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Irma Batters Florida; Flooding In Jacksonville; Irma Weakens To Tropical Storm; Record Storm Surge Underway In Jacksonville, Florida; Daytona Beach Slammed By Hurricane Irma; Marco Island Slammed By Irma's Second Landfall. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 11, 2017 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Two incredibly emotional and impactful moments happening right now for the nation. The entire state of Florida basically still dealing with the brutal punch from massive Hurricane Irma.

From the Keys to Jacksonville, from Daytona Beach to Tampa, the storm is something like 400 miles wide and has left a path of destruction and darkness in its wake barreling through the entire state of Florida.

It's now headed north threatening places like Savannah, Georgia, and Atlanta with tropical storm force winds. Watching that.

Today is also, of course, the 16th anniversary of the attacks of September 11th, a day the nation stops and remembers the events of that horrible day and the nearly 3,000 lives that were lost in the worst terror attack to ever hit American soil.

We honor the bravery and sacrifice that we all witnessed that day and the bravery and sacrifice on display in Florida right now as first responders get to work as they always do in the face -- in the face of this natural disaster that Florida is facing at this very moment.

We are already seeing dramatic rescues today. National Guard troops say they saved about 150 families in Orange County, Florida. That of course is in the middle of the state, mind you, where even there, floodwaters rushed into homes. Listen to this.


STACY ENTWISTLE, FLORIDA NATIONAL GUARD: We had our trucks, they were overflowing and we couldn't even get further back there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How were you able to get the families out? You used the boats?

ENTWISTLE: I got out on foot.


BOLDUAN: Right now, 5.7 million customers are without power from coasts to coast in Florida, the state's largest power company saying it could take several weeks before power is fully restored.


ROB GOULD, FLORIDA POWER AND LIGHT: Irma was a massive storm. The devastation that we are seeing is horrible. From the west coast with all what we've seen, we're literally talking about a rebuild that could take weeks.


BOLDUAN: And again, this is now not just a Florida event. The storm is now impacting other parts of the southeast, Georgia, Eastern Alabama, parts of South Carolina even. That's well over 40 million people facing Irma's ripping winds, torrential rain and flash floods. It's a massive storm.

We're all over the state of Florida covering it for you. Joining me throughout the show today, John Berman is kind enough to be joining me throughout the show live in Miami. John, I along with everyone else watched you all weekend out there reporting. You were hammered for hours especially yesterday. What did that feel like?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I could not believe how long it went on, Kate. You know, I've done hurricanes before and you're out there for a few hours and it passes through. But this was 12 hours of just relentless winds here in Miami, tropical storm force winds, reached hurricane levels at some point.

But it just kept on going on and on and it wasn't even the worst of Hurricane Irma. That is what was so fascinating. Kate, I have to say, it took my breath away when you were listing all of the cities in Florida feeling a severe impact from Irma and all the states up the coast still yet to feel it.

This is such a huge storm. That's what differentiates it from storms in the past, the scope of the devastation, 5 million people without power right now. You heard power officials, electric officials say how long it will take to get things back up in order. They can barely even start in some places because the storm is still moving through.

Let's go to Chad Myers right now in the CNN Weather Center to get a sense, again, of where the storm is, where it's headed and where people need to be concerned because there have been some urgent warnings -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That is exactly right. Flash flood emergencies are in effect for Jacksonville. I would say the center of the storm is somewhere around there. It's hard to tell because there's no real backside to the storm to give you a sense of the rotation or where the center of circulation is. But what we know and all night long Sara Sidner had this in Daytona all night, the onshore flow has been relentless. We have never seen storm surge like we're expecting in Brunswick, Georgia, which is really Tybee, Savannah River, not even what we saw in Matthew.

Matthew had about a 12-foot surge. This will be 14 feet. So, two feet higher than Matthew and back in the '60s, Jacksonville, you had a hurricane, 1964, you will beat that record, too.

[11:05:07] In fact, you already have downtown with record levels never seen before in Jacksonville on the St. John's River and flooding all the way down to St. Augustine. That water will push out today, but a lot of people are under water that didn't really expect to be up here, even though we talked about the storm surge, how much it could be three to five, five to six, well some spots even had about eight. So, keep that in mind.

And the rain is relentless here. John, if you were here in Savannah, you would be going come on, bring it. This is ridiculous. The storm is still blowing 70, 75 miles per hour, just like you saw in Miami.

It's just right across the ocean, nothing to slow it down, and it slams right onshore tearing up the coastline and pushing in the storm surge and that will be with us for the rest of the day in Northern Florida, Georgia, and even into South Carolina.

BERMAN: All right. Chad Myers, thanks so much. Chad was talking about the storm surge, Kate, and it's so interesting, the road I'm standing on right now is Brickell Avenue and I think you probably saw the pictures yesterday, this was a river yesterday.

The storm surge came out over from Biscayne Bay, which is just a street over from that, and it just poured in, gushed down this street, over five feet high, I'm 6'4" as you know, that would go up to about here on me, but the water just gushing down and you can see Brickell Avenue now, is more like a dirt road.

This morning, it was deserted when we first got here. Now people are venturing through. I think they're curious. I also think they're checking out their homes. This was part of the mandatory evacuation zone. I think they just want to get a sense of how long it will take to get back up on their feet -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Despite the 6'4" remark, you have been talking to a lot of folks all throughout -- all throughout the morning. I've seen a lot more cars kind of -- no one there right now but watching all morning cars on the roads, so different from yesterday.

What are folks saying? Is it they're trying to get back to their homes? Is it they're thankful that maybe they dodged something of a bullet? What are they saying?

BERMAN: It's yes, to all of those things. Miami-Dade County is still largely without power. You have a million people without power, 800,000 people without power, more than a million customers total. Life is not normal and we don't know when the power will come back on yet.

But look, the eyewall did not hit here. As bad as the storm surge was, it left. The drains worked. You can actually see the drains right back there. It's clogged up with debris but it worked. The water did empty out here.

Dodging a bullet, a relative thing. Everyone was hunkered down. People out here on the streets were coming out saying we were in our houses and apartments for two days, some of them are saying we were watching the coverage as long as they could --

BOLDUAN: I think we just lost audio with John. We will get reconnected with John. He's going to be joining me throughout the hour. Very thankful that he's there for us on the ground. So, he's in Miami right there.

Let's talk about Daytona Beach. Daytona Beach first responders are out rescuing people trapped by the storm. They were doing that just this morning. The city really wasn't expected to get a hard hit by Irma, but oh, it did.

Sara Sidner as you see right there was out in it this morning when the storm just moved in. Brutal what she was standing there through. Watch this.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is an incredibly powerful storm. We saw what it did in Miami and that wasn't where the eye was. We saw what it did as it came up the coast of the Keys. We saw what it did when the eye hit Naples. We saw what it did as it started moving up and now undenounced to a lot of folks here including the emergency management folks who told us that they did not have any idea they would get this strong of winds because the storm was not forecasted to go.


BOLDUAN: Unbelievable. Of course, you can't hear what she's saying, but you don't need to hear what Sara is saying but you can see it how she's standing there trying to stick through the brutal ferocious wind.

Joining me now is the Daytona Beach mayor, Derrick Henry. Mayor, can you hear me?


BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for getting on the phone. I really appreciate it. That was just early this morning with Sara Sidner in was going through. How do things look now?

HENRY: Things are looking much better. We're fortunate we had no fatalities and no major injuries to anyone and the water is starting to subside. But of course, those six, seven hours were quite horrific for so many of our residents and first responders.

BOLDUAN: And Mayor, somewhat of a surprise, I mean, the winds were just ferocious. It wasn't supposed to get hit as hard as it did.

HENRY: Well, the nature of storms is that they do what they want to do and this storm took a quick turn and that's why we teach our residents and encourage them to be vigilant and prepared and fortunately, most people here in Daytona Beach listened and took the warning and never let their guard down.

[11:10:11] BOLDUAN: Absolutely. So thankful for that. Any sense of the damage so far to Daytona Beach?

HENRY: Well, the damage is not as extreme as it could have been. Tree lines, we do have some troubles and we have some problems on our beachside, but overall, the damage is not as bad as it was say during Matthew or storms of the past so we're very fortunate.

BOLDUAN: We had reports of emergency rescues in Daytona Beach early this morning. What are you hearing from police and fire?

HENRY: Well, I think it was around 2:00 a.m. this morning they had to go out and rescue about 25 people from our downtown riverfront, one of our communities down there, and that was quite a dynamic scene and they showed their courage as they always do. They were prepared and did a great job rescuing those folks. No one was injured and everyone was brought in to safety.

BOLDUAN: Where did they take them? Just shelters?

HENRY: Yes. They took them to a shelter here in the city.

BOLDUAN: All right. That's great. What is the biggest concern that you have right now, now that the storm is slowly moving away?

HENRY: That residents will not keep their guard up in terms of safety, the use of generators, the use or the fear of downed wires, going out too soon. Although the water is starting to subside, the one thing that we do not want is the loss of life or anyone to get injured.

So, we want residents to now move to the next phase, which is caution after the storm begins to subside and not -- a feeling, a sense of relief as if they can go to their lives as normal. So that's the next stage. But it's always caution and that's my fear now.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And it might be quite a while with so much power outages until everybody is back to, quote/unquote, "normal," if you will. And also after these storms, something big like this, the question is always what are the lessons learned, Mayor? What are the lessons you've learned for your city in making it through this one?

HENRY: The lesson we've learned is to continue to be vigilant, be united, continue to always get the word out as much as possible. Communication is key. And, you know, always listen to your first responders. Leave the road clear for them to do their jobs as residents we don't ever want them to impede the work that the first responders are doing and those are some of the lessons that we've learned.

BOLDUAN: And on a personal note, you're a Daytona Beach native. What's it been like for you?

HENRY: I've been here my entire life and having back to back major storms is really a first and so it's quite fearful because you love your city and you want it protected but certainly I'm just happy this morning that things are not as bad as they could have been.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Mayor Derrick Henry, thank you so much for getting on the phone. Thank you so much for your hard work and for all the first responders out there in your city helping out. We really appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the threat from Irma leaving Daytona. I was just talking to the mayor but the threat from Irma far from over as the storm is now moving up the eastern seaboard as you see right there. What's in store for Northern Florida, Georgia, and beyond.

Plus, this -- death and destruction. Widespread in the Caribbean where Irma is responsible for at least 26 deaths. Residents there struggling to get basic essentials like food and clean water. The power, largely out. Communication very tough. We'll have details trickling in. We'll bring them to you.



BOLDUAN: We're showing you right now Charleston, South Carolina, trying to show you Charleston, South Carolina, where you can see over that reporter's shoulder you can see the waves really starting to kick up there. The winds clearly starting to pick up. This is moments ago, this video came in.

Again, this is Charleston, South Carolina, starting to feel the first effects of Hurricane Irma. The first bands of Hurricane Irma as it starts to march that direction. This is a monster storm as we have said over and over again and it continues to march basically up the entire state of Florida.

And Irma, though, has been downgraded to a tropical storm, but let's make no mistake, it is still dangerous. Look at the video we showed you from South Carolina and it's left a massive path of destruction in its wake.

CNN's Bill Weir returned to a restaurant, a bar in Key Largo, to get a firsthand look at the devastation that was left behind by Irma's wrath. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I've never seen anything like this before. We did the interview right here. That was the bar. After the interview my crew, we sat right here and ate shrimp tacos. I had cold beers with the folks from the neighborhood. They were so gracious and so wonderful to hang out with, but it's all gone. It's all gone. The storm surge shoved everything.


BOLDUAN: It is all gone. That's just one example in Key Largo. Less than 24 hours ago, this was the scene on Marco Island, where Irma made the second landfall as a Category 3 hurricane. Just brutal.

That is where CNN's Ed Lavandera is right now getting a firsthand look of what it looks like right now. A very different picture, Ed, but what are you seeing?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. We are here on Marco Island, access to the island for almost everybody is cut off temporarily, as teams kind of go through the island and try to clean up the roadways as much as possible.

This is the type of scene we've seen here. Communication systems are really spotty here on the island and so that's making things a little bit more difficult as well.

[11:20:09] And what we have seen, we've been here for about an hour this morning, and we have seen a lot of -- hundreds of downed trees. There are a number of roof -- of roof damage. Structurally, everything seems to have held up rather well.

We've spoken with a couple residents who rode out the storm here on the island. They described it as scary and intense. For several hours, lasting as long as five hours, as you mentioned, the hurricane made its second eye landfall here on Marco Island yesterday as a Category 3 storm with winds of about 130 miles per hour sustained.

And there was a weather station that picked up 140-mile-an-hour gust, but even given those dramatic statistics when you look around here, it's really amazing just how well structurally many of the buildings and the homes that we have seen here have sustained the damage through of Hurricane Irma.

This is an island that has we're told about 16,000 full-time residents, very popular vacation destination, homes like this, also a lot of condominium high rises. We talked to residents who had seen blown out windows in some of those buildings.

Spoke with the police chief who said, you know, after the storm passed last night and there was no power here on the island, no water, that is functional right now, there was a number of rescues and evacuations that took place in various areas, but nothing life threatening.

So, that is the good news, an incredible news really when you consider how much of a direct hit this island did take. So, it will take some time to clean up this scene by any stretch of the imagination (inaudible) --

BOLDUAN: And I think we're losing Ed as well. As you can understand, communications are tough as we're trying to get out to spots where there's little power and conditions are rough. We're going to get back to Ed Lavandera, who also went through some brutal conditions in Naples, north of Marco Island. We will try to get back to Ed in a few minutes.

But I want to go now to Kaylee Hartung, CNN correspondent Kaylee Hartung. She is in Jacksonville. This is where the -- where it's supposed to be getting hit the hardest right now. Kaylee, what are you seeing?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, right now I'm in downtown Jacksonville just outside the Omni Hotel in the middle of town. This parking lot to my left, still dry but you wonder how long that will last because all you have to do is take a couple of steps and this is downtown Jacksonville, flooded.

We're about two blocks from the banks of the St. John's River. Behind me you can see a marina just over my shoulder, and a bridge that would take you to Jacksonville Beach. These are already historic flood levels in downtown Jacksonville, unlike anything that they've seen before and authorities caution, Kate, it will get worse.

The rain has stopped. I don't need a rain jacket to stand out here and talked to you. The rain has stopped. High tide not until 2:00 p.m. They are thinking levels could rise 4 feet to 6 feet above high tide levels here.

I would like to be able to take you to Jacksonville Beach over that bridge to see what the conditions are like over there. You can only imagine that island is completely flooded. But we can't get you over there. Those bridges eastbound have been closed.

They are allowing westbound traffic into the city because they are making every effort here to get the people who tried to ride out the storm on Jacksonville Beach, out of there. Rescue crews are in place and ready to activate.

They were already making rescues in waist deep water this morning, Kate. Flood levels here in Jacksonville expected to get worse as we continue to get pounded by the wind here, but thankfully the rain subsiding for now.

BOLDUAN: Thankfully the rain subsiding. Of course, we heard from the National Weather Service that they're expecting the highest storm surge in the St. John's River which is right there next to Jacksonville the highest since October of 1846.

Everyone was wondering if that was a typo when they saw it the first time. Kaylee, what was is it like getting into the city for you? You were traveling with your crew. Were you seeing anyone on the street?

HARTUNG: So, we traveled in from Gainesville. So just to the east of here. There was debris on roadways. We saw some fallen trees. There wasn't a ton of traffic on the road but, gosh, Kate you can see, I can only imagine how the wind is picking up around me right now.

What's surprising, can we pan over here. Here is another member of the media here, but you just have spectators wandering the streets here. This is not safe. This is picking up by the minute. I've seen children out here wandering around here with their parents.

I mean, people are in t-shirts and shorts looking at the spectacle that is downtown Jacksonville flooded but people should heed the warnings. The worst is yet to come here in Jacksonville and no one should be on the streets, especially not to take a selfie or snap a photo for social media.

[11:25:02] It's just not worth it. These winds are the strongest I've felt here today, Kate, and we know the worst is yet to come.

BOLDUAN: Just for the control room, if we have a chance to get Chad Myers up, I would like to talk with Chad about what kind of winds Kaylee is facing right now. Let me know if he's ready and can jump up.

But Kaylee, I want to stay with you for just a second. I saw, obviously, a member of the media over your one shoulder. The other direction, though, I thought I saw some folks that were doing just what you were saying, taking pictures and selfies. Have you had a chance to talk to any of those folks?

HARTUNG: There's a fella right there in a Florida sweatshirt. I see three men and a couple children to my left. Let me see, could you guys come over here? Let's see if we can get -- I'm trying to get this family's attention. They're walking around with their kids.

I feel guilty asking them to stay in these conditions. Can we show this family over here? I mean, these kids are running around like it's a day at the beach. Let's see if we can talk to them because these are not conditions that I feel like anybody should be in.

Here, that's how quickly the ground gets dry. Hey, excuse me, sir. Can I ask you a quick question? We're on the air with CNN. I'm just curious, how concerned you are for these conditions for you guys to just kind of be wandering around and checking out the scene right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're staying here in the hotel and popped out for a second. But things, you know, feel for the moment are safe right here, but you can tell it's very dangerous out there. So just trying to see what's going on and the storm seems to have passed, but it's still pretty violent as you can see.

HARTUNG: Yes. They're saying these floodwaters could continue to rise with high tide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Expected to come.

HARTUNG: What led you all to check into this hotel? Were you trying to get away from somewhere else?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. So, we're in town locally, but we wanted to get away from any damage that could happen to the house and tornadoes, so we felt safer in the hotel here. That's kind of why we came down.

HARTUNG: Are you aware of the condition of your home now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Power is out and the home is in good condition thankfully. Hopefully when this all goes away the bridge is open we can head home.

HARTUNG: So are you from across the bridge? Are you Jacksonville Beach?


HARTUNG: Have you -- you've spoken with neighbors and feel comfortable?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not a lot of damage in our neighborhood thankfully and we're glad about that so the power is still out and so we'll go from there.

HARTUNG: Yes. Absolutely. But here, conditions inside this hotel, even though these floodwaters are outside the door, do you feel safe here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very safe here.

HARTUNG: With your boys?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are my friend's boys. You want to say hi.

HARTUNG: What do you think about this water coming up right in the middle of downtown?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like just different to see that water is downtown.

HARTUNG: Yes. Shouldn't be there. What do you think?


HARTUNG: It's crazy. I think that just about sums it up, Kate. It's crazy now and we'll be standing by to see how this situation evolves. We've got a fellow right here who's actually carrying his dog. Thank you so much. Be safe.

Fella carrying his dog so he doesn't wander into the water. Look at these folks here just so close to the water's edge. You wonder how long this ground will stay dry. I mean this looks like a boat landing right in the middle of town.

Water street I should mention a couple blocks from here, flooded much farther up than we are here. Sir, what do you think about these conditions seeing the middle of downtown Jacksonville like this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's pretty amazing. I don't --

HARTUNG: Do you feel safe here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I feel safe. I'm good. I'm on the 12th floor.

HARTUNG: Where did you come here from? I can only imagine if you're staying in a hotel in these conditions that you were trying to get out of somewhere else?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I drove up from Del Ray Beach, seven hours south of here.

HARTUNG: Are you aware of the conditions there? Have you gotten any reports from home?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're pretty good there actually. I don't think they got hit that hard. It's probably worse here.

HARTUNG: How long are you prepared to stay here and what is that feeling --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going home tomorrow. I've been up here for days now. So, I'm going home tomorrow and hopefully my house isn't flooded.

HARTUNG: What was your -- right, what was your reaction when you came here for safety and then you looked out the window this morning and saw this is what's considered safety?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I was surprised. I thought I was going to go home today and I saw this and I was like well, I guess it's one more day up here for sure.

HARTUNG: Have you checked out the roadways? Is it logistically possible to get home?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I got to go south and I don't think I can cross that bridge. I think that bridge is under water.

HARTUNG: Yes. I am getting blown over just standing next to you. Thank you for that support.

BOLDUAN: Kaylee, if you can --

HARTUNG: -- these winds continue to pick up.

BOLDUAN: If you can, Kaylee, just stick with me one second.

HARTUNG: Yes, Kate.

BOLDUAN: I think we have Chad Myers who can jump on with us to give us a picture of what Kaylee and all these folks that she's running into in downtown Jacksonville what they're experiencing and could be still facing or if it's past. Chad, what do you know?

MYERS: It is a flash flood emergency for Jacksonville. We have never seen levels like this in downtown Jacksonville as long as they've been keeping records, since the 1800s. So, this is how bad it was.

Worse than 1964, the old record, Hurricane Dora. The winds have come on shore --