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CNN LIVE SATURDAY
Hurricane Frances Inches Towards Florida
Aired September 4, 2004 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: More of our continuing coverage of Hurricane Frances straight ahead.
But first, here are our other headlines making news right now.
Normal operations at Los Angeles International Airport are resuming at this hour. The airport was shut down today after two separate and unrelated security incidents.
In the first, a man went up the exit stairs into the airport terminal. In a second incident, a flashlight exploded, apparently because of defective batteries. Several people suffered minor injuries from that.
President Bush is seeking votes today in two battleground states: Ohio and Pennsylvania. This week's Republican Convention apparently boosted his popularity. A "Newsweek" poll shows Bush with an 11-point lead over Democratic rival John Kerry.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is vowing to toughen security measures in response to this week's school siege in southern Russia. Russian officials say 323 hostages, 26 hostage takers and 10 Special Forces agents were killed. Half the people killed were children among the hostages.
The siege at the school has apparently set off a weave of self- criticism in the Arab community. Russian officials say the hostage takers were Muslim Chechens rebels and Arab supporters. Today, a prominent Arab journalist wrote Muslims must accept the harsh and painful truth that most of the world's terrorists are Muslims.
As much of the state of Florida has dreaded the onset of Frances, most now wish the massive and sluggish hurricane would just get it over with. At this point, the category two storm is toying with Florida's mid-Atlantic coastline and Governor Jeb Bush is addressing now reporters about their emergency efforts under way right now.
JEB BUSH, GOVERNOR, FLORIDA: ... front line right now. They are in their operation centers working on behalf of the residents of their counties, even though the storm may be harming their own family, their own properties. They're true heroes and all of us should be thankful for what they're doing.
Frances is still, as we know, a big, unpredictable and very slow storm. And I wanted to make a couple of points about this. While there are no hurricane watches or warnings for the West Coast of Florida yet, or the panhandle, they are more likely, or most likely to occur this evening.
And so, for people that are in Panama City or Pensacola or here in Tallahassee perhaps, or the Apalachicola Bay area, this threat is real and it would be appropriate to begin to prepare for the storm. You have ample time to do it and we urge you to prepare. Just as we asked about 48 hours ago, people -- or even longer than that, 72 hours ago -- people in the Southeast coast and central Florida area to begin that process, is more than appropriate for people in the panhandle area to begin that process.
The eye of the storm is incredibly large, 70 miles in diameter. Ben will talk a little bit about the storm itself. And conditions may temporarily improve. If you've been through a hurricane, it's kind of an eerie feeling normally, when the eye goes over you: the sky is clear and the winds stop temporarily. In this case, there may be a false sense that the storm has passed because of the length of the eye.
But what will happen is the tail end of the storm will come and we need to continue to be prepared as this storm makes landfall. It could take about four hours for the eye of the storm to pass over you. So, please don't take that as a sign that all is well. This storm's primary definition right now is that it is very, very slow and it will take a while to get through our state.
Having lived through Andrew, in the case of Andrew, it was a storm that came in the evening and Treasurer Gallagher here, and others that have gone through this, can tell you that it's a very scary time when a storm comes any time, but this storm will continuing to have impacts over hundreds of thousands of Floridians at night. And I just urge people to be close to their families, love their children, stay safe, and stay with them.
And know that there is a tremendous amount of support on the way. This afternoon I spoke to Marty Evans, who is the CEO of the Red Cross and they have thousands of volunteers, to be combined with the several thousand volunteers that already in Florida to provide relief and support.
Literally hundreds of supply trucks will be set up, shelters are going to be set up, food, water, shelter will be there. And I do appreciate the Red Cross and the Salvation Army and the faith-based community that are literally staging as we speak, to provide support for people that are going to need it.
And for folks that are watching this maybe from afar, concerned about their fellow Americans that reside in Florida, I would urge you, if you want to make a difference to provide financial support to the American Red Cross or to the Salvation Army or to any other group that you know, legitimate group, that is actively involved in the relief effort.
With the permission of those assembled here, if you don't mind, I'd like to say a few words in Spanish as well.
(SPEAKING SPANISH) WHITFIELD: Florida Governor Jeb Bush reminding people that it was 72 hours ago that he said get prepared, and he says, now, if you didn't take heed then, you should now.
All along the Florida coast, people are already starting to feel the effects of Hurricane Frances, particularly in places like Melbourne. And that's where we find our Anderson Cooper. They're already getting the first squalls of rain and already some pretty significant wind gusts.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You might say that, Fredricka. Significant wind gusts: it's a good term. The wind has really picked up, as Jacqui Jeras said it was going to. Chad, do you know how fast this wind is right now?
CHAD MYERS, METEOROLOGIST: I just got a wind gust there that was 71 miles an hour right there. And that was the worst gust we had. But you could see it coming. Go back out to the marina here. You can just see how we lost visibility. All this rain shower activity. This is the storm; this is the wind that Jacqui Jeras was talking about, just about 15 minutes ago. And clearly, this is the worst we've seen. You can't even stand up, really now.
COOPER: Jacqui has said that within the hour winds were going to be up to 60 to 80 miles an hour. Chad just saying 71 miles an hour. You used to be able to see; visibility, if you look at the marina shop, visibility used to be much more. You can't see more than a couple hundred feet at this point. Winds really picking up, even as we're speaking.
Also, we're a bit concerned about a lot of these like, light posts: they look like they are about to go. They are really wobbling at this point. The boats in the marina are really having a hard time.
MYERS: You can't even look at the rain, it's so hard. It feels like just stinging ice on your face. It's really getting bad now.
COOPER: And you anticipate it getting worse?
MYERS: Absolutely. It might even get double this bad. I mean, we're talking about that multiplier thing, right? If the wind speed doubles it's four times more power. So, if this is only 71, we've got 40 more miles an hour more to go, bud.
COOPER: And we have been waiting for this storm quite a while now. The residents of this area have been waiting, as well. There are some 60,000 people in shelters at this point, according to the Red Cross. That is up from 21,000 people on Thursday night.
There are, at this point, at last estimate, according to Florida Power 1.45 million people without electricity. And the full brunt of this storm has not even hit this area. One can only imagine how many people are going to be without power in the coming hours and the coming days. It's going to get nasty. MYERS: This thing's still 100 miles an hour away. The eye wall is still 100 miles away, Anderson. It's just going to -- I don't know how we're actually going to stay at this location. The live truck actually now, bouncing back and forth and we actually have to use a dish: a lot like the old satellite dishes in the back of the old houses, you know, the barns. And that thing starts wobbling and that takes us off the air once in a while.
COOPER: It's remarkable to just look out and see white caps. I mean, this is the inland waterway. It looks like the ocean. It looks like the Atlantic Ocean.
MYERS: It does. And it's just a river, the Indian River there. I mean those waves are at least probably three to sixes and these waves are really even battering these boats here in the marina.
COOPER: Now we had been talking about rain; that rain was going to be the major problem. That there was going to be a need -- lots of flooding. So far, I mean there's this stinging rain, but it's not the huge rain that I thought it would be.
MYERS: Exactly. When you look at the radar, you see oranges and yellows and reds, and you think, "Oh my gosh. What a big thunderstorm." But this rain is going so sideways, that it really isn't as heavy as, let's say, a severe thunderstorm in the plains. And what we're seeing now would be a severe thunderstorm warning, let's say, in Oklahoma City or whatever it might be. And we're going to go another 20, 30, maybe 40 miles per hour greater than this.
COOPER: How long do you anticipate these kinds of sustained winds lasting for?
MYERS: It could be 12 hours. That's the problem. When you get one shingle that starts to lift, and then if it stops blowing, that shingle will go back down; your roof will be fine. But if it blows for 12 hours, that shingle goes, the next one goes, and then you get that sustained, that long-term damage, with 80, 95 mile per hour winds.
COOPER: Well, that's one of the things Governor Jeb Bush was warning Florida residents about. You know, when the winds die, or a couple days ago as we're talking about 145 mile an hour winds, 120 mile an hour winds. When you suddenly hear, "Oh, it's 70 miles an hour or it's 60 miles an hour," you think, "That's half as bad." But it's those sustained winds that really cause a problem.
MYERS: It's really incredible. I mean this right here, we've got to be doing at least 65 sustained, with some gusts now 75. In fact, I wish we had a camera on our cameraman because there's a guy holding him up because he's got the camera over on his side and that's trying to blow him over. So, yeah...
COOPER: Well, if I go flying, I hope you grab me.
MYERS: We're in a safe location.
COOPER: All right.
It is definitely picking up here. Check back with us in a little bit, Fredricka. It's going to get worse.
WHITFIELD: It will indeed. In fact, that is the promise of Max Mayfield: we spoke with him earlier, who said the more frightening thing about all this, when it does intensify and you really do start to feel the brunt of the maximum sustained wind it will be nightfall. So, hopefully you guys will not be standing where you're standing right now, but instead, taking cover.
Anderson Cooper and Chad Myers, thanks so much from Melbourne.
Well let's go to Ft. Pierce where folks there are expected to be dead center in the hurricane's path. And for now, we're going to find our Gary Tuchman, who is there. And a moment ago he was taking cover. Gary, how are things looking now?
Oh, nope. You're right out in the elements again.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN REPORTER: That's right, Fredricka.
I'm on the same river that Anderson and Chad are, on the Indian River, but they're 50 miles to my right in that direction. We can tell you right now, behind us, this is the Ft. Pierce City Marina, which is about a half a mile away from the Atlantic Ocean. Many of these boats out here are houseboats; people live on them. I can tell you authoritatively, there's no one living on them right now. Everybody's evacuated.
What I find unique about this particular hurricane and being in this particular location, and you hear this a lot, tornadoes and hurricanes often sound like freight trains running through, and this one does. But because we have so many masts in this location, we actually hear a whistle. I don't know if you can hear it, but it sounds like a swarm of bumble bees.
We just have perpetually heard that now for the last four hours, as we stood in this location. This is an evacuated zone. We haven't seen anybody here, except a couple of other members of the news media have come by and police, who are patrolling the area.
As far as this city of Ft. Pierce goes, very vulnerable to flooding because it is right on top of the Indian River. This is the intercostal waterway that separates the Barrier Island of Hutchinson Island, which is behind us, which you can normally see from the mainland. So they're very vulnerable, they're very concerned about the flooding. Minor flooding so far, but as we all know, the eye wall is still coming in this direction; there's still a lot of storm to go.
We just took a ride down the street to Ft. Pierce. Lots of signs down, lots of trees down and something very unlucky: on one particular road, there was one car that was still parked on the side street and on top of that car a tree fell.
Fredricka back to you. WHITFIELD: Now Gary, you're at a marina right there, and a lot of those boats are obviously tied down. It's not unusual that even boats tied down after a category two hurricane that a lot of those boats will end on a nearby sidewalk. How do they seem to be faring right now?
TUCHMAN: Well, I'll tell you, by the time that we think they're ready to end up on a sidewalk, we're going to be far away from here. Right now, the winds are not high enough for that to happen.
We've had gusts, according to the police here in Ft. Pierce, of up to 80 miles per hour, but they have been sustained at that level yet. Once they get sustained higher than 80 miles per hour, there's some danger for some of these smaller vessels, but most of the people have the bigger boats behind me, don't anticipate having any problem, other than having to clean them afterwards.
WHITFIELD: Gary Tuchman. Thanks so much from Ft. Pierce.
Now, south of Ft. Pierce, West Palm Beach: already there are some images of some damage. And thanks to our affiliate, WSVN, here's some of the latest pictures we're able to bring you right now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... the roof ripped off. There you see some, it looks like an emergency worker plowing through the water there.
So, quite a bit of damage. Again, this is our first video of the damage in West Palm Beach. People there, at least 300,000 people without electricity -- and there's another really good picture of that building -- 300,000 people without electricity still at this hour because of hurricane force winds.
And this is another live picture of North Bay Village, as the winds continue to really kick in.
WHITFIELD: All right, Lynn (ph). Thanks a lot for those pictures.
All right. So amazing pictures coming in from West Palm Beach. Already, they are experiencing some damage, power lines down, palm trees down and then you saw a lot of the roof damage there taking place right along the beach in West Palm.
And already throughout several parts of Florida, close to 50,000 people are without electricity because of those kinds of elements that are already battering the Florida coast.
Now, Vero Beach: it's usually a picture postcard of a town, but today, it was among the many Florida communities pounded by winds and rain from Hurricane Frances.
Joining us now by phone, is the mayor of Vero Beach, Tom White. All right Mayor White, what are you experiencing where you are about now? TOM WHITE, MAYOR, VERO BEACH: We're experiencing a lot of heavy winds, a lot of trees and branches down; we have a few power poles that have been torn down. We've got damage to the airport, the hangars, we've got roofs coming off. We have one mobile home park that's right on our Indian River lagoon, which has had some severe damage.
WHITFIELD: Now, you are sandwiched in between Ft. Pierce and Melbourne. Does it appear that most of your residents did take heed to the warning that Governor Bush gave 72 hours ago: people advocate?
WHITE: Absolutely. Our barrier island had a mandatory evacuation and we also asked the people that were east of US 1 to also evacuate because of the storm surge. We also have a lot of mobile home parks, or manufactured home parks, that have evacuated also.
WHITFIELD: And give me an idea: this town, very much a resort community, as are many of the beach towns there along the Florida coast, do you have a lot of year-round residents, or do you have mostly a lot of snowbirds?
WHITE: Actually, we do have a lot of year-round residents. The fact that the numbers keep climbing every year of the permanent residents, because it seems like a lot of our snowbirds that come down here, fall in love with the community and end up staying here or retiring here.
WHITFIELD: So, because of many of your residents are year-round, you feel like they have become very educated about the hurricane season; they're taking it very seriously; they're not at all complacent about these mandatory evacuations?
WHITE: No. Surprisingly, because we haven't had a storm hit us like this, I believe -- well we've had a couple of small hurricanes over the last 25 years -- but 25 years ago Labor Day, we were hit with Hurricane David, which we did not have the population at that time that we do today. And people took this storm very serious.
WHITFIELD: So, I wonder if you give a lot of that credit to Hurricane Charley taking place just a few weeks ago, that that was a reminder for folks, that you know what, this is what can happen and a storm can suddenly take a turn and catch people off guard?
WHITE: Absolutely. Absolutely. Hurricane Charley, everybody was preparing for it when it went in through the West Coast, it came up and went through Orlando. The damage reports that came through from Punta Gorda all the way up through Orlando was just devastating.
WHITFIELD: So, now what about your emergency crews? How equipped are you all, given that you're a small town, a little bit more isolated? How able are you to conduct any kind of emergency rescues or anything like that, if it does come to that, considering there always are a couple of folks who decide to stick around?
WHITE: We've already had that. Yes, we have an emergency operation center set up at the police department. The county has an EOC center at the administration building. We were out there this morning; we've been working with them closely. The police department: we still have sent units out in emergency cases only. We have pulled most of the emergency personnel off the road.
We have bulldozers, front end loaders in front of all the, like our transmission distribution center for electricity, so when the storm does cease, that we'll be able to get the crews out with the front end loaders to be able to clear the roadways and be able to get them out there and try to restore power as soon as possible, and be able to get the emergency crews out.
WHITFIELD: And traditionally, Labor Day weekend is kind of the last big hoorah, money-making weekend for beach communities. Given you're on the coast of Florida, you've got many more great weekends ahead, but how much of a devastating economic impact is this storm making for your community.
WHITE: Well, right now, the last report I had, we went out this morning before the winds really got high, we checked the beach areas and everything; we've lost a lot of beach. In fact, the waves are up against a couple of our businesses now on the oceanfront and we have a restaurant right there at what we call Sexton Plaza, and the waves are breaking underneath it and we just hope it holds up. But we have lost a lot of our beach.
WHITFIELD: Mayor Tom White of Vero Beach. Thanks so much for joining us. And be safe throughout the hours of the storm.
WHITE: Thank you, Fredricka. It was very nice talking with you.
WHITFIELD: Nice talking to you as well.
And CNN will be right back after this break with more live coverage of Hurricane Frances.
WHITFIELD: We're showing you some live pictures right now coming in off the coast of Florida in our continuing coverage of Hurricane Frances.
Let's talk about the city of West Palm Beach. It's a little less than 70 miles due west of Frances' center, and already we've seen that there is roof damage and a lot of trees are down. And CNN's John Zarrella is there. He's seeing it too, only he's seeing it firsthand.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN REPORTER: Fredricka, you know, and what we're seeing here is really what you would expect to see in a category two hurricane. As you mentioned, a lot of trees down, palm fronds down all over the place. These gusty squalls that come in, this tropical storm force.
Actually, what we're experiencing right now is a little less than what we've experienced earlier in the day here; it's lessened up quite a bit. We're looking out here across the intercoastal waterway, across on the other side is Palm Beach. You can see the white caps on the waves and the water is actually moving from about north to south here in the intercostal.
And it's actually not quite as rough and choppy as it was before. You can see some of the water moving up right along the seawall here. And it was quite a bit higher even earlier today. And down a little bit further south along the seawall here, the water's actually coming up over.
Now, we've got a wind gauge that Patrick Ottman (ph), our producer, here has been looking at. Patrick, what have you gotten in the last couple of minutes? The highest?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The highest we've gotten so far is about 36 miles an hour.
ZARRELLA: That's tropical storm force. But again, you can see that right now, it's just really light winds right here. Just not very strong at all.
But we have another camera view; that from that camera view, you can really get an idea of what the water's been playing havoc with the sailboats out there and with some of these other boats that are moored out here. And in fact, earlier today, there's a $3.5 billion yacht that's sitting off to my right over here and that yacht was pulled from its anchors and there was a rather dramatic effort by the captain and the first mate to get it over here and it was all captured on camera and recorded by CNN's Sean Callebs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is nuts. I have no idea. This guy's got to engine trouble or just lost control of it.
Probably, or perhaps having engine trouble or simply not enough power to cope with the wind from Frances coming down this way. But this person doing a remarkable job of getting the craft into the position that it is. You can see on the front, a couple of anchor lines have been dangling down that allowed this boat to slowly make it up.
But look in the front. You can see a couple of gashes. Even with the best of efforts -- exactly -- the best of efforts tying this thing off, simply the storm too powerful. Now apparently, trying to make another run back up the way, carrying not only its anchors, but now also a pole from the yacht club.
So, this is quite a drama out here on the intercostal waterway.
We haven't seen anybody out here trying to help. There are some people who are out in the hurricane who probably shouldn't be, who have stopped to look at what's going on.
You see on the bow, with the flight jacket, now reaching down in to try and get another rope to tie up. So, they're doing everything they can. Clearly, these are very experienced people just to get this yacht in position to even tie up. The weather out here: the winds have really picked up.
It just drifts so quickly. But apparently they got it tied off. Or so an anchor was caught in the front, so maybe they're going to be able to maneuver their way in somewhat. And there's a walkway, if you look on the stern, so if they can get this tied off, maybe they'll be able to moor it as safely as possible.
And it's really pretty amazing that this situation didn't work out any worse than it did. Because this guy wasn't able to get control of this ship right through here, it had nowhere to go, except for the bridge.
That was an amazing job. How'd you do that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.
CALLEBS: We're here with Hennie Heinman (ph). And you say that you were contracted to babysit this yacht through the storm?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
CALLEBS: You got a little more than you bargained for, didn't you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I lost a lot of systems; ended up with just one engine and no steering and now bow thruster. So I did what I could; the anchors struck; did what I could to stick it in the hole here and try to save it as much as I could. Keep it off the bridge.
Well, did you tape it coming in?
CALLEBS: Yes. We saw the whole thing played out on CNN. We saw the whole thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. A very relieved boat owner of a nice multi-million dollar yacht there, right off West Palm Beach. He did manage to get it all tied up.
But there was nothing easy about that. You saw the winds were kicking up and the surf as well.
Jacqui Jeras is in the Weather Center watching it, as well. Boy, he's really lucky. I know he's already starting to think insurance, however.
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, absolutely. Some pretty touch-and-go moments there.
And we're going to see a lot of touch-and-go moments, I think, over the next even 24 hours because the duration of this storm is just so incredible. This has been ongoing all day, it's going to be ongoing all night and throughout much of your Sunday and even lingering into Monday. Tuesday, for people who live farther up to the North, into the Florida panhandle and on up into Alabama, into Georgia as well.
Now, this is where John Zarrella was. You can see some of these bands starting to move in with some of the showers and thunderstorms. And we're going to take you on up to the north and take you on up towards Melbourne, where Chad Myers was, also and Anderson Cooper and we heard them reporting about some of these wind gusts.
You can see the one band very strong here just to the west of Melbourne and another is on the way. And these squalls have been producing wind gusts on the range of about 60 to 80 miles per hour. We'll zoom out a little bit wider here and show you a better perspective, as they come on in from the north into the east, right along I-95 here. And some of these inner bands here, these are produced some wind gusts around 100 miles per hour.
Want to show you a map of the state of Florida. Go back to our other computer source and show you some of these present wind gusts that are being reported. This is as of the top of the hour: 29 miles per hour up at Daytona Beach, 30 miles an hour in Orlando, 45 in Melbourne, Ft. Pierce not working right now; we're not getting reports out of there, 51 miles per hour at West Palm Beach and 41 in Miami. But that's nothing compared to some of the peak gusts that we've been seeing.
So far, most of these happened before the noon hour today. Ninety-one miles per hour at Jupiter Inlet, West Palm Beach at 71, Boynton Beach at 70, 67 at Brevard County and Vero Beach had a wind gust reported at 59 miles per hour. So, those hurricane force gusts are already starting to make their way onshore. But it's going to be a little while yet before the hurricane force winds that will be sustained at 74 miles per hour-plus, begin to make their way onshore.
And this forecast animation here is going to show you by tonight we'll watch for those hurricane force sustained winds to move on in. This is the 8 o'clock, there you can see as it moves over land, probably late tonight, the timing is still a little bit uncertain, but it's going to take maybe four-plus hours for this entire eye to make its way onshore because it's that huge. It's about 70, 75 miles wide, very incredible. This is as we head into Sunday morning then.
Around 8 o'clock you can see right across the center part of the state. Of course, it will weaken very dramatically as it moves over land. It loses that heat source. The water temperatures need to be 80 degrees or greater in order for a hurricane to continue to live, because that warm water: that is the source of energy in a hurricane. And the water temperatures are so very warm at this time, you see it's around 83 degrees at Jacksonville, also 83 degrees at this buoy, which is about 20 miles away from the Cape.
And the waves, the wave height's already very big, 22 feet, which is about 20 miles offshore. Then we've got 27 feet, which is about 120 miles away from the coastline. So those big waves are starting to come in now as well. Fredricka... WHITFIELD: Wow, Jacqui. And these conditions can be so misleading, can't they? Because we saw John Zarrella in West Palm Beach, where things looked rather tepid. It wasn't very windy, wasn't a whole lot of rain. And then, just further north up in Melbourne, they had a lot of wind, a lot of rain. But, you know, that's how these bands of rain work, don't they?
WHITFIELD: It just kind of comes and goes until you get closer and closer to the eye wall.
JERAS: That's right. Each time you get a feeder band in, the outer ones are going to have the weaker winds. And the closer you get into that center of the hurricane, that's where the strongest winds are. So you may be sitting there for a couple of hours with some light rain, and all of the sudden, one of those feeder bands comes in and boom, those winds are up there 60 to 80 miles per hour, and can really catch people off guard.
WHITFIELD: All right, thanks very much. That's why it's important to stay tuned here with you, Jacqui Jeras, and our other reporters along the coast to keep an update of how the conditions are panning out along the Florida coast. And we're going to continue our Hurricane Frances coverage when we come right back.
WHITFIELD: Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta. Back to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Frances after this check of other stories happening right now in the news. Normal operations are resuming at Los Angeles International Airport, but this was the scene earlier today when two unrelated security incidents forced the airport to close for nearly four hours.
The first involved a passenger climbing a set of exit stairs into the terminal. In the second, a flashlight with defective batteries exploded. Several people suffered minor injuries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is calling a massacre at a school in southern Russia an attack on the entire country. Three hundred twenty-three hostages were killed during the three-day siege, including 156 children. Police are investigating one theory -- that the hostage takers brought weapons and explosives into the school during a summer construction project.
A ban on Arab television network Al Jazeera is extended in Iraq. The interim government opposed the ban a month ago, saying it was disturbed by the airing of video showing hostages, and concern the network had become a mouthpiece for insurgent groups.
Thousands of people send messages of support to former President Bill Clinton. Clinton is scheduled to have heart bypass surgery earlier next week. Interviewed exclusively on the telephone by CNN's Larry King last night, Clinton said he is optimistic about his recovery, and even joked that Republicans aren't the only people who want four more years.
On now to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Frances. What are relief agencies doing right now to prepare for the arrival of this, so far, a category 2 hurricane? Joining us live from Washington is the President and CEO of the American Red Cross, Marty Evans. Good to see you, Marty.
MARSHA EVANS, AMERICAN RED CROSS: Hello, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: Well, so far, how is the Red Cross preparing for a storm that hasn't quite hit yet?
EVANS: Well, we're actually already on the job. We're sheltering thousands of people who've sought a way to stay out of harm's way. We have shelters open in Florida. We have shelters in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina. So that's a pretty significant operation for us.
We are staging supplies, equipment, clean up equipment, and additional volunteers from all over the country in Atlanta, in other parts of South Carolina and Alabama as well. And then, we're also reaching out to financial donors. The American Red Cross provides all of the relief to victims of this disaster, as well as others, through the generosity of the American public.
And so, we're reaching out to our donors and our supporters, asking them to make a contribution to our national disaster relief fund, specifically for this tremendous disaster we're involved in now.
WHITFIELD: And I understand that the American Red Cross is mobilizing a much greater relief effort than what you all put into place following Hurricane Andrew, is that correct? And if so, in what capacity?
EVANS: Well, you're exactly right, Fredricka. This is shaping up to be the largest disaster relief operation in the history of the American Red Cross, and I would say in the nation's history. This is the largest natural disaster that we've been called upon to respond to.
We know that it's going to have a greater impact than Hurricane Andrew, because it's coming ashore in some of the most populated areas of the state, and it has such a wide area of coverage. It's at least four or five times the coverage of the Hurricane Charley disaster. So this is a huge one for us. But I will tell you, the Red Cross is up to the task.
WHITFIELD: And speaking of Charley, taking place just a few weeks ago, how strapped are you, however, for your resources and volunteers, and what I imagine to be exhausted staff members, to try to still manage some of the need in Charley, and now getting ready for post-Frances?
EVANS: Well, you've touched on a real challenge for us. We have had about 3,000 Red Crossers from all over the country deployed to Florida. They're coming to the end of their deployment, so we're asking the ones who can stay to stay on the job. We're bringing in more disaster relief volunteers, trained volunteers who, every week, every month, in their local hometown chapters across the country, are getting valuable training and experience from responding to hometown disasters.
So we're calling on all of the reserves that we have. And we're also asking people to contact their local Red Cross chapters so that they can help respond to disasters at home.
WHITFIELD: And as you try to recruit volunteers, because they play such a vital role in all of your Red Cross efforts, in what capacity is their training?
EVANS: Well, you can go to your local Red Cross chapter and learn about disaster response. You can learn first aid, which is a vital skill that everybody needs to know. CPR as well. We're also able to accommodate what we call spontaneous volunteers. These are people in Florida, in the wake of Hurricane Charley, for example, who answered the call.
They've gone through just some basic training, maybe a couple of hours, a half a day. And they're actually on the job there too. So the Red Cross, once this storm gets out of the way, the Red Cross will be opening up shelters... will be opening disaster headquarters. And if people want to volunteer, there's going to be a way in Florida for them to volunteer right on the job.
WHITFIELD: And how stressed are you, you know, in charge of a huge, massive operation and group -- that this is a storm that is going to travel quite expansively across Florida, and then perhaps even, as it crosses into the gulf on the other side of Florida, make its way along the Alabama coast, and no telling what kind of strength it will be, how you're going to be able to meet everyone's needs, you know, cross-state like that?
EVANS: Well, Fredricka, we have 882 Red Cross chapters across the country, so we truly are a national network of relief. We're the people's opportunity to help their neighbors. And so, what we're going to be doing, and as this storm travels, is certainly watch its course, and then we'll be mobilizing the local Red Cross Chapters in the areas affected, the neighboring chapters, and we'll extend that circle of relief until we have the resources we need.
But we can't do this without the support of the American public. We've been serving on the Charley operation over 200,000 meals in the morning and in the afternoon, and all of that is made possible by financial donations. And so, that's really the challenge that we face, is the financing of the operation.
WHITFIELD: Marty Evans, president and CEO of the American Red Cross, thanks so much for taking the time to join us, and good luck to you over the next few days, likely to be very exhausting days.
EVANS: Thanks so much, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: Well, Hurricane Frances is already starting to batter the Florida coast. Well, guess what? It's been battering the Bahamas since Wednesday. At least two people have been killed. And the winds intensified again today as the back end of the hurricane passed over some of the islands there.
CNN's Karl Penhaul joins us by phone now from Freeport, where he was part of the rescue operation as well. Karl...
KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fredricka. Yes, the tail end of Hurricane Frances is proving way more vicious than the leading edge. This morning, in fact, we woke up and it was relative calm here in Grand Bahamas, the island within the eye of the hurricane at that stage, and winds dropped off considerably. But then, just around midday, things changed drastically, and the winds have picked up way, way stronger than they were yesterday.
By the second, police are taking calls from residents saying that their roofs have blown off, that in some cases, a group of family and neighbors were all crowded into one house, 25 of them in one house. The roof was blown off there. We've heard word about a young boy -- a glass window has caved in in that house and has cut this young boy very badly.
But it's very difficult for the police and the emergency services to actually get out on the street and do any rescuer work precisely because of the huge strength of these winds. But nevertheless, a few moments ago, we did team up with the assistant police commissioner here, and a small team of policemen. We went out on a bulldozer past the airport, up to the northern coast of Grand Bahamas.
There, there's an elderly couple. They had refused to leave their house, and the northern coast really now is taking a huge battering -- a big tidal surge, probably 8 to 10 feet of tidal surge, very, very high winds. But it was impossible for us to reach where that elderly couple is. We had to turn back. Even the bulldozer was unable to negotiate those heavy winds. There was no way of seeing any further in front of us, and the bulldozer was in danger of getting blown over, as well as getting caught up in the tidal surge.
We just had to turn back. But what the police commissioner has told us is that so far here on Grand Bahamas, a man of between 35 and 40 years old has died. He was drowned on the western part of the island. And an 80-year-old man is also missing, when his house was completely destroyed by the winds.
But so far, the police commissioner says it's too premature to talk of overall injury or possible death toll, and it's also too early to talk about damage tolls precisely because there's still about five or six hours of heavy battering still to go on, according to meteorologist predictions, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: Karl Penhaul, thanks so much for joining us on the telephone from Freeport there. And CNN will continue with live coverage of Hurricane Frances, already making a mark on the Bahamas and, soon, Florida. We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: Continuing now with our live, special coverage of Hurricane Frances, just north of West Palm Beach is Juno Beach, and our affiliate WFOR is bringing us some of the first images of the effects of the first bands of wind and rain brought on by Hurricane Frances. Let's take a look.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Art, you're still standing by there. Let me shoot another question at you. Can you see, or have you heard of any... whoa, that's a good wind gust right there. How about police presence? Are the authorities still out, do you know?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, I'm sorry, you have to repeat the question. What?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are the police Departments still out on the streets, do you know?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I saw a fire rescue unit here about 40 minutes ago. It was just about a couple of blocks over behind me. So yeah, there are still some vehicles on the road. But you know, the rule is, is like, you know, when the wind gusts are past 40 miles an hour, they are usually called back to their stations, because it's a dangerous proposition for them. You know, they don't want to be a casualty when they're trying to... you know, when they're making call, that type of thing.
You'll have to pardon me here. I'm bracing myself, because this is a balcony here, and the winds can get quite powerful.
WHITFIELD: Now, our affiliate WSVN takes us to Hollywood Beach, Florida, which is just south of Ft. Lauderdale, where the problem there already is flooding.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me just say this: do not drive. Because coming up 95, for example, there's flying debris onto the highway, not a lot, but enough that it causes some concern. And then, when you're trying to get over the Hollywood Boulevard causeway, first of all, police will not let you there, because they have a roadblock there.
And as we had said a couple days ago, residents were allowed to come back on, but now they're not letting anyone on. So the drive is almost impossible.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Which is good. It's good that they're not letting people on, because if not, you know, you get the curiosity seekers, and the people with their video cameras, and all that stuff.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I saw that too. And I saw three or four guys coming out here with video cameras, and cameras, just wanting to take pictures of each other, with the water in the background, the waves, and take pictures of us, and take pictures of what's happening here. And quite honestly, it's foolish.
And you can see behind me too -- let me swing around here -- there's a gentleman walking right here, and I don't understand why. Let's just go ask him, because I'm curious myself why anybody would want to be out here. And I think all of us would be too... most people are home safe.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I ask you real quick, why would you come out here, because the police said this was a dangerous situation?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you all out here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you out here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to the market.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think the market's open right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)... McAllister's Bar is, JJ's restaurant is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wouldn't it be safer just to be inside, because I mean, look at the way things are right here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry. I live here. I've seen thunderstorms worse than this, and I've seen tropical storms that come here worse than this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, my advice is just to be safe, all right. I know you're an expert at this, but be safe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I'm not an expert, but I feel safe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, all right, thank you. Well, there you go...
WHITFIELD: All right, well, he feels safe now. But apparently, the forecasters are saying the maximum sustained hurricane force winds are not expected until nightfall. So certainly, stay off the streets by then. We'll have more news in a moment.
WHITFIELD: We're taking you all along Florida's Atlantic coast where Hurricane Frances is only about 70 miles away from the coastline. WFOR takes us specifically to Ft. Pierce, which is just north of West Palm Beach. Let's listen in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have seen this scene all day long, the surf kicking up, and a missing surfer at last check.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, Jill Martin was following that story... has been throughout the day. Jill, what do you know now?
JILL MARTIN, WFOR REPORTER: Hi, Rob and Maggie. No news on the surfer, although everybody is coming out here asking about Jason the surfer. And just to update you, I mean, a lot of the buildings around here are pretty old buildings, so everybody pretty much has shutters up. It keeps getting calm, and then, almost, the sun came out before. And then, you'll just feel bursts of wind all of the sudden. So it's really a false alarm, people that are coming out right now. You see there's two people that are out here right now, Matt and Kathy. And Matt actually let us know a little while ago -- there's a little damage to your building, you said.
MATT, FLORIDA RESIDENT: Yeah, we were looking at the city... who try to drive on the beach. And we noticed that there's a little lattice structure on the roof of our rec center that blew down. And as we came down, we noticed there's a tree that's fallen into it also. So you know, the winds don't feel like they're that strong. But when the gusts come through, you know... starts tearing stuff up.
MARTIN: We haven't really seen a lot of damage, although we've been just up and down A1A all day. Have you, and have you heard of a lot of power outages in your building?
MATT: There was a power outage just south of us, and I think they fixed it. That was really early on, and we really haven't had any problems with the power so far, luckily.
MARTIN: Are you a little alarmed being out here, Kathy? I mean, this is a mandatory evacuation area. I know you came out to tell us about something. But you know that there is danger coming. I mean, I know... it's kind of alarming, because the sun comes out a little bit, and then it's not there.
KATHY, FLORIDA RESIDENT: I had the whole car packed, food and clothes all ready to go, and then decided at the last minute that I was going to stay when I heard that Matt was staying one door down.
MATT: My fault.
KATHY: And the building is steady. I mean, I've got a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) shutter on the main window, and there's been no damage.
MARTIN: And you actually saw Jason the surfer going past your building. Where exactly do you live?
KATHY: I live two blocks away from where he jumped off the pier. I saw Channel 4 interview him, and then he jumped back in to go surfing so he wouldn't get arrested, and within 10 minutes, he sailed past the window and on way past the police. The police were trying to chase him. The cops kept moving the car as he was running, you know, surfing down the beach. And then, he disappeared past the condos.
MARTIN: Right. We haven't really seen a lot of people out here today. If you look into the water, it got a little calmer here today -- actually, right now. We've been out here since, I would say, about 8 o'clock this morning, and it really hasn't been that tumultuous. It just started about two hours ago.
But I heard you talking to people that are getting restless in shelters, and I had a chance to visit a lot of the Broward County Shelters yesterday -- actually, two of the 12 American Red Cross shelters. And I have to tell you, you have a better gig than we do in there. I mean, they were providing everyone with food, and blankets, and pillows, and there's games for the kids. I mean, that is definitely a better place than here.
I also got a call from a friend not too long ago that's close by here. They said some of the restaurants on Atlantic Boulevard are open. Now, the bridges are closed, but they're still letting people that are residents here go in and out if it's an emergency. They stress, you know, emergency. But for each person, that's obviously a different definition. But there are some restaurants open there...
WHITFIELD: All right, that's live coverage coming from our affiliate WFOR, which is based in Miami. However, that shot is coming from Pompano Beach, which is just north of Ft. Lauderdale. We're going to take a short break. And when we come back, in the next hour, a conversation with Governor Jeb Bush on their emergency plans. We'll be right back.
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