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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

A Report Live From Florida on Hurricane Frances. Thom Nulty Examines Impact of Hurricane Frances on Holiday Travel

Aired September 4, 2004 - 07:00   ET

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


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: It's getting closer. Hurricane Frances, at 7:00 a.m., is now in the Bahamas. They are feeling the brunt of the hurricane there.
Good morning.

I'm Drew Griffin at CNN Center here in Atlanta. BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Betty Nguyen.

Welcome to this third hour of a special edition of CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

Now in the news, authorities now say 322 hostages were killed -- that's up from 250 previously reported -- when Russian troops shot it out with terrorist hostage takers in southern Russia. Twenty-seven of the terrorists were killed. President Vladimir Putin visited some of the hostages wounded during the fight. We will have a live report from the scene a little later this hour.

Bill Clinton says he is feeling great and he's prepared for heart bypass surgery next week. The former president is hospitalized in New York. We'll have a live report on his surgery just minutes from now.

Meanwhile, Medicare premiums take a big jump next year. The 17 percent hike will be the largest increase in the program's 40-year history. Monthly payments for Part B will rise from about $67 to just over $78. Medicare Part B covers doctor visits and most other non- hospital expenses.

Sources say another boy accused pop singer Michael Jackson of touching him inappropriately and was paid money to keep quiet. The sources say it happened back in 1990, but the information surfaced when authorities were investigating the entertainer in a 1993 case. Jackson denies the claim, saying he would never harm a child.

GRIFFIN: Along Florida's eastern coast, preparing for a close encounter of the hurricane kind. Her name is Frances. Hurricane warnings posted from Florida City north to Flagler Beach. The latest advisory showing the storm downgraded overnight to a category two hurricane. It is 45 miles east-southeast of Freeport, Bahamas. That is 125 miles from West Palm Beach, Florida.

Mandatory evacuations blanketing much of the east coast of Florida, with some two and a half million people affected by the state's largest ever evacuation order. The next hurricane advisory we expect one hour from now. CNN is, of course, keeping focused on Frances. CNN reporters in several places -- Sean Callebs in West Palm Beach, Florida; meteorologist Orelon Sidney, who flew with the hurricane hunters, is in Orlando; Karl Penhaul is in the Bahamas.

But we begin in the northern part of Florida with CNN's Kathleen Koch.

She is in St. Augustine.

Good morning.

The sun has risen finally.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The sun has risen and, you know, Drew, people here are really expressing their frustration with this storm both on the pages of their local newspaper -- you see "I Just Wish It Will Get Here." And then take a look at the wall of this building, a gift shop and restaurant behind me, "Fickle Frances, Please Make Up Your Mind."

This city, the entire state has been preparing for days for what was a massive storm, has now been downgraded. But, you know, people just want to get it over with. When we arrived here on Thursday, we saw businesses boarding up. Yesterday they began putting the sandbags in place.

Now, were here in St. John's County, population of about 150, 000. They began opening an emergency call center yesterday for people to call in with questions, concerns. Do they evacuate? Do they not? There is no mandatory evacuation here, only a voluntary one for people who are living in R.V.s and mobile homes, people in low lying areas and also those with medical conditions that might require them to have electricity. So they've opened three shelters for those people.

One thing we've seen since we arrived here, again, because people are just killing time, we've seen people out in the ocean, out in the water trying to swim and surf. And obviously not something that officials are recommending, because of the very dangerous, deadly even, rip currents that can just suck you under and not even give you a chance to get out.

Now, they are, again, heaving a sigh of relief here in St. Augustine, because it was 40 years ago -- the anniversary is next week -- of the last hurricane. And it was a category two, like Frances is now, that hit this city. That was hurricane Dora.

Its eye came right over historic St. Augustine and all these streets that you see were under two feet of water at the very least.

Now, we're expecting to have the same sort of thing with hurricane Frances, even though the eye won't come, at least as far as we know, nowhere near here. If they dump, if that storm dumps some 20 inches of rain, this city is full of historic buildings, but its drainage system and sewer system is also historic, cannot handle that kind of rain. So, Drew, we expect, by tomorrow, to be able to boat down the main streets of St. Augustine.

GRIFFIN: Kathleen, we'll definitely be looking for that.

Thank you.

NGUYEN: We want to move south now next to Sean Callebs, who is in West Palm Beach, where all morning long the winds have been gusting around you -- Sean.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Betty.

It's not inaccurate to say the situation really changes here every five minutes or so. And the last half hour we had a pretty nasty squall come through. Some rain simply blowing in sideways in a stinging fashion, winds that were gusted in a much more healthy fashion than they are right now.

You can see the Intercoastal Waterway here behind me. It was just full of whitecaps. But it has really died down within the past few minutes. In fact, at the height of the squall, you'll see there's a very lavish hotel/condo across the way there. And we couldn't even see that at one point when the rain was coming down.

But this is a storm that is slow moving. It is intense and it is making its presence known over some time.

We also heard Dr. Gupta just a bit ago talk about the missiles and the problems they could cause. Well, you can see there are palms everywhere here. And you can see palm fronds that are just simply getting blown around like leaves falling off a tree in the fall. And those things may look pretty tame, but they are actually incredibly hard. So those become missiles quite easily.

And this, again, is a community of about 80, 000. But 1.3 million people live in the county. A lion's share of those have been under a mandatory evacuation for days. And the same frustration you heard Kathleen talk about just a moment ago, we have seen down here, as well, not only at the shelters, but also because a lack of emergency supplies -- plywood, batteries, flashlights, candles, things of those nature -- and a gasoline shortage, as well.

And because this storm is moving in over such a prolonged time, still 12 to 18 hours before the eye hits here, hurricane winds that could be sustained as long as half a day, it could be some time before they're able to replenish the fuel supplies in this area of the state. So a lot of people are concerned about the damage the storm is going to bring; and, of course, Betty, the aftermath, as well.

NGUYEN: It could be a very long wait there.

All right, CNN's Sean Callebs in West Palm Beach.

We want to go now to Melbourne, Florida, with CNN's Bill Hemmer, who is getting pounded by wind and rain -- good morning, Bill. BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, hey, Betty, good morning.

We're taking a pretty good shot right now. Just the outer band of Frances we're experiencing. These are not hurricane winds by any stretch of the imagination, but nonetheless, they are strong and they're packing a punch right now, too.

If I move away from this concrete wall over here, you start to feel it a little stronger. Tropical storm winds, perhaps 45, maybe as high as 55 miles an hour.

The thing that strikes you, Betty, number one, the rain just pelts your skin and the wind sometimes, it can gust so strong it literally takes your breath away.

Now, Frances has been parked out there for two days. Forty-eight hours ago, everybody was looking at the storm packing 145 mile an hour winds, with gusts over 160. Well, the storm just stopped over the Bahamas. And when it stopped, everybody was left to wonder, well, what is Frances going to do next?

We're starting to feel a little bit of it now. But we want to let you know at home that for the people up and down the shore here, this is just one initial band of Frances. This will be with us for a while, we're told. But after it passes, we should get a lull for perhaps an hour, maybe longer, before the winds start to kick up again.

Florida almost seemed to put out its hand and tell Frances to stop in its tracks and it did that, slowing down to almost a crawl. Last night moving at four miles an hour. Overnight, six miles an hour. And now we all wait again to see where Frances makes up her mind. She decides everything in this matter, Betty. As we go throughout the day here, we'll mark the progress.

The beach up and down is pretty much deserted. Everyone has left here. We're seeing nobody out this morning, and for good reason.

This will be a fierce storm when it comes onshore, a category two, perhaps strengthening to a category two hurricane.

But at this point, we really can't say ultimately the power of this storm. But, Betty, we'll be here throughout the morning -- back to you now at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

We'll keep you posted as we move back on the other side of this concrete wall.

NGUYEN: Yes, we're going to let you get out of that wind and rain.

Take care.

We'll check back in with you in a little bit.

Bill Hemmer out there in Melbourne, Florida. Boy, the winds have started coming.

GRIFFIN: You can -- yes, you can see these bands on radar.

I'm sure Rob has been watching them. We saw them hit Sean Callebs earlier and now they're hitting Melbourne, Florida -- Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's kind of fun to watch those guys battle it out out there.

It's going to get stronger, though, as we go through time. As these bands continue to come in, they'll get stronger one after the other. Here we go. We're zoomed in. This is our viper Doppler radar, courtesy of the folks at "Barron's" (ph) giving this a shot this weekend.

Melbourne right here and then the spiral bands are coming in. Their winds are out of the north and northeast, at last check gusting to 39 miles an hour. So we'll give Bill the benefit of the doubt and say maybe he's experienced some gusts to 50. Take that and double it and that's what we're talking about when this storm actually makes landfall. So that gives you an idea of just how strong those winds are.

I-95 south from Melbourne down through Fort Pierce, even inland a bit toward the Everglades, we're looking at some heavy rains with gusting winds. No doubt about that.

Let's go back to our weather source and I'll show you the two dimensional Doppler radar out of Miami. And it shows the circulation out of Miami more northwesterly, because the center of this storm is up here. We do expect it to move this way. So folks, Fort Lauderdale south to Miami, Key Largo will not nearly feel the effects of this thing as folks to the north of it. But it will be kind of squally in, say, the Hollywood area and toward Miami Beach. Not the best day to be taking a beach day, that's for sure.

Another wider scope to this thing, actually, you can kind of see it on the move. And then the wide swath of rain to the north of this system, a really solid band of heavy to moderate rainfall, that's where the big juice is. That's where, when this thing just plugs along five and maybe 10 miles an hour by the time it makes landfall, that's where we're going to see the rainfall begin to pile up in the excess of 10, maybe even 15 inches.

One hundred and twenty-five miles east of West Palm Beach. It's moving northwesterly at six miles an hour. So it's moving this way. It's out here about 100 -- I mean, Drew and Betty, you know, it's going to be at least 6:00 or 7:00. It's probably going to be even closer to midnight before this, the eye of this thing gets. And so what Bill experienced and what folks in Melbourne and even as far north as Daytona Beach south to almost Miami Beach, actually, they're going to be experiencing all day long.

NGUYEN: All day. MARCIANO: Because this is not a fast mover like Charley was. Charley was bad. I mean it had big time winds, damaging winds. But it came and went pretty quickly. This one is just going to be -- just kind of fester and pester folks.

NGUYEN: Yes, flooding is a major concern there.

MARCIANO: Yes.

NGUYEN: All right, thank you, Rob.

MARCIANO: Yes.

GRIFFIN: OK, along with you, Rob, we're counting on the National Hurricane Center to keep you up to date on this.

Ed Rappaport is there right now.

And, Ed, the next update, I guess, isn't until 8:00. But maybe you can give us a sense of where this hurricane is moving and what time it may actually cross shore.

ED RAPPAPORT, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Well, we don't want to focus on the specific time or point for this hurricane, because unlike Charley, which was very concentrated and small, this is a large hurricane. As you've heard, hurricane force winds extend outward up to 100 miles to the north, about 60 miles to the south. That's a very large swath of hurricane and near hurricane force winds that's going to be moving over the Florida Peninsula beginning later today, continuing tonight and then into Sunday, as well.

GRIFFIN: Due to the size, Charley was a relatively small storm geographically and it decreased in its strength as it hit land.

Are you expecting this storm to decrease as soon as it hits the coast? Or does the size change things?

RAPPAPORT: Frances will weaken when it crosses the coast. But it'll be a slow spin down. And what that means is that really through Sunday there are going to be strong winds and rains for the State of Florida. As you mentioned, flooding is going to be a big concern here; perhaps seven to 12 inches of rain, maybe more. And we're going to see increasing, increasingly rough weather as the day goes along, first on the Florida east coast and then spreading inland.

GRIFFIN: OK.

Ed Rappaport.

The next official advisory comes out at 8:00. We'll be looking for that.

Thank you, sir.

RAPPAPORT: Thank you. NGUYEN: Hurricane Frances is pounding the Bahamas at this hour and starting to head inland toward Florida. We'll take you to the Bahamas, though, in just a few minutes to check out the damage.

GRIFFIN: That's Orelon Sidney.

She's in Orlando. And at least she's showing us that here it is coming. She flew with the hurricane hunters yesterday. We'll hear from her later on.

And another story we are watching this morning, the terrible situation at that Russian school. The bloody siege is over, but wait until you hear the price that has been paid.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: The National Hurricane Center due to deliver its next regularly scheduled update at the top of the hour, 45 minutes from now.

Let's tell you what we know right now. Frances weakened just a bit. It was downgraded late last night to a category two hurricane. The massive storm remains a major threat. Winds could top 100 miles an hour. But it's the rain that may be the big story here. It could total 20 inches in some affected areas.

At least at last check, Frances 45 miles east of Freeport in the Bahamas. That puts it 125 miles from the coast of Florida. It's moving at a pathetic six miles an hour. That's why we're waiting so long for this storm. Airports, West Palm Beach, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Melbourne are all closed. Miami -- Jacksonville are operating, but you might want to check your flights.

For those who need help or want to offer some help, here are some phone numbers.

The American Red Cross at 1-800-HELP-NOW. And the number for the response center there is 1-866-GET-INFO.

Again, the next hurricane advisory expected at the top of the hour.

We will update you right here on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

NGUYEN: Now to another story we're following.

He's still a hot topic of conversation for political fans and foes alike. But today all the talk is of a speedy recovery for Bill Clinton. He's in a New York hospital this morning, waiting to undergo heart bypass surgery this week.

Late last night, the former president phoned CNN's Larry King from his hospital bed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some of this is genetic. And I may have done some damage in those years when I was too careless about what I ate. So for whatever reasons, I've got a problem and I've got a chance to deal with it and I feel that I've really got -- let me just say this, Republicans aren't the only people that want four more years here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: Our Maria Hinojosa is outside New York Presbyterian, where Clinton is staying, and she joins us now w a live update on this upcoming bypass surgery.

We still don't know exactly what day early next week, correct?

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It has been postponed until early next week. Yes, yesterday there was talk that perhaps the surgery could have happened overnight. But that is not the case. It will happen some time next week and we haven't been told what day.

Now, it's hard to say if the former president is, in fact, resting here at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital behind me, because knowing hospitals, he's probably been wakened up, woken up several times for any number of tests. But according to his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, she is saying that the former president is in good spirits; in fact, that the former president beat her and Chelsea at card games, which he was playing in his hospital room to try to keep himself occupied.

The former president saying that the angiogram that was performed yesterday morning at about 6:00 a.m. is what saved his life here at Columbia Presbyterian, one of the top hospitals for cardiovascular attention. But no information now about that operation, who will be performing it. We've been told that we will be getting no updates until after the surgery has taken place.

But former President Bill Clinton is busy doing his own updating, calling in to CNN and speaking to Larry King.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Well, I'm just grateful. I guess I'm a little scared, m but not much. I'm looking forward to it. I want to get back to -- I want to see what it's like to run five miles again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HINOJOSA: Now, the former president was at Riverside Church just one week ago giving a rousing speech there. We've been told that they usually spend about three to five days in the hospital after this surgery, and then actually they encourage patients to get up and get active. Whether or not that means he can get back onto the campaign trail for Senator Kerry is still up in the air -- Betty.

NGUYEN: But he's ready to run five miles once again after this is all over with.

All right, CNN's Maria Hinojosa.

Thank you.

GRIFFIN: Well, next week, we'll be tapping Dr. Sanjay Gupta's expertise on the Bill Clinton matter. But right now he is in the middle of the hurricane, or where it's going to hit, and he joins us live from Melbourne -- good morning, doctor.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

Yes, from the heart of the president to the heart of a storm, you can see here starting to brew. I'll tell you, day is starting to break here. It's getting a little bit lighter.

Let me just show you, we are on the beach. You can start to get a sense of what these surfs look like now that you have a little bit more daylight. They expect that these winds, these waves out here could get 30, 40 feet high within the next few hours. The winds here gusting up to 40, 45 miles an hour.

The reason I'm down here, you might be wondering, is to sort of cover what the medical aspects of taking care of patients in a hurricane is. What they do at a hospital is they essentially embed the doctors, the nurses. They spend 36 hours. They get their food, they get their supplies, their water and they hang out in the hospital. They don't want to leave. They don't want to be out in this, like anybody else. They're going to stay in the hospital and take care of patients as they come in.

All sorts of different things could happen. You get primary injuries just from people literally being jostled around. And you also get secondary injuries from debris flying and potentially hitting people.

With this moving so slow and with so much rain, flooding is obviously going to be a huge concern, as well. The hospitals, the doctors prepared for just about anything.

GRIFFIN: OK, doctor, thank you for that update.

We will be getting back to you.

You're obviously experiencing one of the bands there coming in to Melbourne, Florida -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Did you have a cruise planned for this holiday weekend? Well, find out what to do if hurricane Frances messed up all those plans.

This is CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Well, 19 years after Elena, hurricane Frances is now lashing the opposite side of Florida, up and down the east coast. Airports are closed or operating at reduced levels. Now, that's a huge blow to tourism on this Labor Day weekend typically which is one of the state's busiest weekends.

We want to take a closer look now with travel industry analyst Thom Nulty.

Good morning to you.

THOM NULTY, TRAVEL ANALYST: Good morning.

NGUYEN: We've been reporting all morning long that many of the airports have been closed. But some of them are still open. Still, though, that doesn't mean flights are getting in and out, correct?

NULTY: No, I was just looking at the Flight Explorer software just a few minutes ago and there are virtually no airplanes flying in southern Florida. The only activity you're actually seeing is in and out of Tampa. Everything else, there's just nobody flying right now.

And most of the airlines have taken their equipment out of town. So the airport might be open, but there are no airplanes there.

NGUYEN: So when do you think that will be open again?

NULTY: Well, American Airlines is saying that they're going to start service out of Miami later this afternoon. However...

NGUYEN: This afternoon?

NULTY: However, that was based on, I think, the hurricane going at a normal speed.

NGUYEN: Right.

NULTY: That could slow down, it could cause some problems. Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach should be opening tomorrow afternoon, they should start service. And they were talking about starting service in Orlando about noon on Monday. But all of that, of course, is up in the air, so to speak.

NGUYEN: Right.

Of course.

What does that mean for people who have travel plans to Florida, tickets on hold? Will they get their money back?

NULTY: Well, they can get -- the airlines relaxed their refund policies. They've also made it very easy to make changes. You know, if this hadn't happened, every time you want to make a change they want to hit you for $50 or $100.

NGUYEN: Right.

NULTY: That's not going to happen now. They're going to make it easy for you to do that. And in some cases, you can get refunds, as well.

But it's going to be -- and when things start, don't think they're just going to start up in the normal way. The airplanes are going to be a -- airlines are going to be a mess for a couple of days.

NGUYEN: Backlogged.

NULTY: It's going to be very, very difficult. When people go to the airport, they should be comfortable, they should be relaxed, because it's not going to be easy. So if you go there with that attitude, it might make it a little easier on you.

NGUYEN: A lot of cruises headed out of Florida.

NULTY: Right.

NGUYEN: What about the folks wanting to get on a cruise and the folks that are on a cruise right now? They get a few extra days, don't they?

NULTY: They do. They're having a great time right now. They're all out at sea in blue skies and clear sailing drinking pina coladas. But people that wanted to get on this weekend, now they have a little more of a problem. Their cruises are not going to leave until Monday. So they're going to get shortened itineraries.

But the cruise lines are being very good to them. They're going to give them a lot of onboard credits, giving them discounts and giving them discounts on their future cruises.

By the way, for the future, there are probably going to be some pretty good discounts available for just about everything right after the storm, just to encourage people to get back into Florida again.

NGUYEN: Quickly, the best advice for travelers right now?

NULTY: The best advice for travelers is to -- if you've used a travel agent to book any travel, keep in touch with them. They've all got 24 hour services operating. If you're -- if you've dealt directly with the airline or with an online Web site, their Web sites are posting a lot of information. Sites like Orbitz are actually even proactively sending you things to your e-mail telling you what is going to happen and what your flight status is.

NGUYEN: All right, so the information is out there.

NULTY: It is.

NGUYEN: Travel industry analyst Thom Nulty, thank you.

NULTY: Great.

Great being here.

NGUYEN: Drew. GRIFFIN: Well, there's no cruises, no air flights in the Bahamas right now. They're getting pounded. We're going to take you there when CNN SATURDAY MORNING continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Pounding the Bahamas and poised to strike Florida shores.

Welcome back.

I'm Betty Nguyen.

GRIFFIN: I'm Drew Griffin.

We're going to have more on hurricane Frances in a minute.

But first, other stories making news. And there are some big stories this morning.

A top U.S. anti-terrorism official says forces are closing on Osama bin Laden. Cofer Black, the State Department's chief of counter-terrorism, on a trip to Pakistan. He is telling reporters he's not sure when bin Laden might be caught, but he says officials are getting closer to that al Qaeda leader.

There's an eerie stillness in the southern Russian town this morning after the hostage stand-off ended. It ended with troops storming a school where terrorists had taken hundreds of people captive on the first day of the new school year. Russian news reports say the death toll has reached 322. Many of them are children.

Mild chest pains, shortness of breath -- Bill Clinton says that is what prompted him to go to the hospital. Now the former president is facing heart bypass surgery. It'll happen some time early next week. Clinton joked from his hospital bed, telling CNN Republicans aren't the only ones who want four more years.

And in northern Iraq, heavy fighting this morning in the Mosul area. U.S. forces target suspected terrorist spots. The military investigating the forced landing of a U.S. helicopter to see if it was a result of that fighting.

NGUYEN: We're still waiting for the next weather advisory from the National Hurricane Center, which will happen in about 30 minutes from now. But according to the last advisory posted this morning, hurricane warnings are in effect for Florida's east coast, from Florida City north to Flagler Beach, including Lake Okeechobee.

Now, hurricane Frances is 45 miles east of Freeport on Grand Bahama Island and about 120 miles east-southeast of West Palm Beach.

It's moving very slowly at six miles per hour. Mandatory evacuation orders are in effect for parts of 16 Florida counties. About two and a half million people are affected. And our own Bill Hemmer is one of those folks affected this morning, in the wind and the rain. It seems like the rain may have died down a little bit there in Melbourne.

HEMMER: Indeed, you're right, Betty, it did. The last time we talked 15, 20 minutes ago, the rain was coming down almost sideways at times. It's lightened up. In fact, we can feel very little rain right now.

The winds a little less, too, as well, but I want to check out the surf real quickly, Betty, and show you what we're seeing. Whitecaps as far as the eye can see. And the other thing that's interesting about this image -- Joelle (ph), if you come back here and point your camera up there in the sky, you can see the clouds right now have lightened up, giving us an indication, based on what we saw on the radar and the satellite system, that that first band was going to come through and perhaps things would lighten up. And it appears right now that is, indeed, the case.

But it will not stay this way. Perhaps it will stay this way for an hour, maybe two to three hours as we move into the day on Saturday. But after that, we expect Frances to pick up yet again here.

The squalls we were feeling earlier tough for us to gauge ultimately how strong they were. But easily 50 miles an hour, we think, at this point with the strength that we were feeling. Nowhere near the hurricane force winds that we expect later tonight. Nonetheless, though, we're starting to feel just a shade of Frances already today.

The storm surge, Betty, we talk about it every time the hurricanes come here, the storm surge could be serious, anywhere from five upwards to 12 feet in that surge. And what that means essentially is this wall of water that comes ashore along with the storm. And that's where you get the most serious flooding conditions.

We have seen trees down earlier today, making our way out to our live location. But pretty much this coastline is empty of people, and that's a good thing. Three weeks ago when Charley hit here it sent a scare throughout this state and people right now are paying attention to the warnings this time around.

Talk to you again in a couple of minutes -- Betty.

Back to you now at the CNN Center.

NGUYEN: Definitely lessons learned there.

Bill Hemmer bracing for his close encounter with hurricane Frances.

Thank you.

GRIFFIN: And while Florida gets ready to face this, all along it's been battering the Bahamas.

And that is where our Karl Penhaul is right now.

And Karl is on the phone.

Can you tell us what the conditions are right now?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there.

Well, the biggest problem here has been flooding. A high tide corresponded, really, with the strongest winds overnight and many parts of the island, both north and south, are now under five to six feet of water according to authorities in the crisis centers here.

That meant that some of the people that weren't initially evacuated, who were believed not to have been at risk from flooding, are now having to be evacuated. And as you'll appreciate, with no power anywhere on the island and many trees down with that five to six feet of water, that's proving very difficult.

What authorities are saying is that they're taking out trucks, very large trucks, and also, in some cases, jet skis, to pull some 260 people out of buildings and in some cases off roofs and try and take them to safety. But this is an operation that is still in progress.

Also, one of the temporary shelters that was set up, that, too, had to be evacuated. That was deemed to be in a very safe area, but that is now full of about four to five feet of water, so people have been taken out of there, as well.

That said, there have been no reports of loss of life or injuries as a result, though there have been plenty of roofs torn off buildings. Even the airport now is underwater and it's obviously unclear how long that will remain so. In 1999,l in hurricane Floyd, we're told that the airport remained underwater once it was flooded for around nine days. So that is obviously going to be a problem for communications from here on in.

GRIFFIN: Karl, the island you're on is relatively flat. I'm wondering if there have -- if there are enough shelters in areas which would not be flooded.

PENHAUL: There do seem to be enough shelters. The authorities said that they were confident of the shelter provision. Indeed, the people who are now being evacuated are being taken to those centers. So that in itself doesn't seem to be a problem.

But as you say, the island is very flat. Some areas of the island are even below the actual level of sea level because of dips and contours in the land, and there really are no -- there really is no such thing as high ground where people can run and take cover. And that's really what we've seen overnight, the people taking to their rooftops as the lower levels of the buildings have been flooded.

GRIFFIN: Karl, very quickly, as you look outside, is the wind still intense? Is it dying down at all from your overnight experience? PENHAUL: The wind has dropped off a great deal before -- I'm in a 10 story building and before, one could feel the top of that building even kind of shaking around and moving. The winds do seem to have died down.

But talking to some of the authorities, they say what they believe is now is that the eye of the storm is over us and that's why we've had the calm. They believe then that there will be some tail winds after and so that we're going to still get another buildup of gusts later on in the morning.

That said, I haven't been able to talk to the meteorological office. It seems that the phone lines are down there. So we're looking for a little more information on that.

GRIFFIN: All right, CNN's Karl Penhaul, perhaps in the eye of the storm right as we speak.

Thank you, Karl.

NGUYEN: From the Bahamas to Florida, where hurricane Frances has Melbourne, Florida in its sights.

Mark Ryan is back away from the beach where we saw Bill Hemmer a little bit earlier.

Mark is the city manager of West Melbourne and he joins us now by phone.

Good morning to you.

MARK RYAN, CITY MANAGER: Good morning, Betty.

NGUYEN: Well, how are you bracing for the brunt of this storm? Because we understand as it stays on course, if it does, it's going to be hitting you pretty soon?

RYAN: We've activated all of our emergency personnel. We have crews on standby to respond in the after effects of the storm.

NGUYEN: And you've already started experiencing wind and rain.

How difficult has that made it for emergency crews? Are they still responding to anyone at this hour or have they been put in lockdown?

RYAN: We're still responding. We anticipate locking them down the next couple of hours and getting...

NGUYEN: Are most people adhering to the warnings? Are they evacuating? Are they off the streets at this hour and in shelters?

RYAN: Many of our citizens evacuated and are in shelters or have left the area. We're very proud of the way they've responded to the urge of all of emergency management personnel. NGUYEN: But do you have enough relief workers, crews, emergency personnel on hand so that once this storm does come ashore and hit land and stay there for quite a while that you can deal with the flooding, the downed power lines, the downed trees and all the problems that come with?

RYAN: We feel comfortable that we can handle those emergencies. And then there are alternate plans in place to bring in assistance.

NGUYEN: All right, Mark Ryan, West Melbourne city manager.

Best of luck to you.

Take care.

RYAN: Thank you, Betty.

GRIFFIN: Let's get the latest on the location of the storm from Rob Marciano in the Weather Center -- Rob.

MARCIANO: Hey, guys, the latest advisory just came in and we really haven't changed it much. We still have winds of 105 miles an hour. It's about 110 miles now just to the east of West Palm Beach. And here you see it. It's pretty much right smack over the Grand Bahama. And they've had sustained winds there of 75 miles an hour. So sustained winds of hurricane force strength, with gusts well over 80. And they've been experiencing that for several hours overnight tonight.

A wide swatch of rain, that's for sure, all, almost as far north as Orlando, with -- where Orelon Sidney is.

Let's zoom in just a little bit and show you where most of our crew is along the beach. And that is Melbourne. And they were just getting hammered with rain sideways just a little while ago. And here's the Doppler radar showing those bright colors coming in from the north and east. The center of this is back here. So this leading edge, this spiral band just coming in, not only with heavy rain, but gusting winds over 40 miles an hour.

We slide it down to the south just down I-95 from Fort Pierce to West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood and Miami, not a whole lot going on there. But north and west into the Everglades, starting to see some action, as well. So rain bands already extending into the center part of the state, at least the southern half part of the state.

All right, back to my other composite and we'll show you where the center of this thing is. There it is. Orlando, Tampa looking good. Fort Myers looking good. But later on today you might see a little bit of action.

All right, it's a category two storm at the moment. And that means with winds of 105 miles an hour. We will see some structural damage, but not as widespread as, say, a category four storm. A category two storm, northwesterly movement. This wind field is pretty wide. I mean it extends to 100 miles north and about 60 miles south. We'll talk more about that and its track a little bit later on.

But first up, we want to go to Orelon Sidney, who yesterday was flying in a hurricane hunter aircraft and today is inland, where it's pretty safe. And the winds out of here north at about 15 miles an hour, Orelon. It looks pretty nice right now, but I suspect it's a bit of a ghost town.

And are you having trouble getting a cup of coffee this morning?

ORELON SIDNEY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, you know, I think ghost town is a really good way to put it, because it is a little deserted. Most of the fast food places and most of the convenience stores have either closed this morning or will close a little bit later on this morning.

We were just talking to the manager here of this 7-Eleven and he said he's sending his employees home at 10:00 a.m. He may stay until noon. And then they're going to evaluate the situation tomorrow and see whether or not they're coming back. He also said that when he left last night, there was no gas available. They got a truck to come in about 8:30 that brought some gasoline in. And so they do have gas now. But there's an issue as to whether or not there will be gas available in a lot of Orlando over the next day or two.

I think conditions here are going to dramatically improve by Monday. I think tonight it's going to go downhill. The winds are going to start to pick up. The forecast is for winds of about 50 to 60 miles an hour, sustained with gusts. A lot of that, of course, depends on how long it takes Frances to get here, and that is at least the core of the hurricane force winds. If it takes a long time, those winds are going to be a lot less strong, I think, by the time they get here.

But for now, again, we've seen those winds that you talk about from the north, probably I've seen some gusts of 20, 25 miles an hour. There's a couple of big signs here that have been rattling around. But so far it's actually a very pretty sunrise. The breeze feels great. But the rainfall will start coming, I'm sure, within the next, probably within the next four to six hours -- Rob.

MARCIANO: OK, Orelon, hang tight there.

We'll come back to you in a little bit.

You're right about that, the rain band that just moved through just missed Orlando and scooted down to the south. But, Orlando, you'll get it soon enough, that's for sure.

I'm thinking we're going to a break. I hear this ominous music.

No, Drew, I'll pass it back to you.

GRIFFIN: Here, you know, Labor Day is supposed to be a big last money maker for the tourism industry. Instead of cashing in, though, the end of summer tourist trade, St. Augustine becomes a ghost town.

That story next on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: The latest on Frances. She remains a category two hurricane -- that is the last advisory we have -- with winds topping 100 miles an hour. The eye of the storm could hit the Florida coast late tonight or early tomorrow. Frances already bringing high winds to that state and kicking up waves.

Hurricane warnings all over the place in the Florida area. They stretch for about 300 miles along the eastern coast of the Sunshine State. Forecasters say Frances could soak parts of the state, up to 20 inches of rain. Frances twice as big as hurricane Charley, which wreaked havoc in Florida.

The Bahamas feeling the wrath of the hurricane this morning. Frances shattered windows there, knocked down trees and led to the death of at least one person in the capital, electrocuted when working on a generator. The storm about 125 miles east of West Palm Beach, Florida and moving at six miles an hour. Rain bands already affecting our reporters on the beach in Florida. Many Floridians already long gone. Florida ordered the biggest evacuation in its history, covering two and a half million people. Residents have evacuated coastal areas in record numbers, heading north into Georgia. And hotels here in Atlanta are booked solid.

We are expecting the next hurricane advisory in just a few minutes.

NGUYEN: But in the meantime, there's never a good time for a hurricane. But a holiday weekend is one of the worst times for Florida. Take, for example, St. Augustine. It's a ghost town right now after tourists and residents packed up and scattered.

CNN's David Mattingly reports.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The slow approach of hurricane Frances gave beachgoers in St. Augustine one more day in the sun. But the choppy surf was a constant reminder the fun was not going to last.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the first time we ever boarded up our home. We never did that before. Just because of the storm. We're afraid it might hit -- not hit us, but the wind itself might cause a lot of damage.

MATTINGLY: Thousands made their hurricane decisions early. Labor Day weekend crowds who were supposed to come to celebrate the city's 439th anniversary stayed away. Celebrations were canceled and empty sightseeing trolleys were a sign of a big money holiday lost.

JOHN YEARY, TOUR GUIDE: I'm seeing no one. I'm seeing people boarding up stores and maybe a few people walking around, but not much. MATTINGLY: Below sea level in some areas, St. Augustine is always prone to flooding. But long time residents say it's unusual to see so many boarded windows and sandbags. Frances is one storm everyone is taking seriously.

PAUL WILLIAMSON, CITY SPOKESMAN: So everybody is kind of just, I use the word a lot, we're poised. We're just kind of waiting to see what happens right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Emergency operations center.

May I help you?

MATTINGLY: Shelters opened Friday night for people living in probable flooding areas. They were encouraged not to wait until the last minute to leave home.

(on camera): And while it's still too early to tell how strong Frances will be when it reaches north Florida, the 10 to 20 inches of rainfall predicted could easily take streets normally clogged with tourists and fill them with floodwaters.

David Mattingly, CNN, St. Augustine, Florida.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

GRIFFIN: From the empty streets to the empty stands, though it hasn't yet fully arrived, hurricane Frances is emptying out many places and spaces in Florida.

We're going to tell you why the world of sports is taking a beating this weekend, as many sports fans crying foul when CNN SATURDAY MORNING continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: With Frances on its perilous path, several sports games could be put on hold.

In our weekly segment Beyond The Game, we want to talk about how the hurricane is affecting the world of sports.

So we go to Rick Horrow.

He's the author of the book "When The Game Is On The Line."

He is also CNN's sports business analyst.

And he's in Boston, where the weather is a bit calmer.

Rick, you're usually hanging out down in Florida. You got a lucky break.

RICK HORROW, CNN SPORTS BUSINESS ANALYST: Well, yes, but my house can't move with me and I'm in the path of the storm, so it is a little disconcerting. GRIFFIN: There's a lot of closing going on across Florida.

HORROW: Yes.

GRIFFIN: Can you tell us about those?

HORROW: Yes, and this is not a sports story, it's an economic impact story. You know, you've got some football games -- Miami/FSU we'll talk about in a minute. You've got the Gateway Classic, Jacksonville, in Jacksonville. Jacksonville University versus FIU. But that's not the story.

It's the hundreds of college -- of high school games, it's the trade shows, the meetings, the conventions, the 50 fairs and concerts, the facilities, even the Ran Jahn Surf Shop (ph), 24 hour a day, they talk about, closed down its merchandise Web site in consideration of its Daytona Beach and Cocoa Beach employees.

GRIFFIN: But in terms of sports, this is also a religious story. You've got this Miami/FSU game, where they worship football down in Florida, and that apparently was canceled?

HORROW: Well, not canceled, but postponed until the following Friday. And, by the way, it's not just the weather, because it was Monday night, but it's the evacuees moving in and out, the two and a half million people. And it was a hard decision, by the way, because Miami as a community is going to lose $15 million, maybe, of economic impact.

The game is played next week, so the money comes back. But there's a 30 percent premium that Labor Day hoteliers charge that's now lost. The ACC made the decision to go against the prime time programming in high school football, which is next Friday night. ABC, by the way, made the decision to flip-flop their prime time Friday nights into Monday night.

So it was a major economic decision that's basically a once in a major circumstance call. It is religion, but now they're going to play it on Friday night.

GRIFFIN: I think it was 19 years ago hurricane Elena hit the Gulf Coast and then went down to Tampa and back up to Pensacola. That was the last Labor Day event.

Any idea how much more money this is going to drag out of the Florida economy for the Labor Day?

HORROW: Yes, two words -- a lot. You know, Florida was a $20 billion tourist state last year and they were just recovering from September 11 of a few years ago. Eighteen and a half million people visited the state the second quarter of this year, a 4 percent increase over last year. Then there's Charley, then there's Frances.

It's not really the hotel rooms. You know, the hotel rooms in Orlando, 120,000 of them, they're all filled with evacuees. It's the functions, the meetings, the conventions and the perception that Florida is now a hurricane state. You know, Disney's lines, by the way, on Thursday, were 10 minutes long as opposed to two hours. That's the only silver lining. They're losing, Disney, $1.5 million a day as they close this weekend. That's the dark cloud and we all hope and pray it doesn't get worse.

GRIFFIN: Incredible.

Rick, thanks for joining us.

Good luck to you and all the homeowners in Florida over the next 24 or 48 hours.

HORROW: Thank you, my friend.

See you next week.

GRIFFIN: You bet.

Georgia Tech giving Florida residents who are fleeing Frances a bit of a relief. You know, the hotels here in Atlanta are booked. The university offering discounted tickets to people who have been evacuated from Florida. Today's game is between Georgia Tech and Stanford. It only costs $25. Evacuees will pay $15. They'll just need to show a hotel bill or a Florida driver's license. That game starts at 1:00 p.m. here in Atlanta.

NGUYEN: And as we continue our hurricane coverage, we are expecting the next advisory on hurricane Frances to come, oh, at the top of the hour.

Meanwhile, here is our Rob Marciano with the latest on how Frances is looking right about now. Still moving pretty slow.

MARCIANO: You know, you want to know how good we are here at CNN, Betty? We have that advisory before 8:00.

NGUYEN: All right.

MARCIANO: How crazy is that?

NGUYEN: Look at that.

MARCIANO: That's nutty, isn't it?

NGUYEN: Nutty.

MARCIANO: You go.

Winds of 105 miles an hour moving northwesterly. It really hasn't changed a whole lot since the last advisory. It's just a little bit closer, at 110 miles to the east of West Palm Beach. But it's strength and direction really hasn't changed a whole lot and the rain bands, if anything has changed, the rain bands are now beginning to strengthen just a little bit.

I think we're going to go to a commercial break. We'll talk more about hurricane Frances and give you a forecast track in just a few minutes.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: We want you to take a look at these pictures coming in from WSVN, our affiliate there in Volusia County, where a pier has collapsed. You're watching it right now in this video. This is just in the Daytona are. Of course, hurricane Frances is -- there it goes collapsing in that video. Check that out. Just a little bit of what this hurricane has in store for Florida.

GRIFFIN: Yes, a wooden pier going down there.

Rob Marciano tracking this. That could spell some bad things to come, because we're just getting the outer bands there.

MARCIANO: Exactly. And it's going to be around all day long. So the surf rolling in, no doubt about that, with battering waves and the storm surge not even close. So I -- that may not be the first pier that, you know, takes a digger.

Hey, just to the north of this system we've had some of the models is showing the wave heights over 11 meters. So 30-foot plus wave heights offshore. And obviously as they roll onshore, you know, whitecaps and then banging on those piers and doing some damage, for sure.

All right, we'll zoom into some action here. Daytona Beach really not a whole lot happening. Titusville, not a whole lot happening. But some serious squalls going through our crews in the last couple of hours in Melbourne. But they're getting a break right now.

Down toward Vero Beach and Fort Pierce we've had wind gusts near 50 miles an hour this morning. And then a really good indication of the circulation. The last shot, everything was coming from the northeast. This shot, everything has been coming from the northwest. There's where your center of that circulation is as it rolls around in a counter-clockwise motion.

Back to I-75 toward the Everglades and some heavy rains rolling in through there. Key Largo trying to get in the action, as well.

All right, I mentioned this storm is a pretty wide storm. This is the wind field of hurricane force winds that are expected to come in to Melbourne, even as far north as Daytona Beach. Diminishing quickly once it reaches landfall, because it'll weaken quickly. And then moving off into the Gulf of Mexico, likely not regaining a whole lot of strength.

It is expected to make landfall as a category two storm and here is, in a round about fashion, what you can expect from a category two storm -- winds 96 to 110 miles an hour, damaging coastal floods, door, window and some roof damage. But we don't expect structural damage, Drew and Betty. Certainly some trees will be knocked down, power lines, that whole sort of deal, and that can cause some damage to, I guess, homes, when a big tree falls on your house. So that at this point, if it doesn't strengthen any more, that's the kind of damage we're looking at. Heavy rain probably the biggest deal and those battering waves. That's some dramatic video already coming with that pier going down along the Florida coast.

NGUYEN: And this pier is just the beginning of it all, too.

MARCIANO: Yes, yes.

NGUYEN: A slow moving storm.

All right, Rob Marciano, thank you very much.

MARCIANO: You bet.

GRIFFIN: The next hour of this special edition of CNN SATURDAY MORNING begins right now.

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