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CNN SUNDAY MORNING

Wildfires Burn Across the West; Tropical Storm Chantal Rages in the Caribbean

Aired August 19, 2001 - 08:03   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Now, two big weather related stories. The relentless fires in the west and a tropical storm in the Caribbean. Our Lilian Kim is in Leavenworth, Washington, where thousands of homes are at risk from the fires. And meteorologist Jill Brown is in the CNN Weather Center monitoring Chantal.

Let's begin with Lilian in the Pacific Northwest where firefighters are hoping for a break in the weather. Hi, Lilian.

LILIAN KIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kyra. This is where firefighters have been resting all night, but soon they'll be heading out for another long day of hard work. At this camp alone, there are more than 800 firefighters. The 6,500 acre fire they are working at containing is only a few miles away from the town of Leavenworth.

The Cascade Mountain village town has been under a thick cloud of smoke for days now. This is just one of eight major fires burning in drought-stricken Washington state. So far, flames have blackened nearly 100,000 acres statewide.

As helicopters fight the fires from the air, dousing any hot spots, thousands of firefighters on the ground continue work around the clock in hopes of containing the blazes.

Dozens of homes have been evacuated. As for other home owners, they're ready to go at a moments notice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERRY KUCH, LEAVENWORTH RESIDENT: ... just throw some pictures in a, you know, in our photo album and that's about it, and everything else we're going to leave behind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KIM: Many of the fires here in Washington state are in very rugged, very steep terrain, so building a containment line around the fires have been very time consuming and difficult. But what should help is a possible change in the weather. Rain is expected in the coming days, which should give firefighters the upper hand at containing these blazes.

Reporting live from Leavenworth, Washington, I'm Lilian Kim. Kyra, back to you.

PHILLIPS: Thanks, Lilian.

Now, let's go to Jill Brown in the CNN Weather Center for the latest on Tropical Storm Chantal -- Jill.

JILL BROWN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Kyra. By the way, we do have some better news when it comes to the fires, some improvement in the weeks to come, so we'll talk about that in a little while.

But this is Chantal, still a tropical storm, but on the verge of becoming a hurricane now. We just got the latest report from the Hurricane Center, the 8:00 update, winds are up to 70 miles per hour. Once they get up to 74 miles per hour, it's a hurricane. So, we're very close here.

It has slowed down considerably since yesterday, moving now west- northwest at 12 miles per hour. We think that should allow it to get better organized and get stronger as well.

It's here in the Central Caribbean at the moment. This is the island of Jamaica. Right now, some gusts of winds, some rain, nothing really serious. They have tropical storm warnings, but all the hurricane watches and warnings for Jamaica have been canceled. From the Cayman Islands over to Belize and Cancoon, we have some advisories in effect, and where this tropical storm, or hurricane, is headed, and it looks like it could even come out to the Golf of Mexico.

So again, this is the old information. Winds have picked up a little bit with this new date. The pressure is the same, it's moving in the same general direction. And the track takes it this weekend still over open water, toward the end of the weekend, the few first days of the work week, close to the Yucatan Peninsula, possibly into the Gulf of Mexico. And again, forecast to become a hurricane very soon. Kyra, back to you.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Jill, we'll keep an eye on things.

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