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THE SITUATION ROOM
Wilma's Damage; Interview With Lieutenant Governor Toni Jennings
Aired October 24, 2005 - 16:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's 5:00 p.m. here in Washington, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where news and information from around the world arrive in one place at the same time.
Happening now, it's 5:00 p.m. in south Florida, where Hurricane Wilma has come and gone, leaving death, damage and devastation as calling cards. So much so that the acting FEMA director says it's difficult so far to get a total picture of the damage.
It's 5:00 p.m. in Havana, Cuba, where crews are using inflatable rafts to pull people from their flooded homes. A powerful storm surge pushed the ocean over Havana's sea wall, sending much of the city under water.
And it's 5:00 p.m. in New York City, where one expert has a dire warning. The city is overdue for a powerful storm that it likely would not be able to handle.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
At least three people around Florida are dead from the storm. Hurricane Wilma lashing Florida, now moving in from both -- having moved across the east and west coast before heading out into the Atlantic. It made landfall near Naples, Florida, earlier today, roaring ashore as a powerful Category 3 storm. Its winds of 125 miles per hour ripped trees from their roots and made roads look like rivers.
In the wealthy enclave of Marco Island, Wilma ripped off rooftops and battered buildings and homes alike. The JW Marriott in Miami, look at this, windows literally pushed in by the powerful winds. And in Key West, many parts of Key West up to five feet now under water.
Among Florida's coast, from Miami to Fort Lauderdale and beyond, residents got a lot more than they bargained for from Hurricane Wilma. Trees and power lines are down. Windows were blown out of skyscrapers. And many people in the area have no electricity. More than two million, we believe.
Our senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff, is joining us once again live in Hollywood, Florida -- Allan.
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SR. CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, when we arrived here yesterday from Sanibel Island, I sat down in this very seat and enjoyed a wonderful red snapper dinner here in the restaurant of the Holiday Inn in Hollywood. What a difference one day makes. Just have a look at the sand here. But that is the least of it. Windows blown through throughout the restaurant. And as you can see, the awning that had been outside of the resident completely collapsed.
As a matter of fact, the awning out here, that was the first evidence of severe damage we saw this morning during the brunt of the storm. Four Army officers were sitting here enjoying dinner yesterday as well.
Further down, severe water damage here in the restaurant. And that a result of the roof above us literally being ripped off. The wind was shaking it just like a blanket, and about three hours into the storm we started seeing chunks of the roof just going flying from here.
So lots of damage throughout the restaurant. As a matter of fact, the food and beverage manager tells me he has three weddings scheduled here for the next couple of weeks. Looks like they're going to have to be perhaps held on the beach. Not a bad alternative -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Or someplace else. Thank you very much, Allan. Appreciate it.
Allan Chernoff reporting for us from Hollywood, Florida.
At the southern edge of the storm, the low-lying Florida Keys took an early hit. Wilma's eye wall barely brushed Key West, but it was enough to leave the city under three to five feet of water. And residents who didn't evacuate are now cut off.
CNN's Kareen Wynter is joining us now live from Key West with more -- Kareen.
KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the winds still remain a factor out here. They have not died down at all, not the least bit. But one thing that has changed from the last time we checked in with you, the background behind me.
One of the neighborhoods that we've been in all afternoon that was covered in all this water, about six feet deep in some areas, well, you can see all of the traffic right now. Cars are making their way in, people are finally going back in, taking a look at all of the damage to their homes. And unfortunately, there is a lot of damage to report in the area, flooding. Wilma definitely blasted this area.
The city also says it's concerned with one of the fire stations here that sustained damage to the southern point of where we are, the southernmost tip of this island, historic homes, a landmark all battered by this storm.
Finally, Wolf, how are people going to get off here -- get off the island when, you know, they're looking to exit? Well, that's going to take some time, according to the city. That's because they're waiting to do a damage assessment on this bridge, and not just this bridge, but all the other bridges connecting the chains along the Florida Keys -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Kareen Wynter. Thank you very much.
Kareen reporting from Key West.
Let's get a sense of how officials in Florida are dealing with Hurricane Wilma. Joining us now live from Tallahassee is the Florida lieutenant governor, Toni Jennings.
Governor, thanks very much for joining us. I assume this -- it turned out a lot worse than you thought.
LT. GOV. TONI JENNINGS (R), FLORIDA: Well, you know, Wolf, we prepare for one stage up from whatever is forecasted to be the landfall. Ours was forecasted as a Category 2. In fact, this morning it came in as a Category 3. But we prepare for that. And unfortunately, we've had an awful lot of experience preparing for it as well.
So, you know, we're assessing the damage now. Our search and rescue teams are out.
We have had a great deal of flooding, especially in the Keys area. But the good news is, we knew this storm was coming, we knew it last week. We encouraged people to evacuate, the mandatory evacuations have been in place.
And we positioned our supplies, we positioned people. Our guardsmen are out. So we're as ready as you can be, and now it's all about making sure that we save lives and that we get people the ice and water and the meals, and return electricity as quickly as possible. All those things that we've had too much experience doing.
BLITZER: Governor, as far as fatalities are concerned, is there a number that you have?
JENNINGS: Currently, we have three reported fatalities. Our process is such that it has to go through the medical examiner's office through our Florida Department of Law Enforcement. There may be reports of others, but until we have it go through this process, that's all we'll -- we can acknowledge. And we have had three.
But again, our concern is the most dangerous time is sometimes after the dangerous storm passes. And of course the tropical storm winds are just about to leave our coast now.
We're encouraging our citizens and those visiting our state to please be careful. If you're safe, stay where you are. We've got generators that people didn't have last year during our four storms. They've all got them now, and they all want to run them. And just as you wouldn't put your car running in the middle of your living room, we tell people you shouldn't put that generator in an enclosed space as well.
So all those safety things are concerns to us right now. Roads have debris on them. Some are under water. We want to make sure people don't drive in if they don't know where the bottom is.
And of course electricity is out, which means power lines are down. And they are electrifying pools of water that people can step into. So safety is our primary concern right now.
BLITZER: We saw horror stories after the Katrina -- Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and Mississippi, Alabama. What about FEMA's role right now? Are you satisfied that the federal government, Governor, is doing what you need it to do?
JENNINGS: Well, FEMA is our partner in this, just as they were last year through our four storms that we had. But again, we in Florida have a different kind of protocol. We build from the bottom up. And it's the emergency operations in each of our individual 67 counties that have their plan. They interact with our state operation center, where we are right now.
As they need resources, we supply them. And then in turn, we turn to FEMA. FEMA is sort of our partner in this, but we don't rely on FEMA.
We have things pre-positioned, we have troops pre-positioned, we have our law enforcement people out. We know that it's important to have some personal responsibility as well.
So last week, as we were telling people this storm was coming, we were reminding them that they would need to have several days worth of food and water, nonperishable food and water. They needed to have a plan.
And it's worked well for Florida, and we're going to continue to do that. But FEMA is our partner in all of this. But we start from the bottom up. We don't wait for it to come from the top down.
BLITZER: One final question, Governor, before I let you go. We've heard from our own reporters on the scene on the east coast in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach. People there, even though they were told this hurricane was coming, they are basically in shock right now over the destruction, the damage, the power outages, the water outage in Palm Beach County and elsewhere.
Should they be as surprised as they are?
JENNINGS: Well, you know, with last year's storms, actually Palm Beach had a touch of a couple of the storms last year. But Broward and Dade did not.
And we keep telling people. But, you know, you can't make them leave. You can't make them be prepared.
You can encourage them. You can urge them. You can plead with them.
We said this was going to be a bad storm. Any hurricane -- I think we've gotten so caught up with a Category 1 or a Category 2, or it's not going to be a Category 5, so we're going to be just fine. Any storm is dangerous.
This was a Category 3 and became a 2. These are all dangerous storms. And if you happen to be in the path of them, they're going to be dangerous. So, you know, I can't -- can't say enough about how we try to prepare people. You can't make them do anything. But they shouldn't have been surprised that this was a dangerous storm. And, in fact, it was and there was damage. The good news is that we in Florida are prepared for this.
So we've got our materials positioned. We've got law enforcement people. We've got our National Guard. We've got our search and rescue. We're going to be in there quickly to help their local responders and make sure that we take care of them.
BLITZER: Toni Jennings is the Florida lieutenant governor.
Governor, thanks very much. Good luck to everyone in Florida.
JENNINGS: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's check the path of the storm right now, where it was, where it's heading. Our meteorologist, Jacqui Jeras, is standing by at our hurricane headquarters.
What's the latest, Jacqui?
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Wolf, believe it or not, the storm is nearly as strong as it was when it made landfall. That was at 6:30 this morning near Cape Romano, right over here on this little peak with 125-mile-per-hour winds. And so now, almost 12 hours later, about 11 hours later, it is about 200-plus miles away from the coast, with 120-mile-per-hour winds.
Of course it weakened a little bit as it moved over land. But still a powerful storm, and it's really ripping across parts of the northern Bahamas at this time, causing some wind damage, I'm sure, and some heavy downpours and some storm surge they probably dealt with a little bit as well.
It's moving very quickly. It has really picked up forward speed.
The wind movement is moving at 37 miles per hour now up to the north and to the east. So this is really making some real forward progress. And it's going to be affecting you across the Northeast tomorrow.
Look at all this rain across the Mid-Atlantic. Do you see this little swirl here? This is our upper level storm system. And these two systems are going to get close together, and we're going to have a Nor'easter developing for tomorrow.
New York City, a wind advisory, with gusts to 45 miles per hour. Philadelphia already pretty saturated, expecting one to two inches of rain. So a flood watch in effect for you.
In Boston, you have a wind warning for tomorrow, with sustained winds of 25 to 35 miles per hour, gusts to 55. And also expecting one to two inches of rain.
Some winter weather can be expected in the Northeast, too. A high pressure from Canada is coming in back behind this storm. Freezing temperatures.
And in the higher elevations across upstate New York, into Pennsylvania and Vermont, we're expecting to see more than six inches of snow -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Jacqui, thank you very much. We'll check back with you.
Up ahead, in Cancun, Mexico, cars are literally floating like boats right now. We'll tell you about the incredible damage Wilma left behind there. Thousands of vacationers, many of them Americans, are still stranded.
Also, conditions are not much better in Cuba. Parts of Havana right now submerged.
And three explosions rocked Baghdad today. Ten people are dead and over 20 are injured. Police are blaming suicide bombers. Hotels where journalists, including American journalist, live were targeted. We'll tell you what happened.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Wilma blew ashore on Florida's gulf coast, with winds about 125 miles per hour. Look at this, extraordinary video showing just how strong the storm was as it made landfall near Marco Island, on the west coast of Florida.
This man is standing -- at least he's trying to stand -- in a partially sheltered hallway. Take a look at this.
That's why they say don't go outside in the middle of a hurricane. We're going to check his condition and let you know how he's doing.
Wilma first hit Florida with a vengeance near Marco Island, as we've been pointing out, along the southwest coast. Chris Hawes of Bay News 9 is on Marco Island. She's joining us now live.
Chris, give us a sense of what it's like now. And was it like a little while ago?
CHRIS HAWES, REPORTER, BAY NEWS 9: Well, Wolf, I have to tell you, we're actually in Naples, but that's very close to Marco Island. And you're right, we've been in both communities before, during and now, of course, after Hurricane Wilma.
Just to give you an idea of the flooding that we're seeing here in Naples, this is the most shallow point in this neighborhood. It's very appropriately called Twin Lakes. As you can tell from this branch, the flooding at the shallow point is about a foot and a half deep.
We walked all back in there. It gets much worse. In fact, a lot of people can't even drive their cars out right now. If we can pan here to the right, you can see that we've got a lot of ducks who are taking advantage of the situation. It's really ironic, because we thought we would see the worst flooding on Marco Island. That's where we were very concerned about the lack of evacuations we were seeing on the part of the residents. But as it turned out, we're really see the worst flooding here in Naples.
However, both communities are seeing some very uncomfortable conditions. For instance, we're staying at a hotel that's about a block down the road here in Naples. And a little bit earlier they told us that we had to leave. That's because not only do they not have power, not only do they not have water, but now they don't have sewer service. So you really can't even use the restroom anymore.
It's the same situation again on Marco Island. And for that reason, right now, for all intents and purposes, both cities are closed unless you absolutely have to be there. If you're a resident, you can talk your way on to Marco Island, but in Naples they're actually still turning some residents away who want to come back.
In Collier County, Chris Hawes, for CNN.
BLITZER: Chris, thanks very much.
Chris works with our affiliate Bay News 9 in Naples, Florida.
Let's turn now to Florida's Collier County. That's home to hard-hit cities like Naples and Marco Island. On the phone is Jim von Rinteln, and he's the coordinator for Collier County's emergency management.
Jim, thanks very much for joining us. Give our viewers a sense how much destruction -- how much emergency management you need there.
JIM VON RINTELN, COLLIER COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Well, we've had a long two days here, Wolf. But, you know, I think it's best described as widespread damage with some destruction.
A lot of vegetation now -- and flooding, as you mentioned. And of course our main concern right now is getting the power back up and getting the utilities back up. So we're working hard to do that.
We've had the National Guard, the state liaisons and FEMA here since before the storm. So that's going well. And we expect to make good progress over night and into tomorrow.
BLITZER: All hurricanes result in damage and destruction. Was this worse, though, than you expected?
VON RINTELN: I don't know that we would say that. We had seven days of warning. We could watch it and what it did in Mexico, and watch it come across at us. And it pretty much never wavered in its course, and it pretty much came ashore as the size storm and strength that we had kind of been told to expect from the National Hurricane Center.
So this community has not been struck by a storm like this in 45 years. So, you know, it's grown quite a bit and there's been quite a bit of development since then. So we're working with that. And that's the main thing that we're looking at.
BLITZER: How long do you think it will be before power -- I assume there's some water outages as well -- before they're back into business as usual?.
VON RINTELN: Well, I think we'll make major progress tomorrow and through tonight. And we're already getting reports of power coming back on and some of the water problems being solved. And, you know, so I think we'll make steady progress.
We don't see anything that is going to be insurmountable. So we'll see how it goes. We're working hard, we're working around the clock. We have the people here we need and the resources. So it's just a matter of getting it done.
BLITZER: Jim von Rinteln is the coordinator for Collier County's emergency management.
Jim, thank you very much. Good luck to everyone in Collier County dealing with this aftermath.
Coming up, Wilma's wind and rain whipping violently over Florida. But the worst may not be over yet as storms collide.
And much of Cuba right now also under water as a huge storm surges and moves in. We'll get a live update from Havana.
BLITZER: They are beginning to pick up the pieces, the damage, the destruction from Hurricane Wilma. We're watching all of that. We'll get back to it. We're getting new video in right now.
First, though, let's go to CNN's Andrea Koppel at the CNN Center in Atlanta with a closer look at some other stories making news -- Andrea.
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf.
Just want to let our viewers take a listen to this. That is what it sounded like when a series of explosions ripped through Baghdad earlier today near two hotels popular with international journalists. The blasts killed 10 people and injured at least 22 more.
Now, there are conflicting reports as to whether the blasts were actually caused by vehicle bombs, or rockets, or possibly even both. But it's believed that one of the blasts originated from this cement truck right there inside that circle you see.
It was captured on surveillance video passing through a hotel security gate. That was about 60 feet inside the perimeter when the truck exploded.
Another member of U.S. military has been killed in Iraq, bringing the U.S. perilously close to a grim benchmark. A Marine assigned to the 2nd Marine Division was hit by small arms fire in Ramadi on Sunday. The Marine's death brings logged U.S. military losses to 1,198. That's just two shy of the 2,000 mark of American troops killed since the Iraq war started in March, 2003.
President Bush has nominated a key White House economic advisor to succeed Allan Greenspan as Federal Reserve chairman. Ben Bernanke chairs the president's Council of Economic Advisors and is a former Fed governor.
Wall Street stocks rallied sharply on news of his nomination. Greenspan is going to retire in January after more than 18 years as the nation's 13th Fed chairman -- 13th Fed chairman.
What do you think, Wolf? Do you think he's going to have any trouble finding a job?
BLITZER: I think that the markets reacted very favorably. The numbers were going way up as a result of that.
Ali velshi is in New York.
Ali, it looks like the markets like this new nominee for the Federal Reserve chairmanship.
ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRSPONDENT: Yes. Andrea's right, 170 points higher. They really like that, and that's because Ben Bernanke's probably going to do a little more of the same.
So that's -- that's something we're going to follow. It doesn't look like he's going to have a lot of problems getting confirmed.
While we're on the topic of money, however, the numbers are coming in about Hurricane Wilma, the estimates of the damage. Now, they're from three different agencies that follow this sort of thing, but they're in the same range.
The low end is $4 to $8 billion. These are ensured damages, Wolf. The mid range is $6 to $9 billion, and the high end is $6 to $10 billion. So it looks like we're looking at somewhere between $4 and $10 billion.
Remember, all of last year's hurricanes in Florida cost about $21 billion in damage. So this is a fair bit of damage for one hurricane. It's also because it's been over a large area, 180 square miles. Already it's touched 35 counties.
We were just talking about Florida Power and Light, electricity out to 3.2 million customers. And that is about six million people without power.
Part of that is because three nuclear power stations have had to shut down. Two towers in one station and another one in another place.
One of them is at the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Station. That's on Hutchinson Island in St. Lucie County. And then there's another nuclear power sit over at Turkey Point Nuclear Power Station. There are two towers there that have been shut down because of the hurricane.
Florida Power and Light saying that the electrical grid in Florida has come under a great deal of pressure. So we're looking at a lot of monetary damage, a lot of ensured damage.
A lot of power out right now. Florida Power and Light saying -- they're the largest utility there -- saying that they're going to start getting out there and putting power back on line starting this evening, Wolf. But it could be some weeks they say before everybody is back with power.
BLITZER: All right, Ali. Thank you very much.
Coming up, Castro's capital under water. Rescue crews plucking people from rooftops in Cuba after a storm surge from Wilma sends 45-foot waves crashing over Havana's sea wall.
And Wilma's wrath. Your with our reporters on the scene as the hurricane hits. We'll bring you the sights and sounds of this powerful storm from earlier in the day.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Florida Senator Bill Nelson got a look at the damage in his home state today.
Senator Nelson is joining us now on the phone from Orlando.
How bad was it, what you saw, Senator?
SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Wolf, the hurricane hit with the greatest force at an unpopulated part of Florida, south of Marco Island. It's all everglades there. It's mangrove. It is a place where very little, except for Everglades City, unpopulated. So, we were spared in that regard.
But then it zoomed across the state of Florida, across the Everglades, and there was nothing to break it up. So, it really packed a punch in Miami and Fort Lauderdale that they did not expect. They had winds up to 120 miles an hour there.
BLITZER: Is that a failure of someone to not have fully prepared people in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, West Palm Beach? That is a very heavily populated part of your state. Is this a failure or is this just the nature of the business?
NELSON: This is the nature of Mother Nature.
And the Hurricane Center was spot on, I mean as to the track. They were right on. And the people in Miami-Dade county and Broward County weren't prepared.
BLITZER: But so many residents, based on our reporting, conversations I have had, I'm sure you have had, they woke up this morning, and they're in shock at the destruction, the loss of power, the electricity. Fort Lauderdale hasn't suffered like this in a long time.
NELSON: Well, when you have 120 miles an hour, you know there's going to be some destruction, but, fortunately, is not the devastating kind of Hurricane Charley last year, when it was 145 miles per hour. That difference of 25 miles per hour becomes exponential in its devastating power.
BLITZER: What about FEMA, Senator? You have pointed out in the past -- and all of us now know that FEMA has had some significant problems, especially the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. How is it doing so far in the immediate aftermath of Wilma?
NELSON: I think, with the embarrassment of FEMA after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, I think FEMA is getting its act together. They have got a new leader, David Paulison. And I think he's exerting some professionalism.
BLITZER: So, you're confident that Florida will get the federal help it needs?
NELSON: I am confident, yes.
BLITZER: And as -- as you look at the lessons learned from this, what goes -- you have studied this a lot. And you are a former astronaut. You were up Friday in one of those hurricane hunters, looking over Florida.
What -- a lot of our viewers want to know, Senator, what's going on? Is this just the normal cycle of hurricanes every 30, 40 years, or is there something else going on, specifically, global warming?
NELSON: Well, you will get different meteorologists to tell you different things. Most of them will tell you, it's a cycle, a 20-, 30-year cycle.
But, if the Earth is indeed warming, as 99 percent of the scientists say, then that's, clearly, going to contribute to the frequency and the ferocity of storms.
BLITZER: Senator Nelson, thanks very much for joining us. Good luck to all -- all -- everyone in -- in Florida.
These are live pictures, by the way, that we're just getting in from Brevard County in Florida. Look at this, streets. These were streets. Now they're flooded areas, significantly flooded areas, courtesy our affiliate WFTV, flooded areas in Brevard County in Florida, elsewhere in the state.
Also, in Cuba -- after an earlier drenching from Hurricane Wilma, Cuba caught more punishment today. Forty-five-foot-high waves crashed over the seawalls in Havana, flooding much of the capital.
Let's go through to our Havana bureau chief, Lucia Newman. It's a gorgeous shot, but we still see those waves crashing into Havana behind you. Maybe your photographer could get some closeups for us during your live shot, Lucia.
LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF: Absolutely, Wolf.
Well, it may be sunny, but it's not a very nice view down below.
Precisely behind me, you can see Old Havana, the old historic center of the city, which is still being bombarded, as you can see, by waves coming over the wall there. Now, this has been going on since shortly after midnight yesterday.
And, Wolf, the -- this is low tide right now. The -- the waters have receded only ever so much. But according to General Diaz (ph), whom we spoke to a short while ago, who is in charge of the civil defense here, the tide is going to come up again. More water is going to come into Havana, this for along about a 10-mile strip of the Havana coastline that goes all the way from Old Havana to the outskirts in Santa Fe, where houses are completely covered in water at this hour -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Those buildings behind you, Lucia, were they damaged by it, or are they just old buildings?
NEWMAN: No. A lot of them are being -- are being damaged more than they already are.
In fact, the ones you see right behind me are already dilapidated. Many of them crumble in just -- after a shower. So, when you -- if -- if -- we can show a little bit more the -- the old part of the city here, these buildings are already very, very fragile. I don't know how many of them are going to be still left standing about a week from now, because, when the sun comes out, as it is now, they begin to dry.
And, when they dry, they crack. And, most of the time, Wolf, they crumble. And, in other parts of the city, of course, the houses are totally under water. They are made out of wood. Once they dry, I don't know how much of that is still going to used -- be livable. So, it's going to be a very, very tough time here for thousands of residents of Havana, who are already up to their neck in problems -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Lucia, thank you very much.
Lucia Newman is our bureau chief in Havana.
Let's get some more now on Hurricane Wilma.
Our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner, is checking the situation online -- Jacki.
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: From Cuba to Cancun, want to take a look at some more of the photos being posted by Kevin at stormcarib.com. Take a look at the photos, as Kevin drove through town. You can see, obviously, these photos are coming from where the streets are passable at this point. But we know that there has been severe flooding. You can take a look at the downed power, infrastructure, how dangerous that still is, of course. You can see where the trees have come down.
And, there, you can see where the roads have become waterways in some areas -- again, people using rafts to get around. There's heavy, heavy flooding in Cancun. You can take a look there, people using a boat -- see if I can work around my little mail icon there. There you go. And you can see the structural damage, some of the larger buildings with the windows that have been blown out -- Kevin, again, driving around town, taking a look.
Look, the roof just absolutely gone there, an overturned truck. We have seen a lot of these, actually, along the way, as we have seen through hurricane season. They just topple over easily.
Kevin was taking photographs originally off his balcony. These are some of those photos. We saw this progress over time, as it got increasingly worse. You can see, the palm trees just snapped in half. They have completely gone down.
One of the things I wanted to tell you about stormcarib.com, as you take a look at that last photograph there, it's actually become a message board for people in Cozumel. We have been digging for photos there off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Wolf. And there haven't been any photos posted online -- but information for you at stormcarib.com, telling people what's been going on.
BLITZER: All right, Jacki, thank you very much.
Still to come -- first of all, look at these live pictures of Brevard County in Florida. We're getting these pictures coming in right now. It's an ugly situation, significant flooding. Those were streets. Now they're impassable right now -- some cars trying to get through, but it's clearly a dangerous situation.
As Wilma races away from Florida, will another storm system threaten the Northeastern United States and Canada? We will go live, following the storm, the storm trackers. And what happens if New York City finds itself in the path of a major storm? After all, Manhattan is an island. And, with millions of residents there, they could face possible evacuation. We have been looking at that scenario. What happens if a hurricane were to hit New York City? We will tell you the preparations under way.
Stay with us.
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BLITZER: Here's the latest path of Hurricane Wilma. You just saw that. We're getting some new video coming in right now, these pictures coming in from Orlando -- people suffering there in Orlando, surprisingly, a little bit further outside of the direct path of Hurricane Wilma -- pictures coming in from Orlando in Florida.
Wilma's race across Florida was over within a few hours, but the storm has left a huge trail of destruction. Millions are without power. Trees are down. Streets are flooded. You're looking at live pictures right now.
Joining us on the phone from Miami is Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek. His district includes parts of hard-hit Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
We had spoken yesterday. People were bracing for a hurricane, but I think a lot of your constituents woke up today and were pretty much in shock.
REP. KENDRICK MEEK (D), FLORIDA: Well, they were in shock because it happened so quickly and the winds came in so strong.
You know, Wolf, I was personally at my mother's house, and -- and shuttered down, and the wind just picked up. And it continued for two or three hours. But, looking outside after the fact, a number of branches, roofs where tile were pulled back. I mean, it was real quick and fast. Many folks thought that it would be a Category 1 coming in here.
But, it was, in my opinion -- based on the winds and what we felt, I think it was a two or a three.
BLITZER: So, how badly -- how bad is the situation right now?
MEEK: Well, we have right now -- especially in Dade and Broward County, where the total population is 3.8 million people, we have the sun getting ready to set.
And the curfew starts at 8:00 tonight. So, we are going to have a lot of folks. And 90 percent of Miami-Dade County is without power. That number is just about the same in Broward. We're going to have a lot of folks having to -- to -- to work their way through this situation on their own. And, hopefully, we won't see any accidents, as it relates to generators or anything like that.
BLITZER: How long do you think the -- Miami-Dade and Broward are going to be without power?
MEEK: Well, FP&L is reporting that it's going to be works, vs. days. But, as you know, they don't want to raise expectations that, days, they will have power restored.
They are going to start restoring power based on a priority basis, schools, hospitals, radio stations to get information out to the public. But all -- schools are closed in both counties tomorrow, and I think -- and -- and airports. And it may very well be that way for some days to come.
BLITZER: Well, that's discouraging, indeed.
Kendrick Meek is a congressman representing Florida's 17th District, hard-hit by Hurricane Wilma.
Congressman, good luck. Thanks very much for joining us.
MEEK: All right.
BLITZER: Separately, they're very worrisome. Together, they could be devastating as well -- new fears that Wilma could join forces with another storm.
Brian Todd is -- has more at the National Centers For Environmental Protection -- Prediction, that is -- in Camp Springs, Maryland. That's outside of Washington.
Brian, we spoke earlier. What's the latest?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this center tracks hurricanes once they make landfall.
And this room is staffed by teams of meteorologists 24 hours a day, all year not, just not during hurricane season.
Now, right now, they are following Wilma, at Wolf says -- as Wolf says -- as it absorbs another storm system and as it moves in the general direction of a third.
TODD (voice-over): Speeding away from Florida, Wilma still poses a threat to the Eastern U.S. and Canada.
But, as this hurricane absorbs what's left of Tropical Depression Alpha, we asked experts at NOAA's Centers for Environmental Prediction, is this a perfect storm in the making? JIM HOKE, HYDROMETEOROLOGICAL PREDICTION CENTER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION: The perfect storm is really different things to different people.
TODD: Jim Hoke was at this center when the perfect storm of movie legend battered New England in 1991. He says, mariners think of a perfect storm as one that batters an area of the ocean for several hours.
And, for people on land, it's a massive surge pounding the coast. This time, Wilma and Alpha are combining. And another system is moving in behind them from the west. But Hoke says, these three systems will likely not make a perfect storm.
HOKE: What was really significant about the perfect storm was, to the north of that low, there was a high. And this high prevented this low from moving out. Wilma is moving out very quickly.
TODD: Still, Hoke says, these storms will likely batter the east coasts of the U.S. and Canada one after the other for at least a couple days.
So, residents of the Northeastern U.S. have to prepare for a second possible flooding event this month. And, at major ports, like the one in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where commercial ships dock 2,000 times a year, they are hunkering down and signaling ships to stay beyond the storm's predicted path.
TODD: Now, if you want to get a sense of what those delays in ship arrivals might mean, at that port in Halifax, Nova Scotia, alone, they take in retail shipments for Sears, Eddie Bauer, several European carmakers, as well as massive shipments of rubber for tires. All of those shipments are headed toward different places in Canada and the Midwestern United States.
So, Wolf, you could be looking at some real disruptions in commerce as these storms approach that region.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you very much for that report.
Up next, it's one of the last places you would think of a hurricane hitting, but some say, it could happen. And that would be New York City. Would New York be ready if it did? We will talk to a man who calls himself "Dr. Doom."
Also ahead, driving rain and wind that knocks you right off your feet -- we will give you another look inside Wilma's eye.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: New video we're getting in from our affiliate WPLG in Hollywood, Florida -- a small airport there. Look at these small planes. They're simply overturned, many of them badly damaged, if not destroyed, by Hurricane Wilma. These planes certainly did not necessarily anticipate the wrath of Wilma.
When a powerful hurricane like Wilma strikes, it's one thing to watch the storm from afar or on television. It's another thing to stand right in it.
Here is how some of our correspondents experienced Wilma as it crashed across Florida today.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This wind is now coming right into the teeth of the camera. If you were at home, people at home could feel the wind, it'd be right in their teeth right now. It just goes straight into the lens. And as it comes in, I just keep seeing the Gulf of Mexico rising and rising and coming closer to us.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Look at all this water. This down here was driveways and roadways, and now it is a river. You know, you've heard the term rushing like a river. Well, this is it. This is really it.
And look at these trees, just collapsing under this wind. They're down all over the place. There's a big one over there -- another one right here. You can just see how the whole root system has come right up out of the ground -- just the pressure of the wind and the moisture in the soil conspiring to bring these gigantic and old trees right down.
This is that same area, but here from ground level you can see this water and how the wind is just beating it, just beating it, whipping it along. And you also get a better sense of the debris that's coming down.
Look at this, huge limbs, huge limbs. And we're really getting battered here.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: We're actually, if you can believe it, protected by a corner of the building here. And I can start to see some structural damage back there, Anderson. Some of the windows are getting blown out, some of the protective materials, the awnings.
The water is being whipped out of the pool just like the waves.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, take a look, Phil (ph), if you can, in the pool. The water just getting totally taken off. And it's -- and it's an amazing sight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see (INAUDIBLE) ...
BLITZER: Our reporters covering this hurricane, Anderson Cooper, John Zarrella. Anderson, by the way, is going to be live from Florida on his program tonight, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, "ANDERSON COOPER 360." Stick around for that.
Up next, how ready are other cities for a storm like Wilma? We will focus in on America's biggest city. That would be the Big Apple.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She entered the jungle of Tanzania in 1960, a young British woman with dreams of living with animals and writing books about them.
Dr. Jane Goodall has done that and so much more. She has devoted 45 years to studying chimpanzees in Africa, forever changing the science of primates and founding the Jane Goodall Institute, which funds research and conservation. She's earned hundreds of awards and honors and written more than a dozen of books. But, somewhere along the way, the primatologist became a peacemaker.
DR. JANE GOODALL, FOUNDER, THE JANE GOODALL INSTITUTE: We're not the only beings on this planet with personalities, minds and feelings. And let's live in a world that has respect for other life forms, but also for each other.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Goodall is now a grandmother and turned 71 this year. She still spends 300 days a year on the road lecturing and inspiring people to look beyond themselves. She says her top priority is her institute's worldwide youth program, Roots & Shoots, which promotes community service and giving children hope.
GOODALL: You make a difference. Your life matters. And it's up to you to save the world. And each one of us have this mission.
BLITZER: It's not as far-fetched has you might think. If a hurricane were to hit New York City, would that city be prepared?
Our Mary Snow reports.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With more than a month left before hurricane season officially ends and the latest Wilma is unleashing her wrath, hurricane expert Dr. Nicholas Coch isn't sleeping much these days.
PROFESSOR NICHOLAS K. COCH, QUEENS COLLEGE: Oh, I have been called "Dr. Doom," right, "The Master of Disaster" and all those things. SNOW: Coch says, while others joke about his predictions, he is worried. He has studied hurricanes for nearly 40 years, taught about them, even dissected them to the point where colleagues refer to him as the forensic hurricane-ologist. But Coch says, history has taught him that a major hurricane hits the Northeast every 90 years. And he's sounding the alarm, saying, one is due.
COCH: We don't need a big one. A three will bring New York serious trouble. A borderline four, like 1938, would be a true national disaster.
SNOW: That storm in 1938 was called the Long Island Express, the last major hurricane to hit New York.
Named for its speed, it tore through five states. And, at bus stops like this one, it serves as a reminder in a campaign to alert the public about the potential for hurricanes.
New York estimates that it would need to evacuate 3.4 million people from this city surrounded by water. And its evacuation plan has recently come under fire by an assemblyman who writes in a state report that there are "serious and significant questions about it." The city's Office of Emergency Management calls it "one of the most robust hurricane plans in the nation that is being improved every day."
City officials say lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina have led them to revisit evacuation plans for nursing homes and hospitals, and they are closely monitoring storms like Wilma.
And so is Dr. Coch. His worries grow with the frequencies of hurricanes.
COCH: Sooner or later, our luck is going to run out, and a hurricane will hit one of our urban centers directly.
BLITZER: CNN's Mary Snow reporting.
Hurricane season, by the way, ends November 30.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now -- Lou standing by in New York.
LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Thank you, Wolf.
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