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Water Rescues Under Way After Hurricane Ian Kills At Least 17; Now, Ian a Hurricane Again, Taking Aim at the Carolinas and Georgia; Fire Chief Says, Orlando Dealing with Historic Flooding. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 29, 2022 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You can tweet the show @theleadcnn. I you every miss an episode of the show, you can listen to The Lead whence you get your podcasts.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room. I'll see you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, urgent rescues and catastrophic hurricane destruction for miles and miles, Ian taking a deadly toll on Florida, leaving homes shredded and entire communities underwater.

Ian just regained strength. It's now a hurricane again. And it's taking direct aim at the Carolinas and Georgia, threatening more homes and lives with devastating winds, storm surge and flooding.

Our correspondents are in the heart of some parts of Florida right now. We're tracking Ian in the CNN Weather Center as we bring you live special coverage of this hurricane disaster.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in The Situation Room.

This hour, Ian's brutal assault is still very much underway with the storm once again packing hurricane force winds.

Let's got to CNN's Brian Todd. He is on the scene for us in Naples, Florida. Brian, we're just beginning to understand the scope of the damage from Ian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf, people in this town just beginning to come to grips with this devastation.

We are on a Gulf Shore Boulevard here in Naples. We're about 150 feet from the beach. A 12-foot storm surge pushed the water up into these apartments, ruined, many of them. Now, people are just tossing their biggest positions on to the street like this. Debris hazards are all over this place. And this comes as rescues are still going on in the city tonight.


TODD (voice over): Up and down Florida's west coast today, residents facing flooded homes, neighborhoods underwater, streets littered with abandoned cars, roofs torn off, boats wrecked, roads blocked by flooding and debris after a stormy night of tearing winds, rushing water and last-minute escapes as the category 4 hurricane ripped through.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of a sudden, the house flooded. It just started going deeper and deeper. And by the time we were walking out, we were mid-thigh in water.

TODD: The Naples Fire Department carrying out water rescues even though some of their own stations were flooded. First responders even spotted on jet skis.

Bill Hogan says the water reached two or three feet in his house. He thinks the boat on his lawn came from two blocks away.

BILL HOGAN, NAPLES, FLORIDA: Which would give you some sense of -- you know, of how much water was here. There was at least three feet of water throughout the whole street.

TODD: Fort Myers among the hardest hit from the waterfront to downtown, to inland neighborhoods.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- the my house since 1987, pictures, memories gone.

TODD: Fort Myers Beach now a debris field.

In Port Charlotte flooding at a hospital ICU.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got people out of the ICU. The problem then ended up being that this water gushed down the stairwells, as you see there, and on to other floors.

TODD: The causeway to Sanibel Island breached in several places, anyone who stayed there now cutoff from the only link to the mainland.

More than 2.5 million customers lost power with repair crews just beginning to fan out. Officials warning residents that hazards remain.

SHERIFF CARMINE MARCENO, LEE COUNTY, FLORIDA: There are things that could truly hurt you in the water. There can be electricity. There can be downed power lines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please don't get on the road unless it is an emergency.

TODD: And it's not just the west coast, damage extending well into Central Florida. Orlando saw more than a foot of rain, prompting high water rescues.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy mackerel, this first trailer here is actually underwater. TODD: And residents at a nursing home evacuated. In Kissimmee, trapped victims brought to safety with airboats. This family saying they lost everything and were taken out a window. Another woman wishes she had evacuated before the storm.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard the neighbors screaming. I went and look out of the window, their car was car submerged. So, we tried to get the vehicle out but it was too late.

TODD: Even in the east, Jacksonville and St. Augustine, seeing coastal flooding and strong winds.


TODD (on camera): And to give our viewers another perspective of the damage, the devastation here in Naples, we have got a drone shot that we can show you above my position here on Gulf Shore Boulevard. We can show you kind of a wider and high perspective of some of the devastation here.

City officials briefed reporters here not long ago. They say it could weeks, if not, months for this city to recover. They're putting damage estimates, Wolf, in these figures. The city administrator says the city proper itself could have about $20 million worth of damage, but personal property could go as high as $200 million, Wolf.


And he says that is a conservative estimate. Just sheer devastation here in Naples.

BLITZER: Yep, devastation indeed. Brian Todd, thank you very much.

Let's go to that hard hit area, Fort Myers, Florida, right now. CNN's Randi Kaye is on the scene for us. Randi, you have been in a community that's been devastated by the flooding. Tell us what you see -- what you have been seeing.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it is really remarkable what we have seen today. Right now, we are at Legacy Harbor. We are just on the edge of the Caloosahatchee River. And let me just show you the power of this hurricane, what it did here in this harbor. Just take a look at these boats here behind me. I will step out of the way so you can really get a full view of it. That boat is on land. And then if you look at the others to its right, they are just all stacked up.

And as you just sort of pan around, you can just see the sheer force that this hurricane must have had. But as you keep going, you see that Joe's Crab Shack Restaurant. They've had a bunch of their windows blown out. And just as you go around the harbor here, you can see all of these boats so badly damaged.

And it is not just right here, Wolf. We were in the city of Fort Myers earlier today. And, you know, of course, that was underwater yesterday. The water receded, but you can imagine the force of the hurricane because we found huge chunks, giant pieces of the dock, pieces of the dock like we're standing on that were in the city. So, it traveled several blocks from this water way to the city. So, that was the force of these winds.

But earlier today, we did go to North Fort Myers, a community there that had been completely flooded by this same river that sits right on the river. It is a mobile home community. We talked to an 85-year-old woman who was so badly injured she had water up to her shoulder. She was alone in her home and she was tossed about by all of her furniture, badly injured, lots of cuts and bruises. She was taken to a hospital.

But we talked to this other young woman named Sidney Van Horn (ph) who had -- she did evacuate, but she went back to her home today. She gave us a tour, and this is what she said about what happened there.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very flooded. It's ruined, completely ruined. The fridge is on the floor. The couches are turned upside down. The toilets are on the floor. There is water seeping in our cabinets. Everything is flooded. Everything is ruined. We grabbed what we could most of but we didn't think it would be this bad.

And we watched WINK News and they kind of explained to us that it was going west and then it just smacked us really hard. And, you know, we fled to my mom's and that's all we could have did. But now we're homeless.


KAYE: Homeless, homeless just like so many other people. And that's the thing. You heard her say, we didn't think it was going to be that bad, Wolf. As you know, we hear this all the time. But in this case, a lot of these people here in the Fort Myers area did think that this storm was going to go much further north, heading closer to Tampa. And when it came this way, they were really walloped.

So, let me just show you just a little bit more, just even at our feet here. This is a piece of a boat. We don't know where the rest of the boat is, just sitting here in the water, and there is other pieces all around. So, Wolf, you really get an idea here certainly of the force of the wind, the amount of water that headed into the city and what it carried with it. And then, of course, you know, just the personal stories here. They're just heart-breaking. Like she said, how do you start over? How did you dig out? How do you dry out? That is the question on many people's minds here along the west coast of Florida today, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. So, many of these people, as you said, are homeless right now, simply devastating. Randi Kaye, thank you very, very much.

So many Florida residents are confronting this nightmare right now. Their home is underwater and in ruins. CNN's Bill Weir went along with a Cape Coral woman as she saw how much she had lost. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I told Pat, there is no way I'm walking in that filthy water. I said there're snakes, there's fire ants and alligators and alligators and alligators.

WEIR: But this is too important.


WEIR: We're here now. It's like something came down hard on the cardboard.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know if I'd be able to open it.

WEIR: Is it locked?


WEIR: Let me help you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's got to go out --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me try the top one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's weird. Does it work from the inside? Can you reach around?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right over here.

WEIR: I think it's wedged against the frame.


WEIR: But you can see in there.

Careful. I got you, yes. Hold on to my arm. I got you. There you go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow. Salvageable, I don't know. I doubt it. I doubt it.

Wow. If everyone can see it, amazing. Not that I wanted to see this but it is absolutely amazing what that water could do.

WEIR: My goodness.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow. This is disgusting. Well, I'd say it's done. What do you think? Done?

WEIR: So, I hate to say. I know you were so hopeful. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As I said, there is people worse off than us, always people out there that's (INAUDIBLE), all those people that don't have a second home to go to. Wow. It's amazing, too.

WEIR: Isn't it? Describe what you are stepping in here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just like muck.


BLITZER: Our thanks to Bill Weir for that report, and our heart goes out to that woman whose home is clearly devastated right now.

Let's get the latest on the danger Ian is posing right now. Our Meteorologist Jennifer Gray is tracking the storm. She's in the CNN Weather Center for us.

Jennifer, Ian is a hurricane again. Give us the newest forecast.

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is a hurricane again. 75 miles per hour winds, gusts of 90. It is moving to the north-northeast at ten miles an hour. I can't say it enough that Ian is not over. It is far from over. We cannot forget what is to come across the South Carolina Coast, Georgia Coast and even up into North Carolina. The wind field on this storm, Wolf, the tropical storm force winds extend more than 400 miles. We're already seeing winds across portions of -- we're already seeing winds across portions of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, tropical storm force winds. They have been feeling it all day long.

This storm is expected to come on shore as a category 1 storm and the forecast is still very uncertain. The Hurricane Center made that clear in their 5:00 advisory. So, anywhere just to the right of the center where that's going to come on shore is going to get the worst surge.


So, I don't want to pinpoint an exact area because depending on where it comes on shore is going to be dependent upon who gets the five to seven feet.

So, Charleston could get it if the storm comes just to the south of Charleston. But if the storm is coming in to the north of Charleston, they are not going to get as much, if that makes sense. So, we're going to be zeroing in on this forecast as we get closer to tomorrow afternoon landfall time to determine who is going to get the surge of four to seven feet. You know, Wolf, this is a very low-lying area. Charleston will flood just with an abnormal high tide.

So, we're talking about the potential four to seven feet pushing into these rivers and inlets. This is going to cause potentially, if the storm comes in at a certain location, downtown Charleston could be underwater. We could be seeing more water rescues, like we saw in Florida for today. So, Wolf, this is far from over. We could see a lot of devastation still to come across the southeast coast of the U.S.

BLITZER: And it is picking up speed as it's going across the warm waters of the Atlantic, right?

GRAY: It is. It is picking a little bit of speed, that Atlantic has really fueled the storm. It does look very disorganized right now, but that doesn't mean anything. This storm still is packing a punch with winds of 75 miles an hour and it's going to bring some surge and up to a foot of rain across portions of South Carolina.

BLITZER: Yes. It is, by no means, over at all. All right, Jennifer, thanks very much. Standby, we'll get back to you.

Right now, I want to get more on the scope of this disaster, and what a disaster it's already been. We're joined by the Florida State Fire Marshall, Jimmy Patronis. Jimmy, thanks so much for joining us.

You have been out assessing the damage across Southwest Florida today. Tell us what you are seeing.

JIMMY PATRONIS, FLORIDA STATE FIRE MARSHALL: So, Wolf, this will probably end up being the largest natural disaster in the history of state of Florida. We have got 11 of our task force. You remember when we were Surfside, the same men and women that responded to the Surfside building collapse, they're here on the ground right now.

So, we have got 11 teams, not just Florida teams, we have Virginia, we have Massachusetts, we have Texas, Indiana, Ohio. These are teams that have all come in, and they will start the process of going from door to door and physically checking on the wellness of people. Miami, too, was here at 2:00 in the morning last night. They came through the weather and started on Fort Myers Beach. This is in addition to the 24,000 utility and line men that are working right now. This is the largest response in the history of the state.

BLITZER: I understand that more than 500 people have been rescued in two hard hit counties alone. What more can you tell us about the urgent work of these search and rescue teams?

PATRONIS: I tell you, their passion for this is like nothing I've ever seen. It gives a new definition to heroes. These men and women will run in to a burning building to save somebody in our neighborhood, and they will go in the absolute worst conditions, braving hurricane force winds to save people's lives.

The United States Coast Guard has been amazing, too, in addition. They did over 30 aerial rescues in the last 24 hours on 30 sorties.

BLITZER: Do you have a clear picture yet, Jimmy, of how many others may be in need of rescue or are there areas first responders still haven't been able to access?

PATRONIS: Well, the Florida National Guard has been great by delivering our teams across the Captiva Islands. As you have probably scene, the causeway has had a fatal collapse. So, the causeway cannot be accessed traditionally, there is no traditional ferry service to go back and forth. So, we are literally ferrying our teams going out door to door taking by Helos and Chinooks to the barrier islands. So, one of which has got a significant population, Fort Myers Beach, the best way to describe it is very similar to Mexico Beach with Hurricane Michael, a much older community, older infrastructure built with older building codes. So, the devastation there is very similar to what we're seeing with Hurricane Michael in Bay County.

BLITZER: Jimmy Patronis, thanks so much for all you're doing and thank all your search and rescue team as well. They are, indeed, heroes, for all practical purposes. I appreciate it very much.

Our breaking news coverage continues next with the latest on dramatic rescues sparked by this hurricane disaster. We're going live to Orlando. CNN's Don Lemon is standing by. He'll join us.



BLITZER: The flooding in Orlando, Florida is being described tonight as historic after Hurricane Ian dumped more than a foot of rain on parts of the area prompting very, very dramatic water rescues.

CNN's Don Lemon is in Orlando for us right now. Don, the mayor there is warning residents, and I'm quoting him now, don't go out unless you have to. Tell us what you're seeing.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: -- we saw people trying to drive through this. And this is what we're seeing in many neighborhoods throughout Orlando. This has receded just over the couple minutes that we have been here, probably a couple hours.

There are areas over Orlando where the water is much higher than this up above the street signs. And we saw those rescues today. We got calls that they were going in to rescue people, hundreds of people, Wolf, in a particular neighborhood. Many of those people didn't want to leave yesterday when they had time to leave, got in their homes, the water started to rise, they had to be rescued by boat.


LEMON: So you launched here, and you don't know what's under this water, how deep it is or what you are going to hit?

LT. FERNANDO ASTACIO, ORLANDO FIRE DEPARTMENT: Absolutely not. At the start of this morning, part of the big issues that we had is navigating these waters, even though we know we're in a neighborhood. And, you know, the streets dictate where we go.


We've got hidden mailboxes, coverts (ph) --

LEMON: There are street signs right here. You can see how -- where they are. I mean, some of them are covered and others just peeking out of the top here.

So, explain what -- how -- this area is prone to flooding but it's gotten more water this time, I think the highest water level so far.

ASTACIO: Right. This is the highest it's ever been. It happened some five years ago. And these three lakes that -- these small lakes that join together by small canals, they crested sometime early this morning. And this whole area here is a super low-lying area, this one and the neighborhood we were at this morning, which was all single family dwellings completely devastated, completely underwater.

LEMON: I mean, if you look right here, this is a basketball goal, eight, ten feet tall, and just poking out of the water here. And you see the jungle gyms and swings or whatever. That just gives you an indication of how high the water is.

I just want you guys to see -- it's -- I mean, it is unbelievable, if you turn around and look at these cars and the mailboxes. I mean, and there are people who are still inside of some of these homes. And as I said before, I was watching the fire department try to get people to get out yesterday on their bullhorns in the fire trucks and people who just said no. There is someone inside of this home, I'm being told. There's someone in this house right here?

ASTACIO: Yes. We came by and knocked on all of these doors, had crews knocking on all of these doors.

LEMON: Do you wish you had left or --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At this point, no. And I feel really good seeing all the boats and things going by. And the rescue people started checking in on everybody pretty early. So, that was super comforting. And I feel like they picked up somebody over here, so they have been checking in.

Currently, we're still fine. We're just hunkering down waiting to hear when things will start going back down, when the power is going to start coming back.


LEMON: (INAUDIBLE) if you look, there's a truck that just went through. When you talked about the mayor urging people to not go out and stay in their homes, what happens when they drive through this water is that what they're doing is pushing waves of water into people's homes.

And maybe the water hasn't reached the people's home, hasn't gotten into the homes, or when you come through in a truck, that the truck is big enough to get through this or tall enough to get through this water, you're pushing water into people's homes and they want people just to stop, stay at home, don't go out, don't do this disaster site seeing thing that they have been doing. That's really the dangerous part.

And the folks who are still in their homes, and they may got some rain, what they're urging them to do is to stay hunkered down as long as they can. If they have an issue, call 911. It may take a while to get to them, but they may have to end up again being rescued by boat. And, by the way, Wolf, the airport here in Orlando, they thought that they would open tomorrow. They're not exactly sure when they're going to open because they need to assess the damage. So, Hurricane Ian really doing quite a number on the entire state of Florida, but especially even here in Central Florida, in the Orlando area.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a real disaster. Don Lemon in Orlando for us, Don, thank you very, very much.

And an important note to our viewers, Don will be back later tonight with more live hurricane coverage on Don Lemon Tonight, 10:00 P.M. Eastern right here on CNN.

Coming up, more devastating scenes from the Fort Myers area, as one official tells us there is nothing to come back to.

And we'll get an up-to-the-minute forecast on where Hurricane Ian will strike next. The head of the National Hurricane Center is standing by live to join us right here in The Situation Room.



BLITZER: We got some live pictures coming in from Orange County in Florida. There has been some rescue operations underway. You can see some of these live pictures coming in right now. We're going to continue to update you on all the devastation that's going on. There has been so much devastation in the state of Florida so far as a result of this hurricane.

I want to get the latest on where the hurricane is heading next. We're joined right now by the acting director of the National Hurricane Center, Jamie Rhome. Jamie, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for all the great work you guys are doing.

Ian has now strengthened, you just told us a little while ago, strengthened back to a hurricane and it is expected to make yet another landfall. What can you tell us about the path and the intensity of this storm right now?

JAMIE RHOME, ACTING DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Yes. Unfortunately, Ian just won't stop fighting here. As of 5:00 P.M., it has regained hurricane status with maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour.

Now, I don't want people to think that we're going to undergo a rapid intensification period again. This system is not going to go back to what it was when it first hit Florida at first push, but it will pack a punch as it turns back to the north and heads up into South Carolina and in Western North Carolina. And this is going to cause tropical storm force winds to spread way far inland, probably a little bit further inland than people are anticipating. So, people in Columbia, in Raleigh, I want them to know that these tropical force winds could spread inland as Ian works its way back into the Southeastern United States. BLITZER: What regions right now, Jamie, are the hardest hit, as far as you can share with us?

RHOME: Unfortunately, that storm surge that we had talked about in the last couple of days unfolded for Southwest Florida. It appears the worst of it is just to the south of where the center made landfall. So, you know, Naples and Fort Myers area really badly hit, the footage I have seen thus far.


And we won't know. We won't know the full magnitude of the disaster for a couple days. It usually takes two or three days for a disaster to fully reveal itself. But the footage I have seen is just absolutely heartbreaking.

BLITZER: Can you give us a little bit more, Jamie, on what folks in South Carolina and Georgia need to brace for, let's say, over the next 24 to 48 hours?

RHOME: Great question. First and foremost, red here indicating hurricane warnings, so hurricane conditions, expected within that red area, but also storm surge, certainly not what we had in Florida but still quite impactful. Anything in yellow on this map is significant storm surge. But I want to draw your attention to this orange area from Edisto Beach to Myrtle's inlet. This part of the country is very vulnerable to coastal flooding, and we could have another round of storm surge.

BLITZER: Yes, this is not over yet, by any means. Jamie Rhome, the acting director of the National Hurricane Center, we'll continue to check in with you. Thank you very, very much.

There's more breaking news just ahead, new drone video just coming in capturing the breathtaking extent of the destruction in Florida. We're going live to hard hit Naples. That's next.



BLITZER: Tonight, the death toll from Hurricane Ian's onslaught in Florida is rising with at least, at least 17 people killed in the storm so far. CNN's Randi Kaye has our report from an area of the state that has been especially hard hit. We're talking about Fort Myers.


KAYE (voice over): Homes underwater, roofs shattered, boats scattered across waterways, Fort Myers, Florida, so battered by Hurricane Ian's unrelenting winds and destructive storm surge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just devastating to see my neighborhood like this. KAYE: It was unrecognizable to residents who emerged after the storm. Sidney Van Horn (ph) and Kylie Jones returned to check on their Fort Myers home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That thing used to be way over here. The fridge was turned the other way, flipped up against the wall.

KAYE: The flood and wind damage they found in their home was much worse than they expected.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just smacked us really hard. And we fled to my moms and that's all we could have did. But now we're homeless.

KAYE: Those who stayed in the area to ride out the storm describing alarming conditions.

MAURA MECCHELLA, HURRICANE IAN SURVIVOR: I just tried to keep everyone calm the whole time. It was very scary to have the water and the river flowing underneath us all night long.

KAYE: At least five people are believed to have died in Lee County where Fort Myers is located, the sheriff says. Its beach devastated by a ten-foot storm surge. Almost 90 percent of customers in the city of Fort Myers are without power.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't think it was going to be as bad as it was. I don't think anybody really did.

KAYE: Officials in Florida repeating the same message.

SHERIFF CARMINE MARCENO, LEE COUNTY, FLORIDA: If you don't have to be out, don't be out.

KAYE: Fort Myers officially reminding residents a stay-at-home curfew is in effect, keeping people off damaged and debris-filled roads crucial for first responders.

REAR ADM. BRENDAN MCPHERSON, SEVENTH DISTRICT COMMANDER, U.S. COAST GUARD: Things don't look the same as they did before. You have got downed power lines, you have got lights that are out, fires in the area.

KAYE: Hundreds of people in Lee and Charlotte Counties have already been rescued throughout the day.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: These are dangerous missions, and I'm grateful for the brave women and men in federal, state and local governments working as one team, risking their lives to save others.

KAYE: Saving lives the priority, even before officials can begin to assess the damage.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): You stabilize, you provide the help with people, but you want to get back to some semblance of normalcy as quickly as possible. And it's going to be harder in some areas than others. (END VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE (on camera): And, Wolf, so many people stayed home to ride out the storm here in the Fort Myers area because they thought it was heading toward Tampa, and then you have that ten-foot surge that they were talking about, which happened here. And that's why even last night before the storm ended, the Coast Guard was plucking people off rooftops in the Fort Myers area trying to save them. And if you have any doubt about the force of the storm of Hurricane Ian, there it is right there. That is the full picture. That's what it did to the boats here in Legacy Harbor and so many other people's personal properties, Wolf.

BLITZER: So devastating, indeed. Randi Kaye on the scene for us, thank you very much.

Coming up, FEMA dealing with the disaster in Florida and preparing for Ian's next landfall likely in South Carolina. We'll talk about the daunting task with a top FEMA official. Standby for that.


BLITZER: The breaking news: Hurricane Ian intensifying once again tonight, and once again also a category 1 storm. It's now threatening both Georgia and the Carolinas. At least 17 people in Florida are dead. Millions are without power, and a monumental recovery effort lies ahead.

Joining us now, the FEMA associate administrator Anne Bink.

Ann, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for all you and your colleagues are doing.

Tell us how the federal government is assisting the rescue and recovery efforts under way right now.

ANNE BINK, ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR, FEMA: Absolutely. Wolf, thank you so much for having me on so we can talk about life safety measures that can help the residents of Florida as they recover from this catastrophic incident.

We are on the ground with the full force of the federal government working nonstop on search and rescue missions by land, air, and sea, to save as many lives as we can in the aftermath of this storm. There's no doubt it is of historic proportions and we're here to support the state at this time.

BLITZER: How does the damage from Ian compare to other catastrophic storms in recent years?

BINK: So this was a large storm system that covered the entire state of Florida and has just recently left the state. We've seen significant impacts in the eastern part of the state as recently as right now. Even in the Jacksonville area they have impacts and flash flood warnings. The magnitude is widespread, the bulk of that in the Ft. Myers area.

BLITZER: President Biden says Hurricane Ian could be the deadliest storm in Florida history. Based on the extent of the damage we've seen so far, is that your assessment as well?

BINK: You know, at this point we're laser focused on saving lives.


Our search and rescue teams are still out there. We will get the reports later tonight and will continue to do everything we can do to save lives. So we hope that number stays low and that is absolutely not the case, we'll do everything we can in our power to make that a reality.

BLITZER: For people right now who are trapped in their homes, what advice do you have for them?

BINK: Please reach out if you can. Let first responders know where you are through 911. If you're a relative and you haven't heard from loved ones, please do that. Go to -- dot-org, excuse me.

Make sure -- -- make sure you're going there to provide information on loved ones. If they are in harm's way and you have not heard from them, search and rescue teams will continue to go door to door until they have searched the entire area, so please stay safe. Please stay away from standing water and downed power lines.

BLITZER: As you know, Anne, forecasters expect another landfall potentially in South Carolina. What is FEMA doing to help those areas and the folks there prepare right now?

BINK: Absolutely. The same as we prepared for Florida, we pre- positioned assets and staffing well in advance of landfall of Ian. We're working the same trajectory right now for Georgia and South Carolina. We are actively engaged in their EOCs. We have liaisons in each of those EOCs to ensure we're synced up and we're prepared.

BLITZER: How could this hurricane be specifically for South Carolina, which has a very low-lying -- it's a low-lying city, like Charleston as you?

BINK: Certainly storm surge is a concern. We see those numbers in the 6-foot range potentially, maybe even more. We want to say please listen to local officials. Please stay safe and stay out of harm's way, and make sure you're doing everything you can to check on your family, friends, and neighbors.

BLITZER: Really worried about those low-lying areas like Charleston.

The associated FEMA administrator, Anne Bink, thanks once again for joining us and once again, thank all your colleagues as well.

Our breaking news coverage will continue with more on the catastrophic destruction caused by Hurricane Ian in Florida as the storm appears to be heading for another landfall likely, as we say, in South Carolina. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BLITZER: Record water levels right now in Naples, Florida, unleashed by Hurricane Ian. Tonight, Ian is once again a category 1 storm after causing catastrophic damage across much of the state.

CNN's Brian Todd is back with us right now. He's joining us from Naples.

What are you seeing tonight, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, city officials just told us it's going to take weeks if not months to recover from this storm, and this is what they're talking about. These are a series of apartments on Gulf Shore Boulevard. Look at this how the water just came in here and tore out the facades of these apartments. We're taking you across a sweep here of at least three apartments where the water came in and just ruined everything.

I talked to a woman on the second floor of this apartment building that was calling around to see if anyone was home, seeing if everyone was okay. A woman on the second floor came to the window and said the water levels, we're going to show exactly where she said the water levels were.

You see the street sign here, the rectangular sign at the bottom. She says the water level was up there. We're about 150 to 200 yards away from the ocean, Wolf. That 12-foot storm surge pushed that water all the way through an elevated beach, by the way, into these areas.

And again, look at this. Just swept right into these apartments. We don't believe anyone was hurt, thankfully, but you get a sense of the damage here, Wolf.

City officials telling us that the personal property damage alone could reach to $2 million. They say that's a conservative estimate. Damage to the city could get to $20 million, Wolf, sheer devastation here.

BLITZER: What are officials saying about the rescue efforts currently under way?

TODD: Well, the Fire Chief Pete DiMaria briefed reporters today again, and he said that rescue efforts are still going on. There's still people trapped in homes. I mean, people trapped in places like this if you're trapped in there and you don't have access to communications, they have to go street by street.

And this is not a small area. We arrived here this afternoon and we went street by street. It's hard to get around also, a lot of fallen trees.

He says there are rescues still going on, even later this afternoon and into this evening. And he is still telling people more than 48 hours after the eyewall hit, Wolf, he's still telling people do not call 911 unless it is an absolute emergency. So that's what they're up against.

They're still again, they've got -- this street alone is shut off in some places because there's still a lot of water and sand on the street, inaccessible not only to first responders, but to everyone else.

BLITZER: As you know, Brian, we've seen the Naples Fire Department dealing with the flooding themselves. Are they now fully operating as far as we know?

TODD: As far as we know, they are, Wolf. But here's the story that was riveting from yesterday. Pete DiMaria, the fire chief, said that even at the height of the storm they were trying to get out to rescue some people, even though in every city, people are told at the height of the storm don't expect us to come with first responders because we can't get out.

They were still trying to do it. But at the fire station here in Naples, Pete DiMaria, the fire chief, says they had a 4 to 7-foot surgery of water in their station. He called it, quote, unnerving.

And that was really what hampered some of their efforts, frustrating them, because they're risking their lives to get out even at the height of the storm to try to help people. And again he's saying, you know, people -- even now, you got to have they're risking their lives to get out even at the height of they're risking their lives to get out even at the height of the storm to try to help people. Even now, you got to have patience with us, he says. We're doing our best to get out to you if you are stranded. But unless you have a dire emergency even thousand, Thursday evening, 24 hours later, don't call 911.

BLITZER: We're so grateful to the search and rescue folks who are doing amazing, amazing work.

Brian Todd, thank you very much for joining.

And to our viewers, thanks, for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" picks up our special live hurricane coverage right now.