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Hurricane Ian Now Category 4 Storm Headed for Florida's West Coast; Separatists Claim 4 Areas of Ukraine Voted to Join Russia; Dozens Killed in Iran Protests, Foreign Minister Says "No Big Deal". Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 28, 2022 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It is Wednesday, September 28th. I'm Christine Romans.

Just in to CNN. This updates, just moments ago. Hurricane Ian is now a category four storm moving closer to Florida's west coast, bringing high winds, extremely heavy rain and life-threatening storm surge flooding. Already, Ian hitting Key West with major storm surge flooding over two and a half million people, now under some level of evacuation warnings.

Officials escalating their urgent appeals to evacuate.


GOV. RON DESANTIS, FLORIDA: If you are in an evacuation zone, particularly in the southwest Florida county, you, know your time to evacuate is coming to an end. You need to evacuate, now.


ROMANS: Meteorologist Chad Myers is in the CNN weather center.

Chad, what's the latest on the predicted storm tracker?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is still forecast to put all of that water into Charlotte Harbour, Christine. This is -- and has been kind of -- looked at as a Charlie. But, this is not Charlie. This is Florida's Katrina.

Because, although we have the same wind speed as Charlie, Charlie could almost fit inside the eye. The wind speed of Charlie was so significant, but only in a very small place. This storm has wind surge, flooding, waves and even rainfall inside of Florida of almost 20 inches over the next 48 hours.

So, don't be confused. When the people there say, zone A, zone B, you have to go. You do. The winds are 25, gusting to around 40. But, you must leave because these canal homes that are now in Cape Coral, that are in Punta Gorda, , they are going to be in the six feet of water.

You cannot be in that house when it's six feet. You have to be out of that home. It is time to get on the road.

I checked traffic conditions. They don't look too bad at all. No traffic. No slowdowns. You should do the same thing. You should know whether you need to go right now or not. Hopefully, you're already gone.

But this storm did get to the west of Key West by 100 miles and it made the third largest surge ever in Key West. That is the potential that the storm has right now.

Fort Myers, gusting to 35, Naples at 38 and that is just the beginnings. These gusts will get to 140 miles per hour. So, at that point in time, not too many shingles are going to stay on the roof, and maybe not the roof at all on some spots if you get into the wrong direction at the right -- or wrong angle for your house.

Eight to 12 foot storm surge. Many of these homes, and I'm talking about -- that I experienced when I was in Charlie, they are only three feet above sea level. They have a little, both up, back behind their. Dock behind the house. And, then all of a sudden, it's only three feet down to the water. If you -- manage to have water nine feet or 12, you are going to inundate the area.

This is the problem. We do not have a surge expected for Tampa. In fact, there's an inverse surge. The water is down a foot and a half in Tampa Bay because the wind is blowing out.

But, this is the wind that will be blowing and bringing these intense storm surges to zones A and zone B. And that is why it's mandatory. They don't say that because they just want you to leave. They need you to leave to save your life.

And, look at Orlando. I know a lot of people around here trying to get away. You could be in any kind of flooding danger, flash flooding, not so much ones, ones could still be, 80, 80 or 90, Orlando, but 20 inches of rainfall in that area could certainly put down some type of flash flooding. The threat this high today, the threat is going to be high tomorrow.

The storm has evolved overnight. We had an eye wall. It really blew itself up. They called an eyewall replacement cycle. But a new eye wall is forming right now. That creates a larger storm.

This is so much more significant than Charlie ever was -- Christine.

ROMANS: Really important, really important. The windows closing Florida, officials say to get out of their. And this is no joke. Florida's Katrina, you say.

All right. Thank you. We'll check in with you again in a few minutes, Chad.

Let's bring in storm chaser Aaron Jayjack.

Aaron, we've been following the storm for a few days now, how much -- what do you see, and how much as the storm picked up? What are you experiencing -- expecting to experience?


AARON JAYJACK, MYRADAR STORM CHASER: Yes, I am in Bonita Springs, just south of Fort Myers, a little north of Naples. They're kind of targeting this area for a couple of days, it's looking like the models have been trending.

And, I got a couple of hours asleep ahead of the storm. Hearing when I went to sleep, there was a little bit of wind. And there was rain all day, yesterday.

But, now I just picked out the window and I got up to talk to you guys and it's really -- the wind has picked up out there. And we're really just scratching the surface. Here it's -- things are just getting going here.

The eye is still around 65 miles of the southwest of my location, right. Here looking like it's going to come ashore. So, maybe just a little bit north around the Fort Myers area and worst-case scenario like you guys are just saying, a few minutes, or a couple of seconds ago.

A really bad surge in the area that's really prone to bad surge. In the worst-case scenario, right side of the, storm coming up into Fort Myers is going to bring some really bad surge problems.

ROMANS: Yeah. So, you've got water. All of this water, storm surge, where is all that water going to go? And you still damaging winds to worry about, right?

JAYJACK: Well, absolutely, that's just going to hamper people if anybody needs rescues or whatnot. So, if you are in that if I could soon -- because you may not be able to call for help after the storm passes through because of the cell service is being down, power being out.

So, just with a cat four storm, wherever the eye lands, whenever it makes landfall, you know, 20 miles, 30 miles, and that direction is going to definitely have the power knocked, out today.

ROMANS: So, here's what I think a lot of Floridians are bracing for. You're talking about a major, major hurricane. Category four on the side of the state that hasn't had a direct hit like the Tampa for example.

I mean, Tampa has exploded in development over the past decades, right? And you have a tad a storm hit right there in like 100 years?

JAYJACK: Yes, it's been -- around 1922 in the last time that a major storm hit in that area.

ROMANS: So, that means you've got potential damage to be bracing for here, all of that development there.

JAYJACK: Absolutely, I mean people, lots of people moved in and we had had Irma couple of years ago, in 2019, and a little south from where my location is. Now but, all along the west coast here has really, been you, know luckily and thankfully for themselves, hurricane free.

But at the same time, we had development helping in a lot of places that are, again, prone to that surge. There is lots -- of hopefully, -- I know since Hurricane Andrew, buildings down here in Florida drastically changed.

So, any new housing as likely as it is hurricane-proof, but, again you're talking cat 4 for winds here and, if you get big time surge, I was in hurricane Michael, category five, right on Mexico Beach they're, about right side of eye.

And I looked out on the beach opted the storm went down there. And hours after the storm, there was not a home left on the beach, except for one home in stones. I'm sure the wall there were well-built and that part was well-built, and for whatever reason, that one was better well-built, it was the only one left standing for a couple of miles in any direction.

ROMANS: Yes, those images were just incredible. Just to see, basically, all the neighborhood scratched off at the beach.

Let's talk about your message to people, maybe who have not evacuated. Millions have been told that they need to evacuate. This is very dangerous. You talk about, some of those houses along the canal, right? Just beautiful, beautiful homes along the canals that are right there on the water. You get nine feet of storm surge. There's nowhere to go.

JAYJACK: Yes, I mean, in some other storms, they might feel a little bit, you know, false safety because they are a little bit off the coast and then along the canal. But the canal system goes well inland. And, this water is going to pileup.

And, even if you're off the coast but you're on the canal this is for mile or two away for the coast. You're still going to have bad flooding there. It's just that it's a very bad situation.

Cat four, you've got time. The winds aren't too bad yet, the radars into. You could get in your vehicle still at this point, get on the roads and get out. That would be the best scenario out. There it's better to regret that you evacuated when you didn't need to than to be stuck at your home, wishing you had evacuated.

ROMANS: Yes, get out if you can. There's a reason why they're sending these messages. Thank you so much, Aaron. And, stay safe. Thanks!

JAYJACK: Thanks, you're welcome.

ROMANS: All right. Across Florida, beyond people are bracing for Ian's fury, the Tampa International Airport shut down this morning. The last flight, out the party late Tuesday afternoon before the -- suspended operations. U.S. military installations in Florida are moving ships and aircraft ahead of the storm. Officials say pilots are moving two dozen F-35 fighters from Eglin Air Force Base to a base in Louisiana. Port closures in Tampa, Jacksonville forcing Carnival and Norwegian cruise lines to cancel scheduled sailings. Carnival had to reroute other crew ships due to the storm.

Disney World and Universal theme parks in Orlando both closed today and tomorrow.


Busch gardens in Tampa will also be close to the next two days. Hundreds of Publix grocery stores in 11 Florida counties are closed and will remain shut through Thursday. Nearly a dozen Waffle House locations also closed.

Several college football games scheduled Saturday in Florida have been moved. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers forced to move their practice to Miami. They're sending that game in Tampa. It has not been changed yet.

And, the House January six committee postponing today scheduled hearings. The committee says it will announce a new date which will be its final public hearing.

Hurricane Ian dealt Cuba a devastating, blow, leaving the island of 11 million people in complete darkness. Cuban officials say that the hope to restore power this morning

CNN's Patrick Oppmann rode up the storm in Havana.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Cuba and it's 11 million inhabitants are currently in a nationwide blackout. Officials said late Tuesday night. After hurricane Ian battered this island, according to officials, it damaged the islands electrical system to a degree that it led to rolling blackouts across the island, even in central eastern Cuba, they were not affected in the wind and rain from hurricane Ian.

To the west of Havana, hundreds of thousands of people are without power because electric cables and electric posts were torn up. In Havana, initially officials said they took down power to the city's 2 million inhabitants to keep from there being fires, people being electrocuted from falling power lines.

But clearly as of late Tuesday night, officials are valuable to restore power to Cuba's capital and to the rest of the island this is problematic for Cuban officials because for months now these islands and the aging power grid has been affected by blackouts, for days it has led to residents of many Cuban cities, residents taking the streets, rare in what the Cuban officials consider to be illegal protests, demanding power has been restored. Cuban officials asked for people's patience and said that they hoped

to restore power, the knowledge the lateral situation on the island is, quote, complicated.

Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Havana.


ROMANS: Thank you, Patrick, in a dark Cuba there.

All right. From the hurricanes, to a typhoon. Details on another major storm causing destruction right now.

Plus, get out or get drafted. The race to escape the Vladimir Putin's Russia. And next, international suspicion of leaky gas pipeline has people all over the world pointing fingers.



ROMANS: This morning, Ukraine is claiming untrained Russian soldiers are arriving in combat areas wake of the Kremlin's mobilization orders. In the meantime, pro-Russian separatists have already declared victory in sham referendum in fort Ukrainian regions, bogus votes a likely prelude to Russia annexing the areas to regain momentum on the battlefield.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has more.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Christine, the results, partial in some cases, complete in others, exactly what people are expected. High 90s, a legit approval for joining Russia. Of course, this is a sham referendum, where any votes that were indeed cast were likely done at the barrel of a gun with Russian soldiers carrying ballot boxes door to door.

So, even in that context, the message is exactly what the Kremlin wanted. A sort of soviet legacy of taking mandates for geopolitical ideas they already had. What happens now, well, quite quickly, we will see this take pace in Moscow, it appears that some of the Russian appointed leaders of these areas, the occupied areas, one of them from Luhansk is on his way to Moscow, so he says. Then we will see the two chambers of Russian parliament essentially draft this law for Putin to sign.

But the British minister of defense saying he might use the speech to both parliaments on parliament to announce the annexation. The U.S. and the EU saying sanctions will follow, but the ultimate question here, what is this a change for Russia that is losing with its conventional army on the battlefield, for a Russia whose partial mobilization has done very well to stir internal dissent, protest and chaos but has not yet translated into an improved performance for them on the front. Ukraine, still moving forward, incremental gains as always, but

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy says they will have some positive news to share soon, at the same time as well, saying what we are seeing for Russian annexation vote is them attempting to steal someone else's territory.

Big concerns, though, that if Russia continues to fault militarily, and continues to claim these areas as Russia proper, and say they have the right to use the full arsenal to protect them, we might see a significant Russian escalation in the days ahead, possibly reaching towards the nuclear arsenal -- Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Nick, thank you so much for that.

This morning, European countries are investigating whether the suspicious an unexplained leaks found in two Russian gas pipelines are sabotaged. This is video of leaking gas bubbling to the surface.

Nord Stream 1 and 2 have been flash point in energy war between Moscow and Europe, sending gas prices sky-high in recent months.

Let's go to CNN's Clare Sebastian in London.

So, the leaders of Poland and Denmark, Clare, say that it was sabotage. What are we learning?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, European leaders, Christine, they're not holding back, even as this is continuing to be investigated and calling this a potentially deliberate act or sabotage.


The Polish prime minister said that this is clearly an act of sabotage on Tuesday. And just on the past hour, a tweet from the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who met this morning with the Danish defense minister, several of these leaks happened in Danish-controlled waters and he said that they discussed the sabotage on the Nord Stream, no quantification, no caveat calling it a sabotage saying that we address the protection of critical infrastructure in NATO countries.

The Danish defense minister agreeing that following the meeting, this is a delivered act. And so, we cannot rule that out. And then, he said Russia says he has good military presence in the Baltics Sea, and we expect them to continue their saber-rattling.

So, they're talking about sabotage and they're naming names. Christine, but you are right. These pipelines are flash points in this war, the Nord Stream 2, which is a signature project, signed a massively increase in trade in Russia and Europe was canceled days before the invasion.

The Nord Stream 1 has been operating for over a decade. It was the biggest single artery until the early summer, carrying gas from Russia to Europe has been gradually, over the past few months cut back to zero, at the beginning of this month. Russia says, because of sanctions the West plays it's political.

So these are symbolic of the rise and demise of the gas relationship between Russia and the EU. We do not know what happened, yet for sure. The EU is now pledging to increase its resilience in energy security because we are not just talking about turning off the taps, Christine. This is a potential situation where energy infrastructure is under that.

ROMANS: Unbelievable. All right, live for, us thank you so much, Clare.

A draft paper will be handed to all Russian men trying to cross at the Georgian border. That is from Russian state media. Thousands, thousands of military aged men have been in a frenzy to flee the country before they are drafted under Putin's military mobilization order, last week.

CNN's Melissa Bell has more.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russian forces making a dash towards the border with Georgia. Their task, to issue summons to the droves of eligible men fleeing the draft, after being instructed to check almond trying to pass through from Russia. It's part of a coordinated effort with the Georgian authorities who have seen an unprecedented number arrival since Russia announced its first mobilization since World War II, with up to 10,000 Russians, now entering Georgia each day, according to the country's ministry of internal affairs, Russians, now driven by fear.

KONSTANTIN, RUSSIAN NATIONAL (through translator): Those who understand what is happening, those who are aware of what is happening are well aware that it will not end in a day or month. There will be a second and a third wave of mobilization. And we are against it.

BELL: Already, the crossings have been getting harder with fears it may soon become impossible.

KONSTANTIN: It was very difficult, almost impossible. All of the checkpoints were closed. We must find some way. In some place, the locals help people. They guided us over --

BELL: Those were the means, headed to the, airport trying to desperately board flights. For others, the flight is harder but no less urgent.

Moscow's call to arms has pushed droves of men not just southwards, but also towards the central Asian country of Kazakhstan, who's president pledged on Tuesday to welcome them. Russians heading also towards Finland whose borders remain open to them.

Meanwhile, Russia is showing no sign of slowing down its mobilization efforts, now, extending them to occupied territories inside of Ukraine. As residents in the occupied city of Donetsk received messages on Tuesday, asking them to attend the military commissariat, a move, local Ukrainian officials say Russia is justifying through the cession referenda taking place across Ukraine in this week, which despite being widely dismissed as a sham have nevertheless triggered fear about what lies ahead not just for Ukraine but for Russia itself.

Melissa Bell, CNN, on the Georgian-Russia border.


ROMANS: All right, just ahead, tracking hurricane Ian. Will it hurt U.S. oil production?

And next, protesters undeterred. New images to demonstrate and defying Iran's government.



ROMANS: In Iran, dozens of people have been killed, but protesters are undeterred.

So, women are leading the charge against a mandatory head scarf sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini. At the time, she was in the custody of the morality police for violating the dress code.

Asked about the protests in an interview this week, Iran's foreign minister said, quote, it's not a big deal, and there's not going to be a regime change in Iran.

Let's bring in CNN's Jomana Karadsheh live in Istanbul.

It has a long history. Iran has a long history of resistance here.

JOMANAH KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really does. And we have seen protests on the streets of Iran for years now. But, experts we have spoken to, Christine, say everything about this protest movement is different. And despite the fact that we are seeing a rising death toll, but according to state TV right now, staff say 41 people are killed, we have other estimates coming in from different human rights groups that put it close to 80.

And there's a lot of concern that it's much higher than that, something that we cannot independently verify ourselves right now. But despite all of that, as we've seen over the nearly two weeks of these protests.