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THE SITUATION ROOM

Following the Path of Tropical Storm Rita; Interview With Ted Turner

Aired September 19, 2005 - 15:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where news and information arrive at one place simultaneously. Standing by, CNN reporters across the U.S. and around the world to bring you the day's top stories.
Happening now, it's 3:00 p.m. in the Florida Keys, where a hurricane warning is up and thousands of people are under a mandatory evacuation. Florida is first. But where will Rita head next? It's 2:00 p.m. Central Time in New Orleans, where local officials are reopening one neighborhood, despite grave concerns among federal officials.

And it's 3:00 p.m. in New York, where CNN founder Ted Turner is standing by to talk to us live about the Katrina disaster, North Korea's nuclear program and much more.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A new threat is looming, even as the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina continues to unfold. The new threat, Tropical Storm Rita. It's almost certain to become a hurricane, and some computer models actually showing it hitting the Gulf Coast, possibly even New Orleans itself.

CNN's John Zarrella is in Key West, Florida, right now, directly in Rita's path. We will go to him shortly.

First, though, let's get the latest forecast from our meteorologist Bonnie Schneider at the CNN Weather Center.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: What do we know, Bonnie?

All right, Wolf, here's the latest information for you. Right now, Rita has strengthened. Maximum winds are at 70 miles per hour. And we're likely to see Rita become a hurricane as early as tonight. Under the gun in the immediate future, the Florida Keys. The track takes right it over or just south of the Florida Keys by tomorrow as a Category 2 hurricane. And, also, the storm will intensify, as it works its way into the Gulf of Mexico.

Now, our computer models, looking at 15 of them, do show a wide variance of where the storm will go once it heads into the Gulf. Note, once we go five days in advance, we have over 360 miles variance in error of where the storm will go. The National Hurricane Center, looking ahead to their guidance, points toward a Texas landfall by the weekend. But, once again, we are still looking pretty far out. One thing to note about Rita that looks pretty evident is that the storm will intensify to Category 3, possibly even Category 4 status. It's moving over those warm, deep warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, with little wind shear to break it apart. So, the immediate threat right now, the Florida Keys and then somewhere in the central or western Gulf Coast -- Wolf.

BLITZER: When Katrina went over South Florida, you remember, Bonnie, it was a Category 1, 75, 85 miles an hour. But as it moved through the Gulf of Mexico, the warm waters, it really built up to a 4 and even a 5 at one point. Do we expect a similar situation to unfold with Rita?

SCHNEIDER: Well, it certainly will intensify.

The same situation is there, with those warm, deep waters. We also have what's called a loop current, which means pockets of very deep, warm water in the Gulf of Mexico. So, if indeed the storm passes over one of those currents, that gives it almost like the shot that it needs to intensify quickly. And, looking at this track, we do see a pretty rapid intensification over the next few days. The more uncertain thing is where the storm will go once it gets into the Gulf. And we will be watching that for you very closely.

BLITZER: And because -- people in New Orleans are very nervous that the temporary fix around the levees that they have, the flood walls, they might not even withstand a serious rain, let alone a tropical storm or a hurricane. At this point, what are the weather officials suggesting as far as New Orleans specifically is concerned?

SCHNEIDER: Well, right now, there are no watches or warnings posted for the Gulf Coast, because we're still several days away for even the storm to be in the center of the Gulf of Mexico.

I would say just that the main message right now is just to be on guard and to be watching to see how strong Rita does get and the direction is takes. The main immediate threat at this moment right now is the Florida Keys, where we are expecting the very good possibly of a direct strike of a Category 2 hurricane.

BLITZER: All right, Bonnie, thank you very much. We will be checking back with you.

A hurricane warning is now up for Miami-Dade County in South Florida. These are live pictures, by the way, that we're getting in from our affiliate WPLG. And this is a live picture over Miami from our affiliate WSVN's helicopter further southwest in the Florida Keys. A mandatory evacuation order is now in effect there.

CNN's John Zarrella is joining us now live with more. Where exactly are you, John?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Wolf, we're right in downtown Key West on famed Duval Street. And, of course, in the middle of the afternoon on a Monday afternoon, you'd expect this to be packed with tourists -- not the case anymore.

Take a look down the street. All the businesses have been boarded up. They started very early this morning. All up and down Duval Street, everybody boarded up with plywood or with aluminum shutters. And that is a drastic change to yesterday, when this was just a tropical depression and there wasn't a great deal of concern here. People were partying here last night. But, very early this morning, that all changed.

We went from an evacuation of nonresidents and tourists this morning to an evacuation of residents in the lower Florida Keys. And by noon this afternoon, that had all changed to a mandatory evacuation for residents, for everybody in the Florida Keys. There's about 25,000 people in Key West, about 80,000 in Monroe County. There are no shelters open in Monroe County.

Of course, schools are going to be closed here tomorrow. And emergency managers are urging people to go to the mainland because of the distinct possibility that this storm, Rita, could be a hurricane, possibly a Category 2 and possibly making a direct hit over us.

Some of the first rain bands or outer edges of the storm -- you can see, we just had a little bit of a thunderstorm complex move through here, with some showers and some squally weather coming through. That's been the first evidence of any kind of weather activity today.

The storm is still a good distance away from us, Wolf. But, quite clearly, people here are taking this very, very seriously now, and many people are making the decision to head out and get back to the mainland -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, good advice, John. We will be checking back with you -- John Zarrella on the scene for us.

It's a landmark day in New Orleans, with one neighborhood called Algiers officially reopening, but not without some controversy. Mayor Ray Nagin on your left is eager to repopulate the city one zip code at a time. He says today's first phase is a test case that will show how feasible that is.

But Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad Allen, the man in charge of the federal response on the scene, has some serious concerns. He says Algiers may be ready, but there are still very serious health and safety concerns about other parts of New Orleans.

CNN's Mary Snow is on the scene for us there in New Orleans. She's watching the reopening of the Algiers neighborhood. She's joining us now live with more.

Mary, what is happening there?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we wanted to give you a perspective of where we are here in Algiers.

We're on the west bank, just across the Mississippi from New Orleans. And, you know, it's less than 10 miles away from New Orleans, but there's a very stark contrast in terms of the conditions here. There's drinkable water. There's electricity. Some people here even have cable. Now, this is the first part of that repopulation plan.

Residents have been coming back today. Some started even yesterday. This is one of the areas that suffered the least amount of damage from Hurricane Katrina. Some of the residents here in Algiers include the parents of Mayor Ray Nagin. They have returned to their homes.

And while there is running water and electricity, of course, there are no stores open here. There have been some relief posts, where people are handing out food supplies. FEMA is handing out water and ice. There has been some damage to homes. And the Army Corps of Engineers is handing out blue tarps.

Now, I spoke to one gentleman earlier by the name of Eddie Bell. He says that, even though the city has given the thumbs up to come back, he says he is concerned about disease and he is going to go back and join his family in Mississippi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDDIE BELL, RESIDENT OF ALGIERS: People that haven't gotten here yet, it's like -- it's nothing like you expected. When you come home, it's not home. So, I just got a lot of hard-core decisions I have to make. And, right now, I don't know what I'm going to do. I know for a fact, I cannot bring my family back to this environment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: Now, while Eddie Bell is concerned about disease, some other residents and many of them I spoke with today say also they are very concerned about Tropical Storm Rita.

They are watching it very closely, and, obviously, frightened of that. Now this is, as we mentioned, the first place where people are coming back. And Mayor Ray Nagin said that he wants to see how well it goes here in order to assess how quickly to bring back people in other communities, communities like the French Quarter and the central business district, which is right behind me.

Back there, there is no drinking water. There is no electricity. And those are real concerns, among other things. And he is expected to have an updated timeline of when he's trying to phase people in -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow, reporting for us from New Orleans, Mary, thank you very much.

And we will be bringing you stories like this one all week, as New Orleans tries to reopen and rebuild zip code by zip code. Our series is called "Coming Home," part of our commitment to bring you the most comprehensive coverage of the story unfolding throughout the Gulf region. There are new poll numbers out this hour showing most Americans think we will all have to make some sacrifices, so that the government can respond to the Katrina disaster, including higher taxes and cuts in benefit; 45 percent of those asked predict major sacrifices; 48 percent foresee minor sacrifices; 6 percent don't think they'll have to make any sacrifice at all.

There's quite a change in the numbers when people were asked what they are willing to do. Only 20 percent said they'd make major sacrifices, 64 percent minor sacrifices -- said minor sacrifices would be OK; 14 percent said they are not willing to make any sacrifice at all. We will have much more from our new poll. That's coming up in the next hour.

Time now for "The Cafferty File." CNN's Jack Cafferty is in New York and he's standing by live.

Jack, Hi.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How are you doing, Wolf? Happy Monday.

A couple thoughts. The first neighborhood in New Orleans to be reopened is the one where the mayor's parents live. Is that what Mary said?

BLITZER: Don't know.

CAFFERTY: Yes, I believe she did.

And what is the wisdom of starting to reopen neighborhoods in New Orleans, when there's another hurricane moving into the Gulf? I don't -- I'm not quite sure I understand that.

BLITZER: I don't know if, on Friday, when the mayor said that they wanted to reopen that part, they knew that Rita potentially -- potentially -- could be a problem.

CAFFERTY: Yes, but if potentially it could be a problem, then today they could say, you know what? We're going to put this off for a while.

BLITZER: They are meeting, by the way -- the mayor and Thad Allen, they're meeting in the next hour. So, we anticipate getting some word, whether the mayor wants to go through with that program.

CAFFERTY: Well, based on the great job they've done in the past, one can only guess at what they may come up with out of that meeting.

Anyway, on to other things, maybe a breakthrough, Wolf, or it could just be a scam. North Korea said today that it's ready to give up its entire nuclear weapons program. The agreement came during those six-party talks in Beijing. It was actually brokered by the Chinese. North Korea says it's going to allow the return of international inspectors. They were kicked out of that country three years ago, you will recall. And, in return, the other nations at the conference promised things like aid, diplomatic assurances and security guarantees. The chief American negotiator of those talks called the agreement a turning point. President Bush referred to it as a positive step. But he said it's important to follow up and see that all the parties stick to the agreement.

So, here's the question for this hour: Should North Korea be trusted? You got that weasely little guy that runs that place, Kim Jong Il, who has been known to play and loose with the truth on occasions in the past. But they need food. And they're, I guess, paranoid about their security. And got the United States, I think, to agree that we're not going to go over there and attack them or something.

Anyway, your thoughts, CaffertyFile -- one word -- @CNN.com -- back to you, Mr. Blitzer.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks, Jack.

We're going to talk about this very subject also coming up with Ted Turner, by the way, who was just in North Korea. You'll be interested in watching what he has to say.

Jack Cafferty, we will check back with him shortly.

And Ted Turner, as I said, will be joining us. We will talk about North Korea. We will also talk about Hurricane Katrina. Ted Turner standing by live.

And, a little bit later, hurricane 911, the heroes who stayed behind to offer comfort in the storm. Hear how it unfolded the night Katrina hit.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

War and peace, uniting nations at the U.N. and the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, all topics in the news right now and all subjects my next guest has some views on.

Ted Turner is our founder, the founder of CNN, the current chairman of Turner Enterprises. He's joining us now live from New York.

Ted, thanks very much for joining us.

TED TURNER, FOUNDER OF CNN: It's a pleasure being here, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to talk about the U.N., talk about your recent trip to North Korea, very much in the news, in a moment. But you watched Hurricane Katrina unfold. You've been back from North Korea for about a month or so. What went through your mind as you saw those awful pictures on television?

TURNER: Well, I watched the first night for three straight hours and then spent the entire night tossing and turning in bed, trying to figure out what, if anything, we could do.

And the next morning, the thought came to me that we could give a -- the Turner Foundation, my family foundation, could give a million dollars. That morning, we polled the other family members and they all voted unanimously to do that. Later that day, the next day, we called the Red Cross and told them we were transferring a million dollars of unrestricted funds to -- to be added to the -- to the aid program.

And we wanted to be out there and be one of the first, because we did it the first day of the -- first day of the storm.

BLITZER: The president, the other night, he took responsibility. I want you to listen to what he said in his speech. Listen to this in New Orleans Thursday night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When the federal government fails to meet such an obligation, I, as president, am responsible for the problem and for the solution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What did you make of that speech and the way he has responded over these weeks?

TURNER: Well, I think that that was -- that was very courageous of him. It was the proper thing for him to say. But I applaud him for doing that.

BLITZER: Did you think the federal government responded as inadequately as it did those first few days because it was basically incompetent or was there some malice there, something that was wrong in the response?

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: No, I am absolutely sure there was no malice there.

I am sure that, even though it looked that way because -- but the population of New Orleans, as I understand it, was predominantly urban and black anyway. So, most of the people that we saw that were having problems, that stayed there were black. And that just is the case. But I I don't -- I don't think that -- I don't think the government did anything malicious or wrong.

I think they did the best they could. I am just sorry that we weren't better prepared. BLITZER: I think everybody is sorry along those lines.

I want you to listen to what former President Bill Clinton said on "Meet the Press" yesterday when it came to the -- comes to the very sensitive issue of global warming and hurricanes. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MEET THE PRESS")

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think any person with a straight face can tell you that Katrina was caused by global warming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you agree with him on that?

TURNER: I -- yes.

I think one individual storm can't be caused by it. But I think that the -- the increasing number of hurricanes and the intensity of the hurricanes, which have about doubled, apparently, over the past 20 years, from the scientific papers that I have read, that the overall trend is -- is caused partially by global warming.

BLITZER: The word partially is significant, because we have looked at some of the hurricanes that occurred in the early part of the 1900s. Galveston had a Category 4, 8,000 people dead; 1928 in southeastern Florida, category 4, 2,500 people dead; Florida Keys, a Category 5 in 1935. There were about 10 of them, which were very significant, 3, 4 and 5's, in the early 1900s. And that's before this phenomenon of global warming came up, because all -- there are skeptics out there who say global warming has nothing to do with this.

TURNER: Well, global warming sure has a lot to do with the glaciers melting and a lot of other things.

But I think individual storms are like individual weather systems. They are all different. They are all different. And, remember, one reason that -- why those casualties were so great in the early 1900s is, we didn't have nearly as good a communication system. In the Galveston hurricane, I don't think the people were told to evacuate, like they were in New Orleans. If they hadn't evacuated -- most of the people, 90 percent, evacuated.

If they hadn't, the death toll would have been much, much higher.

BLITZER: They didn't have the communications capabilities in those days, clearly.

TURNER: They didn't have CNN.

BLITZER: Well, we're going to talk about that. I want to get your thoughts on how the news media did, when you created CNN in 1980, whether you thought we'd be covering stories like this. We also want to get into your trip to North Korea and the United Nations -- much more coming up with Ted Turner in just a moment. Plus, mandatory evacuation under way right now, Tropical Storm Rita putting the Florida Keys on alert. We will go live to the National Hurricane Center to find out the latest on the path of this storm.

Also, repopulating New Orleans. Is the city really ready? The mayor and the president disagree. We will take a closer look at that, much more.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The White House, as they say, is cautiously optimistic of a new pledge from North Korea to end its nuclear program. That announcement came today during six-party nuclear arms talks in Beijing.

In a statement, North Korea says it's -- quote -- "committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs." North Korea also says it wants to return to the treaty on -- on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons.

At the White House this morning, President Bush said he hopes North Korea lives up to its promise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: They have said, in principle, that they will abandon their weapons programs. And what we have said is, great. That's a wonderful step forward, but now we have got to verify whether or not that happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Trust, but verify, as they used to say.

We want to talk a little bit more about today's developments involving North Korea with CNN founder and chairman of Turner Enterprises Ted Turner. He's joining us once again from New York.

You spent some time recently in North Korea, Ted. Did this agreement come to you as a surprise?

TURNER: No.

No. I talked with quite a few of the North Korean leaders and South Korean leaders, too, and spent really the most time with the head negotiator for North Korea. And I was really over there to try and persuade North and South Korea to make the DMZ into an international peace park when they sign a peace treaty, which I anticipate will be fairly soon, now that we have these six-party talks -- we have agreement there.

But I had a great time. I am absolutely convinced that the North Koreans are absolutely sincere. There's really no reason -- no reason for them to cheat or do anything to violate this very forward agreement. I mean, I think we can put the North Korea and East Asia problems behind us and concentrate on Iran and Iraq, where we still have some ongoing difficulties.

BLITZER: I have got to tell you, Ted, given the record of North Korea, especially the fact that, in the Clinton administration in '93, '94, they made a similar pledge, which they violated and they backed out of, I'm not exactly sure that I accept all your optimism.

TURNER: Well, you know, I was optimistic about the Cold War when I got to Russia, too.

But I looked them right in the eyes. And they looked like they meant the truth. I mean, you know, just because somebody has done something wrong in the past doesn't mean they can't do right in the future or in the present. That happens all the -- all the time.

BLITZER: But this is one of the most despotic regimes. And Kim Jong Il is one of the worst men on Earth. Isn't that a fair assessment?

TURNER: Well, I didn't get -- I didn't get to meet him, but he didn't look -- in the pictures that I have seen of him on CNN, he didn't look too much different than most other people I have met.

BLITZER: But look at the way -- look at the way he's -- look at the way he's treating his own people.

TURNER: Well, hey, listen, I saw a lot of people over there. They were thin and they were riding bicycles, instead of driving in cars, but...

BLITZER: A lot of those people are starving.

TURNER: I didn't see -- I didn't see any -- I didn't see any brutality in the capital or out in the -- on the DMZ.

We went -- we visited, drove through the countryside quite a bit to get down to Panmunjom and Kaesong. We traveled around. I'm sure we were on a special route. But I don't see that -- there's really no reason -- North Korea has got enough problems with their economy and their agriculture. I think they want to join the Western world and improve the quality of life for their people, just like everybody -- everybody else.

And I think they're -- that we should give them another chance. It doesn't cost us anything. We already have agreements.

BLITZER: Well...

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: And then North Korea never posed any significant threat to the United States.

I mean, the whole economy of North Korea is only $30 billion a year. It's less than the city of Detroit. It's a small place. And we do not have to worry about them attacking us.

BLITZER: You know, they have a million troops within literally a few miles...

TURNER: A half-a-million.

BLITZER: Well, they have -- the best estimates are a million, a million troops along the DMZ.

TURNER: Yes. And we have a half-a-million troops, of which 28,000 are Americans. And they've been there for 50 years.

One of the things I said in both North and South Korea is, it's time to end the Korean War officially and move on and get those millions -- or hundreds of thousands of young men that are sitting there back building hospitals and roads and schools in North and South Korea and improving the gross national product. It's just a waste of time and energy for them just to sit there.

BLITZER: I think the bottom line, though, Ted -- and I think you'd agree -- they had this opportunity in the '90s, when they signed this first agreement and they cheated. They didn't live up to it. Now they have a second chance. I hope you're right. I certainly do.

TURNER: Well, I hope I'm right, too.

But you -- you know, it's -- in the Bible, it says you are supposed to forgive seven times 70 or something like that. But just because -- just because -- you know, I mean, in 1940, the Germans were our enemies. For the last 50 years, they've been our allies. Same with the -- the Russians were our enemies before '91, when the Cold War ended.

BLITZER: I hope...

TURNER: Give them a break. Give them a break.

And, besides, even if they do -- even if they do threaten us again, the threat is nonexistent to the United States. They can't threaten us. I mean, it's like a flea attacking an elephant.

BLITZER: What about those ground-to-ground missiles that they have? And the CIA...

TURNER: They can't reach us.

BLITZER: They can reach Japan. They can reach South Korea. They can reach a lot of our allies.

TURNER: They can't reach the USA, and we can pound them into oblivion in 24 hours.

BLITZER: But you don't want to get -- you don't want to get to that. There are some estimates, by the way, they could reach Alaska.

TURNER: Well, what, the Aleutian Islands? There's nothing up there but a few sea lions.

BLITZER: Well, you know, this is a serious issue. I hope you are right, as I said. But...

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: I know it's a serious issue. I mean, I didn't go over there to waste my time.

BLITZER: No, no, no, I'm just saying the point that you said that they never...

TURNER: Have you ever been there?

BLITZER: I've been to South Korea. I've been to the DMZ.

TURNER: Have you ever been to North Korea?

BLITZER: No, I've never been to North Korea.

TURNER: Well, you know, at least go up there and look in their eyes and have a chat with them before you -- before you accuse them of...

BLITZER: By the way, I've made several requests, but they haven't let me in to North Korea. But maybe if I...

TURNER: Well, you could go on your vacation.

BLITZER: Maybe if I go with you the next time...

TURNER: All right. I'll take you.

BLITZER: ... they'll let me in. And I'll look Kim Jong...

TURNER: I had (INAUDIBLE) Amanpour with me this time.

BLITZER: Kim Jong Il, I look at him in the eyes. And we'll see how he's doing.

A quick question, though, back to Katrina, before I let you go. When you created CNN in 1980, did you think of CNN doing the kind of work that we've been doing?

TURNER: Yes, of course.

BLITZER: Was that part of your vision?

TURNER: Of course. I mean, what were we going to do if we're on 24 hours a day? We were going to follow big stories until people lost interest in them.

BLITZER: Ted Turner, as usual, welcome back from North Korea. I hope that...

TURNER: And South Korea. BLITZER: I hope that this deal works. It's for the same of all of us. I hope it works. Appreciate your joining us, Ted.

TURNER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Next time you go, let me know. Maybe I'll go with you.

TURNER: OK.

BLITZER: All right. I want to go right to Ed Rappaport at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. He's got some additional information on Tropical Storm Rita.

Ed, what's the latest?

ED RAPPAPORT, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: The latest is that Tropical Storm Rita is stronger, very close to becoming a hurricane now. Maximum winds are near 70 miles per hour. And we think that intensification will continue. Rita will be a hurricane, as it moves up towards the Florida Keys. And could even be Category 2. We're very concerned particularly with the Florida Keys because of a potential storm surge of six to nine feet.

BLITZER: And what's the best estimate to what direction it might be moving?

RAPPAPORT: Right now, the hurricane -- or will be a hurricane soon, we think -- the tropical storm is moving toward the west- northwest about 14 miles per hour or so. We expect that track to continue, and that will take the center very close to the Florida Keys, as we said.

In the next 12 to 24 hours, there's a mandatory evacuation under way. We urge everyone to follow that advice. Today, this afternoon, evening, are the times to get out. By tomorrow morning, some of the lower lying part of the roadway out of the Keys, very well will be underwater.

BLITZER: Ed, what do you think about -- before we get to the Gulf of Mexico, southern -- south Florida, especially Miami-Dade. The populated areas, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, those areas right now. How much rain or whatever should they brace for?

RAPPAPORT: Right now if the track were to hold, the worst of the weather would to be the south of the peninsula, including the Miami- Dade county. However, this is going to have some extent to it and the storm could be a little bit farther to the north.

So we do have a hurricane warning for Miami-Dade County. We're looking at -- with a perfect forecast, perhaps, upwards of five inches of rain and maybe a three to five-foot storm surge, even in Miami-Dade County, with the center staying to the south. So hurricane warnings in effect for that county, as well.

BLITZER: And people watching us along the Gulf Coast, especially in New Orleans, what should go through their minds right now? RAPPAPORT: There is some risk later in the week, especially for the central and western Gulf. We have -- here our forecast and the center. This forecast to turn northward late in the forecast period over the central to western Gulf of Mexico, with the greatest risk being to Texas and perhaps as far east as Louisiana. And that's still four or five days out. You can't be specific yet, in terms of the impacts there. But we're talking about what's likely to be a major hurricane again, at least a Category 3, in the central to western Gulf late in the week.

BLITZER: And it will pick up speed, presumably, as it goes over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, just as Katrina did a few weeks back.

RAPPAPORT: That's right. And that's why we're forecasting a continuation of this strengthening trend. Both the ocean and the atmospheric conditions are favorable for strengthening.

BLITZER: Ed Rappaport, we'll be checking back with you, with Max Mayfield. Thanks for all your good work. We'll talk, unfortunately under these circumstances.

Ahead in THE SITUATION ROOM, Rita's threat to oil prices. Are they on their way back up?

And in Iraq, angry crowds versus a British tank. Two British soldiers are detained, and another is literally set on fire. We'll explain the situation. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The latest situation involving Tropical Storm Rita. You're seeing it unfold right there, potentially causing serious problems for south Florida, especially Key West, the Keys, perhaps as far north as Miami-Dade.

A lot of uncertainty still, but if it goes through the Florida straits as projected and gets into the Gulf of Mexico, it's presumably going to heat up significantly, go from a 1 potential, a hurricane Category 1, to a 2, maybe even a 3. Unclear where this hurricane would wind up. But there's serious concern along the Texas coast, as well as the Gulf Coast. We're tracking Tropical Storm Rita, expected to become a hurricane very, very soon.

A lot of Web sites, Web cams are also tracking Tropical Storm Rita. Our Internet reporters Jacki Schechner and Abbi Tatton are checking the situation online and they're joining us live. Guys, what are we seeing?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, Wolf, there's nothing fun about these storms. But there are definitely interesting ways to follow them online. Wanted to show you these first.

From "The Miami Herald" online at herald.com, not only all the information you might need to prepare for the storm, but also, their Web cams. One facing east and then the other facing west. Just interesting to follow the weather as it changes over time. These cameras will update every few seconds or so.

Another one we found from the Florida Keys, this is webcam.keywest.com. They have various different locations all over the city of Key West. But we thought this was interesting. If you've ever been down there, this is a Hog's Breath Saloon, the famous Hog's Breath Saloon. We checked it out earlier in the day, and there were people going about their business as if nothing was going on. Now you can see how it is empty and all boarded up. The other one, Southernmost Resort. You can take a look at how the weather is tracking.

The other thing we wanted to show you -- we've looked a this before -- is weathermatrix.net. They've got weather cams all throughout the country by city. And Abbi is going to talk about how some of those other cities are reacting. You can check in with these Web cams as the storm moves along.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Right. Where is the storm going to go next? That's what some of the local online news sites are wondering and watching very carefully. Nola.com, "The Times Picayune" in Louisiana, this was the New Orleans site that was following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Doing such an excellent job of that, even being -- because they were evacuated from their buildings in New Orleans and had to move. They are now noticing that Louisiana is in the cone of the hurricane. Watching very closely there.

Also, "The Houston Chronicle." They have been monitoring for the Texas coast. Will the storm hit Galveston? Looking at the models there, the photo on the site, "Hey, Bartender, one Rita on the rocks to go!" Obviously, Galveston was the site of the 1900 hurricane that was so devastating. So, local news sites watching very carefully in Texas and Louisiana -- Wolf.

BLITZER: OK, guys. We'll be checking back with you. We're getting some live pictures in from Miami-Dade County in south Florida. Take a look at this. These are sandbags that they're getting ready in case this hurricane does cause flooding problems for that area. These are live pictures, courtesy of our affiliate WSVN. They are sandbagging, already worried about Tropical Storm Rita, expected to be Hurricane Rita very, very soon. We'll continue to track this storm for you, our viewers, and bring in these live pictures as they become available.

CNN has been reporting live from the headquarters of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children virtually since Hurricane Katrina tragically tore so many families apart.

Our Brian Todd is on the scene for us in Alexandria, Virginia -- that's just outside the nation's capital -- with more on what's going on -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the news here today, as they just get ready for a shift change here at the call center where the Katrina missing persons hotline is set up. The news is that for the 15th straight day -- that is 15 days that this center has been set up -- the numbers of missing children has gone up. The latest numbers that we were just handed, 2,393 at this hour, are still listed as missing.

But there are many success stories, as well. Eight hundred and 83 cases have been resolved by the volunteers, who you're looking at. They have been working 16 hours a day. Many more yet to resolve, however. We're going to put some names up on the screen.

Lindsey Dumser. She is 15 years old. Last known to be with her father in Metairie, Louisiana. Her father also has gone missing and it is not known if Lindsay is with her father. So they need help in trying to find Lindsay Dumser.

Back to Mississippi now. Felicia Clark. She is 13 years old. She went missing with two other children. Their names are Elizabeth Barnett (ph), eight years old and Robert Bryant, 14 years old. We cannot confirm if they are her siblings. However, they were last known to be with a mother figure in Lumberton, Mississippi.

Very quickly, a third one. Hannah Ellis, five years old. Last known to be at home in Kiln, Mississippi, with an adult female.

They're looking for those kids. If you have any information, please call 1-800-THELOST. And that is it from here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you very much. And to our viewers, if you see the pictures, as obviously you do on the left part of your screen, we've been doing that now for several days. If you have any information, this is a good time to get in touch with the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. You see how to do so on the screen. We're going to continue to show you these pictures. Hopefully, we can reunite some families.

Up next -- President Bush calls it a positive step. But can North Korea actually be trusted to do what it promises, giving up its nuclear program? Jack Cafferty has been going through your e-mail. He'll join us. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: CNN's Zain Verjee joining us now from the CNN Center in Atlanta with a quick look at some other stories making news. Hi, Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.

An Iraqi court has sentenced a relative of Saddam Hussein to life in prison. The ousted Iraqi president's nephew was sentenced today for charges of bankrolling insurgents and possessing bombs. Ayman Sabawi was captured in March near Tikrit. He faces another hearing on charges that he emerged -- or rather that emerged during his first trial. The court has not revealed the nature of the new charges.

Violence directed at Britons erupted in the Iraqi city of Basra today. Angry crowds attacked and burned a British tank with rocks and gasoline bombs. Witnesses said a soldier was engulfed in flames as he scrambled out of the tank. the attack happened after Iraqi authorities in Basra detained two British undercover soldiers for shooting at police.

Officials hope to have certified results from yesterday's elections in Afghanistan by October 22nd. Ballots were taken under heavy guard today to counting centers. Millions of Afghans went to the polls yesterday to choose a new national assembly. They did so, despite a Taliban call for a boycott and threats of violence by militants. Still, turnout was lower than expected, about 50 percent. Wolf, back to you in THE SITUATION ROOM.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Zain. Good to have you back. We'll check back with you very, very soon.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He's been going through your e-mail. Remind our viewers what the question is, Jack.

CAFFERTY: North Korea said today it will give up its entire nuclear weapons program and allow international inspectors to return to that country. They were kicked out of there three years ago. In return, the other countries at those six-party talks in Beijing agreed to aid diplomatic assurances and security guarantees for North Korea. The question this hour is should North Korea be trusted.

Mike in Columbia South Carolina writes, what part should be trusted? The part where Kim Jong Il said 30 years ago when he promised his dying father he'd reunite the two Koreas into one country, or the lying part where he says he'll stop developing weapons, but wants to keep nuclear weapons options for peaceful purposes. He's beginning to remind me of a Washington politician. If their lips are moving, they ain't telling the truth and keep your hand on your wallet.

Amanda writes, inspect. If North Korea's compliant, feed them abundantly beyond their expectations with the understanding that should nuclear development be reinstated in the next ten years there will be no discussion. We will act without warning or restraint.

Kenneth writes, trust will be determined by behavior. Kim Jong Il does not have a good track record; however, he may be serious this time, because his people are suffering and he doesn't want to be assassinated by one of his guards. Hungry stomachs and poverty know no loyalty.

Jason in Scottsdale, Arizona. North Korea is an autonomous nation and has the right to defend itself. We need to stop being the world's police and guard dog. Sure North Korea should be trusted, just as much as our own intelligence on the Iraq WMD issue.

And Bill in Leesburg, Florida, writes, trusting North Korea is like hurrying home to a promise. You might just well stop off with the guys for that beer it will make adjusting to the mood swings easier.

BLITZER: All right, Jack. Thank you very much. A lot of good e-mail as I expected there would be. Stand by. We're going to get back to you in the next hour. And we have much more coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll return to New Orleans for a live update on the first residents going back home again. Is it too much, too soon?

And next, the former Tyco executives that are slapped with tough sentences for robbing the company of hundreds of millions of dollars. How long will they serve? Our Ali Velshi will have "The Bottom Line."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Almost time for the markets to close and the closing bell. Let's check once again with CNN's Ali Velshi in New York for a little bit more on what's going on -- Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well one of the big things going on today was the sentencing for Dennis Kozlowski and Mark Swartz, formerly of Tyco. The two of them for sentenced for their convictions in taking some money from the company. Both getting eight-and-a-third to 25 years in state court here in New York.

And, Wolf, this is the first major CEO case that's been in a state court as opposed to a federal court. Bernie Ebbers and John Rigas of Adelphia were both federal court. Eight-and-a-third to 25 years, $235 million in restitution. Or course you remember, Wolf, there was this whole business about the lavish parties in the Mediterranean and, you know, the $2 million party that Dennis Kozlowski, who you see there, threw for his wife, and the fancy shower curtain and all that kind of stuff. So these guys are going to go to jail. There is an appeal pending. We'll see what happens there. But that was -- that had some influence on activity today.

The other thing that market watchers are watching, tomorrow the Fed is meeting to make a decision on interest rates. They've raised interest rates 10 straight times a quarter point apiece. Betting right now is that they will again. That of course challenges -- that causes some inflation, and that's causing investors to worry about it. So right now we're looking at markets that were a lot lower today in part because of that. In part because of oil, which I told you closing up $4.39 a barrel for a barrel of light sweet crude oil in New York trading to $67.39. This is on fears of Hurricane Rita.

(MARKET REPORT)

BLITZER: All right. Ali, thank you very much. It's 4:00 p.m. here in Washington, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where news and information from around the world arrive at one place simultaneously.

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