This is a rush transcript from "The Story," September 13, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
MARTHA MACCALLUM, HOST: So, breaking right now, we are about to get the new official update on the very latest track just moments away. Florence is churning about 90 miles off of the coast as a Category 2 right now, packing a punch that will bring storm surges of up to 11 feet. Torrential rainfall expected up to four feet in some areas. Already 80,000 homes are out of power.
We now have a look at the live update just seconds away before we get to our reporters. Let's listen in.
EDWARD RAPPAPORT, ACTING DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Good evening. This is the 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time update on Hurricane Florence. Florence is located less than100 miles away from the coast of North Carolina. That's the central location but you can see that there are a lot of bands of rain, some very heavy that spread across the coast during the afternoon and evening today.
Some of those bands have had hurricane force winds at least in gust come across the shoreline. Have at least a couple observations of that. One including at Cedar Island here had a gust of 85 miles per hour.
And those winds as they blow onshore are pushing the water there as well. As we talked about the last several days, we're expecting a storm surge that could reach as much as 7-11 feet in this area. Somewhat lower to the north and south but the entire coast of North Carolina and much of South Carolina is at risk for life-threatening storm surge.
At present we do have those storm surge occurring. We talked about those winds coming up to at least 85 miles per hour in gusts. Here's a plot of graph from a tie gauge that was located very close to that observation of a strong wind.
You can see the water has already risen 5-1/2 feet there. That's what we've been a concerned about for the past several days is that water rise so that's a depth again that's gone up more than five feet and we expect that will continue to rise if not only there, but in other places along the coast.
We also have a risk for excessive rainfall. As we've been talking about for some time now, the potential for 6-10 inches of rain over much of the Carolinas and somewhat lower amounts to the north with 10 to locally 20, and even a few isolated spots of 40 inches down near where the center is slowing down.
So, again we have a risk for destructive winds along the coast, 100 mile per hour winds, sustained gusts as high as 120 miles per hour. And then, the life-threatening storm surge as well at the coast and flooding from the inland rain. At the National Hurricane Center, I'm Ed Rappaport.
MACCALLUM: Our thanks to Ed Rappaport. Let's go now to our reporters who are getting a direct hit from Florence at this hour. Leland Vittert is live in Morehead City, North Carolina. Which is just north of Wilmington.
Leland, we've been watching you throughout the day, it looks like it is definitely picking up an intensity where you are.
LELAND VITTERT, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: It's certainly is, Martha. We were one of those people who are getting those hurricane or near hurricane strength gusts and it's picked up from there.
At this point, it's pretty hard to stand, you would have something to brace yourself against if you're outside, and certainly, if you turn your face to go into the wind, it gets pretty painful, and it's now whipping across here.
The island's Atlantic Beach is beginning to get flooded. It's difficult to get across the bridge, very difficult for any kind of moving. You can see behind me a lot of the shingles now starting to rip off. The roofs as we drove through the town, there was a number of signs blowing around.
Power is out not only on the island but also back here on the mainland, as well as we're getting another one of these gusts coming in. The wind obviously that we're standing at, it is sort of the impressive visual. But as you can see the torrential rain coming down. That is going to combine with this storm surge for what is potentially really a catastrophic storm not just for the barrier islands but for all of us, inland.
The barrier islands typically would take the brunt of any kind of hurricane coming in. But because of the way this storm is shaping, the coves and the inlets are now just getting shredded and pushed by these winds and the water is coming in.
So, the barrier islands are acting as a funnel if you will most of the projections show that by certainly tomorrow night if not earlier where I'm standing will be underwater, that means that the docks that are just out to my right are going to be lifted up, pushed into here. Potentially, cars floating away, as well through the streets of this city and so many more in North Carolina. Martha.
MACCALLUM: All right, Leland. The best of luck to you out there. Take care as that's -- that starts flying around, it can get very dangerous. Leland Vittert in Morehead City, North Carolina where it is clearly experiencing some of the strongest bands.
Let's go now to Fox Business Network's Jeff Flock, who joins us live in Carolina Beach, North Carolina. Another area that is really feeling the brunt of Florence. Jeff, good evening to you.
JEFF FLOCK, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are in some ways, Martha. But in some ways, we're not. I mean, this -- although, we're getting pelted by rain and wind at this point, we are still hours away from the center of circulation and the worst of the conditions.
And I think the headline here is that we originally thought we were going to get those worst conditions tonight, overnight. Now, it's been pushed back to 2:00 p.m. tomorrow. The length of time this storm is out here as perhaps you see behind me, a very angry Atlantic Ocean being riled up and being pushed toward the shore.
For that to be happening for the next 18 hours or so, you can imagine the kind of surge and the kind of push we're going to get here if anyone was letting their guard down because they heard, wow, it was a Cat 4. Catastrophic storm now it's a Cat 2. And maybe some of the storm surge predictions are being pulled back a little bit. No one should let their guard down anywhere along the coast. Martha.
MACCALLUM: All right. Jeff, thank you very much. Jeff Flock out there in Carolina Beach for us in North Carolina. And as you can see, the wind, the rain, very real threats over the last several hours as this storm has broken down a little bit on the eyewall and slowed down.
Its path is still steady as it marches toward the coast is just moving more slowly than it was before. Storm chaser Ben McMillan is in the thick of it tonight for us in North Topsail Beach, North Carolina. Ben, tell us what you're experiencing.
BEN MCMILLAN, PROFESSIONAL STORM CHASER (via Skype): Yes, Martha. Good evening from the North Carolina coast. You are looking at some very angry seas were not actually give you a little bit of a vehicle tour of how these neighborhoods are faring thus far.
We were involved right now to that sea, that ocean is not quite making it into these residential areas where we're at. But it's going to be expected to come into these areas soon. You can see that there is some flooding as we pull out here that has started to come into the neighborhoods.
But nothing like the 10 feet of possible storm surge that we're expecting to see as we approach the high tide mark closer to midnight.
MACCALLUM: Yes, you know, you look at these houses, and you just wonder what lies ahead for them. We have all seen and experienced some of what these storms can do. And Ben, as you know better than anybody, you know, the nature of these is nature.
And you know, the areas that prepare for it sometimes aren't the areas that the end up getting the hardest hit. It's just so hard to anticipate at this point because it really just has to -- you know, unfold it in the way that it will.
MCMILLAN: Exactly. It's kind of like nature reclaiming some of its old land. This is an area that's normally a residential street and there's just piles and piles of sand that's been washed in as waters that were pushed in earlier today on the first high tide. So, that's probably just an indication of those high-water levels were expected to see tonight, well, we could see.
MACCALLUM: You know, we know that there are 4,000 federal employees that have been mobilized to help in this situation. You've got 1,500 flights all up and down the coast that have been canceled all the way through Saturday. So, a lot of people's lives are just literally on hold as they wait for this storm to hit and see what the impact on them, their homes and their livelihood is.
MCMILLAN: Yes, a tremendous amount of people coming into the reason to help but unfortunately, they can't really do much while the storm is occurring. They just kind of have to wait there helplessly and wait for the aftermath and to see what kind of response is needed.
MACCALLUM: Ben, thank you so much. We'll be watching your coverage throughout the night. Obviously, as Ben says there comes a point in these things where you just hunker down and you wait. And then, you wait until morning to see what the impact is in some of these situations. But we wish for the best for everybody as we keep a full eye on this.
So, we are also monitoring breaking news at this hour. In Massachusetts, where more than 39 homes are on fire after several gas explosions in different areas in several towns have gone up. And they say, they expect these numbers of homes that are exploding to rise over the coming hours.
So, we're going to -- we're going to get an update we're going to figure out what's going on in these several towns in Massachusetts.
Also, an 11th-hour bombshell from a top Senate Democrat couldn't derail the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, R-IOWA, SENATE BUDGET COMMITTEE: All I know is what I read, and I wouldn't make any judgment of it until I had more information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Never dull moment. A top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee dropping a bombshell exactly one week before the committee is set to vote on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Dianne Feinstein, confirming that she sends sensitive information involving Kavanaugh to federal investigators. She won't say what the information is. The timing is suspicious, that the White House where they are calling this "an 11th-hour delay tactic."
It comes as Feinstein and many in her party under fire for a smear tactic that even Kavanaugh's critics in the media are calling "troubling". Trace Gallagher lays it all out for us from our West Coast Newsroom with the story. The back story on this tonight. Hi, Trace.
TRACE GALLAGHER, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Martha. Senator Feinstein released a statement saying the reason she won't talk about the information she passed onto federal investigators is because, quoting, "That individual strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision."
The New York Times is reporting the matter involves possible sexual misconduct between Kavanaugh and a female when the judge was in high school.
Senator Feinstein learned about claimed earlier this summer and is just now sending it to investigators. The FBI says it will be included in the information in Kavanaugh's background file, unclear if they'll take further action. John Cornyn, the number-two Republican in the Senate and member of the Judiciary Committee is baffled, saying, "Let me get this straight. This is a statement about a secret letter regarding a secret matter, and an unidentified person, right?"
Despite the White House and others calling this a delay tactic, Judiciary Committee chair Chuck Grassley, says the confirmation vote will go forward as scheduled. This all comes as Senator Feinstein and other top Democrats have been criticized for propagating a phony talking point about Judge Kavanaugh.
During his confirmation hearing, the judge was asked about a case he ruled on involving a pro-life group. After Kavanagh answered, Democrats, criticized him for his use of the phrase abortion-inducing drugs. California Democratic Senator Kamala Harris even tweeted this out of context video. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRETT KAVANAUGH, NOMINEE, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Filling out the forum would make them complicit in the provision of the abortion-inducing drugs that they were as a religious matter objected to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GALLAGHER: She started with filling out the form but Senator Harris cut out the words they said making it appear as if Judge Kavanaugh was saying abortion-inducing drugs when in fact he was citing words used by the pro- life group. The Washington Post gave Harris four Pinocchios. But PolitiFact initially agreed with Senator Harris. Then later the fact-check publication admitted that it "repeated uncritically a democratic talking point." After doing its homework, PolitiFact finally called Harris's allegation false and yet yesterday Hillary Clinton tweeted out the very same Democratic talking point about Judge Kavanaugh that has been debunked and re-debunked. Martha?
MACCALLUM: Remarkable. Thank you very much, Trace. So here now Guy Benson host of Benson and Harf, Political Editor at Townhall.com and a Fox News Contributor and Jon Summers former Communications Director for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and now a Democratic strategist. So as John Cornyn said, you know, let's get this straight. So, there is this letter that surfaces you know, literally at the 11th hour, the vote is now scheduled for September 20th on judge Kavanaugh, the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have had hours and hours to question, to bring up things that were on their minds.
This letter according to these reports was in the hands of Senator Feinstein since July according to some of these reports and she didn't mention it, didn't ask him about it at the hearing. So, you know, John, let me ask you. You know, how do -- how does this ring for you this whole story?
JON SUMMERS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I don't think there's any denying that this is unusual. All I can say is I've worked with Senator Feinstein before. I think she's one of those members who does her best to represent her district and do hurt she takes her job very seriously and I think tries to do the very best she can with that job. So you know, she's not one of those that's typically bombastic or pull stunts so I hope that's not the case in this one. But you know, it's hard to disagree with the fact that it is unusual. So it'll be interesting to see you know, what that letter actually contains and why she thought it was important enough to share with the FBI.
MACCALLUM: Guy, what do you see happening here?
GUY BENSON, FOX NEWS CHANNEL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I smell something and it wreaks, Martha. I mean you look at the timing of this, after the confirmation hearings, Senator Feinstein reportedly had this information for almost two months and only now does she send it over to the FBI who by the way according to Washington Post today are not planning on launching an investigation into this matter whatever it is because it's just all innuendo and anonymous speculation at this point and it just happens to leak out the existence of this letter that has something maybe to do with sexual misconduct, whatever that might mean in the 1980s when Judge Kavanaugh was in high school. Just the timing of it, the surrounding facts of this case to me it spells out a desperate last-minute attempt to derail a nomination that the Democrats have been unable to derail on the merits.
MACCALLUM: You know, it's rare that we hear from Supreme Court justices, but you know with regard to what some saw as a lot of theatrics that played out during these hearings, Clarence Thomas spoke out about Cory Booker, Senator Cory Booker from New Jersey with this comment about his Spartacus moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLARENCE THOMAS, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES: People who actually ask the questions at confirmation hearings instead of Spartacus we use -- as long as we're looking at our interests or scoring points or looking cute or being on T.V. If you can't debate hard issues, honestly, with honor, with integrity, how do we keep a civil society?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: That's a pretty good question. And Ruth Bader Ginsberg also weighed in. Let's play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUTH BADER GINSBURG, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES: Think of Justice Scalia who is certainly a known character. The vote was unanimous. That's the way it should be instead of what it's become which is a highly partisan show.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Jon, what's your reaction to that?
SUMMERS: Well, you know, I actually agree with both of them. I agree with what Justice Thomas said and I actually think he makes a good argument when we're talking about things like you know, when we're only looking out for our own interests which is one of the things we're seeing from the Republican side by refusing the Democrats the opportunity to review all of the documents from a period that he said was his formative years. I think that matters and so I think hiding those documents, classifying them as committee confidential, whatever that means is actually looking out for those interests, their own interest, not the interests of the American people and actually flies in the face of what Justice Thomas said. And I also hope we offer some of that advice to President Trump.
BENSON: Well, I think that Senator Booker be-clowned himself the other night with his Spartacus moment. I guess it was in the morning that he said that. But Trace Gallagher's report I think homed in on the worst performance which was from Senator Kamala Harris who lied about Judge Kavanaugh, who lied about what he said, took it out of context and then the entire left and some of the media ran with it. And as Trace said, two fact-checks debunked it completely and then Hillary Clinton rolls in and repeats the debunked smear.
The Democrats are obsessed with all these documents that were not written by Judge Kavanaugh from the Bush Administration. They seemed much less interested in accurately talking about her asking about his time on the federal bench for 12 years. That tells you everything.
SUMMERS: I actually think she didn't need to clip that video. I think she should have played it in its entirety because his intent was still there, by siding and you know, by citing this organization and their feelings about contraceptive -- contraception as abortion-inducing medication. He is agreeing with them. He just didn't --
BENSON: No, he was summarizing their point. He was summarizing their point.
SUMMERS: One that he agreed with.
MACCALLUM: It got four Pinocchios in the evaluation and PolitiFact had to recall it so I think that you know, makes it fairly clear in terms of how accurate it was. Thank you, guys. Good to see both of you tonight. Thanks a lot.
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