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Florida Braces for Direct Hit from Cat 5 Irma. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired September 9, 2017 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Our breaking news, Florida bracing for a direct hit from Hurricane Irma, strengthening tonight back to a category 5. I want to get right to CNN's Karen Maginnis in the CNN weather center.

Karen, thank you so much for joining us. We got that forecast just about an hour ago. This thing is now a category 5 again and it may make landfall at this particular strength.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Even though it has interacted with some of these small islands, also north central sections of Cuba, they have been walloped as the eye has been brushing along the coast there. It is still a remarkably strong hurricane.

We saw it dip a little bit yesterday to a category 4. But we try not to emphasize, just that the winds may fluctuate 5 or 10 miles per hour, because this is a monster storm. We've been saying that over and over again.

And for the folks who evacuated from South Florida, good for you. I highly am impressed that you would take the initiative to do that, because this, as it makes its way across the Florida Keys and into those southern counties of Florida, there is going to be, by this time tomorrow, we are looking at the eye of this hurricane just offshore.

We're already beginning to see a couple of those bands move in and sweep across the Bahamas, also along some of those coastal counties of Florida.

So what happens?

All right. We go into Saturday evening as a category 4 and then, just before sunrise or right about that time, sometime between 5:00 am and 6:00 am, it should be making landfall somewhere between the Florida Keys, Key West and Key Largo, somewhere in that vicinity.

I know that sounds like a broad area. But it moves there. It appears it will move more so on the western side of the Florida peninsula.

You may remember, a few days ago, computer models were edging it a little further to the east. But don't focus on exactly where that eye is going to be, because the impact is going to be so severe, because the hurricane force winds extend out 120 miles from the center.

At the widest point across the Florida Peninsula, it's about 130 miles. So the entire peninsula could be consumed by hurricane force, category 4 winds. And that's going to be phenomenal. We'll have another update at the bottom of the hour.

LEMON: I just have to ask you quickly here, because I think it's important, obviously.

So when do you think -- the Florida Keys are going to start getting hit about what time?

MAGINNIS: I think tomorrow they're already going to feel some of those outer bands. The wind will start to pick up. You'll see some tropical storm force winds for most of the day in the Florida Keys. It's going to be very windy. You're going to see a rip current. And you might see a few isolated bands of storms move through.

But by late tomorrow afternoon, it's going to be some of these southern counties that we have talked about, where you start to see that wind pick up; a couple of bands are expected to move through.

Don't be surprised if some of those winds are on the order of 40 to 50 miles per hour. It is going to be fairly steady with the rain coming down.

Here we go. This is the wind forecast. Where you see that white, white --

LEMON: About what time is that, Karen, where you had it right just before?

About what time is that?

Is that on Sunday?

MAGINNIS: So for right around Miami over towards Naples, if you're talking about those particular cities.

LEMON: Yes, ma'am.

MAGINNIS: I think usually -- I think you'll start to see that reasonably between about 5 o'clock and maybe 8 o'clock in the evening. You'll see that slowly rise but then it will dramatically pick up.

And by tomorrow evening, when I am talking to you tomorrow evening, we're looking at a hurricane just about ready to make landfall, within about 5-6 hours.

It has slowed down just a little bit. So as it gets closer to land, we might see those -- I'd say the word perturbations -- but these little iterations of the storm, maybe slowing down, maybe wiggling a little bit. Maybe the eye changing form, maybe the wind speed changing. There are all kinds of things that can happen when it starts to

interact with land but the water temperatures here, what drives everybody to these beautiful --

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MAGINNIS: -- Florida beaches, the water temperatures here have been at near record setting levels. They're in the upper 80s. It's like a bathtub.

That's what hurricanes love. They love lovely bathwater temperature and nothing in the atmosphere to sheer it off, move it in another direction. This is the perfect ingredients that have come together for Irene to just wreak havoc --

LEMON: Irma.

MAGINNIS: -- from one -- Irma. I'm sorry, Irma -- from one end of Florida all the way to the other.

LEMON: OK. Karen, let me ask you, see where it is right there, where you have it right now, I know it's not exact.

But about what time is that, when that eye is right there?

Are we looking at Sunday for that?

What is that?

MAGINNIS: This says Sunday pm but you have to remember, once this makes landfall, it may slow down. But this could be hours that we expect these winds between the 75 and 100-plus mile per hour winds just rake across Key Largo, Miami, West Palm, Naples, Marco Island, Fort Myers and then a little bit later around Tampa, St. Pete, over towards Fort Pierce.

But this is going to be a steady progression going from Saturday evening, I think, early or mid-evening, 6 o'clock, 7 o'clock, 8 o'clock. And then this is the forecast model for Sunday 8:00 pm. But this is the core. We try not to get singularly focused on that because it can have little wobbles. It can jog a little bit.

And I think that's exactly what this is going to do, because it is interfering with land. And that clearly demonstrates -- here we are at Monday 2:00 am. This may not be a good depiction; the further out we go, the little wonkier the computer models become.

But you can see the entire state of Florida is engulfed by either tropical storm force winds, then there's going to be the storm surge. I didn't even mention that. But along some of these southeastern coasts, for Irma, there could be a storm surge of 5-10 feet possible.

What does that mean?

If you took water and pushed it rapidly towards a wall, you would see just how it would inundate and just the force of that. That's what we're looking at. Sometimes storm surge gets a little confusing.

But all of this is low-lying territory. I know how the -- a lot of places are built with concrete buildings and you think, ah, my building is going to withstand that.

LEMON: We were just talking about that.

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MAGINNIS: Yes. I'm in a high rise, it can't affect me. I'll be above the flooding. But actually, the wind, the higher you go, the wind actually increases by 20 percent or 30 percent more.

So a lot of people, who think they're high up and they're escaping a lot of things, they're actually still in a lot of danger because there's less friction the higher you go. When you're down around the ground, a lot more friction. So the higher you go, the higher those winds are expected. There's just a lot of dynamics here.

LEMON: Can I ask you another question?

MAGINNIS: Sure.

LEMON: So you mentioned the storm surge.

On top of that, Karen, don't you have waves, too, wave height on top of that 20 to 25 possibly feet waves?

MAGINNIS: Yes, we do. For the tides down here, we haven't really been talking about the time of high tide and when there's landfall, because the difference between high and low tide here is not huge. It's not like if you went to Canada, where it could be 10 or 12 feet.

It's enormous. Here it's very little. But you do get these waves, because there is jostling. And then you get that forward speed, that storm surge, that pushes that water onshore.

But not just on this coast. We're also looking on the coast for -- from Naples all the way down towards Key Largo and Key West. We could see a storm surge there of 8-12 feet because it's a little shallower here. We've also done -- I'll ask my own question.

People have wondered, well, couldn't it just go across the Keys and into the Gulf of Mexico?

It could but the computer models, which are very sophisticated, have indicated that it is going to make that turn towards the north, that right-hand turn and go up like this. But you saw that it has had variations.

Initially, it was a little further to the east and then it moved right over the central portion. But now the edging of it is more so along this western edge.

LEMON: Everyone asks, why does it do that curve like, because it seems -- it's going, it's going further west and then, all of a sudden, it curves up.

What causes it to do that, Karen?

MAGINNIS: Well, we've got a lot of things in the atmosphere. There is a trough further to the north other than what I'm depicting. There's also a ridge of high pressure further to the north. So it wants to escape those things. It wants to --

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MAGINNIS: -- take the path of least resistance. It's almost like if you rolled a bowling ball down an alley, it gets so much momentum. So it wants to take the path of least resistance.

This is the path of least resistance. It doesn't want to bump into a funnel system. It wants to ride underneath a ridge of high pressure. So it's more favorable for it to move in that vicinity.

LEMON: You're so good at this. I've learned so much right there. I had so many questions during the entire time we've been broadcasting and watching and you just answered all of them. Karen Maginnis, you're the best. Thank you. We'll get back to you.

I'm going to get to CNN's Derek Van Dam, live for us in Miami Beach right now.

Derek, you're also a meteorologist. You've seen these winds start to pick up since we've been on air.

So what are you seeing right now?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. In fact, we probably are just moments away from some of the first outer rain bands to actually impact the Greater Miami area. We are on Ocean Drive in the South Beach in Miami and this is incredible. I've got to just step aside so you can see this. Literally no one here.

OK?

This is incredible because, on any Friday night, especially in the summer, this street would be crowded with cars, pedestrians. There are all kinds of restaurants and bars that line this road. There's virtually no one here with the exception of a few odd police cars that continue to patrol the area.

We are expecting storm surge to be significant here. We've talked about 5-10 feet. It's all about the momentum of Irma. It has been traveling in the general westerly direction for days now. And it has built up so much of the Atlantic Ocean, there's basically no stopping it.

So, Don, just because that storm track has shifted ever so slightly to the west, which is crucial, but it still is going to bring major impacts to the Miami-Dade County region, extending into Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach as well. But now we start to focus on landfall of an eye, potentially category 5, on the western coastline of Florida.

And that really changes the game for places like Naples into the Clearwater area. But there is no doubt that this storm is massive.

In fact, the tropical storm winds cover a square mileage, 70,000 square miles. The entire state of Florida is only 65,000. So basically this storm is huge. It is larger than what Andrew was in '92. And I think the concerns here going forward without a doubt are obviously strong category 5 winds, 150 mph near that center of the storm, the storm surge and obviously the chance of flooding rains as well -- Don.

LEMON: I've got to ask you a question. We mentioned that it has drifted to the west a bit. I don't know if it means Miami is any safer -- safer by degrees, maybe -- but, I mean, certainly, it's going to have -- it's going to be huge.

VAN DAM: I'll tell you what, Don. I was quite nervous myself to come down on the beaches, the South Beach area today. And I don't want anyone to let their guard down because that shift by 50 miles to the west is significant.

But for Miami-Dade, we can breathe a little bit easier tonight because the strongest winds, which are focused right around the eyewall, the center of the storm, that is where the most intense part of the storm will be.

And that is why that track is so crucial, where that landfall of the eyewall actually takes place. That's where we expect the most destructive force of the winds to be felt. But that does not mean that this area is not going to experience almost the full brunt of the storm.

Again, it's all about how wide this -- the tropical storm force and hurricane force winds extend. We're talking 100 miles out from the center of the storm, so any wobble to the west is really going to make a nominal difference.

LEMON: Thank you very much. We appreciate that.

Derek Van Dam in Miami for us, Miami Beach. I need to get to Miguel Marquez now. Miguel is in Fort Lauderdale.

Miguel, last night when we talked to you, you were very busy at a gas station, remember, and there were -- I think there was like 10 cars in line.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I do.

LEMON: And there was a cop car, saying, that's it, we're done. You're in Fort Lauderdale now and it's like a ghost town.

Is everybody done with getting the gas and what's happening?

MARQUEZ: Yes. I think if people were getting out, they've gotten out. If they're staying, they are staying. This should be busy here as well and it's a complete ghost town.

We were in Palm Beach County, far West Palm Beach County today, and we drove down to Fort Lauderdale. There were gas stations open. There were no lines for them. They had gas. There were some shops, some restaurants, stores open. There weren't a lot of people around.

So it seems that a lot of people have heeded the warning. Miami-Dade County for instance is interesting because they have room for 100,000 in their shelters; only 23,000 have taken them up on it.

We were out in far western Palm Beach County today, just south of Lake Okeechobee. This is a really interesting area. It's very agricultural --

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MARQUEZ: -- it's very immigrant driven. It's very poor. People had to be bused to shelters a long distance away. Their problem is twofold.

One, the power of that storm may come right over them.

And, two, the rain dropped on that lake and the watershed above it, in the days after the storm has gone, may swell that lake to the point where it breaks the levees. If that happens, dozens of communities south of that lake will be literally wiped out.

So it appears, at least here in Fort Lauderdale and parts of the far east in Florida, people have heeded warnings. They've gotten out. Many people, though, staying. And it seems that they are going to stick it out for the storm, no matter what comes -- Don.

LEMON: We're sorry to, Miguel, hear about curfews, Palm Beach County has just put one in about 3:00 pm now in Palm Beach.

Are you hearing anything about that?

MARQUEZ: The curfew will go in 3:00 pm tomorrow. They basically don't want people out because they don't want -- law enforcement will have a very difficult time separating who needs help from others; if they are out and about in a storm and they get hit in the head or they get caught in water or they get washed out somewhere.

That is going to cause a problem for rescuers. It will be difficult for them to get out. So basically they're saying if you're going to stay, stay home. don't be out. We don't want to have to come out and rescue you.

LEMON: All right. Miguel, thank you. Talk to you soon.

I want to get to Alex Marquardt, also in Fort Lauderdale for us. Alex has been speaking with the Fort Lauderdale -- the mayor of Fort Lauderdale.

And he gave you an update. What did he tell you? ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Don. Earlier, we spoke with the mayor of Fort Lauderdale. He told us that the main concern that he had was that storm surge that Derek was talking about.

We're just 25 miles to the north of Miami. We were expecting the same storm surge here as they were down in Miami, around 5-10 feet. But as you heard from Karen there, Irma is now taking a path and is going way off to the left, which could spare Fort Lauderdale to some extent.

They're expecting this storm surge to drop from 5-10 feet to around 1- 3 feet. They're expecting these winds that are now picking up to drop from a category 4 to around a category 1, dropping around 50 or 60 miles an hour.

Now, of course, as every forecaster you've been speaking with has cautioned, this could change dramatically. But for now it does look like Fort Lauderdale will feel less of an effect from Irma than was previously expected.

But as the mayor said, this is no time for celebration. Even if it is a lighter effect here, that means there are more towns and cities elsewhere in Florida who are going to feel the full brunt of Irma -- Don.

LEMON: Alex, what's going on behind you?

We've been showing the trees.

How is the wind picking up?

Can you show us anything?

MARQUARDT: Yes. It's picking up significantly. I'm going to step to the side right here.

Throughout the course of the evening, the winds have really been picking up. You can see it right there in those trees. Beyond those trees is the beachfront and the water. We are in a mandatory evacuation zone.

This entire strip along the boardwalk, along the boulevard, has been shuttered. It is a very thin mandatory evacuation zone that goes between federal highway and the waterfront.

So it looks like most people have heeded the warning to get out of here, the demands from officials to get out of here.

Just looking around, there are fewer and fewer people out here. There are some who have been walking around. You can see them going around out there. It's really people who are coming out to see the spectacle of this storm.

But in terms of the residents, if you just look around, I've got a bunch of condo buildings around me. I can count on one hand the number of lights in those apartments that I can actually see. So it does look like people are leaving, at least from this mandatory

evacuation area. I've got to tell you, I met a lot of people earlier on today. I was surprised at how many people were still out here. Those folks live more in the city, over where Miguel is.

And they were telling us that they do feel comfortable staying, not just because it's a nonevacuation zone but because they are confident that the structures, the building that they live in, will hold up. They have hurricane shutters. They've boarded up their homes, they have the supplies to outlast the storm.

But we were just speaking with the mayor just moments ago. He and every other official in the state of Florida would like to see people everywhere get out and get out as soon as possible.

LEMON: I've got to ask you. So I know you're looking at it. So you said where you are is pretty much a ghost town, except for a couple people. So you're at apartments or condos.

Are they boarded up?

Do they have shutters?

Take us to the scene.

What is it like out there?

MARQUARDT: Well, now it has become a ghost town. Before, it was a lot busier. There were people on the beach. They feel like they've got some time. They're not expecting to feel the brunt of the storm here until about midday on Sunday.

So despite the fact that this entire boulevard was boarded up, there was one very famous bar right here, called Elbow Room, which stayed open until around 8 o'clock at night and it was actual the packed with people, as the mayor said --

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MARQUARDT: -- getting their final cold beers in before the storm hit.

Now a lot has been -- we've talked a lot about the condo buildings in Miami, how high they can go, what winds their windows can sustain. What we're seeing around here is that the bottom floors are boarded up.

And there are very few people coming and going --

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MARQUARDT: -- from what we can tell, have gotten out of town. And so that's why all these buildings are black, that there are no more lights in them.

But at the same time, they are taking precautions on the ground floor, from what we can tell. Nothing more has been done on the top floor. So the big question is, what happens to these buildings, once the

winds really kick up and things start flying around?

They could slam into those buildings and break those windows.

LEMON: Yes. All right, Alex. Thank you. I appreciate that.

When we come back, Florida bracing tonight for a direct hit from category 5 Irma.

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LEMON: Here is our breaking news. Hurricane Irma strengthens to a category 5 as Florida braces for a direct hit. I want to bring in now Mayor Mayra Lindsay of Key Biscayne, on the phone right now.

Mayor, thank you so much for joining us.

What's your biggest concern tonight?

MAYRA LINDSAY, MAYOR, KEY BISCAYNE: Don, my biggest concern is the storm surge. The storm will be coming in during high tide in September, which is some of our highest tides of the year and it's also a full moon.

So we are expecting a lot of flooding, unusual flooding. And this is a monster storm, so while we're not directly in its line of sight anymore, it's quite impressive and worth being cautious about.

LEMON: Mayor, did most residents leave Key Biscayne?

LINDSAY: We are in a barrier island and there was a mandatory evacuation. I'd say 99 percent of our residents left. We have some hardcore (INAUDIBLE) still there.

LEMON: And what's your message to any residents who stayed, Mayor?

LINDSAY: That they are on their own, unfortunately. They're putting their lives in danger and nothing -- property is not worth it, that their lives (INAUDIBLE) seek higher ground.

LEMON: Because, I mean, you have been -- when did you issue the mandatory evacuation?

It's been a minute, right?

LINDSAY: Yes. We actually -- we issued it Wednesday evening with Miami-Dade County.

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LINDSAY: We're low lying barrier islands, so it's been a couple of days. And we have literally been going door to door, contacting people personally, making sure that they are leaving. We do have a couple of holdouts.

LEMON: Yes. We've been speaking to some folks who have been holding out as well and, you know, I know you have a message for them, that they need to get out because really time is running out.

And of course, your big concern, that's usually how people get killed is the storm surge. People usually drown. The wind does blow people away but most people die because of the floodwaters.

LINDSAY: Yes. And it's sudden and it's overwhelming. So I really hope that we do not have any situations like that.

LEMON: Mayor Mayra Lindsay, thank you so much, of Key Biscayne. We appreciate it.

LINDSAY: Thank you very much.

LEMON: When we come back, as Florida braces tonight for a direct hit from category 5 Irma, I'm going to talk to a hurricane hunter who flew around the storm tonight.

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LEMON: Florida bracing for a direct hit from monster Hurricane Irma, expected to be a category 5 when it --

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LEMON: -- makes landfall. Now I want to bring in one of NOAA's Hurricane Hunters. He joins us by phone from a Gulfstream jet, which flies above and around hurricanes to take atmospheric readings.

Rich, thanks, I'm so glad to have you on. You're currently flying around the hurricane. Tell us what you have, what information you have.

RICH HENNING, NOAA HURRICANE HUNTER: Well, first of all, I want to thank you guys for giving the opportunity to let your listeners know just how serious this storm is. We took off at 1:30 this afternoon from Lakeland, Florida, and we flew a pattern through the top of Hurricane Irma, dropping -- in all we're going to drop 32 drops into the storm and around the storm from an altitude of 45,000 feet.

And this is really, really critical information for the computer models to get that really fine-scale detail that's necessary to move that track a little to the left or a little to the right.

What we do is we drop these instruments -- and again, they're sort of the opposite of a weather balloon. They fall by parachute from the bottom of the aircraft and they transmit pressure, temperature, humidity.

We get a report of wind speed and direction four times per second. So it's very high-resolution data. And all that data is fed directly into the computer models that the hurricane center uses to make their track forecasts.

LEMON: So, Rich, you've flown around this storm multiple times by now.

How does this mission compare?

Is the storm getting stronger?

HENNING: Well, right now the storm is fluctuating in intensity between category 4 and category 5. And people shouldn't make too much of, for example, if they say it's a category 5 and then they make it a category 4, it shouldn't give people the impression that it's weakening, because what's really primarily driving the intensity of the storm right now are what we call eyewall replacement cycles, where it's building itself a new eye every 8-10-12 hours.

And as it goes through those cycles, they weaken. But then as that new eyewall consequence dates, the storm intensifies again. So it's possible that the storm could gather another 10 or 15 knots of energy tonight. It's very possible it could do that.

But even if it doesn't at its present intensity -- and it's forecast to hit land at very close to its present intensity -- it is going to be an extreme event for South Florida.

And regardless of whether it's -- you know, I know it's important for data collection how far it comes in to the shore but even if it hits, no matter where it hits now, Florida is going to be impacted hugely by this storm.

We dropped a bunch of soundings from 45,000 feet. These instruments that profile the entire atmosphere all the way down to the ocean north of the storm and we did not find any weakness in that Bermuda high, that ridge of high pressure that's steering the storm to the west northwest.

So right now there is nothing that we could see from this aircraft that would indicate an unexpected turn to the right that would save South Florida, that would leave South Florida off the hook. So I wish I had better news for the state of Florida but there's nothing from the data that we've gathered so far that show anything that's going to cause the track to be radically different than what you're seeing now.

LEMON: Rich, you have flown into and around countless hurricanes in your career.

Have you ever seen anything like Irma before?

HENNING: Well, I've been doing this for 21 years. I flew Hurricane Katrina back in 2005 when it was a category 5 storm south of New Orleans. And it remands me of Katrina in some regard in that it's a very large storm.

Sometimes you get intense hurricanes that are small in size, where the radius of intense winds is very narrow; whereas this storm, each time it goes through these eyewall replacement cycles, the radius of --

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HENNING: -- hurricane force winds tends to grow. And so that's what we're seeing is we're seeing the storm growing in size. And that's not good news because, the bigger a storm is, the more storm surge it creates. So it's going to become more -- the storm surge is going to become more and more of a problem along with the winds.

LEMON: Unbelievable. Rich Henning, Hurricane Hunter, thank you so much. We appreciate you joining us and we appreciate the work that you do. Thanks and be careful.

HENNING: Well, thank you, Don.

And, again, the best of luck to everyone. If you're told to evacuate from a low-lying area anywhere in the Florida Peninsula, you need to heed those warnings and evacuate.

LEMON: I want to check in tonight with storm chaser Mike Theiss. He joins us on the phone from Key Largo.

Mike, good to talk to you again. You're experiencing an outer band on Key Largo.

What's happening?

MIKE THEISS, PROFESSIONAL STORM CHASER: Yes, Don. We just had a major outer band go through with a lot of embedded thunderstorms, went right through the Key Largo area. So we're starting to feel the effects of Irma already.

The winds picked up to about 40 miles an hour and we had really intense lightning just illuminating the sky. So it's a reminder that she's getting close and it's time to, you know, do your last-minute preparations to get out of here or bunker down.

LEMON: I just talked with a Hurricane Hunter, Rich Henning. I'm not sure if you heard him but he told me this storm is so large it reminds him of Katrina, based on size.

Do you agree with that?

THEISS: I do agree with that. This is the top-of-the-scale type of hurricane and I do agree with that assessment.

LEMON: Does this storm compare to anything that you have seen before?

THEISS: Well, you know, we've seen them before out in the middle of the ocean but actually making landfall is a really rare event at this caliber. So, no; I did document Katrina actually in the extreme storm surge in

Gulfport. But I think the kind of storm surge and of course the wind speeds from this one are going to be much more extreme.

LEMON: How do you go about chasing and recording a storm this dangerous, Mike?

THEISS: It's going to be difficult. I'm going to have to use a lot of the knowledge that I've gained in the past 40 landfalls that I've covered and put all those together to document the storm safely and be able to capture the video, show people what it was like, as well as the data.

I do feel confident in my decision and, if I didn't, I'd be leaving. But let me tell you, I would be lying to you if I said I wasn't nervous as anything right now.

LEMON: That's what I was going to ask you, if you were afraid for your own safety?

THEISS: Sure. This is a scary situation. But, for me, it's not any different than an (INAUDIBLE) or a war photographer. It has an inherent danger. But I feel like we are skilled in this. We understand it.

I never take Mother Nature for granted, though. I know she always has tricks up her sleeve. So I'm not out here thinking I know everything that's going to happen. I'm just going to prepare for the worst, get into a good structure and ride it out.

LEMON: All right, thank you very much. Mike Theiss, be safe.

When we come back, much more on our breaking news. Florida bracing tonight for a direct hit from a category 5 hurricane named Irma.

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LEMON: Let's go back to meteorologist Karen Maginnis in the CNN Weather Center.

Karen, thank you so much for joining us. Give us the latest information.

MAGINNIS: All right. I think you just had one of the correspondents out in the field say we just got hit by one of the outer bands.

Did he get hit by one of the outer bands?

Yes, he most certainly did. Even though Irma is still roughly 300 miles east-southeast of Miami, we're still picking up that deep tropical moisture and I do mean deep tropical moisture, so much so, it is even flowing in along the southeastern quadrant of Florida.

Right around Miami, there's going to be some pretty vivid lightning here for the next hour or so.

All right. What is Irma doing? It is a category 5 hurricane. It was bumped down overnight. Throughout part of the day, still category 4. Now it's a 5. We shouldn't really focus on those particular categories.

How it's going to impact you is going to be very significant. Wind gusts up to 195, moving west at just about 13 miles an hour. As I said, it's about 300 miles to the east-southeast. Right now the eye of this is just about moving over the north central coast of Cuba.

So what can we expect going into the next 24-48 hours as far as precipitation goes?

Now, because the track has now moved over more towards Western Florida, this is what we're looking at. Take a look at some of these rainfall totals that we have for you and look to see where some of the highest rainfall totals are, mostly towards the western edge of Florida.

And you go in towards Naples, also Fort Myers, you could see well over a foot of rainfall. And into the Florida Keys, the Florida Keys are flat and there's no place for that water to go. We might expect 15 inches of rainfall in some areas.

Now still significant rainfall in places around Miami, also into Fort Pierce, might see 5-6 inches of rainfall there. As we move steadily towards the north, Orlando, 7.5 inches of rain. And now then look at this shift again. Now there's a shift where it looks like Jacksonville could see about 11 inches of rainfall.

Why are we seeing that?

Because sometimes these systems tend to enhance the moisture out ahead of them. We see this in the tropics, across the Pacific a lot, where a storm system or a cyclone moves over the Philippines but it enhances the moisture more towards the south.

It's going to be essentially the same situation here, where you see that purple shaded area, right around the beautiful parks there in northern sections of Florida, 10-11 inches of rainfall. That is going to be devastating.

All right. We go back towards the board, give you a little bit more information as to what we can expect.

Who is going to see the eye move over them?

[00:45:00]

Well, it does look like the computer models have said more so if we were -- I did this yesterday. If we drew a line right down the center of Florida, those computer models were trending more so to the west as opposed towards the east. It's a minor shift because the entire state is going to be engulfed.

All right. Here is a new computer model. Here is the European model. We bring it up towards Key West, the center right there, and we put it into motion. There we go. Moving across the Everglades, headed towards Captiva. And even the American model, a little less refined, little less data but still nonetheless -- now is in agreement with what the European model is saying.

But you can see just how broad this is. Starting tomorrow, I mentioned this to Don just a few minutes ago, all of South Florida, all of South Central Florida, at least tropical storm force winds by tomorrow afternoon. Into the overnight you're going to see more before it makes landfall somewhere in through probably the North Central Florida Keys, then towards the Everglades.

So storm surge here 8-12 feet, 8-12 feet. It's not like this is, you know, high terrain. This is low terrain with the rainfall. There's going to be significant flooding, not just at the coast but inland.

And you could see hurricane force winds because they extend out 120 miles. At its furthest across Florida, it's about 130 miles. So the entire state is going to be afflicted with what happens with Irma over the next 24, 48 and 72 hours. Please be careful. This is really a dire situation across the entire state.

Don, over 5.5 million people are under mandatory evacuation.

LEMON: Unbelievable. So let's talk about that shift. You said it's a minor shift but a shift nonetheless and it changes things slightly, I would imagine. So it's going further towards the west.

Does it make a difference because I think the waters in the Gulf are warmer than the waters in the Atlantic?

How big a difference does that make?

MAGINNIS: They may be within a few degrees but the water is shallow and clear and they say that they have been at near-record setting levels, right around 86 to around 88 degrees. Right around the Florida Keys, those waters are very warm.

And then over towards the Gulf, we've got water temperatures just about the same. It's like bathwater essentially. Essentially, the shift means that a portion, that upper right quadrant, is where we typically see the tornado activity.

And so that means, along this eastern edge of Florida, this is where you're going to have to watch out for that tornadic activity in the next couple of days, when those bands come onshore. And you can see the wind is really going to be pounding across this western -- this eastern edge.

And for this western edge, we've got significant storm surges. As I just mentioned 8-12 feet is possible.

What are the comparisons that we've seen?

Well, we saw Andrew. That was around Miami. We saw Charlie. That actually made two landfalls in Florida. There are a lot of comparisons to other hurricanes, Don, but this one breaks all the rules. This one is completely different because it's so large. It's category 5. It's just a whole game-changer, completely.

LEMON: Unbelievable. Florida, Florida, Florida. I mean, no matter what the scenario, it is -- it's devastating. Thank you, Karen. I appreciate that.

When we come back, much more on this breaking news. Florida braces for a direct hit from Hurricane Irma, now a category 5.

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LEMON: We're back now with our breaking news. Florida bracing for direct a hit from a newly strengthened Hurricane Irma. I want to go to CNN's Derek Van Dam, live for us in Miami Beach.

Derek, I see the conditions have changed dramatically where you are.

Don, it was matter of minutes. The temperature dropped 10-15 degrees. Literally, that first rain band hit us here on the South Beach. And it's just incredible how quickly things went downhill.

We were outside talking to you not a half an hour ago without our raingear on. And instantly, we had to run inside, get our kit and protect our camera and protect ourselves, quite frankly, because the winds, I even have an anemometer here that was showing upwards of about 35 miles per hour.

Pales in comparison to what is coming. But this just shows that the first effects of Irma have arrived on the shores of the United States. So it's quite incredible to see just how ferocious this storm has already been and will continue to be as we go forward.

Of course, we continue to talk about that slight shift to the west. And that is so critical in terms of a meteorologist forecasting where the strongest winds will be.

Being a meteorologist myself, we look at all these different ensembles, pieces. Karen was talking about that earlier. Some of them showing a slight eastward track, some of them showing a westward track. But now they're starting to come together, really cluster over the

western side of the Florida Peninsula. So that means anywhere from Key Largo into the Florida Keys to Naples, as well as the Clearwater region.

If you have evacuated, thank goodness you did because it was that narrow cone of uncertainty that really kept you in the game. And now it looks as if you heeded the warning and that was a good call.

LEMON: So let's talk about the conditions, Derek, where you are.

Have you seen it this bad?

Or is this the first band that you started to feel?

Because when Anderson was on earlier, there started to be -- he got some wind as well.

VAN DAM: Well, following on radar, so looking at where the rain and the first thunderstorm cells associated with these outer bands --

[00:55:00]

VAN DAM: -- I hadn't seen anything form into the Miami-Dade County region where we're located.

But that first burst of rain and the strong gust front that was associated with it that dropped the temperature, increased the winds to 35 miles per hour, that came in very quickly.

We saw the lightning off in the distance. It was illuminating the sky and made everything look blue and kind of a haze to the sky. And then we started to see the sand get picked up from South Beach and drift across this ocean drive here in front of us and started to pelt our skin as that wind really picked up.

It became very uncomfortable very quickly. Even had to run inside, as I was mentioning. The doors inside of the lobby of the hotel that we're at actually slammed shut on me very quickly. So it's just small things like that, that just show you how strong the storm really is and where it's going from here.

LEMON: All right. All right, Derek, thank you very much. I appreciate that.

That's it for us tonight. Thank you so much for watching. Our live coverage continues next with Isa Soares in Miami, Michael Holmes in Orlando and Isha Sesay in Los Angeles.