Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Two Girls Fall into AZ Mineshaft; Hurricane Felix up to Cat. 4

Aired September 2, 2007 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Straight ahead in the NEWSROOM, a tragic accident in Arizona. Two girls fall into an open mineshaft. We've got the latest on rescue efforts.
Also, fickle Felix. The latest hurricane hit several Caribbean islands, but the storm is taking an unpredictable path.

And it may be the best-known boardwalk in America, but the Coney Island of the future, well, it might look nothing like the Coney Island of the past.

Up first, a tragic story out of western Arizona today. Rescue crews are trying to recover the body of a 13-year-old girl from a mineshaft in Chloride. That is about 17 miles north of Kingman, two girls were riding on an all-terrain vehicle yesterday. Both apparently fell down the shaft. A 10-year-old has been rescued. She is seriously hurt.

Sandy Edwards from the Mohave County Sheriff's Office and is on the phone with us.

And, Ms. Edwards, last we spoke, you weren't certain about the condition of the one young girl who has been taken to a hospital. Is there anything new you can tell us?

SANDY EDWARDS, MOHAVE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: Right. The only new information that I have received on her is she does have some major injuries. She was stabilized at the scene when she was removed from the mine. And she was being flown to University Medical Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

WHITFIELD: OK. And how did this happen? Can you give us a better idea of how two girls out to be fun on their ATV, their all- terrain vehicle, and the next thing you know, we've got this tragedy.

EDWARDS: You know, right now the investigation is leaning more towards getting these girls out of this mine. So I haven't heard a lot of information as far as how the accident actually happened. If they were just riding in the area and, you know, went into this mine or if they were out exploring the mine. Haven't received any direct information on that yet.

WHITFIELD: OK. Can you give me an idea of exactly how the one girl's body is being extracted? What kind of method is being used? What's the personnel being used to try and remove her? EDWARDS: Well, right now we've got a lot of volunteers with the Mojave County Sheriff's Office, along with some help from Maricopa County Sheriff's Office in the Phoenix, Arizona, area. And they are in here and helping us out and using a rope-rappelling team to go down inside this mine and remove this 13-year-old who, unfortunately, did not make it.

WHITFIELD: It sounds like a dangerous recovery effort.

EDWARDS: Oh, absolutely. And some of these mines go down pretty deep. I haven't heard exactly how deep this mine was, but I've heard it can be anywhere from 120 to 150 feet deep.

WHITFIELD: All right. We'll keep checking with you on developments there. Thanks so much, Sandy Edwards with the Mojave County Sheriff's Office.

Now to some bad weather. Hurricane Felix, now a powerful Category 3 storm that has got much of the Caribbean on edge. Felix is churning south of Jamaica. Its winds are about 125 miles an hour right now, but they're getting even more intense and could reach Category 4 strength by tomorrow.

Felix passed north of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao. The popular resort islands got a lot of heavy rain and some coastal flooding. We'll find out where Felix is heading next in a moment.

Meantime, take a look at this. Landslide in Acapulco. Blame Tropical Storm Henriette for this. Its heavy rains set the mud in motion. And it has crushed a house, killing a teenager and her two brothers. In another part of town, a giant boulder smashed into a home, killing three there. Henriette has moved out to sea but is expected to strengthen into a hurricane today.

Let's check in with Jacqui Jeras in the hurricane headquarters. We've got a really bad mix of a sandwich here, with Henriette and Felix just kind of compressing this area.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Closing in there. And we're mostly concerned right now about Felix. And look at the satellite imagery here. This is just really impressive. You can really see a very well-defined eye. We're seeing lots of purples, indicating strong strength to this hurricane.

It's a major hurricane, it's Category 3. Winds 125 miles per hour and could become a 4. It's heading on a west/northwesterly track. So it took a little bit of a wobble on up to the north, but really not unpredictable at this point.

We're expecting to kind of continue in this general motion over the next couple days. And we actually have more uncertainty, maybe, say, day four, day five from now than what we're expecting in the next two days.

It's moving into the western Caribbean and it's moving into much warmer waters, so that's why we think it is going to strengthen. And the winds are very, very light. So that is favorable for the storm to continue to get stronger. Here you can see the forecast track. And you can see the numbers on all the icons indicating the intensity. And we have less confidence in the intensity forecast typically than we do in the track forecast.

We're going to be watching now as we head into Tuesday morning for a potential landfall here into Central America, Nicaragua and Honduras. It could even be scraping. I'm going to switch sources here and show you our Google Earth. And this is the spaghetti model plot that we call it.

And remember, because each model line kind of looks like a string of spaghetti. So let's move you forward. And you can see how close they are together. But as we head out into time, they kind of bring it out a little bit. Normally we'd kind of discount maybe the outer- liers (ph) of these, but one of the best computer model forecasts that we have that it tends to be most accurate is way down here.

So I find that a little bit on the interesting side. But most of them bringing it scraping on in. So that will be on Tuesday. And then by Wednesday we'll be watching the Yucatan Peninsula and possibly Belize for another landfall. And we are looking at major hurricanes. So this is that same area that already got hit by Dean.

WHITFIELD: Right, hit once already and now another. And here we are now in the kind of peak season of the Atlantic hurricane season, right?

JERAS: That's right. Yes. September is the busiest month. September 15th is, on average, the peak date.

WHITFIELD: All right. Jacqui, thanks so much. Well, to give you another idea of what kind of power Felix under its belt already, how about in the form of some pictures captured by our I-Reporters on the scene as it has been barreling through the Caribbean. CNN's Josh Levs has been watching it all -- Josh.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, you've got to see some of these photos to believe them. It's really powerful stuff. And I want to start off with some of these. We got these today from a man named Ken Gafner. Now he's from Chicago and he was on vacation in Aruba.

Chose kind of a tough time to get there. Now, he's showing us what some of the effects are as the storms come through Aruba. I'll tell you, he says it's not the worst it could be. It could be even worse. However, as we go through these photos, you can get a sense of how powerful it is.

And, Fred, I want to read you a quote that he said to our producer. This is from him: "If you wanted to, you could swim from the entrance of my hotel to the boats.". Because the streets there were completely flooded out by what they got.

WHITFIELD: Wow. That deep even? LEVS: Yes, I know, at that point. Most of the hotels in the resort area are close to the water as it is. So it is not that far a distance he is talking about. But it was enough that he could to swim over to the boats, not that anyone should ever swim in that water.

WHITFIELD: I was going to say, I hope he doesn't do it and I hope nobody else tries it, however.

LEVS: Speaking of things nobody should try, I've got to show you this piece of video now. Take a look at this. This came in from Maki Wiggins, who actually lives in Aruba. Now he took his cell video camera out there today, he shows that the beach is barren. And if you look real closely at the picture, he sees somebody decided to wind surf in this.

Now if you're wondering why, Aruba generally has completely calm waters. But obviously, it was just a matter of seconds until that happened. We have him falling over. The person did stay relatively close to the beach in the process of doing this.

And I'll tell you, we at CNN certainly are not encouraging people to do this. We're not saying if you put yourself in harm's way, we're going to show you. We're just saying, a man went out there, saw a windsurfer. This is happening in parts of the island.

In general, a bad idea. A big surge or even wind could pull you farther out. You won't be able to get back in, even if you think you're safe that close. But it happened. And that gives you a sense, when you see a person there, Fred, who helps us get a sense of really how strong these currents are right now.

WHITFIELD: Yes. It's pretty serious. And the undercurrents too, something we didn't mention. But it's there. All right. Thanks a lot, Josh Levs.

LEVS: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: Well, the first days of deadly fires and now this, unbelievable flooding in northern Greece. Torrential rains, in fact, turned streets into fast-moving rivers. The current is so strong there it actually pushed cars out to sea like you see right there.

This area of Greece was not affected by last week's devastating fires, but fires last year apparently in this very location burned away a lot of the vegetation and helped continue to this dramatic flooding now taking place.

The life and death of a long political career. What a difference a week makes. Last Sunday, who among you knew the name Larry Craig, the senior senator from Idaho? Well, sex and scandal and the police and gossip and rumors all colliding and compelling this senator, Senator Craig to announce his departure from public service.

The people of Idaho have had a day to digest these developments. Let's go to now to CNN's Kara Finnstrom in Boise, Idaho. She was there during the announcement yesterday. And so now, Kara, I guess, the dust has settled. How are people feeling in his jurisdiction?

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're still a little bit surprised. The senator is a man who has spent 27 years here building up his power and his influence in Congress. So the big question here in Idaho now is when he steps down, as he says he intends to do on September 30th, who's going to step in for him?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FINNSTROM (voice-over): The spotlight in Idaho now shifts from Senator Larry Craig to Idaho's governor, Butch Otter, a fellow Republican who must choose Craig's temporary replacement. He insists he hasn't given anyone the nod yet.

GOV. BUTCH OTTER (R), IDAHO: I've made no decision on that. And any report to the contrary is dead wrong. You guys have got bad information and you're spreading it around. It is dead wrong. I have made no decision.

FINNSTROM: Key Republicans say possible candidates include Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch, Representative Mike Simpson, and former Governor and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. The hope is, whoever gets the seat will have an edge of becoming the Republican candidate in 2008.

As for Craig's sudden fall from grace, top Senate Republican John Ensign now says it was Craig's guilty plea that caused the Republican leadership to call for his resignation.

SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (r), NEVADA: He had admitted guilt, guilt is something that was not only embarrassing to himself and his family, but also to the whole United States Senate.

FINNSTROM: But at least on Republican senator, Arlen Specter, says Craig shouldn't give up his fight for his vindication.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: He said he intends to resign. And if he could change the underlying sense of the case -- feel of the case, listen, you can go to court and you can withdraw a guilty plea. If that case goes to trial, and I've seen matters like this since my days as a prosecutor, he wouldn't be convicted of anything.

FINNSTROM: Craig has now hired the same high-profile attorney, representing former NFL star quarterback Michael Vick. And Saturday, the senator told us he'll fight the accusations, in his words, "like hell."

But even if Craig were to win a legal victory, some Republicans say they can't imagine a political comeback.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FINNSTROM: And we did speak with the governor's aides a short while ago. They say the governor has no timetable for making his decision. The only thing they could tell us, he won't be available for further comment until Tuesday -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. And we will all be watching. Thanks so much, Kara Finnstrom.

Well, it's what the U.S and international negotiators have been wanting. The chief U.S. negotiators says North Korea has decided to give up its nuclear ambitions and disable its nuclear programs by the end of the year.

North Korean authorities have also agreed to provide a full accounting of their nuclear capabilities. In exchange, Pyongyang will get economic aid and could be on the road to resuming normal diplomatic relations with the international community.

Lebanon's prime minister calls it an hour of pride and happiness. His military has gotten the upper hand at a Palestinian refugee camp and reportedly killed nearly 40 Islamic militants who tried to escape. Government officials believe those militants have ties to al Qaeda. Two Lebanese soldiers died in today's confrontation. Dozens of Lebanese troops have been killed trying to uproot the militants since the fighting began.

And here in this country, remembering the Virginia Tech massacre. How students turned that horrible day into something positive. Their stories behind the tragedy, coming up.

Also, on the road to recovery, Minnesotans get a close-up view of their broken bridge.

And our Ed Henry is next with some candid talk from President Bush. What's on tap, Ed?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred. In a new book, President Bush lifts the veil of secrecy on the White House. He has a lot to say privately about the war in Iraq and whether or not he ever second guesses himself. That story coming up, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And the title says enough, right? "Dead Certain." All right. We'll be looking forward to that. And we're back in a moment right here from the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: And new video just in, a 10-year-old girl who suffered major injuries after falling into a mineshaft, well, you're looking at video now of the airlift to a hospital that she received after being rescued. Unfortunately, the 13-year-old girl that was with her, as they were out enjoying an all-terrain vehicle ride there in the Mojave County area, she died. The rescue effort, a very risky one at that, is under way right now to try to recover the body of the 13-year-old girl.

Meantime, Washington, as in Washington, D.C., is catching its breath after a tumultuous week. Senator Craig's resignation gave Republican leaders exactly what they wanted. By all accounts they were prepared to throw him overboard if he hadn't walked the plank himself. CNN's Ed Henry is live in Washington with more on the political fallout from the Craig scandal.

This will be an interesting week, won't it?

HENRY: That's right. Good afternoon, Fred. You know, Republicans starting at the White House but also on Capitol Hill are hoping that they can turn the page now, get back, focused on President Bush's agenda over the next year-and-a-half or so. But the problem is that just because Senator Craig has resigned, doesn't mean that this is over long term.

Because there has been a series of Republican scandals going back to last year, the Duke Cunningham, Jack Abramoff, the Mark Foley scandal. A lot of Republicans believe that was a major factor in the 2006 election. All of those Republican scandals really depressed the conservative base.

And there's a worry now that going into the 2008 election where you have a lot of Senate Republican seats up, you now have the Craig seat, some new interest in that. But you have got Virginia there's an open Senate seat. Colorado a swing state, also an open Senate seat. A lot of Republican fears. There may be some malaise from all of these scandals together, not just this one Craig story, but all of them together, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Meantime, let's talk about Iraq, always center stage at the White House. And now while British troops are going to be leaving Basra, and the White House knew about that, everyone knows it has been planned, still what's the reaction from the White House?

HENRY: Yes, well, on one hand, you know, President Bush in recent days, look, we have known since February that the British were likely to pull 500 troops out of Basra, as they've now done. And you also have to remember the British still have 5,000 troops in Iraq. So not all of them are gone. But symbolically this is a problem for the White House.

On Monday, the president goes to Australia for APEC summit. His good friend, Australian Prime Minister John Howard in trouble, the opposition leader there is in the lead in that re-election battle. And Mr. Rudd, the opposition leader, has said if he wins, he's going to pull Australia's 500 troops out of Iraq.

So symbolically, you have British troops coming out of Iraq. You have potentially Australian troops coming out just as President Bush in two weeks, when he gets this report from General Petraeus, is going to try to make the case to the American people, let's keep U.S. troops there longer to finish the job.

It's going to be harder and harder to make that case when our allies are bringing people home -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: OK. Ed, and now let's talk about President Bush, not just the president, but the decider and the book, which the author got some pretty unusual access to the president and the president was very cooperative about this biography, right?

HENRY: Very interesting. Every time we ask President Bush about his legacy, he says, I don't have time to do that. I'm sprinting to the finish. But Robert Draper, this author, is from Texas. And he also made a pitch to the White House, look, I'm going to write a book that is going to shows that this has been a consequential presidency.

That maybe gave him some better access. And President Bush seems to let his hair down a little bit. For example, on Iraq, he says that his goal now in the last year-and-a-half is to get the situation on the ground to the point, not that he would pull out all U.S. troops, but that the presidential candidates in both parties would feel comfortable keeping U.S. troops there longer beyond his presidency. That is interesting.

And secondly, the president also hints at maybe some self-doubt, maybe some pity about some of his troubles and he points out that the first lady often reminds him -- he says in the book, according to The New York Times that had some excerpts, that the first lady reminds him, you ran for this job, so don't feel sorry for yourself.

So it's kind of interesting. He sort of lifts the veil of secrecy just ever so slightly -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And the title, "Dead Certain," certainly implies no trepidation whatsoever.

HENRY: That's right. He is sticking it out. And sticks with what he believes in. But he does have some doubts, it appears.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ed Henry, thanks so much. From Washington.

All right. Well, how about this? A pretty tough game between the Grasshoppers and the Intimidators erupts in base-brawl like you haven't seen in a while.

And watch out, Atlanta. It is Dragon Con season. You say, what is that? You won't believe your eyes when the NEWSROOM comes back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Our news "Across America" begins in the Orlando suburb of Avalon Park, Florida, where an early morning fire charred an apartment complex that under construction. It took nearly 100 firefighters to put out the four-alarm blaze, but not before two units were destroyed and three more heavily damaged. No one was hurt. State fire marshals are now investigating.

And better news from our Boston affiliate WCVB TV, with Massachusetts National Guardsmen back home and in the loving embrace of family and friends. A little more than 150 soldiers of the 101st Field Artillery Unit arrived home yesterday, fresh from a lengthy deployment in Iraq. Another 70 soldiers from the nearby 382nd Military Police Battalion are now home as well.

And base-brawl, down on the farm? Thursday night's minor league contest between the Greensboro Grasshoppers, uh-oh, and the Kannapolis Intimidators got pretty personal and pretty violent. After a pitch pegged a batter, which you saw, both dugouts cleared and fists started flying, as you see right now.

And listen to this, so many players were ejected for the fight that the umpire had to actually reinstate some of them so that they could actually finish the game. Greensboro ultimately lost 4-3.

And in Atlanta this weekend, resistance is futile. Dragon Con, the city's annual science fiction convention energized for its 20th year with former "Star Trek" actress Nichelle Nichols as one of the honored guests. And organizers bill the four-day event as the nation's largest gatherings of sci-fi fans, so live long and prosper.

Transportation officials in Minnesota have restored the road over the Mississippi River. Not the crumbled I-35 bridge span which collapsed on August 1st, but the neighboring 10th Avenue Bridge, which is needed more than ever. Boyd Huppert from Minneapolis affiliate KARE has the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has been open for three or four hours, and it's full of people.

BOYD HUPPERT, KARE REPORTER (voice-over): It was a foregone conclusion that the 10th avenue bridge would eventually reopen. That it would reopen like this, is another matter entirely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I told them this morning. I woke them up and said, we can get on the bridge right next to it today, and they were all for it. We parked way down and walked all the way. But they wanted to see it.

HUPPERT: A steady stream of post-rush hour traffic crawled through two lanes down from four, making it clear the river crossing was badly missed. But for the immediate future, it's likely humans will outnumber cars.

SUSAN PATTON, BRIDGE VISITOR: I just wanted to be able to see the bridge.

HUPPERT: Susan Patton and her children were in the flood of people who walked the equivalent of a few city blocks to get just feet from the collapse site. Some were move to tears. Others simply overwhelmed.

PATTON: Well, I think you can't really get a grasp on the scope of it until you've seen it.

DAVE WARK, BRIDGE VISITOR: The enormity of it, just the hugeness of what happened, bang, it kind of got to me. HUPPERT: Like the cleanup effort taking place below, removing the barriers from 10th avenue is a necessary step in the recovery process. That's not to say it will ever be complete.

PATTON: We just trust so much that things are going to work and things are going to be safe and stable and you can never know.

HUPPERT: With producer Dana Thiede, Boyd Huppert, KARE 11 News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And Coney Island, all agree, an icon of Americana, but its vibrant past may not be enough to save it from developers.

And trading the view for security. People have moved back to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIANE BOURGEOIS, HOMEOWNER: It will just never be the same.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Can't risk it all again?

BOURGEOIS: Can't risk it all again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Two years after Katrina, our Kathleen Koch checks on her Gulf Coast hometown.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Happening "Now in the News," rescuers in Arizona have found a 13-year-old girl dead. A 10-year-old girl has been flown to the hospital. The girls disappeared last night after they went riding on an all-terrain vehicle. Search crews found them in a mineshaft this morning.

An apparent breakthrough in nuclear talks with North Korea. The chief U.S. negotiator says the North Koreans have agreed to fully declare and disable their nuclear programs by the end of this year.

The Atlantic season's second named hurricane is churning towards some popular vacation spots in the Caribbean. Felix is northwest of Aruba. It has just been upgraded to a Category 3 storm.

And fire crews hope to have a wildfire in eastern Washington State contained by this afternoon. The blaze has burned an estimated 3,500 acres in Grant County near Spokane. And residents in the town of Marlin have been allowed back in their homes. The fire forced them out earlier this weekend. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

And some 350 firefighters are battling a blaze in California's San Bernardino National Forest. The 125-acre wildfire forced the closure of part of Highway 18 near the east end of Big Bear Lake. Dense undergrowth is fueling the flames. Fire officials suspect a lightning strike yesterday sparked the blaze. So far, no homes are threatened.

And in southeastern Georgia, the problem is too much water. Flooded streets caused problems in Savannah and surrounding towns this Labor Day weekend. And several drivers tried to navigate some pretty deep water that came courtesy of a storm system that stalled off the coast.

(WEATHER REPORT)

WHITFIELD: Well, two years after Katrina, the Gulf Coast is still struggling to return to some sort of normalcy. We'll talk to a journalist from Biloxi, Mississippi, in a moment. But first, CNN's Kathleen Koch checks in on her Mississippi hometown of Bay St. Louis.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before Hurricane Katrina, the Bay St. Louis waterfront was prime real estate, lined with gracious homes and thriving businesses.

Two years later, the one business that finally just reopened on the waterfront couldn't afford full insurance.

JOHN BAXTER, HANCOCK BANK: You have to take some chances sometimes to start a rebuilding process.

KOCH: Battles with insurance companies have left many homeowners without the money to rebuild. Those who have scraped together the cash are building small houses high on pilings and crossing their fingers.

Some, like my high school classmate, Diane Bourgeois, can't bear the risk. Her gutted home had to be bulldozed.

(on camera): But you personally, you won't ever rebuild here?

BOURGEOIS: I don't think I can. No.

KOCH: Why not?

BOURGEOIS: I don't know. Just the memories. But it'll just never be the same.

KOCH: Can't risk it all again?

BOURGEOIS: Can't risk it all again.

KOCH (voice-over): She's traded in her idyllic life near the water for an apartment over a barn 15 miles inland.

Businesses are moving inland too. The popular waterfront restaurant Trapani's, reduced to rubble by Katrina, is in temporary quarters two miles away until a new road and seawall can be built. TONY TRAPANI, RESTAURANT OWNER: You know, we miss being on the water. We miss the activities of everybody having, like, a beachfront type atmosphere where you walk out and look at the water.

KOCH: Business inland is improving since two lanes of the destroyed bridge connecting the town to the rest of the Gulf Coast have reopened. And tax revenues are beginning to get close to pre- Katrina levels. But a third of residents haven't returned. There's little rental property. And no public housing has been rebuilt or repaired.

Even the mayor still lives in a trailer.

MAYOR EDDIE FAVRE, BAY ST. LOUIS, MISSISSIPPI: Without the people, we don't have a town. We don't have a city. We don't have a place apart.

KOCH (on camera): "A Place Apart" is the town motto. And the determined residents are pulling together to rebuild. But they're tired, and the mayor predicts it will be at least seven years before the town is back to normal.

Kathleen Koch, CNN, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And let's move further east down the coast to Biloxi to see how the recovery effort is going there. John McFarland of the Sun Herald newspaper is on the phone with us, live from that city. His paper won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for public service for its work after Hurricane Katrina.

John, glad you could be with us. So are the people generally pleased with the recovery efforts there in Biloxi?

JOHN MCFARLAND, BILOXI SUN HERALD: Well, it's a slow process. And we are resigned to the fact that it will be a slow process. But I think overall across the coast people are fairly satisfied that we're moving ahead.

WHITFIELD: So what do people credit?

MCFARLAND: Well, a lot of it is leadership. You know, we have had good leadership from the state. We've had -- the American people, we could not thank them enough for what the American people have done with their money and the time and the people that have come down here to help.

But I think the biggest thing is we had a plan. We put together a plan in the first 90 days after the storm and we have been working that plan ever since.

WHITFIELD: And so in that plan, did that mean relying less on, say, the federal government? Did Biloxi take the approach of some other towns who said, you know, we are going to do this on our own, I don't know if we can really rely on the federal government or insurance monies? How did it work?

MCFARLAND: You're talking about Biloxi. But we're actually talking about actually the whole coast because they worked together on this. What the plan did was to identify what will be the federal government's role and what do they have to do that we can't? What's the state's role, what's the county's role, what is the city's role? What's the role of the non-profits?

And you know, that has, I think, been the key to it because people know what it is they need have to do.

WHITFIELD: We saw in Kathleen Koch's piece that Bay St. Louis, only about a third of the residents have actually returned. What are the numbers like there in Biloxi?

MCFARLAND: You know, overall, across the Mississippi coast, which would include Bay St. Louis, we lost about 40,000 people who had to leave because there was no place for them to live. Most of those, about 30,000 of those have come back. Now a lot of them are living in trailers on their property.

Bay St. Louis, the Waveland area that Mayor Favre was talking about, was obviously the hardest hit. And they literally lost everything. So they've got a real challenge, as he pointed out in his report, trying to find places for them.

WHITFIELD: And just to compare the struggle taking place in New Orleans, a lot of folks there have said, OK, while maybe some individuals are able to rebuild, we still don't have the infrastructure needed to help operate a town such as more schools, or fire houses, et cetera. Paint a picture for me where you are.

MCFARLAND: Well, see, that was -- again, that's the difference between having a plan and not having one. Our plan recognized the fact that that had to come first. By December of 2005, all of our schools were back open all across the coast.

Now, a lot of them were in tents, a lot of them were in trailers, but that was a recognition that that had to be done. And the roads were clean and empty. That had to be done. The bridges are just now being repaired. But obviously replacing big causeway bridges takes some time.

So again, I go back to the fact that you have to have a plan and then work the plan. I don't know that that's the case in New Orleans.

John McFarland of the Sun Herald newspaper from Biloxi, thanks so much for your time, and congrats -- bleated congrats on your 2006 Pulitzer.

MCFARLAND: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Well, tonight "CNN'S SPECIAL INVESTIGATION UNIT" presents "Children of the Storm." Soledad O'Brien and filmmaker Spike Lee give young survivors of Katrina a chance to tell their stories. That's tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. And it has a long and rather rich history, but that could change very soon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAROL ALBERT, ASTROLAND PARK OWNER: It could be bulldozed and boarded up and darkened, and that's going to really hurt the remaining businesses in Coney Island.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: You wouldn't believe what we're talking about here, coming up in the CNN NEWSROOM, saving an American icon.

And at Virginia Tech, teachers and students work together to chronicle the campus terror. Their story straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Hurricane Felix getting bigger and badder. Jacqui Jeras is in the National (sic) Hurricane Center. What do we have?

JERAS: CNN hurricane center.

WHITFIELD: Oh yes, hurricane headquarters. I can't keep up.

JERAS: There you go. That's the one. The 5:00 advisory from the National Hurricane Center is just. And the hurricane hunters have been flying into Felix and have found that the winds are stronger now, up to 140 miles per hour. So it is a Category 4 storm now. It is intensifying and, really, there's nothing ahead of it right now to make this thing weaken at all. So we do expect further strengthening in the next couple of days.

The official forecast keeps it at a 4, but I can't rule out a 5 at this time. And this is the update forecast track too, and it doesn't look like anything has changed here. So Tuesday is going to be scraping across Central America and we'll be looking at Wednesday for a possible landfall in the Yucatan or possibly in Belize. And we'll also be watching the western Gulf states by next weekend too -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Well, Felix is upgraded. I upgraded our hurricane center as well, right?

JERAS: There you go.

WHITFIELD: All right. We'll stick with the hurricane headquarters. Thanks so much, Jacqui.

April 16th is a day Virginia Tech students will never forget. Students in a journalism class felt it was something they needed to document as well. They began reporting the story on a student-run Web site. And that effort became the genesis of a new book that chronicles the campus terror. More now from CNN's Gary Nurenberg.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY NURENBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the morning of April 16th, Virginia Tech instructor Roland Lazenby was teaching a media writing class.

SUZANNE HIGGS, JOURNALISM STUDENT: He was talking about press releases and how to write those.

ROLAND LAZENBY, JOURNALISM INSTRUCTOR: About half way through class, kids started getting a lot of messages.

NURENBERG: A student gunman had begun a rampage that would eventually kill dozens of schools and teachers in a nearby building.

KEVIN CUPP, JOURNALISM STUDENT: I think you guys were under the desks.

LAZENBY: I had to move away from the window, get on the floor.

NURENBERG: And then, Lazenby started asking questions.

HIGGS: He's, like, all right, what's going on? Let's figure it out.

CUPP: It's normally a classroom, but it was turned into a newsroom on the 16th.

LAZENBY: I wanted to attempt to get them to react as journalists.

HIGGS: So his lessons turned into real time media, real time journalism. And from them, we just took off.

NURENBERG: Texting and calling for information from their locked down classroom, they began posting to the Web site planetblacksburg.com, beating professional journalists in the early rush for facts.

CUPP: We're from here. And we knew where to get certain information.

NURENBERG: Obligation began to overtake fear.

HIGGS: The community needed to know, and we had to get it out there.

LAZENBY: It took quite a bit for them to overcome their fears to do that. It's something I'll never forget.

NURENBERG: Expanding that work into a book, "April 16th: Virginia Tech Remembers," led to some agonizing questions.

HIGGS: Whether it was too soon, is it right, are we handling it correctly? Are we being sincere? Are we doing the right thing?

NURENBERG: They decided they were.

LAZENBY: The book is the voices of the community. It is an oral history. When this horrible thing happened, it shattered Virginia Tech into millions of emotional shards. We recovered some of those shards to report the emotional record.

NURENBERG: "April 16th: Virginia Tech Remembers" will help ensure future generations of the school's students don't forget.

Gary Nurenberg, CNN, Blacksburg, Virginia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And even if you've never been there, that place right there, everybody knows Coney Island. The boardwalk, the hot dogs, forget about it! But there could be some major changes coming, and not everyone is happy about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: So try to imagine New York City without the Statue of Liberty, without Yellow cabs or Broadway or Central Park. Pretty hard, isn't it? A Big Apple landmark, just as much an icon, is facing an uphill against money and progress. It's a fight to stay in existence.

CNN's Jim Acosta reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): What has got an 80- year-old roller-coaster, an 87-year-old Ferris Wheel and more sideshow freaks than Times Square? Coney Island, a New York City original that has a vibrant past but now an uncertain future.

HELEN DERMAKE, LONG-TIME VISITOR: When my parents and grandparents came here, this was our resort. I mean, you didn't run away. You ran here.

ACOSTA: Four generations of Helen Dermake's family have made this boardwalk amusement park their summer destination. But it's also caught the eye of land developers who have gobbled up huge chunks of real estate here, without saying much about what's to come.

DERMAKE: I think it's kind of sad. I really do. I'll miss it.

ACOSTA: Since the end of the Civil War, this iconic beachfront has reeled in millions f visitors from around the globe, reaching its heyday after World War II.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really a part of the fabric of New York City.

ACOSTA: Carol Albert and her husband have owned the Astroland theme park, home of the world famous Cyclone roller coaster, for 45 years.

(on camera): And what's going to happen to all of this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wish I knew for sure.

ACOSTA (voice-over): They sold the land under their attractions last November but still operate the rides. The new owners, she says, are making no promises.

ALBERT: It could be bulldozed and boarded up and darkened. And that's going to really hurt the remaining businesses in Coney Island.

ACOSTA (on camera): There's a little regret there.

ALBERT: There is. There is.

ACOSTA: It's still not certain what the developers have in mind. It could be high-priced condos or, as some have suggested, Times Square on the beach. What is clear, the view outside this window is about to become history.

(voice over): Paul Georgoulakos plans on closing the hotdog stand he has run for 37 years this fall.

PAUL GEORGOULAKOS, HOTDOG STAND OWNER: Next, please.

If they want to make and build condominiums, they'd better change the name to Condominium Alley.

ACOSTA: But all is not lost. Both the Ferris wheel and roller coaster are designated historic landmarks and are staying. They still deliver the same thrills and chills they did nearly a century ago.

(on camera): I'm getting out of here! No mas!

(voice over): Many here hope the developers will add new and better attractions.

DICK ZIGUN, SIDESHOWS ON THE SEASHORE: If they're going to build a 21st Century amusement park with steel-looping roller coasters, then, oh, boy, I'm in favor of that.

ACOSTA: But fearing the worst, visitors are now lining up to sign petitions to save Coney Island.

ALBERT: There's an expression that when you're in Coney Island, you get sand in your shoes and it never gets out.

ACOSTA: A carnival and clams atmosphere that could very well be swept away by the tide of progress.

Jim Acosta, CNN, Coney Island.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Well, what would you think the highlight of Serbia's chicken festival would be? It seems like it would be the statue of Colonel Sandals (sic) perhaps? Well, that happens to be Rocky Balboa? A Rocky revival? A Balkan Balboa? Half a world away from Philly? Why, you ask. The CNN NEWSROOM will be right back with some answers.

But first, deciding whether to drive or fly for your vacation can be pretty tough. One inventor has created a vehicle that lets you do both.

Richard Lui has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD LUI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There soon may be a way to fly and drive using the same vehicle.

CARL DIETRICH, CEO, TERRAFUGIA, INC.: The transition is a two- person airplane that can fly, land, fold up its wings, drive down the road and park in a standard garage.

LUI: This aircraft is the size of a large SUV and can travel about 500 miles on a tank of super unleaded tank of gas, giving the same mileage of your average car.

DIETRICH: It flies just like a normal airplane would. When you land, you flip a switch. The wings automatically fold up. The propeller disengages from the engine and the front wheels engage to the engine so you can drive on the road like a normal car.

LUI: Dietrich expects to have a flying prototype in about one year and the first delivery around the end of 2009.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: You might call this pretty inventive. They're not just for reminders anymore. Post-It notes are now an art form. These I-Report photos tell the story, David Alvarez, of Leavensworth (sic), Washington, used Post-It notes to create a mosaic portrait of the late musician Ray Charles. How does it look? Yes. Those semi-sticky pieces of paper do tend to fall off from time to time. Alvarez finally got tired of putting them back on after falling off, et cetera, so he resorted to glue, glue, glue, glue, to hold them in place. Pretty creative.

And check this out, a Serbian village down on its luck hopes to harness some of Rocky Balboa's mojo. They've even erected a statue in tribute to the fictional boxer. After years of job shortages and a declining population, residents in this small Serbian town commissioned the monument to try to raise morale. The 10-foot statue of the fabled southpaw was unveiled amidst a dazzling display of fireworks this week and music there too. And vendors sold Rocky merchandise while residents danced to an evening concert during the town's annual chicken festival.

The next hour of the CNN NEWSROOM begins right now. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com

Home  |  World  |  U.S.  |  Politics  |  Crime  |  Entertainment  |  Health  |  Tech  |  Travel  |  Living  |  Money  |  Sports  |  Time.com
© 2013 Cable News Network. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved.