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Fl. Gov: "We're Running out Of Time; Leave Now"; Governor: All Floridians Should Be Prepared To Evacuate; Hurricane Irma Batters Cuba on Way to Florida; Florida Braces for Direct Hit from Hurricane Irma; Natl. Weather Service: Nowhere In the Keys Will Be Safe; Florida Gov: "This Is a Life-Threatening Situation". Aired 9-10p ET

Aired September 8, 2017 - 21:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: We're live tonight in Miami Beach where a lot of folks have already evacuated, and others are hunkered down waiting for Hurricane Irma as it approaches.

A message tonight that could be life-saving. It comes from Florida's governor, and it's as simple as life or death. He says if you have been ordered to evacuate, leave now. Not tonight. Not in an hour, now.

The storm is now expected to grow back to category 5 force as it slams into the Florida Keys. In terms of evacuations, though, law enforcement is saying there -- the window for that is closing. And at some point tonight very shortly, it is going to be too late and you just need to hunker down and do what you can.

I want to go -- and we're actually getting now -- we've been getting the winds for the last hour or so. But this is the first of some of the rain bands that we have just started to get. We may lose actually our signal. But we'll just keep on going as long as we can. I want to go to Patrick Oppmann who is standing by in Cuba. Patrick, what is the situation there?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, along the northern coast here and, you know, we've been feeling rain bands as well as squalls coming in. It has been knocking out the power here for the last several hours. We only have lights up because we have a generator. No one else in this small town along the Cuban coast where we are appears to have one. All the tourists in this area have been evacuated.

The Cuban government says, it has evacuated tens of thousands of people along these coastal areas. I was speaking to someone who is in the next town over, and they are feeling the conditions much more because they are to the east of us. They say they're getting absolutely hammered by the storm. And so those are the kinds of conditions we can expect in the hours ahead, Anderson.

COOPER: I just want to show viewers what -- what our viewers saw of you earlier during a live shot where one of the outer bands of the storm hit you and hit pretty hard. Let's just take a look at that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OPPMANN: Yes, yes. Let me just get my jacket on. Woo!


COOPER: Explain what that was like. And how close together are those bands now?

OPPMANN: You know, you can't really space them out. You have this dead calm, it just stopped raining since we started talking. It was coming down hard before and it stopped like someone turned off the faucet, and yet it will begin again and become more and more frequent.

You know, this morning when I -- we first started reporting from here, I had my rain jacket on and it was hot sunny day. And it didn't make sense to have it, and until that band came in, we hadn't had a drop of rain. And all of the sudden just unleashed this incredibly strong pelting rain, almost blinding me. I could have looked at it. The sky became black. And it just didn't seem to stop.

I've covered a number of hurricanes, but never had it start up so violently where you just had a gust of wind. It is rain absolutely coming at you. So it can -- it speaks to the power and unpredictability of the storm. We haven't had one come through in a little while. But you can certainly sense that more and more of this storm is going to be coming ashore here in Cuba. And for people who have very old houses, houses in bad condition, you know, that kind of wind, that kind of rain can bring a house down.

So the Cuban government has also been encouraging people to evacuate, to go to the shelters they have set up. And hundreds of thousands of people have taken them up at that offer to get out of this area and get to safety, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. We're going to continue to check in with you throughout the night. Stay safe. We're -- I want to check in with Alison Chinchar who is at the CNN Weather Center. Alison, obviously the most important question, is where is the storm now? How strong is it and how strong is it going to be when it makes landfall and where?

ALISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right. So right now it is a very strong category 4 storm, winds 155 miles per hour. That's only 2 miles per hour short of a category 5. And we expect it to intensify back up to that strength in the coming hours.

Right now it's currently located between the Bahamas and Cuba. But it's over that really warm water. And that's what's going to be one of the ingredients that is going to help fuel this storm to intensify. We expect it to be a category 5 as it crosses over the Florida Keys. And likely a category 4 as it makes its way over the main peninsula of Florida, but then weaken relatively quickly. Because of that, we have the hurricane warnings out in the south portion, talking Ft. Pierce, Sarasota south. And then we have hurricane watches for places like Orlando and Tampa. But these are likely going to spread north, Anderson, in the coming hours as we get closer to landfall and they have a more defined track for some of the northern counties. COOPER: You know, so many people of course here remember Hurricane Andrew and the devastation of that. Can you give us a sense of the scale of this storm compared to Hurricane Andrew?

[21:05:02] CHINCHAR: Right, so the big glaring obvious thing is size. Take a look. This is actually to scale. This is Andrew. This is Irma. You can notice right off the bat that they are way different in terms of size. But also winds. So at landfall, Hurricane Andrew was 165 miles per hour. Irma is expected to be around 150 for the main peninsula. Slightly higher than that as it goes over the Florida Keys. But the time is the big concern. Andrew only spent four hours over Florida. Irma is expected to spend 30 hours over Florida. And you have to keep in mind when you're talking about that in terms of these speeds, that makes a huge difference.

At the ground, Anderson, we're talking maybe 145 miles per hour. But when you talk about all the high-rises, the condos, the hotels that are there, if you talk about a 30-story building, now those winds actually increase as you go up. So now we're looking at wind damage that would be around the 175-mile-per-hour range. You go up even higher to an 80 story building. Now you're looking at the winds to be nearing 190 miles per hour. So that's going to be a concern, Anderson, because we have so many high-rises across Florida, especially south Florida.

COOPER: Yes. Alison Chinchar, we're going to check in with you throughout this hour as the winds continue to pick up here. But I began, they're just a fraction of what is to come. This area, we're in Miami Beach, we're very close to the ocean right now. Probably by tomorrow night, even before the storm makes landfall, we will not be able to be broadcasting from this location in Miami Beach. We'll probably be a little further inland.

I want to go now to the fire chief in Naples, Florida, Pete Dimaria in Naples, Florida for just the latest on the situation there and what they are expecting. Chief, I appreciate your time tonight. What is your biggest concern at this hour for the folks in Naples?

PETE DIMARIA, FIRE DEPARTMENT, NAPLES FLORIDA (via telephone): Well, biggest concern right now is storm surge. We're very concerned about the water coming up throughout the city of Naples. And it causes a major hazard to our community.

COOPER: What sort of storm surge are you expecting? What kind of storm surge have you seen in the past also?

DIMARIA (via telephone): We actually had a five-hour rain about three weeks ago that caused us about a foot and a half storm surge. We had vehicles all over the streets of Naples that we had some difficulty there. But now we're anticipating a possible 6 to 10-foot storm surge in some areas. We have evacuated, or asked for mandatory evacuations for all residents that are west of U.S. 41.

COOPER: And in terms of those who have not evacuated, because obviously in a mandatory evacuation, not everybody heeds those warnings as they should, are you able to respond in the height of the storm to 911 calls? Or I assume like many first responders you just have to wait it out until the storm dies down?

DIMARIA (via telephone): Yes, that's our policies as well. We'll respond as long as it's safe for our first responders to get out there on the streets and do the work they do. We'll normally shut down about 40, 55 miles per hour of sustained winds. And then pick back up when the winds start to die after the storm passes.

COOPER: Do you have a sense of how many people have heeded the evacuation warnings?

DIMARIA (via telephone): Well, I think Naples right now is pretty vacant. A lot of people have left the area. And we do know that there are some residents still here. But we're encouraging anyone that is in an evacuation area or has stayed and fears for their safety to get out of the city of Naples and off the coast and get to some of the local shelters that the community is providing.

COOPER: Chief Dimaria, I know you're going have a lot of busy days ahead and probably weeks ahead. I appreciate all you're doing. Thank you. Stay safe. We'll check in with you.

Earlier, I talked to the Miami Beach mayor, Mayor Levine. Let's take a look at that conversation.


COOPER: The winds are just now kind of getting the first taste of this. What's your message to those who have not evacuated, who are here now?

PHILIP LEVINE, MAYOR, MIAMI BEACH FLORIDA: We have another two or three hours, and then the buses stop and trolleys stop, Anderson. At that point we're telling people bunker down where you are.

COOPER: It's too late after that?

LEVINE: After that, absolute, I think so. Because the winds are picking up. You can feel what's going on. And we want now for them to be safe where they are. But they've got another couple of hours to go. We hope they go to these evacuation centers, that they leave Miami Beach. As you know, it's a low-lying barrier island. It's not safe for a hurricane of this magnitude.

COOPER: For the people who are staying, I mean it seems pretty calm. I was at the supermarket, which I think it's open until 9:00 tonight, they had plenty of food. I filled up a shopping cart. There are people, I mean they seemed to be ready for this, or at least very much aware of it.

LEVINE: I think so, Anderson. We've been preparing for about five or six days now. I mean literally putting in portable generators, portable pumps, sandbags to all of our residents. Locking down construction projects so there is no debris flying around. We've been communicating so aggressively with our entire residents and visitors so that they hear our message, what to do, what not to do and hopefully evacuate. [21:10:05] COOPER: So for you is it storm surge? Is that the biggest concern on the shore?

LEVINE: I think it's a combination of wind and storm surge. As you know Miami Beach has stranger to flooding. So we know something --

COOPER: Right.

LEVINE: -- about flooding. And we understand how devastating it can be. When you have a hurricane, especially a hurricane of that magnitude, is not much you can do.

COOPER: Right. And in terms of wind, I mean a lot of the building codes were changed. The newer buildings, they are supposed to be able to sustain I think 150-mile-per-hour winds.

LEVINE: Absolutely. No question about it. The newer buildings that were built after Hurricane Andrew have much higher protocols in those construction codes. They will be able to withstand. And of course a lot of the art deco buildings you see behind us on ocean drive were built in the 1920s and they've been here for many, many years and they've withstood a lot.

But there are many structures that won't. Who knows? How do we know? Why take the chance. That's what I tell people. Rather be safe than sorry.

COOPER: In terms of recovery after the storm passes, you know, whether it's late Sunday, Monday, and people start to come out again, do you have a sense of gas station, how quickly they may be able to get up and running? Because I know a lot of gas stations by law have to have a generator.

LEVINE: So, let me tell you what we're doing. I'll be bunkering down at Mount Sinai, one of our big hospitals on Miami Beach. I will be with the central command staff. It will be there, it won't be of a skeletal staff. And then we're going to keep our first responders, the majority across the bridge on the mainland. They're going to come over after the storm ends. They're going to be able clearing the roads., because you have to have the roads clear. We can't do anything unless the roads are clear. We can't even have the residents come back.

COOPER: So that's the first thing you --

LEVINE: That's the first thing we're going to do. And then from there based on the assessment, we'll move forward and go to step 2 and step 3.

COOPER: So bottom line tonight for anybody listening who's in this area, what's your message?

LEVINE: My message is, at this point you have another couple of hours to take one of our buses, our trolleys and go across to the mainland. We have multiple shelters. If you have pets we have shelters that accept pets. We have already going out to our new senior, our special need people. I was walking around talking to homeless people and convincing them to get on our buses and go to a lot of and they did. By 10, 11:00 at night, my suggestion is bunker down where you are and stay safe.

COOPER: Mr. Mayor, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

LEVINE: Thank you.


COOPER: Just want to repeat that, the mayor saying by 10 or 11:00, by 10:00, which is the end of this broadcast, if you're in this area, just hunker down and stay safe, or 11:00. We'll check on preparations just north of here in Fort Lauderdale coming up. And later we also want to take you back to the keys, it could be the first place to feel a cat 5 hurricane in this country. We'll show you the danger there and what people are doing about it.


[21:16:06] COOPER: We're joining you live tonight from Miami Beach. About 36 hours from now, where I'm standing very close to the ocean in Miami Beach, it won't be able to stand, it won't look anything like this. And just a few hours after that it very well could be under water because of the storm surge. The same is true just north of here in Fort Lauderdale. That's where CNN's Alex Marquardt is.

First of all what is -- how are the residents there prepping for storm? How seriously are they taking it?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The (INAUIDIBLE) is it again. I tell you, I've been surprised the number of people we've seen out here today. As a surprising number of people are going to be trying to ride out the storm. We've seen a lot of people out here on the beach today, that is the beach. The water line right out there beyond those palm trees.

Now this is a mandatory evacuation zone and they will eventually be imposing a curfew at some point tomorrow. The people who we have spoken with were staying they tell us, they are not in that evacuation zone. They say their structures are strong, their homes can withstand these winds. They have hurricane shutters. They boarded up their homes and have the supplies to last the storm.

But the major concern here like down there in Miami is the storm surge. We spoke with the mayor of Fort Lauderdale earlier this afternoon. And he said that is his number one concern. Take a listen.


JACK SEILER, MAYOR, FORT LAUDERDALE: When you look at this storm, if you end up pushing all that water that came across the Atlantic with this storm, and you push it up on our shores and you combine that, if that we're unlucky to be at a high tide, especially during a seasonal high tide season. And it combine that with a little rain that's going to be there anyway, that precipitation. And then the last element, the east wind pushing that water on the surface, those factors could all lead to a serious water issue here in the city of Fort Lauderdale.


MARQUARDT: Now the mayor was confident besides that. He says all the preparations have been made, that they have got all the information and resources they need from the state and federal government. He told us it is not the storm that he is particularly afraid of, but the aftermath. Anderson?

COOPER: I understand there is still a few bars and businesses open in Fort Lauderdale?

MARQUARDT: Yes, it's fewer and fewer by the hour. Certainly more inland away from the water. This entire stretch along Beach Boulevard has been boarded up for most of the day. All except one very famous bar called Elbo Room which is a block away. they were packed all day long with what the mayor said is people trying to get a few more cold ones in. They have just closed up shop before the storm hits. We expect any activity out here in the streets to grind to a halt tomorrow as people take shelter. Anderson?

COOPER: All right. Alex, thanks. Stay safe.

Given what happened in the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan after the tsunami, there are some reassuring words tonight on Florida's coastal nuclear plants. The Energy Department tonight saying it is confident about preparations at the Turkey Point and the St. Lucie reactors, both of which survived Hurricane Andrew, we should point out.

For more now on federal preparation, let's go to Rene Marsh at FEMA headquarters in Washington. Rene, I mean with Irma following so closely behind Hurricane Harvey, is FEMA prepared for this in terms of manpower and funding together to be stretched thin?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I just got briefed by FEMA leadership here and asked that very question. And they say that they're ready. But, you know, the truth of the matter is with a massive storm like this, every need will not be met in the immediate aftermath of this storm. All of that being said again, they say they're ready and propositioned. We are locked down to this specific location because this is an active operation that you're seeing behind me. But I do want to kind of give you a feel of the way things are working here. This is a 24/7 operation here.

You are looking at essentially the nucleus, the brain of the entire federal response. It's been coordinated in this room. The people here are working 12-hour shifts. They're working seven days on, seven days off. And tonight their primary focus is Hurricane Irma. Again, it's safe to say that this is the brain of the federal response operation.

[21:20:01] Now we have some roughly 200 people in this room. I mean people from various agencies, whether it's EPA, it's the Department of Energy, they're all here coordinating this response effort. They're trying to determine where should the resources be sent, what sort of resources do they need to send. And tonight we know they are buying things like extra tarps in preparation for this storm. But they tell me Anderson, the most frantic moments inside of this room is the moments before the storm as well as the moments after the storm.

COOPER: Those two nuclear power plants that we talked about, do you know about precautions being taken to protect them?

MARSH: We do know that in this room they are monitoring that very closely. You mentioned at the top there the Fukushima disaster. So they obviously don't want a replay of that. All that being said, we do know the two nuclear plants in Florida, they're taking precautions by shutting them down. We also know that they have been built to really withstand really strong winds as well as storm surge. We know that it sits about 20 feet above sea level.

So all of those precautions are in place. All that said, though, you have members from the Department of Energy in this room, and they are watching that is one of the many things that they will be monitoring when this storm blows through. Again, really what you're seeing behind me, a lot of people when you consider on a normal day when there is no storm threat, when there is no bad weather, there are about five people in this room. So tonight we're talking about more than 200 people crammed into this room, watching this storm as it inches closer and closer to Florida, Anderson.

COOPER: Rene Marsh, appreciate that thanks very much.

New storm information now from the National Hurricane Center. That's coming up next as our 360 coverage from Florida continues.


[21:25:50] COOPER: We are live in Miami Beach. Until today, people living along Florida's gulf coast were expecting Irma to mainly be an east coast event. The east coast of Florida. Now they could be seeing the worst of it this weekend. Drew Griffin is in Naples, which could see 12 feet of storm surge. Drew, how are preparations there?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: You know, they're just about done here in downtown old Naples. This is Fifth Avenue, Friday night here. I don't know if you have ever been here, Anderson. It should it be packed. It is just boarded up. Very few people here. I think the people on the west coast of Florida, especially down here in southwest Florida took a look at that last jog or the last couple of jogs from the prediction centers and decided this is just not worst it, this size of the storm

We just got an update, 9:00 tonight from Collier County. That's the county we're in, to show you how seriously the people here are taking it. Nine shelters in Collier County are now at capacity. They're not taking any more people. They have opened up three more this evenings as the influx of people away from the shoreline continues to move. And we've talked to people all day long, Anderson, who are hop scotching. So they know somebody who lives a little bit inland and up country. Know somebody that lives a little north of here. They're leaving there what they thought was a safe location and going there, trying to ride out the storm. It looks like everybody seems to be taking this very seriously. There's no party atmosphere. I'm not running into a lot of the heroic people who think they're going to ride this out with a bottle of booze. They are taking Irma incredibly serious.

And I know that has emergency officials very pleased that they have done about as well as they could do. And Anderson, they have just one more day now, daylight hours tomorrow when you're going to have to make your plan. And then that's it you're just going to have to hunker down. Anderson?

COOPER: Yes, if they're talking about potential 12-foot surge of water, could that bring floodwater to where you are in downtown?

GRIFFIN: You know, it certainly could. It's all about the elevation. And in the lower part of Florida here, you measure that in very, very few feet. We're about anywhere from 3 to 5 to 6, 7 feet above sea level here in old Naples. A storm surge of 12 certainly could be in here. A storm surge of 6 at the right time of the tide? Maybe not.

But you have all these inlets and waterways and bays all over Florida where that storm surge really could be magnified by the push of water in a very narrow area. So you have those various places to worry about.

The storm surge is what they're really got people's attention here. You may be able to think you can ride out the winds, but that storm surge is a totally different animal. And it also leaves a lot of misery and a lot of days lost in its wake because the emergency crews just can't get back in here fast enough. And the power can't get on fast enough.

So they're trying to manage both the storm and the aftermath of the storm, and the combination, Anderson, they're saying you might as well just get out.

COOPER: Are there gas shortages there?

GRIFFIN: I can't tell you if there's gas shortages. There are gas stations that are not open. I think there is probably gas in the pumps. But the gas stations have wrapped up their pumps. Some of them have wrapped up in sarin wrap. Others have tied their hoses around, and they have left, because the workers have to get out.

We did find one gas station open. It did have gas. There was a medium long line. But it took us a long time just to find that gas station that was open. We're expecting fewer and fewer and fewer places just to be open, whether they have gas or not.

So mobility is going to be an issue tomorrow. I think that's why a lot of people who are still here probably won't evacuate because they are unclear that they have a shot of gas all the way up the chain to where they think they would need to go. Anderson? COOPER: But just to reiterate, there are more shelters open now. So if people decide last minute, even tonight, they could get to a shelter?

[21:30:01] GRIFFIN: Yes, that's right. Three more shelters opening in Collier County there are shelters open in Lee County. You can find shelters.

COOPER: All right. Drew Griffin, I appreciate it. Thanks.

But let's get the latest now from Ed Rappaport at the National Hurricane Center. Just take a look at -- just let us know where this thing is, what it's looking like. What do the models show?

ED RAPPAPORT, ACTING DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: You know, at this point, the center is located just off the north coast of Cuba, about 300 miles off the coast of the southeast Florida peninsula and the Florida Keys. The forecast continues to be for the center to go to the west and then turn towards the north near the Florida peninsula, crossing first the Florida Keys.

And we had as we are starting there some video of storm surge we possibly could see in the Keys and elsewhere. This large area in red is the area that's susceptible to inundation. And that's where we have a hurricane warning and a storm surge warning in effect, which means that there is a high risk of life-threatening storm surge.

We're talking about six to 12 feet in this area, and five to 10 down in the Florida Keys and in the southeastern coast of the U.S.

COOPER: You know, Ed, a friend of mine in New Orleans was just reminding me, you know, you talk about 10-foot storm surge but there's wave action on top of that, correct? I mean, I saw some modeling saying, you know, waves could be extraordinarily high. Is that accurate?

RAPPAPORT: Yes. And that's the secondary concern is that the water level will rise to potentially the top of some of the Keys. And then on top of that though, we're going to have waves that could be 15 feet or so.

There are waves that have been measured already with this hurricane offshore that are near to 50 feet. Those will not be as high of course once they get towards to the land. But with that inundation of five to 10 feet and waves on top, we're very concerned.

And I know there are still some people in the Keys and this is the time to get out. The track has shifted in such a way that the Florida Keys are the most vulnerable now from Hurricane Irma.

COOPER: And as far as timing, when can we expect hurricane-force winds in the Miami area?

RAPPAPORT: At this point, we're forecasting -- it's a little hard to see here but here is the Florida peninsula and the Florida Keys. What we're talking about is the center of the hurricane going to be making landfall perhaps in the early hours on Sunday. But it will be preceded by tropical storm-force winds beginning Saturday night on the peninsula. And then -- or by mid afternoon on the peninsula, the hurricane-force winds some time after dark.

Again, if the center should shift farther to the west, that's good news for the southeastern part of the state, but bad news for the southwestern part of the state. We'll be right at the edge of hurricane-force winds if the center continues to move up the southwestern part of the state.

COOPER: And just in terms of the speed at which this storm is moving for people in say to Miami area or in the coastal areas of Florida, how long are they going to be in, you know, in heavy winds for?

RAPPAPORT: In the area that gets the center of the hurricane crossing over so, you have the largest extensive storm in hurricane-force winds, the longest time. We're talking potentially 24 to even 36 hours of tropical storm-force winds. And hurricane-force winds that could be as long as 10 hours. So that's going to occur right where the center makes landfall.

COOPER: Wow. Ed Rappaport, good information. I appreciate it. While hundreds of thousands of people are heeding evacuation orders, others are choosing not to or simply can't. We'll talk to a man who is stuck in Key West about how he'll try to survive the storm, next.


[21:37:27] COOPER: And welcome back. We're live in Miami Beach. We will not be in this location tomorrow. We're too close to the ocean from here, the storm surge likely very possible this will be flooded out even by tomorrow night, certainly within 36 hours. So we'll move a little further inland into Downtown Miami.

People across Florida have been told to get out while they can. If they stay, there will not be anyone to rescue them. Nonetheless, a few are sticking around for a variety of reasons.

Vanessa Gray is riding out the storm in West Palm Beach after helping her patients at a drug rehab center evacuate. She joins me now.

Vanessa, nice of you to stay behind to help your clients. I know your first priority was getting them relocated to a shelter. Did you just choose not to evacuate? And what is your plan now for the storm?

VANESSA GRAY, RIDING OUT THE HURRICANE: I didn't -- well, I guess you could say I chose not to evacuate but it didn't really feel like a choice. I didn't want the clients to be alone without support. A lot of them are struggling with addiction, obviously. And so to leave them would have been catastrophic for them.

So I decided to stay and support them right up until evacuation.

COOPER: That's -- I mean, incredibly brave and incredibly compassionate of you. What is your plan? I know you're in a condo. Are you going to stay there? What's the plan? GRAY: I am going to stay in my condo. I was just telling my building manager today he should work for FEMA because they're doing such an amazing job of keeping us informed and securing the building.

I don't think we've ever seen a storm like this before so you really don't know what's going to happen. But I do feel as safe as I can be. And I also have a pet, and this building is very pet-friendly.

So I also get to stay with my animals. So that was part of the reason I didn't move today or yesterday either.

COOPER: And I think your dog is next to you on the sofa. How high off the ground (INAUDIBLE) in that condo -- yes, well, that's good. It's probably a blessing.

How high are you off the ground in that condo? And do you have supplies? Do you have batteries? I assume you don't have a generator.

GRAY: Yes. I'm a therapist, but I'm also a social worker so I think by nature I was very prepared. So, I'm as prepared as I can be. I have lanterns, a radio, water, food. Food and water for her.

I have a bag that's ready to go, like a bug out bag in case I'm told to leave the area with all important documents, clothing, medication for my dog, documentation for my dog. So I have a huge checklist that I've gone through. So I feel prepared, extremely nervous, but prepared.

[21:40:07] COOPER: Yes. Well, that's understandable. Are there other people around in that complex? Are you in touch with other people who are going to be checking in on you and you checking in on others?

GRAY: Yes. I have to say, you know, what you saw with Harvey is definitely happening here in Florida. For a variety of reasons, one of my neighbors, their son has cerebral palsy. You know, it's for a variety of reasons, people have chosen to stay behind. And we've really come together.

Same thing at work. I mean, I work with such an amazing group of dedicated people. Same thing. Like we all keep together like a family.

We're all checking with each other here at the condo. The building management has been excellent. So I feel not alone and I'm definitely not physically alone.

COOPER: Well, Vanessa, your compassion to care for your clients even in the face of this monster storm is incredibly admiral. I wish you the best. We'll continue to check in with you just throughout the next couple of days.

Aaron Huntsman, he is on potentially even more dangerous ground. He is in Key West sheltering at a friend's house with his husband and their dogs. Joins us now on the phone. Aaron, so this storm now we understand is going to hit the Keys as a CAT 5. There is the mandatory evacuation. You decided to stay. What was the thinking on staying and how concerned are you?

AARON HUNTSMAN, RIDING OUT STORM IN KEY WEST, FLORIDA (via telephone): Well, we had our reservations at St. Petersburg at a hotel. And yesterday, Governor Rick Scott announced that there was a mandatory evacuation for the area we were going so the hotel canceled our reservation. So we kind of we're stuck here.

But our attorney Bernadette Restevo (ph) that helped us overturn Florida's ban on same-sex marriage gave us her place since she went up to Orlando. We're at the highest part of the island, 18 feet. We got our dogs out.

All of our furniture is over the 7-foot mark for a surge. And we are now safe on Solaris Hill, right by the cemetery. And we're scared as well.

COOPER: How close to the ocean are you? How close to the water are you?

HUNTSMAN (via telephone): We're right in the center of the island. It's never flooded at this point, even the hurricanes over, you know, hundreds of years they've been keeping track. I mean, it's been close but our -- other places have 3-foot elevation and we are at 18 feet here.

COOPER: And understandable that -- it's understandable that you're scared. I think a lot of people are right now. Do you have a small boat or anything if at some point it is flooded and you need to get out?

HUNTSMAN: Well, I don't think the water is going to be around much. I think the main thing is that you have to hide from the wind and run from the surge or vice versa. So we do have mattresses here in the house in case, you know, it gets bad like Andrew, if any walls come down or -- so we're protected.

We could have been stuck up on the freeway, you know, could have had an issue. But, you know, on solid ground, coral, old Key West rock. This is what Key West is about. And the other people that are having -- that are scared we're opening our place.

Bernadette Restevo has said, please come here, we'll shelter you during the storm.

COOPER: And I understand your husband works at the hospital there. He's actually on standby to help reopen the hospital after the storm hits. Is that right?

HUNTSMAN (via telephone): Yes. He's in medical supply and he's part of a team that is going to help reopen if there is any surge damage. So, you know, we can't open up to the rest of the public, get the locals back here until the hospital is going, the bridges are checked, and roads are clear. So -- COOPER: We wish you and your husband and your pet the best. We'll

continue to check in with you. Stay safe, be careful.

Coming up, a storm the size of Irma can absolutely shred boats, no matter how big they are. So Florida boaters are trying to save their boats from being destroyed. We'll have details on those preparations, next.


[21:43:24] COOPER: As millions of people are evacuating Florida with children and pets, maybe a few family keepsakes, there's a lot they cannot take. Homes can be weatherproofed as much as possible but boats, of course are a different story.

Randi Kaye went to a marina today to see what's being done. She joins me now. I mean, how concerned are these boat owners?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The boat owners are pretty concerned, Anderson because a lot of them have been through this before. They lived through other hurricanes. They know what can happen to boats.

They remember the scene from Wilma and Andrew when these boats were sort of tossed around and piled on top of each other and the marinas were destroyed. So we went to this marina in Miami today and we saw firsthand what they're all doing to try and prevent it from happening again.


HARRY PASQUIER, BOAT OWNER: You know what time it is?

KAYE (voice-over): Harry and June Pasquier are doing all they can to keep their sailboat safe. They know the drill. They lost their last boat 12 years ago in Hurricane Wilma. It was docked at a different marina. So they're hoping this time around their 52-foot sailboat they call Gypsy will weather the storm.

(on camera) What are you guys doing to get ready?

JUNE PASQUIER, BOAT OWNER: Everything possible. A lot of lashing, taking down the canvas, putting out 12, 14 dock lines. This is scary, scary situation.

KAYE (voice-over): Scary for everyone here at Miamarina on the edge of Downtown Miami.

(on camera) What are you guys trying to do here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Save the boats.

KAYE (voice-over): Chris Savits and his team are working to tie down this tour boat.

(on camera) What does it take to hold down a boat like this do you think? CHRIS SAVITS, BOATER: Honestly, this storm is so big, and, you know, we had Andrew a long time ago but it depends where the eye goes.

KAYE (voice-over): Cornelis Westervuin lives on his boat. So if it gets destroyed, he is homeless.

[21:50:02] CORNELIS WESTERVUIN, BOAT OWNER: I try not to get nervous. Being stressed out or whatever is not going to help you. You got to do the best which is what I'm trying to do.


KAYE (voice-over): He and his wife and their dog will be riding out the storm at a friend's house.

(on camera) Oh, she is adorable. Do you think she knows the storm is coming?

WESTERVUIN: Who knows? She knows that something up.

KAYE (voice-over): Yes.

WESTERVUIN: Yes, she's little tense. She knows something is up. Everything is not normal.

KAYE (on-camera): But not everyone is leaving their boat behind. There are about four crew members who told us they are staying on this 115-foot yacht. They've already dropped an anchor in the water. They've put some tape here on the windows. They're going to stay and hopefully save this yacht.

(voice-over) That hardly gives this boat owner peace of mind. Her boat is tied up right across from that yacht and she's worried a yacht that size could just be part of a chain reaction that crashes her boat.

(on camera) What's your greatest concern?

DIADENYS NODARSE, BOAT OWNER: The greatest concern, we just loss the whole this and that we never see it again.


COOPER: Where do those boat owners say they're going to ride out the storm if not on the boat obviously?

KAYE: Well, one guy we spoke to said that he's going to stay in a warehouse near the marina and try and basically use it as a bunker. He hopes that will keep him safe.

The guy who lives on the boat, it's really his house, he's going to stay at a friend's house. Another couple, they leave in Coconut Grove which isn't in the evacuation zone so they said they can stay there.

But I did ask one couple, you know, why wouldn't you just take your boat. You had all the warnings, get out of town, pack up the kids, the family dog, whatever it is and leave. And they said, you know what, our kids are in school. We have hurricane shutters, we have water, we have a generator. They think they can ride it out and they hope that they're OK and they hope their boat's OK too.

COOPER: All right, we'll check in with them. Randi thanks.

Up next, I'm going to speak with the FEMA administrator about how the federal government is setting out for a huge clean-up effort. Obviously, they've learned a lot in the wake of Hurricane Katrina where we saw the problems with FEMA. So we'll talk about what efforts FEMA is now making when the storm hits and after the storm.


[21:56:07] COOPER: Well, even before Irma makes landfall here in Florida, the federal government is planning for what is sure to be a massive clean up and recovery and rebuilding efforts.

You know, before air, I spoke -- a few hours ago, I spoke with FEMA Administrator Brock Long on what exactly they're doing in preparing.


COOPER: Mr. Long, just in terms of the storm and where it is now, what are you looking for -- what are you looking at most closely? Because any slight deviation in this makes a big impact and a big difference for where you all need to respond?

BROCK LONG, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: Sure. So the forecast models are in great agreement. Florida's going to get hit. And what I typically look for, all aspects with the forecasts but particularly what stands out is that the forward speed of the storm is starting to slow down which indicates it's about to make its turn to the north.

So it's going to have some big ramifications for -- obviously the Florida Keys and then just any slight fluctuation 20 or 30 miles to the east or west of that track could have big implications for either Miami or the west coast of Florida.

COOPER: There is such a, you know, a large part of Florida -- I mean, all along the coast potentially that could be affected by this. In terms of prepositioning, the supplies that FEMA obviously wants to preposition, how do you go about doing that and how you've been able to do that?

LONG: So that's a great question. So the first impacts are obviously going to be storm surge which is the primary reason why we ask people to evacuate. So the first hit is obviously storm surge along the coast. But based on this forecast track, we have to be prepared to provide commodities for inland impacts as well, for all of the counties within Florida and also it travels into Georgia.

So, we pushed basically three days worth of commodities into Florida and then we're holding several days' worth of commodities in other states from basically Montgomery all the way up to North Carolina, you know, in anticipation of inland impacts as well.

COOPER: When you're talking about commodities, can you say what kind of stuff you're prepositioning because it's not just goods, it's also personnel. I mean, you have search and rescue teams obviously that you want to have in the right area at the right time.

LONG: Sure, that's right. So, we have anything from staff including search and rescue to incident management team that's already on site helping, you know, our state and local partners with decision-making and setting up response goals. But then, when it comes to the life- sustaining commodities, it could be anything from meals to water to hygiene kits to supplies for babies. And in some cases, including pets as well.

COOPER: In a place like Miami Beach, or just Miami itself -- I mean, if it is -- gets a direct hit as many fear right now, how long could it be before power is restored in some areas, before gas stations are able to open again, before, you know, supermarkets are able to open?

LONG: So, I think citizens of South Florida need to set their expectations that the power could be out for multiple days if not weeks in some areas. You know, the first thing that's got to happen is that you have to get the debris out of the way. You have to make sure that the roadway infrastructure is sound enough to be able to support power crews coming in from power private companies to be able to restore the lines. And that takes time and I know it's frustrating. But, routine is about to be stalled for many days, if not, weeks in South Florida.

COOPER: And in terms of manpower, how stretched are you? I mean, obviously, you have Harvey that you've already been responding to. I'm sure you're taking some assets from there in order to work here and obviously Jose coming as well.

LONG: Well, obviously, handling two major hurricane events, it does put stress on staff and resources but we're fully positioned. I mean, communication not only with President Trump and Governor Scott and our state and local partners has been strong and the bottom line is, is that I feel that we are in a good spot to help Governor Scott achieve his response and recovery goals.

We have nearly 8,000 federal employees already pre-positioned to go for the storm in addition to the commodities we just spoke about.

COOPER: Mr. Long, I wish you the best for the days ahead. Thanks so much.

LONG: Thank you, Anderson.