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Hurricane Charley: Downgraded To Tropical Storm

Aired August 14, 2004 - 15:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR, CNN LIVE SATURDAY: Hello again, I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Headquarters in Atlanta. You are watching a special edition of CNN LIVE SATURDAY. Our continuing coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Charley. It has been now been downgraded to a tropical storm and your looking at a satellite image of where Charley is now grinding through the North Carolina coast. The National Weather Service says Charley is moving north; northeast on it's way to Virginia.
The storm is now passing through North Caroline, the upper portion of that state. And meteorologist in Wrightsville (ph) Beach watched it blow in with 60 miles per hour wind gusts. He described the conditions as pretty rough. Damage included a few uprooted trees and power outages. Earlier Charley hit the South Carolina coast south of Myrtle Beach. And there have been no reports of injuries or significant damage thankfully. But the situation is much more grim in parts of southwest Florida where Charley struck as a category 4 hurricane.

Hardest hit the retirement town of Punta Gorda, just north of Fort Myers. Causing death and injuries. Thousands of people are left homeless. And we have correspondents all along Charley's path. John Zarrella is in Punta Gorda, Florida. Gary Tuchman is in Orlando and David Matley (ph) is in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. And Bob Franken is in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. We will get to all of that in a moment.

But first a look at some other news making the headlines. President Bush heads to Florida tomorrow morning to survey the damage from Hurricane Charley. The White House says the president wants to see the devastation first hand. President Bush has already declared the state a major disaster area, which frees up federal emergency funds.

Oversees, there's been a complete breakdown in peace talks between Iraqi officials and forces loyal to Shite cleric Muqtada Al- Sadr. Iraqi officials say as a result, military operations will resume in Najaf. U.S military officials say 360 members of Al-Sadr's army have been killed in ten days of fighting now.

And thousands of Iraqi's are traveling to Najaf to show support for Al-Sadr. In a fiery speech Al-Sadr asked his followers to defend Najaf and "be a mortar." Al-Sadr supporters are heading towards the city's holy mosque. Iraqi officials say while they're welcome to visit, no one with weapons will be allowed in.

New Jersey Governor James McGreevey is being accused of sexual harassment by his former security advisor Golan Cipel. Cipel claims McGreevey repeatedly made sexual advances on him. McGreevey announced Thursday that he had an extramarital homosexual affair and would leave office in November.

Keeping you informed, CNN the most trusted names in news.

Now, back to what has become tropical storm Charley, downgraded from a hurricane, it has lost some steam but is still potential dangerous. Meteorologist Orelon Sidney joins us again and she is tracking the storm from our weather center. Orelon.

ORELON SIDNEY, METEOROLOGIST: That is right tropical storm Charley now moving to the north, north east really rapidly, 35 miles an hour the winds now 70 miles an hour, as 35 miles north of Wilmington, at least it was at 2:00 and certainly continuing now to move north, so it is even farther north than that moving up along the coast and we expect that motion to continue.

I changed the radar picture now we are looking out of I believe that is Raleigh-Durham's radar and we are continuing to see the center just to the north of Jacksonville, south of Greenville, but Greenville now your starting to get some of those inner rain band some of those squalls that are in what's left of an inner rain band lets put it that way.

The rain is extending up towards Roanoke rapids, even Raleigh managing to get some showers and a few thunderstorms out of this. So the rainfall of course is going to be a problem as well as potential tornadoes, tornadoes watch box now extends northward all the way into the extreme southern portion of the Delmarva (ph) and all the way down I think that is the little river inlet right there. This in effect until to 9 p.m. And I expect to see tornado watches issued up along the coast as we go through the night.

And as tropical storm Charley continues to push through the north. Tropical storms are cyclones of tropical origin that have winds of 39 to 73 miles an hour. So you can see that Charley is still a strong tropical storm, probably going to continue to see that weaken of course as we go through the rest of the evening but we still have tropical storm warnings in effect now. The hurricane warnings no longer in effect along the U.S. East Coast. From the Little River Inlet in South Carolina northward to the Merrimack River. You have a tropical storm warning in effect that means you can see winds of 39 to 73 miles an hour along the next 24 hours along this area.

I did want to scoot back to Florida quickly and show you that we have got some problems here for this evening and even into tonight. You remember that trough, that cold front I was telling you about that is taking and pushing the storm to the north, a little remnant of it now remains across the Gulf of Mexico and what you're seeing is very moist and unstable tropical air left behind in Charley's wake across much of Florida.

So what's happening now with daytime heating and a little instability, we're getting more thunderstorms, and there have been some reports of isolated tornadoes as well. So from Daytona Beach, very strong thunderstorms there traveling along Interstate 4 down to Orlando. Thunderstorms continuing to be strong and then right along the west coast, we are also looking at some isolated to widely scattered strong thunderstorms. This is going to be a problem for folks trying to clean up because of course that is going to create more rainfall and continue to exacerbate the problem there.

We will see this throughout the night; I think it is going to be the end of the weekend before we start to see some real relief from the thunderstorms there.

Fredericka, earlier too you were mentioning, you were wondering why the storm, if it move out over the waters probably wouldn't strengthen. And that's an excellent question. I wanted to give you kind of an idea of what we're looking at. This is the currant situation, the storm system of course continuing to work its way northeastward along the coast. This is where the Gulf Stream, the warm waters that come out of the Gulf of Mexico into the Atlantic takes a turn and heads out to sea.

South of the Gulf Stream you have warm waters that help to feed tropical cyclones. To the north, the water is much cooler and that is pretty much putting the breaks on any storm that moves out into the waters. Once you get into these higher latitudes, you really don't have that warm tropical air mass that these storms need to keep going. So if this happens to move out over some of the waters, it's just not going to move out first of all long enough, and second of all, it is not going to have enough warm water to regenerate.

We think it will continue to diminish in strength. It is going to rain and continue to rain up the eastern seaboard, so of course we have numerous flash flood watches, warnings in effect for some counties in South Carolina, where flooding is already occurring especially look here to the north and northeast of Raleigh, where you saw some of those heavy rain bands, that extends northward now to Baltimore and Philadelphia, and even on to New England.

Now, a new watch has just been issued that includes the Boston metro area, to the area we think the storm will finally go offshore, hopefully by Monday.


WHITFIELD: All right, we'll be keeping tabs on that storm throughout the weekend. Thanks a lot Orelon.

SIDNEY: Your welcome.

WHITFIELD: Well let's check in with Bob Franken he is in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, where this tropical storm Charley is still somewhat making a presence. How does it look there? It doesn't look so bad behind you right now, Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well actually, I think what we have what could be called a nice beach day, surf a little bit rough as you can see. But it was quite remarkable. First of all as well all know the effects of the storm were quite bit less significant than they were tragically down south. Here, it had already gotten down to a tropical storm by the time it hit.

Secondly, it only lasted about an hour or an hour and half here which is good news for a couple of reasons, one it's gone pretty much and secondly, there really wasn't a lot of time for heavy rain in an area that had already been saturated by tropical storm Bonnie and hurricane Alex a couple of weeks ago. So it minimized a little bit the risk of floods. Now we are on Wrightsville Beach, which is a barrier island, and it has not always been such good news.

In 1954 and in 1996, there were category four earthquakes. And when that happened, the area that you see there you wouldn't see. This island gets completely under water. As a matter of fact one of the people who have been around here for a while says the only place that wasn't under water the last time in '96 was the police station. But this time of course it wasn't like that. But the only real visible damage you see is that, that is the lifeguard stand; the part that is on the ground that you can't see had the flags on it saying that there was a hurricane warning.

That turned out not to be accurate. But there was enough of a breeze here to knock that stands over. No injuries, there had been some power outages. The biggest problem for police they say is when you have those power outages; it causes the alarms to go off. The burglar alarms to go off, but the alarms as far as significant damage for the hurricane never were realized.

As a matter of fact the police knew it wasn't going to be so bad. In this particular area, even though it was a barrier island, the evacuations were voluntary and so many people decided not to take advantage of that. In other parts of the state, the National Guard was called out, just in case that they needed to enforce the more stringent problems. North Carolina at least this part of it seems to have escaped the serious damage.


WHITFIELD: All right, Bob thanks so much, and just looking at the shot behind you and seeing some of that final tape, it's beautiful actually to see the blowing surf and the palm trees. If only that were the extent of the damage caused by tropical storm or hurricane. All right thanks very much.

But we know that is not to be the case, particularly when you talk to the retirement community of Punta Gorda, Florida just north of Ft. Myers they were hit the hardest by Hurricane Charlie as a category four. They're still trying to assess the damage there and locate the residents. Our John Zarrella is in Punta Gorda and he joins us on the telephone. And John what's going on there now?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well Fredricka I was listening in and hearing what Orelon was reporting about the weather and thunderstorms in this area, clearly, it's become a very oppressive day, a very brutally hot August day, and it's made all the worse, of course, because here in Punta Gorda, their utilities are down, no electric service, there is no water, there is no telephone service, (INAUDIBLE) on site service is very spotty. And as the day has gone on, emergency teams, rescue teams have begun to really dig in, literally dig into the rubble to start and search and look for people who are either missing or people who might be buried under the mountains of debris, particularly in the mobile home parks (INAUDIBLE) it is a retirement community, a lot of elderly people, a lot of people who did not heed the warning, did not evacuate, and of course, Charley taking that sharp right turn at the last minute and intensifying late into the game and making landfall.

By then, it was too late for these folks to get out. Most of the people they're worried about, how many are trapped or how many still may be in the rubble. They don't know because there's no real accurate count of who left, who stayed. It really is a house-to-house, rubble- by-rubble search Fredricka of all the areas in and around the Punta Gorda neighborhood.

WHITFIELD: And John even though it was mandatory evacuation, emergency workers talked about before the hurricane hit, how difficult it was to try to get some folks to move on. By the time they really looked at the scene of where the storm was, it was too late to get anyone out on the road. Talk to me about the difficulty of those emergency workers to trying to convey this very serious message to those people who decided to ride it out.

ZARRELLA: It's a terribly difficult situation, it is a chronic problem, it is a problem that probably exists here in Florida maybe to more degree than other places because there are so many transplants, who have moved down here over the years, who have never experienced any kind of tropical storm, let alone a hurricane, let alone a hurricane of the magnitude of hurricane Charley.

So many times you hear these people say oh I lived through hurricane Hazel in 1965 or I lived through tropical storm, but they don't have a realization of what to expect. They say they're not leaving. When we talk about emergency manager's frustration, the fact is mandatory doesn't mean you have to leave. They can't physically remove you from your house; they won't physically remove you from your property. Many times these people just stay, and of course what you know the line that's always used, if you're going to stay, please give us the name of your next of kin so they can be notified.

Well unfortunately, the worst may be playing out here in Punta Gorda, that in fact, next of kin are going to be notified in a lot of cases because of the fact people did not leave. Twenty four hours emergency manager gave these people time to get out, that was what I was told by the Emergency Management Office today here, they were told 24 hours ahead of time, evacuate mobile home park. Those are always the first area to be ordered evacuated and the people simply did not listen.


WHITFIELD: And now, it may potentially turn out to be a very sad situation for those people who decided to ride it out. Thanks so much John Zarrella, from Punta Gorda, ground zero of Hurricane Charley. And now we want to show you a bird's-eye view, thanks to WTVT, of Punta Gorda. These pictures just now coming in. Let's take a listen.

All right Dana Bash, who is White House correspondent is keeping us up to date now on President Bush's plans tomorrow to head to some of the hardest hit areas in Florida. And Dana what do you understand the president's agenda to be?

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well we don't have very many details yet Fredricka of exactly where he will go in Florida and what he is going to do. We generally know that Mr. Bush is going to get a first hand look as you mentioned of the devastation in Florida.

Now Mr. Bush declared Florida a federal disaster area, a little more than an hour after the hurricane hit, made landfall yesterday and essentially 48 hours later, Mr. Bush will be on the ground, and it is something that he actually talked about a short while ago in Iowa, he said that he is going to be traveling to Florida to visit with the people whose lives have been disrupted, victims, families of those who have actually lost their lives in Florida. And he said he is going to be working with the state and local officials on the ground to make that they have the federal aid that they think that they need.

And now it is not unusual for presidents to go to disaster areas, after hurricanes, tornadoes, fires and things like that, but this is a president Fredricka who has said that he doesn't always necessarily feel comfortable going in so quickly, because he said he understands it sucks up the much needed aid essentially and resources that the president needs that actually need to be working with the local officials and working on the devastation that you see in these pictures right now.

Now perhaps the president and even his brother, who is the governor, understand what happened to their father in 1992, after hurricane Andrew, the August before his reelection was a time that state and local officials were not happy with the federal response, they thought it was too slow and that the president should have helped out more with money and also by sending some troops in. So this president is making it very clear in a very public way he is going to good down and make sure that Florida has what they need.

Now as for Senator Kerry, a spokeswoman says they don't want to disrupt anything that is going on down there. Senator Kerry will stay away from Florida for a short time for the near future but they did put out a statement saying they expressed their sympathies to the people of Florida and say that they also understand that the hard work the president and federal government and the local government have to do and they support that.


WHITFIELD: And it was hurricane Andrew back in 1992, which caused more than two dozen deaths in south Florida and Louisiana and it was considered to be one of the most costly natural disasters. Now you talk about the logic of President Bush now flying to why he is going to head to Florida, it sounds as though it is really more politics than it is he believes to be the symbolic need for him to make a presence in Florida.

BASH: Well certainly, if you ask the White House, they would not say it's politics, they would say that it is something that is needed, that this is a major devastation, a major event that's gone on down there. As the president, he would want to go see what kind of federal aid is actually needed down there. Certainly, you can't ignore the importance of the state of Florida of course Fredricka this is a state that was a state that 27 electoral votes essentially made Mr. Bush president.

Of course we all remember after the five-week recount it is a state that is still very tight. It is also a state that it seems the lead for Senator Kerry open up a little bit after the Democratic Convention, and is something that Mr. Bush does not want to give up. It's hard to see winning the presidency without Florida for the president.

WHITFIELD: All right, Dana Bash from the White House thanks very much. And of course we'll be keeping you apprised of President Bush's plans to head to Florida tomorrow morning.

Well Orlando is inland in Florida. Seemingly protected simply because of its geography from hurricane Charley but it turns out that it was now case. Our Gary Tuchman is in Orlando to give us an assessment of the damage that was suffered there. Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Fredricka hello to you. We've been driving around central Florida and the central Florida Atlantic coast today to get a look at the damage. If you would have talked to people who live in the Orlando area and the Daytona Beach area two days ago and said your going to spending your weekend cleaning up from hurricane damage, they would have said, no there is a hurricane that is in the Gulf of Mexico. We don't have to worry about that.

But that is why its a surprise what is happening and perhaps why there has been such a late start in cleaning up. We haven't seen much activity today, part of the reason because it has been raining very hard today, from a whole separate system. But the rain has now stopped. And as we drive, we see scores of huge trees, light poles, the traffic lights are out. Several hundred thousand customers still are without power in the Orlando area.

I'm standing next to a 50 foot tree it has probably stood on the ground here next to a church on the eastern part of Orlando for 75 to 100 years and it is now lying completely across the road, uprooted, stopping traffic in both directions. This is an example of what people are going through in this area right now, what they didn't expect to go through.

Last night we spent the night at a hotel in the Daytona Beach, on the beach. The hotels were virtually 100 percent full because people had evacuated from western Florida, and parts of central Florida thinking the safest place to be would be on the Atlantic Coast. Normally, these hotels are very empty when hurricanes are headed in their direction. These were full; it was like a party before Charley arrived.

And then when it started to get very windy, everyone went in their hotels, battened down the hatches for a good hour and a half. They had 95 miles an hour winds in Daytona Beach, Florida on the other side of the state from where they thought the hurricane was going to come. So a lot of surprised people and a lot of cleaning up still to. Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And Gary we're looking at videos of hangars and airport activity and damage. A number of the airlines going in and out of Orlando were grounded for some time. What's the damage assessment?

TUCHMAN: Well there's extensive damage at the Orlando Executive Airport, which is just north of the airport you fly to when you come to the Magic Kingdom Universal Studios in Orlando International Airport. At the Orlando Executive Airport where the small planes are tied up, many of them destroyed, completely damaged, flipped upside down. You know private plans are very light to begin with, and I think a lot of people don't realize that it doesn't take huge gusts of winds to damage them. But when you have winds and they were clocked at the Orlando International Airport yesterday at 105 miles per hour last night kindling. It is not surprising you have that kind of damage.

WHITFIELD: That's remarkable, still hurricane strength knowing that it takes at least 74 per mile per hour winds in order to get to at least a category one hurricane. Gary Tuchman on the phone with us from Orlando. Thanks so much.

Well joining me now by phone from the next state north of tropical storm Charley's path is Janet Clement, she is in Virginia and she is the deputy state coordinator of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and she joins us from Richmond, Virginia. And Janet thanks so much for joining us. What are you seeing from where you are right now? You've seen the damage caused in Florida and in parts of South Carolina. What are your expectations?

JANET CLEMENTS, DEPUTY STATE COORDINATOR (via telephone): Well we're just bracing for the storm to hit us at this point. We're looking at around 4:00 or 5:00 for the tropical storm forced winds to begin entering the state, we have been preparing for this for the last several days. Our local governments are in communication with us and we are ready and waiting to see what the storm will do.

WHITFIELD: So how do you get your state ready? You don't have any kind of mandatory evacuations or do you at least have voluntary evacuations in place?

CLEMENTS: Well Governor Warner did declare state of emergency this morning and we put the National Guard on standby, we have about 100 guardsmen ready to respond. The governor also as part of that process, authorized mandatory evacuations at the discretion of the local government officials. At this point, I don't think they have issued any evacuation notices but if they need to do that they can based on that declaration that the governor this morning.

WHITFIELD: Most states in situations like this show a considerable concern for the most vulnerable of residents. We saw what happened in the southwest portion of Florida with a very high densely populated elderly community. How about there in Virginia, do you start looking for the more vulnerable residents of your state?

CLEMENT: Yes obviously, with any potential flooding and storm surge issues, we're going to look at the low-lying areas. That's what the local emergency managers certainly focus on are those vulnerable populations that need assistance, and that type of thing. We've been having conference calls throughout the morning and early afternoon with the local governments in the vulnerable areas and they are clearly on top of the situation. And are pulling additional staff in and putting out information to their citizens, preparedness information, that type of thing.

WHITFIELD: All right, Janet Clements of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. Thanks so much for joining us on the telephone and best wishes to you all as you prepare for tropical storm Charley.

Well as we've been reporting all day the hardest hit area from a category four hurricane Charley was Punta Gorda. We have got some pictures coming in now from WTVT our affiliate there, a bird's-eye view. Let's listen in right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) Desoto and Charlotte and I'm telling you every single mobile home park that I went to had this kind of devastation in it. Up at Bowling Green I believe it was we watched one family just kind of picking through their remains to see what they could find, whether it be pictures, money, you know even your car keys, things you and I take for granted we know where they're at. People were trying to find these things.

It's overwhelming to see this kind of damage. I remember you flew with me back in 1998, during the Kissimmee tornado. And it was awesome to see that. But when you look at this kind of devastation, it is truly overwhelming. We are going to cross 41 right now. Maybe a little break-up while we are in our transition. Right off the nose Rick, just a little bit down. And you are going to see, on the other side, to the left of that puddle, Rick you will see another massive mobile home park that's on the water.

And you would think these people have some really reinforced mobile homes that they are living this close to the bay. And John and Kelly when you look at the devastation of these mobile home parks are just annihilated, it wasn't until we got down to Harbor Point, I believe it was, just north of Port Charlotte, where we actually saw homes that were just level to the ground, but every place we've been, John and Kelly, it looks like this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Randy, we have got some statistics, 31 mobile home parks destroyed, much of it destroyed in Charlotte County. Some of them had more than 10 or 1,000 units per Mobile Home Park. But I also saw you a little earlier this afternoon. Homes on the water, beautiful huge homes also damaged, severely damaged. So its not just mobile home parks that suffered damage in Charlotte County, is it? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it really isn't. We had gone a little north of Punta Gorda and a little bit to the east of Port Charlotte, a place called Harbor Heights and also Charlotte Harbor, really nice houses that were on the water and they were just annihilated also. And at one point we made our way all the way south into Lee County down there by Sanibel Island and Captiva. Those homes, you would think they're designed to be --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well we lost Randy there. Punta Gorda, the worst of it. The thing that interested me Kelly about those pictures. Is that after hurricane Andrew, the state of Florida restricted the way those houses were built.

WHITFIELD: Thanks to our affiliate WTVT for that live coverage over Punta Gorda, Florida the hardest hit area of hurricane Charley. We will be right back.


WHITFIELD: Hello again, I'm Fredericka Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Welcome back to our special coverage of Hurricane Charley. The aftermath, it is now a tropical storm Charley. And it is battering the North Carolina coast after devastating parts of Florida. Worst hit in southwest, Florida, the retirement town of Punta Gorda, rescue and recovery teams are searching for survivors and bodies. The Associated Press is reporting at least 15 dead. Charlotte County's emergency management director has ordered 60 body bags.

WAYNE SALLADE, CHARLOTTE COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: It's our Andrew. It may not be to the level of Andrew, but it's damn close. This exceeds any hurricane that has hit Florida since Andrew, certainly greater than Opal; it was far greater than Isabel last year along the East Coast. The destruction here is catastrophic.

WHITFIELD: Florida Governor Jeb Bush flew over some of the worst hit areas today. Afterwards, he said quote our worst fears have come true. President Bush has declared Florida a major disaster area. He will visit the state tomorrow.

The storm roaring into the Carolinas today. But there have been no reports of injuries or significant damage. Our coverage of Hurricane Charley the aftermath continues. But first a check of other headlines now in the news.

U.S. and Iraqi forces say they'll renew military attacks on rebels in Najaf now that peace talks with forces loyal to radical cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr have been broken down. Al-Sadr supporters from across Iraq are heading to Najaf's city.

Meanwhile in Samarra the U.S. first infantry division says it killed about 50 insurgents when it bombed the city north of Baghdad earlier this morning. No coalition injuries have been reported.

The U.S. has a new Olympic gold medal in swimming. Michael Phelps going after eight medals, one a golden Athens today in the men's 400 individual medley. And to top that off he set a world record with a time of 4:08.26. Fellow American Eric Vent (ph) won the silver.

Keeping you informed, CNN the most trusted name in news.

Now back to what is being called tropical storm Charley, let's turn to meteorologist Orelon Sidney who is tracking it from our weather center.


ORELON SIDNEY, METEROLOGIST: Thanks a lot Fredricka. It is definitely a tropical storm now, it is definitely continuing to accelerate the next advisory from the National Hurricane Center will come out in an hour and half and we expect the winds to be somewhere in the 60s after dropping from the 70s at the 2:00 p.m. advisory. And it is probably going to be moving north, northeast even faster than 30 miles an hour. So excellent news as far as that is concerned.

If you're still in its path though, you've still got several hours of some really nasty weather. Folks in Greenville, North Carolina, Roanoke Rapids, you're getting some of those heaviest squalls of what's left of the eye. The center of storm now, the center of low pressure is right about there. And just to the north of it is where we'll find all the intense thunderstorms.

Look at the Southside, not much going on there at all. You can see a little bit of squall line here out to the east, that's another rainband that's kind of rotating across the outer banks. So, you're going to see gusty winds, you'll continue to see the heavy rain, but conditions will be improving across North Carolina the next two to three hours, they'll be going downhill, of course, in Virginia and points north. Norfolk, Petersburg, Richmond, currently you are getting rain, you're not getting a lot of thunderstorm activity, that's coming as you storm system continues it works its way northward up the coast. So, not out of the woods yet, in fact, it's going to be a while before we see it and end to this.

I took some of the most intense storms of recent years and compared them to Charley. This is an order of time, this is not -- doesn't have anything to do, as far as the intensity goes so much. But, look at Charley. Most recent, obviously, at 941 millibars, that's how I always determine the intensity of the hurricanes and so does the National Hurricane Center, by its actual lowest pressure.

Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the most recent very intense storm to make landfall, 922 millibars, there. Hugo from 1989, 934 millibars. You can see that both of those, as far as intensity, a little bit stronger than Charley. Closest thing from Charley as far as pressure is concerned is Hurricane Gloria back from 1985, that was 942 millibars. And of course, Donna was in 1960, not in 1060, I don't think my records go back that far. But that was 930 millibars when it made a similar track across parts of Florida.

Here are your tropical storm warnings not. From the Little River Inlet northward to the Merrimack River. You're also going to see some very heavy thunderstorms, unfortunately, across Florida. The daytime heating has managed to kick up a little bit of that tropical moisture. You're going to have showers and thunderstorms across the region throughout the afternoon and the evening, hopefully tapering off after sundown -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Orelon Sidney, thanks very much. Well, for and overall look now, in pictures, at Charley's path, through Florida and then on to the coast of South Carolina, we're turning to CNN's Karen (SIC) Wynter.


KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It could be days before we know the full extent of Charley's fury. The category four storm ravaged Florida's southwest coast with sustained winds of 145 miles-per-hour, and a storm surge topping 10 feet. In Punta Gorda, north of Fort Myers, emergency management officials ordered 60 body bags and two refrigeratored trucks.

LISA HUTCHISON, RED CROSS NATIONAL SPOKESWOMAN: Damage is widespread. We -- you know we've been hearing -- you know, about Punta Gorda and the Port Charlotte area, but it's all across the state and that's what we're doing right now. We have volunteers and staff all across to be sure everybody, not just the hardest hit areas, has the necessity.

WYNTER: More than 2 million people across Florida are without power because of the storm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think I've ever been so scared in my life. When those winds got up there, sounded like there was a thousand guys marching up on our roofs.

WYNTER: Charley retained hurricane strength across the Florida peninsula.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what you call a disaster area.

WYNTER: Then turned up the Atlantic coast heading towards the Carolinas as a category one storm. In South Carolina, residents stocked up on supplies. A mandatory evacuation was ordered in Myrtle Beach. Officials are now encouraging those who didn't take advantage of yesterday's evacuation to remain in their homes or shelters and ride the storm out.

Kareen Wynter, CNN, South Carolina.


WHITFIELD: Our special coverage of Hurricane Charley, the aftermath will continue.


ANNOUNCER: August 24, 1992 Hurricane Andrew devastated southeastern Florida. The category five hurricane flattened the town of Homestead killing 15 people there, and leaving a quarter of a million others looking for shelter. Andrew was the most expensive natural disaster to ever hit the U.S. Doing $26.5 in damage. So many Andrew related claims were filed, nearly a dozen insurance companies went out of business.



WHITFIELD: President Bush plans to visit Florida tomorrow to see for himself the devastation left by Hurricane Charley. The president will see the damage is extensive and widespread, as this report from Bob Kealing of affiliate "WESH" shows us.


BOB KEALING, "WESH" CORRESPONDENT: Buzz saw Charley took a fast track up through the certainty of Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess the closest thing you can think of is the "Wizard of Oz" the scene where everything starts flying by and that's what we saw.

KEALING: In Arcadia 1,200 people at this civic center saw their shelter crumble around them. Only one person suffered minor injuries. The evacuees were relocated.

In Lake Wales, the high waters washed away a road and claimed the life of one person. And all over this region, airports and airplanes sustained heavy damage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, by last night, we knew that we had a really, really bad situation so, this is what it is.

KEALING: In Punta Gorda, some buildings have collapsed, others have significant damage. Patrol teams from all over the state are watching the streets, those not blocked by debris or downed power lines.


WHITFIELD: All right, now to Wauchula, Florida, just east of Bradenton where we want to show you some new pictures from "WTVT" and a reporter and crew driving through the devastation.


CHARLEY BELCHER, "WTVT" REPORTER: You can see as we rode in on U.S. Highway 17, the roof collapse on some buildings there along the roadway, and you can see the ominous skies as we rolled in even then. You know, sometimes after a hurricane things just clear up and clear out and you have nicest weather ever, but the sky is still threatening.

Now, this is Main Street in downtown Wauchula. Some of these buildings are so old, and you see the roof collapse on that one, they date back to the Florida Cracker Trail days. Wauchula a very old town and you can see the extensive damage to these storefronts on Main Street in Wauchula as we -- as we roll down Main Street, here.

Wauchula, the people tell me, that it was hit very hard, the winds very strong. The good news, as of right now, the information, only six minor injuries in Hardy County. The hospital in Wauchula received some damage, but they are seeing people who are injured, but again, only six minor injuries reported in Wauchula.

All power is out, including in Wauchula, that includes Bowling Green, Zolfo Springs, so there's no electricity in this. And emergency officials are urging people to stay off the roadways so that emergency crews can get in here and restore power. I just got off the phone with the emergency operations manager; he tells me that Hardy County can expect to be without power for up to seven days. For up to seven days without power in Hardy County.

And look as we roll down the street here, some these older trees that are uprooted. You know, we had the situation where we had the saturated ground and all the heavy rain, weakened the root structure. When these high winds came along, they just uprooted all these trees. You're seeing metal debris on the parking lots on the ground. This is Main Street Apartment just out of downtown of Wauchula. Look at that power pole that snapped and hit a car. Now, the people that were here at this apartment complex rode out the storm, in there, and they describe it as the scariest thing they've ever experienced, a lot of children in there with them and so forth.


WHITFIELD: All right, that was taped coverage from "WTVT."

Well, for the latest on Hurricane Charley when you're away from your television, log on to to view an interactive map of Charley's predicted path and images from the storm site. You'll also find facts about Hurricane Charley and a link to the National Hurricane Center.

More live coverage of Hurricane Charley right here on CNN.


WHITFIELD: Continuing now with our special coverage of Hurricane Charley, we want to bring you a report from our affiliate "WTVT," reporting on a homeowner talking about what it was like surviving Hurricane Charley.


CHARLEY BELCHER, "WTVT" REPORTER: And we're in Bowling Green in Hardee County and I can tell you, this is the norm, snapped trees all over the place. We drove down Highway 17 and the further south you get, the more intense the damage gets. We saw so many huge pine trees knocked over on power lines. Obviously no power to this area and no word yet when it could be restored. Talk to these folks.

How are you doing, sir? How are you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Hoare are you doing, man?

BELCHER: I'm fine. How -- this is your house right here, right? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. I'm rent from the landlady, but we stayed in it last night, you know, me and my daughter and my wife and man, we were scared, you know and the car totaled, the trees on the house and, what can you do? Just ride through it. You know, there's nothing you can do. Look around you it's all -- everything's gone, man.

BELCHER: And your car and under the carport there, you said you just paid it off?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, I just paid it off, now I just -- I don't know how I'm going to get to work, but I'll figure it out sooner or later.

BELCHER: Well, the good news is you're safe...


BELCHER: Your family is safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, we're alive, that's what we're thankful for and hopefully everybody over there in Port Meade everywhere is alive, too, man. Because, Wauchula's a disaster, you know, and I've got my parents are over there and I know, I don't know of them right now until I get there, somehow, but...

BELCHER: How bad was it when the storm was coming overhead?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was bad, you couldn't even see outside. It was just -- I had the kids cover up with the mattress and pillows and I made a barricade over the bathroom, we've got two bathrooms in there, and I told them not to come out, you know, I just kept looking and see if -- and then, things were flying through the window and then the power, the boosters, whatever, the transformer busted and the fence was full of electricity, my roof was full of little fire with the wires and it was just scary, man, and there was nowhere to run. So, what can you do?

BELCHER: So, now the cleanup begins?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now the cleanup begins that's all and just keep cleaning it up. That's it -- you know, everybody's doing everything they can do -- you know, and get their lives back together.


WHITFIELD: That report from "WTVT." Well, Charley left Florida as a hurricane, made its way along the Carolina coast before becoming a tropical storm where it's now heading toward Virginia and that's where we find our Tom Foreman just about 30 minutes outside of Norfolk. He's on the telephone with us.

Tom, what are you seeing and hearing there?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what you're seeing and hearing, right now, are the outer fringes of a big storm like this, from my past experience. We hit some really heavy rain coming down here that lasted for quite a while, really difficult to drive through, you couldn't see that much. Now, we're in one of those fringy areas where you get a light rain but it's consistent and the big concern here, obviously, is going to be flooding because driving through from earlier rains, you can see the ground is really saturated; there's standing water here and there. But, that's going to be the biggest concern, here. There's almost no wind, a little tiny bit in the top of the trees, but not a lot to worry about with that. Mainly, it's going to be flooding here.

WHITFIELD: So, to a lot of folks, a lot of Virginians, there, it just looks like an ordinary, or the beginnings of an ordinary rainstorm, which means you're probably seeing a lot of motorists out and about. But, are these people also being warned to, at some point, cut off their day-to-day routine and start to take more of a serious mode, because this tropical storm could potentially bring serious damage?

FOREMAN: A lot of people here have clearly been getting a warning that they need to be aware that as the evening goes on, the afternoon and the evening, real serious part of the storm is going to come over here. You're right. Right now, it's just like a normal big summer storm, a big long rainy day, a little heavier than usual, but that's going to intensify through the evening and people here have been given a warning (UNINTELLIGIBLE) traffic right now, but I think as the evening goes on, you'll see more people settling into their homes, getting away from places where there'll be potential problems.

WHITFIELD: All right, well that tropical storm Charley expected to hit the Virginia area a little bit later on today.


WHITFIELD: Tom Foreman, thanks so much for joining us on the telephone.

Let's go to an area hard hit by Hurricane Charley and that is Punta Gorda, a community of about 14,000, mostly retired and elderly persons. And Bob Carpenter is a PIO with the sheriff's department. He's on the phone with us now.

And Mr. Carpenter, can you give me an assessment right now, as you all try to make it to some of these areas where you know there were residents just at the time when the storm hit?

BOB CARPENTER, CHARLOTTE CO., FLORIDA SHERIFF'S DEPT.: Well right now, the people are pouring in, hundreds of them, in fact, 1,500 National Guardsmen of been come -- are in here now into position, they're kind of walking around through the streets to provide the stability that we need here.

And the governor, Jeb Bush was in this afternoon, he said he's got a -- 5,000 others on standby, if and when we need them. Now, the other agencies are coming all over the state of Florida.

We have -- the problem is we've got 31 mobile home manufactured parks, here. They are older, they've been around a long time, long before the Hurricane Andrew rules went into effect and they just crumbled and were destroyed. We have no body count, officially at this time, but there were several deaths last night and to go through the rubble of 31 mobile home parks, that's just those, an awful luge area down here.

WHITFIELD: And Mr. Carpenter, these are significantly large mobile home parks, aren't they?

CARPENTER: They are, one is 1,200 units available in there and I don't even have a total count yet on the number of homes. That's those. Now, as you drive around the area, you'll find that the regular type homes were destroyed, businesses were destroyed, the airport is gone. There's just so much devastation down here and we just had a few minutes notice when Charley came through and turned. Incredible, people were horrified. We evacuated the sheriff's office here for a plan "B" over at the jail and went over there and plugged in everything and we had the winds up over 145 miles-an-hour.

WHITFIELD: So because it was a very quick turn...


WHITFIELD: ..that Hurricane Charley took, it didn't give you all enough time, did it, go to some of these mobile home parks, which are always among the most vulnerable communities, in order to get in there and try to convey the message to people who decided to stay?

CARPENTER: Well, when you got a hurricane coming we know it six, seven, eight, ten days out and then just the advisories that go out, a lot of people don't believe it, we've had so many that didn't for the last 20, 30 years. And a lot of now people coming to Florida just didn't believe it. Well, we made believers this time out of it.

But, surprisingly, as it got closer and people really got concerned, want to come over Havana and started heading north, we thought, yeah, but we weren't too sure it was going to go and people did heed. We got them -- that was the first major evacuation of the outer islands that we -- we've had where, I mean, were they really got out. And a lot of these mobile home parks with their senior citizens, retirees, those people that did get out, went to their park, like their entertainment center, those buildings there. A lot of them aren't here in the summer. We have no idea how many's in those parks.


CARPENTER: So, we're looking for the best, be do and are prepared here, we've got the cadaver dogs, we're got teams out there at the 31 locations. Downtown in the Punta Gorda is the historic district, down there, very -- a prime jewel, most of it was destroyed in the down -- in the aftermath, there, of this terrible storm.

WHITFIELD: And now, what about the shelters? I understand that in some of the areas around Punta Gorda, they did fill up, however, in other areas the shelters themselves had a hard time sustaining these high winds 165, 145 mile-per-hour winds.

CARPENTER: Yeah. You got to understand where we're at down here, the majority of the population and the businesses are probably nine feet and less and when you get a category three and four storm in here, the storm surge is from 10 to 15 or more above that so that's what happened when that thing came in here. Say people, we did fill every possible place we've got here. This is a critical need down here. A lot of the schools are available in there, but they're -- you know, they're six feet above sea level and they -- you know, you can't put people in there, when you go to that kind of category storm. So, we have a -- we got a problem down here. The whole county has 151,000 people and when you get that many to evacuate. The problem is when they put up these warnings, everybody from the other parts of the state says, oh, well it ain't going to hit there, I'll go there.


CARPENTER: Well, then you had everybody heading to our area or heading inland and then this thing took a turn, another nasty turn and when up to Orlando, and I guess I just heard you say on the -- that's an update for me, because I've been wondering where it went.

So, I guess that' how -- is it going over the Gulf or something, not the Gulf, but the Atlantic and regenerating or just going to drag out?

WHITFIELD: Well, it's a tropical storm, so it has been downgraded from hurricane strength, which means it's under 74 miles-per-hour, about 70 miles-per-hour, right now, and it's making its way at the top of North Carolina and into Virginia where...


CARPENTER: I just have a word of caution to your people up there, that, you know, when they say "evacuate" or "start preparing," we made a lot of believers of people down here, unfortunately it was...

WHITFIELD: Unfortunately, the hard way.

CARPENTER: Yeah. Now the, as I said before, when the governor was here and our director of the emergency management in here, of the state when in there, we probably have more homes destroyed here than the total number that was destroyed in that very narrow strip of the hurricane that came through that devastated southwest -- southeast, Florida.

WHITFIELD: Now, I know at the beginning of our conversation, you said that it's too early for you all to determine a body count.


WHITFIELD: And it's difficult to know how just many people are living in these mobile home parks, given that it's summer and a lot of people leave. Do you have any broad idea based on, perhaps, concerned family members who have called, in terms of a missing persons count you guys can go on?

All right, looks like we just lost our connection with Mr. Bob Carpenter, the PIO of the sheriff's department in Punta Gorda. But, you can tell from that report there that the damage is extensive. And they're still trying to assess how many people are missing or perhaps even killed from that storm.

Now, we want to move on to Ken Suarez from our affiliate "WTVT," with a story in a woman in Polk County, Florida, whose diner was severely damaged by that storm.


KEN SUAREZ, "WTVT" REPORTER (voice-over): It's hard to see what's taken you years to build up fall down right before your very eyes. Chalmay (PH) Scott just did, when her restaurant, called "Big Momma's" began falling into pieces, trapping her inside.

CHALMAY (PH) SCOTT, OWNER, BIG MOMMA'S: This is my life, I depend on everything here, I work here. I open 6:00 to 4:00, everyday I work about 18 hour, here. Everyday, everybody know that, too.

SUAREZ: Hurricane Charley didn't care about her or her daughter. The storm took away her daughter's job, but took away something much harder to replace from Chalmay, who's well into her '60s.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been her life since she came to America when we were little -- you know, when my dad suggested that they get a restaurant and for me to see this and know that, basically, my mom's life is gone, for the time being, is really hard.

SUAREZ: Chalmay was preparing for the storm when it whipped through. When the roof ripped off, Chalmay frantically called her husband for help, who rushed over.

SCOTT: My husband said, "Come to the back door." So, I hurry, run from the front and to the back and the ceiling started -- I thought maybe it was going to be, I don't know, just a small piece. I thought maybe whole ceiling going to collapse.

SUAREZ: Pieces did, but it held out.




SUAREZ: Long time customers have been stopping by at what used to be the place in Eagle Lake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Food is just fantastic, the price is reasonable, and...

SUAREZ (on camera): And her?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's a great -- she's just a host and hostess.

SUAREZ (voice-over): Now, she's a woman who's thankful to be alive, but wondering how she's going to get the money to live.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WHITFIELD: And that report from Ken Suarez of "WTVT."

Our live coverage of Hurricane Charley and the aftermath, will continue right after this.


ANNOUNCER: September 18, 2003, Hurricane Isabel blasts the east coast with punishing winds and rain. CNN crews were there as she pounded the Carolina shores.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gusts you're seeing now are easily up to 170 miles-an-hour, and I will tell you it is becoming increasingly dangerous by the minute.

ANNOUNCER: It wasn't the fiercest storm on record, but Hurricane Isabel was still strong enough to cause more than a billion dollars in damage across six states.



WHITFIELD: Hello, I'm Fredericka Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta. You're watching our special coverage of Hurricane Charley. It has finally lost enough steam to be downgraded to a tropical storm. Here's a satellite image of where it's located now over North Carolina.

Earlier, Charley pounded the South Carolina coast, south of Myrtle Beach. There have been no reports of injuries or significant damage, but further south, much more devastation.

Florida's lieutenant governor is the retirement town of Punta Gorda, ground zero for the storm. Sixty body bags and refrigerator trucks have been ordered. We'll have more on the aftermath in a moment, but first a look at what else is happening now in the new.


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