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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Hurricane Wilma Coverage
Aired October 24, 2005 - 02:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Hurricane Wilma is a strong and big Category 3 storm. It has winds now of up to 115 miles an hour and is expected to make landfall with that kind of power. For those people who ignored evacuation orders, there are curfews as emergency officials try to keep everyone safe.
Here is how we're covering the state. CNN is your hurricane headquarters. Rob Marciano is on Fort Meyers Beach. Jeanne Meserve is in Naples. John King is at Marco Island. And Gary Tuchman we'll see in just a moment here is in Key West.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: You can see him right there blowing in the wind.
HARRIS: Oh there he is, OK.
NGUYEN: At the bottom of the screen. They just made him step back for a moment. Of course we're going to be checking in with all of our reporters.
Take a look at this. Wilma is about 100 miles west of Key West, Florida and about 160 miles southwest of Naples. Because of the size, the sheer size of this storm, hurricane winds will be felt across the southern tip of Florida. Already mini tornado watches and warnings have been issued.
Now landfall -- that's expected between 6:00 and 7:00 Eastern this morning. And Wilma is expected to be in the Atlantic by noon. So that shows you how fast this storm is moving.
Good morning everybody from the CNN Center in Atlanta. We want to welcome you to this coverage, our rolling coverage of a hurricane named Wilma, a powerful one. I'm Betty Nguyen. Thanks for being with us.
HARRIS: And I am Tony Harris. Welcome to our extended overnight hours coverage of hurricane Wilma.
NGUYEN: Want to get the latest now on Wilma. Where this hurricane is heading. Now Chad Meyers joins us. He's our weather expert. Chad, did that 2:00 advisory come out?
CHAD MEYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Not yet. I'm still waiting for it. It's really -- all the 2:00 is is a position estimate. The nest real advisory is 3:00 a.m. and then another one at 5:00 a.m. doing them every two hours now rather than every three hours. And as it get closer they may even do them every hour by the hour. But her is the storm itself. Here is the eye of the center coming right one through here south of Fort Meters to the north probably, of Florida bay. But that means that the worst part of the eye wall, right down here is really headed to Key West I am afraid.
Here is what it looks like now on the live Doppler radar. There is Key West itself a very large squall now headed over the dry Tortugas. The maximum wind in Key West 51, but the maximum gust was just 77. And that is a hurricane strength gust. Marathon now 48 miles per hour. And farther up to the north around Marco Island at 35 miles per hour.
This is a wide storm extending its arms all the way -- it's raining in Georgia. And it's raining in Havana. So if we go for a couple -- from the state across the Florida straights even into the next country. There is the cloud cover. Here it comes coming in from the southwest to the northeast. Even east northeast now, 18 maybe 20 miles per hour. Picking up speed as it crashed across south Florida.
I know we talked a lot and we have been talking a lot about the west coast of Florida. But the east coast is going to be equally damaged with this. As the storm comes across and the eye wall is somewhere through here, remember there is still a cone yet. But we pretty much know where it is going now.
Somewhere just south of the eye, there will still be 110 mile per hour winds coming in from the south and from the west along those east coast cities. An area in and really a direction that you don't expect. Everybody has boarded up. They are ready for an east coast storm. This is actually a west cost storm that is not going to slow down much.
Because the Everglades, well one they are not bumpy. There is no mountains out there. And there is still very warm water in the Everglades. So this storm is not going to lose a lot of intensity. Back to you guys.
That spells trouble. OK Chad, we'll be checking in with you, thank you.
MEYERS: All right. Your welcome.
HARRIS: Betty, Key West. Deteriorating conditions.
NGUYEN: As we heard yes.
HARRIS: CNN's Gary Tuchman. Gary. You're right there. Brace yourself my friend of you can.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, KEY WEST, FLORIDA: Tony and Betty, I'm doing the best to brace myself. And so far we have succeeded. But you're right. The conditions over the past hour have deteriorated very much. Is has become a very unpleasant morning and we anticipate it will become more unpleasant as the hours go on.
Key West Florida up until two-and-a-half hours ago; there were still people on bicycles and skateboards going down this street. This is Duvall Street here in downtown Key West. We've had the (INAUDIBLE) tropical force storm force winds now for a couple of hours. And as Chad just said, we've had the hurricane force gusts coming in. And Chad told us a little while ago that two or three hours from now we're expecting the worst of it here.
Right now there is flooding in some of the city. The southern most city in the continent of the United States. But nothing out of the ordinary according to policemen and women we've been talking to tonight. They are still out on the streets and they will continue to go out on the streets until the sustained winds are over hurricane force and then they give up for the evening. They go back to the police station.
Anyone who is here who has decided not to evacuate, and there is a mandatory evacuation, is on their own. There will be no helping people. There are no hospitals open in the Keys. The nearest shelter is 150 miles away in Florida, (INAUDIBLE) University, which is in Miami. That's where people were supposed to go when the mandatory evacuation took place.
And not only are the people who live here -- many of the natives very proud, they call them conchs affectionately, and they are so proud they don't want to leave a lot of them tell us. But the fact is it is very hard to get to the shelters. It's a long way away, 150 miles. It's not like you can go eight or miles inland like we seen during Katrina and Rita. And that's why so many of the 28,000 people are still here.
This is going to be a really rough morning. We can tell (INAUDIBLE) Katrina and Rita in the last eight weeks. And it's the beginning of a real tough time. Tony, back to you.
HARRIS: So Gary, you know, over the next couple of hours we are going to sit here. And we're going to watch this thing roll in on you. Your standing up as straight as you can right now. In a couple of hours you'll be crouching down trying to do everything you can to stay below the wind. And we're just going to sit here and watch this happen to you.
TUCHMAN: This is the perfect opportunity Tony to tell our viewers -- our viewers right now are probably saying, why are you even out there?
TUCHMAN: You know. And it's really important for us to point out that that is our jobs to observe conditions. And then some people say to me well, why don't you just leave the camera out there? You don't have to be out there. Well the cameraman is operating the camera. He haws to be out here too.
So that's our job. We do not -- and it is so important because we have families to, which we do not take unnecessary risks. We know where to set up to very sturdy buildings. We know how to be careful. But that's part of our job. Whether it's a war or whether it's a hurricane we have to be where the action is to show you what's going on.
HARRIS: Gary Tuchman, doing his job. Doing it well. Gary thank you.
NGUYEN: He is doing it very well. We're going to check in with another man who is doing his job very well.
NGUYEN: John King. He is in Marco Island. And he has the latest on the conditions there. John, it seems like winds are picking up a bit.
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT, MARCO ISLAND, FLORIDA: Winds are picking up Betty, we think in the high 30s now. Perhaps some gusts a little bit more than that. Nowhere near what Gary Tuchman is feeling at the moment in Key West. But that is the big question here in Marco Island.
When that storm turns to the north as it passes Key West, how far north will it come? The expectation now is that it will hit land when it hits the peninsula south of here. But they are bracing here. And there is a big key difference. You just heard Gary talking about how so many of the residents of Key West have decided to stay.
What local officials are happy about here as they brace for this storm is that most -- they believe 20,000 people were on the island when the evacuation order was issued over the weekend. They believe 90 percent or more have left 2,000 or fewer people now on Marco Island.
Hard to see in the dark like this. This is the tip of Marco Island. Largely a resort condominium community now. Hotels stretching up here. The Gulf is less than 100 yards, maybe 75 yards behind me. The waves are beginning to intensify. But again, we are in the very early stages where we are now. Gary experiencing hurricane conditions.
It's getting gusty here now. The rain has certainly picked up and is much more steady. The question is, how much of a storm surge, which of course will be determined by just how close Wilma comes when she turns to the north. They say they could get a storm surge anywhere between seven to nine feet. Perhaps higher than that if it hits more closely. That is the biggest concern because there are so many canals here. A very low water table.
You see this sturdy brush, sturdy vegetation down here by the water. You can see re water building up down below it. And we're just starting now. We're still few hours away from the worst conditions. A few hours, maybe three or four even.
NGUYEN: Yes. You say you are just starting right now. But I have to ask you though, as this storm comes ashore, have you started to begin to see some of the power outages that always seem to happen when a hurricane comes ashore? KING: Not as yet. And we were told by the city manager earlier today to expect the entire island to get knocked out. He said at a Category 1 -- and this will come ashore as a Category 2 perhaps even a Category 3 -- he said in a Category 1 almost always the power here would get knocked out. That is one of the reasons they wanted to get everybody off the island.
You have to of course go over a bridge or a causeway to get off Marco Island. But they are also making plans to reopen as quickly as possible. They are not closing the bridges, I should make that clear. But they are trying to keep people who have left from coming back on. As of now, I am seeing lights in the hotel where we are. You can see light stretching down the beaches.
We'll keep watching that as the storm intensifies over the next couple of hours. The expectation is we will see dark quite soon.
NGUYEN: Well the good news as you mentioned, about 90 percent of the people who live there did evacuate. So glad to hear that. John King, thank you.
HARRIS: To Fort Myers now and Meteorologist Rob Marciano. And Rob good to see you my friend. Is it your sense now that the main event relatively speaking is going to be a bit south of you?
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST, FORT MYERS, FLORIDA: Yes. Well that is where the worst part of the storm is going to come on shore. That's for sure. The deal with this storm though is the wind field is expanding. And when we have seen wind and rain now expanded to our area for the past several hours.
So unlike Charlie, which was a Category 4 storm that made that right turn up the road into Punta Gorda last year, it was a pretty tight storm although stronger storm, the wind field was smaller and like Tamps, didn't see anything. And we're relatively about as far away from the center of this storm as Tampa was to Charlie. And we still have been seeing very stormy weather for the past couple of hours.
So the main even as far as the strongest winds and the biggest storm surge is going to be south of us. Storm surge is something that not necessarily a place you want to be, trust me. So to be on the good side, the clean side as we like to call it in the business, the left side of the storm where you have the winds blowing offshore pushing the Atlantic Ocean or in this case the Gulf of Mexico out to sea where it belongs, that's having you know, that is having the better part of a bad deal, I suppose.
We will see gusty winds that will pose some -- create some damage because you get winds over 50 miles and hour and that's the level that we start to see branches fly off of trees. Power lines start to come down. And in some cases, structural damage to some of the buildings around here. So there will be damage here to say the least. But most the heavier damage should -- that forecast track verifies to be down to the south. Nonetheless, there have been mandatory evacuation orders for many of the barrier islands across the county. And just to the west for Fort Myers. Fort Myers if you don't know, sits about 10 to 15 miles inland. And right now Fort Myer, where we are in Fort Myers Beach, well it is pretty much the beach close to the ocean. So we're about right now 20 yards from the bank of the ocean. With the storm surge not expected to come here. It will head farther down to the south.
We've been getting waves of rain and wind all night long. Now we're kind of in a low. But we haven't had a complete stoppage of the wind or the rain like we were earlier on. It's been fairly steady going on throughout the night. But the fact that it has been raining steadily for several hours now, and then with the storm as far away as it is Tony and Betty, it really gives you a sense of just how big this storm is.
How wide the wind field is, and at least for me, how wide that rain field is. And if this thing was moving slower, like when it was hitting the Yucatan peninsula, we would be talking about flooding issues like they had in Mexico. But because it is picking up speed, it's going to be more of a wind event for Florida than a rain event. And that is good news because they are completely water logged from this past hurricane and rain season.
So they will get this hurricane in and get it out quickly and they will take it. but conditions here Tony and Betty certainly are not going to get any better, even though we're on the good or clean side of the storm.
NGUYEN: I like the way they put it, the better in of a bad deal.
HARRIS: Rob, Chad wants to talk to you.
MEYERS: Yes, you just reported an east wind at 31 from regional southwest. Have you felt that kind of wind speed there Rob?
MARCIANO: Absolutely yes. I would say that is a good -- that's about what it feels like. And you know, one thing I've learned Chad, I know you have experienced covering these storms is that you kind of always -- it's human nature to make it feel like it is worse than it actually is. So over the months and past year or so, (INAUDIBLE) kind of been able to get a good gage as to what the winds feel like and at least somewhat accurately.
And yes, 30 mile an hour wind gusts is about what we have been enduring here for the past half an hour. It's really picked up actually in the past half an hour to the point where we are starting to look around going -- what if things start to go flying around here? Where is our fallback position or where is the safety spot? Where can we find a piece of shelter that may be a good spot for all of us to get down and wait for this thing to ride out?
So 30 mile an hour wind gusts.
MEYERS: Yes that's where I was going with this Rob. Is because when you are on the bad side, the dirty side as Rob describes it, your winds are always off the ocean. There is very little to pick up off the ocean expect water and mist. And it looks like a snowstorm. But when the waves and the winds are coming your direction Rob off shore, you have a much greater potential of something disintegrating to the east of you. And that wind blowing those pieces to you.
So I need you to be really be careful of that. Although you are not going to get 115 mile per hour winds, you certainly could see 75 to 80 because of the size of the eye wall. It looks like the worst of the eye wall will be south of you, well south of you into even Miami (INAUDIBLE). But as the northern eye wall comes up very close to where you are, in fact probably right up your river, the river that goes right through and into separating Cape Coral right up into Ft. Myers, the whole are right there could easily see winds to 75.
And that will start as you said, start to take shingles off. Pieces of aluminum will start to fly. And any other debris that is not tied down will be coming at you from the land rather than nothing coming at you from the water.
MARCIANO: Well it's funny you should say that because just before we started this live shot, I was looking up and above me and around to where there are you know, are buildings and there are palm trees. And there is a palm tree right about there off camera with palm (INAUDIBLE) in this direction of the wind could easily fly off. And give me a little knock on the head.
So we're watching that -- we're watching that. But the Caloosahatchee River as you mentioned that pretty much rides just to eh north of Ft Myers (INAUDIBLE), that is a really wide river. There are a couple of good spots for us to report from. But as this forecast track started shifting south, we certainly wanted to give the folks and the viewers at home a little bit more a taste than just a good safe view.
So we're here on the beach and we'll take the precautions necessary hopefully to dodge any sort of flying debris. But we'll be here all night Chad. Thanks for keeping us posted.
MEYERS: I suspect you'll be on the road tomorrow morning early. Probably across the state, across the alligator alley because there will probably be more damage from (INAUDIBLE) up through (INAUDIBLE) even into Fort Lauderdale as the south side of the eye, the dangerous side of the eye comes right across here.
And so this almost having two landfalls, although not technically. Maybe the second would be called the city fall. Because they are just a complete city now that stretches all the way from (INAUDIBLE) Homestead for that matter, Florida City right on up even into West Palm. And there will be damage over there from 100 miles per hour winds. Rob, stay safe out there. Be careful. Thanks Bud.
HARRIS: Boy -- and Chad, before we lose you, Everglades City, that's in (INAUDIBLE) County, is that an area that -- I believe that is south of Marco Island.
MEYERS: That is probably storm surge city there yes. HARRIS: Right there. OK. When we come back. We'll take a break. We'll talk to the mayor of Everglades City. CNN is your hurricane headquarters all night and through the day as Wilma bears down on Florida. A break and then we'll be right back.
NGUYEN: You do want to trust CNN because CNN is your hurricane headquarters all night and through the day as Wilma comes ashore in Florida.
South of Naples, Florida, Collier County's Everglades City is also under curfew tonight. And those who chose to stay in town are already feeling the wind and rain from this hurricane. The mayor, Sammy Hamilton is one of them. And he joins me now by telephone.
Mr. Mayor, as we look at the map and spoke with Chad Meyers, it looks like Everglade City is really in the path of Wilma. What is the weather like there right now? What are the conditions?
MAYOR SAMMY HAMILTON, EVERGLADES CITY, FLORIDA: Right now it is raining not real hard. But I'm looking out the window. It looks like the wind is about 25-30 miles an hour already.
NGUYEN: As you hear that, as you hear that this storm makes it's way onshore and you hear the meteorologist talk about where it is going to come in and even mention that Everglade City could be right there.
NGUYEN: There has been no definite answer as to exactly where. But Everglades City is in the path. What kind of precautions have you taken?
HAMILTON: Well we have been over a week maybe longer that -- I definitely take this very seriously because I was in (INAUDIBLE) and the city hall in 1960 in hurricane Donna. And that was bad. We had about 12 feet of water in the city.
HAMILTON: So we're at sea level. And I started like I say, 10 days ago probably. And got the motor homes and people like that to fuel up and get out of here. We went to the trailer parks in low areas and got most of them out. And it looks like all of them's out. So we -- like I say, we're well prepared. I've been working with the county, Collier County emergency people.
Sheriff's Department, Fire Department, and we got our fire department in the city. But they moved out (INAUDIBLE) to (INAUDIBLE) land which is about 12-14 miles here. Just take a few minutes to get back in when we need it as the water goes down or whatever. We're well prepared.
NGUYEN: So for those who decided to stay home, if they are in dire need, it's going to take some time to get to them after the storm comes ashore.
HAMILTON: Well actually, I'm just -- I'm really working very hard. We have a little small TV channel we call it for our local area.
HAMILTON: And for 10 days I keep putting it on there (INAUDIBLE) day and night for everybody to see. And how dangerous this could be. And so I am really happy that at least 95 percent of the people left out of town.
NGUYEN: Mayor, I am going to ask you to stand by for a moment because Meteorologist Chad Meyers is here. And he has a couple questions for you.
MEYERS: Mr. Mayor, there is a tornado warning for Western Collier County. Now the storm that we're seeing that does have to rotation appears like it may move just a few miles west of Everglade City into Goodland, Royal Palm, Hammock, Marco Island, even into Naples and North Naples if it indeed hangs together.
Doppler indicating rotation on that storm right there. My question to you is what is the topography of your town look like? If there is a storm surge, that's forecast to be eight to 14 feet. Well after that, what does your town look like? How far above sea level are you?
HAMILTON: Well actually Sir, we're actually right at sea level. That is the -- we can handle the wind. But the water kills us.
HAMILTON: We're right at sea level. So if this all happens the way their saying, everybody's (INAUDIBLE) be in pretty bad shape.
MEYERS: Are you in a safe place?
HAMILTON: I'm in a very safe place. And -- but I tried to get -- I got everybody else out.
MEYERS: Well we know that is almost what we would call ground zero of -- and just to the south of there of the storm surge Betty and Mr. Mayor. So anywhere from Everglade City right on down into Florida Bay. That's where that biggest eight to 14 feet will be.
MEYERS: So how did you convince everybody to get out? Was it because you said look, we are at sea level. You need to go? Or what was it?
HAMILTON: Well that -- I already explained to them. And everyone knows me in this area. And I told them like it was. I have taken this very seriously. We are at sea level. And this happens -- we're going to have so much water in the city. And the water is what kills us. The wind we can handle. But the water destroys everything.
MEYERS: Well the other bad news for you Mr. Mayor is that this storm actually come in at your high tide.
HAMILTON: I know. Yes. Definitely. Definitely. Our high tide will be around 7:30 in the morning.
HAMILTON: And that's going to make it worse. So people listen very good. And like I say, we have this little small channel that we have for the local area here on TV. I had everything on there -- like get the motor homes out of here early. Gas up. Get them out of here. And got the low areas of trailer parks. Areas like that, we got them all out. I checked that this afternoon before I came home. And everyone is out of the trailer parks.
MEYERS: You said that five percent or maybe 95 percent are gone, five percent are left. How many does that -- how many do you add up -- how many people are still here?
HAMILTON: I would say probably -- I'd say about 20 people.
HAMILTON: Yes. I did -- I'm telling you. We worked hard and we didn't take it easy. And did a good job. Well prepared. And buses come in today from 10:00 to 12:00.
MEYERS: Oh wow.
HAMILTON: Picking up people who didn't have no transportation.
MEYERS: Where did you send them?
HAMILTON: (INAUDIBLE) at the Golden Gate area, (INAUDIBLE) areas, colleges, and stuff in that area. And like I said, I haven't slept. And I won't be sleeping until it's over with.
MEYERS: Well that makes two of us Sir.
HAMILTON: (INAUDIBLE) Everglades City is going to see that his city is taken care of.
MEYERS: All right. Well you be very safe because you are in a dangerous place there.
HAMILTON: I know. So -- yes.
MEYERS: Everglades City. Wow. Betty?
NGUYEN: He is obviously very aware of the situation and what is coming ashore.
HARRIS: He is that (ph).
NGUYEN: And you can hear it in his voice though.
NGUYEN: He understands how serious this is. But the same time when Chad -- and this is what I noted. When Chad asked him, are you in a safe place, there is a little bit of a pause.
HARRIS: There was.
NGUYEN: He said yes I am. And we do wish him the best. But good news is, he said 95 percent of the town is out of there. About 20 people left behind. Boy. Our hearts and minds are with those 20 people, especially with high tide and this storm surge that is coming ashore. And that place is at sea level.
HARRIS: Yes. Oh my goodness. All right. We're going to take a break and as we do, a couple of pictures here, Fort Myers, Marco Island, Naples Florida as well. There you are, labeled for you. We'll look at what Hurricane Wilma did to Cancun, Mexico. Have you seen these pictures?
After the break. CNN is your hurricane headquarters all night and through the day as Wilma bears down on Florida.
NGUYEN: CNN is your hurricane headquarters all through the night and the day as Wilma bears down on Florida.
HARRIS: Trio of live shots now. Live pictures. Fort Myers, Marco Island, Naples, Florida. We've got a new concern now. Really concerned about the mayor and the people of Everglades City. About 20 left.
NGUYEN: As we said, 20 are still there.
HARRIS: Everyone else is pretty much -
NGUYEN: He said about 95 percent of the people got out. And they brought in buses to get them out. But you could hear in his voice -
HARRIS: Yes he was -
NGUYEN: There was worry there.
HARRIS: Really good so. All right. We're going to keep on eye on -- maybe we can just sort of -- maybe every hour or so just sort of check and see -
NGUYEN: Check in with him.
HARRIS: Sort of check and see how things are going there.
NGUYEN: That's a good idea.
HARRIS: How things are going there in Everglades City. Wilma's extended stay over the resort area of Cancun has left the popular Mexican vacation spot a huge mess. CNN's Susan Candiotti reports on the damage as well as efforts to help the thousands of stranded tourists.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT, CANCUN MEXICO: The Mexican government ordered that thousands and thousands of people who had been staying at hotels along the white sandy beaches of Cancun get out of there before the storm hit. And many of them were brought to the school. It's a complex of many buildings.
But some of then didn't make out very well during the storm. That building in particular lost it's roof. However, a lot of the hotel staff also came out here along with the hotel guests to try to cook for them. To try to give them water and take care of them as best they can.
But the conditions of course not entirely perfect. Do you want to tell me what it's been like for you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been very comforting really because the people here have taken really good care of us. They are doing all they can do. They are providing us with food, water. Just excellent (INAUDIBLE) conditions in a situation I think.
CANDIOTTI: And can you tell me Ma'am, what it was like when the storm hit. Describe it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very frightening. You couldn't see outside. You could hear the wind blowing. Could hear things hitting the building. But basically we were pretty safe inside.
CANDIOTTI: All right. Let's walk up a little farther here and show you -- they've got some buses over here where people were not only brought here but they have been trying to bring in extra water, extra food, to make sure that they can try to take care of these -- guests as best as is possible. Where are you folks from over here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: St. Louis, Missouri.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: St. Louis.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
CANDIOTTI: What was it like to ride through the storm?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was terrible. It was very frightening. It just continued just constantly. It was like no -- I mean for like seven and eight hours just the pounding and the wind. And it was very terrifying. Very frightening.
CANDIOTTI: And of course no one has any idea, right Ma'am, when you are going to get out? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not a clue. We don't know anything. As far we know the airports are all down. There is no communication. And nobody has got any (INAUDIBLE). And basically we're just on a waiting game.
CANDIOTTI: As the hurricane came through, power shut down obviously, water, there isn't any to be had for bathing. But it usually takes three days. This is what happens. And people did have to evacuate the hotels that are located on the beach. Those are uninhabitable at this time.
So of course some of the remaining questions, when will the airport be able to open so some of these tourists can get out? How will residents do? There is a lot of cleanup to be done. Our people say there is hope. And it will happen. And they do plan on bringing Cancun back eventually.
Susan Candiotti, CNN, Cancun Mexico.
HARRIS: Well the latest Hurricane Wilma stats are these, the eye of the storm is less than 100 miles southwest of Naples, Florida. Wilma is moving to the northeast at 18 miles an hour.
NGUYEN: Most of South Florida is feeling and seeing Hurricane Wilma. CNN, your hurricane headquarters, with reporters all across the state. Take a look, Rob Marciano is in Fort Myers Beach. Jeanne Meserve is in Naples. John King is at Marco Island, and Gary Tuchman is in Key West.
So we are keeping you up to date with the very latest on the movement of Wilma.
HARRIS: Let's check in now with CNN's severe weather expert Chad Meyers. And Chad, I think it was your interview and Betty's interview with the mayor of Everglades City, now I am terribly concerned about those folks there. I know there aren't many people there left. But the mayor is there. About 20 folks are there. And I don't know. I'm just --
NGUYEN: So are they right there in the path as this comes ashore? I mean is that going to be the point at which she makes land?
MEYERS: A little bit farther to the north is where the landfall is going to be. Which means that that area is just right in the teeth of the storm surge.
MEYERS: So I -- you know, the only thing I didn't ask the guy was how come you didn't leave?
MEYERS: But I just felt that his pride as mayor - HARRIS: That's it.
MEYERS: Wouldn't have -- you know. I didn't even want to go there. Because I didn't want to have --
HARRIS: He's got to protect the city.
HARRIS: He's the captain of the ship.
MEYERS: Well there you go. Let's hope that's only in tongue and cheek.
MEYERS: Key West, Fort Myers right on back through and into Everglades City, which is right there. We'll get to a couple more spots for you here as well. A couple things going on tonight now. The storm is very wide.
Although we didn't get that tight eye wall, we don't have a Category 5 storm, it is Category 3 at 115, in fact the storm, though hurricane wind field is still just as big as it was when it was south of Cancun. You just don't have that tight little eye in the middle. So you don't have those winds that are 150 or something like that. This is still a very dangerous storm. Especially for the east coast of Florida as it come onshore tonight and rolls right across the Everglades.
And as it does, it is not going to lose any strength. Look at this. Key West, I want to see the live shot from Gary Tuchman. Right there. This is just about to go down as bad as we've seen it for Key West. I want John King to know, I know you are listening out there John, there is a tornado warning for right where you are. Watch our yourself to the south because that's the way the storm is coming at you. It's coming from south to north at 60 miles per hour.
So if you see something or hear something, you need to get out of the way and don't be shy of missing anything. Just be safe out there. This is a significant weather maker. It's going to be going downhill now as the whole area moves right through and into the Everglades.
I want to take you one more place. I want to take you to something called the loop current. There is my blue wall. That's what it looks like. There really isn't anything behind me. Here is the map though that we just showed. Showed how the storm now -- just to the north of Cuba, not that far west of Key West moving right across the state.
Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean. Here is the Yucatan Peninsula. Why did the storm get to a Category 5 in the first place? It's because of the warm water. High-octane water to the south of Cancun. The numbers here are wind speeds, 165, 173, and then right up into Cancun at 155. The storm stalled little bit over Cancun. But now it is into the warm water again. That's why it got stronger again. As we move it farther to the east, which is right about that black dot right there, the storm is going to slide into cooler water and not intensify any more. So we're not expecting this to go to much stronger than where it is now at 115. But that's still major hurricane damage, especially from Fort Myers all the way across the state. All the way through this kind of a farming area. Down here, this is the Everglades. And then from West Palm down to Fort Lauderdale. Right even into Miami-Dade under the gun of this southern eye wall.
Look at this southern eye wall is going to smash into Key West right across Florida Bay through homestead, Florida City, and right into South Dade County. So you guys are going to have to be careful. This entire area probably could see wind speeds over 100. And it's going to finally be gone by noon tomorrow. But it will have a swathe of damage.
HARRIS: By noon tomorrow gone.
NGUYEN: Moving fast.
NGUYEN: All right Chad., We'll check in with you soon.
MEYERS: Or noon today I guess. Because it's already 2:30.
NGUYEN: That's true. It is 2:30 in the morning even though it is overnight. All right. You mentioned John King Chad. We're going to check in with him right now. He is in Marco Island. And John, when he mentioned the fact that hey, on top of all that your facing right now, get ready because there is the threat of tornado. You smiled a little bit. It's almost like hey. What more could you bring my way?
KING: Well the winds are picking up a bit Betty. You know, last time Chad Meyers yelled at me on the air, we were down in (INAUDIBLE) pass when Rita was about to come ashore in Texas. So we got out of there in time. It is more windy out here. I just took a walk a minute ago down to the beach. One of the big issues of course is the storm surge. And one of the things that complicates it a bit is that it's going to be high tide when this hurricane, when Wilma comes ashore and hits here. Probably to the south by all expectations now.
But the tide is already starting to get quite high. And we're still a couple of hours away from landfall. So that will complicate the surge and the flooding conditions, one of the things local officials were worried about. Chad mentioned that tornado warning. We're obviously trying to keep in touch with local officials. The police are still out on the streets here in Marco island.
The fire department says they had one emergency call at 6:00 this evening. It was a fire related call. Not related to the hurricane. So so far they are quite happy here. And again, they think about 90 percent of the people are gone. So only about 2,000 people left on this island. The power is still up. You have these periods like this. This is relative calm, at least given the past four or five hours.
Torrential downpour, swirling winds, and then a period like this where it is just raining and the winds die down for at least a few minutes. Relative piece Betty as we await what is just a few hours away.
NGUYEN: And you know, it is not going to last very long at all John. Hey you mentioned --
KING: There we go. It didn't last -
NGUYEN: Yes of course. I'll try not to say that too often so hopefully it won't continue to happen. You mentioned the emergency personnel that were out and about. Are they still out and about, or has this become a point where they are going to say, I'm headed inside until after the storm comes ashore?
KING: They have stopped trying to evacuate anybody at nightfall. They wanted everyone to get out by this afternoon. We do still see some police patrols. Very limited. This is a very small police department. We're on a small island. During the week they shut down late in the evening and their calls are forwarded to call your county. And the police department is here obviously for emergency response. But they shut down at times.
They are still patrolling. One or two police cars driving around. We saw one or two when we went out just before curfew at 10:00. And they also have a redundant emergency operation center if you will. It is set up -- the main one at the fire department headquarters. We visited there this morning. They also have a back up at a hotel just oh maybe 200 yards this way, the way I am pointing. Past our hotel and up the road a little bit in case their power goes out or in case there is any flooding up at the fire department, they have a backup set up as well.
And again, they said they would keep some limited police patrols out on the streets until they thought the conditions were too unsafe. And we just checked in a short time ago and they said there were still some police rolling around. Most though are using a hotel just up the street as a temporary barracks. They were told to report there at 4:00 this afternoon. And they were told once the storm hits they could be on duty around the clock.
NGUYEN: All right John King, thank you. Stay safe out there. We'll be checking with you as well shortly. Well Wilma is a Category 3 storm. And no doubt it is huge. Look at the radar right there in your bottom right-hand corner. This is a big storm. From Central Florida to the Keys, residents will see strong winds, heavy rains, and even possible tornadoes.
So our coverage now shifts over to Naples, Florida. And our Jeanne Meserve who has been there over the past few hours bracing herself and enduring all that is coming her way. Things have really picked up in your area, Jeanne.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT, NAPLES, FLORIDA: Yes it is intermittent. It will get very strong in terms of wind and rain and then it will fade out again. I've been watching the water here. I've been sort of watching its progress with these bushes here. And I will tell you that just within the last 10 minutes or so, some of the wave action has started to come above there.
Nothing very significant yet. But it definitely is coming up a bit. Perhaps because of the tide. Perhaps because of the surge. I can't sort one from the other at this point in time and from this place. I'll tell you that the waves figured into a conversation I had earlier today down in Everglade City. Everglade City of course getting a lot of attention right now because that's where we think they're going to get a very bad storm surge.
I was talking to a guy named Speedy Johnson down there. He runs an airboat business. He was talking about the fact that there are barrier islands between Everglade City and the Gulf. And he felt that those were going to protect him from this. From this sort of punishing wave action that comes in. Well that's probably true. But apparently it's not going to keep them from the surge as you have heard, that may be as high as 14 feet in Everglade City when all is said and done.
Another thing that has been discussed a lot tonight is the evacuation. Here in Collier County, they called for a voluntary evacuation. In the middle of last week it became mandatory on Friday afternoon. And people were supposed to be about by 8:00 this morning. That had some real advantages in that it was a very gradual thing. People leaving the county. And so you didn't have things like clogged evacuation routes. You didn't have shortages of fuel at the pumps.
Stores were able to bring in re-supplies. So empty shelves, if you encountered them usually were full by the next day. So there definitely were some real pluses to the fact that the storm lingered over Mexico and they have all this extra time to get people out of town. And the downside of course was that people started to get frustrated. They started to feel that their lives were very much disrupted and put on hold.
I was talking to one individual that said heck, we don't even know where to go if we were going to leave here because we aren't sure of what the storm's track is going to be and whether we should go north or south. So some people just threw up their hands in the end and decided to stay put. So there are a significant number of people here, although the county says they haven't been able to give us an exact percentage on what percentage of people evacuated and who stayed behind.
But it looks like Naples will avoid the very worst of this. Oh look, as we speak water has come up here. This little runoff here, this probably went three or four feet beyond anything else I have seen out here this evening. An indication guys that this is getting a little bit worse where I am. Back to you.
NGUYEN: All right Jeanne. We're going to let you go for now. But obviously the situation is getting worse where you are. And we'll be checking in as Wilma comes ashore. Heavy rain is pelting the Florida Keys. And wind gusts up to 75 miles an hour are whipping Key West. Only a few thousand of Key West 28,000 residents evacuated. We're told about only 20 percent evacuated. That 80 percent are still there.
And Wilma may make those who stayed behind regret it. The hurricane is about 100 miles to the west right now. So Hurricane Wilma may make landfall about four hours from now. It could be a little bit more. Could be a little bit less. But call your county. Florida seems to be in the storm's sight.
Ted Ryznar, a resident of Marco Island elected -- this is what he decided to do. To hunker down and have a bit of a hurricane party. He joins us on the phone and Ted, a hurricane party, really?
TED RYZNAR, MARCO ISLAND RESIDENT: Not really. We -- there was a few of us that decided to stay. If the storm got to a Category 4 or 5, we'd have definitely left. But as it was coming across the gulf at a 2 we decided to stay. Staying at a friend of mine's house. His house is about 28 feet above sea level. We're just basically worried about the storm surge more than anything else.
HARRIS: Ted, Tony Harris with Betty. And I'm just curious, are you starting to second guess as I am sure you have been watching the coverage. Are you staring to second-guess this decision to stay and ride it out?
RYZNAR: Again, there was -- there is eight of us that decided to stay. We're all contractors on the island. We figured that everything basically we own is here. Our businesses are here. I've got a couple of barges out sitting in some of the back bays here that are worth close to half a million dollars. And if I have to get there, I have to get there. That will be basically after the storm goes through.
But we also felt that once we left the island, we wouldn't be getting back for a long time after what we saw happened last year with Charlie. And the indecisiveness of some of the -- you know, you start with the city council last year in Hurricane Charlie in Fort Myers Beach. They just took forever to let people back into their houses.
RYZNAR: People took a beating.
HARRIS: Yes. You know, that was sort of my follow-up. And then Chad wants to talk to you as well. I guess I'm wondering, for so many people, one of the stories that we're hearing is that once you leave folks don't let you come back.
RYZNAR: Well that's -
HARRIS: They don't let you come back. And that leaves your home and everything you own sort of vulnerable to whomever.
RYZNAR: Right. And that's our biggest fear. This house that we're staying at, a good friend of mine, (INAUDIBLE), we're staying at his house. Well constructed house. We're not worried about too many things happening here. He's a builder on the island. I have a marine company. We have landscapers that are staying here.
We've got it pretty well covered. We've got enough water to last us two weeks. Food to last us a couple of weeks.
RYZNAR: We've got heavy equipment here by the side of his house. Really, we could take care of ourselves. But our biggest fear is once we leave, we weren't coming back. And it just opens it up to so many possibilities of things that could happen.
HARRIS: Ted, Chad wants to talk to you.
RYZNAR: Go ahead Chad.
MEYERS: Do you hear the tornado warning? Because there is a tornado warning going off. Do you hear the sirens?
RYZNAR: Not up here we don't. Actually our power just went out. We have lost all power. Just now as we were speaking. This is the first we've heard of the tornadoes other than what we have seen on TV.
MEYERS: I see some places can't hear the sirens. But you need to really be careful. Because this is a tornado bearing storm for sure. Way out ahead of the eye. Here is the storm that is causing that tornado warning. Here is Marco Island probably three miles away Tony.
HARRIS: OK. All right. Ted, we're going to check back with you maybe next hour just to see how you are doing.
HARRIS: OK. Thanks Ted.
NGUYEN: Right. And the eight people that are with you. Going to check and make sure that your safe.
RYZNAR: Thank you.
NGUYEN: And that tornado warning. There are a lot of things associated with Wilma.
HARRIS: Well let me just say this. We're going to check in with Gary Tuchman.
NGUYEN: Who is in the thick of it right now.
HARRIS: There is (INAUDIBLE).
NGUYEN: Power is out where he is.
HARRIS: Yes. That is his shot right now. And this storm as Chad has been telling us is really beating up on Key West right now. We'll find out how Gary is doing. Take a break and come right back. CNN is your hurricane headquarters all night, through the day, as Wilma bears down on Florida. We'll be right back.
NGUYEN: (INAUDIBLE) CNN is your hurricane headquarters all night and through the day as Wilma bears down on Florida. Take a look at these pictures Tony.
HARRIS: OK Betty. Let's put the technology to work here. Let's go left to right top row first. Fort Myers, Marco Island in the center there, Naples, Key West, Miami, (INAUDIBLE). Look at this. This is the storm. All of these locations. Right now getting hammered.
You see Gary Tuchman there. Lower left corner of your screen. Let's go there now. Can we pull him out of that box? Let's pull him out of that box. There he is. Gary Tuchman, you my friend are getting pounded.
GARY TUCHMAN: Tony, just let me ask you, am I out of the box yet?
HARRIS: Yes. Yes.
TUCHMAN: All right. I'm out of the box. That's good news. Because if I am getting pounded at least you want the viewers to see it. And I will tell you that what's the most incredible thing to me right now is that this morning was a beach day. All weekend here in Key West despite the fact that there were hurricane watches and warnings and the mandatory evacuations.
I witnessed over the last two days on my roller blades, roller blading around this town observing what was going on, people playing beach volleyball -- and we're about to lose a fence here -- people playing beach volleyball, people swimming in the ocean of the Gulf of Mexico, which is on both sides of Key West, people jogging. A short time ago, people bicycling on this street only about three or four hours ago. Things have changed dramatically.
Hurricane force winds now. We still have our power up which we're happy about. But for the last two-and-a-half hours, most of Key West if not all of Key West by now has been without power. Moderate flooding in different parts of the city. The parts of the city that get flooded during any storm.
This street here, Duvall Street right now, the main street in downtown Key West not flooded yet. I am quite amazed at the lack of damage so far despite the hurricane force winds. I can tell you during Katrina and Gulfport Mississippi where I was during Rita and Beaumont in Port Arthur Texas, when we got winds like this, we had a tremendous amount damage already.
So I think these particular stores in this tourist area are particularly well built. But I can tell you at this point police have stopped patrolling the streets because it is now too dangerous. Most of the 28,000 people who live in Key West are still in their homes. They did not evacuate. And they've been told they're on their own at this point.
Storm surge is expected to be at least eight feet by the time this is all over. The elevation is only a foot-and-a-half. That's a great concern. And right now, they are on their own, the people who didn't evacuate. The people who did evacuate, most of them are in a shelter at Florida International University, which in Miami,150 miles away. And that's a major reason that people didn't want to evacuate because it was so far away.
There is no safe shelter to stay at in the Keys, and therefore there are no shelters in the Keys. Tony.
HARRIS: OK. Gary, stay right where you are. And I just want to explain to folks that your looking -- in the double box here -- your looking at the reporter from WFOR, our affiliate servicing Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Both of you guys Gary are just getting -- well you getting hammered by this thing. And are you getting horizontal rain at this point?
TUCHMAN: We're getting horizontal rain, vertical rain, diagonal rain. Cross word puzzle rain. Every direction. And it is coming down -- it's coming down pretty hard.
HARRIS: OK. And Chad Meyers is with us now. And Chad, I don't know what the wind speeds are now. But I'll throw it to you and you can tell us what it is exactly that Gary and this reporter from WFOR -- what they are dealing with now.
MEYERS: Now that is probably 90 now. Now that is getting serious. And you really need to have some kind of eye protection out there because things start to fly around. And there is Key West right there. We'll get you very, very close to the storm. We'll zoom right in here for you to Key West. And this is really the outer band Gary. You are in the outer band of the eye wall.
There is still an inner band of an eye wall. But you are really in it now. We suspected that Key West would get the eye wall. And you are really now going to see the wind go from what you are probably seeing now, 80 to 90 to possibly that 115. You really do -- could get that 115 sustained wind gust that this storm is all about. The Category 3 gust coming for -- and sustained winds -- coming for you rather quickly. Be careful out there. TUCHMAN: Thanks Chad. And that's why we keep a close eye on the buildings surrounding us. And we marvel the fact that we haven't seen any of the parts of the roofs or the sides of the building peeling because that is a sign for us to seek a spot elsewhere. But right now the buildings seem to be doing well. And that's our major enemy.
The buildings across the street right to my right, to your left -- I'm in a very sturdy hotel that we trust greatly. It's been here for I think if I'm not mistaking, 79 years. It's done very well all those years with all the storms that have come close by. So we feel very comfortable in this spot.
NGUYEN: Gary, about the debris, because we have seen you dodge a few things. Are you seeing more and more items really get picked up by this wind?
HARRIS: No, including Gary.
TUCHMAN: That's very funny. And I use the term loosely funny. But there is another reporter here from another TV station who just started -- who fell down and started rolling over towards me.
TUCHMAN: But he was like a bowling ball. And I was going to be the pin. I thought he was going to roll over me. But now, there have been bags plastic and garbage flowing into me. But nothing serious at this point.
NGUYEN: Besides other reporters.
HARRIS: Yes. Yes.
NGUYEN: All right. Well try to get out of the wind if you can at all possible. But as you know, we're going to ask you to get right back in it in a little bit as we check in with you./ Gary Tuchman in Key West. Ooh, look at those winds. Chad said what, 90?
HARRIS: Yes. Yes. Yes, 80-90 mile an hour ones.
MEYERS: Probably pretty close to 90 there guys. Yes.
MEYERS: I mean I have been out in those things enough to know that if you can't stand up, if you can't lean yourself up against, that's probably 90. Tornado warnings for Osceola County, Northern Osceola for the town of Kissimmee here by about 3:30. And I know that is 35 minutes away. But there is significant rotation here.
There is Orlando. There is the storm. Here is the track actually coming in from the southeast to the northwest at 20 miles per hour. And right under that you can't see it, but that's where Kissemmee would be. So be careful if you are in that area too. Probably already hearing the sirens for that northern Osceola County or (INAUDIBLE) depending on where your from. But my parents live around there so that's how I say it.
HARRIS: Chad, you want to see something absolutely silly?
MEYERS: Oh my (INAUDIBLE).
HARRIS: You see it? You see the picture?
MEYERS: Marco Island with a tornado warning blowing right now. Yes.
HARRIS: That's not right.
MEYERS: People, don't do that at home.
HARRIS: That's just not smart.
MEYERS: Don't do that in the water.
HARRIS: Right. OK. Let's go -- we want to listen into you know, we have been monitoring our affiliates. WFOR is one of our affiliates servicing Fort Lauderdale in Miami. Let's listen into this reporter and sort of (INAUDIBLE) in Key West -- OK in Key West.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's probably the most powerful light that we have out here at this point. That light as you can see -- you can see the individual droplets of rain as they blow through. And some of these droplets are larger droplets. But the large ones don't hurt you. The small ones feel like little bits of sand that is slamming you right in the face.
HARRIS: And that's what you get. You get the horizontal rain and you know, and it does. It just comes in on you and it just beats away at you.
NGUYEN: And he says it feels like little pellets hitting him.
NGUYEN: And look at that tree right there. I mean these winds are really whipping through the area. Horizontal rain, wind. Category 3 hurricane named Wilma coming ashore. Key West is feeling it right now. And that timeline when Wilma is supposed to hit Florida. This is just the beginning of it. This isn't even the brunt of it yet. It's supposed to hit between 6:00 and 7:00 Eastern Time. This morning. Not too long from now.
So we are going to be here waiting and watching as Wilma comes ashore.
HARRIS: You know what Betty, we're standing by and waiting for the 3:00 am hurricane advisory from the National Hurricane Center. And as soon as we get that, Chad will bring it to us all. CNN is your hurricane headquarters all night and all through the day as Wilma -- in full force now.
NGUYEN: Full force.
HARRIS: Bears down on Florida.
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