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Erin Burnett Outfront

Hurricane Ian Obliterates Parts of Florida; Ian Intensifies to a Hurricane Again, Set to Hit South Carolina; Hurricane Ian Death Toll Rises to 17, Dramatic Rescues Underway. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 29, 2022 - 19:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

And OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news devastation. New video just in showing the stunning destruction over parts of the Florida coast. This is Sanibel Island today, an island which was decimated by Hurricane Ian.

Right now, there's no way to get help in to Sanibel. The only bridge that connected the island and the barrier islands there to the mainland, as you can see you here, it's a long causeway, has completely -- it's caved in. So there's no way to get on or off the island unless you travel by boat. And that's been incredibly difficult for anyone to do.

And that loss right now spans the Florida coast. I'll show you Cape Coral. Our Bill Weir was here today. This is a picture he took.

You can see home after home totally destroyed and flooded. The ones that are still standing, you can see siding ripped off. At one point Ian's winds were 155 miles an hour.

We're going to have much more from Bill Weir in a moment. Not far from where he took those images, Ft. Myers Beach, striking images of what is left. Not much. The beach community 48 hours ago looked like that.

Now, take a look at this. Estero Boulevard, 24 hours later. A restaurant called The Whale which we've highlighted there surrounded by debris. Other homes completely covered with sand. They're completely gone, no foundation at all.

And Ian meantime is still moving, continuing its deadly trail. The storm has crossed over Florida, back over the Atlantic gaining strength. Now back to a category 1 storm again.

Let me show you the areas now in harm's way. Georgia and the Carolinas where a state of emergency is now in effect for the city of Charleston.

We have a team of reporters standing by from across Florida right now. First, as I mentioned, Bill Weir was in Cape Coral today, one of the hardest-hit areas, and I want to show you just some of what he saw.


BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: The Coast Guard has been doing air lifts off rooftops. They rescued this morning a couple dozen. We've been seeing big choppers with the back door open ready to go. This is just unbelievable -- the amount of damage in this one neighborhood.

We're between river and San Carlos Bay, and Ian just raked this thing. Locals say the water came up so fast, chin high. A lot of retirees, elderly folks, families in here, working class, sort of manufactured housing here, more expensive condos near the river. You got a mix here, a socioeconomic mix.

And ultimately it comes down to, where do you have to go from here? This is not livable. These people lost everything. And because there's a law now in Florida that you can't get real good flood insurance or storm insurance unless your roof is less than 10 years old. For a lot of these homes maybe built in the late '80s, early '90s, they don't qualify. I've been talking to folks who have no insurance.



WEIR: Nobody here.

Search and rescue has been going through, some volunteers. We saw the south Florida search and rescue, some of the best-trained people in the country in that field. They helped out with the tower that collapsed a couple years ago near Miami. Coast Guard is trained as well.

Oh, my goodness. I'm just feeling with my feet hazards that you can't see. That's what's so worrying for officials now concerned about folks who are eager to get back and see what's left of their lives and may accidentally electrocute themselves. There have been fires that have started because of natural gas leaks. You got to worry about snakes, you got to worry maybe oil spills. This is just the beginning of a painful stretch for so many folks.



BURNETT: All right. We're going to have more from Bill Weir. But just incredible what he was seeing and experiencing in that context there about the roofs and how most people won't have insurance at all.

I want to go Ryan Young OUTFRONT live from Orlando.

Ryan, what are you seeing there? Obviously, water around you as well. RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Really feel the

pain from Bill's report there. In talking to people here, they are dismayed by what they see here. As we walk down the street, as you talk to people, they say they've never seen the water coming up so quickly. They couldn't believe that cars are being flooded. And people need to be rescued. That happened over and over throughout the day.

High water rescues that first responders had to get themselves involved to tackle things just like this. You can still see the road blocked and it's quite some time before this dries up.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at this mess.

YOUNG (voice-over): More than 2 million still without power before Ian left behind a wake of destruction in southwest and central Florida.

BRYAN GARNER, FLORIDA POWER & LIGHT: Flying debris, falling trees, tornadoes, life-threatening storm surge and flooding have created significant restoration challenges across the state. In some cases, the need to rebuild rather than simply repair parts of our energy grid.

YOUNG: Flood waters continue to rise, leading to water rescues across the Orlando and Kissimmee area. Crews are using boats to pull people from their waterlogged homes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 2004, we had a hurricane, but it wasn't that bad. We took off. We evacuate. When we came back, there was water in the street. But not like this.

YOUNG: The instruction in southwest Florida, massive. Homes under water, torn apart and some even on fire. People's entire lives uprooted by Ian.

These images show how powerful the hurricane was when it slammed into southwest Florida as a category 4 storm. Bringing with it destructive wind, record rainfall, and storm surge reaching 12 feet in some places.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: When you got a hurricane that's a massive hurricane coming in at 155 miles an hour producing this type of storm surge, dumping rain, causing flooding, if you can make it through that, then you probably did it pretty good. And so, this is a 24/7 effort to stabilize and to restore.

YOUNG: And Ian swamped this hospital in Port Charlotte from both above and below, forcing hospital employees to move patients.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very, very quickly we got people out of the ICU. The problem then ended up being that this water gushed down the stairwells and onto other floors.

(END VIDEOTAPE) YOUNG (on camera): Erin, this area wasn't damaged much by heavy wind, but that rain was unrelenting. Hour after hour the rain was falling. So much about this is about patterns, so we were talking to people who have gone through several storms in the Orlando area, and they kept saying they've never seen the water rise so fast.

We were out front of a hospital earlier today and there was a young couple that was trying to get to the hospital because the woman was in labor. They were stressed because they were having a hard time getting there. So you can understand the pressure is on this entire state right about now -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much.

And I want to go to Kim Carman. She lives on Sanibel Island. She did evacuate before the storm. She joins me now on the phone from Fort Myers.

And, Kim, right now I'm showing -- and I hope you can see these aerials of the devastation on Sanibel. It looks completely decimated and of course that causeway, the only way in and out, that long drive, you can't do it, right? The only way in is by boat and very few have been able to get there.

Can you even process what you're seeing right now?

KIM CARMAN, EVACUATED SANIBEL ISLAND, FLORIDA (via telephone): No. It's total devastation. I never dreamed I'd see anything like this in my lifetime, especially in Sanibel.

BURNETT: It's a gorgeous play, one of the most beautiful places in the state. You had sent an image, Kim, from a doorbell camera that I know is at your condo building. My understanding is this is from the third floor and you live just below it on the second floor.

So, let me just show this. You live right below this?

CARMAN: Yeah, I was staying there.

BURNETT: The water looks like it's above -- what are we looking at here? Wow.

CARMAN: It was -- actually I was staying there as a vacation rental until my new condo I was moving into next week was ready. And I evacuated Wednesday. But yes, I was staying on the second floor of that unit, and it -- basically under water. The area beneath the second floor is where I parked my car. And that is just -- everything's gone.

BURNETT: Kim, I'm so sorry. Have you been able to reach any of your friends who are actually on the island right now?

CARMAN: No, I have not been able to reach anyone that was on the island. The people that I knew did evacuate, even if it was at the last minute. They had some scary trials last night through storm, water coming in where they were sheltering, but they're all okay. [19:10:00]

BURNETT: So, let me ask you, obviously we don't know what happened to anybody who did stay, who didn't get out even at that last minute because we know so little about the situation there.

I mentioned there's no way to the island except for by boat because of the destruction of that causeway. Do you plan to go back?

CARMAN: Not anytime soon. None of us anticipate being able to go back for weeks.

BURNETT: And, I mean, Kim, I know this is hard to process, so I'm asking you a question probably before you've been able to process or what you think about it and feel about it. But, you know, you mentioned you were staying in that condo because you were moving into one you had just renovated nearby. Are you going to rebuild and go back? Do you even have the insurance? I know that can be a serious issue for so many.

CARMAN: Well, I didn't own the unit on the island, but it is a serious issue for a lot of people on the island, and quite frankly a lot of people are going to be financially devastated from this event. A lot of people did not, especially off island, carry flood insurance. I'm not sure about the ones on island, but I'm sure they were more prone to have the flood insurance. But a lot of people are just facing total financial devastation.

BURNETT: Well, Kim, thank you very much for talking to me. I'm sorry, as I know you try to process this, the loss and the devastation.

CARMAN: Oh, you look at it and it does not look real. It is so overwhelming that -- you're right, you can't wrap your brain around it and it does not -- it doesn't -- I don't think any of us have totally processed it yet.

BURNETT: No, no. I hope your friends, any of the people you know who were there are okay. Kim, thank you.

CARMAN: Thank you.

BURNETT: Tom Sater is OUTFRONT in the CNN weather center now. And, Tom, the storm, you know, as you were talking about was going over Florida and sort of regain strength, which is exactly what we've seen.

So, where is it headed next?

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's highly disorganized, but I don't want anybody to get shocked by this, but it's still going to pack a punch. And I think it will shock a lot of people just like those with that heavy rain we were forecasting from areas of Arcadia to Orlando to Kissimmee and Jacksonville.

It's very disorganized. It doesn't look very impressive. Notice the comma shape. The 5:00 p.m. advisory came out and the National Hurricane Center said it's still a warm core, it's still a hurricane. We do not have the moisture sliding all the way around that and we may

not see an eye. However, remember a couple days before landfall the forecast tracks kept trending to the east. Well, this track today continues to trend to the east. It's interesting. I'll show it to you.

But also when we had landfall, we talked about the surge on the southern end. Now we're going to talk about the surge on the northern end because it's on the other side of the peninsula. All of the rainfall, Erin, is in that north, northwestern flank, same thing that happened overnight.


SATER: So, it's not encircling the center, so it's going to carry that rain that was on the northern flank, not like this, several areas, 1 in 1,000-year events. One to two feet, water rescues everywhere.

But with that, we got a big problem with the surge and the rainfall.

BURNETT: Right. And then -- and then from there obviously, just going to be wet and slog. I would imagine up the east coast.

SATER: Well, listen, Charleston, South Carolina, beautiful historic town. It's the Lowcountry. They call it Lowcountry for a reason. They flood with 4 or 5 inches.

But now, you toss in several inches of rain and a 4 to 7-foot surge. Here's the track. Again, it takes it pretty close to Charleston, but as I mentioned, trending to the east, just to the east and it could, again, trend.

They're having a hard time finding the center. Without the center, you can't get the track right. However, this entire region is going to have significant rainfall.

Here we go. We got Kiawah. Here's Charleston. Most of this was yellow a little while ago, which is three feet of inundation and some of this is marshland. Now we see six feet. Evan that lives from the Charleston area all the way northward, we got warnings now all the way to cape fear in North Carolina.

This area of yellow, Erin, 600-mile swath of tropical-storm-force winds that will still knock out power. This is twice the size of what it was when Ian made landfall, so significant wind, rain, but the surge is going to cause some big problems, coastal areas of Georgia, South Carolina, into North Carolina. It's going to be a long day.

BURNETT: Tom, thank you.

And next, we're standing by for Governor Ron DeSantis who will be briefing reporters on the latest of hurricane Ian and given this utter devastation. We're going to bring it to you live when that happens.

Plus, the mayor of Fort Myers is my guest. His city has seen some of the worst of the destruction thus far. Rescue crews are going door to door to look for people tonight. And the Coast Guard still rescuing people into the late hours. I'll

speak to a commander about what they're up against after this.



BURNETT: Breaking news, Hurricane Ian intensifying yet again, preparing for another landfall. Right now, Charleston County declaring a state of emergency, this as we are getting terrible new pictures tonight out of Fort Myers. Look at those boats. The catastrophic damage there.

Officials reporting right now that at least five people have been killed by the storm and search and rescue efforts are continuing into tonight. This is an area that has seen a rapid influx of people since the start of the pandemic.

Derek Van Dam is in Fort Myers.

And, Derek, you have been going through there today. I see those boats behind you. What have you seen?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yeah. Erin, using the words from the Fort Myers mayor earlier this afternoon, he said the city looked like a war zone. Unfortunately, my crew and I as we approached this area, we can confirm that that's what we have seen as well.

What you're looking at behind me at the Fort Myers yacht basin is just a drop in the bucket in the overall disaster that has unfolded across this coastline near Fort Myers Beach and the greater Fort Myers metropolitan. I mean, I just want to give you a sense of what we have aside from the boats behind us.

I mean, you're looking at a cigar box, a mattress. These are people's memories. Can't be discounted what we're witnessing here, not only the financial implications, but the memories that are lost and the cleanup recovery that is going to have to take place in order to get past this difficult moment in time for people.

The storm surge reached 8 feet in Fort Myers, and higher in some locations. Wind gusts in excess of 140 miles per hour. Over my left shoulder here, we still have ambulances cruising by, no doubt going to people who are in need of assistance. We had coast guard flying overhead, just like Bill has harder heard all day long. They were actively doing search and rescue operations as we speak.

The storm surge here has been intense. I want to give you an idea of just how powerful Mother Nature can be. Let's take you to the sky, show you what this area looks like so you can get a better idea of what storm surge is all about.


We forecast it when it comes, and it comes in with fury and it comes in quick. What you're looking at are the aerial visual of the harbor, the yacht basin in Fort Myers. And the boats have been tossed around like toys. But what was so incredibly terrifying for me is what we witnessed here, is that boats have been wedged between buildings several blocks away from this marina.

There was also a piece of the dock made out of heavy concrete and cement that was brought inland to the downtown portion of Fort Myers Beach. That is why this area has a mandate curfew through 6:00 p.m. tomorrow. People, onlookers, coming to check out their properties, haven't exactly paid attention to it just yet.

There's still are people on the roads here. Obviously, there's a natural disaster, but this is going to be a very difficult moment for people, speaking to people who rode out the storm here. They said they need electricity. They need communications, and they desperately need water -- Erin.

BURNETT: Thank you very much, Derek.

And I want to go to the mayor of Fort Myers, Kevin Anderson.

And, Mayor Anderson, obviously, we just saw some of the images of how hard your community was hit. These boats piled on top of each other. As our reporter was speaking there, I -- we saw and heard ambulances, and he said they're still in the midst of search and rescue. There are still people who need help.

Do you know how many people are still trapped or how many fatalities there even are?

MAYOR KEVIN ANDERSON, FORT MYERS, FLORIDA (via telephone): Well, in the city of ft. Myers we've been fortunate enough not to suffer any loss of life. I do know -- until people call you and tell you they're trapped, it's hard to say. I do know that our fire department has done upwards of 200 rescues.

BURNETT: Upwards of 200 rescues. I mean, that is incredible. I know people were pulled off the roofs in your city and I know that they're still -- they're still looking for people. Sometimes you don't need who needs rescuing until they call you. Are you aware at this point of people still waiting for help?

ANDERSON: No. To my knowledge, they're pretty well caught up on everything.

BURNETT: I know you have a curfew, Mayor, until tomorrow night and a lot of people -- a lot of people who left have no idea what's happened to their properties. Their boat is wrecked and destroyed three blocks in from where it had been before the storm. What does this damage look like now to you?

ANDERSON: I got to stand here and look out my condo toward the river yesterday and watched the water rise, and then coming to the core of the downtown area and actually flood most of the businesses in downtown. It was very -- it's kind of heartbreaking just not being able to do anything about it. You know, we are -- however, Floridians are resilient. They're strong and they bounce back from these storms. It's not the first time we've been through it.

Our crews were out there today cleaning up. The emergency management teams were doing their rescue efforts. FP&L will be doing their best to restore the electricity.


ANDERSON: The city is working hard to get the water back up. I can assure you that the people of the community, we are doing everything we can to make a quick and safe recovery for our community.

BURNETT: Mayor, when you talk about looking out our condo window and the helplessness you felt, as you're watching, there's nothing you could do.

Look, you lived in Fort Myers, if I understand, since the mid-1970s.


BURNETT: You worked for the police department for 25 years. This is your home. This is where you have built your life.

You have also seen bad storms. But nothing like this, have you?

ANDERSON: This is by far the worst. I don't think any of them even have really come that close to this one.

BURNETT: So what happens now? I want to ask you about something our Bill Weir was reporting in Cape Coral. But he was talking about the issue with insurance, that a lot of the insurance policies don't cover anybody who didn't have a new roof on their house. It was -- if your roof was older than 10 years, that the insurance wouldn't cover your house.

Do you foresee this being a major issue in Fort Myers?

ANDERSON: It's going to be a major issue in the entire state, not just in Fort Myers. All we can do is we have for the last several years -- we continue to lobby our state representatives to address issues of insurance. It's getting to the point where people -- their insurance keeps going up, their mortgage, you know, is manageable, but the insurance keeps going up and they're getting priced out of their homes.

BURNETT: Mayor, I appreciate --

ANDERSON: And we can't afford not to have a it.

BURNETT: No, you need it and when this happens -- you know, we're all going to see what happens.

ANDERSON: Absolutely.

BURNETT: Mayor, thank you so much.

ANDERSON: No problem. You have a great evening.


BURNETT: You please -- please hang in there.

And we are now standing by to get an update from the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. He is scheduled to speak live at any moment.

Plus, the district commander of the Coast Guard overseeing rescue operations in Florida will be out front. So, how long does he expect this recovery mission to go on?


BURNETT: Breaking news: The Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is about to give an update on Hurricane Ian and the devastating effects across his state. You can see that on your screen. We're going to bring you that live when he begins speaking.

Right now, at least 17 have died. We can confirm that at this hour, 17, and the destruction of property and homes is total. More than 2.4 million people are still without power.

John Berman joins me now. And, John, I know you are in an area of Fort Myers. Where are you? What are you seeing?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": I'm in Fort Myers not far from the bridge to Fort Myers Beach, which we can't get across in a vehicle, by the way. Fort Myers Beach is the area where the storm surge wiped away so many homes.


But there's so many different types of destruction from Hurricane Ian. This is a mobile home park and you can see what the wind did to this. It just ripped the face clear off this mobile home. There are more like this in this community.

And I do have to say and this is tragic, four homes down from here there was someone who died in the storm. That body only removed a couple hours ago. We drove down to here from Tampa and we saw every different aspect of the storm.

Like I said, the storm surge -- I had a chance to go up in a helicopter. We'll show you that footage next half hour. You can see what the storm surge did to Fort Myers beach. This is the wind.

And then inland, we were inland a little bit, and we saw this incredible fresh water flooding where for streets as far as you could see, blocks and blocks and blocks of streets just covered with feet of water that cars couldn't pass, people certainly couldn't pass, and everyone trying to get back to their home. You see that home burning in Fort Myers. That's something we've seen, too. And when stuff gets set on fire like that, the fire crews, the rescue

crews can't get there to put it out easily, at least not yet, because still so many of the roads are impassable. They're able to do air and water rescues, but hard to get around by car at this point, Erin.

Really, when you move around, you see people trying to go back to their homes, trying to see what the damage was, people who may have moved inland now coming back to the coast to get a batter look at their homes and they're finding their homes are severely damaging, or, in some cases, just destroyed. The level of devastation here is enormous, and they're only now beginning to be able to assess what happened here, Erin.

BURNETT: John, you said something, the tragedy of where you're standing. You said four homes down from where you are somebody died in the storm. You're also talking about how impossible it is to get around. You can't drive places, bridges are down.

So when we hear 17 -- 17 dead, we don't know how high it'll go. I do want to go back to you, but I know the governor just started speaking, so let's listen in.

GOV. RON DESANTIS, FLORIDA: -- Gracia Szczech from FEMA, Florida National Guard, and John Furner, president and chief executive officer of Walmart U.S.

So, welcome to Florida. We're happy that you're here.

I just got back from surveying the damage in Charlotte and Lee Counties. Some of the damage was, you know, almost in describable to see a house just sitting in the middle of Estero Bay, literally was -- must have gotten picked up, flown because of the massive wind speed and the storm surge, and deposited in a body of water. There was cars floating in the middle of the water. Some of the homes were total losses.

I would say the most significant damage that I saw was on Fort Myers Beach. Some of the homes were wiped out. Some of them was just concrete slabs. Of course, there was damage to some of our infrastructure, particularly the Sanibel Causeway. There were breaks in that in multiple different areas.

It was interesting. The pylons on the water, where you had that part of the bridge, that actually was good. It was the point where it was on a sand bar that just got totally wiped away or from the mainland, there was breaks there. That's going to require major, major overhaul and potentially a complete rebuild. They're going to look at it and see.

That's the only way on Sanibel and Captiva Island. So the operations to help people there have been mostly by air. All told, search and rescue operations, it started in the wee hours in the morning. As soon as the winds died down enough to where it was safe, you had coast guard assets, you had urban search and rescue teams, we had the National Guard out assisting people. There have been more than 700 confirmed rescues and there's likely many more than that that will be confirmed as more data comes in.

People have been rescued from places like Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, Marco Island, as well as the barrier islands in Charlotte County. Obviously, there was a lot of calls coming in as the storm was really raging yesterday.

People who did not evacuate were hunkered down. There was storm surge, there was a lot of apprehension, understandably. When, initially, the first responders came this morning, people would wave them down, whether they were by helicopter, boat, or high-water vehicle.

Now what they're finding is on places like Sanibel, most of the residents are just waving thank you for coming, but they say that they're fine and that they're staying put. Now, I think there's going to be issues with being on those islands because they're not going to have services like we expect for quite some time, given the limitations of transportation.


But nevertheless, that's a sign that some of the folks who did ride it out are stabilized in their home. They -- our first responders are doing targeted searches, just going home by home, checking to see if people are okay and then responding to specific reports if they are missing loved ones.

There will, of course, be many more rescues that are added to the tiller. Now, we absolutely expect to have mortality from this hurricane. I just cautioned people, there's a process whereby this is confirmed. People have said certain things. In terms of confirmed, that will be made apparent over the coming days.

But I think the things that have been said out there, that's something that has confirmed at this juncture. Of course, we have thousands of people on the ground working to restore power, opening the roads, bringing in food and water and restoring communications. Talking with local folks in Lee County, probably the biggest immediate hurdle that they're facing is their county water utility had a big water main break. That is necessary to be fixed in order to provide basic water services for the residents of the county.

So they have been working to troubleshoot it. They requested the state to enlist federal support, to help diagnose and potentially fix the problem, so we worked with FEMA and Gracia, and the Army Corps of Engineers. I mean, came in. They came back pretty early. I think Kevin called them maybe at 3:00 in the morning. They were in southwest Florida from Jacksonville by early this afternoon.

And so they're helping to diagnose and hopefully be able to remedy that. But that's going to be something that's very, very important for the county to get fixed. In the meantime, we're assisting health care facilities to provide working water because they need that to be able to take care of their patients.

We're shuttling water from Lakeland into health care facilities. Right now, there are 20 trucks en route with 60,000 gallons of water, for a total of 1.2 million gallons of water. And I think they have been able to fix some of the water. One of the three hospitals has been able to fix the water problem there. So that's good news.

Port Tampa, Port Everglades, there -- the fuel is flowing in to some of our major ports, so you're seeing a lot of fuel flowing throughout the state. More than 330,000 gallons of fuel have already been moved in to southwest Florida. I actually saw a couple of the gas stations open in the Fort Myers area when we were there today. With this fuel, the state of Florida set up six fuel depots to say support all first response efforts, and we think the remaining ports in the state of Florida will open between sometime tomorrow and sometime on Saturday.

There's been a massive amount of supplies staged. We're also bringing more into the region, more ambulances, more food, water, and ice, more generators, more -- actually, we're bringing in two full-service mechanical shops to help to repair and maintain emergency vehicles, which they're in rugged conditions when you're going through water and others. Bringing in more tarps and kits for parents of infants and toddler to give them ten days' worth of support and bringing in more high-water ladders.

Now, as of 6:00 p.m., there are 2.6 million approximately reported power outages throughout the state of Florida. That was anticipated. So far, compared to this morning, 200,000 accounts have been restored in southwest Florida, 28,000 in Lee, 62,000 in Sarasota, 14,000 in Collier, 33,000 in Manatee, 12,000 in Charlotte, and 44,000 in Hillsborough have been restored.

Of course, the pre-staging for this was over 42,000 linemen, so they're there on the ground, really, in different parts of the state, but particularly in southwest Florida.

When they first got in there, of course, they're looking to see what is the damage, how much of our infrastructure has been destroyed, how much of it has held up. And I can tell you, when we were in Charlotte, the reports were generally positive , that a lot of that infrastructure had been able to weather the storm. You still have to work obviously to reconnect the power, but in some areas, you may need to rebuild from the ground up. In other areas where the infrastructure maintained integrity, you would be more just trying to rehook everything.

So that's a 24/7 process. So if anybody sees some of the utility trucks pulled over somewhere and maybe someone getting rest -- understand, they're working constant shifts and everyone is on the clock the whole time and they don't have a time where people are not working.

So we really appreciate that because we understand how important it is for folks to have those basic services resume.

There, of course, have been damages to cell phone towers, particularly in places like Lee County. The telecom companies have brought in -- they earmarked 100 cell phone towers being set up and many of those are being set up in southwest Florida.


I've been able to speak with CEOs of both AT&T and T-Mobile. While there have been damages, a lot of their infrastructure has weathered the storm fairly well. So while there may need to be repairs, they feel good about getting up service. I know some people do have service in those areas and we were able to see that.

FDOT had more than 1,200 personnel on the ground, and I'm happy to report the road situation is by and large really good. I think if I was just talking with Kevin before we came out here, if we were here yesterday at, like, noon thinking about what the road situation would look like, I think we thought there would have been way, way more roads that were blocked by debris.

Of course, we did have the Sanibel -- I mean, there are issues, but there's also a lot of roads where the traffic is flowing on I-75 without a problem, and most of the other roads are doing really well. Sunshine Skyway Bridge has reopened. So we were happy to see that.

Most school districts throughout the state will be reopening either Friday or Monday. Obviously, Lee and some of those areas may be a little bit different calculation for them. We're thankful that FEMA has activated individual assistance for Floridians who've been affected by this storm. If you are in need of help recovering, visit or call 1-800-621-3362.

FEMA has approved our request to add some of the central Florida counties into the individual assistance. Kevin will have more details on that, but we appreciate that because you look at the images, you can see a house that's been totaled on Fort Myers Beach, and obviously, it's a very sad thing to see. You can see boats that have been flipped over, cars that have been flipped over, and those are very striking images.

But as the storm has moved through the state, it has caused a lot of problems with really historic flooding in parts of central Florida and into northeast Florida. And so, it's important that those folks also have the ability to get assistance if they need it.

Over 8,700 people have already registered with FEMA. If you're going to make a claim, take a picture. If you had flooding, take a picture of the water line on your house. Make sure you're documenting the damage.

Jimmy Petronis, our chief financial officer, is doing insurance villages --

BURNETT: All right. So, you hear the governor of Florida there. The insurance issue in the state of Florida is going to be enormous. We're going to keep monitoring that for you. But enormous because of the rule about not being able to have certain types of insurance if you have a roof that's older than ten years.

But I want to go back to John Berman now.

The governor, John, he mentioned 700 confirmed rescues at this time. I know you've seen some of that. You also where you are said that a few houses behind you someone died in the storm, and it's obviously hard to get around. I would imagine when we hear 700 confirmed rescues and 17 confirmed dead, I would imagine both of those numbers are going to go up.

Is that what you're feeling is being there?

BERMAN: It's hard to tell. I imagine they will go up some, Erin. But it's -- even if you can't reach somewhere by car now, we get the sense talking from the Lee County sheriff that everywhere has been reached by something now, whether it be by helicopter, the air, by boat if they're going across to Sanibel Island. They feel like they've had outreach to almost all the areas right now.

What they don't know, they haven't gone house to house yet --


BERMAN: They haven't been able to go house to house yet, or remaining structure to remaining structure to see what's under the rubble. It was a loved one who came back and found their relative in the house who was deceased in this community.

BURNETT: All right. John Berman, thank you very much, reporting from that home park in Fort Myers. Thank you.

And you heard Governor DeSantis confirming those rescue operations as John and I were just talking about, 700 confirmed according to the governor. And next, I'm going to speak to a district commander of the coast guard who's overseeing the missions that are under way right t now as they're still doing search and rescue.

Plus, we'll speak to a man who lives and works on a small island hit by the hurricane. He has just returned to the restaurant he works at there. And we'll show you what he found.



BURNETT: Tonight, we're monitoring the breaking news in Florida. Rescue operations are actively under way right now trying to help people who are still trapped after the storm.

The Florida Governor Ron DeSantis just said moments ago that more than 700 confirmed rescues have happened. The current confirmed death toll is 17.

OUTFRONT now, Rear Admiral Brendan McPherson, who is the Coast Guard district commander.

And, Admiral, thank you very much for taking time out of all of this to update us on what's happening. What can you tell me about the rescues going on now?


So our air crews were launched even before sunrise this morning, very early in the morning. We had eight helicopters that were blanketing the area of southwest Florida where landfall took place yesterday. Since that time, we've been able to rescue 68 people. We really focused our efforts today, and those areas that were excluded, barrier islands, surrounded by water where we couldn't get in there any other way.

BURNETT: So, I have a few questions from that. Let me just start with the 700 rescues that the governor is talking about. Obviously, that's not just you. That's the National Guard as well, fire brigades, it's others.

You're talking about 68 rescues. He did say the number could be much higher than 700. Do you have any sense of how high this number is going to be and whether you still think there are a lot of people who need help?

MCPHERSON: Yeah, well, we're going to keep searching until nobody else -- we are satisfied that nobody else needs rescuing.


So you're right, 68 of those rescues were done by Coast Guard, principally coast guard helicopters. We've also brought in some shallow-water rescue search teams working with FEMA, urban search and rescue teams, local authorities, and, as you indicated, the Florida National Guard.

So we'll continue searching through the night. And tomorrow, we're going to do another full court press to make sure that we cover all of the areas.

BURNETT: Admiral, there are some places where, you know, our John Berman was just reporting from Port Myers and he was saying he got the impression that everything has been reached by something, right? So, it may not be the cars can get into a place, but they started to get on with it. That was the impression he caught from the Fort Lee -- from the Lee County sheriff.

But I want to ask you about some of the areas that nobody has gotten to yet, say, Sanibel, Sanibel Island, where that causeway bridge has been destroyed and now the only way in is by boat. Do you have any sense of how many people are there and whether there are people who need help?

MCPHERSON: Yeah, Erin, we do because our helicopters did cover that are today. Sanibel, Captiva, they've been cut off. But we did get helicopters out there. We actually conducted some rescues. And as the governor said, we also saw people that were safe and sound.

Now, whether they're going to be able to stay there, many more days without the services that they need, I am a little doubtful about that, but we are certainly going to redouble our efforts to make sure that we haven't missed anybody. BURNETT: But this is really important. You are saying that you see

some sort of -- you fear that you have a sense of who is there, and you have been able to have people, that there is some untold story of devastation, obviously the physical devastation there is probably untold, but I'm talking about a human cost.

MCPHERSON: Yeah, you know, I would say it's premature to make a judgment about whether search and rescue operations are over. From our perspective, it's not. Our highest priority is saving lives.

So, we're going to redouble our efforts. We'll make sure that we reach out, touch everybody, make sure that they are safe, wherever there is rescuing, we will be able to get.

BURNETT: And when you look at the aerial images, it's just destruction as far as the eye can see, from your eye, where do you think things are the worse damage?

MCPHERSON: Yeah, absolutely, I've heard from some of our rescue people who are in the areas today and certainly the area around Fort Myers, Naples, Fatima, Sanibel, they've seen the most destruction. Homes that were completely destroyed, high level of water. As we saw landfall yesterday, really there were three things that we are dealing with, heavy, heavy rains, historic surge, and then, of course, the high winds that one with it.

BURNETT: All right. Admiral, thank you so much for your time and, of course, for all the work that you are doing, Tyler's work for your crews.

MCPHERSON: You're welcome, Erin, I would say the other thing that Coast Guard is focused is getting the ports reopen. So, number one priority is save lives. Number two, we're going to reopen the ports. We're doing that as quickly as we can.

And we understand that in order to get to recovery, we need to have ports open as well.

BURNETT: Yeah, absolutely, it's essential, thank you.

And next, we're going to speak to a man who lives and works on a small island where the hurricane came ashore, and he's going to show you exactly what it looks like there tonight.



BURNETT: Breaking news: More than 2.4 million customers without power in Florida after the state was slammed by Hurricane Ian, including nearly 90 percent of all customers in the county which includes Kate Myers in Cape Coral both dealing with devastation.

OUTFRONT now, Chip Farrar. He lives and works on Matlacha, which is a small island between Fort Myers and Cape Coral on the map. Chip, thank you so much for being with me and for being able to talk

about this, as I can only imagine what you are seeing and going through.

I want to show the pictures, the video that you took from the balcony of your apartment and that water everywhere, the wind, the whitecaps on that water flooding by where you are, what in the world was that like?

CHIP FARRAR, RODE OUT HURRICANE IAN IN MATLACHA, FLORIDA: It was kind of unbelievable to be honest with you. The winds are picking up in the morning. We were prepared as we could be.

To be honest, we were still prepared but there was nothing going on. We had laid down to take a nap. When we woke up, there was six foot of water next to the house. Fortunately, we were on the second floor.

BURNETT: Thankfully, I mean, my god. So, what is it like right now?

FARRAR: Total devastation. There is -- every telephone pole in town, every restaurant is total. The water has receded, but it left behind mud and muck everywhere that you could walk. There is debris everywhere. I mean, I live across the street from the restaurant and a 30-foot walk in cooler that was 150 yards away is now on the road.

BURNETT: It is unbelievable the power that that would require. I knew talked about the restaurants being gone. I work about 100 feet down from where you live, at a restaurant, a barbecue restaurant. I know you had a chance to walk there. What is the situation there?

FARRAR: That barbecue place. It is about 100, 150 feet from my home. They probably got three to four feet of water inside the building. Everything is turned upside down. There is mud everywhere.

It's -- the roof is down. All the signage is ripped off and in the middle of the road. It's just -- it's just totally destroyed.

BURNETT: These images we are seeing are absolutely unbelievable that you saw.

FARRAR: (AUDIO GAP) more. I mean, the devastation out here is more than you could possibly fathom. We don't even have service where we can -- I mean, I am lucky to even get this phone call. We can send text messages, but we can't send pictures. If we could, I would have.

BURNETT: So, let me ask you, Chip, because I know you have lived there for more than two decades. You have lived through a lot of storms. Have you seen anything like this?

FARRAR: Never. No, I've been here since 2000 and I've never seen anything close to this, including Charlie.

BURNETT: And what do you do now?

FARRAR: Nothing. So, there is one road in and one road out, and -- about 3 miles down the road. There's a big misconception that the Matlacha Bridge is out. I just want to clarify, the bridge is not out. But the road that leads to the bridge has 50 missing, that was just washed away.

So, we cannot get back to the mainland, and the bridge to the right is also out. We cannot go to the island. We are trapped in a 5 square miles -- yeah.

BURNETT: Chip, please stay safe. If you need to get out, I hope you will be able to. I know just talk to the admiral and Coast Guard and they're working hard to get everybody out. Thank you so much for telling us and thank you.

FARRAR: No problem and if you can let everybody that if anybody has a boat, you come out and get some people. It would be much appreciated because that's the only way to get here.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks so much to Chip.

And thanks to all of you.

Our coverage of Hurricane Ian continues now with "ANDERSON COOPER 360."