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CNN Live Event/Special

Idalia Intensifies, On Track To Hit Florida As Category 3; Evacuations Underway In 28 Florida Counties Amid Hurricane; CNN Monitors The Hurricane Idalia; Residents In Affected Areas Urged To Evacuate For Their Safety. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired August 29, 2023 - 22:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: And now we'll see what January looks like. Representative Justin Jones, thank you again for joining us here tonight on The Source.

STATE REP. JUSTIN JONES (D-TN): Thank you so much, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: And thank you all so much for joining us. Of course, tonight here on CNN, we are continuing our coverage of Hurricane Idalia. It is forecast to make landfall on Florida's Big Bend region in just a matter of hours from now. We are tracking it all very closely.

CNN Primetime with Abby Phillip starts right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Kaitlan, thank you very much. A lot to get to in these critical hours. Our special live coverage continues tonight of that dangerous hurricane right now. It's starting to hit Florida. And I'm Abby Phillip.

Idalia packing winds of more than 100 miles an hour is currently a Category 2 storm, but it is projected to make landfall and to slam into the coast at a Category 3. That is just three hours from now.

Now, evacuations are underway in at least 28 counties. Mayors, officials, the governor, all warning people in those target zones to take cover or leave immediately, and that includes people in Cedar Key and Big Bend.

One of the greatest threats, of course, is the storm surge. It's expected to reach once in a lifetime levels for this part of Florida.

CNN is live up and down the coast, including in Tampa and Steinhatchee. We'll speak live with some storm chasers who are in the heart of that bull's eye, as well as officials who are warning people that time is now running out to evacuate.

But, first, let's get straight to Chad Myers. He's over in the CNN Weather Center with this new forecast. Chad, what is the path of Hurricane Idalia right now at this hour?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Still straight up to the north and likely just to the east of Tallahassee as it continues to the north overnight. But now, the Hurricane Center will be putting out updates once per hour, not every three hours. So, that is some excellent news for us here in the news business. Up to 110 miles per hour, 111 is a Category 3. So, we're right there on the cusp.

And we've been seeing this eye develop for about the past two or three hours. We haven't had an eye for really most of the storm. But that eye is very indicative of what we expect this storm to do, increase in intensity. An eye means that the storm is breathing in its eye wall, sinking air in its eye, and then all of a sudden things begin to go bump in the night. We're also seeing now the lightning pick up with this eye wall as well.

There goes the storm. You ask where it goes. Believe it or not, there are hurricane warnings in Georgia. Even though the storm is going to land in Florida, it will still be a hurricane as it goes over the state line. This is going to be a quick moving storm by the time it gets there, taking all of the water that this bubble of storm now is collecting.

Think about like a coffee cup. When you blow your coffee cup in the morning and you kind of try to cool it off, all of those little waves go to the far side. Well, now, all of the waves are doing the same thing, but not at two or three miles per hour, like your breath, at a 100 miles per hour, pushing that water up to a collection point, which won't let it go any farther than that right there.

There is the storm at this point in time moving onshore, again, somewhere probably around 8:00 in the morning for the eye wall. But things are going to start to go downhill with winds and everything else rather quickly right now.

PHILLIP: Yes, things are really picking up in intensity. The storm surge, Chad, this is a huge part of the story always with these storms. It could be up to 15 feet in some parts of Florida's West Coast. Explain to the audience here, especially if you are listening to this, in the state of Florida, what are the risks here?

MYERS: The risk is, on this part of the coast, you only really rise about two to three feet every thousand feet. So, you're not getting a lot of topography here. So, if you get a 15-foot surge, that surge could go inland for a mile at least. You get a two-foot surge here. All of a sudden, on that slope, the water just keeps going inland. A higher surge, unfortunately, begins to push it farther inland to where there are homes.

There aren't many homes here in the area, and ones that are, are about five to ten feet above sea level. But the problem is, if you get a 15- foot surge, you are now going to be above those and even some of those above those that are on stilts.

One more thing that's going on tonight, Abby, king tide. This is a super moon tonight. That means that the moon is 18,000 miles -- it didn't happen immediately -- 18,000 miles closer than normal. That means there's more suction, there's more gravity from the moon. And so that's going to make the tide even one-foot higher than it should be on a normal tide day. PHILLIP: All right. Chad, you're going to be standing by for us throughout this process.

I want to go next, though, to CNN's own John Berman, who's over in Steinhatchee, on Florida's Big Bend, for us. So, John, where is this storm expected to hit in the coming hours? You're right where we could be seeing that landfall.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, unfortunately here. I mean, not far from here. And if the eye wall doesn't cross here exactly, this is still the area where they are expecting 10 to 15 feet of storm surge.

About 45 minutes out here, Cedar Key, the mayor told his people that they simply can't be helped if they stay. Get out. This could be unsurvivable.

Let me explain why. So I'm on a deck right now at a marina, the Sea Hag Marina, which is normally a bustling place. I can see the bar right here, where at this time of night, it would normally be filled with people. Hurricane Hermine in 2016 was a Category 1. It has storm surge of six feet. When that came in here, and that did come in here, that filled the water up to about here on this deck where I am right now. A storm surge of six feet went up to about here.

So, imagine what 10 feet would be and then 15 feet. Well over my head, twice as high as I am right now. That's what it could be like here in eight hours, which is why people have been told to leave. Sheriff's deputies have been going door-to-door to houses here to get people to go.

As Chad was saying, there's not a ton of people who live here. It's not a very populated area, only a population of 500 to 1,000 people, depending on the time of the year. And many people have left, but a few haven't.

The people who own the Sea Hag Marina, where I am right now, they've chosen to stay. Their house is a few feet higher in elevation. They think they can ride it out. They just don't feel safe leaving this behind, but they know they're taking a risk and they're scared. They're scared because they lived through Hermine at six feet of storm surge, and they're nervous what 15 feet could do, Abby.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, this is not an area that is particularly used to these kinds of storms. So, what has the Sheriff's Department been telling you are their biggest concerns for this area in the coming hours, and perhaps for those few people who are deciding to stay behind?

BERMAN: Well, they don't want anyone to stay. Their concern is the surge, and they're making clear, as they do in hurricanes and low- lying areas, that after a certain point, they will not be able to help.

Once the winds get higher than 40 miles per hour, most of the time, law enforcement, they have to stay inside for their own safety. They can't come and help you, and that's what the winds, with the storm surge, if the storm surge inundates this area and goes in, as Chad was saying.

I'm 500 yards, maybe, from the Gulf of Mexico here, but if you go inland more, as Chad was saying, it's flat for miles and miles and miles. If this is covered with water, they're going to have to be able to do water rescues if they can in some areas that they can't reach.

And it's a very small police department. They were telling us, normally, it's only a handful of sheriff's deputies who were on duty in this county ever normally at one time. They actually had to call in the state police to help them because there are so few of them there to monitor it. But they just want people to know, if you are still here now, you are on your own, Abby.

PHILLIP: Yes, there's only so much they can do once the storm comes through. John Berman, thank you very much.

I want go now to CNN's Carlos Suarez. He's live in Tampa for us. So, Carlos, what are the conditions like where you are there on the ground?

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Abby, we are in for a wet and windy night here in Tampa Bay. About half an hour ago, we started seeing a line of thunderstorms associated with this hurricane make its way across Hillsborough County. We expect this bad weather to continue into the night and into tomorrow, which is when we might start seeing some of this storm surge associated with this hurricane.

That is the biggest concern from emergency officials at this hour. They are worried that this storm, which is going to pass Hillsborough County and Pinellas County, the Tampa Bay area, as well as Clearwater and St. Pete, they're worried that because this storm is not going to hit this part of Florida directly, that folks might become a little bit complacent tomorrow.

But, again, once that storm makes its way past, that is when we expect to not only see more of this rain, more of this wind, but then, at some point, all of that water is going to be pushed into the Tampa Bay. And then once you have all of that together, you add in high tide, as Chad laid, out king tide. And that is the concern moving forward over the next 12 to 24 hours, is that we're going to see some significant flooding when it comes to this storm surge.

At this hour, the forecasting model is calling for anywhere between two to four, six, even seven feet of a storm surge. And so right now, Abby, the concern is for residents that decided not to seek higher ground, at least in these low lying areas, that they are in a safe place and they're worried that just folks are going to go out and about tomorrow with their day and might get caught up in some of these flooding.

PHILLIP: All right. We'll continue to monitor that as well. Carlos Suarez, thank you, and stay safe there. I want to now bring in the Tampa Fire Rescue chief, Barbara, Tripp. Chief Tripp, thank you for joining us tonight. Can you tell us what is your department doing to prepare tonight for this storm?


CHIEF BARBARA TRIPP, TAMPA FIRE RESCUE: So, we've been partnering with other agencies to make sure that we prepare for the surge. We know that the storm is likely -- we've been blessed again this year that the storm has going to bypass us. And so the main thing we're going to worry about is that water surge.

We're telling all our residents, we're sending out information to let our residents know that right now the levels are low but don't get complacent and start going back into their homes.

We did an evacuation, mandatory evacuation for certain areas, especially the low-lying areas. And tomorrow, we're definitely going to pay a lot of attention to that and have authorities out to make sure residents don't go back in there until that surge has bypassed.

PHILLIP: Are there going to be additional resources also standing by to help if there is the need to do rescues for people who may have remained behind?

TRIPP: Yes. So, within Tampa Fire Rescue, we do have what we call a task force that we have geared up and that's on standby to assist along with Tampa Police Department, our local agencies, as well as the electric company and other partners to make sure that we go out and support the community.

So, we do have contact with the -- when I say FEMA, with the federal teams, that if we need additional assistance, they are ready to stand by.

PHILLIP: And you mentioned that teams are going to be going around tomorrow to make sure that those evacuation orders are being heeded. Do you have a sense tonight of what percentage of the folks that are under mandatory orders have actually already followed those orders?

TRIPP: Actually, our shelters are being filled. We probably have over a thousand people that's in the shelters within the city of Tampa. I really don't have that number, but a lot of people actually is listening to the authorities and evacuating because we don't want the same thing to happen last year with Hurricane Ian, as far as the surge coming in afterwards and taking a lot of lives.

PHILLIP: All right. Chief Barbara Tripp, thank you very much, and best of luck to you and your staff overnight and in the coming days.

TRIPP: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And Cedar Key is among the cities facing evacuation orders ahead of the storm. And although most of the residents have, in fact, heeded those orders, about 100 people have decided to stay put, including my next guest. I want to bring in Island Hotel and Restaurant Owner Andy Bair. Andy, thank you for being with us tonight. And I hope that, so far, you and those close to you are safe.

I want to ask you, I mean, you are in a very vulnerable location. Why did you decide to stay put and ride this storm out?

ANDY BAIR, OWNER, ISLAND HOTEL AND RESTAURANT (voice over): Pretty much, Abby, the one reason that we stayed, we summed up in one word, community. We wanted to stay with the community. We wanted to be here for the other people that stayed, offer a lending hand, to make sure at the end of the day, they know that we're here for them as well.

PHILLIP: Your hotel is open for anyone who loses power. How many residents are already coming to you and taking advantage of this shelter?

BAIR (voice over): It's not gone horribly bad here yet, but we're expecting to see some high number of volumes, probably anywhere between the 6:00 A.M. hour in the morning. We're expecting probably a thunderstorm start rolling in here pretty soon after midnight. The precipitation is going to rise up to probably around 45 percent with the wind gusts getting higher up, and then the humidity is already playing a good part, which is Florida. So, 88 percent is probably what we're looking at there.

PHILLIP: Is there anything that you've done so far to fortify yourselves in your hotel? I mean, are you confident that you can even ride out the storm without putting yourself and others in more danger?

BAIR (voice over): Yes, I think we'll be all right. We got a couple of sandbags out there and some Elmer glue.

PHILLIP: A couple of sandbags, and what -- was that last thing?

BAIR (voice over): Yes. We take the Elmer glue and put between the sandbags.

PHILLIP: Oh, Elmer glue, Elmer glue between the sandbags.

BAIR (voice over): Yes, it just don't work for school.

PHILLIP: Are you fearful, though, for your life at all? I mean, they're telling us that this storm surge will be a once in a lifetime event, will be not something that people in the area that you're in are used to seeing. Are you concerned for your own safety?

BAIR (voice over): Not at this time. I think we'll all be fine here and stuff, and we're just going to leave it in God's hands and just hope everything works out for the best. And we appreciate everybody out there looking out for us and praying for us and sending supplies.

PHILLIP: All right. Well, we are hoping for the best for you, Andy. Thank you for joining us tonight, and please stay safe.

BAIR (voice over): We will. Thank you, Abby. PHILLIP: And our special coverage continues as the outer bands get worse. Bill Weir is standing by for us as well as the Coast Guard to talk about this once in a lifetime storm surge.

Stay with us.



PHILLIP: Just in, Hurricane Idalia is right now on the verge of becoming a Category 3 storm as it starts to slam into the state of Florida.

I want to now go to CNN Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir who's live in Steinhatchee.

Bill, you're right in the path of this storm, now a Category 3, almost. How is the situation changing where you are as it moves closer?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Abby, we haven't seen any change yet here. It's still pretty calm before the storm. But it was less than a year ago when I was preparing for Hurricane Ian and we went to bed and woke up and the storm had intensified greatly.

That is the ingredient here, the warmer Gulf of Mexico, warmer than we've ever seen before. It's in patches. And so, overall, it's about 88 degrees in average temperature, but it is hotter, warmer to the shore, close to 90. So, we're going to see whether or not that is sort of a steroid shot for this particular storm as it gets close to shore.

And folks in communities like this, which is right a low-lying community right on the river here, as that storm surge, pushes all that water up into these neighborhoods, that's the main concern.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, and to that point, you just talked about this warmer water, historically warm water. These communities now are suddenly in the path of hurricanes where they have not been before. Is there anything that can be done to protect them going forward?


WEIR: That's an amazing question. It's the biggest sort of trillion dollar question about how you adapt communities like this to the world that we're already now living in at the same time trying to mitigate further more wicked storms down the road with more fossil fuel pollution.

Right now, the gulf is being reopened by the Biden administration for oil and gas lease sales. That's about to happen in coming weeks. There are lawsuits around that right there. But it's the double bind of these sort of oil economies in places like this where they have that as an income stream but also the cost of it is becoming bigger with every storm. Science has been warning about this for a very long time. In many ways, it's been predicted. It's the speed that we're seeing these changes that has taken most folks by surprise.

PHILLIP: Yes very much so. Bill Weir, thank you very much and continue to stay safe, please.

I want to bring in now a U.S. Coast Guard public information officer, Nicole Groll. She's in Tampa Bay right now. So, Nicole, how is the Coast Guard now preparing for Idalia's landfall in Florida?

NICOLE GROLL, U.S. COAST GUARD PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER: So, we moved some vessels down to Fort Myers Beach area to be staged to go respond during and immediately after the storm if we have any emergencies, and that's going to augment some of the crews that are that have stayed put to ride out the storm.

We've also moved a significant amount of aircraft over to West Palm to do the same and respond as emergencies come up. Our watch, our command centers who are manned 24 hours have already gotten a few calls and we've already assisted four lives from people who haven't quite heeded the warnings and they've gone out and hung out on the water for a little bit.

We just greatly encourage that everybody follow the local government recommendations and please stay off the water until this storm passes. There's no reason to unnecessarily risk your life.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, I can't emphasize that enough. And this is obviously something that the Coast Guard is incredibly skilled at assisting in. But no one wants to be stranded out there during a storm like this.

We've been talking all afternoon about the storm surge that could bring record water levels to a lot of these places along the coast, including to Tampa Bay, where you are. What are you worried the most about when it comes to that storm surge?

GROLL: We're worried about the storm surge as well. We have punt teams. Basically, they're crew members who have shallow water vessels and they can get into those low-lying areas. They're staged around parts of Georgia and Alabama waiting to respond as soon as possible to emergencies that are up in that northern area.

Station Yankee Town, who is in Yankee Town, they are prepared and they have their shuttle water boats and they're just waiting for the storm to pass, hoping for the best. And they'll be responding to emergencies as soon as it is safe to do so.

PHILLIP: Yes. And just to underscore what you just said, the Coast Guard, you all can help, but after the storm has passed. So, for people listening to this it's important to not be in an unsafe situation if you can avoid it.

Nicole Groll, thank you very much. And Sarasota County is among those preparing for Hurricane Idalia's wrath. I want to bring in now Sarasota Mayor Kyle Battie. Mayor Batty thank you very much for joining us.

Idalia is now expected to intensify to a Category 3 by landfall. It's just on the cusp. What impact so far has Sarasota felt as the storm approaches?

MAYOR KYLE BATTIE, SARASOTA, FLORIDA: Good evening. We've experienced a lot of rain and a bit of wind but nothing in terms of like the full brunt of the force of the hurricane thus far.

PHILLIP: And Sarasota County, they -- you all were among those who issued evacuation orders. What can you tell us about whether you believe that the residents who are under those orders have taken heed so far?

BATTIE: So far, we haven't gotten any calls regarding anyone being in an emergency situation. We've been prepared for this for quite some time and it's not our first rodeo, if you know, particularly in this area. But our residents and citizens here, they know the protocol.

But for those that have just moved to this area, it is something that we're well aware of and we've taken every precaution and every measure necessary to make sure that they know what happens in these storms and the severity of what they are and what they can be.


I stress to our citizens, our residents, those that just moved here, please, no matter what, take these things seriously, and because it's Mother Nature and you never can predict what may happen.

PHILLIP: Yes, absolutely. Kyle Battie, mayor of Sarasota, thank you very much for joining us and continue to stay safe where you are.

BATTIE: Thank you very much. Thank you.

PHILLIP: And up next, CNN is about to board a hurricane hunter's plane. We'll take you there live.

Plus, we'll go back to the Weather Center with Chad with a brand new update as we keep an eye on the speed and the strength of this quickly approaching storm.


PHILLIP: Bottom of the hour. I'm Abby Phillip, and our special coverage does continue tonight of Hurricane Adalia. It is strengthening and on the brink of becoming a Category 3 storm as it moves forward on its collision course with Florida's Gulf Coast.

Now, it is expected to explode in intensity over the coming hours and to make landfall overnight. It's safe to say that people living in that big bend area of Florida, they have never lived through a hurricane like this. It is expected to bring a storm surge of up to 15 feet on top of powerful winds and excessive rainfall. Places like Fort Myers Beach are already experiencing flooding. That area is still recovering from Hurricane Ian that landed last fall. And Florida's governor, Ron DeSantis, has urged people to evacuate, that he's warning that the damage here could be severe.



RON DESANTIS, FLORIDA GOVERNOR: You really got to go back to the late 1800s to find a storm of this magnitude that will enter where this one looks like it's going to enter tomorrow. So, we don't really have a historical analog in anybody's memory. So, it's likely to cause a lot of damage.


PHILLIP: And joining us now is CNN's Senior Producer Victoria Kennedy. She is with Hurricane Hunters, who will be flying through the storm in just a little while. Victoria, you're about to get on this plane with the Hurricane Hunters, so tell us, what are you going to be looking for when you're up there?

VICTORIA KENNEDY, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Hi Abby, thanks for having me. I'm here at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi. This is home to the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, also known as the Hurricane Hunters. And we are on the runway right now. We're about to get ready to board our board the big C-130J and take off for the hurricane. It's about a 30-minute flight to get to the hurricane and then once we arrive at the hurricane, we will spend hours crisscrossing and zigzagging in and out of the eye of the hurricane.

And basically, what we're doing is they're trying to find the latest readings on wind speed and pressure and temperature so that those readings are sent back to the National Hurricane Center in real time. They get those readings and they can make their final projections on where this hurricane will make landfall and just how strong the storm will be when it does make landfall.

In fact, they're calling this flight that I'm about to get on the "landfall flight" because it is very likely going to be the last flight that the Hurricane Hunters fly on this storm before it makes landfall. They may, actually -- we were in the pre-flight briefing just a few minutes ago and they said that it's very likely that they will keep us up in the air, flying through the eye of the storm a little longer than expected, depending on how quickly it approaches land.

PHILLIP: All right, Victoria Kennedy with an incredible assignment for us tonight. Please keep us updated on what you see when you're up there. I want to now bring in CNN Correspondent Brian Todd who is in St. Mark's, Florida, just south of Tallahassee. So, Brian. How are evacuations going where you are? We've been talking about all the areas of Florida. They've been asking folks to get out. The hurricane is now just hours away. BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is just hours away, Abby, the

evacuation orders, we're told are going pretty well. We talked to emergency management officials here in Wakulla County where St. Mark's is. They told us that they had a pretty good response from people who they have urged to get out. They are under mandatory evacuations.

We were told the deputies have gone house to house in this town of St. Mark's where we are and in the surrounding areas knocking on doors. They cannot, even in a mandatory evacuation, they cannot pull you out of your house forcibly to leave, but they can strongly urge you to, and that's what they've been doing.

I asked one emergency management official what he would tell people who elected to stay. He had a one-word answer. He said, don't. But he said, if you do, you have to make sure you have provisions for about three or four days because you could be isolated. I can show you a little bit why. This is a very low-lying area.


Even in the darkness, you can see behind me, this is the St. Mark's River. Starting to see a little bit of rain, by the way. Starting to feel some raindrops, maybe from the initial bands of the hurricane coming this way. If we're lucky during this live shot, you might see some flashes of lightning behind me on the horizon, which are really cool to look at night. It's not cool, of course, if you're being pounded by 80 mile an hour winds and you're getting a ton of rain on you, but that's coming in the next few hours.

What makes this unique is that it's so low lying, you've got three bodies of water converging right near here. This is the St. Mark's River. The Wakulla River is just downstream, a few hundred yards that way. Then just beyond where I am here on my left shoulder. the Apalachee Bay. The Apalachee Bay has not had a hurricane of this kind of strength, a Category-3 strength in recorded history come right up the bay. So, there's no real barometer with which to measure how this area can absorb a hit that it's about to take.

What we're told is now between six and nine feet possibly of storm surge and local officials did tell us they do expect this area, this town, St. Mark's, to be completely flooded at least for a few hours because again, this water from the St. Mark's River, already pretty high, is gonna be kind of just washed up here like a snowplow, just pushing all that water with the storm surge, again, six to nine feet, into the town just to my right, and a lot of low-lying houses and other buildings here are gonna just be completely inundated with water.

So again, mandatory evacuations are in place. It's getting a little bit late to get out right now. You still have a couple of hours left, but they're saying time is running out. So, whoever is gonna stay here is just going to have to really be prepared for what comes next.

We did talk to several residents who are going to stay. They give the same reasons that we've seen many times, especially in this area of Florida, where a lot of people elect to stay during these storms because they are worried that if their homes get significant damage and they're out of town and then they can't get back in because the town is isolated or cut off by flooding, that they're not going to be able to deal with their damage. That's a common reason that we're hearing. We heard that a lot today, Abby. So, a lot of people are electing to stay here and ride it out.

PHILLIP: That is true. Although it's worth reminding folks, you know, your life is definitely worth more than the items in your home. But Brian Todd, thank you very much for that report. I wanna bring in now Meteorologist, Chad Myers, who's at the CNN Weather Center. Chad, we're back to you again. We are on the verge now of that Category-3 that we were just talking about, right?

MYERS: That's right. Right, we are at 110 miles per hour and 111 is the threshold to get to be major hurricane category, CAT-3. You know, and I was in St. Mark's for Hurricane Ivan many, many years ago, not showing my age. It was the saddest story I have ever seen. Ivan hit Pensacola, yet St. Mark's was flooded all the way to the rooftops. Boats were floating out of rack storage. It was one of the saddest stories I've ever really had to cover. And I can't imagine now a storm that's 200 miles closer, what that could do to that lovely town of St. Mark's.

Here you go, 110 miles per hour. We still have the eye. The storm is continuing to intensify. And I'm very much looking forward to the flight through the eye with our reporter there, with our producer reporter, because this is the most important thing that we're gonna see now for the next few hours. How strong will it get? Every successive flight, they fly through. They make a triangle, they fly back through, they make a triangle, and they fly again, and they just keep going. And you think there's turbulence when you're flying over the rockies. Well, that's gonna be a turbulent flight.

Hundred and fifteen miles per hour, likely even higher, as it does make landfall. It's the surge with all the water that this storm is bringing with it. It's also the potential for tornadoes now here with this one arm of the hurricane, the outer band coming on shore. There you can see the eye on radar, which rarely ever happens. Something else that rarely ever happens.

Do we get a hurricane warning to travel across a state line? We have hurricane warnings in Georgia. We have 110 mile per hour winds expected across the I-10. If you're traveling across the I-10 or thinking about it for the next few days, you're going to have to watch Google Maps because there's going to be so many trees down on I-10 and on most of these highways, the land is going to be wet, the winds are going to come through, the trees are going to fall, and it's going to take an awful long time to put those trees all on the side and get those roadways back open again. That's the risk of thinking when you're going to bed right now that, oh, I'll just get up and drive away from the surge if it comes.

You know what, Abby? There's likely going to be trees in the way on the road you thought you were going to be able to get out on. Now is the time to go. It's not too late. I know it's dark, but it's not really raining yet. If you're in St. Mark's or all the way over toward, you know, Apalachicola even possibly not because there's going to be a lot of surge there, just because you want to get away. Steinhatchee, you can still get away, but probably in the next four hours that's going to become an impossibility.


PHILLIP: Yeah, that's a good reminder there, Chad. Thank you very much. We'll be back with you as we get more updates here. And coming up next, CNN is currently where the conditions are worsening at this hour. We'll take you there, live. Plus, I'll speak with a storm chaser who is in the direct path of where Idalia is supposed to hit.


PHILLIP: Back now to our special coverage with the Hurricane Idalia getting closer to Western Florida. Water is already starting to rise in areas along the coast. CNN Correspondent Gloria Pazmino is in Clearwater, just west of Tampa for us. So, Gloria, you're starting to see, I can see there in your shot, some rain, some wind. What does that feel like as the storm gets closer?

GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Abby, we've been here all day so far, and I can certainly tell you that this is the worst it's been since we've been out here.


The winds are steadily increasing. The rain is heavy. And it goes in and out. You can tell that there are just these outer bands of the hurricane that are starting to arrive here in the area of Clearwater Beach, where we are. Earlier in your program, Chad Myers was talking about parts of the state where people still have time to get out because it hasn't started raining yet. Well, it is definitely raining here.

Now, we are in Pinellas County and this is a mandatory evacuation zone. But I spoke to a man earlier today who told me that he had no plans to evacuate. He's going to ride up right out the storm right here in town. And part of the reason for that, he told me, is that he lives inland about five miles in this direction. The water is that way in the pitch darkness.

But the concern here is course for that surge, this storm surge. As the storm continues to worsen and the forces here continue to increase, we are expecting that surge to really come in and potentially be significantly dangerous, not just to the lives here but to property that could and it could cause significant damage. Abby.

PHILLIP: Yeah. That is going to be the big story of this storm along with these winds that are picking up as the storm gets stronger. Thank you, Gloria, and stay safe tonight. For a closer look at the conditions there on the ground. I want to bring in AccuWeather Network Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer. Reed, you're over there in Cedar Key, Florida, which is just right where perhaps this storm is gonna make landfall. What are you seeing right now and what are you expecting in the hours ahead? REED TIMMER, ACCUWEATHER NETWORK EXTREME METEOROLOGIST: Well, the

winds have been gradually increasing throughout the evening and they've been getting steadily and more steadily stronger. And we've even seen some thunderstorms move by that had some lowerings that looked like they have water potential as well. And we do expect the tornado threat to really ramp up as we get into the overnight hours, as well. We're going to be in the front right quadrant tropical cyclone. So, we do expect big time tornado potential, as well.

But back here in Cedar Key, the big concern is the storm surge and this is an island that sticks out a little bit to the north of Tampa. We do expect landfall a little bit to the west now, slowly starting to trend a bit west but it doesn't mean you're not gonna have a catastrophic storm surge here because the landfall, the hurricane is anywhere after the west. We have that powerful onshore flow that's gonna pile up the water into town here.

We expect a 10 to 15-foot storm surge with waves on top of that and winds gusting the triple digits up over a hundred miles an hour so it's going to be very life-threatening here and that's why there's also mandatory evacuations for this zone as well. But there are about a hundred people that ever made behind and there are some higher areas here at Cedar Key up above 20 feet up at the water tower in the school and people are stashing their vehicles up there because all of this behind me is going to be flooded out for several blocks near the Gulf of Mexico shoreline.

PHILLIP: Yeah, you've experienced, I mean, so many storms over the course of your life and your career but this is not really a part of Florida that is used to this kind of intensity. What are you the most concerned about as we go into the coming hours?

TIMMER: Well, that's right. And a storm of this intensity has never gone up here near the nature coasts and on Northwest Florida and Apalachee Bay here. And so, an unprecedented storm like this will have unprecedented impacts. And you just don't know exactly what to expect. And that's a scary thing, even for a storm chaser that has seen over 50 or 60 hurricanes so far, you just don't know what the impacts are going to be. You're not as familiar with the shoreline and the terrain and you know, it's very low-lying here, as well.

So, the storm surge is going to penetrate several miles inland. It's likely going to knock out a lot of bridges, as well. And so definitely the concavity of the shoreline is something that's also very scary for a storm surge because it's very conducive for the piling up of that water with the onshore flow here and anywhere to the right of the center.

PHILLIP: Yeah, that's a really interesting point about how that geography could actually make it so much worse for this part of the state. Reid Timmer, thank you very much, as always. And again, stay safe tonight.

TIMMER: Thank you for having me.

PHILLIP: And some Florida hospitals are suspending services ahead of Adalia's landfall, but others are preparing for a spike in patients. Someone who is manning the war room of one of Florida's largest hospital systems will join me next.



PHILLIP: We're continuing to follow all the live developments on Hurricane Idalia as it barrels toward Florida. A number of hospitals in that state are doing what they can to brace for the storm. HCA Healthcare is among them. And for more, I want to bring in HCA Healthcare Vice President and Chief of Preparedness and Emergency Operations, Michael Wargo.

Michael, thanks for being with us. So, HCA Healthcare, my understanding is, has about 40 hospitals in the state of Florida. How are the hospitals, especially the ones in the path of the storm preparing for it?

MICHAEL WARGO, HCA HEALTHCARE V.P.: Hi Abby. Preparedness is part of the culture of the organization. So, every year we go through exercises leading up to hurricane season that run our leadership through exercises. We brief our staff on how to prepare their families as well as professionally on how to prepare coming to work for storms like this. So that's the first level of preparedness that we do.

When we get warnings of major events like this, we activate our Enterprise Emergency Operations Center here in Nashville, as well as each of the hospitals in our division command centers that are more local to the incident. Through that, we work with them to bring in additional generators, additional water, additional supplies so that we can care for our patients, whether any impacts that the storm may bring to us.


PHILLIP: I imagine there are some places where the danger might be too significant. How close are some of the hospitals to the path of the most dangerous parts of the storm, these 15-foot storm surges that we've been talking about and the high winds up to 111 miles an hour tonight?

WARGO: So, many of the hospitals that we operate are near the coastline on both coast of the Florida, as well as up into the Panhandle. So, we take a lot of precautions to prepare these facilities that are maybe more near to the coast than other facilities. And once incident -- one incidence, we put a barrier up around a facility to protect it from flooding in there.

So, we go through steps to prepare each of the facilities for days leading up to this. That's the key for us, is having the preparedness, bringing all of our leadership and all of our staff together to ensure that our facility is ready for any type of wind damage that could occur or any localized flooding that may occur. Truly our goal is to care for our patients during normal times as well as adversity like this. Here at the Enterprise Command Center, as our facilities are preparing to care for those patients, we mobilize resources based out of Nashville's coordination center to go in and support our facilities so that they can focus on the patients and we focus on supporting our facilities in those zones.

PHILLIP: Yeah, we are incredibly grateful always to the health care professionals who keep these facilities open in these kinds of conditions. Michael Wargo, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

WARGO: Thanks for your time.

PHILLIP: And the brand new forecast on Hurricane Idalia's path is expected in just a few minutes. We will bring that directly to you as we head into these dangerous next few hours.