more, let's turn now to the Public Information Officer for Wakulla County Sheriff's Office, Lieutenant Jeffrey Yarbrough. Lieutenant Yarbrough, thanks so much for your time, especially in this moment. And this is happening soon. Landfall is certainly going to happen soon. There's been a lot of preparation leading up to this moment. Where do the efforts stand right now? What still needs to be done before landfall occurs?

LT. JEFFREY YARBROUGH, SPOKESMAN, WAKULLA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: I mean, in our county at least we're kind of in a wait and see. You know, I was speaking to one of my colleagues earlier and so that kind of I feel like it's going to be a -- it's a question of bad or worse for us, depending on what moves the storm makes now is going to depend greatly on what kind of effects we see in in our particular county.

MATTINGLY: In your experience, based on, you know, we were talking about this earlier the last several years, there have been a lot of storms that have headed this direction that haven't necessarily been as bad as predicted or as bad as they could have been. Do you feel like people are responsive to the threat here? They've been responsive to the concerns and the warnings that you all have laid out over the course of the last several days.

YARBROUGH: I think so. You know, Hurricane Michael wasn't that long ago. A lot of people that are in this area, I mean we didn't -- we certainly felt the effects Hurricane Michael, but not as much as the counties to our west. But that's still very much in a lot of people's minds. And I feel like we had a pretty good response from citizens, particularly in our coastal and low-lying areas. That when we issued the mandatory evacuations and went around knocking on doors, telling people they needed to get out, we got a pretty good response from that. People took this seriously.


We understand that with this particular storm, there wasn't as much time to prepare, but, you know, we feel like our efforts have been heated pretty well by our community.

MATTINGLY: This strikes me as something to be a difficult moment for somebody in your position, for your team, where you are kind of waiting to see, hoping for the best, preparing for, or having prepared for the worst. Given that kind of reality of this moment, what are your biggest concerns right now?

YARBROUGH: Certainly with any coastal community in Florida or anywhere when there is hurricane, you know, storm surge is the biggest concern. It's going to be the biggest, you know, cause of damage and potentially loss of life. So beyond that kind of general issue that we're dealing with, we're very much focused on the path of this storm and that might sound cliche, but right now, as it gets closer inland 15-20 miles to the east or to the west is going to have a huge impact on the amount of effects that we feel in in Wakulla County.

MATTINGLY: You know, one of the big concerns when I've talked to emergency responders in the past and storm situations, is kind of the immediate aftermath. When the storm is actually through. What's your message to residents once this storm passes? What should they be aware of? What should they be concerned about in those moments?

YARBROUGH: Well, we asked our citizens and I mean in any county where citizens might be watching this if they're affected, stay home. If you didn't evacuate and you're in the affected area, please don't go out and try to assess damage yourself. We understand the curiosity and the interest in doing so, but emergency responders' first priority in these situations is to get roadways cleared begin to do -- to do damage assessment and then to help citizens who may be trapped. And it's made all the more difficult if other people are on the roadway clogging up those areas. It also hinders the ability of people like lineman to come in and begin restoring power.

MATTINGLY: Lieutenant Jeffrey Yarbrough, I know it's a very busy morning. It's also kind of to some degree of nerve-wracking moment -- morning. We appreciate your time. And I would say if there are messages you need to get out, if you feel like things need to be paid attention to, please let us know. We will absolutely talk to you whenever you think it's a necessity. We appreciate your time, Sir.

YARBROUGH: Will do, thank you.

All Right, now I want to toss it back over to Derek van Dam, who's been keeping us updated both on what we're seeing in the big picture, the macro picture, as this storm starts to approach, but also on the ground there in Tampa. As we're starting to see, we have seen, the effects 120, 130 miles away from the direct path just showing the scale. Derek, what are you seeing right now?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, that's right, Phil. Even though we are well away from the most powerful part of major Hurricane Idalia, we have seen the storm surge push into the Tampa Bay, flood Bayshore Drive and now starting to threaten city blocks inland as well. You can see the water literally lapping up to the front yards and the front steps of this home behind me. We'll be live, talking about storm surge and its impacts across Tampa Bay, but also into the Big Bend coming out coming up after the break. We have more to show you. Stick around.



SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Sara Snider here in Crystal River, Florida, which is an entire town that is in the flood zone. So ostensibly people here have evacuated. We know that a lot of people have left and they have boarded up as Hurricane Idalia makes its way to shore.

Right now, we are in a little bit of a calm. Just a few minutes ago there was a big burst of wind. We are starting to see those bands as well. We are basically standing where a lot of the boats and the tourism happens here, although it's a small town, about 3,400 people, a lot of people come here for one thing, they come to see the spring, which is gorgeous, crystal water and the manatees.

But right now you're hearing sort of that squeaking. Things are moving because the water table here is so high. And it is such a low, low place that even City Hall could be impacted if the storm surge hits at what is expected, which is between 7 and 9 feet. That would be well over my head if the storm surge hits this place the way they think it might.

Now these storms tend -- do tend to wobble. They do tend to move a bit and so everyone of course is hoping that it doesn't hit here that we don't see those kinds of storm surge, but you can't take the chance. And so authorities have told everyone in this town to evacuate. They don't have to go far. They just have to get to higher ground. All Right, we're going to go now to Derek Van Dam, who is in an area where the flooding is already happening in Tampa about 80 miles south of me. Give us a sense of the scene where you are -- Derek.

VAN DAM: Yes, Sara, this is definitely storm surge from major Hurricane Idalia. And just to set the scene here, it's been quite dramatic all morning. We've seen the water levels rise within the past hour since we've been here, waves crashing up and over this barrier seawall. We get sprayed every couple of minutes. This, folks, is what 4 to 6 feet of coastal storm surge looks like in Tampa Bay. See, just feeling some of that wave action pounding over the coastal seawall there.

So the storm surge from Hurricane Idalia, which by the way, is over 120 miles away from the center of where I'm located now. So even though this system is well off into the Gulf of Mexico, well beyond the Tampa Bay where I'm located, we are still feeling its impacts and its fury because there is just so much water that it is pushed up.

Remember, there's a couple of things working in unison today. Not only do we have that storm surge from the push of the water from a major hurricane but we have inland flooding as well. So inland flooding being made worse by a high tide, a Super Moon cycle that has a greater pull on the world's tides, all working in unison to help raise the water levels here on Bayshore Drive.

Now look, if you ask any local in Bayshore that lives on Bayshore Drive in Tampa Bay, which is a major thoroughfare and artery for this city, they know that it can flood quite easily. But this is different. This is storm surge and that means it's associated with a tropical system.

And this is an interesting perspective as well. Here we are underneath the intersection. The winds not too, too strong at the moment, but we have had these occasional tropical storm gusts, but I want you to see how the water is lapping up at the -- at the edge of the yard of some of these homes. The water has pushed up the roadways at least one block inland that we've seen. So this is significant for Tampa Bay and the impacts here will be great. You can just pan down Bayshore Drive. Both sides of this beautiful, beautiful boulevard have been completely swamped and overtaken by the sea. Just incredible to witness this.


Remember, we've got a high tide that just occurred. And there's another spray you'll see, it's that was from the coastal seawall. That's about 50 to 75 feet over my camera man's right shoulder, so you can just imagine the winds and the water being pushed up and over that area.

So just incredible sights here in Tampa Bay. People are familiar with it. But still an unnerving sight if you're witnessing this from your home outside of your window.

SIDNER: Let us hope that people have gotten to higher ground. There is a reason why people live in the Tampa Bay area and in places like Crystal River because they want to be near the water and they and it's a beautiful place to live until it's not and that storm surge happens.

We can hear those winds, Derek pushing that water and probably pushing you guys around as those bands come in. Thank you so much for your reporting there. We'll check back in with you in just a bit.

I want to get to Allison Chinchar, who is our meteorologist, looking at all this. She's got some very cool ways to illustrate what we're going to see. And what is going to happen as this storm, this monster storm his shore -- Allison.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, that's right. So I mean, the thing is we just saw what it looks like with Derek out live as that water starting to begin to rise. But the real question is, what does it look like as we start to see more of that water rise? Now normal sea level, again, you can see those waves kind of crashing in along the beach towards the homes by two feet. Again that water line starts to creep awfully close to the house. By 4 feet, now you're starting to get inundation inside of homes and even business as well.

But we're not stopping at 4 feet with this storm. You're going to have some areas that pick up as much as 12 feet. So now you're talking the entire first story of a home or a business is now underwater from all of that water flowing in. And I know that's hard to conceptualize, to say, oh, but that probably won't happen. But the thing of it is, 12 feet is expected.

When we take a look at the map showing exactly where all of this water is expected to go. Yes, there are areas where you're going to see 12, if not even more than 12 feet across these areas. Basically east of St. Marks all the way down through Cedar Key. We're forecasting 12 to 16 feet from the National Hurricane Center. But you saw on that 3D image even 4 feet is enough to start inundating homes and businesses. And you're going to have that over near Apalachicola, down towards St. Petersburg and Sarasota.

So even some of these other areas that maybe say don't get as much as 12 feet, maybe they say get four or six, you're still going to have inundation of that storm surge inside of homes.

So let's look at where the storm is now. Sustained winds have it ticked up to 125 mph. It's moving to the northeast, north, northeast at 17 mph. It is expected to intensify even more, getting up to a Category 4 right before landfall, crossing over into Georgia and then the Carolinas before going back out over open water.

Again, we've talked about storm surge being the big concern, but also flooding from the water coming down from above you. So as we take a look at the forecast radar again landfall time still looks like it's between about 8:00 to 9:00 a.m., roughly this morning Eastern Time. Then the system continues to slide into Georgia.

You're likely going to have power outages across Georgia, South Carolina, even North Carolina possible as this storm continues to make its way out towards the Atlantic as we go through the rest of the day today. You've already got some of those really heavy bands starting to impact not only the Panhandle, but also the peninsula of Florida.

Further down to the south. We've already started to see several tornado warnings this morning. Still one active just to the east of Orlando, and it's because of those tornado warnings, we do have a tornado watch in effect for a few more hours. An additional one is likely to end up being put out for this morning because this area is going to continue to see tornadoes and also too, we could be seeing them eventually in states like Georgia as well as the Carolinas as we go through the next 24 hours.

SIDNER: Well, I think a lot of people don't realize, Allison, that these storms create their own weather, so to speak. And those tornadoes are really serious. We've seen those happen in this area before, very, very stark. A lot of different things that can harm you, even though it is quite beautiful. Allison Chinchar, thank you so much. Derek Van Dam, thank you for showing what's happening there in Tampa and I want to send it back to the studio where Phil is -- Phil.

MATTINGLY: Thank you, Sara. And we're going to have team coverage continuing throughout the course of this morning. Our teams on the ground, our meteorologists as well, trying to lay out as this is coming closer and closer. Hurricane Idalia, again, winds now at 125 miles nearing intensifying towards that Category 4 designation. Only four Category 4 storms have made landfall in Florida over the course of the last several decades. This is serious and significant. We're going to talk to people on the ground, including one of our reporters in Madeira Beach, about the latest the flooding, what they're seeing and what they expect in the hours ahead. Stay with us.



MATTINGLY: We are continuing to follow the breaking news. Hurricane Idalia now a Category 3 intensifying on the way to a Category 4 storm. And what we're showing you right now is three different places, three different regions in Florida. Cedar Key is on your left. Punta Gorda is in the center. Orlando is to your right. You see kind of the different phases of this storm, the different areas as this storm makes its way toward Florida, expected to make landfall in the coming hours.

We want to also take you to about 150 miles away from Cedar Key, where you see the rain just ripping and wind just ripping across the screen and what we've been showing you. And we will take you to Madeira Beach, Florida. It's just west of St. Petersburg. You've been seeing Derek Van Dam in Tampa showing what we're seeing there. This is a little bit further away from Tampa. Chad Mills, reporter for our affiliate WFTS-TV is on the ground there right now. This is what he's seen.

CHAD MILLS, REPORTER, WFTS-TV: It's bad and it is getting worse. That's the bad news here. I just spoke to the Mayor of Madeira Beach minutes ago and he tells me that water on the intracoastal has breached the city's seawall. And you can see Gulf Boulevard behind me. This is kind of what we're seeing here in Madeira Beach now. A portion of Gulf Blvd. closed here at the Madeira Commons. Daiquiri Shack is in this area.

Let me get the name of the restaurant where we are at. We're standing next to the Lucky Lizard. You see it right here holding up pretty good. This side entrance is pretty well off the ground.


So no water approaching this door. But let's very carefully walk toward there, holding up pretty good. This side entrance is pretty well off the ground, so no water approaching this door, but let's very carefully walk toward their main entrance on Gulf Blvd. And make sure no wires to trip on or anything like that. As we approach the door here, you'll see to the left that they did put some sandbags there and it hasn't reached the sandbags yet, still pretty dry right here. Yes, there's no water at all next to these sandbags.

But if you turn around, you see Gulf. Blvd. again and the water is approaching this restaurant. You see the water next to the curb. It's pretty much flush with the curb right now.

So a worsening situation here in Madeira Beach. We've seen a lot of deputies with Pinellas County. We've seen Madeira Beach Fire Department out. They are starting to assess what is going on. There is a presumption that homes and businesses could flood if that seawall breached. It has breached. They're hoping now that this high tide, the storm surge will retreat before any worse damage than what we've seen so far.

You can tell the wind is whipping here pretty good right now. Look over there at those stop signs. Kind of a textbook example of the wind and gives you an idea of what we're facing. Actually it slowed down a little bit. It was more intense than this just a few minutes ago. We've seen a couple signs damaged, some things like that, minor damage, palm fronds down. Nothing of really any note.

But the wind is a factor here and it is helped -- it's helping to blow the water from the Gulf of Mexico north up Gulf Blvd. toward the roadblock of Pinellas County deputies that is just over my shoulder here.

We'll continue to monitor the situation here at Madeira Beach. Check back in with officials and get a better look around this general area and check back in with you in just a little bit.

MATTINGLY: You know, keep in mind what you were just seeing there at Madeira Beach is more than 100 plus miles away from where the hurricane right now, Idalia is expected to make its direct landfall where it's directly heading. That is the scale of what we're seeing from this Category 3 storm. It is the storm that will be addressed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. We are just learning he will be speaking at 6:30 a.m. We will be taking that live when it happens.

Again, updates from state officials from local officials, also federal officials throughout the course of this morning as we continue to wait, watch, see and prepare for what is a significant storm and one that appears to be living up to all of the biggest concerns we have heard from meteorologists, from data scientists over the course of the last day or so. Certainly on the path to a Category 4 hurricane up to this point. Landfall expected in the coming hours, we will keep you updated. We are in special coverage and we'll stay that way for the hours to come. More to come with our team on the ground and our team here. Stay with us.