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Erin Burnett Outfront
Idalia Leaves Path Of Destruction After Cat 3 Landfall In Florida; McConnell Freezes After Episode Just Weeks Ago; Giuliani Loses Defamation Suit From Georgia Election Workers. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired August 30, 2023 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Idalia leaving havoc in its path. New video into OUTFRONT showing the power of the storm surge as it rushed ashore. And that is just the beginning of this storm as it continues to move north.
Trees knocked down, a fire station blown apart. I'll speak to a lifelong Floridian who rode out the storm from his house boat.
Plus, Senator -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell freezing mid- sentence for a second time in a matter of weeks. What his team is saying tonight about his health.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening. I'm Erica Hill, in for Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news. A destructive storm now making its way up the coast. Idalia now hitting the Carolinas. This after nearly half a million customers were left without power between Florida and Georgia. The rain and wind already leaving a trail of destruction across a swath of Florida and, again, now into Georgia and the Carolinas.
We are beginning to get new images here into OUTFRONT, including a home in Pasco County on fire, you see it there, amid the floodwaters. Another one on fire in that same county. Officials there say some 600 homes were destroyed. Meantime in Cedar Key, there was so much concern and conversation, you may recall last night about Cedar Key. Water levels reaching a record high for the area.
You see these waves coming right on land, water battering this condo complex. Property just demolished here. The doors literally blown off. Street after street in Cedar Key completely flooded.
We're going to speak with the man who shot this video, AccuWeather network extreme meteorologist Reed Timmer, he's with us just ahead, one of very few people who've been able to access that area. The floodwaters, again, just up to the windows of these homes there in Cedar Key. You can see everything that's out there, the debris, things that were once, of course, in people's backyards, just floating around. Near Perry, Florida, hurricane winds knocking the roof off of a gas
station. You can really get a sense of the sheer force, right? You see it there knocking the roof off. Even as you see that water being blown, the structure, the debris in the path.
And in Keaton Beach, take a look at this picture. The walls just completely ripped off this home. It almost looks like a doll house where you would see that wall split off the bed, possessions just tossed around.
Let's show you St. Petersburg where officials say more than 75 people had to be rescued. Floodwaters midway up a car door there, tarpon springs, water flooding the streets really as far as the eye can see.
And outside of Charleston, South Carolina, now, a brief tornado spawned by the storm actually flipped this car on a highway. Police tell us the two people suffered remarkably just minor injuries.
OUTFRONT now is Pasco County's fire chief, Tony Perez. He's in Wesley Chapel, Florida, right now.
Chief, good to have you with us.
So, we have a picture from Hudson, Florida. I know that's in your county where we see this home in flames, multiple homes, as I understand it, the emergency director telling CNN it actually caught fire because of this hurricane, some 6,000 homes he said inundated with water.
What is the situation tonight on the ground there?
TONY PEREZ, PASCO COUNTY FIRE RESCUE CHIEF: Good evening, and thank you for having me on. Right now, the situation is under control. We have demobilized all of our units and assets, and right now, we have -- we have turned it over to the Pasco County sheriff's office.
They are working with the local electric company, and they are now doing more of a survey. They are going house to house. They're doing their visual inspection to ensure that it is safe to turn the power back on. Because their goal is to start turning power back on in that area. So that's what's going on at this present time.
HILL: So that's good news for folks, right, who are waiting for that information on when the power might be turned back on, that it is in process of assessment.
Talk to me, if you would, about these rescues in the county. How many have taken place? How many people were you able to rescue?
PEREZ: So, we were -- we were dispatched on 85 rescue missions. But, you know, our men and women here in Pasco County fire rescue worked so hard throughout the night. This operation started roughly about 3:30 in the morning. We already had our units staging about 1:00 a.m. in the morning and in lieu of the storm.
[19:05:06] But when 3:30 started, the calls began to come in. And right around 6:00 a.m., it really began to intensify and more calls were coming in. So, 85 rescue missions were dispatched. But we were able to help evacuate a total of 150 residents from that area.
And it was a blessing. And the men and women of Pasco County Fire Rescue, they worked -- they worked so hard to ensure that everyone was going to be accounted for.
HILL: One of the biggest concerns I know ahead of a storm and one of the many reasons that people are told to evacuate is because of situations just like that, that when they need to be rescued, it is not always possible as it was, you know, starting at 3:30 last night for you folks to be able to get to them.
Some of these folks, did they tell you why they stayed behind, or was the storm worse than they thought it would be? Did they think they were in a safer space?
PEREZ: It was a variety -- it was a variety of reasons. You know, I heard one lady say, well, I don't have any money, I don't have a place to go, so I am just going to ride it out.
Other people, I heard another family discussing their belongings. You know, they worked years and years, collections of their memories of their families, and they didn't want to leave that behind. They would rather stay home, ride it out.
And, you know, in lieu of the storm passing by and not having any flooding. But, as you can see, that was not the case in this one. And we were able to do a good assessment and a survey after we had rescued all of the residents. And we went back through the neighborhoods.
And we were extremely blessed because even though we had major flooding, anywhere from 3 to 5-foot surges where people could not evacuate themselves, they needed us to help them.
You know, if we were hit directly with a category 4, it would've been a lot worse. We would have been -- unfortunately, that area would've been decimated, and we would probably be talking about body recovery, and we would still be in there working. So, hopefully the residents see this, they take this warning seriously when we ask them to evacuate and please take higher ground, please take the advice of our emergency management along with our 911 system and fire and police.
You know, the sheriff as well was advocating to get that information out. We were out there advocating to please evacuate. So, we hope moving forward in the future that people will take those warnings seriously.
HILL: Yeah. Let's hope so. We thank you for your time and also for all the hard work that you and your team have been doing ahead of the storm, during it of course, and after.
Really good to have you with us tonight. Thank you.
PEREZ: Thank you.
HILL: I want to check in now with my colleague Carlos Suarez who's in Gulfport, Florida, at this hour. Idalia leaving a path of destruction behind there as well.
What are you hearing from folks in gulf port, and what are you seeing in terms of what will now be the cleanup?
CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Erica, so the folks out here in Gulfport are taking a look at several sailboats that washed ashore overnight. We're talking about three sailboats including this one right here that broke free last night amid all of that storm surge. We're talking anywhere between 4 to 6 feet of it here in Pinellas County.
Just on the other side of where we are is the culprit in this. That sail boat, we're told, broke its line causing that one to break its line. This one then took out that third sailboat, and this one came to a stop just near this pier here where you can see the damage it caused here in Gulfport.
Now, Erica, we began our day over in Hillsborough County, that is home to the Tampa Bay area. That is where we saw some of the more severe flooding. That is where we saw several homes that saw anywhere between 4 to 6 inches of water go inside. It's where these mandatory evacuation orders went into effect yesterday.
Now, the city of Tampa, the mayor late this afternoon said that those evacuation orders were being lifted, folks in Hillsborough county were being allowed to return home. Here in Pinellas County, the mayor also told us that evacuation orders were being lifted. And so, folks are at this hour returning to their home to see what damage, if any, those homes sustained in all of this.
Again, the concern going into the storm, what ended up happening here in Pinellas County was that storm surge. It's what emergency officials were worried about going into the night because we knew that the storm was not going to hit the Pinellas County or the Hillsborough County area directly.
But they knew we were going to see this storm surge, we knew there was going to be significant flooding. And we knew that at some point today, when you mixed all of that in, when you have all of that water rushing in along with king tide and high tide, that is when we were going to see some of the worst flooding.
That is what we saw when we first got out here this morning. I can tell you, though, having driven around town a couple of hours ago, much of that water has receded. The folks out here are going about their days. Business, restaurants and bars, they're hoping to reopen later tonight.
HILL: Oh, wow, later tonight. Well, that is good to see the storm moved so quickly. But that they are lucky enough to perhaps move onto that as well.
Carlos, appreciate it. Thank you.
Well, Idalia after moving right across the west coast of Florida making its way clear across the state up into Georgia and is now knocking on the Carolinas.
Dianne Gallagher joining us from Carolina Beach in North Carolina, with conditions I can see.
Once the hood is up, Dianne, I know the conditions are already getting worse. What are you starting to feel at this point?
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm going to give you an idea of just how severe the conditions are right now. These are just the bands starting to come in. You can check out the wind. All of this is sort of developed in the last few minutes really. We started getting severe rain, and then the wind began.
And, look, I've talked to officials. We're going to walk down to the beach this way. I've talked to officials here in Carolina Beach as well as in Wilmington. And they say their biggest concern is the danger of moderate flooding. And, in part, that is because you heard Carlos talking about that king tide.
Well, you can see that behind me. The ocean looking really nasty, churning as the remnants of Idalia start coming in, that tropical storm. But they say it's this right here. Speaking to the town manager in Carolina beach, these dunes on either side of me, that's what he anticipates is going to protect most of the town from what he calls moderate flooding.
The emergency manager of New Hanover County said there are some trouble spots downtown, Wilmington here and Carolina Beach, that they think may experience some flooding.
Now, we still have people, you can see coming out, checking out the beach, checking out tropical storm coming in. Can I talk to you real quick? Why are you out here right now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just to see what it's like, just to come out for the thrill, I guess.
GALLAGHER: Where are you from, are you visiting?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I'm visiting my sister. She lives here at Carolina Beach.
GALLAGHER: What do you think so far?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Crazy.
GALLAGHER: Well, you see crazy. That's how they described it. The way they described it, though, is that they think that the greatest impact is actually going to come in the early morning hours here. They've talked about potentially having to stall or delay public transportation.
Again, much of this has to do with winds that they say could reach sustained winds about 30 miles per hour, maybe gusts of 40 miles per hour. But, again, it's this king tide at the ocean they've asked people, much like these visitors, not to get in the water unless you are an experienced surfer perhaps. But also just wait it out, and the thing here is that coming toward the weekend as visitors are here, they say the ocean is still going to be quite dangerous because of those currents and those swells. And they don't want people who are here to misjudge because the weather gets better after this has ended.
HILL: Yeah, absolutely not.
Dianne, appreciate it. You and your team stay safe out there.
Chad Myers has been tracking Idalia so closely for us.
So, Chad, you can see those conditions where Dianne is, deteriorating in North Carolina. What more is -- what is left of this storm, and who else is going to be feeling it?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, I know Dianne didn't know this, but there was actually a tornado on the ground about 15 miles west of her a few minutes ago. It came onshore as a water spout near Caswell Beach Oak Island area right through here.
And now, our Dianne is right there, and now the storm is still about 10 miles to her west. No danger to our reporter, it is moving away from her. But I got to tell you what, this is what we're going to see for the rest of the night.
Also, a tornado warning here for North Myrtle Beach area, right around Cherry Grove here, had a water spout on the water for a while. I've seen a little bit of that rotation begin to die down a little bit. But they still put a warning for you right now.
Still have the rainfall here to the west of really Savannah. That's where most of the rainfall has been. We've had our Ryan Young in Savannah. And he's been dry and no wind for hours, it seems because he is right in the middle of what would be the eye, although it's just a wide -- you can't even really tell it's an eye, 450,000 people still without power at this hour.
And then there's your rainfall still expected. There could be some overnight flooding here 4 to 6 inches of rainfall into the Piedmont area is what I'm concerned, not so much the Lowcountry. But it's the Piedmont. If you get the rain up there, it has to run off and that's what we could see later on this afternoon.
Right now, still 70 miles per hour. Likely still going to be around 60 miles per hour storm here in just a few hours, but moving offshore. There will be some beach erosion here along the Carolina coast with those strong waves.
Remember, obviously we have this storm that's moving this way, Idalia, but we also have Franklin way out here in the Atlantic. That was 150- mile-per-hour storm making huge swells. And now, they're kind of mixing together, maybe adding together at times. So, there is going to be some certain beach erosion, Erica, tonight.
HILL: All right, yet another thing to add to that list of what's being -- what's being left behind.
Chad, appreciate it. Thank you.
OUTFRONT next, waves crashing through the front doors of homes in Florida. I'm going to speak with a storm chaser who took this video that you see right here in hard-hit Cedar Key.
Plus, riding out the storm on a boat in these massive waves. My guest next tells us about this very long, very rough night and the damage left behind.
Plus, Rudy Giuliani may be forced to pay up after a judge found he in fact did defame two election workers in Georgia. So how much could it cost him?
HILL: Tonight, new images of one of the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Idalia in Florida. Take a look here. This is all that's left of a cottage at a hotel in the water in Cedar Key. Rubble at this point. The building totally destroyed. A number of other cottages suffering significant damage as well. One now missing its front wall.
The island was really just lashed by the hurricane as it came ashore. About a hundred people rode out this storm there including my next guest.
OUTFRONT now from Cedar Key is AccuWeather Network extreme meteorologist Reed Timmer.
Well, good to talk to you tonight.
So, the video -- you've shared a fair amount of video I should say on social media. This video of the storm surge in Cedar Key, we can see you here walking through it basically waist high as you walk through this. Give me a sense just how much storm surge was there, how much flooding, how much water is now left behind for Cedar Key to deal with?
REED TIMMER, ACCUWEATHER NETWORK EXTREME METEOROLOGIST: Well, that was the big issue on cedar key. It's a low-lying area that juts out into the Gulf of Mexico. And it was also right in the center of the hurricane as it made landfall, it made landfall just to the north of Steinhatchee up there, and that brought in a lot of those westerly winds just ripping off the Gulf of Mexico, and it's relatively low- lying as well there in Cedar Key. Hurricane Hermine, which was a category 1 hurricane, caused about 6
feet of water to happen there. But the storm surge is like a tsunami- like feature that comes in off the Gulf of Mexico right when those onshore winds start to increase in speed. And it comes in very abruptly, and it's associated with debris and it has waves on top of it as well. You can see just how destructive it is there firsthand as Cedar Key started just before sunrise and continuing into the morning hours.
HILL: We're watching some more video that you shot of a condo complex. And we can see what it has just ripped apart, right, fencing ripped off, structural damage, doors blown out. I'm not sure how much you've been able to get around there to see, but just how widespread is the damage?
TIMMER: Well, the damage is pretty widespread for those first-floor units. There's a lot of stilt homes and they were able to stay just above the water for the most part. But there are some other areas around the island where people stayed behind. I heard some reports of an elderly person that was there that needed assistance. The water was still relatively high at the time.
But about 5 to 6 feet of water remained throughout almost into the early afternoon hours. And that's because of the persistent westerly flow in there. But honestly the boardwalk fared pretty well. And that's because it's designed to kind of channel the storm surge in between the different buildings, and a lot of those buildings are up on stilts. But the storm surge, the power of the water just ravaged all those first floor units that were basically 10 and 15 feet and below.
HILL: When you look at all of this based on how much you've covered, and even talking to officials, is there a sense of how long this recovery could take starting with how easy will it or won't it be to get supplies in and to get people in?
TIMMER: Yeah, I think it will be a long recovery effort for locations like cedar key, horseshoe beach, Steinhatchee, all those areas throughout the nature coast. It's a very complex coast line with a lot of cavities along it. So it's the perfect coast line to really pile up the water and create those mega storm surge events. So I think that's the really big issue is the flooding.
The winds kind of died down a little bit as it made landfall as it was undergoing an eyewall replacement cycle. But that caused the wind field to expand and it made the storm surge situation a lot worse. Right now, the road into Cedar Key is closed to the public. But those emergency vehicles have been allowed in, and the recovery effort began immediately in Florida.
You see people helping one another. And you already see that recovery effort getting going the morning after the hurricane moves out.
HILL: How would you describe this storm based on what you've seen in the past? TIMMER: Well, I've chased over 50 or 60 different hurricanes. This one
had a very significant storm surge, especially in those storm surge- prone areas, a storm surge comparable to like a Hurricane Irma. Even a hurricane Katrina, that surge off of Pontchartrain and the Slidell area was similar how it just stayed and remained after the hurricane past because of the persistent onshore flow.
In terms of the storm surge, it was definitely a lot more significant, in terms of the wind, thankfully that wasn't lashing at the same time because sometimes at the same time as a storm surge event, you can get winds gusting 150, 200 miles an hour with a really powerful hurricane.
HILL: Yeah, as devastating as it was, we are hearing a lot of thankfully followed by other important moments. And as you point out there, just how important that was.
Really appreciate your time tonight. Reed, thank you.
TIMMER: Thank you for having us.
HILL: Also with me, Bobby Witt, who rode out the storm in a houseboat in Cedar Key.
So, Bobby, I'm glad you're here talking to us tonight, first of all. Eight to 9 feet of storm surge. That shattered some of the past records in Cedar Key. I know this was a very rough ride, as you told us.
Talk to us about what you saw after you were able to safely come up and see what remained.
BOBBY WITT, RODE OUT STORM ON BOAT IN CEDAR KEY, FLORIDA (via telephone): Yeah. It was quite a storm. It was a bad one. I believe it's the worst one I've rode out like this.
And there was a lot of damage here on the island. I sustained a lot of damage here to my docks and equipment here.
But, yes, it was quite a night. Rougher than rough.
HILL: Yeah, it sounds like you're putting it mildly. You said other storms you've rode out. What made you decide to stay on your boat to ride this out?
WITT: Well, because of the forecast of the storm surge, and I knew I had to loosen the ropes on the boat to let it go off with the storm, and big boats tend to get in trouble anyway in these storms. So, with me loosening the ropes, I could let it go on up and not damage the boat or the dock in that way.
So, I loosened things up. But it got higher than I thought it would.
WITT: I knew it was supposed to surge, but that was pretty -- pretty amazing.
HILL: I'm not sure if you could hear our interview, our guest just before you was talking about the damage, talking about how he thinks it will be a long recovery. That road I believe is closed right now, although open to emergency vehicles, which is important.
As you look around at what was destroyed, what's your biggest concern tonight?
WITT: Like you say, it's going to be the cleanup and getting the power and water back here on the island. Everything is covered with mud. Everywhere in town is covered with mud. All my equipment is covered with mud. It's a muddy mess.
HILL: And that is a tough cleanup. As anyone who's ever dealt with the smallest amount of that knows you talk about water, power. Have there been any updates yet from city officials on when those could be restored?
WITT: There have not. Not that I'm aware of. I did talk to one of the city commissioners today. And she was not too certain. She said maybe three days on the water and five or six on the power.
HILL: Is it your sense that she's been able to, or that officials have been able to really get a full scope of the damage? Or is that still in process?
WITT: I think it's still in process. But I'm not the one to ask that really.
HILL: You're a lifelong Floridian, though. When you look at this, and just hearing your description of what it was like and how rough it was, can you compare this to other storms that you have been through?
WITT: Well, I can and I can't. This one had more wind. This was a stronger wind. It took down a huge cedar tree right here.
I think we had 100-mile-an-hour winds there for a little bit right before daylight. And, unfortunately, these things always want to roll in, in the dark like that. But, no, this is the worst one I've been in for sure.
I was here for Hurricane Hermine which also brought the flooding. But this one was much worse.
HILL: Well, Bobby, I'm glad you're okay. Glad you're here to talk with us tonight. And I hope the cleanup is a little easier than what it looks like it might be. We wish you the best. Thank you, Bobby.
WITT: Thank you. Bye-bye.
HILL: OUTFRONT next, flooding like never before. That's how one storm chaser is describing hurricane Idalia. You heard some of that.
This storm chaser was there when the eye of the storm passed over the town of Perry. He joins me next. Plus, new health concerns about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell after he freezes on camera, unable to speak for the second time in five weeks.
HILL: Tonight, a massive recovery. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis vowing crews will clean up the widespread damage across his state after Hurricane Idalia just wreaked havoc across it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: We clearly have significant damage throughout the Big Bend region. But the response has been swift, and people are getting help accordingly. There is, of course, a lot of debris to clean up. But we will get working with that with the local communities to make sure that the roads are cleared, and people can go back to their lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: This storm even can you see someday damage at the governor's mansion. A 100-year-old oak tree fell over there. The governor was asked about it earlier this morning. He said everybody's okay.
OUTFRONT now, from Oldsmar, Florida, storm chaser Mike Boylan who also runs Mike's Weather Page, a popular hurricane tracking website.
So, Mike, we chatted last night. You're back with us today. I was struck -- I know you've posted some really just remarkable video of some of the damage that you saw. You were in Perry, Florida, when it was slammed by Idalia, debris everywhere as we're seeing in some of this video you shot. Power lines down. We see the trees just snapped in half there.
But it was on your way back to the Tampa area where you live when you were struck by what you said was a wake-up call. Why?
MIKE BOYLAN, STORM CHASER, MIKE'S WEATHER PAGE: The surge, you knew there's going to be a lot of surge. It was the town's far from center. I think we talked about it last night. It's complacency that folks have with a lot of that center.
And we had a lot of towns on the way down west central Florida that I tried to visit, you know, and document, and they were blocked off. U.S. 19 Highway Patrol, every town was blocked off for miles from the coast because of flooding.
And I was talking to locals, and they were seeing floodwaters literally miles inland, and longtime residents telling me they've never seen flooding like this. And then I decided to go back to Crystal River last night, and it was about two miles from the coast. They were blocking traffic. And it was seen -- I just -- I was in shock, as were the residents.
They were walking around. I saw two air boats rescuing people and a helicopter flying around. I just couldn't believe it from the night before to today, a surge that just -- I don't think anybody expected. And this was far from that center that we focus on so much.
HILL: Yeah. And it's a great point. We're looking at some video on the screen of Crystal River earlier today as that storm is literally blowing through. I know we've been playing your videos of Idalia sweeping through Perry, Florida.
As you were recording some of this, that's when your colleague, as I understand it, was actually captured one of the trees just cracking in half, breaking down. When you look back at some of these videos, you're shooting it at one moment, and then you go back and look at them.
Does it strike you -- you talk about how far inland this was and how surprising that was. But there's also been a lot of talk about the sheer force of this storm itself. Did it feel different?
BOYLAN: Totally. This was my third major that I've been in the eyewall. This one had a powerful burst. There were bursts of winds. It's hard to explain. But they would just come out of nowhere, and all of a sudden we're talking 24-inch diameter oaks and trees that have probably been there hundreds of years, they were breaking like toothpicks, clean breaks. You could hear them snapping.
When we finally left, every road we went down, we saw trees on top of power lines for miles. That was what struck me the most was the amount of trees that were snapped, and the pure force of the winds that can just do that. It was amazing.
HILL: Yeah, it reminds me of the power of Mother Nature, I guess, is often what we say after these moments. This came on pretty quickly, even surprised you how quickly. You talk about those bursts, too.
The people that you've been speaking with today as you're making your way back to home, how surprised were they, and how prepared were they?
BOYLAN: They were very surprised. I don't think I talked to anybody that believed this scenario. They all heard it. They all took the precautions, and they heard the warnings and they saw the surge values.
But I don't think people comprehended they could see that inland that much. I heard that from a lot of locals. Even talking to people last night in Crystal River, they were saying it's past U.S. 19. This literally went in a mile and a half.
The shock on people walking around, kids -- I saw a dad carrying a box and the mom carrying a newborn. I was touched to feel those feelings of having to evacuate unexpectedly. It really woke me up living here on the coast of Florida and how I
don't think people realize -- and we had flooding here at home that some had no idea was coming. We had water rescues up and down Pinellas County, Tarpon Springs, Tampa.
That's what surprised me. It was such a huge event outside of that landfall that everybody tends to focus on.
HILL: Yeah, the width of it, just the breadth of the storm was really, really something. And we were watching on the radar here. You're experiencing it there.
Really appreciate you joining us tonight. Mike, thank you.
BOYLAN: Thank you. Thank you.
HILL: OUTFRONT now, Douglas Baber. He's the city manager of Crystal River.
I know you were with us last night, glad you're here talking to us again tonight so you can update us on how things went. We were hearing a little bit from Mike who passed through Crystal River. You saw things today that you thought were really out of the ordinary. How so?
DOUGLAS BABER, CRYSTAL RIVER, FLORIA CITY MANAGER (via telephone): Oh, first of all, thanks for having me back. I appreciate that.
I've followed Mike's Weather page for years. He does a great job. But back to your question, I apologize, we saw some things a little bit different today. They -- we had some rescues going on at Crystal River today that were done by the sheriff's office, our crystal river fire department, local law enforcement were helping out. They were riding around and picking up people out of their homes that might've been trapped that needed to get out.
The helicopters flying in and landing on Highway 44. It was just an exciting kind of day. And everything went really good for us. We had zero loss of life reported so far. I just can't tell you how thankful I am for all the law enforcement partners and first responders that helped out today.
HILL: Yeah, truly a team effort, and great to hear there was zero loss of life, which is so important. We're showing video now of some water rescues taking place in the city. When you and I talked last night, you were talking about going door to door with the sheriff and people were heeding the call to evacuate.
That being said, were you surprised at all the number of rescues that were still required?
BABER: We did. We put out everything that we could possibly do to make sure people knew that it was important to get out. There were several people that had not thought or prepared enough to be ready to stay for a period of time that might have been longer than they expected is what I was trying to say. All of a sudden, they got that much water and they said it's time to
get out. So we did rescue those folks and we got them to shelter and it was very successful and I'm very grateful for their help.
HILL: You know, as you talk about how well everybody worked together and all the different departments, of course, working together, what is your takeaway as the city manager from this storm, and what it means in terms of preparations for next time?
BABER: I tell you what, we have so much resiliency going on in the city of Crystal River. And these people just come together as a family and help each other out. The local government around here that offers so much support for us through this process, we're going to be more prepared if something ever happens again. We have a plan. We executed it very well this time.
Now we're moving onto the next step which is how we're going to rebuild.
Crystal River was decimated. You heard Mike talking about the storm surge. We had 8 feet of storm surge come inside of city hall. You know, it's gone.
We have a mess inside of there we have to clean up. We're going to be without that for a little bit of time.
We'll come back. The city bounces back. And like I said earlier, they're very resilient and I look forward to working through the process and getting things back to normalcy within the City of Crystal River.
HILL: Yeah, I mean, you talk about city hall, but it's also -- and I don't need to tell you this, but it's the home as well to businesses, home of the people who work in city hall where they may need to be for some time. So, I hope we can continue to check in with you as you work on that rebuilding.
BABER: Yes, ma'am, I really appreciate your support and everybody in the state of Florida, the governor talked about it today. It's just amazing about how people pull together when crazy events like this happen. So thank you very much.
HILL: Yeah. Douglas Baber, we appreciate your time tonight.
BABER: Yeah, have a good night.
HILL: You, too.
OUTFRONT next, Mitch McConnell freezing while taking questions from reporters again. This, of course, follows a similar incident just a few weeks ago. So what's happening with the Republican senator? I'm going to ask Dr. Jonathan Reiner.
And new legal trouble for Rudy Giuliani as he loses a defamation lawsuit from two Georgia election workers, one that could cost him a lot of money.
HILL: Tonight, new questions about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell after he appeared to freeze for about 30 seconds while speaking with reporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Senator, you're up for election in three short years.
What are your thoughts on it at this point?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I'm sorry. I had a hard time hearing you.
REPORTER: That's okay. What are your thoughts on running for re- election in 2026?
MCCONNELL: What are my thoughts about what?
REPORTER: Running for re-election in 2026.
MCCONNELL: Oh, that's -- AIDE: Did you hear the question, Senator? Running for re-election in
AIDE: All right, I'm sorry, we'll need a minute.
AIDE: Want to head outside, sir? Want to come with us?
MCCONNELL: I'm okay.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: That moment coming just five weeks after McConnell had a similar episode while speaking with reporters on Capitol Hill.
OUTFRONT now, Dr. Jonathan Reiner who's director at the cardiac cath lab at George Washington University Hospital.
Dr. Reiner, when you watch that moment, what do you see?
DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, I find it very hard to watch that tape. The senator has had a really precipitous decline in his health over the last several months. And it's playing out very publicly. So, my heart goes out to him.
What I see basically is the senator becoming perhaps a little bit confused and he stares off to the side, sort of to the upper side and is unable to speak for about ten seconds. That looks like he's having a type of seizure called an absence seizure.
The senator had a really traumatic brain injury in March when he fell. And about 10 percent of people who have a big enough injury to be hospitalized after a head injury like that will subsequently have things like a seizure. And that's what it looks like to me.
This is exactly the same presentation as five weeks ago. They basically are mirror images.
HILL: You talk about the concern, and I agree with you. I think -- it is difficult to watch, difficult for a lot of people to watch.
HILL: And in those moments, I do think it's important to see the full context here after he said he was okay. And McConnell then did try to take a couple of questions but struggled. Let's just watch that moment as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: What efforts does Daniel Cameron going to have to make on the campaign trail to win Kentuckians over in November?
AIDE: Senator, Daniel Cameron, do you have a comment on Daniel Cameron?
MCCONNELL: Well, I think the governor's race is going to be very close. Far and away, the best candidate we could have nominated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: So, I do want to point out, the staff today did say that the senator will consult a doctor before his next event. But in that moment, and we see his aides trying to help him. The fact that he would consult a doctor before his next event, it didn't feel like there was a sense of urgency.
The fact that we've seen this now twice in public, what does that tell you about what could be happening privately?
REINER: Well, it suggests that perhaps this is not the second time they've seen these events. I would be very surprised if the senator has not had a thorough neurologic evaluation. The -- folks who work on Capitol Hill, the house and members of the Senate have a really wonderfully sophisticated group of doctors who work basically for them. So I'm sure the senator has availed himself of their expertise, and they've probably done a very deep dive into why the last episode five weeks ago occurred.
So, I think that's why maybe there's no apparent sense of urgency now.
HILL: What was interesting is when that first episode, the one we saw on camera, the senator's staff at the time never confirmed that he had seen a doctor after that first public episode.
As a lawmaker, you talk about the access that lawmakers have to healthcare professionals. Does the senator -- do all lawmakers, perhaps, need to be more transparent about treatments they may or may not be receiving?
REINER: You know, I think every person is entitled to privacy, except people who have -- who hold high office also have a responsibility to be fairly transparent, I think, to their constituents. The senator, you know, is really the principal member of his caucus in a very tightly held United States Senate. And concerns about his health really resonate with the public.
So I think they should be a little bit more transparent about where he is right now. I feel for him.
HILL: And I think many Americans likely do tonight as well.
Dr. Reiner, appreciate your time and your expertise, as always. Thank you.
REINER: My pleasure.
HILL: OUTFRONT next, Rudy Giuliani found liable for defaming two election workers in Georgia. Those workers say his comments ruined their lives.
HILL: Tonight, Rudy Giuliani learning he's liable for defaming Georgia election workers, falsely accusing them repeatedly of manipulating ballots. The judge making that determination after Donald Trump's disgraced former attorney failed to hand over information subpoenaed by the court. Giuliani's unfounded claims of election meddling upended the lives of Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman, and they laid that out in emotional testimony for the January 6th Committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUBY FREEMAN, FORMER FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA ELECTION WORKER: I've lost my name, and I have lost my reputation. I've lost my sense of security all because a group of people, starting with number 45 and his ally, Rudy Giuliani, decided to scapegoat me and my daughter, Shay, to push their own lies about how the presidential election was stolen.
HILL: Katelyn Polantz is OUTFRONT.
So, Katelyn, Giuliani said last month he made those defamatory statements about Moss and Freeman. Now he could potentially be on the hook for I guess millions in damages. What happens at this point?
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Erica, he's losing this lawsuit. That is what is happening. Now, he's essentially not being able to contest it at all, and the judge is saying, that has consequences, and the consequences here is that he will be on the hook for damages. That is what happens when you lose a lawsuit, even in a way like this, where it's defaulted against you. You forfeit fighting it.
And the way that those damages will be determined is that there will be a trial. It won't be a trial over whether or not he said the defamatory statements. He's -- that's done. It will be a trial for how much money he's going to have to be on the hook for and what the judge is saying is he's very likely going to be found needing to pay for the emotional damages he intentionally inflicted upon these two women in Georgia after the 2020 election for the emotional distress, for the defamation, and also punitive damages.
That can amount to a significant amount of money, a really severe result. And that will be a trial that's held at the end of this year, beginning of next year, to determine how much money Giuliani will be responsible for here in response to this lawsuit from these two women.
He already is sanctioned in this case for more than $100,000, and so the money is just going to keep mounting here. It will move forward to that piece even though at this point in time his spokesperson is saying this is a weaponization of the justice system.
HILL: Well, it's not his only legal problem or his only financial problem at point. Of course, he's booked in Fulton County last week. He's talked about having trouble paying his legal bills. Can he actually pay for any of this?
POLANTZ: That's going to be a great question going forward that we just don't know. The judge did note in her 57-page opinion today about this that Giuliani seems to have come through with money in times of need really recently. And so, it's unclear if he really is destitute as he seems to be wanting to portray himself.
He was able to get on a private plane, apparently, to go to Fulton County, Georgia, to respond to his arrest. He was able to put up money for his bond. He's listed a $6.5 million Manhattan co-op. These are things the judge noted today in this legal opinion.
And so, all of those things put together, is that going to be enough money to get him through paying what he's going to have to pay these two election workers? We'll have to wait and see what the dollar figure is there and also those criminal cases that cost a lot of money. We'll see.
HILL: Yeah. They certainly do. Katelyn, appreciate it as always. Thank you.
OUTFRONT next, more on our breaking news. Idalia is still battering the east coast, the wind so strong, a reporter, as you can see here, barely able to stand on his feet.
HILL: We continue to follow tropical storm Idalia now moving up the coast into the Carolinas. One meteorologist in Tybee Island, Georgia, could barely stand up against the intense sustained wind gusts earlier today as he gave his report. In fact, this is just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN MARANDO, WGKA METEOROLOGIST: I can't even keep my head up because the winds are so strong out here, it is blowing the sand directly into my face. I'm also holding a towel across my leg because this sand, when it pushes you back, it really hurts. You can see the sand -- it's like a sand storm that is out here right now. It is just whipping all of this sand up on our skin really feeling like needles. And these winds certainly feel hurricane force. I'm having trouble even keeping myself held up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: It's tough, too, when there's nothing for you to hold on to there.
A tornado warning is in effect right now in parts of North Carolina.
Our breaking news coverage of this tropical storm continues right now with "AC360".