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Florence to Stall & Pound Carolina Coastline Before Landfall; Trump Attacks Puerto Rico, San Juan Mayor in Tweet. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 12, 2018 - 07:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. We do begin with breaking news for you, because the latest storm forecast models reveal a shift in Hurricane Florence's track. The Category 4 storm, at the moment it is packing 130-mile-per-hour winds, and that's prompting hurricane warnings for parts of North and South Carolina.

[07:00:10] Forecasters how believe Florence could stall off the Carolina coast for up to 36 hours before making landfall, and that, of course, would bring a devastating storm surge and some catastrophic flooding.

So here are some images that we can't stop watching from outer space. You can see -- well, space, I should say -- you can see the powerful eye of the storm churning there. A forecaster for the National Weather Service in Bloomington, North Carolina, warns that this, quote, "will likely be the storm of a lifetime" for portions of the Carolina coast.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Mandatory evacuations in effect for more than a million people. In South Carolina, a major highway was turned into a one-way road to get everyone away from the coast. Look at that. You don't see that often. There was a rush to get gas. Some gas stations had begun running out of fuel.

President Trump a short time ago said that the federal government is ready, but at the same time -- and he just put out this statement a few minutes ago -- he felt the need to attack the residents of Puerto Rico and the politicians in Puerto Rico, all having to do with last year's Hurricane Maria, which killed some 3,000 people on that island.

What good does that do either the people of Puerto Rico or the Carolinas this morning? We'll discuss that in just a little bit.

But first the forecast, Florence. We have reporters up and down the Carolina coast. We're going to start with meteorologist Chad Myers to give us an update on this changing forecast, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The models hinted at it, John, and now the forecasters said, yes, there is enough agreement, we must turn this storm to the left right when it hits the coast.

It's still a Category 4, 130-mile-an-hour storm, and it's still going for the next 48 hours it's heading right to North Carolina. But that's where the continuation of yesterday's forecast stops. A hundred and twenty miles an hour, not that far from Bloomington. The timeline comes in somewhere around noon for tropical-storm force tomorrow, midnight tomorrow night for hurricane-force winds.

But here's the change, that left-hand turn. That left-hand turn was not there in the model yesterday until around 8 p.m. last night. And that's when that turn occurred. And now they're still taking that just to the north of Charleston but some of the models are out here.

And look at the cone. The cone is in the ocean. So where we thought we had this really on track, the models let us down yesterday. Now they're agreeing what's going on here. What will happen later on? Because still, we're 48 hours from this turn.

Here's where we expected it and where it's still going to be. And then we expect it to be up in here somewhere, making catastrophic flooding for Virginia. Well, that appears not to be happening, because many -- I will say most of the models now go left, and they go into South Carolina and up into the higher elevations of upstate South Carolina, and that's where the heaviest rain may be.

Hurricane warnings still in effect right now. They may be updated as we work our way in. This is this yellow ring. This is the tropical- storm-force impact from Hatteras all the way down to Wilmington, and that's 12:30 tomorrow afternoon.

As we work our way into somewhere around midnight, that's where this entire area in red will see it pushing that water on shore, pushing that storm surge here. And then, eventually getting smaller because of the land interaction, but wind could still gust to 120. We're still talking about significant rainfall, significant flooding possible as the day goes on for tomorrow into Friday.

But if this thing goes off the coast and doesn't die and then turns back to shore, we we have a completely different system. And that is not out of the realm of possibilities. We're still going through the 13 feet for storm surge and areas there could be higher surge than that.

CAMEROTA: Can you tell when, exactly, it will make landfall?

MYERS: If it makes landfall -- the hurricane winds on that map that I just showed were somewhere around midnight tomorrow night. And if the eye comes on shore, truly the eye comes on shore, likely in the morning, another six to eight hours after that. So this is going to take some time.

Let's go back to this, kind of show you here. This is a.m. Friday still offshore. This is after midnight tomorrow night. The winds are on shore but the eye is not there. And we can't focus on the eye on this thing because it's 150 miles wide from one side to the other, so what does the eye matter if you're going to push storm surge here in the neighborhood of -- I don't even know. It could be six to 18 feet, honestly. Eighteen, 12, 10, 6-feet surge. There's so many millions of people in the way of that. You can't look at when it's going to make landfall, when is it going to make impact, and that's late tomorrow night. That's when the hurricane force comes in; that's when the surge gets -- really gets going.

BERMAN: If it does skirt the coast from Wilmington down to Charleston, what does that mean for that stretch of coast?

[07:05:03] MYERS: Well, what it means is that from Myrtle, who really -- you weren't in it yesterday, starts to get scoured. Even at 2 a.m., this is after midnight Friday night. You're still at a Category 3, somewhere around a 100 miles per hour storm. That was forecast to be here, not down here. Even the Hurricane Center saying at the advisory at 5, we may need to turn this farther left at 11:00. We will see. We don't want to turn it too far left right now, because all the models yesterday were farther to the north. But we're turning it now and we may have to go farther.

So if this thing skirts all the way down here, all of a sudden, Charleston is in play, and yesterday Charleston was way out of it.

CAMEROTA: Wow, so we often talk about is this going to be a wind event. Is it going to be a rain event? What's your biggest worry, Chad?

MYERS: I'm still worried about surge. All the way from, really about maybe north -- Let's call it Wilmington, because that's where everyone knows. These little beaches around here are small and people don't know the names.

But from Wilmington almost all the way to Morehead City, that's where the wind is going to pile up the water, fill up the bay behind it and actually flood Houses from the back side and also up those rivers. There could be 12 to 15 feet of water higher than what there should be in those rivers.

The wind, I think, is going to be coming down, but 120? If this blows at 120 for four hours, that's day after day, hour after hour, you lose a shingle every two minutes and all of a sudden, you've lost your whole roof after four hours. So that's a real significant possibility.

Because this thing is stalling but not stopping, I think the rainfall will spread itself out a little bit, so that may be less of a problem. I don't think we see 40 inches of rainfall anywhere, but wind and surge for sure.

The water is hard to get out of the way, and it will kill you more than the wind will. A lot of these areas have had very saturated ground. Trees are going to fall down. power lines are going to be down. People will be without power for weeks.

BERMAN: Chad, can you pick up on the rain thing you just brought up? Because that's the first I've heard about it. There was concern up until last night that we were going to see two or three feet of rain maybe in interior North Carolina up into Virginia right now. Is that rainfall less, and where will it be falling?

BERMAN: It's less up here toward Blacksburg and up along the blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. That would certainly be less. But when you have a storm that's still spinning, and John, it's 150

miles from here to here and another 150 miles from here to here. There will be tremendous upslopes along these Appalachian alleys (ph). This is the area that is -- it's topographic. It goes up and down. And so the rain will hit those mountains, and the rain will get into those valleys, and that's where that significant flash flooding will occur.

Because of this turn and because of the not stopping over the area, I think we're going to spread the rain out a little bit, and here comes the wind. There's the wind. We're going to knock down some things here for sure. Category 3 not that far off Wilmington. That will be a devastating hit for the area there. Even up toward Florence and Jacksonville, big-time damage even on shore.

But here's the map now of what the rainfall may look like. This is still a model. This is the European model. This goes from right now, Wednesday, all the way for about seven days. And we're still seeing the purple from Savannah through Charleston to Bloomington. That's here. That's 10 inches plus. And then there are some spots that are 20, and that's up here near Wilmington, where we expect that landfall or close landfall to be. It's not here, it's just spreading itself out. This is all six. Don't get me wrong, that's going to flood, but it's not going to flood like 40.

CAMEROTA: Chad, we appreciate all of the explanation that you have given us and our viewers. Of course, we will check back with you routinely through the show.

So what are people going to do about it? More than a million people have now been ordered to evacuate the coastal areas of the Carolinas. Officials are not mincing words about this threat you just heard, what Chad is so worried about. But despite the orders to evacuate coastal areas, some people, of course, are tempting fate. Kaylee Hartung is on a North Carolina Beach, North Carolina. What are you seeing at this hour, Kaylee?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, if you are still in your home on Carolina Beach come 8 p.m. tonight, the deadline for the mandatory evacuation her on this barrier island, you will get a knock on your door, and you will be asked for contact information for your next of kin.

The town manager here, Michael Cramer, tells me he's not trying to use a scare tactic. Rather he wants to have very serious conversations with the hundred or so people he believes at this time are planning to stay on this island and ensure that they understand the life-risking choice that they are making if they stay.

This is a 3x1-mile island, about 6,300 residents on it full time. At this point, they believe about 50 percent of the folks have left, but again, they want people to heed these warnings.

[07:10:08] We're hearing about this slight turn for the storm, a little bit south, but Chad -- Chad really captured the threat that is still so real here. The life-threatening storm surge that could tackle these sand dunes behind me, which are 12 feet tall. The life- threatening and catastrophic flash flooding, and of course, those hurricane-force winds that they're worried about well into Wilmington and beyond.

The threat here very real. People, we hope, heeding those warnings, but John, as you know, there are those people who are willing to take that risk.

BERMAN: All right, and they're doing it at their own peril. It's on them at this point. Kaylee Hartung, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

We should note, though, and it does put some of the first responders in jeopardy, as well.

CAMEROTA: Of course.

BERMAN: They say they're not going to help, that they can't help them, but some end up trying.

CAMEROTA: I thought it was very interesting when we had Michael Cramer, the town manager on, he said that at 50 miles per hour, he's going to stop sending the emergency response. So not 100 miles per hour, 50-mile-per-hour winds. So that's much sooner and a lower threshold. So that's what people in the Carolinas need to know about when -- if they are -- if it is possible for them to get help, that window will close.

BERMAN: And they do -- and again, the breaking news this morning, we hope people pay attention, is this, really, a new group of people that need to focus this morning. The storm looks like it will turn to the left, more a little bi south, perhaps make a bigger landfall on Myrtle Beach, even Charleston. So we really hope that people are paying attention to that.

CAMEROTA: OK. So joining us now on the phone, flying over Hurricane Florence is Neil Jacobs. He is the deputy administrator of NOAA.

I know you're in the middle of a storm. Can you hear us, Neil?


CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, tell us what you're seeing up there.

JACOBS: Right now we are on the southwest side of the circulation, flying around the eye clockwise. It's fairly bumpy, but not as bumpy as you probably expect. We're fairly high up, and we're just deploying dropsondes down through the center of the storm.

CAMEROTA: What -- what elevation are you flying at?

JACOBS: Right now, we're about 42,000 feet.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. Listen, just even thinking about how bumpy it is flying through this storm gives me goosebumps. So tell us what -- I mean, look, you do this for a living. You do this all the time. What's different about Florence?

JACOBS: So I don't actually -- I don't actually do this for a living or all the time. My area of expertise is using the data that the planes collect into the weather forecast models, but it's an interesting experience to me to see how they actually collect the data.

CAMEROTA: How did they rope you into going up to 42,000 feet?

JACOBS: Well, this is something that I've always been interested in, and, you know, between it seeming relatively interesting and exciting but also wanting to learn how the actual data was collected using the forecast models. The best way to experience it was do it firsthand.

CAMEROTA: OK, so tell us about the data that you are collecting and what you're seeing and what people on the ground need to know.

JACOBS: So what we do is we drop instruments out of the plane, and they take a vertical profile of the storm, and that gets put into the model. And if you've been following the track, there's a pretty good model agreement on -- on the first day or two headed towards coastal North Carolina, but then there's some ambiguity as it approaches the coast. And what we're trying to do is pin down this area of high pressure that's going to eventually block the forward motion of the storm and possibly push it to the southwest.

CAMEROTA: And what about that? I mean, can you tell from our meteorologist, Chad Myers, that it could stall off the coastline for up to 36 hours? And of course, that would be catastrophic in terms of all of the storm surge and the wind and everything that it creates. Can you tell what it looks like as it gets closer to land?

JACOBS: Well, it's -- it's hard to tell from here. What we're doing is just collecting the data, and the data that we put into the models will enable the models to better tell us what it's going to do.

So the most recent information that I'm seeing shows it coming, approaching the coastline and then stalling slightly to the southwest and moving slow, which is pretty -- is directly in line with -- with the 5 a.m. release from the Hurricane Center. But it approaches the coast as a major -- as a major hurricane.

[07:15:06] And you're right, that could end up being quite catastrophic, because it's going to have a tremendous amount of rain associated with it, too, as it slows down.

CAMEROTA: Well, Neil Jacobs, we all rely on the data that you are up there at 40,000 feet collecting for the next update that we get, so thank you for taking time to talk to us and for going up there to get all of those raw numbers that we will need. Thanks so much. Be careful.

JACOBS: My pleasure.

CAMEROTA: Coming up in our next hour, we will get a new advisory from the National Hurricane Center, again from that raw data that's being collected right now. And we'll speak to the director also, with South Carolina now in the bull's eye of the storm. We'll speak to the mayor of Charleston and what they are now anticipating for the next 48 hours.

BERMAN: A heck of a flight to decide to catch a ride on.


BERMAN: The 42,000 one that goes through a hurricane, that's the one you want to go through?

CAMEROTA: I really don't like thinking about bumping around up there.

BERMAN: I will say, it's fascinating what he's doing right now. He seems to be telling you that what they're trying to figure out, they're trying to get data on exactly where this storm will turn and when, which is the major question right now.

CAMEROTA: So you're headed there. You're headed to the Carolinas to do reporting for us for the next couple of days.

BERMAN: I'm not going up in the plane. Now let's be clear.

CAMEROTA: Well, you are taking a plane to get there.

BERMAN: I'm taking a plane to get there, but then I'm on the ground getting wet, not flying through the hurricane. That seems crazy.

CAMEROTA: Fair enough. Tune in to NEW DAY tomorrow for all of the latest.

BERMAN: All right. We are getting some breaking news on the president's response to the hurricane that is going to hit the Carolinas. What is he doing about it? Well, he says the government is ready, but he's also attacking Puerto Rico, because for some reason, he thinks that helps. We'll discuss, next.


[07:20:45] CAMEROTA: President Trump touting that the U.S. is ready for Hurricane Florence. And also attacking Puerto Ricans and the San Juan mayor in a new tweet. Here's what the president just posted.

He says, "We got A-pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent mayor of San Juan. We are ready for the big one that is coming."

This comes after the president called his administration's response to Hurricane Maria, quote, "one of the best" and "an unsung success."

Let's bring in Joe Klein. He's a columnist at "TIME" and author of the book "Primary Colors," as we now know. It was not anonymous. We have a lot to ask you about. And CNN political analyst David Gregory; and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. So David Gregory, let's start with Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Florence and everything that's happening. So the president says that it was an unsung success what happened in Puerto Rico. The same amount of people died as a result of Maria as 9/11. That was not a success.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it clearly was not a success. And any leader looking at that would try to learn from those lessons about federal response, about state and local response.

But what we know about this president is that that doesn't matter as much as taking on all comers who would criticize him and to project a story that is belied by facts on the ground.

The notion that he would take on, you know, the local mayor in such a -- in such a fashion is not surprising. It just fits a pattern.

But we're hopeful that the federal agency responsible, FEMA, which is still a bit defensive about their role in Maria, can learn what they can learn everything they can learn about a very difficult situation, about situational awareness which they lacked in their own reporting in the aftermath of the storm, and as they apply it to different storms.

Islands are more vulnerable for obvious reasons. The infrastructure in Puerto Rico is certainly an issue. But the federal response is kind of the response of last resort. Who else can be responsible? The federal government has resources and has scale that no one else has. The president doesn't really want to engage in any of that.

BERMAN: Look, his statement about Puerto Rico, it's not true, and more importantly this morning, it's not helpful. It's not helpful, let alone to the families of the 3,000 people --

CAMEROTA: Oh, it's hurtful.

BERMAN: -- who died in Puerto Rico. Hurtful. But it's not helpful to the people in North and South Carolina, who are about to get hit by a Category 3 or Category 4 storm.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: But isn't the story even darker than that? Isn't the story that these people who died, apparently thousands of them in Puerto Rico, 3,000 as you point out, they're not white people. And they don't count to Donald Trump as much as the deaths of white people. I mean, you hate to say that about someone, but look at his record. Isn't that indicative of who he is and what he stands for?

CAMEROTA: I don't know, Jeffrey. I don't know if I can draw that conclusion, but we certainly know that they didn't have the apparatus in place when they knew that that hurricane was coming, too, Maria, and you have to ask why.

TOOBIN: Ask why. But in terms of acknowledging the failure, if 3,000 white people had died in Florida or Texas, would he be saying it was a success? BERMAN: He wouldn't acknowledge the failure, no matter what. I don't

think it's in his DNA to acknowledge weakness or failure.

JOE KLEIN, "IME" MAGAZINE: He said that. He said that that's part of his strategy is never to acknowledge failure. I mean, I think Hemingway defined courage as grace under pressure. This guy is graceless under pressure always, and it speaks to the much larger issue here, which is his personality derangement, which has been the story of the past week. Woodward's book, the anonymous column in the "New York Times."

We have a national crisis right now, and it is very serious, and we have to focus on that rather than -- Jeff, I'm sorry -- whether or not, you know, he didn't care about Puerto Rico for racist reasons.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, look, this does bring us to the anonymous column, the op-ed. Because why are we acting as though we're surprised?

In the Woodward book, in the anonymous column, we keep hearing about what was going on inside the White House and what the writer of the anonymous op-ed wrote, whoever it was, was driven to go public in this halfhearted -- half way because of the amorality of the president. And that conversations about policy run off the rails and that the -- it's just always marked by immorality, so here we are.

[07:25:17] KLEIN: Yes, I think it was an act of patriotism, the column. There's been a lot of controversy over whether it was a good thing or bad. I think it was a good thing, because it corroborates what Woodward is reporting. It corroborates the reporting that people at CNN and other news outlets have been doing for the past year.

It is yet another source that says that we are dealing with a very fundamentally deranged person who is leading our country right now. And thank God there are people, sane people who are surrounding him, who might limit the damage, because the legal recourses here move very, very slowly.

BERMAN: Jeff says it corroborates the Woodward reporting.

Well, there is some new information in regards to the Woodward reporting. We finally have statements from Gary Cohn and Rob Porter, who are quoted all over the book "Fear." And you have these, to give deference to "The Washington Post" and Ben Bradley, non-denial denials of sources participating in this book "Fear."

Gary Cohn says, David Gregory, "This book does not accurately portray my experience at the White House. I am proud of my service in the Trump administration, and I continue to support the president and his economic agenda." Rob Porter has a somewhat similar response.

But the basic thing is they're saying, "I don't like the book, but I'm not disputing anything specific in it," are they?

GREGORY: No, they're not. They don't like the general characterization. But I -- yes, I think those are pretty thin as denials. They're obviously concerned with maintaining some level of loyalty to President Trump, who I think has made it very clear that he demands that from people, that that's a higher test than telling the truth about all of this.

And we do get -- you know, we get multiple portraits and an overall narrative about how the president approaches policy, how he approaches decision making. There are things that we've seen before in other administrations: impulsivity, power centers, rethinking of policy, ugliness within an administration, within a West Wing. Those things go on all the time. To suggest that that is so bizarre because it's Donald Trump is not fair.

But it's so top-down, and that is the picture here. And even the demand for loyalty and to kind of clean this up and to project this idea that, you know, they don't really dispute anything specific and therefore it's all fiction, that's not true. The president wants to create a different reality about what's really going on in his own administration.

CAMEROTA: Jeffrey, wasn't it interesting that it took them a week to refute or attempt to refute or put out a statement. So Gary Cohn and Rob Porter were silent for a week. And it's our reporting, according to Jim Acosta, Kevin Liptak and Cristina Alesci, that there was a source close to the White House; and the White House applied a lot of pressure on these two men to release a statement over the past week.

TOOBIN: Right, and you know, as you pointed out, Berman, this is a non-denial denial. They don't dispute anything in the book except they say they were proud to work in the White House.

CAMEROTA: Well, it says it does not accurately portray their experience.

BERMAN: This isn't about their experience.

TOOBIN: I mean, it's like, you know, during Watergate when Ron Ziegler would say, who was the White House press secretary, "That story is outrageous. I won't dignify it with a comment."

But they never dispute the facts. And that was Bob Woodward 40 years ago. This is Bob Woodward today. I trust him a lot more than the people in the White House.

KLEIN: Yes. There is one word that doesn't appear in either of these statements. The word is "untrue." They don't say this book is untrue. They don't say this book is false. They don't say this book is lies. They say, "It doesn't convey my impression of what it was like in the White House." So I -- I'm with Woodward, too.

BERMAN: I have to ask you, Joe. We'd be accused of malpractice if we didn't ask you, because when the op-ed came out from this unnamed author, everyone said, "This is reminiscent of when Joe Klein wrote 'Primary Colors'," and at first, you were anonymous there. There's a difference. Yes, we didn't know the identity of either you or the person writing this, but there's a big difference about where this is coming from. KLEIN: Well, yes, I wrote a comic novel. And -- and everything that

happened was really good. You know, the reviews were fabulous. The books flew out of the stores --

BERMAN: John Travolta.

KLEIN: Yes. I mean, Random House thought it was going to be a failure. My editor at "Newsweek" said to me, "This is a really fun book, Joe, but you know books like this don't sell."

In this case, the person has committed, as I said, an act of patriotism; and their future, their reputation, is at stake. I've had a really good life.

CAMEROTA: But do you think they should go public?

KLEIN: No, I do not. I think it -- say, I think it's really important that you have sane people. Jim Mattis, obviously, is one of them. I think you have -- it's important that you have as many people like that surrounding this president, because he ain't going anywhere for a while.

BERMAN: Can I ask you just quickly?

GREGORY: I just want to say -- we have to acknowledge a different view on this.