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THE SITUATION ROOM

Hurricane Dorian Still Pummeling The Bahamas As It Advances To Florida; Boat Fire Off Of The California Coast And Many Presumed Dead; Dorian Threatens U.S. As Category Four Storm, At Least Five Dead In The Bahamas Because Of Hurricane; Trump Golfs, White House Says He's Briefed Hourly On The Storm; Texas Gunman Called Law Enforcement Before And During Shooting Rampage. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 2, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And we will bring that to you in seconds. You can follow me on Twitter at @brikeilarcnn or tweet the show at @theleadcnn. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. Major destruction -- Hurricane Dorian batters the Bahamas with 200 mile an hour gusts, causing unprecedented and catastrophic destruction. This storm is now creeping toward the United States. Mass evacuations are being ordered along the southeast coast. Highway lanes will be reversed to speed the exodus.

The menacing storm Dorian is forecast to move dangerously close to Florida's east coast where even the slightest change in direction could mean serious danger. The storm has been difficult to predict but could hug the coast for many hundreds of miles with millions people in its path.

Deadly boat fire, dozens are unaccounted for after a fire engulfs a dive boat while tourist sleep onboard just 20 yards from an island off the California coast. A local official confirms multiple fatalities.

And storm putt. In the middle of several crisis, President Trump goes golfing and starts tweeting randomly after declaring he's never heard of a Category 5 storm despite having faced four of them in his presidency. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're "The Situation Room."

Breaking news. The latest forecast is just in and Hurricane Dorian is moving ever so slowly as it threatens Florida after hitting the Bahamas as a Category 5 causing catastrophic damage. This storm is still pounding the islands as a very powerful Category 4.

It will move dangerously close to Florida tomorrow, and the slightest wobble in its course could raise the risk even higher for millions in its path. Mandatory evacuations are under way in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, where life-threatening storm surges and hurricane- force winds could pose a threat for days to come.

Our correspondents and analysts will have full coverage of today's breaking news as we bring you this "SITUATION ROOM" special report on Hurricane Dorian. Let's begin with our National Correspondent, Miguel Marquez. He's in Vero Beach, Florida for us. Miguel, what's the latest where you are?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look Wolf, this storm is still very far away but the wind is already kicking up. This is the Atlantic right now. Evacuations are under way but there is fear and trepidation as no one really knows how big a punch Dorian is going to pack.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Tonight, the Florida coast bracing for scenes like this. The powerful Category 4 storm battering the Bahamas, causing catastrophic damage across the islands.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need help, please. Someone please come help us.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The storm speed moving west at just 1 mile per hour is prolonging the suffering there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Attention, attention. A mandatory evacuation order has been issued.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Meantime, mandatory evacuations are in place for millions of residence along the Florida, Georgia and South Carolina coast lines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff's office.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): With police going door to door warning residents in some areas.

RON DESANTIS (R), GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: People need to remain vigilant vigilant. If you're ordered to evacuate, you need to do that or get now while you have time, while there is fuel available and you'll be safe on the roads.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Residents are boarding up homes and businesses, gathering last minute supplies and hitting the road. Hospitals like this one in Jacksonville Beach evacuating patients to higher ground too. But despite those warnings, some are vowing to stay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have anywhere else to go, so I'm going to stay around here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got all the stuff inside already and just hope for the best.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): While nearly 30,000 utility workers from over 30 states and Canada are fanning out across Florida alone in preparation for power outages.

DAVID REUTER, SPOKESMAN, FLORIDA POWER & LIGHT: Customers should be prepared for potentially prolonged outages and possibly more than one outage. Our crews will be out working as long as conditions are safe to do so.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ (on camera): Now, it is not just the wind that people here are concerned about. It is the tides as well. They're expecting a so- called king tide. The highest tides of the year will be prevalent just as that storm is also blowing in so that surge may have a little extra juice as it comes up on the shore here. The wind and the water could both be deadly. Wolf?

[17:04:58]

BLITZER: All right, Miguel, we'll get back to you. Be careful over there. Let's go to our Meteorologist, Jennifer Gray. She's at the CNN Weather Center for us. What's the latest forecast? I understand, Jennifer, an update has just been released.

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right, Wolf. The 5:00 advisory in and guess what, the storm is sitting stationary, no movement at all, sitting in the same place over an over again, 145 miles per hour winds with gust of 175, still battering Grand Bahama Island.

In fact, the worst of the storm right over Grand Bahama right now as it sits there. The outer bends already making it to Florida. Look at the six-hour loop and you can see hardly any movement at all. You can see the rain bands pushing onshore. That's where we get periodic gusty winds across Florida. That's going to continue.

This should start to pick up a little bit more forward speed as we get into tomorrow. But by tomorrow morning, Bahamas will still be dealing with this storm that's been sitting there for about 36 hours over the Bahamas -- still going to be there tomorrow morning.

It is going to pick up to the north. Look how close this cone is though to Florida, actually overlaps right there, right around Coco Beach, Daytona, Jacksonville. And then once you get into the Carolinas, North Carolina, we could be dealing with Cat-2 and possible landfall here by the end of the week.

We know how vulnerable the outer banks are and especially places like Charleston need to be very, very aware of where this storm is going to go. You're kind of playing with fire in Florida because this storm is going to be so, so close. And I want to show you this animation. This is basically a history of the forecast track from the beginning of Dorian.

Remember we thought it was going to actually miss or hit Puerto Rico. It missed Puerto Rico. And then remember the track took it across Florida into the Gulf of Mexico early on.

And then as time went on, the track continued to shift, and then we started seeing that turn to the north. We thought it was going to be a major storm, making an impact right into Florida. It ended up making a very, very destructive as it still is with the Bahamas and then now trending back to the north and east. So, what I'm saying is any little variation in that cone, any little

wobble with this storm can mean a huge difference with Florida and with that already flirting so close to the coastline, it is going to mean the difference in Florida getting maybe Category 1 conditions or possible Category 3 conditions.

Still too early to tell and the scary part is you don't have that long before the storm is knocking at your door. Current wind gusts are already 28 mile per hour in West Palm Beach. We're going to continue to see possible tropical storm force, wind gust as early as tomorrow afternoon.

And this is what it's staying on its current track, with the storm sitting stationary hasn't quite picked up forward speed yet, this is what the best chance -- the best-case scenario for the computer models. This is what they're putting out right now, but there are margins of error when you're talking about computer models.

It's basically one long big math equation, Wolf. So, any little deviation in this storm could mean a huge difference and major jump in not only the wind speed that Florida could feel, but also the storm surge as well as the rainfall amounts.

And so as the storm continues its northern march as it should do in the next couple of days, that will be something to be closely monitored. Of course, hurricane warnings are in place all up and down the coast as they should be.

Right now we're forecasting 4 to 7 feet of storm surge all up and down the coast -- 2 to 4 in Palm Beach County. A lot of these areas very low lying as we know, the state of Florida is and all the inter- coastal waterway. That's why a lot of these coastal areas are being evacuated.

And even if you travel inland, you're still possibly going to get those hurricane-force winds because they are going to reach you even if you travel west a little was, west of I-95. I still expect a lot of those areas to still get those hurricane-force winds, Wolf.

BLITZER: Still very, very unpredictable, lots of uncertainty but extremely dangerous. Jennifer, thank you. We're going to get back to you as well. People in the Bahamas have endured the worst of the hurricane for more than a day now.

The international Red Cross says the storm has had a catastrophic impact and local officials are calling the devastation unprecedented. CNN's Patrick Oppmann is in Freeport in the Bahamas for us.

Patrick, what are you seeing now?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dorian is not yet done with the Bahamas yet amazingly and nearly 48 hours after, this powerful hurricane came ashore here. It is still lashing us, absolutely leveling certain areas.

If I weren't in this protected view (ph) of a very well-built concrete building, Wolf, I would have been knocked down into the sea a long time ago. We are still seeing hurricane strength winds blowing by. It is absolutely extraordinary that for more that 24 hours here in Grand Bahama, we've just been under the gun.

[17:10:02]

These winds, it sound like a jet engine of a plane revving up just continue to blow past us. There are waves out in the ocean behind me which you may not be able to see, huge waves, storm surge coming in and taking away houses.

We're hearing reports of people who have lost their roofs, cars are under water, there are homes have been completely submerged. We are not able to get to those people and neither are (inaudible) the rescuers because of these very dangerous winds because the storm has gone on for so long here in the Bahamas.

So we don't have an accurate picture of the number of casualties or injuries, how many people have lost their homes. But the Bahamian government officials say they already know that this is the hardest hit they have been ever hit by a hurricane that is driving the destruction here as catastrophic. And we were all wondering, Wolf, when is Dorian going to be done because it's about to be night once again and the storm is still blowing very hard here.

BLITZER: Basically not moving right now. Patrick Oppmann, be careful over there. Good luck to all the folks in the Bahamas. We'll stay in close touch with you. Let's go to our Brian Todd right now. He's in Stuart, Florida for us. Brian, what are you seeing where you are?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. A very strong burst of wind and rain just a short time ago here in Stuart. We're at a park by the sea wall here and it's very strong storm surge in a low lying area that's very susceptible to flooding.

You can see kind of how the surge is hitting the seawall here. And it's only going to get worse here in the next 24 hours. What you've got here is a confluence of three bodies of water that are really making the storm surge more dangerous.

You've got the Indian River lagoon right over. You've got the St. Lucie River over to the left, and the Atlantic Ocean converging all with, you know, combining the powerful elements of the storm surge that's been building in the Bahamas to create these conditions behind us.

Also, a dangerous situation for barrier islands right back here. About 30,000 people live on Hutchinson Island and Jupiter Island. That's Hutchinson right there. They've been ordered to evacuate. They want these people to get out. It's basically too late now for them to get out.

Emergency management officials have told us that the people who are now on that island right now and on Jupiter Island just to the south are basically going to be cut off during these conditions now and right after the storm, Wolf. They're not going to be able to get first responders to them. They

aren't going to be able to get them to them probably in the day after the storm passes. So, they've got to monitor the condition of the bridges.

They're going to be closing the bridges if they haven't already to those islands behind me. So, again, the storm surge, the flooding, real dangers here. This is a very low-lying area and you can see how powerful the surge is behind me.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, we'll stay in close touch with you as well. Brian Todd on the scene for us. Joining us now via Skype, Russ Blackburn, he is the city manager of Port St. Lucie in Florida.

Thank you so much sir for joining us. Mr. Blackburn, I know these are difficult hours for all of you. As you know, parts of Port St. Lucie are under a mandatory evacuation order. Who is being directed to evacuate?

RUSS BLACKBURN, CITY MANAGER, PORT ST. LUCIE: All of our citizens who live in low-lying areas that are subject to flooding and individuals who live in modular homes. We expect even as the storm perhaps is turning a little bit north, we expect higher winds, tropical-force winds and perhaps even hurricane winds.

And as we find both the storm surge and the rain combining together, we have the potential for flooding. We want to make sure that people are out of harm's way.

BLITZER: Is everyone complying with this evacuation order and do people have enough gas, for example, to evacuate?

BLACKBURN: Well, we started the -- as you know, this storm has been working on us since late last week and we started out with some gas shortages, but now we find that we've really got the resources we need.

Most people have complied. I would say generally our community has done a great job of heeding the warnings. Our homes have been boarded up or shuttered. The people who live in areas where they know they're subject to flooding for the most part have gotten out.

At this point, there's really not many places go. We do have some shelters open in the county, and if there is still time to get into a shelter if you're feeling uncertain, but at this point many people who haven't gotten out are sheltering in place.

BLITZER: What are you doing to ensure that people, for example, in nursing homes, the elderly are safe?

BLACKBURN: So, it's a big issue for Florida because we've seen actual fatalities where the nurses homes ran out of fuel, didn't have generators. There's been a big push to make sure that people are checking them with every nursing home.

[17:15:01] We actually had our police department go out and knocked on the doors

and go meet with the nursing homes in our community just to remind them that we're there, but they also have responsibilities to take care of their patients and their residents.

BLITZER: Does your community have the resources to respond to potential flooding, to conduct search-and-rescue operations if necessary?

BLACKBURN: We as a city don't have a lot of search and rescue, but we coordinate with our county and our state, and our state because we have so many natural disasters, I think does a very good job of making sure resources are advanced deployed to areas where we expect to have hurricanes.

So, we're in constant communication, our city, our county, our state, and with FEMA to make sure that everybody is working together. And what we're seeing particularly after the last probably 10 years is just a really heightened collaboration and working together. So, I think our citizens can feel good. It's never perfect, but we're really are working well together.

BLITZER: Should residents be prepared, Mr. Blackburn, to loose power and what should they be doing right now to stay safe?

BLACKBURN: Well, it's getting a little late, so most people should now be in their homes if they have not already evacuated. But certainly, we've said over and over and over, you should have seven days of food and water. You certainly should have tried to secure your windows, your doors, make sure that your house is as secure as possible.

We expect at least for first three days after the hurricane goes through, every citizen should be self-sufficient. And in actuality, we'd like you to be self-sufficient for as long as possible. It takes a while for the city and the county, the state to really come in with the resources.

It takes a while to mobilize and to know where to go. So citizens know that they have to be responsible and, you know, we've been getting that message out repeatedly really for the last five to seven days.

BLITZER: Russ Blackburn, good luck to you. Good luck to everyone in your community. We'll be watching very, very closely. Thank you so much for joining us.

BLACKBURN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, hurricane warnings are extended in Florida and evacuations are underway along the southeastern coast. We're going to get an update on the latest forecast in this "Situation Room" special report.

And a desperate search for dozens who are missing after a raging fire aboard a crowded boat off the California coast.

[17:20:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're monitoring the situation in Florida and the Bahamas right now and the deadly threat posed by Hurricane Dorian. We're also getting more information right now about another breaking story.

The desperate search for dozens of people missing after a predawn fire aboard a crowded boat off the California coast. Let's go to our National Correspondent, Sara Sidner. Sara, you are there for us. What's the latest?

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Coast Guard lieutenant commander has just told us that indeed they have recovered four bodies from the wreckage that caught fire in the overnight hours here, but, again, they are still searching for 30 more people, all passengers who are aboard this vessel trying to enjoy their Labor Day weekend when their vessel caught fire.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mayday, mayday, mayday. Conception.

SIDNER (voice-over): Tonight, the desperate search for survivors after a 75-foot dive boat caught fire off Santa Cruz Island. At least four of the 34 passengers on board the Conception are confirmed dead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vessel in distress, this is Coast Guard sector Los Angeles on channel 16. What is you position and number of persons onboard?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't breath.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Coast Guard has received a mayday call from an unknown vessel. All mariners are requested to keep a sharp lookout, assist if possible and report any sighting United States Coast Guard.

SIDNER (voice-over): The 34 passengers were below deck in an area used for sleeping.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger, are they locked inside the board? Roger, can you get back on the boat and unlock the boat, unlock the doors so they can get off?

SIDNER (voice-over): All five of the crew members onboard in the main cabin escaped.

MONICA ROCHESTER, COAST GUARD SECTOR COMMANDER, LOS ANGELES, LONG BEACH: The crew was actually already awake and on the bridge and they jumped off. Five people were evacuated aboard a Good Samaritan pleasure craft known as the Great Escape.

SIDNER (voice-over): Authorities say the boat was burned down to the water lawn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger, you don't have any firefighting gear at all? No fire extinguishers or anything?

SIDNER (voice-over): It's believed the 34 passengers below deck may have been trapped there by the flames.

AARON BEMIS, UNITED STATES COAST GUARD (via telephone): The fire was so intense that even after it was put out, you know, we were not able to actually embark the vessel and, you know, look for survivors.

SIDNER (voice-over): The Conception is owned by Truth Aquatics which does boat charters. According to the company's website, The Conception left Saturday on a three-day cruise and was scheduled to return this evening.

[17:24:57]

The Coast Guard says the vessel is in good standing and the owner operator is cooperating with them at this time. James Kohl's brother works on the boat but hasn't yet heard if he made it off OK.

JAMES KOHL, CREW MEMBER'S BROTHER: He's the galley cook and a deckhand on The Conception. They do a lot of research in diving and fishing trips on it. It holds about 30 people, maybe as many as 40.

SIDNER (voice-over): The cause of the fire is still unknown. A team from the National Transportation Safety Board is on its way to investigate. Currently, the boat is 20 yards offshore in 64 feet of water.

ROCHESTER: The vessel currently has a portion of the bow sticking out of the water.

SIDNER (voice-over): Search and rescue crews continue to comb the shoreline of Santa Cruz Island for any survivors, holding out hope some may have made it to shore.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER (on camera): But with each passing hour, hope begins to fade that anyone will be found alive, but still the search is on. They are desperately looking for anyone who may still be in the water, but we're now in hour 11 since the fire started. Wolf?

BLITZER: So, so sad. So heartbreaking. Sara Sidner, thanks for that update. Stay with us. We're going to have much more on the newly updated forecast as well as live updates from the Bahamas and Florida coast. This is the CNN SITUATION ROOM special report on Hurricane Dorian.

[17:29:29]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Breaking news. The Prime Minister of the Bahamas says at least five people are dead as a result of Hurricane Dorian. The storm poses a major threat to Florida and the U.S. southeast. Let's check in with our meteorologist, Jennifer Gray, over at the CNN

weather center for us. So there's new information we're getting, the latest forecast, Jennifer, about Dorian?

GRAY: That's right, Wolf. It is stationary, not moving at all. That's the biggest update. And that's a scary one because, yes, it was only moving at one mile per hour, but at least it was moving somewhere. Now, it's just sitting in one spot, and the unfortunate part is Grand Bahama Island is getting the worst of the winds right there, right in the eyewall.

And so, as this hopefully pushes off to the north, they will get a little bit of a relief, but it's not going to be for hours and hours and hours. Tomorrow morning, the storm will still be impacting Grand Bahama Island, 145 mile-per-hour winds with gusts of 175 not moving at all. Already, getting those outer bands in Florida, though, and with that will come heavy downpours, the gusty winds.

The winds are going to get much, much stronger, though, across the Florida coast. And depending on how close this actually goes, will determine the strength of those winds. You can see the cone of uncertainty right here, and still onshore on Florida just a little bit. And so that means that the center of the storm still could go very close to the Florida coastline, if not a possibility of a landfall.

We are looking at this move out to the north and east over time, Thursday into Friday. The Carolinas are going to be a big question mark here. Places like Charleston, places like the outer banks, very vulnerable. The storms could see Category 2 conditions by the end of the week.

Here is the wind threat. And you can see that 74 to 110 mile-per-hour area shaded in red. That's well west of I-95. So if you've evacuated west, you still could get hurricane-force winds all the way up the coast into Georgia. And this is over the next couple of days.

Now, as we move forward in time, look at this. A hurricane watch is now issued for places in South Carolina. That includes Charleston, a hurricane watch. Hurricane warnings still extend across the midsection of Florida.

And we could see four to seven feet of storm surge, Wolf. That's significant in Florida, especially around those outer barriers -- the barrier islands, I should say, the intercoastal waterway, anywhere around there. You are going to see extreme flooding, especially those areas that are vulnerable even to high tides. You could see four to seven feet on top of that, Wolf.

BLITZER: It's a very dangerous situation indeed. All right, Jennifer, thank you very much.

Joining us now, the head of Fire and Rescue operations for the city of Miami, the Chief, Joseph Zahralban.

Chief, thank you so much for joining us. Among other things, you also lead a FEMA task force. What will that response, do you believe, look like?

JOSEPH ZAHRALBAN, FIRE CHIEF, CITY OF MIAMI DEPARTMENT OF FIRE-RESCUE: Thank you, Wolf. Yes, it is true. As the city of Miami -- as the concern grows less and less, the -- we turn our attention to our urban search and rescue team and -- in an effort to leverage them to assist others. So right now, we are activated as a state resource through the state of Florida. We can respond anywhere within the state.

But even looking beyond the state of Florida, through our Emergency Management Assistance Compact, we can respond outside the state of Florida. And we also have the ability to be activated by FEMA directly, which would allow for response anywhere within the nation as well as an international response, let's say, to the Bahamas, should the President determine that appropriate.

BLITZER: Yes, I suspect your help will be required, not only in the state but maybe beyond. What will you be looking for in terms of the path of this enormous storm?

[17:35:05]

ZAHRALBAN: Well, typically, what we look for upon initial arrival is we try to get as close to the backside of the storm as possible, operating still in a relatively safe environment. When the storm, in this case, is pushing north, being on the south side of the storm is actually the safest place and the easiest way to move north through the state of Florida, following it up in the event that search and rescue needs do occur in any particular area.

So at this point in time as, again, we turn our attention away from the city of Miami and more toward the state of Florida as a whole, as well as outside the state of Florida, we are prepositioned to be as helpful as we can possibly be to those that are most severely affected.

BLITZER: When we spoke on Friday, Chief, you said the greatest risk of this hurricane, the greatest threat, is the water, either storm surges or rainfall. So what goes through your mind when you see this enormous flooding that's underway in the Bahamas and this monster storm basically just sitting over the Bahamas?

ZAHRALBAN: It is extremely unfortunate and very sad. I mean, they are being beat up over there. They have storm surge practically covering the entire island.

And although I don't want to minimize the potential damage that could be created by wind, when you put the water behind it driven by that wind, it is catastrophic. And unfortunately, even rescue efforts are very challenged, if not useless, until the winds die down and some of that water recedes so that you can get to those in the greatest need.

BLITZER: You mentioned on Friday when we spoke that Florida's experiencing what's called a king tide. How will that exacerbate what are already these extremely dangerous conditions?

ZAHRALBAN: Well, the king tides, basically, what they do is they add water volume to an already dangerous situation. So even on a normal day, a normal weekend, when we experience our king tides, you'll see roads over -- overflowing with water. You'll see canals overflowing their banks. So when you add water from a storm on top of that, whether it be rain or storm surge, it just makes the situation worse.

BLITZER: What can you tell us, Chief, about how evacuations are going right now?

ZAHRALBAN: Well, evacuations are not occurring in the city of Miami or the Miami-Dade area. Those evacuations are now occurring further north. So hopefully, the residents are adhering to the requested evacuation notices.

And those that are not evacuating, whether they're not in an evacuation zone or, God forbid, choosing not to evacuate, they are fortifying their shelter. They are ensuring that they have the appropriate supplies. And they are giving rescuers the time that they will need in order to access them after the storm.

BLITZER: Chief Zahralban, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck to you.

ZAHRALBAN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And thanks for all your truly important work.

And to our viewers, stay with us. We're going to have much more on Hurricane Dorian. Even though the White House says President Trump is getting hourly briefings on the storm, he spent most of the morning today on the golf course.

Also ahead, investigators reveal new details about the gunman blamed for the nation's latest mass shooting.

[17:38:25]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Breaking news. Hurricane Dorian is a deadly Category 4 storm. It's expected to slowly approach the Florida coast after causing catastrophic damage and killing at least five people in the Bahamas. Here in Washington, the White House says President Trump is receiving hourly briefings on the storm, although, he went golfing for most of the morning.

Let's bring in our Senior White House Correspondent, Pamela Brown. Pamela, what are you hearing?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, Wolf, even as Hurricane Dorian battered the Bahamas and targeted the U.S., threatened the U.S., the President decided to go golfing this morning not too far away from the White House. He spent much of the day there at the golf course. We have this video there showing you that.

He arrived here back at the White House later this afternoon. Now, Stephanie Grisham, the Press Secretary, said even though he was out golfing, that he was getting these hourly briefings. But, Wolf, it's worth pointing out that the President spent much of the morning tweeting about issues outside of Hurricane Dorian, talking about a prominent union leader; taking aim, once again, at the media, one of his favorite targets; taking aim at James Comey as well and defending his administration.

Now, the President has also used Twitter to warn about the hurricane. There have been several retweets on that as well. But one such warning prompted a tweet from the National Weather Service actually correcting President Trump when he said that Alabama could be hit hard by Hurricane Dorian.

Then, the National Weather Service in Birmingham put out this tweet that you see right here on your screen, saying Alabama will not see any impacts from Dorian. We repeat, the impacts from Hurricane Dorian will be felt -- will not be felt -- no impacts will be felt across Alabama.

And so, that was certainly an interesting exchange there. The President, as you know, Wolf, spent the weekend at Camp David, and then he was briefed at FEMA headquarters yesterday. He is back at the White House, and, again, the White House is saying he is being briefed on the hour, Wolf.

BLITZER: Did it sound, Pamela, to you, like the President seemed surprised that the designation Category 5 hurricane exists?

[17:44:53]

BROWN: Oh, absolutely. He had that briefing at FEMA headquarters, and he said that he didn't even know a Category 5 hurricane existed. What's interesting about that, though, Wolf, is that there had been four hurricane -- Category 5 hurricanes during President Trump's presidency, during his -- the time he has been in office.

Now, not all of those have made landfall, but he has made such remarks, the same remarks, that he never even knew a Category 5 existed on at least five occasions since 2017. So it is certainly notable that he continues to be stunned by this, Wolf.

BLITZER: Pamela Brown, at the White House for us, thank you.

Coming up, much more on the threat posed by Hurricane Dorian. The Category 4 storm is now closing in on the Florida coast.

Also, new revelations about the nation's latest mass shooting. Authorities say the suspect called 911 twice during the rampage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:50:39]

BLITZER: We have much more ahead on Hurricane Dorian. We're also learning new details about this weekend's shooting in the West Texas cities of Midland and Odessa. Seven people are dead, nearly two dozen injured. A suspect with an assault-style gun sprayed gunfire as he drove before he died in a shoot-out with police.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Odessa for us. Ed, what's the latest?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, investigators, Wolf, have revealed new details about the moments and hours leading up to the shooting rampage. And these details include confirmation that the shooter made at least four different phone calls to law enforcement agencies. Two of those phone calls were calls to 911 during the rampage itself, where the -- where the suspect was identifying as -- himself as the shooter as dispatchers were scrambling to try to figure out exactly what he was talking about.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX WOODS, EYEWITNESS TO THE WEST TEXAS SHOOTING: Oh, God, they're shooting right there.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Fifteen minutes before 36-year-old Seth Ator engaged in a deadly shooting spree, he called an FBI national tip line with a rambling, incoherent series of complaints. The gunman had been fired from a truck driving job earlier in the day and also called 911, but left the office before police arrived. Even before being fired, law enforcement said, he was starting to spiral.

CHRISTOPHER COMBS, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION SAN ANTONIO DIVISION: He showed up to work in a very distressed mental state. So it's not because he got fired, right? This did not happen because he was fired, which other active shooters have occurred. When he showed up to work, he was already enraged.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): There are also troubling questions about where the gunman obtained the assault-style rifle used to randomly murder seven people and wound at least 23 others in Odessa, Texas. Investigators say the gunman failed a background check, but still somehow managed to obtain the firearm. Investigators have not revealed why the shooter failed the background check.

JOHN WESTER, ASSISTANT SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, BUREAU OF ALCOHOL, TOBACCO, FIREARMS AND EXPLOSIVES TAMPA FIELD DIVISION: ATF with -- in partnership with the FBI and DPS, and all the other federal local -- federal and local agencies, are aggressively following up on the source of the supply for the firearm on this.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The shooting started Saturday afternoon after a routine traffic stop. The gunman started firing randomly as he drove around the city. He then shot and killed U.S. Postal carrier Mary Granados before taking her mail truck and continuing the shooting spree through the city.

Mary was Facetiming with her twin sister when the shooting erupted.

ROSIE GRANADOS, SISTER OF VICTIM KILLED DURING THE WEST TEXAS SHOOTING: She was screaming, so, I mean, I was hoping that it could have been a -- just a dog bite, you know. But it wasn't. It was something worse.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The call then went silent.

GRANADOS: She was laying there. I just wanted to run to her and hug her, you know, kiss her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you?

GRANADOS: I didn't. I didn't get to. They wouldn't let me get close to her.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): CNN sat down for a one-on-one interview with FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs, who says he's seen too many mass shootings up close and that these atrocities are happening every two weeks. He gets emotional trying to talk about how this should be a wake-up call to the country.

LAVANDERA (on camera): The phone rings yesterday, you get the call about this. And whatever's going through your mind as -- it makes you tear up, which is not something that we normally see from an FBI agent.

COMBS: I can't. I can't. I'm sorry, man. There's no way.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The realities of another mass shooting that has left a veteran law enforcement agent struggling to find the right words.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: And, Wolf, those questions surrounding exactly how this assault-style rifle weapon and firearm was obtained is raising real important questions, especially as it pertains to the ongoing debate in this country about gun control.

Was this a private purchase that does not require a background check? Was he doing that to avoid the background check because he had already failed the background check? These are all the types of questions that are swirling around exactly how this particular firearm was obtained, Wolf.

BLITZER: Awful situation. My heart goes out to the community over there, to everyone over there. Ed Lavandera, thank you very much.

Coming up, breaking news. Hurricane Dorian takes aim at the United States even as it continues pounding the Bahamas where there are multiple deaths along with catastrophic damage. Millions of Americans are now under mandatory evacuation orders along the Southeast Coast.

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BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Deadly force. Hurricane Dorian ravages the Bahamas.