Former homeland security adviser, Coast Guard admiral talk hurricane response

Emergency responders carry out rescues as Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolinas.
25:02 | 09/14/18

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Transcript for Former homeland security adviser, Coast Guard admiral talk hurricane response
Hurricane Florence and read from you what our meteorologist just sent out ABC news and hurricane Florence is wobbling slowly south westward. Near the coast of North Carolina but hovering on the coast of North Carolina right now. The eye of the hurricane seems to be following the shoreline so it's closely covering the story see it here on the radar but the impacts are being felt in Lynn. As well from that storms are the winds now consistently. 85 miles per hour which makes this at category one storm. However. We see that we its. See torrential rains in many areas that continue to pile up and the rain and a storm surge are really a key concern at this storm inches. That very slowly goes about six miles per hour making its way towards South Carolina and which you'll eventually. Make landfall there by Saturday morning according to our meteorologist at want to go now to. Tom boxer his former national security advisor. To the top administration and also is now ABC news contributor and Tom we just heard from theme up from the national car Coast Guard from. For many different agencies about what they're planning to do right now describe the kind of resources they get the latest situation like that's. Look it would the first thing that strikes me listening to this is that I'm really comfortable. Says iris still mild jab right now these are the types of briefings that we be hearing off camera as well we'll bit more detail may be off camera. But this is the kind of battle rhythm I'd expect you've got all these plans and all these can a doctor is that we've sent forward. The US seed and implemented so what we just heard was. I think reflective of a really well oiled recovery process right now so. That the State's no locals are determining the requirements. But the feds have the kind of anticipating. It in front can escape ahead of the pot to see where the puck might be the sort of waiting. To get those requirement requests from the state locals and so when I heard seem to be a good match of leadership of expectation. Those estimates and those guesses seemed Albee and I coinciding. Looks like everybody swimming. In the same direction or maybe singing from the same. She music so. That's the first thing that struck me I'd be comfortable and are in the White House right now that all the appropriate actions have been. Taking place had been taken. Up until this point I'd be a little bit worried though. That people are kinda turn off their TVs and stand Palin maybe this thing petered out that's not the case again a lot of flooding and they hear that over and over again but. At this point clear concise messaging for the people that. Need to make decisions for themselves a really useful messaging tools. And so while a lot of viewers may be in California might turn this off and say okay this might not been as bad or devastating car accident that. You know that that morbid kind of thing that makes us look at bad catastrophes. What's important is that this coverage continues and that people responding it is they focus. I'm comfortable where we are all those assets being deployed. And this coverage is going to continue we promise you that Tom Lee you know it's part that clear concise message you've heard it air from the FEMA. Officials saying. Not only is this not over but it is just beginning as we start to seat at the end of this storm continue wraparound. The North Carolina area and then inched its way. Towards South Carolina Tom I have to ask you this the government has been criticized the federal government for its response as in the past few. Natural disasters. What we talk about hurricane Maria we talk of course about Hurricane Katrina many years ago. How can the government makes sure to rectify that and streamline the process so that people can get help me app that's. Now I'm glad I'm so glad you asked that question gala at background credibility on this in fact that was one of the few authors that wrote the Katrina after action lessons learned report made all those recommendations really hard reforms. And one of the problems I'm seeing is that real shame because it's become awfully hot political football. Is that people are playing the blame game but the problem with that is that they're missed diagnosing some of the problems so you can't. Fix it if you don't know what's broken. So right now there's a temptation to say that the response was insufficient Puerto Rico after Maria for instance I don't believe that's accurate. Which should be doing is looking at the conditions and Puerto Rico before the storm and how we can. Prevent such a really bad confluence of of poverty and neglected. And you know infrastructure. Power grid so forth but also they're criticizing the recovery. And we haven't had a conversation among ourselves among policy makers with responsibility for paying for these things. Over what we expect a quick it's possible to do things are quickly as possible to do certain things. From my perspective it's been a herculean task from others perspective they say it's not good enough I think that we need to spend a little bit time talking about mitigation and recovery. And and stop all of that kind of finger pointing over response which I think was not only a real success. But it was the result of the last 1520 years of my work and mr. long's work and a lot of people in fact the secretary Nielsen. A deserves a lot of credit for the work she did. And helping prepare the federal government to be in the really good position it's in right now. To your viewers watching and seeing textbook emergency management along the Carolina coast right now. Our our viewing the the product they're there the fruit of all the work that's going into the to the effort of improving federal response capabilities. So let's see if we can diagnose the problem the right ways that we can find the right solution. It is certainly an sensitive topic to talk about hurricane Maria and for the purposes of our viewers who are watching today and needing direct information about this current situation will will stick to that but. Of course that that conversation needs to be had a lot of debate about that responsive as you mentioned and alluded to you. Yeah but you know what area of the debate is really not debatable you know I'll tell you maybe I'm make a little news here for you. I'm not sure the president's tweet was was it was sympathetic enough for empathetic enough with respect the weary colossal life in and any loss like this terrible and I don't need to establish my vote a few days with the people of Puerto Rico they know how much I care for them love them how much Thomas bent. Helping Marshal federal resources to help them the governor eyes do an incredible job. But with that credibility let me tell you that that report on the death. And loss that morbidity estimates that came out of that George Washington report that cannot be used by responsible policy makers that is a bad report. We can we can talk about it we can figure out at different methodology in the future. But those estimates and that indirect conclusion is really really bad dangerous path resting it and the actual causality of death is important. And we need to figured out so that we can address the right problem unless they ended the feds can improve them I'm not saying the Puerto Rico can improve them both are necessary. But I think that that report has led to people concluding that there's actual science behind this number. And indeed they need to read it I mean the title itself is an estimate of increased morbidity. It's it's a really difficult thing for people decided they haven't read. Tom let's leave that lets the plea to study its side I think a lot of people were angered by the optics at least at the very least if we're gonna put the study side. The optics of the president tweeting about hurricane Maria. And disputing that report what we have very much in front of us the hurricane we're dealing with. You know millions of people are are now in the end and it bearing the brunt of this let's talk a little bit about. This specific storm about Florence what stands out to you as far as the dangers of this storm vs the ones that you've had to formulate a response to past. Yen I think that's right although the problem is the very question itself was raised not by the president but by the media by saying. Is that every rate for Florence and remember this is the government has been criticized for their past responses to that that was that the context of him responding to them. And it's unfortunate I think how that blame being gets us also sensitive but. I think the context for Florence because you are correct people licking looking today Euro like average when an out but they should do I think a couple of things strike me. First they need to go slow. If you are already out of harm's way in your in the right place whether it's a shelter are staying with with friends are in a hotel somewhere. You're gonna have to stay there may be longer than you expected there was some initial I think overconfidence about well we'll be back in and reopen for business by Sunday at the thing. People are gonna have to take it slower adjust their expectations. And like you heard a minister along stake a few moments ago if you stayed. You need to stay inside and away from your windows and ride this out because although it's a flooding event. There are strong winds right now and over 45 miles an hour they're not gonna send first responders out. To get you they'd make themselves potential victims by doing so so this is Canada hunkered down away right now. The next couple of days in the next couple weeks are gonna bring some really difficult frustrating. Times people are gonna have to. Slowly get back into their homes engage in water and flood remediation. Mold remediation. And look after their health. There has a look out for contractors and scams and against the file insurance paperwork in and find. That they're that their belongings might have been damaged or lost and so. This is gonna have to require some people being patient getting some rest and maintaining and a hydration and food and all those things that's not really basics that we don't have. The indirect loss of life that companies these storms people end up becoming stressed. They they engage in activities that they're not physically capable or ready to engage in an end up having heart attacks are falling off of roofs and and dying from things that can be avoided and so the response might be adequate. But aftermath of an event like this is unavoidably complicated and messy. For right now I'm like you what we see but I want people understand that they have responsibility dent Kennedy patient. That's not just on the government individuals to keep themselves and other safe. Thank you so much time boxer but he and that you. Of the response that this kind of natural disaster acquired we hope you'll stick around for. For just a little while so he continued it's at tapping your resource that near your insight for now wanna go to Melissa grip and our meteorologists is weather center. Let's say you've been following this. Tirelessly and let's say for the last several days several hours it's factually. At this is made landfall any developments that have been particularly surprising to you at this point. Really surprising yet even the models changing over the past couple days and what model about two days ago the European model that showed this it's this similar situation. Of the height just kind of writing down the coastline from just north of Wilmington, North Carolina. All down towards Myrtle Beach I'm actually seen Matt coming to fruition right now in and that's not what we hoped for because that is what is going to cause this storm to bring. A prolonged extended period its height of the storm surge. The strong hurricane force winds and the heavy rain and now the winds are down to 85 miles per hour that's the mean I want to make sure people know that averaging fifteen and got this gaining 85 miles per hour on the guts are still going well up that. 99 mile per hour gusts are still. He reported yet he's flash flood warnings widespread flash flood emergency is in fact. We did report that thirty inches of rain possible in Atlantic beach North Carolina I do want to mention. I think contact with the National Weather Service the National Hurricane Center they are saying that some of these rain reports are preliminary. Because it is nearly impossible to get correct observations when you had 99 mile per hour wind gusts blowing at the same time. So they will confirm these numbers once the storm is over. But regardless particular ready seeing over a foot of rain in parts of these areas flash flood watches are in fact across the region and still that rain forecast is calling for 1020. Even forty inches of rain that we. It is truly historic well we're gonna continue to check in with you with much as we can for the latest on the storm track and the impact it is having. I want that out to Victor okay and our correspondent here is it Jacksonville, North Carolina and one of the best illustrations of what this storm can do is seeing our correspondents out there and field. And Arial we just cannot catch a break from hurricane Floyd's the rains and the winds of it consisting overnight and through the morning those wind gusts. I think some eighty mile per hour we've actually seen some of these trees right here behind me. They've come down throughout the course of the morning as well. We've checked in with emergency officials they tell us that a lot of the streets are flooded there are downed power lines and that's making the job very difficult. For those first responders there's major structural damage to halt homes in this this is. There to rescue some seventy people including an infant and pats they were stuck inside of a hotel that sustain some serious damage guests were reporting. Basketball sized holes in some of their rooms they decided they needed to get those guests out and get them to safety and thankfully they were able to do so. Nobody was injured there. As repealing another one of those wind gusts combined hit us right now so we are it Jacksonville about forty miles inland the major concern here. Is flooding. Could be seeing an unprecedented amount of rainfall right around three feet the last on this area saw anything quite like that. Was 1999. We're talking about a Hurricane Floyd it dropped a lot of rain. Damaging hundreds of homes costing a lot of money now back down there towards the coast we've spent some time there as well the huge concern for them. Is that storm Serbs that. Seawater pushing it blend well over there the latest reports show. Topping six feet of storm surge and here's the thing this storm is moving so slowly right now it could be like this for the rest of the day aerial. At this creeping at six miles per hour and we've been saying this all morning and for those of you just joining as it making counter intuitive that category one storm. That is slow moving it sounds like it is reducing the stress level. But in fact it's actually making it more and more dangerous as you heard from Melissa Griffin 85 mile per hour wind got that is the sustained. When gusts with this storm and we've seen wind gusts up to 105. Miles per hour in Wilmington where David Muir robot are standing right now some of our other crews are stationed there and they're feeling the impacts. Of that I spoke just moments ago with governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina let's listen that. Fortunate now to be joined by the governor of North Carolina Roy Cooper. Mr. Cooper thank you so much for joining us on a busy busy date for U state of emergency declared in your state. At this moment what are your foremost can. It. The safety of north Carolinians so far we have had storm related deaths. But we note that over a hundred people have had to be rescued in New Bern, North Carolina people had to be rescued in Jacksonville, North Carolina. And these these floodwaters continue to rise. We know that people will need to be rescued were asking people to stay in your homes get up to higher. Four's. I think we did a pretty good job telling people the importance of evacuations. That we had from three quarters of a million to a million people. Move westward and northward getting out of the storm but we're concerned about patient. Concerned about safety. But it is time to move from preparation to determination. And to execute our plan that we've been working on. And I believe that we are ready to do that. Florence is an uninvited route doesn't want to leave this is slow moving storm. We're gonna see historic range where in some places it's going to be measured in feet instead of inches. And so we're telling people to be careful. Help wall com do you. You can let us know where you war. And our people on the ground are continuing to work. Across the state of North Carolina to nature people Thursday. And you mentioned there that at least a hundred people have had to be rescued from the New Bern area are you satisfied with the number of people that have taken our heated the warnings that you made it even several days ago to leave the areas. Most impacted as of now. Well we would have rather everybody leave so that we wouldn't be faced with these situations. But we do know that waters are going to continue to rise in different parts of North Carolina and that this is long from over. The storm is just the eye of the storm has just entered into our state that we know because of the slow moving nature of this storm. The storm surge meeting these rivers actors and very little place for the discharge from from the river. So we're seeing them overflowed their banks. You add to that the rainfall that we're getting. We know that inland we're gonna have some significant flooding. And during this past week local officials have been working with residents particularly in low lying areas. We've been able to do flood mapping. Looking at what has happened with past hurricanes. And a lot of people already have been moved to higher ground in some of the areas that week's black expect applaud. Around our rivers but I'm sure there are other places where people are hanging on in and staying. Week during the storm we don't want them to try to get out nail because it's very dangerous to travel out there. We want them to hunker down where they are. Take care of themselves if they need rescuing their a lot of great teams out there local state federal. We've got teams from nineteen states. Who have come to help us here in North Carolina. I think we are ready to do that. How we've got about 20000 people in a 156 shelters across our state a lot of people are staying with family friends and in hotels. We're grateful for the people who did evacuate and I will tell the people of North Carolina we are a hardy bunch we are resilient. We can get through this and we're gonna work hard to make sure that people have the resources they need to get through the store. And of course the witching the best for the citizens the residents there in north and South Carolina as the storm makes its way and hovers over North Carolina on track to go towards South Carolina. In the next couple days we want to go now to admiral Karl silk suit joining us from the US Coast Guard and admiral I know this is that very busy day freeze we appreciate your time today. What types of activities are you are people undertaking as we speak. Well good morning. Are close calls stern command we've got our folks position here to come and in the wake of the storm. As you know resources to the north coming in the you know our way from as New Jersey helicopters we have heard helicopters and it was the city that angered right now waiting for you know immediate response called command which courtesy some of the rescues happening in locations like New -- has been happened by a local ground forces here so again we have not dispatched any immediate Coast Guard response we've got thirty plus shallow water what part of teams. Or our vessels spread across a couple teens who gets on there in North Carolina. To the west of there is right now are machine on the television so. We are postured to come in about 15100 Coast Guard men and women writ large better coalescing around the area right now awaiting organ of the everywhere Raines who's decided to understand really where. Where the demand if any exist work to rescue site capabilities from the Coast Guard. An admiral what is your chief concern as of now I know you mentioned the treacherous conditions are preventing you from even going into some of these areas as of now. But maybe my big concern is this is very much you know they are you a heavy rain inundation type event and our workers. And in any indications you know Brock a forecast from district talked about Peter Crane I think we're started to see that happening you're gonna have catastrophic flooding you're gonna have persistent flooding wall into the inland waterways of the state. And hopefully the citizens of North Carolina have heeded the warnings have gotten the high ground. But I suspect there will be some folks on what I would say it's folks that are there are holed up that did not evacuate need to stay in their properties there's style. Our wires are part waters where there are largely using moving waters and that those are very treacherous conditions so folks need to try to stay dialed into. The local emergency managers data Kurdish mayors that he'd all of devices and the united states Coast Guard will be coming in here in the aftermath in the wake of the storm where we can Europe get conditions do that to assess the area in support beam us support state governors. So what and how does this storm compare to other storm that you dealt with in the past is this kind of near. Some of the experience that your. I would say every storm is unique I think we're starting to see some some parallels here that you'd always. A storm that was at one point a large storm approaching it happened on US it is downsize a little bit. But it took 200 mile radius 400 miles and tropical storm winds about eighty mile radius to 160 miles across hurricane winds moving very slowly just get a very much PA water beds like. Like Harvey was overlook them. Houston last year are deducted. In the bit about a two day period 52 inches or rain that was equivalent to the annual rainfall. Right there in downtown Houston we're gonna huge feet of rain here high water sort folks are ready for that. Call me in movie Ritter's no two storms are like that this is very much a waterbed. I think historically we've found that the flooding and high water tends to be more devastating and dangerous to to people then and then to win for the best of both dangerous this one here it is going to be really about. The water aspects and making sure people are safe. And admiral as you're speaking us we're watching the time lapse video everywhere New Bern and seeing the waters just completely rise. In a matter of moments and we thought cars submerged you mentioned and it hurt you Harvey 52. Inches of rain it we're expecting according to our meteorologist up to forty inches of rain but this storm so. People shouldn't be fooled by the fact that this is a category one storm they shouldn't let their guard out. I figure actually corrected what this loses a hurricane it's gonna talk incredible multiple water you know with the title. Surges coincide with the you know the rain here you gotta have some very. Significant surge in awkwardly to twelve he deserves that you know depending on how are more of the immediate landfall the storm but this is a high water. Would I can't courtside danger and and folks need to take it seriously they should state. Stay in their residences that they hold in place if there outside the evacuation editors need to be patient until they get clear signals come back this is going to be pursued super next couple days. As this storm is projected to continue to track slowly and nachos and continue to saturate our saturated. Areas and people just gonna be Haitians work. I know that you admiral have a breadth of experience with these types of natural disasters do you feel like the federal government. Need to be prepared in this and spends. I would say that the federal government actually compared FEMA. Today is the lead federal agency we are very much coming in behind or administrator law and his Jeanne we've got the French port of civil authorities DOD supporting the effort they've got. Rover going capabilities helicopters in the area people they've got ships offshore like as a coach are coming behind us. The storm we are very much partnered would liaison spoke being brought people closer people inched CEO's these merchant operations that are so there's a great. Cross colonization of up intellectual capability and skills and then in capacity and skills and in and a equipment. And I were ready to respond to right now we're sort of still in the thick of the storm as it moves into the and when areas of North Carolina so the short answer yes we're actually ready at the federal level. To respond to this and murdered as the team's poor. Emergency management is local state federal working together here to protect the citizens of our nation. I have to ask you this before I let you go at this may sound like a logistical question but as we see the power outages now numbering almost 500000. Without power at this point in North Carolina how difficult is it as far as the communication goes between your people that will eventually be on the ground and the residents there who are desperately need help. They did create challenges you know we we operate in different frequency bands from our helicopters and radios types. We should deal communicated to the space I think you know power outages definitely great challenges billion owners planning windows as daylight and in doing rescue and bite them vs day and inject different different complexities quote. I think we have the capabilities. To work in that environment we expect power outages in these got a situation so will be ready to go. But that definitely poses challenge I think when there's power lines down people need to be very aware that you don't know that's alive or dollar wire and and that's a real seat he public state he received boasting be very careful about that. Well you're certainly doing a public service and we appreciate your efforts and also you sharing that of your time and angered that knowledge with us today admiral croft Schultz of the US Coast Guard good luck to you and all of the all of your people out there.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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