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JOHN KING, USA

Hurricane Coverage; Bernanke's Wait & See Approach

Aired August 26, 2011 - 19:00   ET

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


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, CNN'S "STATE OF THE UNION": Thanks, Joe. Good evening everyone. I'm Candy Crowley. John King is off.

Take a look at the East Coast and you will know that a monster storm is out there. Tonight about 65 million people from North Carolina to New England are in the path of Hurricane Irene. Ten governors have declared states of emergency. New York City officials ordered the first mandatory evacuations in city history, but along the Jersey shore, drivers can testify trying to get out of harm's way is a slow nerve-racking process.

And the hurricane isn't waiting. Right now, the storm, a category two with 100 mile-an-hour sustained winds, is heading for the North Carolina coast. Our coverage starts with John Zarrella in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. John, we probably don't even need to ask you to set the scene for us because we can see you, but what does it feel like there?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well you know we are getting the winds as you can see right now gusting and picking up a little bit. The rain has been constant and periodically heavy and then it lightens up a little bit. We're, you know the past couple of hours or so here on Atlantic Beach, a mandatory evacuation, obviously, this is an island. The Atlantic Ocean is that way. And that's actually south the way this beach faces.

And Irene is coming straight up from the south. And it's very likely a very good possibility that we could be the first place that sees a landfall here of the center of circulation of Irene. At least very close to the center. To the north of me on the left side is Bold Sound (ph). So as the storm comes by, Candy, a good possibility we could see storm surge first from the Atlantic. And then as it goes by and the winds change direction, we get storm surge from the Bold Sound (ph) coming in this direction.

Now you can see all the power lines that are crisscrossing us here as the wind once again begins to pick up. Of course one of the great concerns, a lot of these power lines very possibly could be going down when that storm hits here with (INAUDIBLE) full force. Certainly some of the light poles, the street lights, the signs and concern is going to be police do not want anyone on the streets after 8:00 tonight, mandatory curfew.

If people want to get off the island, the bridge to get out which is about two miles down the road that way going to remain open as long as they can keep it open or anybody who decides they want to get out. But nobody is getting on this island once that curfew takes place you know in just less than an hour now. And we did hear police this afternoon, Candy, all up and down the road telling people, warning them they are not tolerating it. Cars will be off the road. People will be off the road.

In fact there are police cars -- police cars that are patrolling up and down periodically. One now going in the other direction as we speak, so right now again going through another one of these squalls and it's just going to continue to intensify as the night goes on. As everyone said, this is such a broad, huge storm that these tropical storm force winds are going to be with us for hours and hours building to the hurricane-force winds.

And then when we get past the front end of the storm on that back end of the storm we'll go through all of those tropical storm force winds again. So it's very possible that tomorrow night at this time we'll still be experiencing conditions very similar to what we are seeing out here this evening. Again, you see the road is pretty empty, not very many cars out here right now, Candy. And that's the way the authorities want it -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Thanks so much, John Zarrella on Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, just the beginning, the outer, outer edge of this hurricane.

Now we want to head up the North Carolina coast to Nags Head (ph) where our David Mattingly is waiting for the storm. David, so many people have said, have talked about you know the worst-case scenario. You know we are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. What is the worst that could happen where you are?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The worst-case scenario they're talking about has to do a lot with flooding. As you heard John Zarrella just describing, these islands could be getting hit from both the Atlantic side and from the west as this storm comes across it will push waters and a storm surge from the Atlantic. And what people around here refer to as a reverse storm surge, pushing it in from the other side of the island, as well, as it passes by. I've seen that happen before and it could be very dangerous, completely flooding roadways on some of these islands, making them completely impassable.

The big thing they'll be watching for on the Atlantic side where you see this pounding surf right now, when that storm surge comes in, it's going to be coming up and pounding against the dunes that are on these islands. Now we've seen this happen in every single storm somewhere up and down these islands. These dunes are going to fail in different places. They are preparing for that.

But when that does happen, you're going to have the ocean crashing through the dunes and into the property and into the streets beyond. And when that happens, it carries a lot of sand with it. Those roads could be blocked for some time afterward. Right now the state of North Carolina has deployed highway machinery at different places in safe areas ready to come in as soon as possible. But at this point, everyone just sitting back, waiting to see just how bad this is going to be -- Candy. CROWLEY: Hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. I guess that's the only way to put it. Our David Mattingly in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, thanks, David.

While North Carolina awaits the storm's arrival, within the past couple of hours, hurricane warnings also were issued for New York City, Long Island, the Connecticut coast, Rhode Island plus Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket in Massachusetts. President Obama and his family are ending their vacation early and returning to the White House tonight, but even Washington is in harm's way.

We want to check in with CNN meteorologist Chad Myers. Chad, it seems to me that the danger of this storm -- the strength is mighty but it's kind of the breadth and the width of that that is the most dangerous part.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's exactly correct. In fact it's the size, the north, south, and east and west size of tropical storm force winds, something I haven't seen in a big storm like this. Typically you get a storm and maybe 50 miles around it will be a tropical storm and then down somewhere in the middle will be a hurricane-force wind, maybe 30 miles from the center, but this thing goes literally for 200 miles in each direction.

And I will show you that in just a second. There is where David Mattingly was. Wind gusts there to about 27. There is John Zarrella, 37 right there, and Brian Todd heading down there, 46 miles per hour, all of this rain now coming onshore. You can see the band after band after band of rainfall. This will cause flash flooding in the next couple of days all the way up the coast because this is, although not a slow mover, it is not as fast as typically these will be in the mid latitudes like we are.

A storm like this should be doing 20 miles per hour up the coast. Right now it's doing 13 or 14 and that's the size. Look at the size, every green circle you see here, all -- every green pixel on there is a tropical storm-force wind. That's almost up to Nags Head (ph) right there. That's Cape Hatteras, certainly all the way down to Charleston and well down almost into the Bahamas still going there.

Now I'll put this into motion so you can see for -- 7:00 a.m. Atlantic Beach, where John Zarrella is, gets the eye of the hurricane. Maybe a little bit to his east but very close, and the yellow hurricane force winds. Now Virginia Beach has already seen tropical force winds at 7:00 a.m. And they won't get the eye until 7:00 p.m. So that's literally 12 hours of wind over 40 and then 50, and then 60 and it keeps going until eventually Ocean City (ph) gets it.

Now let me take you here. Here's 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning, so after Saturday night tropical storm force winds already into the Sound, Long Island Sound right there, blowing into the harbor, New York Harbor right there, water backing up the Hudson River and also backing up the East River. So OK, 2:00 a.m. the winds are already 39 or 40. That's when everything gets shut down (INAUDIBLE) because you know the winds are going to be too big to move things around. Trucks can't go over the bridges. The eye doesn't even get there for another eight hours. And so the wind blowing in that same direction for eight hours will push all of that water into where Lady Liberty is and then back up those rivers. Those rivers will flood. Boston, you get it about 3:00 Sunday night. And one thing I just noticed, and I want to go take you to this, this is just the latest that I just got in, is that we have a hurricane hunter aircraft flying through it.

If you can't tell where we are, I'll put you -- here is Jacksonville, here is the coast. Here is John Zarrella right there and then there's Cape Hatteras, so the hurricane hunter aircraft flying through and they'll fly through the eye -- right there is the eye. They just found as they're flying through it this way a 123-mile-per-hour wind. So if you were thinking that this storm is dying, that 123-mile-per- hour wind up there will change your mind -- Candy.

CROWLEY: That kind of answers my question, which was have you seen any good news in this, but it sounds like we just -- whatever good news you may have seen is negated by finding out that inside that storm, 123-mile-an-hour wind. That's pretty mighty.

MYERS: You bet. It could be getting its act together around a new eye wall. We'll have to see tonight.

CROWLEY: Chad Myers thanks so much. We will be back with you later in the program.

Tonight a mandatory evacuation order is in effect for Dear County (ph), North Carolina, where an estimated 150,000 tourists had come to visit historic Kitty Hawk and the popular resort Nags Head. Nags Head Mayor Bob Oakes has lived there since 1984 and plans to ride the storm out. Thank you so much, Mayor, for taking some time for us. Since you have been there since 1984, you've seen a lot of storms. Nags Head is not new to the hurricane business. Compare this to others you have seen.

MAYOR BOB OAKES, NAGS HEAD, NORTH CAROLINA (via phone): Well, we always prepare for the worst storm that we see coming and then hope for the best. We've got an excellent public staff. They have been through this process a lot of times in preparing for a number of storms. We've been very fortunate. Isabel is probably the most recent storm that affected us dramatically and that hit South Nags Head pretty hard.

CROWLEY: And you know I know -- I have some friends that live down there in Nags Head who told me that as they were leaving that they were listening to weather reports and they were listening to people say it is possible that this storm could change the shape of Nags Head. What does that mean? What do you fear will happen there if the storm lives up to our worst fears?

OAKES: Well the biggest danger for us probably is the (INAUDIBLE) flooding. If that track of the storm comes up the sounds, it creates a tremendous amount of hydraulic pressure in the sounds. And it wants to break out and it goes over the land and to the sea. We are hopeful that's not the case. We are prepared and ready to clean up and pick up.

But we've done the essential things. We've gotten our visitors off. We've given notice to our residents. A lot of folks have chosen to leave the island. But now we just kind of monitor things as they go on and hope for the best. There comes a point in time when we don't send our public safety people out into the storm to protect them.

CROWLEY: Sure because it's not even safe for public safety people. Let me ask you if you have any sense of how much of the island has been evacuated. You're always going to have a few people saying hey I'm going to ride this out, but do you think that most people have left other than your public safety folks?

OAKES: Yes. We've had a good response to the evacuation. I think folks do recognize this storm as having a lot of potential for damage, especially folks that are near the water. They know how things can go. And you want to be very careful. This is a dangerous storm. But we've had good response. And folks do have good common sense here. It's a very resourceful group of people and fairly self-reliant. But they -- I think they are prepared. The ones that are here know what's coming for them a little bit.

CROWLEY: Well what -- tell me what it's like there right now. And what kind of support system is there for people who stay behind? Is there anything still open? We are seeing taped video of folks boarding up businesses, et cetera. Is anything open there? Set the scene for me right now.

OAKES: There are a couple of places that (INAUDIBLE) open today some -- the local grocery store, the local grill. But most (INAUDIBLE) finishing their preparation once the wind starts to blow, it's really too late to be doing your preparations. People were picking up loose ends today. A lot of folks down here work in the tourism industry, so a lot of folks were taking care of getting the guests out and getting the nonresident property owners' properties taken care of, and then they have to go back and take care of their own properties and get themselves out.

But it's very quiet. There's not a lot of traffic on the road. And we certainly don't want folks out and about in the storm. That is a danger for everybody. But it's a little bit of rain. The ocean has really kicked up over the past two hours or so. And I expect it will keep going in that direction.

CROWLEY: Out of Nags Head, North Carolina tonight Mayor Bob Oakes. The best we can do for you is keep our fingers crossed and hope that we get the best situation we can. Thanks so much for your time.

OAKES: Thank you, ma'am. We appreciate it and we hope we'll welcome folks back very soon.

CROWLEY: OK. Plenty on Irene throughout the program tonight including a storm chaser following Irene, as we go to break a live look at CNN's Brian Todd's camera crew driving outside Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Here is a storm warning to catch the attention of people all across the country. In the words of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, tomorrow is going to be quote "a horrendous day for travel." Sunday probably won't be any better. The core of the powerful storm is expected to bring hurricane force winds to Virginia.

Joining me now by phone is Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. Governor, thank you for taking some time out from what I know is a very tense period for you. Can I ask you first -- you predicted that this storm could be deadlier than Hurricane Isabel in 2003. What are you hearing that makes you believe that?

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA (via phone): I think it's the swath of the storm, Candy, and the speed of this storm. We are expecting some areas in southeast Virginia and the eastern shore to have four to six hours of hurricane-force winds and up to 20 hours or more of tropical storm-force winds, five to 10 inches of rain. So we've got about a million people in southeast Virginia that are going to experience hurricane-force winds if it keeps its same intensity, which means widespread power outages and everything that goes with that. So we want to prepare people for the very worst and I think our people are ready. I visited Hampton and Virginia Beach and Norfolk today, met with the mayors, the emergency operations people. They're doing a great job and I think we are ready.

CROWLEY: And how are the evacuations going? There are always people they're going to stay. Do you have a message for them?

MCDONNELL: I empowered them by executive order yesterday all the localities in Virginia to issue mandatory evacuations. They have done that throughout southeast Virginia on a targeted basis and along the eastern shore. We estimate about 150 to 200,000 people are subject to mandatory evacuations in those low-lying and coastal areas and then several others, many others through voluntary evacuations. I think they are heeding the warning.

I flew down there today along the major interstate route and it was just full of traffic but moving. And so I think people are heeding the warning and the bottom line is this. Government is prepared to do some things both ahead of the storm and during the storm and then cleanup afterwards. But ultimately, our people have got to be prepared on their own. Know there's going to be power outages. Help their neighbors. Be a good neighbor. Stay off the roads. And make sure they are prepared for both power outages and maybe even water shortages. And they've got to do it today.

CROWLEY: I assume you like other governors have said be prepared for three days of no help, up to three days of no help. Have water for that, food for that, have a flashlight, have a radio that's not driven by power. I want to ask you though, there are going to be those that stay there and you've got some voluntary, as you mentioned, evacuation in places.

MCDONNELL: Yes.

CROWLEY: If you're decided should we go, should we stay, how about some advice from the governor of Virginia?

MCDONNELL: If your locality has suggested a voluntary evacuation, I'd say to the residents you know your -- what your house might be capable of sustaining, how high your building site is away from the water, make your best judgments. There are shelters open all over the eastern part of the state in an abundance of caution, go there, go to a neighbor's house. But realize that there will be significant flooding. There will be trees down.

There will be widespread power shortages and while we've done much better in the last eight years since Isabel, there are likely to be some water shortages if certain amount of treatment plants get overrun and it takes a while to get them back up. So the preparation has got to be today, Candy, because here's the problem. Tomorrow when hurricane -- when tropical storm force winds begin we will have several bridges and tunnels in Virginia that will be closed, which means it's going to be a lot harder to get out.

So I'd say make the decisions today, move today. Otherwise make sure you're absolutely prepared. And if I could throw out this e-mail -- this Web site, www.VaEmergency.gov, that's VaEmergency.gov, we've got a vast array of information about not only preparation but also evacuation routes and shelters and we'd ask Virginians to go and see that.

CROWLEY: And for those who didn't catch it from you governor we will post that on our Web site as well and remind viewers at the end of the program. You've had the earthquake in Virginia, and that's where the epicenter was, now Irene coming. I wonder if you worry about the effect of all of this on the economy of Virginia.

MCDONNELL: Well some, but you know we are doing very well overall. Our unemployment rate is down. Our finances for the state are pretty good. Obviously, this was a huge weekend for Virginia Beach. We had surfing championships down there and a lot of the hoteliers are going to be losing a lot of revenue. So it is a significant impact for our tourism. Our rentals are going to be delayed I think until Monday.

You know, Candy, we actually -- throw into that -- we've had fires for two weeks in the Great Dismal Swamp (ph), so we have had a trifecta with that and the earthquake and now the hurricane maybe only good news is we think that this hurricane drenching rain will put those fires out. But we have a resilient people, a resilient economy, and we are worried right now about public safety and not dollars.

CROWLEY: Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, thank you so much. Good luck to you, sir.

In a minute, we'll take to you the National Hurricane Center for the very latest on Hurricane Irene.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: While most of us would agree it's a pretty good idea to get away from a hurricane that's packing 100-mile-an-hour sustained winds and a predicted 11-foot storm surge, some people make a living chasing them. With us via Skype from Nags Head, North Carolina is meteorologist Reed Timmer who started TornadoVideos.net, TVN for short, a company devoted to extreme storm chasing footage and research.

We want to add that you do, do research here. This isn't just all about the big thrill. I want to ask you first of all whether you see anything so far in your travels that says to you this is a different kind of hurricane. This really is going to be the one that people will remember?

REED TIMMER, TVN LEAD STORM CHASER, METEOROLOGIST: Well I have chased over a dozen hurricanes including Katrina which obviously was the worst natural disaster by far that I've ever witnessed and hope to never witness that again. But this event right here, I kind of get that same feeling in my stomach when you're chasing it, because you know so many people are going to be affected by the flooding, by the strong winds.

And you just know there is likely going to be damage even with this slight (INAUDIBLE) trend, there is still going to be a significant storm surge and you feel for the people and the best -- and the forecasts have been accurate. And you just hope that the people have taken the necessary safety precautions to avoid the areas that are really going to be flooded if they are.

CROWLEY: Is there anything about this storm that scares you more than some of the others? I know you do a lot of tornados, but does this one scare you more than others? It just seems to me that the urgency of the warnings seems to be at a higher level.

TIMMER: Well one thing about tornados is when you chase them we drive and intercept the tornado because we have an armored vehicle that keeps us protected from those really strong winds and debris. But once you intercept you can drive away here in sunshine. But a storm like this, a hurricane, a tropical cyclone, you're in the elements for possibly several hours. And this right here is hitting populated areas. And it could take a long time to evacuate these big cities. And I think it's important to have the urgency and the warning because a storm like this, if it takes the track that it's predicted to, the storm surge could be really, really devastating in the New York City area.

CROWLEY: One of the things that goes along with you and we saw a little quick video of it is that vehicle that you call the dominator and inside you've got all these gadgets for your research. What I'm wondering is whether you think the dominator is up to these 100-mile- an-hour sustained winds that they've talked about. I think our Chad Myers told us that they clocked at about 123 inside the hurricane. Is it -- how does it stay stable and will it last through this one? I'm assuming you hope so.

TIMMER: Well the vehicle has bullet-proof armor and bullet-proof (INAUDIBLE) windows and also has hydraulics which allows the drop (INAUDIBLE) to the ground and that prevents wind from being underneath and lifting the vehicle. We don't want it to behave like an airplane wing. We want it to behave the exact opposite. (INAUDIBLE) design that went into it and I think we can handle the 100-mile-per-hour wind. The wind is definitely not a problem, even flying debris. We've intercepted EF-4 tornados, a few EF-3's where we measured directly (INAUDIBLE) our vehicle 170-mile-per-hour winds.

And what I am really concerned about is that storm surge. And that's why we've been extra prepared. We have (INAUDIBLE) maps to see how high we are above that potential storm surge. And we just want to make sure that we don't get in trouble. You always want to have an escape route when you're chasing something like this. The person that's not a meteorologist or storm chaser and doesn't have experience doing this should not be out in these (INAUDIBLE) because they can be deadly. And water -- it scares me. Having an 11-foot storm surge, I'll stay clear of that and just try to measure those wind speeds. That's our research --

CANDY CROWLEY, GUEST HOST: Reed Timmer, star of Discovery Channel's "Storm Chasers," thank you so much for your time.

TIMMER: Thanks for having me.

CROWLEY: We want to check in with the National Hurricane Center's deputy director, Ed Rappaport.

Ed, one of the things the president said tonight was that all indications point to this being a historic hurricane. Is Irene going to live up as far as what you can see right now tonight to that kind of prediction?

ED RAPPAPORT, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER DEPUTY DIR.: It will for some people. For some people in the Northeast, this will be the strongest hurricane they experienced in perhaps 20 years. The reason for that is that normally when a storm comes up the East Coast and threatened North Carolina, it takes a practical that looks like this. And perhaps passes out to sea just to the east of New England.

In this case, we have the track coming up over North Carolina. But rather than bending out to sea right now, it's going to come up parallel to and maybe right along the U.S. coastline and up through southern New England. So, what that means is because the storm is strongest to the right of center, is that all this area that is near and just to the east will have the worst of the conditions.

And one of the issues in this storm is how large it is. While we don't have the peak winds we would see from a Katrina-like event as we mentioned earlier, to such a large storm that we're going to see tropical storm force winds for as much as 24 hours in some places. North Carolina and to the east of the center -- they could experience hurricane-force winds for as much as 10 hours.

CROWLEY: So, it's the sustained winds, the sort of the constant-ness and largeness of this storm that you think could be the most damaging. I wonder -- every time we look at these models of where the storm might go and the probable path and the possible path, it gets smaller and smaller. You seem more and more certain.

Are there still ways Irene could surprise us?

RAPPAPORT: At this stage, the track is pretty much locked in. And we just talked about the wind and everybody thinks about the wind for hurricane. I want to emphasize the greatest risk for loss of life as you heard earlier is from drowning in a hurricane.

And there are two primary risks. One is to the east of the center, with the flow coming like this at the surface, you pile up water along the coast. That's the storm surge could rise as much as four to eight feet. And then on the west of the storm, on the left side of the storm, it's going to be excessive rainfall in some places -- five to 10 inches of rain, locally 15 inches of rain.

In the Northeast, that's going to fall on to area that's already saturated ground. So, when we talk about the wind and there will be problems from the wind, there will be some damage from the wind, there will be a lot of trees coming down in the Northeast -- the big issue is in terms of risk to life. It's going to be the storm surge to the east of the center and the rainfall to the west of the center.

CROWLEY: So, get as far away, obviously, from the coast as you possibly can and go get on high ground is basically what you need to do at this point to get away from the biggest danger.

RAPPAPORT: The most important thing people can do to protect themselves is to pay close attention to the advice given by their local emergency management officials. And also to stay up-to-date with the local conditions, local weather conditions and the water conditions with information that comes from their local weather service or forecast offices.

CROWLEY: Deputy director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, thank you so much, Ed Rappaport. We appreciate it.

You say you don't live along the Atlantic coast, don't think you're immune to the effects of Irene. Next up, how the storm may hit at the gas pump.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Welcome back.

Here's the latest on hurricane Irene. Right now, the category 2 storm with 100 mile-an-hour sustained winds is approaching the North Carolina coast. Within the past couple of hours, hurricane warnings also were issued for New York City, Long Island, Connecticut coast, Rhode Island, plus Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket in Massachusetts.

And even if you aren't in the storm's path, at least eight oil refineries are representing 10 percent of the nation's refining capacity. Experts warn there may be a spike in gas prices depending on how much damage the storm does in Philadelphia, New Jersey and Delaware.

You may not have noticed, but it was a good day and good week on Wall Street. Stocks broke out of a four-week losing streak. Part of the reason for today's rally is a speech by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. He didn't announce new plans to stimulate the economy, but investors they believe the Fed is in a wait-and-see mode.

Joining us for some perspective is Chrystia Freeland. She's the global editor-at-large for "Reuters."

Chrystia, thanks for being here.

When the Fed chairman speaks, we all listen. What did you hear?

CHRYSTIA FREELAND, GLOBAL EDITOR AT LARGE, REUTERS: OK. My ordinary person translation of what Ben Bernanke said today is it's not my turn to do stuff, it's the government's turn. And what the government should be doing is medium-term balance the budget, but in the short- term, please, please don't go crazy and stop spending money.

CROWLEY: And my question here is: why is that such good news to Wall Street that the chairman is basically saying, I'm out of bullets here. It's somebody else's turn and the turn goes to Washington?

FREELAND: Well, I don't think that it was -- you know, I don't think that they were opening up the champagne on Wall Street. And, in fact, what would have had Wall Street really cheering, and I think would have given a real surge in the markets is if Ben Bernanke said it's OK, everyone, I'm going to save your bacon again.

He didn't say that, but at least he didn't rule it out. He did say in September, we are going to take another look. He also warns that he thinks the economy is in pretty crummy shape. And he focused particularly on unemployment. He said that is the one thing which could leave long-term scars.

It's not that normal to have a central banker talk about that. You know, they usually like to focus more on inflation. So, I think that did give people a sense that if the recovery continues to falter, which it looks like it probably will, he's going to step in.

CROWLEY: Chrystia Freeland, global editor at large with "Reuters" -- thank you so much for your expertise on this. We appreciate it.

FREELAND: Pleasure.

CROWLEY: Are major cities prepared for Irene? One mayor tells me how his city is preparing when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: CNN's Brian Todd is in North Carolina this evening. He's been driving south into the outer rain bands of Hurricane Irene. He has stopped off and is joining us from Wrightsville Beach.

Brian, I can't tell whether it is water or wind that is the worst there. Tell me about it.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're here in Wrightsville Beach where a massive storm surge is on the beach here. (INAUDIBLE) We just got socked by a wave. (INAUDIBLE) Few people are down here. Emergency management (INAUDIBLE) some of the people are milling around just watching all this.

They are concerned about the storm surge going that close to the town and washing over it. They've had about 6,000 people, 6,000 customers now that's been out so far in this area. (INAUDIBLE) they are worried about that as well losing power.

(INAUDIBLE)

CROWLEY: Brian, you are tough to understand at this point, but you are fighting the elements there. But we hear you about the surge of the water and wind picking up.

Brian is headed to Wilmington for us right now. He is in Wrightsville Beach. Thanks so, Brian. Brian, we will get back to you.

Our "ANDERSON COOPER 360" is coming at the top of the hour. And Anderson is here with a preview.

Oh, my goodness! It looks so peaceful where you are, Anderson, after watching Brian Todd. Good heavens!

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": I know. Yes, in fact, the sun just set. It was among the more beautiful sunsets I've seen, an incredible red orb of the sun.

Yes. We are coming to you right now, Candy, from what seems to be a very peaceful southern tip of Manhattan here in New York City. What's odd and what's so strange about these storms is this very spot is expected to be underwater when hurricane Irene hits in a little bit more than 36 hours. Underwater -- just how far underwater remains to be seen.

New York's main international airport closes at noon tomorrow. Same for the subways, all mass transits, sporting events, Broadway shows. David Matthews' concert is being canceled.

Mayor Bloomberg ordered residents in the coastal areas of the five boroughs, about 250,000 people to get out. We should have a clear idea where the storm is going to hit and when in just a few minutes. We're going to have the latest bulletin, from the National Weather Service right at the top of the hour when we are live.

Take a look also at this video, Candy.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

COOPER: This is Irene ripping through the Bahamas about 36 hours ago. We'll spoke to the man who rode out the storm there, took the video.

Also inside the eye of the storm, what Irene looks like from a hurricane chase. It's all at the top of the hour, 8:00 p.m. We'll also be on at 10:00 p.m., Candy.

CROWLEY: Anderson, we will be there with you. This storm really does seem to be picking up speed, or at least is coming ashore at this point. The pictures are amazing from the Bahamas.

There are a number of big cities in the storm's path that almost never see hurricanes. And they are right in the path of Irene tonight.

With us on the phone is Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Cory Booker.

Mayor Booker, thank you for being with us. I know when you prepare for anything this large that you have a population that has a good deal of poverty within it. And, therefore, it seems to me that requires some special preparations for people who may not be able to go on the Internet easily or may not have the wherewithal to get all these things the government tells you to go out and buy.

How do you prepare your city for something like this?

MAYOR CORY BOOKER, NEWARK, NEW JERSEY (via telephone): Well, any large city has a big spread of population and Newark is no different. So, we are making sure, we literally are going out in the streets looking for people that might be homeless areas that we know from previous surveys, who those people are.

We are getting our shelters ready, inviting everybody there, trying to create an environment that is inviting, you know, making sure we have adequate food, cots and generators. And then we can't rely on the normal way that the news is often picked up. So, we are having people check the Internet or even as people know through social media it's not enough.

So, we are making sure we get up on local TV as well as using our public housing authority, using our school system and others to get word out in more of a manual way.

CROWLEY: So, you are literally -- some of this is door-to-door or block-to-block. Do you have the money and the staff to do that to the extent that you would like to?

BOOKER: Well, the staff, absolutely. We are very pleased we had just such a robust amount of help from many different agencies in Newark. All our police officers and firefighters are coming in in droves offering to help out. And we are coordinating with a great county government as well as other organizations from colleges and universities through the public education system.

Obviously, this does cost money. But this is not the time to be thinking about dollars and cents when there are literally lives to be on the line. The old saying is right: it's better to be prepared for an emergency and not have one, than have an emergency and not be prepared.

We're fortunate that governor of the state of New Jersey has called -- you know, the governor of the state of New Jersey has called for a state of emergency. And that means that hopefully in the future we can get some funding back for all we are doing to prepare for the storm.

CROWLEY: Governor -- I'm sorry, Mayor Cory Booker, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck to you.

Some New York -- some New York City hospitals have begun evacuating patients in preparation for Irene. But how seriously are New Yorkers in general taking this threat?

Stay with us.

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CROWLEY: At New York Staten Island University Hospital, they have been evacuating patients since last night. Babies first, older patients today. In all, 230 patients have to be moved. Nobody wants a repeat of those horror stories from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina when hospitals lost power and people were trapped.

Staten Island University Hospital president and CEO Antony Ferreri joins us via Skype.

Mr. Ferreri, thank you so much.

Just in terms of sheer logistics, I know it's about 230 patients -- to how many hospitals?

ANTHONY FERRERI, PRES. & CEO, STATEN ISLAND UNIV. HOSPITAL: We actually are transferring patients to several hospitals within the North Shore-LIJ Health System. We're part of that system. There are 15 hospitals in the system but we are pretty much narrowing our focus on three to four hospitals.

CROWLEY: So -- and these are hospitals within the region but in a zone of safety from Hurricane Irene. I'm wondering -- what then happens to new patients? Aren't we now -- I think there are some 22 health care facilities being evacuated in New York. Doesn't this crowd the other facilities at a point when a crisis is happening, you have less room in care facilities?

FERRERI: That's an excellent point. What we've done, Staten Island is a community of 500,000 people and as is obvious we're an island. We have two hospitals located on Staten Island. Those two hospitals are part of Staten Island University Hospital. And they are both evacuating, closing.

There is only one other hospital for Staten Island now for 500,000 people, Richmond University Medical Center. The reason we're transferring our patients off of Staten Island is not to put a great burden on Richmond University Medical Center, so that they would be able to care for needs over the next couple of days that we're not taking patients as inpatients. Our emergency rooms will remain open.

CROWLEY: So, your emergency room facilities at your hospital remain open. So you will have health care providers there during the storm.

FERRERI: We won be accepting them through 911. We will, however, have emergency personnel here to treat people who are walk-ins or brought in by family members. CROWLEY: Mr. Ferreri, what have you told your health care providers at that hospital to do? Where will they be, the bulk of them, over the next several days? And where do you plan to ride out this storm?

FERRERI: We will go to a much lower level of staffing once the patients removed from this facility and maintain it mostly with facilities, plan ops, maintenance personnel and, of course, emergency personnel and surgeons who will also be available to deal with any emergencies.

I'll be at the hospital myself. We'll be staying close to the situation. There is an evacuation order for the entire area south of Highland Boulevard in Staten Island. All homes will be evacuated.

So, we're very concerned about all of this. We're concerned for the well-being of our patients, for the people of Staten Island and, of course, for our own employees who also have to deal with these issues.

But we have a strong staff of employees. They've dealt with 9/11. They dealt with the ferry crash of 2003. And we have dedicated employees who are here around the clock.

And what's also interesting about all of this is that in 115 years of existence, this hospital has been around since 1861. This is the first time that this hospital will actually close its doors.

CROWLEY: But, again, you'll remain open for emergencies that come to your door. There will be a skeleton staff there?

FERRERI: Skeleton staff of emergency physicians who will treat, triage and stabilize patients and then transfer patients out.

CROWLEY: Great. Thank you so much, Anthony Ferreri. You have quite a couple of days. I hope that it misses you or that any damage or injuries, of course, are minimal.

The president and CEO of Staten Island University Hospital -- thank you so much for joining us.

FERRERI: Thank you, Candy. It's been my pleasure.

CROWLEY: The latest news now from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who just announced even though the deadline for the mandatory evacuation of low-lying areas is tomorrow afternoon, people are going to have trouble if they are not out by tomorrow morning.

Our Mary Snow joins us from Lower Manhattan, one of the areas to be evacuated -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Candy, one option for people, mass transit is not going to be an option tomorrow because the city for the first time is disrupting service on subway, buses and commuter trains in and out of the city. So, that path is going to be closed to people and their options are going to be fewer in terms of getting out of the city. CROWLEY: So, in other words, I mean, what -- I don't understand exactly why this is being difficult, why this is so difficult at this point. Is it do you see a lot of people evacuating? Are the roads jammed up?

SNOW: We don't see a lot of people evacuating. But there -- we talked to a number of people today who said that they are leaving the city in the low-lying areas such as Lower Manhattan, that people were making contingency plans to get out of the city. But if people were relying on mass transit and millions of people rely on it every day, that is a problem. And even people working in the city, let's say, you know, just getting around, getting back to their homes, that's an additional problem.

So, you know, as the hours go by, tomorrow afternoon and those options are not there and as you said that deadline for getting out is at 5:00 p.m. because winds are expected to pick up by tomorrow night.

CROWLEY: You know, New York City is a pretty blase place about a lot of things that happen. What do you feel or sense going around the city? Is this the topic of conversation? Are people waiting and seeing? Do they think it's overblown?

What are you picking up?

SNOW: You know, initially, there was some skepticism. And some people had suggested that perhaps the city was overreacting because it got caught off-guard in the winter with that big snowstorm that hit the city.

But, you know, as these warnings intensified and as people saw the weather maps, they said, you know, they don't want to take any chances. People are taking it pretty seriously.

CROWLEY: Which is a good thing. Thanks so much, our Mary Snow.

And that's all for us from tonight. Go to our website, CNN.com/JKUSA, for a complete list of resources on how you can prepare yourself with the hurricane.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.