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Erin Burnett Outfront

Idalia Intensifies, On Track to Hit Florida As Category 3; Russia Releases Rare Video of American Paul Whelan in Prison; Ex-Trump Attorney Pleads Not Guilty in Georgia Election Case. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired August 29, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Good evening. I'm Erica Hill, in for Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, bracing for impact. Parts of Florida, which have never been hit by a major hurricane, in the crosshairs tonight as Hurricane Idalia now a category 2 storm continues to pick up speed. Forty-nine counties are under a state of emergency at this hour.

I want to show you some live images here. This is actually Key West. Conditions there quickly deteriorating. Folks are dealing with those tropical storm winds and also a damaging storm surge.

Let's take a look now at Fort Myers Beach that. Keep in mind, that area too is still recovering from Hurricane Ian, which hit last year. These record warm waters in the Gulf and even in the southern Atlantic have really helped to fuel the storm's intensity.

It is projected to be a category 3 hurricane by the time it makes landfall. Remember, a category 3 is winds of at least 120 miles per hour.

And this current track here has the storm striking Florida's vulnerable Big Bend area. The National Weather Service is warning that you really can't compare this storm to anything because, quote, no one has seen this.

A particular concern is Cedar Key. It's now at the center of this storm's track, about a hundred people in that island area are still refusing to leave even though officials fear that the town itself could be completely cut off from the mainland by a storm surge of some 8 to 12 feet.

Tampa Bay also bracing as much as 4 to 6 feet of storm surge, anticipated there. And it isn't only Florida. Georgia and the Carolinas also under a state of emergency amid fears that that could trigger flash floods and tornados.

Our team of reporters is out across Florida.

Let's begin this hour with Chad Myers who's in the CNN Weather Center. So, Chad, as we look at this swiftly intensifying storm, what is the

latest here?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, the hurricane hunter aircraft are flying through the storm right now, and they found an alarming number to me, 966 millibars, that's down significantly from the last time they flew through the storm, which means the storm is intensifying.

The lower the pressure, the higher the wind speeds. Sometimes it takes a while for the wind speeds to catch up. But when you start to lower the pressure, you intensify the storm, 100 miles per hour right now. I suspect that number is going to keep rolling up all night long. You can see the eye on the latest satellite picture. We can easily see it on the radar from Tampa and also from Key West.

But 115 miles per hour offshore, still strengthening, because it has some more time in the water, and then landfall somewhere maybe around sunrise tomorrow. That's the good news. I mean, sunrise is, you know, what, another 12 hours away. So it doesn't have a lot of time still in the water to gain a lot of strength. Not like we're looking at 35 more hours in the water where this thing could really get going.

Now, it is going because we have lightning now around the center. When that happens, we know that the storm is strengthening itself. There is the wind speed there. St. Petersburg just had a wind gust of 35 miles per hour.

So, you talk about this, here comes the storm. It's in the middle of the Atlantic -- in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. It won't move. Sailors should go ahead and get this a little kick start so that we can move this on up, as we're going to see the landfall right through there.

And as it moves, continues up, we're going to see six inches of rainfall, significant flooding, flash flooding rainfall flooding for the people that are trying to get out of the way, they have to watch to see which way they should go because you don't want to be in the middle of that when you're trying to get out of something else, the saltwater flood. You don't want to be in a rainwater flood. That's for sure.

HILL: Yeah, you don't want the storm chasing you, in effect.

MYERS: Exactly.

HILL: When we look at these concerns, the concerns specifically about the storm surges, how bad could that potentially get in certain areas?

MYERS: It is the flat part of Florida. And there's not a lot of population there. But what you see, when you get a 15 foot storm surge, it may take 3 miles to get to 15 feet high. There's no elevation rise there in the southwestern part of this Big Bend area.

So, yes, 12 to maybe 15 feet of surge, all of a sudden, you see these numbers here, they are scary. There are only just a few towns in the way. This would be a bigger deal if we were pushing this surge into Tampa Bay.

Tampa, you're not seeing any surge right now because the storm is still to your southwest. But when that surge starts is when the storm is going to move just to your west, and then farther to the north, and the winds are going to shift and move back into St. Pete.

So, the surge is a big deal. But I'm telling you right now that this is also going to be a wind event. The surge pushing water in two to three miles inland, but the wind is going to continue all the way into Georgia as a hurricane. And we also will see wind gusts to 110, not that far from the I-10. That's going to bring down trees all over the roadways.


Travel and transportation will be impossible tomorrow with all of those trees that the crews are going to have to get out of the way.

HILL: Yeah, and that is why staging ahead of time in certain areas as we talk about all the time is so important for those power trucks, those tree trucks.

Chad, appreciate it.

Also, I want to check in now with Bill Weir who's in Steinhatchee, Florida, right at the center of where this storm is expected to make landfall.

Bill, so you're out of there now. It looks like you're getting ready to go out. Are you feeling conditions start to change yet?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Not yet. This is really the calm before the storm. This is why people move to Florida. It's heavenly right now.

We're on the Steinhatchee River. The coast is behind you as we go west that way. You can see a lot of the sailboats tied up here. We actually learned that somebody's going to ride out the storm in one of these sailboats.

When you consider that this will be maybe 110-mile-an-hour winds in about eight hours, really questioning the wisdom of that decision, but there's always folks who decide to stay in these places, including Captain Mike Baker, longtime resident of this place, native of the Keys. You're from Marathon originally.

MIKE BAKER, RESIDENT: I'm from Marathon originally.

WEIR: So you've been through a lot of hurricanes.

BAKER: Started from Hurricane Donna back in the day.

WEIR: Talk about the decision to stay when something like this seems so obviously --

BAKER: Well, you know, it started with back with Hurricane Donna as a kid, I can remember our parents took us to the mainland, up in Homestead. And we came back, and our home had been rummaged from other people, you know, the looters, they took everything. Not to mention the amount of time you're away from your home, you have no idea what it's going to look like or if you have a home when you're there.

WEIR: Yeah.

BAKER: All it would take for me to just go two hours from here and come back and trees or power lines be across the road and I can't get here. That to me is more harmful than riding the storm.

WEIR: You feel you'll be safe tonight, in the morning? You got high ground.

BAKER: I got good high ground.

WEIR: OK. Yeah.

BAKER: I'm hoping so. I mean, we have a plan. We kind of have a safe room. Got a pretty strong closet.

WEIR: As the great American poet Mike Tyson once said, everybody has a good plan until you get punched in the face.

BAKER: There you go, yeah, or bit on the ear.

WEIR: I hope that -- I hope that you're well-prepared, Mike.

BAKER: I think I am.

WEIR: Well, I appreciate you. I've been on storms, Irma, I was meeting with a bartender, it was like bring it on. And the next day, his spot was gone. So I hope to break that streak with you, Mike.

BAKER: You know, it is what it is.

WEIR: It is what it is.

But it just gives you a little glimpse, Erica, into the psychology of longtime Floridians. They're so used to these events, they think they can prepare better than what the authorities are giving them credit for. But, for some, it's just now a matter of you've got to hope for the best.

HILL: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that is the concern every time, right, that people won't heed the warning because they have rode it out before. We will see, and hopefully he does break your streak there, Bill. I appreciate it as always.

Brian Todd is in St. Marks, Florida. That's just a little bit north, as you can see, on the map of where Bill is, now in the path of the storm. So there's been a little shift. And now, folks in St. Marks are really being told -- it looks beautiful where you are too, as we just heard from Bill, that's not going to last.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erica. In the next few hours, this is not going to be a safe place to be because this is so low to the water. What we're told is about 6 feet of storm surge maybe at least in the next few hours is going to come through here. This is the St. Marks, very -- we're very low to the water. And this is supposed to kind of push this water up like a snowplow up through here and into this town of St. Marks.

A local official, an emergency management official just told me this entire town of St. Marks is expected to be flooded all the way down that way as far as you can see because it is so low to the water. You've got three bodies of water converging here. This is the St. Marks River. You've got the Wakulla River just down stream and then Apalachee Bay.

Apalachee Bay has never seen a category 3 hurricane in recorded history. That's why folks are so worried about how it could affect this area. They just don't have a barometer with which to measure it. Some people here have built-in protections. Look at this house here, up on about 15 to 20 feet of concrete stilts.

But this house in this town is the exception. Most houses are like these over here, low-lying, vulnerable, not too well put together, some of them. And, you know, again, that's why there are mandatory evacuations here.

I just talked to an emergency management official from this town, or actually from just north of here but who covers the county. Emergency evacuation orders are in place. Sheriff's deputies have been going door to door, knocking on doors through this town.

Of course, you can not physically force people out of their homes. But they are strongly urging people to get out of their homes. This official told me they had a pretty good response in these coastal areas like St. Marks.

But we did talk to several people here who are going to ride it out. Floridians often are afraid that they might not be able to get back to their homes to measure damage.


They just kind of have an attachment to their homes. As Bill Weir just discussed, they're longtime Floridians. They think they can ride this out. But right now, officials here advising people to get out, and time is quickly running out for them to do so.

HILL: Yeah, and they won't be able to go door to door for some time once this storm hits if there is an emergency, as we know.

Brian, appreciate it.

OUTFRONT now, Douglas Barber, who's the city manager for Crystal River, Florida, which is expected to see a major dangerous storm surge from this hurricane.

Sir, good to have you with us tonight. So, Crystal River is under a mandatory evacuation order. You've heeded

that. Are you confident that many others in Crystal River have done the same?

DOUGLAS BARBER, CRYSTAL RIVER, FL CITY MANAGER: Hi, Erica. Thanks for having me this evening. I appreciate your time.

We have done a great message with the EOC as well as through local social media, alert messages. We've done everything we can possibly do to get these folks to heed the warning and they have.

Today, I was out on the bay with the sheriff and his staff kind of cruising around to see what was left and to see how many boats were still in the water, and people have removed their boats. I think they saw some stuff with Ian that made them think twice about leaving their boats out there. So, they got their boats out, they battened down the hatches, and people are actually really going strong.

And we are -- an entire city of Crystal River in a flood zone so we -- we have no choice but to move to higher ground.

HILL: And so, I mean, that sounds like a good report, what you and the sheriff saw when you were out there this afternoon in terms of people listening. In addition to human life, obviously, what is your next biggest concern?

BARBER: We want to make sure we're able to get the place back to normal as quickly as possible. You know, after a major storm, there's anything from debris to this might have a lot of sediment coming from the area to come onto the streets. We've got everything set up with our contractors to do first push as soon as the roads are clear -- or excuse me, as soon as we get the all clear to go back out.

So, we've got everything in place. They're staged all around the outskirts of the county so they can attack as soon as they get the all clear.

HILL: You were the city administrator in Mexico Beach and for folks who are wondering where that is, that is where Michael roared ashore in 2018. And I remember getting in there not long after the storm and to see what was left and how devastated that community was. I wonder how much that is in the back of your mind tonight.

BARBER: Yeah, I got a chill just now when you were talking about it. I remember sitting there in the EOC in St. Lucie County and they called out region 1 and it was just crickets. So, they were absolutely decimated there.

There are still over 600 slabs sitting around in Mexico Beach where they haven't had a chance to rebuild homes. So, there is a lot of stuff that we've seen over the years, and it's just been an amazing part to be a part of that community to help them rebuild. So, I kind of know what to expect. I've been passing along a little bit of that knowledge throughout the EOC as well as the other city and county managers. HILL: Knowledge that I imagine is welcome, although a lot of folks are

hoping they won't need it. When we talk about these storm surges, you mentioned the entire city essentially being, you know, in danger of flooding, everybody is in this evacuation zone.

How concerned are you about the storm surge and what could happen once it leaves?

BARBER: Well, you can't hold the tide back, right? So, it's going to -- it's going to pull it out just as fast as it came in. We expect anywhere from 6 to 12 feet of storm surge. I believe it's going to change it a little bit as it shifted.

For example, city hall's front door steps is about elevation 4. So we're going to have water in here no matter what. We've done all our preparation with sandbags. We've had sandbags open since Monday.

We did -- we did our mandatory evacuation as of 1:00 on Monday this week. So, we think we've done pretty well in getting people out of here and understanding the severity should they stay.

HILL: Yes. It sounds like you were really OUTFRONT and ahead of it.

Appreciate you taking the time to join us tonight. Douglas Barber, we'll continue to check in with you. Thank you.

BARBER: Thank you, ma'am. Have a good day.

HILL: You, too.

OUTFRONT next, we continue with our breaking news coverage. We're going to take you live to Tampa where officials are warning of a dangerous storm surge for that city. So is the city prepared? I'll ask the mayor.

Plus, we're going to take you into the storm's eye. A hurricane hunter flying through Idalia right now will join me and tell us what he's seeing in the air.



HILL: Breaking news. These are live pictures for you out of St. Petersburg. Boy, you wouldn't expect it to be that quiet at 7:00 on a Tuesday night. Thankfully it is. The Tampa Bay area bracing, of course, for what is being labeled a once-in-a-lifetime event from hurricane Idalia. The storm, which is now a category 2, the storm's tropical force winds are just starting to hit the area.

You can see the water's a little choppy there. Peak storm conditions just a few hours away at this point, including a record storm surge of up to 6 feet.

The mayor offering this warning to residents.


MAYOR JANE CASTOR, TAMPA, FLORIDA: Understand that Mother Nature wins every time. So if you have the opportunity to evacuate and you can, you should.


HILL: We're going to talk to Mayor Jane Castor in just a moment.

First, though, I want to check in with Carlos Suarez who's there on the ground in Tampa.

And, Carlos, I know you've been speaking with residents. What are you hearing from them? Do they plan to heed that warning? Are they going to evacuate?

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, the folks that we've talked to out here in Tampa Bay tell us they are not going to evacuate. They don't think this storm is going to be too much of a situation for them. And so, they have decided that they are going to stay put.

Of course, the biggest concern going into tomorrow as this hurricane moves its way north just off the coast here is the flooding associated with these storm surge, we're in Tampa Bay, in Hillsborough County, where the bay behind me right now, the water is receding because high tide is not going to come back until about later tonight.

But the concern going into tomorrow is that once this rain moves through, once we start seeing all of this water being pushed into the bay as this hurricane makes its way across this part of the state of Florida, then of course we might start seeing some flooding in some of the low-lying parts of downtown Tampa Bay.

There are two mandatory evacuation orders that are in effect at this hour. One of them is here in Hillsborough, which is home to the Tampa Bay area. The other one is out in Pinellas County. That is home to Clearwater and St. Pete.

We're told that there are some reports already of some flooding that has taken place out in the St. Pete area. And so emergency officials going into tonight, they're still trying to get the word out that folks that live in a low-lying area really should still seek shelter inland.


They've opened up a number of hurricane shelters across Hillsborough and Pinellas County, we're told. All told, those shelters could house up to 20,000 people, but again, Erica, the folks that we have talked to in the last couple of hours have told us, look, the rain moved through this afternoon, we're about to get another line of storms that will move through later tonight. They just don't think it's going to be bad enough for them to leave.

That is something that emergency officials do not want to hear, considering, of course, that this storm surge anywhere between 4 to 6 and 7 feet could very well still take place tomorrow -- Erica.

HILL: All right. Carlos, appreciate it, stay safe there.

OUTFRONT now, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor who's joining us.

Madam Mayor, thanks for taking the time to join us tonight. I just want to pick up where Carlos left, talking to residents there who tell him they don't think they are going to evacuate. I know you said Mother Nature wins every time.

Folks, as you know very well, having been born and raised in Tampa, have been told so many times over the years this is the big one, you need to get out. They were told that for Charlie, they were told that for Ian. It doesn't always materialize as the worst-case scenario.

How do you get through to them tonight?

CASTOR: Well, that's a bit distressing to hear. I'd like to hope that the majority of the people that we have ordered to evacuate from the lowland have done so, and those that have decided to stay may be calling the police department later to come and get them out of the situation that they've put themselves into. But, really, we haven't told anyone that this is the storm of the century. But we are going to see hurricane-force gusts in the wind and possibly some tornados. But really it's that surge looking into tomorrow.

The reporter talked about the high tide. We have another tidal stage to go through before we have high tide again tomorrow. It's a king tide based on the high -- on the full moon, it's going to be very, very high. And then you put 4 to 6 feet of tidal surge on top of that, it comes in very quickly. We're going to see some flooding in our low- lying areas.

HILL: And are you concerned about when that pulls back, not just the flooding, but then what happens as it recedes? Talk to me about that potential damage, too.

CASTOR: As it recedes, we don't think right now we are not seeing, you know, the receding as the tide comes in. So we don't think that we're going to have enough time for the water to get out before the second surge comes in. And that first band of showers that was talked about, that was very, very brief, about 3:00 this afternoon.

So we expect to see heavier rain and, again, to not have sustained hurricane winds, but gusts up to. So there will be some damage, some electrical outages we feel right now. But our concern is that our residents wake up tomorrow and it may be a bit gusty, the sun may be out.

But that's when the real danger is going to occur when those waters are going to come in. So we don't want people to be out on the roadways and to get stuck in those areas. We want them to be informed and make decisions based on real time information.

HILL: Yeah, and so the time to leave is now. The National Hurricane Center notes that if the storm changes by five or even 10 miles per hour, that shift alone could really have a dramatic impact on your city. What is that worst-case scenario that you're bracing for and how prepared are you?

CASTOR: Well, we are prepared. You know, we are -- we are in Florida. I spent 31 years with the Tampa police department, and now I've been mayor a little less than five years. So I've dealt with a lot of storms.

But, as you know, it's been a hundred years since our city took a direct hit. But I really think that Ian, we were in the crosshairs of Hurricane Ian. And when that made the turn into Fort Myers Beach in the surrounding area, I think that really resonated with Tampa residents that had never experienced that type of a storm.

And, so, I'm just hoping that they heed those warnings. I think that our community will be safe. I just don't want anyone to be injured after the fact when we're dealing with the surge tomorrow. And that's when the majority of the injuries have occurred historically in our community.

HILL: Mayor Jane Castor, we know you're very busy at this hour. Appreciate you joining us. Thank you.

CASTOR: Thank you. I appreciate it.

HILL: OUTFRONT next, we continue our coverage of this breaking news. We're actually going to speak with a hurricane hunter up in the air right now flying through the storm. So what did his team find? Stay with us for that.

Plus, we're also going to take you to Cedar Key, Florida. This is a town that could suffer a direct hit. Officials warning this is the time for everyone to get out. About a hundred people say they're not going.

We're going to speak with one person who has no plans to pack up.

She'll tell us why.



HILL: We continue with our breaking news. Hurricane Idalia continuing to gain strength as it heads towards Florida's coast. Idalia is poised to be the first major hurricane to make landfall in what's known as the Big Bend region of the state. The projected storm surge could bring record water levels to many parts of the regions.

OUTFRONT now, Commander Adam Abitbol, a hurricane hunter for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He's with us on the phone now.

So, Commander, as I understand, you just made your second pass here through the eye, seeing it intensify a little bit. Can you describe for us what you're seeing as you go through this storm, what that's like?

ADAM ABITBOL, NOAA COMMANDER, FLYING THROUGH IDALIA (through telephone): Yeah, absolutely. We just finished our second pass of the storm. We've been flying Idalia every day since Sunday. So we've seen -- we've seen the characteristics changed quite a bit. It's certainly getting more organized and stronger with each pass.

HILL: Is this a storm that you can compare to other storms based on what you're seeing and how quickly it is intensifying?


ABITBOL: Each storm is kind of different. Each path ends up being different. Certainly we are expecting what we call rapid intensification or eye of the storm. So we've been anticipating that based on some of the atmospheric conditions and the sea surface temperatures in the gulf. We think that we're kind of seeing that right now. So --

HILL: Is there anything that surprised you in these passes that you've been making over the last couple of days?

ABITBOL: Watching it emerge north of Cuba, just kind of getting a little more organized, it's picking up a little bit of speed compared to yesterday for our flight in particular. It's starting to pick up a little bit of speed as it progresses to the north. So, that's kind of some of the interesting characteristics we've seen lately.

We got a couple more passes this evening. And hopefully we can continue to help to track the intensity of the forecast.

HILL: In terms of having to inform people, you know, we're talking to people on the ground, whether they be residents, officials. And there is so much concern as we see with most storms for those who choose not to evacuate.

What's your message to folks who may be in this storm's path who are maybe considering not following those warnings?

ABITBOL: Yeah, all I can tell you is what we're observe right here in the sky and the middle of the hurricane here. Certainly our message is to listen to the local officials, listen to the messages, heed the messages, the preparation messages. So it's definitely a violent storm what we're seeing up here. We want to make sure that they are as safe as can possibly be.

So please heed those warnings and take it seriously. We understand the wind, the rain and storm surge. So, a lot of components to this storm.

HILL: You mentioned how violent that storm is. I mean, when does it hit the point where it's too violent for you to go through that storm to collect some of that information?

ABITBOL: So, we're pretty good about mitigating our risks out here. We flew through Ian last year with a cat 5. The wind speed itself does not prohibit us from flying in it. We'll just try to be as safe as possible and mitigate the hazards up here.

But we understand what our job is and we're trying to help inform and protect life and property. And we hope everyone gets that message and can -- can heed those warnings and get to a safe area if need be.

HILL: Yeah. Well, it certainly is important. Our chief meteorologist and our CNN weather center was saying, you know, how important that information is that he had just gotten from your last pass-through.

So, thank you for what you're doing up there. Continue to stay safe you and your team. Commander Adam Abitbol, thank you.

ABITBOL: Thanks.

HILL: So one of the towns in Idalia's path is Cedar Key. It's home to fewer than a thousand people. I want to show you a map because you can see here on this map, we're talking about all these little islands essentially. And that tells you just by looking at that map, you can see just how vulnerable it is. A top official at the National Hurricane Center just a few moments ago offered this dire warning for the area.


JAMIE RHOME, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: It is an island, and the water will completely encase it and cut it off. You might not be able to leave for days. You might not have clean water, electricity, be able to access your neighbors. If the worst of this storm surge projection materializes, virtually every home on that island could be flooded.


HILL: OUTFRONT now, Heather Greenwood. She's the manager of the Cedar Key Bed and Breakfast, where she plans to ride out the storm.

So, Heather, I know you just heard there the assessment of just how bad this could get when the hurricane makes landfall. The concerns specifically for Cedar Key, the mayor has begged people to go. You said I'm staying. Why?

HEATHER GREENWOOD, MANAGER, CEDAR KEY BED & BREAKFAST: You know, we have some news crews that have stayed here at the Bed and Breakfast. We are one of the highest points on the island. We've got everything battened down as far as outdoor furniture and anything that could become a projectile so to speak in the wind.

You know, we spent the last couple of days preparing for it, tucked everything away. But I think it's important that those guys on the news crews have a place to stay so that they can -- they can do their reporting. And we offered them the bed and breakfast.

HILL: Well, we all like the information and I know what it's like to cover a hurricane. But obviously we want everybody to be safe.

What about in terms of preparations? You talk about battening down the hatches there. But in terms of the possibility that you could be cut off for days there, freshwater, I know you have pets with you as well. Freshwater, electricity, food, how well stocked are you?

GREENWOOD: Right. Very. I filled ten 5-gallon containers with drinking water.


I have buckets. We filled all of the bathtubs so that of course we would be able to flush potties and that sort of thing. So, we prepared very well for it as far as food that could just be eaten quickly and that sort of thing.

HILL: I understand you're originally from Montana. You've been in Florida for a little while. I know you've ridden out some other storms. You've been through hurricanes before. By all accounts, though, this could be the most intense one to hit.

Do you have any concerns at this hour?

GREENWOOD: Yeah, of course I do. I wouldn't be very smart if I didn't. It's just kind of being vigilant and watching. There's also a couple other people and animals on the island that I care about deeply. So, I'm going to make sure that I'm around to be able to help out.

The people that did stay based on their animals or the fact that they didn't want to leave their home. So, I'm here and I'm available to help them as much as I can for sure.

HILL: And in terms of --

GREENWOOD: And that's one of the biggest things.

HILL: And if you do get cut off, is 24, the road that connects you to the mainland, if that is cut off, has there been any talk about how long it could take to get aid out there to you or to get someone to bring you and the folks who are still there to safety?

GREENWOOD: Well, when they -- yeah. When they evacuate, they tell you that you are now cut off from emergency personnel, and they give you all of the, you know, whys, why you shouldn't be there. As far as a timeline, they haven't really given us any.

They're shutting off power and water tonight at 8:00. And that's just as a precaution. And then they will turn that power back on when they can.

Storm surge, I guess, has went up. They expected it to be 9 to 10 feet. But now they're saying it could be upwards of 12 to 15 feet. So where we're at, we've got a second story. It's high and dry. The house itself has been here since 1880 and has never gotten wet.

So, it's seen some serious storms. And, you know, just being vigilant at this point is the main part.

HILL: Well, Heather, keep us posted. Wishing you the best -- GREENWOOD: Yeah.

HILL: -- as you ride this out. And let us know how you and all the folks there who have stayed are doing, and the pets too.

GREENWOOD: We appreciate you checking on us for sure.

HILL: Yeah. Okay, Heather, appreciate it. Thanks. We'll continue to check in.

OUTFRONT next --

GREENWOOD: Have a great day.

HILL: Thank you. As we continue our breaking news coverage, storm surges are already being reported at this hour across Florida. Hurricane Idalia as we've been tracking, gaining in speed, gaining in intensity. We're going to check in with a storm chaser. He'll give us a sense of what he is seeing tonight.

Plus, the other big story we're following. Russian state TV airing video for the first time of American Paul Whelan in prison. His brother joins me OUTFRONT.



HILL: Breaking news. Time is running out. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis delivering that message to residents, urging them to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Idalia, and warning that Florida hasn't seen a storm like this in well over a century.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: You really got to go now, now's the time. You really got to go back to the late 1800s to find a storm of this magnitude that will enter where this one looks like it's going to enter tomorrow. So, we don't really have historical analog in anybody's memory. So it's likely to cause a lot of damage. And that's just the reality.


HILL: OUTFRONT now from Crystal River, Florida, storm chaser Mike Boylan. He also runs the popular Mike's Weather Page, a hurricane tracking website.

So, Mike, you've been -- you've been out and about all over Florida today. We have some video that you shot about an hour ago of where you are. Very much it looks like, this is really the calm before the storm. But you say that you've already noticed the water is high, of course before this expected storm surge.

What else has really stood out to you today? What are you noticing? MIKE BOYLAN, STORM CHASER, MIKE'S WEATHER PAGE: I got to talk to a

couple locals here that have been there their whole lives. The calm is definitely the calm before the storm. The anxiety is not there. He was telling me like he's seen with other storms.

I had a sense of that even in Tampa, where I'm from, that people might not be taking this storm as serious as I've seen in past years. And as the governor just said, we're looking at some historic surge here. Behind me now, it is the most eeriest feeling to know that in six to eight hours we're going to be seeing water maybe 10 feet above me. And it's just weird.

HILL: I mean, it is weird, it is eerie, it is all the things. I'm struck by what you said. You're from Tampa. We've talked to so many people. And I will say over the years, you know, covering these hurricanes.

You hear from so many people who tell you just that. They're Floridians. They've been through storms. They've been told it's going to be bad. But then they stay and it's not that bad.

How much does that lack of anxiety concern you based on what you're seeing in terms of the intensity of this storm and the projections?

BOYLAN: Yeah, I've heard stories from Ian, so many folks down there shared the same thing. They wish they would have took it serious. You know, I think the storms have turned so many times over the years. People just get tired of evacuating until something like this comes.

And some of those surge -- you know, 10 to 15 foot surge, that's the same surge they had at Fort Myers Beach. Power outages, they're talking millions of people because of the trees up here. It's totally different.

Palm trees can handle category 4 winds, but not to say this is a 4, it's supposed to be a 3. But we have oak trees everywhere. And millions of folks without power all the way up to the state line.

And that's another thing that I've learned over the years is the inland effects, this storm is going to be strengthening when it hits landfall. So it's going to take time to weaken.


And, you know, they're projecting the hurricane almost up to Georgia. And those are going to be a lot of people that will be, like, I didn't -- I didn't expect that.

HILL: Right. You know, you talk about those power outages. The governor warning some people could be without power for weeks. One of the things that's always struck me is how important the staging is ahead of the storms, the staging of utility trucks, the staging of tree trucks frankly to get rid of all those trees.

How much of that did you see as you were making your way around? BOYLAN: The linemen are amazing. It's an army. They're lined up --

there are supposed to be 20,000 linemen I heard lined up, debris companies.

I've met a lot through the years. They come in from all around the country. I mean, this is their job, this is their profession. So they're ready.

I mean, that's something -- you know, unfortunately with Florida, lately, we've had a lot of hurricane it's seems like. We're at least prepared. But my fear is the storm surge. Floridians, some of them are just -- they think they can withstand everything. Seeing these surges in these small towns, a lot of us drove on our whole lives.

This whole community here Crystal River is beautiful. The downtown area, locals told me the downtown area, locals told me it's going to be underwater, all those buildings. So it's fascinating to me to think that in less than 12 hours, we're going to see all of that underwater. It just baffles me, you know?

HILL: The city manager was with us just at the top of the show here saying basically the entire city needs to evacuate because it is so low-lying, because of the concern of the floods. Based on what you're seeing and what you have tracked and seen over the years, how concerned are you personally about Idalia?

BOYLAN: I think a lot of it has to do with this moon. The last couple days, we've seen tides all around our area in Tampa way higher than normal, Bayshore Boulevard's flooding by my house. This tide, it's one of the biggest moons of the year. So that's added on top of the surge. And then you add winds to that.

So, you know, if you look at the geography of where this area is at, it's like a bowl. And that water's just going to push up and it's going to have nowhere to go and it's going to funnel right into these areas. And all that water that we see in the gulf kind of reminiscent of Katrina possibly, all that water pushes and has nowhere to go. So, yeah, it's going to be bad for a lot of folks.

HILL: Yeah. Mike, really appreciate you joining us tonight. Stay safe out there.

BOYLAN: Thank you.

HILL: OUTFRONT next, Russian state TV just airing rare video of American Paul Whelan in a Russian prison. This is the first time we've seen him in prison and the first time his brother has seen video of him in years. He's with us next.

Plus, a close ally of former President Trump who was also indicted in Fulton County has now entered a plea.


[19:51:29] HILL: Tonight, Paul Whelan, the American who has been wrongfully detained in Russia for nearly five years is seen for the first time on video from prison. Whelan is currently serving a 16-year sentence on an espionage charge which he vehemently denies. This video, shot by Russian state media, shows him in his prison uniform. You see him at a sewing machine, eating in a cafeteria.

OUTFRONT now is Paul's brother, David Whelan.

So, David, as I understand it, these are the first images you've seen of your brother in more than three years. What was that like for you to see him, and how does he look to you?

DAVID WHELAN, BROTHER OF PAUL WHELAN WHO IS WRONGFULLY DETAINED IN RUSSIA: He looks pretty good. I was a little bit surprised. I hadn't learned that the video was going to be coming out. We knew that RT had attempted to interview him in may, but we hadn't seen anything that came out of it.

I think if you listen to it, it sounds very conspiratorial, very doom and gloom, but if you turn off the volume and just look at Paul, I think you really get a sense of how resilient he has been, and also what a sense of his life in the prison. So, for our family, it was very valuable to see it.

HILL: Yeah, you mentioned this had been -- this had been shot. The reporter who visited the penal colony actually tried to interview Paul as part of this. I just want to play that brief exchange that they had.


PAUL WHELAN, AMERICAN IMPRISONED IN RUSSIA: Sir, you understand when I say that I can't do an interview, which means I can't answer any questions.


HILL: So state media had claimed that Paul actually consented to an interview in a letter before the TV crew arrived and then backtracked. You say his decision to not participate ultimately had consequences. What happened to him?

WHELAN: That's right. The prison officials tried to coerce and badger him into doing the interview. And so, when he refused to do the interview on when the television crew came out, afterwards, they took his personal property, and they sort of just threw it around. They threw letters that he had saved that people had sent him. They threw those around and walked on them. They stole some of pieces of clothing that were in his possession.

So they retaliated against him for that, and we had to fill out a complaint in order to have people again to stopping the retaliation.

HILL: So in terms of that complaint, do you feel that anything was dealt with? Have you -- have you heard at all? WHELAN: I haven't. And we did see a photograph in Russian media

showing that the prosecutor from Mordovia had gone out to the labor camp. In reality, there is nothing that we can do about it.

And it seems to have stopped for now. Yeah, I think we'll take the positives where we can get them. And really, the positive is seeing, you know, Paul staring down the camera at the end of that segment and really showing that he is strong and he is continuing to fight.

HILL: I know the video was discussed earlier today at the White House press briefing. Officials have continued to call for your brother's release. Have you or your family, has anyone heard from the White House, heard from U.S. officials since this video was released?

WHELAN: No. I think that they were probably not aware that it was coming out any more than we were. You know, I'll take at face value what the press secretary said today, which is that they will continue to work for Paul's release, and hopefully that will come sooner than later.

HILL: And, you know, and for folks watching tonight who may not be as familiar with your brother's story, what is your message to them about this fight?

WHELAN: Well, I would say that there are Americans now, and Paul is just one of them who are being taken hostage around the world. And I hope that they will be supportive of the families of those hostages as well as take the time to write to their congressional representatives to other politicians to encourage them to find concessions to bring these people home and to find deterrents to stop the hostage-taking from continuing.


HILL: David Whelan, always appreciate your time. Thank you again for joining us tonight.

WHELAN: Thanks, Erica.

HILL: OUTFRONT next, one of Donald Trump's 18 co-defendants in the Georgia's 2020 election case entering a plea tonight.


HILL: Finally tonight, new developments in former President Trump's election subversion case in Georgia. Sidney Powell, an attorney who was instrumental in Trump's efforts to overturn the election and one of the 18 co-defendants in this case, pleading not guilty tonight. She is the third defendant to do so thus far. Powell also waiving a formal arraignment, meaning she won't appear in court next week.

And this comes as Fulton County's district attorney Fani Willis is doubling down on her push for a speedy trial, today asking a judge to expedite the cases of all 19 defendants in this sweeping racketeering case, all this as Mark Meadows continues his push to move his own case to federal court. A federal judge tonight asking Meadows' attorneys and the D.A. to file additional legal arguments no later than Thursday, which could set the stage then for ruling as early as Friday. We will be sure to keep you posted on any of those developments.

I'm Erica Hill, in for Erin Burnett tonight. Thank so much for joining us.

Our coverage of this breaking news continues on "AC360".