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Hurricane Ivan Making Landfall in Gulf Shores, Alabama

Aired September 16, 2004 - 02:00   ET


CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: As we continue our live coverage of Hurricane Ivan, it is 2:00 a.m. Eastern time. The eye of Ivan now reaching shore in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Let's check in, though, with Susan Candiotti, who is standing by in Biloxi. Susan, it looks like the winds have kicked up there.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Catherine. We are -- yes, it certainly has since the last time we saw you. We are feeling stronger, driving sheets of rain as the evening is wearing on. And, of course, that's the best way to illustrate it, along with me.

They're the kind of wind gusts that tend to -- storms sometimes pick you up and put you on your toes every now and again. And over here, just a bit, we'll show you Interstate 10. Of course, there is not a soul on that highway now.

All -- everyone was ordered to evacuate to points north of here, if you were living along the Gulf Coast. And then, this is a safer location to be. And that's why a lot of local people are staying at hotels like this one. You can see it is providing them a very strong place, sturdy construction here, to protect themselves from the storm.

We still have power here. You are starting to hear the wind whistling through the doors here, a bit disconcerting, to say the least; but so far everyone here is making out OK.

We also have a lumberyard over here, but -- well we are lucky. We are waiting to see what might happen over in that direction and to see whether that roof is going to hold up. So far, so good.

We do hear from Mississippi Power that about 40,000 people now in the southeastern part of Mississippi have lost power. Most of the people who have lost power are in the, in Jackson County, which, of coarse, is the closest to the Alabama line.

Here, about 6,000 people are still in the Biloxi-Gulfport area. We got about 17 shelters open here with 3,400 people. The civil defense agency is now reporting that they are seeing more downed power lines. They are seeing debris in the street. And roads are slowly becoming more and more impassible, in part.

They are warning people, do not go out. And when you are seeing roads that are under water -- it's the same warning we hear all the time -- do not attempt to go through that water because you don't know if there might be downed power line in there. It's just hard to tell. Now they are expecting more and more flooding in low-lying areas, in particular because they also have the Back Bay to deal with in Biloxi. But other than that, they have reported no injuries so far, certainly, thank goodness, no deaths so far.

They have reported some house fires, roofs blowing off some local businesses, as well as a hospital here. Other than that, everyone is hanging in to see what we have left to live through, through this night because, of course, as we just heard, it is just starting to make landfall in Gulf Shores.

Here we have reports -- I think Orelon mentioned it -- down at the civil defense agency, a wind gust as high as 66 miles per hour compared to half of that where we are, which is about five miles away -- Catherine and Miles?

CALLAWAY: It's just Catherine. We're going to give Miles a break. He has to be back on the air again in the morning.

Susan, what are you hearing from people there, that I'm sure feel like they can breathe a bit of a sigh of relief that the storm has moved to the right of them?

CANDIOTTI: That's true. Because we are on the western side of the storm, at this point, which is certainly the weaker one, that is of great comfort to disaster planners here, who were hoping for that but never quite sure about it because of the way Ivan and any hurricane can wobble ever so slightly in one direction or the other.

But certainly, they are much relieved that, that is the case. Of course, they still say that they are expecting at least 10 inches of rain here. The storm surge, as I indicated, is still going to cause some flooding to this area. But it's the kind of intensity that they were, quite frankly, hoping for.

For example, when it comes to all the people that are losing their power, the -- Mississippi Power was telling me they are going to still have to wait until the morning to make their damage assessments and then go out.

And, as a matter of fact, because they have had to lend workers, lend personnel to Florida, for example, they don't have quite as many people as they normally would have to get power back on, get power restored. But they do say they don't think -- they hope -- it won't take them that long to get things back to normal here -- Catherine?

CALLAWAY: All right, Susan, good luck to you. We're going to check back with you a little bit later as Ivan moves inland, already now reaching Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Let's check in with Rob Marciano, who is in Mobile and has been seeing quite a bit of increase in the winds there, haven't you, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. So much so that we're not bothering to go out past the point of protection anymore. It's just way too dangerous, and debris is beginning to fly. Down on the street, awnings are being -- have been torn down. Light poles and lampposts being torn down as well. So, it is getting very dangerous across the Mobile area.

Right now, winds have turned to the northeast. It tells a couple of things, and I suppose is confirmed on the satellite picture, that this center of this storm seems to be now going to pass us to the, just barely to the east, or at least, at worst we'll be on the western part of the eye wall. That would be a good sign for sure.

But I would think winds are definitely still hurricane-strength here, out of the northeast, with gusts certainly getting close to 80 miles an hour in spots.

I want to bring in Orelon Sidney, if I could. Orelon, maybe you can confirm some of things I'm saying. I just tapped into my, into the programming and areas -- it's going onshore in Gulf Shores.

So, if that's the case, even if it goes due north from there, we, here in Mobile, are going to be on the western side of the eye wall, not a necessarily a pleasant place to be; but as far as the worst of this storm, it looks like it's going to be on the eastern side of the bay, correct?

ORELON SIDNEY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, there are worse places you could be, not by much, but there certainly are worse places you could be.

As a matter of fact, I'll show you. If you take a look here, Mobile, of course, situated here. We're going to take this now and go into two dimensions and flatten this out for you, show you what is going on here.

Here is Mobile Bay. And you can see that the center of the storm is just about to make its way onto the coast around Gulf Shores. There's -- if you bisect the eye, it looks like the eye is going to go right, almost, not right down the center, but it looks like Mobile Bay is going to kind of cut the eye in half by just a little bit.

So Rob, what you are going to find if you're at the top tip of the bay here is that your going to get that northern eye wall moving through probably in about the next 30 to 45 minutes. And then you're going to maybe even get into a little bit of the calm.

It's probably not going to last very long, probably only about only 15, 20 minutes because that western eye wall is very, very close to you. But I wouldn't be surprised if your winds do calm down a bit.

The eye has become very ragged, and it's actually expanded out to the southwest. So as the eye moves to the north of you, you might actually manage to get in a little bit of the calm. And I bet you'd appreciate that right about now.

MARCIANO: Well, we'll take a bit of a calm right now. That's for sure. You hear transformers blowing out on the other side of the -- down on the street. One other question I have for you, Orelon. This is going to bode well for Mobile, as far as a storm surge. I'm thinking if it's going onshore in Gulf Shores, we'll get -- this northeast wind will turn northerly as the eye wall passes, and we won't get nearly the surge of 12 to 18 feet that was feared.

SIDNEY: Well, I don't think the surge is going to be as strong. But, as we heard earlier from Max Mayfield, from the National Hurricane Center, the problem is going to come in not when this storm makes landfall but when the back edge actually comes in and the winds switch around to the south.

You're still going to get some southerly winds, but I think they're going to come at you at a little bit of an angle. So, I don't think you're going to get that direct punch from the winds straight from the south pushing water directly northward into the bay. That would be probably the worst-case scenario for this.

You are going to get winds coming in from the south, just a bit. And then you're going to find that storm surge, I think, is going to be the greatest probably, maybe midway through the bay, along the western coast of the bay and not directly up the center, as we had feared, if the storm went right up through the Mobile Bay.

So, yes, I think your storm surge is going to be less. I don't think it's going to be less by much, but a little bit can make a big difference with a storm surge.

CALLAWAY: Rob, Orelon, stand with us. Let's bring in Gary Tuchman to check in with him. You guys stay up, too. As we know, Gary Tuchman is in Gulf Shores, where the eye of the storm is now reaching land.

Gary, what's the situation there?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Catherine, if the world were ever to come to an end, this might be what it feels like.

It is completely dark. The winds are fierce, the waves are potentially up in force for 10 hours here in Baldwin County, where Gulf Shores is located.

We're just on the other side of the Barrier Island, which is the Gulf Shores beach. We're right across the bridge, the Intercoastal Waterway. There are trees in the streets.

This parking lot we're standing in right now is completely flooded. It's just flowing down just like it's a rapid. We are told the fire station in Gulf Shores has lost its roof, that it's floor is blown in and it's flooding.

We are told by emergency officials that many homes have lost their roofs. We are told that many roads are passable. But emergency officials are not leaving the confines of the emergency operation center right now. It's too dangerous. They have said that everyone should have evacuated. Anyone who hasn't evacuated are on their own right now. We can tell you, having spent much of the day on the beach on the Barrier Island, that almost everyone seemed to have evacuated.

But the fact is, right now is a very treacherous time. The winds are sustained at 70 miles per hour, according to Orelon Sidney, but we still have another 65 miles per hour to go because this is where we do expect the tropical storm to come, here at Gulf Shores, as we've been reporting.

Catherine, back to you.

CALLAWAY: OK. All right, Gary, stay with us. We're going to bring Orelon back in on this. We're already hearing from Gary, Orelon, that they're -- the roof to the fire station has been ripped off. Several homes have lost their roofs.

Orelon, is the worse yet to come, or it this going to be it?

SIDNEY: Well, I think he's getting the worse right now, and that's because here is Gulf Shores. And just to the north of that now, you're seeing that's where the brightest colors are. And remember that's indicative of the strongest thunderstorms.

If you look to the south of that, Gary is actually probably going to get in the calm here in about another half hour or so because that is where the center of the storm is.

So, you're going to see those winds there decreasing. His rainfall is going to start becoming much lighter. And then, he's going to get the back edge of the storm moving through. So that pretty much was the worse that he got.

Right now, there is a little bit of heavy action still there on the eastern side of the eye wall. But that eye is going to be going pretty much right over the top -- excuse me -- right over the top of where Gary Tuchman is stationed.

So that's going to be interesting to watch over the next, I'd say, half hour, maybe 45 minutes or so. But I think the worst is to the north of Gary, which is good news. So if they got through that, I think they can get through the rest of what's coming as we go through the next hour.

CALLAWAY: Gary, were you able to hear Orelon?

TUCHMAN: I heard everything Orelon said, and it's very interesting, Orelon, because I will tell you that Hurricane Frances, when I stood in Fort Pierce, it was much harder for me to talk and much harder for me to stand. And it may be, have something to do with the protection that we have right now here at Gulf Shores.

We are set up right next to a hotel. The hotel is blocking a lot of our winds. So that may have something to do with it. But I'll tell you, if this is the fiercest it gets, I think the people here will be very lucky because I felt it was much fiercer, even though it was only 105 mile an hour storm, during Hurricane Frances in Fort Pierce.

CALLAWAY: You know, Orelon, you were talking earlier about the difference between those two storms. And one category, especially two, can make quite a difference in the strength of the storm.

SIDNEY: That's right. It can make big difference. And also, one of the things we have to remember is the last time that we got an official wind speed from this was at 11:00 when the National Hurricane Center updated their advisory.

So that was three hours ago. For all we know, the wind speeds could have dropped a little bit. Remember that, that southwestern edge of the eye wall collapsed, so it wouldn't be surprising to see the winds maybe having dropped a bit.

I'm not saying that they did because we don't know officially, and we won't know for a while yet. But it's possible that as the storm went in and that southwestern part of the eye wall collapsed, that the winds might have slowed down over past three hours or so.

CALLAWAY: Gary, exactly where are you? Of course, there is no power there, so it's very difficult. We can barely make out you. So, can you give us an idea of what you're standing behind or next to?

TUCHMAN: Would you believe I'm in Hawaii right now? You would never know if I was in Hawaii.


TUCHMAN: But, I will tell you we are standing -- we are standing right near the Intercoastal Bridge, the bridge that goes under the Barrier Island, behind us, to our south.

So, I am facing, right now, to the north. Behind us is the Barrier Island, Gulf Shores beach. We are right now in the city of Gulf Shores, population 5,000, this part of Gulf Shores and the Barrier Island behind us.

We were on the Barrier Island for the much of the day. It started flooding hours ago, therefore we decided to leave for safety reasons. And that's where the fire house is that has lost its roof.

Here we are told there is a lot of damage, but we cannot literally get our car anywhere out of this parking lot, because it's flooded right now, to even look. But you couldn't look because 140,000 people here in Baldwin County, this county, almost everyone is without power, we're told by emergency officials.

They have absolutely no idea if there have been any casualties because they can't get out. But they do know there has been lots of damage here.

CALLAWAY: You know, Gary, it's interesting because, you know, I was with you the night Frances hit the other side of Florida, and indeed you were not even able to stand up, but you're able to do that now.

TUCHMAN: Yes, but I really think it may have a lot to do just with the configuration of the building. Of course, as I say that, my...

CALLAWAY: Of course, as I say that, you're almost knocked over.

TUCHMAN: The configuration of the building that is blocking -- I will tell you during Hurricane Frances, we were in a safe area because we were in a very wide, open area near a marina. But there were no buildings blocking the winds.

So, although we had -- we weren't concerned about anything falling on top of us, we had nothing blocking the wind. And that's why it may have been harder for us to stand. We have a lot of protection here with this building. And it may be blocking some of the wind from affecting us.

I can tell you that in no way, shape or form, unequivocally have we have had any 135 mile an hour winds here yet.

CALLAWAY: All right, Gary. We're going to go -- stay with us -- we're going to go east of you now and check back in with Rob, where things have not let up.

MARCIANO: Hey, Gary.

Not at all, Catherine. If Gary is still there, and if you can hear me...

CALLAWAY: Yes, he is. Go ahead.

MARCIANO: I believe, although from a different angle, 25 years ago, almost to the day Fredric came onshore in Gulf Shores, came in from the southeast driving up toward the northwest.

Before the storm hit, Gary, were you able to check out where this, where -- how high the storm surge came up during Fredric because it was a lot worse down there in Gulf Shores than it was up here on the bay.

TUCHMAN: Right, they told us, the people in Gulf Shores, the old-timers who were here 25 years ago, Rob -- they showed us that at 10 feet up on the walls of the building, of the old houses that were here 25 years ago, how high the water got.

That's why, they told us, that they were getting out because they knew how dangerous it was, the old-timers, that even the people who weren't around 25 years ago knew from Hurricane Frances and Hurricane Charley this is a serious business, and they don't want to be stuck on a barrier island. And that's why it was completely evacuated.

CALLAWAY: Hey, Orelon, well how far away is Gulf Shores and that region from the strongest part of the storm surge?

CALLAWAY: I'm not sure about the surge just yet. That's because the surge itself is going to be coming in, part of it comes in ahead of the storm with what we call wave set up. And that means the basic -- the average sea level starts to go up a couple of days before the storm comes in.

Then you get the storm surge that comes in with this bulge of water underneath the eye. And then, of course, that bulldozer effect as the storm rides on in.

So, I think the Gulf Shores area is going to see some very strong storm surge. You can see now that the winds there are starting to come from the east and southeast. But as the storm moves through and those winds start to come back from the south, that's when you're going to find most of the water moving across the barrier islands.

So, even though I think the winds are going to be the worse now, I don't think the storm surge is going to be as bad until that eye moves across and all of this starts to come in from the south and then move that Gulf of Mexico water right over those barrier islands.

I also wanted to pass along quickly another tornado warning, this one for Franklin and Wakulla County, Florida. That includes the city of Crawfordville. The National Weather Service Doppler radars showing a developing tornado 21 miles south of Crawfordville, 14 miles east of Carrabelle, moving to the north at 50 miles an hour.

So, if you're in that area, you need to be concerned. Remember we talked about those outer rain bands, and here they are, kicking up. Again, some more thunderstorms here, right along the big bend and then continuing northward. They are going to move across the state line into southwestern Georgia and the southeastern part of Alabama.

So, we have tornado warnings currently in effect for that area, with that rain band moving through, Tallahassee probably the closest large city. It looks like it's just a little bit to your west, but you need to be advised in Tallahassee, as well, that you could see some strong thunderstorms.

Hang on just a second. Thank you, Sean (ph). I've got a new tornado watch now that's just been issued from the storm prediction center.

Hang on a second because I'm reading this as I get it.

The storm extends from Selma, Alabama to Moultrie, Georgia, 95 miles either side of that line. And we're going to see that in effect probably until about noon tomorrow.

Let's see. It goes in effect until 15-Z, so that is 11:00 a.m. Eastern time that watch will be expiring.

Once again, a new tornado watch -- we'll put it on the map here as soon as we get it plotted -- that will be expiring at 11:00 a.m. in the morning.

That, more than likely, is going to be issued a little bit further out here to the north and east. And remember that we do have tornado warnings now for the Florida Panhandle. So, just a very busy night all-around as far as tornadoes and severe weather is concerned -- Catherine?

CALLAWAY: A very big storm -- I don't think people realize. We've been talking about the category, how strong it is, but it's wide as well. In fact, we had school closings in Georgia already scheduled earlier -- well yesterday, now, because it's 2:00 in the morning. But we're going to see this storm, as it moves north, continue to wreak havoc.

Gary, are you still with us?

TUCHMAN: I am still with you, if you can hear me, Catherine.

CALLAWAY: We can hear you. Were you able to hear what Orelon had to say about the storm surge? And in your opinion, did Gulf Shores learn very much from Fredric? Are they prepared this time for that storm surge?

TUCHMAN: Well, the people of Gulf Shores know they're very vulnerable. Even in minor storms, there is flooding. And we noticed that today, when at 4:00 this afternoon, after it had only been raining for an hour, the streets were already flooding.

Since has, from the beach, were already flooding into the streets. And that was a 4:00 this afternoon. Now, that was 10 hours ago.

You can only imagine how the Barrier Island looks like now when it was already flooding 10 hours ago. This rain hasn't let up at all. That's why it was that the -- that's why the police even left several hours ago, thinking that it was unsafe.

And it is anybody's guess when the sun comes up what it looks like on the Barrier Island of Gulf Shores, which is normally, as you know, Catherine, a beautiful place to visit, a beautiful place to live and go on vacation.

But I will tell you something, though, there is a lot of resort communities. For example, during Hurricane Frances -- Jupiter, Florida is a great example, where they don't allow any construction on the beachside. They have sand dunes, and they don't allow construction.

In this city here, they have homes on stilts that have been there for decades that sit on the beach. It is anybody's guess if they are still up as we speak.

CALLAWAY: All right, Gary, stay with us. We'll be back with you in just a few moments. We're going to take a break, though, as we continue our live coverage of Hurricane Ivan, the eye of that storm now reaching Gulf Shores.

We'll be back with Anderson Cooper in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CALLAWAY: The eye of Hurricane Ivan has reached shore in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Let's check in now with Anderson Cooper, who is in Mobile, along with Rob Marciano.

And I believe the very large planter that you were ducking behind, Anderson, earlier this evening, has now fallen over.

MARCIANO: Yes, that's what we were using for protection just a short while ago. And, obviously, it's a good thing we stopped doing that.

CALLAWAY: That's about a -- you said it was about a 600 pound planter. Didn't you?

MARCIANO: Yes. We wouldn't be able to move it, certainly. But the force of the wind obviously could, the winds obviously increasing. It's been fairly chaotic up here. And it's been a small miracle that we've been able to keep a live shot going at this rate.

Lots of chaos down on the street where our live truck is. And that's where, Anderson, you've been. Describe the scene down there.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was interesting. I was just down there walking around, as best I could. It's not as flooded as, perhaps, some might have anticipated it to be, at this point. And our cameraman, Gary Russ -- Dave Russ (ph), was driving around. We have some of that video.

You can see a lot of downed branches, a few lights down, a lot of poles kind of shaking around but really not as extensive damage, at this point, at least in the area that Dave was driving around.

Some flooding in some parts of downtown Mobile, Alabama, but I was just down on Water Street; there is, you know, a lot of water running in the gutters, but the streets, themselves, you can still drive down.

The awning -- there is large metal awning on the hotel. That has large been ripped away. A good chunk of the awning is gone, is now wrapped around a tree. And number of trees have been uprooted right down on Water Street. But at least that's not as bad as I guess it could have been.

I mean, when you look at these winds, they are really whipping up. How fast, Rob, do you think these winds are right about now?

MARCIANO: These are easily hurricane-force, easily 75 miles an hour. It's knocked that planter over, easily 75 miles an hour.

COOPER: In terms of timeline, what are we looking at here, though? I mean, you know, we were talking about how the eye is going to be a little bit east of us. It's been jogging a little bit east. What are we looking at in the next few hours?

MARCIANO: Well, the northern part of the eye wall, right now, is making landfall on Gulf Shores. It's about a 45 minute drive. Let's call it 25, 30 miles. It's moving north at about 12 miles an hour, so it will take two hours for the northern part of the eye wall to get to this point.

At that point, we've got 50 miles of eye to get through. So there will be another couple of hours of, hopefully, some calm weather.

COOPER: But the eye, itself, is really not going to be in this area. You think it's going to be a little bit east of here?

MARCIANO: I think we should get clipped with the western part of the eye. The eastern part of the eye wall is the strongest part, so it bodes well for Mobile not only even -- not only for winds but mostly for the storm surge.

I'm hoping it won't be quite as bad on this side of the bay. But what you'll see is our winds are now starting to turn. They're starting to turn - they're starting to go -- they were easterly, northeasterly; they'll go northerly as the eye gets parallel to us.

If we're lucky, we'll get a little chunk of that eye and will see some calm weather here, maybe for as much as an hour or so. And maybe you'll see some clear skis, maybe see some stars.

But the back side that storm means...

COOPER: And in terms of the eye wall, I mean, you know, people say that's the worst part of the storm, that -- I don't know if that's true, in fact. But does it look different? I mean, is it noticeably different? Do you say to yourself, you know, that must be the eye wall because it suddenly really bad?

MARCIANO: Yes, it's easily the worst part of the storm, at least on the right, front quadrant.

Now luckily, we're were not going to be on the right, front quadrant as that moves in, but this is, as far as the winds go a fairly symmetrical storm. So, I mean, we're getting pretty strong winds even being on the west side of this thing.

But it's -- yes, you feel it now, Anderson. I mean, we're getting close to the northern fringe of that eye wall itself, and it will get worse here in the next hour before that eye actually crosses us.

CALLAWAY: Gentlemen?

COOPER: In terms of storm surge, though, are you surprised that we haven't seen the kind of flooding, at this point, that we've been talking about earlier?

MARCIANO: Well, typically the storm surge comes as the eye pushes up, so we'll be begin to see that now. Have you seen any flooding on the street yet?

COOPER: I mean, there's some. There's water on the sides of the street, but the street itself, it's not the kind of flooding we anticipated.

MARCIANO: So, the flooding we're seeing down there probably is just from the rainfall, I'm guessing.

What you typically see, you see the wind push that water up ahead of the eye, but most of the storm surge you see on the eastern side of the eye. So, I think for that reason, most of the water is going to pile up on the eastern and northeaster side of the bay.

The causeway is certainly still going to be affected. I think and I'm hoping that I'm right here that the northeaster, northwester quadrant, which we'll be in and where Mobile is, we'll quickly get a north wind, which will push the water out to sea as opposed to pulling it in.

And that's the scenario we're looking at by having it just past to the east.

COOPER: Catherine?

CALLAWAY: Gentlemen, stay with us. Yes, I just want to bring in Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama. He's also in Mobile. He's on the phone with us now.

Senator, where are you, and what are you experiencing there?

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: I'm in West Mobile. And you can definitely feel the intensity of the winds pick up. We've got some large oak trees out back, and they are really just -- it's amazing they are still standing. They are just whipping in the wind.

CALLAWAY: You don't have power, right?

SESSIONS: No, I've lost power maybe two or three hours.

CALLAWAY: And how close are you to the bay? Are you very close to the downtown area?

SESSIONS: Not that close, I'm probably seven miles west of downtown and the bay.

CALLAWAY: How prepared you think Mobile is for the storm?

SESSIONS: I think they're well-prepared. We have an emergency management center for the city. All the police departments, the fire departments, the homeless shelter groups meet. They have communications all among one another.

They've planned this for days. And I met with them today. I think they're doing very well.

CALLAWAY: Personally, what is your situation there? Are you in the home with your family? Are you there by yourself?

SESSIONS: I'm here with my daughter, who lives in Mobile. She's an attorney. And we're together. She has a home and we hope it's doing OK. So far, we're doing fine here.

CALLAWAY: What kind of precautions have you taken there to protect your property?

SESSIONS: Well, we've gotten everything in. I have a wooden fence around. I'll be surprised if some of that is not down tomorrow. I've been in my attic. I have some, you know, exhaust fans and things. I'm afraid some of them may rip out.

But otherwise, the house seems to be doing well. And things -- we don't have any trees that are close enough to really hit this house. That's one of the big dangers in a he city like Mobile with so many trees. A lot of homes can be damaged by falling trees.

CALLAWAY: Yes, I think a lot of people might be surprised by those skinny pine trees that you find a lot down in that part of the country that do not fare well in the hurricanes.

SESSIONS: That's right. The big live oaks with those long limbs, they're just so hard; they're so strong. Unless they are rotting or weakened, they hold up pretty well. But the big pines, some of them 100 years old, tend to go down.

CALLAWAY: Hey, Senator, stay on the line with us. We have Anderson Cooper, who is in Mobile not too far from where you are, taking the brunt of the storm, as well. He wants to ask you a question -- Anderson?


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, hey, Senator. I wish I was indoors with you. It sounds a little bit drier.

SESSIONS: Well, I'm amazed that you're outside. I stuck my head out the door a couple times, and it's rough out there.

COOPER: Yes, I know. And I'm sorry to hear you're without electricity. You know, it surprises me that the area we're in still seems to have electricity, which is a good sign for the people who are hunkered down here.

I'm wondering though, Senator. I mean, you're from this area. You know this area well. In terms of the storms that have hit this area, what's the worst you've seen and how bad was that?

SESSIONS: Well, Fredric was the benchmark for many, many years. I think one is going to compete with, Fredric, no doubt about it. Fredric just -- we had so many trees down, and it was so much devastation. It blew the leaves off the trees.

It was 25 years ago, I think, in three days. I think in the lifetime of most people here, that was the biggest storm.

CALLAWAY: But there were a lot of lessons learned from Fredric ...

SESSIONS: There were.

CALLAWAY: ... for the city of Mobile.

SESSIONS: We definitely are coordinating better. There are -- Better building codes have been established. People didn't mind -- people remembered it and left town.

I think we're going -- the people in most dangerous areas, I do believe, evacuated.


SESSIONS: That should help us some. And the governor, Governor Riley, was very insistent with people in the dangerous areas to evacuate.

CALLAWAY: Anderson, did you have another question?

COOPER: Yes. Senator, I was wondering, also -- I mean, I haven't spent much time down in downtown Mobile. In terms of flooding, I'm told that, you know, even in a bad storm, there is problems with flooding in this area. Is that the case? And what kind of flooding do you anticipate?

SESSIONS: You have two kinds of flooding. And the kind you mentioned is the surge that could happen the way the storm comes up the bay. It looks like we may not get that from your conversations that I've heard, that it may be a little, the storm may be a little further east and we would avoid the storm surge of tide.

But also, Mobile, we get a lot of rain. And we're, perhaps, the wettest city in America. We have, frequently, every year or so, 10 inches or more of rain without a hurricane, and -- in a storm. And sometimes that will flood the streets but usually not too deep.

CALLAWAY: Senator, I want to ask you, before you leave us, about Gulf Shores, though. It does look like Gulf Shores is getting the brunt of this storm. And the last hurricane that ripped through there was a long time ago. Certainly that area of Gulf Shores has grown significantly over the last 10, 15 years. And it is really going to be a test of what kind of construction has gone on there when his passes through.

SESSIONS: I agree. Gulf Shores is a magnificent little area. It's just a beautiful beach. It's being discovered. It really began to take off after Hurricane Fredric.


SESSIONS: And it's just accelerated in the last year, several years. So it's growing. People come there from all over the country, and they have a much, much better construction.

But it will be interesting for me to see how well it's held up in this storm. CALLAWAY: Yes, so much new construction there, Senator, and multi-million dollar homes that are being constructed there. It will be telling tomorrow.

Rob, I understand you have something you want to ask Senator Sessions.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Senator Lauer, on the subject of Fredric, I'd like you to clear something up with me, if you could remember this far back because from all the reports that I've read, I'm still a little bit confused.

A lot of the locals talked about it as a dry storm and that the surge wasn't that high. From the reports that I've read, there was still at least an eight, if not 12 foot surge at some points. Did you remember how badly Mobile was flooded or if there was a significant surge at all?

SESSIONS: We did not get a tidal surge that flooded downtown Mobile. I think the causeway was covered by a tidal surge. And when they say dry, I believe they mean we did not have this much rain.

We got -- we are having a good bit more rain than we did in Fredric. Fredric came in very fast. He came on through, and the sun was out pretty quickly.

So people -- we had a lot of houses with holes in the roofs from trees, but fortunately not a lot of rain poured through those holes.

CALLAWAY: Senator, let's talk a bit about how many resources are going to be available for your state after we've been battered with three storms along the coast of Florida, both sides, now Alabama. How prepared is the state of Alabama in getting those resources down there to the coast?

SESSIONS: I believe the state has committed all its resources. Governor Riley has personally been to Mobile. He's been at the emergency management center for the state, personally. He has the ground with FEMA here personally.

But I think they're going to do everything that's possible. I think this year -- I think we're going to have a larger supplement for emergency needs this year because we've had a larger than usual amount of damages.

CALLAWAY: Several...

SESSIONS: We also got drought in the west that hasn't been fully handled either. So, you put all that together, it unfortunately will be a larger than normal supplemental for emergency needs.

CALLAWAY: Before we let you go, what have you experienced there in your home over the last, say 45 minutes?

SESSIONS: I've seen some water coming around in around the door, which I regret to see. But we're doing fine. The house seems to be doing very fine. We have a small, rec patio home. And I'm expecting some of these trees that I see whipping around not to make it.

CALLAWAY: What about your neighbors? Did they take the advice and head out of town?

SESSIONS: I believe they did. I believe most of my neighbors on both sides of me and across the street are gone, although a number are here. But I believe more than half in this neighborhood did evacuate.

CALLAWAY: That's good news.

Rob, are you still there?

MARCIANO: Yes, I do. I have a question, Senator, regarding some of the economic impact this storm could have. And I know Fredric pretty much wiped out what was supposed to be a glorious pecan crop. And those trees took several years to recover.

What do anticipate being the industry being most affected by this storm? Be it -- would it be farmers or maybe the shipping and exporting industry?

SESSIONS: We'll have a lot of our crops harvested, but we're going to lose some that probably have not been harvested. We are -- just north of Mobile is some of the world's finest pine timber land. And mature pine timber is going to suffer from this.

This storm is going to knock down a lot of trees that will never be able to be harvested. So a lot of land owners are going to take some hits on that.

It's funny how the -- what happens, there is a net loss, economically. There is no doubt about that. But the insurance money that pours in after a storm also cause a lot of economic energy.

CALLAWAY: Yes, and Senator certainly you can't forget Gulf Shores and all the money that has been brought in from tourists in that area for your state. If it's going to be a difficult recovery and that affects the Spring breakers, could really hurt that area.

SESSION: I agree. Gulf Shores, I spent a week over there in August, and it's just a wonderful place. And it's going to be interesting to see how much damage was done over there. It's one of the best beaches.

And you can lose so much sand in some of the areas that it's going to be difficult to replace that.

CALLAWAY: And so many businesses depend on the tourist season to make it through the year.

SESSIONS: Well, when you lose a week or two weeks, as this storm clearly is going to cause. That's a big loss right there.

CALLAWAY: How do you think Washington is going to address the issues of what we're going to see after, the aftermath of all of these storms, and you mentioned the fires out west. But right now, of course, everyone concentrating on the aftermath of these storms.

SESSIONS: I think Washington will meet the legitimate needs of this area, I certainly hope so. We'll be requesting that the president propose a strong program. And those of us in Congress that represent the area will be working to make sure that we get a fair shake out of this.

But, you know, a lot of people complain about the beachfront people, that their flood insurance is awfully high. It's pretty -- I don't think it's as heavily subsidized as most people think.

So that -- people who have their houses there will take some hits. They have a higher deductible than we've ever had. And they'll take some hits there, but every homeowner is going to lose.


SESSIONS: But also they have flood insurance that will help them with a larger part of the losses

CALLAWAY: All right, Senator Sessions. Jeff Sessions in Alabama, thank you so much for joining us on the phone this evening. Good luck to you. Hopefully we can check back with you earlier in the morning. I don't think you're going to be getting any sleep tonight, do you?

SESSIONS: It does not look like it.

CALLAWAY: All right, thank you very much. Again, that was Senator Jeff Sessions.

We're going to check back in with Anderson Cooper and Rob in just a few minutes. We're going to take a break. We'll be back in just a moment.

Stay with us.


CALLAWAY: As we continue our coverage of Hurricane Ivan, the eye of that nasty storm now over Gulf Shores, Alabama. We've been speaking with Chris Lawrence who is in Pensacola, Florida. He's actually had to move a couple of times because of the winds there.

Chris, what's the situation now?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Catherine, it's getting worse by the minute. This wind is extremely, extremely hard right now. And the rain, it just feels like tiny pins every time it hits you. It's coming in at a pretty much horizontal angle. And I can tell you it's even worse closer to the shore.

I just got off the phone with a man named Dennis Search (ph). We spoke with him earlier when we were out at the shelter. He lives about, I'd say split the distance between the ocean and where that shelter was, which was about a quarter-mile. He lives about half the distance closer to the shore.

He decided to wait out the storm at his house with his wife and his son. I just got off the phone with him about five minutes ago. He says it's very nerve racking, but so far he doesn't regret the decision to stay with his home. He does say that he can hear things hitting the house.

And as he looked out once about half an hour ago, he could see his neighbor's roof flipped off, not tear away, yet. But he imagines in the next half hour or so, he's going to start seeing some pieces of the roof fly off. If it's anything like here, you can certainly imagine that because although I can't show you just because of the angle of the rain and where it is, we just saw a huge piece, about six by 10 piece of aluminum fly off the roof of the hotel where we are staying.

If I can bring back producer Jason Muche (ph) over, he can show you that these shingles, we've seen these shingles blowing around literally for the past hour, blowing all-around. It flew and hit Jason in the side. So, the wind is definitely picking up a great deal here, and the gusts are just incredible.

CALLAWAY: Chris, stay with us. I'm going to bring in Orelon Sidney. And I'm sure you have some questions for her about what you're experiencing there.


CALLAWAY: Can you hear me, Orelon?

SIDNEY: Yes, I can hear you.

CALLAWAY: We're curious about what exactly Pensacola is getting right now. We know the eye of the storm now in Gulf Shores, Alabama. And then we've got to move east over to -- far east -- over to get to Pensacola.

Clearly some damage already from the winds there.

SIDNEY: Yes, I'm not surprised, too because if you take a look kind of at what's going on in that area, you're getting the worst of the storm across that region right now.

As a matter of fact, I'm taking a look now. I'm going to zoom in a little bit closer here and see if I can get Pensacola actually to show up. There it is on the map now. You can probably see in the middle of your screen. We're going to switch sources here a second and give you Pensacola.

You had it.

Hang on just a second. Dave, I think you had it right just a second ago. There you go. That's what we were looking for.

Pensacola then, as you can see, is right here. And look down just to the southwest of Pensacola. Here comes some of the very strong storms we're looking at. This particular -- I don't want to call it a cell because it's not really a cell, but it's actually the eastern side of the eye wall -- is headed in the direction of Pensacola.

It's going to rotate around probably just off to its west. So Gulf Shores, again, I think is going to maybe get a little bit of a hit from this as it comes through. But that's some of the strongest activity we've seen.

Now my producer, Sean (ph), did point out to me that just because we're not seeing a lot of action here on the southern part of the eye wall doesn't necessarily mean that there is not a lot of action here.

What you can get sometimes, as the radar beam comes out, say from Mobile, I believe this one is coming out, it can actually bump into such heavy precipitation on it's way down that you can't see what's to the south of it or what's on the other side.

Basically, it's called attenuation. So what we may be getting is a little bit of interference, and there may actually be some strong thunderstorms here as well.

But you can see, as you talked about with Pensacola, here comes a pretty good little squall that's going to move through probably within the next half-hour or so.

CALLAWAY: Yes, that looks, as you said, that looks like some of the strongest that we've seen around that part of the storm. Chris, are you there?

Did we lose Chris? Can you hear us?

LAWRENCE: Yes, we're right here. And I have to tell you that --

Yes, yes, we're right here.

It did catch us a little bit by surprise just because all night we had heard that Mobile was ground zero, so we were going to get the edge of it and not get it quite so bad. But I don't know if that slight turn east or the, you know, the direction that the winds happen to be blowing (audio gap).

But we don't seem to be catching (audio gap).

CALLAWAY: All right. I think we're about to lose Chris as those thunderstorms that we just saw and winds are moving into the Pensacola area. We'll check back with Chris in just a few minutes.

Orelon, are you still there?

SIDNEY: Yes, I am. And Catherine, I just got some information, too. This advisory just coming in from the National Hurricane Center now. The winds have decreased to 130 miles an hour, which, you know, at 130 miles an hour you're now at category 3.

It doesn't make that much difference as far as the damage at five miles an hour, certainly; but the hurricane-force winds now extend out 105 miles from the center. So, if you go from the center of the storm out 105 miles, you're still getting hurricane-force winds in this area.

The tropical storm-force winds, get this, extend out 290 miles from the center. That is amazing. That means that if you go up here to Montgomery and if you go up towards Birmingham, those areas, believe it or not, are probably getting tropical storm-force winds.

In addition to that, we're seeing some very heavy rains, expecting as much as 10 to 15 inches, isolated higher amounts. And again -- here we come -- looking at this squall line right here. This is one of the rain bands moving in just to the south of Montgomery.

Here come some more of those very strong thunderstorms. And the whole thing is going to be heading off just to the east of north, we think, just over the next few hours.

So still -- boy, this is going to be really long night for folks across the Southeast.

CALLAWAY: Yes, and we're getting so many e-mails from people all across the South wanting to know about their area. Is one from Bessemer, Alabama, worried about work in Birmingham. I'm going to get to that in just a little bit.

But right now, were going to concentrate on the eye of that storm and check in with Gary Tuchman, quickly, again in Gulf Shores where that storm is hitting full on -- Gary?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Catherine, is it my imagination, or are the winds decreasing a little bit because the eye is approaching?

We can tell you, it's still treacherous out here, but the winds are not as intense as they were just 10 minutes ago. I want to tell you something incredible though from the Baldwin County emergency officials here.

There at the emergency operations center, which is about 15 miles inland from where we're standing right now, they are telling us that they are not leaving the emergency operations center, police, fire officials for anything unless it's a life or death emergency or an extraordinary emergency.

And we are told right now they are dealing with an extraordinary one. A woman has gone into labor. She went with her husband to the hospital. They couldn't get there because of the intense winds, the rains and trees blocking the road.

They went back home. The people from the emergency operations center are now taking a military vehicle to her home. And their plan is to bring her back to the emergency operations center and deliver her baby.

CALLAWAY: Wow. TUCHMAN: They hope they're able to do it in time.

CALLAWAY: Oh well...

TUCHMAN: I can tell you right now, they're dealing with intense -- can you still hear me, Catherine?

CALLAWAY: Yes, I can, Gary. Go ahead.

TUCHMAN: OK. We can tell you they are dealing with intense flooding here. That's a big problem, particularly on the Barrier Island behind us. They're dealing with trees down all over the county; and they are dealing with many roofs that have been destroyed on homes and the roof that's been destroyed on the fire station.

I can tell you there is no question about it, there's been a decrease in the winds, substantial decrease from the hurricane-force winds. We are told that they had winds being clocked at the emergency operations center of 110 miles per hour. And that's inland from where we are.


TUCHMAN: We have very good protection from the building that is in front of me, that is to my side. And that's why have been able to stand and deliver these live reports to you during these category 4 winds.

CALLAWAY: Well, no big surprise. Orelon said she thought you might be getting a brief respite from the storm as that eye moved in. And from what Orelon can see from the weather center up there -- Orelon, are you there?

SIDNEY: Yes, as a matter of fact, if you take a look at the radar source -- we're on GR-118 -- you can see Gulf Shores there, right in the center. And here is the center of the storm.

Gary Tuchman is right about there, and that is the calming that he is seeing right now. And he's probably going to see that for I'd say another half-hour or so. And then you're going to start to see the winds pick up from the opposite direction.

There is some good news because there continues to be some -- I don't know this is necessarily clear -- but there continues to be down to the southwest here still an area where we've got a lot lower reflectivity.

Now, again, there could be some attenuation going on here or there could, indeed, be an area where there's just not a lot of thunderstorm activity. So that's good news.

And I think Gary is probably going to miss this area of thunderstorms. I think that big squall there on the eastern eye wall is headed more toward Pensacola than Gulf Shores, so a little bit later on, Gary is going to find out that things are going to get a little bumpy again. But I think the worst may be over. We'll have to see once the eye across and we see whether or not we're getting fooled by the attenuation down here, whether there is actually more thunderstorms to come down here to the South.

I apologize for my wonderful drawing there, but you get the idea.

CALLAWAY: We get the picture, that's right.

SIDNEY: You get the idea.

CALLAWAY: Well, Gary, I know this will be great news for the woman you spoke of who has gone into labor in the middle of this storm. Emergency personnel have come to her aid. They're trying to take her back to the center. And hopefully the eye of the storm will make that possible for them.

TUCHMAN: Well, this could be exquisite timing for that woman, and timing that is so good that if everything works out well -- we sure hope it does -- if she has a boy, perhaps she should name her, Ivan.


TUCHMAN: But I can tell you right now that we good -- we can almost take out the baseball gloves right now and throw the ball around because it is seriously -- 15 minutes ago, we had 100 mile an hour gust; and right now it is not raining very hard, and the winds are relatively calm.

And it is one of the most remarkable things in Mother Nature, the eye of a hurricane. Like Orelon, I've flown in the hurricane hunter plane before, and you fly through the eye and it just looks like this amazing volcano, this funnel, where you can see up and you see blue sky when it's during the day.

And when you're on the ground, it's the same thing. It's just like the most amazing thing how you can go up on these amazing positions and have it become relatively calm.

CALLAWAY: Gary, we're going to take a break and come back with you in just a few minutes in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Stay with us, everyone, as our live coverage of Hurricane Ivan continues.



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