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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Hurricane Charley: Carolinas Await Charley
Aired August 14, 2004 - 10:58 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: As our coverage of Hurricane Charley continues, we want to take you to the areas where the storm is hitting the hardest at this time.
And if you look at the yellow blob, to use a technical term, as it moves up your television screen, it's moving up the Carolina coast right now towards the northern part of South Carolina, making its way into North Carolina.
North of Charleston, in Georgetown, towards the northern part of the state, along the coast, our David Mattingly is there reporting. We should point out he's coming to us by phone because you take some expensive equipment into a storm and, David, there's no guarantee that it's going to be there for you.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We were talking about how this wasn't the strong hurricane it once was, but you still have to show Charley some respect. Just a short time ago, our satellite truck, which is a large piece of equipment -- it is neither light nor easy to move -- the winds were able to push the truck across a parking lot where it came to rest on a median. This caught everybody by surprise. The truck operator leaped out of the truck because we didn't know where it was going to stop. That large satellite dish on the back apparently acting as a sail. The wind just pushing this truck along.
And the truck did come to rest. The truck operator was OK. And I don't know if you can hear it right now, Daryn, but that - there's an awfully strong gust going on right now. We've managed to take some shelter beside a nearby hotel, but I'm looking at the palm trees and they are just whipping around like they're -- like you would see in a hurricane even though this is tropical storm strength. But this storm still packing quite a punch as it comes in here to South Carolina -- Daryn.
KAGAN: But as you were pointing out, everyone OK.
MATTINGLY: Everyone is fine. Everyone is fine. I want to make that clear, but it was quite a sight. Again, this is a large and heavy piece of equipment, this truck and this wind was pushing it along like it was a child's toy.
KING: Amazing. And as we were pointing out when I talked to you just a few minutes ago, what you're experiencing there in Georgetown, South Carolina, along the coast, nothing compared to what the folks in Florida felt last night. MATTINGLY: Exactly. But again, this storm is something you still need to show some respect to and that's what the state officials here had in mind when they issued the mandatory evacuation for the coastline, that strand of hotels, those high-rise hotels. So there were tens of thousands of tourists who heeded that warning and this is what they're missing.
KING: All right. Well, you're not missing any of it and you stay there. You be safe and put back together the pieces of our CNN satellite truck.
David Mattingly, he is in Georgetown, South Carolina. We'll be back with him as well as with all of our correspondents up and down the East Coast. Meanwhile, let's check in the headlines of what is happening right now in the news. Of course, we begin with Hurricane Charley roaring ashore a second time this morning. This time on the South Carolina coast near Georgetown where we were just talking to our David Mattingly. The storm is now a category one with winds at 85 miles an hour. Thousands of people fled the Carolina coast, which was thick with beach goers this time of year.
Governor Jeb Bush toured hard hit Charlotte County this morning. That is where the damage is being described as catastrophic. Dozens of people are feared dead. Thousands are homeless. Officials say destruction may be on the scale of Hurricane Andrew that hit south Florida in 1992. Charley, meanwhile, is expected to lose its hurricane status some time this afternoon, but it will still bring heavy wind and rain to much of the eastern sea board this weekend.
Keeping you informed, CNN is the most trusted name in news.
We continue our coverage looking at parts of Florida. They resemble a war zone this morning. Just hours after Hurricane Charley slammed ashore, neighborhoods, entire neighborhoods, have been flattened and trees and power lines are down across the wide area. Right now, the grim task of adding up the death toll is under way. In hard hit Charlotte County, 60 body bags have been ordered as a precaution and as dawn broke this morning, more than 2 million people in the storm's path were without power.
Hurricane Charley came ashore yesterday in southwestern Florida and it left the state after cutting a path of destruction from the Fort Myers area today to Daytona Beach. But in one area, especially, the damage in simply overwhelming. It's a small retirement town, the town of Punta Gorda. It took a direct hit from the hurricane. Thousands of people there are now homeless.
Our John Zarrella is keeping track of the situation in Punta Gorda and brings us the latest -- John.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Daryn, it's -- everywhere you look there is a heart-wrenching story there. It's a saddening picture. It is, as you described, overwhelming here. Every minute or so, you hear the sound of another police siren or rescue squad siren. It is becoming, as the day grows on, more and more of a search and rescue mission here, trying as they are the recovery teams, going into the buildings here piece by piece trying to find out if there are people still stuck inside some of these buildings.
One of the problems they're beginning to have to deal with now, Daryn, is the fact that there are lots of sightseers out on the street, lots of cars on the street, people just wandering around, wanting to see what the damage is. And the emergency rescue teams, of course, do not need that here. They need to get to -- make the roads accessible so they can get from place to place. And there are already traffic jams beginning to form in certain places here.
In one of the hardest hit condominium areas, Charlabois (ph) Condominiums, which is mostly elderly people here, it has been condemned by the search and rescue team a while ago. They had been in there looking for people who were still in there. They did find some people but they were OK. But they were in a daze, walking around. They told them they had to leave. The building was no longer a safe structure. So again, the early hours of the assessment now has emergency officials, emergency management teams, rescue workers, police trying to get their hands around this situation, which is a very, very stressful time right here. And to add insult to injury, there are rain showers and storms in -- coming across our area again as I speak -- Daryn.
KAGAN: We're going to get more on the weather picture for you in just a minute there, John, but a little bit more on Punta Gorda. You're mentioning it is a -- largely a retirement community, which, I think, is going to bring up concern if these are retired folks living down there. They probably -- there's a good chance they don't have a lot of family nearby. And if they're homeless, then they're not going to have places to go.
ZARRELLA: That's exactly right. And talking to Wayne Sallade (ph), an emergency managers, a couple of hours ago, he had -- I had asked him -- I said, "Are you planning, like in Andrew in '92, set up a tent city?" And he said, "That's on the table." AT least one tent city, perhaps more tent cities might have to be set up because of the thousands of people. And many of them, as you said, are retirees here. And the hardest hit areas are these mobile home communities. This whole area is just dotted with mobile home communities and they were really the hardest hit. And that's where they expect to find many of the victims of the storm if -- depending on how quickly they can get into these areas. Some of them -- there are police officers standing by at them. And there are National Guard troops that have been called in to try and start patrolling. We haven't seen any signs of looting at this point, which is a fortunate thing. That's always a concern after these storms --Daryn.
KAGAN: And that is fortunate. You do bring up an interesting but also a scary point that despite these devastating pictures that we're looking at and they are devastating, if they have not got into some of these mobile home parks yet, the worst part of the story could be yet to be told.
ZARRELLA: Oh, no question about it. You know, they're hoping for the best that that won't be the case, but clearly, as they dig deeper and that's literally what it is, digging deeper through the rubble of some of these mobile home parks that they may find people. Wayne Sallade (ph) telling me that the problem they're having is people are calling from out of town trying to reach in to find out if they've heard from certain people and because communications are down, because power is down, it's impossible to know how many people are even missing in this area -- Daryn.
KAGAN: All right. We're going to let you go. John Zarrella in Punta Gorda, let you go do some more reporting, bring you back frequently throughout the hour.
Once again, in Punta Gorda, we expect the governor, Jeb Bush, to show up very soon and hold a news conference from that devastated community. You'll see that news conference live here on CNN.
Meanwhile, we do continue to track Hurricane Charley as it makes its way north through the Carolinas. And as we've seen, Charley took aim just a short time ago at South Carolina. With us right now, Joe Farmer of the South Carolina Emergency Management Division. He is in Columbia.
Good morning and thanks for being here with us. Do we have Joe? All right. We will work on re-establishing connection with Joe Farmer, one of the emergency officials in South Carolina.
Meanwhile, our Rob Marciano working o.t. to keep track of Charley.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's what you do in the biz and I wouldn't lose connection with you, Daryn.
KAGAN: No, you wouldn't. You're there for me. Thank you.
MARCIANO: Here's the latest on this hurricane. It is a hurricane still, Category 1. It is making land fall for a second time, this time, across the Carolinas. And the latest out of the Hurricane Center brings the maximum sustained winds at 75 miles an hour, so it just holding on to hurricane status. And over the next hour, hour by hour, really, minute by minute, will begin to deteriorate and decrease in intensity as it makes land fall at this hour.
These oranges, that just represents the higher cloud tops, the higher thunderstorms. And there's quite a bit of rain and thunder in this northern fringe of this particular storm. Not a whole lot of wind being reported in places like Myrtle Beach. The only thing I've seen is really wind gusts of about 30 miles an hour at this point. And the eye wall is, at least the western part of the eye wall, is making its way on there.
Punta Gorda yesterday, 115. These are official reports. There may have been some higher -- and I suspect some higher reports than this unofficially in Punta Gorda, but 115 there. Orlando, 105, well inland. Daytona, I mean well -- not only inland but on the other side of the state, 96 miles an hour wind gusts. In Melbourne, 83. So, excuse me, this was an impressive storm yesterday not as impressive today but certainly impressive on the radar scope.
Wilmington to Cape Fear, this is a pretty good squall line that's moving through and our crew is there. And slicing back towards Myrtle Beach, the center of it right about there. Rains heavy are going to -- there are going to be some heavy rains across Northern Carolina, North Carolina. But, because it's moving so fast, hopefully, we don't see the potential for an incredible amount of flooding.
This red -- generally, weather speaking, on TV weather, at least, red is not always that great and boxes are typically bad. So this red box indicates a tornado watch out. And there was a tornado watch out yesterday all day long across the Florida peninsula because northern and eastern parts of these storms have a lot of spin to them and you'll see little tornadoes drop down. One did so in Orlando yesterday and we have that potential as this thing moves ashore and the rainfall -- the rain bands at ahead of this thing, as well.
Hurricane warnings are up from the North Carolina, Virginia border down to the south (UNINTELLIGIBLE) river. And now tropical storm warnings -- this is interesting -- tropical storm warnings have been extended up through Massachusetts. So, folks who live on Long Island, you'll see some -- maybe some tropical storm force wind there.
This is a Tropical Depression No. 5, Daryn; it has not been upgraded to a tropical storm. But I keep showing it because it started right where Charley started at over a week ago. And it may very well take, at least for a while, a similar path. So we'll watch it. It may be our next tropical storm. Its name would be -- I think it's Ernie.
MARCIANO: Or Earl.
MARCIANO: Yes, Ernie or Earl.
KAGAN: So what happened to the D as in Daryn?
MARCIANO: Well, there is -- there -- good question. Tropical Storm Daniel is out closer to Africa. It's way out there. So if we get affected by either of these two storms, it would be Earl first.
KAGAN: All right.
MARCIANO: But that's like a week away. Let's deal with Charley first.
KAGAN: OK, well, one thing at a time. Charley -- and in fact, Charley is on the mind of the lieutenant governor of Florida, speaking right now. Let's go ahead and listen in.
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LT. GOV. TONI JENNINGS (R), FLORIDA: We have bridges so that those would not be a problem as we move through the inland counties and moved on this way. We will always have an unexpected eventuality like the wobble that brought the storm up through this area but we were prepared. And as much as we say, we've got down trees, down power lines. We were very prepared. We were more prepared than we have ever been when we have faced a storm like this. We had staged around the state, emergency crews that are going to come in. The National Guard is in -- is posted in several areas, so they will immediately be able to go in.
I mentioned in the other room power. Our own utility companies have been wonderful. They have staged around the state so that they know where they can go. They have called on their partners from the other states. We've got them posed at the border. We've got a number of them staged in Tallahassee, ready to move south with additional trucks and lineman to restore power just as Chairman Carrati (ph) said. That will be the key right now because our lift stations and our pumping stations do not work without power and that becomes a public health issue.
We are as prepared as anyone could be. Now, it's the important part of it. We have, hopefully, guarded as many lives as we can. We are concerned that there may be some fatalities in southwest Florida, especially in mobile home communities where people decided not to evacuate when asked to do so. But we will always face that eventuality. We are in there now with two medical teams. We've requested six more. We will give you more updates as we go along.
But I guess my message to you is that the state of Florida was prepared. We've trained. We've planned just as emergency operations here in central Florida and in Orange County specifically have done. Ever since we had another storm, we have -- we were ready for yesterday, today and we're ready for tomorrow and the weeks to come when we have to return normalcy to the citizens of Florida and remind those who come and visit our state that parts of our state have been hit. But we are returning to normal and there are many beautiful parts of our state that are up and running and ready to accept our tourists as they come. We don't want that message that for some reason Florida has shut down. It's not. It's up. It's working and it will continue to do so. And we have to thank the men and women who have been at our emergency operation centers not just in Tallahassee but throughout the state as we go along.
I brought with me today from Tallahassee -- and from here, we will go and look at Orange County, central Florida. We'll go to Osceola. We are concerned that Pocus had some substantial damage. I mentioned southwest Florida and you've been hearing that Punta Gorda area probably was ground zero and had the most damage. We'll have more information for you about that later. But Poke County may be the next substantially impacted county. It's Charlotte, Desoto, Hardy and then probably Polk for severe impacts as we go forward.
I brought with me today Thaddeus Cohen. Thaddeus is the new secretary of the Department of Community Affairs. AS you know yesterday early, the governor asked for an expedited presidential declaration of disaster for the state of Florida. We received that because we knew that -- unfortunately, we knew that property damage would probably reach the threshold necessary for a disaster declaration. We received that early yesterday afternoon. And FEMA has been in the EOC since the middle of the week. Secretary Cohen could probably give you just a little bit more information about what happens with FEMA now as we talk about both resources, financial and human resources and assistance to people -- Secretary Cohen.
THADDEUS COHEN, SECRETARY, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY AFFAIRS: Thank you, Governor. As indicated, I also want to give my thanks to the EOC, a tremendous job that they're doing here. And as the governor says is that we've trained for this. It's kind of like preaching to the choir. You guys have done the table tops. You've trained so all the assets are in place and you're able to provide the kinds of things that are needed to your citizens here.
KAGAN: All right. We were listening in to Lieutenant Governor Toni Jennings, lieutenant governor of the state of Florida. She's saying basically she believes that the state of Florida was ready to handle Hurricane Charley. They knew the hurricane was coming. A lot of experience with hurricanes in the past. And they say -- she believes the state was prepared.
Now, there are some areas that have experienced some intense devastation. Punta Gorda, Florida, on the southwestern coast of Florida, a retirement community, a lot of mobile home parks there, a lot of retired folks. We've had a lot of pictures and reporting and much more coming from there. In fact, we expect the governor, Jeb Bush, to be giving a news conference from that area any minute. You'll see that live here on CNN.
Unfortunately, some people did not heed the warning to get out when they were told to get out and they do expect to find some number of fatalities in these areas. And Punta Gorda -- and you've heard Lieutenant Governor Jennings talk about Polk County, Florida, finding out more from that area as well.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Charley making its way northward up the East Coast, just passing through South Carolina. We have re-established on the phone with us Joe Farmer. He is with the South Carolina Emergency Management Division and he is in Columbia, South Carolina.
Joe, do we have you with us?
JOE FARMER, SOUTH CAROLINA EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DIVISION: You do, indeed.
KAGAN: Very good. Now it seems like South Carolina has been more fortunate than some of the folks in Florida and has not had the same wrath of this storm.
FARMER: Yes. I just got information that Hurricane Charley has made land fall in South Carolina near Georgetown. It skirted our coast, about 15 miles off, for sometime and has now moved inland. Thus far, we've had no reports of injuries or deaths. We have about 36 shelters open with more than 2,300 people in those shelters. We have now about 42 to a thousand households and businesses without power in Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester, and the Myrtle Beach area. We have had one event that appeared to be a tornado. It's unconfirmed, but that did cause some damage. Again, no injuries reported in reference to that. And we have winds now reported in areas of the coast of up to 80 miles an hour.
KAGAN: I mean, overall, especially when you compare to what we were just hearing about in Florida, I think you said 42,000 without power in your state. They're talking about millions perhaps without power...
KAGAN: ...in Florida. So once again, catching a break and not just in the strength of the storm but the timing, especially coming along the coastal area during low tide.
FARMER: Yes. So we -- it appears thus far that we've been rather fortunate in this event. This is a little bit too early for us to close it out in those terms yet. But it appears that we have been, at least from this perspective right now.
KAGAN: From this point forward, Joe, what do you look for?
FARMER: We'll go out after the storm leaves and look for damage. And of course, we're closely connected with local officials who can call us, let us know immediately if there are any needs, any things that we can provide them from the state level. So we're prepared to do that.
KAGAN: As somebody who's in the business of emergency management, you just must more than cringe when you hear these stories of folks who were warned to get out -- the things they say about hurricanes. You know they're coming. People get the warning and they don't get out, and they pay such a heavy price. That just must be so frustrating.
FARMER: It's very frustrating because our primary concern -- the reason we do what we do is to save human life. And that's foremost in our minds when an event like this happens. So, yes, we're always concerned about that. Thus far, we've gotten no indication there have been any injuries or deaths in South Carolina. So we're very pleased an about this.
KAGAN: All right. Well, we wish you well and the other people -- and the other folks in South Carolina in riding out the storm. And Joe Farmer, from the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, thank you for being us and good luck in riding out Charley.
Right now, we want to join our affiliate coverage, WTVT, bringing us the latest.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, some of these areas in Polk County, Renee, like you've Wauchula (ph) and Arcadia and Moffett, and then you've got, you know, some little small rural communities that aren't near a major urban center. Do you think that the Red Cross will be opening up shelters in some of these small areas or will they have to make their way to Arcadia or Lake Wales or some of the larger areas?
RENEE AROCHO, POLK COUNTY RED CROSS: I'm not sure at this time but I believe they may have to make their way -- they may possibly have to make their way to Lake Wales and other more populated areas to seek shelter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For those people who don't have a radio, aren't -- you know, don't have access to a phone or anything, and they just are there sifting through the rubble, let's say, and they just don't know where a Red Cross shelter is going to be, what can you do for them? In other words, can you go in to some of these areas? Do you have Red Cross drivers who can go in perhaps with bull horns and try and make some kind of announcement for these people?
AROCHO: We have -- don't have any preparations to do that at this time. We do have a number of people out doing damage assessment now so they can -- hopefully, they can get to the people in the more rural areas and get them information on what they need to do and where -- you know, where they can go. At least get them our contact number or, you know, give them some idea of what steps they need to take now that the storm has passed, to kind of rebuild.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And where are you going for resources to bring in water, to bring in food and to bring in necessities of life for some of these people? Are you having to go out of the area to get some of these and are they being donated?
AROCHO: No. We have gotten -- I know we have gotten some food from public just now. I don't have any information on whether it was donated or not. And I know we do have some contacts with local water companies that are willing to donate water if need be. I don't believe we have contacted them yet, but I'm not sure on that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What kind of government assistance are you getting? Are you in touch with FEMA? What's going on with that relationship and how the government can help you, help us?
AROCHO: OK, I don't really have any information on that. As far as I know, we haven't been in contact with them but that's not for sure. Our disaster services department would be taking care of that. And I think everybody's just trying to assess the situation right now and that will come later -- later on in the operation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Renee, this may be premature, but have you heard any figures on how many people may be in need, whose homes have been either damaged or destroyed, who may need sheltering?
AROCHO: No. We don't have any reports at this time. Our crews will be back in by 4:00 p.m. today and they'll have some reports on -- they'll -- they've -- having been in the area, they will have some reports on what's been destroyed and kind of an estimate. They won't know for sure because they are not out covering the entire county today. But they'll have kind of an estimate of how many people will need shelter and don't have homes at this time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And how many crews do you have available and out right now?
AROCHO: We have about 10 or 12 crews out right now. That's teams of people that are out assessing the damage in the county.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what exactly are they doing in this assessment?
AROCHO: They're just going out -- and they've got some information to give people on, you know, what to do when their power is out and how to kind of save some of their food that they have left, the people that still have that. And, they just go out and try to help people figure out where they need to go now and how to start, you know, rebuilding everything, the people that were really affected by this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we heard you say that you were actually asking people who are connected with the Red Cross to get in touch with you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you -- are you making an appeal to people who are Red Cross volunteers to come and help?
AROCHO: Yes. People that live in areas that are not affected or even people that live in our area that are -- that are able to come and help, come help us assist. We can use all the help we can get from...
KAGAN: We've been listening in to our affiliate coverage, WTVT in Florida. We do have more affiliates than any other network, able to bring you the most extensive coverage of the breaking news from Florida and up and down the East Coast.
Also, getting work that President Bush has plans now to visit Florida early tomorrow morning. You'll have coverage of that. And then his brother, the governor, Jeb Bush is expected to hold a news conference from Punta Gorda, Florida, the hardest hit area of that state. You'll see that news conference. We're standing by for that. Right now, we fit in a quick break.
KAGAN: At some point over the morning or into the early afternoon, we expected Florida Governor Jeb Bush to show up in Punta Gorda, Florida, the hardest hit community that we've been able to establish so far, and hold a news conference from there. But meanwhile, earlier this morning, the governor did take a helicopter tour of some of the hardest hit areas. A short time ago he talked about what he saw.
GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: The team is mobilizing as we speak, so today is a day of assessment and of mobilizing literally thousands of people in a well organized way to provide support to not only the coastal areas. But also the inland areas have had serious, serious damage, as well. So...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're hearing reports of 60 dead in a mobile home park in Charlotte. Is that true?
BUSH: I can't -- we just don't have accurate information yet, but clearly there was major devastation. With a category 4 storm, that's as to be expected.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you gear yourself up, sir, for flying over what's probably going to be a bit of a nightmare for you?
BUSH: It's heartbreaking. I love this state and I love the people in it. Southwest Florida is a beautiful place with really great people and I just know that they're going to have a lot of suffering. And it's really important for us to organize ourselves in the most efficient way possible, to provide the quickest support and most compassionate support.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What kind of assistance can you let folks know is coming from the feds and in terms of the speed of getting services restored?
BUSH: Well, my guess is if people are on I-75 right now, they would see a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) crew of trucks and military support. And that will take the form of water, food, tents. There are going to be a lot of people who are homeless. Electrical support, utility trucks coming to restore electricity. Debris removal, there's tons and tons and tons of debris that has to be cleared. So there's just a -- I mean, the good news is that we train for this. And we're well coordinated. FEMA has done an extraordinary job and so I doubt that -- I mean, people are going to be frustrated, I imagine, and people are going to be impatient and that's natural. And -- but we're going to do everything we can to provide support. And it's unlike Andrew where the damage was equally extensive. It was located in one community or one part of a community. This is wide ranging, as best that I can tell. And so, it's going to require a little bit of a different response.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Last question?
BUSH: Well, one of the questions that I know that you wanted to ask was how people can help. And, I would urge people to provide financial support if they want to act on their compassion and act on their heart. The experiences of past disasters when people send clothes or people send food, it just creates a logistical nightmare and the well intended support doesn't get to where it needs to go. So through the Salvation Army and the Red Cross, it's very easy to provide financial support and will go directly to the people who need it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, sir.
KAGAN: And that was Florida Governor Jeb Bush giving comments before headed to Punta Gorda, Florida. He is going there to check out the devastation. Also, we have word that he does plan to hold a news conference there. When that news conference happens, you'll see it live here on CNN.
Right now, we do want to go live ourselves to Punta Gorda, give you an idea of the devastation and what the future -- the near future holds for the folks there. Our John Zarrella is standing by -- John.
ZARRELLA: Daryn, you know, the governor makes a good point. The difference between this and Andrew, particularly in the recovery efforts that so much was learned from the Andrew experience. It has been applied and will be applied here on this one. And you can see that it's certainly going to be needed.
Behind me, this is the condominium we have been talking about pretty much throughout the morning where search and rescue teams had been in there with their sledge hammers and with crowbars, knocking on doors, then breaking open the doors to see if they could find people still in there. They did find some people in there. No one appeared hurt. There were no fatalities that they found in there. But they did find elderly people. This is an elderly condominium. And they were just in a daze wandering around; trying to get their houses back in order but the building was condemned. There is, over on the side of the building, yellow tape marking it off so that people don't go in there along with an orange x marked on the building that it is condemned and they have asked everyone to leave that particular building.
Now, off to my left, there is another sign of the devastation that we've seen throughout the morning. There is a -- that was a gas station that's been completely demolished except for the car up sitting up on the lift. The capricious nature of hurricanes that we see evidenced here.
Now, the emergency manager, Wayne Sallade (ph), who I talked to at length a couple hours back indicating to me that it might be necessary, that one of the things on the table here is to set up a tent city for the people that are going to be homeless. Certainly, a number of people homeless. And at this point, the most important thing to emphasize is they do not have a handle; do not know the number of dead here in the city. They're hoping that it's not high. But, Wayne Sallade (ph) did say that he had requested 60 body bags be brought in as a precautionary measure.
Again, just getting out, the search and rescue is literally a door-to-door, painstaking efforts in the trailer parks particularly that were hardest hit, people who did not evacuate in time. And that's where a lot of the search and rescue effort is being concentrated -- Daryn.
KAGAN: And what kind of efforts are going into, John, trying to keep people out of those areas who don't belong?
ZARRELLA: That's the problem. Right now, it's hard to -- we're seeing cars just coming out, running all around here, riding all around. A lot of sightseers going back and forth and it's the one thing that the emergency response teams don't need, are sightseers and people just out trying to find out what the damage is. Now, obviously, people who live in these communities who evacuated are trying to get back in to see if the property is OK, to protect their property, what's left of it. So it's a difficult situation. You don't want the traffic on the streets, so those rescue vehicles can move around freely. But at the same time, the residents are trying to get back in, back in to see what's left of Punta Gorda. So it's a very sticky situation. But the problem is the others who tend to come down as well as the fact that they've got to watch out for looting down here. That was a problem after Andrew and there are National Guard troops in Punta Gorda now. I have not seen them yet but we're told that they are here in some of those trailer park areas -- Daryn.
KAGAN: And we're seeing the puffy gray clouds behind you. When we were talking to you on the phone a little bit earlier, you were saying more rain is expected for that area.
ZARRELLA: Right. Just let -- you know this is the time of the year in August. We get the afternoon thunderstorms, so it's adding insult to injury. We've got -- you can see all those big rain clouds out there behind me in the distance. We had some heavy showers roll over the area. You know it is eerily familiar to Andrew because it is the same kind of climate that we had back on August 24, 1992 when Andrew rolled into South Dade. After it rolled out, we had a hot, muggy day, heavy thunderstorms in the afternoon and it just makes it even more miserable. There's no air conditioning. There's no phone service. No electricity. So, for the people who are going to have to live with these conditions, for perhaps weeks, if not longer, it is going to be a very long, grueling grind here in Punta Gorda -- Daryn.
KAGAN: And the concern about where the folks there who have lost their homes, where do they go, in the meantime?
ZARRELLA: And that's the issue that they're trying to get a handle on here now. What are they going to do? Are they going to go ahead and set up some tent cities, which they did after Hurricane Andrew. That was on the table. We don't have a confirmation that that's going to happen at this point. They're still trying to figure out the numbers of people who have been left homeless. But Wayne Sallade (ph) said he thought the number would be in the thousands and that they would likely need at least one tent city set up and perhaps more.
And the hospitals are another critical issue because the main hospital has been knocked out, evacuated and a couple of other hospitals knocked out. One thing he told me was at that hospital, Daryn; they had registered winds gusting to 173 miles an hour before the anemometer blew off -- Daryn.
KAGAN: Absolutely incredible. John Zarrella in the heart of the devastation in Punta Gorda, the southwestern coast of Florida, we'll be back with you no doubt.
In the meanwhile, let's go to the other side of Florida, the East Coast, Daytona Beach. That is where our Gary Tuchman is. A significant place in terms of what Charley did, how it went through and where it headed from there -- Gary.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Daryn. We're driving through Daytona Beach right now and after being here last night and experiencing the winds of 95 miles per hour, the brunt of the hurricane pushed off into the Atlantic Ocean, we expected to see damage today and indeed we are seeing damage after the sun came up. It is not catastrophic damage what we're seeing, but it is extensive. Parts of roofs blown off of restaurants and homes, signs blown down, newspaper machines rolling around the streets. At one point last night, I actually saw -- we were standing near the beach, I actually saw an outhouse, a port-a-john standing near the beach where I hadn't seen it before. It didn't blow over. It just blew straight across.
We're also seeing what we see during a lot of hurricanes, gas station canopies blown over. One at Sunoco station we just passed perilously close to the actual building where the gas station employees work. Obviously, there wasn't anyone in there last night when the hurricane came in, but it gives you an idea of the extensive damage in a place where they least expected it. Many tourists ended up coming to Daytona Beach on the Atlantic Coast because they wanted to get away from western Florida and central Florida. They thought it would be the safest place. It was very unusual, Daryn. Normally, when we cover hurricanes, the hotels are empty. The news media are the only ones in the hotel. These hotels were virtually 100 percent. It was very hard to get a room because so many people were trying to get away from the hurricane. So extensive damage in Daytona Beach, Florida and Volusia County, but not, it appears, catastrophic.
KAGAN: And certainly nothing like what has taken place on the southwestern coast. Gary, thank you for that.
We are going to fit in a quick break. A lot more coverage from Florida. Also, we are tracking Charley as it makes its way up the East Coast. Stay with us. This is CNN.
KAGAN: All right. We're going to get to our hurricane coverage in just a moment. First, I want to take a chance to look at some other headlines in the news for this Saturday, August 14.
First to Iraq, peace talks in Najaf failed. Iraqi officials are expressing what they call deep sorrow that a truce with militants loyal to Muqtada al Sadr did not work out. They suggest the fighting will resume.
Thousands of al-Sadr supporters from all over Iraq are pouring into Najaf after the radical cleric gave a fiery speech Friday asking for martyrs. Najaf's governor says the protesters are welcome to visit the shrine but no one will be allowed to have a weapon.
New Jersey Republicans are calling for the immediate resignation of Governor James McGreevey. GOP chairmen say that there are awkward stories about McGreevey, that it would make it difficult for him to carry out his duties. McGreevey has admitted to affair with a man and his former security adviser, Golan Cipel, has accused him of sexual harassment. We're keeping you informed. CNN is the most trusted name in news.
And one more note here, in Athens, Greece, the Olympic Games are officially underway. China won the first two gold medals of the summer games. One in the woman's air rifle competition, the other in men's air pistol. And there, you see the lighting of the flame taking place at last night's opening ceremonies.
Let's get back now to our continuing hurricane coverage as we track Hurricane Charley as it makes its way from Florida up the East Coast. Our correspondent David Mattingly is in Georgetown, South Carolina. That is near where Charley came ashore over the last hour or so. And, we got a pretty good taste of that, didn't we, David?
MATTINGLY: That's right. We did. We're about 50 miles north of Myrtle Beach. We came here because this is where the brunt of the storm was coming in and we arrived just in time to catch it. Tremendous amount of wind, very fast, very furious, pouring a great deal of rain in a very short period of time. It actually caught us by surprise. Our satellite truck here, the large satellite dish on it actually acted as a sail and the wind was strong enough to push it across a parking lot to everyone's surprise and up onto a median. The truck was put out of action. The truck operator leaped out of the truck for his own safety. Fortunately, he was OK. But again, it just shows us that you can't take anything with this storm for granted. It still has a powerful punch even though it's not nearly what we saw in Florida where they were talking about four to six inches of rain total. I believe we saw all of that probably in a matter of 15 to 20 minutes. And believe it or not, I can actually look up and see some blue sky right now as the bands of this storm continue to go over. We are in a lull right now. So again, some blue sky and a little bit of sunshine shining down on us after that furious storm from the leading edge as it came -- as it made landfall for the second time here in South Carolina -- Daryn.
KAGAN: Furious and strong enough to blow over our own satellite truck as you were reporting earlier.
MATTINGLY: Not blowing over but blowing it across the parking lot. I think I used the analogy of pushing it along like a child's toy. That's exactly what it looked like. And this is not small or easy to move piece of equipment, just to give you an idea of the force of nature that we were dealing with there for those few minutes.
KAGAN: Very good. OK. We will be back to you in Georgetown, South Carolina, along the coast there as Charley makes its way north.
Right now, let's see exactly where Charley is headed. Our Rob Marciano is tracking that for us. Hello.
MARCIANO: Hey, Daryn. You know how he said it was becoming calm and you could see a little bit of the sun?
KAGAN: Yes, he shouldn't really relax, shouldn't he?
MARCIANO: Well, actually -- normally, that's a good -- that's excellent advice, Daryn.
MARCIANO: But the back half of this particular storm has kind of blown off. It'll...
KAGAN: All right.
MARCIANO: It'll -- they'll get the back half of the eye. He's in the eye right now, but the storm itself is a minimal hurricane at this point. And because it's caught up in the jet stream, the steering winds of loft at this latitude, they get stronger and they really tear off the back half of this system. And that weakens it.
Yesterday, at this time down across the tropics where they don't have that strong jet stream, these storms can really bubble up and expand and kind of stay on their own. And that's when it was a category 4. But now, it's really picking up steam and heading inland. And yes, Georgetown is right -- pretty much in the eye. You'll see it better when I show you the radar picture.
These are the latest numbers of the National Hurricane Center. Actually, this doesn't look like it was updated. I have this fancy graphic. Anyway, 75 mile an hour winds. The track hasn't changed, really. We do expect it to go across the Carolinas and across parts of eastern Virginia and actually into northern New England by tomorrow afternoon. By that time, the winds won't be as much of an issue as there'll be still some rain and some thunderstorms.
All right. Here's a radar. Here's Myrtle Beach and winds at Myrtle Beach are out of the northeast. So that's where the eye is right there. And that's Georgetown right there. So yes, that's pretty cool just to be in the eye. And he'll look for better weather. But squally weather ahead of it. Wilmington and Cape Fear and in north -- into Raleigh, eventually, you'll look for some rainfall and some wind.
The other issue with this, if you're not even near the eye wall where the winds are the strongest, if you may be to the north or just to the right or east of the storm, the tornado watches are always a problem, or tornadoes, I should say. We had seven touch down yesterday in Florida. One caught on videotape in Orlando. Usually, they're pretty small, but the last couple of rounds including Bonnie, we've had some ones that have done some serious damage. So you don't have to be right in the eye or near the eye to get damaging winds. You can have one of these tornadoes drop out of the northeastern quadrant and that'll obviously do more damage than say a 75 miles an hour wind.
All right, here we go. Hurricane warnings are up in the South Santee River up to the North Carolina and Virginia border. And then tropical storm warnings are up through Sandy Hook and all the way up the Merrimack River. So at least along the coastline, we can see surf across Long Island, and maybe some gusty winds to tropical storm strength and maybe some squally weather as well and that will be through later on this afternoon.
Charley is the first order of business and it is making landfall right now across Georgetown. To be in the eye, that'd be pretty cool, especially in this minimal hurricane.
KAGAN: Only a weather guy -- oh, in the eye of the storm. It's cool, cool stuff.
MARCIANO: Confessions (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
KAGAN: Yes, and a little bit later, you'll have to explain to us a little bit more how the E can get ahead of the D storm, how it gets out of line like that.
MARCIANO: All right, yes.
KAGAN: So that's your assignment.
MARCIANO: We'll leave that to Orelon. She's coming in.
KAGAN: I just want to say, Orelon's up in 14 minutes. All right. That's fair. You're going to have graphics coming out of your ears, working a long, long time. Rob, thank you for that.
We're going to get in a break here and we're going to continue our coverage after this.
KAGAN: We're tracking Hurricane Charley as the storm makes its way up the East Coast, leaving a path of devastation especially the southwestern part of Florida. In fact, we are especially focused on the town of Punta Gorda, a retirement community. That is where we understand the governor, Jeb Bush, is and is expected to hold a news conference sometime today. And when it happens, you'll see it live here on CNN.
Meanwhile, his brother, the president, plans now to visit Florida tomorrow. With more on that, let's bring in White House correspondent Dana Bash who is at the White House today -- hello.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Daryn. Well, we don't have too many details right now. All we're told by the White House this morning is that the president is going to Florida tomorrow morning. We don't know exactly where or exactly, you know, who he'll meet with. But obviously he will be going to probably tour some of the damage, perhaps meet with his brother, perhaps meet with some of the victims of this hurricane down there.
Now, it's interesting, this is a president who is not one who immediately goes to devastation sites like this. He is somebody who is known to sort of want to wait because when a president comes, it takes up a lot of resources. But Daryn, as you know, Florida is unlike any other particularly, about two-and-a-half months out of the election. This is an absolutely key state for him to be in, to go to. Obviously, his brother is down there. The president was just there this week. In fact, he's been to Florida about 25 times since he's been in office, almost more than any other state. Since he's been in office, and so, he definitely is going to want to go down there, show his support for the people down there, particularly, Daryn, if you look at the polls since the Democratic convention, John Kerry has actually been widening his lead down there.
KAGAN: Right. And not to be cynical about why the president might be making a...
BASH: Definitely not.
KAGAN: ... not that, but it is the reality of politics. And as you pointed out, I think we're 79 days until the election and many people believing, as some states like Florida, perhaps Iowa, as Florida goes, so goes the election. This is not a situation that the federal government can afford to not handle with kid gloves.
BASH: Absolutely. And the president, you know, made that clear right off the bat yesterday speaking in Washington State. He is still on the road, we should point out. He is going to actually be speaking later today in Iowa at a campaign event there. But he is making very clear that -- and his aides are making very clear that he has been on the phone with his brother, that he has been on the phone with the director of FEMA, that he is keeping in touch, that he is making sure that they get what they need there in the state. Certainly, this is something that everybody is watching, including president and that's why -- one of the reasons why his aides want to get him down there as soon as possible and that will happen tomorrow morning. Again, details of exactly where he is going to go will be still to come available later.
KAGAN: But that visit is a change in his schedule, as it was planned?
BASH: That's correct. The president is coming back to Washington tonight, was planning on being in Washington tomorrow, Sunday, before he got back on the road for more campaigning in the Midwest on Monday. But now, we are told he is going to go to Florida tomorrow morning.
KAGAN: All right. We will be covering that, no doubt. Dana Bash at White House, thank you.
No word from the Kerry campaign if the senator plans to make a visit to Florida as well. But as these candidates have tended to appear in the same place practically at the same time, it would not be a surprise if Senator Kerry decides to make a visit as well.
Let's talk about the help that its way already to the folks in Florida. Marty Evans, the president and CEO of Red Cross, and she is joining us from Washington, D.C.
Marty, thank you for being with us.
MARTY EVANS, PRESIDENT/CEO, RED CROSS: Well, thank you.
KAGAN: Especially when we look in that southwestern part of the state, much help is needed. What is the Red Cross doing to help out those folks?
EVANS: Well, we've transitioned from an evacuation operation to a disaster relief operation. We have set up with our partners more than 250 shelters. We have disaster relief trained workers on the scenes at the shelters, helping clients who are setting up food service operations so that we can assist not only those in shelters but those who may be able to return to their homes but won't have power.
We're moving additional disaster volunteers and staff in from other states. We're also monitoring the situation with the storm going up the coast because we know that in the aftermath of the storm, there could be some significant -- additional disaster relief efforts that we'll need to have in South Carolina and North Carolina and so on.
KAGAN: Yes, busy time. You have your hands full. I want to focus a little bit on the southwestern part of Florida and some of the special needs that might be taking place there. A large number -- it would appear -- and this is what we just know at this point -- a large number of mobile homes have been destroyed and it looks like especially retirees have been targeted or victims.
EVANS: Right. And we will certainly provide any and all shelter necessary. We'll have trained mental health counselors available to provide emotional support. We'll help with medications. Anyone who needs help should call 1-866-Get-Info. They can find out where a shelter is. They can also, if they have lost track, lost touch with their relatives or loved ones, they can also make a disaster welfare inquiry. So we're trying to provide any and all support we can. And I should say that we need the help of the American people to do this. This is all provided through the generous donations of the American people.
KAGAN: Yes, and we heard Governor Jeb Bush talk earlier that they -- you know they've had no shortage of crises and hurricanes in Florida and people try to help by sending blankets or clothes or food and really the distribution process, when you try to send the actual thing, just turns into a whole other problem and challenge.
EVANS: That's right. And so, we're asking people to make financial contributions. They can call 1-800-Help-Now or they can go online at RedCross.org and no amount of contribution is too little to help right now with this disaster relief operation.
KAGAN: You mentioned something else that I think is of a great importance to, I think, a lot of families that might be watching. We mentioned that a lot of retirees who were in these mobile homes, lost the homes, and really have no way to communicate. They don't have electricity. They don't have a phone. If they retired to Florida, chances are their families live elsewhere around the U.S. and probably are frantic with worry because they can't get in touch with their parents or their grandparents to see if they're OK. So for the people out there who are watching, who are trying to find the folks that are in Florida, what do you suggest?
EVANS: Well, two things. One, this highlights the need for every family no matter where they live in the country to have an emergency communication plan so they can reconnect. If that plan is not in existence or they've exhausted the resources of the plan, if they call 1-866-Get-Info, they can make a disaster welfare inquiry and we'll do our very best to get those families connected. But it's probably going to take some time just because of the magnitude of this storm and the aftermath of it.
KAGAN: Absolutely. You make a good point. You're trying to help the folks in Florida where the storm has been but also focusing up the East Coast where Hurricane Charley is still headed.
Marty Evans, thank you for your time and good luck with all the Red Cross efforts.
EVANS: Thank you, Daryn.
KAGAN: Thank you for that.
Well, we have a lot more news ahead. We're getting close to the top of the hour. Standing by, waiting for the news conference from Governor Jeb Bush to take place in Punta Gorda, Florida. You'll have that. You'll see that right here on CNN. Right now, a quick break.
KAGAN: We go live now to Florida. Here is Governor Jeb Bush.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
BUSH: ... and they are mobilizing along with state resources and other communities resources to restore normalcy as quickly as possible for people who have gone through a devastating, devastating time. The trip that we took on the Blackhawk's just, you know, points out the magnitude of this. This is -- our worst fears have come true. And my heart goes out to people that are right now are homeless, have -- are scared. And all I can assure you is that the team assembled here and literally, thousands of other people from across the country, both from government and from just people that are going to be organized to act on their hearts to help, will be here and assistance is forthcoming.
I'd like to ask Director Brown to speak and perhaps Treasurer Gallagher could talk because one of the issues that will become, in the next few days, important is how quickly can the insurance companies provide support for the people that have had traumatic property loss.
MICHAEL D. BROWN, UNDER SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Thank you, governor. First on behalf of the entire country, on behalf of President Bush, I want to offer our condolences, our sympathy, and some encouragement to everyone in Florida who suffered from both Tropical Storm Bonnie and from Hurricane Charley. I promise you that everything, all the available resources of the federal government are going to be available to help in any way we can.
You know, in the Department of Homeland Security, we have the Coast Guard, we have all these new assets, they're going to help us move things in as quickly as possible. I talked to Secretary Ridge today I talked to the president last night, they have assured me that whatever resources I need will be available to FEMA to make sure we respond probably. I want to caution everyone in the media, though. People are suffering right now. I ask you to respect their privacy, I ask you to be careful with them. They are fragile. I want to send a message out to all those people right now that are suffering, too. I see this kind of thing all the time in my travels around the country. And right now, people are devastated, they're discouraged, they're frustrated. I have gone back to communities where they've felt the same way. And I want to tell you, the sun will shine again and will come back. You will come back stronger and better. I have seen that happen. So be patient. Work hard.
For all of you who are suffering right now, call this phone number. 800-621-FEMA, 800-621-FEMA. We will get you registered, we will start the process, we will get aid to you as quickly and as rapidly as we can.
Governor, I want to say to you, you've got a great team. You're doing an incredible job. You and Craig Fugate are doing an incredible job. We will continue to cooperate with you in any way we can to help you in any way that we can respond to this disaster.
BUSH: Thank you, Mr. Treasurer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, governor.
You all are, in a way, a benefit of what happened in Hurricane Andrew. We learned a lot of things there and we have help here, right now on the spot. It took two weeks to happen down in Homestead, Florida. The federal government is here, the state government is here, and many counties are here helping. Now, many of you have insurance claims and I will tell you that insurance claims adjustors are in the area and are coming into the area. We're licensing them as fast as we can, they will be here. Make sure that the people that you deal with are licensed. Make sure you see it. Do not give someone cash to fix your house up. Make sure that we are licensed and know what they're doing. There's going to be a lot of scam artists coming into this area trying to take advantage of people. Please, make sure you're dealing with a licensed insurance adjustor or someone that has a license to fix your home. This is a time, unfortunately, people take advantage of you. We want to see people be taken care of. The insurance industry is on its way and it's my job to see to it that your claims are paid. And I'm going to give you an 800 number in regards to insurance problems, and that's 1-800-22-storm, 1-800-22- storm. That phone is up now and if you have a problem, you can call them. Thank you.
BUSH: I'd be happy to answer any questions.
QUESTION: Governor, in your plane, when you were around, was there one image, one moment that came home for you about how widespread and severe this...
BUSH: Well, once we approached Punta Gorda and saw a community destroyed, in essence. I mean, particularly the mobile home parks. It is, it's just -- you know, it's hard to describe seeing entire -- an entire community total the flattened and that's what happened in many of these mobile home parks. And then to see -- you know, the sheriff's department lost its roof. There are no police stations; there are no fire stations that are operable right now. Clearly, this was where the center of the storm hit, and as we approached it coming up the coast from Lee County, you could see it. And then -- and it brought back very vivid memories for me personally of going through Andrew and seeing similar type of destruction. This is a different -- in one way in that the destruction is across this community here, too. I mean, we've not -- the inland counties also had very similar type destruction in route -- in the path of Hurricane Charley. So there's a lot of work to do.
There's -- I'm sorry?
QUESTION: What about casualties?
BUSH: We have not gotten -- other than the fact that the operations, emergency operations director knows that there are casualties, they can't get yet, as of yet, they can't get the search and rescue teams out into every possible place to be able to quantify the number of deaths. But you see the devastation from up above. It's -- it would be a total shock that there weren't deaths. It's really, really sad.
BUSH: Yeah, there were -- the storm -- as the storm approached this community, like the other coastal communities, called for mandatory evacuations as was appropriate. We -- we were in total communication with the Emergency Operation Center here, as well as in Lee County and Sarasota and Collier, so this -- you can't plan for the unforeseen. God doesn't follow the linear directions of computer models and these are powerful storms that don't -- don't behave in any kind of way that you can say with certainty where they're going to go.
BUSH: No. No, in fact, the estimate that we had been referred to yesterday was from a computer model of a different track for the hurricane. Clearly, this is in the billions of dollars. I mean, there's no question about that, but -- but a -- that's -- that'll be part of this job. What you're going to see here is the primary focus will be on humanitarian aid. For the young mom and her children who, she doesn't have formula and she's lost her home and for the elderly couple that we met coming out here to speak to you, that's the first priority is to provide assistance to them and what you'll see, I think, in the very short period of time is that FEMA, the U.S. military, the National Guard will be establishing facilities so people can have a cot to sleep on, if they're homeless, to be able to get formula, to be able to get water, to be able to get food.
In addition to that, there will be efforts under way working with local community leaders to rebuild, economically, this beautiful part of our state. In addition to that, we're going to make sure that there's no price gouging, that there's efforts, intense efforts to make sure that the -- the personal reconstruction that's going to be required because the -- I mean, if you counted the number of roofs that need to be fixed, it's just -- it's in the thousands, obviously. That all of this is going to go on at once, and we trained for this, this is a team effort, we've got local officials to work with on -- as mike said, I -- while this is a day of complete devastation and real tragedy and there's a lot of sadness in people's hearts right now, I'm absolutely convinced that within a shorter period of time than what we experienced with Hurricane Andrew, people -- people's hopes are going to be lifted.
QUESTION: Have there been any major mistakes, again Governor, that's happened in the past of trying of ride -- trying to ride out the storm and maybe we should learn from that?
BUSH: I don't know the numbers yet. I don't know. I had worried, as governor, that a hurricane hadn't come, I'd been thankful for that, but with each passing year with so many new people moving into our communities, it's -- it's -- I've always worried about hurricane amnesia, and you have to go through one to -- and experience it, to realize that it is going to happen and when it does, you've got to be out of harm's way. So, to the extent that that message got out and I believe a lot of people did heed that message, that's good news. To the extent that it didn't, you know, will be part of the reason why there's some tragedies today.
QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) hurricane Andrew, what exactly's been done to avoid that?
BUSH: Well, first of all, when we came in here, what we saw were Broward sheriff's deputies on the ground already, in addition to that, in terms of the state support -- Guy, how many -- how many law enforcement officers from highway patrol and MDLE (ph) or...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About 1,200 Guardsmen...
BUSH: Twelve hundred National Guard, 400 plus state law enforcement officers and then many of the -- in the military forces are already here, but many of the sheriff's departments also will be cooperating, here in Charlotte County as well as the other impacted areas so -- and price gouging, you know, we have laws that the attorney general and the commissioner of agriculture, who have the primary responsibility for that have -- are fully engaged and the law will be brought to bear if people take advantage of the misfortune of others in this kind of time.
QUESTION: Governor, what were the other areas of the state that were hit the hardest?
BUSH: You can take a swath from here northeasterly through Osceola, certainly Osceola and Highlands County, DeSoto to a lesser extent to apparently Balucha (ph) and Brevard County. As the storm left the state, it was not at the same strength, but the inland -- the surrounding inland counties from here, which don't have the resources that the coastal communities typically have were -- were severely hit as well, Polk County.
BUSH: I'm not aware of that.
QUESTION: Have there been any problems (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
BUSH: Not that we're aware of. Again, just the storm hit and then we had an evening -- so it's very hard to make that assessment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take one more question, guys.
BUSH: There's 1,200 -- there's -- General?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
BUSH: General Burnett, the number of active guard?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's 1,500 right now in this area.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) More are on the way.
BUSH: Five -- exactly. Gotcha. Fifteen-hundred are here, are active. And 5,000 have been called up.
BUSH: No. We have been planning, again, for this dual responsibility. The primary responsibility of the National Guard is to provide support to military and to be part of the team in the war on terror and we have thousands of Guardsmen and women that are bravely doing that, but never at the expense of the domestic mission, which is, during times like this is vital, as well. So I thank the people of the National Guard.
KAGAN: All right. Looks like we're having a little bit of trouble, but that was the end of the news conference featuring an official from FEMA and also Governor Jeb Bush from the state of Florida talking about their tour they've taken of Punta Gorda and the southwestern part of Florida. We've re-established contact, let's listen in.
BUSH: ..local officials and the utility companies to restore power. Life goes on a lot better in Florida with electricity.
QUESTION: What's the family you talked to say?
BUSH: Excuse me?
QUESTION: Question for you.
QUESTION: I know that you put together a task force and ready to crack down on price gouging, just wondering if you have heard of any instances so far of price gouging either here or elsewhere in the state, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have gotten, unfortunately, over 100 calls about potential price gouging. I talked to the Commissioner Branson yesterday about cooperating with his office to make sure that does not occur. You know, the governor's right. The first thing we're concerned about is everybody's safety. Make sure that their families are doing well and that they are safe. But one of the things we will not let happen is victims be victimized a second time. And we will not tolerate price gouging. There are significant fines if that happens. We will enforce them, it's $1,000 per occurrence or $25,000 per day if they do repeated. We've established a hotline. It is 1- 800-646-0444 if there is anybody that suspects price gouging. Thank you.
BUSH: Thank you, guys.
KAGAN: All right. They are wrapping up that news conference now in Punta Gorda. Most markedly that was Governor Jeb Bush, also other state officials and officials from FEMA talking about the devastation that has hit the state of Florida, especially the southwestern community of Punta Gorda.
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