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Face the Nation Transcript: September 10, 2017

9/10: Face The Nation
9/10: Rick Scott, Marco Rubio 23:54

JOHN DICKERSON, HOST: This is the special edition of FACE THE NATION.

The time for warnings is over.


GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: The storm is here. This is a deadly, major storm. And our state has never seen anything like it. Millions of Floridians will see major hurricane impacts, with deadly, deadly, deadly storm surge and life-threatening winds.


DICKERSON: As Hurricane Irma, potentially the most catastrophic storm Florida has ever seen, makes landfall, we will cover it all on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning, and welcome to a special edition of FACE THE NATION devoted entirely to Hurricane Irma, which has made its first landfall in the U.S. in Cudjoe Key, Florida.

We have a team of CBS News correspondents in the Miami area and on the Florida Gulf Coast following Irma's expected path.

But we begin with meteorologist Eric Fisher, who works for our Boston station WBZ. He's in our New York studio.

Eric, where is Irma right now, and where is she headed?

ERIC FISHER, CBS NEWS METEOROLOGIST: Well, John, we have been tracking it throughout this morning crossing the Lower Keys.

It made that landfall as a Category 4 near Cudjoe Key, which is right about in here, between Key West and Big Pine Key. That's where we've seen some of our strongest winds.

It's first time on record we have had two Category 4 hurricanes make landfall in the United States in the same season, Harvey just a couple of weeks ago. You see those bands moving in across South Florida? We've seen gusts up to 100 miles per hour in Miami. So, even well away from the center, we're seeing those destructive winds.

And now you see that eye of the storm, where the strongest winds really reside, lifting north, away from Big Pine Key and heading up towards Southwest Florida, approaching places like Marco Island, as well as Fort Myers area and Naples. They will be some of the first spots to see conditions really go downhill.

So, here are some of the latest stats, 130 mile-per-hour winds. It's moving northwest at eight miles per hour. And it's working its way now just off to the east-northeast of Key West. We see on satellite a very impressive hurricane.

So, here is the latest track. It will be just straddling the coast of Florida. It arrives right around Naples midday to early afternoon. Then it rides up towards Sanibel, Captiva, Fort Myers area, and then up towards Tampa as we head into the overnight, and then up to the Big Bend of Florida as we head into the day tomorrow.

So, there's a ways to go. And those strong winds will last well inland. There are tropical storm warnings out in places like Atlanta, Georgia. That's a new product. Tropical storm warnings for inland areas, that started in 2000. It's first time Atlanta has been under one.

So, there are a look at the peak winds. And we could some of those gusts over 120 miles per hour, especially right along that southwest coast of Florida, a storm that's typical -- or, I should say, similar to Donna. Donna was a hurricane that came across the Keys as a Cat 4, the last Cat 4 in the Keys, on this date, which is also the peak of hurricane season, back in 1960.

And you can see those strong wind gusts well inland. Even into Orlando, we could look at some gusts over 80 miles per hour, and those strong winds extending to the east coast of Florida, again, impacts well away from the center.

Some of the peak winds so far, 120 miles per hour around Big Pine Key. We've also seen many gusts over 80, 90 miles per hour in South Florida. And we're also talking about the rain, rain up to a foot in spots across Florida, but that heavy rain will extend into Georgia, Alabama, even into parts of South Carolina.

And when you bring in the strong winds, combined with the rain, we're talking about numerous power outages, over a million so far, that number certain to climb -- John.

DICKERSON: All right. All right, Eric, thanks so much for that update.

We now to go Miami and CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann.

Mark, what's the latest there?


These tropical force winds that have lashed Miami for hours will go on at least until mid-afternoon, and could potentially get worse. It is a tribute to the size, as well as the power of this hurricane that it is now crossing the Lower Keys, and conditions are this bad, more than 100 miles away. That street behind me is a wind tunnel. If you try to cross it, you have to look both ways, not for traffic, because there is none, but for flying objects, projectiles, tree limbs and traffic signs.

More than 700,000 people in Southern Florida's three major counties have lost power at last count, storm surge a continuing worry along the coast. Much of the coast, of course, is right around averages at sea level.

And first-responders are no longer taking calls or at least responding to them, because it is now too dangerous for them as well. It's a frightening day in Miami, and it could get worse -- John.

DICKERSON: All right, Mark, thanks so much.

Standing by in Florida City, the region known as the gateway to the Florida Keys, slightly south of where Mark was, is CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: And, John, right now we're experiencing the strongest wind gusts yet, as the eye of Hurricane Irma makes its way past the Florida Keys.

We noticed a significant change in increase in the wind speed as the eye was making landfall. It was at that time we saw this kind of damage. You see this metal sign behind me. The wind gusts just peeled that away.

And as anyone that has been through a hurricane knows, those are the very kind of things that cannot just be dangerous, but are also deadly, potentially. What we are feeling now are the most intense effects of Irma.

The rain is coming downside ways essentially, pelting us, and the winds, as you can tell, making it very difficult to stand at some points. Folks here in Florida City and Homestead have taken the warnings from officials very seriously.

As I watch here, there's a bit of debris coming our way. So -- but the folks here have memories of Andrew, and so what they have done is watched very carefully and heeded the officials' warning. There is no one out on the roads right now, no one on Overseas Highway, which is Route 1, which leads to the Florida Keys and Key West at the very end of that.

No one at all on the roads traveling under these very dangerous conditions right now -- John.

DICKERSON: All right. OK, Elaine. Thanks so much, Elaine Quijano.

And now we go to Fort Myers, Florida, where CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave is standing by.

Kris, what's going on where you are?

KRIS VAN CLEAVE, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we have really seen the winds pick up here in the last little bit, enough of those wind gusts, those tropical-storm winds, to pull police and firefighters off the streets. You can see debris is now starting to come into the streets because of the wind. It is the first case of what is in store for Fort Myers. And this is just the beginning. It's going to get worse. We're in a lull right now. But once these hurricane-force winds start a little bit later today, we're going to be in that condition, 100-mile, maybe more, winds for 10, 11, maybe 12 hours.

DICKERSON: Kris, the west coast, where you are, was not supposed to get the big brunt of the storm at first, but yesterday we saw some long lines of people trying to get into shelters.

Has everyone found a place to ride out the storm?

VAN CLEAVE: Well, we know that roughly 30,000 people in the Fort Myers area have gone to shelters.

Most of them are full. Many of them filled up right away. There are three that are still open. But the conditions on the road have really deteriorated.

So, at this point, if people aren't in those evacuation shelters, they need to stay where they are, police are saying. In fact, we have heard about at least one double fatal accident between here and Tampa, a little inland. Police are saying that's an example of why they want folks off the road.

We now have debris flying off of trees. This was a close call for us right here. We watched a transformer blow just a few minutes ago. So, wherever people are, they need to stay where they are at this point, because Irma is coming, and it's going to get worse.

DICKERSON: All right, Kris Van Cleave for us in Fort Myers, thanks, Kris.

For full picture of what is going on with Hurricane Irma in Florida, we now go to Governor Rick Scott, who is in Tallahassee.

Governor, as you get the first reports of the storm as it's hit Florida, what are you learning, and what does that tell you about the rest of the state can expect?

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Well, that -- it's clearly hitting -- it's hitting the Keys.

I pray for every person that didn't evacuate down there. I talked to a friend earlier this morning that didn't evacuate. And I know they're going to get a lot of storm surge on top of their rain. And then we're going to see it all along the west coast.

My hometown is Naples. They are going to see 10 to 15 foot above ground level of storm surge. And so I know lot of people are praying for us around the world. I know a lot of people want to help us. Tell them we need more volunteers. We have over 400 shelters open now. But we will need volunteers after the fact to distribute food and water and clean up debris.

I know people want to donate. You can go to -- text disaster at 20222 and donate $10. But pray for us. We're going to do everything we can to keep every person in our state alive and protected.

DICKERSON: And, Governor, when you get these initial reports, is there something you're looking for in specific that lets you know whether the storm is more severe or less severe than you expected as it makes landfall?

SCOTT: Well, what I do is, I constantly get updates with regard to where the weather is and where the storm is.

And at this point, we have gotten -- following the traffic cameras around the state, no one is in our roads right now, which is good. We have these shelters open, but it's really late. We worked to try to get everybody to prepare and to evacuate if you were in an evacuation zone.

I have talked to the president. I have talked to the FEMA administrator. I have talked to the homeland security secretary. They have committed all the federal resources. They know it's going to be a big cleanup effort. So we're ready. I worked hard and I know lot of people worked hard to get people to evacuate.

And I hope they did and I pray for every one of them.

DICKERSON: Do you have a sense -- you said you talked to somebody in the Keys who did not evacuate. About 5.5 million were asked to evacuate.

Do you have any sense of how many took that advice and then how many stayed behind?

SCOTT: We don't know the exact number, but you can look at our roads. Our roads are completely clear.

People got out. But I'm sure there's people that didn't, decided to stick it out.

And I pray for them. I just hope they don't go through the storm surge, which is -- the winds are horrible. This is like Andrew, but this is Andrew for a whole state. So, we're going to get all those winds, but then on top of that, we're going to get this storm surge.

So, that's what I'm more worried about right now. I know the winds are going to be very devastating and life-threatening. But I'm also very concerned about the storm surge.

People don't realize it's going to come into your house. It's going to fill up maybe your entire first floor, and then it's going to flow out. So, I don't know how you're going to survive that. So, you just have to think about -- you have got to get to as a high ground as you can and just pray.

DICKERSON: You said you spoke to the president. Can you tell us a little bit about your conversation with him and is there anything that can be done now other than simply just to monitor how things go?

SCOTT: So, I talked to the president. I have talked to him almost every day. I think almost every Cabinet member called me once a day from the administration just making sure we have all the resources.

He said wanted to make sure we had all the resources. He said he would -- saying prayers for us. That's what -- right now, that's what we can do. We can continue to plan for after this storm of how we rescue everyone. I know the moment our first-responders can get out to save you, if you're stuck, they will.

I have called up 7,000 members of the National Guard. We're going to make sure we fully staff our shelters. We're going to get you food and water as fast as we can.

This is a little harder, though, because it didn't just impact one coast, where we can position assets on the other coast. And so it's going to take us a little bit longer to do everything we care to do after a storm, because we have to bring the assets south, some of them from even out of state because we couldn't preposition them here.

DICKERSON: All right, Governor Scott, we appreciate it. Good luck. Thanks so much.

And we want to go further up the coast to CBS national correspondent Jeff Glor, who is standing by in Saint Pete Beach.

JEFF GLOR, CBS NEWS NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, the worst of it has not arrived here in Saint Pete Beach yet.

But this is the largest metropolitan area on Florida's west coast. And the Tampa Bay area has not seen a major hurricane since 1921. The last major hurricane before that was 1848.

And the buildings here are not up to code as much as some of the buildings in Miami-Dade County and Broward County in Southeast Florida, which, of course, experience Hurricane Andrew in 1992. That is one of the concerns here.

We have seen some shelters that are opened. People are going in to those. Those shelters are accommodating many of the most vulnerable citizens here in the Tampa Bay area. People rushed in last night. More are coming in this morning.

But when we looked around last night when we got into this area, and also this morning, there are far less homes and business boarded up than what we saw in Miami. And that's a concern here.

The track of this storm has shifted. And the folks in Miami had a lot of time to prepare. Everybody had time to prepare. I think some of the people here in Tampa/Saint Pete didn't anticipate it coming this way -- John.

DICKERSON: OK, Jeff Glor, thanks so much.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio joins us by phone from Miami.

Senator, right now, what's the most important thing that people in your state need to know?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), Florida: Well, couple of things, obviously.

There's virtually no part of Florida that is not going to be impacted by this storm. I'm currently in my home in West Miami. And it is an absolute brutal storm, and we're not even in the eye of the storm. We're going to get the sustained tropical storm winds.

We're getting the gusts from the hurricane, tornado threat. It is going to be exponentially worse everywhere from up the west coast of Florida. So, if you live in Naples, in Fort Myers, in Sarasota, in the Tampa Bay region, this storm has the potential to be the sort of worst-case scenario that meteorologists and emergency planners dread.

And, obviously, you got to listen to local officials at this point. But if you are in one of those storm surge areas, it is important for you, if there is still a chance to get out, to heed those warnings.

This is not going to turn. It is not going anywhere else. It's coming in the next few hours. You're probably feeling the effects of it already. And, in many ways, as I said, this is -- hitting the west coast of Florida is the worst possible route this thing could have taken.

DICKERSON: In your neighborhood, Senator, there's been a lot of worry about senior centers, about hospitals, areas where people can't get out of the way of this.

What can you tell us about how those are holding up and are they ready for a storm of this size?

RUBIO: Yes, the good news is that we have been able to, for days now, message on this in the southeast coast of Florida.

Now, that doesn't mean, some people stubbornly didn't stay behind. And, gosh, we're worried about them. And if you're in Key West or anywhere in the Florida Keys, we're going to find out hopefully not too many people stayed, is I hope what we're going to find out, because it doesn't look very good for them down there, no matter what they did.

They're probably no safe place to be. I am concerned about Southwest Florida. I'm deeply concerned about the Tampa Bay region, because they have not got the warnings. Really, only it started to be amplified Friday night for them.

And so even as late as last night, we were talking to people we know personally and others about the need to move. And it's been so long since the Tampa Bay region has had a storm that some people perhaps have no memory or have of what it's like to be through one of things.

You can't hide from the water. That's our biggest fear. And, by the way, storm surge doesn't come until the storm passes, so it's a long time event. And we are concerned about it. But I know our local officials have been working hard to move people.

The problem we have is, there's nowhere to move. The whole state is being impacted by this.

DICKERSON: Senator, you and I have talked over the years about trust in government and people losing faith in their government.

Do you see any of that? Are people not taking things seriously because -- sort of either because of crying wolf or because they have lost faith in voices of authority on these kinds of things?

RUBIO: No, I can't say that in this case. I really can't.

I think that people really have responded. You see an enormous number of people have acted. It's the most massive evacuation I think in the history oft state. I'm sure millions of people have moved.

And I think coming in the aftermath of those images from Harvey, people have really jumped on it. So, I think the bigger concern that we have is, we've got a -- this is a very unique situation. The whole state is impacted. A lot of the relief efforts are being directed from places that now themselves are in the path of this storm.

And we had a lot of people, for example, that left South Florida that drove to Orlando. They're in Tampa or who are now figuring out maybe I need to go back to Miami or something or Fort Lauderdale or Palm Beach.

This is no time to be on the road. This is a very unique storm because of its size and scope. You usually are able to say that there's some safe place in the state you can go to. In this particular case, virtually the entire state is being impacted by the storm.

DICKERSON: All right, Senator, we will leave it there. Thank you so much. Stay safe.

And we will be back in a moment.


DICKERSON: And we're back with Florida Senator Bill Nelson, who is in Orlando this morning.

Senator, welcome.

First, just your reaction now that the storm has made landfall. What's your assessment and what are you worried about?

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Primarily, other than the Keys that are getting it right now, as the eye comes up the west coast, it will be out in the water for most of the time.

That means that counterclockwise rotation is going to take a wall of water into the bays and the estuaries on the Gulf Coast of Florida. So, you look at big areas like Charlotte Harbor, which is just north of Fort Myers, or Tampa Bay, which is huge a bay, there is going to be a wall of water going up into them.

It doesn't have any place to escape. And so it's going to wall up. That's going to be a very significant part of this storm.

DICKERSON: When the water walls up like that, are you worried -- there's obviously worry of damage to property.

But is that something -- in terms of those who are in the cities now affecting them, storm surge into their houses, how does that play out?


And, by the way, give a shout-out to the National Hurricane Center, the National Weather Service, all the NOAA satellites. They have been right on, on this track and the intensity. So, people are well aware.

And what they have said is, hurricanes like this, a lot of deaths can occur from the water, instead of the wind. It's hitting the Keys, for example, at about 130 miles an hour. The difference between that and 155 miles an hour, Category 5, is an enormous magnitude of difference.

So, the wind is not as much, but the water coming up the west coast is going to be a problem..

DICKERSON: Senator, give us your sense. You just mentioned those federal assets that have been tracking the storm. What is your view, more broadly, of the federal response, or, I should say, in preparing for this storm from the federal angle?

NELSON: It's been very good.

And there is the cooperation between federal level, the state the and locals. That has been seamless cooperation, unlike 25 years ago, in Hurricane Andrew, when you did not have that cooperation, unlike even Katrina, when you didn't have the cooperation and the communication between the Louisiana National Guard and the U.S. military. That has been taken care of now.

DICKERSON: So, in that cooperation in preparation, what then should we look forward in the aftermath, so that the storm will go through some areas?

What then are next steps in terms of coordinated response to make sure people who stayed behind are OK?

NELSON: That's when FEMA is in assisting the local governments and all the volunteers.

That's the hard, hard slog in the aftermath of the storm. And given the fact that this is now moving so slowly, and it's virtually covered up the whole state, it's going to be a massive effort, not only at cleanup, but assisting people for the long term.

DICKERSON: Now, from your position in Washington as a senator, what is in your mind in terms of the response, in terms -- obviously there's money, but in terms of responding and helping in the aftermath of this storm?

NELSON: Well, remember, FEMA would have run out of money last Friday.

And that's why I flew back from Miami to Washington to vote on that bill just in the nick of time, $15 billion, half of it to FEMA, half of it to local governments. But that's going to run out in a few weeks. So, we're going to be back doing a special emergency appropriations in the middle of October.

DICKERSON: And, finally, quickly, Senator, you were an official in Florida who has dealt with these before in terms of insurance and that angle.

Tell us your expectations of how this is going to affect homeowners throughout the state in the aftermath of this storm?

NELSON: Now there is a big hurricane catastrophe fund. It's a re-insurance fund. It's got billions of dollars of reserves.

People should be well-off because the insurance companies won't be going bust, like they did in Hurricane Andrew.

DICKERSON: All right, Senator Nelson, we appreciate it. Thank you so much.

And we will be back in a moment with a look at the damage Irma has caused outside the United States.


DICKERSON: Irma is only just now hitting the United States, but the damage she's already left behind is massive.

The island of Barbuda was decimated, according to the Red Cross, considered uninhabitable, with 100 percent of the infrastructure gone. Some parts of Saint Martin saw more than 70 percent of homes damaged or in ruin. And Cuba was battered Saturday, leaving homes destroyed and massive flooding on its northern coast.

Our BBC partner Will Grant filed this report from Havana.

WILL GRANT, BBC REPORTER: Well, after several days of waiting and watching, Cubans finally felt the full force of Hurricane Irma as she hit the island as a Category 5 storm, one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit Cuba since the 1930s.

Of course, she brought with her vast amount of rains, storm surges that partially submerged whole villages, and of course the high winds that you can see at the moment that ripped roofs entire communities.

Homes all over these islands are currently without electricity. It's an extremely difficult time for Cubans across the island, but along the northern coast, it's going to take some time for them to recover.

This is Will Grant for the BBC for FACE THE NATION.

DICKERSON: And we will be back in a moment.


DICKERSON: Here's another look at the expected track of Hurricane Irma, which is making its way to mainland Florida.

That's it for us today at FACE THE NATION, but please stay tuned for a CBS News special report coming up next, as our coverage of Hurricane Irma continues.undefinedundefined

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