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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Florida Residents Bear The Brunt Of Hurricane Frances
Aired September 4, 2004 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD DANIELS, ST. LUCIE COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: But we've had some reports of some damage down by the waterside to a structure and also some mobile homes that are situated down in that area.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And always concerns about the mobile homes. Were you -- by the way, in this picture; I wanted to just tell you -- that is a reporter for one of our affiliates who was getting ready to do a report there. I just wanted to explain to our viewers.
Those mobile homes -- that was big issue, of course, in the wake of Hurricane Charley. A lot of folks in mobile homes resisted the calls to evacuate. Did you run into much of that?
DANIELS: Not as much as we might have. I think Charley woke up a lot of people on the east coast of the state. And I think more of them left and more willingly than they might have in the past. I think the example of Hurricane Charley inspired many people to go.
Now, I'm sure we may find somebody that didn't leave or more than one person that didn't leave, but I think we were very successful in most of our evacuation of those communities.
O'BRIEN: All right. Well, if there's anything good comes of Charley, I guess that would be that.
Just a final thought here, have you had any sort of emergency calls now that, that eye wall has hit, or has it been quiet because everybody is batten the hatches?
DANIELS: Yes, we've had a couple of calls. We had a structure fire at a residence in the garage. I think that's been taken care of. The fire department, technically, could not respond to it because of the high winds. The emergency vehicles can't get out and help people. I think it took care of itself.
Also, we've had -- we had some individuals that did stay in their homes that were over on the ocean by the coastal water, and they decided late into the night that they wanted to leave and get out. And we told them nobody could come and help them with it. So, there might be a couple individuals over there.
And I think we have one fatality so far at one of our special- needs shelters. Someone died of a heart attack.
O'BRIEN: OK. That is the first fatality that we have heard of.
Donald Daniels, who is head of emergency management for St. Lucie County, which is bearing the real brunt of this right now.
Thank you for your time. I know you have, obviously, your hands quite full. Thank you for shedding some light on what's going on there.
DANIELS: You're welcome.
O'BRIEN: And thank you for staying with us. CNN's special coverage of Hurricane Frances continues.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. The big story out of this storm is how slowly it's moving. High winds have been buffeting Eastern Florida for hours and hours. And the center of the storm is just now starting to creep westward across the state.
Conditions in Melbourne, Florida have gotten so much worse within the past 90 minutes, but within the past hour, the city's mayor told CNN there are no reports of injuries so far from the local hospital.
Now, the eye of the storm is passing south of Melbourne, so they're expecting no break in the high wind and the torrential rain. Frances began knocking out power along the coast early this afternoon.
And in other places trees fell -- look at this -- on live wires, calling, causing a continuous and dangerous shower of sparks. And after nightfall, there were many reports of power transformers exploding. More than one million homes in Florida are without electricity right now.
Consider this, before it reached Florida, the storm hovered over the Bahamas. Many low-lying areas are now under water. The airports in Grand Bahama and Nassau were under six to eight feet of water as a result of tidal flooding.
Contact with many of the islands has been lost. At least two people in the Bahamas have been killed. In fact, you are looking at live pictures right now.
Well, there we're back to Fort Pierce. There's an affiliate reporter standing out in the rain waiting to do his job, a dangerous situation, as you can see. Gary Tuchman, our Gary Tuchman, in that position reported 90 mile-an-hour winds, blowing 90 mile-an-hour winds.
ROSS CAVITT, CHANNEL 2 ACTION NEWS CORRESPONDENT: ... and damage in these hurricane force winds here at Fort Pierce in St. Lucie County.
Again, we're on the northwest quadrant of the eye as it begins to come ashore. The most ferocious winds are happening now. An estimated 100 mile-an-hour plus sustained winds are moving into this area now. It is the nightmare that these folks have been worried about.
Again, power out, water system crippled. This is what a hurricane is supposed to do. It is happening now. It just took a very long time to get here.
Live in Fort Pierce, Florida tonight Ross Cavitt, Channel 2 Action News.
LIN: Affiliate WSB right here in Atlanta, Georgia.
O'BRIEN: All right. We thank Ross Cavitt. We thank all of our affiliates, WSB and numerous others for helping us out with this coverage tonight.
Let's turn it over to Jacqui Jeras now. She's up at the weather center. She's been pushing those computers hard. I bet they're smoking a little bit right now; but they've been helping us out quite a bit -- Jacqui?
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it takes a little time to render, sometimes, some of those statistics, but we've got them in now from the 11:00 advisory, and we're honing in there.
Thirty-five miles now northeast of West Palm Beach, maximum sustained wind status quo, 105 miles per hour. It's picking up a little bit, moving up to the west-northwest at five miles per hour.
Here's what we have for the latest information for you. Outside of this now still being a strong category two, the eye wall is now making landfall, and it's going to take about 12 hours for the center of the eye to get on shore.
Massive flooding is going to be expected across Florida, eight to 12 inches easily with locally heavy amounts up to 24 inches.
I want to show you the radar picture here. You can see the latest tornado watch remains in effect across much of Central Florida, extending on up into northern parts of the state. And now we want to go to our Viper system and give you a real close view of the eye wall at this time.
This is real-time radar, and so there you can see the eye wall on shore at this time. We're going to zoom in a little bit closer.
You just saw those live pictures from Fort Pierce, Gary Tuchman reporting that a 90 mile-an-hour sustained wind at this time. And there you can see that center of that eye wall right on top of Fort Pierce.
And it's still several miles away before you're going to get a calm before the eye moves on in. And then we'll see that backside of the storm move on through, but very intense thunderstorms from Melbourne extending all the way down to West Palm Beach.
And Gary Tuchman is in Fort Pierce. And Gary, have the winds -- I can't believe you're actually out there right now. How are the conditions?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Jacqui, the conditions, I would say, are not good right now. As we've been saying, the sustained winds right now are 90 miles per hour. And you remember, I wondered if a 170-pound man could withstand 90 mile per hour winds; the answer is, yes, but barely.
The roads also -- I don't know if you can see because it's so dark -- they are flooding. It's now up past my ankles. And this has just been the last hour and a half that it's gotten like this.
Even though it's been raining now for about nine hours, the flooding is just starting. We're keeping a careful eye on the palm trees and on the light poles here because several of them have fallen; so I keep looking back because after about 20 years of covering these, you know when they're vulnerable. They start cracking and making noises, and then you get out of the way.
One thing I've been thinking about all night, especially as a father, are all the children in homes throughout South Florida scared when they hear these winds and these rains, their parents hopefully comforting them.
But I remember as a child growing up in Illinois how scary it was during tornado warnings, and I can only imagine what people are going through tonight without power, with these winds, with these rains.
We are told by authorities here in St. Lucie County -- you just talked to one of the emergency officials -- that they expect the next three or four hours to be the worst.
And they have already gotten one fatality at one of the shelters. A person died of a heart attack. But I will tell you, there's a lot of concern and a lot of worry that there are problems out there they just don't know about.
There's no way, because as they've been saying, police and fire are no longer going out. They have to protect themselves and protect their families. So, if anyone has any problems, they're to themselves right now.
And I asked one of the emergency officials what happens if a woman goes into labor and she has to go to the hospital? And he really couldn't give me a good answer to that question.
This is a very difficult time. Normally the hurricanes we cover are over in two or three hours. This one is going on a long time. Back to you.
JERAS: Hey, Gary, are you seeing any debris at all? Is anything flying around in your location?
TUCHMAN: We see a lot of debris. And I hate to make kind of a joke about it, but it reminds me of the scene in the "Wizard of Oz" when Dorothy's house is flying through the air and you see things floating around you and wonder what they are.
And that's what we see. We just see things blowing by, and we're wondering what they are. And you see a lot of that over the last hour. JERAS: All right, Gary, get back inside and stay safe. Thanks very much. Gary Tuchman reporting live from Fort Pierce as the eye wall is now making landfall.
Carol, Miles, back to you.
O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much, Jacqui and Gary, in particular.
O'BRIEN: Let's move down the coast just a little bit. West Palm Beach is our next destination. CNN's John Zarrella has -- he and Gary are our most veteran of hurricane trackers or watchers, whatever you want to call them.
And looks a little bit easy, a little bit easier on the reporter there in West Palm. I don't know if you could -- you probably couldn't see Gary, but he was having a hard time staying vertical.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I could hear him, and I sure don't envy him out in that mess that he's in up there. It's certainly not quite as bad down here.
And again, you know, as it has been for the past couple of hours as we still have a lot of driving, horizontal rain and these gusty winds. And it's still -- it's pretty steady gusty winds now, but I'm not convinced that it's at hurricane force down here.
You know, there's a lot of tree limbs down, Miles. And you can still see up into the trees here, the wind and the rain blowing through those palm trees, very, very, very gusty and certainly a lot of the palm prunes (ph) broken there on that particular palm tree.
But you know what, if down here in Palm Beach that's the worst we can say happens, than they've done really well down here although, you know, as you can see, it certainly is pretty gust out.
Across the -- across the Intercoastal, you probably can't see anything out there. That's Palm Beach. There's a couple of lights on, some buildings with generators over there. But that is Palm Beach over there, very, very dark all over the Palm beaches.
Now earlier, before we got into this really, really heavy stuff -- and again, I think we're on the south side of that eye wall. Maybe we'll get a little of the eye; I'm not sure, you know, if Jacqui Jeras has it coming over us or not, but it's probably going to be pretty darn close.
But earlier today, there was a tile company whose roof blew off here in West Palm Beach and, of course, all across West Palm Beach, the same kind of things, you know, that we're seeing here, the debris all over the streets.
And now you can see really getting a very, very strong gust of wind. You see these palm trees are really blowing now, Miles. We've been -- again, these heavier rain band and heavier squalls keep coming in, but the rain and the wind is steady in our faces now and real pelty.
It feels like, you know, sand that's hitting your face. I know Gary's talking about people with their families and all and, of course, most of us who live down in South Florida have our families down further south in the Fort Lauderdale area where it's not quite so bad.
But I know there is trees down in my neighborhood. Power has been off at my house down in Fort Lauderdale since about 11:00 this morning. And the only street in the neighborhood without power is mine, so that figures.
But, so they are getting it down there, too. This is such an enormous, immense storm. And as I mentioned earlier, that in all the years of covering these things, never have I ever been in a hurricane that's lingered so long, hour after hour pounding -- Miles?
O'BRIEN: And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but John, they're saying it will take 12 hours just to get midway through the eye. I hope you have enough provisions to get through this one.
ZARRELLA: I heard that. That certainly wasn't very heartening when Jacqui was saying 12 hours. That's -- I mean that's incredible. Usually in 12 hours, the entire hurricane is gone.
I mean Andrew blew in and out of South Florida in less than 12 hours and was back out in the Gulf of Mexico; and this thing is not even going to make landfall completely in 12 hours. That's just absolutely incredible how the breadth of this storm and the width of this storm, amazing.
But again, it's just relentless and relentless. And I'm assuming that -- well, thinking that we might get a little portion of that eye down here in West Palm Beach before all is said and done, maybe the corner of it. But we're certainly on the south side of that eye with the winds coming out of the west -- Miles?
O'BRIEN: All right, John Zarrella and high tide there right about 2:00 a.m. That could come into play as well. We'll be watching for that.
Jacqui Jeras up at the weather center. Jacqui, go ahead.
JERAS: Take a look at this picture right behind me, Miles. There's that eye. Part of the eye is now on land -- there you can see -- all the way up to I-95.
Here's Fort Pierce, Port Saint Lucie and then extending a little bit farther down. Unfortunately, it's underneath our bug right there, but you'll see Palm Beach down there.
As for the eye in Fort Pierce, well this is still moving west- northwest. You might see -- you're going to see some of this eye eventually, but it's going to take a little bit longer. You can see you're right up here into the eye wall, into some of the heavier parts. If we could zoom down just a little bit, and I want to show you Palm Beach.
John Zarrella just asking whether or not that eye is going to make it over his area or not.
We'll zoom down a little closer and show you his proximity. There you can see West Palm Beach closing in here, getting very, very close. It's a little iffy, kind of on the edge.
So, he should be getting at least a lesser rainfall, we think, as this pushes on into the area. So, certainly have that eye onshore up toward Palm Beach Gardens. There you can see Jupiter should be looking up and seeing maybe some clearer skies, certainly a break in the rainfall right now.
But there you go, officially not the center of the eye, but part of that eye is now on land -- Miles?
O'BRIEN: Jacqui, just for the record books here, the time and official place of landfall? They always kind of pick a point. What's it going to be? Is it going to be Fort Pierce or a little bit to the south, perhaps Hobe Sound or something?
JERAS: Well, it's 12 hours.
JERAS: Twelve hours from now before the center moves in, so we still could see some adjustments.
O'BRIEN: And that's the point? It's when the center hits or when the...
JERAS: Yes, it's when the center hits. They'll send out an official statement.
O'BRIEN: Well, we'll tell you -- I'd like to tell you we'll stay up for it, but I'm not sure we're going to make it.
JERAS: I probably will be.
O'BRIEN: You will, all right.
LIN: Well, this network is going to be chugging along. In fact...
O'BRIEN: Somebody will.
LIN: Yes, and somebody will.
And Anderson Cooper and our meteorologist, also Chad Myers standing by up in Melbourne where you guys are not going to get a break from -- you're not going to get a break at all from these winds and the rain it looks like. ANDERSON COOPER, CNN "ANDERSON COOPER 360" ANCHOR: Yes, it certainly doesn't seem like it; and we're going to ride this thing out as long as we can. We plan on being here until at least 6:00 a.m.
How does it feel to you, Chad?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, I think the wind picked up again, but we had a squall that did it. It wasn't so much that it was a sustained wind, it was a gusty wind. We just had another gust of 76, and we are on the protected side of the building.
I was just talking to some storm chasers that are here, actually, from Tampa; and they are down -- they are down below the building on the other side where it's wind tunneling. They have a machine just like this, and they got a wind gust of 120.
Now, that's not an official gust. That's literally a building- affected gust, like in New York. You know, you live there.
COOPER: A wind tunnel.
MYERS: The winds blow through the wind tunnel, like that, in the buildings. And that's what they got there. But if you were living in that wind tunnel area, you would be receiving 120 mile-an-hour gusts down there.
COOPER: The fact that this storm is so slow-moving, I mean, five miles an hour is nothing. That's a person walk -- a fast walk. What does that mean for us here?
MYERS: You know, if this is going to do way more damage than Charley did, it's just going to do a different kind of damage. It's not going to be that 130, 140 mile-an-hour, small, little eye like F- 2.
I talked about Charley as like a little F-2 tornado that was about five miles wide. That's the kind of damage it did, and then F-1 damage about 15 or 20 miles wide.
This is going to be large scale. Every shingle on the roof is going to be gone. You may not lose the sheeting under the roof, but you're going to start losing -- and we're already seeing it now -- you're going to start losing siding just because it's just keeps going and going and going.
COOPER: The one bright spot, at least for the people here in Melbourne, is that most of the houses are -- seem sturdier. There's not as many trailer communities here, or mobile home communities, as there was in Punta Gorda.
MYERS: I agree. I agree with that. Punta Gorda really was a retirement area. This is actually a working area, a lot of electronics being made here. And a lot of folks actually are working here full-time.
Over there in Punta Gorda, almost 50 percent of the residents were snowbirds, at least for part of the year. Here, I heard from the city manager that 85 percent of the people are full-time residents. They never leave. They never go to Michigan. They never go to Canada and so on.
COOPER: You've been monitoring this -- you've been monitoring the storm on a laptop computer inside the car between live shots.
MYERS: I have.
COOPER: How close does the eye come to us here in Melbourne?
MYERS: The northern part of the eye wall, right there where the rain stops and it just gets to be nothing, I say that passes about 16 to 18 miles south of us here, just south of Palm Bay. And then anywhere north of that is where the very, very strongest winds will be. And then as you get farther away from that line, the winds die down a little bit. I mean die down five miles an hour.
I was just listening to Max Mayfield. He said the winds are 105. But off the camera, he also said that he knew that the wind gusts were much higher than 105 in some parts of the storm.
COOPER: We've been checking with the hospitals. We just got a report there has been one injury reported at one of the hospitals here. It's wind related, which really should come as no surprise to us given these high winds.
MYERS: It really shouldn't. I mean, this is almost like what we say in a tornado. If you don't get sucked up a by a tornado, you get hit by something in a tornado. And that's how you get injured in a tornado, and this is how you get injured in a hurricane, standing out here in the wind.
So, we're going to get to a protected spot over there next, get away from all this. And then -- and I'm going to feel much better about where we are and where our camera people are.
COOPER: That's what's so odd about it being at night is you really, I mean you can't see very far ahead of you.
COOPER: Not that you could even during daytime, but you really have no idea what's coming toward you.
MYERS: You really don't. You kind of hear it coming because the aluminum siding from this little storage shed over here is coming off. And you can hear the aluminum rolling, and you just feel like ducking because you don't know if it's on the ground or is it rolling up in the air.
Yes, that's -- it's a little scary when you start to hear stuff moving and you don't know where it's going.
COOPER: Yes, now we're starting to hear that more and more. Carol, it's going to be a long night. LIN: It is, Anderson. Thank you very much. Stay safe out there. Winds gusting out there.
O'BRIEN: Hey, before they get away -- guys? Hey, Chad? Chad, you were holding up your anemometer, and you never said what the reading was.
COOPER: Miles is asking you what the reading is on the wind gauge that you're getting.
MYERS: 76.4 was the last I got just holding it behind you. Now, I don't think that that's building enhanced. I think that's the true wind gust here. But when we go down there, we'll take a look at some of those building-enhanced gusts later on.
I want to take a camera down there, and I want to step in and out of that wind to see what it looks like because that's category three hurricane wind down there. And I've never experienced that, and I think we're going to go do that.
COOPER: He's an eager beaver. All right.
O'BRIEN: All right, Anderson, you're going with him, right?
LIN: Brave souls.
COOPER: I'm going to be right behind him.
O'BRIEN: Right behind him, yes, there you go.
LIN: That is what hurricane...
O'BRIEN: All right.
LIN: ... force winds look like. A million -- more than a million people without power now in the state of Florida as Frances makes landfall, some 70,000 people in shelters.
O'BRIEN: And 76 miles-an-hour on the leeward side of Anderson Cooper. We'll see what they get for a reading when they go a little farther out, and we'll see how far Anderson goes as well. All that lies ahead.
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You have questions, don't you? You have stories to tell us. If you have some pictures you'd like to send along, we'll take anything you got.
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Back with more in a moment.
O'BRIEN: Live pictures, Fort Pierce, Florida is the dateline for that one. And...
LIN: Look at that.
O'BRIEN: That is something. It really is.
LIN: Ninety mile-an-hour winds there right now as the hurricane eye wall is in full force there. The winds are gusting. The rain is falling horizontally. Palm trees are bending. Crews are running for cover.
O'BRIEN: You know, when Gary Tuchman was out there a few moments ago, I thought it was going to pick him up for just a moment. It almost looked like it was going to take him away.
LIN: I wouldn't be surprised.
O'BRIEN: It was right on the edge of doing just that.
LIN: I know.
O'BRIEN: In any case, there's so much weather to keep track of in a hurricane.
LIN: That's right.
O'BRIEN: And one of the things we have to watch out for are tornadoes on top of everything else, and Jacqui has been keeping us up-to-date on the warnings.
Jacqui, what's the latest?
JERAS: Yes, we've got two warnings in effect right now, the first one for western Polk County in Florida. It's off to the east of the Tampa Bay area. We're going to zoom in here and show you.
It already moved through the Auburn area. It is now up to the south and west of there. Crystal Lake, Bartow and Mulberry are all in the path of this storm, as Doppler radar indicated. There you can see Bartow.
Doppler radar indicated tornadoes, so no ground truth, at this time, but be aware that we are getting some spinning coming off from these feeder bands.
And then our other tornado warning in central Volusia County, and this one is near Daytona Beach. Some of the cities that are included in that near Wilbur By The Sea, Port Orange, South Daytona at 11:30, near DeLand at 11:50, and near Deleon or Delon (ph) -- I'm not sure -- in Ponce de Leon Springs at 11:55. And these are all moving very rapidly down to the south and to the west.
So, two tornado warnings, one south of Daytona Beach until 12:15 a.m., in western Polk County until 11:45.
We've got a tornado watch in effect across much of Central Florida until 8:00 tomorrow morning. And we may even see that be extended as we head into tomorrow day and tomorrow afternoon -- Miles?
O'BRIEN: All right, Jacqui, thank you very much. Appreciate it. Lots to keep track of up there.
Even before Frances came across land in the Florida peninsula, President Bush declared a major disaster for Florida. This frees up federal funding for hurricane victims in five counties already, including Palm Beach. I suspect many other counties will qualify and will certainly have needs.
Mark Foley is a Republican congressman whose district includes Palm Beach. He joins us on the phone. First of all, Congressman Foley, where are you right now? Are you safe and sound?
REP. MARK FOLEY (R), FLORIDA: Yes, I am, Miles. I'm at the emergency operation center of Palm Beach County and, obviously, watching, like most Americans, this storm devastate both Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties.
O'BRIEN: Tell me. Since you have that viewpoint there, what have you been seeing and hearing in the way of emergency calls? Any reports of injuries or fatalities there?
FOLEY: We don't have fatalities yet, but we do have a lot of injuries. We have a nursing home that has had to been completely evacuated. There was a number of patients there, obviously, and the roof structural damage caused movement of probably about 100 patients.
We've had a lot of outages. Some hospitals are working on backup generators that are also failing, so we are encountering a number of problems in the storm.
You know, we are getting ready to have a higher flood zone right now. We've got a lot of surging water and kind of just watching it like most people.
O'BRIEN: Yes, high tide comes at about 2:00 in morning in that part of the world. That's obviously a big concern.
In the meantime, can emergency and rescue personnel do their job given what they have to contend with the way of wind and rain?
FOLEY: Well, right now they really can't. There's not much that's allowed at this time. There is going to be a calm here for probably about three to four hours, which will be the tail end of the storm coming back. The eye is very large, and we're advising people not to even think about going outside. They may make some attempts to rescue people who are stranded, maybe take down some debris. But a lot of this is going to have to wait until the end of the storm.
I represent Punta Gorda and, of course, three weeks ago, yesterday that storm came across with a tremendous amount of fury. But by 7:00 in the morning, Governor Bush, Mike Brown, the FEMA director, myself were on the ground working.
We are all getting cabin fever here now because we've been pretty much enclosed in this building, as have so many Floridians, for well over 24 hours anticipating the arrival of the storm.
O'BRIEN: Well, and we hear the latest hurricane center forecast is it'll take 12 hours just to get to the center of the eye, so there really is no relief in sight for the cabin fever.
You mentioned Punta Gorda. And I was on the line with the St. Lucie County emergency operations director a little while ago, and he said they didn't have much difficulty evacuating the mobile homes this time because of the lessons, in some cases very sad lessons, in the wake of Charley.
FOLEY: No question. In fact, the vivid pictures on your channel as well as others, of Punta Gorda after the storm made many Floridians realize those homes are simply unsafe.
And, in fact, in this particular instance -- and it was mentioned earlier by one of your reporters -- the fact that so many people are snowbirds in the west coast of Florida was fortunate that fewer lives were lost.
The east coast, where we're talking about the major impact of the storm, we're talking about bedroom communities, people working daily, hard-working people that are directly impacted; but when they saw the visuals of the death and destruction of the mobile homes, people decided it was time to leave.
They took this seriously. Thank God they did.
O'BRIEN: What's your biggest fear tonight, Congressman Foley?
FOLEY: Well, obviously, it is nighttime, and this storm is so strong and the people, again, are going to find a sense of calm when this wind stops. They may make it outside. That's a dangerous thing to do.
We had a man, I believe, die in Punta Gorda, who decided to go out and smoke a cigarette in between -- and it was such a fast-moving storm -- he was killed outside. So, again this one is going to be longer duration.
I'm worried about seniors that are by themselves maybe in homes getting very frantic. We've lost power to probably over a million people in the Treasure Cove. So, you know, just one of these things we have to ride out, but you always worry about those vulnerable people in our community that just are going to lose some patience and get a little emotional.
O'BRIEN: All right, Republican Mark Foley, 16th district of Florida, thank you very much for your time; and we wish you well there as you ride out the storm in West Palm Beach.
FOLEY: Thanks very much.
O'BRIEN: All right.
LIN: All right. Where do we want to go now? I think...
O'BRIEN: Want to break?
LIN: Are we going to go to break now?
O'BRIEN: Let's do a break.
LIN: All right. We're going to go to break, and we're going to check in with David Mattingly up in St. Augustine, the historic city, to see how things are going on the northern part of where this hurricane may actually affect the state of Florida.
We'll be right back.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, sometimes words don't tell the story, pictures tell the story. And we have seen amazing pictures as Hurricane Frances has now built up to this point.
We want to share some of those incredible moments that have led us now to the landfall of Hurricane Frances.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And show you the other radar I have lined up for you. And we can see the eye of this thing offshore -- there's Grand Bahama -- and the next batch of steady rain about to move on shore probably in about two to three hours.
UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello from Melbourne, Florida. Some damage already, the shingles coming off the top of that roof there. (Inaudible) that Frances is making her presence felt already.
UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT: Winds, I think that the gusts are really coming in. They're getting significantly stronger. And we are actually starting to see some damage now.
MARCIANO: When people ask, you know, when is this thing going to make landfall? When is it going to make landfall? It could take 10 hours just for the eye to go through. I mean that's crazy.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are in St. Lucie County right now, in the city of Fort Pierce. This is the Fort Pierce Marina.
St. Lucie County -- this is very interesting -- has not been hit by a hurricane more powerful than category one in recorded weather history.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was looking up at the ceiling, and I looked up and I see things coming in. I rolled over to one side, and the next thing you know, the whole roof was coming in on my head.
I'm very lucky to be alive right now. And -- yes, these storms are nothing to play around with.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You can't even look at the rain. It's so hard, it feels like just stinging ice on your face. It just -- it's really getting bad now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN "ANDERSON COOPER 360" ANCHOR: And you anticipate it getting worse?
MYERS: Absolutely. It might even get double this bad.
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is inching closer toward West Palm Beach. It's getting very close to the shoreline now. We're going to start see this moving in. And in the next couple of hours, those sustained hurricane force winds should be arriving really at anytime.
TUCHMAN: This is like the eternal hurricane. This is supposed to continue until tomorrow. The eye isn't even here yet, and we've been pelted by rain and winds now here, in this part of Florida, for about seven or eight hours.
JERAS: Now it's really been kind of stalled over the last three to six hours. It's been nudging maybe three, four, five miles per hour, and that's about it.
MYERS: This is only 63 miles-an-hour. You can really feel the car. Well, it's 75. Right there, that's 78. Right there, that's 81 miles-an-hour. You can feel the car shaking at this point.
TUCHMAN: So the situation right now? A lot of frightened people, to be very frank with you, lots of trees down, tens of thousands of customers without power and lots of hurricane still to come.
JERAS: We can expect this eye wall to be sitting here for a couple of hours.
TUCHMAN: I can tell you I've covered much stronger hurricanes before, Hugo and Andrew come to mind, but never anything that just lasts as long as this. This is rearing down South Florida and Central Florida where it's hitting.
Since 10:30 this morning, we've had these torrential rains and winds. And right now it is the worst it's been at this point.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We've already gotten some e-mails.
Hurricane@cnn.com is the location.
We appreciate you taking the time to send us some of these questions.
I note with interest, thus far everything I've gotten so far has been from outside of Florida, this one a long way outside of Florida. And we're going to get Jacqui ready for this one.
In a moment, as soon as she's ready, we'll get her up. This is about the relative strength of the winds inside the eye. That's a good question.
Kelly has this one for us, "I actually don't mind that the reporters are out there, but how could they could call other people dumb for being exactly where they are?"
I don't think we used the "d" word. I'm not sure, Kelly. I don't think we said that they were dumb. We were saying it was certainly not advised, and we were also relating precisely what the authorities were telling those people about how wise it would be to do just that.
And we should remind you, all of our people out there have a tremendous amount of experience and take a lot of time getting ready to do just what you say.
And this -- a two-part question for Jacqui. David Costa (ph) has this one, "Why is the storms so big? And more importantly, why is it so slow compared to others?"
That's a pretty complicated one.
And then, Patricia Caree (ph), Career (ph), in Montreal has this, "What are the winds like in the eye of a hurricane? Are they stronger, weaker, calmer?"
JERAS: OK. Where do you want me to start?
O'BRIEN: Why don't you -- let's do the eye question first, and then I'll remind you what the other one is.
JERAS: OK. Well, the winds at the center of the eye are much weaker. Of course the eye wall, that's where all the real strong winds are. Just this hurricane, for example, we got a report out of Freeport from Grand Bahama Island, that the eye moved over only 10 miles-an-hour.
So, to give you an idea, 105 miles per hour in the eye wall; and the eye right now is about 52 miles across. So, you take half of that. About 25 miles in, you have a difference between winds of 105 miles per hour to only 10 miles per hour in the center of the storm.
O'BRIEN: OK. That's pretty significant. And you might have the wrong impression, especially when we're talking about an eye this large where we've heard it will take 12 hours just to get to the middle of it.
You might have the impression the storm is over; folks, not over. As a matter of fact, the backside of the wall is something that is of even greater concern.
David Costa is the one who had the question about the size of the storm. Why is it so big and why so slow compared to others? And I'm sure that's a pretty complicated answer, but give it a whirl.
JERAS: Well, for one thing, this storm started way out off the coast of Africa, all of Cape Verde, so this storm had a lot of time to develop, days and days and days to become a very mature hurricane. So, the more time you have with favorable conditions, the larger the storm generally is going to be.
And the reason why it's moving so slow is just our searing winds, you know, it's the wind that drives the storm direction. And we just have very slack winds, very weak winds in this area.
High pressure on up to the north, across the northeast coast is starting to help to drive that in and helping to steer it in. But it's those winds, whether they are strong or weak. And this time around they're just very weak in this area.
O'BRIEN: All right, Jim Jebson (ph) in Austin, Texas, well out of harm's way there, again, "What are the chances of this storm taking a more westerly track and ending up back in the Gulf?
I've been meaning to ask you about that all night, Jacqui, because in theory, then, it could be an Andrew scenario, couldn't it? Where you have a battering on the Atlantic Coast and then ultimately a battering in the Gulf Coast?
Most of the models I've seen don't predict that though, do they?
JERAS: No, the hurricane is expected to go back over the coast. Shawn Morris (ph) if you could, for me, on the GR115, get the forecast track. And I want to show you the line of this as soon as he gets it up there.
But we are expecting -- actually, go to the other source, please, the Viper, so you can get out of my show and go ahead and bring it -- there you go; and so, you can bring that forecast track for us.
But it is moving west-northwest right now, continues to stay on a west-northwesterly track, is expected to be moving over toward the Tampa area, be back over the open waters into the Gulf and then make a second landfall in the Florida panhandle and then make its way on up into Alabama even over into Mississippi.
So, we are going to see a double landfall, it looks like, with the storm. Of course, it could change a little bit yet, especially since it's moving so slowly, you know.
So, it still a little bit iffy, but right now it doesn't look like it's going to move back on over into the big bend area here of Florida and then move on up into the panhandle and on over into Mississippi.
Do you have that? Can we go back to GR115 right now and show you that forecast track? There you go.
We'll put his into motion for you. And it shows you moving right across the Florida peninsula, and then it's going to move on right to the north of Tampa, weakening here. So you can see our little icon changes, that means it's down to a tropical storm status.
And there you can see the time field into Monday, into Monday night when it moves over Alabama at the tropical depression finally, and then making its way on up into the Tennessee Valley.
So, it does look like we're going to get a little one, two punch here. Of course, the one as it heads into the Panhandle is going to be a lot weaker than what we're seeing right now.
O'BRIEN: Jacqui Jeras, by the time the night is out, all of our viewers will know precisely what our router system is all about...
JERAS: I know.
O'BRIEN: And where to find everything.
JERAS: We have a lot of new technology, and we just wanted to show it to you. It gives us a much better idea of what's going on overall.
O'BRIEN: Good job fielding those answers. We've got more emails coming in. We'll bring some more to you later. Thanks for sending them -- Carol?
LIN: Yes, over 400, pretty good.
LIN: All right. Great stories coming out of this hurricane, kind of a reflection of human nature.
There was a situation out of Biscayne Bay where a guy and his cat were out on their boat. The anchor got stuck. He called the Coast Guard. Knowing that the hurricane was coming in, the Coast Guard said not a life-threatening situation, we're not coming for you.
Saturday, today, he calls again and says now it's a life- threatening situation, can you come get me? The Coast Guard brings the helicopter out, rescues the man and his cat.
Meanwhile, around Melbourne and Central Florida along the eastern coast, people aren't evacuating their houses. They are having hurricane parties. This one woman said, and I'm quoting here, "This sucker is taking forever."
So, her idea to pass the time was to get some champagne, get some friends over and have a party.
But apparently not a party out in Palm Bay, at Westside Elementary, the Associated Press is reporting that about three-dozen people left the shelter there because they couldn't take it anymore.
They said that the lack of privacy, the noise was incredibly frustrating, plus the slow progress of the storm was wearing them down.
But people are beginning to gather and stay and seek shelter at a shelter where we find CNN's Jason Bellini -- Jason?
JASON BELLINI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Carol. Well, the shelter is now in lock down. People are going to bed. Lights are out, 10:00 is strict lights out according to the Red Cross policy.
But out here the storm has really picked up. We can hear it whistling through the trees. It's pouring rain right now. You may be able to see behind me the pine trees are swaying from side to side.
Earlier today, though, we had some time to spend with people inside the shelter, and we met one mom who's got, believe it or not, five children who she's looking for, with the help of some relatives, but it's a real big challenge.
So Carol, again tonight things are quiet here on the inside. Outside it's very loud. Outside its picking up, and we're not sure exactly when the worst of the storm is going to be.
We were walking around a little bit this evening, and it feels like people were bedding down for the night. Inside it's remarkably quiet. You'd think with this storm raging outside, that you'd be able to hear something. But this is a very secure building at this community college that the people are in, and so I think people...
LIN: All right.
BELLINI: ... are going to sleep. We also visited that mother that we mentioned, and she told us that the children are getting to sleep -- Carol?
LIN: Yes, good news, indeed. And thanks for that story, a mother with five kids at that shelter.
Jason Bellini, thank you from Melbourne.
All right, let's take you to the shot outside of Fort Pierce as Hurricane Frances begins to make landfall, a torrential rain there. Gary Tuchman reported in that winds were gusting out there at 90 miles-an-hour.
And this is -- well obviously crews are moving back and forth to try to set up a shot. But this is the situation. This is what it's going to be like for the next, as much as 12 hours as this storm, this hurricane, lumbers onto shore before it's going to take -- it could take half a day for the eye wall to make some progress.
We are going to continue with our coverage here of Hurricane Frances. We've got crews up and down the coast of Florida. We're going to be right back.
LIN: Welcome back to our special coverage of Hurricane Frances as it now begins to make landfall. So far we've got more than a million people without electricity; some 70,000 people now living in shelters; 2.8 million people evacuated from their homes across the state of Florida.
Joining me on the telephone right now is Matt Mitchell. He is with the Florida state emergency operations in a safe place, Tallahassee, Florida right now.
Matt, what can you tell me about the situation? Have you heard of any deaths, any injuries?
MATT MITCHELL, FLORIDA STATE EMERG. OPERATIONS: Not at this time, Carol. We haven't heard of any deaths. That's something that will be ongoing and developing within the next couple of days. Hopefully we won't have any.
The Floridians have taken this storm seriously and have taken to the 326 shelters across the state. We've got 73,775 folks in shelters, and we have room for more.
LIN: Room for more.
There are people at Fort Pierce, which is now getting pummeled by the rain and the wind from Hurricane Frances' eye wall, people who dearly regret that they didn't evacuate. They've called police, and they're saying -- the police are telling them, there's nothing we can do for you right now.
People may very well be stranded in their homes.
MITCHELL: People need to stay within their -- if they're in a home now, they need to stay there. As you can see on the monitor there, the conditions are deteriorating. They're not going to get any better soon.
Folks need to stay within their homes, at this point. Shelters are the best place to be, but no one needs to be heading out on the streets now, Carol.
LIN: Matt, as you look at this picture, you were just referring to it, this condition right here, these torrential rains, the winds, they could be going on for at least another 12 hours.
What are you anticipating of the problems that you're going to be facing once the Hurricane Frances passes through? MITCHELL: We've got -- we're going to have extremely high levels of power outages and damages to the area. This, in comparison to Charley, is more of a marathon, as Charley might have been compared to a sprint.
So, we've got quite a bit of damage to take care of, but we're ready for it.
LIN: Give me an idea of what you think, then, the next 24 hours is going to be like for you.
MITCHELL: Twenty-four hours in Florida is going to be hard, and it's going to be hard all the way from the, southeast Florida, where it's coming ashore now. And it's going to be moving across the state, and it's really going to be tough.
But I'm confident in our plan. And the state emergency operations team is doing a great job, and we're just going to hope for the best, Carol.
LIN: Matt Mitchell, a double whammy, Hurricane Charley and now Hurricane Frances. Thank you very much.
MITCHELL: Thank you, Carol.
LIN: Well, Hurricane Frances literally rained out St. Augustine Florida's big weekend. The oldest city in America had to cancel its 439th birthday celebration.
CNN's David Mattingly is live right now in the historic city. David, it looks like you are, and St. Augustine, is getting a break, at least, from this hurricane.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, we've seen all those terrible images so far of this storm. This is a stark contrast here in St. Augustine. This city supposed to be getting the northern edge of this storm, and it just hasn't gotten here yet.
So far, we have a night of some high winds and some wind gusts, but so far not a single drop of rain has fallen. Not a single drop of rain, mind you, and already this city and surrounding area has been suffering millions of dollars in damage to the tourist trade.
For example, this was supposed to be a big holiday weekend, Labor Day weekend, celebrating the anniversary of this city, this very old city. But just look down this street, not a single tourist to be seen anywhere on the streets of this city right now.
Instead, we see storm preparations. Right here, in fact, we see an empty storefront and sandbags, sandbags in anticipation of a very long night of wind and rain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL WILLIAMSON, ST. AUGUSTINE SPOKESMAN: We are going to see various rain bands coming in as the hurricane comes on to shore. We're going to see periods of real high winds, like we're sort of experiencing now, but it's going to be more intense, and a lot of rain, from everything I'm hearing.
MATTINGLY: And the result of that will be flooding, right?
WILLIAMSON: Absolutely. Because St. Augustine is just a few feet above sea level, we experience minor flooding lots and lots of times after summer thunderstorms. If they're talking about 10 to 15 inches of rain over a 12-hour period of time, we'll have lots of flooding, at least could be even knee deep.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Knee deep in the streets of this old city. Flooding is very much a part of its rich history. But knee deep, this is something that people here are going to be remembering perhaps writing a new page in this city's history -- Carol?
LIN: All right, thanks very much, Dave. You're about, I don't know, a good distance away from where the storm is hitting right now, but it's probably going to come your way, obviously, Miles, St. Augustine getting ready for the worst of it, but so far not really so bad.
You're getting some e-mails?
O'BRIEN: I am busy with e-mails.
LIN: You are?
O'BRIEN: I didn't mean to turn my back to you. I apologize.
LIN: I don't think in my entire career I've ever talked to someone's back, but...
O'BRIEN: Rude of me and rude of me.
In any case, as matter-of-fact, we're going to head back now to Melbourne, Florida where Anderson Cooper and Chad Myers are there, and they have had some -- of course Chad doesn't go anywhere without his wind gauge, his anemometer, right?
You know, he's kind of the ultimate propeller head, quite literally.
And we might as well -- I just want to toss a quick email into the mix here, for you gentlemen. I've got a couple of others for you, too.
George Morasky (ph) in Winnipeg, Canada -- we've heard from a lot of Canadians tonight, a lot of fascination for hurricanes up in Canada -- "Do the on air reporters at the different places in Florida volunteer for these assignments that could put them in danger?"
You might as well go on record, gentlemen, you are volunteers, correct? ANDERSON COOPER, CNN "ANDERSON COOPER 360" ANCHOR: We're answering some e-mail. Chad doesn't have IB, so I'm going to be telling him some of this.
There answering an e-mail of did we volunteer for this.
Yes, I actually -- I think we both volunteered for this. This is the kind of thing that I, as a reporter, enjoy. You know, you want to be where the story is. And there are a lot of people going through, you know, going through this storm. You know, to be it's a privilege to be down here covering it.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And this is how Dan Rather started.
COOPER: Is that right?
MYERS: Yes, exactly.
MYERS: He got famous by holding on to a tree and doing a hurricane live shot.
COOPER: I'm going to just hold on to Chad.
O'BRIEN: So, now we know why we...
COOPER: It's going to give a whole new meaning to the term hanging Chad. But I'll be here all week, try the veil (ph).
O'BRIEN: We hope it's not a pregnant Chad, anyhow.
Hey, there is one more here that maybe Chad, you can relay to Chad for us. This is from Carlo Petrini -- Petranaro. I apologize, Carlo -- "If a hurricane sucks up the saltwater from the ocean, why does it rain back down as freshwater? Does the salt stay in the sky? And if yes, what eventually happens to all that salt that's in the air?
COOPER: Why does the -- you know, I failed science. I can't even remember the details of that question. But why does the -- why does it rain but not saltwater?
COOPER: I'm sorry. That's the best I can do.
MYERS: I could take a really long time with this one, Anderson. As the water evaporates off the ocean -- and that's how the hurricane gets its power -- as it evaporates, the miracle of "Mother Nature," only pure water evaporates.
If you boil water, or if you boil saltwater, the steam that comes off that water is only pure H20. That's how they make distilled water. They steam bad water. The steam is pure water, pure and clean, and so there's no salt left in the water.
COOPER: That's really fascinating. I don't know if you guys can even...
MYERS: What do you want from me? The winds blowing 90, come on?
O'BRIEN: All right. It is -- we are. I'm sorry, gentlemen. I didn't mean to throw that one at you, the Mr. Wizard question.
COOPER: No, it's fine. We enjoy the long, lengthy e-mails. Take all the time in the world.
O'BRIEN: Here's one more. Let me throw one more at you. Now, this one you should be able to relay OK. Where do wildlife, such as birds, go for shelter during a hurricane?
COOPER: That's a good question.
O'BRIEN: That's a great question.
COOPER: It is a good question. They're asking where do birds, where do wildlife go for shelter during a hurricane. And actually, during one of the press conferences that Governor Bush gave earlier today, someone from the state actually addressed that, in part, basically saying that all of the cows, animals, horses try to seek higher ground, sort of instinctually.
And although they do -- they only lost a small amount of cattle in Hurricane Charley, they're hoping, you know -- the problem is that in a lot of these places, there is not higher ground for them.
MYERS: You know it's amazing, when I was driving in here from Orlando, I thought about this exact question. I was driving down Route-1, and all of a sudden I saw a flock of birds that almost made the sky black. And they all took off, and they all flew west. And I thought to myself, those guys know where they're going. Why am I going the other way?
COOPER: I'm here with Mr. Science.
O'BRIEN: Mr. Science, he was thinking about that exact question.
LIN: Mr. Science and Mr. Endurance, thank you very much.
O'BRIEN: All right. The cattle are smart in Florida. They "moo-ve" out.
All right. We're going to talk a break, right? Is that what we're doing?
LIN: Yes, we are.
O'BRIEN: Let's do that.
LIN: Thank you. We'll be right back.
LIN: Welcome back to our special coverage of Hurricane Francis. I'm Carol Lin at CNN global -- CNN's global headquarters.
It is only going on hour six for us here.
O'BRIEN: Yes, midnight it's not easy to say that. That is for sure.
I'm Miles O'Brien. Hurricane Frances unleashes its fury on Florida. The slow-moving, category two storm is battering the coast, as we speak, with intense winds and rain. How long it lingers? Anybody's guess right now.
LIN: Well, in the past few hours, we've really seen this storm pickup.
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