Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: September 13, 2018 Guest: Mike Seidel, Ed Rappaport, Jerry Jones, Russel Honore
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. We are starting what will become several hours of live coverage here tonight. We`ll continue through the end of tonight`s broadcast of THE 11TH HOUR.
As we begin our overnight coverage, there are many stories we`re tracking this evening, some of them have to do with day 602 in the Trump Administration, but obviously the most urgent matter we are covering is the arrival tonight of Hurricane Florence along coastal North and South Carolina where the clear and present danger is the storm surge and the high tide that arrives exactly 12 minutes from now in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.
The character and dimension and the strength of this storm has changed several times just late today. And we just received the 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time advisory on the storm. In a moment, our meteorologist Bill Karins will walk us through that.
The President also worked his way into hurricane coverage today by denying the death toll in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria and insisting the numbers were doctored, a plot carried out by the Democrats. He again has given his administration high marks for its storm preparations prior to the arrival of Hurricane Florence.
Also tonight we are covering this, a hellish scene in the suburbs of north Boston mass where late today home started exploding and catching fire. This is being blamed on the over pressurization of natural gas mains. And for a time there was no stopping it. After an estimated 70 to 100 homes burned, all gas and electric was shut off to three separate towns.
People there have been evacuated. Schools will be closed tomorrow. We`re going to be getting a live report coming up in a bit on this story.
The headline is, fire fighting veterans in this country was decades of service in the fire service have never seen anything like what happened tonight in Massachusetts. There is just a part of it from the air.
So, again, a lot of ground to cover and we will do so over the next few hours of live coverage.
First off to this storm, raging off the Carolinas, just downgraded as of 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time to a Category 1, but remember, it has carried along with it the water volume of a Category 4 that it once was.
Our meteorologist Bill Karins here with us in the studio and at the board to start us off.
BILL KARINS, NBC NEWS METEOROLOGIST: Good evening, Brian. I was just able to quickly go look at some of the 11:00 p.m. advisory. Obviously the headline is it comes down to a Category 1. Great news for anyone that was worried about wind damage, has very little effect on storm surge.
There was already a ten-foot storm surge reported near Morehead City by the Cherry Point terminal, the ferry that goes there out to Ocracoke Island.
So, again, that`s nothing to sneeze at. We already have a 7-foot water rise that`s been reported and the Noose River near the new burn area where a considerable portion of the downtown is under water.
There is a report the police had to relocate to the hospital which is a little further inland. So there`s serious problems that are ongoing already because all the water that is already accumulating on the coast.
And remember, we still have, you know, a good 60 to 80 miles to go until we get on shore with this thing, too. So this is just a slow-motion disaster. And the water is the huge concern here.
So, the center of the storm, it still has a well defined eye even though it nails down to a Category 1. All these bands to the north are producing wind strong enough to knock down trees and that`s why we`re getting the power outrages really starting to pile up. And the water is accumulating too.
Already a foot of rain was reported in Carteret County near Atlantic Beach just located right in here. And they`re going to stay in these rain bands, too. So don`t be surprised tomorrow morning we already have people reporting two feet of rain.
So the poor people of Carteret County you`re under a hurricane warning, you`re under a flash flood warning. You`re under a storm surge warning. And we`ve even had a couple tornado warnings on and off throughout the night. Does it get much worse in the country weather wise than Carteret County in North Carolina?
And as far as some of the other things we`re going to be dealing with the storm, the slow-motion of the storm is moving at six miles per hour. And that`s going to cause, you know, the buildup of the water from more than one high tide cycle. Right now we`re seeing that high tide building up on the coast. And then as we go throughout tomorrow we`re going to go through another high tide cycle.
So here`s kind of the current wind filed. And notice off the shore, we`re still get in the 70 to 80 mile per hour range on shore in the 40 and 50 range. There is that 81 in Havelock earlier. That`s when the wind gauge stopped working by the way.
We had some reports near the coastal areas right around 100. So that`s kind of to be expected.
The actual storm path, this is the new one that`s just out from the Hurricane Center, they have it at 8:00 a.m. just off the coast. So they`re still thinking somewhere late tomorrow morning as we go throughout the early morning hours after sunrise. We could get that landfall. It`s really going to be just for the history books. We`re not going to see a huge amount of wind damage right where the eye is because it`s not that kind of storm.
The hurricane force winds extend 80 miles from the center even with a Category 1 which is very unusual. So it`s a large storm. Think of a storm almost like a Hurricane Sandy was. That was only a 1, but it did considerable storm surge damage, much more than you`d expect with a Category 1.
And then from this point on we`re going to drift the storm through South Carolina, really haven`t seen any changes with the storm surge. Just because it`s a 1, it`s already built up all that energy, pushing the waves and the water towards the coast. And that`s going to cause the problems.
I`m still targeting tomorrow morning about 12 hours from now is when we`ll see the worst of the high tide cycles. And that`s when the water levels will be the highest. As of now, all of the water has -- all the wind has been blowing like this. And so that`s been blowing along the shore or off the shore and so we haven`t had a lot of problems yet on the coast.
When the storm itself is located over Wrightsville Beach, or in Wilmington tomorrow morning, that is when we`re going to see everything changing. The wind direction will change dramatically. It will start coming out of the south and that`s when the water will start piling up here in areas along the coast. So that`s the one we could see. They`re still predicting to have record storm surges on the beaches Emerald Isle all the way to Atlantic Beach.
And, you know, that`s supposed to top what Hazel did back in 1954, Brian.
WILLIAMS: So, Bill, the definition of landfall is 50 percent or more of the storm has -- is over land. We will see technical landfall.
KARINS: Of the eye. It has to be of the eye.
WILLIAMS: Yes. We`ll see technical landfall tomorrow morning, but this is just going to be a swirling sloppy mess that sadly is almost going to mirror the coast line it looks like?
KARINS: Yes. It`s going to -- kind of almost parallel it. And, you know, I was trying to figure out, you know, when is this mess actually going to be over. When will damage stop being done?
So here is the high tide cycles, by the way. And this was the one that`s happening as we speak. And then we have the one we have to deal with 12 hours from now and that`s when we`ll see it again getting worse.
If the rainfall portion of the storm is going to be, you know, portrayed out all the way through Saturday night, maybe even into Sunday if we get some of the really heavy rainfall amounts which are possible in the mountains of North Carolina, I mean, we haven`t even talked about that. But from Charlotte all the way to the mountains we could have a lot of issues.
And here is one of our -- just to show you how long of a duration this is going to be, this is the northeast Cape Fear River. This is in between Jacksonville, the North Carolina and the Wilmington area. In this plot shows us where the river level is. They haven`t had a lot of rain so it`s kind of low right now. They get the heavy rain the next two days.
So this is into Friday. And then the river begins to skyrocket. So this is into Saturday. This is going to be Saturday afternoon. This is Sunday afternoon.
This goes into Monday afternoon. We go to record stage that tops Floyd. So that`s shows you how bad that. Some people in Eastern North Carolina never thought water levels would get as high as Floyd. And then this will go and stay within records all the way to Tuesday.
So that means there`s houses that haven`t been flooded yet that will have to wait for, let`s say, an hour into Thursday night. I mean, that`s four or five days from now, Brian, that we`re still going to have destruction being done because of the slow-moving disaster on the coast.
So, because it`s Category 1, I am thrilled that we`re not going to have as much wind damage. Maybe we won`t have a quite as much power outages, especially away from the coast. But it does really have anything that`s going to change as far as the water issues and the surge and from the freshwater flooding from the rain.
WILLIAMS: All right, Bill Karins, starting us off, please don`t go far. We`ll be coming back to you a lot over the next couple of hours.
NBC News Correspondent Kerry Sanders whose first rodeo this is not is in Carolina Beach, North Carolina for us.
KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brian. Let`s take some of the data and sort of give you visuals to what Bill just explained to us. So, the wind as he noted is not coming from right behind me which is where the Atlantic Ocean is, about 25 yards or so. But rather it`s whipping around this way. And that, of course, is keeping the storm surge off. It`s as it comes around it gets closer.
And just so you understand where I am here in Carolina Beach, 13 miles south of Wrightsville Beach, so we`re definitely going to have the eye wall very close to up, it is not touching down right here. And when that comes in, standing here will be dangerous because that is when we`ll see that storm surge.
So to understand storm surge, when the wind comes around, it`s actually pushing the water up and that`s what`s creating this dome or this wall of water. And as it gets more shallow, the water has nowhere to go but up, up, up. And then, of course, it`s moving about five, six miles an hour as Bill just told us. And that`s when that wall of water comes in.
The National Hurricane Center forecasting that that storm surge here would be about 11 feet. It would come over the dunes. It would come across the board walk here and then with the force of the Atlantic behind it, it moves forward and can cause partial damage to homes, to buildings, may even take a home completely down.
The distance it goes in, of course, driven a lot by the wind. We hear about the decreasing wind from a Category 2 to Category 1. So that may be some good news there, but it doesn`t mean that we`re going to see any less of a storm surge at this point, according to the National Hurricane Center.
I`ve got a question actually for Bill if it`s OK, because I`ve covered many hurricanes.
And Bill, two things that I kind of had noted just by physically being out here, earlier today I had my feet down in the water before we really had any sense of tropical force winds or anything like that. And I didn`t really feel -- felt like 85 degree water temperatures. But even more notable is I`m standing out here tonight, usually there is a much higher sense of humidity under a raincoat like this, I`m usually sweating. But in this particular case it feels kind of cool.
Is it just an anomaly of where I`m standing or is there some data that sort of suggests that the humidity or that the -- that kind of feeling that I traditionally have in a lot of hurricanes is not the case here?
KARINS: Yes. I think it all has to do with your wind direction, Kerry. I`d have to look at the specific numbers. But your wind has been out of the north. And it`s been out of the north a long time for the last, I`d say, at least 12 hours or so.
And a northerly wind is not from the ocean and so that`s going to give you dryer air from the main land. So I am thinking that the cooler temperatures and the dryer feel to the air is because of that, whereas if normally you`re on the beach and say the wind is coming from the ocean or the Gulf of Mexico or in Florida off the coast, it would feel a lot more humid.
So, yes, that northerly wind is what`s kept the tide levels down near Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach. But it also maybe actually making you feel a little more refreshed than you normally would in a storm like this.
Hey, Kerry, it`s going to be interesting because you`re still projected from the Hurricane Center, you know, right here is the red center line. It`s supposed to go right over the top of where you are in Wrightsville Beach in Wilmington. They have it right over the coast at about 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.
You may actually, Kerry, be able to go through an eye even though it`s only a Category 1. And, you know, in a storm like this for you, as you know, and for our viewers, if it was a Category 3 or 4 we would bring you in and put you in a safe spot. And Category 1, if you`re in a safe location, you know, you don`t have to worry as much. And we may actually see you ride right through the eye wall, throughout the eye and throughout the other side come tomorrow morning.
SANDERS: Well, I have been through two other eyes, so this would be the third eye. And just for our viewers who are wondering, because you see that big map and you see the eye, it`s a very strange occurrence to be in the eye because it is so calm in that eye. Depending on the speed, and you know, this is moving six miles an hour, so we actually get a chance to experience if it does follow this path.
But one of the oddest things I`ve ever noted is, in an eye you look and there`s actually birds flying around and there are seagulls and other things because it`s so calm in the middle of this horrific, gargantuan monster.
KARINS: And Kerry, we actually on radar we`ve had -- there`s been some people talking, there`s some strange things that we picked up in the eye. And we do think that those are maybe birds flying in there that got trapped. So that may be the case and you may see that come tomorrow morning.
One thing that`s also going to be interesting that Kerry was talking about is, you know, the storm surge for the Wrightsville Beach area, the angle of approach to the storm, we`ll have the winds out of the north right up until landfall. And it won`t be until the backside of the storm that the winds really will go out of the south or the southeast.
I think that the -- really the highest surge, Kerry, is going to be north of Wrightsville Beach, I want to eliminate the threat, but for the people that evacuated Wrightsville Beach and the Carolina Beach area, I`m much more concerned with the storm surge in Carteret County, Atlantic Beach, the Emerald Isle area. As of now that`s my thinking. So, I don`t want to give anyone relief yet. We still got 12, 18 hours to go, but, you know, we`ll see how this plays out.
SANDERS: Well, it`s going to be a miserable night for anybody that`s actually hunkered down waiting this storm out. The one positive note at least I can report from where I am is, we still have power, we still have lights. And you can see where I am and that is at least one up side.
Duke Energy indicating that they have more than 4600 restoration crews standing by. After Hurricane Matthew, they had a million 1/2 people who had no power. It took weeks in some cases to restore that power. They believe that they have the teams in place because even with a Category 1 and even though we keep talking about storm surge, this wind is going to cause trees to go down, trees and limbs are going to come down, our4 electrical lines, and people are going to go without electricity.
And, of course, we already know in portions of -- near Wilmington and elsewhere there are tens of thousands of people without power.
Brian, for the moment, I`m going to move back inside and just throw it back to you here from Carolina Beach.
WILLIAMS: Yes, that`s probably a great idea.
Kerry Sanders in Carolina Beach. We just got the update from North Carolina power, 156,000 customers out. And sadly for the storm, the night is young.
Weather Channel Meteorologist Mike Seidel has surfaced in Wilmington, North Carolina. Mike, I know that every spaghetti strand projection for this storm passed right through Wilmington. What have you got going on right now?
MIKE SEIDEL, WEATHER CHANNEL METEOROLOGIST: Well, as you would say, Brian, some pretty sporty conditions. We got into the heavy rain band an hour ago and it`s been unrelenting. The airport which is inland has gusted to 63 miles an hour. Also, rainfall coming down at about one to two inches an hour.
We`ve already had one report up the coast, Atlantic Beach has had almost 13 inches of rain. It`s only Thursday night. And the problem with the storm, even though, thank goodness the winds, Brian, have dropped considerably from 140 Cat-4 down to 90 Cat-1, that lowers the threat of destruction on these beach properties and inland.
We still have enough wind to knock down a lot of trees and knockout power, but we`re still going to have the storm lollygagging towards the coast and then inland. And we`re not quite sure if it`s going to go down the coast or stay in South Carolina. But the bottom line the slow motion means incredible amounts of rain.
Hurricane Floyd 19 years ago, next week, I was standing right over there when the eye came over. But down in south port, Brian, they picked up 24 inches of rain and change. That is the wettest tropical cyclone in record in the history of North Carolina and we could break it this time very easily because with the slow motion, these rain bands are going to stick around into Saturday for some of us as it weakens and moves inland.
WIILIAMS: Mike, I get your sporty conditions there. I`m also imagining that a 1 as opposed to a 4 or a 3 is going to make all the difference in the world when those -- the owners of those vessels behind you are able to come down to the marina and find they`re still there.
SEIDEL: Yes. If you notice all the boats here are gone. Over of the past couple days certainly Tuesday and Wednesday, they got a lot of boats out of the water. It was like night and day. But the big boats over there are moored. They`re on the other side of another floating dock.
And the one thing we got going for us here is Wrightsville Beach technically is over there but it`s about two miles away from me as a crow (ph) floods. So we`re not going to have the battering waves here in this intra-coastal waterway here between Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach. So those boats, although tenuous over there, they`re not going to be bobbing too much. But I`m sure the owners are keeping a close eye on them tonight by watching maybe the Weather Channel and MSNBC.
WILLIAMS: Mike Seidel, Wilmington, North Carolina. Thank you, Mike, as always.
Miguel Almaguer is also in Wilmington, North Carolina, where the storm is whipping up right now.
MIGUEL ALMAGUER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brian, well, as you know, we`re not in the brunt of the storm. We were certainly feeling the effects. We`ve been seeing steady sheets of rain coming down here for the last several hours. And certainly the wind here picking up.
In the last horror or so, we also saw a couple bolts of lightning in this area. So certainly an indication that things are getting worse here.
We are with the mayor of Wilmington earlier today inside their operations of emergency services and they were telling us they expect upwards of three to four feet of rain and flooding here in this area. That`s certainly going to cause problems for the 120,000 people who call Wilmington home.
As you know, the eye of the storm could roll right into this city sometime tomorrow. That`s what everyone here is bracing for. As you mentioned, about 150,000 people across this area are without power, that number expected to climb. Duke Energy tells us it could be as high as 3 million people by tomorrow. But as Kerry mentioned, certainly those restoration crews are at the ready.
Not far from here we also saw a hundred ambulances standing by at the ready, ready for those emergency calls. So far we just spoke to the Fire Department. No swift to water rescues yet. Most folks are fortunately inside battening down the hatches. We`re not far from a safety location just about 50 feet behind us should things get worse here. But what I can tell you, Brian, we`ve seen steady waves here blowing in here over the last several hours here, and the tide is certainly beginning to rise and looking more menacing as the night goes on, Brian.
WILLIAMS: Yes. High tide almost to the minute where you are coming up.
Miguel Almaguer, thank you very much for that. Get inside if and when you can.
And let`s go inside in Miami, Ed Rappaport, the Deputy Director of the National Hurricane Center has been kind enough now to join us three nights in a row. And this is the start of the time when sleep really gets scarce, I imagine.
Ed, I love seeing the numbers come down, 4, 3, 2, 1. I don`t love how much of this Category 1 hurricane still has the moisture attributes of a 4.
ED RAPPAPORT, NCH DEPUTY DIRECTOR: Yes, unfortunately there`s not a direct correlation between the wind speed and the amount of flooding that you necessarily will get. The winds still are pretty high, though. We`ve had several reports of wind gusts over 100 miles per hour and those have been in the bands that are encircling the eye. The eye is offshore now.
But that`s not really the place we should be looking. It`s these bands that are coming ashore and bringing the wind with them, and the wind is pushing the storm surge across the shoreline and up the rivers. And, in fact, here`s a graphic that shows how the water level has risen over the past 12 to 24 hours and you can see that it`s -- in this particular location, it`s now six feet above where it should be. That puts it in major -- the major flood region and, in fact, that`s not even the highest that we`ve seen reported.
A couple areas up the Noose River, which is where we`re seeing some of the worst of the storm surge, we`ve seen one spot that has now a 10-foot storm surge on the Noose River.
WILLIAMS: All right. And, Ed, talk about pacing, forward speed, stalling. What can we expect 24 hours from this minute?
RAPPAPORT: Yes, that`s been another of our concerns. And this map is a little complicated, but we`re looking at the North Carolina coast and South Carolina, here is the center of the storm just offshore. Huge area of tropical storm force winds. Of course it`s already spread into North Carolina, it`s going to spread -- spreading into South Carolina now.
Here`s the area of hurricane force winds. But the motion is very slow. So for the next two days we`re going to have Florence move just very slowly across North Carolina and South Carolina, and that`s why we`re expecting to have such heavy rains. Nearly the entire two-state area having over five inches of rain, everywhere over five inches of rain in those states with locally 15 to 20 inches, maybe even more. So we`re seeing now the devastating flooding that`s occurring along some portions of the coast and up the river.
The rest of the states of the two-state area is going to have the risk of catastrophic flooding from rainfall through the weekend.
WILLIAMS: All right. Ed Rappaport, thank you, sir, for being so generous with your time. We`re thinking about you and all the forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami tonight.
We`re now joined by telephone. You may know Jerry Jones as the owner of the Dallas Cowboys. We have a Jerry Jones who tonight may have a much more important job. That is because Jerry Jones is mayor of Morehead City, North Carolina.
Mr. Mayor, thank you very much, and what are conditions like now, say, as opposed to your worst fears round about yesterday?
JERRY JONES, MAYOR OF MOREHEAD CITY, NC (via telephone): Well, I can tell you the conditions are consistent. We are all tired. I`ve been going since 4:30 this morning and now talking to you, so we`re getting worn out. But this hurricane has been beating us up all day long.
Florence is, and it doesn`t appear like she wants to go away any time soon. We have a lot of flooding, I just heard in some of our low-lying areas, some of our small community, in Carteret County that people are up on their roofs waiting for a water rescue. And there`s a lot of flooding, a lot of trees down and over 30,000 houses, homes without electricity. So it`s been a long day.
WILLIMS: Well, that there is what people don`t understand. If you got people on homes already, we`re going into night one of a multi-day precipitation event, it really doesn`t matter to those folks that this has been downgraded to a 1. What matters is how much rainfall and how deep a storm surge you`re going to get.
JONES: Oh, I totally agree. I don`t -- we don`t care what the rating or category is. It`s the damage and the harm that it does to the families and community that matters.
WILLIAMS: Our meteorologist Bill Karins has a question, Mr. Mayor.
KARINS: Hey, Mr. Mayor, earlier this morning it was looking like your worst high tide fears were going to be with this high tide cycle this morning. That changed during the day, and now we`re looking at about tomorrow between 11:00 a.m. and noon when the wind shifts to the south that you`re going to see your highest storm surge. Are you hearing similar data?
JONES: Well, historically we get our highest storm surge, you know, with the winds from the north, northeast. But this morning when we had strong northeast winds, tropical force northeast winds, we didn`t have a storm surge. It`s dark out there now and I haven`t been traveling, but evidently we are now having the water back up in the rivers and creeks. But I do live right on the coast, so if it does push the water ahead of it tomorrow when it goes to the south, we`ll be seeing the storm surge here in Morehead City.
KARINS: And, Mayor, about the -- you mentioned there`s people on some roofs in some small communities, is that on the Pamlico Sound on the Sound side flooding?
JONES: That would be more towards -- it`d be towards the Pamlico Sound that is correct. But there`s a lot of creeks up that way and I`m sure it`s the creeks that are backing up. Actually -- excuse me, they would know. They would be on the Noose River. I`m sorry, Noose River.
WILLIAMS: Hey, Mayor, all we can do is wish you strength and the best of luck along with the folks in your community. Thank you very much for offering us time to talk to us tonight. Mayor Jerry Jones.
NBC News Correspondent Gadi Schwartz is in Beaufort, North Carolina.
Gadi, we`ve been watching you on and off all evening. Earlier, I can`t help but notice you were outside and now you appear to be in a stairwell. Please explain.
GADI SCHWARTZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that`s right. We started getting alerts on our phones about tornado warnings. It`s extremely dark. And the good mayor that you just spoke to, he`s just down the way from us.
So we`re hunkered down in this stairwell right now. This is kind of our fall back position. I want to show you what we`ve been doing. We`re basically just watching the hurricane. That is Morehead City right there where that blue dot is. That`s us.
And I want to show you this. This is the size of the hurricane right there. That to us here represents about 12 hours of basically winds battering this whole area and heavy rains. You heard the rain totals, 13, 14 inches. So they`ve been extremely heavy throughout this area.
I want to show you what it`s like, let you listen to what it`s like being in a stairwell like this with some emergency lighting. The power is out in this building. But we have our sound technician over here.
Luis (ph), if you could just turn up the audio, I`m just going to give you kind of the hunting sound.
That`s the sound of Hurricane Florence. The people that decided to stay here to weather out this storm that is what they`re hearing. They`ve got their windows flexing inside of their homes and this is howling.
I`m going to take you outside just for a second here. This is kind of like a safe little enclave. I`m going to show you what`s going on. It`s extremely dark, again, we`ve lost all power in this area. But over in this direction actually, you see it, you know, it`s really hard to see but there`s a green line over there. That is a -- that`s a kayak probably 50, 60 pounds of a kayak that was blown that way. That was one of the times when we decided to fall back.
Over here is where we put all of our cars. You see these are cars that are parked at the highest point of Radio Island. That`s where we`re at right now. But these winds continue to pickup.
We`ve been expecting to see that storm surge. And occasionally we`ll come outside and we`ll check to see if the storm surge has risen, but we haven`t seen it. We were expecting it 11:00, 11:30 tonight. But so far that storm surge is still around the same level. So we`re not sure when that storm surge is going to happen, that was very interesting to hear Bill talking about that a little bit ago.
But if this continues, we`re talking about 24 to 48 hours of us under this constant barrage of wind, constant barrage of rain, and right now it`s so dark outside we don`t know what it looks like. But we do understand that there are other areas in this vicinity that have been flooded.
WILLIAMS: All right, Gadi Schwartz, I`m liking that stairwell. It`s quite for you and your crew as a safe alternative for as long as you can. Thank you very much for that.
Bill, before we go any further, you lived and worked down here. I think I heard you say your old T.V. station was evacuated by --
KARINS: Yes. WCTI, Channel 12 is an ABC affiliate in the New Bern area. And it`s located maybe a quarter mile from the river, the Noose River which we`re hearing a lot about where some of the worst flooding has been.
And at one point during their continuous coverage in their local market, the water was coming up so high to the station they evacuated everyone except the meteorologists that were still on the air. And at a certain point the meteorologists had to sign off because they were afraid they weren`t going to be able to leave the station because the water was still coming that high. And so the station had to sign off in the middle of, you know, one of their biggest events and one of their other sister stations in Myrtle Beach has taken over their coverage for them down there.
But, yes, I lived in the New Bern area. I was there for Hurricane Birth that I stood in the river front where we had one of our correspondents earlier today. And the water was up to my knees when I was standing there. But it was already doing that today at 6:00 p.m.
KARINS: And then since then it`s going up three or four feet since then. So I know visually from walking my dog along that river front and seeing what it looks like, I know there`s water in homes. I know there`s water in businesses. As far as, you know, there`s millions of dollars of damage that is being done from that storm surge in the Pamlico Sound and especially up the Noose River.
There is a fort, I think it`s Blackwell, a small town. It is 30 miles north in New Bern. It is 60 miles from the coast. The storm surge made it all the way 60 miles inland.
WILLIAMS: It`s early yet in this one.
KARINS: Yes, it is. I don`t want to minimize. I mean, I was talking about the Wilmington Area and I`m talking to Kerry and saying that, you know, it`s probably safe enough for him to be on air throughout the storm now because it`s not going to be that high. I don`t want to minimize the threat. I don`t want people walking around in the storm.
We`re still going to have 60 hours of tropical storm force winds and, you know, you care about your life and your family`s and your pets and everything else. You wouldn`t want to be walking anywhere where there`s trees that could possibly fall on you and kill you. Because although most of the fatalities, 57% happened from storm surge and from the rain, 8% do occur because of wind. And it`s mostly because of falling trees.
So that will be the message, you know, tomorrow. We can do this coverage and everything will look exactly the same as it does now. We`ll have the same correspondents in the same spots. Instead of being on the front side of the storm they`ll be on the backside. And the wind will be in a different direction but it will still be raining. And they`ll say I can`t believe I`m still doing this and I can`t believe it`s still this windy. And that`s why everyone left.
And, you know, people like, I shouldn`t have left. No, they should have because it`s going to be under water. The emergency managers, roads are going to be closed. It`s going to be hard to move around. And we already heard there`s water rescues already taking --
WILLIAMS: People on top of their houses and that`s going to be a long night for the folks in Moore Head City. Bill Karins, thank you so much.
A lot of people have expressed concern about Camp Lejeune. That`s one of the stops we`re going to make after we take a brief break in our coverage.
WILLIAMS: Welcome back to our live coverage of Hurricane Florence. We`ll be at this, by the way, for a couple hours well into the nighttime through to the morning hours. We don`t often get to pass along good news. The good news came in the form of the 11:00 PM Eastern update, and that is this storm has now fallen to a category 1.
The caveat that goes along with the good news is it still retains a lot of its characteristics from when it was a 4 and a 3 steaming across the Atlantic Ocean on its way to the Carolinas.
Let`s get a report on the ground. Cal Perry is in Wilmington driving around in a vehicle. I`ll skip the question on what led you to drive around in a vehicle in hurricane. Tell us what you see, Cal.
CAL PERRY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: We`re basically making our way sort of parallel from the intracoastal highway, north to south, sort of from Mike Seidel`s position down to where you saw Kerry Sanders (inaudible) throw it on the front.
When we`re talking about the difficulty of getting things back up and running, I`ll echo what everybody else has said. It doesn`t matter whether you`re talking about a category 1 storm or a category 3 or 4 storm. When it comes to getting the power back on, and you can see it`s gotten very dark now in Wilmington. Getting the power back on is an impossible task when you`re talking about anything above sort of tropical force winds. And that`s the problem in this area.
The other problem is we`ve been looking at our elevation. And, you know, you don`t have to go more than a mile from the coast. You`re not going to get above sort of 30 feet elevation. So when you`re talking about a storm hovering over this area for a day, maybe two days, that amount of rain, that amount of water, that`s sort of the issue. When it comes to the power, I will just say when you hear that optimism from Kerry Sanders, he`s going to lose power sort of, Brian, in the next 15 to 20 minutes. It gets sort of worse the further north you are as that storm kind of hangs over Wrightsville Beach, Brian.
WILLIAMS: So, Cal, is it you and first responders on the road? And has anyone stopped you curious as to why you`re driving around?
PERRY: It`s us, first responders are sort of lining those checkpoints along those barrier islands. And storm chasers, Brian. We do see every once in a while, storm chasers out and about.
But again, you know, you don`t realize until you`re driving around. Some of our correspondents are using these buildings, of course, to buffet them. They`re using these hallways. When you get out and about, it`s the stuff that`s flying around in the air that`s going to keep the first responders from coming out. So it`s just us and the occasional storm chaser, Brian.
WILLIAMS: All right, Cal, stay safe out there. Thank you very much. We promised a report from US Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. Hans Nichols, normally our Pentagon correspondent is there tonight.
Hans, the Marine Base on their social media last night talked about being anxious to get in the fight against this storm. Given that it`s a Marine Base, didn`t mind them calling it a fight, looks like it`s given you all that it has right now.
HANS NICHOLS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, I`m not fighting back. I think that`s one of my problems out here tonight, Brian. Look, the Marines wanted to stay here and batten down the hatches, shelter in place as they say because they want to be in a position where they can respond if they`re called upon, if they get orders.
So what they`re trying to figure out right now, they`ve got a lot of assets here. They have some 100 aircraft, rotary aircraft. Those are helicopters at the air station here. And they`ve got a bunch of ships at sea. Mainly two amphibious assault ships. Now, what Navy meteorologists are trying to figure out just right now is how close behind the storm they want to fall. How closely they want to get to the storm so they can be in a position if there is severe flooding along the coast to offer aid from the sea, to have helicopters leaving from those ships and coming in.
Now, just in the last couple hours here, we have lost power on base. There`s all kinds of staging taken across base. They`ve got these amphibious vehicles that can go out there in the water, do a lot flood traversing, get out there to the places they need to go.
As you can see the wind is picking up. The big change we`ve had here is that a lot of rain is coming in. But this wind is punishing. You look at this tree here. It`s lost about 50% of its leaves in the last hour. Leaves are being denuded left and right. I suspect when we wake up, there are going to be a lot of leaves on these (inaudible), there are going to be a lot of branches down. And they are going to start cleaning up at first light here so they can be in a position to start helping civilians, again, if they get those orders, Brian?
WILLIAMS: All right. Given how self-sufficient the US Marine Corps is maybe we can take Camp Lejeune off our list of concerns, as long as you, Hans Nichols, battened yourself.
Tammy Leitner, she is down the beach, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Tammy, I`ve been watching on and off all evening. I supposed it`s a terrific blessing conditions have not deteriorated yet, though, you`ll get your share of wind and precipitation eventually.
TAMMY LEITNER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Oh I`m sure, Brian, no doubt. I can tell you, though, just in the last hour or so, the weather has changed a little bit. The wind has kicked up. It will kick up and die down and it`s going back and forth. The waves, the surf, it`s getting a little bit bigger. I mentioned last night on your show about 60% of the county has evacuated.
You know, it`s a mandatory evacuation in this zone. They can`t force people to leave, but they can enforce a curfew. That`s in place. The mayor herself has said that she thinks the residents in this area, they have a bit of a false sense of security here. And that`s because previous storms in this area have not been as bad as projected. And another reason, this storm is such a slow-moving storm. It is crawling along, battering the Carolinas.
I mean, Myrtle Beach has had days to prepare for this storm. People have been out, you know, on the beach, even today, enjoying the nice weather. And so, there is a bit of a false sense of security. But they are still urging people that they should get out and they should still prepare for the storm even though it`s been downgrade to a category 1. We know that there will be flooding and that there will be storm surge. And that they should heed these warnings. Brian?
WILLIAMS: All right, Tammy Leitner, thank you so much. Let`s celebrate the fact that they`re not going to have the high winds we once feared there in Myrtle Beach and points north.
Another break for us, and when we come back, we`re going to get a late live update from the Boston Region on this hellish story that`s been unfolding there tonight between 70 and 100 homes going up in flames because of a meltdown at a gas company that cause pressures to rise, an absolute disaster to north of Boston as we look at our storm coverage which continues after this.
WILLIAMS: As we mention, there is another major story we`re following at this hour. At least a thousand people had to find somewhere else to sleep tonight after dozens of gas explosions and subsequent fires rocked three different Boston suburbs this afternoon.
At least 70 homes caught fire. We just learned one person has died, nearly a dozen people remain hospitalized. MSP, the Massachusetts State Police, shared this map of confirmed explosions and fires. There are more.
Just to give you an idea of how massive the area affected is, WBTS TV Reporter Michael Rosenfield is in Lawrence tonight. He`s with our NBC Station in Boston, one of the communities where these explosions occurred. I was watching this, your coverage in real-time, Michael. You had fire departments completely overwhelmed locally. They invoked mutual aid. So that called neighboring towns, and at least one case, neighboring states in. They were arriving at these homes on fire, unsure as to why their water was powerless. And they later found out these were gas-fed fires.
MICHAEL ROSENFIELD, WBTS TV REPORTER: Yes, this was pretty much mass chaos tonight, frightening evening here in Massachusetts. We`re about 45 minutes north of Boston. In all, some 70 different fires and explosions taking place across what we call the Merrimack Valley here. Something went terribly wrong with the gas lines here and investigators are still trying to get a handle on what exactly transpired.
We`re at the scene of a home that was leveled around 5:00 this evening. I know it`s dark out here tonight. But you may be able to see this home behind us here in Lawrence, Massachusetts, pretty much destroyed. This was one of the first scenes this evening, one of the first indications that something was going hey wire tonight. And unfortunately, over the last hour or so, we learned from the local district attorney that there was a fatality here.
A teenager who apparently was visiting this house, he was in the driveway in a car when the explosion took place and a chimney landed on top of that vehicle. We had hoped there would be just decent news here tonight because neighbors had told us when the explosion took place, they did see people get out of this house alive, and it seemed as if they had just minor injuries. They were unaware, unfortunately, that somebody was killed inside a vehicle.
So, one neighbor out here telling us he came out of the house when he heard the explosion. He saw what he thought were four teenagers hobbling out of the house. They had just minor injuries. Another neighbor also telling us he, too, heard the explosion. When he came outside, there was a woman screaming for help.
Police got here very quickly and were able to pull her out of a window and she, too, apparently with just minor injuries, kind of a miracle so many people did escape out of this house this evening with minor injuries. But again, there was one fatality here.
Across the region tonight, we`re hearing in all from the 70 different scenes about 15 injuries across three different communities, Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, Massachusetts. Right now, this neighborhood that I`m in right now, pretty much a ghost town. Everybody has been told to evacuate. They seem to have listened and they are staying away.
There really is no reason to come back at this point. There`s no power. There`s no gas. There`s no electricity, and they just don`t know how dangerous their homes and this neighborhood and all of these neighborhoods could be. Thousands of people are being told to stay away for the time being while investigators, while the utility crews try to get a handle on what`s safe, what isn`t safe, and at some point eventually they will get an all-clear. But at this point it looks like we are in this for the long haul. Brian?
WILLIAMS: Hey, Michael, what`s the utility saying? Because this doesn`t happen, you know? I talked to a lot of people who have been in the fire service for decades. All their lives they`ve never heard of anything like this. If you were a homeowner with the ability and presence of mind to turn your gas service off at the meter, that`s one thing. But this much of a surge and influx in gas pressure will turn a pilot light into a blow torch inside somebody`s house.
ROSENFIELD: Yes, indeed, very dangerous for everybody here. That`s why they`re being told to stay away. Unfortunately, Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, the main utility out here, they`re not saying much, and that has led to a lot of frustration on the part of many residents out here.
Even local law enforcement and municipal leaders as well, they`re trying to get answers. They want know what`s safe, what isn`t safe. And unfortunately the utility company has not been as forthcoming as residents and local leaders are hoping they would have been at this point, since we are about five hours into this.
But again, the best we can say at this point for the residents, they are being told at least by the governor of Massachusetts and the local mayors and local elected officials to stay away for the time being. They just don`t know how dangerous these homes and the entire neighborhoods really can be.
We are waiting to hear more from Columbia Gas in terms of what the situation is right now, how dangerous everything is. And, of course, exactly how did this happen and how do we make sure, of course, it never happens again. We really have never seen anything quite like this.
WILLIAMS: All right, Michael Rosenfield with our NBC Station, WBTS outside Boston tonight. Michael, thank you so much.
Back to the main subject of our coverage tonight, this hurricane off the coast of the Carolinas, we`re happy to be joined once again tonight by retired US Army Lieutenant General Russel Honore. I`ve said this before and I`ll say it gain, the general will always remain a heroic figure for those of us who are in New Orleans during and after Katrina as his arrival marked a turning point in that disaster.
General, we had you on the other night. You were kind enough to spend a few minutes with us talking about the preparation. Based on what you know about the presets, the preparation, how much has been set aside, where it is, and the kind of storm we`re getting tonight? What do you make of this situation?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL RUSSEL HONORE, RETIRED US ARMY: Well, it still will be a wind and water event. I`ve been dealing with these storms, I guess, my last ten years in the army. And since I retired, that`s basically what I do, is teach disaster preparedness and resilience. And there`s still a lot of damage this storm will do.
The good news is it`s not coming in as a 4, it is not coming in as a 3. But what people have to remember when you look at the wind piece of this, the government measured the wind by sustained wind. So to get, it`s 90 something miles an hour sustained wind. But inside that, there are wind gusts and you have to look at those little -- that will take a roof off.
That combined with that this is still a big water event, and none of the forecasters are backing off that this will be a big water event. And the third part is when you have wind and you have water and you got trees, the power is going to go out.
Now, Brian, if you just took the power going out and you didn`t have the flood and you had everybody had their roof, power going out alone is a disaster because it sets back the way we live in America 100 years. No running water, no street lights working. That is going to be problematic. So we will have to continue to deal with.
And I could tell you, the governors from what I`ve seen, they did a good job in the first pre-game show here and get people ready. The National Guards are well postured. They`re executing their mutual agreements. We`ve got search and rescue aircraft coming in all the way from Alaska. And they`re working well among themselves.
Each state, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, has a designated National Guard general to work with and to be dual hat with the Title 10 forces. And they`re up to 10,000 -- listen to this, 10,000 Department of Defense troops, air, land and sea, that are prepared to come in and literally move, maneuver in, and support the governors as required on the ground.
So we are seeing for the first time the vision that I was hoping for, we would have after Katrina, is that when we have hurricanes of this nature, that the states, the National Guard and the Department of Defense would maneuver on the storm and be prepared to come in.
Now, there are some brave folks out there, those sailors. They left their families ashore and they took the ships out to sea, and that`s some rough seas out there. They`re not having a good time and they get the number one ribbon for most sacrifice made because they`re going to try to follow that storm in and that`s some rough seas.
So, from where we were three days ago talking about a half million MREs to where we are today, I think the preparation is great. But the real test in an event like this is the response. Can we synchronize the search and rescue teams, get them in the right place, can we evacuate people in an orderly manner and can we provide logistics, and make up for the issue that a lot of people are not going to have power?
And my biggest concern is distribution wise. If we start dropping them in the mountain range, you`re talking about 2 to 3 weeks to get one of those live back up with potential of -- as electric companies have said, thousands of people without power. So that`s my take. I think as far as preparedness, we`re okay.
But the true measure of how well the people will judge how the government will respond will be during the search and rescue, and then how long it takes me to get my paperwork processed so I can get the damn roof back on my house. And that`s still a frustrating thing when you still have over 6,000 people in Puerto Rico without roofs, and an equal number in Hurricane Harvey down in Texas.
WILLIAMS: Retired US Army Lieutenant General Russel Honore, it`s why we ask to have you on, sir. Thank you so very much. And our viewers just heard General Honore talked about the decrease in quality of life the minute the lights go out. Think of all the folks in the path of this storm tonight.
The early figure we were given when we came on the air just over 150,000 customers, that`s not people, those are individual customers. So it`s a multiple of that are already without power. That means no AC, forget Wi- Fi, forget your computer. Your quality of life goes downhill fast.
And remember, storms are loud. They make noises in the night. A lot of precipitation, still high winds with this storm, something to remember about our neighbors in North and South Carolina.
Another break, our coverage continues at the very top of the hour. We`ll be back live.
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