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Hurricane Wilma's Impact

Aired October 24, 2005 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, Hurricane Wilma slams Florida from the Keys to Palm Beach. At least three people killed, millions without power, airports closed, Key West under three to five feet of water and damage estimates already up to $10 billion.
We'll have the latest with mayors of some of Florida's hardest hit cities, the acting director of FEMA and a lot more next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Let me set the scene. Here in New York is Sam Champion, WABC weather person, who often helps contribute to our weather programs. In Oklahoma City is Neville Koop, meteorologist, Weathernews America and manager of Marine Forecasting, specializing in tropical weather including hurricanes. And, at the AccuWeather studio in State College, Pennsylvania is Ken Reeves of AccuWeather, senior expert meteorologist and director of forecast operations.

Before we talk with them, lots of other guests, let's get an update from each of our reporters at various scenes. First, Fort Lauderdale, Anderson Cooper who sat in last night hosting this show and John Zarrella are standing by. How bad was it there, Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we're actually in Hollywood, Florida. We were in Fort Lauderdale. We came here just a little bit south of Fort Lauderdale. A lot of flooding, obviously no electricity but, you know, it certainly could have been worse, not a lot of structural damage here.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: But quite a bit, Larry, worse than the people here on the East Coast expected. They didn't expect to see a three over here. A lot of people didn't put up shutters. There's lots of power lines down, poles snapped, mobile homes, a lot of damage. I drove through my neighborhood today, pretty extensive damage, not structural for the most part but pretty extensive.

KING: Let's go to Rob Marciano in Naples, Florida. That's on the West Coast. What's the story there Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, this is where we caught the northern part of the eye wall. The eye made landfall about ten miles, 15 miles south of here, Larry. So, the northern eye wall coming through here and widespread damage up and down Lee and Collier County and obviously down towards Monroe County as well as this thing made landfall as a category three storm.

Well, we've seen a lot up in Fort Myers and also down here in Naples is a tremendous amount of tree damage and also, you know, shockingly enough a lot of flooding for as fast as this storm was moving flooding was really going to be the least of the worries here.

But this state is already waterlogged after seeing well above normal rainfall this past year with an active hurricane season already, so the rainfall that came from this system certainly, you know, it put a lot of pressure on the drainage canals and then we had that storm surge as well.

So, we've got flooding, street flooding and a lot of tree damage and what struck me when driving down here widespread tree damage. The trees were knocked down from the northwest, mostly down to the southeast, which means that really the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak as far as trees are concerned was when the storm exited.

I think the backside of this storm, Larry, was a stronger part of the storm. At least that's what I experienced up in Fort Myers and I think that's what happened down here in Naples as well.

KING: Gary Tuchman, who is in Key West, on a videophone set up. What's the situation at the southernmost point in the continental United States?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (by videophone): Well, Larry, the southernmost point in the continental U.S. is without power as are most of the Florida Keys. This was the southern part of the eye wall, the more dangerous part and for two wild hours between 2:00 and 4:00 early this morning, we had sustained 120 mile-per-hour winds. About 60 percent of the homes here in Key West were flooded.

KING: Whoa. And, David Mattingly, are you in Hollywood, Florida too?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Larry, standing in the pitch darkness with everybody else here in Hollywood and that's something that you usually don't see here on the Gold Coast with all of the high rise apartments and condos and hotels that are here.

But from here all the way up north you will find damage from this hurricane, people in the dark. Normally you see trees down, power lines down. You get accustomed to seeing that when a hurricane comes through. The scope of this storm is something that's really hard to take in as to ho far and why the damage here really is.

KING: We'll be checking in with all of our correspondents at the bottom of the hour. Sam Champion your overview of this?

SAM CHAMPION, WABC-TV, N.Y. METEOROLOGIST: Well, Larry, last night on this show we told people and all the experts agreed in Broward and Dade Counties they better shut her up and get ready for this storm.

It was a bad storm. I think the surprise was that it actually did strengthen as it moved across Florida, expected to weaken a little bit. But from what we were able to look at today, and I'm sure some of the guys will talk about it tonight, it's connection with the jet stream which was actually supposed to sheer it and weaken it a little bit almost treated this storm like blowing air into a fire.

It actually got worse as it connected or near connected with that jet. Now it's with the jet. It's streaming. It's rocketing up the eastern seaboard but I think that was the big surprise for Florida was its strengthening.

KING: Moving much faster now?

CHAMPION: Moving so much faster.

KING: Is it going to hit New York where we are?

CHAMPION: It's not going to hit as in a direct hit but we will certainly get bad weather from it and it's anywhere from all over the northeast. It's New York. It's all the way through Boston and on into Maine and it is going to become a nor'easter.

It kind of -- well actually that's not fair to say. It doesn't become. It feeds. It's almost like a handoff to a nor'easter that develops on the Delmarva Coast. Tonight, the rain that we're getting in New York right now this system continues through tomorrow night all the way up into Maine, bad rain, bad wind.

KING: Neville Koop in Oklahoma City would you call this storm catastrophic?

NEVILLE KOOP, WEATHERNEWS AMERICA METEOROLOGIST: Well, Larry, once again we've had another major storm make landfall in the U.S. coast. Wilma was the third category five storm of the season and each of those storms has made landfall this year.

Wilma surprised us right from the outset with the way it deepened explosively on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning last week. The rain it dumped over Mexico on the weekend and now moving toward Savannah overtopping the seawall there, the first time in nearly a century I believe that's happened.

And then, of course, maintaining category three status right across the peninsula and now moving out into the Atlantic, so there's still plenty of time for Wilma to surprise us yet.

KING: Ken Reeves, would you call it catastrophic?

KEN REEVES, ACCUWEATHER SR. EXPERT METEOROLOGIST: No, Larry, I actually wouldn't probably call it catastrophic, although what really does concern me a little bit, and Sam made a reference to it, we talked about it last night about evacuation and I think we really need to sit back. And I had mentioned this during Rita as well.

Why are there so many confused messages and people not leaving in certain situations? Is it the fact that the forecast information is changing so frequently from the National Hurricane Center? Are we not getting the right information out to people? It really should not have been a surprise on the East Coast, southeast coast of Florida that they had these kind of strong winds as well.

So, I wouldn't consider it catastrophic. It actually because of where it went in, in southwest Florida, the storm surge which during Rita penetrated in 22 miles, even if this did manage to make it in ten, 15 miles was into the Everglades and really wasn't affecting too many people.

KING: We'll take a break and when we come back we'll check in with David Paulison, the acting director of FEMA.

Dr. Andrew Weil tomorrow night, lots more to come tonight, don't go away.


KING: Joining us now from the FEMA studio in Washington, D.C. is David Paulison, the acting director of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, any idea the extent of damage yet David?

DAVID PAULISON, ACTING DIRECTOR, FEMA: Well, we're still doing damage assessments down there but it's pretty extensive. On the west coast all the way across to the east coast a lot of power lines down.

In fact from I-4 South pretty much everybody is out, almost everybody is without power, probably three and a half million people, a lot of tree damage, a lot of trees down, a lot of roof damage. Mobile homes those that were in that path were pretty much all wiped out, so it's a lot of extensive damage across the southern part of the state.

KING: Any are in the southern part that's the most serious?

PAULISON: Well, a couple of those western counties and Collier and others got a lot of damage. Just talking to my wife who is in Broward County in the city of Davie, our neighborhood has a lot of tree damage, some roof damage, things like that, so screen enclosures are all down so it's pretty much across the entire state. Some of those mobile home parks really got hit hard though.

KING: The acting director of FEMA lives in Davie, Florida?

PAULISON: Yes, sir.

KING: There's something ironic in that. How are search and rescue operations going?

PAULISON: They're going very well. I was watching, in fact on your show about one of our search and rescue teams getting a guy out of a trailer. It was one of my old teams, a Florida task force one. They're in Key West. They're in Marathon. We're just searching all the places where we have a lot of damage to make sure that we save whatever lives we can.

KING: Can FEMA help restore power?

PAULISON: We don't help restore power. We help fund some of it. Florida Power and Light it's the main power company in Florida is very experienced at restoring power and they'll do a good job to get us back in shape again.

KING: Does the experiences of Katrina and Rita help?

PAULISON: I think all the experiences we've had helped from Hurricane Andrew, you know, (INAUDIBLE) with Hurricane Andrew. You learn from those experiences. We learned from Katrina. We did better in Rita and in this one here we're doing much better.

The State of Florida is just doing a fabulous job. The governor and Craig Fugate the emergency manager are seasoned veterans in dealing with hurricanes unfortunately for them but they are very good at what they do and they've got a good handle on things down there.

KING: Resources get out quickly?

PAULISON: We are moving hundreds, literally hundreds of tractor trailer loads of food and water and ice down into the affected areas as we speak. We have Florida Highway Patrol escorts in getting those trucks down there now.

KING: What do you say to those people who have evacuated?

PAULISON: They did the right thing. Those who did not evacuate made a big mistake and they put their lives on the line when they didn't need to do that. Those that did evacuate we ask you just to sit tight. Don't go back home until the local emergency managers tell you it's safe to come back.

KING: Do you want the job permanently?

PAULISON: That's up to the president. I agreed to come in on an acting basis and help us get through this hurricane season and that's what I'm focusing on right now.

KING: I mean if asked you would take it?

PAULISON: I'd have to talk to my wife about that but I will do whatever the president asks me to do. He's a great leader and doing a great job for us and whatever he asks me to do I'll serve in that capacity.

KING: Would you say David that FEMA has got this in hand?

PAULISON: I think a better way to put it is by us partnering with the state. We both have it in hand. The state has their act together and it makes it so much easier for us to plug into that system when they operate as smoothly as they do.

KING: Do you stay up around the clock with this?

PAULISON: It seems that way. You know we try to get some sleep. We don't want to burn our staff out. I learned that lesson with Hurricane Andrew. I had 250 of my firefighters lost their homes. We had no plan in place to take care of our employees and so we learned from that so now we try to get our employees on 12-hour shifts so they get some rest and they can continue to function through this period of time.

KING: is your wife all right?

PAULISON: She's fine. She's not happy. We got a lot of damage around our house and she's taking care of it by herself but in 30 years I think I've only been home during one hurricane.

KING: No power in Davie?

PAULISON: No power, no sir, no power, no phone service but they do have water and sewers working.

KING: Thanks David.

PAULISON: Yes, sir, you take care.

KING: David Paulison acting director of FEMA.

Let's go back to Anderson Cooper and John Zarrella in Hollywood, Florida. This morning they were in Fort Lauderdale and I know we have some pictures. What was that like Anderson?

COOPER: Well, actually this morning when the storm first hit we were on Marco Island all the way on the west coast of Florida, which is very close to where this storm came ashore. I always like to in a hurricane be close to John Zarrella because, a) he's bigger and stronger than I am and, b) he knows much more about hurricanes than I do, so I rely on his knowledge and his physical size for protection.

ZARRELLA: He asked me to pick the spot. We picked Marco Island.

COOPER: Yes. He's excellent in picking spots for us. But it was really remarkable, you know. I was -- I think we're all sick of these storms. It just -- it's been too much the last 15 months is just far too much.

But every storm there's something in it that's remarkable and there's something in it that you've never seen before and for me I think it was the backside of this eye wall. All of a sudden we found ourselves in the eye.

We were out on the beach and then within about three or four minutes just, boom, the storm surge came and we got hit with really major winds, probably the strongest back of an eye wall I've ever seen.

ZARRELLA: Yes, no question, Larry, it was the strongest back of an eye wall that I had ever experienced and the storm surge, we were just -- it was just phenomenal and we only had a couple of feet of storm surge, not like what they got in the Keys but to just see that where the beach was 50 yards out when we first were down there and the eye, we were in the eye for 55 minutes. Then all of a sudden the waves were breaking at our feet. COOPER: Yes. It was -- really I've just never seen anything like it and, John, you know, he's sustained damage to his home as well.

ZARRELLA: In Davie, just like Mr. Paulison.


KING: John, do you ever get scared?

ZARRELLA: Not when I'm with Anderson. It's -- there are times, there are times, Larry, when you're looking around and you're worried about, particularly at night I think more so than any other time, not when it's daylight and you have a good handle on what's around you. It's at night when you don't know what might be flying through the air at you. That's the time I get a little bit spooked.

COOPER: Yes, and anyone who has been doing this any length of time, you know, they know the reality of these storms and these are killer storms. Three people are dead tonight from this storm, so you know anyone who does this for any length of time knows the gravity of the situation.

KING: Sam Champion, any other things occurring out in the Atlantic?

CHAMPION: Four tropical waves I looked at right before the show tonight. I don't know that any one of them is more likely to form than the others. If it did, we'd go to Beta now that (INAUDIBLE).

KING: That's what they're called now?

CHAMPION: Well, now once we made this first list all the way through, first time we've ever done that by the way, first time we went past the list that was prepared for the season. Then you go into the Greek alphabet and I can only get through the first ones, Alpha, Beta, what is it, Gamma, Delta? But that goes on and on.

KING: Fraternities.

CHAMPION: Yes, absolutely, absolutely right.

KING: You say there's no way to predict which one of these might become?

CHAMPION: At this point I didn't look into it and maybe Ken Reeves might know a little bit more about it if one is more but I didn't look that closely at them tonight. I was just spot checking them to see where they were.

KING: Ken, is one more likely than another?

CHAMPION: Well, Larry, I think Sam is pointing to those tropical waves and there end up being huge numbers of them during the course of a tropical season. We are getting kind of to3ward the end of where you start to see a lot of tropical activity. If there's going to be any, it's going to probably be in the Caribbean because that typically is where you would see them at this time of the year and right now there's nothing brewing, although there are some signs that maybe one of the tropical waves could work its way back into the Caribbean over the next seven to ten days and we'll have to keep an eye on it. By that point, we're already going to be into November. That's starting to get toward the very end of the season.

KING: We'll take a break. When we come back we'll be joined on the phone by Mayor Lois Frankel, the mayor of West Palm Beach. Don't go away.


COOPER: This is probably the worst that we have seen really even in the last minute or so. This is really bad. I think this is the worst it's been.

ZARRELLA: Yes, definitely this is the worst it's been. We were just saying that the sand will just peel the skin off you it blows so hard.



KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE.

We'll also be including your phone calls.

Mayor Lois Frankel, the mayor of West Palm Beach, Florida joins us on the phone from West Palm Beach. What's the situation there, mayor?

MAYOR LOIS FRANKEL, WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA (by telephone): Well, we had a very traumatic day but things have calmed down and I think, you know, it's going to take a little bit of time to get -- repair some of the damage but I think as soon as we can get the electricity back on here we'll be able to get back to normal.

KING: I know your city very well. Was Palm Beach hit worse?

FRANKEL: Well actually Palm Beach is east and this hurricane came in from the west, so actually it looks like the communities in the western part of our county got hit the worst.

KING: Was there much evacuation out of West Palm?

FRANKEL: We didn't evacuate as normal. We usually evacuate the intercoastal areas and the barrier islands, which includes Palm Beach. Since this wind was coming from the west we just evacuated people in mobile homes and substandard housing to go to shelters.

KING: There's a lot of shock, mayor, about the amount of damage. Are you shocked by the amount of physical damage caused by Wilma? FRANKEL: Well, you know, the National Hurricane Center I think did a very good job in forecasting the last week or so. We knew we were getting a powerful storm. I think it was a hurricane fatigue of having to I think for the ordinary citizens. This is about the eighth hurricane we've prepared for in 14 months and we've been -- we've been hit by three. It was very hard to get residents to get their shutters up or their plywood up. There's just fatigue from going through so many hurricanes.

KING: Any fatalities?

FRANKEL: As far as I know there were six fatalities in this area I think including Palm Beach County and Broward, maybe some also on the west coast.

KING: How is search and rescue going?

FRANKEL: Well, so far since we really didn't have too much evacuation here and I think most people are accounted for, I know they're still going to be looking in areas in the west coast where people did not evacuate and I know there is search and rescue going. Here in the eastern part of the state I think pretty much most people are accounted for.

KING: What's your number one need right now?

FRANKEL: Number one need is electricity, electricity and in many areas like West Palm Beach the water systems went down and I think people are going to be OK in terms -- a lot of water is coming into the region tomorrow, so we should be OK with that.

KING: How's the state and FEMA doing?

FRANKEL: Well that will be seen. Check in tomorrow. I mean we always count on really the first two to three days of a hurricane we are usually on our own and the state is usually well prepared.

Candidly, we didn't see -- we never saw FEMA in the last two hurricanes here in our area, so we just were very, very self sufficient and hopefully in some of these areas, especially where they got harder hit and where they need supplies, FEMA will be on the road.

KING: Have you talked to Governor Bush?

FRANKEL: No, I've not. He did have a press conference today which I watched and then the lieutenant governor had a press conference but a number of our state officials, you know, did get in touch with me today and so we're working together.

KING: Thank you, mayor.

FRANKEL: Thank you.

KING: Mayor Lois Frankel.

Neville Koop in Oklahoma City, the meteorologist with Weathernews America, the manager of marine forecasting, specializing in tropical weather is this true, are we at the end of the season now? Would you be surprised if we had another major hurricane?

KOOP: No, Larry, I would not be surprised. There's still a good six weeks left in our season and I can recall nine storms being warned for in the middle of December, so there is still plenty of potential for another storm to develop this year.

And you were talking earlier about the possibility of another storm. Our model here at Weathernews was hinting at soomething developing just south of Jamaica in about 36 hours from now moving north across Hispaniola, a fairly weak system it appears but we're watching it very closely.

KING: Ken Reeves, do you see that system?

REEVES: Well, you know, Larry, there are a lot of smaller systems that do move through the tropics. It's not uncommon to see them pulse up and down and so I don't see anything major coming in the next three days or so. I think where the major concern is actually going to be, Larry, and FEMA's got to be concerned about this as are the states is farther north as all these features kind of come together.

If we look at the graphic we can see there's a lot of activity coming up the coast very quickly. Wilma is going to make probably another landfall in the Canadian maritimes and then there's a little swirl of Alpha out ahead of it which you can't really see all that well.

And then you're going to have what will be essentially almost a nor'easter forming. I think Sam made a reference to it a little earlier and you're really going to create a situation where there's going to be 70 mile-an-hour wind gusts out in southeastern portions of Massachusetts.

There have been some comparisons to the perfect storm on this and I really don't think that's the case. The perfect storm was a very long duration kind of thing back in 1991, which really pounded the coast with high surf and a lot of erosion.

It didn't produce much in the way of rain. This one is going to produce one to three, locally five inch rain amounts and with what's happened in the last two and half weeks from eastern Pennsylvania into New England, there are going to be streams and rivers out of their banks again by the time we get to Tuesday night and Wednesday. Plus, snow, maybe even heavy snow in portions of the higher elevations from northeastern Pennsylvania into central New England.

KING: Ah, the weather.

Rob Marciano in Naples, is it OK now?

MARCIANO: Well, it's OK in the sense that the winds aren't nearly what they were 12 hours ago, although it's still pretty breezy. Skies are fairly clear. There was a nice sunset but there are trees down all over the place. There's roadways that are flooded and some are impassable all over the place.

So, it's going to take a while for those areas to drain. Obviously, lights are out and there is some structural damage. I will say this as compared to west Florida as compared to some of the other areas that we've dealt with as far as major hurricane landfalls across the Gulf Coast, you know, Florida is not only a very prepared state because they've had a lot of practice with these, especially in the last 18 months, but they're also a state that has new, has very strict building codes.

Since Hurricane Andrew ripped through in 1992, since they passed a law in 1994 and pretty much any new house that's built has to be built like a fortress, so any home or structure that you see that is damaged is at the very least 15 years old and if there's one thing that stands out in my mind there's a whole lot more tree damage than there is structure damage at least in Lee and Collier Counties tonight.

KING: We'll take a break.

When we come back, the mayor and police chief of Key West will check in. Our panel will continue. Your phone calls will be included. Don't go away.


KING: Welcome back. Joining us now on the phone from Key West, Florida, is Mayor Morgan McPherson. Key West got hit pretty hard. What's the aftermath, Mayor?

MAYOR MORGAN MCPHERSON, KEY WEST, FL: Oh, so far, so good. It's actually even like clockwork. We have our power in certain grids back up. We have our water main being fixed as we speak, so that we can have sewage and water. Our hospital has just got their hazmat team ready to roll. And we have doctors, and it's open. So excuse me, everything's on its way.

KING: When can residents who left come back?

MCPHERSON: They can start coming back now.

KING: How do you explain how rapid you did this?

MCPHERSON: Well, we have a model that, you know, projects what would happen if we should be in a situation like this. And that model we followed to a tee, and it just worked out perfect.

KING: So things are all clear? Is the weather nice now?

MCPHERSON: Beautiful weather. The only thing that we're looking at is still some flooding, and by tomorrow we should have a lot of that taken care of. We will be pumping the water out.

KING: Why do you stay there, Mayor?

MCPHERSON: That's my job, as mayor of the city of Key West. I think I have a responsibility to those that live here, and I'm excited to be part of that responsibility.

KING: Why do you live there?

MCPHERSON: I love Key West. It's a beautiful place. It's like paradise.

KING: So you would never think of leaving?

MCPHERSON: Nope. My family's here. It's a great place to raise kids. My wife is the assistant principal at the high school. And this is home.

KING: Thank you, Mayor. Mayor Morgan McPherson.

Let's go over to Gary Tuchman, and he's on the videophone in Key West. Are you as surprised as we appear to be at how quickly Key West got back to order, Gary?

TUCHMAN: Well, it really is surprising, Larry, because for a couple of hours early this morning, it was just an incredible scene and sight and the sounds; 120 mile-an-hour winds for two hours. And there were -- it sounded like there were jet fighters screaming above our heads. We expected to see incredible damage. Indeed, we have seen some damage. But as the mayor just told you, a lot of the flooding that was here -- and 60 percent of the homes were flooded -- a lot of the flooding on the streets now is gone, and that's something we do see during hurricanes.

One very interesting thing, Larry, about this mayor, Mayor McPherson you just talked to, he's only been in office for 17 days. He's been mayor for two and a half weeks. Lived in Key West almost his entire life, but can you imagine becoming the mayor of this city and then dealing with this?

This is the first hurricane, major hurricane that has had the eyewall hit Key West since 1919. It's been 86 years since that happened.

KING: Thanks, Gary. Great reporting.

David Mattingly in Hollywood, Florida. I understand you did some driving around the area today. Tell us about it.

MATTINGLY: That's right, Larry. It was some white-knuckled driving at its finest. We were driving north on 95, on our way to try and rendezvous with the eye of the storm. On our way there, on 95, as we approached Boca Raton, we actually came across -- we actually came across a tractor-trailer rig that had turned over. We stopped to see if the driver was still inside. Fortunately, he wasn't. Someone had already come along and rescued him.

But then we had trouble with the wind. We were having gusts of wind 80 to 90 miles an hour. It was very difficult to stand up out there. So I don't know what we would have done if we actually had found the driver. Getting back in the car itself was an exercise. I had to wrestle with the car door almost for a full minute with the wind trying just to get it closed, to give you an idea of how strong those winds were out there. And at times on 95 -- this is why they tell you not to go out there. There were times where I fully felt like the wind had more control of the car than I did. I didn't have a good feel for the road. The visibility was poor. We couldn't really see ahead of us well. Sometimes if we had a tail wind, it was pushing us along without using much gasoline at all. And again, it was really at times a very tense experience, but we were determined to get to the eye, which we did when we reached Boca.

KING: Tell me, Sam, when it's going to go up, it's going to go by New York, it's going to go by Boston. They say it may hit land again somewhere up north, Canada.

CHAMPION: Yes. In its direct path, it will move over the Canadian Maritimes. It will go toward Nova Scotia, probably Newfoundland. As it goes into colder water, we expect that it will become in some ways extra tropical. And all that means is that the center of it will now have cold air instead of the very warm air with it.

It will still be a big, bad storm. And the problem for all of us in New England tonight is that -- and I'll go right to my show after I do your show tonight for the weather forecast -- is we've got one to three inches of rain coming across the area, 50- to 60-mile-per-hour winds. We've got the wettest October in record in our area. We already had 14 inches of rain just about so far this month, so we'll have more flooding. New Jersey's had a lot of flooding. Connecticut and Massachusetts, there will be more of that. So this will be a rough night.

KING: Is it impossible to pick up -- is it -- could this storm hit Greenland?

CHAMPION: Yeah, it's kind of...

KING: But it couldn't hit as a hurricane, could it?

CHAMPION: No, by that time it will be extra tropical. It will be a bad storm. And then you will see it kind of follow on around. It will keep going.

KING: Could it hit Great Britain?

CHAMPION: Sure, in some form.

KING: So rain could come to Great Britain that started in Africa and went around and up through Florida?

CHAMPION: Absolutely. It's amazing things. The design of this, Larry -- and remember that the tropics, because of the way the Earth is shaped, that's where all the heat is. These things move heat around the planet. They move heat, they move water. They kind of try to equalize the temperatures around the planet. It's amazing how they work and what they actually do.

KING: Rob Marciano, do you want to go to Greenland and cover the rest of this?

MARCIANO: No, I'm done with Wilma. Although that would be fascinating. You know, I wouldn't say no to that trip. But it's unlikely that will happen, and I don't think at this point CNN wants to spend even more money on Wilma. So we'll let her go.

KING: Well, there's probably some suit that will say, Greenland, I love it. Anyway, we'll take a break and we'll be back. We will get some of your phone calls. Don't go away.


KING: Before we take some phone calls for our guests and our reporters, let's check in with Mayor Bill Barnett, the mayor of Naples, Florida. How's things there, Bill?

MAYOR BILL BARNETT, NAPLES, FL: Pretty dark, Larry. Pretty dark. No electricity. No water. Trees all over the place. But we survived it, let's put it that way.

KING: What surprised you the most about this one?

BARNETT: Well, what surprised me the most was the fact that there was really no structural damage to any of the homes in our city. I mean, there might have been a little bit, but not much. And I think that surprised me more than anything, because I really expected to be devastated here.

KING: What was damaged the most?

BARNETT: Well, there's just a lot of property damage. You know, we're a tree city. And we've got like 27,000 trees in this city. And I would tell you a great percentage of them are lying across roads and busted water mains and roof tiles. And it just -- it just looks bad. And there's many, many, millions of dollars worth of damage.

KING: Electricity still out in all the hotels?

BARNETT: Electricity is out throughout the whole city and the county, from what I understand. And, plus, we have no water, either. But they said that you know, they're going to be working on it. So we just keep our fingers crossed, that's all.

KING: Have you heard from FEMA?

BARNETT: Yes. They -- I have not heard from FEMA, but FEMA has been in touch with the county. And they said they're going to be on the spot. And this time I believe them.

KING: Thanks a lot, mayor.

Let's take a phone call. Oakland, Illinois. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. How are you?


CALLER: The question I have is, I realize that the hurricane in Florida is absolutely terrible. However, I'm wondering why there isn't more news coverage on the Wilma that hit Cancun? It beat Cancun up for 2 1/2 days consistently. And we have 10,000 American tourists there.

My daughter and brand new son-in-law are there on their honeymoon or were. And have been in a shelter since Thursday living in squalor. And the U.S. embassy nor the Mexican government or anyone can tell me anything, if they're safe, if they're alive, if they're ever going to come home.

KING: Excellent question. President Fox was very critical of the aftermath in Mexico.

You're a journalist, Sam. And I'll ask David Mattingly as well. Why wasn't Cancun covered the same as Key West?

CHAMPION: You know, I think -- I know that we have reporters down there. I know you have reporters. And the news and information that I have seen.

KING: We covered it.

CHAMPION: We covered it as well.

I believe -- and, you know, I think we're going to have to find out for sure why there hasn't been a lot of response, because all the reports have been that these people are stuck and they are stranded there and they haven't heard from the embassies. So she's asking really great questions.

But I think it should be more like, you know, why isn't the embassy more involved, why isn't the government more involved because it's getting coverage.

KING: Anderson and John, we certainly covered Cancun, didn't we?

COOPER: Yes, we certainly did. And Susan Candiotti is still down there.

I just spoke with a man who is stuck in a hotel with about 100 or so Americans and has not seen anyone from the U.S. embassy coming to that hotel or -- I mean, one of the things -- there's no information in a situation like that. And people are desperate for information because you don't know, I mean, when the flights are, is there going to be a flight out. They were appealing on air for Continental Airlines to try to get some planes down there. It's a desperate situation.

KING: John, the press -- we've covered it, haven't we, John?

ZARRELLA: Oh, yes, extensively. From the get-go, before it ever hit there. The last flights leaving there. The people that were stranded there. The moving them into the shelters. And everything that's happened to them since. Susan Candiotti and the crew is down there. So yes, extensively.

Everyone is fully aware of what the situation is down there. That's not a surprise.

KING: Ken Reeves, they got it the worse, didn't they?

REEVES: They certainly did, Larry. It was a slow moving system at the time. And for them, it was just a -- I could see the eye just go right over Cozumel and right up the coast. They got hit by the furry of the eyewall for an extended period of time. And with it going so slow, there was a lot of rain, too, especially in interior locations.

I was actually surprised to see -- there actually was more coverage probably in that area than during any storm that I can remember. May not still have been enough for everyone, but there's been a lot of coverage. And it is kind of surprising that the structures, they are made very strong there, obviously, because a lot of them with stood, even though there was cosmetic wind kind of damage as well.

KING: Neville Koop, there's no better place -- there's no place you would recommend to live, once you go to New Orleans, Panhandle, Florida, south, it's the luck of the draw, right?

KOOP: That's right, Larry.

And I've been through a few hurricanes myself and I know that once you're in one, you know, you've just got to take your chances as best you can.

But I think what's evident out of this season and the last season as well, is that we are seeing more and more storms affect people and businesses and infrastructure along the coast. We have a lot of people and businesses along the coast these days. And more and more people are moving to those areas. And so more and more people and their lives are becoming more vulnerable to these storms.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with more phone calls and questions from our panel. Don't go away.


KING: Take another call. Erie, Pennsylvania, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry!

KING: Yes?

CALLER: What's happening on Fort Myers Beach? Your man down there didn't give us much information during the night. We have a condo down there. It took us all year to get it back from Charley. And it's a barrier island right next to Sanibel. And what's happening down there?

KING: John Zarrella was in Naples this morning. You know anything about Fort Myers Beach, John?

ZARRELLA: Well, we were down there in Marco Island. I think Rob may have been a tad closer to it.

KING: Yeah, but he's gone, I think. Rob is gone.

ZARRELLA: Oh, he's gone?

KING: Yes.

ZARRELLA: I can't swear to it Larry. Where we were it was awfully bad. It was awfully bad in Naples. Fort Myers Beach was evacuated. And I have not heard any reports.

KING: You know, Sam?

CHAMPION: Last I saw they were lined up waiting to kind of get back in towards Sanibel and Fort Myers area. I don't know whether they've opened up to let them get back in or not.

KING: Neville Koop, do you know?

KOOP: Larry, I have not heard anything specifically from Fort Myers. But I do think that the further north you go from Marco Island, the less likely there's going to be major damage.

KING: Ken Reeves?

REEVES: Yes, actually. There were wind gusts to about -- I think the highest one on Fort Myers Beach was 100 miles per hour. But again, they were in a location of the storm, as you can see here, as storm went through, it kind of was on the northern fringe. But the strongest winds were on the southern part of that red there as you see as it went across southern Florida.

So, they probably did not get hit as hard. But I would think some damage, just based upon those kinds of wind speeds.

KING: David Mattingly, you hear anything?

MATTINGLY: I have been on the east side of Florida the entire time for this storm. So for that I flew into that area and drove over here. That was the last I saw of that area.

KING: Chicago, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry.


CALLER: I've had a home in palm beach for 30 years. We never seen anything like this. Is it the hurricane season being extended? Is it longer than it was? KING: Sam?

CHAMPION: No, it's not longer. It's just much more active.

KING: It seems later, though.

CHAMPION: Yeah. Well, you know, we've had October storms. And we do. And we get them right up to the end of the season. And then there are some storms very late in the season that develop. And they're right on the edge of being tropical. There's always fringe storms in a very active year. And this is, you know, we are a couple weeks out before it's the end of the season.

It's just that there have been so many, 22. I mean, this is a record year. And that's why it seems like it's long. It seems long for those of us who have worked it, too.

KING: John Zarrella, doesn't it seem long to you?

ZARRELLA: It seems awfully long to us. Four hurricanes last year and now four this year. We started the first or second week in June we covered a tropical storm. We're still going in October. But, I remember 1985 I covered Hurricane Kate in the panhandle of Florida, Thanksgiving week, a Category 2 hurricane.

KING: Really?

ZARRELLA: So it could still be longer, Larry, yes.

KING: Ken Reeves, when is the official end date?

REEVES: Well, the official end date, Larry, is the end of November. And there have been obviously storms that have occurred after that point as well. But this time of year you do tend to see things kind of start to wind down a little bit, but there is still opportunity for there to be more named storms there as you go through November.

KING: Neville, are you concerned?

KOOP: We're still looking at the possibility of one or two more storms this season in the Atlantic. For us at Weather news we're already looking in the southern hemisphere. We've seen storms forming already south of the equator, so it never ends for us. So, we're keeping an eye out everywhere.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with more and get a few more calls in. Don't go away.


KING: Let's take a call. Port Orange, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Larry, for days whether forecasters were saying that Wilma would weaken to a Category 2 or 1 before it hit that Florida. Many Floridians chose not to evacuate based on those reports. Wasn't it irresponsible for weather forecasters to give people a full sense of insecurity when they know weather patterns and hurricanes are always unpredictable?

KING: Sam.

CHAMPION: Yes, sir. I would be glad to handle that because I can tell you I sat here and listened to Max Mayfield from the National Hurricane Center tell people that though they thought it would weaken down to a Category 2 that you should always plan on land for a category ahead of where the storm is.

And that holds true for all of us that do that. We are out there, not trying to make it easy or hard on you. We're out there trying to give you information the best we can. And based on forecasting, these people are working day and night to try to tell you where that storm's going and what strength it will be when it gets there.

They're really honestly giving you their best effort. And when they tell you to plan ahead and prepare for more even then they're telling you, I really don't think you can turn around and get angry at them and they do change the forecast. They update the forecast on a regular basis.

And for those of us, and I do say us because I'm included, who live on the coast and have homes on the coast, it's our responsibility to follow those storms. We've chosen to live there and we need to be ready to get out and we need to make those preparations.

KING: David Mattingly, we didn't lessen the story, did we? David, do you hear me all right? OK. I'm sorry. He's gone. Ken Reeves, I don't think we minimalized, this did we?

REEVES: I don't think so, Larry. I think part of the issue here, I know at we make our own hurricane forecast as well in addition to what the National Hurricane Center does and they do differ.

And I think Americans really need to utilize as much information as possible. I've talked to a number of people in Florida that are really making their own decisions based upon the weather information they have out there.

And I think the best we can do is give them all the options that we possibly can, plus what our best scientific estimates are for the impacts of the storm as they're moving through. And that's all we can possibly do to help them.

KING: Buchanan, West Virginia, hello. Are you there?

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Yes, go ahead.

CALLER: Yes, please. Do you think that there has been too much fooling around with the atmosphere, with the space program, et cetera? And that's why the storms have become super severe and much more devastating over the past four or five decades?

KING: OK. Well, this would be some sort of guess. Neville, what do you think?

KOOP: Larry, we know some things about the way hurricanes form and what makes them intense as they are. There are other things that we don't understand very well.

Certainly, we have seen some extremely intense storms this season and last season. The talk is always of global warming and its impact. I personally feel that it's likely to be something to it but at this stage we still have to do a lot more research and get a lot more data before we can link the cause to the effect.

KING: David, David Mattingly, do you have a layman's opinion?

MATTINGLY: Well, more than a layman's opinion. I was environmental correspondent for years looking into issues regarding global warming. The whole problem with global warming, by the time we have been able to study it and get a grasp of exactly what is happening, it will be probably too late to do anything about it.

A great deal of the argument that's been going on has been theoretical and that's why it's been so hard to pin down on either side of how you stand on whether or not we are heating up our own atmosphere.

KING: Any other thought, Ken Reeves?

REEVES: Well, I think, Larry, it's trends versus cycles and whether or not the trend is toward more active seasons, more bigger storms that are more dangerous. I think there's a lot of complicating factors. Scientists like to hold things everything steady and bury stuff to see how it changes.

And unfortunately, we can't do that in the atmosphere. People, more people are moving to the coast which means more people are at risk. And it puts a lot more stress on the infrastructure of what's going on. There are signs that there are cycles out there. We've had very active seasons, years, decades in the past, even in the 1800's.

So I think there are signs that we go through, cycles through and it's not a trend but unfortunately we have many more people more at risk by living closer to the coast.

KING: Sam Champion?

CHAMPION: Larry, it's -- the reason and the why question is why we all get into weather and science in general. And that's why I encourage kids to come up and study science and to get involved in answering those questions. It will be years before we know exactly why these storms do what they do.

KING: Do you have a guess? Do you think we're affecting them?

CHAMPION: You know, again, I don't know that I've landed on one side of the argument or not. Whether it's global warming or whether it's cycles. It is the warmest September on record globally apparently. But then we only have weather records for 200 hundred something years and the planets a lot older than that, so what do we know?

KING: Will we ever solve or do something to a hurricane to end it?

CHAMPION: They've tried so many of those things and none of them have been successful. And I'm not sure that you want to end them because they are important...

KING: You like them? Oh, you like them. You're a weatherman you like them.

CHAMPION: I don't like them, but they are important in moving weather around the planet.

KING: And if you had the power, you wouldn't end them?

CHAMPION: I'm not sure I'd end them. I think I'd warm people and get people out of the way of them.

KING: Thanks, Sam, as always.

CHAMPION: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Thanks to all of our guests. We hope we keep you well informed, we sure try at CNN.

Tomorrow night, Dr. Andrew Weil last week he made the front cover of "Time Magazine." We feel personally involved in Andrew Weil. He's been on this program a lot. The Harvard medical graduate who knows his way around medicine and what's right to eat. Andrew Weil tomorrow night.

Right now, it's time for "News Night" and the amazing Anderson Cooper, he's gone from us, he's over with Aaron Brown. Aaron's in New York. Anderson is in Hollywood, Florida -- Aaron.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, thank you. Good to have you in town.


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