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CNN Tonight

Idalia Forecast To Become A Category Four, Officials Say Hurricane Coud Be A Once-In-A-Lifetime Event. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired August 30, 2023 - 00:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening everyone, I'm Laura Coates. Breaking news, hurricane Idalia has rapidly intensified over the warm waters off the Gulf of Mexico and is now forecast to become an extremely dangerous category four storm, before it makes landfall in a matter of just hours.

The storm is packing 110 miles per hour winds and is already causing flooding in some of the coastal areas. Our teams are out across the entire storm zone, Chad Myers is in the CNN weather center with the very latest forecast. Carlos Suarez is in Tampa, Brian Todd is in Tallahassee, and Gloria Pazmino is in Clearwater.

Let's go right now to Chad Myers who is in the weather center. Chad, Governor Ron DeSantis is now saying that the Florida gulf coast area has not seen a storm of Idalia's magnitude since the 1800s. It is now forecast to be an extremely dangerous category four hurricane when it makes landfall. Put all this into context for us.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Sure, from Apalachee, all the way back down here across the big bend is what he is talking about. Let me get a different color. There you go, that's the area right there that he is talking about and that is the area that has not seen anything this significant in a long time.

Remember, we did have the category four, then five here in Matthew and - - Michael. That was a big storm, it was an impressive storm but not on the order of what we are talking about on this coast. So, what we are talking about is likely a record low pressure making landfall here. Likely a record category, which would be category four.

A record storm surge, possibly up to 16 feet. So a lot of things going on here, a lot of moving parts and an intense, deepening storm with an eye that has been very impressive for now, it seems like five hours. That means the storm is rapidly intensifying. I don't have an update on the 1:10, maybe to 1:15 yet.

We are waiting on an airplane to get in there. In fact, one of our reporters will be on that airplane, and be able to report back to us live. 130 miles per hour is the forecast at landfall, slightly after sunrise coming up here in about eight hours. Here you go, there is the eye of the storm. Something else that has just popped up here, a tornado watch for these

cells that are coming on shore on Florida's west coast. Some of them are spinning, some of them will have waterspouts, some of them will have tornadoes. That is the likelihood. The big threat here, after the storm surge, is how far and how inland this wind field will be.

110 mile per hour winds all the way across the Florida, Georgia line. That is an entire area right through here that will have thousands, tens of thousands of trees knocked down because of this wind. Power lines downed, roofs damaged. that is simply, almost an EF1 tornado. That is how much damage is going to be in this large swath.

Even hurricane conditions to Brunswick, to Jekyll Island, and even towards and north of Amelia Islands. This is going to be a big wind maker, a big surge maker, and then, as we work our way into tomorrow, we are going to see the potential for very, very heavy rainfall. And possibly heavy rainfall where people evacuated to.

It could see six inches of rainfall in these spots, that could cause freshwater flooding, not the salt water flooding that we're worried about pushing on shore into St. Marks and towards Steinhatchee and possibly into Cedar Key.

This is an area that we have to watch out for, if we think about South Carolina, we're not talking about low country here, we're talking about some of the topography here. That rain is going to run off of these creeks, streams, down the hills, and we could see flash flooding from this just as another aspect of this storm.

COATES: Hurricane, tornados, storm surge, flash flooding. There is a lot to take in. Chad Myers, we'll keep following this. Thank you so much. CNN's Gloria Pazmino is out in the storm tonight in clearwater. Gloria, in the last hour you were experiencing some pretty strong winds.


I'm looking behind you right now and they seem to still be there. What are the conditions like?

GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Laura, as you said, an hour ago I was explaining to you that this thing just comes in waves and we are in the middle of a wave right now. The rain is coming down and that wind is just sweeping right through this area where we are standing.

It is really strong, you can see the palm trees are swaying back and forth as that rain and that wind moves through. These are the outer bands of the storm, hurricane Idalia making its way to the western part of the state. Chad Myers was just describing everything that this thing is carrying.

Tornadoes, possible wind damage, the storm surge, all of that is what we are watching out for here in Clearwater Beach. Now, Clearwater Beach is part of Pinellas County. This area is about two and a half miles long, there is a big, long beach that is right in front of us in this direction. It is very flat and that is important.

What does that mean? It is flat and that ocean is shallow. You can walk about half a mile into it and the water might just be barely up to your waist. So that creates perfect conditions for a storm surge. Another key factor here that we have been talking about all day long, the Gulf of Mexico.

The waters which this storm is traveling over right now are extremely warm. Those warm waters are acting like gasoline for this hurricane. It is making it gain strength and speed as it moves forward, and if that ocean that is directly in front of us, if it comes anywhere where we are right now, the expectation is that we could see anywhere from four to seven feet of storm surge.

Laura, I'm a little over five feet tall, so any amount of water that is more than that is obviously going to be catastrophic and extremely damaging. Now, people here for the most part have heeded the evacuation warnings, but I do want to show you this residential tower that is directly behind me.

You can see that a lot of the apartments are completely dark, probably meaning that people got out, but there are a few people who are clearly still at home. Their lights are on. There was a couple that was walking by early this morning who told us that they were going to ride this out. Hopefully that is going to be okay, hopefully they are going to be safe.

But, as we were just telling you a minute ago, with every passing minute conditions just worsen significantly. The water really coming down now and we expect conditions to continue to worsen with every passing hour as we await the arrival and landfall of this hurricane, which is said to cause historic damage to the western portion of the state, Laura.

COATES: Gloria Pazmino, thank you for keeping us so well informed. There's a lot more to take in. CNN's Carlos Suarez is in Tampa for us tonight. Carlos, what are the conditions like where you are on the ground in Tampa?

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Laura, we are to the east of Gloria so we are in Tampa Bay, we're in Hillsborough County where the rain and wind has not let up for the better part of the last couple of hours.

We are keeping a close eye on the bay wall here behind me because it has now come back to a level that we really have not seen since earlier this afternoon, in large part because the next high tide is around 4:00 this morning. So, going into tomorrow, the concern from emergency officials here in Hillsborough County is that we're going to see all of this rain over the next six to 12 hours as the storm continues to move north, just off shore here.

It is going to start pushing all of that water into Tampa Bay and then, once those two things happen and high tide happens at four in the morning, then we get a king tide later in the afternoon, that is when we believe we're going to start seeing some of that significant flooding. We're talking about anywhere, as Gloria mentioned there, between four to six feet of storm surge.

So, going into the late hours, emergency officials out here were really hoping that, at this point in the game, for the folks who did not evacuate, the low lying areas of Hillsborough County as well as Pinellas County out to the west, their hope right now is that wherever you are, stay put. If you come out tomorrow and see that some of the rain has passed by, the storm is obviously to the north of us.

They don't want folks to become complacent and start heading out thinking that, really, everything is over with because, we're not expected to see the possible storm surge associated with this hurricane until late in the morning throughout the afternoon.


As you can probably tell, the rain has picked up out here, the concern is still the flooding, at least when we're talking about the Tampa Bay area. Having spent the better part of the last 12 hours here, just about everyone that we came across tonight, and everyone that we've spoken to said they did not think that things were going to be that bad so they made that decision to go ahead and stay put.

They are not going to move inland, they are not going to evacuate or go to one of these hurricane shelters. That is, of course, a message that emergency officials did not want to hear, though you can understand why. About this time last year, or around last year rather, we were in this very same location as hurricane ian was scheduled to make landfall somewhere around the Tampa Bay area.

Of course, that storm ended up passing to the south of Hillsborough County. So, a lot of the folks that we came across, they said look, last year we got ready for a very powerful storm, we thought it was going to make a direct hit and it ended up really moving to the south of us. We saw some flooding, but it really wasn't that bad.

So it seems like they're taking that kind of attitude with respect to this hurricane, though that is something that emergency officials wish was not the case. But, we will see how things shake out in the next couple of hours, Laura.

COATES: Carlos Suarez, thank you so much. Quite a gamble for some people to take. The national weather service says that hurricane Idalia will likely be an unprecedented event for many locations in the Florida big bend. CNN's Brian Todd is in Tallahassee for us tonight. Brian, what are you seeing?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Laura, what we just experienced here in Tallahassee a few minutes ago was the erratic nature of a hurricane when you first start to feel those initial bands of it. Meaning, you are going to get intense wind and rain and then it might just back off.

That is what has done now, not to drop coming down on me right now as you can see, but just a few minutes ago we were getting pounded with rain, a lot of it. And we expect that, of course, to reintensify in the next few hours along with the wind that is going to come with this now category four hurricane.

It's going to come ashore not too far from where i'm standing. Here's the problem with Tallahassee and the vulnerability here in Tallahassee. You can see behind me, again, not much rain coming down now. Not any rain, really. But this is a town of a lot of low hanging trees, there are a lot of trees in this town overall anyway, that are vulnerable to being knocked down, but a lot of low hanging trees, a lot of very dense vegetation around here in Tallahassee.

It's going to mean power lines being knocked down, it's going to be streets being blocked. I was here covering a hurricane a few years ago when it was hard to navigate through this town because of all the downed trees and power lines and that storm was not quite as intense as this one. So, this is really not voting too well for the city of Tallahassee in the next few hours.

But, at least they're a little bit inland from where this hurricane is going to come ashore. We just pulled out of the town of St. Marks, about 20 miles south of here because that town is going to probably get at least nine feet of storm surge. When that happens, the issue there is that that town lies between two rivers.

The St. Marks and the Wichita river. When those two rivers converge, right near that town, it is a very low lying town. We have also got the Apalachee Bay, which has never seen a hurricane of this strength in recorded history. So, we have got the hurricane coming up that bay, the two rivers by that town, we could be cut off if we hadn't pulled out of the town.

We're going to try to get back to that town as early as we can tomorrow morning. There are emergency evacuation orders for the residents of St. Mark's, a lot of people did heed those orders, but still several people stayed behind and emergency officials are saying that if you do that, you've got to have provisions for at least three or four days because you could become isolated.

Again, St. Marks is really now in danger of becoming isolated because it is so susceptible to flooding. Even when there is a storm, not of the size of a hurricane. So we're going to try to get back to St. Marks as soon as we can tomorrow morning, but we may not be able to get there. We are going to try to mobilize as soon as we can.

Again, the bands of wind and rain. Heading this way towards Tallahassee, a lot of power crews we've seen stationed near here on our way in here as we pulled out of St. Marks. The emergency evacuation is something in Florida and, like everywhere else, they cannot physically pull you out of your house, but they have gone door to door.

We have been told by emergency officials in the county where St. Marks is, that they did send deputies door to door to knock on doors to try to get people to leave. Aeveral people did heed the warnings, they said they got a good response down there in the coastal areas. So people are starting to get a sense of how serious this is going to be. But, Laura, time has pretty much run out. This place is about to get inundated in the next few hours. COATES: It's so powerful to see the image, the calm before the storm. Just seeing how it ebbs and flows as you describe, and Tallahassee is a huge college town, by the way, as well. Schools coming back into session, we can only hope those students are safe as well.


Brian Todd, thank you so much. Hurricane Idalia, everyone, is now expected to slam into Florida as an extremely dangerous category four storm. Let's go to St. Mark's, Florida, where public information officer for the Wakulla County sheriff's office, Jared Jeffery Yarbrough joins us now.

Officer, thank you for being here because Wakulla County could actually see some of the worst storm surge. Are people still evacuating tonight or is it too late at this point?

LT. JEFFREY YARBROUGH, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, WAKULLA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: Well, it certainly is not too late, depending on where you are and where you are intending to go to. But we are getting to that point. We very much anticipate that we're going to start feeling the sustained effects of tropical storm force winds here in the next two hours.

When that occurs, it is going to be too late for citizens to leave. You know, our message largely to our community right now is likely that it may be too late for you to go. You've got to hunker down and hold tight and stay put until the storm passes and were able to get everything cleared up.

COATES: The mother in me is just thinking about what it is like for those who may have no choice, or have chosen to shelter in place, and thinking about trying to keep everyone in that household calm, children included. For those who are sheltering in place, what should they keep in mind and will first responders be able to get to them if they need it?

YARBROUGH: Unlikely, no. In the immediate future, once we get sustained tropical storm force winds, our emergency services have to shut down because it's unsafe for our responders and vehicles to be on the roadway. At that point, we are not really able to respond until the storm leaves out and we're able to get the roadways clear.

So, it is hard to anticipate when we are going to be able to return to normal services because we know that we are going to feel effects from the storm and likely major effects from the storm. But, every ten or 15 miles matters right now. Whether it goes east or west, and that is likely going to determine the type of response that we have to have tomorrow.

COATES: Lieutenant Jeffrey yYarbrough, thank you so much for giving us all this information and for helping people to prepare if they still can. Joining me now is Florida State Representative Diane Hart, her district is Hillsborough County. Thank you for being here this evening Representative Hart. Your county is said to see some of the worst of the hurricane Idalia,

through tomorrow i might add. Are you prepared and what are you most concerned about over these next several hours as we are looking right now on the screen, the image of the eye of the storm, battling that big bend of Florida?

DIANNE HART, (D) FLORIDA HOUSE: I am watching very closely because, I am at home right now. I am feeling the bands. The rain is pouring down and then it stops, the wind is blowing. So my worst fear is tomorrow morning for people who did not evacuate when they were asked to evacuate.

Fears that the surge may be between six and seven feet tomorrow, so I understand that our authorities will be going out tomorrow morning if they can to actually check on people and are asking them to please stay inside. If you are in the house, do not come out. There are some areas that will be flooding and we expect them to flood over the bay shore area, on the Davis Island area.

My understanding is that we have some outage right now over in the bay shore area. So, we are already beginning to feel the effects of this storm. Right in my very neighborhood where I live, we are pretty high. So we don't expect any flooding in my community, but we are going to have some flooding in some other areas right here in our city.

COATES: We are learning about four to seven foot storm surges and thinking about those who are in lower elevation points. Do you have particular concerns for people who are in more vulnerable communities? Communities of color there?

Because after hurricane Ian last year there were some residents in Fort Myers, I believe, who said that assistance was slow and relief efforts seemed to be focused on wealthier and white communities?

HART: Well I have to say to you that I have been working with Hillsborough County for a number of years, and we have had some terrible storms here. They have been very resourceful. I did get calls this afternoon from my county informing me that if there was anything that my constituents needed, to just reach out.

And they would do everything they can. So my hope is that if my communities are directly impacted and the lower income communities, we will get the assistance that we need as quickly as possible. So, i think that we will be okay here in Hillsborough County tomorrow. My hope is that people will stay inside and don't go out, because there will be trees down, we know that for certain.


There might be some outages, there may be electric lines down, so we are just asking all of our constituents to stay inside until it has been cleared and emergency management has told everybody it is okay to move around.

COATES: Representative Diane Hart, thank you so much. We'll be thinking about you and your community and watching how this storm can be weathered. Thank you.

HART: Thank you so much.

COATES: Well, our breaking news everyone. Hurricane Idalia is now expected to slam into Florida as an extremely dangerous category four storm when it makes landfall in Florida's big bend region in no just a matter of hours. We've got more live from the storm zone, next.


COATES: As hurricane Idalia is barreling it's way towards Florida, a number of cities are under evacuation orders. Cedar Key is among them. Many residents have taken heed to those orders, including my next guest. Joining me now is Cedar Key resident Cheyenne Wells. Thank you for joining us this evening. Cheyenne, what ultimately led to you and your family to evacuating Cedar Key?

CHEYENNE WELLS, CEDAR KEY RESIDENT: Definitely the surge. The 15 foot surge that they were calling for a few hours ago definitely lead us to get out.


COATES: Before that, had you been considering leaving or were you going to try and hunker down?

WELLS: We were thinking about staying and hunkering down, but I kind of talked my parents into leaving and i couldn't leave them.

COATES: Understandable. This storm expected to become a powerful category four by the time it lands. How concerned are you and your family about not only the damage of the storm could cause, but your lives being at risk had you stayed?

WELLS: No, I am terrified. Absolutely terrified. I don't know if I'm going to wake up and have a home to go to or a job or if any of the people that have become close to me, family wise, are going to have anything left.

COATES: That is terrifying to think about. I certainly hope that you will be safe. Did you say your parents are with you as well, was this a decision to have them come with you, to convince them otherwise?

WELLS: They went to Gainesville and we stayed, me and my fiance stayed nine miles off the island. To be close to whatever happens and if somebody needs help w can be there to help.

COATES: You are now staying in a town just a few miles from Cedar Key. We have been seeing tonight, just in different webcams that are available, we've been seeing the flooding already, the water rushing in. What are conditions like where you are right now?

WELLS: It is starting to rain, it is definitely windy. No flooding yet, but it is bound to come. Rosewood is pretty much really low land, so it is hard to say that it won't flood. COATES: Cheyenne please stay safe, we'll be thinking of you and your family. Thank you to you for heeding the call to evacuate, we know that it is terrifying. We'll continue to follow and be thinking about you.

WELLS: Thank you.

COATES: Please stay safe. Joining me now is Janalea England. She is a Steinhatchee, Florida resident who is staying put in spite of a mandatory evacuation order warning to ride out the storm. She decided with her husband and three children.

Janalea, thank you for talking to me this evening. You are only half a mile away from the gulf, what are you thinking right now as we are getting these reports in about this storm coming?

JANALEA ENGLAND, STEINHATCHEE RESIDENT: I am starting to get to chills. It is not looking good, obviously. I don't know. I don't know what I am thinking. I am thinking a million different things.

COATES: Why did you decide to stay?

ENGLAND: We own our home here, we built our lives here. A lot of my family have stayed and I can't leave them. What if they need me?

COATES: I can tell, just thinking about the stress and pressure that must be on you to decide what to do and when to do it. Is there an emergency plan that you have if you need to get out? Is there somewhere else you could go?

WELLS: Yeah, we do have my sister that is about 45 miles inland. We can go there to get to the point that we get super scared to leave. Right now it is just raining and wind, so it's not too bad yet.

We are just waiting and we have this little dirt road trail that we can head out, instead of going to the road that goes by the gulf here. It goes about 17 miles, nothing but gulf. There is another road that we can take and get away.

COATES: Now, I hear all the time, don't drive through floodwaters, don't take that risk and be safe, that's all things I hope you are considering if you do venture out.

You said there are other people in the area, family who didn't want to leave and just think about what kind of a person you are to say, what if they need me? It speaks to your character for a lot of reasons. Are you in touch with anyone else who decided to ride out the storm?

ENGLAND: My brother and sister, my other brother and sister. They are probably about two miles from me and they are riding out together. Me and my family is riding out together, and then we have numerous friends that have stayed and we got one guy who is not even a quarter of a mile from our house in a double wide trailer.

You know, what if he needs to come to my home? My home is concrete, it is built to standard and so if people need to come to my place, they're welcome.


COATES: You have children, I understand, as well. I'm always wondering, as a mother myself, what are you telling your kids in these moments?

ENGLAND: I'm trying to get my kids to go on and go to Prairie (ph) where my sister is. And in case it does get bad, me and my husband have to go. We don't have to worry about them. One of my children is special needs.

And my daughter is 18, and she just told me a while ago that I don't want to leave y'all. So basically, after hearing the last report, we're waiting on some other family members to get over here. And then we were going to discuss what we want to do. Do we want to get out now? Or do we want to try to ride it out?

COATES: The time is ticking away. You have a decision that you think will make it by a certain time? Because it looks like we're watching, as you have in this conversation, Janalea. We're watching, you know, obviously, the weather and the radar that's coming in about the forecast of this dorm.

Is there a cut-off time for when you've got to make this decision?

ENGLAND: I'm going to say within the hour. Because we can hit -- like I said, we can hit those back roads, because it takes you away from the water. And -- but it's going to have to be made before the wind really picks up.

Because then you're not going to be able to drive. You're going to have tornadoes you've got to worry about. And it might be better just to hunker down in the master bathroom. I mean, just you know, pray to God and Jesus that everything is going to be OK.

COATES: I hear your pet in the background, as well. You've got more than one. Janalea England, thank you. Please stay safe. Please.

ENGLAND: Yes. You, too.

COATES: I want to bring in Jonathan Franks, everyone. He lives in Clearwater Beach on a barrier island along the Gulf.

Good to see you, Jonathan. We're going to be live from your home, but instead, he went to a local hotel that had been available, just in case. What made you decide that you needed to leave your home and go there?

JONATHAN FRANKS, CLEARWATER BEACH, FLORIDA, RESIDENT: Well, hello and thanks for having me. I think what really made the decision easy for me is -- I don't know what's -- I live on a very small piece of island from the inner -- that this is the intercoastal to the -- to the ocean is not very far.

So if there was a serious surge, I would be in a lot of trouble. And it would also -- lifted my car away. So while I probably would have been all right, my car, I don't know about.

COATES: I mean, I know you well and think about are you concerned for your safety?

FRANKS: Yes, maybe. I mean, yes. And not that I went to this hotel, right? There is definitely a part of me that says I should just be back in my house riding this out.

But it is also nice to be a couple blocks inland. And, you know, be able to go to sleep tonight without -- without spending the whole night looking for storm surges.

COATES: I mean, you set up cameras in the house to document Idalia. Right now, are you seeing anything?

FRANKS: I can't at the moment, because it's dark out. They're still streaming away, which means I have power in the house and have Internet at the house. So it's a good sign.

We're just extremely lucky to have this storm offshore. If this had hit us directly, we would have been in a lot of trouble.

COATES: I mean, you were also in Florida last year during Hurricane Ian, but you didn't evacuate. Did this impact your actions this time around?

FRANKS: You know, even when I evacuated, I actually put myself -- I went 40, 50, 60 miles inland. And that storm cut across the states. And I actually put myself right in the path of the hurricane. I made myself -- you know, it was actually more dangerous in my evacuation point.

So this time I -- I took a little bit longer to make the decision. But I'm out here, and I'm safely off the island.

COATES: Jonathan Franks, thank you and stay safe. We'll be thinking about you, as well.

Everyone, Hurricane Idalia, it has rapidly intensified over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It is forecast now to become an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane. So how much of that is due to climate change.?

CNN's Bill Weir is here with me to explain, next.



COATES: Hurricane Idalia bearing down on Florida tonight. The big question: how does climate change factor into this now monster storm?

This summer, in the Gulf of Mexico, water temperatures reached the highest levels ever recorded. And around Southern Florida, water temperatures climbed to 100 degrees in some areas. Is that all because of climate change? CNN's chief climate correspondent, Bill Weir, is here with me.

Bill, I'm so glad you're here to try to help people make sense of so much of what we're seeing all summer long. How is climate change making hurricanes like Idalia even more common? I mean, does the water temperature really factor into all this?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: That has everything to do with the law, yes. Warm water is the heat engine of a hurricane. It loves any warmth it can find.

And unfortunately, we have been heating up the sea and the skies for well over a century now. As we all know, that heat-trapping pollution coming from fossil fuels means that every second of every day, there was as much extra energy as ten Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs.

And because the oceans are so vast and so deep, it's taking this long for it to become apparent. The oceans have absorbed 90 percent of the extra energy absorbed in the age of climate change.

So hiding a multitude of sins until it doesn't any more. And we've started to see it with that insane, triple-digit hot-tub temperatures around the Keys. Which is just a death sentence for coral. It's the bottom of the food chain, you know, in terms of sea life there.


But then when we just knew, once hurricane season ramped up, it would test this theory that climate change doesn't necessarily mean more hurricanes. It means the ones that we do get are bigger, or wetter, or have stronger winds.

And for every degree of warming, it could make it 10 percent more powerful. So, you know, a category -- a major storm with 150-mile-an- hour winds maybe 30 years ago could hit 190-mile-an-hour winds on a hotter planet right now.

We don't think that Idalia is going to come near those numbers. But in terms of the storm surge and what we saw after Ian, it's just clear that every -- with every storm, we're entering a new normal where things are more extreme.

COATES: I mean, I remember when we were reporting about those hot-tube temperatures. And I think people were thinking about the coral. You certainly were. You are sounding the alarm have been for quite some time.

But to draw these different connections, to really see this puzzle come together. And to have it be so long in the making. And the intensity. This is a rapid intensification that we're seeing in hurricanes, including Idalia. Is -- is that intensification also a symptom of climate change?

WEIR: Exactly, because you've got these sort of warm blobs. The way you have a heat wave on land. That does happen in the marine world, as well. And so right now, average temperature around the whole of the Gulf of

Mexico is about 88 degrees, which is off the charts from its normal. But if you get closer to the coast where it's shallower, you get into the '90s.

And when that storm water hits there, it just charges up.

But big picture, of course, fossil fuels at the root of this, super- charging these storms. And at the same time, the Biden administration has decided, after a pause, to sell oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico, much to the dismay of the climate supporters, who say every ton we pump and burn makes these storms worse. And the irony is that the Gulf is about to open up in that way.

But in the near term, this is just a symbol that we have to adapt to what is already baked in. And for Maui, dealing with fires, it's sort of the -- We suffer from a lack of worst-case imagination, Laura. Because we're going by sort of storms of the past that are quaint in comparison to the conditions that are becoming more evident today.

COATES: I mean, some parts of Florida never having experienced something like this, the normalization of parts of this, very scary. Just think of that. And just that spectrum, from Maui to hear.

Bill, please stay safe. We rely on you so much. Thank you so much.

WEIR: My pleasure. Thanks a lot.

COATES: Well, up next, the hidden costs of Hurricane Idalia, how it could impact wallets in ways that we might not even know about.



COATES: As Hurricane Idalia is bearing down on Florida, the massive storm is likely to cause economic issues throughout the state and even beyond, with gas prices already approaching historic highs for this time of year.

The disruption in the Gulf Coast could send them even higher ahead of the Labor Day weekend.

Joining now to discuss, CNN economics and political commentator Catherine Rampell.

Catherine, I'm glad you're here tonight. Thank you. I mean, gas prices we've mentioned obviously matter less than people's lives. Full stop. And this storm is still incoming. But the question people are asking right now is how could this storm possibly impact things like prices in the coming days and weeks ahead?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We've already seen disruptions to gas supplies within the state of Florida. People are filling up their cars. They're filling up their generators. That may be modestly we moving prices. Not to mention the fact that there's been a gas-leak contamination issue that's been relatively widespread recently in the last couple days in Florida.

Beyond the state, I think it's too soon to say whether we'll see any national impact on gasoline prices, in part because, while there may be disruptions in supply to the state, the oil refineries that are near -- that are closest by in the Gulf look like they're out of the path.

The oil that's actually extracted nearby the state also seems like it's unlikely to be hit at this point.

So you know, in terms of actual effects on national gas prices, right now it looks like there are likely to be limited. But this is potentially a catastrophic storm. So it's a little bit hard to get a handle on how all of the different kinds of terminals and other linkages fit in the gas -- within the petroleum industry may be linked and affected.

COATES: You know, Floridians are becoming increasingly accustomed, of course, to hurricanes. And the insurance companies frankly have also become accustomed to it. And they have -- several of them have exited Florida, just in recent years alone.

So what do storms like these actually mean for homeowners going forward? Can they get insurance?

RAMPELL: Yes, as you point out, a number of major insurers, homeowners insurance insurers, providers have already left the state. I think most recently Farmers last month.

They've gotten skittish, understandably, because Florida has been hounded by storm after storm. There's been a lot of very extensive damage that the insurance companies have had to pay for. And so they've said, we're out.

If this storm is as catastrophic as many fear it may be, that's certainly going to make that market even less stable. And you might see further insurers decide to pull out or, at the very least, prices will go up within the state.

And I think you might see some contagion effects elsewhere in the country, as insurance companies get increasingly nervous about what had been, you know, once-in-a-century storm, was a once-in-a-century natural disasters happening on a quite regular basis and -- and put -- you know, hitting a blow to the bottom lines.

COATES: Catherine Rampell, thank you so much for all the information I always appreciate it.

Everyone, stay with us as. We are tracking the very latest movements of Hurricane Idalia. We've got an updated forecast, next.



COATES: Our breaking news: Hurricane Idalia bearing down on Florida's West coast, forecast to now become a Category 4 storm at landfall.

Florida officials are warning the Big Bend area could experience a catastrophic storm surge.

CNN's Chad Myers is in the CNN weather center. Chad, show us how these storm surges can so dangerous.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, especially where we're talking about. A very flat piece of land.

So here we are, 110 miles an hour. It's going to get to 1:30 before it makes landfall in about eight hours or so. It has been building this bubble of water underneath it now for hours, and it will eventually make landfall there in the Big Bend area of Florida.

So yes, it's the water that's been building here, moving to the North. It's still moving. But all of a sudden, land gets in the way.

Down here, what's getting in the way, the possibility of a tornado or two. That's not out of the question.

But as this storm makes its way on up toward the Big Bend area, that's when the surge is going to be, from Crystal City, all the way over to Steinhatchee and possibly even into Apalachicola. That's where most of that surge will likely be.

So let's get to it. This is what we're talking about. We're talking about a very flat piece of land. And why does that matter?

Because when the water goes up a foot, literally ,your shoreline can lose 300 to 400 feet. And then if it goes up two feet, all of a sudden, you've lost 1,000 feet.

And if it goes up what they're forecasting, 10 to 15 feet. Oh my gosh, how far inland is that going to go? And that will likely be miles. Likely miles inland that this is going to push this water.

This is an area, very fragile, its wildlife. They're going to have to try to get out of the way. People are going to have to get out of the way. But boy, just run away from the water, because this surge is a very dangerous thing.

COATES: Seeing it visually in front of us is something that's so stunning.

Chad Myers, thank you so much.

And thank you, everyone, for watching. Don't go anywhere. CNN's live coverage of Hurricane Idalia continues right after this.