i'm wolf blitzer and wherever you are watching for around the world, we start with now tropical storm irma tearing through the southeast. more than 6 million homes and businesses are without power. we are also seeing record flooding in some areas especially in north eastern florida right now. right around jacksonville. we will take you through the path of this storm and see community after community assessing the damage. the florida keys were the first
to be hit by hurricane irma in the united states. officials say the keys are closed and residents who evacuated should stay away while they assess the damage. bill weir is in key largo for us. tell our viewers here in the united states and around the world what you have been seeing as you travel through the keys today. >> reporter: it's really interesting, wolf. it depends on which side of the coastal highway u.s. 1 you go on. the folks on the bayside seem to have a much better go of it. got through it better than those folks on the atlantic oceanside. you are getting a sample of the damage with the coast guard and naval helicopters taking surveys up and down the coast. it goes back to the story of the big bad wolf. no pun intended, wolf. the houses made of sticks or mobile homes of tin did not nearly fare as well as those who
lived in the better constructed houses made of stone. we are getting a sense of the community of -- how are you, sir? make it through already? you all right? just checking the damage? we are seeing a lot of mobile homes being torn apart. here's a power line. be careful. here are the dangerous hazards. live electrical wires. you can hear them buzzing. this is one canal and a sample of a good, i would say 300 yards from the coastline and a lot of debris got pounded by the winds and the waves pushing piles of rocks up against doors on that side of the community. the good news as we get word from officials in key west. no fatalities reported miraculo miraculously. it's amazing. they are worried about the humanitarian a liftance. a lot of elderly that couldn't
evacuate. they need food and fuel. they have a desalinization plant and they can get by, but the destruction up here is nothing compared to what happened further down. if you know the keys, you know mile marker zero is key west and it goes up to 125 closer to miami-dade county. we are at about 97. this is a rough approximatation of what we have been seeing. the storm came ashore down around mile marker, i want to say in the 30s, i believe. we are in the process right now of securing a boat because we can't go by road down to the lower keys. the florida department of transportation said they want to survey the bridges and there are buckled roadways they need to sign off on before they open it up to traffic.
that you can smjimagine is a bi job. if you have a vacation planned in the keys, thanks for the thought, but you may want to postpone it for a while. a lot of folks who were on the line whether to evacuate or not and this was the biggest concern. it they did evacuate, they couldn't get back home. >> does it look like most of the homes there in key largo are obviously a lot worse? it looks like a lot of those homes were destroyed. is that right? >> well, again it comes down to what construction. some of it is cosmetic and some is structural. if you look at a house like this one here, i hazard a guess it was built after andrew when they toughened up the building codes and cement construction to survive. a mobile home is a different story. >> we are on the scene here and
we will stay in close touch with you as you head south. be careful over there. let's move north. the storm is moving north. we are seeing the worst flooding around jacksonville in the northern part of the state where the storm surge put streets and homes under water. kaylie h kaylie hartung is there. how bad is it? >> reporter: it looks bad now. in downtown jacksonville we are about two blocks off of the middle of downtown, but it is going to get worse. high tide at 2:00 p.m. the storage surge that flooded the streets will bring waters to six feet above high tide leer. as bad as it looks, it will get worse. this has been interesting to see so many spectators here on dry ground checking out the scene
down here despite the crazy wind gusts. we have even seen pickup trucks trying to drive into this. what surprised me more than anything was otis here who we just saw walking through this water. otis, how far did you walk through these waters? >> i went from that bridge all the way down to here. >> reporter: why did you think that was a good idea? was it out of necessity. >> no, i was just having fun. it's hurricane season. you know what i'm saying? i just wanted to experience it. that's all. >> reporter: did you feel like you were ever unsafe or concerned for your safety? >> oh, no. this is the after effects. the hurricane is about gone. >> reporter: they say the waters are going to continue rising. how high was the water as you walked through it? >> i want to say about four -- three to four foot.
>> it can rise two or three more feet and we are not advocating to do what otis did, but i'm glad you made it through safely. how long have you lived in this area? >> pretty much all my life. >> have you seen anything like this or felt winds like this? >> i have seen a lot of hurricanes in my lifetime. >> does this one feel different? >> it did feel different, yes. >> this is not something you will see every hurricane season with waters rolling up to downtown high-rises and hotels. >> it feels like it's windy and something like that. i just can't explain it. >> please tell me you have a safeway to get home that doesn't involve walking back through the floodwaters. >> i have a safe place to go home. i'm just having fun. >> reporter: if you say so,
otis. i'm so glad that you are safe. these winds continue to batter us here. we are looking at white caps coming up as the st. johns river flows through downtown jacksonville and the fear that the water continues to rise. a couple of bridges have reopened with traffic going both ways and it purely depends on the wind speeds and all bridges are open from the westbound side, leading anyone who stayed on the barrier islands like jacksonville beach who tried to ride out the storm and trying to get those people back to safety. the lanes are open and the sheriffs department said they were out in boats this morning and water up to their waist trying to get people to safety. these winds continue to gust. i'm not wearing a rain jacket because rain is falling out of the sky. it is protecting me from the spray of water we get as this wind flies up what has become a
tunnel on hogan street. for anybody familiar, we are a block off the corner of water and independent streets and the landing just behind me on the opposite corner, very popular watering hole. i'm not willing to do what otis did and wait in the water to find out if the landing is flooded. you can only imagine so many areas on the banks of the st. johns river in dire conditions. waters are three blocks from the banks here. flooded. we will be standing by as tide continues to rise. >> quickly, were the folks prepared and told there would be this kind of serious flooding? >> reporter: it was really late yesterday when people started to recognize that this could be a place in danger. i have spoken to several people staying in the hotel. we are outside the omni hotel
and people who come here from some of the areaibarrier island beaches. families thought coming here would be safe and now this is a place of utmost concern in the jacksonville area. no one i have spoken to felt like it will get much worse. that's the concern is that people see the waters and it looks so bad now. everyone from ann official group. no power and 6.2 million people are without power right now. joining us right now is the vice president and chief of communications officer for florida power and light. what are you doing now to get power restored?
how quickly will it take? >> it will take a while. this is a storm that is affecting all 27,000 miles of our territory. 35 counties. we run from the georgia line where you saw jacksonville just south all the way down towards the keys and we come back towards tampa. what we are seeing is that on the east coast, we are still suffering the effects of the storm obviously. our crews can't get out in the power in that area. in the south and the miami-dade and broward areas, we are out in force today and assessing the damage. we have an army virtually of 19,500 workers, the largest restoration force we put in place prestorm. probably in the country.
we are thinking on the west coast will be and most likely will be a rebuild effort that could take weeks. as opposed to the eastern side that would be more of a restoration and more along the type of days that you would see in a restoration after a storm like this. >> what are your biggest challenges right now? >> the biggest challenge is what you just saw. the flooding. that is a real debilitator for us to get out there and for our crews to move around and we are concerned about the tricounty area where traffic is congested on a good day. we will be trying to move around as customers and your viewers are moving back into the area. i think the biggest concern we have is safety. safety for our crews and the viewers and the residents. the floodwaters can be dangerous and hide lines that can be
energized. people can step on them. it's a real concern that everybody practice safety. we are going to get through this, but this is no question going to be one of the largest and most complex restoration efforts in u.s. history without question. >> how do you prioritize restoring power right now? >> the first thing we do is make sure that the generating assets, the power plants are up and running and good to go. once we get through that, we look at the critical infrastructure and we are talking about hospitals and police, fire, 911 centers and water treatment facilities. we look at the main trunk lines and main thoroughfares and where we try to get the most amount of customers back in as quickly as possible. we go into the neighborhoods, house to house. we invested some $3 billion over
the past decade and we have seen significant benefits because of that investment in all of that innovation and 1.5 million outages restored since the storm began. that gives you a sense of the infrastructure that works. when you are talking about the storm of the magnitude of irma coming on to shore. facing all parts of our territory. this is a challenge we and others are going to have to really work through and the best thing we can ask is that our customers understand and be patient and safe. >> when you say be safe, what worries me and a lot of other folks, the power lines that are down as you point out in the water right now, how dangerous are they? >> very dangerous. we don't have a good point idea.
we are assessing the situation. that's the first step in all of this. we are out assessing the southern part of our territory and miami-dade county and braurd and west palm and the treasure coast and we will work up to the northern part. our crews can't fly their buckets in anything greater than 35 miles per hour. as far as the west coast, we will be doing the same. it's not just the power lines. it's also generator use and a lot of customers and viewers have generators and they use them. if they have generators, they need to put those in operation outside their garage and away from windows and doors. the fumes for carbon monoxide can be deadly. what we have found in restorations like this is most of the fatalities occur after the storm has passed. not during the storm. people lead their guard down and the weather gets nice and the sun comes out and they feel like life is going to restore to
normal pretty quickly. that is the most dangerous time. we are asking you to stay off the road. the governor has been forward leaning and making sure that evacuations have been pushed forward and all local, state, and federal officials have been saying the same thing and we will get the lights back on as quickly as we can. this is going to take sometime. this is not going to be a typical restoration. >> for doesn't look like it. the vice president and chief communications officer for florida power and light. millions of people of florida are counting on you guys. good luck. we will stay in close touch with you. thanks for that update. i want to check in on florida's west coast where many people are assessing the damage from irma. joining us now from bradenton, close to tampa bay. what's happening where you are? >> wolf, your last guest you spoke to with the power outages,
a lot of them here is because of this. i'm almost 6 feet tall and you can see how large the root is. there are kids playing on this now. this family is one of so many that are here in this area in bradenton trying to pick up the trees out of the road and they get and get the neighbors and you see the roofs and carports ripped off, oust electricity right now. trying to get them turned back on. they tried to avoid the downed trees and in fact they cannot get to bradenton beach because of the live wires. you are not allowing anybody on there. i have michelle with me and this is her home and they rode out the storm. what was it like for you? were you scared? >> yes and no. can't too scary for us. the kissed were playing and running around and we were watching outside. this was better than we
expected. we didn't expect a tree, but we expected a flood. it didn't so that's a positive. >> this tree was all the way across the road breaking out. we have been watching and you neighbors and chain saws. you didn't have gas or oil. how did you get the tree out of the road? >> people started showing up and they brought us gas and oil. neighbors came and within a few hours we had the road clear and our driveway. >> thank you so much. this family is dealing with what a lot of people are dealing with. that is because we are having sewer lines breaking and sewage mixing with the rain water and the floodwater. they have a sewage problem and power problems and trees that are trying to get down on their. there is a curfew until 3:00 p.m. there are plenty of cars passing by and people trying to get an
idea of just what the damage was overnight. many feel speared, but if you have a tree down, it's a big deal. this is a personal problem for a lot of people. they are trying to assess what irma did and how long it's going to take to repair. >> you heard rob from the power company saying it could take weeks or longer to get all that power restored on the western part of the state. maybe days on the eastern part. we shall see. we have diane gallagher joining us and prohibiting people from getting in. people are desperate to see their homes and businesses and we will discuss. there is a threat of storm surge along the coast in georgia and south carolina as well as irma makes its way north. this is cnn's special live coverage. patrick woke up with back pain.
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rain to north florida including jacksonville over the weekend. miami felt the wrath of irma. miami beach did as well. slammed into the state as a strong hurricane. we have these pictures from miami just a little while ago. tree after tree snapped in half and lining the streets and making roads undriverable for now. the airport is still closed because of significant water damage on miami beach. philipp levine is assessing the damage on the scene for us in miami. we dodged a cannon. >> the winds and thank god we received trees over the ground. we it teens on the ground since the crack of dawn and they have been there and clean up the city
as fast as possible. we want the residents to return asap. >> right now the curfew will be lifted. >> we are not allowing anybody to return until tomorrow at 12:00. it's possible that we can get the people in before, but we are going to let them know if we can. otherwise it's 12:00 tomorrow afternoon. we need to make it safe. it's so important. can you imagine we kept people in preparation and kept them safe during the storm. we need to keep them safe in the recovery effort. >> how much of power is out right now? are street lights working? >> it really depends on what section of the city. it's very, very spotty. certain areas have power and others don't. florida power and light are
working diligently. as you know, millions of people that are without power. this is stretching the resources dramatically and bringing in people from across the country to take care of what's happening in florida. >> are there power lines down that could be very dangerous? >> absolutely. i saw them early this morning and i saw them last night. we see the crews there along with the first responders and the public works team and the fire departments that have gone beyond the call of duty to make sure that god forbid no one can get hurt and that's one of the reasons we can't have people back until we are able to secure it. >> what are your biggest challenges right now? >> i can tell you this. the good news is this. we invested a tremendous amount. we have been raising roads and putting in pumps and generators. we have been fighting back against sea level.
it has been a big issue even during sunny days. we found during this historic high tide that we experienced with the tidal surge, all the areas were absolutely dry. for us, we are excited it was a success, but you never declare a victory against mother nature. we have years and years to go and it's a model for other cities who needs to invest to make them resilient. these weather events may have been an abnormality, but for the future, a new normal. >> philipp le screen and good luck to all the folks in miami beach. you will be staying in close touch as well. >> a high risk of storm surge in cities like charleston and savannah where irma is lashing. take a look at this. tragic pictures of complete devastation across the caribbean and homes destroyed.
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>> south georgia is now starting to get hit by tropical storm irma. thousands have lost power. a bunch of florida is left with the aftermath and millions of people were left without power and fallen trees and downed power lines and flooded roadways across the state. cnn has been tracking this monster storm every step of the way. let's go to allison who is live from the cnn weather center. allison, what are the big concerns right now and it's next for irma? >> the biggest concerns are here from charleston down to jacksonville, florida. this is where we have high surge and very heavy rainfall in
addition strong winds and this is where the biggest threat fors is loekded. you have to understand where the storm came from to know what to expect. look at the amounts of rain that have been dropped in portions of florida. ft. pierce with 16 inches of rain. gainsville with nearly a foot. napeles with a foot of rain. look at georgia and it recently started to rain. kingsland over 10 inches of rain already. homeland about eight inches of rain. keep in mind for georgia, the rain is still coming and likely will for the next several hours. the numbers are going to go up in terms of wind speed. we will not see numbers like this going forward, but they are impressive and naples with a wind gust of over 140 miles per hour. largo island at 130 miles per hour. storage surge is still a concern for portions of florida. mostly on the western coast.
the highest north of tampa as you push in towards the panhandle. even around tampa and ft. myers. we are talking about the region on the east. charleston down to jacksonville could be looking at storm surge of to six feet. in addition that, we have a concern of heavy rain. that's where the heaviest rain bands are in portions of south carolina and southeastern georg georgia. these are the flood emergencies we v. the flash flood threat as well as pink indicating a tornado warning. we are stretching from wilmington to savannah, georgia. they will be damaging winds and potential for tornados throughout the region as the system moves north. we have an intense amount of
shear in this location. that's helping to rip irma apart layer by layer. the downfall is that same shear is ratching up the threat for tornados for those states. >> thank you very much. we originally feared the worst for the southeastern part of florida. tens of thousands fled areas like miami and west palm beach expected to bear the brunt of the storm. john berman is live from miami. a few minutes ago, the mayor told me that they didn't just dodge a bullet. they dodged a cannon. is it a similar story in miami where you are? >> it certainly isn't as bad as it could have been. that doesn't mean there is no damage. we are standing at a marina and coconut grove. the boat for instance is supposed to be in the water. it was pushed up here onshore. that boat is supposed to be in
the water and not tipped over. you can see that sail boat to the left. it broke free and swept in. pushing everything up here onshore. people have been texting me. if you top the see real damage and the storm surge in downtown miami. the neighborhood there, it's gone now. the good news is it has drained out and miami getting back on its feet. schools closed indefinitely. they need to make sure they are sound. some are being used as shelters and no word when they will be up and running. 60% of power lights and traffic lights are down.
it came down a little bit. a few had their power restored and they will try to get back up and running. the mayor who you know say they may have dodged a bullet. if it's this bad when you dodge the bullet, imagine what would have happened had it been a direct hit which was the fear when they ordered the mandatory evacuations. the area where you spend a lot of time, it's now drained and looks disgustingly dirty. how long will it take to clean up the area so people can feel comfortable to go out and walk around? >> what was brickle avenue
basement brickle river and today it's covered with mud and debris. we got there before dawn and it was an empty ghost town. people came out to check and see how it was. there were a lot of folks right now and what the mayor referred to as hurricane tourist. he doesn't want people out until they know it's safe to go home. people are very, very determined to clean the area up as quickly as they can to get it back up and running. people were shouting as they were driving by saying our office is still open. tell everyone to come to my bank. they can deposit their money here. it's all fine. the floodwaters did drain out and it will be a dirty, mucky clean up. >> a lot of work to be done all over the state. john berman doing excellent reporting for all of our viewers. thank you very much. new pictures into the massive destruction in the caribbean where irma made a direct hit
including st. maarten and all the food is gone. back in florida, we are live near ft. myers and brian todd is seeing lots and lots of damage. we will go to brian after this. . so there are no artificial colors, no artificial flavors, no artificial preservatives in any of the food we sell. we believe in real food. whole foods market. on a perfect car, then smash it into a tree. your insurance company raises your rates. maybe you should've done more research on them. for drivers with accident forgiveness, liberty mutual won't raise your rates due to your first accident. switch and you could save $782 on home and auto insurance. call for a free quote today. liberty stands with you™. liberty mutual insurance.
from irma's path of destruction, these are the new pictures we are getting in from bo nitta springs, florida. a community just inundated with water. brian is on the scene for us. brian, tell the viewers what you are seeing. >> reporter: a lot of damage. a lot of significant flooding in this neighborhood. we went back into this area
here. these streets behind me are all flooded and some of them in water as deep as i am in. this is called the imperial estates and a lot of mobile homes back here. they were almost all flooded out. many of the residents were told evacuated. when we came in about an hour or so ago, we met up with a caretaker and she and her husband are caretakers are this whole subdivision here. they were worried about an elderly couple that they couldn't get to. this couple lives about an mile? and you have to walk through water like this to get to the mobile home. they said this couple had not left. they give us their names. edith and ed. we walked back into the neighborhood about a mile. there was water like this. almost every home was flooded. most of the people evacuated andy that elected not to leave. we found them inside and they
were fine. they just didn't feel like they could leave. the gentlemen is 93 and wife is about 88. he has parkin know so's and diabetes. it would be difficult to move him. they refewed help and they were worried about them. luckily they are safe. again, that scene plays out throughout the area. we talked to the sheriff's department and they don't have an assessment of the damage yet. they do say the sheriffs deputies are out here, scouring the areas trying to find out if anybody needs help. again, we wake up this morning and we talk about some of these areas that are just now learning about the flooding and the damage. we are getting the scope of it here in the early afternoon after the storm. i think i heard you and john talking a little bit ago about the toxicity and the dirty water. that's a big hazard as well. we talked through the stuff to get to these people's house. there was oil all over the place
and chemical color and flash floating around and it's unhealthy here. that's something people have to contend with. this massive tree fell down and flipped off the power line. as this place digs out and tries to come out and everybody tries to get up and running again, crews have to come here and deal with scenes like this. as of now, about three million customers in florida are still without power. >> it's an awful situation with the downed power lines. the flood streets is a prescription for potentially lots of disaster. stay careful and we will get back to you. on the scene as he always is. we will look at the massive destruction that irma left behind in the florida keys. joining us on the phone, monroe county commissioner. you evacuated, but you are involved with emergency management and you are in close
touch with folks down in the keys. what are you hearing about the damage there? what is the worst of it and what's the latest? >> the keys as you know is a long string of islands. 120 islands that we took a serious punch to. seems like the worst of the damage seems to be in the lower and middle keys. the eye of the storm crossed over about 20 miles east of key west and there was a lot of storm surge in that area up through marathon. we have no cell service and no electricity and no water. we are just dealing with sat line phones and those land lines that work to get information out. that area of the keys seems to be the hardest. key west fared better than he thought it was going to fare. the storm surge was not as
significant there. there does not seem to be any structural damage done in key west. we are so thankful for the support we have gotten from the state and federal partners. we have aircraft coming in and national guard is already there. we have about 35 trucks coming in to help restore power and a naval carrier coming in this afternoon. and everybody is working hard to pull us back together. we have been through storms and the most significant one and the most serious storm since we settled, but we will get back to it and get back up probably quicker than we had initially anticipated because of the support we have been getting. >> we are told that there are search and rescue teams already on the scene in the keys.
what can you tell us about casualties or any bad news along those lines? >> there may be some loss of life. we don't have counts yet. i don't think it has been that sig knave cant because a lot of people did evacuate, but we had two fatalities in the midst of the storm. and they were in one of the shelters and other people tried to ride out the storm and the surge probably caught them. i don't have numbers yet, but obviously that is a major concern for the national guard. doing and the coast guard what they started to do search and rescue. >> certainly is a top priority. good luck to you and all the folks in the keys. we will stay in close touch with all of them. as many of them as we can.
we are standing by for a fly over and some of the areas hit hardest in florida. we will have that for you and a threat of storage surge as irma makes its way north right now. this is cnn special live coverage. hy you look. no matter who you are, a heart attack can happen without warning. a bayer aspirin regimen can help prevent another heart attack. be sure to talk to your doctor before you begin an aspirin regimen. bayer aspirin. [he has a new business teaching lessons. rodney wanted to know how his business was doing... ...so he got quickbooks. it organizes all his accounts, so he can see his bottom line. ahhh...that's a profit. know where you stand instantly. visit quickbooks-dot-com.
you can see homes completely demolished and roofs. there are reports of violence break out in the streets as people scrounge for the last scraps of food. french president emanuel macron is expected there with much-needed shipments of aid. the department of defense is continuing the evacuation of u.s. citizens from st. martin. the u.s. has sent cargo with thousand of pounds of supplies into the u.s. area. the u.s. navy conducted medical evacuations and the coast guard continued its relief efforts today in st. thomas, as well. cuba is also dealing with the deadly aftermath of hurricane irma. state television is reporting that ten people were killed in cuba mostly from building collapses. the storm was a category 5 hurricane when it hit cuba overnight on friday. cnn's patrick is right in the
middle of this. what's the damage where you are in cuba from irma? >> reporter: absolutely, wolf. we were in cuba when the storm hit with such force and power and believe it or not, we are still feeling the aftereffects of irma and it's putting up quite a show on the havana sea front and this whole area would have been under water and the ocean came racing in and flooded the homes and people taking their possessions out to dry them off and people had to go up to neighbor's homes to get through the storm because they've never seen in years of living through these storms a storm come and fill up their homes with one, two feet of water. so it was destructive even as far away as havana. the government has been clearing debris, trying to restore electricity and of course, had that sad news today that ten people had died and cubans had died in the storm. that is a lot for cuba, a
country that prides itself on its hurricane preparation. so obviously, there's a lot to learn from the way this very, very powerful storm has ravaged cuba over the last few days, but at least now, wolf, the sun is out and the recovery process has begun. >> you say the recovery process, it will be an enormous amount of reconstruction, right? >> reporter: absolutely. the sun comes out and it dries some of these waterlogged buildings and a lot of times, some of the buildings behind me are hundreds of years old and they've not been maintained and after a storm, the sun comes out and dries them out and sometimes they just give way with the people inside so it can be a very dangerous few weeks and as one resident reminded me this morning, hurricane season is not done and sure enough, sooner or later cuba will once again be in the sights of a major hurricane, wolf. >> you're absolutely right. patrick oppmann on the scene for us in havana, thank you very
much, and our special coverage will continue in just a moment. where downtown charleston, by the way, is getting hammered. stay with us. black sheep, have you any wool? no sir, no sir, some nincompoop stole all my wool sweaters, smart tv and gaming system. luckily, the geico insurance agency recently helped baa baa with renters insurance. everything stolen was replaced. and the hooligan who lives down the lane was caught selling the stolen goods online. visit geico.com and see how easy it is to switch and save on renters insurance.
hi there and thank you so much for being with me on this monday afternoon. i'm brooke baldwin. we are continuing our special coverage of what is now tropical storm irma after its 130 mile-an-hour winds tore through parts of florida. irma has now been downgraded, but is still barreling toward georgia, the carolinas and alabama. this hour, the city of charleston is at risk for flash floods. savannah is bracing for possible tornadoes, but as this storm pushes on, we are getting new images in of the devastation in florida. listen to this. more than 6 million people are