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tv   NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt  NBC  September 9, 2017 4:00pm-4:31pm PDT

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tonight, what could be the most catastrophic storm in florida's history. the desperate escape from hurricane irma with 7 million urged to get out of harm's way, while there's still time. with irma now targeting florida's west coast, the governor warns of a huge storm surge, telling residents it could cover your house. tonight we're on both coasts of florida with those taking shelter, some waiting in long lines, and with those who choose not to leave, as the hurricane that has killed dozens moves toward its violent next act. "nightly news" from florida begins right now. >> announcer: hurricane irma, this is "nbc nightly news" with lester holt, reporting tonight from ft. myers.
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>> good evening and thank you for being with us tonight. hurricane irma is virtually sitting at florida's doorstep tonight. the deadly storm just hours away from its u.s. landfall, after delivering a staggering blow to northern cuba for much of the day. this is irma close up, seen from a hurricane hunter plane somewhat weakened by still a dangerous mass swirling toward florida. and this is what it looks like from the ground, the effects, the florida keys already taking a lashing from irma's outer bands, ahead of its anticipateed arrival sometime overnight. and here on florida's gulf coast, we, too, are bracing for a direct hit tomorrow. millions across this state have been urged to evacuate. many, though, meeting only long lines and frustration when they reach evacuation shelters. our team is on the move as irma tracks farther west, al roker is here in the ft. myers area and has the latest. al? >> reporter: lester, this is a category 3 storm right now, and we're talking about 125-mile-per-hour winds moving
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west-northwest at 9 miles per hour. it's a storm that is going to start gaining strength, now that it's out open and over the open waters of the florida straits. the water temperature anywhere from 85 to 90 degrees so we do expect some strengthening. here's what we look for as far as the landfalls, sometime sunday morning in the keys and southwest florida. 125 to 150-mile-per-hour winds, ten to 15 feet and southeastern florida, it's going to be 50 to 75 miles per hour and storm surge of five feet. it will continue during the day, moving in sometime in the afternoon into the evening hours, west central florida, 100 to 125-mile-per-hour winds, storm surge of five to ten feet and rainfall 10 to 15 inches continuing into georgia as a category 1 storm with five to ten inches of rain and during its whole path we are talking about the threat of tornados. storm surge of course also the big problem. we're going to be watching that for anywhere from 5 to 12 to 15 feet of storm surge, lester?
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>> all right, al roker setting it up for us, thank you. this has been a day of high anxiety for many people on florida's gulf coast. the late shift of the storm toured this area, and new evacuation orders sent tens of thousands rushing to find a safe place to ride out the storm. nbc's gabe gutierrez is to the south in estero, florida, where all day the pictures have been incredible. >> reporter: lester, tonight this massive shelter is almost at capacity, for many of these evacuees it was a desperate scramble once they realized irma was on its way and they had few options. the line stretched for what seemed like an eternity, wrapping around the arena outside ft. myers, the last scramble to seek shelter. >> are they going to let us inside? nobody is giving any information. we need to get the word out, hey, you guys are going to come in. we need to know. >> reporter: for gina munoz it's an
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agonizing wait. she can't help but think of her two grandkids. >> right now the desperation sets in, the anxiety levels flare up. one person, we pray to god. >> reporter: if you can't get into the shelter, if they run out of room where do you go? >> i'm not leaving. i don't know where to go. >> reporter: ma'am, i hope you're okay. i really do. >> i don't have anywhere to go. we don't have anywhere to go. >> reporter: evacuees from all walks of life battling heat, rain and impatience. >> we're worried that we're going to be turned away, that it's going to get full. >> reporter: more than 6 million floridians ordered to evacuate, at least 54,000 in 320 shelters across the state. this morning, cars lined up as a new one opened near naples. >> we're really desperate because where we live is not safe at all and we got mandatory evacuations to leave. >> this is probably our fifth stop. >> reporter: really hard to find shelter. >> most of them were capacity. >> some of our neighbors started leaving with their animals. they're just getting on the expressway and heading north. i don't want to get stuck because there's so many reportages of
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no gas. >> reporter: just hours later, collier county authorities closed that shelter because the forecast for that area got worse. other counties also overwhelmed. >> certainly no one is going to get turned away but it is physically impossible to shelter the population that's in jeopardy. >> reporter: many here had chosen not to evacuate, until irma shifted west. >> this is what is difficult, trying to get oxygen for her. >> reporter: have you ever expected the line would be this big? >> no, no. >> reporter: tonight gina munoz says she's fortunate. she and thousands of others have made it inside the arena with irma hours away. gabe gutierrez, nbc news, estero, florida. this is kerry sanders in naples, florida. today alligator alley, the main road connecting west to east in florida, with a rush towards miami, many on the west coast who thought they were safe now scrambling to get out. >> we really don't know what to do. it's stressful. >> reporter: michael carr lives in ft. myers.
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>> i'm frightened to hell because i don't think this house is going to hold up. >> reporter: florida governor rick scott warning the water surge could reach the tops of homes. >> this is a life-threatening situation. remember, the storm surge comes after the wind. do not think the storm is over when the wind slows down. >> reporter: everglades city, the fishing village south of naples, could find itself swamped by a 12-foot storm surge, same flooding threat on marco, an island about the same size as manhattan. michael callahan decided not to evacuate. >> we're prepared for a storm surge unless it gets up to the third floor. >> reporter: today, lowering hurricane shutters, confident they will protect his family. 13 years ago hurricane charley, a category 4, leveled several west coast communities, the damage extended 26 miles inland to arcadia, where today residents prepared for another hit. >> i've been working, you know, day and night, trying to prepare for it. i haven't been
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sleeping too well. >> reporter: tonight tens of thousands of homes across florida have already lost power. more than 16,000 electric crews ready to move in. >> we've assembled the largest pre-storm workforce not just in our company's history, but in the united states. >> reporter: first responders bracing for the worst case scenario. >> this storm is hurricane andrew on steroids. >> reporter: the marco allen fire department goes into lockdown when winds hit 45 miles per hour. if they call you during the middle of the hurricane for help, what happens? >> they're on their own. >> reporter: it is now beginning to get dark and irma will arrive overnight. state officials say it's too late to move any distance safely. those who decided not to leave need to get into position and ride it out. lester? >> all right, kerry sanders, thank you. on the other side of florida, it's looking like miami may dodge a direct hit, but the city and many others nearby remain under serious threat and the florida keys
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as we told you at the top of the broadcast are being hammered this evening, after islands like cuba and st. thomas took punishing blows. nbc national correspondent miguel almaguer has the latest tonight. >> reporter: tonight, irma's carved up the caribbean and is now threatening to obliterate the florida keys. the string of tropical islands in the florida straits would be hammered like never before. tonight, it's much too dangerous to leave. >> well, all my family, everybody thinks we're stupid for staying here. >> reporter: with irma's death toll certain to rise, some are feeling lucky to have survived. >> very frightened, one of the scariest moments i think in my life. >> reporter: the u.s. virgin islands, french west indes and the bahamas ripped to shreds. american tourists in the wake of irma still stranded today. >> the hotel is just not in very good condition. >> smells.
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>> it is waterlogged, getting mold in there, it smells, the water supply is really limited. >> reporter: irma plowed into cuba overnight. roofs are gone and power is out. the government now opening underground military bunkers, built for war with the u.s., now offering shelter during an attack by mother nature. >> attention, we need to clear the trailer park. >> reporter: back on florida's atlantic coast, a final warning to get out now. the eastern seaboard, even miami, could skirt disaster. the wind is blowing hard, it is gusty. >> reporter: but the damage could be catastrophic. >> when the winds exceed 45 miles per hour, we're not in the position to send first responders out to risk their lives. >> reporter: tonight this monster storm on the move, the trail of pain already in its wake. the bands of rain and the powerful wind have
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been slapping this region for the last several hours. we're in a bit of a break from the storm, but we saw rain coming down here sideways over the last several hours, first responders say in these conditions, they will not respond to calls for help. they say the conditions here are already beginning to turn life-threatening. lester? >> miguel almaguer tonight, thank you, miguel. as forecasters continue to point out virtually all of florida remains at some risk from irma, still here on the state's gulf coast, many thought they would fare better than the other side of the state, including some rescue crews who were preparing to help their cross-state neighbors, that is until irma's shift to the west. for first responder jody payne, a disaster in the making on the east coast of florida suddenly seems close to home on the state's west coast, and home was not where he expected to be today. a couple of days ago where did you think you would be right now is. >> we was pretty much gearing up to go to
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the other coast because the cone of uncertainty was pushing it that direction. >> reporter: an urban search and rescue volunteer, payne now finds his own ft. myers community in the potential bull's eye, and suddenly everything has changed. is it a different feeling when you realize you may be doing search and rescue in your own community versus somewhere else? >> well, we did the exact same thing when charley hit. yeah, it's a worse feeling to see your own town tore up. here we have got our saws if we have to do any cutting. >> reporter: when you guys go out, you're ready to go to work. >> yes, we can contain for 72-plus hours with mres, we got plenty of water. >> reporter: with more than 30 years on the job, he's seen a lot and he has a healthy respect for irma. >> it's a different feeling. it's a little stress because it's such a big storm. >> reporter: his search and rescue team at a couple of points recently had also been prepared to join the recovery and search effort in texas until irma raised its
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head. as the storm sweeps through the state, health concerns will become a big issue. it's part of why so many people are evacuating, but for some, moving away even for a few days or so may actually be the worst thing they can do. our medical correspondent dr. john torres has that story. >> reporter: this normal saturday inside one of florida's largest nursing homes is anything but. the 700 seniors who live here less than a mile from the storm-swept atlantic will not evacuate. >> where would we go? >> for florida's most vulnerable, a new study shows evacuation could be more dangerous than hunkering down. it looked at nearly 40,000 nursing home residents hit by hurricanes in recent years. for those who evacuate, doctors found double the risk of death and quadruple the chance of seniors would end up in the hospital. >> they all experienced adverse events when they moved patients from their nursing home to someplace else. >> reporter: it's especially risky for alzheimer's patients. more than half a million live in florida.
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>> new people, new faces, all are tough on alzheimer's patients. so if we can kind of keep the semblance of the routine and the order going, that's going to help. >> reporter: here at the miami jewish health complex -- >> that's a bingo! >> reporter: -- everyone, including staff, stays put through the storm. so it looks like you're hunkered down here, you're ready. >> we are prepared for the long haul. >> reporter: supplies are stocked, more than 9,000 gallons of water. everyone has plenty to eat. some residents even bring their families. >> my mom has ms so traveling is not the easiest thing to do. this was the safest and the best route for us. >> reporter: but maybe not best for everyone. seniors should always consider the type of storm and the strength of the shelter they're in. dr. john torres, nbc news, miami. >> still ahead tonight, the huge hit on business and the economy from hurricane irma. it's already happening and will get a lot worse. growing up, we were german. we danced in a german dance group. i wore lederhosen. when i first got on ancestry
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. with a large part of the state shut down in preparation for hurricane irma, the costs of this storm are mounting tonight, even before major damage is done. our business correspondent jo ling kent has that story. >> reporter: tonight, hurricane irma lashing florida and the u.s. economy. early estimates point to tens of billions of dollars in damage as the storm rips across the state, where tourism is big business. 112 million people come here every year. millions now forced to ditch their plans and consider alternatives
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for weeks or months, putting 1.4 million tourism jobs in jeopardy. airports now closed. cruises canceled. beaches and coastal hotels abandoned, some guests sent to red cross shelters. even the state's iconic theme parks like disney and universal studios are shut down for days. universal is owned by nbc news' parent company. beyond tourism, small businesses are facing irma's wrath, boarded up windows lining the main drag in ft. lauderdale telling irma to stay away. at the elbow room, an iconic bar here since the 1930s, sparks flew as employees boarded up. how much can a hurricane impact your economic livelihood? >> it's huge, if we had to be closed for a few months that would be horrible. >> reporter: florida's agriculture industry is massive, the second largest industry in the country. it could wreak $1.2 billion worth of
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oranges, tomatoes, strawberries and other staples destined for your neighborhood. >> florida is an important part of the u.s. economy and to the extent that you see shortages in agriculture, that will have an implication for the rest of the economy and the united states. >> reporter: but the destruction could come with a boom, as construction companies race in after the waves to rebuild what irma will likely level. just hours ago, a new insurance industry estimate from air worldwide says hurricane irma could cost $50 billion in insurance claims, and that is only in the united states, as this storm continues to move northward. lester? >> jo ling kent tonight, thank you. we're back in a moment with a look at just why this has been such an intense hurricane season. how do you ce with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis? do what i did. ask your doctor about humira. it's proven to help relieve pain and protect joints from further irreversible damage in many adults. humira works by targeting and helping to block
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all the way in like it was a swimming pool. >> reporter: colby smith and morgan sampson moved into their beach home last week. tonight they're moving out. where are you going? >> right now we really don't know. >> reporter: you don't know? >> no, we have no destiny. we have to leave. >> reporter: mandatory evacuations as far north as the south carolina coast, emergency declarations as far west as alabama, bracing for an increasingly unpredictable irma. you all ready for a vacation? >> yes, yes. i hope when we come back from vacation we still have a house. >> reporter: jacob rascon, nbc news, savannah, georgia. you may be wondering as we were just why we're seeing so many and such powerful storms this hurricane season. we asked nbc meteorologist dylan dreyer to look at the science behind the storms. >> reporter: two history-making hurricanes making landfall in two weeks. this is already one of the most devastating hurricane seasons ever. >> this year we have
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ideal atmospheric conditions to lead to the formation of hurricanes. >> professor oscar schofield studies the oceans and says hurricanes are fueled by a combination of two ingredients, water and heat. this year he says the ocean is really warm. >> and that warmth is essentially the fuel can for the hurricane. >> reporter: couple that warm water with lots of moisture in the air and conditions in the atlantic are near perfect. another key factor this year, lack of wind shear that can cut through and break up the layers of a hurricane. without it, hurricanes like irma intensify. and what about the question on just about everyone's mind -- >> we can't say that climate change and manmade effects caused irma. >> reporter: but he says they are contributing to a trend. >> the ocean is going to continue to warm, and the predictions from a lot of the climate scientists are that we're going to get more and more of these extreme events.
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>> reporter: including more quite possibly before this hurricane season is over. >> it's going to take months for the ocean to cool, and so we're likely to continue to see storms. >> reporter: just as irma takes aim at florida. dylan dreyer, nbc news, miami. when we come back, we'll get a late update on the storm and the timing of when it will hit, from al roker. k 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 and see how easy it is to switch and save on renters insurance. (cough) i'm never gonna i'll take a sick day tomorrow. on our daughter's birthday? moms don't take sick days & moms take nyquil severe. the nighttime sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching,
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al roker is here. it's about 115 miles now from the keys. talk us through the timing in the next 24 hours. >> well it has slowed down, it's moving west-northwest at 9. it's got 125-mile-per-hour winds, and the path of this storm it's going to come onto the keys sometime tomorrow morning around 8:00 a.m. or so, then it's going to continue and make its way into this area sometime around noon, 2:00, and maybe even later than that, into the early evening hours, and then continue throughout the rest of the state of florida, and by monday, and tuesday, it gets into georgia. still as a category 1 storm, lester. >> remarkable. >> yes, it really is, but the storm surge is really what we're most worried about. >> they also worry about that dirty side. will that hit this western coast of florida? >> yes. it's going to hit it really hard, the southwest, but the east coast of florida isn't out of the woods either. they could see on the return flow of that as it moves past, they're going to get some storm surge, not as bad as here, but they're going to get it as well. >> we keep seeing the map showing the storm is a lot bigger than
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this state in terms of width. al roker, thanks very much. we have a lot of work ahead of us here. i want to thank you for being part of our broadcast tonight. matt lauer and savannah guthrie are going to be on tomorrow morning with the very latest on "today," providing coverage throughout the night here on nbc and of course, all the time on msnbc. i'm lester holt. i'll see you again from florida tomorrow. for all of us at nbc news, thank you for watching and good night.
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