CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript: Sen. Bill Nelson Interviewed


Date: Oct. 12, 2018


SCIUTTO: Five Hurricane Michael related deaths are being reported this morning in Virginia. That brings the death toll from the storm so far to 11. And although the storm may be over, the days and weeks of misery far from over, especially in those coastal cities that were left devastated.

Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, he is one of them in Panama City, Florida, and he joins us now on the telephone. Senator Nelson, thank you for taking the time. I know you've got a lot on your plate. As senator, you have seen a lot of hurricanes come through Florida. Tell us what you're seeing there now and how this compares.

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA (via telephone): I'm in a location just outside of downtown. I'm looking at live oak trees that are nothing but sticks. I have seen pine forests that are nothing but snapped in two, pine trunks, debris everywhere. Obviously, this is bad, but this, what I'm looking at, these bare oak trees right now, is on the other side of the worst side of the storm, which was to the east, which I'll be going to later today. The place called Mexico Beach. They got the full brunt of the water and the wind without any barrier island out in front of it protecting it.

SCIUTTO: Yes, we're showing some pictures of Mexico Beach now as we're speaking to you. It really does look like wiped off the map. Is any help getting to those coastal communities right now?

NELSON: There are teams that had to fly in by helicopter in the Mexico Beach because the road, the one road, U.S. 98 was impassable. I think they're getting that open now, so that other than helicopters, people are there. And they are doing the search and rescue stage to try to find people who hunkered down. You all are running interviews, as a matter of fact, today of people that stayed in and survived. But unfortunately, they're starting to find people that did not survive.

SCIUTTO: They are already doing that now, huh?

[10:45:00] NELSON: Yes. And what you can imagine in the future, we're going to one of the two main hospitals here. There was just ultimate pandemonium as people were showing up at the hospital. And they can't accommodate everybody, and then now, trying to evacuate. So I just talked to the number two at HHS in Washington, the deputy secretary. He says he has a team of 200 people that are some place as far away as Jacksonville and mobile, but they've got an emergency team that are in at these two hospitals trying to treat the people as they are evacuating. Because the hospitals aren't going to be able to stay open for any appreciable time.

SCIUTTO: Goodness. What does the state of Florida need now most and most quickly? In the wakes of these, you'll always hear, state of emergency declared. Et cetera, but I imagine folks there on the ground, they need help today.

NELSON: Indeed. Well, most of the community, the main thing is to get cell service and to get electricity. But I can tell you with all these downed power lines, that's going to be some time coming. Now, hopefully cell service, I'm speaking to you from one provider that never went down. The other main provider did go down and is still down. But once you get past that, it's going to be a lot of supplies, food and water, and in many cases, shelter.

People are going to have to evacuate from this immediate area and find temporary housing outside of the immediate impacted area because it's just not going to be habitable. Hopefully, as electricity is restored, people are going to be able to clean up enough so they can stay in their own homes. We've got thousands of blue tarps coming in the one blessing is the weather is beautiful because the storm blew through so fast, so you don't have what is typical after a hurricane, hot, humid, and rainy weather. So as long as we can get blue tarps in, people are going to be able to save their homes by getting the tarp on so when the rains do come, that is what is unusual from a typical Florida hurricane.

SCIUTTO: Well, listen and it's often the irony, right? You have several hours of hell and then there are these hours of peace afterwards. Senator Nelson, we wish you, we wish those communities, we wish your state the best. We know it's going to be a tough few weeks.

NELSON: Thank you.