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Florida Braces for Impact From Fay; Flooding in the Grand Canyon; Governor Crist Addresses Weather Woes for his State

Aired August 18, 2008 - 10:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning once again, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins, live today from the Time-Warner Center in New York.
Stay informed all day right here in the CNN NEWSROOM. Here's what's on the rundown.

Here comes Fay. And Florida gets ready for a tropical punch. Gulf oil workers hustle home. You may pay at the gas pump.

A dam crumbles flooding parts of the Grand Canyon. Today, rescuers are searching for missing tourists.

Eight is great for Michael Phelps. The Olympic champ one-on-one with CNN today, Monday August 18th.

You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Tropical Storm Fay already deadly. This morning, it is headed towards Florida and possibly hurricane strength. The storm killed several people on its rampage through the Caribbean. It is now pounding Cuba. And plowing towards the Florida Keys, residents are boarding up and sometimes getting out. Thousands of tourists and residents are scrambling to evacuate the Keys. Forecasters warn Fay could reach hurricane strength finally tonight. And for those people who want to leave, this would be the time. For those who are staying, stocking up before they hunker down. Even as far north as Orlando, Floridians are hitting the stores and snapping up staples.


LINDA ROSE, ORLANDO RESIDENT: I thought I'd get a couple gallons of water, get some extra things to drink. Get dry goods to keep in the closet just in case.

GARY TINSLEY, ORLANDO RESIDENT: Just the basic canned goods, water, crackers, tuna, stuff like that. I don't think it's going to be too bad. I hope not any way.


COLLINS: That's what everybody is hoping, of course. So where is Fay right now? Meteorologist Reynolds Wolf is tracking the storm in the extreme weather center.

Hey there, Reynolds. REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Heidi.

The latest we have of the storm now beginning to move out over the straight of Florida and moving into that warm water. Water temperatures in places just off of the say Molasses Reef, not far off from Key Largo but 86 degrees off the dry. Near Fort Jefferson, water temperatures there around 86. Very little sheer at this time. This storm has every opportunity to really gain strength over the next couple of hours and it has gained some strength and intensity. We've seen it go up to about say 60 miles an hour sustained with some gusts approaching 60. The storm moving north-northwest this time.

The latest that we have from the National Hurricane Center, is that the center is about 99 miles from Key West. Winds at 60, gusting to 65 miles per hour. And the latest path, the National Hurricane Center brings the storm through the Keys as you get to the late night hours and into the morning and then just south of Tampa as we get into Tuesday at 2:00 p.m., winds right at 75. That would make it a Category 1 hurricane.

And then the path continues farther to the north back up into the north part of Florida and into Georgia and the Carolinas into Friday and into Saturday. One thing we need to mention for you very carefully though is before the storm even gets closer to the U.S., one thing we have to deal with in the U.S. spinning from the storm in the outer bands, is the possibility of tornadoes.

We could see some weak tornadoes spin off of these bands as they make their way on shore. Not unusual at all in a situation like this to see those tornado. These are very weak. Usually don't last that long. But, still, a tornado is a tornado. Certainly something that you need to watch out for.


WOLF: Among other things, of course, Fay itself, the storm which may become a hurricane possibly into the evening hours. That's the latest, Heidi. Let's send it right back to you at the news desk.

COLLINS: All right. Reynolds, we sure do appreciate it. We'll stay in contact, obviously.

Florida's coastline blanketed by warnings and watches this morning. Tropical Storm Fay inching closer and likely to grow stronger along the way. CNN's Sandra Endo is in Fort Myers. That's in the southwest coast of the state.

Of course, Sandra, good morning to you, once again.

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Heidi.

This area is under a hurricane watch right now and residents are taking precautions and bracing for a possible downpour later this evening. But I can tell you that Fay is already affecting the local economy here as tourists are leaving town and cutting their vacation short. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ENDO: Floridians are watching and waiting, preparing for the ever-changing track of Tropical Storm Fay. The governor preemptively declared a state of emergency.

GOV. CHARLIE CRIST, FLORIDA: My main message today is to remind our fellow Floridians to remain calm, remain vigilant, stay in touch with your local authorities and messages through your radio and local television. Floridians should not focus on the storm track, necessarily. They should be aware that impacts can be broader than where the storm track is indicated.

ENDO: With some forecasts predicting Fay will hit the Keys, thousands of people evacuated the area on Sunday. Others prepared by protecting their property.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think everybody takes it serious, just like everyone. You know, we all have homes, houses. We have to secure them.

ENDO: Predictions of Fay's track are all over the map. So many in Florida are being careful not to get blind sided by mother nature.

MAYOR CARLOS ALVAREZ, MIAMI DADE COUNTY: Now is the time to finalize your hurricane and preparedness plans. Gather supplies, water, canned food, batteries, flashlights, radios, and cash. Discuss the evacuation plan if you live in a flood zone.

ENDO: Now, there are no mandatory evacuations in this area. As you can see, some people are out and enjoying the beach, this beautiful weather while they can before the storm hit. But local area airports are reporting delays as some people try to get out of the hurricane zone.

Live in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, I'm Sandra Endo.

Heidi, back to you.


COLLINS: All right. Sandra, thanks so much. Appreciate that.

And South Florida keeping a watchful eye on Tropical Storm Fay and as it approach, of course, toward that area. We want to get the very latest now from Haulover Beach in Miami-Dade County and reporter Rosh Lowe. He is with CNN's Miami affiliate, WSVN.

Hey there, Rosh, tell us what you're seeing.

ROSH LOWE, WSVN REPORTER: Well, you know what's interesting about Fay is that as of last night, a lot of residents in Miami-Dade County thought the storm was going to go over to the west coast and they wake up this morning and they wake up to all this rain here. We are in Haulover Beach in Miami-Dade County and obviously with these storms here, one of the biggest concerns is storm erosion. And you can see how the waves beginning to kick up here.

But south Floridians, they are ready for these storms. We were out yesterday and people, even though this is forecast to be a tropical storm in our immediate area, you can see one of the good things because lifeguards are urging people not to come out -- come on the beach. There are only a few people out here on the beach. Many people have stayed home from work. Many people are in their home. And yesterday, we saw they were going to get their bottled water. They were going to get their gasoline.

So this morning, South Florida wakes up. The storm appears to be at least in some terms, headed a bit in our direction and we are expecting a whole bunch of rain here. We're here to bring you updates throughout the day. From now, we're live on Haulover Beach in Miami- Dade County, back to you.

COLLINS: All right. Very good. Appreciate that, Rosh.

Quickly, we are getting something that we were not prepared for. We're going to bring it to you live now. This is obviously Governor Crist there in Florida. Let's go ahead and listen to what he has to say.


CRIST: ... to make sure that our fellow Floridians are safe. We want every, every Floridian and guest to be a survivor. As you know, five people have lost their lives from this storm before it came to Florida. I know it's only a tropical storm, but we take it seriously, as Craig always reminds me, it's important for us to continue to do that. The attorney general, Attorney General McCullum has activated the price gouging hotline. That number is 1-866-9-NO- SCAM. That's 1-866-966-7226.

Now I'd like to turn it over to Ben who will give us a full weather report. Ben Nelson.

BEN NELSON, METEOROLOGIST: Thank you, governor.

CRIST: Thank you, Ben.

NELSON: Good morning, everybody.

As Governor Crist mentioned, this is kind of a lopsided storm but that necessitates hurricane and tropical storm advisories for both coasts. And I wanted to go over those really quickly. The hurricane watch is still in effect for the entire stretch of the Keys up to Tarpine Springs which is Pinellas County on the west coast. We also have a tropical storm warning along the east coast from Jupiter inlet southward to Ocean Reef and we now have a tropical storm watch from Jupiter inlet up to Sebastian inlet. They are in the east central Florida area. So this is a broad storm. The tropical storm impacts will spread from south to north.

As the afternoon and evening progresses, Fay is, again, as the Governor mentioned, just entering the Florida Straits. So there's a potential for some strengthening. We expect tropical storm winds of the sustained variety to reach the lower Keys early this afternoon and those tropical storm conditions will spread northward. The potential is there, again, for tornadoes, flooding. We have a small risk for some storm surge along the southwest Florida coast, particularly in Callier County. That's depended upon where Fay ends up moving and ultimately how strong the tropical storm gets over those warm waters over the Florida Straits.

Stay vigilant. This tropical storm could slow down over the peninsula during the next couple of days, which would increase the flood threat. Our message that we partner with the National Weather Service offices is turn around, don't drown. If you encounter a flooded roadway, it only takes a foot and a half to two feet of flowing water to displace an SUV from a roadway. So if you -- particularly at night, if you are driving and encounter flooding, don't test it. Take that responsibility and do the right thing. Find an alternate route. Craig. Thank you.

CRIST: Now, I want to introduce Craig Fugate. As you know, he's been the director here for quite some time. Probably the most experienced emergency management director in America and we're honored to have him on board. Craig.

CRAIG FUGATE, EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DIRECTOR: Thanks, governor. Well, the message today is safety. Unlike I think people --

COLLINS: We've been listening in here to a press conference that was held by Governor Charlie Crist there of Florida. He's got several people that will be coming to the microphones and talk more about the situation with Fay. Reynolds Wolf is standing by now to talk a little bit more about this too.

Boy, Reynolds, Ben Nelson there giving sort of the picture weather wise and how many times have we heard before, turn around, don't drown? Mentioning the flood threat that could be coming.

WOLF: Absolutely. You know, people dying in floodwaters, that is the number one killer. Actually, that and lightning, kind of exchanges back and forth every year in terms of being the number one weather related killing. But flooding is going to be a big concern for much of South Florida. Something else we were talking about earlier that is a tremendous concern, it's not of course just the storm itself but what the storm may spawn, even tornadoes in the Miami area.

Earlier today, we did have a tornado warning in downtown Miami but, remember, that was just a -- it wasn't a visual confirmation, it was a Doppler-indicated tornadoes, some rotation in the atmosphere. Not unusual to see those kinds of things spin off and the outer bands of these storms as it approaches northward we could see more of them, across much of south Florida and into the Keys. We're going to get more updates throughout the rest of the morning, throughout the midday hours, of course, all night long. So, for the very latest, stay tuned.

COLLINS: Right. WOLF: Back to you.

COLLINS: OK. Perfect. Thank you, Reynolds.

WOLF: You bet.

COLLINS: Grand Canyon campers getting a bigger adventure than they planned. Dozens of them evacuated by helicopters after a dam burst and more people unaccounted for this morning. CNN's Chris Lawrence is following this story and we have the very latest now from Peach Springs, Arizona.

Hi, there, Chris.


The emergency workers have just wrapped up their briefing for the morning. An internal meeting trying to figure out what the weather conditions are going to be there down in the canyon and how -- and the best way to start to resume that rescue operation for those nearly two dozen people still unaccounted for. With me here is Cedar Henning. He was one of a group of 16 people on a boating trip, five rafts down there when this dam burst and the water started to come through. What happened to your rafts when this happened?

CEDAR HENNING, RESCUED FROM RAFT: Well, as the first splash came, the lower part of the river swelled and I think just tore our boats right off where they are tied up, and blew them down river 30 miles.

LAWRENCE: What did you hear, what did you see when that rush of water started to come through?

HENNING: Well, you know, a lot of rain falling down, rocks falling off of the hillsides and we heard quite a large rush of -- kind of a freight train moving through and just went up to the high ground and waited for it to go by and tried to collect our people and made it down to where we thought our boats would be and they weren't there.

LAWRENCE: Now, you were stranded on a ledge without your boats, without your supplies. How did you get --

HENNING: Well, you know, we were in a real good spot. We had a nice little rock ledge, pretty big, enough for 16 people to be comfortably under. And you know, we got the food and water that we had, collected some rain water. We knew we had to wait the night out. We knew some commercial ships would come by the next day, we could get food and water from them and then figure out our plan from there. We figured that the boats get washed down, somebody else would see them and call out on the S.A.T. phone. At least it would be common knowledge. We didn't think it would be this big of knowledge but --

LAWRENCE: When they go to you --

HENNING: And so, by 7:30 the next morning, there was a helicopter there, you know, just checking on us and kind of circling the whole area. But our group is fine, we're in great shape. You know, we had no incidents. A hurt toe.

LAWRENCE: Well, that's good to hear. Cedar Henning, one of 16 people pulled off of that ledge. Again, nearly two dozen people still unaccounted for. That's what they will be looking for as they resume the search and rescue operation this morning. Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Chris Lawrence, keep us posted. Appreciate it. Thank you.

Preparing for the storm. Experts say when it comes to hurricanes, too many homeowners have storm amnesia. We're going to talk with Retired Gen. Russell Honore.


COLLINS: The Michael Phelps show comes to a successful conclusion.


MICHAEL PHELPS, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: It's been a great four years and I've had a lot of moments and a lot of memories here that I will never forget.


COLLINS: Eight gold medals. Phelps is talking to CNN about his spot in sports history.



CRIST: The tornado threat will increase today in the Keys and south Florida. Tornado watches will be issued likely. Remember to use extra caution when driving in flooded areas. This could develop throughout the day and into tomorrow. Floridians should continue to monitor local report, stay in touch with local officials, and heed their advice.


COLLINS: Dealing with hurricanes before they strike and after. Few people know devastation better than the Lt. Gen. Russell Honore. He led the Defense Department's response to Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst natural disasters to strike the U.S. He has since retired from the Army and now preaches the need for readiness. General, thanks for being with us this morning. And Governor Crist was talking exactly about those issues, be ready for this, this, and this.

What exactly should he be telling the people of Florida today?

LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE (RET.), TASK FORCE KATRINA: Well, I think the governor is spot on. I think the important thing to remember, all Americans need to remember, in Florida right now, that storm will affect the entire Florida peninsula as it comes ashore. And the most - the two things that will affect most people is when the power goes out and then localized flooding from a level of storm that is being predicted right now into Florida. The state of Florida has done a magnificent job where many of the lessons learned from 2004 and 2005, increasing satellite communication. FEMA is leading over 700,000 meals moved into Florida.

The Florida National Guard is alert and ready to go. But people should not become over confident in how good the government has gotten. What we need to look at is how prepared we have become in our homes. We need to ask the question, if my home is surrounded by water, if we flood, will I be able to survive in this home? If the answer is not, then you need to leave.

Point two, what will you do if there's no power for three days? Do you have sufficient food and water?

Now, you know, Heidi, the people that can prepare will. My biggest concern is elderly people, disabled people, and the poor. Who can't or don't have the means to go buy a three-day supply.

COLLINS: Of course.

HONORE: And those in low-lying areas, in homes that are not protected up to 110 mile-an-hour winds and then the threat through the day as people are at work and what employees are doing, employers are doing to allow people to go prepare for this storm, to try to stretch out the work day -


HONORE: ...that storm will have effecting along the coast of Florida early in the morning and some people will not have a choice because they have not had a chance to prepare than those that don't have the money to prepare.

COLLINS: Exactly. Now, I know that you have two daughters that actually live in the area, Pinellas County. What do you tell them? I mean, your own family members? What are the most important things that you tell them to be prepared?

HONORE: Yes, is to follow the rules. The Red Cross has laid this out very clearly. It's been given to them more than one time. Get your three-day supply of food and water. Have your evacuation pack. Get cash on hand today. Later today, those ATM machines are going to start running out of money and come tomorrow when you lose power, if you don't have cash, you won't have the option to leave or the option to buy emergency supplies.

So those actions need to be happening today and one thing key, Heidi, this storm is going to come at night and the threat of tornado warnings, which is the importance of having something like a radio that will wake you up in the middle of the night or you may have to get up at night and check the weather and look at that risk. The elderly and the poor in your community are working with the local churches. Again, there are a lot of plans the Red Cross has moved food trucks in -

COLLINS: They have.

HONORE: ... to start feeding people but the biggest issue is family preparedness.

COLLINS: All right. Excellent. We sure do appreciate those reminders, because it just seems like you can never be over prepared for something like this.

Lieutenant General Russel Honore, we sure do appreciate your time. Thank you.

HONORE: Thank you.

COLLINS: Yet another sign of the tough economy, even student loans are harder to get now. Gerri Willis has a crash course on college cash.


COLLINS: If you're headed to college this fall, it's not too late to get a student loan but it is getting harder. CNN's personal finance editor Gerri Willis is here to explain now.

Hey, there, Gerri.


COLLINS: How much harder is it?

WILLIS: It's a lot harder. Well, look it's estimated that 100,000 to 250,000 would-be borrowers could be turned down for private student loans this year. That's because lenders have tightened their standards. Previously if you had a credit score of 620 to 650 you would be eligible for a loan but could get a loan but today that credit score has to be 680 to 700. And many more parents are also being turned down for plus loans. That's because if the parents have a foreclosure on their record within the past five years, they don't qualify anymore for this kind of loan, Heidi.

COLLINS: So how do you avoid being denied a loan then?

WILLIS: You have to improve that credit score. Let's face it, when you're first entering college, students have a very thin credit history. So you want to become an authorized user on somebody else's credit card or have a parent co-sign a credit card. This way the student has the benefit of an older more established credit history. One note here you want to make sure the co-signer has a credit score of over 700. Remember whoever co-signs a credit card is equally responsible for that debt. Now, by using a co-signer, you increase your chance of getting a loan with better terms.

COLLINS: OK. So where can you go to get help for all of this? WILLIS: Go to Uncle Sam first. If you qualify for federal aid, you're going to get it. Plus, federal student loans have lower interest rates. You may be eligible for up to $31,000 in Stafford loans if you're a dependent undergrad, add 57,500 if you're an independent undergrad. Now your credit won't be checked for this. If your parents have been denied a plus loan, you automatically qualify for more money through the Stafford loan program. You should also go to your student aid office if you're having trouble getting a loan. They'll know who's lending and who is not.

If you think you're going to have trouble making your tuition bill, go to the bursar's office and ask for help. Some schools have what they call tuition installment plans. It spreads out your payments from nine to 12 months. You may have to pay a one-time fee but it will be well worth it.

COLLINS: Yes. Lots of details here though, everything that you need to sift through.

WILLIS: Right.

COLLINS: What's the best way for to you shop around?

WILLIS: Get online. Check out Web sites like or Try calling the lenders and asking what kind of rate you would get with your current credit score. Some lenders give you a ballpark estimate without even having to fill out an application but keep in mind that advertised rates are only for people with great credit.

While you're comparing terms, make sure you know how long the repayment rate is. Remember, the longer the repayment, the lower your monthly bill, the more interest you pay over the life of the loan. You know how it works. And of course, if you have any question, send them to us at We love hearing from you.

COLLINS: Excellent. And we're going to hear from you again in about an hour and a half. "ISSUE #1."

WILLIS: That's right. We're going to take a look at how the oil companies are reacting to Tropical Storm Fay. Plus, teaching your kids about money is never easy. We'll show you how to lead them to financial security. A place we all want to be, right, Heidi?

COLLINS: Oh, yes. I'll get my seven-year-old to watch, too.

WILLIS: Good deal.

COLLINS: Any way, I'll tell all about it. Gerri, thank you.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

COLLINS: Russia promised to start pulling troops out of Georgia today. Tanks are rolling now but where are they going? We'll go live to Moscow.


WOLF: Welcome back, to CNN, your hurricane headquarters. I'm Reynolds Wolf, to give you the very latest on Tropical Storm Fay.

And Fay continues to span its way off Cuba, now moving into the straits of Florida. Now, one thing you need to remember about the storm is that the storm has been -- over land it has weakened considerably. But now, as it gets over water, it's beginning to fire up again with some power. The latest winds are currently at 60 miles an hour. We have some gusts here around 65.

If you happen to be tuning in say from Coral Springs, West Palm Beach, or even Miami, you've had not only heavy rain, even had some tornado warnings this morning. Tornadoes sometimes form during these outer bands make their way on shore. These tornadoes usually don't last very long, they're considerably weak. But, hey, they're still tornadoes. Certainly something to watch out for.

Something else to watch out for in parts of south Florida would be the potential of flash flooding. Heavy rainfall a possibility. Heavier surf too, along parts of the Keys, anywhere from two to four feet above normal. Keep in mind the air strip in all the way down in parts of the Keys, Key West -- is only four feet above sea level. So, you do the math. You think about the water going up a bit, you might have some issues there. So certainly, be advised.

The latest we have in terms of the numbers again, winds at 60, gusting to 65. About 99 miles from Key West, Florida. The latest path that we have from the National Hurricane Center brings the storm more to the north, kind of a northwesterly trajectory as we get into early Tuesday. Passing the Keys, winds at 65, but, increasing to a Category 1 storm early on Tuesday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. Then coming on shore south of Tampa, and then staying along right along parts of I-74/75 heading northward into the Carolinas, back into Georgia. Could be a heavy rain maker as we round out the week into the weekend.

Now, something else you need to know. Although we've shown you this from high above and what you can anticipate, possibly one of the best ways to give you the idea of what's happening with this story is by letting you know what's happening on the ground. Say for example, in Havana, Cuba, which is right here.

Just to the southwest of the storm now, (INAUDIBLE), leading in its wake, we are lucky to have CNN's Morgan Neill live with us, in Havana.

Morgan, what's the latest?


Well, as you pointed out there, the storm has now made its way north of Cuba. Here in the Malecon here in Havana, along the sea wall, there've been warnings throughout the morning that there could be some storm surge coming in.

I don't know if you can see -- we have seen some waves kicking up against the storm wall here but, so far things haven't been too serious. But of course, Cuba is just the last stop, the most recent stop for this storm that has really effected the entire region.


NEILL (voice-over): Tropical Storm Fay picked up momentum Sunday, hitting Cuba's southern coast with gusty winds and heavy rains as it pushed and swirled closer to the island.

Hurricane watches were posted along much of Cuba's central and western coast, including Havana, as the storm picked up strength. Already Fay has left at least five people dead in its wake after battering Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Nearly 12,000 people were evacuated in the Dominican Republic and power was cut to some 15,000 home according to local reports.

Its target now: The Florida straits. Predictions it could reach hurricane strength as it pushes back over water.

BEN NELSON, FLORIDA STATE METEOROLOGIST: The main threats with Fay as the National Hurricane Center and the state emergency response team diagnosis right now are tornadoes and flooding.

NEILL: Forecasters said the storm could hit the Florida Keys Monday night. In the Keys, schools are closed, tourists are being urged to leave and shelters are being opened. The governor's declared a state of emergency and 9,000 Florida National Guard troops are at the ready.

CRIST: Florida is prepared and we are ready and we'll be vigilant.

NEILL: Residents rush to prepare for the incoming storm, buying plywood, batteries, generators and candles. Some areas, water sold out within hours of stores opening. And out in the Gulf of Mexico, oil companies like Shell, are already pulling workers off off-shore platforms preparing for Fay's arrival.

Back here in Cuba, the island must now start to deal with the damage.


NEILL: Now, Reynolds, here in Cuba, we have relatively few reports of damage actually. Although there has been flooding. There have been some rooftops blown off. But, a fairly limited extent to this point -- Reynolds.

WOLF: OK, Morgan. It looks like you guys escaped the worst of it, thankfully. Great report and we'll be in touch with you soon.

Folks, what we're going to be seeing now is the storm barrelling northward, doing so around about 12, 13 miles an hour, or so. We should see some changes in the forecast I would say, over the next couple of hours. And we're going to watch that for you very carefully. Again, the storm leaving Cuba, moving towards Florida. That is the latest we've got for you.

Now, let's send it back to New York with our good friend Heidi.

Heidi, back to you.

COLLINS: All right, Reynolds. Thank you. We'll stay in contact with you, of course.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Fay heading toward the Gulf of Mexico, what does it mean for oil prices? A lot of people wondering about that this morning.

CNNMoney'com's Poppy Harlow has our Energy Fix.

Good morning to you, Poppy.


Well you know what we're seeing right now with oil prices up, just slightly. Higher earlier today, but not back around $114 a barrel. But prices could keep in mind swing higher, especially if Tropical Storm Fay picks up speed and heads towards the oil-rich Gulf of Mexico like the National Hurricane Center expects it to.

As a precautionary measure, Shell royaled -- Shell, that oil giant -- evacuating nearly 400 people from its facilities, Heidi, in the Gulf of Mexico, all of course as a precaution -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. Don't we usually see a much bigger spike in oil prices, though when hurricanes head into the Gulf?

HARLOW: We usually do. Oil traders though right now, waiting to see if there are any supply disruptions.

Remember, back in 2005, Hurricane Katrina and Rita temporarily shut down a quarter of U.S. oil and fuel production. That sent prices higher to then record highs. But so far Shell says production has not been affected and despite really six named Atlantic storms this year, we haven't seen any significant damage to oil platforms. So, we've been pretty lucky so far.

Instead of rising prices, crude has actually fallen more than $30 from the record high we saw last month. Much of that drop, rather because the U.S. dollar has been gaining strength against major currencies and demand around the world, Heidi, as you know, is expected to fall this year and next.

But we want to hear from the people in the path of this storm. We want your stories, your pictures. Please send them to us at -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right, Poppy. Sure do appreciate it. Thank you.

HARLOW: You're welcome. COLLINS: The pressure to be perfect. Now it's the heavy medals that's weighing on Michael Phelps.


PHELPS: They're pretty heavy around my neck. It was hard to sort of hold my neck up straight.


COLLINS: Eight for eight in Beijing. One-on-one with the American swimmer.


COLLINS: Mixed signals this morning in the Georgia/Russia conflict. Russia says its troops have started pulling out of the former Soviet republic. But, Georgia says it doesn't look like that's happening.

Let's bring in our Phil Black now, live from Moscow, this morning.

Good morning to you there, Phil.


Yes, some very mixed messages coming out of Moscow, today. In particular, some very specific word play. We've heard from a Russian general at a media briefing who said that Russian forces had begun the process of leaving Georgia, but he says this is not a withdrawal. This is not pulling out. This is pulling back. And he's very specific about that point. He says that Russian forces are pulling back from Georgian territory to South Ossetia, that break-away region that they went to war in defense of. That's a very specific point.

Let's hear that Russia general explain why he is using that word so specifically.


GEN. ANATOLY NOGOVITSYNM, RUSSIAN ARMED FORCES: When the two presidents talked to each other on the telephone, our president and the French president, we are -- they were not talking about pulling out. They were talking about pulling away troops. We are not talking about pulling troops out completely.


BLACK: So, assuming his troops move into South Ossetia and stay there for a while, what does that mean for the cease-fire agreement? Well, that agreement states that the forces are supposed to move back to the positions that they held before this conflict began. Perhaps confusing that slightly as the fact that there was a Russian peace- keeping force, quite a few hundred soldiers within South Ossetia at the time that this conflict started. It is accepted that Russia will take on some peace-keeping duties there. However, it's probably too soon or -- it's going a bit far to say that the entire occupying force that is currently within Georgia, can move back into South Ossetia and that is still within the cease- fire agreement. The nature, the size, the makeup of that peace-making mechanism is still subject to long negotiations -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. It sounds like it, certainly. All right, we'll follow this one with you. Sure do appreciate it. Thanks so much.

Meanwhile, we want to get back to some breaking news here. Reynolds Wolf is standing by to tell us a little bit more about the progress of Fay.

What's happening here, Reynolds?

WOLF: Well, Heidi, this just came in off the printer. We now have some new information about Fay. Hurricane warning now in effect for the southwestern coast of Florida from Flamingo to Anna Maria Island. Hurricane warning means that conditions are expected. That'll be about this region northward, almost to the Tampa area. Hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected within the warning area within the next 24 hours.

And so we are going to expect conditions there to get increasingly rough as the storm system edges ever closer. It is moving to the north as we've been telling you about. About 13 miles an hour. It is expected to slow down its forward progress, really tap into the warm (INAUDIBLE) water in the strait of Florida and begin really to intensify.

Winds are currently at 60 miles an hour. We not have gusts up to 70. So, we're getting closer to at least hurricane-force gusts at this time, as soon as it reaches 74, boom, we're right at that point. The storm is still tracking right along the coast. The thing we're going to watch and we do expect conditions to really deteriorate as it surges northward.

South Florida, right now, long before the storm even gets closer to you. What you can expect right now is the potential of some flash flooding. Also, the possibility of some tornadoes spinning off the outer bands. Those are a couple things you really need to keep in mind and of course, have those plans in your mind as the storm gets closer. Thinking about maybe getting away from the coast, maybe having the hurricane preparedness kit. Things you certainly want to do, over the next 12 hours or so.

Let's send it back to you in New York.

COLLINS: Absolutely. All right, Reynolds. Thank you.

WOLF: You bet.

COLLINS: Michael Phelps sets a new gold standard for the Olympics. We're going live to Beijing.


COLLINS: From Beijing to Baltimore, the buzz over Michael Phelps just won't quit. Over the weekend, he set the record for gold medals in a single Olympics.

Our Larry Smith had a chance to sit down with Phelps and Larry's joining us now live, from Beijing.

All right, so what did he have to say? He says the medals are getting kind of heavy.

LARRY SMITH, CNN WORLD SPORTS ANCHOR: Ha Ha! Yes, they are. The funny thing is too, I asked him about his 2004 medals that he won in Athens -- the six gold and the two bronze -- I ask him, well, where are those right now? And he wasn't sure. He's like, I know they're safe but I'm not quite sure exactly where they are. He's not real worried about it.

His ego very much in check but I began by asking him just how the number eight feels today.


PHELPS: I put them all on for the first time this morning and they're pretty heavy around my neck. It was hard to sort of hold my neck up straight. But, yes, I mean, I can't say enough. It was just an unbelievable experience.

SMITH (on camera): I'm curious, now that you got the eight medals, which is heavier? The eight medals around your neck or, the expectations that were put on you to win them?

PHELPS: I don't know. That's a hard question to answer.

I've had, by no means, the perfect four years. But, you know, I was able to get everything done that I wanted to do in the last four years. You know, I was able to pretty much accomplish all of my goals. So it's been a great four years and I've had a lot of moments and a lot of memories here that I'll never forget.

SMITH: Do you recall the first time that you thought about this Spitz record and when that was?

PHELPS: I don't know when exactly it was. But I think you know, when I first said I wanted to be the first to do something. I wanted to be the first Michael Phelps. And I wanted to be somebody who changes the sport of swimming and does new things for the sport. So I think, you know, that's probably the first time I thought about it. I'm not sure when that was. But, you know, I just -- I wanted to do something that nobody in this sport has ever seen.

SMITH: Were you attempting to do this in Athens, four years ago?

PHELPS: I tried. I came up a little short but I was still successful.

SMITH: You saw your mother and sister just a few minutes all week long and yet, the whole world -- we all saw them race after race.

What was that life, finally, to share those emotions with them?

PHELPS: Just being able to hug my mother and hug my sisters. You know, that's what I wanted to do all week when they were on the TV. I had friends text messaging me saying, you know, your mom and sisters are getting more air time then you are.


SMITH: Well, that's not going to be the case for much longer. Michael Phelps, it's estimated now, that his endorsement money could go from $5 million a year to $30 million, maybe even $50 million per year.

By the way, he's very popular. He said overnight he got more than 1,500 text messages, voice-mail messages, and Facebook requests. So much that he plugged his phone up when he went to bed, and when he got up, his phone was dead. He had to unplug it and plug it in again just to get the juice back.

COLLINS: I thought you were going to say the thing exploded or something.

All right. Larry, we sure do appreciate it.

Larry Smith this morning, live from Beijing. Thank you.

Multiple gold medal winner, as we've been talking about, Michael Phelps, is joining live this Tuesday, something you don't want to miss. Go to right now and submit your own video question for him. Don't miss Michael Phelps live Tuesday 8:30 a.m. Eastern, only on

The toughest decision they've ever had to make. The presidential candidates and what they are saying.


COLLINS: As part of our commitment to help you make an informed choice on Election Day, we're playing more of what the presidential candidates are saying in their own words. Over the weekend, both candidates sat down with Pastor Rick Warren at a faith forum in California.

Here now, John McCain on marriage, taxes, and the toughest decision he ever made.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was long ago and far away in a prison camp in North Vietnam. My father was a high ranking admiral. Then Vietnamese came and said that I could leave prison early. And we had a code of conduct that said you only leave by order of capture. I also had a dear and beloved friend who is from California, name of Ed Alvarez, who had been shot down and captured a couple of years before me. But I wasn't in good physical shape, in fact I was in rather bad physical shape. And so I said no.

Now, in interest of full disclosure, I'm very happy I didn't know the world was war was going to last for another three years or so. But, I said no and I'll never forget sending (ph) in my last answer and the high-ranking officer that offered it, slammed the door and the interrogator said, go back to your cell, it's going to be very tough on you now. And it was.

But, I -- not only the toughest decision I ever made, but I'm most happy about that decision, than any decision I ever made in my life.

We should not and cannot raise taxes in tough economic times. So it doesn't matter really what my definition of rich is, because I don't want to raise anybody's taxes. I really are don't. In fact, I want to give working Americans a better shot at having a better life.


MCCAIN: A union between man and woman, between one man and one woman. That's my definition of marriage.

I am a federalist. I believe that states should make those decisions. In my state, I hope we will make that decision, and in other states they have, to recognize the unique status of marriage between man and woman. And that doesn't mean that people can't enter into legal agreements, that doesn't mean that they don't have the rights of all citizens. I'm not saying that. I am saying that we should preserve the unique status of marriage between one man and one woman. And if a federal court, if a federal court decided that my state of Arizona had to observe what the state of Massachusetts decided, then I would favor a constitutional amendment. Until then, I believe the states should make the decisions within their own states.


COLLINS: Pastor Warren put those same questions to Barack Obama, beginning with the candidate's toughest decision.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I had a difficult view. My father wasn't in the house. I've written about this. There were times where I experimented with drugs, I drank, in my teenage years. And what I trace this to is a certain selfishness on my part. I was so obsessed with me and, you know, the reasons that I might be dissatisfied, that I couldn't focus on other people. And, you know, I think the process for me of growing up was to recognize that it's not about me.

The question that I think we have to ask ourselves is, if we believe in good schools, if we believe in good roads, if we want to make sure that kids can go to college, if we don't want to leave a mountain of debt for the next generation, then we've got to pay for these things. They don't come for free. And it is irresponsible -- I believe it is irresponsible, inter-generationally, for us to invest -- or spend $10 billion a month on a war, and not have a way of paying for it.

I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian -- it's also a sacred union. God is in the mix.

WARREN: Would you support a constitutional amendment with that definition?

OBAMA: No, I would not.

WARREN: Why not?

OBAMA: Because historically -- because historically we have not defined marriage in our Constitution. It's been a matter of state law. That has been our tradition.

I do believe in civil unions. I do believe that we should not -- that for gay partners to want to visit each other at a hospital, for the state to say, you know what, that's all right, I don't think that in any way inhibits my core beliefs about what marriage are. I think my faith is strong enough and my marriage is strong enough that I can afford those civil rights to others, even if I have a different perspective or different view.


COLLINS: And there's more. Go behind the scenes of the Faith Forum with Pastor Rick Warren. He is Larry King's guest tonight. You can see that 9:00 Eastern only on CNN.

Good morning, everybody. You're with CNN. I'm Heidi Collins at the Time Warner Center in New York City today.