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Deadly Florida Storms; Britain Confirms Lethal H5N1 Bird Flu Strain on Turkey Farm in Suffolk

Aired February 3, 2007 - 07:59   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: From the CNN Center in Atlanta, hello to you all.
I'm T.J. Holmes.

And live in Lady Lake, Florida, for us this morning is Soledad O'Brien.

Soledad, good morning to you.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, T.J. Good morning to you.

We're live in central Florida. Lady Lake is the town we're in. And as you can see, the home behind me is indicative of a lot of the damage here, absolutely blown completely apart as that tornado or a series of tornadoes came in.

It really started kind of down that way, went east -- from the west, heading to the east. Blew right across here. Kind of skipped over the highway.

Now, I want to show you back here. This is actually kind of the back of the house. The driveway is over there.

The bedrooms were in the back. Lucky for the people who were here, because as much as they collapsed, they were able to survive. The bedrooms were here on this side, though. As you can see, everything else, the family room, the kitchen, absolutely a disaster, just completely crumbled.

We're going to update you on the situation here in Lady Lake and Lake County. And not too far away is Paisley as well. A significant number of people died there. And we'll tell you what's happening as the governor is going to be heading in just a little bit to talk about some of the services and the help that they'll be getting from the federal government straight ahead -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right, Soledad. We're certainly looking forward to your talk with the governor. We'll see you here in just a second.

Meanwhile, central Florida, of course, adding up the losses and lives and property in those deadly storms. And at least one tornado left destruction along a 70-mile area from the city of Lady Lake to the East Coast, really.

If you're just waking up with us, we do have the latest we want to update you on now.

Emergency officials say the storms killed at least 19 people. Lake County was the hardest hit. That's where the 19 deaths occurred.

Florida's governor has declared a state of emergency in Lake, Sumter, Seminole and Volusia counties. The four counties are located north of Orlando.

Soledad, we've been looking at these pictures from you, describing people surviving being in houses like that. And can you imagine the fear being in the middle of your home and having your home disappear around you?

O'BRIEN: Oh, it's terrifying. And, you know, you often hear in tornadoes, people will say it sounded like a freight train. And the truth is, when you talk to survivors, it does sound like a freight train. It sounds like a freight train is driving right through your bedroom or right through your living room. Often then, the ceiling is ripped off, and you're suddenly being hit by the rain that follows with that tornado.

If you take a look around the back of the house, now that the light's up, T.J., we can kind of give you a little bit of a better tour. And we've got to be careful because there's a lot of debris.

The older couple that was here was not only able to get out of this rubble, but this is how it was. They were able to make their way out at 4:00 in the morning without injuring themselves, without stepping on the nails, without tripping on the wires, without falling over some of the glass, without cutting themselves. It's really quite remarkable.

They had no idea what was coming. I was talking to their son -- oops, and I'm stuck on a nail now. I was talking to their son a minute ago.

Careful, that one -- that one's up and hard to see -- and he was saying that they actually are in good shape. They didn't even have to go to the hospital. Slightly bruised this morning, but they're doing OK.

But if you look down there -- look, this is a brick house. Just completely collapsed. And if they had been in the back, where most of this rubble is, is the family room and the kitchen, if they had been back here, they probably would not have survived.

The area that actually has the least debris was the bedrooms. Now, those collapsed as well, but they were able to just push that debris off and make their way out. I mean, it really is -- without sounding redundant, it really is quite a miracle that they were OK.

Stories like this in Volusia County as well, where fortunately they had no deaths to report, but lots of damage. That's where we find Susan Roesgen this morning.

Hey, Susan. Good morning.


We are at the Volusia County Sheriff's Department mobile command center. And when you listen to these 911 calls and the calls that came in early Friday morning to the Volusia County Sheriff's Office, you can hear the power of this tornado, get a sense of that, and you can really hear the panic of the people who lived through it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My roof's gone. Oh my god.

OPERATOR: OK. Listen, Ma'am, did anybody get injured?


OPERATOR: No injuries? You just have -- your roof is missing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, my living room, my bedroom... I'm in the kitchen.

OPERATOR: OK. And there is nobody injured, correct?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. NO, but I don't know about my neighbors. It's all old people in here, honey.

OPERATOR: OK. OK, listen, we got the calls and we're on the way. We're sending people as fast as possible. OK?





OPERATOR: 911, what's your emergency?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm in an 18-wheeler and I've just been turned over by a tornado.

OPERATOR: You're definitely in Volusia County?


OPERATOR: OK, what's the last cross street -- you're on 17? What's the last cross street you remember seeing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ma'am, I couldn't tell you. I'm trying to get out of the truck.



OPERATOR: Ma'am, listen to me, listen to me. Did anybody get hurt? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, my mom is gone... my mom is gone.

OPERATOR: Is your mom there?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just send an ambulance! I don't know where she is!

OPERATOR: OK. Hold on a second, ma'am. Hold on... hold on.


ROESGEN: Now, the good news is her mother was OK. She was found. Everybody in that house was OK.

And Soledad, as you mentioned, again, no fatalities in this county. There were some injuries, and the sheriff's office is just now letting people go in on a case-by-case basis to look at the damage to their homes.

There has been a curfew overnight. There will be a curfew probably again tonight.

No reports yet of any looting, but I do have to tell you that last night they said there was a man in one of the devastated areas. They didn't know what he was doing there. He ran from the deputies, and they had to taser him to stop him.

That's all the information we have on that right now. But no reports of any looting in this area, and, again, they're just now letting homeowners get back in if they can show proof of residency and let them see what's left -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Susan, last night here in Lake County, one of the things we saw was a number of sheriffs, or sheriff's deputies, who had stopped at various points, not letting people in to access. So there was not just a curfew. They were also really blocking the road to make sure that there was none of that looting.

Did you see a similar thing in Volusia County?

ROESGEN: Yes. They were actually blocking the road to the worst area, about a four-square-mile area, because they said that they were very concerned that even though the power company in this area has turned off the juice, that some of those downed power lines, if someone might be connected to a generator, it could still be dangerous. So they had blocked it off overnight, but they do expect today to continue to let residents get back in and look at their hoemss.

And Soledad, I don't know about the situation in your area, but I can tell you here in this county, part of the reason we're in this parking lot with the mobile command center behind me is because the sheriff's substation was completely blown up. There are normally about 50 people in that building, but at 3:00 in the morning, no one was inside. A deputy had just pulled up outside when the tornado came through. All the windows in his vehicle were blown out. The car was spun around and carried about 25 feet. He was shaken up, but he's OK.

A lot of damage here in Volusia County -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: And a terrifying story to go with that.

All right. Susan Roesgen in Volusia County for us.

Thanks, Susan.

T.J., before I send it back to you, I want to show you something here. And you're kind of going to see some of our equipment. But I want to show you the trees.

I mean, look at the force of this tornado that you can see in just these trees that are just sheared and split and yanked literally right from their roots. This is the scene as we were driving in late last night just across that big swathe that came across central Florida.

We keep updating you on what's happening, and we've now seen some people starting to come in today. They're beginning to go through some of their belongings, and we'll have an opportunity to talk to them as well -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right, Soledad. Thank you. We're certainly looking forward to hearing how they're feeling on this day, this morning.

Thank you so much. We'll see you soon.

Meanwhile, we want to head over to our Bonnie Schneider in the weather center.


HOLMES: Want to say thank you, as well, to our viewers who have been flooding us with their I-Reports from central Florida. This is one picture we've gotten from Alex Woods in DeLand.

His home was not damaged, but he says just down the street houses were just destroyed. This picture shows where one home once stood.

And we will be showing you more I-Reports coming up in about 30 minutes. Of course, if you have one you'd like to share with us and we can share with our viewers, send it to us,

And our special coverage of Florida's deadly storms continues all morning long. And at the bottom of the hour, Soledad will have a live interview with the Florida governor, Charlie Crist.

But first, a check of the morning's other headlines.


HOLMES: Meanwhile here, we have a report from Andrea Conklin from our affiliate WFTV out of Florida. We want to bring that to you now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More than one dozen people were killed.

ANDREA CONKLIN, REPORTER, WFTV: Well, it's a new day out here in Lake County. New law enforcement officers have arrived to replace those left here overnight. And we're seeing now residents begin to arrive with the curfew over to find their homes, many of them looking like this one you see behind me, absolutely torn to pieces.

(voice over): The dark of night will soon be gone and the people of Lake Mack will get a new look at the devastation that surrounds them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donny (ph), his wife, my grandson. They're all dead.

CONKLIN: Everyone here as a story of loss and a story of survival.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My House collapsed around me and I was outside in the rain laying there.

CONKLIN: With 13 people dead and hundreds of homes flattened, Lake County officials are calling this one of the worst disasters to ever strike the area. Governor Crist declared a state of emergency here, promising federal aid, but for those waking up today it will take something more to begin the work of starting over with nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All we've got left is what you see (INAUDIBLE). I'm thankful we've got our lives. Praise the lord.

CONKLIN (on camera): ... right now to determine how they are going to handle the day ahead.

We're now reporting from Lake Mack, Andrea Conklin, Channel 9, Eyewitness News.


HOLMES: Meanwhile, here we're going to tell you about neighbors helping neighbors. Our special coverage of the deadly Florida storms continues all morning.

Up next, Soledad will talk live with a father and son who spent the day helping rescue victims in the debris.

And still to come, the type of home you're in diminish your chances of surviving a twister.

Stay here.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seemed like an eternity, but I could hear the vinyl siding on the house rattling and so much pressure build up in the attic of our home that it blew out the attic wall from one end of the house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're kidding? Wow.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

All morning long we have been at the home, or I should say what's left of this home of this man, Gene Suggs, kind enough to let us sort of walk around some of the debris. And we appreciate it.

But the story you have to tell is mind-boggling. because he and his wife were able to be OK, get out OK with some serious bruising, which we'll talk about in a moment.

Tell me a little bit about what happened -- 3:00 in the morning, what kind of a warning did you get?

GENE SUGGS, HOMEOWNER: We were both sound asleep. And the roof went off first. Ad I was pelted. I didn't know -- we sleep in separate bedrooms. I didn't know anything about her, but I was pelted with hail and cold rain.

O'BRIEN: And then what happened?

SUGGS: And then the wind picked me up. The wall -- the inner wall there was coming down toward my bed.

O'BRIEN: So right in there, uh-huh.

SUGGS: Just beyond this wall was the bedroom. The wall was coming down, and the power of this wind picked me up, the mattress and all, and pushed this side into that wall. And then we -- the wall came down on me with the mattress under me, and I'm laying on the floor.

O'BRIEN: Now, from that floor, you made your way -- and here, we'll walk down this way. Please be careful. I don't want you to trip over anything. And as you know, there are wires.

This is your wife's bedroom. She's in this room here. And that's the bed she was in. What happened to her?

SUGGS: The mattress was on the bed and she was on top of it. She was on top of the bed.

O'BRIEN: But the ceiling was gone? The roof was gone?

SUGGS: The roof -- just like it -- it was all just like it is now.

O'BRIEN: What did you do? How did you get her out?

SUGGS: This framework here was laying on top of her. That's what had her pinned down. But she was laying on her back on the mattresses. And I just got to her, hugged her, lifted this up, and she got out. O'BRIEN: This whole thing -- and I don't know if you guys can see this really clearly. Besides the brick and the debris, there are nails everywhere. There are wires down.

How did you both get out without really seriously injuring yourselves?

SUGGS: You'll have to ask God, because he brought us through it all. We were barefooted in our skimpy night clothes, and we came down just where he is. That's where we stepped down, me first. I was holding her because she's a heavier girl. And I was holding on to her. We never stepped on a nail.

O'BRIEN: And, you know, people can't really see it, but this whole area is surrounded by nails that are this big.

SUGGS: Right.

O'BRIEN: I mean, to not step on one is quite a miracle.

SUGGS: Well, I stepped on one, but it was very later in yesterday p.m., and the doctor came. We sat in this mobile over here, and he give me a tetanus shot and checked my bones, everything. He's a member of our church, but he's also a doctor.

O'BRIEN: Let me bring you down here, Mr. Suggs, because this brick wall is the one I know that you were able to -- or this framework here is what you were able to lift -- lift off your wife.

How did you do that? I mean...

SUGGS: No, this is not that heavy, but people have taken this -- they have take the mattresses and all. That was jus t-- she was just laying on top of mattresses, and she bruised just on one leg, and that was this framework.

O'BRIEN: How could you push it all off of her?

SUGGS: No. I picked it up, and she pulled that leg out. And then she was free.

Then we started just making our way in the dark. I reached for my flashlight just unbeknowing everything was gone in my bedroom. But everything was gone. But anyway, we -- we made it down off of this and come over this. Then made our way right around there up to that house.

O'BRIEN: Which is where your grandchild is.

SUGGS: That's where my granddaughter lives, and we thought she could have been harmed. But my wife stayed here. This time, she stayed at this house looking for her shoes. They moved everything out, but her cabinets was here. She found some shoes for herself.

O'BRIEN: Now, if you look in the front of the house, which is straight through that little doorway, everything's collapsed. If you had been there... SUGGS: I was. That's where my bedroom was, right through that door.

O'BRIEN: And if she had been on the other side, could you have survived it?

SUGGS: Well, only God knows that, but he kept us safe. And we give praise and everything to God.

O'BRIEN: When you look around and see how bad it is...

SUGGS: Certainly.

O'BRIEN: ... how you doing?

SUGGS: Don't you know I've -- been 24 hours now since I was through it. So I don't have to be reminded.

O'BRIEN: I bet you don't. I bet you don't. Well, we appreciate you walking us through.

What are you going to do now? What do you do?

SUGGS: We -- our insurance company was here. They flew from Ft. Lauderdale, and this is another part of the miracle. They said this was total damage. They give me a check, a big check.

Now, we got to declare some other things, but just nothing went -- everything went very, very well, and only it could be profiled by God.

O'BRIEN: Well, you certainly had a lot of help in getting out safely, sir.

SUGGS: Yes, we sure did. And a lot of our -- my wife and I have been married 51 years. We had a lot of collectibles, and that's what we regret the most, that no insurance company can cover it. But we still got the lord, and we're both happy.

O'BRIEN: All right. Well, thank you for letting us walk around your property this morning and being with us.

SUGGS: Sure. Sure.

O'BRIEN: We appreciate it.

As you can see, his story, again, a story of a lot of people here.

Got to take a short break. When we come back, we're going to tell you the story of some of the folks who have been here actually helping clean up. That's straight ahead as we continue our coverage from the devastated central Florida region.

We're back in just a minute.


HOLMES: As we've been keeping an eye on this morning and reported to you a short time ago, there has been an outbreak of the H5N1 bird flu in Britain, the first time we've seen this show up at a British poultry farm. Some 2,500 turkeys died at this farm.

Want to get to Damon Green, who's in Suffolk, England, following this story for us.

Damon, what can you tell us -- tell us exactly what's happening at this poultry farm?

DAMON GREEN, ITN: Well, 2,600 turkeys, as you say, have already died of the virus. But the other -- the other 160,000 turkeys who live here at this industrial agriculture unit here in the east of England will have to die. They will have to be killed.

The H5N1 virus was confirmed this morning after 48 hours of tests at the laboratory in the south of England. It is the deadliest strain, the one that everyone has been waiting for.

The agriculture officials here in England have been predicting that something like this has been going to happen for the last two years, but it doesn't make the surprise and the shock any less, I'm afraid, from this area, which is dependent on agriculture, on large-scale agriculture for its living.

There is a three kilometer -- what they call a deep protection zone already in place around this farm. No poultry, no bird will be allowed to move at all unless it's going direct to the slaughterhouse. Seven kilometers around that zone is what's called an observation zone, where birds aren't allowed to be moved, and any employees going in and out of this farm will have to take precautions, sterilize their footwear, sterilize their vehicles, so that the virus can't be spread.

There's going to be an increase in biosecurity in this part of England. But, unfortunately, biosecurity couldn't be any better.

This is the best-known poultry producer in Britain. This produces an enormous number of birds, and biosecurity is taken very, very serious indeed.

I'm just 100 yards from the buildings where the turkeys live. And anyone who knows about this kind of agriculture would expect there to be a stench in this air. There is none because all of these units are air conditioned, they're sealed, they're sterile. It's very, very worrying that the virus could have gotten into those units and killed those birds under such conditions.

HOLMES: And Damon, you said experts have been predicting something like this might happen there, so I guess maybe not a surprise to those experts. But have there been any other close calls or anything like this around England before in the past where maybe you thought it might be a case, it didn't turn out to be a case? Have there been close calls in the past, I guess?

GREEN: Certainly there have, T.J. In March last year, here was an outbreak to the north of here in Norfolk, where several thousand birds, I think 50,000 birds, had to be slaughtered. But the virus turned out to be the less deadly H7 variety. So that seemed to be a false alarm.

Last May, up in Scotland, a couple of hundred miles from here, a wild swan was discovered which had died from the H5N1 virus, and everyone was on red alert at that stage in case it spread to any poultry in the surrounding area. It didn't do so at all.

The worries here that this is a very large center for migrating water birds -- where only a few miles from the coast here, and birds migrate across from eastern and northern Europe -- whether they've brought the virus with them, it's of grave worry here because this is, as I say, the center of poultry production in England. Almost all of the birds which are bred and eaten on the tables of England, Scotland, and Wales come from this part of the world. All those producers will be worried in case this virus gets out.

HOLMES: OK. Damon Green, ITN reporter for us in Suffolk, England.

Thank you so much for the update there, Damon.

Meanwhile, we want to head back to the -- of course the big and tragic story here in the U.S. out of Florida, the deadly tornadoes, deadly storms there.

Soledad O'Brien is on the story for us and on the scene for us this morning.

Hello to you again, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, T.J. Thank you.

This is certainly a time when you see exactly what your friends and neighbors are made of, and in this case, they are truly made of gold.

Ken and Colin Dembeck (ph) are neighbors of Gene Suggs. You met Gene just a moment ago when he took us through his home. Well, they were here on the scene helping him for a long time pick up the pieces and literally clean up.

Colin (ph), how old are you?


O'BRIEN: Twelve years old. You came with your dad. Tell me a little sense of how you got -- how you got brought here.

KEN DEMBECK, LADY LAKE RESIDENT: Well, the storm came through, and you know when a storm comes through. And one of the neighbors called and said that they had found Gene and Edna (ph) wandering in their back yard and that their house was completely gone. And so we -- I had my wife load up coffee and biscuits, and we just came up with coffee and started helping them pick up the pieces.

O'BRIEN: Tell me what you were able to do. I mean, one of the things, you live about a mile away.

K. DEMBECK: Right, about a mile down the road, yes, ma'am. O'BRIEN: And did you have any concerns about Colin (ph)? I mean, 12 years old.

I know you're old, but he's kind of young at the same time.

You stepped on a nail yesterday.

K. DEMBECK: Well, there's -- there's really -- when you see things to do, you just do it. I mean, we just had to look for their stuff. We found their teeth and their glasses and their pocketbooks and credit cards and important papers. And we're just trying to get that together and put it in a trailer.

And one of the men from church brought a fifth wheel for them to stay in. And then another man brought a trailer to store their stuff in. Their sons are all here helping them clean up everything. And it's just a -- the men from the church, we're usually at men's prayer meeting on Friday morning. And that's where Gene would have been. And all the men came down and just helped. And Colin and Mr. Suggs' granddaughter and his other grandchildren were here and just...

O'BRIEN: Pitching in.

K. DEMBECK: Pitching in, yes.

O'BRIEN: And you were telling me about a brick that you found. How far away was a brick from this house?

K. DEMBECK: Well, the men went down -- I'm not sure if you can pan to the field or not, but the edge of the wood lines, the brook is...

O'BRIEN: Way back there?

K. DEMBECK: That's probably a mile, yes, ma'am, at least.

O'BRIEN: That's got to be at least a mile.




O'BRIEN: That is - I mean, when you look around and you see the damage -- and I've covered a number of tornadoes now. And I'm not sure how much damage your son's been able to, you know, has ever seen in his life.

K. DEMBECK: We've been through a couple of hurricanes.

O'BRIEN: You know, every single time, though, it's still mind boggling to me...

K. DEMBECK: Oh, yes.

O'BRIEN: ...the power of a tornado. K. DEMBECK: That's right. I'll tell you, it's an awesome display of God's power. I mean, and you - I mean, we can't make this wind blow. We can't make the sunshine, but the Lord can. And he protected the Suggs.

O'BRIEN: Yes, He certainly did. I mean, are you just amazed when you look at what's back here?

K. DEMBECK: Oh, yes. I mean, we walked through and saw where he was laying at and where she was laying at. And the bed with the open air is just amazing.

O'BRIEN: It's shocking. How are you doing today, Colin?


O'BRIEN: I mean, are you -- you stepped on a nail. How's your foot?


O'BRIEN: It's all right?

K. DEMBECK: Tetanus shot in the arm.

O'BRIEN: You know, that's a good thing to get just in case. You going to come back again today and work again?

K. DEMBECK: Yes, we're going to help load up some stuff. We go on bus visitation in the morning at church. And then we'll be back.

O'BRIEN: And I know they're bringing in the bulldozers in...

K. DEMBECK: Right.

O'BRIEN: start getting some work done.

K. DEMBECK: Yes, they're here with the bobcat now. And they're getting ready to start picking up some stuff.

O'BRIEN: When you look around at the scope of the damage to your neighborhood, how are you feeling about that?

K. DEMBECK: Yes, it's just an awesome responsibility. I mean, where's a lot of -- that's why we've got to do what we can for people while we have an opportunity, help them be prepared for the future.

O'BRIEN: That's really true. Well, Ken and Colin, I thank you for your time this morning. I know you guys are about to get back to work. So we really appreciate you talking to us.

K. DEMBECK: Great.

O'BRIEN: Good for you. Watch the nails. I've already stepped on one myself.

K. DEMBECK: Oh, did you? O'BRIEN: Luckily, my boots kind of protected me. Thanks, guys. I appreciate it.

K. DEMBECK: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: But T.J., you know, the interesting thing - and I don't know if you can kind of see it. Well, they kind of moved on behind what's left of the structure. But there are so many members of the church, the Calvary Baptist Church here, who are helping out as well. Really getting here right on the scene as soon as possible and helping out in any way possible. It's been great to see.

But you know, as you can see behind me, they got a big job ahead of them. That's going to take them a long time. We do know the bulldozers have just started to arrive. So we're expecting - yes, right over there. We're expecting to see a little progress made at least here at the Suggs home. T.J.?

HOLMES: All right, certainly a huge, huge task at hand. Soledad, thank you so much. We'll see you shortly.

So a lot of people trying to help out as we are just hearing? Well, how can one man help out? That one man in the shot there? Oh, he's there on the left. That one man is the governor. There he is, Governor Charlie Crist. We have a live interview with him. He's coming up next.

And then it's the storm as you saw it. We'll show you the amazing picture sent to us by CNN viewers. Stay here.



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): It has been called one of the hottest workouts, but you have to take your exercise sitting down. Creator Josh Crosby says indo-row is all about teamwork.

JOSH CROSBY, INDO-ROW.COM: Train with a group, and you're going to get better. You're going to make gains. But there's no impact. You burn tons of calories, you build muscle, you build long lean muscles, which seems to be the trend these days, not bulky anymore. And it's just a lot of fun.

COSTELLO: Crosby is passionate about rowing. He's on the national rowing team and a third generation rower. He ends each class at the Sports Club L.A. with a little competitive racing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the fact he puts you in teams as you're rowing, like you're really rowing in a boat, that's just an extra added motivation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My favorite part is when he makes us go all out. When he builds it up, 50 percent strength, 75 percent, and then 100 percent when you're doing it and giving it everything you got.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am an endurance athlete, a competitive athlete. And this has taken me to a whole new level.

COSTELLO: Crosby says, besides working every major muscle group in your body, rowers can burn 400 to 900 calories in a 50-minute class.

Carol Costello, CNN, New York.


HOLMES: Hello to you all. Normally, you'd be seeing "HOUSECALL" at this time of the morning, but that has been preempted this morning, so that we could bring you continuing coverage of the disaster in Florida. But good morning to you all. From the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm T.J. Holmes.

O'BRIEN: And I'm Soledad O'Brien. I'm in Lady Lake in Florida. It's one of the towns in central Florida, just devastated, as you can see, by some of the damage behind me. This morning we're talking to Governor Charlie Crist. He's here. We're going to get to him in just a moment.

He's been talking to some of the folks who have really suffered so badly. A moment ago I heard one guy say, hey, I voted for you, governor, but I really wasn't expecting to see you in person, if you know what I mean. So we're going to get to that straight ahead in just a moment. T.J.?

HOLMES: Yes, thank you, Soledad. Certainly hope you don't have to see the governor under these circumstances. And of course, the governor there, Governor Crist, he has declared a state of emergency this morning in four central Florida counties. That's Lake County, Volusia County, Sumter County, and Seminole County. They were all hit on Friday by that line of deadly storms and at least one tornado we know about now.

And emergency officials right now putting the death toll at 19, the fatalities all in Lake County. And among those killed, two high school students.

This was the second deadliest tornado outbreak in Florida history. The worst was in February of 1998 when five twisters hit, killing 42 people in central Florida. Soledad, back to you.

O'BRIEN: All right, T.J., thank you very much. We're joined by Governor Charlie Crist. He just got here to Gene Suggs' home. And as I was saying a moment ago, he was saying to you, governor, you know, I voted for you, but I really didn't want to see you in person because that can't be a good thing.

This is his home, as you know.


O'BRIEN: And you've seen this site over and over again. You've done a tour. How does it look to you?

CRIST: Well, it looks the same to me as it does to you. It's unbelievable. I mean, the devastation is incredible, but these people are resilient.

And I talked to Mr. Suggs this morning, as you mentioned. And his spirit and his demeanor are amazing, but that's what Floridians do. They always pick themselves back up.

We're used to this in Florida, unfortunately, with the hurricanes that we've had over the past few years. But the thing that's incredible about Floridians is their undying spirit. I mean, they just continue to come back and come back.

And you know, most of the time, it's a beautiful place to live. It is paradise, but there's a bit of a price to pay to living here. And...

O'BRIEN: This is the price here. Do you feel like you're getting all the help you need from FEMA, from the feds?

CRIST: Well, I hope so. We don't know the answer to that yet. So I'm encouraged later on when I meet with the director of FEMA. He's coming down in about an hour, to encourage him to get us the support that Floridians clearly deserve and that they need.

But I'm very encouraged by my initial conversation with him, as well as President Bush yesterday. So we're very hopeful.

O'BRIEN: You've declared this area a state of disaster, right?

CRIST: Yes, we have. Yes.

O'BRIEN: OK. So what do you think the people here need? What are you going to do for them?

CRIST: Well, obviously, Mr. Suggs needs some housing. Excuse me. But you know, they need food. They need shelter. They need assistance. And it's all coming to bear. It really is.

I mean, the local level has responded in an extraordinary way. Local law enforcement, firefighters, the state has been incredibly active.

We came in yesterday. And it's this kind of response that Floridians are used to, because under our former governor, Governor Bush, there's been a great response team put into place. They're all still there working very hard. And we're doing all we can to make sure they get every ounce of aid that they need.

O'BRIEN: You've only been in the job for a month...

CRIST: Thirty-one days, yes.

O'BRIEN: Yes, 31 days.


O'BRIEN: Just over a month now. Your first big test. How do you think it's gone so far?

CRIST: Oh, well, I couldn't be more grateful to the team members that we have that are working so hard in Tallahassee, throughout central Florida, and our friends in Washington. Senator Nelson was down with us yesterday. And I was grateful for that.

But you know, it's that kind of spirit that Floridians have. And it is genuine, reaching out to help each other, to do what's right for the people of our state.

O'BRIEN: Is it too early to put a price tag on all this damage? I know you've had a chance to kind of see the scope that we are seeing up close and personal, unfortunately, right here this morning.

CRIST: Yes, yes, I think it is too early. We don't know exactly the full extent of what the damage is. I can tell you, though, that it's unbelievable.

O'BRIEN: You're going to be holding a press conference later this morning.

CRIST: Yes, about 11:00.

O'BRIEN: And what are you going to be talking about?

CRIST: Well, hopefully, we'll be talking about some federal assistance.

O'BRIEN: OK. So you'll know by then hopefully...

CRIST: Well, I don't know, but I'm hoping. I'm hoping. For the people of Florida, I'm hopeful.

O'BRIEN: All right, we hope so, too.


O'BRIEN: Charlie Crist, nice to see you governor. And again, sorry to meet you under these circumstances, but always a pleasure to talk to you. I know it means a lot for the folks when they get a chance to see you.

He's been hugging a lot of the homeowners who have really suffered some great damage, great disaster, and just trauma too. I mean, some of these stories of having - you know, for older people, having to crawl their way out of their homes to safety over nails and debris is quite, quite remarkable.

And he's -- they really have appreciated what he's been doing for them out here this morning.

Susan Roesgen is not far away from where we are this morning. She's in Volusia County with what's happening there. Hey, Susan, good morning.

ROESGEN: Good morning, Soledad. We're here at the Volusia County sheriff's office mobile command center. And I'm here with the sheriff himself, sheriff Ben Johnson.

Sheriff, you got a chance to look at the destruction in your county from the air yesterday. What did you see?

BEN JOHNSON, SHERIFF: Really, what we saw is just complete devastation. The storm came in from the Lake County area from the west, crossed into Volusia County, through Volusia County all the way out to New Smyrna and out the inland.

ROESGEN: What was the worst damage that you saw. Where is the worst of it today here?

JOHNSON: It's really kind of hard to say. When it first came into the county, it destroyed an apartment complex. And I don't know how no one was killed. It absolutely blew it down.

From there, it took out some fairly high dollar houses, destroyed them, sunk a riverboat, and came on across and came through some of the areas like a mobile home park. Came through two mobile home parks, which absolutely destroyed them. And I just can't imagine why no one was killed.

ROESGEN: Also, you were telling me that a medical clinic and the sheriff's substation were also wiped out. Tell us about what happened when the deputy, a rookie deputy, I understand, pulled up to that substation early Friday morning?

JOHNSON: Well, he was setting in the parking lot up close to our building. And the tornado came through and absolutely blew the health department apart. And then it came across the parking lot, blew his car several parking places and up against the building, and then piled debris up against him. Blew all his windows out.

And how he wasn't hurt or killed, I don't know. And then blew our building apart. It destroyed our building. And went on -- but he handled it like a trooper. He was just great. He wanted to come back to work. And we wouldn't let him.

ROESGEN: So this is a rookie deputy. You said he was cool as a cucumber when he called into dispatch. You actually looked at him, got a look at him afterwards. How did he look after this?

JOHNSON: Looked like he'd been in a mud battle. He was pretty dirty, but ready to go again. And we're real proud of him. He did handle it like he'd been a veteran. And he's been on the road by himself for two weeks.

ROESGEN: Now sheriff, you were saying, again, here that you're so surprised that there were no fatalities in this county. How do you think people survived this?

JOHNSON: Luck. That's all you can say, just pure luck. Because truly, we should have had the fatalities that the other counties did. And very, very pleased that we didn't.

We didn't even have any major injuries. And as you look at the devastation around here, you just -- you can't understand it, because there's just houses blown apart. Mobile homes blown apart. And like I said, that apartment complex, it was just absolutely a miracle that we didn't lose a lot of people.

ROESGEN: We're very glad that you didn't. Thank you. Sheriff Ben Johnson with the Volusia County sheriff's office. Thank you.

And we will be going into some of those areas, Soledad, later this morning to show you the devastation. We'll take a camera in and get a look at some of the places that the sheriff has seen today. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Well, yes, I bet it's got to be just like this, just a complete mess, just completely blown away. All right, Susan thanks. Susan Roesgen for us in Volusia County this morning.

T.J., as you can see, I mean, we're hearing a lot of the same thing. We have some choppers in the sky above us as well.

You know, there's a lot of cleanup to do. We have seen what the governor was talking about, that spirit of Floridians. Unfortunately, this is what happens here. This is not uncommon to have a tornado rip through. So they are, you know, getting ready to clean up and really talking about rebuilding as well. T.J.?

HOLMES: Oh, they have all too much experience, don't they, Soledad? They know how this works. They know how to do it. Well, thank you so much. And of course, we'll be seeing you, of course, throughout the morning.

Meanwhile, we know what the weather did. Now we want to find out what the weather's doing there in Florida as well. Bonnie Schneider here with us from the Weather Center.

And Bonnie, I know there were some - just kind of even after that powerful storm blew through, there were some thunderstorms and showers still kind of lingering and hanging out. What's happening in Florida now?

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: T.J., we have this just in. The special weather statement from the National Weather Service in Melbourne, Florida reporting that some strong thunderstorms will be working their way through the rescue areas over the next hour or so.

Now some of these storms do have a history of producing lightning and rain that could be heavy at times and even some strong wind. As we take a closer look, I'll show you where the rescue areas are into Lady Lake. And there's Deland. And what you'll see is much of the heavier rain is to the south of the region, but it is moving into Volusia County.

In fact, as we take a closer look at that area, you'll see the rain kind of skirting the region, skirting Lake County at this time. But look what's happening in Volusia. You can see some strong cells working their way in this region.

These storms have a history of producing pea-sized hail. So it's not going to be a major storm moving through. We do not have a tornado watch or a tornado warning or anything like that. The problem is with a brief gust of wind, it could knock down anything that's sort of barely hanging after the devastation from yesterday. So just be careful and know that the weather will change in Volusia County specifically where we're watching these cells working their way to I'd say the northeast at about 50 miles per hour. They're fast moving storms.

As far as lightning goes, some lightning has been detected here specifically just off the coast of the Tampa/St. Pete area. And these are the same storms that are funneling through.

We're getting this steady flow of moisture across Florida. We saw it yesterday. And I mentioned the timing of a cold front coming through at the same time and the warm dewpoints we had in place. And that's why we saw such violent weather yesterday.

But today, what we're looking at is still that subtropical jet tapping into the Gulf moisture, bringing about more moisture for Florida. So just watch out again.

Right now, if you're in Volusia County or areas in Lake County, you're going to see some rain move through, but it will be brief and short- lived. T.J.?

HOLMES: All right, thank you, Bonnie. Like you said, it's not so bad. But still, any little thing right now.


O'BRIEN: That's too bad. All right, well, Bonnie, thank you so much. We'll see you again soon.

And please stay here with CNN. Of course, we are all over the weather situation and this devastation in Florida, as people waking up again this morning to a nightmare seeing that devastation. And once again, starting to rebuild, put their lives back together. Stay here for continuing coverage of the situation in Florida. We'll be right back.



JUDY FORTIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Researchers report in The American Journal for Sports Medicine that youth soccer players had 1.7 million ER visits over a 13-year span to 2005. They found girls go to the hospital more often for their injuries, that boys are more likely to be admitted.

A report in The Journal Neurology says Parkinson's Disease and Multiple Sclerosis are more common than previously believed. It's unclear if more people are suffering from the diseases or if detection has simply improved.

Intensive care unit doctors who spend time talking with a grieving family could be helping more than they think. A study in The New England Journal of Medicine reveals relatives suffered less anxiety and depression after a loved one's death if doctors spent as long as 30 minutes speaking with them about death-related issues.

Judy Fortin, CNN.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was total devastation. I've never seen anything like it in my life. Very scary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How thankful were you to find her OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank God. Total miracle. Total miracle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ma'am, how did you get through it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know really.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very frightening.

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. The Lady Lake mobile home is not very far from here, probably not even two miles away. And the devastation and the damage that they have suffered there is incredible.

Ellen Sarban is one of the survivors. Her home was absolutely blown apart. She's with us with her brother and her pastor this morning.

Ellen, first describe for me what you first heard when you woke up and realized that there was a tornado.

ELLEN SARBAN, FLORIDA RETIREE: The cracking and breaking of the house. I didn't hear the roar like they said that the tornado does. I just -- and I looked up from my bed. And I saw the sky.

The roof was coming apart. And I jumped up and ran in the bathroom, got dressed quick, ran back, got my purse and my checkbooks out of the file, and then made my way out through the house.

O'BRIEN: That's having a very level head. How did you get out? I mean, there must have been rubble everywhere.

SARBAN: The wall was blown out, and I just walked out through the wall -- and on to -- well, must have been on the other side of the wall. I mean, I walked on that until I was on cement. So I knew that that was -- had been my porch. And...

O'BRIEN: You looked around and saw that...

SARBAN: Nothing. I mean, it was pitch black. You couldn't see anything.

O'BRIEN: When the sun came back up, though, a lot of your neighbors were in the same shape?

SARBAN: Yes, they were. Yes. One house two doors from me is not on its -- it was on a slab. And it's gone. The whole thing is in the back by the fence. Just blew it.

O'BRIEN: We're looking at pictures while we talk. They're rolling pictures. So we took some is pictures of what's left of your home now. I know that you went down to your brother, who's only, what...

GLENN TERRY, ELLEN'S BROTHER: A few houses away.

O'BRIEN: A few houses. Now what kind of shape is your house in?

TERRY: Our house got - you know, came through very well. It didn't have -- minor, minor damage. Nothing, you know, to speak of. And yet we were -- you could throw a stone almost to her house from my house.

O'BRIEN: Your pastor is here as well.


O'BRIEN: I mean, you look at the damage, not only here and Mr. Suggs house, where we've kind of been camping out all morning...


O'BRIEN: ...but also at Ellen's house and elsewhere. Everyone's been talking about kind of the hand of God and being able to survive something like that.


FRANK MASON, REV., LADY LAKE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH: Well, I know I had a checklist of our members. And I was just checking them off as I heard about them or met them, including Ellen, or got them on the telephone. And every time I found someone, I just said, thank the Lord that he had watched over them. And I'm really grateful right now.

O'BRIEN: Yes, I bet you are.

SARBAN: Yes, I am too.

O'BRIEN: You're 80 years old, as my I mentioned. You were diagnosed in 1983 with cancer.

SARBAN: 1980.

O'BRIEN: 1980. So what is that, 27 years ago now. And they gave you six months to live, didn't they?

SARBAN: I fooled them, didn't I?

O'BRIEN: That's a long six months, 27 years later.

SARBAN: I'm living on borrowed time again and again and again.

O'BRIEN: Well, no, I think you've just survived another tornado. Now, what happens now? You don't have a home. I mean, I know you're living with your brother, Glenn. So what do you do? SARBAN: I have a home in Ohio. And as soon as I get things straightened out here, I'll go back to Ohio.

O'BRIEN: Florida's not for your any more?

SARBAN: No, I don't think so.

O'BRIEN: Is this the first tornado that you've been through?

SARBAN: No. And it was in high school. I was through one. Just the hard rain, you know, but blew me down the street. But other than that, no.

O'BRIEN: Glenn, how long have you lived here?

TERRY: Probably about 12, 13 years. And I was a fireman in Ohio for 18 years. And I'd never seen devastation like this.

I've been in two tornados, but this one was much stronger and much worse than any I've ever witnessed before.

O'BRIEN: Devastating. It must be depressing to look around your town here where you are and even further down and see nothing?

SARBAN: It's indescribable. You can't - yesterday, I think I was in shock all day long. And this morning, I looked at it and I thought, oh, it looked worse to me this morning than it did yesterday because I'm a little better today I think.

O'BRIEN: A little more clarity. Well, thank you for talking with us. We certainly appreciate your time this morning. Brother Glenn, Terry, and Frank Moson?

MASON: Mason.

O'BRIEN: Mason, forgive me. The Reverend, the pastor and Ellen Sarban, who's 80-years old. And as we said, really, was able to pull herself out of her home. Another - yet another really remarkable story of survival here.

T.J., and then sad to say - you know, depending on how you look at it, lucky to say that there are lots of those stories. Sad to say that anybody had to be in that situation today.

Back to you.

HOLMES: All right, Soledad. Thank you so much. Thank you for sharing that story with us.

Meanwhile, of course, our coverage right here continues at the top of the hour of the devastation in Florida. A lot more live from the scene with Soledad. And as well, the news of the day from here at the scene at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Don't go anywhere.


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