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Irma Batters Florida with Torrential Rain, Wind; Death Toll rises to At Least 26 in Caribbean; Florida Gov.: Life-threatening Storm Surge Biggest Worry; Three Million Customers Without Power in Florida; Irma Climbing Florida Coast with Category Two Force; Two Tornadoes Touch Down in Brevard County; Irma Slamming Florida with Violent Wind, Heavy Rain; . Aired 9-10p ET

Aired September 10, 2017 - 21:00   ET


ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- hour, we're expecting the winds to start peaking. Those winds are going to peak for around four hours from 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time to 2:00 a.m. Eastern Time. We are seeing a steady deterioration of the conditions out here. The street being used as a wind tunnel. I mean, the wind constantly going in this direction, wave after wave of wind and rain, you felt in your face.

It feels like bees stinging your face, just getting absolutely worse by the minute. It's strange to think that this is absolutely the best conditions that we are going to feel until around 2:00 a.m. in the morning.

But let me just give you a sense of what we're seeing here. It's a very eerie scene. There's no one out here, thankfully. Everyone is taking shelter, but we have lost power a number of times over the course of the past hour.

We've lost power three times, the street lights have gone out, the lights in front of the storefronts have gone out, and everything has been complete blackness. And as you were saying, that's when you feel most vulnerable, that's when you feel like something could come barreling out of the darkness and hit you or hit anybody else who might be out here.

Now, we are starting to see some of that debris, palm frond, branches, other things that can be picked up and used as projectiles in these winds. We're told by our own weather center that those winds are expected to peak around 80 miles an hour, it's going to maintain an average around 80 miles an hour, perhaps gusting up to 100 miles an hour.

That's down a little bit from the highest expectation, the highest forecast because the eye of Irma is not expected now to pass over Sarasota, instead it's expected to pass 20 or 30 miles to the east.

And with that is more good news for Sarasota, the storm surge now expected to be around one to three feet, so not as severe as possible. We're told by the -- as expected, we're told by the city manager's office, that means they are hoping to get emergency teams out before the dawn hours around 2:00 a.m., but there's a lot left in store for Sarasota, Anderson. The worst is still very much yet to come.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. That's certainly a good news on that storm surge, if it is, just one to three feet. That would obviously be -- that would be -- that would be a very, very good news for Sarasota.

But Alex, you know, just in terms of -- I mean, you've been covering this now for several hours, it's worse obviously now than it was before.

If you could just reiterate what time you expect kind of the worst of it to be, we have been told here in Tampa, for us, it would really be starting around 11:00 or so obviously several hours from now, but Sarasota obviously being 50 miles down south. I assume -- I think you said it's going to be in -- I think you said around 10:00, is that right?

MARQUARDT: Yes, Anderson, I'm having a hard time hearing you and even a hard time looking at you through this camera, but essentially what we're expecting is the peak to get reached in the next hour.

So from 9:00 to 10:00 Eastern Time, we're expecting to get up to around Category 1 wind speeds. From around 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m., the speeds are expected to average around 80 miles an hour, that's down from around 90, 95 miles an hour, but they are expected to gust as high as possibly 100 down slightly because as I was mentioning.

The eye of Irma was expected earlier in the day to pass straight over us, giving us that brief moment of calm that we saw Chris Cuomo experienced down in Naples earlier. We are not expected to see that now. The eye of Irma expected to pass around 20 or 30 miles to the east, so our strong winds, our peak winds will last from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. and then taper off after that. Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. The amount of rain is just -- I mean, you were seeing it with Alex, just the amount of rain coming down right now here in Tampa is redonkulous. I mean, it is just sheets of water. It's like people pouring buckets of water on you from various directions. It would be funny if it wasn't so potentially dangerous for anybody who was out and certainly for the first responders, and you just heard from the chief of police that he has now made the difficult decision.

He said the most difficult decision of his career to pull his officers off the streets. They are martialing -- they are in staging areas and they are going to go out as soon as this thing dies down, you know, probably in the early morning hours tomorrow or dawn tomorrow or whenever in order to respond to whatever the most important 911 calls and emergency calls that they have received, also to try to clear whatever roads need to be cleared.

But again, the worse is yet to come certainly for Tampa in the hours ahead. We're talking two to three hours from now.

You know, Alex, if you could, just stay there. I want to bring in Tom Sater just to get a sense. Tom, if you can, for Alex, for everybody in the Sarasota area, if you can just get a sense of -- or give us a sense of what is happening --


COOPER: -- in Sarasota, what's happening here along the west right now.

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST AND WHETHER ANCHOR, CNN INTERNATIONAL: Sure, absolutely. Get ready for more rainfall, Anderson. In fact, we've got a pretty good band that it's going to be making its way into your area of Tampa.

You can see where Sarasota is, of course, with Alexander. We're looking at -- look at the colors of -- that's just yellow, but look at the orange on this close-up radar.

We continue to talk about the center, which really night now is about 23 mark -- yes, 23 miles to the east/northeast of Punta Gorda that we still continue to see tremendous activity and downpours in that front right quadrant. You can see it right here, just pretty much shines in the bright orange and into the red, but it's fanning out to the north and off to the northwest and then west. And so these bands as the system continues to move north will continue to slide in your direction, so definitely flash-flooding.

Now, with this, I can also ride off -- I did write down a few notes on some gust. Fort Myers, 84 miles per hour. Port Charlotte, 79, which is right here. The Charlotte County Airport, 76 miles per hour. Tampa, 60, but also more haven.

On the edge of your screen here is Okeechobee, they're in a pretty good rain pattern as well. They've already picked up 10 inches and they're going to add to that. They've had a wind gust now on those storms of 89 miles per hour.

And if you're curious about Lake Okeechobee, yes, with the 10 inches plus, they've received the Army Corps of Engineers says the levee should hold, but we're going to continue to watch this.

Let's move on to the next radar because it is quite interesting of what we're trying to see here. First, the severe weather, up south of Cocoa Beach in the Melbourne area, they've picked up 14.5 inches and they are in a serious flood situation right now as a heavy band of thunderstorms and what we call training, that's one thunderstorm after another like the box car of a train is not just producing more rainfall, it's producing severe weather.

We have a thunderstorm cell producing a tornado moving in on the coast line. That was moving northwest, get this, at 74 miles per hour. It's a little unheard of. That's extremely fast.

So again, we hope that it doesn't produce, but we do have a tornado warning now just north of Cocoa Beach southward in the Melbourne area. Then with that is the flashflood warning that's in effect. Notice what we have going on south of our eye and up to the north. I'm going to let this radar play in a little bit more. We've a giant dry slot that is starting to infiltrate the system. Dry air, that'll help break the system down, but it's going to take a while.

Again, remember, this made landfall not just as a four in the Keys but a three in Marco Island. So we'd like to see dry air get in, but again, all the activity from the eye is now northward, which by the way it continues to move north.

Now, as we move along and we're going to get a new track in a little while, look at the amount of color of red on this infrared satellite imagery.

We like to see the colors shrink because that means you're losing the colder in higher cloud tops and they're more concentrated around that center of the storm. The eye has closed up. We knew this. We saw this the last few hours, more of a rain shaft, but it still has a little bit of a core. It's just the engine's fuel line has been cut off and it's puttering a little bit, but it's still trying to breathe.

So as it takes a deep breath and is trying to find some moisture, I would extend those strong tropical storm force winds and those hurricane force winds and it's still kicking out these bands of rain.

Notice the bright colors off in the northwestern flank making its way now offshore. Our winds coming up into the Tampa area are going to start become due west and that's going to carry that water outward.

Let's move along and take a look at a few more things. From the National Hurricane Center, what they have mentioned and Anderson, we've talked about a slight deviation to the east, maybe away from Tampa for the time being toward maybe Lake County and Orlando. They have made a statement saying they still believe that after the midnight hour, we're looking at more of a north/northwesterly track. This track seems unusually far to the west, given that we had a little deviation, but I'm going with the National Hurricane Center until we get some more information because they're the best in the world.

This continues to have that cone directly half off the coastline and half on, but our center point has changed somewhat. So that's why it's going to be critical to watch and see what happens when the new track comes out a little while. We still have of course about 159 counties up in Georgia that are under a state of emergency, schools are closed there as well.

Significant rain bands will continue to feed in, that means a storm surge on the East Coast is still be significant, concerned a little bit about St. Johns River, up in the Jacksonville area and continue to have that wraparound surge below the storm.

So again, the system, Anderson, trying to breathe, puttering, but it's been such a massive hurricane, it's going to take some time. The winds obviously are strong enough to do major damage, roof damage, and downed power lines, spawned up tornado, so we're not out of this yet even though we've lost significant strengths and landfall.

COOPER: So Tom, because I can't see the radar tracking, I can't see what you're showing our viewers, unfortunately --


COOPER: -- I may be asking a dumb question here, but you talked about, you know, kind of an easterly move of this storm the last time we spoke. I'm not clear, is that still happening? Because I heard you also talk about a northwesterly track.

SATER: Well, any time, these systems kind of make landfall, you never know where that center is going to approach, it does some wobbling, it ebbs and flow somewhat, and we saw that right off our landfall.

We're looking at that storm system that was almost moving a little bit to the north and then to the east, but again, this system is still trying to get its act together. And as it makes its way a little bit of a component east, it is supposed to make its way back according to the National Hurricane Center toward you around 1:00 in the morning, but I think it's still going to be off to your east.

It doesn't mean you're not going to see significant gusts, but we're not taking the center of the storm right over you right now at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. So they're just saying overnight, expect it to move more northwesterly, north/northwesterly.

Currently, Anderson, it's moving due north, but that little jog we had in the last couple of hours to the east was a bit concerning. You know, sometimes we feel like we're better forecasters ahead of the event, and when it's occurring, we're better observers, but we're still trying to catch up with this system and get one or two steps in front of it. Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Well, Tom, I appreciate -- I appreciate that. The bottom line that I take away from that, I mean, if it's still moving northwest, even if the storm is to the east of Tampa, it's going to -- it's bringing misery with it and that is only going to increase in the hours ahead.

And again, when you get into 11:00, 12:00, 1:00 a.m., Alexander Marquardt in Sarasota, you know, for people to be worrying at 2:00 a.m., at 3:00 a.m., 4:00 a.m. about potential storm surge, I mean, that just adds insult to injury on top of all the things, the loss of power, to have that worry about storm surge even if it is in the Sarasota area one to three feet, and who knows what it may be in the Tampa area.

Yesterday, they were talking five to eight, it sounds like it's going to potentially be lower than that here now. But again, at this point, there's still a lot of unknowns, a lot of variables, Alex.

MARQUARDT: Yes, one to three feet. Make no mistake, that can still do some damage. Now, they were saying that it was more than six feet that they were going to expect significant flooding, this is going to be a welcome bit of news, but at the same time, this could do some damage.

Now, at the same time, these -- and there goes somebody who really shouldn't be out here tonight, but what we're being told by the managers out here is that they are still expecting -- the city managers, I should say.

They are still expecting significant damage in the wake of this storm. They felt quite comfortable with their preparations for the storm. And we have seen people getting out of town, we have seen people going to shelters, we have seen people hunkering down, so they are not necessarily worried about people out here getting hurt tonight, and except for that one guy who just drove past, we've seen very few people out here tonight. What they're worried about is what is going to follow in the wake of this storm.

Now, with that one to three-foot surge, that means in all likelihood, there's going to be less damage, but we could expect to see downed power lines, we could expect to see power out for days or weeks.

The problem is, you know, they don't really know what -- they can't monitor what's happening right now because this storm is happening in the middle of the night.

They have been hoping the way that the way the storm was going that it would actually happen during the day, it would pass, they would get to go out and start assessing. Now, it's happening in the middle of the night, as we were talking about before, we're expecting the winds to start subsiding around 2:00 a.m. Around that time just before dawn, we are told they hope to start sending those emergency teams out there to start doing the post-storm assessment. Anderson.

COOPER: Alex, appreciate that. Be careful. We'll check in back with you shortly.

Let's go to Miguel Marquez who is in Punta Gorda south of where Alex is. It's still bad conditions, I know there, Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it may not look like it, Anderson, but we have dodged a bullet here in Punta Gorda at least for now. The wind has really picked up. We're getting some gusts as high as 80 miles per hour here. It's probably a steady wind of about 50, maybe 60, but the fact that that storm took that jog over to the west -- over to the and east means that we're probably not going to see the storm surge they emergency officials were expecting.

We have had fairly large power outage here. Emergency operations coasted about a third of the area, third of the town is out of power. We did see a transformer -- I saw a transformer that tell-tale sign of a transformer blowing a short time ago. So, that also happened. It looks like for the moment, this town has dodged a bullet. Back to you.

COOPER: That would certainly be good news, but again obviously with that potential storm surge --


COOPER: -- because you've been seeing that water go out, it's always -- you know, you always don't want to predict what may happen with that. I think, you know, I think back 2005, folks in New Orleans thought, you know, they had dodged a bullet and then woke up obviously with surges of water coming. Not to say that this storm for the area of Punta Gorda is going to be anything like that.

But again, that phenomenon we have seen -- that phenomenon we see, Miguel, is just so surreal, you know, that you've been showing us all throughout the evening of the water receding the same kind of thing we've been seeing here on the river, but to see it in the -- to see it in the marina -- to see it in the marina that you were in earlier was so strange. Again, I just want to show the water here, the rain on the water here just sweeping across.

And we have seen about three or four -- I think we've now seen four transformers light up the night sky over the last several hours.

Miguel, just in terms of debris, in terms of moving around in Punta Gorda, obviously streets are deserted. I certainly hope and I assume first responders are enabled, but is there -- is it possible to move around? Is there debris on the ground?

MARQUEZ: There is some debris. It is fairly minimal. The newer trees, a lot of them have been uprooted in town. The storm surge that they were expecting here because the eye has moved so far to the east of Punta Gorda. The wind is not going to come around and push a lot of that water back up. So it looks like the bay, the river, the marina where we were earlier will probably fill in more slowly and we won't have that rush of water, that wave of water coming back into Punta Gorda. So that will help keep things clear and make it passable here.

It will be another hour or so before we know just how big that surge is, so we will be waiting for that. Certainly, we moved to higher ground just in the event that it does come in higher, but the city itself truly seems to have be dealing with the storm quite well.

The fact that Charley came through here 13 years ago and destroyed much of the city, all those buildings that weren't in great shape, they were gone after Charley and everything they've built since is up to a better standard, better materials and certainly better construction. Anderson.

COOPER: That's good news about that storm surge and just that water filling in much more slowly. Miguel, thank you for that. I want to go to Brynn Gingras in Orlando. Bryn, I understand the conditions there are worsening.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes, they're getting a lot worse, Anderson. We're definitely getting high winds. Not so much to blow me over, but definitely high wind gusts. So much so that we know that the Orange County Emergency Services have suspended their services for the night into tomorrow. You can hear in my microphone, those heavy wind gusts and I actually keep peeking over to my right because when I talk to your left, if you remember, I was talking about these globes that are around the lampposts littering all of Downtown Orlando and one literally to my right is hanging by a thread. So I'm just keeping an eye on it so it doesn't fall and actually come tumbling down the street. I do want to mention to you, Anderson, now as you were talking to Tom, he mentioned the East Coast being -- having tornadic activity and I did confirm with the Brevard County Sheriff's Department, they did have two tornadoes touched down. That's according to them. They had a lot of damage with mobile homes there.

So far, no injuries reported so that's good news, but they said, they did have two tornadoes and it just kind of gives you the idea of how big this storm is because remember I was there earlier this week, everyone there was preparing for the storm and then they said, "Oh, it's not coming here. It's going to hit the West Coast." And we talked to a lot of people who were in Orlando who then, you know, said, "Hey, guess what, I'm going to go home because we're not going to get hit." And now they're getting hit with different activity caused by the storm. It may not be the rain, but certainly we're getting -- they're getting hit.

All right. Something just hit me in the head, I'm not sure what that was. But anyway, just let me go back because I'm little nervous about this light.

COOPER: Yes. Well, get out of -- get out of that area. Be careful, get some shelter and we'll check in with you a little bit later on. We're going to take a short break, more from Tampa, from Clearwater, from Sarasota, from Orlando, and all around Southern Florida. We'll be right back.



COOPER: Hey, welcome back our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irma. Again, I just can't get over that sweep of the water and the way this river has gone down so much throughout the day and still remains low despite the fact all this water pouring on it. Again, the amount of storm surge in Tampa, that is the big variable here at this hour.

You know, you heard the good news from Miguel Marquez saying they are not expecting the storm surge in Punta Gorda, so all that water that Miguel saw moving out of the marina, they say that's going to come back because they're not going to be getting those winds coming back in, sweeping the water in, it's going to come back fill in more naturally and more slowly. So that's certainly good news there.

Alex Marquardt saying in Sarasota, they're expecting one to three feet of storm surge, it would still could do some damage, but it's less than anticipated.

Again, the big question is, for Tampa, what kind of storm surge this city which even on a day of heavy rain has problems with flooding and getting that water off the street, so that's something to watch in the hours ahead and we'll know more of that in the late hours this morning. Let's go to Ryan Young who's over in Clearwater, just west of here. Ryan, last time we checked in with you, I mean, the conditions were really bad. I think you're in a particularly windy area. I think we got some of our wind, thankfully, has blocked by some of these big hotels, Sheridan and others that were around, but it's still pretty bad where you are.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely. The wind, that's why it really takes you literally almost off your feet. And just to kind of show you this, if you have anything sort of blocking you, it changes the whole conversation. I'm going to walk over here and then I'll talk once I'm ready for this. Well, look, you don't hear as much as the wind if we're standing over here, we have concrete kind of surrounding us.

But as soon as you step outside and as soon as you get into the direction of the wind, it's brutal on you, and the wind keeps shifting. So the last time we were talking, it was kind of moving in a circular direction. Now, it is sort of blowing that direction there. And we've actually seen some of these cars kind of almost like they're inching closer and closer together depending on the gusts.

Now, the real conversation here is when you have as much saturation as we're getting and then you have trees because that's the whole idea here. Sometimes, it's the days afterwards when trees will fall. Of course, palm trees can deal with the wind, but there'll be other tress that will certainly fall, especially when people come out to survey their damage.

Now, as we talked about before, the lights are still on in this area, but what's dangerous about this when people decide to come outside and kind of survey the damage --


YOUNG: -- what could happen then? So it's best obviously to wait until light. That was the benefit about what happened in Miami because of the fact that it was some sunshine outside. Right now with this darkness, you really have no idea sort of what's coming in your direction or what's going on around you. So maybe the surge is getting worse in some places, but I can tell you, this wind that we've been dealing with for quite some time, it has been not only powerful, but it's been unrelenting in terms of the power that we've been feeling and the forces right on cue in terms of this wind, Anderson.

COOPER: The other thing, you know, you don't think about, Ryan, in a storm like this is just the cold. I mean, for anybody -- and that's one of the reason -- another one of those reasons that first responders are thankfully off the streets. You know, if you're out in this rain, if anybody is out, if there's homeless people who were out in this rain, just over the hours, the accumulation of the rain hitting you, it's impossible not to just start shivering, not to kind of feel it seep into your bones. It gets just very, very cold out here.

YOUNG: You know, that is the one thing that we felt, the temperature dropped at least 10 degrees. And you talk about homeless people, we saw a few people trying to walk and beat the storm a little earlier, not sure of their direction. You know, this conversation, some people don't want to go to shelters, they rather try to brave this themselves and the people understand that.

But at the same time, you know, people are making some life or death decisions here, and sometimes the least of these people who don't have any things are just hoping to pray on God and quite honestly to avoid some of these situations.

Some people do not want to go to shelters and I understand their kind of thought process when it comes to that, but the idea of being out here stuck in the storm for several hours and having to deal with this, I couldn't imagine that.

And you have to -- your heart goes out to people who make that decisions. At the same time, I'm going to step out of this at some point and get dry for a little bit. Of course, right? We have that availability, but for other people, they might not have that experience and that's what they think about in a situation like this or even someone who losses their home because I can tell you, it's a long process to get your house back together and something that you don't forget in terms of when you have hurricane damage.

This is not a storm that you just forget about, you think about the folks in Harvey, they're dealing with the aftereffects of the hurricane. And look, if you cover Katrina so you know the idea of how this has just a mental effect on people when it comes to what storms do to you. There are some kids somewhere tonight that hearing this wind hitting a house or maybe a tree hitting a house, they will never forget that sound, it is something when you live through a storm. Like I said earlier, you will mark your life by this storm.

This storm will never be forgotten by the people who live in the area because the impact it will have on their life, because sometimes this is the most terrifying night that you'll experience when you live in the State of Florida.

COOPER: Yes, and of course, you know, when you talk about an area like perhaps Sarasota or Punta Gorda not getting the kind of storm that they had anticipated, obviously, any deviation of the storm, it can be good for one city, for one town, but it can mean tragedy for another town. We certainly saw that with Charley back in 2004 when it was coming up, people thought it was going to make a direct hit on Tampa, it swerved in the last minute. And I think it was just a four- degree change and that means it hit and decimated Punta Gorda.

There's a lot -- you know, the other thing about this storm and we've been covering this now for days, just the sheer size of it is extraordinary. And we continue even now at this hour, at this stage of the storm, we continue to get a sense of just the size of it. The fact that we have reporters on the West Coast where we are here in Tampa, but also still have reporters on the East Coast, Brian Todd, still in West Palm Beach, still in the midst of the storm, still seeing bad conditions out there, wind and rain. Let's check in with Brian. How is it now? Because, Brian, I feel like you had been on, I don't know for how many hours and I'm just pointing that out just to give a sense of the length of the storm, the length of the time that people in West Palm Beach and Miami and elsewhere have just had to deal with some level of Hurricane Irma.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. We've been on the air for 14 hours. This storm has been of this intensity, hurricane force winds for about nine hours. You mentioned that Punta Gorda dodged a bullet, didn't get the storm they anticipated, well, Palm Beach and West Palm Beach, where I'm standing, they got much more of the storm than they anticipated. Palm Beach County has just been -- just pounded unrelentingly by this wind.

And now the rain has ceased here, the wind has certainly not ceased and it's gone in a circular motion at times making it even more threatening. We saw three transformers blow up just a few yards away from us here, an intense kind of blew concussive blast into the sky.


TODD: So it's still very intense and very dangerous here. There are so many projectiles flying. And now that, you know, we've been in darkness for a couple of hours that makes it even more dangerous. You cannot see something flying at you, so we have to -- our team here has to very cognizant of that.

What we can also report to you tonight from this county, Anderson, is that the intensity of this wind has prompted a rescue and a pretty significant one.

The mayor of Riviera Beach, Florida, in this county, Palm Beach County, has told us, his name is Thomas Masters, he has told us that the Stonybrook Apartment complex in Riviera Beach had the roofs ripped off. Two units, two apartment units of that complex, they had to get first responders in there in these conditions and rescue at least 50 people. Fifty people pulled out of those apartment units, the Stonybrook Apartments in Riviera Beach.

Thomas Masters said that he himself went over there along with the fire and the police department and went door to door -- excuse me, to get people out of there. Luckily, they got at least 50 people out, they got them safely to a shelter, including several small children and there were no injuries.

But again, the intensity of this wind, people thinking in this county that they can ride it out and it's just been pounding for several hours and those people at that apartment complex maybe thought it wouldn't last this long.

Well, it certainly did and this evening, they had to be rescued where Palm Beach County official said, "Our message is clear, the curfew is still on. You can be arrested if you're out here." And they want people -- they want people to get inside, stay inside, stay hunkered down, stay in shelters. This is just not letting up, Anderson. It is not letting up here at all. ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, and that -- yes, and that's the message from the chief of police here in Tampa I spoke to a short time ago who was saying, "Look, you may think that this isn't as bad as it might have been, but these are still -- this is still a deadly storm. There is still a potential for an awful lot of bad things to happen in the hours ahead. So, please, stay at home, stay in the shelter you're in, and just keep riding this out. You've gotten this far, just push through the night and let's get to tomorrow safely."

Brian, we'll continue checking with you. Another short break here. We'll be right back.



COOPER: And welcome back to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Irma where for the West Coast, for Tampa, and Clearwater, St. Petersburg, the worst is still yet to come in many of the areas around here as the storm continues to move. We're going to check in with Tom Sater in a moment, but, you know, we've been showing you the rain as it just kind of moving in sheets across the water.

We're out of kind of a gust or out of a wind gust right now, but I want to just show you, we're not too far from the University of Tampa. They have this very distinctive, beautiful minarets, a really lovely campus. And you just see in that eerie light on one of those minarets, just -- it really lights up the way -- how much rain is falling all across this area and just moving in sheets, moving fast. This is relatively now a fast-moving storm.

I think it was 14 miles an hour the last time we checked in with Tom, and we'll hear from him in just a moment. But again, just one of the scenes, there's still power in this area, but as the chief of police here in Tampa was telling me, there are number of areas, numbers of neighborhoods in Tampa that are without power, three million people without power in Florida, that was the last figure we got about an hour or so ago. Let's bring in Tom Sater. Three million customers without power, I should say in Florida.

I want to bring in Tom Sater now at the Weather Center. Tom, we've been talking about the kind of confusion about this storm. Dissipation in some places, but an eastward movement, but also just kind of the uncertainty at this hour. And I know we're going to get an update in the 11:00 hour, which is really going to be critical. A lot of people are going to be paying attention to that very, very closely as they should as are emergency personnel, but where is this thing now? Just give us an overview.

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST AND WHETHER ANCHOR, CNN INTERNATIONAL: It's northeast of Punta Gorda, probably a good 25, 26 miles. We're still seeing some purple on the infrared and that's the highest coldest cloud top. So it's like a fighter that doesn't want to go down, it's between the fifth and sixth round, so this thing is still breathing, it's still moving, it's still a formidable storm. And before we go further, I should mention to everybody, I was concerned about this, when it comes to the Atlantic hurricane season, today, September 10th is the peak, historically and statistically. So the environment of course you would expect it to be at its highest today. Between August 7th and September 7th, in that one-month period, we've had six hurricanes. This is the last. We are seeing some dry air trying to infiltrate the system, but here is the path and the track from the National Hurricane Center.

I want to talk about what we're expecting at the 11:00 hour. We possibly will see what we believe is to have a little bit of this center cone here slide eastward. And that's only because in the last couple of hours where the system is now from where it made landfall in Marco Island, a little bit of an edge to the east, a little bit of a wobble wanting to trend and deviate toward the east, maybe toward Lake County, keeping it maybe away from Tampa somewhat toward Orlando, but the National Hurricane Center still believes that over the midnight hour -- or over the overnight period, we will see a northwestern movement.

But when will that occur? And so that's why it's critical to keep an eye on this. This is another model and it continues to keep the eye pretty much just over the entire western coastline.

So again, where the center is now, we expect it's more inland. This is kind of hard to believe at this point, but you get the general idea of still its strength, still its momentum, still the heavy amounts of rain which are still producing wind gusts an excess of 85, 90, we've even had 99 miles per hour and that was earlier, of course, the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant.

Tornado watch has been extended northward, so you can see it, and we still have tornado warnings. South of Daytona Beach toward the southeast on the coastline. Again, heaviest rainfall has been there. Melbourne up toward Cocoa Beach, now moving north to Cocoa Beach.

Here is what we're watching as far as our circulation. Now, you see where Port Charlotte is, our circulation well to the northeast as the bands continue to move in.

Get ready, Anderson, because we've got a few more heavy blinding bands of rainfall that'll slide through your area moving through Lakeland even as we speak. But again, it's this band that's offshore in the East Coast that is really producing some frightening flash-flooding that continues to make its way north of Melbourne. Anderson.

COOPER: And just the speed of this, is it still about 14 miles an hour?

SATER: It is. Yes.


SATER: Significantly faster than it was of course yesterday when it was about 6:00 or 7:00. So again, that'll add to the track when they take the speed, the center point, the possible movements with the steering currents. I think we're going to find our track a little bit more inland. But again, that's not until 11:00 p.m. Until then, it's still coming and it's still producing enough winds to knock out more power to many more people.

COOPER: Is it possible, I mean, that the eye could in any way reform or is it past that?

SATER: It's pretty much past that. Once it makes landfall, the eye, the core is closing up, it's more of a rain shaft. But again, it's still a center point, which is still of course the cornerstone of all of its energy.

So until we get up a little bit further north and northern part of the state, that's where it'll run into some winds that are higher aloft and it should start sheering the system apart.

So we've got several hours. Again, it's not going to get to you until maybe 1:00 in the morning and it's going to continue. Right now your winds are west, so the water should be getting shoved out away from the bay, away from coastline. And of course when this system is north of you, you're still going to get those wraparound winds that'll put that storm surge back up into the bay. So it's still dangerous on many, many levels. Anderson.

COOPER: I appreciate that, Tom. Again, that 11:00 update is going to be incredibly important.

Let's go to General Russel Honore, who's standing by for us in Orlando.

General, just in terms of what you're seeing, three million customers so far without power, you know, FEMA administered yesterday, Brock Long saying, some folks -- the worst-case scenario, some folks could be without power for weeks. What do you make of this? What's on your top 10 list of concerns here?

RUSSEL HONORE, FORMER LIEUTENANT GENERAL, UNITED STATES FIRST ARMY: Well, number one, some of those grids could have been taken down out of caution to prevent the continuous blowing of the transformers. The more transformers blow, the more -- longer it's going to take to get the grid back up.

The next thing is, it don't look like we've lost any distribution lines yet. Anderson, where you're standing there, just a few miles away if you look a little bit to the east, you'll see a power plant, that's Tampa Electric Company.

If you go about few miles to the north, you'll see the Crystal River Nuclear Power Plant. So you've got a good base there to switch power back and forth. If the distribution lines stay up and the service lines stay up, we're going to be in good shape.

The newer part of the city is probably going to have lights. I would say out in the suburban areas where the subdivisions are that those lights will go down because you -- the service lines will start to come down with the wind. That being said, there's two points there, Anderson, I'm concerned about. Right near you where you're standing is the Tampa Bay Public Hospital, you said that 12-foot elevation --

COOPER: It's just down there.

HONORE: -- right down in the tip of the aisle. That place could -- that surge could get to the first floor of that hospital and that could be compared to the surge, you know, we had in Beaumont last week. The other one is what impact if the nuclear power plant start taking water? Will it be able to discharge? Those are the big concern, but on the other side of that, Anderson, I want to tell you, last week we spoke about the organic nature of how the search and rescue was done.

I spoke about -- I thought we were slow in deploying ships. As a matter of fact, ships were not notified to deploy until well after landfall. What a difference a storm makes. The chairman and the joint chiefs and the secretary of defense has emptied the boneyard. We got the entire Atlantic fleet led by an aircraft carrier that's going to be leading the search and rescue mission with the air boss, with the capability to do air command and control as well as do an organized search grid system.

It is organized, they are coming in big, the army has committed 9,000 troops, 300 trucks are already committed, and 3,000 trucks standing by to come to Florida.

So the effects of the change in one storm, they have leaned forward, these troops are on the way, and the ships are following this storm in and we should see the first light tomorrow morning going into Key West.

COOPER: General Honore, that'll be a welcome sight I'm sure for a lot of folks in Key West. The damage is still trying to be assessed, obviously, very difficult to do it now. The darkness has come.

General, appreciate your perspective. We're going to take another short break, our coverage continues in just a moment.



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I'm covering now for Anderson Cooper. His set having signal issues down there. Obviously this happens during a major storm like this, Irma, of course, really battering Florida right now.

Anderson has been there for all day covering it. Tom Sater has been down in the Weather Center. Our reporters have been all over the area. But again, we're having signal issues, but we're still covering this major hurricane.

We're working as hard as we can to get Anderson back up, but as you have been seeing, it came ashore at a magnitude four and then eventually dwindled to a three and now two, and then tropical storm weather is probably going to happen in just a little bit, getting some information now from producers. We're going to get to Alex Marquardt. Alex has been covering this for us as well. He is in Sarasota, Florida about 15 miles south of where Anderson is getting battered there.

So Alexander, what are you seeing? What's going on where you are?

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're starting to get battered as well. We are about 50 miles south of where Anderson is. We have watched what has happened to our teams down in Miami and Naples and Fort Myers as this storm comes up the coast. I can tell you right now at 10:00 pm, we are entering what will likely be the most dangerous period for Sarasota.

We are expecting four hours of peak winds. Let me just give you a sense of what we're seeing out here. I'm just going to pull this cable with me. This main road here that which has been to Downtown Sarasota has essentially become a wind tunnel all evening. We have seen this winds just -- rain which comes in gusts and at its worst. It feels like little bugs stinging your face.

Now, the big question is, will this city lose power? We have seen over the course of the past few hours, power going in, going out, coming back on. Right now, you can see that there are streetlights that are still on. The storefront lights are still on. Also, what kind of debris is coming down? So far we're hearing from the city and we're seeing ourselves that it's not too bad.


MARQUARDT: I'm just going to show you what exactly we're seeing out here. This is the kind of thing -- these palm fronds are the kind of things that are flying off of trees. And once the winds really kick up, they really start to sail and those are the kinds of things that can actually do some damage.

Now what we're hearing in terms of the forecasts is that starting now at 10:00 p.m., we're going to start seeing hurricane force winds.

Those winds are going to average around 80 miles an hour going all the way up in terms of gusts to around 100 miles an hour, that's a category one.

The eye of Irma, we have learned in the past hour, is not going to pass over Sarasota, it is going to over to the east about 20 or 30 miles east of Sarasota. So, to some extent, there is a bit of a bullet that is being dodged here by this city.

We understand that the storm surge prediction has also been corrected from three to six feet to around one to three feet, but as we've seen over the course of the past few days, these forecasts, these predictions change dramatically in just a few moments -- just a few hours. It remains to be seen what will happen in the coming hours, but what we do know is the most intense period is starting right now, Don. LEMON: Alex, thank you very much. I appreciate that. Let's get back now to Anderson. We've got that signal back up. Anderson, it happens in these storms. I knew it's going to take over for you at the top of the hour, but I didn't expect it to happen this quickly.

COOPER: Yes, you know, we were surprised because it wasn't a particularly bad period. Although now, frankly, in the last two minutes or so as we were listening to Alex, we're getting a big gust right now. You can really see it. I mean, just -- again, look at that water. I'm just fascinated by this shot and if Jay can just push in on it.

You know, this is the Hillsborough River, which is down really probably about 10 feet from what it was earlier today, but it is just getting swept with wave after wave, sheet after sheet of just this driving rain, which is now in some ways moving almost horizontally, not as much you see at the height of a hurricane. Alex, you know, who's about 50 miles south, was saying that the worst is about to be in Sarasota in the next hour or so.

We are not looking at the worst until, you know, maybe two or three hours from right now. We are, of course, going to bring all of that to you as it happens.

I want to go to Brynn Gingras who is in Orlando where they have been seeing obviously, you know -- I mean that's the thing about this storm, Don, all of Florida is seeing this storm, all of Florida is being affected in one way or another to lesser degrees or greater degrees. Brynn, how are things right now in Orlando?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, Anderson, everybody came to Orlando to escape the coast because they were worried about their homes. And now we're getting really hammered with some sort of weather at this point.

Like I said, in the last hit, we weren't really -- we're not getting really a sustained heavy winds, we're really getting just really strong wind gusts and that's just enough to get things really churning on the streets here.

We've had -- we've seen streetlamps come down and we've seen a lot of debris. We also know that at this point because the wind gusts have been so strong that emergency crews have stopped -- they're suspended, rather, their efforts to help anybody out.

Now, a curfew went into effect for this county, Orange County at 7:00. It's not listed until 6:00 tomorrow and there's a reason for that, of course, is to get everybody off the streets.

And we did see a few people a little earlier, but now it seems like everybody has gone inside and it's -- they're definitely taking cover at this point as we're seeing the storm pick up. We do expect its worst, though, to be at 12:00, so we still have several hours of this. Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Several hours, I think for a lot of people in a lot of different parts of the state. Let's go over to Ryan Young who's in Clearwater just west up here.

Now, actually, I'm sorry, let's stay with Brynn. We'll try to check in with Ryan in a short time.

Brynn, just in terms of getting around in Orlando, how does this compare with what people were expecting?

GINGRAS: Well, I don't think they were expecting to see these major wind gusts, you know, really just only a few hours ago, Anderson, we saw people coming out. We're staying at a hotel that is just filled with animals.

Again, because all the hotels in the area, you have to remember, this is Orlando, of course, this is a resort town, 100,000 rooms were available for people who needed to evacuate and all those hotels filled up in addition to shelters.

So, people really taking cover at this point in those shelters that they came here for, Anderson

COOPER: Brynn, I appreciate that. I want to go to Ryan Young who is in Clearwater. Ryan, is just west of where we are now, we've been getting big gusts just in the last five or so minutes. How are things there?


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, look, the wind gusts continue to pick up here. We're just south of the airport and you can really feel the swirl coming through. I want to say earlier on, we thought they were maybe 20 to 30-mile-per-hour wind gusts, but maybe as we talk into our weather department, we've experiencing as much as 60 to 65 miles per hour wind gusts.

And I can tell you, we can see debris flying all over the area here. And especially when it comes to power lights, the good news here, though, the power has not been shut off and we haven't seen any bigger damage to any roofs in the nearby area. Anderson.

COOPER: And Ryan, just in terms of the worst, I mean, obviously the next two or three hours, that's probably when -- you know, previously we've been told in this area would be around 11 o'clock. So the way the storm is very dissipating, it's hard to know at this point. What are you hearing in terms of -- what are you expecting in terms of when the worst is going to be?

YOUNG: Well, you know what, here's one of the things that we want to talk about. One, we have a bunch of lights on us to show the area. In other areas, it's very dark around this -- around what we're dealing with. So people shouldn't go outside to see what's going on. That's first. The other thing is we know emergency responders have been pulled off the road because of the wind gusts.

So if you need help at this point, you kind of have you to shelter in place and wait for it to pass. I can tell you there's a lot of people who are worried about the next few hours because we know the strength of the storm still has a little punch left in it and it could linger for quite some time.

This rain and wind has been going on for quite a few hours and at this point, the only thing we've seen is sign damage. We haven't seen any significant damage to any buildings or got any calls about any major outages at this point. We do know there have been some downed trees, not sure if any hit any homes at this point, Anderson.

COOPER: Appreciate that. One of the things, when it starts to get to a storm like this, it's almost hard to hear, your ears get filled up with water, so I couldn't hear some of what Ryan was saying, but we'll try to get that cleared up so I can talk more to him. All right.

We're going to take a short break as our coverage continues here from all across Florida. We're going to be going all through the night to bring you the latest of this storm and also, importantly, what happens tomorrow when light breaks. We'll be right back.


COOPER: I think there's a lot of people and certainly a lot of officials, law enforcement personnel who are holding their breath right now in Tampa, certainly, you know, worried about the worse, but hopeful for the best. And, you know, the way the progress of this storm, the storm surge is something in addition to those hurricane force winds at that storm surge is really what they've been most worried about.

You know, earlier, there had been talk about hurricane force winds, 120 miles an hour perhaps, even 130 in Tampa that those estimates now seem to be lower. Still looking obviously at hurricane force winds that this city is going be facing --


COOPER: -- but we're going to be closely tracking this over the next hour, and especially once we get that -- the new advisory that we're expecting in the 11:00 hour to really get a sense of what Tampa has in store.