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CNN Sunday Morning

Wilma Rockets to Florida; White House Awaits Completion of Grand Jury Investigation

Aired October 23, 2005 - 09:00   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hurricane Wilma is on an apparent collision course with South Florida. The storm pummeled Mexico's Yucatan peninsula for two days. Now forecasters say it's going to "take off like a rocket," their words. We'll have extensive coverage of Wilma this hour.
Search teams are en route to the site of a plane crash north of Lagos, Nigeria, 117 people were on board the passenger plane. There are reports of survivors. The pilot had made a distress call shortly after takeoff.

In Iraq, a grim milestone nears. The latest count of U.S. military deaths is four short of 2,000. There are no reports of American troop deaths today, but five soldiers were wounded in three separate roadside bombings in Baghdad.

It is Sunday, October 23rd. Good morning, everybody. From the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Betty Nguyen.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. I'm Tony Harris. Thank you for starting your day with us.

And this just in to CNN. A report of U.S. contractors killed in Iraq. The U.S. military in Baghdad confirms that four American contractors were killed in an attack September 20th. They worked for Halliburton subsidiary KBR. The contractors were traveling with a military convoy near Baghdad and got lost when the convoy came under attack. There are many questions as to why this information is just being released. Our crews in Baghdad are tracking down the information. And we'll be following this story throughout the day.

Hurricane Wilma left a path of destruction during an extended stay along Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. At least two deaths in Mexico have been blamed on Wilma. Three feet of water is blocking coastal highways, debris litters the streets of Cancun. More than 35,000 people, mostly tourists, have been holed up in hotels and shelters. Wilma is now picking up speed, heading away from the Yucatan peninsula and into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Category 2 storm has sustained winds of 100 miles an hour. More significantly, the storm has doubled its forward speed to 8 miles an hour. Forecasters expect Wilma to accelerate even more.

The storm may also strengthen before an expected landfall somewhere on Florida's west coast tomorrow morning. Forecasters warn that Wilma could do more extensive damage than Hurricane Charley, which struck that area 14 months ago. Florida's east coast will also be vulnerable to hurricane conditions after making landfall. Wilma is expected to race across the peninsula before exiting into the Atlantic. Wilma's outer bands have already produced flooding in Broward County.

NGUYEN: And there are a number of Florida cities in Wilma's projected path. Hurricane warnings are in effect for Ft. Myers, Naples, Key West and Miami. And tropical storm warnings are up for Tampa. We'll check in with CNN's Kareen Wynter in Key West in just a moment, but first let's go to our senior correspondent Allan Chernoff, Allan is on Sanibel Island near Ft. Myers.

And, Allan, Wilma is headed your way.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: No question about it. And you can you tell from the waves behind me, they're starting to get a little bit more intense, certainly much more so than the past few days. There has been a mandatory evacuation in effect on Sanibel since 12:00 noon yesterday. And we've had people boarding up their homes, their businesses, packing up, clearing out.

So you drive through here, it also feels like a ghost town. We'll be at that level pretty soon, but some people, some people very much want to be here right now. Who would that be? The surfers, out there three hardcore surfers, and let me tell you, these guys are not even residents of Sanibel. They took a boat to get over here because the causeway is shut down right now. You need a hurricane pass to get back on to the island via the roadways. So these guys took a boat.

They were about to jump into the water and a police officer came over here, said, you're not allowed here, you should take off. But somehow they either convinced that police officer or they waited until he left, and then they got into the water and they're trying to catch some waves right now. One of them did just a minute ago.

So, at least some people are enjoying the impact of the approaching hurricane right now. But that won't be for all that long, of course. And by the time the hurricane does get over here, this town really will be a ghost town -- Betty.

NGUYEN: I'm always amazed at those surfers. You know they always come out every time there is a hurricane, without a doubt. Hey, let me ask you this though, Allan. As people are packing up and heading out, quickly, are gas stations running out of gas? Are there long lines or are people getting what they need to indeed get out of the area?

CHERNOFF: Well, this obviously is a pretty small area, Sanibel Island. There is one gas station right near the causeway, and that gas station actually ran out of gas back on Thursday at 10:00 in the morning. Long lines on Wednesday and early Thursday morning. They got a new supply of gas Thursday night and since then, they've been pretty much fine.

The truth is the majority of people left early. They got off the island. This is not a very good place to ride out the storm.

NGUYEN: Yes, they were some smart people. Allan Chernoff, thank you. Stay safe.

HARRIS: Yes, Betty, our national correspondent Susan Candiotti has been riding out the storm in Cancun. And she joins us now, she's on the phone with us.

And, Susan, where exactly are you? Are you in a stairwell of a hotel?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm in the hallway of a hotel. So if is sounds a little hollow or echo-y, that is why. It's very difficult to get cell phone service here. In fact, it's just amazing that we're getting a signal at all.

This is the first time I would say since Thursday where you can see somewhat broken clouds. Now, if we have any rain at all, it's extremely light, but still very, very overcast. The seas look much calmer than they have since Thursday when we first arrived here.

But I can tell you this, the hotels along the strip here that face the water are -- continue to be deserted. People have to be running low on supplies. There are only a few people operating in a few of these hotels, we believe. And those consist strictly of either a handful of reporters and/or people who run these hotels that have been assessing the damage.

And you can't get out, quite frankly, even down the road where we were yesterday, looking at a commercial shopping center, there were people who work there who were left to ride out the storm and watch over the property. But of course, there was no stopping Wilma.

But clearly here supplies are running low and there is no way to get to downtown Cancun because the roads on this part -- at this end of Cancun are -- they're impassable. And it's not a better situation reportedly out of Cancun as well.

As I say, we've been unable to get there. But, for example, the Associated Press is reporting that some (INAUDIBLE) at least one of the shelters has blown away. Reporting on other severe conditions from tourists saying they were in schools, sleeping on tiny desks. And some of them becoming so ill that they took their chances and went out into the howling wind. And that's how it's been with that and heavy rain for the last few days trying to find another shelter where they could go.

People who were here on vacation, people who were here for weddings and, sadly, did not change their plans, are now in some dire conditions. However, there are reports that the government is going to try to get in here as soon as they can with supplies. And they are making them ready. The problem is conditions. The winds have been too high to get any relief flights in here. And so that's the big problem. As the weather continues to improve, that will change.

There is also a possibility that President Vicente Fox of Mexico is going to try to visit the region at some point today. We don't know the details of that as yet. And finally there are reports of at least seven deaths both in this area or throughout the Yucatan, in Playa del Carmen, in Cozumel the two people died from a gas tank explosion. Navy is reporting in another area that they saw four bodies in Cozumel floating in the street and in the town plaza. Someone else, according to an authority, who was killed by a falling tree. And so now it's a waiting game, waiting for help -- Tony.

HARRIS: So, Susan, how long will your supplies last? And maybe we can extrapolate a bit from that to get a sense of what kind of a situation other folks are in on the island right now. So how long will your supplies last?

CANDIOTTI: We don't have much left ourselves. Supplies are extremely low. Now as far as the hotels downtown, I don't know, because it's impossible to find out. But according to reports, they, too, are running low. We knew you have to prepare and they always say for at least three days. Well, it's been three days.

And that is why the government is trying as best it can to move in medical supplies, food and water to these people. And remember, we're just taking about people in shelters, but what about residents and their homes that were destroyed and/or flooded?

Again, we're incommunicado more or less where we are so we can't give you any eyewitness accounts but we're trying as best as we can to get information from as many sources as we can.

HARRIS: Oh boy, OK. National correspondent Susan Candiotti for us. Susan, thank you.

NGUYEN: Really good description there. Well, residents of the Florida Keys have been through a lot of severe storms. But how are they responding to Hurricane Wilma's approach? CNN's Kareen Wynter is in Key West to talk about final preparations for Wilma there.

It kind of looks like a ghost town behind you. Hopefully that's the case as people do need to get up and get out with those evacuation orders.

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Betty, good morning. I was actually going to use that very word in other parts of Florida, the Florida Keys. It may be a ghost town, but not here in Key West. In fact from the last time we spoke, we checked in with you, the activity here on the very popular Duval Street in downtown Key West, it has picked up.

There are people out walking their dogs, strolling. The traffic is coming in our direction. And take a look behind me. There is a church in the background. You can see those very beautiful blue skies. Well, church is in service here. And so people are taking advantage of this day while they can. They know it will not last.

And as we come back down to street level, I want to share a very cute story I have with you just from being out here. We're standing in front of a very popular coffee chain. People have been coming up and, Betty, they don't have Wilma on their minds. Instead, where to get a hot cup of coffee. That's what the center -- the conversation piece has centered around. They're figuring out what to do today. And they say that they're not going to evacuate, they're going to go ahead as usual, that it's just another Sunday morning here.

And so it gives you an idea here that people from Key West, they say they're used to hurricanes, that they've lived here all their lives, they've endured many, and that Wilma is no different. But there are a lot of people who have heeded the warnings throughout the week. There were shuttle services set up to transport people from the island to a shelter in Miami, Florida International University.

Now that ended at midnight last night, but the county provided one more bus, Betty, that left around 9:00 this morning, a short time ago. And so those people are headed to Miami. But again, life continues here. There is man in the background biking. And that's just what's going on here at this hour -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Yes. Funny how things change with such little time. Because when we talked to you earlier, there was no one out. And now as you can see, there are people are on bikes, people in cars, people going to church. Well, hopefully they will heed the warnings and stay safe during all this. Kareen, thank you.

Putting all of this now into perspective and where the hurricane is heading, for that we have to go to the experts.

HARRIS: Chad Myers.

NGUYEN: That's right.

HARRIS: And, Chad, we were talking earlier about forward speed. And that is a significant number -- the significant change over the last couple of hours.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Correct. I mean, this thing sat over Cozumel and Cancun for 24 to 36 hours. Now I just measured it. It's 130 miles from Cancun, the center now. So it really has picked up some forward speed. That means, well, if you take a look, I mean, it was here and sat there for days. Now it's there. And there is Key West right there.

So you kind of extrapolate this forward, this thing is now picking up the forward speed that we thought it would and may get sheared apart a little bit by that forward speed. It doesn't start moving on its own, there are some winds that are pushing it. But there is also some very warm water right in that exact spot that could in fact increase the intensity of the storm, of the eye wall itself.

There is an inner eye wall trying to form there. And then the outer eye wall here, very large eye, somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 miles per hour in that outer eye wall. And if it did shrink, it would get even stronger than that, but I don't see that happening just yet.

Here you see the hurricane warnings. Longboat Key, that's almost Tampa, just south of Anna Maria Island, all the way back down south into the Keys, and up the other side. And you say, well, why is it up the other side? It's actually here. Well, because hurricane conditions are going to be felt all the way from Key Largo right on up even into the Space Coast.

How this is going to happen? The storm is going to move so quickly over through the Keys, through the Dry Tortugas, up close to Naples. That's dead-on bull's-eye right now. It could go left or right but that's where we are seeing it now. And then right across the other side of the state.

As it does come across the other side of the state, it's not going to lose any intensity and it's going to plow right into the east coast cities from the back side, causing damage from about, oh, West Palm right on back down south even into Ft. Lauderdale. And it's still 70 miles per hour as it gets out into the Atlantic.

So it could make landfall at about 100 miles per hour and could still be at 90 miles per hour at it hits the east coast cities there of Florida. Keep that in mind, not just the West Coast cities going to be affected by this one.

HARRIS: Chad, thank you.

As we track Wilma, stay tuned to CNN, your hurricane headquarters.

NGUYEN: Well, police are knocking on doors and issuing curfews. But are residents in Florida ready for Wilma? Well, where Kareen is, it seems like they're just going to church, having their daily business.

And can that state handle another hurricane? That's another big question for you. Up next, a status report from the director of Florida's emergency management.

HARRIS: Plus, flu fears surround the world and here at home, could a regular flu vaccine protect you from bird flu? Some information you need to know later this hour.


HARRIS: So, how prepared are they in Florida with Wilma on the way? Let's talk to the man who should know, and he does. Craig Fugate is the director for the state of Florida's Division of Emergency Management. He joins us from Tallahassee.

And, Craig, good to see you this morning.


HARRIS: Are you concerned that you may be dealing with a storm with the potential to do more damage over a wider area than even Charley last year? FUGATE: Absolutely. We've been kind concerned about this, talking with Max Mayfield at the hurricane center. This has pretty much been the forecast for several days. The only real question was timing and was it going to be Category 2 or Category 3? So we've been dealing with this forecast and this scenario for about three days now.

HARRIS: OK. So, Craig, all right, you have that information, what do you do? Do you do anything differently than -- all right, let's use Charley as the example, do you do anything in preparing for this storm that is different than the way you prepared for Charley, for example?

FUGATE: No, it's pretty much -- the standard way we do it under Governor Bush is we mobilize our resources before the storm's landfall. We really focus in on getting people to safety and evacuations. And then we work to get into an area quicker.

You know, obviously from Hurricane Charley, the experiences of the hurricanes last year and our storms this year, we've gotten a little more proficient. So we really try to focus in on getting in fast but safe. We know that we want to get there as quickly as we can to those people that may need immediate help.

HARRIS: Hey, but, Craig, here is the issue. I'm going to put up a map that you won't be able to see but it's map that Chad Myers used just a moment ago. You've got a storm here that is going to impact both the west and the east coast. So, what do you do now?

FUGATE: Well, what we've been doing. Again, we know that Florida oftentimes is described as a speed bump on these fast-moving hurricanes. We've known from sometime you can have a hurricane hit one coast and go across the entire state to the other side as a hurricane.

So it's really important that I think we talk about that coast a lot. Folks on the interior part of the state, you've got Henry County, you've got Okeechobee County, a lot of our small rural counties, agricultural that are in between the two coasts, and then people on the east coast can experience hurricane force winds as this storm comes across.

So we're really talking about not just that southwest coast or the Keys, but all of South Florida could experience hurricane force winds at some point along that track. Very dangerous conditions. Heavy rainfall. Plus the risk of tornado outbreaks. So, you know...

HARRIS: But are you asking those folk to leave? Or are you asking those folks to evacuate or just to be on the lookout and be careful, to prepare?

FUGATE: No. Local counties are actually now, as the storm gets closer, ordering evacuations of mobile homes and RV parks in the interior part of the state and on the east coast. So for many of these residents that don't have a lot of evacuation time, today is their time to act. This is when they need to going to the safer locations as those counties say, yes, we're going to get hurricane force winds, you have until late tonight to get to somewhere safe.

And again, we want to remind people down in the Florida Keys, I think the track for the last couple of days has suggested they may not see as much as they could have in this track a little bit further south. We are expecting hurricane force winds all the way down to the Florida Keys and literally following US-1.

So I think people that -- this storm has been sitting out there, don't drop your guard. You still have time to evacuate. But today is a day of action.

HARRIS: OK, Craig. Good information. Real quick, compact,. good information. Craig, we appreciate it. Be safe down there.

FUGATE: Thanks for helping us get the word out.

HARRIS: Sure, sure, sure. It's what we do as we track Wilma, stay tuned to CNN. We are your hurricane headquarters.

NGUYEN: In other news right now, it is the scandal that could ignite a political firestorm in Washington. And the flames could start next week. Up next, the CIA leak. Who did it? Will there be indictments? And how will it impact the White House?

You're watching CNN SUNDAY MORNING. We're back in just a moment.


NGUYEN: Well, the off (ph) plot to the CIA leak investigation gets thicker. New York Times reporter Judith Miller says the accusation by her executive editor that she misled the newspaper is, quote, "seriously inaccurate." Miller's contact on the CIA leak story was Lewis Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff. Libby is the focus of the grand jury investigation, along with Karl Rove, President Bush's top White House adviser. The grand jury is to wrap up the investigation by Friday, so joining us now live from the White House is correspondent Elaine Quijano.

Boy, this is a tangled web, Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is. But you know, Betty, President Bush insists that this ongoing leak investigation and a host of other challenges that have hit this White House recently are not keeping him from doing his job. Mr. Bush calls it a lot of speculation, a lot of chatter, a lot of opining.

But the Bush administration is in fact facing a number of tests, among them, of course, the investigation. Also though, some strong opposition from members of President Bush's own party to his Supreme Court pick, Harriet Miers. In addition, as the American death toll in Iraq nears 2,000, polls continue to show waning public support for his Iraq policy.

But, of course, the biggest source of trepidation is beyond the administration's control, whether Karl Rove, the president's top political adviser, "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, or any other White House officials will be indicted.

Now this two-year long CIA leak investigation has centered on whether anyone in the administration knowingly leaked the identity of a covert CIA employee. But of course the special prosecutor in this case, Patrick Fitzgerald, is not revealing anything about where his investigation is headed.

It is expected though that we could learn more in the next few days with the grand jury expected to wrap up by Friday. As you mentioned, Betty, we could hear the so-called background noise, as President Bush calls it, get much louder this week -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Yes, we should hear something by Friday, that's for sure. Elaine Quijano, thank you.

Miller and the CIA leak investigation, along with the Harriet Miers nomination, well they are on the agenda of "RELIABLE SOURCES" with Howard Kurtz. You want to stay with us for that. That's coming up at the top of the hour.

HARRIS: Let's hope it's not a case that the boy who cried wolf, but some fear the 21st named storm of the season could be causing some hurricane fatigue in Florida, Betty. Up next, the residents who aren't worried about Wilma.

NGUYEN: Plus, we will find out if that calm before the storm, as they call it, is justified for some residents. We check with the hurricane center to see where Wilma is planning to make her mark and how big that mark could be.


NGUYEN: South Florida is bracing for Hurricane Wilma, which remains a Category 2 storm this hour. Wilma is gaining speed as it nears the Florida coast and it is expected to strengthen. People who haven't evacuated are boarding up their homes and laying down sand bags. Now parts of southwest Florida, where Wilma is forecasted for landfall, are under mandatory evacuation orders.

Meanwhile, the 22nd named storm of this season has formed in the Caribbean. That is a record. A tropical storm named Alpha, starting with the Greek alphabet now, struck the Caribbean island of Hispaniola today, threatening Haiti and the Dominican Republic with flash floods and mudslides. Forecasters expect Alpha to weaken rapidly and they don't think that it's a threat to the U.S.

Well, tons of boulders and crushed rocks make-up the new Whittenton Pond Dam which is up and running in Taunton, Massachusetts. The old timber dam was taken down yesterday after it buckled earlier this week. The new dam gets an early test with more rain expected today.

And give game one of the World Series to the Chicago White Sox! The Sox's Joe Crede hit a fourth inning solo homerun. There it is. Breaking a three all tie. The Sox held on to win 5-3 against the Houston Astros. Game two takes place tonight in Chicago's south side. We'll be right back.


HARRIS: Boy, here's a look at the latest projection map on Hurricane Wilma. And it appears the strike is likely on Florida's southwest coast before sunrise Monday morning. Wilma is now spinning off the Yucatan Peninsula and it's picking up speed this morning. The storm is blamed for a pair of deaths in Mexico. Nearby Cuba is getting drenched, but the island is expected to avoid a direct hit.

Many of you recall how parts of southwest Florida were decimated last year by Hurricane Charley. Those who survived will definitely never forget. But what fatigue factor may be in play for those still living there, especially with another hurricane looming? CNN's Jeanne Meserve takes a closer look.


RAY LASSO, FLORIDA RESIDENT: Just make sure they're tied the best I can. I'm a sailor. I know how to do it.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ray Lasso is tying down or strapping up everything around his house, from plant pots to barbecues, to furniture, to air conditioners. After all this effort, he is more than ready for Wilma to get here.

LASSO: I need Wilma to come and visit me now. I'll be mad if he doesn't.

MESERVE: Oblivious to all the preparations for her arrival, Wilma is taking her own sweet time. Her uncertain course has even made evacuation decisions difficult.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can go to north Florida and it may come right at you, so -- or you could go south and it may come there. So, we don't know where to go.

MESERVE: With all the delays some Florida residents have decided Wilma just isn't worth worrying about. Some intend to go right along with their business and fun, despite warnings to clear out of her way.

LISA MORRIS, NAPLES RESIDENT: Forget boarding up. I'm not even -- I don't even have boards on my windows yet. It's just another storm.

MESERVE: This attitude is being chalked up to what some are calling hurricane fatigue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think their apathy does set in, a sense of security comes back to the people, and it's very difficult to stimulate them the next time or even for this particular event.

MESERVE: For emergency managers like FEMA's acting director, it is a big worry.

P. DAVID PAULISON, ACTING FEMA DIRECTOR: Please, don't get complacent. This can still be a very dangerous storm. Make sure you evacuate as soon as the local emergency managers tell you to do so.

MESERVE: Wilma will be seventh hurricane to hit Florida in the last 14 months. The long wait for Wilma near the end of a very long hurricane season is tough, even for the professionals.

MAX MAYFIELD, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: No matter how we feel, we have to face reality that we have a strong hurricane headed toward the Florida Keys and Florida Peninsula, so we're going to have to go through the drill one more time here.

MESERVE (on camera): The long wait for Wilma does have an up side. Because there was no mad dash for supplies, some the pitfalls, like empty gas pumps, crowded evacuation routes and understocked shelves have been avoided.

Jeanne Meserve, Naples, Florida.


HARRIS: Yeah, we want to get a check of the latest conditions. You know, Wilma's in the steering currents now.

NGUYEN: She's headed that way and you know, they always talk about the calm before the storm. Look at this. It's not so calm, because in the background there you can see the trees blowing around and the water is being pushed downstream. Chad Myers is here, he is our meteorologist -- our expert, as we like to call him...

HARRIS: Severe weather expert.

NGUYEN: .... around here. So people are preparing, Chad. How big and powerful is Wilma going to be.

MYERS: You know, I was trying to look at that pictures there. I think those weren't streets.


MYERS: Those weren't canals.

HARRIS: Flooded, yeah.

NGUYEN: Are they flooded streets?

MYERS: Yeah, allegedly streets.

HARRIS: Can we see the live shot again?

MYERS: Yeah.

HARRIS: Can we see it again? No, we can't. Oh, we don't have it, sorry Chad.

NGUYEN: We can't -- there it is.

HARRIS: There it is. Yeah, think you're right. MYERS: Isn't that a driveway?

HARRIS: It's a driveway.

MYERS: I can't figure out where that is obviously...


NGUYEN: You're right. You see the two cars, the top right underneath the tree.

MYERS: Well, that could be surges already with east winds blowing in water on east side, but more likely probably just rainfall. Although I haven't seen a lot of rainfall across extreme south Florida for a while. It's been kind of in the calm before the storm, if you want to call it that.

The big story today is going to be how quickly does this storm pick up speed. Not really forward motion as much as we'll call it Category 2 or Category 3 speed. It is now in very warm water. The same water really that came down here from the Caribbean, it's part of the current that comes right up along Belize, across the Yucatan and then right up through here. It's called the loop current and it just brings in very, very warm water. Well, that's where the storm is now, right in between Cuba and the Yucatan. The Yucatan channel and that's where the warm water comes. That's why there is the channel there and that's why current comes right up through here.

So, now we're back up into 84, 85-degree water. The storm will try to pick up speed. Rotational speed. It's also going to try to pick up forward speed. And that forward speed comes from a push in the atmosphere. When you push it, it doesn't want -- says, wait, don't do that. That's makes it smaller, make it slower, lose intensity. And so there is the issue there. One pulling it one way, one trying to make it stronger, one force trying to make it weaker. Dry Tortugas, Key West, right over to Titusville all the way over to Longboat Key, that's where the hurricane warnings are right now.

There's your pressure there, there's your wind speeds. Yes, winds are gusting to possibly 120 in the storm at this hour, sustained winds at 100, making landfall somewhere around 90.

Off the other side of Florida, this could cross Florida in three and a half to four hours and do some damage, significant damage, along the east coast cities there. Not only the west coast. So keep watching that. Don't keep your guard down.

HARRIS: Wow! Guard up. Guard up.

NGUYEN: Be ready.

HARRIS: Chad, thank you. And by now, you've heard plenty about the spread of the deadly bird flu. But there are still more questions than answers. Will a vaccine become available and could a regular flu vaccine protect you? We'll get some of those questions answered next. NGUYEN: I want to say good morning, Sanibel, Florida. Look at this pretty shot this morning. You can imagine as Wilma comes ashore it's not going to stay like this. We're going to check in live with the National Hurricane Center right after this break for an update, so you don't want to miss it.


NGUYEN: We are less than 90 minutes away from the next scheduled hurricane advisory. But right now we want to check in with Ed Rappaport at the National Hurricane Center.

Ed, you're there, you have the inside track. While we're waiting, give us a little preview, a glimpse at what we'll hear at 11:00 Eastern, today.

ED RAPPAPORT, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: At this point Wilma is a Category 2 hurricane. We don't thing that will change by the 11:00 advisory. In fact the next hurricane hunter reconnaissance aircraft will be coming -- arriving there just about 11:00, so we might wind up changing a little bit, but at this point we have no new data from within the storm and we don't expect that the track forecast will change very much. Again we're looking for a Category 2 hurricane to make landfall tomorrow morning. But we're advising people to prepare for Category 3 because there is some uncertainty in intensity forecasting.

NGUYEN: You know, we're looking at the radar right now, Ed, and I have to tell you, the radar looks like a really big storm. We heard yesterday while it hovered over Cancun that it was some 400 miles wide. Do you expect it to be that big when it hits Florida?

RAPPAPORT: It's likely to retain that size. Tropical storm force winds extend out about 200 miles. So of course, on both sides, that would be 400. And we think those tropical storm force winds will be rising in the Keys by sunset tonight and when tropical storm conditions arrive, it becomes too late to do any further preparedness activities outside, so all preparations in the Keys need to be rushed to completion during the daylight hours today, as well as along the southwest coast of Florida.

NGUYEN: Ed, I'm going to let one expert talk to another. We have meteorologist Chad Myers here and he has a few questions for you. Go ahead, Chad.

MYERS: Ed, we're actually trying to make a decision here. We have two crews in Key West and considering pulling them out right now, like you said before, it's too late. A lot of fool-hardy people we've seen partying last night, still partying this morning. What do you say directly to them?

RAPPAPORT: I'm concerned about all the folks that are down there, residents, any nonresidents and media crews as well. We're talking about a storm surge of five to eight feet possible there, and waves on top along with hurricane force winds. Those are life- threatening conditions. That's why there is a mandatory evacuation order that's in place for that area. Today is the day to get out. By the time we get to sunset, tropical storm conditions will arrive. It'll be too dangerous to drive and water will be over the roadway. Today is the day to get out of the Florida Keys.

MYERS: Let's talk about bay side flooding. Now, we're going to start to fill up Florida Bay with water with those winds coming in from the west. That water is going to try to get out through the channels that are cut in between the islands, but I'm really afraid that there is going to be maybe a push up toward Jew Fish Creek all the way up into Key Largo area of bay side significant flooding that you don't expect of a storm surge there.

RAPPAPORT: That's possible, particularly on the back side when the winds come around from the northwest and drive the water to the east into the Keys from the northwest side, so that's why we think there will be a five to eight foot surge there. Fortunately, will isn't a lot of population on the southern portion of the peninsula but we have great concern for the Keys, and for the southwest coast up from Marco Island to Naples, up to Fort Myers. The center comes a little farther to the north, that's where the worst of the surge will be. If the center comes to the south then we're lucky in a little way that we have a less populated right along the southern tip of the peninsula.

MYERS: How fast do you expect the storm to be moving when it hits the southwest coast of Florida? It's picking up speed now.

RAPPAPORT: Well, it's really going to accelerate. It was stationary yesterday, about three-miles-per-hour early this morning, now it's up to eight. We think it'll be moving at 20 to 25-miles-per- hour by the time it hits Florida. And what that does is it means that the right side of the storm will be much stronger than the left side. You can see (INAUDIBLE) advantage of the motion of the storm.

MYERS: Right.

NGUYEN: Yeah, the key right now though is if you are in that cone of uncertainty, that he those preparations and get out of harm's way. Ed Rappaport at the National Hurricane Center, as always, we thank you for your insight.

RAPPAPORT: Thank you.

NGUYEN: And as we track Wilma, you definitely want to stay tuned to CNN, your hurricane headquarters.

HARRIS: Our top stories this morning, Hurricane Wilma, as you just heard, moving away from Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and is now heading for southern Florida. Wilma is now a Category 2 storm, but it is expected to intensify as it draws closer to landfall, which is projected before sunrise tomorrow.

In Nigeria, the Red Cross says there is no trace of any survivors from a plane crash last night. Bellevue Airlines Flight 210 went down shortly after takeoff for Lagos. It had a reported 117 people onboard, including some top government officials. And in Iraq, a grim milestone nears. The latest count on U.S. military death is just four shot of 2,000. There are no reports of American troop deaths today, but five soldiers were wounded in three separate roadside bombings in Baghdad.

NGUYEN: Well, the bird flu has Europe on alert. The E.U. will decide on Tuesday a possible ban on live bird imports. That's after a parrot imported into Britain from South America was found to have a strain of the virus. But so far the disease, we have to let you know, has killed some 60 people in Asia and the strain has also been in several European regions. So where does this all lead to? Joining me now, here in Atlanta, is Dr. Walter Orenstein, associate director at the Emery Vaccine Center.

Let's go over some places where this virus has been found. We have it in Turkey, Romania, Suriname, obviously in Southeast Asia. And now the E.U. is considering banning wild bird imports. Is this spreading through migration, through imports? How is it spreading?

DR. WALTER ORENSTEIN, ASSOC. DIR. EMORY VACCINE CTR.: The most common way is through migration. The reservoir for this virus is water fowl, particularly wild ducks and geese. And so as they travel they can spread it. Certainly through importation of birds, you can spread it as well. And there are two issues. There's the human risk, but there is also the agricultural risk. And so part of the quarantines of birds is to deal with the agricultural risk as well.

NGUYEN: There are so many issues with this. Are you worried about not only the spreading but also the mutation of this virus?

ORENSTEIN: I think the big issue, as spread occurs, you increase the potential probabilities of mutation. And there are two types of things that could happen. One is a simultaneous infection with a human-adapted strain and a bird strain, they exchange genes and you get the worst of both worlds.

NGUYEN: That's a scary scenario. Yeah.

ORENSTEIN: And that's one concern. The other is the more it spreads the more potential it will just mutate on its own, then become human-adapted.

NGUYEN: OK, so starting tomorrow, on the 24th, here in the U.S., the flu shot is being made available nationwide. Is that the best defense that we have right now against the bird flu?

ORENSTEIN: The flu vaccine itself will not protect against the bird flu. However, it will protect against the most likely strains that are going to circulate this winter. So I think we should encourage people to get the flu vaccine, particularly if they have conditions that place them in high risk of complications. The other thing they do in the long run by getting their flu vaccine is they encourage the manufacturers to say, hey, we've got a market, we ought to build our production capacity. And as they build their production capacity, it puts us in a much better position, not necessarily this year or next but in years in the future to deal with a pandemic. NGUYEN: Well, I want to know, even before that pandemic happens, I know we're talking about the flu shot and that's the best line of defense right now, but when is there going to be a vaccine to actually prevent the bird flu, to keep you from getting it?

ORENSTEIN: There is a small number of doses that have been made available.

NGUYEN: It's not widely available.

ORENSTEIN: Not widely available. I think it's going to be some time before we have a vaccine for everybody. I think there are some things that people can do. For example, one of the complications of the flu is something called pneumococcal disease, it's a super infection and we have a pneumococcal vaccine that we recommend for certain people, such as all persons 65 and over, those who have chronic conditions such as chronic lung disease and heart disease an for young children. They should be vaccinated with that. At lease that would reduce the likelihood of one potential complication, should this become a pandemic.

NGUYEN: All right, last thing, I have to ask you this because holiday season is around the corner. People gathering for meals with the family. There is some worry out there that can people get the bird flu from eating, say, a chicken or a turkey. So dispel all the rumors and myths.

ORENSTEIN: All poultry should be thoroughly cooked. If it's thoroughly cooked, it will kill the viruses, so there is nothing to worry about.

NGUYEN: All right, make sure that it's not medium rare then. Not that you'd want to eat it that way anyways. All right, Doctor.

ORENSTEIN: Thank you.

NGUYEN: Thank you for being with us.

HARRIS: So, have you become a hurricane hound? Do you find yourself wanting to know more about these monster storms? Well, has the answer for you. Shannon Cook from the dot com desk is next.


HARRIS: That's quite a racket from that dot com desk. We've been giving you plenty of hurricane coverage this weekend. Are you getting the urge to track the monster storms yourself safely and, of course, from the comfort of your own home? Well CNN has given you a way to do it and it is just a mouse click away. Shannon Cook from our dot com desk is with us now to show us how it's done.

SHANNON COOK, CNN DOT COM DESK: I'm not going to be quite as snappy as that animation. All right?

HARRIS: It's a ruckus, all right? COOK: I might sit still.


COOK: Thank you. Good to see you, Tony.

We're keeping a close eye on Hurricane Wilma on the web. Log onto to find all kinds of information, for example, you can monitor Wilma's progress with a tracker that we have. It'll tell you the storm's exact location and its wind speed. You can also click on links to get to video and photos. At the moment Wilma is gathering speed as it heads toward Florida. It is a Category 2 hurricane. If it does reach Florida, it will be the seventh storm to hit the Sunshine State in 14 months. It's no secret, of course, it's been a busy hurricane season in the Atlantic. And we have a special tracker interactive feature online that you can compare the strength and movement of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma during the days before and after landfall. It's quite cool. Of the three powerful storms, Wilma recorded the highest wind speed 72 hours before reaching land. It was also the widest hurricane measuring 400 miles, whereas Rita measured 280 miles across 72 hours before it made landfall.

Also check out our special -- if you want to brush up on your hurricane terminology, or learn how a hurricane actually forms, just log onto and you'll find a link where you can e-mail us your stories or thoughts if you're Wilma's projected path or if you just have something to share about the overall hurricane season, you can also send us video and photos. But remember, as always, don't put yourself in harm's way while gathering information. Very important point there.

HARRIS: Boy, just a lot of ways to be interactive.

COOK: Definitely, we're all about interactivity.

HARRIS: Augment your information on the storm.

COOK: Nice word.

HARRIS: Watch CNN and then get additional information at

COOK: That's what we're there for..

HARRIS: Shannon, thank you.

COOK: All about the augmenting.

NGUYEN: There is no excuse now You got to be in the know.

Now it's time, speaking of being in the know, to check in with Howard Kurtz to see what is coming up on "RELIABLE SOURCES." Hello, Howard.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Hi Betty. Coming up, an uproar at The "New York Times" this morning over reporter Judith Miller. With editor Bill Keller and Miller trading harsh words over her role in the Valerie Plame CIA leak investigation. And a "Times" columnist ripping the star reporter. The media frenzy over a possible White House indictments in the case. Why are journalists predicting these indictments?

Plus, has the press already delivered its verdict on Harriet Miers?

Why did a magazine writer get teen golfing sensation Michelle Wie kicked out of her first tournament? And Stephen Colbert joining the ranks of the anchor loudmouths. All ahead on "RELIABLE SOURCES."

NGUYEN: Anchor loudmouth, ah? OK, Howard. Thank you.

HARRIS: Hurricane Wilma is a dangerous storm. We've been telling you that all morning and we want people to take particular care and take this storm very seriously. But our friends at NBC "Saturday Night Live" have another take on it. Check out this clip from last night's show. See if you can identify the suspects here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before we go to the next story, we have breaking news about Hurricane Wilma. We go now live to Fort Lauderdale -- or Fort Myers, Florida, with our own -- really -- Suzanne Carbonyl (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we had heavy rain last night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would seem so.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I flew directly from Afghanistan. I can almost say things are worse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Suzanne Carbonyl looking more and more like Shakka from "Land of the Lost."



NGUYEN: That is so not right! In so many ways.

HARRIS: Come back home, regain perspective. Let's take you upstairs to the CNN Weather Center to get a final check, at least at this hour, on Hurricane Wilma from Chad Myers. Good morning, Chad.

MYERS: You know, we're out there trying to save lives and that just doesn't help.

HARRIS: Exactly. Doesn't help.

NGUYEN: But your hair looks a lot better than hers did.

MYERS: Good morning, guys. The storm has moved away from the Yucatan. It has finally let up for Cancun now. The winds are now down to about 20-miles-per-hour, thank goodness. The storm though is forecast to track and now really accelerate in forward speed toward Florida, anywhere from Naples, possibly the eye wall not out of the question for a Key West landfall. Key West still very much in the cone and for that matter, so is Sarasota. So got to keep it in mind as it picks up speed, we will get a better idea. Faster it moves, that's kind after momentum thing. When it's going one way, it's not going to left, left to right, when it's going 20 or 30. When it's doing that one or two, three, that's when it does the wobbling. So, as soon as we get the forecast, as soon as we get line going, the forecast direction, we'll know where it will go. That's probably a couple hours from now.

There is the storm. That's tropical storm Alpha. Not going to affect anybody except Hispaniola.

NGUYEN: Yeah, all right Chad, we'll be watching as always. Thank you.

And we do want to thank you, the viewers, for watching this morning. We're going to see you back here this next weekend. "RELIABLE SOURCES" is Howard Kurtz is next.