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Tampa Mayor: Flooding will get Far Worse this Afternoon; Hurricane Idalia Barreling Through Florida, Georgia; Georgia Governor Kemp gives Update on Storm; Hurricane Idalia's Worst Impact now in Georgia; FEMA Chief: Parts of GA, SC at Risk of "Catastrophic" Flooding. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 30, 2023 - 12:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: An up close look at a disaster. Idalia's destructive force, literally, you see they're ripping a gas station roof from its roots. Hello, and welcome to "Inside Politics". All of our attention right now is on Georgia and Florida and the millions under direct threat from Hurricane Idalia.

Florida officials just confirmed to CNN that two men have died in that storm. And that number, unfortunately, will no doubt grow. Already we're seeing water tall enough to brush away cars and submerge storefronts already. The power outages number in the hundreds of thousands just stops and listens to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's something cracked. Look, there it goes. There it goes. Oh my gosh, no. It's OK. It's OK.


BASH: That's in Perry, Florida where Olivia Greg watched a tree snap and fall under her home. You could hear her kids screaming. You could also hear her say everybody's OK. Any second we expect to hear from Georgia Governor Brian Kemp as his state scurries to get out in front of the storms way.

CNN is spread across the States of Florida and Georgia and on the frontlines of this storm. We're going to start our coverage in Tampa with CNN's Derek Van Dam. Derek, what are you seeing there right now?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLIGIST: Yes Dana, these storm surge waters that you see lining Bayshore Boulevard here in Tampa, have receded significantly since earlier this morning. But we are coming out of a low tide cycle.

Now according to the Mayor, and our own internal CNN projections on tides, this area has high tide about 2 pm. So there's a combination of factors here that are going to help increase the water over this flooded roadway. That's a major thoroughfare by the way for Tampa, which is just directly over my right hand shoulder.

You can see the flooded roads directly behind this have been a very active kind of chaotic scene through the course of the day because people don't typically see the water over both avenues. Both parts of this Boulevard it actually started to make its way earlier this morning and to some of the first few blocks inland from Tampa Bay, which was extremely angry earlier today.

The factors here for storm surge have all come together, unfortunately, because we have this full moon that's also coinciding with king tide. And then also that surge of water behind an incredibly powerful hurricane and the inland flood threat that's kind of working together to create this increasing storm surge threat right along the Tampa Bay region.

Now the forecast was four to six feet that was realized, in fact, some preliminary records were set for storm surge in and around this area. And you know, look, you don't have to live here to necessarily understand how impactful this can be.

This was lapping up against people's doorsteps, their front yards, and you know that was threatening your home threatening your property. The storm means business and it's not exactly over just yet even though the water has receded somewhat. We still anticipate that secondary surge with another high tide cycle coming around 2 pm this afternoon.

So Dana, we're going to monitor that very closely. Not to mention the feeder bands from this hurricane that continues to impact this area. We will get this occasional tropical storm force gusts that just basically slapped us over the face with stinging rain and powerful wind gusts that are just going to help continue to push that water on shore along the Tampa Bay, Dana.

BASH: Yes, it already looks so bad. And as you said this is a critical thing for people who still have power who can hear to remember a second surge is likely going to be coming. I thank you so much for that Derek. And now let's go to Steinhatchee, Florida the water levels rose there by more than nine feet in less than two hours. CNN's Bill Weir is there. Bill what are you seeing?

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Dana yes, this is -- you can kind of see the high water line here and Steinhatchee over on the side of the state highway here. This is the Steinhatchee River normally its way down there.

If we would have been several feet steps down to the normal altitude here but it completely jumped the banks rush through the dockside grill here, took down the antenna and aluminum awning in there is of course no match for the kind of winds we had about 115 or so.

The Epicenter the eye of the Storm less than 20 miles to our north so it could have been a lot worse, we actually went down to the sea hag marina where John Berman was doing his live shots yesterday.

[12:05:00] They had significant flooding a little higher about a foot higher than the 2016 record, but not nearly as bad as it could have been too early to assess the damage here. We're going to head to Cedar Key Dana where we understand they really took the brunt of it. A barrier island they're much more exposed. But so far so good from what we've seen in this part.

BASH: Well, that's good news despite how it looks. Thank you for that. We want to now think about what else is going on in Florida? Florida Governor Ron DeSantis put the entire state on notice. Hurricane Idalia poses a multi-billion dollar threat. CNN's John Berman is in Tallahassee. John, what are you seeing there now?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, one of the first rain free moments we've had in six or seven hours here. And you mentioned Governor Ron DeSantis, you know, running the state response from Tallahassee, which saw its own damage and destruction in the storm.

Tropical storm force winds here. They did not get to hurricane force winds but there was a lot of rain, somewhere between four and eight inches of rain here as the storm passed by and we are now getting reports of extensive tree damage along the roads.

You can see behind me some of the trees that line these streets all around this area, you know, trees, much bigger than this much bigger than this have fallen down and blocked the roads. It's going to be very hard for some of the recovery teams to get there where they need to go at least in the short term Dana.

But in this area, the wind the rain that's the major concern the real fears though where Bill Weir is down along the coast, where the storm surge could just be life threatening and the threat is not over for several hours, Dana.

BASH: John, thank you so much. I appreciate that. You, of course are in the state capitol of Tallahassee we're hoping to hear from the Governor of the State of Florida this hour. The center of the storm has crossed from Florida into Georgia. I want to go to Georgia that's where Ryan Young is. Ryan, you are in Savannah, that city is directly in Idalia's projected path. What's going on there?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So far Dana it's pretty dry as of right now. But what we've been told is the big bridge right there the Talmadge Bridge will be close today at two o'clock for all precautions. We've been watching the Savannah River for most of the day as well.

We've seen the water drop from here. But as you notice, we're completely dried. It hasn't stopped businesses from trying to get ready. As you can see, they put sandbags out. And I'm trying to seal some of these doors with tape. That's what they're worried especially in the low line areas, in terms of just how much water could be coming through here because everyone's worried about storm surge.

You can hear the wind gust of course that is happening. We're getting 30 to 40 mile per hour wind gusts throughout the day. A little further south from here in Richmond Hill, they've been dealing with a lot of water as well in terms of rain.

But as we walk down this way, and we go toward the bridge, you can tell how amazingly dry it is because it hasn't started raining yet. But they're trying to get everyone prepared for this because in low lying areas where they deal with storm water, and heavy rains all the time.

It's all about preparation to make sure people are off the roads, make sure businesses are prepared. Now we've also been told that city operations have slowed down to a certain extent they brought in all necessary staff just in case they have any sort of situations. But as of right now it's dry. People hold their breath and see what happens next because of course further south they've already started to see power outages spiking throughout the state, Dana.

BASH: Ryan thank you so much. And the Governor of the state that you're in the Governor of Georgia Brian Kemp is answering reporter's questions along with his team let's listen in.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP, GEORGIA: Well -- all can help us. I mean, listen, this is still a bad storm that's coming through and when you have a lot of rain you have potential for trees to come down and we just got a report of someone we know that a tree just went through the roof in Valdosta.

You know, so it's a dangerous storm people need to prepare. They need to be ready when it's coming through and either you know move a county or two up if they have the ability to do that. If not make sure they're in a secure location.

Watch out for downed power lines and other things of that nature and just you know if they got a good hour or two or a couple hours for the storm gets there get a little extra bottle water if you get cut off or lose power and just smart things like that. We've got a lot of information on the website and obviously the phone number people can call.


KEMP: Well, Director Stallings thought about the FEMA Administrator reached out to our team yesterday we played phone tie, but yes, there has been federal response. We appreciate that. I don't know if you want to mention anything else on the federal side. Normally we're dealing with them mostly post storm.


KEMP: security operations

JAMES STALLINGS, DIRECTOR, GEORGIA EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AND HOMELAND SECURITY AGENCY: Absolutely. So we have emergency support function is if you look around the room you'll see them.


There anything from sheltering, mass care, logistics, planning, law enforcement, DOD energy sector. So these are all subject matter experts that we bring into this room so that when a situation arises, it's immediately answered immediately handled immediately resourced.

We have a database through web EOC, where the counties as they see an issue arise, they immediately put it in and it comes to this desk behind us, they will immediately get it to that group that needs to handle that response. It's a lot of communication going on in this room, a lot of talking a lot of ethical partnerships, a lot of blue sky day work that goes on in this room to prepare for these days.


STALLINGS: Absolutely. The sheltering need for instance, mass care so we have our VO Edge, or our volunteer organizations that assist American Red Cross so they'll work with public health, a lot of times we have folks that need to be evacuated, but they're a homebound patient.

So we have to get a resource local to do a transport to get them to a shelter. They might need a specific need because of an illness or something critical care needs. So then we would work with the local Department Health Coordinator there to make sure that their needs are being met while they're there.

Along with that a lot of times our seniors that are living at home have a pet that go with them. So immediately we'll turn around and partner with agriculture to find out where we can get a shelter close by so that once the storm is done, they can be reunited with somebody that's extremely important to them and then go home safely together.

KEMP: I think another thing too working a lot of these folks work with our private sector partners we need thinking about even if it's down in Florida, where people are needing fuel, working with our fuel suppliers, trucking companies and other things to work the logistics out of that the certainly state of emergency and other tools that we have to help in that regard.

BASH: OK, we've been listening to Governor Brian Kemp and senior members of his team as they prepare for the hurricane to make its way to his State of Georgia. Now we have seen Idalia evolve several times today.

It went from category four to category one. That's where it is at this very moment. But don't let that fool you. The next 12 to 24 hours bring huge danger for millions in its path. The Director of the National Hurricane Center Michael Brennan joins me live. Thank you so much. I know you're incredibly busy. First, what's the latest in the trajectory of this storm?

MICHAEL BRENNAN, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Yes. Well, Idalia's center is now moving into Southern Georgia just to the east of the Valdosta area, we're seeing a flash flood emergency in that location right now. That means that there's life threatening flash flooding ongoing.

They've had over six inches of rain, just to the west of the center. And those heavy rainfall amounts are going to continue spreading northeastward through Eastern Georgia and into the Carolinas as we go through the next day or so.

And we're also seeing hurricane force winds extending now well inland into portions of Georgia expect that to continue into areas like Savannah as we get into this evening so substantial wind, rainfall, flooding and a storm surge threat that's going to develop tonight in coastal sections of Georgia and South Carolina.

BASH: And what should Georgia and the Carolinas expect as this afternoon comes?

BRENNAN: Yes. Well, the rainfall is going to only expand northward. And so we're very concerned, especially in this red area with considerable impacts from flash and urban flooding in places like Columbia, South Carolina Valdosta that we're seeing now into places like Fayetteville, Wilmington, North Carolina.

So that's going to develop over the rest of today and into tonight. We also have the potential for storm surge inundation of three to five feet above ground level in places like Savannah and Charleston. And that's going to develop as we get into the high tide cycle later this evening and into tonight.

So there could be some targeted, you know, coastal flooding. And if anybody has been asked to evacuate from these areas, we certainly encourage them to do so. And there's also the potential for hurricane force winds extending well inland across portions of Georgia within with tropical storm warnings in effect for much of South Carolina and southeastern coastal North Carolina.

BASH: Well, you may be started to answer my next question, which is you have people who are looking around and saying the storm seems to have slowed, the wind isn't so bad. The water isn't so bad, there's not a lot of rain. But that obviously is maybe not obviously but that could be something that is a mirage, right? And when it comes to being out of danger?

BRENNAN: Right. You know, water is the deadliest hazard in tropical storms and hurricanes. We're going to continue to see the winds, you know, come down gradually as Idalia moves inland. But that's not the most dangerous hazard.

Most people in this country and tropical storms or hurricanes that have died in the last 10 years have died from rainfall flooding, which has almost nothing to do with how strong the storm is from a wind perspective. So everybody in these areas you want to be make sure you have ways to get warning information move to higher ground if you're asked to do so by your local officials.


BASH: Michael Brennan, who is the Director of the National Center, really appreciate it. Thank you so much and our -- thank you. And our coverage of Hurricane Idalia continues. We're going to head back to Georgia where residents are bracing for the storm that is heading their way.


BASH: Sunrise brought the storm. Hurricane Idalia swept ashore with 125 mile per hour winds tornadoes strength gusts and is now pounding Georgia with historic rains. Its trail of havoc started this morning in Keaton Beach; the 13,000 residents there all now confront a question. Can they go home again?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if it's there or not. But this right here I don't know. I don't know if I'm going to have a house to go home to. This is horrible. This is horrible. We've never seen this before. Category one has scared us man I mean we've usually a category one or tropical storm we come to Perry and ride it out. This is bad. This is bad.



BASH: At this hour Hurricane Idalia is barreling through Southeast Georgia. A flash flood emergency is in effect for the City of Valdosta, Georgia. Joining me now is Meghan Barwick. She is the Public Information Officer for Lowndes County, which includes Valdosta.

Thank you so much for joining me. You are on the phone. You're inside the Emergency Center, the Emergency Operation Center in the middle of your town there, what are you seeing and what are you hearing outside?

MEGHAN BARWICK, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, LOWNDES COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS: Hey, good afternoon. Yes, we are on at our Lowndes County Emergency Operation Center that's been active since 6 am this morning, with local elected officials, first responders all have hands on deck approach right now.

And we are seeing power lines and tons of trees down countywide here in Lowndes County. I mean, our message to our folks right now is to please remain indoors and please remain off of the road.

BASH: And our viewers are looking at a map the radar map to see exactly where this hurricane is? The eye wall is right there, right where you are. You mentioned the plea for people to stay off the roads. What are other concerns right now, when it comes to public safety?

BARWICK: That's the main concern is the power line many of those can be active. And so in the interest of public safety, we are encouraging all of our residents to sell from -- stay off of the road. And this will ensure the safety of citizens and first responders working through the storm.

Also, it will allow our power companies to get out there when they can and restore power because we are likely to be without power for several, several hours or the next few days. BASH: And you were telling me before we came on that your town and the surrounding areas has a population of about 120,000 people, relatively small area. So I'm suspecting that a lot of people know each other and that this is a close knit area. Have you and the people around you been a part of anything that -- there's this strong hurricane this strong?

BARWICK: I have not. And I think we would have to go back and look, and we will let this recovery happen. But we just wanted to tell our people to hang in there. We appreciate your cooperation and understanding. We are working through this.

It is all hands on deck and really has been since Monday preparing for the storm. And we just encourage our people to shelter in place, stay off the roadways. Please do not attempt to draft there's flooded roads or remove downed power lines. Report those concerns to local authorities. And one of the other biggest things that we can put out right now is please do not call 911 for weather update that 911 needs to be utilized for emergencies only.

BASH: All very important warnings and advice and everything in between. Meghan Barwick, thank you so much for giving us an update there. We hope you stay safe as well as everybody else around you.

BARWICK: The fire community and your thoughts and prayers will --

BASH: We all will. Thank you so much Meghan.

BARWICK: Thank you.

BASH: And we just heard what's going on there in Valdosta, Georgia water as tall as an elephant that's in places of Florida and certainly Georgia. They're looking at what is going to happen trying to survive flooding. That is really the key. The water could wipe out communities. We're going to talk more about that after a quick break.



BASH: It's the slow, steady moving but most serious threat from the storm. The surge we expect to see across the southeast threatens lives and will potentially put communities in billion dollar holes they'll be forced to pay back for years. Let's go to CNN Meteorologist Allison Chinchar who is live in the CNN Weather Center. Allison, what are you seeing now?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: All right. So I think the biggest threats going forward that a lot of these communities even yes, the inland ones are going to be dealing with is rainfall. You've got a lot of that inland flooding potential not only in the State of Georgia, but also the states like South Carolina and North Carolina.

And still the winds we're seeing those power outage numbers continue to tick up. Sustained winds right now we're at 85 miles per hour the forward movement to the north northeast, just about 20 miles per hour. So it's expected to remain a hurricane as it crosses over Georgia before finally pushing into South Carolina and then out over open waters once again.

But in that time period, you're talking a tremendous amount of water that is still going to be dumped across the states. And those outer bands that wind is going to push some of that water into say Charleston Harbor some of these other coastal communities.

So you're still going to be dealing with all of that water flowing into these areas that don't deal well with flooding to begin with. Especially Charleston Harbor the big concern there is as those waters rise, it's really going to start to push inland into those come unities. You also have the potential for some tornadoes as we go through the afternoon not only for areas of Georgia but also South Carolina.