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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
The Threat of Hurricane Wilma; Tom DeLay in Court; Suspicious Package Found Inside Vehicle Near U.S. Capitol
Aired October 21, 2005 - 10:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hurricane Wilma rushes ashore in Mexico, as you heard Kurt Jansen describe, as Floridians prepare for the powerful storm. Live reports straight ahead.
Plus, bird flu concerns. Can government officials get a handle on the deadly virus before it hits the U.S.? We'll get some answers from Dr. Anthony Fauci.
The second hour of CNN LIVE TODAY begins right now.
Here's a look at what's happening "Now in the News."
Former House majority leader Tom DeLay made his first appearance in court on conspiracy and money laundering charges last hour. But his arraignment was delayed after his lawyer requested a new judge. Just minutes ago, DeLay spoke to reporters, calling the judges against him baseless and politically motivated.
Some anxious moments on the New York subway system this morning. Smoke pouring from a grate above one station. It forced several trains in nearby tunnels to stop. It turns out the smoke was from a small electrical fire in a storeroom. There are no reports of injuries.
A lawyer for one of Saddam Hussein's co-defendants has been killed in Iraq. Police say Sadoon al-Janabi was found shot to death after he was kidnapped last night. Janabi represented the former chief judge of Hussein's revolutionary court. The judge, along with Hussein and six others, are charged in a 1982 massacre in the town of Dujail.
A woman accused of throwing her three children into the San Francisco Bay is due in court today. Lashaun Harris faces three counts of murder. Relatives say Harris has been battling schizophrenia. According to a police report, Harris says she was hearing voices in her head.
Hello again. And welcome to CNN LIVE TODAY.
It is 10:00 in Cancun, Mexico; 11:00 a.m. here in Atlanta, Georgia; and 6:00 p.m. in Baghdad.
From the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in for Daryn Kagan.
Hurricane Wilma bears down on Mexico as Florida braces for the powerful storm. Wilma's outer eye wall is battering the coast of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. Winds and waves are pounding Cancun after the outer eye wall came ashore in the island of Cozumel.
South Florida is preparing for Wilma's arrival. Residents are piling up sandbags and boarding up their homes. The storm is now expected to make landfall there sometime Monday.
Mandatory evacuations for residents of the Florida Keys have been postponed due to Wilma's delayed arrival. Officials say they'll confer with forecasters today to see if evacuations should be ordered tomorrow.
We have reporters all along Hurricane Wilma's projected path from Mexico to Cuba, and across south Florida. We'll be checking with them this hour and throughout the day.
The winds from Hurricane Wilma are lashing the resort city of Cancun. Our Susan Candiotti is riding out the storm there, along with residents and some stranded tourists.
Susan joins us now by videophone -- Susan.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, it is impressive that there is still power at this seaside hotel. I can't speak to all of them, but it is here.
Normally this time of year you've got about 70 percent occupancy anyway for the season. In any case, all of the people who were situated in all of these hotels were ordered out yesterday by authorities. Some of them were able to make it out through the airports. Others who were stranded here were moved out of these hotels and moved to downtown hotels. (INAUDIBLE) are being used as shelters.
Some of the hotels are sharing space with the other guests. And they are holed up in ballrooms.
I spoke to some of those people. And they were here obviously on vacation, on honeymoons. Some were scheduled to leave tomorrow. I think it's fair to say, they are not going to be going anywhere anytime soon.
If I move just beyond this wall, we are talking wind speeds of 40 miles per hour. You can see just how much -- my jacket is whipping. I have to hold onto the wall.
WHITFIELD: All right, Susan. Obviously the winds are indeed kicking up, especially when you go on the other side of that wall, because we have lost the ability to be able to hear you. But we can certainly see the effects that Hurricane Wilma is having there.
Susan Candiotti there joining us via videophone in Cancun.
Well, even a weekend Wilma could be disastrous for the Florida Keys. Residents up and down the keys are boarding up. Authorities there may order them off the island as early as tomorrow. CNN's Kareen Wynter is live this morning from Key West.
And Kareen, earlier they thought it would be today they would try to begin those mandatory evacuations. And now because of the delay of the storm, they're going to do it tomorrow possibly now?
KARREN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The latest word, Fred, is that even has been put on hold, the evacuations we were told for Saturday. So now it's anybody's guess, really, when they'll order those mandatory evacuations for the Florida Keys. And that's because Florida officials are trying their best to figure out the projected landfall as they listen to the latest weather reports to see the path of Wilma. And so now everything's on hold indefinitely.
We are also experiences some messy weather conditions here. A little bit of thunder and lightning. It's raining lightly.
And earlier in the morning, we followed some wind activity forming. But it hasn't deterred the traffic that you can see forming behind me on the busy Duvall Street in downtown Key West. Despite the fact that businesses are boarded up, some people are going about their day-to-day activity, really trying to decide whether or not they are going to evacuate or not.
I can tell you, earlier in the week, some people did decide to evacuate. Not only those with special needs, but also tourists and nonresidents, and also residents alike.
That's right. They boarded buses at strategic points here on the island headed to a shelter in Miami. They didn't want to take any chances. And even then, Fred, we heard so much frustration from people saying, we're wondering if this is premature.
I bet, you know, learning about the status right now, the fact that those evacuations are on hold, some people are having a second thought on that. But despite all of that, the mayor of Key West is urging the community to remain patient.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MORGAN MCPHERSON, KEY WEST, FLORIDA: We had obviously a little bit more time than planned, and putting it into -- implementing and making sure that it goes forward. So -- and the best thing that we have going for us is that we've had a frequency this year that we haven't had in the past. So everybody's kind of used to it and getting ready, and they are not ignoring it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WYNTER: And while there's no timeline set on when those mandatory evacuations will kick in for the Florida Keys or for Key West, they are saying to residents, especially those who may be hearing the report right now, to evacuate. That's because there's a concern that hotels may be filling up quickly as people move further north out of here -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Kareen Wynter. Thank you so much from Key West.
Well, a little wobble north, and Wilma could bear down on Naples and Fort Myers. Those towns barely escaped widespread damage from Charley, and that was just 14 months ago.
CNN's Jeanne Meserve joins us now from Naples.
And I imagine, Jeanne, folks are really nervous there.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a very mixed reaction. Some are nervous, some seem pretty casual.
We traveled down to the community of Marco Island, about 20 miles south of us. Prime coastal real estate with an assessed value of $9 billion. There are hotels, condos, multimillion-dollar homes. And so, for authorities there, safety is one concern. But security is another.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF ROGER REINAE, MARCO ISLAND, FLA. POLICE: We actually have extra staff working. For the police department, we'll be patrolling the roads, making sure the neighborhoods are secure. Everybody who evacuates, that their homes are safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MESERVE: The hotels on Marco Island telling people to get out because of a mandatory evacuation order for Collier County that goes into effect at noon today. But the back end of it has been extended from noon on Saturday to 8:00 a.m. on Sunday because Wilma is taking her time getting here.
Very mixed reactions to that fact. Some people quite frustrated this storm just doesn't hurry up and get here. But other people expressing relief that residents and visitors here will have more time to either get ready or get out -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right. Jeanne Meserve in Naples, Florida. Thank you so much.
Well, what is Wilma doing? We know that Max Mayfield at the National Hurricane Center said yesterday it is going to be a real challenge, this storm.
Meteorologist Bonnie Schneider is in the weather center.
And he was right.
BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, that's right. Unfortunately. But we do have an update for you.
This is the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center. And it indicates that Wilma has slowed down a bit, but also started to make that northerly turn. Right now, the movement to the north at about five miles per hour, north-northwest actually. So we are starting to see more of a movement to the north, which is some good news, meaning that the storm isn't working its way directly on land. But certainly the eye wall is coming close enough to Cozumel and to Cancun, that you saw Susan Candiotti's report.
Unfortunately, things there are going to get worse as some of the strongest winds from this Category 4 storm work their way along the Yucatan peninsula. Remember, hurricane-force winds extend outward of 85 miles, and right now the storm's center is about 30 miles from Cozumel, which is this tiny island right here. So when you're talking about the strongest winds, that's inside.
If we open up a hurricane, you'll see the strongest winds right here in the eye wall. And that's the part that will be affecting the coastal sections of the Yucatan, dumping tremendous amount of rain, and certainly causing a lot of wind damage as well. But the rainfall totals could get as high as 20 inches.
This is a look at our radar estimates, and it does show some of the heaviest rain coming into the Yucatan right now. And it certainly is not over yet, because when you look at the track -- this is the latest updated track -- it has the storm kind of stalling out a little bit and moving very slowly over the Yucatan straight through Saturday, but then eventually working its way towards Florida as we get closer to Monday.
And it looks like that's where we are expecting our landfall, sometime on Monday, rather than Saturday or Sunday, because of the slower movement of Wilma -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much. Bonnie Schneider.
Well, in just a few minutes, at the half-hour, an update on Hurricane Wilma from the experts at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Live coverage on CNN at 11:30 Eastern.
And if you get up close with Wilma this weekend, send us your storm photos, videos and stories. Log on to CNN.com/hurricane. And of course don't put yourself in harm's way when shooting any video or taking any pictures.
Well, with the number of hurricanes we've had this year, it almost seems as if there's a machine out there churning them out. But the information and the formation of a hurricane occurs only under very few specific circumstances.
Here are the facts.
DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): There are a few conditions that are absolutely necessary for a hurricane to form. First, the water must be at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Researchers say the ocean must be that temperature to about 150 feet deep. That's why they form only during certain times of the year.
The second condition is that atmosphere must be cool enough to turn evaporated moisture into condensation. That's true for pretty much any storm.
The third condition is that the formation must be at least 300 miles from the equator. It requires the presence of the Coriolis Force, a force caused by the rotation of the Earth on its axis but one that does not occur at the equator.
The fourth condition is that there can't be too much vertical wind shear that can disrupt the hurricane's formation.
Now, just because these conditions are met doesn't mean a hurricane will form. But without them, it's safe to say it won't.
WHITFIELD: His day in court. Tom DeLay smiles for the camera and faces the judge. We'll go live to Austin for a live report on the congressman's legal troubles.
Plus, the Saddam Hussein trial takes a very strange turn. A lawyer for one of Hussein's co-defendants has been killed. We'll go live to Baghdad.
And controlling the spread of bird flu. Can the government get a handle on this deadly virus before it strikes here in the U.S.? Dr. Anthony Fauci joins us straight ahead when CNN LIVE TODAY returns.
(STOCK MARKET REPORT)
WHITFIELD: Texas Congressman Tom DeLay appeared in court last hour. He's facing conspiracy and money laundering charges.
CNN's Sean Callebs is at the courthouse in Austin this morning.
And we've heard from just about all the parties involved, haven't we?
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, exactly. Everything happened pretty quickly today. And all things considered, what DeLay had to go through the last couple of days went pretty smoothly for him.
The court appearance today just a matter of minutes. Tom DeLay's attorney, Dick DeGuerin, standing up and saying he would like the judge, Bob Perkins, in this case to recuse himself, saying that over the years, since the investigation into DeLay has been going on, the judge in this case has made numerous donations to John Kerry when he was running for president, to the Democratic National Committee, as well as the liberal organization MoveOn.org. The judge is now going to have a senior judge hear the case and decide whether Perkins should remain on this case. After that, basically proceedings came to a halt for the day until that is going to be settled.
Meanwhile, DeLay a short while ago, not terribly far from where we are, on the state capitol steps, said overall this has been a good day for him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TOM DELAY (R), TEXAS: I have committed no wrongdoing. I know that, and more importantly, Ronnie Earle knows that.
You may be surprised to hear this from me today, but I find this is a very good day. For the first time in over three years, I was provided the opportunity to go before a court and refute these baseless charges that are the result of a political vendetta being acted out by Ronnie Earle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CALLEBS: Now, Ronnie Earle is the prosecutor in this case, a Democrat. DeLay maintains that this is all a political vendetta.
Now, DeLay has been charged with conspiracy, as well as money laundering in connection with an 102-year-old state election code. For his part, Earle says that politics has nothing to do with this, that he is simply seeking justice in this case.
Now, for his part -- also, Earle is confident that Perkins is going to be allowed to stay on this case. And Earle thinks that the judge can be very impartial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONNIE EARLE, TRAVIS COUNTY, TEXAS, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: This judge has a record of fairness to all who come before his bench. And again, membership in a political party does not determine the quality of justice in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CALLEBS: And a couple of other important motions were also out today. DeLay's legal team would like a change of venue. They want this case moved out of one of the last Democratic strongholds in the state of Texas, Travis County, and here in Austin. And also, they want the entire case thrown out. They say there's simply no merit to it -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right. Sean Callebs. Thank you so much from Austin, Texas.
Wilma's wrath. Already pounding tourist hotspots of Cancun and Cozumel, when will this storm hit the U.S.? We'll have the latest on that. Plus, a deadly development in the trial of Saddam Hussein. One of his co-defendant's lawyers murdered and kidnapped. A report from Baghdad coming up.
WHITFIELD: In about seven minutes from now, it's expected that that man right there in that chair at the National Hurricane Center, Max Mayfield, will be addressing reporters, giving us the latest update on Hurricane Wilma and its potential. We'll take that live when it happens.
Meantime, in Iraq, an attorney representing one of Saddam Hussein's co-defendants has been killed. Sadoon al-Janabi was found shot to death after he was kidnapped from his office yesterday.
CNN's Aneesh Raman is tracking the story. He joins us live from Baghdad with the very latest.
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fredricka, good morning.
Sadoon al-Janabi's body found late Thursday evening. As you say, a gunshot to the head. It came just hours after he was abducted by at least five armed men from his office. His body was not identified until this morning.
Janabi was the lawyer for Awar Bandar (ph), the former chief judge of the republican court, the court under Saddam Hussein. He is a man that is charged with sentencing the 143 villagers of Dujail to death after Saddam Hussein survived an assassination attempt in July of 1982. Bandar is a man who appeared next to Saddam Hussein in court.
Now the government, according to a spokesman, says that they offered security to all of the defense attorneys, that Sadoon al- Janabi declined that offer. It is unclear at the moment whether the other defense attorneys have decided to take that security, or whether they are staying with their denial of that offer as well at this time.
Also unclear is what impact this could have in delaying the proceedings. The trial that began on Wednesday was adjourned until November 28. But we do expect a session of some sort on Sunday, when a witness will give testimony, a detainee who was critically ill. It's unclear whether that date will be pushed and whether there will be any impact on that November 28 trial date -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right. Aneesh Raman in Baghdad. Thank you very much.
A U.N. report links top Syrian officials to the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. Hariri was an outspoken critic of Syria's involvement in Lebanon. His assassination sparked a wave of protests that eventually led to Syria's withdrawal of its troops from Lebanon. The U.N. report implicates high-ranking Syrian officials in plotting the February bomb attack that killed Hariri, including the brother and brother-in-law of President Bashar al-Assad. In an interview with CNN's Christine Amanpour last week, President Assad denied Syria was involved.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BASHAR AL-ASSAD, SYRIA: This is against our principle and my principle. And would never do such a thing in any my life.
What do we achieve? What do we achieve?
I think what happened targeted Syria. That will affect our relations with the Lebanese people and with most other countries. So we wouldn't do it because it's against our interests, and it's against my principle. I would never do it. It's impossible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, meets today with the prosecutor leading the investigation into Hariri's assassination.
Hurricane Wilma bearing down on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. When will the U.S. start feeling the effects of this storm? We'll bring you the latest update.
Plus, a live report from Florida when CNN LIVE TODAY returns.
WHITFIELD: In the nation's capital, Capitol Police are investigating a suspicious package that was left in a parked car on the 100th block of 1st Street Northwest.
Our Ed Henry is on the phone with us right now.
And Ed, describe what's taking place there.
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, I'm outside the Capitol here. There's a tremendous amount of police activity. It's been increasing over the last 10 minutes or so. And CNN now has two sources telling us that there is at least one individual in a vehicle right around 1st and Constitution Avenue.
As you mentioned, that's extremely close to the Capitol. And these two sources are telling us that this man claims -- he claims there is a bomb in the vehicle. That's why there is so much police activity. I cannot get too close to the action of the scene. I am a couple of blocks down. I can tell you there are a lot of police vehicles, a lot of individual police officers. They've closed off several streets around the capital. There are also fire trucks that have arrived. This has been arriving over the last 10 to 15 minutes. And as I mentioned, it's been increasing in terms of activity right around us. We are now at about Third and Pennsylvania Avenue northwest, right on the National Mall, where we understand the Capitol Police is setting up a staging area to talk to the media about what they know.
But again, two sources telling CNN that a man in a vehicle is talking to police and claiming that he has a bomb -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right, Ed Henry, thank you so much for that update. We'll be checking again with you as investigators, Capitol Police, try to sort out what is to come of that suspicious package, and the man they are questioning.
Now, to Coral Gables, Florida for an update now on Hurricane Wilma from the director of the Hurricane Center, Max Mayfield.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
MAX MAYFIELD, DIRECTOR, NATL. HURRICANE CENTER: Extremely dangerous. The eye wall is going to go over Cozumel and Cancun area as we speak. They're getting the worst of it right now, and now it's going to be a long couple of days there for the Yucatan Peninsula. I'll talk a little bit more about the forecast of that intensity as we go along here. The track forecast, I'll show you what the most likely scenario is now.
By the way, we issued the first advisory on Wilma last Saturday, October the 15th. And we've been coordinating with the different countries in the Caribbean, you know since then. In fact, that first Saturday we coordinated the warnings with the Cayman Islands on Monday. We coordinated the warnings with Honduras, Tuesday with both Mexico, and Belize and Cuba. So we have a very close working relationship. And I can assure thaw we are still talking to the folks down there on a daily basis.
The hurricane warnings go out for most of the Yucatan Peninsula right now, hurricane watches for the western portion of Cuba, along with tropical storm watches -- I'm sorry, tropical storm warnings for western Cuba. We still don't have lots of warnings up for the United States yet, and we'll likely not be putting them up today. There is a possibility we will put them up some time during the day tomorrow.
Now, let me share a couple of scenarios here that could play out, and it really has a big, big impact on what happens to the United States downstream here. We are flying our NOAA jet in and around the hurricane, back-to-back missions here as long as we can. The jet data showing us that we still have a ridge of high pressure in play for the Gulf of Mexico. That could turn the hurricane back a little more towards the west. And it makes a big difference how long it lingers over the Yucatan. If it stays over the Yucatan for any significant length of time and much of the circulation is over land, this hurricane, well, that would obviously be terrible news for Mexico, but for the United States' interest, it means that we'll have a weaker hurricane coming out from the Gulf of Mexico of Mexico, and it will be slower in getting here.
If, on the other hand, Wilma just clipped the northeastern coast of the Yucatan, then it will likely be a much stronger hurricane into the Gulf of Mexico, and if it makes that turn to the north sooner, it'll start coming across the Florida Keys and the southern portion of the peninsula earlier than forecast.
So we still have a consistent forecast on the track. It's the timing that is at most concern here.
This is Friday. We are heading into a weekend. And the message is that we really want everybody in the Florida Keys and the southern portion of the Florida peninsula to pay very, very close attention to this. We're almost used to surprises with these hurricanes.
And what I don't want to see happen is for this to clip the Yucatan and then start racing out to the northeast faster than we are currently forecasting. There is still some possibility that that could happen. But the most likely scenario is for it to linger over the Yucatan, and actually be near the Yucatan channel even in two day's time, meaning a weaker hurricane and a slower-moving hurricane.
Now, I also wanted to share a little bit about the coordination process that goes on. This is important. Right before every advisory is issued to the National Hurricane Center, we have a hurricane hotline call with all the local weather forecast offices along the United States coastline and the impacted area, with the department of defense, with the rainfall forecasts in Washington, with the tornado forecasts in Norman. There's a tremendous team effort there on the coordination right before the advisory goes out.
And then after the advisory's issued, within 15 minutes -- in fact we just finished up a conference call with the state of Florida. Under Craig Fugate's supervision up there in Tallahassee, the emergency operation center, we've been talking to those folks, and very importantly, all of the counties within the state that are potentially impacted. All of those EOCs and our local force officers, and so there's a tremendous amount of hand holding that goes on, and I can assure thaw Florida Governor Jeb Bush is very involved in this. He's been on the conference calls, even yesterday, with the Hurricane Center and the counties.
And in addition to that, we participate in a teleconference with FEMA. This working very well. Also FEMA invites the state of Florida in on that. Governor Bush had been involved in that. So we're -- you know, there's a lot of coordination that goes on there. And my point is that as we -- you know, we can't talk to every individual here. But we are talking to key officials at the local and state levels, and it's important for people to listen to the advice of their local officials. Different areas have different variables.
And, please, as we head into the weekend here, continue to monitor the hurricane, listen to the media reports, listen to what those local officials are telling you to do, in regard to evacuation, and shuttering and thing like that.
And having said that, it still all comes down to that individual taking that personal responsibility and knowing exactly what to do if the hurricane does head for their community. Now the first likely area to be impacted will be Monroe County of the Florida Keys in the United States.
And we've got our friend Billy Wagner here, the senior emergency manager director for Monroe County -- Billy.
BILLY WAGNER, EMERGENCY MGMT. DIR., MONROE CO.: Good morning, Max. Thank you very much. And good morning, everyone.
We feel very comfortable with plans and procedures that we have in place, and we have them ready to be implemented. Our phased evacuation of a resident population in the Keys on hold right now. When the time comes for the evacuation orders, they will be issued, and we want everyone to be ready to implement their personal hurricane plan and evacuate timely.
I want you to know that the hospital in the Keys will be closed once the evacuation orders are issued. We will have limited emergency-service capabilities once that takes place. We have no hurricane shelters in the Keys that will be open.
Our primary shelter on the Keys is Florida International University Facility here in Miami. We presently have over 100 people in that facility right now. I've been told that the hotels and motel accommodations are becoming very scarce throughout the state, and specifically north of the Gold Coast there.
We do have available transportation being provided in the Keys for those who do not have it and need to be transported to FIU. Florida's Division of Emergency Management told me that they have adequate shelters available in host counties. But of course most people won't want to go to shelters, so they should start leaving as soon as possible if they are seeking a place to stay inland.
Our airports will be closed once the evacuation order is issued. We know traffic will be very heavy. We do close coordination, and have been, with our adjacent counties, Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and specifically (INAUDIBLE). I've learned that there's a mandatory evacuation order now in place south of U.S. 41, and that takes in Marco Island, Everglade City and Shocklovsky (ph). And most people are traveling to the east, so that's going to compound our evacuation. You've got to remember that Dade County has a full workday today, and traffic's going to be very heavy as usual in the afternoon.
It's critical that everybody in our county pays very close attention to the orders so we can implement this. And one thing they've got to remember, once we have tropical storm conditions in the upper Keys, our primary road that's connecting Key Largo to the mainland is going to become closed and inundated from the storm surge.
One thing I wanted to point out, one of our major tourist attractions, Fantasy Fest, was scheduled to start today, and we have other events in the Keys and Marathon and also Alamerada (ph) that are on hold. And information regarding those events can be found on the Internet at flakeys.com.
And I want to close by saying those in the Keys that decide to ride this out, remember, there's no inland to go. And you're going to be there for the duration of the system.
MAYFIELD: And it's so important to remember for the folks visiting in the Keys that the road, that US-1, may go under. Even up in the northern part of the Keys, when the winds get up to tropical storm force. Those tropical storm force winds extend out about 200 miles away from the eye of Hurricane Wilma. So once that road gets cut off, that's it. People are not going to be able to get out.
And we may not have as strong a hurricane as we have right now coming toward the United States, here ultimately. But it's still going to be a strong enough hurricane that it's going to have an impact. And people really need to heed the advice of their local officials.
We have about three or four minutes for questions before we do this in Spanish. Yes, ma'am?
QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) even with all the technology that you have to cover the storm, how frustrating has it been, now that you've seen the storm continue to slow down? And (INAUDIBLE) when it comes down to it, still don't know where the (INAUDIBLE) actually is.
MAYFIELD: I think the question is how frustrating is this, with the uncertainty of the track. And, you know, we deal with this more than we'd like to, obviously. It reminds me a little bit of Hurricane Francis last year. At least with Francis, you know, we had watches and warnings out as it was coming to the Bahamas and it stalled. And, you know, we didn't think it would ever get here.
So at least we don't have watches and warnings in effect yet. But this is a good thing. This gives us more time. The one good thing is it gives us more time to make our preparations here. Everything we see says it's still coming. Don't let our guard down yet. This is, you know, we just have to deal with that uncertainty. And I think one reason that the National Hurricane Center has the credibility that we have is we have been very honest with people in letting people know the uncertainty involving the forecast.
QUESTION: Yes, it's Chris Gallagher (ph), Fox News Channel. You talk high pressure (INAUDIBLE) in effect (INAUDIBLE). Are you surprised (INAUDIBLE) now towards the Yucatan Peninsula?
MAYFIELD: Well, you know, the -- I think surprising thing really was two, three, four days ago, when all the models were in very good agreement and, you know, moving it smartly across the Yucatan and then, you know, covering the Northeast very, very quickly. And then a day before yesterday, the models starting showing more scatter and not being as consistent.
This has always been a -- at least since the day before yesterday, a possibility. In the beginning, this is -- one of the models that showed that was the outlier. Everything else moved it quickly. It has slowed down. Not good news for Mexico, but at least it buys us some more time here in the U.S. QUESTION: Max, (INAUDIBLE). Can you just quickly talk about the current timeline, in terms of giving us the track?
MAYFIELD: Well, the most likely scenario here -- and this is why, again, there is some uncertainty. We really want people to pay attention in case we do get surprised and it moves faster. But by Sunday evening, the center should be somewhere off the northwest coast of Cuba. If those tropical storm force winds continue to be at about 200 miles, like they do know, we could have tropical storm force winds, you know, moving over the keys at Sunday night.
So we would want to have the warning up Saturday night and the watch up sometime during the day on Saturday. This is all we issue at a five day forecast every six hours. So, you know, we're doing the best we can here. We are going to keep that jet out there as long as we can, back-to-back missions, and hope things come into a little better agreement here by tomorrow. Once it makes that turn to the Northeast, we'll have a better handle on this, I believe.
One more question and then we're going to do this in Spanish.
QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE). One thing that we always see, that these hurricanes tend to (INAUDIBLE) back and forth. We saw Katrina and Rita make their way from south Florida. (INAUDIBLE) still had a lot of damage. If, in fact, when it Wilma landfall, can we talk about those numbers? Whether it's a one, whether it's a two?
MAYFIELD: Well, everybody wants to know -- the question is how strong will this be when it comes over the Keys and the south Florida peninsula? Again, I can share the most likely scenario, which is our current forecast. If it spends a significant amount of time over the Yucatan, which we think will occur, we'll likely to have a weakening Category 2 hurricane as it crosses over the straits of Florida and the southern Florida peninsula here.
There is uncertainty with that. Again, if it just clips the Yucatan, it's going to be stronger than that. But don't focus on this, don't think of this as being a weakening hurricane. If we had a tropical depression in the northwestern Caribbean right now and it intensified up to a Category 2 hurricane, that would be a big deal. And so, you know, Hurricane George, for the folks in the Keys, that will mean something to them.
OK, thank you very much.
WHITFIELD: All right. You've been listening to the director of the National Hurricane Center, Max Mayfield, out of Coral Gables, Florida there, talking about Hurricane Wilma taking, perhaps, a slow path as it now sits over the Yucatan Peninsula. And he says the longer it decides to stay over the Yucatan Peninsula, the greater the potential it may weaken as it heads towards the U.S. mainland, potentially Florida. But it's hard to say. That's what's made it so difficult for this storm, because it has been leading these forecasters into a guessing game.
Meantime, a story that we're following for you out of the nation' capital. You're looking at a traffic cam image there, where some streets near the Capitol building are blocked off because Capitol police are investigating a suspicious package that is in a vehicle. At the same time, our Ed Henry reported earlier that they are also questioning someone in one of their police cruisers there who apparently has said that he believes that package is actually a bomb. But of course, capital police are looking into that.
Right now, some of the streets are blocked off around Constitution Avenue and Louisiana Avenue, as well as the 100 block of First Street Northwest. You're looking at an aerial image right there to the right. That star image, where you're also seeing the icon, the hand. That is the U.S. Capitol building. And just left and northward of that is the location that they have cordoned off. Not far away from Union Station, which is a very busy area for Amtrak, as well as commerce and stores and restaurants, et cetera.
This area, of course, in the shadow of the Capitol building. A lot of Washington federal work taking place there, as well as it is a focal point for tourism there. But, of course, we'll keep a close watch on what happens from this suspicious package in a parked vehicle there around the 100 block of First Street Northwest, not far from Constitution Avenue.
We're going to take a short break right now. We'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: You're looking at a live shot there of the Capitol building in the nation's capital. And just in the shadows of that building, Capitol Police are investigating a suspicious package in a parked car, as well as reportedly talking to a man who alleges that that suspicious package is actually a bomb.
Security analyst Mike Brooks has talked to a number of law enforcement officers who are working close to this investigation. He is also someone who used to work with D.C. Police.
So, Mike, you understand how Capitol Police work and their procedure.
What do you suppose is taking place right now as they look into this suspicious package, as well as interview this man?
MIKE BROOKS, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Fredricka, what they're trying to do right now, they're interviewing this subject and also trying to determine his mental status. He apparently has told police that someone is after him, and that someone has planted a bomb in his car. So, needless to say, U.S. Capitol Police investigators are talking to him, trying to determine his mental status to see whether or not this is a viable threat. And at the same time, the U.S. Capitol Police bomb squad is on the scene, trying to make a determination of whether or not there could be something in the car. And they're going to take their time. They're going to take every precaution they are just in case this does turn out to be a legitimate threat. But right now, his mental status is yet to be determined.
WHITFIELD: And we're looking at a satellite image, an aerial view right now of the area under suspicion. We're talking about the 100 block of First Street, where it intersects with Constitution Avenue, and then goes over near Louisiana Avenue and North Capitol as well. We're talking about an area that is really sandwiched by a number of federal buildings. And given the fact that it's right there near the National Mall, you also have a lot of tourist activity there. Describe for me the real headache, if you will here, given the kind of traffic that is usually in that area, and what Capitol Police are up against.
BROOKS: Well, this time of the year, Fredricka, it's gorgeous in Washington, a lot of tourists. And, again, it seems like everything like this always happens on a Friday. But the U.S. Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police, who covers the jurisdiction just outside the Capitol grounds, they're used to working these kinds of situations. They're going to take every precaution, to make sure that everybody stays safe, to make sure that if this is a threat, that it's taken care of in the most professional manner.
The Capitol Police bomb squad is one of the best in the country, along the with the Metropolitan Police. They're used to handling suspicious packages, threats such as these. And if anybody knows how to handle it, Fredricka, it's U.S. Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police. Having been with the Metropolitan Police for 26 years, and having handled situations like this before, I can tell you, they're used to it. And they're going to determine whether or not this is a real threat or not. They'll get streets opened back up, and back to business normal as soon as they can.
WHITFIELD: And what's your understanding about the kind of technology that this bomb squad will likely use to help determine whether it is indeed a bomb.
BROOKS: Well, what you usually do, is you come up to the car, of course, going on the information the person gives you, again, determining what his mental status his. They'll come up. They'll look to see whether or not -- how low it's sitting on the springs, how low it is on the tires. There's also other technology that they can use, robots, X-rays, those kinds of things, to determine whether or not there is something inside the car. There's other things that -- of course don't want to give away too many trade secrets, but other things that they can use to determine whether or not there is any hazardous device, improvised-explosive devices, anything else within this vehicle.
WHITFIELD: And in any case, on what stage they're in before they can try to dismantling this suspicious package?
BROOKS: Well, they wouldn't want -- the last thing they would really want to do, let's say they determine that there is an explosive device in the car. The last thing they want to do is to go up and put hands on any kind of explosive device. They have all kinds of, as we were talking about before, technology, robots, other sniffer-type technology that they can use.
But the best information is going to come from the subject who owns the car in determining whether or not maybe they can go ahead and wash this out and say whether or not the guy is of altered mental status, is not, if someone did plant a bomb in his car. But they're going to -- they take every precaution until they determine exactly what they are dealing with.
WHITFIELD: And, Mike, this is a tough situation for Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police, as you mention. Our Ed Henry, Mike, is there on Capitol Hill, and he can update us on what he's been able to learn -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Fred.
That's right, once again, in fact, one thing I want to stress is that it's relatively calm here. The police seem to have the situation under control. And in fact, the United States Capitol behind me has remained open throughout this entire threat of a suspicious package right in the shadow of the Capitol.
It's open. It's very calm inside. Tourists were still in the building. So there is no panic here. The police seem to have it under -- relatively under control.
To recap what we know so far, this was sparked just about an hour ago by a suspicious package right in the general area of about 1st Street and Constitution Avenue Northwest. That is extremely close to the Capitol. Two sources have been telling CNN this morning that at least there are -- there are subjects in that vehicle, and at least one of them has told police that the suspicious package was a bomb.
That's why they took this so seriously. There are streets all around me here on the National Mall that have been closed down. That's why they have been here handling it all this morning on top of the situation. But as I mentioned, it is very much under control -- Fredricka.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Now, I see behind you. Of course, you know, a lot -- a lot of media folks there. About how far away are you all being kept from the center of activity?
Ed, can you hear me OK?
All right. We are going to try and reestablish some audio there with Ed.
Meantime, Mike, you got a chance to hear that update. Ed was reporting that there may be two subjects that are being interviewed by Capitol Police. And at least one of those people is describing that suspicious package as being a bomb.
The difficult thing about reporting this is trying to sort out exactly, you know, what all the factors are that D.C. Police, as well as Capitol Police are dealing with, because it is a very fluid situation -- Mike. MIKE BROOKS, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Absolutely, Fredricka. And what they're going to do, they are going to take a look at that car. And they are going to plan and go ahead and evacuate buildings, planning on a worst-case scenario.
And that's why you see the media back so far, you see other officers at a distance where they may feel that this kind of -- this size car could carry X amount type of explosives. And again, their plan for worst-case scenario.
WHITFIELD: OK. Mike, let me just interrupt you for a moment, if I may. Ed Henry is back with us now with some new information -- Ed.
HENRY: That's right. That's right, Fredricka.
Officials are now telling us that the vehicle is in fact is a 2005 gray Chevy Impala. Two white males were in the vehicle. They were the ones who suggested that the suspicious package was in fact a bomb.
They are now being interviewed by the Capitol Police. That is why they are -- that is how they are dealing with this situation.
Again, a 2005 gray Chevy Impala. That is the vehicle in which these two individuals now being interviewed by the United States Capitol Police, this is the vehicle where the suspicious package was where they claim -- again, they just claim it was a bomb.
We have seen police vehicles from all the various jurisdictions here, the Washington D.C. Police, we've seen the Capitol Police, of course. But the Capitol Police are leading this investigation. They have been here on the scene from the very beginning -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: Now Ed, if you could just clarify, because we are seeing some conflicting information that's crossing the wires...
WHITFIELD: ... these now two people who are being interviewed, they are inside a police squad car as they're being interviewed? And that is approximately how far away from this parked vehicle where this suspicious package is?
HENRY: I do not know whether or not they are in a police vehicle right now.
HENRY: I am at least two or three blocks away from that actual scene the police have blocked off. If you look behind me, heading towards the Capitol, and heading in that direction to the left of the Capitol, that is the general scene where the original Chevy Impala was.
I would obviously assume that that's where the police are. But I do not know whether or not they are inside a police vehicle. You can hear right here obviously sirens. There are still police vehicles arriving on the scene. And they have been arriving for the last hour. But, in fact, I cannot tell exactly where those two individuals are being interviewed -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: OK. And I'm looking at some information that was just handed to me, Ed, about one of the individuals possibly being in custody. I guess this is beyond being interviewed.
Is there any information that you are getting from your sources that could glean some more information from this?
HENRY: No. The most up-to-date information we have from just a moment ago was that it was two white males who are being interviewed by the United States Capitol Police. And at that moment -- again, it was just a moment ago, they had not been taken into custody.
If you give me a moment, we can check back with our sources now. In the time that I've been speaking to you, of course, various things could have happened. We'll check back with our sources now. But as of a couple of minutes ago, they were two white males being interviewed by the United States Capitol Police.
They had been taken from this gray Chevy Impala, a 2005 gray Chevy Impala, where the suspicious package had been and has been all morning. Again, these two individuals had claimed -- and they claimed that this suspicious package was a bomb.
We have no information as to whether or not it was. But again, a heavy police presence here on the scene still dealing with the situation.
We'll check back on exactly whether or not they are in custody -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: OK. Now, Ed, now what about evacuations? Have indeed there been evacuations that have taken place there in the general vicinity?
HENRY: There have not really been evacuations. There have been streets closed off so that the police can do their work. Obviously a lot of tourists were trying to get closer to the Capitol in order to try to tell -- you know, police were trying to keep tourists away from the scene to keep them safe, obviously.
But I want to stress that the United States Capitol behind me, as of a few minutes ago, had not been evacuated. There was no panic. This was very much under control. There were people obviously very concerned about the situation, but no evacuation -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. And the weather, it's obviously raining there. Inclement weather...
HENRY: That's right.
WHITFIELD: ... which means while you may have a lot more vehicular traffic, you may not have as much pedestrian traffic involving a lot of those tourists. Can you describe to me what -- or whether the influx of people or traffic in any way has been impacting this investigation?
HENRY: Well, I don't think it's been impacting the investigation. It's obviously had more of an impact on the tourists all around me here who were trying to see the National Mall, to get to the Capitol. They are being kept away from the general vicinity of this side of the Capitol, the northwest side.
They have been kept away from the outside area. But there's no sign that the investigation itself has been impeded.
There are obviously a lot of traffic jams in the general area around the National Mall. But that is the least of the concerns of the officials here on the scene. Obviously they are trying to get this situation under control, make sure that nobody is hurt.
They have been interviewing these two white males that were in the 2005 gray Chevy Impala claiming that this suspicious package was a bomb -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: And Ed, can you describe the scene at all from your vantage point, what you are able to see?
HENRY: Yes. Well, on the other side of Reggio (ph), our photojournalist, is the National Mall. Behind me is actually -- you can see the Capitol, of course.
We are about, I believe, to have some sort of a briefing from the Capitol Police. A lot of my colleagues in the media are, in fact, getting ready for that. And I actually need to toss it back to you so that we can get to that media briefing, which I understand is going to start in a moment -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. I'm going to let you do that, Ed. Thank you so much for the update. We'll get back with you.
Meantime, Mike Brooks, security analyst, still on the line with us there.
And Mike, you heard most of Ed's report. Now, he says reportedly they are interviewing two white males who had something to do with this 2005 gray Chevy Impala.
What are among some of the questions they are likely being asked?
BROOKS: Well, one of the things, they're going to -- they're going to go through the normal who, what, when, where, why and how they came to be there in Washington, D.C. If they are not from Washington, they're also going to ask them a lot of questions about their background, why do they believe there is a bomb in the car. You know, did they in fact have anything to do with placing a bomb in the car?
They are also going to take a look, Fredricka, at a number of cameras. There is a fairly elaborate camera system around the Capitol grounds. I'm hearing from one of my sources that, in fact, they are -- back in the command post, they are actually able to look at this vehicle.
But it's just around the corner from one of the cameras, so it's not a great angle. But there are other cameras that they are going to be going back, taking a look so see exactly when this vehicle came into the area, how long it's been there, the comings and goings of people from that car. All part of the initial investigation into how and why this vehicle got there and why these people say there's a bomb on board.
WHITFIELD: Well, that's interesting. So Mike, how long does it take for them to review some of this tape?
BROOKS: It wouldn't take them long at all. It's a digital system they have up on the Capitol grounds and around the Washington metropolitan area. And they'll go back, take a look at that in fairly short order, and be able to know the comings and goings.
And that will also assist the investigators when asking questions of these two. Whether -- and they will also be able to vet these gentlemen and actually tell whether or not they have been telling them the truth.
I've also been getting calls from my sources while I've been on the phone. So I'm going to have to -- I'm going to go here shortly and try to see if we can get some more updated material.
WHITFIELD: All right. So, quickly, though, Mike, before you go, those digital images are being monitored by Metropolitan Police, who would then be working in concert with Capitol Police?
BROOKS: Well, they are beamed in to the U.S. Capitol command post, their operation center, and also into Metropolitan Police. They use them for when they have large demonstrations there. And because of the Capitol is, you know, a possible terrorist target.
So again, as these cameras -- these cameras have been up some time. They've added some since 9/11. And they'll go back, take a look at these and see exactly what they can glean from that.
WHITFIELD: All right. Mike Brooks, thank you so much. I'm going to allow you to get to your phone so you can do a little more reporting on this situation.
Well, Mike, I'm told I'm not going to let you go just yet. Mike, if you're still there, give me an idea right now whether while Metropolitan Police might be reviewing that digital tape, how instantaneously are they able to coordinate or talk to Capitol Police who are conducting, we think, the interview with these two men?
BROOKS: Well, the images, actually, Fredricka, are being beamed right into -- into the U.S. Capitol Police command center. They are on Capitol Hill, and they're able to see right now, real time, what's going on there. And then they'll go back and take a look at all the other digital images over the last number of hours when this actually became a threat.
You're also going to have -- they're going to be looking into these two people, the names, their backgrounds. And they, along with the FBI's joint terrorism task force, which I was a member of for six years, there is a U.S. Capitol Police component as part of that task force. They will also be assisting U.S. Capitol Police, running these names through any databases to see whether or not these names have been associated with any kind of threat in the past, any kind of other criminal, you know, activity.
Again, there's a lot of things in the initial investigations of an incident like this that they are going to be looking into. But I guarantee that the FBI's joint terrorism task force and the National Capitol Response Squad will be down on the scene assisting U.S. Capitol Police as U.S. Capitol Police deems necessary.
WHITFIELD: So Mike, at what point -- since Ed reported just a moment ago, they have not evacuated the Capitol building, but it's expected that perhaps might there be a lockdown so that no one can enter or even exit the Capitol building, given the proximity of where this investigation is taking place?
BROOKS: Well, that's a possibility. And one of the reasons it may not be -- again, it's pure speculation, but having been part of investigations like this, one of the reasons they may not be evacuating the building is because some of the information that they may be getting from individuals that they are interviewing might not be totally adding up.
And as I said earlier, I was told by law enforcement services close to the investigation that one of the individuals said that, "They're after me," and -- you know, which would indicate to me that he may have an altered mental status. And as I said earlier, they are going right now, interviewing these people, trying to see whether or not they're -- exactly what their mental status is and whether or not this threat is a viable threat, and whether there is any kind of explosive material, if any, in this vehicle.
You know, again, that source -- this source has also told me that the individual said that the bomb was planted in his car. So there is -- again, early on in the investigation, but they should be able to come to some conclusions fairly quickly.
And if they really can't get any good information out of the -- out of the people they are interviewing, then they'll go ahead and they'll approach the car, as it is a suspect vehicle, with the possible explosive device. And they'll take every precaution.
WHITFIELD: Why would that not be taking place anyway, just simultaneously?
BROOKS: You don't want to go ahead and jump ahead. You want to try to get all the information and just kind of a little checklist, cross off, OK, it's not this, it's not that. The information they are giving, they're saying, well, there might be an explosive device, if they are just not giving up any information, then they'll go ahead and take their time.
You know, if they said there's some kind of timing device, then that's a different story. But again, early on in the investigation, and they're going to take their time. They deal with incidents like this on a regular basis.
I know when I was at the joint terrorism task force working with the Metropolitan Police and U.S. Capitol Police on a regular basis, things like this would come up. We would go ahead and try to get all the information we can in their toolbox, and they'll go ahead and work the car as a suspicious vehicle. And there are certain protocols that bomb technicians have when dealing with a suspicious vehicle that they'll go down, and it's almost like a little checklist. And they will handle it in a very professional manner, like they do every day.
WHITFIELD: Oh, interesting. All right. Mike Brooks, security analyst, thank you so much.
Don't go far, though. I know you want to get on the phone and talk to some of your sources, particularly law enforcement official who are working close to this investigation. We do appreciate your analysis.
Meantime, Ed Henry is on the line with us again. He's gone to the briefing there that is just short of where this investigation is taking place right there in the shadow of the Capitol building.
Ed, what are you learning?
HENRY: Well, we are understanding that Capitol Police chief Terrance Gainer will be briefing shortly. But we also have gotten some information from our congressional producer, Ted Barrett, that a top Senate Republican official is saying that the claims from these individuals that they had a bomb are not "grounded in reality."
So that is why Senate and House leaders have not been "evacuated." As I was mentioning a few moments ago, the Capitol remaining open.
There's obviously a heavy police presence. They are still concerned about, is there a package, what kind of a package? Is it a bomb or not? But a top Senate Republican official saying that they do not feel it's enough of a threat to evacuate the actual Senate leaders, other rank and file lawmakers here, because they are confident that it appears, at least for now, that the situation is under some control.
Again, we are waiting for a lot more information. A lot of unanswered questions that you can bet Capitol Police chief Terrance Gainer will be hit with in a few moments to get a clearer idea of exactly what these individuals did have and did not have.
But as we've been reporting for about an hour or so now, these two individuals were claiming -- they were in a 2005 gray Chevy Impala, and they were claiming that in fact they had a bomb. But again, we are now reporting that in fact a top Senate Republican official is saying that it is -- they do not feel it's enough of a threat in order to evacuate any of the leaders in the Capitol -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: So Ed, now this taking place -- or at least the initial reports taking place a little over an hour ago. This top Senate Republican official feeling fairly confident that in this elapse of time that enough is being gleaned or learned from these two that are being interviewed to make that statement?
HENRY: Well, I don't want to go beyond what the official actually said, because at this point, I think everyone, including the officials in the Capitol, including the law enforcement officials on the ground, are getting scattered reports, bits of information. That's why we are just passing on as credibly as we can moment by moment what these officials are getting.
But a top official that we trust says that they do not feel that it's enough of a threat to evacuate the leaders. That gives you a sense -- it's just one piece of information, but it gives you a sense that they do not feel that this is enough of a threat obviously that their lives are in danger.
But, having said that, they clearly need to be on top of the situation. They are on top of the situation, because they don't know -- they are trying to investigate these claims as we speak. But I'm just trying give you the latest sense of the mood inside the Capitol.
HENRY: Again, they have not evacuated the Capitol. So they -- you know, if they felt that this was a lot more credible, if they felt that something tragic was about to happen, you can bet they'd be getting the Senate leaders out of there as quickly as they could.
But obviously a lot more information we do not know. This has being taken very, very seriously.
Those blocks I've been talking about all around the Capitol have been shut down. They're still shut down. Traffic snarled in every which direction.
And literally, police vehicles have been arriving on the scene. HazMat teams have been arriving on the scene, even in the last half hour as they had these two individuals, because they don't know exactly what these people have -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: And in fact, we are looking at a live picture right now. We've seen now one, and now a second HazMat response team vehicle there. But I can't tell whether it's coming or going. And now it's rolling.
Do you have any idea of whether it's actually leaving the location now, thinking that perhaps their resources are no longer needed? HENRY: I would be cautious on that because we just do not know at this point. As I just reported, the blocks here around the Capitol are still shut down.
WHITFIELD: Got you.
HENRY: The officers that we have seen over the last hour, hour and a half, that have been keeping tourists and journalists away from the actual vehicle, the Chevy Impala that has been the focus of all of this, that is still very much surrounded by police officials. I can still from my vantage point a couple of blocks away, you can still see ambulances with sirens, police vehicles with sirens, still closer to the scene than I am. And they have certainly not left.
So it's just too early to tell whether it's completely clear or not. And I think we are going to wait to hear from the chief of the Capitol Police, Terrance Gainer, who presumably will have more information about that.
He undoubtedly is dealing with this minute by minute. And that's why he hasn't briefed media yet, because he's trying to get a handle on it before he comes out publicly and says it's all clear or says anything else. He wants to have the best information he can. So we are waiting for that -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: And so contrary to earlier reports, Ed, while you mentioned the Capitol building has not been evacuated, there were earlier reports that some office buildings, one in particular, had been evacuated. So indeed you are now dispelling that, too, by saying that had not been evacuated, contrary to earlier reports.
HENRY: Well, I had not report that any of the congressional office buildings were evacuated. If you had another report, I am not aware of it.
WHITFIELD: You hadn't, but our wires crossed that it had.
HENRY: OK. Well, I...
WHITFIELD: One building had been evacuated.
HENRY: ... personally did not hear of any having been shut down. And it looks relatively calm here, as I've been reporting. And I think most important of all, in the Capitol itself, which is obviously the center of all of this and very close, or at least reasonably close to where the Chevy Impala is, we have been told has not been evacuated. And people, including some of our own people, are still in there.
And in fact, we've heard and have been reporting over the last hour that the focus has been right around 1st Street and Constitution Avenue Northwest. That is extremely close to the Capitol itself, but also to the Senate Russell Building.
So, again, I did not hear that specific report. But I can tell you that that is extremely close. The scene itself, where the Chevy Impala was, it's very close to where a lot of top senators have their offices -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: And in fact, Ed, while you are speaking, we are looking at a freeze frame shot of the gray Chevy Impala that is in question, with the driver's seat window rolled down. I don't know exactly what time this shot was taken, because there isn't any activity around it right now.
But do you have any idea in relation to where you are standing -- we saw your earlier shot where you are just kind of on the lawn there just below the steps of the Capitol -- in to that Chevy Impala, what is the distance?
HENRY: Well, it would be about -- from where I am, at about 3rd and Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, at the beginning of the National Mall -- that's the west side of the Capitol Steps -- you mentioned it's where the inaugural happens every four years -- I am, you know, maybe a quarter to a half a mile from where that actual vehicle is. But again, I can't see the vehicle because of all the trees here.
HENRY: But where it's been described, that is extremely close to the Senate Office Building. It's on the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol. And that is extremely close to where a lot of senators, including Hillary Clinton and Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, all have their offices. So that's obviously one of many reasons why the police have been on top of the situation all morning.
Also, I have throughout the morning, the last hour, hour and a half, seen many, many tourists. As you know, even though it's horrible weather today and raining, there are always a lot of tourists in Washington. They were trying to get as close to the Capitol as they could. And they have been -- certainly been affected and diverted.
But that's why, because of the safety of not only the senators, but of the general public. Obviously, that's why the police have been on top of the situation -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Ed Henry, thank you so much. I'm going to give you an opportunity to do some more reporting now.
Our security analyst, Mike Brooks, is also on the line, who's got some new information to add -- Mike.
BROOKS: Hi, Fredricka.
Well, I was just talking to some other law enforcement sources, and they are telling me that apparently this car, which is now I find out is a Malibu, is a rental vehicle, that apparently these two men stopped and asked U.S. Capitol Police -- a U.S. Capitol Police officer for directions. And the driver is claiming that the passenger was a hitchhiker.
One of them made a comment about the car having been stopped and searched for explosives earlier on. So they are looking into that right now.
You know, we were talking about why the Capitol buildings have not been evacuated. And, you know, right now they are taking an abundance of caution. But apparently they don't feel that the threat is serious enough to go ahead and warrant the evacuations of the other buildings.
But they are continuing to interview these two suspects -- or subjects, I should say. And try to get to the bottom of the story and whether or not this is truly a credible threat or not.
WHITFIELD: All right, Mike. This story gets more and more confusing.
BROOKS: It does.
WHITFIELD: So you are saying that this vehicle, just to clarify information you gave, is a rental vehicle.
WHITFIELD: This 2005 gray Chevy Impala that is parked there near Constitution Avenue. And apparently someone in that vehicle had asked Capitol Police for directions? And at the same time, volunteered information that that vehicle had been stopped earlier and searched for weapons?
BROOKS: Searched for explosives.
BROOKS: And again, the information we are getting is from sources close to the investigation. And out of an abundance of caution, the officer went ahead and has decided to stop these two guys in this car.
And they decided to go ahead and check the car out and check their story out, because, again, you know, who knows why this comment was made in the course of conversation when asking this officer for directions. But erring on the side of safety, you now, if anyone is dumb enough to come up to an officer and start talking about explosives around the U.S. Capitol, well, you know what? They deserve to get stopped, Fredricka.
And I was -- if I was an officer and someone talked about or mentioned explosives, I would do the same thing. It's just like walking into an airport and talking about -- making the joke that I have a bomb.
Well, it's not taken as a joke anymore. And so, you know, whether this is a serious threat or not, they are taking an abundance of caution and going ahead and doing what they have to do. And I don't blame them. I would have done the same thing.
WHITFIELD: Now, you've been in contact with a number of law enforcement officials there. We've seen the live pictures of HazMat vehicles either coming or going. We see the images of squad cars, et cetera.
Are your sources telling you anything more about the bomb squad and how much further they are going to take it to investigate and look up close at that vehicle?
BROOKS: Not right now. We saw just a few moments ago on CNN the U.S. Capitol Police has this material response team vehicle coming up there. That's their large heavy duty vehicle that carries most of their -- the equipment that they would need there on the scene.
And they keep that off site, away from the Capitol, for obvious reasons. And that's just on the scene. It usually comes out in incidents like this. And -- but they are still talking to the two men and deciding what kind of action they are going to take next in dealing with this particular vehicle.
But again, we don't know exactly what kind of threat this is. You know, whether or not the threat is viable, that's what they're trying to find out as we speak.
WHITFIELD: OK. And Mike, explain some of the roles of -- you know, this is an unusual city, this federal city that has many different types of law enforcement officials, everyone from Park Police to Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police, just to name a few. How are they all working in concert together when you have an investigation of this caliber?
BROOKS: Well, Fredricka, D.C. is a very unique city.
WHITFIELD: OK. I'm sorry about that, Mike. I've got to interrupt you.
WHITFIELD: We want to go straight to a police official. I'm not sure if it's with Capitol Police or D.C. Police right now.
Let's listen in.
SGT. JESSICA GISSUBEL, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: My name is Sergeant Jessica Gissubel. I'm the public information officer for the U.S. Capitol Police. Just to let you all know that because the event is ongoing at this time, I have information I'd like to provide to you all. But questions, I'll have limited answers at this time.
Right now, at approximately 10:50, we have a gray Chevy Impala 2005 which was occupied by two white males. That vehicle is currently parked in the 100 block of 1st Street Northwest.
The occupants of that vehicle made comments to our officers which rose their suspicion. Our officers are currently interviewing those two individuals and checking out the vehicle to ensure that everything is safe and -- so we can reopen the streets.
We do have street closures at this time. Those street closures include Constitution Avenue from Delaware to 3rd Street Northwest. In addition, we have 1st Street from Pennsylvania Ave to Louisiana Ave Northwest closed. And portions of Louisiana Ave in the northwest are being closed at this time.
Once we have additional information, we will provide that to you.
QUESTION: Why were the buildings evacuated, Officer? Why were the buildings evacuated?
GISSUBEL: OK. The two individuals approached our officers and advised them that they believed they had a suspicious package in their vehicle. Our officers did take that very seriously. At that time we put the closures into effect to ensure that -- everybody's safety in the area.
QUESTION: Would you say these two people (INAUDIBLE) suspicious package in their car? Are they being treated as suspects, or (INAUDIBLE)?
GISSUBEL: OK, I apologize for that. I can tell you right now those two individuals are being interviewed by our officers to determine and gather additional information.
QUESTION: If the investigation...
QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) .
GISSUBEL: I'm sorry, let me rephrase that. The individuals did make statements alluding to the fact that they did have a suspicious package in their vehicle.
GISSUBEL: Again, ma'am, those individuals, we're interviewing them at this time. They made statements alluding to the fact that they did have a suspicious package in their vehicle. Once we gather more information, we'll have that.
QUESTION: Is there any suspicion that the current incident is localized to these two individuals and there is no one else that the police are at this time searching for, for a similar problem?
GISSUBEL: Again, right now we are interviewing these two individuals to gather as much information as possible. Because this event is ongoing, we did want to provide you with the information that we have at this time. But until our officers can conclude those interviews and determine additional information, we won't be able to provide that.
QUESTION: Has the Capitol been evacuated in any way, leadership, members of Congress?
GISSUBEL: The Capitol has not been evacuated, nor has any of the Senate Office Building. Because of the street closures and the area of the vehicle, we have asked that people re-route themselves around the north side of the Capitol and not enter from that point.
QUESTION: Sergeant, has the suspicious package been entrusted or managed or dealt with? Or is that still an active situation?
GISSUBEL: That's still an active situation.
QUESTION: And where are the men being interrogated?
GISSUBEL: The men are being interviewed by our officers in the vicinity of the Capitol.
QUESTION: But you're saying leadership has not been evacuated? Sergeant, have you all confirmed that there actually is a package in the car?
GISSUBEL: There is a package in the vehicle, which is why we did put in place the street closures to ensure that that area is safe. And in the event anything were to happen.
QUESTION: Can you describe the package and where it is?
GISSUBEL: I'm sorry, I cannot.
QUESTION: Where it is in the vehicle?
GISSUBEL: I'm sorry?
QUESTION: ... more than one?
GISSUBEL: there's one package in the vehicle.
QUESTION: Has the bomb squad...
GISSUBEL: I'll take two more questions and then we'll wrap.
QUESTION: Has the bomb squad been called to investigate?
GISSUBEL: Yes, we do have our hazardous material and our hazardous response team on the scene. We also do have cooperation right now from other agencies to include the U.S. park police, D.C. Fire and HAZMAT and Metropolitan Police Department.
QUESTION: Do you know how soon before they go in and try to do whatever...
GISSUBEL: They are working that right now, and hopefully we'll have these streets reopened shortly.
Thank you. Thanks.
WHITFIELD: All right, you were hearing from the PIO of the U.S. Capitol Police.
Mike Brooks, security analyst, still with us on the telephone. She described how -- very similar to what your sources were telling you. At about 10:50 a.m. East Coast time, this morning, this gray Chevy Impala with these two white men inside made some comments to the officers. And in the form of saying they believed they had a suspicious package in their vehicle that may have been an explosive device. That raises suspicion immediately of the Capitol police, as you, Mike Brooks, said earlier, it would indeed do.
And so it led to them now being questioned. They're still being questioned, these two individuals, by the officers. And in the meantime, the vehicle, which is parked on the 100 block of First Street Northwest, this has led to the closure of a pretty sizable area there. At least a three-block radius there, just in the shadow of the Capitol building. Constitution Avenue, from Delaware to Third Street Northwest. Also involving portions of First and Pennsylvania Avenue and Louisiana Avenue Northwest.
Mike, it is significant that this area would be blocked off. Yet, she said the Capitol building has not been evacuated and they didn't speak of whether there were any plans for that later. But is it your point of view that right now the focus is primarily on the interviewing of these two individuals, and perhaps the vehicle is a low priority at this juncture?
BROOKS: Well, no, I would say they're going ahead and interviewing these two individuals, Fredricka. And as they get more information out of these two, if they are cooperating with police at this point, they will determine what kind of action they will take.
But they're also going to keep their focus on that vehicle. Because, as Sergeant Gissubel said, from the U.S. Capitol Police, that there is apparently a visible package inside of the vehicle. And whether or not these two say, oh, no we were just joking today, you know, we didn't mean anything it, no, it's not really a bomb...
WHITFIELD: All right, Mike, let me interrupt you, I'm sorry. Because the PIO with U.S. Capitol Police is about to talk again. Let's listen in.
GISSUBEL: Thank you very much for coming back. Sure. We did want to let you know, it is important to know, we will be going in and disrupting the package and we don't want anybody to be alarmed by the slight noise it may make.
QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) right now?
GISSUBEL: We'll be doing that shortly?
QUESTION: Water can or explosive charges? What's the process?
GISSUBEL: There will be a noise, I'm sorry. That's all I have, I'm sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right, well, that indeed answers that, Mike. That package, as you said, is not low priority. They are addressing it right now. As the PIO Jessica Gissubel is addressing that there will likely be an explosion being heard, a sound being heard. And likely they are going to try to get close and detonate this suspicious package. Describe just how that might happen.
BROOKS: Well, exactly, Fredricka. There's -- I was just going to say that no matter what these two said, whether or not they said, oh, no, were joking around, that most likely, as a precaution they would go in, take a look at this and go ahead. And as she said, they're going to disrupt the package. You know, a lot of times people say they're going in and they're going to blow up the package.
Well, actually, what the bomb techs will do, they will go up and they will use a type of device called a disrupter that shoots either a water or a gel. There's a lot of other things you can shoot out of this. Most likely it's a high pressure water, and it will shoot through this package. And if it were an explosive device, you need an electrical charge to set off an explosive device. And this disrupts -- as you said, a disrupter. This disrupts the electrical charge within the package if there is some kind of explosive. Most of the time, that will go ahead and render the package safe.
And sometimes you would get what they call a sympathetic detonation. But very seldom do you do that. And you would only get that whether or not -- whether it was an actual improvised explosive device. So when you hear that big boom -- and as a lot of reporters say, they're blowing up the package. It's actually called a render safe procedure, an RSP as we in the business call it. And that's what they are doing. They're rendering the package safe.
WHITFIELD: Wow, that's fascinating. Mike, so about what kind of elapse of time are we talking about?
BROOKS: Well, I'm not -- I can't see exactly. You see the (INAUDIBLE) truck right there. And we see the techs probably getting ready to go ahead and, as we say, shoot the package. But they'll go ahead, take their time. If they can without putting themselves in any harm, I would like to see an x-ray of it. They'll probably try to get an x-ray and see whether or not it is any hazardous material inside.
But then again, if they don't have a chance, if they can't get inside safely enough to go ahead and x-ray it, they'll go ahead, set up the shot and they'll go ahead and use a disrupter and go through the render safe procedure. And then, let's say it is. Let's say it was kind of explosive device. They'll go ahead and treat that as a crime scene, as almost like a post-blast scene, if you will. And they will go ahead and collect all of the evidence that's there.
And whether or not they decide to charge these two individuals, they'll use that as evidence and -- you know, in the case. And again, we would have to take it one step at that time. You know, whether or not this is an actual device or not, that remains to be seen. But we'll take it one step at a time. But they will go ahead and gather the package and all the parts and components that were inside that package and investigate them before they go ahead and totally clear the scene.
WHITFIELD: All right, Mike. I want to bring in Ed Henry, who's on Capitol Hill there and has some new information -- Ed.
HENRY: Well, we're just stressing, as you just heard from Sergeant Gissubel that it's ongoing investigation. But as Mike Brooks is reporting, they're going to be disrupting it, the actual package. What we're again are hearing -- I just want to stress, as we have been -- officials inside the Capitol are stressing that they have not evacuated the Capitol because they do not believe it is a major threat.
We know that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is one of the only leaders we have been able to confirm who's actually in the Capitol. But various officials cautioning that they do not believe it is a major threat and they actually have not evacuated the Capitol.
What they're saying s the reason for that is if they had evacuated the Capitol, they could have actually put more people in harm's way, putting them along evacuation routes that would have gone extremely close to these vehicles. This, again, is right around the 100 block of First Street Northwest, around First and Constitution, in the general vicinity of the Capitol, on the Senate side, the general vicinity of the Senate Russell building.
WHITFIELD: Interesting. And so, as we are hearing from the PIO, Ms. Gissubel, and she talks about how we'll -- they will disrupt it and we will hear a noise.
WHITFIELD: As Mike was describing, you know, shots of water or a gel would go through this package from -- do you have any idea from what distance from the vehicle they actually try to execute that move?
HENRY: No, I can't tell you from this vantage point. I could tell, it's fairly routine for there to be situations up here of suspicious packages. But most of the time -- you know, almost probably 99 percent, almost 100 percent, obviously turn out to be nothing. And that's why this one has been unusual, because it has gone on for a longer time. But since it's usually -- it turns out to be nothing, we don't actually end up seeing them shoot the water. This is very rare for this to get to this point.
Usually reports of suspicious packages never even get to this point. We're being told it is about to happen. So I understand we have a camera on that side and we are getting word on this side of the Capitol that they are getting closer to actually disrupting this package -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: And we do have a shot, thanks to our affiliate WJLA. We're looking at this gray Chevy Impala right now. But I'm not seeing, at least from my vantage point, I'm not seeing people around it. Which is why, as I was asking at that shot, which was I was asking about the proximity of the person who actually -- or the people, or whoever -- actually shoot this water or gel, how far away they do that.
Mike Brooks is still with us. And Mike, perhaps you can answer that question for us as we await this disruption. Oh, let's listen in.
BROOKS: Well, yes, Fredricka, what they'll try to do is...
WHITFIELD: I think it's about to happen, is what I'm told, Mikes. So let's be cognizant of that.
BROOKS: Well, from this particular angle, it's really hard to tell whether or not they are going to -- I haven't seen any techs, you know, in the suit go up there to go ahead and set this shot -- set the disrupter up. And it's -- they can also use the disrupter from a robot. If they were able to open the door, the android, the robot, could go right up to the door. And it is equipped with a disrupter, and they could use that. Or they can use the robot to take the package out and set it at a better vantage point for them to go ahead and take the shot. Or they can just go right up, but you want to be fairly close to take the shot so you get the full energy of the disrupter.
WHITFIELD: Does it matter that there are so many other vehicles parked nearby? Would that determine whether they would have the robot open up the door, take the package out, versus, you know, trying to go or penetrate the car window or door in some other fashion?
BROOKS: Well, again, not being on the scene and not knowing exactly what the X-ray -- if they were able to X-ray it or not to see exactly, it would be speculation on my part. But they could just open the door and go right up with it with the robot and put the disrupter on the scene.
But the number of cars around there should not effect it. And as you know, in shots like this -- we';re getting that shot from WJLA Channel 7, the CNN affiliate in Washington, it looks like it's very, very close together.
But as you back off of it, it probably is a lot more distance. And it's enough distance to get a robot, enough space, I'm sure, to get a robot or the bomb tech to get in there. But having not being on the scene right now, I don't know exactly what they are going to do. If they decide to take it out or just shoot it. Most likely if it's a package they don't know what it is, they'll shoot it in place. They'll go ahead and use the render-safe procedure, the disrupter, right there in place while it's in the vehicle, and then take care of it from there.
Because also, if it's in the vehicle, it would -- it will go ahead and contain any evidence that they're going to go ahead and collect afterwards in the post-blast investigation. But you know, unknown exactly how they're going to go about it. But that's the basics of how they'll go about it.
WHITFIELD: And, Mike, I thought this was interesting that the point that Ed was underscoring, is that by erring on the side of caution, by not evacuating these buildings, given that they weren't really sure what this package is, and still aren't quite sure, it's safer to keep the people inside, as opposed to bringing them out. It's only a couple of block away from the Capitol building. Bringing hundreds of people outside, allowing them to be much more vulnerable to whatever the potential is of this vehicle.
BROOKS: That's exactly right. And Chief Terrance Gainer of the U.S. Capitol Police, the U.S. Capitol Police chief, he and his people have elaborate evacuation plans for all of these buildings. And many times it's better to go ahead and stay in the building, because the Capitol buildings themselves are very, very strong from the outside. They're you know, brick, and mortar and marble. And if you had even a small device like this, it probably wouldn't effect anybody, whereas if you sent everybody outside of the building, if it were a real device, then that would put them in harm's way, even though they would try to evacuate people away from that area.
But I think they're doing the right thing. The U.S. Capitol Police has taken some criticism in the past for some of their actions of evacuating the buildings. But even back then, you are damned if you do, you are damned if you don't. But I think in this particular case, going ahead and having the people stay inside the building in what we in the emergency-management business call sheltering in place, if you will, it's best to just go ahead and keep the people inside for right now until the situation is totally rendered safe, and they know whether or not it is an actual device.
WHITFIELD: Does it seem, Mike, as though these investigations, or at least the conclusion of a suspicious package is usually rendered far before this sort of phase, and that what we are likely about to see a rather a rare occurrence?
BROOKS: No, on a regular basis in Washington, there are packages that are disrupted. But you know, if it's not near the U.S. Capitol building, if it's outside somewhere else and the Metropolitan Police bomb squad or the U.S. Capitol Police has a material unit handle something like this, we never even hear about it. But there are packages disrupted all the time. You know, if they are going to err on the side of caution, and whether or not to take the bomb techs, who are highly trained individuals. If they decide whether or not they need to go ahead and do a render-safe procedure, it happens all the time.
Here in Atlanta, Georgia, we just had an incident just a couple of weeks ago over on the campus of Georgia Tech, where they decided to go ahead and render safe the remaining bottle bombs, if you will. But it's done on a regular basis. It's something they train for. It's something they practice and, you know, you see the big trucks and you see the robots. That's why they do it, because they would rather send a robot down range to deal with the suspicious package than putting someone in harm's way, and that's why they have the technology.
WHITFIELD: All right, I want to bring in Ed. And, Ed, we know that the PIO came over just moments ago. And look, now we're finally seeing some folks approaching the vehicle. I was about to ask you about any kind of a warning, any more specific warning you might get of the sounds, the noise that you're about to hear. But I guess seeing these two people walk over, part of the bomb squad, is some indication, isn't it, Ed?
HENRY: Absolutely. Yes, they have been very calm on this side of the Capitol. Officials that we are talking to saying that it was momentarily going to start, and as you say, it appears to be getting closer. But they're obviously having an abundance of caution. We have been reporting that officials inside the Capitol do not believe that these claims were credible. There are others -- you know, the claim that it was a bomb, that it was some sort of a device that was going to be set off. There are others suggesting that in fact it is credible, and that's why they're taking an abundance of caution to make sure they know exactly what they are dealing with -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, Ed, thank you very much. Don't go far away. I know you won't.
We're going to check in again with Mike Brooks now. Mike, maybe you can give us a kind of play by play of what would happen now. We've seen two bomb squad, presumably bomb squad members, in their uniforms approaching the vehicle, just paces away. What can we expect now?
BROOKS: Well, you see them both as they are getting a bit closer. And we see the two bomb technicians coming up to the vehicle in their protective garments there. It looks like they're going ahead and stretching out the cord that they'll use after they set up the disrupter. They'll attach this cord to go ahead and put through the disrupter. They'll step back. What you'll probably hear is three warnings of fire in the hole, fire in the hole, fire in the hole, and then you'll hear a large boom, and that is the disrupter going off. And it will take them a few minutes to go ahead and set this up.
But as I said, it's fairly routine. They'll also as they're approaching the car take a look to make sure the car isn't booby trapped and these sorts of things. This is highly specialized training that these bomb-squad technicians go through when they go through their initial training at Redstone Arsenal at the Hazardous Devices school there, and that's run by the U.S. Army, and the FBI also plays a role in that training.
And then they go back periodically for their training. But this is their bread and butter. They are some of the best in the world at doing this kind of thing, and they'll take their time, set it up, and then we'll hear the boom in just a short time.
WHITFIELD: Now, obviously, Mike, it would seem they would not take this approach if they thought or suspected that there was a timing device on this suspicious package. What have they exhausted to know for certain that this suspicious package wouldn't have such a device?
BROOKS: Well, you know, from my experience, they have probably through the interview of these two individuals determined that this probably isn't an explosive device, and if it is, it's probably a very, very low-order, if you will, kind of type device. But if it was a device, most likely you would see a robot going up here instead of two individuals. And they would bring up -- you would see a large vessel, which they call a total-containment vessel, that they would put the device in, and they would take it to a remote location and go ahead and counter charge it, or go ahead and do a render-safe procedure there.
WHITFIELD: But, Mike, is it true, it would seem that they've ruled out any kind of timing capability. But they haven't necessarily ruled out that. because they don't really know, still, whether it is indeed an explosive device. Otherwise they wouldn't take these kinds of measure, would they?
BROOKS: That's correct. And you know, I mean, a device can be susceptible to heat, shock, friction. It can also have a remotely detonated device, like we see all the time in Iraq. It could also have some kind of timing device. There's all kinds of different ways a bomb can be detonated. But they're the precautions. They're up there in their protective suits. They're setting up the shot now, and hopefully this thing will be over with in very short order. Looks like he has part of the disrupter in his hand right there as he was walking around to the side of the car.
Again, as I said, the U.S. Capitol Police has a material-response team. They're some of the best bomb techs in the world and are very highly trained, and they know what they are doing.
WHITFIELD: Now would this be, at this juncture here, with the disrupter, would this also be the time that for the first time the bomb-squad unit is actually seeing this up close and personal, that perhaps they were observing this suspicious package from afar, whether it be through binoculars, et cetera?
BROOKS: Well, we don't know. And we couldn't see since this happened at 10:50, whether or not they actually sent a robot. What they could also do is to send a robot up to the vehicle, and the robot has the capability, because it does have a camera, of looking inside of the vehicle, and looking at the shape, the size of the package, to see if it had any oily stains, which would indicate a certain type of explosive, if there's any wires protruding, those kind of things.
And also, the bomb technicians can see that right now as they're walking up to -- if this is the first time. You know, not saying that they didn't have a robot go up there before. But if this is the first time, these are the kinds of things that they're looking for.
They're looking -- as I said earlier, they would looking at the vehicle to see if, you know, it was sitting low on the springs, if there was anything possibly in the trunk. You know, or if they can see the package if it's on the backseat, whether or not there is any protruding wires, oily stains, those kind of things, any kind of writing on the package itself. These are all things that they are taking into consideration while they are, you know, setting up this render safe procedure.
WHITFIELD: And, Mike, as we watch all of this unfolding live here, as we are going to be waiting to hear if the mics are able to pick up the fire in the hole call that you mentioned, what other things might we be looking for to know that that disrupter is about to take place visually, just in case we can't actually hear it.
BROOKS: Well, you'll be looking at that and you'll see the two bomb techs walk away from the vehicle because, again, they're not going to be standing right up by the vehicle when they hook it up to the blast box and send the charge down the wire to the disrupter, sending the gel from the disrupter into the package.
You'll see them walk away and they'll come back and they'll stand back behind some cover, some shielding, if you will. And before they do this, -- and it will take just a few minutes, probably, but as we see them walk away -- and you always see two bomb techs go down range. When dealing with a package, you never send one technician down by his or herself. You always send two down just in case something does happen to the one technician, the other technician can get that person out of harm's way.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: And, Mike, once they detonate whatever it is, or I should say disrupt whatever it is, if they learn it was nothing, what might these two gentlemen be facing?
BROOKS: Well, it depends on exactly what they said to the police officer, whether or not they indicated, you know, that they had an explosive device inside of the vehicle. You know, if this is a hoax device, you know, whether or not it is a real device -- these are all questions that have not yet been answered. And after that, then they'll go ahead and decide what charges, if any, that these two gentlemen will face or if it's just a crime of stupidity.
WHITFIELD: OK, and just looking at this live picture, off the screen on the right, we could see that there was one of those two persons in the suits who seemed to be closer to the back end of the vehicle, closer to that squad car. Not sure if he was moving away from that vehicle.
I don't know if, Mike, you are able to see the same image that I am. As I'm trying to read the image from what you are indicating, might be indicators of this disrupter that they would be walking away from the vehicle. I don't see that other person in the frame any longer, so it's hard to determine when this just might be taking place, Mike.
BROOKS: No, it is. I don't see anyone down -- look, you see the windows rolled down now. From before, I don't remember if the windows were rolled down before or not. I don't believe they were.
WHITFIELD: Just the front. We saw earlier an image that just the front driver's seat window was down. So this is new. This is a new image that these windows are down.
BROOKS: Right. This image coming from our affiliate WTTG-5 in Washington with the window -- the rear window of the driver's side rolled down. And that's something they would do to minimize the blast pressure from the disrupter inside the car. They go ahead and roll the window down. And I don't see the tech anymore, either one of the technicians anymore, Fredricka, so ...
WHITFIELD: I don't either.
BROOKS: ... if they follow the same path coming back. WHITFIELD: Well, they are all moving away. Now when we see one of them ...
BROOKS: There you go. And as you see, he or she is unwinding the cord there. And they'll step back and they'll attach that cord to a little blast box. And then you'll probably hear -- I don't know if you'll be able to pick it up on the microphones, but you'll the fire in the hole, fire in the hole, fire in the hole. And then you'll see the little bit of smoke, and then probably most likely hear the disrupter going off.
WHITFIELD: All right, Mike, thanks so much. Don't go far. We are just going to listen in right now. And thanks to our affiliate WTTG and WJLA for getting ...
GISSUBEL: Just to provide you all with a brief update ...
WHITFIELD: ... two different images from time to time. And now you're hearing from the PIO again.
GISSUBEL: OK. Just to provide you all with a brief update, our hazardous material team has approached the vehicle. Our hazardous device and hazardous material teams had approached the vehicle. Once they have placed the device there, they will move away from the vehicle. And at that time, we will wait for a countdown as to when this will take place. There will be -- again, there will be a possible loud noise that will occur. We don't want anybody to be alarmed.
QUESTION: How long from now will that be?
GISSUBEL: As soon as they can actually get their equipment set up there and move back away, then that will take place.
GISSUBEL: Well, sir, I can't say what other people have said. What I can tell you is that the Capitol Police take anything that is a possible threat very seriously. We do have procedures in place as to how we will handle situations where something poses a threat. We want to make sure that the congressional staff, the Congressmen, and everybody in the area visiting the capital is safe.
QUESTION: The Capitol Police apprehend this individual, is this a Capitol -- this was done off the Capitol site -- this occurred off the Capitol site as I understand it, Correct me if I'm wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's wrong.
QUESTION: Is this a Capitol Hill Police case or D.C. case?
GISSUBEL: Again, the Capitol Police are working this event with assistance from numerous agencies to include D.C. Fire, D.C. Hazmat, Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Park Police. We are all working together on this.
QUESTION: If your biggest concern is the tourists and the people in the Capitol, why haven't you evacuated the Capitol?
GISSUBEL: Again, we have established areas working with our specialty units who determine these distances that we want to evacuate areas and it has not been determined that it's necessary to do that right now.
QUESTION: Are you characterizing this as a credible threat?
GISSUBEL: We are characterizing this as a threat. It is a possible threat. We treat any threat serious.
GISSUBEL: Our units are doing that. I don't have specifics for you.
QUESTION: Can you tell us whether the two men or tourists or do they live in this area?
GISSUBEL: I can't provide you with that information. Thank you very much.
WHITFIELD: All right, you've been listening to the PIO of the U.S. Capitol there, saying that momentarily those bomb squad techs will be disrupting the suspicious package. If you look an the left side of your screen, just the tail end of that gray vehicle, it's a 2005 gray Chevy Impala.
It's a rental car and apparently what took place at about 10:50 this morning, there were two individuals in that vehicle. Stopped Capitol Police, talked to Capitol Police, and apparently according to police accounts, that these individuals, at least one of them, mentioned that they had -- they were stopped earlier because of a suspicious package in the vehicle.
And that, of course raised suspicions among Capitol Police and now we have led to this about two hours later. Over two hours later, those two individuals were still being questioned by Capitol Police. Meantime, bomb squad units are there. They have apparently uncoiled cable, a cord from that vehicle.
And momentarily we are being told that we will hear a loud noise. And that is a disruption of this suspicious vehicle in that -- suspicious package, rather, in that vehicle. And thanks to our affiliates WTTG and WJLA, we are able to bring you these live pictures as it all unfolds.
Mike, you're still there. I appreciate you sticking around.
BROOKS: No, no problem, Fred. I could also say we saw the two bomb techs walking away from the vehicle. We saw one of them with the cord reel, and we saw the other one straightening it out there. They're using that line to make sure that there's no kinks at all in that cord leading back to the car.
You know, and then one of the other things, if they -- sometimes if they don't use a disrupter -- you know, there's different kind of disrupters, one called a pan disrupter. If they don't use a disrupter, they can also put a small -- what they call a counter- charge on the device or on the suspect device and disrupt it that way.
But, you know, it's hard to tell from this angle whether or not they're using a disrupter like a pan, or they're putting some kind of counter-charge on it. But, again, we should hear something in short order as we heard from Sergeant Gissubel from the U.S. Capitol Police.
WHITFIELD: I'm just trying to hear some of that audio there in the background. Mike, it looks like it just happened. Something may have just happening, a very mild sound, at least a shake of the camera, and now it sounds like a car alarm going off, Mike.
BROOKS: It could. I couldn't hear it from here. And sometimes you see a little bit more smoke, you would see more smoke coming out of the windows. Or if they sat it alongside the car, you see some smoke that way, but I'm unable to really see any smoke from this distance here.
PHILLIPS: All right, just listening in there, Mike hoping that we might be able to hear something from the area there to determine just what, if anything, may have indeed taken place. We heard from the PIO earlier, who said that Capitol Police, along with Park Police, Metropolitan Police, Hazmat.
It really is an effort of a number of teams working in this area, Mike, which is something that is to be expected.
Ed Henry there, just paces away from this vehicle and in a cordoned off area where he, along with a number of reporters and photographers, are.
And Ed, did anything take place?
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I am only two blocks away now at the corner of 3rd and Constitution Avenue. This is at 1st and Constitution, as you can see, and it's extremely hard to tell, even from this vantage point, exactly what has happened.
And the police officers around me are still in the same position they were before in terms of waiting and wondering themselves, frankly. We're just about two blocks away. You can't really get a clear idea of whether or not it is clear yet. Clearly, we're approaching the vehicle, as we had heard from Sergeant Gissubel. And clearly, they were attempting to do the package, but we're still waiting for the all-clear sign right now, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Very good, Ed. Now, describe the scene, if you will, from your vantage point. I know you mentioned you're about two blocks away. But the area that has been blocked, the traffic that has been blocked, we're talking about three good blocks from Third street to Delaware Street iss what the PIO, the public information officer with Capitol Police was describing a bit earlier.
HENRY: That's right. WHITFIELD: But do you also have a lot of spectators who have come, kind of, on the periphery to see what's going on?
HENRY: There are a lot of tourists here who obviously have been wondering why there are so many satellite trucks, why there are so many police officers, why there are so many streets closed. I am also just outside the State Department of Labor.
This is one of the only buildings that we can tell that has been closed. There had been some scattered reports earlier about buildings being closed. And as we have been stressing over and over, none of the congressional office buildings, either on the House or Senate side, have all been shut down. They have all remained open.
The congressional staffers still inside, tourists still inside, senators still inside. But the U.S. Department of Labor is here at the corner of Third and Constitution. That is shut down. There are officials are outside, there are people waiting to get back in. But, in fact, that is really the basic scene.
It's gotten a lot quieter. We don't hear the sirens that we heard starting around 10:50 or so, as you heard Sergeant Gissubel when this incident first started. Instead, while there's still a heavy, heavy police presence, it is a bit calmer and a lot less activity.
Hang on one second, Fred. We're getting a bit of information.
WHITFIELD: And while Ed is gathering some additional information as to what is taking place there with that gray vehicle you're seeing there...
HENRY: What we are hearing is whether the last attempt -- it's unclear what that last attempt was all about, but they are moving closer to another attempt to disrupt it. That is some indications we are getting from police information here. Unclear, I don't want to speculate on what that last approach, what exactly happened.
But we're hearing that there may be another approach. So we need to wait for more a little more information, but we're hearing that, just getting that from our producer, Jim Spellman (ph). Let us take a little bit more, and we'll be right back to you.
WHITFIELD: All right, Ed, I'm going to let you do that reporting. Meantime, as we into over two hours since this first began now, I'm going to pass this over to Kyra Phillips, who's going to pick it up to find out exactly what's taking place with this vehicle if, indeed, they have disrupted this suspicious package inside.
Kyra Phillips is joining me now. Looks like Ed Henry's doing a little bit of investigating there.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, he's working the phones, working those around him. If you're just tuning in, we're continuing to follow live coverage of a developing story. Two men, a gray car, and a suspicious package, possibly a bomb, all parts of a pretty bizarre security alert playing out on Capitol Hill. Let's listen in, once again, to the PIO there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So be prepared to hear a noise, a loud noise. It will take place in that area, yes.
QUESTION: Will you be using a water cannon? What kind of device will you be using?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't have that right now, thanks.
PHILLIPS: Once again, you're watching live coverage right now of an ongoing story we've been following you via this live picture our affiliate, WTTG. You can hear the sirens around. What you're seeing now it a pretty bizarre security alert playing out on Capitol Hill, where streets are all cordoned off, but the U.S. Capitol is still open for business.
There are now men being questioned in this incident. The car is being scrutinized. And there's a package that we are told that is in that car that's about to be -- actually, we're going to see it possibly explode. There's been, allegedly, one attempt to do that. Don't know if the cord that was attached to the blast box came apart and, therefore, the first attempt there to disrupt, they say, this package was successful or not.
The Hazmat team has already approached the vehicle. As you can see, the windows are down. As soon as we get Mike Brooks back with us, our security analyst, he was also a part of the bomb squad. Oh good, we got Mike back on the phone.
Hey, Mike. It's Kyra as we continue this rolling coverage here.
MIKE BROOKS, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Right.
PHILLIPS: What happened the first time around? Was the cord possibly not attached well enough to the blast box, so they've got to give it another go around?
BROOKS: I was checking with one of my sources. Apparently, they have not even disrupted it yet. I was just talking to that particular source, who's there on the scene. They said that they were letting the officers know just moments ago by radio right before I talked to you that they would hear a loud noise. But apparently, the disruptor, they had not disrupted it yet. Unknown why they haven't, but they're going to go ahead and make sure everything is in place before they go ahead and disrupt it.
PHILLIPS: And we got less than five minutes before that happens. Now, Mike, should we explain to viewers, a disruption is basically an explosion, right? They're blowing up this package?
BROOKS: Well, actually, you don't blow up -- it's not considered blowing up the package. That's one way to do it. The normal disrupter, it's called a render safe procedure, Kyra, is where you set up a disrupter. It can be a pan disrupter, it can be from a robot. We saw last week out in California the robot going up there.
BROOKS: It has a disrupter. And you can shoot a number of different things. It's a high pressure -- you can shoot water. Another preferred method is to use a gel, and you put it in almost like a prophylactic type device, and it's shot out of the barrel at a very, very high speed through the package to disrupt the electrical device or the electrical current, should it actually be an improvised explosive device.
Because as you know, most improvised explosive devices, most bombs need to have some kind of electrical charge, usually from a battery, that kind of thing, to go ahead and kick off the high explosive using a blasting cap or some other kind of initiator.
PHILLIPS: SO using a render safe procedure versus blowing this package up, obviously, the package is in the car. If you're going to blow it up, I mean, you deal with parts of flying vehicle, right? I mean, you have to take the best case scenario from a safety perspective for everybody around this vehicle, right?
BROOKS: You can. And one of the other things you can also do is if it is a package or a briefcase or a backpack, many times what we do in the past is go ahead and take sandbags and put it around that to keep -- so the inertia and impact of the render safe procedure would go ahead and go into the sand bags.
And as I was talking about earlier, had this been -- if they actually thought it was an actual improvised explosive device in this suspicious package inside of this vehicle, one of the things they could have done was to come up, remotely open the door of the car or the trunk, wherever the package may be, go ahead, use a robot, take that package out, pull out what they call a total containment vessel and put it into that, take it to a remote location, and then do the render safe procedure there. But they decided to go ahead and what we call disrupt it in place.
PHILLIPS: Mike, that might be -- OK. We're being told about 30 seconds now, Mike. So, just -- and Vickie, why don't you kind of give me a countdown on that 30 seconds? Mike, stay with us. Now we're being told 10 seconds. Let's go ahead and listen and see if, indeed, we can hear this device.
There you go. Pretty plain and simple. What you saw, basically, as the Hazmat team moved in on this suspicious vehicle in an area not far from the Capitol, there was a suspicious package in here, possibly a bomb. It's been a security alert that's been playing out on Capitol Hill for the past couple of hours now.
The streets have been cordoned off. And now, you saw it happen. You saw the render safe procedure. It looks like it all went pretty successfully. Mike Brooks still on the phone with us. He used to be a part of the bomb squad. Were you in the bomb squad, Mike, in Washington or was it another city?
BROOKS: I was on the bomb response unit with the joint terrorism taskforce there in Washington, D.C., and used to work many, many cases like this, Kyra.
PHILLIPS: So what do you think? How did this go?
BROOKS: I'd say it looked like a good shot. What we see now -- we saw the door come open, and maybe it looked like part of the package, or what they put behind the package, come out and fall into the street. We'll see probably momentarily here, after they made the shot now, you'll probably see the two bomb technicians again go back up in their suits just to make sure that the disruption went well and that they don't have to shoot it again.
But it looked like it did disrupt. We saw some pieces of the box or whatever it was, this package in the backseat, go off, and it looks like they did set up the disrupter from the other side, from the other door, which was just out of view of the camera there on the passenger side. We saw the door come open. They will come up, and they'll also come up again with caution again, though, Kyra.
PHILLIPS: If, indeed, there was an -- all right. Mike, if there, indeed, was an explosive in there, would we know right now because of the impact, or would it have been a stronger impact? I mean, do we know? Can you tell by what happened if indeed an explosive was in that package?
BROOKS: No, you really can't. Sometimes, when you do render safe procedure like this and use a disruptor, sometimes there will be what they call a sympathetic detonation, where if it was a real bomb, sometimes it will go ahead and, you know, set that off.
But most of the time, the render safe procedure, even if it were a real device, would disrupt the electrical current in that particular IED and nothing at all would happen. It would just happen as you saw. So, they have to go back up, take a look at that. And they're also working off of the intelligence, Kyra, of the information they got from the two people who were in this car.
And, you know, as we heard Ed Henry saying earlier that they did not decide -- they decided not to evacuate the other buildings and, you know, because they weren't sure of how credible this threat was.
As I was telling Fredricka earlier, even if they decided and these two guys told police, "No it's not really anything. We're just kidding. We were just joking around with the officer when they stopped to talk to him," and they had the conversation whereas explosive device was mentioned, they would go up and they would render safe this package in the backseat that they could see anyway, just as, you know, a caution.
They're taking an abundance of caution in this particular case. And, you know, if I was the investigator on the scene or the incident commander, I would be doing the same thing as the U.S. Capitol Police are doing here. PHILLIPS: All right, Mike. Stay with us. One more time, we just want to see how it all went down. It happened just a few minutes ago, the render safe procedure, where a suspicious package was disrupted in this rental car not far from the Capitol. Here's how it went down.
HENRY: Right before the actual disruption of this package, an e- mail came out from the United States Capitol Police to congressional officials to try to update them on the actual situation. What they're saying, as we've been hearing for a bit, that it's still an ongoing investigation. They say that the occupants of the vehicle made comments and aroused suspicions.
The two vehicle occupants have been detained and continue to be interviewed. That is as of 1:00 pm that this e-mail went out. At this moment, they are still being interviewed. This e-mail from the Capitol Police also says the preliminary examination of the vehicle has proven inclusive, and then also, gave a heads up about this noise that people were about to hear.
So obviously, they are now -- we heard the noise. They disrupted the package. They are now investigating exactly what was in that package. We do not have any of that information yet because it is happening as we speak. But I think there has been an abundance of caution and also calm. This has been going on since about 10:50 a.m. Eastern Time this morning.
And while there has certainly been a tremendous amount of police activity, much more, I can tell you, than any of the recent suspicious packages we've seen in recent years. These, since 9/11, have been very frequent, almost on a weekly basis. There's some sort of a package somewhere around the Capitol complex that people are concerned about, but more often than not, within a few moments, less than a half hour, the all clear is given.
The fact that this has been going on for a couple of hours is extremely rare. But still, people have remained calm. The Capitol was never evacuated. That has remains opened. We understand that the United States Senate has actually adjourned for the week, but that was previously scheduled. It had nothing to do with this incident. They've finished their business for the week, and the Senate has officially gone home for the week -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Nothing like ending official business with a little disruption now and then, right, Ed?
PHILLIPS: OK, Ed. Ed Henry there on the Hill, Mike Brooks also, our security analyst, with us. As you just saw, the suspicious package there disrupted by the Hazmat team not far from the capitol. It looked like it all went well. We're still on the story.
We've got a lot more for you, including the latest on Hurricane Wilma. We'll be right back.
PHILLIPS: That was just moments ago, via our affiliate, WTTG. They're not far from the Capitol. The Hazmat team moved in and disrupted a suspicious package there in the backseat of that rented impala. Two men now being questioned, two men that evidently approached the Capitol Police and said that there was some type of explosive in that car.
Still don't know exactly what the Hazmat team disrupted, but it went well, and we're waiting to hear more on what exactly was in that package. Now, take a look at this slo-mo for a moment. It's pretty amazing when you slo-mo. You actually see the electrical charge from the cable that's attached to that blast box. Pretty amazing pictures when you're able to go back and slow it down like that.
Anyway, we'll stay on what is happening there not far from the Hill. So far, it looks good. None of the buildings were evacuated. It looks like this has been contained. We'll bring you more information as we get it.
We're talking about crashing Cancun, now. Hurricane Wilma, category four, is finally grazing Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, which was in no big hurry to reach, and which it appears no hurry to leave. Wilma's top winds are clocked at 145 miles an hour. We're going to hear from people on the ground hunkered down in just a moment.
But first, the big picture with meteorologist Bonnie Schneider -- Bonnie?
BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Kyra, right now, the eyewall, the center of Wilma, is just pounding Cozumel, a small island just to the east of the Yucatan peninsula. We're seeing some of the strongest winds there and the heaviest downpours of rain, as well. You can see that better on the satellite perspective. Notice the eye getting very close to the Yucatan.
We're expecting it to work its way to the northwest. The movement is slow, at five miles per hour. Eventually, the storm will make that turn, according to our computer models here, eventually away from the Yucatan and towards the U.S. main land. It looks like it's heading in the direction of Florida, and that's what we're anticipating as far as the track goes.
The official track from the National Hurricane Center has the storm center right here coming over the southern half of Florida sometime on Monday. But we're already seeing some effects from the storm right now. If we flip this over to radar, you'll see the heavy bands of rain coming across the Florida Keys into the Everglades as well, and also towards some of the beaches near Naples and Fort Meyers.
That rain is moderate right now, but it certainly will get heavier as these rain bands come up from the south. Taking a look, once again, at the track this has slowed down because the storm has slowed down. We're watching for Wilma to make that turn, eventually becoming a category two by Monday morning. And sometime between Monday and Tuesday, making landfall on Florida's coast. It looks like the intensity will be dwindled down from where it is right now as a category four. And that has to do with very strong winds in the upper levels of atmosphere that are sheering this storm. And we're expecting that to occur, especially on Monday.
They're also will really move the storm much quicker than it is right now towards the Florida coast. Eventually, the storm will pass over Florida and dwindle down to category one status, eventually working its way to the Northeast. But as we've seen, this busy hurricane season, a category two or category one certainly still a serious situation.
But right now, the biggest threat, the area most concerned with at this moment is the Yucatan, just getting pounded. We're expecting, Kyra, 20 inches of rain plus for the Yucatan today.
PHILLIPS: OK, Bonnie, as you can imagine, we'll be talking a lot this afternoon.
PHILLIPS: Thank you so much. Well, the power is out in Cancun on purpose since authorities expect the lines will come down anyway. And forget about the ferry to and from Cozumel Island, because anybody who didn't get out yesterday is now stranded, and that includes Michael Attardi, a tourist from Jersey, who's holed up in a hotel with dozens of his new best friends. He joins me on the phone. Michael, are you doing OK in there, or are you getting a bit stir crazy?
MICHAEL ATTARDI, RIDING OUT HURRICANE: Well, it's a bit crazy down here. Actually, it's a little bit of a war zone. A lot of flooding, a lot of flooding. We have the children and the women in a separate bunker. The men are here, all trying to just keeping the actual water out of the area here.
PHILLIPS: So already there's flooding? Tell me kind of -- it's sort of hard to visualize it. We are looking at some pictures there of a makeshift shelter where a lot of you are staying. And obviously, this is not where you are because -- oh, no, it does look like it's a mixed bag of families, possibly, in there together.
But tell me, where are you exactly, and where is this flooding? Is it closer to where the beaches are? Has it come more into the city? Kind of give me a visual.
ATTARDI: Well, I will say one thing. We are about probably 45, 60 yards away from the ocean. Our hotel is called the Hotel Cozumel. And there is at least like 100 plus Americans here that we're trying to get out.
PHILLIPS: Just at your hotel?
ATTARDI: Yes, that is. Exactly.
ATTARDI: There are windows in the main lobby shattered, broken. Water is immensely -- it's settled down a little right now, but before, our whole entire area in which we were sent to was under water. I mean, completely under water. And we've been working diligently, just trying to get this out of here, and just keep everyone safe.
PHILLIPS: So is all the power out completely in the hotel where you are?
ATTARDI: It is, except for there is a generator that, thank God -- they have been wonderful here. They are a immense, incredible staff over here. And they've been working hard, and so has everyone else here. We've been working like non-stop like little ants just to try to keep dry.
PHILLIPS: Wow. Is there enough food?
ATTARDI: There is, thank God. We have food. We have water. The water supply is getting low. We had been fortunate enough to go to the local places prior to this coming and try to stock up a little, but it's not going to be enough.
PHILLIPS: Now, do you feel like you have gotten enough information? Have those that are in charge of emergency management and in charge of -- the politicians there in Cancun. Are you getting word, are you getting a sufficient amount of information on what you need to do, how long this could be, when the power might come back on, et cetera?
ATTARDI: Yes, I will say one thing. CNN has been incredible because we're been getting all of our information from you guys. You are the only really news channel that we can get down here. But recently, because of the power, we don't have any information whatsoever for the past, I would say, like 20 hours since this thing hit.
As far as us trying to get out, yes, there were over 100 or so odd Americans here in this hotel that were trying to get out all of the two days prior to this storm hitting. And for some reason, we have been stranded here. And that's one of the big issues, I think.
PHILLIPS: Are you talking to us via cell phone?
ATTARDI: No. We are talking from a landline. We have no cell phone use whatsoever here.
PHILLIPS: Well, good. I'm glad you're able to make contact with us via a hard line. Do us a favor, Michael. Stay in touch with us. Let us know if things are getting better or worse, and we'll try to keep you informed so you can pass the word.
ATTARDI: OK. I want everyone to know that the eye has not hit us yet. So the storm is blowing at least 100 plus miles an hour here. And it's like tearing things up. PHILLIPS: Wow.
ATTARDI: And I only want to tell my child, Mikey (ph), and my beautiful wife, that I'm OK.
PHILLIPS: And what's your wife's name, Michael?
ATTARDI: Her name is Colleen (ph).
PHILLIPS: All right. We'll make sure Colleen and Mikey are staying tuned in. And you stay in touch with us as well, all right?
ATTARDI: Thank you so much again.
PHILLIPS: All right, Michael Attardi, we sure appreciate it. Tough time, there. Gosh. Hundreds of people, possibly more than that, holed up there in Cancun as the power is out and authorities are expecting those lines to come down anyway. And obviously, they're prepping for the eye of the storm that hasn't hit that area yet, as Michael told us, as he's there at the Hotel Cozumel in Cancun.
Meanwhile, CNN does have correspondents and crews from the Yucatan to Key Weste to Sanibel Island. And the scary scene in Cancun, that's where we find CNN's Susan Candiotti also. She's on the phone with us.
Where exactly are you, Susan? And I'm assuming the pictures that we're getting are from you.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For the most part, yes. We've been having some difficulty with our field satellite transmission, but we have been able to send some pictures back at the same time. I've got to tell you, here along the beach shore, along the Gulf of Mexico, along the strip of hotels that maybe a lot of people are familiar with, truly, it is stunning.
I would say maybe an hour ago we could see perhaps 100 yards at least into the ocean. And now, maybe you can see the hand in front of your face, barely see the waves crashing ashore because it just is so cloudy and the mist is so strong.
Let me take some more pictures here for you, Kyra. The palm trees are now bent over. I say it's the strongest that it has been all day. It is howling. We are at a hotel. I must say, we just got back from about an hour's worth of driving around.
And structurally, it would appear that most of the hotels, if not all of them, are withstanding the force of the winds so far, but the lobby of the hotel where we are, there are parts of it where it is caving in. Some of the -- again, not structurally affecting it, but some of the glass and the screening of that has caved in. There is a lot of debris coming ashore. Needless to say, the teepee (ph), those straw huts that you often see on the beach, washed away a long time ago. But driving around, we saw traffic light poles literally bent in two, fence poles (INAUDIBLE) about, some roof canopies on some structures, some dome structures that had blown off. And the water, the street is impassable in some areas. People should not be out. We did see some emergency vehicles going to and fro. But other than that, nobody -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Susan, we were talking with Michael Attardi (ph), who's a tourist there, that holed up at Hotel Cozumel. He said there's about 100 Americans packed in the hotel. He said it's tight, it's uncomfortable. He said it's kind of like a war zone. We've seen pictures of some of the makeshift shelters, where there's a lot of people. Do you have any idea how many people are still there in Cancun and...
CANDIOTTI: Well, according to the mayor yesterday, Kyra, he was estimating around 20,000 or so who could not make it out of the airport. I presume (INAUDIBLE) these hotels along the Gulf were ordered to be evacuated. (INAUDIBLE) got to be in town, I strongly suspect. And they purposefully cut power to preserve the integrity of those power lines, and that is something that they oft usually do.
Here, amazingly, we still have power at this hotel. I just can't get over it, and the cell phone is still working. Haven't tried the land line, quite frankly. Cable is out. But that's OK by us. We're able to keep on top of what's going on, but we have not able to get in touch with any officials.
PHILLIPS: All right, Susan Candiotti, that's good news, that you've still got power and you can even talk on your cell phone. We'll be in touch with you, of course, as we see these pictures from her videophone, our Susan Candiotti there in Cancun. We're tracking Wilma day and night on CNN.com. Also you can stay up on this storm's path, check out a huge archive of photos and video reports from the most notable recent hurricanes, CNN.com/hurricanes.
We'll be back right, more LIVE FROM right after a break.
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