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Hurricane Dean Nears Jamaica; All About Politics

Aired August 19, 2007 - 09:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: It is Sunday, August the 19th.
Good morning to you all from the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

I'm T.J. Holmes.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Betty Nguyen.

At this point, thousands of vacationers have gotten out of Jamaica just in time.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We weren't supposed to leave until Wednesday, but Hurricane Dean's coming, so -- and they're not even panicking yet.


KEILAR: Flights in and out of the Caribbean nation are canceled this morning as we're just hours away from Hurricane Dean making landfall.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is something I could have lived without. I could have done without this.


HOLMES: The struggle of a father following his son's death. My conversation with O'Jays' founder Eddie Levert. This is a talk you do not want to miss. Certainly want to stay tuned for that.

But we are going to start with Hurricane Dean this hour.

Forecasters calling it an extremely dangerous storm. Hurricane Dean barreling toward Jamaica right now. It's a strong Category 4 hurricane, and it's packing winds of 145 miles an hour.

You will be able to see the radar in the right-hand corner of your screen. We're going to keep it there throughout this newscast.

Jamaicans, meanwhile, jammed supermarkets, stocking up on food and supplies ahead of this hurricane. Dean is expected to make landfalls there in the early evening hours. The storm already blamed for at least five deaths in the Caribbean.

KEILAR: And as Dean churns on, you're going to see CNN news crews reporting live day and night from the region. We've got Karl Penhaul in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Gary Tuchman and Harris Whitbeck in the resort city of Cancun, Mexico.

But first, we're going to begin with Susan Candiotti. She is live in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

And Susan, what can you tell us?


Well, if you look over my shoulder, you can make out how calm the water is, barely a ripple in the Caribbean Sea on this unusually quiet Sunday morning. Just over this balcony where we're standing, I can see the city streets. Very few cars driving by. Some foot traffic, but normally these streets are very, very busy at this hour with both locals and tourists walking about.

The streets, of course, lined, for example, with shops and restaurants, all kinds of souvenirs being sold. But not today. Everything has been ordered to be shut down.

By now, a government authority's hope, as they've been telling people for the past several days, that they have purchased all the supplies they will need to get them through, at least the next several days. And in just about two to three hours from now, they do expect to be cutting off electricity throughout the island.

That's because they want to preserve the power grids as best they can. That old system here, all the power lines are above ground, and a lot of wooden polls we're talking about. So, they want to make sure to lessen the damage, keep it down as much as is possible.

And while conditions are very quiet now, naturally, Brianna, that is going to be changing as time goes on. They are experiencing light rain at this hour in Kingston, which is way south of here. And the most amount of damage, they expect, will be on the eastern end of the island, but this storm is so big, it's going to cover the island in its entirety.

It's only 50 miles wide, 150 miles long. And they're going to take a pounding by up to 20 inches of rain.

Back to you.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi. Susan, this is Reynolds Wolf in Atlanta. Just a question to ask you about Jamaica, the mindset of the people as a whole.

I mean, Jamaica is a place that's had a long history of hurricanes. Most recently with Gilbert in 1988. That was the last direct hit. Ivan came close in 2004, and countless other storms. What is the mindset of the people there? Are they taking this in stride, are they -- is there a panic? How are there?

CANDIOTTI: I think that they're rightfully concerned. They know how much damage can be done by a hurricane.

As you pointed out, Hurricane Ivan, for example, the last time a Category 4 storm hit here in 2004. And so, if you -- if you press them, they admit to being worried because they don't know what the island is going to look like in the course of the next 24 hours and what kind of aftermath they will have to deal with.

On the other hand, there are some people who say, ah, don't worry about it. It's not going to be any big deal.

Perhaps reality hasn't yet set in for them, but it surely will as time goes on. But for the most part, as you pointed out, people here are used to hurricanes. They have prepared as best they can.

Others have not, either because they can't afford it, or, quite frankly, their homes haven't been retrofitted to meet hurricane standards as they're supposed to be. But you do see a lot of, frankly, homes and businesses here that still have tin roofs, and you know that there's going to be a lot of those that are going to be peeled off as the storm batters across the island.

WOLF: Well, Susan, we can expect the eye of the storm to come to its closest point of Jamaica around 4:00, 5:00 or so your time, island time, local time. So, long before then, obviously, you're going to have those conditions really deteriorate.

I saw behind you kind of hazy conditions. More clouds are going to roll in. The wind is going to pick up, obviously.

You mentioned heavy rainfall right near Blue Mountain, on the eastern tip of the island. And a peak that's over 7,000 feet up, you're going to have some rainfall that could exceed 20 inches. Lower areas, anywhere from five to 10 inches of rainfall. So, flooding is not going to be just a possibility, it is imminent.

That, included with the storm surge, you're going to have huge issues on the island. Not just for today, but after the storm passes, tomorrow. You're going to have some cleanup for some time to come.


KEILAR: Also at this hour, Texas taking precautions. The governor there has ordered up National Guard troops and emergency responders.

President Bush has signed a pre-landfall disaster declaration for the state. That will allow the government to move in people, equipment, also supplies, immediately if the storm hits.

And the mayor of Galveston is urging residents to be ready.


MAYOR LYDA ANN THOMAS, GALVESTON, TEXAS: Check your supplies at home. Check your medical records. Plywood if you need it, go get it. Fuel up your cars.


KEILAR: We expect a news conference from the Federal Emergency Management Agency a little later today, around 2:15 Eastern.

HOLMES: And as Hurricane Dean moves through the Caribbean, you may be looking for ways to help people affected. And CNN can help you help them.

Go to Click on "Natural Disasters" for a link to various relief agencies.

Impacting your world now just a click away at

KEILAR: More extreme weather this morning. This time in Oklahoma. And some drivers, unfortunately, got caught in it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The water level waist deep, knee deep in that area. So, manageable, but behind that White car, some very strong current, as you can see.

So, it's a very delicate situation, especially since that car is not stationary. It's moving. It is being pushed off there. That rescuer has to be careful himself there, too. And it looks like he's going around to the other side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now we can tell, he's really starting to fight that current, Adam.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We could tell -- when he opened the passenger side door, we could see the water sweeping around it, and now he's moving closer to those rapids, for lack of better term, on the other side of that car. And this is where it gets dangerous, even more so, because of the strength of these floodwaters, Adam.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, especially if that car does go his direction. He's not in that car, he's not protected by it. So, if that car moves towards him, he could be taken underneath the car or swept away in the current.

It's very -- it's a very scary situation, and that's why, of course, they take safety precautions. It appears they have someone out, Tyler. It appears to be a man, and he's holding on to that rope, from what I can see back here. He seems to be walking and seems to be doing OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: All right. And again, for those of you just joining us now, we are watching a water rescue. This is footage from our affiliate KOCO in Oklahoma City.

A lot of rain hitting the area. This is -- we have seen many of these rescues going on.

Let's go ahead and bring in meteorologist Reynolds Wolf to tell us a little bit about what we're seeing here.


KEILAR: Thanks to our affiliate, KOCO, for those live pictures we saw of that water rescue.

HOLMES: And again, as you've been saying and as we've been saying all morning, Hurricane Dean, the monster, it is barreling toward Jamaica right now. Forecasters calling it extremely dangerous.

KEILAR: Also, we're talking politics. High-ranking officials stepping down from office.

And a plea to -- from one presidential candidate to leave his family alone.

We're going to have our political editor weighing in.

HOLMES: Also, evangelist Billy Graham hospitalized. We'll have an update on his condition.

You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


HOLMES: Evangelist Billy Graham is resting in a North Carolina hospital this morning. Graham's in fair condition after being hospitalized yesterday for intestinal bleeding.


MERRELL GREGORY, HOSPITAL SPOKESWOMAN: The bleed apparently has on its own stopped, which is good news. And he's being cared for here in the hospital.


HOLMES: They say Graham should be able to go home in the next couple of days.

KEILAR: And now let's talk politics.

The political landscape is changing on the campaign trail and also in Washington. It looks like another candidate is poised to enter the GOP presidential race. And key White House aides are also calling it quits.

Here to talk about that and more is CNN political editor Mark Preston.

Mark, thanks so much for being with us.


KEILAR: And first, let's talk about Fred Thompson, because it seems like, finally, I guess is the headline, finally, an announcement appears to be imminent. And not just that. Let's also talk about his position on abortion rights, because this is something we've heard about before with him, but there's some new information here.

What can you tell us?

PRESTON: Well, we saw Fred Thompson this past week, Brianna, head out to Iowa, which is very important. It's going to be the first state that will vote in the Republican caucuses. Fred Thompson went out there, met with fairgoers. But more importantly, he met with activists on the ground, the people who actually are going to go to these caucuses on a cold January night to cast their lot.

Now, interestingly enough, Fred Thompson has come under a lot of criticism for past work he had done. I guess he provided some legal advice to a pro-abortion rights group about how to help weaken the law a little bit, but he was very, very firm in what he said this week, that he would try to overturn Roe v. Wade if he was elected president. And that's what these pro-life activists want to hear.

KEILAR: And when is he officially going to announce? Do we know that at this point?

PRESTON: Well, you know, they won't give us a specific date, they won't nail down a specific date, but it should be the first week in September. And once that happens, I'm sure we're going to see the race turn on its head a little bit.

He's doing very well in polling right now and he's not even an officially-announced candidate. But he'll do that the first week in September, and then off to Iowa, as we say.

KEILAR: And let's move across the aisle now. We're going to talk about Barack Obama.

We understand, right, that he is limiting the number of appearances that he is going to be making at debates? It's not as if he's ruling them out. He's going to be going to several, but not all of them.

Why is that, and could the strategy hurt him?

PRESTON: Well, you know, I think it's twofold.

First, the candidates are getting very, very tired of attending all these debates and forums. Obama, personally, you know, will acknowledge that he doesn't really do well in that. He's not very good at 60-second sound bites. But what is setting in right now is called debate fatigue, and I really think that the Obama advisers would prefer to have him out on the stump, meeting voters one on one, because they think that he can do better in that.

They do acknowledge it could potentially hurt him with some constituency groups who are trying to plan these forums or debates over the next three or four months, but, you know, it's a risk worth taking right now.

KEILAR: And Mark, this past week, we saw some planned departures announce from the White House. Karl Rove's last day is going to be August 31st. Tony Snow, White House press secretary, could be leaving as soon as next month.

Is this going to hurt the political poll of President Bush?

PRESTON: Well, you know, at this point, President Bush is in a lame duck administration. Mr. Rove has been by his side for, you know, his whole political career.

Even though Rove is leaving officially, I believe that he's still going to be in touch with Mr. Bush. If not every day, maybe every other day, advising him on what to do. It's not surprising that we see White House aides leave, but, you know, Mr. Rove is the last of the gang from Texas, so to speak, to actually announce his departure. Tony Snow, on the other hand, somebody who's well known here in Washington, you know, he's had some serious health concerns and he's talking about the fact that he really needs to try to take care of his family, that financially he took a hit by going to the White House.

Is it going to hurt President Bush? You know, that's really hard say at this point, but, you know, Mr. Bush has got a tough road ahead of him right now, you know, with Democrats in control of Congress. So...

KEILAR: That's right. And back to Karl Rove, he did say this past week, "I have his phone number, he has mine." So certainly not out of the sphere of influence there.

Mark Preston, thank you so much for talking with us today. We really appreciate it.

PRESTON: Thanks, Brianna.

KEILAR: And moving on now, the sudden death of a son.

HOLMES: A musical legend seeks comfort with rhythm and blues. Later this hour, my conversation with legendary O'Jay Eddie Levert.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Plus, we are tracking Hurricane Dean on the World Wide Web. We've got the latest on this huge storm.

That's coming up next from the dotcom desk.


HOLMES: Well, along with all the global resources devoted to covering Hurricane Dean, CNN also tracking the storm online. KEILAR: That's right. And Veronica De La Cruz of the dotcom desk is here with that.

DE LA CRUZ: Well, as you guys know, definitely is a terrific resource. We've been getting in lots of I-reports, as well. And that's what we want to start with here.

We're going to start with this one from Andy Jaques in Santo Domingo.

He says there wasn't a huge amount of rain there, but the surf was especially rough. And you can really tell by this picture right here. Just like another I-Report we got from Santo Domingo, Andy reports the waves were literally throwing rocks out of the ocean and on to land. So, police were trying to keep people from getting too close.

Now, we've also got a lot of information, like I just said, at, all on hurricanes. All you have to do is head to our special report. It is at

There you'll find an explainer about the Saffir-Simpson scale, how to stay safe in a hurricane, much, much more. There's a lot online there.

And during hurricane season you'll often hear one hurricane compared with another. Now, the National Hurricane Center, which is, has a page with every major hurricane from the past century. So, you can kind of stack them up against one another. You can see how they compare through the years. And again, that's is another good resource, and you can always send us an I-Report at

But, of course, as we talked about a lot before, you have got to be careful. You know?

KEILAR: You've got -- you really do. Safety first is what we've been saying.

DE LA CRUZ: Safety first, absolutely.

KEILAR: But these pictures really are amazing.

DE LA CRUZ: They are. You know, all the pictures we've been getting in, all the video, excellent, excellent work. But, got to be careful.

KEILAR: Yes. Thank you.

Safety first, folks.

HOLMES: Thanks, Veronica.

KEILAR: All right. Meanwhile, as this hurricane moves through the Caribbean, you may be looking for ways that you can help those people who are affected. And CNN can also help you help them.

So, just go to You can click on "Natural Disasters" for a link to various relief agencies and you can impact your world, now just a click away at

HOLMES: Also, as Dean churns on, you'll see a team of CNN news crews reporting live from the areas in the path of this massive storm. You can look for that team coverage on Hurricane Dean day and night, right here on CNN.


KEILAR: Hurricane Dean barreling toward Jamaica right now. It's expected to make landfall this evening. Forecasters are calling it an extremely dangerous storm.

HOLMES: As Jamaicans jam supermarkets stocking up on food and supplies, the police commissioner there says a curfew was imposed last night and remains in effect this morning. Dean is a Category 4, a strong Category 4 right now, packing winds of 145 miles an hour. At least five deaths in the Caribbean are blamed on the storm so far.

And it might take a direct hit into Jamaica, but it's just brushing past Haiti right now. Residents were urged to take shelter in sturdy buildings.

Want to get the latest now from CNN's Karl Penhaul, who is there and joining us now live from Port-au-Prince.

Hello to you again there, Karl..

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: T.J., it seems very much those hurricane winds didn't just brush past Haiti. Here in Port-au-Prince, here's the picture right now.

There's not much wind at all. The best wind was (INAUDIBLE) not that much rain here in Port-au-Prince...

HOLMES: Well, we're having a tough time there with audio from Karl Penhaul.

Karl, sorry. We're having a tough time with your audio. We're going to try to get that fixed and get back to you and hear the report there from Haiti.

Again, the storm's just brushing past Haiti. It's happening right now. Folks told to take shelter, but not expected to take the kind of direct hit that we can see Jamaica take here in a matter of hours, even. Our Reynolds Wolf keeping an eye on this thing, and again, all the scenarios say that Jamaica is in trouble.

WOLF: Oh, no question about it. One thing that is frightening this whole idea about Jamaica is that it doesn't even have to take a direct hit for there to be widespread damage. I mean, look at the sheer size of it and not just the spots where you see the deep convection, it's enhanced by the colors. But look at it the outflow from all corners. Look at the outflow. The outflow on this thing stretches over some 270,000 square miles. That's bigger than the state of Texas, ladies and gentlemen. And then you look at the island of Jamaica in terms of square miles, it's about 4,500 square miles and as you can see, just dwarfs the island.

So, even if it goes farther to the south, and that's the latest path of the National Hurricane Center, the entire island is going to be affected. To give you more in terms of numbers, think about the tallest peak, the tallest peak in Jamaica, the far east side of the island, that would be Blue Mountain, right about there, the exact height 7,402 and that is where you're going to have the heaviest rainfall. Some places over 20 inches of rain, other spots five to 10 inches.

So, we're going to get some flooding there then you have the storm surge, that's going to be factored in and the strong winds. Winds right now sustained to 145 miles-an-hour, some gusts up to 180. The storm, as we speak, is roughly 180 miles west of Kingston, is expected to some very close, at least the eye is going to come close to land right around 4:00 or 5:00 this afternoon and then by 2:00 in the morning on Monday, should be pushing to the west of Jamaica, but still as a Category 4.

Then it gets really scary, because from that point to the Yucatan, it's going to strengthen even more from a Category 4 to a Category 5 in a minimal sheer warm water environment, it should, again, if it follows this path, land south of Cancun, north of Belize and then cross right over the Yucatan, weaken a little bit and then go back to Category 2 status into the Bay of Campeche and into the Gulf of Mexico. So, it is a storm that we have to watch and remember, you look at that cone of probability, the storm could move a little bit more to the north or possibly more to the south. Either way, it's something that we're going to monitor for you very carefully. Back to you at the news desk.

HOLMES: All right, Reynolds, we appreciate you this morning.

WOLF: You bet.

HOLMES: That was the shuttle crew's wake-up call this morning, 38 Specials "Teacher, Teacher," shout out to Barbara Morgan, the teacher turned astronaut who's aboard this mission. The trip, however, being cut short a day. NASA bringing "Endeavour" home on Tuesday that is because of Hurricane Dean, could force the evacuation of the Johnson Space Center, which is the command center, if it comes to shore near Houston.

KEILAR: And in Jamaica, many tourists have gotten out of harm's way, but others have hunkered down and they are staying put. Joining me by phone now from Kingston is Nicola Madden Greig of the Jamaica Hotel Association.

Nicola, thanks so much for being with us and, first off, about -- do you know how many people are left -- how many people evacuated in terms of tourists?

NICOLA MADDEN-GREIG, JAMAICA HOTELS ASSOC: Well, for this side of the island, that's on the south coast, in Kingston, I would say probably hotels are running in terms of visitors between 50 percent, 60 percent occupancy. So, the majority of the north hotels it should be somewhat lower than that. We have encouraged people to try and get to flights out yesterday, but as of last night at 11:00 p.m. the airport was closed.

So, you have some persons who are in house, but right now most of the hotels have long instituted their emergency plan. The majority of the hotels do have generators, back-up generators, adequate water supply. So, I think most people are vary comfortable throughout the storm.

KEILAR: So, is this a case of people just not wanting to cut their vacation short? I mean, what is the motivation for staying, especially considering there really could be a severe degree of devastation once Dean passes?

MADDEN-GREIG: A combination of factors. Some people were, of course, unable to get flights out. And there are some persons who, I guess, natural curiosity wanted to see what a hurricane is like and for others they just have limited choices in terms of getting home at this time. So, it's a combination of factors, but I think there is confidence in the properties that some persons have been evacuated to and those that are into properties where they booked their vacations, the kind of preparedness that the hotel association -- I mean, we have to do this every year, sometimes several times of the year, you know, we kind of...

KEILAR: What kind of a...

MADDEN-GREIG: ...good system in place, I'm sure that our visitors are extremely comfortable and we can really, you know, make it a good stay in the circumstances.

KEILAR: And Nicola, what kind of safety precautions are being taken? I know there's back-up generators, but a lot of the hotels, no doubt, are right there on the beach, near the beach and, of course, storm surge is expected.

MADDEN-GREIG: Yes. For those properties that are going to have any sort of storm surge, those persons would have been evacuated to what we call our hillside properties. Properties that are not on the beachfront and they have plans for those persons already in place. So, most hotels will have, as I said, bring down their occupancy to vary low amounts and those guests that still remain then would have been moved to other properties that can better weather the storm.

KEILAR: All right, Nicola Madden-Greig of the Jamaica Hotel Association, thanks for making time to talk with us today.

MADDEN-GREIG: No problem. Take care now.

HOLMES: And we hear what's happening there in Jamaica, expected to take a direct hit. Go back to Haiti now, and our Karl Penhaul, keeping an eye on things, even though Haiti not taking a direct hit, still, folks there need to be ready as, I guess, some of these -- some of the outer bands are starting to come up on Haiti, there.

PENHAUL: Well, as you were mentioning earlier, T.J., the hurricane, in fact, has only just brushed Haiti. It really didn't impact, as forecasters had expected. The hurricane warning is still in place, but look at the weather maps and the eye of the hurricane is very much now very much past Haiti and so it seems that the most dangerous times are over.

This is the picture right now in Port-au-Prince. The hurricane winds were expected to impact here. They really didn't. There was nothing more than a strong breeze through part of the night. It didn't bring heavy rains, that had been one of the big fears of the forecasters is that heavy rains could spark flash floods. Haiti is very prone to the flash floods. It didn't happen here in Port-au- Prince.

That said, I have been talking to some of the emergency disaster managers on the south coast of Haiti asking them what the picture there is at the area closest to the hurricanes and they say, well, there has been some strong battering waves, some high surf, but they say that one or two houses have been damaged, but there is no loss of life so far reported. A power pylon did fall on a home and destroyed a home, there was nobody at home. A number of people did evacuate to stronger buildings such as churches, but their numbers were only in the hundreds -- T.J.

HOLMES: You know, it sounds like Haiti dodged a pretty big bullet, here, but that is all good news. Karl Penhaul reporting from Haiti for us. Thanks so much, Karl.

KEILAR: And as Dean prepares to roll over Jamaica, you are seeing a team of CNN news crews reporting live from all of the areas in the path of this storm. Look for team coverage of Hurricane Dean day and night right here on CNN, your hurricane headquarters.

HOLMES: Of course, we've been talking a lot about Dean this morning, but, hey, what about Erin, still causing some problems. What's left of hurricane -- or rather, Tropical Storm Erin, hitting parts of Oklahoma this morning, rain coming down so fast drivers had to be rescued from their vehicles. Parts of I-40 through the state closed, right now.

Take a look at this, some canines. These little passengers, they didn't need to be rescued, they figured out how to get out on their own. Reports coming in all morning of vehicles driving into the streets only to find a river, instead. Our affiliate KOCO telling its Oklahoma viewers to stay home, stay safe this morning.

KEILAR: A deadly fire in a New York skyscraper recalls memories of 9/11. Two firefighters were killed battling the seven alarm fire in the former Deutsche Bank building, that's right near Ground Zero. Let's get the latest now from our Deborah Feyerick, she is in New York. Really, this is a very, very sad story, Deb.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: It's a tragic story, actually. The two firefighters here were 9/11 veterans. They watched as 11 of their colleagues perished during 9/11. Many people this morning feel that these deaths were completely senseless.

Now, the two firefighters were actually helping -- lift lines using ropes from the street in order to get water to the source of that blaze. Because the building was under demolition, there were no usable stand pipes in the area where the fire was. Also, the elevator service was very, very limited. They were overcome smoke, according to the mayor, and went into cardiac arrest. The two firefighters, their names, 53-year-old Robert Beddia and 33-year-old Joseph Graffagninno, they were 9/11 vets and again, they were experienced firefighters. Many saying they should not have perished.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK: The building is being abated for asbestos, that's what is taking so long to take it down. So, clearly, there was a lot of asbestos in the building, some of it stored, and the materials that they use to encapsulate the asbestos, generally plywood boxes, that, you know, are very flammable, so that's probably what happened, why the fire spread so rapidly. Because otherwise the building is basically a shell, but because of all of the demolition work, there were a lot of flammable things there. As far as we know, there was no storage of any combustible material, gasses, there may have been welding tanks or things like that, small things that could explode, but nothing of any magnitude.


FEYERICK: Now, the Deutsche Bank has been a controversial eyesore, really, for the last six years. It was heavily damaged during the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. You have to realize that it was directly across the street, so it took a very heavy hit, there was a question as to whether the building should be demolished and if so, who should pay to have it demolished. A big fight between developers and the insurance companies, they finally agreed, but then in the meantime, the building, which was already contaminated with asbestos, became filled with a toxic mold, so the process was going very, very slowly and then it had to stop because the remains of 9/11 victims were found in the building as recently as March. They were actually able to recover 700 bone fragments from that building.

So, again, all of these situations mounting, the fire then breaks out yesterday in the middle of the afternoon. The firefighters race inside and, again, many people wondering why did two firefighters have to die in a building that many thought should have been torn down years ago -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yeah, just a cruel blow there to the FDNY. I think Mayor Michael Bloomberg was right on with that statement. Thanks for your statement, Deb Feyerick, there in New York. HOLMES: Firefighters say they nearly contained a 15 acre blaze on the west shore of California's Lake Tahoe. And the fire has destroyed five homes and forced residents and tourists to evacuate. Officials say it started at one house yesterday then quickly spread to four others. No injuries here being reported, so far officials aren't saying what the cause of that fire is.

KEILAR: Losing a son.

HOLMES: Yeah, a musical legend seeks comfort with rhythm and blues. Right after this, my conversation with legendary O'Jay, Eddie Levert.

KEILAR: Plus, as we've been doing all morning, we will continue to do, watching and waiting for Hurricane Dean, from the Caribbean to the Gulf of Mexico to our i-Reporters, even. CNN has this storm covered. We will bring you the latest information when we come back.


HOLMES: One of America's most beloved singers loses a son. It's been nine months now since the death of Gerald Levert, O'Jay's founder, Eddie Levert, sat down with us recently and talked about surviving without his child and his best friend, Gerald. The pair's relationship is the topic of "I Got Your Back," co-written by author Lyah LeFlore. My talk with Eddie and LeFlore could have us taking another look at fatherhood and family.


HOLMES: Tell me what the title, first of all, "I Got Your Back," where did that come from?

EDDIE LEVERT, O'JAY'S FOUNDER: That was really a song Gerald wrote for our first father and son album. "I Got Your Back." I'll go to the wall for you, I'm there for you. You know, he really wrote it to, you know, for fathers and sons, for his buddies, you know, who you really down with, you know, and he wanted to sort of give them a song, an anthem that they could probably live by and cling to and that's probably the real reason behind that song.

SINGING: I been there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, sometimes we seem to take things for granted, especially the things that are there for us all the time. Like our fathers, our mothers, our grandmothers, our grandfathers, our brothers and our...

HOLMES: What do you want them to get out of it?

LEVERT: Just communication, and staying in touch with one another. That, to me, is the gist of the book that I think that I really want them to get out of there and to know that life is very fleeing, very short and enjoy and take care of every moment and cherish it.

HOLMES: You were writing fiction. Why did it pop into your head that this was something that needed to be done?

LYAH LEFLORE, CO-AUTHOR "I GOT YOUR BACK": I thought about the message and sort of not to be cliche, but the message in their music and I called Gerald up and we had seen each other recently and I think that sort of sparked the thought. I started thinking about he and his dad and, you know, I think everybody's favorite is when they hear "Wind Beneath my Wings." It's like they took that song and took it to a whole 'nother level.

HOLMES: The timing of when this book was finished and Gerald's death, how do you explain that?

LEFLORE: I can't. It's almost spooky at times when I think about it. The book was finished the night before he passed. I mean, I literally typed the last cleaned-up version of things he and I had gone over two nights before on the phone.

HOLMES: Tell me about the last time you were on stage with your son.

LEVERT: That would be in South Africa last year about the end of October, the last time that we performed together, the last time that -- it was such a great, great, great -- it was such a great, great thing.

There was no way in our mind that we thought that that was our last time to perform together and it's just so, it's incredible, man.

HOLMES: Does this help to sit down like this and talk about your son and talk about this book? Does it help or does it kind of hurt to kind of answer some of these questions?

LEVERT: I think it's therapeutic. It get emotional for me. You know, it gets a little hard. You know what I'm saying? But I think it's therapeutic, because I'm able to get up and walk away from it and say like, yeah, I got that off my chest. Now, let me move on and try to do something better and try to better myself and try to be a better person than I've been. That was my soldier. That was my comrade, my friend. You know, me and this kid would spend hours on the phone just talking. Then we would laugh so hard until we would be crying and he'd be saying, "You're crazy, dad. I don't want to talk to you no more and I'm just hanging up." And that's how much fun we had with one another.

This is something I, I could have lived without. I could have done without this. I still have others, that I must care for. You know, and then I think well, suppose something happened to those, to them, what would I do, then? Then I would rely very, very heavily on God.


HOLMES: And Gerald Levert was just 40 years old when he passed away last November.

WOLF: And Hurricane Dean is the strongest storm on the planet. It is rolling right through the Caribbean and it's headed right for Jamaica. We'll bring you the very latest, coming up, in just a few moments.


WOLF: Let's bring in the latest on Hurricane Dean it is still rolling right through parts of the Caribbean, south of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, right now, headed for Jamaica. The latest path we have from the National Hurricane Center actually brings this storm farther to the South. Let's go right to it, right now.

Again, going towards Jamaica and as it does so, it is expected to pass just as a Category 4 storm, not expected to reach Category 5 status and the eye of the storm should be just south of the eastern half of the island right around 5:00 in the afternoon, 5:00 Local Time. However, long before then you're going to be dealing with the strong wind, the heavy rainfall, some places possibly as much as 20 inches of rainfall and then as the storm passes it will make its way along the south shore overnight and then to tomorrow just to the west of the island. That's the latest, back to you.

KEILAR: All right. Thank you, Reynolds. And it is now time to check in with Howard Kurtz in Washington to see what is ahead on CNN's RELIABLE SOURCES.

Hi there, Howard.


Coming up, with the stock market in turmoil, is the media coverage making people nervous? And did journalists miss the warning signs in the crisis of home mortgages? "Mad Money" maven, Jim Cramer joins us.

Karl Rove heading for the exits. Is he really Bush's brain or did the press turn him into the wizard behind the curtain.

Plus, why on earth did a Texas TV station hire a swimsuit model with no journalistic experience as an anchor? We'll talk to Lauren Jones. That and more ahead on RELIABLE SOURCES.

KEILAR: All right. Thank you so much, Howard.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN.COM: I'm Veronica de la Cruz, as you know, our i-Reporters have been busy keeping an eye on Hurricane Dean. We're going to have more of your images next from the Dotcom Desk.


KEILAR: We continue to follow Hurricane Dean, a monster of a storm heading towards Jamaica, right now, and a lot of what we're getting, some of the pictures are actually i-Reports that are coming in.

DE LA CRUZ: From our i-Reporters, as you guys know. They've been so instrumental in our coverage and I wanted to share a couple more photos. These are from Juan Espinoza and they were taken in Saint Lucia. Just take a look at this.

As you know, Saint Lucia didn't really bear the brunt of the storm and look at all of the damage. Just rocks tossed all over the place. Take a look at this next one, really interesting. You see folks there getting caught in the water. Look at that. That's a boat, I guess.

KEILAR: They're trying, looks like they're trying to extract it or turn it over.

DE LA CRUZ: Exactly, so still a lot of damage. And as the storm passed through the area, it was a Category 2 to 3, which means that there are winds in excess of 130 miles-an-hour. So, you know, still, you got to think. This storm is still trekking, you know, towards the Gulf, as even a more powerful storm. So, it's kind of crazy to look at the damage.

KEILAR: Yeah, I don't think that is the last boat that will succumb to the flood waters.

DE LA CRUZ: Exactly. I had one more i-Report that I need to share with you guys. This one, very important on this August 19. It is an i-Report for T.J. Holmes and it says: "Happy Birthday, Mr. Holmes."

HOLMES: Thank you. With a flower. What is that?

DE LA CRUZ: Happy birthday, T.J. Holmes It's a very special flower for you, animated birthday greeting card and we missed the very top part. But it said "Happy birthday, T.J."

HOLMES: It's the thought that counts.

DE LA CRUZ: And from our i-Reporters here in the NEWSROOM.

HOLMES: Thank you, all, so much.

DE LA CRUZ: And we love you, T.J.

KEILAR: We don't want to put you on the spot, but you're doing a cool thing to celebrate your birthday. So, tell us where you're headed after the show.

HOLMES: I am just going to a -- taking a humanitarian mission. I'm going to Costa Rica to volunteer and an international volunteer for a week. First time I've ever done anything like this. So, start off my 30th year as it is on a positive note. So yes, that's what I'm doing.

KEILAR: That's a great way to ring in.

DE LA CRUZ: There it is, we got it up for you.

HOLMES: All right, well thank you all, and we got to go, now. We're getting the big wrap.

DE LA CRUZ: Happy birthday, T.J.

KEILAR: Happy birthday.

HOLMES: All right, thanks.

KEILAR: You can spend the next hour with Howard Kurtz for RELIABLE SOURCES.

HOLMES: And then, a little later, the race to '08, join Wolf Blitzer for LATE EDITION for a look at the Iowa Democratic debate.

KEILAR: Then at 1:00 on THIS WEEK AT WAR with Tom Foreman on the frontlines in the Diyala Province.