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Soon: Ian To Make Landfall In South Carolina As Hurricane; Multiple Dead, 1.9M Without Power As Ian Obliterates Parts Of FL; Destruction Across Florida "Indescribable"; Ian Likely Largest Natural Disaster In Florida History; Coast Guard Rescues Several People Stranded In Sanibel. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 30, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing a very tough, very tough news day with us. Hurricane Ian now accelerating towards South Carolina's coast. 2.6 million people in South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina, all under a hurricane warning this hour. Sandbags lined Charleston streets.

South Carolina's governor says, "we know what's coming." Zoom out, Florida still trying to comprehend Ian's toll and its pain 3000 plus rescues, at least 19 people who lost their lives both of those numbers we know are certain to rise.

In Sanibel biblical damage, that barrier island now only reachable by boat or by helicopter, city after city across Florida decimated by Hurricane Ian. Fort Myers, a seven mile stretch along the beach reduced to heaps of concrete debris. The message from the people trying to pick up the pieces, trying to pick up their lives and help.


VERNON GUIRGUIS, FORT MYERS RESIDENT: We lost everything last night, everything. Families OK, dogs are OK. Parents are OK. Lost everything we've had been in the house since 1987, pictures, memories, everything gone.


KING: Let's take you straight to Charleston now, the community waiting for Ian next. Charleston South Carolina, CNN's Miguel Marquez is there live for us. Miguel, high tide just as the hurricane gets set to come ashore. What do you see?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's pretty miserable right now. This is about the wars that we have seen. The winds are really starting to gust up and you can feel that rain as it's coming in, being pushed by the wind. When it starts to hurt your face, and even you can feel it through the clothing, you know it's getting bad.

I want to show you what the bay here looks like right now. The water really coming up. The tide is not expected to be as high as they thought it was earlier, it was forecast to be just over nine feet earlier today. Now they're saying it's going to be about seven and a half feet.

One of the good little bits for Charleston is that the storm is passing. It looks like to the north and to the east of us, which means a lot of this wind is going to continue to push the water out into the ocean. Toward the ocean, I want to show you that this tree is blocked off right now. There are some folks out and about, but you know, this is not a terrible storm for Charleston so far.

They are blocking some streets. There is some local flooding. There is power out to a couple - to several people in different areas, but it is low country. They are used to this. Certainly, they're not expecting anything as bad as certain Florida has seen, but they are on alert.

Right now, is sort of the worst of this. They're expecting that they may see some flooding in this area and other parts of Charleston. But right now, everything is in place to deal with this storm, and we can nearly get it right now. And they are just getting laid it out. They're asking people to stay home and enjoy the day in the warmth of your own home. John?

KING: And Miguel, if you can hear me, if for any reason you need to go, please do. But you just made the point, Charleston is used to this. Charleston has routine flooding after heavy rains. There's a fear of some officials that complacency sets in. And you think we'll ride this out like we did the last one. What is your sense?

MARQUEZ: Yes. I think that's always a fear. But because of how hard this storm hit Florida, people are (Inaudible). They have been watching for much of the day. This is the worst of what we've seen in this storm so far. We do see a few people coming down here to sort of look around. But the water hasn't come up as nearly as quickly as they thought it would.

And so far, Charleston seems to be doing maybe one-ten (Ph). But right now, we seem to be probably in the worst part of this storm that Charleston is going to see. John?

KING: Miguel Marquez, live for us right there on the coast. Miguel, keep in touch throughout the hour as the storm gets closer and closer. And let's get more important perspective now. Chad Myers is standing by for us in the CNN severe weather center. You see Miguel there, Chad, you've been through this time after time after time after time when he talks about the rain coming in sideways. Where is he in terms of his encounter with Ian?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: He is just to the west of Ian, which likely saved damages in millions of dollars for Charleston, because the 5am forecast was for the surge the tide to get to nine feet. Charleston floods at about six and a half. So yes, we are still going to flood a foot, but we're not going to flood two and a half feet into all the homes really in the downtown. Some sandbags can take care of that. [12:05:00]

It is still an 85 mile per hour storm, and it's still going to be moving right on shore in the low country of South Carolina, likely very close to Georgetown. I mean big city there, big town, right along these marshes though. So, as the rain continues to come in and push the water in, I've been looking at the Murrells Inlet Marsh, pictures that I've been saying to see on the webcam, and the water is completely over (Inaudible) island.

Now, the good news is they evacuated the coach yesterday. Those are not as hard to evacuate as people, apparently, they just got right in the board. Rain across parts of Carolinas and into Virginia, some of this will be flooding again, four to six inches of rain will probably put down two to three feet worth of surge in parts of North Carolina. So, that's still something to be concerned with.

Winds are going to gust to hurricane strength, even into Myrtle Beach and all the way up from Garden City really all the way to Cherry Grove. Here's the wind field. It's going to be blowing again, right up into the Carolinas. We're probably going to get some trees down into North Carolina for sure. Virginia likely and believe it or not, John, this starts to rain in New York City. Tomorrow morning, this gets all the way north of there.

Here's the latest radar forecast. Moving you up into Raleigh and Charlotte, and when these big cells come over you, there will be wind 40 to 50 miles per hour even into North Carolina, Virginia and possibly even all the way up even into, let's call it Maryland, Virginia, the Delmarva and all the way up to New York City. With some of these bigger cells, the wind will definitely come in.

Now I have one more thing to show you, an earth cam from Myrtle Beach. Earlier tide way out here. Now with high tide and the surge right up to the marsh. And I've just looked at some pictures coming in from surf side, coming in from Garden City. There is the waters in the streets right now. Over the top of these dunes because the dunes down there in the lower part of the low country of the Grand Strand, a lot lower down there and the water is over the top of some of those dunes.

JOHN: Let me ask you Chad, a little perspective. We watched to an Ian, it first hit Southwestern Florida you have the barrier islands there. We've seen all the heavy damage in Sanibel, for example. That's a different kind of coast yet. The jagged coastline of South Carolina on the Atlantic side, now you're on the other side obviously, it has crossed the Florida peninsula.

But you have Morris Island to the south Sullivan's Island, the island of palm. So, when you go up, you have the inlets, you have the rivers, how does that complicate things? Does that area help protect the coast or is that water resupply potentially damaging to the coast?

MYERS: Due to the fact that people build along the intercoastal, now that water is going to come in from the other side. So yes, it still does help, but you just have to stay away, and you know, as people that want to live by water, not build so close, John? KING: Chad Myers for us in the severe weather center. We'll keep in touch, Chad, throughout the hours and of course throughout the day ahead. Chad, thank you. It's been a long week. We appreciate everything. We want to show you some of the damage Ian has done. South Carolina is waiting, Florida is suffering. CNN's John Berman took an aerial tour. It shows only debris where homes and businesses in Fort Myers stood just days ago.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All that debris is littered everywhere. These were buildings. This was the building right there. There were buildings, restaurants and what used to be the Fort Myers pier, empty spots that you see there were homes. I'm sorry. So, these on this beach here, there used to be homes. You're going to see the empty lots right here as you see, those lots right there, those were homes. Those were hotels. Those were real property. 2,3,4,5, storeys high washed away.


KING: CNN's Randi Kaye is there in Fort Myers, Florida, live for us. Randi, devastating when you see John Berman's view from above. You are at the ground level and seeing more of it.

Fort Myers: Yes. We certainly are, John. We are in Fort Myers Beach. And if you take a look here, just behind me, you can see some of what where we have seen along the way that Captain Tony's Fishing Adventures. That's a really popular tourism boat here. Meanwhile, it's now on ground. It was pushed out of the Gulf and onto dry land.

And you can see there is another boat at the behind it that smaller boat and then there's a trailer, that smaller boat was actually on that trailer, all of it was pushed on to dry land. And then there's a couple of other boats behind there, both are 50 tones actually. We spoke to the owner. This was his business. It was like a floating hotel. He actually rode the storm out on one of those boats, which now has a giant hole in it, and he was on it as it was carried to dry land. We spoke to him earlier and this is what he told us.


MIKE STACZEK, FORT MYERS RESIDENT: Crazy windy, a lot of rain obviously, wasn't just - we held our own for a long time to about three or so we could - we actually were able to keep the boat in the slip with the engines, but after that when the tides shift and came higher and the winds really ramped up on the boat released and then we cruise across the parking lot.



KAYE: He said it was absolutely incredible. He said he actually wasn't that scared. The boat is made of steel, and he felt like he was save. He also didn't think the storm was going to be so bad, but he watched other buildings collapse into the water and float away, others that had been on dry land. Here's what else we're finding in Fort Myers Beach.

That was a marina across the way there, that's now shattered. There is restaurants that are shattered. We saw boats that are basically been tossed around like toys. They're in the trees. They're on the side of the road. There's a bunch of twisted metal and boats down there. And we're not far from the Gulf. If we went this way, we would go right on to the actual beach of Fort Myers Beach where John Berman was flying over.

But there are so many - there's so much destruction and so much debris in the road that they're turning a lot of people back, John, but this is just one example of somebody and his story to tell that we're seeing along the way here in Fort Myers Beach.

KING: Before I let you go, Randi, I just want to get your perspective because your experience. As I talked to you, we have some live aerial pictures of Sanibel Island, not too far from you out the barrier island. You see the causeway has been destroyed. You're watching these pictures come in. And this is the challenge Randi, whether it's Sanibel or where you are in Fort Myers.

Day one it's, do we need to find people, do we need to rescue people. Day two is sort of the whoa, as you look at the devastation, you try to have some context. And now you start to just add it up. How long will it take? How much will it cost? When can I go home if my house is no longer there? What are you seeing?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And we've seen this steady steep stream of traffic, which is pretty remarkable because they're all being turned away when they get to the beach. Some of them are just curious, people very they want to see some of the damage. But I'm sure some of them are homeowners who would like to go and see what's going on with their homes and what's left of them if anything, certainly at Fort Myers Beach, and even the boat owner who we spoke with.

We saw the power company come by. You know, the power lines are actually what stopped his boat from even going further to even where we are across the street. So, he's sitting on power lines. So, there's just so much work to be done. And so many questions from people about what's next, John?

KING: What's next? It is an excellent and a pressing question. It will be weeks, it will be months, for many it would be years. Randi Kaye, live on the ground for us in Fort Myers. As you see the pictures on the left from Sanibel. And again, just imagine what you're seeing there. What see as it pulls out there just the scope of this devastation. That's just one. One of the dozens of communities hit.

Up next for us, more from the front lines of the storm. The Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the President Joe Biden jumping on the phone again this morning. Governor DeSantis had a briefing earlier today, high praise for the first responders putting their lives at risk.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R) FLORIDA: Rescue personnel have gone to more than 3000 homes in the hardest hit areas, going door to door to check on the occupants of those residences. There are over thousands dedicated rescue personnel who are going up and down the coastline.





KING: We're looking at live pictures here. Our CNN affiliate WFTS. This is Sanibel Island, Florida. The aerial view, the causeway, they're still broken by Hurricane Ian. You see vehicles on the streets there as they try to assess the damage. Number one, is there anyone who still needs help? Number two, what can we do to repair the causeway? Number three, just start to think about the scope of what you're seeing the rebuilding cost, the rebuilding time, the rebuilding pain. Some of that is resort area. Some of that are in people's homes.

Again, as you watch that pull out, just gives you a reminder just in this one small barrier island off the coast of Southwest Florida. It's just one of the many communities, absolutely devastated by Ian, the pain, the damage, the cost in places varies from town to town. As we watch live here, this image again from our affiliate WFTS in Sanibel, Florida.

Let's bring in the mayor of a nearby community Fort Myer, Kevin Anderson. Mr. Mayor, we were talking during the break, our Randi Kaye was just on the ground in your city. It took a good punch too, and yet during the break you were saying you feel somewhat lucky when you see pictures, talked to your colleagues in places like Sanibel Island.

MAYOR KEVIN ANDERSON, FORT MYERS, FL (on telephone): Oh, absolutely. As devastating as it is here in downtown Fort Myers. It is nothing compared to whether our neighbors and our friends on the beach in Sanibel have gone through.

KING: And so, as you get to this point, you know, Ian hits, you hunker down, then you come out the next day and you try to figure it out. The more you learn, the more your to do list changes. What is on yours today. What is most urgent for you at this hour that maybe is different from it would have been if we were talking earlier this morning or last night?

ANDERSON: Well, you know, yesterday, our crews worked very tirelessly, long days cleaning up roads, they're still out here. So that's a plus. But right now, our focus is, we've got to get the electricity down especially for our water plants and our wells because right now, majority of cities without water.

KING: And what, do you have any prognosis? Let's focus just on the water supply, obviously critical. You want to bring on your infrastructure, the most needed infrastructure back online first. Do you have any estimate? Is this a Florida power question? Is this a state question? Is this a federal partner is helping you, the contractor is coming in?

ANDERSON: Initially, it's going to be a Florida power light and city of Fort Myers effort. As we get into it, then there'll be state resources and federal resources to help out. But right now, there's an immediate need, get the electricity to those water plants and well, so we can supply water to the people.

KING: And if people can't get water from the municipal system, obviously, are you getting enough supplies for the people who are still in the community, whether it's water, whether it's food, whether it's other critical supplies like medicine. How is the supply chain working?


ANDERSON: So, we do have some businesses, Publix, for example has opened up some of their stores, which they have water and ice available. We are waiting for delivery today to be able to set up several distribution points for water, food and ice. We are hoping to be able to push that out either this afternoon or first thing tomorrow morning.

KING: Mr. Mayor, you're experienced at this, so you come into it with a list, and you have a talented emergency management team. They come into it with a list. Was there any? And were there any big surprises here? You're having to deal with something that maybe you didn't anticipate.

ANDERSON: Well, I think that the sheer magnitude of the damage from the water, I mean, it has literally come in. I was in a second storey condo, downtown, and I watched the water rise to the point where it was flooding the businesses underneath. And then the sea, how it just picked these boats, these massive boats up.

I mean, I'm standing on top of a floating concrete pair that is on the patio of a restaurant, more than a block away from the river. I mean, the sheer magnitude of the water. And then of course, it's always surprising the number of people who fail to heed the advice of evacuating.

KING: Mr. Mayor Kevin Anderson in Fort Myers. Sir, we're grateful for your time. We know how busy you are. It is remarkable to keep hearing stories from veterans like yourself. People have seen this before about how remarkable, how different, how powerful Ian was. We'll keep in touch during the days ahead as your city begins its recovery process. Thank you, sir.

ANDERSON: Thank you. And I can just say that we are so fortunate to have the first responders we have and the tremendous outstanding work that they're doing to help the citizens recover.

KING: Amen to that. We don't say thank you enough. We say thank you in a crisis moment like this, we should say thank you every single day over and over Mr. Mayor, it's an excellent point.

ANDERSON: Absolutely.

KING: Thank you sir.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

KING: Thank you. Up next. We go back to South Carolina as Hurricane Ian swirls closer and closer to that coast. The storm producing constant trauma. I want to show you some images. This is from Sanibel. You were just seeing the live pictures there, life or death stakes, rescues.

(Playing Video)




KING: Hurricane Ian this hour bearing down on South Carolina, already in Myrtle Beach, tide level swelling to nearly 10 feet. That's the highest level measured since 2020. Let's get to Myrtle Beach now. CNN's Nick Valencia is live for us right there. Nick, tell us what you're saying?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the force of this wind is just incredible, John? This is the most severe that we felt this weather all day as we're getting hit by another gust of wind. And that rain is just hammering sideways. You can see the force of this water behind me, those waves looking like between 10 and 15 feet, some estimates put it closer to 20 feet.

I just got off the phone with the emergency management here. They tell me that it's - there about 7000 people without power in the county. But the biggest concern here is a high tide is just ending and the storm surge that come through that about seven and a half feet of storm surge, which could be a disaster for the lower lying areas.

The mayor tells me here Brenda Bethune, that there's been no road closures or bridges closed in Myrtle Beach. But surrounding areas, surrounding areas have had roads closed at this water continues to hammer our crew here. We are fortunate to say that there's no one that we see her on the beach. That's a big message that the mayor here wanted to stress. There's no mandatory evacuation order in place here.

So, when I asked her, if she was satisfied with the level of precautions that people were taking, she said it's really hard to tell. So, the assumption is that most people decided to stay put, now is not the time to come outside. You could see why judging by just how harsh this rain and wind is. We'd love to get closer to the beach here, but we just can't.

That water is coming closer and closer to where we are here to the hotel that we're staying at. And you can see those waves just crashing ashore. It is miserable here with landfall expected south of us in the next couple of hours. Right now, emergency management saying, staying inside now is not the time to come outside with the worst of it expected pretty soon. John?

KING: Pretty soon. Nick Valencia, on the ground. You and your crew stay safe, and we will stay in touch. You see the wind blast there, knocking Nick off his feet a little bit. Nick, stay safe. We'll touch base in the hours ahead obviously as the storm gets closer.

Let's move to the south now to Charleston and bring in Charleston city councilman Stephen Bowden. Sir, grateful for your time. The top of the hour. I don't know if you're listening, but Chad Myers says the storm has turned a little bit and it looks like Charleston will be spared a direct hit. But what are you hearing about, you know, what A, what to expect, and B with any needs? What's the biggest need?

STEPHEN BOWDEN, CHARLESTON CITY COUNCIL: So, we're in the worst part of the storm right now. Over the next few hours, we're going to see flooding rains. We're at high tide right now. Fortunately, it's passing to our north, so we're not going to see the surge that we thought we might see. So, you're right, we're going to dodge probably the worst of it. Right now, we just need people to stay inside. If you don't have to be out and about just hunker down, get some hurricane snacks like we've got and just ride this out for the next few hours.

KING: Avoiding the worst of it, doesn't mean not getting bad.