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American Morning

Los Angeles Wildfire Raging in Griffith Park; Severe Drought: The Shrinking Lake Okeechobee; Tornado Recovery: National Guard Able to Help?

Aired May 09, 2007 - 06:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Out of control. A raging wildfire roars through Hollywood Hills. Hundreds on the run. Landmarks destroyed.
Plus, disastrous flooding and another possible tornado in the Plains. Staggering drought in the Southeast. A nation united by extreme weather, on this AMERICAN MORNING.

And good morning to you. It is Wednesday, May the 9th. I'm John Roberts.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kiran Chetry. Great to have you with us today.

"On Our Radar" this morning.

It was unbelievable when you had a chance to read the details of that terror plot that was broken up. A plan to attack Fort Dix and kill as many soldiers as possible. All thanks to a tip by a video store clerk that may have saved us from a huge attack.

ROBERTS: And also, as Jack Cafferty put it yesterday, thanks to the fact that maybe these guys were too stupid to realize that if they to this videotape to a commercial duplicator somebody may get wise to what they were up to.

CHETRY: That's true. But a lot of questions. How were they training with AK-47s? Three of them were illegal immigrants. So we're going to talk a lot about that today.

ROBERTS: Hey, we also like buying things from China because it's so cheap, right? But apparently there's some problems associated with that. Tainted feed. Add fish to fowl and pork because of tainted wheat flour. Plastic, this melamine, inside the wheat flour. What's that going to do to the human food chain? And are there risks to getting these exports from a country where things are so cheap they're almost irresistible. We'll check into all of that this morning with Sanjay Gupta, who's going to join us a little bit later on.

CHETRY: First, though, to extreme weather coast to coast right now. A massive wildfire burning in Griffith Park within the city of Los Angeles. There's also fierce flooding in the Midwest, a coastal storm pounding parts of the eastern seaboard and then severe drought drying up lakes in Florida and fueling fires of their own. And we are everywhere this morning. Thelma Gutierrez in L.A., we have Sean Callebs in the Missouri flood zone, John Zarrella in south Florida and our Rob Marciano just back from the tornado disaster in Kansas. He's here with us in New York.

And we begin with Thelma in Los Angeles.

And fill us in on the conditions right now, Thelma.

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you, Kiran, that it has been an incredibly long night. We just talked to firefighters who said they were on the line since 1:30 yesterday afternoon working to try to get control of this fire. The conditions out here, very dry.

However, there is some good news right now. No homes are currently threatened. The winds have died down. The temperatures are died down. And so that has given firefighters the critical break that they have need.

Now, the bad news, as you can see right behind me, is that this area is still burning here in Griffith Park. We've been monitoring this area. Firefighters were out a little bit earlier. They wanted to make sure that these trees would not catch fire. This would be very, very, very devastating.

The winds come and just push those flames right up on that hillside. And the big concern all morning long has been the river of embers that have been shooting down off the mountain and on to the roadside. The worry that they have is that at daybreak, when the winds pick up, those embers will be carried into the dry brush and it would start other spot fires out there.

This is an area out here in Griffith Park, a 4,000 acre area, that hasn't burned in years. Firefighters say it was just a matter of time before this one went up.


TOM LABONGE, L.A. CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: This fire has danced like nothing I've ever seen. This is the worst fire in Griffith Park since the 1961 Beachwood Canyon/Hollywood Land fire. The dancing of the fire reminded me of how Mick Jagger dances on stage. It has gone all over.


GUTIERREZ: Now this is a 4,000 acre park. There's an observatory here. There's a zoo here. There's also an amphitheater, not to mention all the million dollar homes that are on the other side of the park. Right now those homes are not being threatened. That is very good news.

Again, 600 acres have burned. Three hundred residents have been evacuated. And firefighters are hoping that a little later today they will be allowed to go back home.

Kiran, back to you. CHETRY: And what about the zoo? You say there's a big zoo there. How about the animals? Are they threatened by the fire?

GUTIERREZ: Well, you know, we mentioned that there was a zoo here. Those animals, we were told just a short time ago by a firefighters, are not being threatened. However, there is a lot of wildlife that lives up here in these mountains and one of our producers was telling us a short time ago that she noticed coyotes just darting across the road here trying to get out of this burn area. And we're just right off of the 5 Freeway. So with that close to civilization and the animals trying to get out of the area to keep from burning.

CHETRY: Wow. The pictures really tell the story. It's unbelievable. We'll check in with you a little bit later, Thelma. Thanks.

ROBERTS: On the other side of the country this morning, more than 200 fires are burning right now in Florida and about 300 homes were evacuated in southern Georgia from two major wildfires there. High winds and record dry conditions are making this a very, very tough fight.

This is how dry it is. Take a look at this picture. Lake Okeechobee shrinking by the day. CNN's John Zarrella's got a live update for us later on this hour. So make sure you stay around for that.

The complete opposite problem in Missouri this morning. Take a look at these pictures. The entire town of Big Lake under water, washing out hundreds of homes. AMERICAN MORNING's Sean Callebs is there. Yesterday, St. Joe's by the Missouri River. Today, you're in Big Lake, which is really kind of living up to its name this morning.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You've got that right, John, exactly.

And really, what happened, it is part of the Missouri River system. What we're told, there are a number of earthen levees all along the Missouri River system. Now these have been saturated since this area was inundated by more than half a foot of rain over this past weekend. We were told that there are as many as five breaches in this area. So we're certainly, and sadly for the folks in this area, getting our money's worth out of this waders that we got the other day.

This is what this entire area looks like. Hundreds of acres simply flooded. We are actually standing on the main road that cuts its way right through the heart of Big Lake. Just to our left, you can't see it at this hour, no electricity, pitch black. There are scores of homes that are simply under water.

Now exactly what happened? Authorities say they are still trying to get a handle on it. There is another entrance to this Big Lake community pretty far from where we are. But what we're told by authorities who are now manning areas and restricting traffic coming in, that virtually no one is allowed to come in either way. So even if people wanted to try and get back to their homes to try and see if they could salvage anything, it is not going to happen, at least not now.

We were all over the area yesterday, driving through Leavenworth, Kansas, John, also driving through parts of Kansas City. People are doing what they can, trying to bolster these levees. The last thing anybody wants is for that really rich, fertile farmland to the south of us -- we're about an hour and a half north of Kansas City -- to get inundated. Farmers lose their livelihood. And crops in peril. Boy, a big change from you talked about on the East Coast and the West Coast with Thelma and what John's going to be looking at.

ROBERTS: All right, Sean, thanks very so much. Appreciate it. We'll check in with you a little bit later on this morning.

CHETRY: So certainly a busy morning weather wise already for Rob Marciano. We check in with him now. And it looks like, where they need the rain, it's not there. And where they need it to dry out a little bit, that's where they're getting hit.


ROBERTS: Eight minutes after the hour now. Vice President Dick Cheney is in Iraq this morning, landing for an unannounced visit in Baghdad this morning. The vice president is going to meet with leaders of Iraq's government, urging them not to take a two-month vacation this summer. To work, instead, on healing Iraq's political divisions.

ROBERTS: Orders are in. More than 35,000 soldiers could be sent to Iraq in the fall. That means that the troop buildup could last through the end of the year. Conditions on the ground in Iraq will determine whether the additional 35,000 are sent.

And Democrats in Washington are planning their next move in the war spending showdown. That includes only temporary funding to see how the war is progressing. It would pay for the war through July, then another vote would be set to see if the rest of the money should be released. Republicans in Congress called the idea "unconscionable" and the White House says it's bad management.

CHETRY: The investigators are now revealing how they nabbed six men for allegedly plotting to attack Fort Dix in New Jersey. One of them, a naturalized citizen. Three others are illegal immigrants. CNN's Deborah Feyerick is with us now with more on how this plot was unraveled. And the interesting thing the FBI says is they were not really affiliated with al Qaeda but were loosely connected and got inspiration from al Qaeda.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. And that's what authorities are really worried about. There's no evidence that this was sanctioned by Osama bin Laden. There's no evidence that, in fact, they ever received a fatwa (ph). In fact, they were waiting for a fatwa marching orders to carry this out. But it is clear that they took inspiration from bin Laden, from al Qaeda. They had videos of two of the 9/11 hijackers on one of the computers. They were watching and they were planning this, thinking that they would go and do jihad.


FEYERICK, (voice over): Five suspects in these vans allegedly plotted to kill at last 100 soldiers at Fort Dix Army Base in New Jersey, using AK-47s and other assault rifles.

JODY WEISS, FBI PHILADELPHIA: We dodged a bullet. In fact, when you look at the type of weapons that this group was trying to purchase, we may have dodged a lot of bullets. We had a group that was forming a platoon to take out an army.

FEYERICK: Investigators discovered the plot more than a year ago when a store clerk told them he had been asked to copy a video showing 10 men shooting assault weapons, militia style, and calling for jihad. A paid FBI informant infiltrated the group, convincing them he could get his hands on AK-47s and M-16 semi-automatic weapons.

CHRISTOPHER CHRISTIE, U.S. ATTORNEY: All that, combined with their increased training sessions, the intensity of those, and ultimately their desire to get automatic weapons to complete their plan, told us it was now time to take this down and not let it go any further.

FEYERICK: The five defendants, one of them allegedly a sniper from Kosovo, traveled to the Pennsylvania mountains for training. The criminal complaint says that on that training trip they talked about bombs, C-4 explosives and striking U.S. war ships docked in Philadelphia. They watched videos of terror training and attacks on the U.S. military.

CHRISTIE: They watched the blowing off of the arm of a United States Marine and the room burst out into laughter.

FEYERICK: One of the defendants allegedly provided a map of Fort Dix. Authorities say his family owns this pizzeria near the base and that he used to deliver pizzas there.

JOSEPH HOFFLINGER, PIZZA CHEF: Oh, he seemed like a regular person, you know. He'd come in, hi, how you doing, what's up, you know?

FEYERICK: Three of the defendants are brothers, ethnic Albanians in their 20s, in the U.S. illegally, who allegedly collected weapons for the attack. Another suspect, their brother-in-law, allegedly scouted out Fort Dix and other army bases for attack. They are charged with conspiring to kill U.S. military personnel, a charge that carries a maximum life sentence. A sixth man was charged with supplying weapons.

WEISS: Today, threats come from smaller, more loosely defined individuals themselves, who may or may not be (INAUDIBLE). (END VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY: Well, there you have it, a loosely defined cell, as you were talking about. Much harder for, I think, our federal agents to try to get a handle on. Also the question is, how were they able to go to a range and fire off AK-47s?

FEYERICK: Well, that's exactly right. First of all, they have rifles, they had shotguns, they had all of these different weapons. They were trying to get the AK-47s and the M-16s. That's when the Feds moved in to take down this plot.

But because they were illegal, they really had to go back channel. They had to go into the woods. That's where they were doing some of their training. Although, because there was so much surveillance involved in this, at one point when they were at the firing range and they stopped at a nearby convenience store, they actually ran into an undercover agent and they said, hey, know where we can buy an AK-47? So they were there, they were training, but at the same time, there were all these little clues that they kept dropping.

CHETRY: Unbelievable. And if they weren't so clumsy, they might have gotten a lot further in this.

FEYERICK: Oh, no question.

CHETRY: Deb, thanks a lot.

ROBERTS: It sounds, though, like they made a couple of critical errors.

CHETRY: A few.


It started with pet food but then moved to the human food supply. Now the FDA is saying that the fish that you and your family eat might be affected by the same chemical that killed so many pets. We're asking if it's safe, coming up next.

And Al Sharpton feeling the heat today for a comment that he made about Mitt Romney. Was it an insult to Romney's Mormon faith. Faith and values correspondent Delia Gallagher has got that for us coming up on AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is on CNN.



Well, you can add farmed fish now to the list that the FDA is expanding its investigation into after finding that fish were fed meal that was contained with melamine. That's the substance that killed a lot of pets. Investigators are not sure if the fish made it into the human food supply, but say that the risk to humans is minimal. So now it's fish, it's chickens, it's pork and we can't forget, of course, all the cats and dogs that may have eaten contaminated food with the chemicals as well. And all of it traced back to China. It's raising some big questions about how we can check all of our imports that we get from China. Ted Fishman just returned from China. He's also the author of "China Inc."

Thanks for being with us.

TED FISHMAN, AUTHOR, "CHINA, INC.": Oh, glad to be with you.

CHETRY: So China's now pledging to launched what they're calling a nationwide cleanup of the food industry in light of the latest scandal. Can we trust them?

FISHMAN: We can trust them to try and to regulate. You know, they have volumes of laws on all kinds of problematic pieces of their economy. But we can also count on there being a kind of jurisdictional arbitrage in which people move their plants from place to place, where they can continue in bad practices. You know, China's at the kind of qua (ph) part of its economic development where counterfeiting, faking, squeezing bogus parts into the supply chain is an essential part of how they create wealth in that country. And it's very hard to convince a country to give away that important part of their wealth equation.

CHETRY: That's right. And do we need to do it for them by cutting off imports?

FISHMAN: Well, we can do it by cutting off imports, demanding inspections from here to go there. You know, one interesting thing that happens is that companies that are serious about getting inspection but can't find good ways to do it in China come to the United States for inspectors. You know, there's a group of rabbis in the United States that have done very, very well in China just by koshering food because companies all over the world that want to import Chinese food insist that somebody look at the food, so they get it to be koshered.

CHETRY: Wow. Well, China has a long history of deadly consequences a little bit. We found just a few of the recent incidents. I mean, in 2004, 13 babies died from fake milk. We had 2004, also nine died from fake liquor. We talked about concerns with the cough syrup, as well. And then you have 40 people killed from infected pigs. And then as recent as August 2006, before the whole melamine scare, you had people contracted meningitis from eating raw or partially cooked snails.

Is it realistic to say that we can safeguard our food supply if things that we use in our food come from China?

FISHMAN: You can't get 100 percent safety because the chain from raw materials through food chemicals to final product is so large. And the profit that you can get from just inserting small amounts of fake and dangerous ingredients into the supply chain is so huge, especially in a country where wages are so small, that the incentive is very, very large.

CHETRY: So what can I do as a consumer at home? Can I be ensured that food I'm eating didn't come from China or didn't come from other countries?

FISHMAN: You know, right now, if you try and shop for food for products that are essential to the safety of your children for anything, it is very hard to figure out what part of that purchase comes from China today. Many common goods have 200, 300 parts that go into them and China may be a small part of the whole supply chain. But you can't police all of that. I'm afraid until China gets its act together, abides by international norms, there's going to be quite a bit of risk in the system.

CHETRY: That is really scary when you think about it. There's really nothing you can do.

FISHMAN: Nothing you can do. It could be something as simple as the halogen light above your head. You know, it would pop while you're sitting.

CHETRY: All right. Ted Fishman, thanks.

FISHMAN: My pleasure.

ROBERTS: Al Sharpton says people of God will defeat Mitt Romney. Was it an insult to Romney's Mormon faith? We're looking into that coming up next.

And a dangerous combination in Florida. An ongoing drought and wildfires. We've live on the scene for you this morning.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is on CNN.


CHETRY: And these are pictures just in to our newsroom this morning. This is the huge wildfire we were telling you about in Griffin Park, Los Angeles. Firefighters have been on the scene. Some of them on the scene since 1:00 p.m. yesterday afternoon. And they are actively trying to contain this fire, get a handle on it.

As we've seen, it's burned so viciously. And as some were talking, they've never seen a fire be able to jump the line as much as this one has. So they've been there vigilant all through the night.

And as you know, it's only 3:00 in the -- 5:00 in the morning out there. Sorry. 3:00 in the morning out there. I had it right the first time. And they have been working all night. Some of them not even taking breaks since yesterday afternoon to get a handle on that fire.

We have live reports. Our Thelma Gutierrez is out there and we're going to be checking in with her about the progress of fighting this fire in just a couple of minutes. ROBERTS: You know, one of the landmarks possibly at risk there in that fire is the famous Hollywood sign that is so visible and such a landmark from the city of Los Angeles.

It's coming up now to 24 minutes after the hour. Al Sharpton is being criticized for remarks that he made during a debate with an atheist author, Christopher Hitchens, about the religion of presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who is a Mormon. AMERICAN MORNING's faith and values correspondent Delia Gallagher is here to tell us more about this.

What was it that Sharpton said?


Well, as you said, during a debate with Hitchens, Hitchens had mentioned something about Romney. And Sharpton went back to that point in the midst of the debate. I think we've got a little clip of it here. Let's watch it.


REV. AL SHARPTON, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: As for the one Mormon running for office, those that really believe in God will defeat him anyway, so don't worry about that. That's a temporary situation.


ROBERTS: So here's the question. Was Sharpton talking about Romney and contrasting himself and people of faith with Romney, or was he talking about something else?

GALLAGHER: Well, this is the problem. This is why he's in troubled waters at the moment. Because he is claiming he was talking about atheist versus religious people and he wasn't trying to make a reference to Romney's Mormon faith. But certainly the Romney camp took it that away and a lot of other people are taking it that way besides.

ROBERTS: Yes, let's -- actually, here's how the Romney campaign responded. Kevin Madden, his spokesman said, "it is terribly disheartening and disappointing to hear Reverend Sharpton offer such appalling comments about a fellow American's faith. America is a nation of many faiths and common values, and bigotry toward anyone because of their beliefs is unacceptable."

But Romney's faith has been under the radar, but it really is the big elephant in the room when it comes to his campaign.

GALLAGHER: Well, sure. I mean it's been a problem because, for many Christians, Mormonism is a cult. Or I should say for some Christians at least. And there are certain beliefs that the Mormons have that go beyond what other Christians believe. Now the Mormon . . .

ROBERTS: Such as?

GALLAGHER: Now the Mormons will not be happy about that accusation and they aren't. They make the point, we believe in Jesus Christ like the rest of the Christians. However, the Mormons have a whole other book of revelation, called the Book of Mormon. And that leads to a whole series of other beliefs that they believe about the life of Jesus. That their president is a profit and so on. So there are a number of different points there.

But the interesting thing about this Sharpton quote is, you know, you've really got to think about it twice because he says, you know, those of us that really believe in God will defeat him anyway. So he says, hey, you know, obviously, I wasn't referring to Mormons, because Mormons do believe in God. But the Mormons are saying otherwise. So it depends on which way you want to take it.

ROBERTS: Yes, I've got to wonder, is the Romney campaign coming back at this so hard because they're trying to chill any discussion of his faith whatsoever.

GALLAGHER: Well, sure. Because you don't want to have anything divisive in a political campaign do you?


GALLAGHER: And so the fact that as Romney advances, the question of the Mormon faith will be coming up every so often.

ROBERTS: You know, I think it would be really interesting to get a refresher on what the differences are between, you know, Evangelical Christians, Mormons in terms of what they believe. So maybe we can look into that in the future.

GALLAGHER: Yes, we'll do that.

ROBERTS: Delia, thanks. Appreciate that.

GALLAGHER: You're welcome.

CHETRY: All right. Thanks so much. And Stephanie Elam joins me now. She's "Minding Your Business" this morning. The Dow need to close up yesterday to set a record. The longest stretch ever.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It didn't do it. In the final seconds of the trading day, I was sitting there watching as the closing bell came around. We saw a little bit (INAUDIBLE) but it wasn't enough. So the Dow closed off four points yesterday, 13,309. The Nasdaq, barely above the flat line yesterday. It seems investors are really waiting around to see what the Fed does today in the meeting, although it is widely expected that they will hold interest rates steady at 5.25 percent. So not much change there. But still, before that, investors seem to be taking a little bit of money out of the market.

One thing that did help out yesterday, Hewlett-Packard came out with their earnings and they were stronger, as also was their outlook. And that really helped out Hewlett-Packard as well. The stock was up 3 percent. They said their net income of the first quarter rose to more than $25 billion. That's up 30 percent from last year. So that helped out.

The news actually came out early because the news got out to a third party. It was supposed to come out next Tuesday. So they came out early with that news.

Also, Cisco profits up 34 percent. And that helped the techs. Out (ph) there looking pretty strong right now even though their stock was down 3 percent in the after hours.

Next, we'll talk about Richard Grasso and the New York Stock Exchange. Some news there.

CHETRY: All right, Stephanie, thanks so much.

And coming up, the top stories of the morning are up next.

We're continuing to follow the progress firefighters are making against this huge wildfire. There it is. It's been burning across the bush covered hills in Los Angeles, is sprawling Griffith Park, evacuations of homes and also threatening some of the city's most famous landmarks. We're going to take you there coming back.

Plus, the consequences of severe drought. The wildfires. The shrinking lakes. That was a lake? We have some incredible pictures coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Right now, we're following extreme weather from the Atlantic to the Pacific in all kinds of places in between.

In Los Angeles, high winds are pushing a wildfire up in the Hollywood Hills. Evacuations overnight. Some firefighters were trapped under a bridge for a while as the fire was raging all around them.

We also have rising waters in the Midwest, cars and homes swamped. And the worst may be yet to come. A huge storm is pounding away off of the coast of South Carolina, bringing high winds and surf. Rob Marciano says that NOAA is going to send a hurricane hunter into that storm.

And severe drought conditions creating fuel for fires in Florida.

What a day. Wednesday, May the 9th.

I'm John Roberts. Good morning to you.

CHETRY: And I'm Kiran Chetry. Thanks so much for being with us.

We have CNN's Thelma Gutierrez. She is right there at that fire burning in Los Angeles. And as we've been saying, firefighters have been working tirelessly, some of them since yesterday afternoon, making some progress, but you can still see how threatening those flames can be.

Hi, Thelma.


I can tell you that they are making progress. They say that right now there are no homes threatened, but this fire is moving west into the park, away from the homes. But nonetheless, take a look at what's going on just right up on this hillside right behind me.

Just a few minutes ago, this thing was completely lit up. The winds come, they pick these flames up and then shoot them up into the trees and into this brush that you see right behind me.

Now, the firefighters have been trying to keep an eye on the trees that you see right here. This is -- they're not quite sure about the integrity of these trees. They could fall, so they've been concerned about that.

At the same time, they want to let some of this brush that is so tinder-dry, they want to let it burn off. And you can see how close this is burning right up to the street.

The whole morning, we've seen this river of embers fall down into the street. The big concern is what will happen when the sun comes up, when those winds kick up, and when they push those embers into the other area, kind of lighting up the hillside.

If we walk over here, Greg (ph), we can take a look exactly at what's going on.

Further up the hill, this area has just completely gone up. And this is what we've been noticing all morning long. All it takes is a little gust of wind and then the whole thing goes.

Now, Captain Brian Sandwick has been on the clock for 24 hours, he and his firefighters who have been out here.

Tell me what this has been like for you.

CAPT. BRIAN SANDWICK, LOS ANGELES FIRE DEPT.: Well, it's typical, except this is typical for September, not May. We really didn't have a severe Santa Ana, but we did have a mild one, and it did heat up the area. The fuel moistures went down.

GUTIERREZ: What's the concern a little later when the sun comes up?

SANDWICK: The weather -- right now we're in a transition period. Yesterday, the day before, a Santa Ana. Now it's more of a prevailing condition, which what happens to us is the fire changes directions.

It will go back to where it was already, burn areas that it missed. So it's a little bit tricky for us because we have to watch out for that situation.

GUTIERREZ: All right. So a long day ahead. Thank you so much, Captain.

Again, 300 homes have been evacuated and 600 acres have burned -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Thelma Gutierrez, thanks so much.

We had her in and out a little bit with the audio situation, but we were certainly able to get a good handle on the situation by the pictures and what she said.

Interesting, though, they say they're investigating whether or not it was somebody who discarded a lit cigarette, something that you think is so meaningless that caused that fire to spark.

ROBERTS: Yes. Apparently this fellow might have been golfing that started...

CHETRY: Yes, one of the park's golf courses.

ROBERTS: Saw the fire, tried to put it out, and couldn't. That's one of the stories that I heard.

It's just amazing when stuff is so tinder-dry, as it is there in Griffith Park, how quickly it can erupt into massive blaze like that.

In the Midwest, they have got the opposite problem. It's not tinder-dry territory. It's massive flooding.

The lake in Big Lake, Missouri, submerged the town of about 150 people. The lake overwhelmed by days of intense rain and broken levees on the Missouri River. All of the towns up and down the Missouri facing the same concerns.

Look at this. Pictures from Parkville, Missouri, about 10 miles north of Kansas City, and directly on the overflowing riverbanks. Look at that.

CHETRY: So, from too little water to too much, back to too little. There are severe water restrictions going on in Florida right now, wildfires, and the drought is now even a threat to drinking water.

CNN's John Zarrella is live at the shrinking Lake Okeechobee this morning.

Hi, John.


Well, this is literally Lake Okeechobee. Where I am standing in normal times would be under water. Behind me, what you see there, that's a fishing pier. It's completely out of water on dry land.

All across the state, fires are burning, and this deepening drought is threatening all of Florida.


ZARRELLA (voice over): More than 200 are burning from one end of the state to the other.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've been getting rain, but we get like an inch, like little teasers.

ZARRELLA: Carol Wheely (ph) heads the South Florida Water Management District. She has never seen it this dry.

Lake Okeechobee is less than nine and a half feet, five feet below normal, and dropping fast. A prime source of drinking water for five million people, the lake is so low water can no longer flow from it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the entire watershed for the Everglades system, is totally dried out.

ZARRELLA: Everywhere you look on and around the lake, water has been replaced by land. Pontoon boats sit high and dry. New islands emerge every day.

For Dave Self (ph), the drought has dried up his business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are pintas. These are a great half- hearty perennial.

ZARRELLA: A nursery owner, Self's (ph) business is down 90 percent, about $500,000 in seasonal sales.

(on camera): But nobody is buying.

Nobody's buying. Even -- you can't give them away. I told people I would be glad to give them some to move them so I don't have the extra labor in it, and they said, "Dave, why should I plant these when I can't keep them alive?"

ZARRELLA (voice over): Can't keep them alive because of ever- tightening restrictions on outdoor water use.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not only for the lawn. The lawn is not the most important thing. It's the lake that needs to rise so that we can have water in our homes.

ZARRELLA: Watering twice a week in much of south Florida is going to once a week by Monday.


ZARRELLA: If the rainy season doesn't begin very, very soon, it is possible -- in fact, probably likely -- that outdoor watering could be banned in south Florida completely. Already the water management district is planning to shut down four coastal well fields for fear of saltwater intrusion -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. That is such a dangerous situation there. John, thanks so much.

ROBERTS: That is a huge problem. I used to live in Miami. And to shut down the wells because of potential for saltwater incursion, that's a big, big, big deal.

CHETRY: Well, what about that subtropical system that's moving off the coast right now? Hopefully they'll get some water.

ROBERTS: Well, apparently that's what is keeping things dry there. So -- I mean, if it moves over a little bit, that might be helpful.

President Bush visits Greensburg, Kansas, this morning. He leaves the White House in the next hour.

Governor Kathleen Sebelius told us on Monday about her concerns that Kansas is lacking equipment that the National Guard needs to help clean up from the devastating tornado because that equipment is tied up in Iraq.

Major General Tod Bunting is the (INAUDIBLE) general of the Kansas National Guard. We also talked with him on Monday. He's meeting with President Bush today and he joins us on the phone now from Topeka, Kansas.

General, thanks for being with us. Appreciate it.

MAJ. GEN. TOD BUNTING, KS EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DIRECTOR: Thank you. Good morning. It's quite a mess down in Florida to go along with these floods, isn't it? Some (ph) balance.

ROBERTS: I'll tell you, right across the country. Nobody is getting a break.

General, I want to play for you just a little piece of sound that we got from Governor Sebelius. This was about an hour after you appeared on our program.

Take a listen. And I want to ask you about it.


GOV. KATHLEEN SEBELIUS (D), KANSAS: We're missing the equipment. When the troops get deployed, the equipment goes with them. So here in Kansas, about 50 percent of our trucks are gone.

We need trucks. We are missing Humvees, we're missing all kinds of equipment that could help us respond to this kind of emergency.


ROBERTS: So, General Bunting, she is saying that the Iraq war has taken a lot of your equipment, it is hampering your response to the tornado there in Greensburg. Is she correct in what she said? BUNTING: Absolutely. It did hamper us somewhat at the start because half of our Humvees are gone and we're way below half of the truckes and trailers that we need to haul our engineering equipment to the scene.

We adapted and got there, but there was some delay in getting there. We're confident it didn't result in any loss of life or further damage, but we could have been there a lot quicker and on the scene quicker if we would have had some of that equipment back at home.

ROBERTS: Because there's this fight between the White House and the governor now, where the White House is saying, well, all she had to do was ask. Should she have had to ask?

BUNTING: Sure. Yes, we understand that. And the governor was very clear on that.

She sent a lot of resources through that same ask process to Louisiana and Mississippi, but that's still a matter of delay. That's several hours that -- or perhaps even a day before the critical equipment could get here. So, she understand that, and she also -- we've been talking about the response from the federal government. Their offers have been very much appreciated.

But the best way to be safe and prepared is to have the equipment close at hand.

ROBERTS: So what about now? Do you have the equipment that you need to begin the cleanup process there?

BUNTING: We're fine right now in Greensburg. We've been on standby with what remaining equipment we have on the footing (ph) here in northeast Kansas, which fortunately we had a clear day yesterday and it looks favorable today. But we're just starting to tell people that we have enough for one event, but if we had the amount of equipment we used to have or should have, we would be able to do quite a bit more on our own, or be available to help someone else.

ROBERTS: But, you know, these storm systems continue to roll across the Midwest there. What if there is another disaster like this? Will you be hampered in your ability to be able to respond to it?

BUNTING: Absolutely. And we have been talking to our neighbor states, and I've talked to the people in the Air Force and the Army and out at northern command, and have had good support from them. We will have to ask for help.

The problem is, unless it was prepositioned here now, it would still be a little late to need (ph), perhaps. It would depend on just how catastrophic that event was. So, again, the point we're making is we need it for training, we need the equipment for training day in and day out, and the best way to be prepared, you know, you want a fire station close by, you don't want a fire station two cities away.

ROBERTS: Right. Well, General, thanks for helping to shed some light on this dispute. Really appreciate it.

Major General Tod Bunting of the Kansas National Guard.

BUNTING: Thank you.

CHETRY: Well, if you're tired of sky-high gas prices, AMERICAN MORNING'S consumer reporter, Greg Hunter, has some tips that will save you money at the pump. That's ahead.

Also, it's not quite the derby, but in one British town, they are serious about their sheep racing. We're going to find out who won.

ROBERTS: Take a look at this. It's the sheeple (ph) chase.

CHETRY: How about that?


CHETRY: All right. Let's check out these live pictures right now from California, the wildfire that's still burning in the Hollywood Hills.

Firefighters have made some progress. We spoke to Thelma Gutierrez, our reporter on the scene a few minutes ago. But meanwhile, it's already burned hundreds of acres, and it's forced the evacuations of hundreds of people living in that area.

All of it may have been started by a cigarette thrown at a golf course.

We're going to get a live report coming from the fire line coming up in about 15 minutes.

But meanwhile, it's about 45 minutes past the hour now, and Rob Marciano is here with us, tracking this.


ROBERTS: Well, it was perfect weather in England this week for the annual sheep grand national. Check this out.

Well, no doubt the queen was upset that she was out of town for this one. Some guys at a tourist farm in England's West Midlands cooked up this one. Seventeen sheep and their knitted wool jockeys competed over a furlong. And the reward at the end, some time at the trough.

Gasoline prices have gone through the roof, maybe $4 a gallon before it's all over. But don't sit back and take it. What you can do to fight back, coming up next.

And remember this billboard? A very suggestive ad, shall we say, for divorced lawyers in Chicago? We showed you yesterday. Well, what a difference a day makes. Billboard, gone.


ROBERTS: Fifty-one minutes after the hour now. And checking the CNN gas gauge, the national average price for a gallon of self-serve regular is $3.04. And the summer driving season isn't even here yet. Some experts are predicting one little hiccup in the supply and we could easily see $4 a gallon.

With gas prices that high, you'll need to conserve every last drop if you hope to save money, so we sent our Greg Hunter to a gas station in New Jersey for some tips on how to save fuel and how to keep your wallet a little heavier padded.

What did you come up with, Greg?

GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, I don't have one tip that will save you tons of money, but I have a lot of little tips that could save you money. And the first one has to do with octane, premium versus regular.

Ninety percent of vehicles out there, according to AAA, only need regular gas. If all your car needs, your Chevy Impala, your Toyota Corolla, if all it takes is regular gas -- and that's what they take -- you won't get better power, you won't get more gas mileage by putting premium in. And you won't help yourself out by being a little nice to your car by putting the mid-grade in.

Forget about it. Get yourself a good grade of gasoline, a good top-tier producer, and put regular 87 gas in your car if your car requires that.

If you have a high-performance car, yes, get -- we seem to have a little ambulance, a fire behind me. Hopefully everybody will be OK. They're burning some gas going down the street.

Anyway, if you have a high-performance car, go ahead and get your premium gas. But most cars, 90 percent of vehicles, only need regular gas.

Also, watch for the "check engine" light. They call that the idiot light on the dash. And the only thing about that light is that you're the idiot if you ignore it. According to AAA, you're getting worse fuel economy if your "check engine" light is on.

Another one -- this is a good one -- gas is up when it's cool, because gasoline is denser. You actually get more gas for your dollar when you gas up early in the morning and late in the afternoon. And this summer, when days get hot in the afternoon, you're actually getting less gas because it expands. So, gas up when it's cooler, especially in the dog days of summer.

And also, slow down. Be light on the pedal. You can may a tremendous difference in your gas mileage, particularly if you have an SUV if you slow down. And also, between 55 and 65, if you're driving 55 as opposed to 65, you can actually come out a lot better, 10 percent savings. Back to you, John.

CHETRY: There's breaking news behind Greg, literally this morning.

ROBERTS: Yes, something is going on there. But they keep honking hello as they go by. So that's good.

Greg, thanks very much. We'll keep checking back with you for some more tips. Appreciate it.

CHETRY: That was a good one though. I didn't know that. Gas is up when it's cool.

ROBERTS: Yes. I don't know how much you would save, how much a liquid could actually expand based on temperature, but we'll look into that.

CHETRY: Hopefully not much if we're talking gas stations.

Meanwhile, we talked about this yesterday -- life is short, at least for a billboard. We told you about this controversial billboard -- "Life's short. Get a divorce."

It was up in Chicago. A lot of people felt it was promoting divorce. And we talked to the lawyer behind the billboard. She responded to the criticism of the ad yesterday on AMERICAN MORNING.


CORRI FETMAN, ATTORNEY: What we are doing is we are promoting personal integrity, we are promoting happiness. We're telling people to take stock of their life.

If you're in an unhappy marriage, then be honest with yourself. You're not doing anyone a favor. Your life is very short. It could be over with in an instant. There is nothing unethical about the ad.


CHETRY: Well, there she was talking about that yesterday. In the meantime, we just found out that hours later the billboard was actually taken down.

ROBERTS: I wonder if she knew that the billboard was coming down when she was telling us all about outcome-oriented advertising and giving people hope that there was a light at the end of the tunnel by showing them what might be available out there in the market.

CHETRY: That was her claim, but it really had a lot of people irate. They said they didn't want to drive around through the streets and see that every single day.

Well, now it's gone.

ROBERTS: Right. Well, there you go. CHETRY: In its place, a Victoria's Secret ad. No, I'm just kidding.

Well, coming up, we're following the latest on this huge wildfire burning right now in the Hollywood Hills. Residents evacuated, and we are live on the fire lines. They are making some progress.

Also, China says it's caught the man who may have been selling tainted food products to the U.S. CNN talked with him exclusively. You're going to want to hear what he said coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: About three minutes before the top of the hour now. And Stephanie Elam is here, she's "Minding Your Business".

And you have some news about the former head of the stock exchange, Dick Grasso.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Dick Grasso, the former chairman of the New York Stock Exchange.

This is some good news for him, as a matter of fact. But it turns out an appeals court has actually gone ahead in New York and dismissed four of six claims against him in the state's effort to reclaim $100 million of his compensation.

It was a 3-2 decision. And they came out and said, hey, this was just not within the scope of the New York attorney general to bring these claims against his.

Grasso actually ran the New York Stock Exchange for eight years, but he was forced out in 2003. That's because people found out about his compensation package, which was about $187 million, and they said, hey, that's huge. So he was pushed out.

Now, then -- if you remember back then, Eliot Spitzer at the time was attorney general. Now he's governor of New York. He took these claims after him.

We will see now as to whether or not these last two claims go on to become an out-of-court settlement, or if they continue all the way up to the highest court in the state. So we'll be keeping our eyes on that.

The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING -- oh, yes.

CHETRY: I'm sorry. He's in trouble for making too much money?

ELAM: Yes, basically. Yes, it is.

CHETRY: Is that what it means? All right.

ELAM: That's exactly what it is. That's the bottom line.

But the next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.