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Tropical Storm Dennis by No Means Done

Aired July 11, 2005 - 00:00   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Just one of the many dramatic moments from the arrival of Hurricane Dennis. Powerful winds ripping apart trees and property in Pensacola, Florida.
And take a look at this: a city underwater. Storm surges over 10 feet high causing the worst flooding since the 1920s in the Florida Panhandle.

Good morning. I'm Carol Lin. Thanks very much for joining us on this special hurricane edition of CNN MONDAY MORNING.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Betty Nguyen. It is midnight Eastern time here at CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. I want to thank you for joining us.

Well, it is the hurricane that was, but what is now Tropical Storm Dennis is by no means done. Here's where we are right now. Authorities in Florida and Alabama say there are no reports of deaths or injuries.

Still, though, more than 160,000 people are without power in the panhandle and southern Alabama. Flood waters have taken hold of low- lying communities, and places like Florida's Wakulla County, which is south of Tallahassee.

And storm surges over 10 feet have caused severe flooding that has completely cut off the Florida towns of St. Marks, Shell Point, Oyster Bay, and Panacea. Only light storm damage is being reported in places like Baldwin County, Alabama.

LIN: But now concerns about inland flooding is really the focus of Tropical Storm Dennis. Thunderstorms and some tornado watches are now in effect.

NGUYEN: For the latest, we want to go straight to the CNN Weather Center and meteorologist Bonnie Schneider for a look at what is happening right now with the downgraded Dennis.

Hi, Bonnie.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Betty and Carol. You know, we are still looking at a serious situation here with a tropical storm that has maximum winds of 50 miles per hour. So this is by no means a weak tropical storm. It's still pretty large, still pretty powerful, and still bringing a lot of rain in a short amount of time to places like Alabama. In fact, the center of circulation is about 25 miles south of Demopolis, Alabama. And you can see here a little bit of rotation there just south of Birmingham.

Now, as we take a look at our radar perspective, you'll see we still have plenty of rain. Landfall occurred 2:25 Central time as a Category 3, downgraded just a bit right before it came onshore, with maximum winds there at 120 miles per hour. And you can see where landfall was, just to the east of Pensacola near Navarre Beach. Unfortunately, that's where we seeing a lot of flooding, in that region.

All right, let's take a look at radar now. And we'll show you where we have some tornado watches that continue, still lifting to the north as the bulk of the moisture lifts to the north.

Yesterday, we talked a lot about how the northeast quadrant of these storms tends to bring about the most rain. We're seeing that right now. You can see these rain bands pulling off all this gulf moisture, still well far inland, bringing in heavy downpours and still creating that possibility for tornadoes, possibly across Georgia, back into Alabama. So it's still a serious situation where we have to really be concerned for the flooding, as well.

Now, as we look into the future -- this is really interesting. We can show you precipitation totals, possibility up to about five inches towards Alabama. But as we work out way over into the next 24 hours, notice this map spread apart to the north and even to the west. We're talking about flooding potential for Memphis, Nashville, and low-lying areas, and even here in Atlanta. We're going to see a lot of rain here, as well.

So, really, this storm is affecting so many parts of the country. Travel is going to be a big concern tomorrow morning with such a large area of the southeast affected by Dennis -- Betty, Carol?

LIN: All right, Bonnie. Thank you very much.

In the meantime, Hurricane Dennis -- we wanted to show you exactly what happened today. It came ashore on Santa Rosa Island east of Fort Walton Beach, Florida. There are many small towns along the gulf coast, and one of them is Mary Esther. And that is where we find CNN's Alina Cho -- Alina?

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, while many of the residents are sleeping tonight, the National Guard and the Sheriff's Office is actually out and about doing a detailed site survey. They are surveying the damage. And the early word is that our immediate area here in Mary Esther, Florida, has been spared, but quite a different story about 15 miles to the east of us in Destin, Florida, where there is a report of an entire home washing away into the Gulf and significant structural damage to homes.

But amazingly, there are no reports of injuries or fatalities, in part because there was a mandatory evacuation order for that area. And it seems that those residents, having lived through Hurricane Ivan just 10 months ago, heeded those warnings and fled their homes.

Now, one man who did not heed that warning or leave his home is George Frowan (ph). He actually bought his waterfront home after Hurricane Ivan came through this area. He says he bought it damaged because he was able to get a deal on it. And he decided to stick it out, stay here, and ride out the storm.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, everybody has to do their own thing. And I guess this is my thing. But you know, again, I'll say it again, I assess risk. I've taken risks all my life. I'm 71, and I'm still here.


CHO: He certainly is a risk-taker.

Now, there is some good news to report. There are sporadic power outages here in Okaloosa County. But the good news is that much of the power in the area has been restored, particularly, personally speaking, here at our hotel.

We can also report that all of the bridges in Okaloosa County are back open, and only a portion of Highway 93, which is the street directly behind me, remains closed.

Carol, there is also a curfew in effect, as you might expect. And that curfew will not be lifted until 6 o'clock in the morning -- Carol?

LIN: All right. We have to remember that most people who die in hurricanes die after the storm has passed over, because you mentioned the flooding and also the danger of downed electrical lines. So it's good to know that people are at least trying to stay indoors.

Thanks very much, Alina Cho, reporting live.

NGUYEN: Now over to Florida's Santa Rosa County where reports have come in of at least one tornado touching down overnight. On the phone is Bob Cole. He is the vice chair of Santa Rosa County's board of commissioners.

We want to thank you for being with us. The first question is, how big of a tornado are we talking about, and what kind of damage did it do?

BOB COLE, SANTA ROSA BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS: It did quite a bit of damage. We were in the northeast quadrant of it at my home where it hit. It came in to a part of the county we call Oriole Beach at about 2:45 this afternoon.

So Santa Rosa County pretty much took a direct hit from this one, and we're very fortunate that it moved quickly through the county, because the damage we abstained or, you know, just in that short period of time, was quite a bit. Now, we had no loss of lives, no serious injuries. And at this point, we've had no major flooding as of yet, or yet to see if the rivers are going to rise. But we're very fortunate in that aspect. And most of the cleanup -- I don't think there was any real catastrophic building damage, but, you know, a lot of minor damage, and a lot of trees down and pyres down. We've got about 52,000 citizens without power at this time.

NGUYEN: Any idea when that power is going to be back on for the folks of Santa Rosa County?

COLE: It's probably going to be two or three days at a minimum, maybe as much as a week or so, because a lot of major lines are down. There's a lot of trees on lines. And then, of course, a lot of, you know, homes directly are affected, because trees down in yards have pulled lines loose of the home, so...

NGUYEN: So what are you urging people to do, especially if they can't get back into their homes, and they won't get their power back on for maybe even a week? What should they do?

COLE: Well, they need to let the -- of course, let all the emergency management people here know. We've got the Red Cross, and we've got different United Way, and different organizations like that that, of course, will provide help.

We've got volunteers coming into the area to aid in, you know, cleaning up, getting people back into their homes. This isn't our first rodeo. Of course, we just had Ivan go through here, you know, eight months ago. So a lot of people are still recovering from that. There are still a lot of blue roofs on homes that are now without blue roofs, because Hurricane Dennis took them off.

So we're going to get out as a community and just help all these people get, you know, get back into recovery mode. And we talked to the governor earlier today. And we've got water and ice staged outside the area, that is probably, as we speak, on its way inbound to it. So we've got points of distribution already set-up, and comfort stations set-up, so we're in good shape, as far as, you know, getting some necessities out there to the people.

NGUYEN: Right. Well, you must consider yourself very lucky, considering Santa Rosa County took a direct hit from Dennis. We appreciate your time, Bob Cole, vice chairman of the Santa Rosa board of commissioners there. Thank you.


LIN: Betty, one of the worst-hit areas was far removed from where Dennis actually made landfall. It's called St. Marks. It's south of Tallahassee, about 20 miles, and about 300 miles east of Navarre, where the eye of the storm made landfall.

Tidal surges of 10 to 12 feet caused major flooding and left most of the town under several feet of water. Power supplies remain knocked out, and officials say it's unlikely electricity will be restored until the water recedes. Residents are understandably pretty upset.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, this is something just unbelievable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Things are floating off, and, I mean, I've never actually experiences anything like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never see it this high. And I've been here 37 years. And all the people -- I'm with the volunteer fire department.

And I've just come back from rescuing some people down there that didn't get warned in time and they didn't get out. And we had to go get them out by boat. And I've never seen as many cars, and trucks, and houses, and everything -- everything here is underwater.


LIN: It's just amazing to see. Well, if you think St. Marks is far removed from the eye of Dennis, spare a moment for the town of Live Oak. It is more than 100 miles east of Tallahassee, way off the storm's path. But Dennis still found a way to cause destruction.

Kyle Meenan of CNN affiliate WTLV reports.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sounded like a vacuum cleaner. It sounded like a giant vacuum cleaner.

KYLE MEENAN, WTLV-TV REPORTER (voice-over): But this vacuum stretched from the sky, uprooting trees and snapping 150-year-old oaks like twigs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So my wife and I walked into the living room. And talk about walking into open air, because the top of the roof is gone, and it's raining inside.

MEENAN: At first light, Moss (ph) could see the twister came across the link just east of his house, barreling to the west.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Came right over our lake house, if you will, right down the walkway, and in the middle of our living room.

MEENAN: The good news, the rest of the home is fine, although wet and muddy with shards of glass everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The roof's beam is still in tact. So we've got something to build back to.

MEENAN: As the outer bands of Dennis blew through town Sunday afternoon, an army was quietly gathering just up I-75.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've come from all up and down the east coast, as far as New York, some from in-state, as well. We have water, ice, and then generators and miscellaneous supplies, forklifts and that type of thing.

MEENAN: And once the most menacing part of this storm known as Dennis is passed, those men, women, and machines will be moving in, going in to offer aid and assistance where it's needed most.

Reporting along I-10, I'm Kyle Meenan, First Coast News.


LIN: The losses in Cuba come to much more than property and trees. Ten people were killed by the force of Hurricane Dennis. And we spent the day with residents there as the country begins the recovery process.


ZARRELLA: It's spinning around like a -- it's falling apart! Get back! Get back!



LIN: Plus, the storm's unyielding force caught on tape. Our special live coverage continues in just a moment.


NGUYEN: Welcome back to CNN, your hurricane headquarters, where we are updating you on Hurricane Dennis every 15 minutes. It's not a hurricane anymore, though.

Let's get right to it, though, with Bonnie Schneider, so she can tell us exactly where Dennis is. It's a tropical depression now, correct?

SCHNEIDER: A tropical storm, Betty, with maximum winds at 50 miles per hour, but soon to be a depression. Certainly, it keeps interacting with land, keeps on weakening. And we're likely to see this depression -- this tropical storm, rather, weaken to a depression later on.

In the meantime, what we're looking at right now is our satellite perspective. And it shows that we have the center of circulation associated with Dennis right over Alabama. Still a very large storm, a very expansive storm, that keeps on bringing plenty of rain to the region.

We've seen rain here in Georgia, and tornado watches are posted right now for parts of Alabama, parts of Georgia, where we could see tornadoes break out of these strong thunderstorms and feeding bands that continue to flow around Dennis at this time.

Some of the heaviest rain right now into Birmingham, Alabama. But heavy rain moving into the Nashville area where it was lightly raining earlier, and that rain is on the increase. Also, from Memphis, if you're just heading to bed in a short while, you're going to wake up to some soggy ground there. We're expecting a lot of rain. And it's really going to be expanding as we work our way through the next 24 hours, affecting many regions.

Now, for that reason alone, there's flood warnings and flood watches posted. The lighter green on your map indicates a flood watch, meaning the potential exists for flooding. The warning means flooding is imminent, expected.

In Birmingham, we're seeing that right now, just to the south of Atlanta, and even once you start heading towards Arkansas. We're seeing north of Little Rock the potential for flooding, as well. So a very expansive storm that will affect many locations in the mid-South and Southeast.

Just to let you know, as we check off the names, we're still looking at quite a bit of activity. We've crossed off Dennis, but believe it or not, Emily, the next storm for 2005, is about to be named. Hard to believe we just got rid of one, now we're looking at another.

Emily at this point is just a depression right now. But we're still seeing it here on the map, well, miles away from land, but this is the next one. And this is the next one that we will be talking about. As you can see, we're already tracking it, known as Tropical Depression 5.

NGUYEN: Well, that's definitely not what we want to hear, especially coming off of Dennis. But stay tuned and see where that goes. Thank you -- Carol?

LIN: All right. Well, now, at least, we're somewhat in the recovery phase of this storm. In Alabama, Dennis' bark provided worse than its bite. Large parts of the coast avoided major damage as Dennis came ashore.

Of course, as Bonnie just mentioned, there's plenty of thunderstorms packing high winds. Widespread power outages are also being reported. We're talking about thousands of homes and businesses.

So for an update on the situation, we're joined by Alabama power spokesman, Michael Sznajderman.

Michael, what is the situation right now? Last count, it was 77,000 people without power, but that may have grown since then.

MICHAEL SZNAJDERMAN, SPOKESMAN, ALABAMA POWER: Yes, it's actually grown substantially since then. About 10:30 Central time, we were over 200,000 customers without power, 204,000, actually statewide.

LIN: What's the danger of downed power lines for folks out there who may think that the coast is clear now that Dennis has passed through? SZNAJDERMAN: Absolutely. We've been trying to send that message. People are going to be coming out in the morning assessing the damage in their yards. And of course, in a lot of areas in the state, Birmingham, as you mentioned, is just getting the brunt of the storm now.

Trees are going to be down. People are going to be coming out and looking. And we're advising our customers to please be careful about downed power lines, to call us if they see them, to stay away from those lines, and also advising customers to be careful, those who are without power, in using generators to make sure they follow the directions not to plug them into their household current and also to make sure they're using them in well-ventilated areas.

LIN: So if they're not supposed to plug them into the household current, where are they supposed to plug them into?

SZNAJDERMAN: Well, what they should be doing is using the generator to give power to, perhaps, key appliances, like their refrigerator or their freezer. And you plug those appliances directly into the generator. If you plug your generator into your household current, it can actually send electricity back up the lines and cause a very hazardous situation, not only in your home, but also potentially for crews who are working on the lines.

LIN: Now, if there are downed power lines in the neighborhood, but you can't see them and the ground is wet, how far does that current extend when the ground is wet? I mean, can you walk out of your house, even if you can't see the downed power line, or is it just a matter of touching it, just don't touch it?

SZNAJDERMAN: It's hard to speculate, again, not knowing how wet the ground is. You know, the problem is you could have downed trees and lines sort of hiding within the trees. And what you don't want to be is be part of that conducting line from the line down to the ground. You don't want to become the ground for that line.

So we just ask people to be very, very cautious when they're coming out, to look around them, be aware of potentially hazardous situations, particularly to be careful as far as children and pets, to keep them away from those lines.

LIN: Right.

SZNAJDERMAN: And don't drive over power lines if you see them. If you see low-hanging lines that are not on the ground, also, don't drive near those lines. Just presume that any downed line is a live wire.

LIN: Good advice. Michael Sznajderman, thank you very much.


LIN: Betty?

NGUYEN: We want to show you what viewers captured as Dennis blew through. Why don't you just take a look at this?

Brian in Panama Beach, Florida, sent in some video clips. This is what it looked like there at 3:00 p.m., as Dennis was coming ashore. You see the water creeping up.

Also, this one is of Brian himself on the beach. You can see the strong winds in the background blowing the trees behind him and the strong surf still coming ashore.

So how is Hurricane Dennis affecting your area? Send us your photos and video to But we do want to give you a word of caution. Please don't do anything risky to shoot these shots. Your safety, of course, is very important to us.

Well, watching the storm unfold on TV is one thing. But standing in the midst of powerful winds as debris flies past your head, that's an experience you should leave to our CNN crews.

LIN: And even then we worry about them. Now, we've got some amazing pictures of the force of Hurricane Dennis next on this special edition of CNN MONDAY.


NGUYEN: Welcome back to CNN's special coverage of Tropical Storm Dennis. Right now, Dennis is centered about 52 miles northeast of Meridian, Mississippi, moving northwest at about 16 miles per hour. And so far, officials along the Florida Panhandle and southern Alabama are reporting only light damage.

But that's definitely not the case at this hotel in Crestview, which is northeast of Pensacola. Look at this, where the wind tore apart the roof there. Meanwhile, there are reports of flooding in some cities, including several towns in Florida's Wakulla County.

And here is a breakdown of the counties that President Bush has declared federal disaster areas. Forty-five in Alabama, 13 in Florida, and 37 in Mississippi. That gives you an indication of the damage there.

LIN: That's right. Many of the governors are going to be touring the disaster areas. Jeb Bush is going to be touring around the Florida coastal areas...

NGUYEN: At 11:00 this morning, I understand...

LIN: Tomorrow.


NGUYEN: ... Eastern time.

LIN: Actually, yes, right, Monday.

NGUYEN: It's already Monday morning.

LIN: Already Monday.

NGUYEN: Well, for journalists covering a hurricane, it's sometimes like being on the frontlines of a warzone. And most of the time, with all that destruction, it doesn't resemble a warzone.

LIN: You bet. Well, CNN's John Zarrella and Anderson Cooper have been in the thick of it in Panama City, Florida. At one stage, they had a close encounter with a hotel sign. And it looked pretty dangerous. Check this out.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're back on the air, John Zarrella and I. Let me just explain where we are. We're basically seeking the safety of a Ramada Hotel. There is two walls behind our camera, and we are all basically kind of clustered behind these walls for safety.

And if you look just out there, that is an enormous Ramada sign, which has just been twisting in the wind. As you can see, I mean, it is moving. That is a big concern. We are very afraid that that thing could just come down.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's been spinning around like a top. And really what we're experiencing right now is a little bit of a lull compared to what we had. The gusts before were well above hurricane force. It had to be in the 95-, 100-mile-an-hour range.

COOPER: Five minutes ago, I don't know how much -- when I called in, I don't know how much of that you could get. But it has actually gone down from that point. I mean, that was really -- it was this extraordinary wall of white. It was like a solid mass.

ZARRELLA: You couldn't see a thing out there. And the trees were bent, as they're bending again now. We're starting to get another one of those...


COOPER: Yes, and look at the tops of those trees over there. You've seen some of them have snapped already. But these things are moving. And as these bands of the storm come in...

ZARRELLA: Here it comes again. Look out here!


COOPER: I don't know if you can feel right it now...


ZARRELLA: Watch out for that aluminum! Jump! Get back, get back! It's coming apart!

(CROSSTALK) COOPER: Look over there!

ZARRELLA: It's coming apart!

COOPER: That is aluminum. That's part of the sign. Look at this!

ZARRELLA: Look at this, it's all coming apart! The trees are coming down!

COOPER: Did you see that tree that went down?

ZARRELLA: Big trees coming down. Big trees coming down.

COOPER: Be very careful. Look at that sign...


ZARRELLA: Here comes the sign, it's down. It's falling apart! Get back! Get back! Get back!

COOPER: Unbelievable. I've never seen anything like this, John. This is -- have you ever seen anything like this?

ZARRELLA: Never seen anything like this. I've never experienced anything like this before.

COOPER: I'm telling you, this, of course, is the most dangerous time when the winds are this strong.

ZARRELLA: Tree limbs are flying down these pine trees. You see them out there. They got big branches coming down, huge limbs.

COOPER: And it's incredible when you think -- I mean, these are strong pieces of metal. This is not, you know, little tin. This is a huge, metal sign that survived Hurricane Ivan. It has not survived Hurricane Dennis.


LIN: Well, our special coverage of Hurricane Dennis continues with live updates from the CNN Weather Center every 15 minutes. The next one in about four minutes from now.

NGUYEN: Just four minutes. Plus, clean-up in Cuba where Dennis took a deadly toll just days ago. People are just now starting to venture out to survey the damage. You'll want to stay with us, your hurricane headquarters.


LIN: Welcome back to our special coverage. Dennis no longer a monster storm, but still a menace to much of the Mississippi and Tennessee Valley areas. At CNN's hurricane headquarters, I'm Carol Lin. NGUYEN: And I'm Betty Nguyen. Meteorologist Bonnie Schneider will have the full forecast in just a moment, but first, here's a check of the other headlines making news at this hour.

In central Canada, a horrific sight as two small biplanes collide at an air show. Look at this. The planes were simulating a World War I dogfight when they hit and burst into flames. No spectators were hurt, but both pilots were killed.

The FBI says remains found in Montana have been positively identified as those of missing 9-year-old Dylan Groene. Dylan and his 8-year-old sister, Shasta, disappeared from their home May 16th after the beating deaths of other family members. Shasta was found alive last week after witnesses spotted her in an Idaho restaurant with a man now in police custody.

And Israeli newspaper reports Israel has asked the U.S. for more than $2 billion to help pay for its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The paper says the money would also be used to relocate some 9,000 Jewish settlers from unpopulated areas in Israel. The withdrawal from Gaza and four West Bank settlements is set for mid-August.

LIN: You know by now that CNN is your hurricane headquarters. And we've got updates on the storm every 15 minutes. Time now to check in with CNN meteorologist Bonnie Schneider who's tracking the storm into the wee hours.

Bonnie, it's moved inland.

SCHNEIDER: That's right.

LIN: Now just a tropical storm, but still pretty dangerous?

SCHNEIDER: That's right, Carol. You know, it's also a powerful tropical storm. When you're talking about tropical storm, it means winds are greater than 39 miles per hour. And right now, with Dennis, we're getting the maximum sustained winds at 50 miles per hour.

So just like we were telling you yesterday, even once the storm comes on shore, it's still so powerful that it's taking awhile for it to really lose some strength substantially. So right now, the center of circulation is about 25 miles to the south of Demopolis, Alabama. That's somewhere in the vicinity of Meridian, Mississippi, just a little bit over the border into the Alabama border and just to the west of Montgomery about 100 miles.

So you can see it here on the map. And we've got our bright red areas of high cloud tops showing you where we're seeing some of the heavier downpours of rain and the flooding potential, certainly, for Birmingham. It's been coming down heavy and hard there for quite a while, and that's going to continue tonight.

These red boxes indicate tornado watches, the possibility for tornados to break out from these thunderstorms, just lines and bands of thunderstorms that'll continue to circulate around Dennis later on this evening. Now, looking into the future, even as early as tomorrow, we want to let you know that we could possibly see some travel delays, that's right. Even if you're flying out of Atlanta, we don't have delays reported at present. But tomorrow morning, that's when this (INAUDIBLE) about 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. Notice how much rain is already on the ground from Atlanta further to the west towards Jackson, Mississippi, and Memphis.

So any of these cities, Memphis, Nashville, even towards Cincinnati, Charlotte, we're just going to watch carefully, because we may see some travel delays for those of you that are flying out tomorrow.

At present, we don't have any, but this is such an expansive storm with so much wind and so much rain that still has to come through, even into the next 24 hours. You can see that moisture just spreading north into western Tennessee and northward towards St. Louis. So many cities are affected by just one storm.

Flood potential, certainly, this, as well. We have warnings posted down through southern Alabama all the way out towards Tennessee, so a lot of flooding is definitely going to continue. Later on tonight, if you live in a low-lying area, also be careful because Dennis is still bringing a substantial amount of rain. We've had reports up to 12 inches of rain in some areas already.

LIN: Wow. Bonnie, thanks so much for that travel report, too, because so many people are hitting the road this morning and need that information. It took me like 45 minutes on the telephone to get anything out of Delta Airlines. They say only 20 minute delays out of Atlanta so far.


LIN: So good news. Thanks very much, Bonnie.

NGUYEN: Well, aside from damage to buildings and power outages, flooding is one of the major hazards that linger from a storm like this. Take Florida's Wakulla County. The town of St. Marks on the north side of the panhandle has seen some of the worst flooding yet. That town, along with Shell Point, Oyster Bay, and Panacea were cut off by storm surges over 10 feet. It is the biggest flooding in the area since the 1920s.

Now earlier, CNN photographer Mark Biello set the scene.


MARK BIELLO, CNN NEWS PHOTOGRAPHER: I think (INAUDIBLE) a lot of people (INAUDIBLE) to stay with other relatives, or maybe a local hotel. Some people are starting to venture back.

And again, you know, they're very uneasy about leaving their home or their own property, especially with no power, you know, kind of a remote area. City hall and the post office are still underwater. And you know, more than half the town still is not accessible. And we'll just have to see in the morning, you know, where that water level is.


LIN: Well, Dennis was devastating and deadly in Cuba. Ten people died there when the hurricane blew through that country on Friday. And days later, residents are just starting to venture outside.

More now from CNN's Lucia Newman.


LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A scene that could be entitled, "After the Deluge." Havana residents coming out of their houses at last in the wake of Hurricane Dennis to buy bread, their government ration cards in hand.

Stores are slowly beginning to open. All over (INAUDIBLE) and two million of Cubans are still without electricity. Seventy-year-old Donya Calidad (ph) shows us what's left of her only candle, but is thrilled that the gas finally returned so she can cook this fish. "Everything else in the fridge is spoiled because we haven't had power since Friday," she says.

Hardest hit by Dennis was South Central Cienfuegos Province where the storm entered Cuba and where scores of families are now homeless. The hurricane's savage winds destroyed or seriously damaged thousands of houses. Flooding, too, was extensive.

Emergency teams all over the country are working around the clock to try and reestablish basic services and provide shelter for those who no longer have it. But the housing problem in particular is only expected to get worse.

(on-screen): The dilapidated buildings here in Old Havana and Central Havana were drenched during the hurricane. And now, as they begin to try now that the sun has come out, many will crack and are expected to collapse in the next few days.

(voice-over): With the airport finally open, thousands of overseas tourists who were trapped by the hurricane are starting to go home. But for those who aren't going anywhere, like Jose Cantera (ph), there's little relief. A tree collapsed on his decrepit house during the hurricane. "And unless there's a miracle, it won't survive the next one," he says.

And that's the worst part for many, the fact that Dennis isn't the final storm but just the first for this island nation that's almost always directly in the path of these vicious seasonal hurricanes.

Lucia Newman, CNN, Havana.


NGUYEN: So true. This is just the beginning of hurricane season.

And next, homeward bound after the storm.


KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The only key to get back in was a power drill, to take down ply-boards protecting her doors and windows.


NGUYEN: CNN is there as one Gulf Shores resident makes her way back home. That's ahead in three minutes, on CNN, your hurricane headquarters.


LIN: Many people in Gulf Shores, Alabama, spent a restless Saturday night. Just ten months ago, the resort community was hit hard by Hurricane Ivan. The city has been in the crosshairs of Dennis for days now, but now many residents feel they've dodged a bullet.

CNN's Keith Oppenheim has the story from Gulf Shores, Alabama.


LISA KENNEDY, GULF SHORES, ALABAMA, RESIDENT: Hey, when I went to do the news release on...

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lisa Kennedy is an administrative assistant who works for the city of Gulf Shores, Alabama. As Hurricane Dennis approached, she spent most of her time trying to get information out to residents, less time worrying about three properties she owns in town.

KENNEDY: Ready? Let's go home.

OPPENHEIM: But by Sunday evening, she was taking her pet parrot out of her car and taking some other valuables back into her house. The only key to get back in was a power drill, to take down ply-boards protecting her doors and windows.

KENNEDY: Well, here you have it, the results of moving out.

OPPENHEIM: Kennedy has been through this before. In Gulf Shores last September, Hurricane Ivan hit hard.

(on-screen): So what kind of damage did you have at this home and the other two you own?

KENNEDY: Well, basically, from the -- it's on pilings, so basically from the first floor down everything totally just got washed away.

OPPENHEIM (voice-over): The damage from Ivan, including a lost swimming pool, cost Lisa Kennedy $40,000. While insurance eventually covered most of those costs, the process was exhausting.

(on-screen): You survived Ivan, but emotionally, an incredible frustration.

KENNEDY: I'm not emotionally ready to -- I was not emotionally ready to do this again. I was not ready.

OPPENHEIM (voice-over): So when the storm track changed and Hurricane Dennis did not make a direct hit here, Lisa Kennedy was extremely relieved. Her properties were all in tact. And she knows from experience she dodged a disaster.

KENNEDY: We can only do what we can to try to save as many people and keep them as safe as possible, so I'm happy. I'm happy to be back home, happy to be back on the beach.

OPPENHEIM: Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Gulf Shores, Alabama.


NGUYEN: Now to the picture-postcard beachfront resort in Destin, Florida. It's not far from where the eye of Dennis came ashore. And we're joined now by one resident who decided to brave the storm. Carol Marini stayed in the condo context where she works.

And Carol, I have to ask you, why did you decide to stay there and not go to a shelter, or even just evacuate altogether?

CAROL MARINI, DESTIN RESIDENT: Well, last year during Ivan, I decided I had to go home. And I was going back to St. Louis, where I'm from. I sat in traffic for eight hours between here and Montgomery. And the traffic -- because now we're in peak season, the traffic here was horrendous, two days ago bumper to bumper for miles and miles. And I thought, "I'm just not ready to do that."

My home, I felt, was pretty safe, thinking it was going to be a two. I said, "If it's just a two, I'll stay here." And then I found out this morning when we got up that it was a four.

NGUYEN: Right. Did fear set in then?

MARINI: I'm sorry?

NGUYEN: Did fear set in when you heard that it was a Category 4?

MARINI: Yes, it did. Then I thought, "You know, maybe I'm not as wise as I thought I was." And so I thought I made a mistake. But our building that I work in is very, very safe. It's solid concrete, and I felt that it had gone through Opal, it had gone through Ivan with no damage into the interiors of the condos, so I decided to come here.

NGUYEN: OK. So take us back to that moment when Dennis came ashore. What was it like there? What did you feel? What did you see? MARINI: Well, you know, it was -- being a concrete, it's very quiet in here. And so it's different than staying in a house when it's roaring all around you. I'm on the eighth floor out of 11 floors. So standing in here -- it just sounds like it's windy.

Now, I stood and I watched out the window. We have storm screens, so I was able to see through them, because they're made out of Kevlar, so you can see through them, so I was able to watch the surf. And it's just -- it was exhilarating.

I thought, "I'm not a big" -- I'm not a real brave person. I've been through one tornado in my lifetime. And so I, you know, I thought it was kind of cool. But because I'm in such a safe, sturdy building, it's much different. If I would have been home in a wooden- framed home, I don't think I would have been as brave, so...

NGUYEN: Carol, this is just the beginning of this hurricane season. We're already talking about a tropical depression named Emily. When you think about that, the busy season that's still to come, are you still going to ride it out, as they all come ashore?

MARINI: Yes, I will. Unless we would have a Category 5, I think that I will stay here. I will remain, because it's protecting our property. I mean, I was able to drive home this evening, make sure that my house was OK. I had some screen damage, but that was really all.

And I've got two full-time residents that stayed with us because they're elderly. They couldn't get out. So I was able to keep an eye on them. And, yes, I'll stay here. I said I would do this again.

NGUYEN: Well, you are brave and a very lucky woman. Carol Marini, who waited it out in Destin, thanks for spending a little time with us.

MARINI: Well, you're quite welcome.

NGUYEN: Carol?

LIN: Brave, indeed.

All right. Although some early reports indicate Hurricane Dennis has been less destructive than Hurricane Ivan, that doesn't mean northwest Florida has escaped new damage. And residents and homeowners in some areas of Gulf County, Florida, may find themselves beginning the rebuilding process all over again.

Reports say a storm surge near Indian Pass has washed out a section of road in Cape San Blas. Waves reportedly battered the beautiful but vulnerable cape. And some of the houses were being undermined by the surf. But none have washed into the Gulf. A county spokesman says there are no reported injuries.

All right, so why did the community so far from the eye of the storm suffer such great damage? NGUYEN: Yes, I think that has a lot of us scratching our heads this morning. But maybe meteorologist Bonnie Schneider can answer these questions.

Good morning, Bonnie.

SCHNEIDER: Good morning. You know, it is interesting so far to the east we've seen such damage. Remember, the storm made landfall as a hurricane right to the west of Navarre Beach and to the east of Pensacola.

Now, you're talking about Gulf County in that earlier story. That's actually further to the east of Panama City. You can't even see it really on this map, so you're probably wondering, "How is that possible that we saw such storm surge?"

Well, it really has to do a lot with the topography, but also the way hurricanes kind of manipulate the water around. In fact, another area where we saw a tremendous amount of flooding, and we still have some rain earlier, and we still have a lot of rain on the ground -- 10 inches in some areas -- is St. Marks, which is even further east of that.

As the storm wraps itself around, pulls in that gulf moisture, that upper-right quadrant, or the northeast quadrant, of the storm, tends to bring out the biggest surge of moisture.

Now, St. Marks, that you see here -- look at these poor folks looking out at their water-laden street. Just terrible. The reason is, if you look here on this map right here we can show you. There's an inlet that comes up from the Gulf of Mexico, from the Apalachee Bay. Here's the bay down here.

And you can see this inlet almost feeding directly into St. Marks. So it's a low-lying area, a lot of water coming in a short amount of time, and this inlet almost acting like a funnel, bringing the water up to St. Marks.

So that's why that town is underwater, even further to the east of the storm, because you have those feeder bands that circulate around the storm's center, even 40, 50, 60 miles. And it doesn't even take that much energy or that much water to cause flooding.

But of course, this was an expansive Category 3 when it hit, and that's why we're still seeing some rain, certainly in this area, but further to the north we're seeing even more rain than that. In fact, right now, Dennis is a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds at 50 miles per hour. So still a powerful tropical storm that's bringing a lot of rain to much of the mid-South right now.

It is teeming in Alabama, Mississippi, and parts of Georgia right now, and heavy rain still here in Atlanta. And there's a lot more to come with this. This is not over yet. Still, a tropical storm, came onshore as a hurricane, but still very powerful, indeed -- Carol, Betty?

NGUYEN: All right, Bonnie, thank you so much.


LIN: All the images that we've been seeing from Hurricane Dennis have been so remarkable. Cities underwater, roofs collapsing, trees uprooted. So we're going to take a look back at the wrath of Dennis, when we come back.


LIN: Welcome back to CNN, your hurricane headquarters. We want to bring you the latest on Dennis, which is still on the move. It has dwindled to a tropical storm, but not before causing widespread power outages and flooding in the Florida Panhandle.

More than 200,000 customers, we've learned, are now without power in Alabama. Some towns got it worse than others, too. St. Marks, Florida, for example, is 300 miles east of where Dennis made landfall. But most of that area, as you can see, is underwater after 10- to 12- foot tidal surges roared onshore. That town is also without power.

Now, Florida Governor Jeb Bush and FEMA Director Mike Brown are scheduled to visit emergency operations centers and shelters later today. Governor Bush expressed relief that the winds had finally died down.

NGUYEN: You know, Carol, for days, we have learned about these warnings of this impending storm. People turning a nervous eye toward the horizon, then the word to evacuate. The feeling of many coastal residents was, "Not again."

LIN: That's right. And then, on Sunday, Hurricane Dennis came roaring ashore. So take a look back at the day's major events.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More possible tornados. We've got some new warnings. And they've just extended the Escambia County, Alabama, tornado warning.

NGUYEN: How big of a tornado are we talking about, and what kind of damage did it do?

COLE: It did quite a bit of damage. We were in the northeast quadrant of it in my home where it is. It came in to a part of the county we call Oriole Beach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Bush called me just a few minutes ago. He has declared portions of Florida a major disaster area, and including parts of Alabama and Mississippi.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now, you probably can't see me. It may look like I'm in a black hole. That is because the power here in Panama City is completely out. It really is a ghost town right now. Nobody on these roads, no life, absolutely nothing. RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've stopped right now. We're on the highway, because we just came across something, Kyra, I want to show you. We've stopped the vehicle in the middle of the road -- and I don't know if you can see it.

Stu, are you in on that right now?

There's a power line that has just crashed onto the road. Part of the road is -- almost appears like the power line's coming out of the middle of the road.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fifty mile-per-hour wind. That was from the 11 o'clock Eastern time advisory. So our focus is starting to change from concern about some of this wind and a storm surge, and it's now changing to the flooding problems.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have all the commodities in place, the water, the ice, the meals ready to eat, cots, tents, bedding, everything we need to sustain life. But we also have in place, unfortunately, those things we may need, like the urban search-and- rescue teams, to get into neighborhoods, to get into buildings, to try to rescue people.


NGUYEN: Now, all weekend, we have been asking how is Hurricane Dennis affecting your area? We want you to send us your photos and video to But we do want to give you a word of caution. As always, don't do anything risky to get these shots. Of course, your safety is most important to us.

And now, here are some photos that we've already gotten in.

LIN: Look at that. This one is from Donna, Fort Myers, Florida. She took this on Sunday morning after Dennis passed through. And you can take a look at this park. It's called Lazy Days Park. Not so lazy today.

It's located about four -- in north Fort Myers. "It's four small lakes," she says, "that we enjoy, and they're now part of our streets." She makes kind of a cute sarcastic remarks. "Thanks, Dennis, for giving us waterfront property."

NGUYEN: Well, this next picture is from Eric in Crestview, Florida. Oh, look at that roof right there. This is at the Econolodge in Crestview following Hurricane Dennis. It's also the same motel that we showed a little bit earlier, pictured by Rick Sanchez.

And you can see in here that the roof has really kind of shifted and coming off on the building. But we understand from Eric that the power never went out, which is pretty amazing, considering the damage that we're looking at.

LIN: Also, this one is from -- the next one there. Bill, from Mexico Beach, Florida, he took this picture because he wanted to show us how much the beach eroded. The pilings that you see there, the concrete on the pilings, showed where the beach used to be. So that looks like a good at least three feet of sand that got washed away by Hurricane Dennis.

Thanks very much, Bill, in Mexico Beach, Florida.

We want to encourage everybody...

NGUYEN: Keep those coming.

LIN: ... to continue to send their pictures. As you get out, please be careful, because we've been warned power lines may still be down.

NGUYEN: Right.

LIN: But we want to see those pictures, so In the meantime, CNN's extensive live coverage of the damage from Hurricane Dennis continues in just a moment.

NGUYEN: Next hour, we will check in with a storm chaser who has been pursuing Dennis for the past 24 hours. We'll also get the latest on Red Cross efforts to get relief supplies to those affected areas. So definitely stay with CNN, your hurricane headquarters.


ANNOUNCER: Before Ivan, Gilbert was one of the strongest hurricanes ever seen in the western hemisphere. The 1988 storm devastated Jamaica with winds clocked at 184 miles per hour, leaving 20 percent of all Jamaicans homeless. Property damages on the island total more than $1 billion.

Days later, Gilbert was downgraded to Category 3, but struck the Mexican coast south of Brownsville, Texas, with a ferocious one-two punch. Heavy rains and more than 29 tornados were reported.



NGUYEN: When the sun rises in the morning, things have to get better for some people living in Florida's Panhandle, because it certainly can't get any worse. Look at this. Ten-foot storm surges from a powerful Hurricane Dennis brought the region's worst flooding since the 1920s.

Good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen.

LIN: And I'm Carol Lin. Thanks very much for joining us for our special coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Dennis.

Officially, it's the hurricane that was. But what is now Tropical Storm Dennis is by no means done. Here's where we are right now. Authorities in Florida and Alabama say there are no reports of deaths or injuries. Still, more than 250,000 people now are without power in the Panhandle and southern Alabama. More than 200,000 people in Alabama don't have electricity at this hour.


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