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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
FEMA Estimated 90% of Florida Keys Homes Destroyed or Damaged; Emergency Teams Scrambling to Help Hard-Hit Florida Keys; Death Toll Rises to 12 In Florida; Water, Power, Food Scarce on Caribbean Islands After Irma; At Least 16 Dead in U.S. in Caribbean. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired September 12, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
We're broadcasting tonight from Bradenton, Florida, on a street that as you can see has no power, street which most of the houses escaped unscathed, certainly not the house behind me, where a trip was uprooted and it lifted up about half of the house.
We're on the west coast but the effects of Hurricane Irma are being felt all over this state still. But there's a lot to report over the next two hours. We're also going to be focusing on what's happening in the Caribbean where the storm has passed, but the misery is remaining. There are now 16 deaths in the United States attributed to the storm.
[20:00:02] Twelve of them right here in the state of Florida, and at least 36 others in the Caribbean.
Teams are scrambling to the Florida Keys, where FEMA estimates that 90 percent of the homes were either majorly damaged or completely destroyed.
Over the next two hours, we're going to hear from survivors who rode out the storm and from people who are just returning home to see what is left behind, or what is not left.
There's also near complete devastation in parts of the U.S. Virgin Islands where some people have told us they feel ignored, that their stories are not getting out. So, we're going to try to rectify that tonight.
Though the islands that were hit hard are just about 40 miles of Puerto Rico, the three largest islands in the U.S. Virgin, St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas, as well as smaller surrounding islands. Many of them affected. We'll take you there as well tonight.
Here in Florida, millions of people are still without power. Florida Power and Light says people in the eastern side of state may get power back by the end of the weekend. Here on the western side however, they're shooting for September 22nd. That's next Friday. We'll have more in that situation in a moment.
But, first, we want to start in the Keys. Lisa Kronus is a nurse who rode out a storm in Key West. I spoke with her by phone just a few moments ago.
COOPER: Lisa, what's the situation in Key West right now? What are you seeing around you?
LISA YACOVELLE-KRONUS, RODE OUT STORM IN KEY WEST (via telephone): Right now, they're clearing the road of the trees and debris in Key West, but there's no power, and the cellphones are not working. I think people can look with the Google NOAA app at actual houses.
Some houses have damage of the roofs in Key West. It had really high winds but not destructive. Big Pine, on the other hand, and Cudjoe and Sugarloaf I'm hearing are destroyed.
FEMA is not producing the food that they're supposed to or the amount of food. They brought some MREs, not enough for 400 people that lined up for an hour to get them. So, hopefully, that situation gets fixed.
We had cellphone service for five minutes today. I have AT&T, and I found a land line. That's how we're communicating at Aqua Nightclub with Erin Huntsman (ph).
COOPER: What -- you decided to stay behind. What was your thinking on staying behind during the storm?
YACOVELLE-KRONUS: So, we stayed here for (INAUDIBLE). It was terrible. It flooded our home. Had we not been here for Wilma and couldn't have gotten in our home immediately to fix it, it would have been a disaster. There was sewage water. There was saltwater. People couldn't get back into town for a week and a half.
I'm also an RN, so I do have the ability to help people. I'm a volunteer for Love is Love Foundation, but also an RN, period. You know, I mean, I certainly can help.
But mainly, you know, I wanted to make sure my kids were out of town and that we could get back, assess the damage and fix any problems. And I think Erin was doing the same thing.
Once you're out, you're out. It's going to take a long time for people to get back here. We've got looters that are around. We had someone knocking on our door last night as a matter of fact. So, you know, it's a situation where I'd rather be here than away wondering what happened to the house. We have a curfew right now from sundown to sunset, sun up.
COOPER: You were riding out the storm in a hotel. What was it like during the height of the storm?
YACOVELLE-KRONUS: Well, so, the hotel, we were safe. We were in a safe spot. The hotel lost power and their sewage line was backing up. So the hotel was not any good, but it was a safe spot.
You asked why didn't run, too. Until the very end , we looked like we were going to be fine. Like Key West looked like the only spot in Florida that was going to be fine. So, where do you run to?
My son went to Alabama. We stayed back to assess the home damage. Anderson, I'm going to have to go because they're trying to curfew us right now. I'm getting in trouble.
COOPER: All right. You got to go. Lisa, I appreciate it. You stay safe.
COOPER: Joining me now on the phone is Key West city manager, Jim Scholl.
Jim, it's good to talk to you again. Right now, we have two deaths confirmed in the Keys. Is that still accurate and how are authorities in Key West trying to account for everyone?
JIM SCHOLL, KEY WEST CITY MANAGER (via telephone): Well, Anderson, good evening.
There are two deaths. One was in Key West, it wasn't immediately storm-related we don't believe, but the accountability really. Key West did not take a very major brunt of the storm. You know, we don't have that much structural damage in Key West, it is worst up the Keys.
But our biggest challenge thus far has been moving debris out of the roadways so that the roads are passable. But I don't know of any issues with people being trapped, we're not doing search and rescue in Key West.
[20:05:04] I know there's still some -- some resources doing that up the Keys from us where conditions were worse. But Key West is in the process of recovery. We got 80 percent of the roads passable now.
You know, they're moving the debris off to the sides of the road. We're going to start the clean-up process here soon where we go out and pick up all of the debris and get the town cleaned up. The biggest challenge we have right now is just the lack of power, lack of water. And, fortunately, this evening, we got our waste water treatment plant up and functioning, which is big public health issue as you know, but that will help us once the water gets turned onto be able to work our way back to normal operations for the city of Key West.
COOPER: Well, a lot of that is very good news. The Department of Defense has said that there's many as 10,000 people who rode out the storm in the Keys may need to be evacuated due to outages. Monroe County has said -- called the DOD claim, quote, not true.
I'm wondering -- do you have any clarity on what's happening? Do you think there will be a need to have large numbers of people evacuate from the Keys?
SCHOLL: Anderson, I don't think so at all. We were not aware of that information. Myself down here in Key West and the Monroe County emergency management folks, you know, everybody who evacuated and heeded the order, that was good. And those that are here, we're working to obviously provide services and not overextend the resources that we had.
But now that we're receiving, but there's at this point, certainly in Key West, there's no need for an evacuation. I can tell you that the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority is working very hard at restoring the water. They've -- they've done a tremendous job today with their crews out there reducing the number of leaks in the system. They got water pressure to Marathon, from Key Largo area, all the way down to Marathon.
But they're going to work their way down the Keys and restore water pressure to our community. And that is obviously an issue, and that's why we don't want people to, in mass, return down here to the keys. And we certainly understand the frustration, everybody wants to get down here and check out their home.
SCHOLL: Anderson, if I may I can tell you, I live up the Keys, I was able to make it up there in daylight today. I live on the island of Cudjoe Key, which is where the eye came ashore. And my house is standing. I've got some sidings that's off, a little bit of fascia damage, things like that. But the roof's intact and the house was dry inside and so are all the neighbor's house right around me. I've seen some that are damaged, but it's not as high a number I think as what is being publicly proclaimed.
COOPER: Well, that's certainly good news. We're obviously trying to get as accurate information and relying on people like you and other officials. We appreciate it, Jim Scholl. Thank you.
SCHOLL: Oh, I think --
COOPER: Widespread power outages -- oh, sorry, go ahead, Jim.
SCHOLL: The statement made earlier that 90 percent of the homes in the Keys have major damage and that's certainly nowhere near the case down here in Key West and the immediate area. So, even like I say, up there in Cudjoe, which was sort of in the heart of the eyewall landing in my small neighborhood there. It's not any major damage that I saw.
COOPER: Well, that's really good to know again, because, you know, again, because -- you know, we get we hear one official says one thing, an estimate, and sometimes it's maybe they rode a chopper over and they're kind of guesstimating. So, we appreciate talking to you on the ground and you telling us what you've seen in the Keys.
Jim, I appreciate it.
Widespread power outages is one of the biggest challenges at this point, as Florida communities are trying to recover and rebuild. Nearly 5 million customers without power in Florida. More than a million others are in the dark throughout the rest of the Southeast.
To make matters worse, or more inconvenient, most of Florida, we'll see daytime high temperatures into the 90s this week. So, it's going to get pretty unpleasant. All that work's got to be done. No phones, or communication, or if you have a landline sometimes that can work. But not cell service in a lot of places. No refrigeration, obviously, because no electricity.
CNN's Miguel Marquez has more.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We put the pork chop, chicken and sauce. Sausage on the grill.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cooking outdoors for many residents in this central Florida town, still without electricity, the only option.
(on camera): How difficult is it to live day to day here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's sad. And it's hard. Because the stove don't even got no more meat when it's gone out, we done.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): With many displaced by the hurricane, Walker now has eight people living in her house today.
[20:10:03] She's cooking for 12 and she still doesn't know when the lights will come on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You keep calling they say they don't know when it's gone be back on.
MARQUEZ (on camera): So, how many times have you called?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've called back 50 times.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Nearly 36 percent of the people live in poverty. Agriculture, sugarcane and cornfield work, much of it temporary, power is the economy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you can see all of our vegetables for cooking, they're all rotten now.
MARQUEZ: Fontell Daiti (ph) has a wife and five kids. He works translating Creole in English in a local health clinic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And also those of us who have children also, it's tough because I don't have any meals. I couldn't get any meal. Not only Winn-Dixie closed, but even if I had bought it, I wouldn't have been able to store it.
MARQUEZ (on camera): And there's nowhere else for you to go?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nowhere else for me to go.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): The town's main grocery store, open but no power, no meat or milk either.
(on camera): For every day that you're without electricity, how hard is life?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very hard and stressful, because you can see how hot the sun is. Imagine you can't turn the AC on.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Here and across Florida, there's not one problem but thousands. Power lines toppled by winds, some snapped in half. Trees fell everywhere, bringing power lines down with them. Crews from Florida and beyond working around the clock, but the damage widespread and massive.
Water and sometimes ice can't be distributed fast enough here. Fresh food in short supply.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know what else we're going to end. (INAUDIBLE) to find some food, but there's nothing, there's no hope.
MARQUEZ (on camera): So, where does the next meal come from?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one knows. I don't know. Just put my hope to God.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Mayor Steve Wilson expects full power to be restored during the weekend. Towns across Florida facing unprecedented difficulties.
MAYOR STEVE WILSON, BELLE GLADE, FLORIDA: Belle Glade is probably one of the most diverse cities you'll find for (INAUDIBLE). First time in history of Belle Glade, we ever had a mandatory evacuation.
MARQUEZ: An historical record they never hope to repeat or break.
COOPER: And CNN's Miguel Marquez joins us.
Now, how realistic is it that people in that community may get power back, I mean, as soon as this weekend, because clearly, I mean, their food supplies are running low, everyone has told, you know, have three days of supplies, we're on the tail end of that.
MARQUEZ: Yes, the problems are so widespread. I do want to point out this is Tuesday night in downtown Belle Glade, and it is dark. There are parts of the town that are starting to see electricity come back. Other towns around here are also out.
Florida Power and Light says on the east coast, they expect to have most of the problem dealt with by this Sunday. On the west coast, they say it'll take up to the 22nd next Friday.
But here in the center of the state, it's very unclear. The mayor hopes in the next couple of days. He's not making a lot of promise, a real hard promise. But he hopes by the end of this weekend, the lights will come back on here as well as the rest of the west coast of Florida -- Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. Miguel, appreciate that report today. Thanks very much.
Power outages are not the only big obstacle in Florida right now. Fuel shortages in some places. Many people have a hard time getting around if they can get around at all. It includes rescue crews and first responders.
Dianne Gallagher has the latest on that.
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I can tell you that actually right now we're in North Tampa -- go head.
COOPER: Sorry, what are they doing to combat this? What's the situation?
GALLAGHER: So, Anderson, the governor has done quite a bit at this point. He's waived the fuel tax on fuel entering this state. He's also made it to where there's sort of not a limit entering the state. He's waived that sort of a requirement there.
It still doesn't seem to be enough. He's asked ten other states to waive how much a vehicle can way, the driver restrictions, just to get as much fuel as possible here. It's not working, though. You can see here, these are cordoned off.
My producer and I got gas at this exact gas station three hours ago. Since then, no fuel. But you can see, people are lining up. These men right here is waiting here. You can check over here. We've got another fuel truck at this point.
The governor has made it, Anderson, so there are highway patrol officers who are dedicated solely to bringing fuel trucks like this one through the state of Florida. They want to make sure they can get as much as they can possible. We watch this rolling sort of progress happened throughout the state.
But the supply does not outweigh the demand. And that's the problem. So many people who are coming home from north Florida, from other states trying to go down south, they have got -- they have fuel requirement.
There are people here, who many of them, Anderson, don't have power in their house, as Miguel was referencing. So, they're using their cars as refuge. They're going in there. It's very hot here, trying to get AC. They're charging their phones because that's how they're checking on friends and family, letting them know they're OK. So, they're running out of gas and they're running their cars on the ground.
We talked to AAA agents right here who said they're going around replacing batteries almost as quickly as they possibly can right now.
[20:15:02] So, we're dealing with people who are doing whatever they can, Anderson. The fuel is coming in now at a faster rate, but it doesn't seem to be fast enough.
COOPER: Yes, a lot of need. Dianne Gallagher, appreciate that.
We've got a lot more ahead from the Keys over the next two hours and from all over the state of Florida.
Also ahead, the storm hits home from country music star Kenny Chesney who has a home in St. John, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He tells us how he helped people survive the storm. People were using his house that he wasn't in. He's been trying to help people out and help get relief in.
But there's a lot of need in St. John. And the other islands in the Caribbean. We'll talk about that also, coming up.
COOPER: Randi Kaye saw firsthand the damage in the Keys from a helicopter today. She joins us now.
So, Randi, what was it like?
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we hitched a ride with a couple of guys. One who lives here year-round. He runs a fishing charter company and another who lives in Jupiter, Florida, but has a house here. And so, we rode with them in this helicopter.
And, you know, coming down, you can see deeper and deeper as we got into the Keys, the worse it got. There were boats that were flipped on their sides. There were docks from homes that were out in the middle of the water. There were roofs ripped homes. I mean, a lot of the areas were just flattened.
[20:20:01] We're in Cudjoe Key, which is where these guys have their home and we went around with them. We drove around Cudjoe Key and we could see even, you know, there were boats that were off their moorings and in people's yards, and really just, you know, huge chunks of houses that were missing.
Here's just a sample of our trip with them today.
KAYE (voice-over): Mike Winehooper (ph) has lived in the Florida Keys for 30 years, working fishing charters. He's about to see what's left of his house.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My boat is still there. My house is still there. Look at the boats piled up there.
KAYE (on camera): How does your house look to you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like it's still there. I've got boats in my front yard. It's all destroyed. Wow, the house is totally gone.
Really kind of excited to see what's left. I don't think we got the 10 or 12-foot storm surge. I know as soon we get to my house.
KAYE: How many homes are totally destroyed?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's totaled. KAYE: This is your home right here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, one of them. Little beat up but it survived.
It's not horrible. I still have the house. I still have my flat. Underneath my house looks a lot different.
KAYE: Why? How so?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I didn't have a lot of this stuff here before. A lot of -- this isn't mine. Like that's not mine. The taco box isn't mine.
This will be the tell tale.
KAYE: Be careful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dry so far.
KAYE: The eye went right over your house.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right over our house.
KAYE: Isn't it amazing that it's still standing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm ecstatic. They changed our building codes about five years ago, and it made -- I think it made all the difference. We've built to 180 wind load here.
KAYE: So, we are told that there were 130 miles per hour sustained winds over Cudjoe Key with gusts going about 160 to 180 miles an hour here, which explains why there was so much damage.
The other guy who was on that helicopter with us, Don Brady, we went to his house, too. He had some pretty bad damage. His pool is totally black, instead of a nice bright blue, with all this debris in it. There was a room on his first floor. The doors were just blown off it. And there two freezers, huge freezers, in that room.
His house is down that way, his freezers were all the way over, I don't know if you can see it with our flashlight, in the neighbor's lawn. We're working on some limited resources here because we don't have a lot of battery power. And then this house right across the street, I don't know if you can see the garage door is just bent and the roof were that brown area is completely fallen off the house. And they had a 442-foot yacht that was here and attached in the water.
And it was sort of acting like a pin ball in a pin ball in a pin ball machine. It was just banging around between the homes and the canal here. And it ended up a few blocks away on its side on top of the bank here in the canal.
So, there was a lot of damage here, Anderson. There still isn't any power. People have some generators, but there's some police in the area. It's just a very, very difficult situation getting around here for a lot of these folks in Cudjoe Key, which the eye of the storm went right over -- Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. Randi, appreciate you getting there.
Before it headed for Florida, Hurricane Irma decimated -- caused a lot of destruction on islands in the Caribbean, including the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Right now, I want to get an update from St. Thomas. CNN's Sara Ganim joins me now.
So, Sara, Irma hit St. Thomas as a cat 5 storm. What's the damage there like?
SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it was absolutely stunning from the moment that we got here. Actually from before we got here, we pulled up on a boat trying to get on this island.
As you mentioned, Irma hit this island, St. Thomas before it hit the continental United States. It was one of the first islands to be in the path of the storm. And it's very clear being here for just a few hours, this island is going to have a very long road to recovery. Six days after that storm hit this island, it is still incredibly difficult to get people and supplies on and off this island.
And what we witnessed here today were the locals helping each other to get those essentials into this island. People with resources like yachts, boats, private jets and airplanes, things that, you know, normally make for very happy times with Caribbean life on an island, they're now using them to ferry in bottled water, medicine, food, formula, supplies like diapers for babies, things they are simply running out of.
I spoke to so many people who spent days, Anderson, trapped in their own homes and neighborhoods and eventually had to just chainsaw themselves out just to get out down the street, down to the town.
The majority of this island has no power. Many people have no water, little water or no drinkable water. And the foreseeable future, this could go on for weeks if not months before we see that power restored to this island.
[20:25:04] It's simply the nature of an island like this. Even in the best of times it's hard to get resources on and off.
Now, what they're looking at in the future is what this will do to their economy, tourism if they cannot bring power and the infrastructure back relatively soon, not only will this continue to affect their day to day lives but their well-being in general, Anderson. COOPER: Yes. Hey, Sara, I know you've only been there for a few
hours. Have you seen much, you know, federal U.S. government support on the ground? I mean, you know, you were talking about supplies running low and residents there who are American citizens helping each other.
But are you -- you know, is there a massive relief effort coming in at this point, or is it still kind of piecemeal?
GANIM: There is a relief effort. We're actually at the local emergency management headquarters. FEMA was here before the storm even hit. They were prepared.
The lieutenant governor actually camped out for the storm in this building behind me. And there is military assistance here, but the thing is the airport is badly damaged. The ferry terminals just started to be up and running today and just yesterday. So, getting those supplies in and out is still very tricky, and getting people out is very tricky.
Evacuations, there was a cruise ship that came and evacuated some people today. And there are ferry boats, but a majority of the people we see, they're waiting with what remains of their belongings, for private citizens, strangers, who aren't their neighbors, but strangers, who are bringing their boats in to try and get people out to St. Croix, to Puerto Rico, to a nearby island they can get to safety.
Some of those people are going to return. Some of those people say they will not.
COOPER: All right. Sara Ganim, I'm glad you're there because I know a lot of people on the islands have felt kind of neglected or their story isn't being told. So, I'm glad we have you on the ground there.
Up next, more than a dozen people survived a direct hit from the hurricane in country star Kenny Chesney's house on St. John. I'll speak with Kenny and one-his friends who just got out today next.
[20:30:40] COOPER: You just heard a report on St. Thomas, St. John's another big island from the U.S. Virgin Islands. And Country music super start Kenny Chesney has been a resident there for years. He loves St. John, he wasn't there at the time that Irma hit but 17 of his friends were riding out the storm in his house, they survived. And with help they -- with Kenny's help they were able to get off the island.
He's determined to try to get as much attention to the U.S. Virgin Islands, to St. John, to St. Thomas and the needs of the island, just before we spoke with Kenny, one of the people, one of his friends who rode out the storm at his house, Kate Henna, who just got out today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So Kenny, you love St. John, you got a place there and you've been there for a long time, when you see the images of what happened there what goes through your mind?
KENNY CHESNEY, ST. JOHN RESIDENT: It's a lot of heart break, Anderson. It's really just so many emotions running through my head and to my heart. It's hard to put into words really because I got so many memories there, so many friends there, so many fabrics and pieces of my life on that island. And to see that devastation and to see what it is today. When I was just there last week, it's really heart breaking. Because I know what all my friends are going through and all the wonderful people of that island are going through. And my heart breaks for them and it breaks for all of us, really.
COOPER: And Kate you were there until today, you just got out today. What was it like? What's it been like the last couple of days?
KATE HENNA, SURVIVED HURRICANE IRMA ON ST. JOHN: It's been terrifying. It's the scariest I thing I've ever been through in my entire life. Luckily I've been in St. John about 11 years. And we were going to stay at my friend's Mandy's (ph) house. We thought that was our safest option.
The last minute we got to go up to this guy's house and it literally saved out lives. Because if we stayed at Mandy's we probably wouldn't have gone out, went getting hurt. It would have been really bad.
My house is pretty much completely destroyed. But we had a really good, solid group up at the house. We were all good, we thought we were in a safe spot and the window blew in. So we went into the laundry room, and we had 17 of us including 5 dogs and four kids s and we -- some of the boys grabbed a couple mattresses and we ended up in there for about five hours with mattresses and a washing machine and dryer and five guys holding up, taking turns rotating in and out holding up the door so it wouldn't flow in.
There's also flooding, luckily there was a shock back in there that we were able to dump the water out and kind of keep it not from completely flooding. But it was pretty traumatizing, you know, the parents that were with me did a great job of keeping the kids safe and not even really thinking that we had a problem and that we were as scared as we were.
I've heard some more horror stories from other people. I luckily been, you know, everyone that I know has been accounted for and OK. I work on a boat. Those boats are all damaged so. It's pretty bad. Most of my friends lost their homes, don't have anywhere to go. A lot of them don't, and it's pretty devastating.
COOPER: And Kenny, I know you opened up your house to Kate and a lot of other friends as she was saying, you and I were texting before we went on air and you know, you said the house is just -- it's wood and stone, you know, a house can be replaced, is the house itself destroyed?
CHESNEY: Yes, it's pretty much gone, Anderson. I was just talking with all my friends that I flew up here off island, and they reminded me of something that was very important. You know, just to what she just said, you know, a hurricane can destroy an island it can tear down houses, it can devastate all of our friends' home, my home or whatever, but the one thing that I really love about all the people down the island over the years is their heart, and their spirit and how resilient they are.
[20:35:21] And a hurricane can take away all of our stuff, it can take away my house, Kate's house, all the boats she worked on, all my friends' boats but they cannot take away our heart and spirit and how resilient everybody is. And that's one of the things that drew me to the island in the first place.
It was a very eclectic group of people that loved life, that loved music, that loved living. And I've always felt that it took a little bit kind of a different soul to live there in the first place. And you really got to want to live there to live there. But this says a lot about a person when they stick it out over the years. And something like this that happens, you know, like I said, it can take away everything that we have, but it will not take away our spirit and our heart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: We're going to have more of my interview with Kenny Chesney and with Kate Hanna in the next hour. Kenny is looking for a way to help St. John not just in the media disaster release but also a long term. You can go to Kenny Chesney.com for more information on ways to help. And as I say, we'll have more from Kenny in the next hour.
Up next, the mayor of Jacksonville told us last night the danger is not over. We sent Gary Tuchman there today to see what's going on, his report in just a moment.
COOPER: We heard from the Jacksonville mayor last night that the worse is not over there. There was flooding on the ground last night. Today, flooding is still blocking access to some neighborhoods. Evacuations are still happening we're told. Gary Tuchman went to a residential neighborhood to see what families are dealing with. And here's his report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Molly McLendon is fearful of what she'll find as she her cousin Carley (ph) and her dog Winny (ph) return for the first time of the Jacksonville home she just moved into last month. The bedroom floor still has some water but Molly soon discovers the water was almost a foot deep.
MOLLY MCLENDON, HOME DAMAGED BY FLOODING: This is wet so at least up to the bed.
[20:40:00] TUCHMAN: She's fairly stoic about her damaged bed and furniture elsewhere in the home. But what got to her was the discovery of personal and sentimental paper she kept in a folder, a folder that wasn't left in a high enough place.
TUCHMAN (on camera): Sorry Molly. I'm really sorry.
MCLENDON: It's OK, it's just stuff.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Similar emotions up and down the street of this neighborhood near Downtown in Jacksonville.
DAN HARRIS, HOME DAMAGED BY FLOODING: I lived here 20 years.
TUCHMAN: Dan Harris lives and works in this home, he's a photography. The garage where he keeps his photo equipment had three feet of water. Dan stayed in the home with three friends, never anticipating the intense flooding that was about to occur.
HARRIS: About 6:00 in the morning we got up and the water was basically up to the door by then. And then at 2:00 in the afternoon it was high tide, and by then I had nine inches in my living room.
TUCHMAN: The four men put blocks under the furniture to salvage what they could, one thing they couldn't salvage with their cars. Harris had two vehicles that were under water for hours. The cars of his three friends were also submerged.
TUCHMAN (on camera): Everybody knows that when you live along the beach in Florida you're vulnerable to hurricanes. When Irma started tracking to the coast of Florida, many here in Jacksonville felt a sense of relief. It turns up or showed many it was a false sense of security.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Molly McLendon experience was stressful from beginning to end. She had evacuated early on to her uncle's house New Orlando, which was heavy damaged only to learn hours later that she was likely to see damage at her home in Jacksonville too.
MCLENDON: I'm lucky enough to have a really supportive family that's going to help me get out of here, and save as much as I can, and go forward and go back to work and figure it out.
COOPER: That's the reality. So many people are facing when they're going home. Gary, what can you tell us about the overall impact on Jacksonville because it's kind of hard to get a sense on the big picture? TUCHMAN: Right Anderson, well, the people of Jacksonville fire rescue say since yesterday, they have conducted 356 rescues. Now not all of those people and families were in dire straits but everyone was surrounded by water. Last night in this city alone, just in Jacksonville more than 3,000 people slept in shelters. And we're told that 15 different neighborhoods here in Jacksonville either were under water or are still under water. Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Gary Tuchman. Gary, thank you very much.
I want you to meet Lee Jenkins. Lee, come on here. She is from the neighborhood that we're broadcasting from right now here in Bradenton, Florida. The street really freed pretty well, I mean, compared to a lot of things. You don't have electricity right now?
LEE JENKINS, BRADENTON, FLORIDA RESIDENT: No and apparently not until 22nd of next week, next Friday or Saturday.
COOPER: So your house is right over there. Your neighbor's is really probably the worst damage on the street. And -- I mean, this -- I don't know if the folks at home can see, but I this giant tree just up ended, and the roots of it just lifted I mean, most of the house off the ground.
JENKINS: Yes, it did.
COOPER: Did you hear all this happening?
JENKINS: We did. We did. It sounded more like an impact on the house, just kind of three thugs in a row. And it didn't sound like a tree. But then again, I hadn't heard that before in my life.
JENKINS: Yes, and shortly thereafter my husband poked his head out and we saw what was going on. We tried to check on the neighbors as best to as we could. They were -- they got in the black portion of their home and --
COOPER: So, they were actually -- they were here?
JENKINS: They were here and they were inside a closet he said for about 15 hours.
COOPER: Wow, and they're obviously not living in this house now?
JENKINS: No they're currently at a hotel as we understand it.
COOPER: What's it like -- I mean, in terms of supplies. Everyone say you need at least days of supplies. We're coming up on the third day?
JENKINS: Yes, we have stocked up as well as possible. I've been a Florida native. I've been here my whole life, I've never stock up for hurricane. I've never been worried about one until Irma as so big.
COOPER: Right. JENKINS: And we went all over town for days getting two cases of water in each store because that was all we're allotted. So I made sure to have plenty for -- we have three kids. Make sure I have plenty for the kids and some of the pets and we have canned goods and nonperishables, luckily, we were able to get a generator from a friend tonight.
COOPER: Oh, that's good.
JENKINS: And that's really good news. But we've -- we're still stocked up on food and supplies, and our neighbors across the street have been helpful and we're just kind of working together.
COOPER: It's one of those things, you know, so many people pay attention to when the storm hitting, the immediate aftermath but it's, you know, and the adrenaline kind of gets you through all that.
COOPER: But then day three, day four, day five, two weeks later that adrenaline is gone and it's just the misery of like it's hot --
JENKINS: No power.
COOPER: No power, food's running low you've got the kids.
COOPER: It's just miserable.
JENKINS: Yes. Yes, it absolutely is. We've been just trying to hold it together. The main thing is that we're in Florida in September and no one has A.C. with no power and we are all just -- you know, that seems to be everyone's major complaint. For the most part, we're all just very happy that we're all safe.
JENKINS: We're happy that we all made it through the storm.
JENKINS: And we're looking now for people to come out and get our power back on as soon as possible.
[20:45:06] COOPER: Yes. We wish you the best, Lee, thank you very much.
JENKINS: Thank you, Anderson, my pleasure to meet you.
COOPER: Thank for being friendly to us here on the street.
COOPER: Some neighbors actually brought us Pepsis which we very much it, we could use (INAUDIBLE). Up next, more on the construction in the Caribbean, I'm going to speak with the pilot who is been flying rescue missions into St. Martin and that island is seriously badly hit. We'll show you the results ahead.
COOPER: There's a lot of people in the Caribbean who feel like their stories haven't been getting out. So we're trying to bring you as many as we can. We heard early in the program from Kenny Chesney, who has a place in St. John and a friend of his who she was able to help get out kind of bunch of people out. And he's trying to get supplies in and we're going to talk more to Ken in the next hour.
But we also want to focus on what's happening on the Island St. Martin. One side of the island is Dutch and the other side is French, a French part of the island. There's a pilot, the Dutch Caribbean coast guard on St. Martin contacted him and asked him to help with rescue missions right after the storm hit. He was one of the first people to fly over the island after the storm. And he has been flying three rescue missions every day, ever since. She joins us now on the phone.
[20:50:00] Just to talk about, what he is saying, what is it like, Wade? I mean, I've been to that island. It's a beautiful island, both sides, the Dutch side, the French side, what's it like now?
WADE FLEET, FLYING RESCUE MISSION INTO ST. MAARTEN (via telephone): Well, it's devastating, actually. I did the first mission in just as Irma was just barely leaving. So it was still pretty windy up there and the skies were just starting to clear, and it was shocking. The devastation -- there's really not a building that's not in some shape or form affected with -- I would guess about 575 percent of old buildings are uninhabitable. So it sad, I know the people as well there. And because we're flying in and out of there with the search and rescue, it's a beautiful island and it's unfortunately just been destroyed because of this.
COOPER: So Wade let me just get to you to repeat that. By your estimate, and you've been flying now a bunch of missions there, you think about 75 percent of the houses are uninhabitable right now?
FLEET: That's correct, yes. That's probably a pretty fair assessment. I've seen ranges from 70 to 90 people said but that's a pretty safe assessment. You know, there's --
COOPER: So where are the people staying? Where are the people?
FLEET: Well, this is where it becomes difficult. Where houses are standing, people are in. There is some evacuation areas, tents, there's a lot of people that are also trying to get off the island as well, so at the airport there's a lot of people waiting to be extracted out of the -- off the island as well.
COOPER: And are there many relief flights coming in not only with supplies but also able to get people off the island? FLEET: Yes, there is. The Dutch government has been doing a phenomenal job of trying to get everybody as quickly as possible that needs to get off, off. There's 75,000 people on both sides and I should note, Anderson, now after something like this happens, really, it's one island, you know, there's really borders. So with his in mind, you're trying to help out your fellow man. So yes, flights are getting in, the weather is good now. We continue to bring supplies in for best we needed. And we're continuing to take people out.
COOPER: So you know about the distribution system? I mean, obviously in the most populated areas it's easy to distribute supplies, but just to get them out in the island, are there, you know, once you bring them in to -- I assume to the airport or if others bring you stuff in by boat, are things being distributed?
FLEET: I couldn't really guess on that, Anderson. I know that there's a gasoline pump on the island, so getting stuff around from the airport is difficult, but beyond that, I couldn't tell you.
COOPER: And how much, what kind of stuff are you flying in? Are you flying supplies in? You said, you had three missions today, what are flying, supplies in? Are you ferrying people back and forth?
FLEET: Both. And it's not just me, obviously. We have a team and we have a bunch of pilots of here and we have a bunch of people and crews here that are doing all the flying.
We're doing both. So the idea is bring people up. Initially it was the Dutch marines. Now it's Red Cross and those sorts of agencies. But, you know, we don't have a spare seat when we leave. So we load up people that desperately need to get off the island and we take them off.
COOPER: And where do they go?
FLEET: We're taking them back to Curacao which is still part of the Dutch island from the south. And from there, it's the beauty of down here, is at least we were totally unaffected. So we can get them on flights or some people quite frankly are just staying with family down here. There's a lot of families here volunteering their houses. A lot of people stay there especially children --organizing some children can go to school. You know, go back to some sort of normalcy in life.
COOPER: Wade, gosh, I mean, what you're doing is incredible. And we really appreciate it. And we appreciate you taking the time to try to get word out. Because that's one of the things for people going through this, it is vital that the word gets out so that more aid comes in and that people know what is going on, particularly for the love ones, if they can't get in touch with.
Wade, I appreciate that. Sadly we just the learned the death toll has raise in a 38 people in the Caribbean. We'll have more from that region coming up.
[20:54:43] Meanwhile, the death toll here in Florida has climbed to 12. We'll got an update from the Florida Keys and see what has happening on the ground. We've got reporters throughout the Florida Keys. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Well, the story here in Florida is one million without a power and that extends beyond the states into Georgia, Alabama, and the Carolinas. And the Caribbean's devastation in some cases, there's desperation where Bradenton, Florida tonight, the street I'm on doesn't have power, but most of the houses are intact. Obviously, the one behind me is not, a giant tree was blown over and the roots lifted up basically this entire side of the house, most of the house now.
In the Florida Keys, there's a whole different scope certainly for what we're getting different estimates of the damage. I want to go to Bill Weir both in the Keys, which is been riding around on since early this morning.
You've been taking a look at the situation and the Keys today, what kind of damage are you seeing. You know, FEMA put out this figure 90 percent of the structures have some form of damage. I talked to an official from Key West who said he thought that was too high an estimate. I'm wondering what do you think?
[21:00:03] BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's -- I don't know about 90 percent of what we see.