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Dorian Churns Toward East Coast after Decimating the Bahamas; West Texas Gunman Bought Weapon at Private Sale; Wal-Mart Ends Handgun Ammunition Sales. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired September 04, 2019 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Devastating damage out of the Bahamas.


HOWARD ARMSTRONG, HURRICANE SURVIVOR: We were doing all right until the water kept coming up. My poor little wife got hypothermia. I kept with her, and then she just drowned on me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to assure and inform the Bahamian population that they can expect more deaths to be recorded.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Florida is feeling the first effects of Hurricane Dorian as the slow-moving storm starts up the East Coast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm really worried about the coastal erosion and potential flooding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please get boarded up and hunkered down. We want Charleston to look like a ghost town.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY, CNN's special live coverage of Hurricane Dorian. I'm John Berman in Daytona Beach this morning. Alisyn Camerota joins me from New York.

And the breaking news this morning, Hurricane Dorian, it's on the move. Finally. About a hundred miles (AUDIO GAP) -- out there in the Atlantic. That storm is finally moving up the Florida Peninsula off the coast. But as you can see, we are feeling the effects here.

Wind gusts higher than 60 miles an hour. That's tropical-storm-force winds. The rain keeps pouring down as the outer bands pass over the coast.

It is causing some serious problems here. Thousands without power this morning. And the forecast has it moving to, near, or on Charleston, South Carolina, maybe North Carolina, as well. So 200,000 people or more have already moved out of the low-lying areas there. Of course, that's what the storm is doing now. What it has already

done is simply devastating. The Bahamas finally assessing the enormous historic damage there.

We know that seven people have died. Seven fatalities, but that's just the initial count. You can expect it to rise dramatically.

Rescues have been going on nearly around the clock, but they're extremely difficult, because the conditions haven't improved enough to save the people who might be hiding out in rooftops.

Abaco Island, devastated. Grand Bahama Island, devastated. They are only now beginning to get -- get a true sense of the damage there.

Throughout the morning we're going to speak to our correspondents who have made it to those islands, also to people who rode out the storm there to find out what is happening as best we can.

In the meantime, let us track the path of Hurricane Dorian to find out how close it might be to landfall in the United States. Let's go to Chad Myers in the weather center -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN AMS METEOROLOGIST: John, it looks like the Carolinas, due to the way the topography is and the way that the land actually curves off toward the east, will get in the way of something. Whether it will be the center of the eye or not, it will be very close to the eye wall. And the center of the eye is calm. We don't really care about that. It is the eye wall that is the most dangerous.

You are going to be wet all day long today. At least all this morning. Because the wind is pushing around the storm, and the rain is all the way from Lady Lake all the way up even toward Jacksonville this morning, with one band after another coming onshore. You will maybe get some breaks in the rain, but it will be a day full of wind, a day full of gusts, guests somewhere in the ballpark, like you said, around 60.

Latest hour here, Daytona had 35. Couple of buoys out in the ocean, though, 67 and 76. And that will work its way -- Those winds will work their way all the way around the storm and then back onto land.

And when we talk about the storm curving away, will it curve away fast enough? Because you see how the ocean kind of curves this way and the land curves this way. As that model takes it to the right, it'll be just offshore.

The model eye is about 25 miles in radius, not diameter. Radius. If the storm is 25 miles offshore, that means the eye will be on land.

We do know that Charleston has been watching surge. The biggest surge Charleston ever had was 12.5 feet, and that was during the storm Hugo, when it came in in 1989. But a 4- to 7-foot surge right now takes Charleston Harbor somewhere around 10.3 feet. And that is only 2 feet, 2.5 feet short of where it was with a landfalling Hurricane Hugo. Water will be going up. We probably are not going to break Hugo's

record, but this will be coming in second, compared to the 1940 hurricane right there.

We'll keep watching for you as the day goes on. Models are coming in. The hurricane hunter in the plane right now, and they are in the eye, looking at the storm. So we will get more updates hourly, for sure.

BERMAN: All right. We're going to get a chance to speak to one of those hurricane hunters up in the air right now in just a little bit. Chad Myers, stand by for us and keep us posted.

As we've been saying, the Bahamas only now beginning to get a real sense of the devastation. Our Patrick Oppmann and his team have been there for days. They rode out the storm in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island. They finally had a chance to get out and see the damage for themselves. Patrick Oppmann joins me now.

Patrick, tell me what you've seen.


You know, it is the first day you can feel any sense of hope. I have a bit of a smile on my face this morning, because the wind is not blowing down on us. The rain is not spitting down on us. And this means finally they should be able to get in help, where the planes or helicopters should be able to be landing as soon as they can get the airport up and running. And rescues should begin to happen today.

You know, up until now, we've only seen an all-volunteer force out there rescuing people. So time is of the essence, because there have been people out there, John, waiting for days for any kind of help.



OPPMANN (voice-over): One Jet Ski ride, one boat trip at a time, these Bahamians are saving the lives of their family, neighbors and complete strangers.

They launch from a bridge that is now underwater. Theirs is a dangerous mission. Hurricane-force winds are still raging here.

Howard Armstrong was rescued after his house flooded to the ceiling. His house was one of hundreds lost as storm surge from Dorian swallowed whole neighborhoods. Armstrong's wife, Lynne (ph), didn't make it.

ARMSTRONG: It came over the roof. I would imagine 21 feet at least. We were doing all right until the water kept coming up, and all the appliances were going around the house like a washing machine. That's probably I got hit with something in there. And my poor little wife got hypothermia, and she was standing on top of the kitchen cabinets until they disintegrated. And then I -- I kept with her, and she just drowned on me. OPPMANN (on camera): I'm so sorry.

ARMSTRONG: I know. I know. So --

OPPMANN: How did you get out?

ARMSTRONG: I got out -- I had a big boat anchored in there. I'm a crab fisherman, and I have a 40-footer on a mooring which stayed there. So I didn't even think it was there.

So I had got out of the house after my wife drowned, and -- because you couldn't be in there anymore. And I had no tools to chop a hole in the roof -- in the ceiling. So I -- I saw my boat was still there, and I swam. I took a chance and swam out to it.

OPPMANN: There's no power on Grand Bahama Island. No running water. Sporadic cell service at best.

Submerged cars block many roads. Maybe the last thing working here is this all-volunteer crew of boaters, risking their lives to save lives. Dorian fights them every trip they make.

(on camera): People coming with what they have, the Jet Skis they have. They are dealing with horrible weather conditions. It's not safe to be out in a boat right now. It's not safe to be out here at all, and yet they say they know there are people out there.

(voice-over): While we are there, winds flip a Jet Ski, and the rescuers have to halt their efforts. Rescuer Rochenel Daniels says there isn't much time left.

ROCHENEL DANIELS, RESCUER: They are exhausted. Some we had to carry. Some couldn't even make it. Some we put on the Jet Ski. We turned the whole Jet Ski over, because they couldn't hold their weight up.

First one we found was my brother. He was clinging onto a tree, and he made it out safe. But we are unable to locate his wife at the moment. We hope that she's OK.

But now the rescue goes on. We have a lot of people supporting us. Everybody working as a team here, you know. It's very hard, but you know what I'm saying, but we shall overcome.

OPPMANN (on camera): How are you doing? You made it.

(voice-over): Dozens have been rescued, but many more remain in total desperation as they spend their third night waiting for salvation.


Oppmann: And a small sign of hope last night as the sun was going down. We saw what appeared to be a Coast Guard helicopter flying over this island. There's not been any contact, really, with the outside world. No planes have come in. No helicopters we're aware of to come in and do rescues. The weather has finally cleared. And today has to be the day that

health, that food, that resources come in, because there are so many people suffering.

We tried to go to other places yesterday, John, and we're just not able to. Downtown Freeport, where the hospital is and is completely over capacity. The airport, which is flooded and, more importantly, the communities around the airport that are flooded.

These Bahamian rescue workers are doing their best. It is far from everything this island needs. This island needs so much more, and time is running out.

BERMAN: Patrick, I have to tell you, first of all, what a relief it is to hear your voice over the last days to know that you and (AUDIO GAP) -- give everything that's (AUDIO GAP) -- thank you for your continuing reporting from there. And our heart breaks for the man you met who lost his wife inside their home as she drowned.

It's a grim question, Patrick. But right now, the Bahamian authorities say the death count fatalities is at seven. Seven people. I know that number is expected to rise. But based on what you've seen in your brief tour of the island, will that number rise dramatically?

OPPMANN: Well, that number doesn't include anybody from Grand Bahama. I think they're only talking about people from Abaco. Doesn't include any deaths that I'm aware of from Grand Bahama.

I spoke to multiple people yesterday that said they had seen bodies or that they had missing family members. Or that they had seen family members taken away from the storm.


That -- that man Howard Armstrong, who was just absolutely in shock and himself nearly died, and showed us the bruises all over his body from being beaten nearly to death by the floating debris. He said that his neighbor had been calling to him and his wife all night long, and they were not able to get to his neighbor, their neighbor.

And after his wife passed away, he swam out of the house, somehow made it out of the house. He didn't think of himself. He went over to his neighbor's house to see if he could rescue her. He said, when he swam to the neighbor's house, she was dead and he saw her body. I think we're only beginning, John.

BERMAN: Only beginning. (AUDIO GAP) as well. You said no contact yet from the official Bahamian government, because the conditions just haven't been good enough. When they are able to get helicopters in, Patrick, the area -- (AUDIO GAP)

OPPMANN: It's got to be today. I understand yesterday when we were out shooting that story, there were still hurricane-force winds that were knocking the hell out of us.

We tried to get on one of those boats. And thank God the rescuers said, no, it's too dangerous. Because they were getting flipped over on their Jet Skis and on their boats.

As the storm was pulling off the shore, the tides were dramatically going up and down. And they were going into these neighborhoods full of debris. And -- and the tide would very -- very incredibly quickly by several feet.

It was very dangerous what they were doing yesterday. These guys are skilled boat men. And they were really on a mission that they said they would never have attempted if they didn't know the lives of their families and their neighbors and their fellow Bahamians were on the line. It was harrowing stuff.

There's no excuse today. Helicopters have to be able to land. Food has to be able to get in. Resources have to be able to get in. I know there are people. Rescue workers in the Bahamas have been waiting for today. Today is the day.

It is absolutely calm, and still it is the first day since -- really, since we landed here since before the storm that there are decent weather conditions. You couldn't have landed a plane here. Yesterday, you probably couldn't have landed a helicopter.

I think today the window is open, and it's going to be a tremendous amount of work. We have seen -- that's just one small part of this island that we were able to get to yesterday. There is so much more. There are so many other places that we couldn't get to, because submerged cars were blocking the road.

We were in a big truck yesterday. And we just could not get to anywhere except that one place. And John, you know, where they're staging that boat rescue, it was a bridge. And yet the bridge was under water. You think about that. Bridges go over water. And this bridge was completely under water. We couldn't see the bridge at all. It was completely submerged. So as the waters recede, I think what we're going to see is just going to be stunning.

BERMAN: Patrick Oppmann again, thank you for the work that you're going, to your entire team that has been there through the storm and after the storm. In many ways it gets more difficult now for all of you. So thank you for all the work you're doing. We'll check back in with you as soon as we can. And know that there are rescue teams that are trying to get to you from Nassau. There's been frustration that they can't get there. Hopefully, when the sun comes up, they'll be there shortly.

So thank you, Patrick.

And Alisyn, you know, back to you in New York. The stories Patrick was telling. The bridge that's supposed to go over water, that's under water. And that poor man, Howard Armstrong, who (AUDIO GAP) -- died and now has to take care of himself and is out looking for his friends, we may be about to hear many more stories like this.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: John, that story was so gut-wrenching. I mean, we're thankful to Patrick Oppmann's extraordinary so that we can see the human loss.

I mean, the idea that you have to watch your wife succumb to hypothermia and then die before -- drown before your eyes, it is so heartbreaking. And as you say, that's just one.

So obviously, a lot is going to be happening this morning as the sun comes up, and we understand exactly what's happened there. So John, we'll back back to you in Daytona Beach very soon.

But for more information about how you can support the nonprofits that are right now working to help the Hurricane Dorian victims, please go to They need your help.

And then there's this story. The shooter who killed seven people in Texas this weekend bought a gun, despite failing a background check years ago. So we will tell you the loophole that he took advantage of and, of course, the law that could have prevented this.


CAMEROTA: This morning authorities are giving CNN more info about how the west Texas gunman got his hands on that weapon that he used to kill seven people in that shooting rampage. He bought the gun in a private sale, one that did not require background check, one that would have been stopped with universal background checks.


CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in Odessa, Texas, for us with the latest. What have you learned, Ed?


We also understand that the gunman, at least previously, tried to purchase a weapon through a licensed dealer. But we have learned that back in 2014, a background check that Seth Ator applied for. The gunman here in Odessa was denied. He failed that background check.

But then later on goes on to purchase the weapon used in the shooting spree here in Odessa through a private sale. Investigators here say they are aggressively trying to trace back where and who sold him the gun to trace back its origins, as well.

We should point out that, generally, all of this is legal. This is known as the gun show loophole that many gun reform advocates have been pushing to close through universal background checks.

So a great deal of questions still remain to be answered over exactly how and how this weapon was purchased and exactly the reasons for why that background check was failed to begin with back in 2014.

We spoke with the widow of one of the victims, Rudy Arco, who was killed here in Odessa. And his wife tells us that he's generally a supporter of President Trump, who has gone back and forth on whether or not to support universal background checks. And the wife of Rudy Arco says she's desperately hoping that President Trump does something about this now.


BARI ARCO, WIDOW OF RUDOLFO ARCO: How he said he wants to make America great again, we want him to say that he wants to -- Americans to be saved again. I mean, it's unfair that Congress, somebody needs to do something fast before another victim, another family, another kid, you know, a dad. That's uncalled for. Please do something.


LAVANDERA: And Alisyn, we should point out one of the tragic parts of this family's story is that Rudy Arco moved to Odessa from Las Vegas, in part because he left that city after the massacre there, thinking that Odessa would be a safer place to live -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Ed, people are not safe anywhere right now or certainly not immune from mass shootings. They happen in every single community, from the smallest to the biggest city. And that was really interesting to hear from that victim's wife.

Thank you so much for that story.

Now to this connected big development. Wal-Mart announcing that they will stop selling all handgun and short barrel rifle ammunition one month after more than 20 people were killed in a Wal-Mart in El Paso. The company is also asking to not to openly carry guns inside its stores. Now other major retailers are following suit. So Christine Romans joins us with the details. This is a big deal from Wal-Mart.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is. And this open carry thing has been a problem, because the company says there have been multiple incidents of people coming in, openly brandishing their firearm to test their rights and the response of Wal-Mart and protecting their rights. And that has caused concern and confusion among customers.

And so Wal-Mart is saying no more open carry. Please don't bring your guns into our stores, even if there are open carry laws there.

Wal-Mart also asking lawmakers to do their part. The CEO, Doug McMillon, sending a letter to Congress that reads, in part, there are multiple bills for the House and Senate that address the issue of gun safety and are worth examining. McMillon specifically cites stronger background checks and a reauthorization of the assault weapons ban.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn't seem to be motivated to take action.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): If the president took a position on a bill. So that we knew we would actually be making a law and not just having serial votes, I'd be happy to put it on the floor.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: On a conference call with House Democrats, Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged her caucus to keep the pressure up on McConnell to introduce gun legislation.

And also on Tuesday, the grocery chain Kroger asked its customers also, please don't open carry guns in those stores even in open carry states. That company, Kroger, stopped selling guns last year.

Now, while Wal-Mart is ending all handgun ammunition sales, it will continue to sell long-barreled deer rifles and shotguns and much of the ammunition for those guns. It -- it talks about its history as a sportsman's retailer. Wal-Mart will also continue to allow concealed carry by customers with permits in its stores.

But imagine the position that Wal-Mart is in. It is likely the largest ammunition retailer. It's the largest retailer of everything in the country, right? And it also has been a crime scene more than once of gun violence. So that is the tricky position that this company is in.


CAMEROTA: And in fact that, I mean, that makes their decision all the more bold.


CAMEROTA: The idea that they took this. Because they know they're going to face backlash. And they already are. There are all sorts of, you know, right-wing radio shows and everything that are criticizing them. So we'll see.

ROMANS: Some of these incidents with people coming in, even in, you know, like in black trench coats and with a big long gun and -- and trying to establish their Second Amendment rights and challenge the company, that is really -- I mean, there's the safety and security of your -- of your customers that is paramount here.

CAMEROTA: Well, I feel for all the clerks there today. Thank you very much for telling us all of those developments.

John Berman is standing by in Daytona Beach, where he is watching Dorian skirt the coast, it looks like, of Florida. And we still don't the when and if it will make landfall -- John.

BERMAN: Yes. Skirting the coast but still delivering these large gusts of wind and the rain, which will be consistent throughout the day.

This is what the storm looks like about 85 miles out. It's just right out there.

When we come back, we're going to talk to someone who's looking at it from up there, 45,000 feet. We're going to speak to one of the hurricane hunters flying through the center of this storm to find out exactly where it's headed next. NEW DAY continues right after this.