Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Hurricane Frances: Downgraded to Tropical Storm
Aired September 13, 2004 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our continuing coverage if Hurricane Frances. But first a quick look at these headlines. Frances has been downgraded to a tropical storm. But driving rains and gusting winds continue to batter Florida. Officials warn, the storm could regain hurricane strength as it heads for the northeastern Gulf of Mexico.
And from wet and windy in Florida, to hot and windy on the West Coast. Fires, wild fires have burned more than 9,200 acres in California's Sonoma County. Firefighters are also battling blazes in Calaveras County.
In Japan, two strong earthquakes in the western part of the county injured at least 14 people. The quakes, one measuring 6.9, the other 7.3 shook buildings in Tokyo 250 miles away.
Simply put, Florida has been pounded. Slow moving Frances batters the state. Winds and heavy rain are still hammering homes and businesses all along the coast. And million of people are without power. I'm Carol Lin at CNN Headquarters in Atlanta. We have correspondents covering all fronts of Hurricane Frances. Now a tropical storm.
Including our Anderson Cooper, in Melbourne who is going to join us throughout the hour. Hi Anderson. Tropical storm Frances moving away from Florida's east coast is now setting it's sights on the Panhandle. Right now, much of the East Coast is under several inches of water. Curfews are in effect. Scattered looting is being reported. Millions are without power.
And there is a strong possibility the storm could regain hurricane strength before it makes landfall a second time, somewhere in the Panhandle. Now much of that area is under a hurricane warning.
So let's get the latest on the storm's whereabouts, and it's projected path from CNN's meteorologist Jacqui Jeras. Jacqui, what do you have?
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well Carol, it looks like the center of circulation right on the north side of the Tampa Bay area at this hour. This is the report of the 5:00 advisory. We are getting advisories from the National Hurricane Center now every three hours. So we are going to get another one. And probably have that information to bring it to you right before 8:00. But as of 5:00, it was 20 miles east of Tampa. But just by judging on satellite, and looking at radar, it looks like it is right on the northern fringes of Tampa. Maximum sustained winds around 70 miles per hour. Moving west northwest at 10 miles per hour. That forward speed has picked up just a little bit. Still, a good tread of some isolated tornadoes. We have been seeing warnings on and off with a couple of public reports of tornadoes this afternoon as well. We are going to continue to see those winds become very strong with some gusts.
Could be reaching - pushing hurricane strength, even though we are still at tropical storm. Flooding remains a very big concern across southern Georgia, across the entire state of Florida. And you can see West Central Florida under some flood warnings at this hour. And that does include Tampa. You can expect to see a good inch of rain per hour.
This is the latest on the forecast track. Continuing on a west northwesterly track. Expecting really the same direction probably, for the next 24 hours. But take a look at that. That little hole fills back in. That is the hurricane sign. So this could probably go back up hurricane strength we think as it moves over the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Making landfall sometime tomorrow. Best estimate is going to be early afternoon, maybe one 2:00, near Apalachicola.
But again, keep in mind that we have this little cone area. So there is still a little bit of room for air. Then becoming tropical depression as it moves into Alabama. Carol?
LIN: So the wider Southeast region. Jacqui, when is it really going to be significantly affected, all these different states?
JERAS: Well Monday and Tuesday both, absolutely. You are going to start to see these rain bands moving in I think before sunrise across the Florida Panhandle. And then the forecast amounts, even across parts of southeastern Alabama into Georgia have for tomorrow between eight in the morning, and eight on Tuesday. It is anywhere between three, six, possibly even a little higher than that. So some flooding can be expected tomorrow.
LIN: Ironic, because many of the people in Florida fled to those very same places Jacqui.
LIN: All right. Thanks very much. Well we have been seeing a lot of damage in Melbourne, which is just north of where the eye of the storm came ashore. And that is where we find CNN's Anderson Cooper. Anderson?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hi Carol. It was a miserable night last night. It is a miserable day today. I mean the may have moved on, it is no longer a hurricane. But there has been torrential rain all day long here in Melbourne. It just picked up literally a second ago, as you were coming to me. It is the last thing the residents here want to see. They are just tired of all this wet weather. It is really just miserable and depressing.
Although, a lot of people here really breathing a sigh of relief. It could have been so -- it could have been so much worse. What we are seeing here -- this is a mobile home community, called Barefoot Bay. We are about maybe 30 miles or so south of Melbourne down route 1. And you always hear in mobile home communities, the fear is because of flimsy construction. The fears are a mobile home community is going to suffer the most.
This community of some 10,000 people actually fared very well. This is one of the harder hit homes behind me. And really, all they had is the front porch of their house ripped down. What you see all over the place is stuff like this. This is basically that aluminum siding from a roof, or from the siding of a house, which is just literally wrapped around this pole. And this stuff just flies through the air in the middle of the night.
It is very eerie when you are standing out there as we were last night. Ed Lavandera was also talking about this. You are standing out in the pitch dark, and you hear metal crumpling, and you hear it being knocked down the street. But because it is dark, you just don't know where it is. And that is one of the big dangers for people. Even today with these high winds. There is still a lot of debris just flying around. So you really have to be careful about where you go.
This mobile home community is still shut down. A few residents have come back. We will talk to them a little bit later on. But the police have roadblocks up on route 1. The do not want people coming back to their homes just yet. They want to make sure there are some fire personnel here. They want to make sure there are no live wires. They want to make sure this place is safe, and that there is no looting. So that is another reason why they blocked it off.
This area as we said, breathing a sigh of relief. The area of Ft. Pierce though, much harder hit further south. That is where we find CNN's Gary Tuchman. Let's go to him -- Gary.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Anderson, the weather is still rather atrocious here. It has really been a nightmare day-and-a- half. And right now we come to you from the city marina here in Ft. Pierce, where the smell of gasoline is overwhelming. And is because at least 75 sailboats and yachts have either been destroyed, damaged, or lost from the hurricane.
You can get a look thee at what happened. We were here live all day yesterday at this marina. And for hour-after-hour the weather got worse and worse. But the boats were fine. And then about 1:00 in the morning Eastern Time, the tide came in. And all the sudden, we heard some noises. The boats had started piling up upon each other. They actually were probably about a 100 yards into the Intercoastal Waterway behind me.
They all started coming towards us. Started piling up here against the dock. Banging against the dock. At that point, we made the decision to leave. Because we were fearful the boats would end up coming on land and knocking down the restaurant we were standing next to. As it turned out, they did not come on land. Some of them ended up floating away and sinking. Others are -- if you can see that bridge all the way there. That bridge leads to Hutchinson Island. That is a barrier island just to the east of us where the Atlantic Ocean is a half mile away. There are said to be several of the boats floating without anybody past that bridge. A real nightmare scenario. People came here in tears. The common thing we heard several people say was "Oh my God". They couldn't believe it. This was a $10 million marina. There were 150 boats here. Some of them are OK. But all the ones that were closer towards the ocean have now been destroyed.
There has been a lot of damage in St. Lucie County. This county is the spring training home of the New York Mets, in the city of Port St. Lucie, which is about eight miles to our south. The stadium where the New York Mets play has suffered $4 million worth of damage. And this direction is the St. Lucie County International airport. We are told the airport has suffered four to $6 million worth of damage.
Virtually everyone in this county of 213,000 is still without power as we speak. And you were just talking about it Anderson. It is so eerie at night. And it really was last night, with those howling winds up to 105 miles per hour. And absolutely no light whatsoever. When daylight came, a lot of people breathed a sigh of relief. But they also looked and saw things like this, and realized how much work there is to do. Carol, back to you.
LIN: You are right, Gary. Boy, the last time we were talking, the boats were safe and secure. It is amazing what a difference a day can make. Thank you.
Well, my colleague John Zarrella has been weathering the storm in West Palm Beach. Let's check in with him now and see how things are going. And whether folks are beginning to come out to see what is left of their homes. John.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Carol. Well we hoped we could do this outside. But it started raining again. And quite frankly, everybody here is pretty tired of the rain in the Palm Beaches, and all up and down the Florida East Coast.
But we are going to be joined by the Schultz family. And we have Dave, and his lovely wife Jackie (ph) and his daughter, Nikki (ph). And they spent the night here in West Palm Beach. And Dave, tell us what it what it was like last night here, and when it got the roughest.
DAVE SCHWARTZ, RETURNING RESIDENT: It was pretty bad all day yesterday. And the winds were sustained 60 or 70 miles an hour. But then, at about 1:30 in the morning, in fact my daughter woke me up. And the winds -- they appeared to be 100 miles an hour or more. I mean it was very scary. It was about 1:30 in the morning. I guess that is when the eye wall was actually coming through this area.
ZARRELLA: How did you do Jackie (ph), did you do all right?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well I did fine. I was fine until around 2:00. And there was just so much noise. And she comes in. And it was a little scary there. And so well let's just go back to sleep. ZARRELLA: Nikki (ph), were you scared at that point? I mean you were sleeping though it up to then.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I slept through two days of it. So last night at 1:00 in the morning. So I was scared. Very scared. Because I was wide awake.
ZARRELLA: Now you had, we shot some video of you folks earlier while you were out today cleaning up. It was pretty messy, wasn't it?
DAVE SCHWARTZ: Oh it was not good. In my back yard area, on this side, the area was waste deep. And limbs and leaves, and it took us all day just to clean the back. Tomorrow we are going to clean the front. And we are going to try to cut the limb of the tree that is half down in our front yard, and cut the grass.
ZARRELLA: Avocados everywhere. We want guacamole for everybody right?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, we have been giving out the avocados.
ZARRELLA: You have a beautiful, beautiful view out here over the Intercoastal to Palm Beach. Of course, Palm Beach is completely shut down right now. You can't get out there. And we saw an emergency vehicle over there a few minutes ago. But what are you going to do tonight? Are you guys just going to hang out here in the dark?
DAVE SCHWARTZ: That would be right. I think that is about -- we are going to stay outside until it gets dark. And then probably go inside and go to bed.
ZARRELLA: Did you lose any food?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. We have lost food. Because it has been since yesterday at noon. And we don't see anything coming our way as far as electricity. So by now -- it will be like 48 hours or more. And I am not going to take that chance.
ZARRELLA: But you have to feel pretty luck though. All said and done, my gosh. The house is intact. Thank goodness it was only a category two.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.
DAVE SCHWARTZ: And thank goodness it did not hit us directly. But there was no structural damage. We lost a few shingles on the roof. We have a couple of little problems. But structurally, we are sound. And had no problems structurally at all last night. And even the canopy. We didn't lose the canopy in those winds, amazing. So we are very lucky.
ZARRELLA: I am a little bit upset though. Because I stood out there in that rain for 12 hours. And you guys didn't invite us over last night.
DAVE SCHWARTZ: You know, I told Sean you are invited any time you want to come. He didn't relay that.
ZARRELLA: That is my colleague Sean Callebs who was here. Of course not. So but literally now, for the next couple of days, just cleaning up and waiting for the power. Gasoline -- I know your car is about out of gasoline, isn't it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is so on E it is not even funny. But it is OK.
ZARRELLA: Your dad is not real happy with you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to my friend's house to have a couple of drinks, and then go to sleep there.
DAVE SCHWARTZ: She is probably only going to get half way.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I will make it. Then I don't know after that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well what we were talking about earlier is Ivan. Now our thoughts are turning to that. We have a boat down in the Keys that our good friends, Robin and Bill Fountain (ph).
ZARRELLA: So now you are just -- you are sitting, and you are worried about hurricane Ivan that is coming.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
ZARRELLA: I think Carol, that everybody here now, after Charley, and now after Frances, and now with Ivan sitting out there. People here are just have absolutely had it with hurricane season. Carol?
LIN: Yes. John, and also -- I mean obviously this family got pretty lucky. But I heard in your neck of the woods where you have been covering West Palm Beach, big problem with looters, and now a curfew has been in effect. Can you give us a little more on that?
ZARRELLA: Yes. They have had some problems with some looting. And the police have imposed a 24-hour curfew here in the Palm Beaches. But the fact is, many people are outside all day today. And they are trying to clean up. And their cars all out over the road. And police are being pretty lenient during the daytime. But as soon as the sun goes down, that is going to be it until tomorrow morning.
They are not going to just take any of these folks that out there on the street sightseeing. They are going to -- as one person told us, the police are just going to grab them and drag them back to their houses if they are not in their houses once the sun sets here. Carol?
LIN: All right John. Well it looks like you found a good place to park yourself. Thanks much. John Zarrella, reporting live in West Palm Beach.
Well, when a big storm blows through, it leaves thousands of small stories in it's wake. Each family has it's own tale to tell. Reporter Cynthia Demos, of affiliate station WFTV has the story of the McMillan family, of Ft. Pierce, Florida.
CYNTHIA DEMOS, WFTV, (voice-over): As the lights dangle in the Ft. Pierce roads, tops are tumbled over, and windows blown out. Families like the McMillan's left their mobile home, and huddled in a hotel room to ride out the storm.
JAMES MCMILLAN: Surviving, getting by. Waiting for the storm to go away.
DEMOS: And what a wait it is. James McMillan, his wife Sabrina, and their 11-year-old children, Ivan and Sabrina, along with the dogs, Egghead, and Chebby (ph) have this sight out of their hotel door. A palm tree crashed right into the now filthy hotel pool.
IVAN MCMILLAN, SON OF JAMES: Boring, no fun, and I want my electricity.
DEMOS: Even though the long storm is still taking a toll on roofs holding on just barely, and toppled trees where the roots are now taller than the homes standing next to them, the McMillans sit and worry about their own home.
SABRINA MCMILLAN, DAUGHTER OF JAMES: We won't have one. It is going to go bye-bye.
DEMOS: But with Frances coming to shore as a category two, and not a category four, this Ft. Pierce family is hopeful their home may be OK. We went to go check it out for them. But we couldn't get back to their home, because there was too much debris in the roads. WE did find some homes nearby though, like this mobile home that was totaled.
The McMillans just hope they were in the majority of homes at this park, that were OK.
SABRINA MCMILLAN, WIFE OF JAMES: Hoping for the best.
LIN: All right. Out thanks to all of our affiliates who are contributing a great deal to our coverage. Now as far as we know, there still is no information on the McMillan's home. And we wish them luck.
You can track Frances' path at cnn.com. And there are also links to emergency information and resources for hurricane victims. You can also learn safety tips for protecting yourself and your family if a hurricane hits.
But right here still ahead, Frances delivers a pounding to Florida. Leaving millions of people without power. We are going to get an update from the Florida Power & Light folks in just a few minutes.
And we are going to continue to share the stories of Floridians dealing with this massive storm. So stay with us. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what you see. What you see is what you get. Everybody is fine. Yes. And we don't have power. But we are doing fine. We have water. We have food. We have a gas stove, so we can cook.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is a good attitude.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. What are we going to do? Teamwork. You know?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Better than expected after a week of worry?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was long. It was the longest one I have ever gone through. And I have gone through quite a few. It was very, very long. It sounded like -- the wind sounded like 100 18-wheelers racing around the house. That is how it was. But it is OK. We'll make it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LIN: We have been talking a lot about the wind, the rain, the possibility of flooding. But Jacqui Jeras is seeing some other trouble on the horizon. Yes. We are getting more tornado warnings. And this one is for northern Duvall County. (INAUDIBLE) downtown Jacksonville. But the storm system moves so quickly that it is already on the western periphery of Jacksonville. You can see you have storm tracker -- the viper storm tracker on it.
It is moving very fast to the west about 50 miles per hour. You can some of the cities included in the path. From Verde down towards Kent at 7:24, and then down towards Stokesville at 7:28. And we want to take this out a little bit wider for you. Because actually, a little bit closer than that if we could. Because this is one of those bands here that has been moving on in. We are getting all these little tiny thunderstorm cells which are pushing in with this feeder band.
So we are getting storm, after storm, after storm. So Jacksonville -- even though this particular one is just off to you west right now, you may see more of this activity. So again, for Duvall County, we have a tornado warning in effect until 7:45. And of course, a tornado watch across the entire area from central Florida all the way up into southern Georgia. Carol?
LIN: All right. Thanks very much Jacqui. And we can see full throttle, the effects of the tail end of now tropical storm Frances. Up at St. Augustine Florida, where we find CNN's David Mattingly. David, the winds are still pretty strong where you are.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is right. Every hour that goes by, we expect to be able to tell you it is letting up. But it is just not letting up. We still have tropical storm force winds. Very strong gusts. Exceeding 50 miles per hour. WE also have a lot of holes (ph) (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and it is just not letting up. And we are already getting some of our first reports of some rather significant damage in this county.
We have a report of a house that had it's roof taken off in this wind. WE also received a report through the county emergency management people of a trailer home (ph) that has had a tree fall on it. There are trees reported down all over this county. Power lines are down. Thousands of people in the dark right now. So many of them actually were starting to hope that maybe they would get through this OK until this strong sustained hard winds of this band started coming through.
And started taking everyone's electricity out almost all at once, as these gusts start pounding us here in St. Augustine. There have been no reports however of any injuries, which is a good thing. All of the time we have been out here, we have been marveling at how many people continue to come out onto the streets. While there was a little more daylight here, we saw a lot of people actually walking on the seawall. Walking there dogs. Riding bicycles.
Some parents it looked like even brought there children out there to enjoy this wind and this rain. But of course, it has gotten just a little too rough, a little too dark right now for anyone to feel safe during that. So right now we are watching for the traditional flooding here in St. Augustine. We have an awful lot of rain coming in.
And the surf (ph) has been picked up. The tide is a little bit higher than normal because of all of this wind pushing it in this way. They are expecting to see quite a few of their downtown streets of old St. Augustine filling up with water as this rain continues to come in. Carol?
LIN: Yes David. We are just seeing some of the pictures of what you are talking about. A little boy on a bike that just fell over into a street that has already been flooded. Cars trying to plough their way through the water. Are the police doing anything about this?
MATTINGLY: There is no mandatory evacuation. People are just being encouraged to stay inside right now. Officials that I have talked to and emergency management were sort of marveling, as we were how many people are out. But people are free to come and go and use their own common sense with the storm. But I have to say, in the last hour, there have been fewer people on the street. And almost no people on the seawall acting as spectators for this storm.
So perhaps everyone is finally deciding it is not a good idea to be out here Carol.
LIN: All right David. So far, it looks like you have electricity out there. There is still power in St. Augustine. The streetlights are on.
MATTINGLY: I know. We are this close to the bay. We are getting pummeled with winds like this, just ripping right off the water. And go figure, we have electricity.
LIN: All right. Well let's hope it holds through the night. Thanks very much David. We'll be right back.
LIN: I'm Carol Lin. Here with a check of the headlines this hour. Frances has been downgraded to a tropical storm. And is in the Tampa area right now. But the National Hurricane Center warns Frances could regain hurricane strength, as it heads for the Northeastern Gulf of Mexico. More coverage in just a moment.
In the meantime, the U.S. has sent $50,000 in emergency relief funds to help victims of the school hostage massacre in Russia. And an American plane is on it's way with special medical equipment.
First confusion, now a denial. Hours after the Iraqi defense ministry announced the capture of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri the defense minister denies it. Al-Douri was one of Saddam Hussein's top deputies. The minister says the earlier report is baseless.
Hurricane Frances has been downgraded to a tropical storm. But it is not done with Florida. It is still pounding the state with driving rains, and gusting winds. The eye of Frances came ashore just before midnight last night. And is still lingering over the narrow peninsula. Driving conditions are hazardous. And Frances has claimed at least one life in Florida.
A 28-year-old Lakeland man was killed when his vehicles left the road and hit a tree near Gainesville.
For the latest on the conditions on the ground, and details on where Frances is heading, Jacqui Jeras has been tracking this storm, tornado warnings, you got it. Jacqui.
JERAS: A lot going on Carol. And it is covering a very large area of real estate as well. The eye -- or not the eye. It is no longer an eye. But the center of circulation is still kind of hovering around the Tampa area. Getting in some very good rainfalls right now. We are taking a look at the Melbourne (UNINTELLIGIBLE) radar.
And because this has really been the area where the heaviest of rainfall totals have been so far. And we are going to change this over into the radar precipitation estimates now. And this is the storm totals. This is since about Saturday at midnight. So all day yesterday, and all day today. And take a look at some of these off shore.
This is anywhere between about 15 and 18 inches there. As you head over towards Vero Beach, and into Ft. Pierce, radar estimating anywhere between about eight and 10 inches in this neighborhood. Up towards Melbourne, a little bit lesser. Around three, four five inches. And there you can see another spike here in the numbers, up to the north of Titusville, as you head on up towards Daytona Beach along that same range of maybe six to eight inches.
I have been looking for some more data for you. And here is a couple of numbers that we found. Coopertown had just over 11 inches. More than 10 inches West Palm Beach. About five in Hillsbore Canal. And then Daytona Beach reporting a record today. This is just from today, not yesterday, at nearly four inches there.
Also from today, Gardner and Melbourne with a record of more than three inches of rainfall. And how much more can you expect? Well more than a couple of inches, and flood watches remain in effect across all of Florida, extending up to the southern parts of Georgia and into Alabama as well. Now, the storm is going to be moving over the warmer quarters of the Gulf of Mexico and may intensify once again, and then it's going to make a second landfall tomorrow, maybe day-ish, likely just after the noon hour, maybe between noon and 2:00, and then heading on up to the north and then spreading its way across parts of the Appalachia.
These are forecast rain amounts for just your Monday, and look at that big bullet of six inches in the southwestern parts of Georgia. Some big cities are going to be affected here, from Birmingham, extending on up towards Atlanta, into Charlotte, into Knoxville Tennessee. You can see the four to six inches of rainfall on a Tuesday, that's on top of what you're going to be getting on Monday. So not just a big mess for people in Florida, for people across the Southeast -- Carol.
LIN: You bet, I'm looking at that map very closely, thanks Jackie.
JERAS: Yes, and by the way Carol, another update from the National Hurricane Center by the top of the hour, we'll bring that to you.
LIN: Excellent. Twenty-nine minute, Jackie Jeras.
LIN: All right, let's go now to one of the hardest working guys in TV. Anderson Cooper left the comfort of New York to go to Florida and spend all-night and day getting battered by the storm. That's Anderson's idea of a good time -- Anderson.
COOPER: Carol, yes, joining now from Barefoot Bay, we're about 30 minutes also from Melbourne Florida. This mobile home community park is pretty lucky, it wasn't as badly hit as some folks thought it might be, and houses like this behind me have been pretty badly damaged, but a lot of people breathing a sigh of relief around here. I want to introduce you to some rescue personnel, some fire fighters who we just ran into, have been checking out this area.
Guys, just first introduce yourselves.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rick Hill (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lieutenant Shan McNally (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will Wilmont (ph).
COOPER: OK, so how is this mobile home park doing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sustained some damage, but a lot less than we thought it would. There's still a lot of structures that are up and livable.
COOPER: You were saying a lot of the residents here are elderly and that they're going to have a tough time fixing up their homes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, a lot of the people here aren't going to be able to do the work themselves and it's going to take a long time for them to get back to normal around here.
COOPER: I know you guys have been working long shifts. What was it like last night for you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a lot of wind, rain. You know, you could hear a lot of debris flying around, it was a little nerve racking.
COOPER: Have you been through something like that before?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, that was the first time.
COOPER: Was it worse than you'd expected or better?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, it was a little better than I expected. Now that you see it today, kind of puts it in perspective, but you know just hearing stuff like this all-night long kind of gets to you after a while.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
COOPER: Is there still a danger from this kind of debris kind of flying around?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure, that's why we were where we were right now, you know? You never know, so we take the precautionary reasons for stuff like this.
COOPER: So Lieutenant, what are you doing today? I mean we found you guys just kind of wandering around here, looking around, surveying the damage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been clearing all the major roads out. We've had units out with chainsaws and heavy equipment. We've been getting all the major roadways cleared so people can get in here, we can get the power companies and stuff in here to restore the power.
COOPER: Something like this, I mean like damage here, how does that get fixed? I mean does -- the resident comes and organizes it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess the FEMA and you know local authorities would come in and they'd made have to hire contractors and stuff to repair that. We're basically just damage control. We get everything out of the streets, we have some power lines down, we alert the Florida power and lighting.
COOPER: And on top of all the stuff you're doing, you don't even know how your own homes are doing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No we don't. We haven't been home in three days, so we just hope that everybody's OK at home and our homes are safe because we're not able to go there to work on them either.
COOPER: Well we hope that as well. You guys are doing a great job and I know all the residents really appreciate what you're doing. Thanks for joining us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
COOPER: All right. Guys have been having -- they've had a long couple of days here in Florida and their work continues now for a couple more days -- Carol.
LIN: All right Anderson, we're probably going to get you at home at two because obviously they're saying that it's so dangerous out there, thanks Anderson.
Well, the worst of the storm may have passed for most Floridians, but it's left a trail of problems; one of the biggest down power lines. Up next, the battle to restore electricity, and later, when capturing a storm's fury is your job, look at some of the reporters caught in the middle of it.
LIN: Scattered instances of looting are being reported in at least three Florida counties. Gustavo Almodovar from CNN affiliate WFTV was at one store in Orlando that was ransacked by thieves.
GUSTAVO ALMODOVAR, WFTV REPORTER: We are outside Saks Grocery Store (ph) near 434 on Edge Whether Drive, where right now three-man are in custody, all accused of breaking into this store. Deputies say the men used a sledgehammer to bust the glass door down. Once inside, they used a concrete chainsaw two pierce through a small metal deposit box, located near several cash registers. The owner's son told me the suspects got even more daring when they stormed into the manager's office and tried to break open an even bigger safe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They must have got scared away before they could do anything with the larger safe and apparently ran out the back door.
ALMODOVAR: This is the second time today thieves have been caught in the act. Orange County sheriff's deputies wants to remind residents if you're going to try this, be prepared to suffer the consequences.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sheriff has made a commitment to deterring these looters. As you can see, we spent almost an hour and a half, two hours, trying to apprehend these guys, so we'll do whatever it takes to get these guys off the streets.
ALMODOVAR: The owner's son told me there was only $300 in that small safe, but what may be even more surprising is that one of the thieves asked a deputy if he could have his chainsaw back.
In Orange County, Gustavo Almodovar, Channel 9 Eyewitness News. (END VIDEOTAPE)
LIN: That's pretty daring. Thanks to WFTV for that. Well, at least 11 suspected looters have been arrested in the state today. Now, to a great extent, in a story like this we depend on our affiliate stations to help bring us -- bring you the images and stories of the storm. Next, we've got a compilation of some of their work.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we are on the north (INAUDIBLE) Hutchison Island, where the wind is obviously very, very strong. You can see one of the sailboats has already gone underwater. The wind and the rain is whipping, power lines are down. And at this point, probably just a matter of time before the water comes up over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're trying to get a camera up in a stable position. This is Juno Beach on Labor Day weekend. Obviously, nobody on the beach. We've got sand flying like little razor blades and saltwater, and I don't know if you can make out the ocean. It's just like one big white misty broiling concoction out there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take a look at the waters coming down the street, and there are some cars behind us in the back, and we have an apartment building and the winds are really kicking up hard. And take a look at how -- I had to get barefoot out here because my boots could not handle the rain. The water's really getting deep over here. We have a car in this lot here, where the water is all the way up to the doors. I'm sure there's lots of water in the car. There's another car by the house over there, the water right up to the door of the house, and the rain just continues to pound.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what a sight right here, as this huge sea came crashing onto this house, destroying the fence, landing right on top of the property, but that's not all. Let's go inside and see exactly what went on here. It was pretty nerve racking wasn't it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was definitely pretty scary there for a few minutes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you took a pretty nasty blow, how are you doing there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all right, just a bit of a headache now, and cut an ear, and I'm lucky that's all that is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... have now, here is evidence of storm surge. What you have is you have the sea right over here. When the winds are at their highest, it kind of lifts up the ocean and picked it up and blows it right over the seawall, and here is proof of what happens and how high it can get, over here what do you have? You have conk (ph) shells littering the street. What that means is that the ocean was actually over here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even just watching him, you're concerned as just a fellow patriot just standing here, I mean he said that the lifeguards do not normally let him in the water. I mean you gave a lot of people a scare, jumping off that pier. You weren't scared at all?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I did it two years ago. (INAUDIBLE)
LIN: Well, another example of that. Still to come, having a little Frances fun. This guy decided to ride out the storm literally. Look at that.
LIN: One of the biggest issues facing Florida residents is electricity or other the lack of electricity. Almost 2 million homes and businesses are without power. Emergency crews are working when the weather permits and thousands of people are ready to come into the state and help fix things once the storm has passed, but the damage from Frances is not over just yet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, this is bigger than what I think we saw during Charley. And again, as we speak, power is still going out. I want people to understand, this storm makes land falls, it just doesn't end. There's still a very powerful storm crossing the state. The damage is still occurring, power outages are still occurring. More residents are losing power, and this will continue as this storm tracks across our coast.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LIN: Tom Veenstra is joining me now by telephone. He's the spokesman for Florida Power & Light, the utility company that serves the most customers in the storm area.
Tom, can you give us the situation now? How many people actually really at this point are without power?
TOM VEENSTRA, SPOKESMAN, FLORIDA POWER & LIGHT: Good evening. About 1.8 million homes and businesses are without power in 26 of the 35 counties served by Florida Power and Light Company. We have managed to restore 700,000 of them since the storm began however.
LIN: That's pretty good.
VEENSTRA: Well, we'd like to make bigger progress, but we're hoping Frances can move out of the way so that we can bring down some reinforcements that we have waiting for us near the Florida Georgia border. We have about 6000 contractors and crews from other utilities to help the 6000 FPL crews get power back on as quickly and as safely as we can.
LIN: The situation there though, you know, Gov. Jeff Bush has said he's not waiting for blue skies before help is on the way, but the fact of the matter is when you take a look at pictures out of say a place like St. Augustine, where the winds are gusting looks like near hurricane strength, that's a big challenge for you guys. VEENSTRA: Oh, it absolutely is. And of course, the crews need to work in safe conditions, and for that to happen, the winds have to be below 35 mph, and there also is a lot of debris and flooding in some places, and that has to be cleared out before crews can access our facilities.
LIN: So how long do you think it's going to be before this nearly 2 million people are going to have electricity again?
VEENSTRA: Well, this is going to be -- because the storm has been slow-moving and there's been such widespread damage to FPL system, customers -- we're asking them to plan to use that electrical service for an extended period, and we hope as time goes forward and we're able to complete our damage assessment, that we will be able to provide estimated restoration times for the various areas in the state.
LIN: But you're talking not just days, you're maybe talking weeks.
VEENSTRA: Well, we'll know better when we're able to complete our assessment.
LIN: I know, Tom, you're trying to be an optimist and not wanting to discourage people before they even have a chance to see how much damage they've sustained in their houses. Thanks very much. Tom Veenstra, with Florida Power & Light. Big job ahead. We're going to be right back with the President of the Red Cross, Marcia Evans. The Red Cross is staging right now in the state of Georgia. Stay with us.
LIN: All right, we just heard from Florida Power & Light that it's going to take quite a while before some 1.8 million people are going to get electricity, so consider that, the number of people who are going without refrigeration, food, and many cases water. Joining the right now is Marty Evans, she's with the Red Cross, staging out of here, the state of Georgia, to help not only victims of Hurricane Charley you're still working on, but now so many people who are going to need your help during and after hurricane Frances.
MARTY EVANS, RED CROSS: That's exactly right. We had a major operation going with Charley, so we're already positioned with a headquarters. We've been doing sheltering continuously. We're staged here in Atlanta. We're going to bring massive quantities of cleanup supplies, personal hygiene items, food down as soon as the roads are open, as soon as the state of Florida gives us the go-ahead we're ready to come in. And most importantly, we have Red Cross volunteers from all across the country that are meeting here in Atlanta and they're ready to go to augment the more than 1700 people we've had on the job from out-of-state for Charley.
LIN: What is the situation as the Red Cross drives in? How do you deal with a family that has been devastated? They've lost everything.
EVANS: Well, we go neighborhood by neighborhood, house by house to reach out to people and try to determine what their needs are. And in some cases, people can get back in their houses. The terrible damage, they want to be back in their houses, and so what we try to encourage them to do is to come to our shelters to get mental health support, and also to get a hot meal and to get water, to get just a little bit of a break from high temperatures and just the devastation and destruction around them.
LIN: Yes, the temperatures right now are in the mid-70s and into the upper '80s, and when the storm passes, I think people are going to realize they're hot, they don't have refrigeration, they need a place to stay. The difference though is that Charley relatively was a much smaller, more concentrated area. You're talking about an area really the entire span of the Florida East Coast and inland.
EVANS: Well, it is a few geographic area, but the good news is we have Red Cross chapter's in the entire state, all throughout the state, and so those Red Cross chapter's, the first light of morning tomorrow are going to be up and running to the best that they can then we'll augment them with additional resources. So every community is going to be served by the Red Cross once we can get into the areas.
LIN: Hurricane Andrew, as Hurricane Frances has been compared to. 14 years ago, it cost the Red Cross something like $81 million. Is there an estimate of what Frances is going to -- how much money is a going to take you deal with the victims of Frances?
EVANS: You know, as far as we could tell, I'll go back to hurricane Charley, it was going to be about $50 million to provide relief, the support that people need to get back on their feet and to go forward. So you can kind of look at the geography, compare Charley to Frances. We think it's going to be an enormous deal. We think that it's going to involve many more families perhaps then Hurricane Andrew did because it is so widespread.
LIN: 100 million? What are you talking about?
EVANS: Well, it's a little too early to make an estimate, but I think this is going to be one of the very top disasters in Red Cross history, natural disasters in Red Cross history, so we're appealing to the American public. We're not a government agency. We can only provide relief through the generosity of the public, and so we're asking the public to call 1800 help now and make a contribution or go online.
LIN: And helping the public, it's not just a matter of a couple of days or even a couple of weeks because clearly you're still in Charlotte County Florida, helping the victims of Hurricane Charley from three weeks ago.
EVANS: It'll be many weeks and months, and what happens is we'll -- we have had the evacuation shelters and we continue to operate them, we want people to stay in them until it's safe to be out, and then we'll go into disaster relief and what happens there is we'll open additional shelters to accommodate people in the locations where they're needed, and then we'll going to longer-term client assistance to meet with each individual, meet with each family, and help them determine what lies ahead for them. Can they get repairs, do they need a new place to leave, connect them with our partner agencies, FEMA will help them, so it is a very long-term process, and we'll always be providing the mental health support that they need.
LIN: Do you know how long it takes for a family to get back to where they were before this kind of the disaster?
EVANS: You know, it varies from family to family. Some people kind of bounce back quickly, but it's not uncommon in a year or even two years later for families that have lost everything to still need some emotional help, emotional support, and that's what the Red Cross is there for, and we work not only with our own disaster volunteers, mental health volunteers, who have expert qualifications, but then we also work with other community-based agencies to make sure that everybody has what they need to go forward.
LIN: Right. Well, you know what, sometimes just a hot cup of soup and a toothbrush is what you need right off the bat. Glad that the volunteers are lining up, you've got a big job ahead. State of Florida. FEMA says they've never seen anything like this, a double whammy as such.
EVANS: It's a pretty remarkable situation, but the Red Cross is there, we have all of the resources from across the country ready.
LIN: Appreciate it, thanks Marty. Marty Evans, the Red Cross.
We're going to continue our live coverage of tropical storm Frances right after this break. And also, remember it, 8 p.m. Eastern, just a little bit, four minutes, I'm going to be talking to the Mayor of Vero Beach, about the damage in that city, and we are going to continue to track Frances and show you the stories of Floridians dealing with this massive storm still hanging over the state of Florida, so please stay with us.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com