Hurricane Wilma blog
Editor's note: The Hurricane Wilma blog is compiled by CNN reporters and producers covering the storm.
YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS
Monday, October 24; Posted 5:00 p.m. ET
The original plan for our crew was to go live until midnight and relocate for a mid-morning landfall. Wilma sped up and the weather went downhill quickly. Fort Myers Beach was our home for the night and live TV was our job.
We were kind of the "odd man out" given that we were farthest from the action and on the "clean" side of the storm. But by 7 a.m. the winds got too high for our satellite dish to broadcast so we were done, but still stuck on the beach. It was too windy to drive over the bridge to the mainland. Finally at 10 a.m. we got back to our hotel. There was no power of course, but I didn't expect to see a gaping hole in the wall of my room where the air conditioner should be.
I got a little fresh air for a 3-hour nap as water dripped on the bed from the leaking roof.
I've had about enough of this hurricane season.
We're back up now and on our way to Naples for post-storm live shots tonight.
In the eye of the storm
Monday, October 24; Posted 1:24 p.m. ET
This has been one for the record books. In the overnight hours as Wilma approached, the storm did not seem as severe as we expected. As Anderson Cooper and I began our live coverage, the front side of the storm had already blown by.
We found ourselves in the center of the eye. For 55 minutes not a tree moved. It was dead calm.
Within minutes of the eyes' passage, it hit hurricane force. The water from the Gulf of Mexico came up quickly. Waves were breaking 50 yards out were now breaking at our feet. (Watch John Zarrella and Anderson Cooper's report from Marco Island -- 5:19)
For the next three hours, the backside of the hurricane howled. Neither Anderson nor I had ever experienced such intensity from the backside of any hurricane.
By noon the sun was shining through the low clouds racing overhead. The wind kept blowing but thankfully much weaker.
We are making our way east now back across Alligator Alley. We know it may be worse there.
The calm after Wilma...
Monday, October 24; Posted 9:45 a.m. ET
Just three hours after Wilma made landfall, Key West residents are already flocking to downtown Duval Street to survey the damage.
Many locals are casually strolling with cups of coffee in their hands. Others have cameras and are capturing some of Wilma's destruction.
On the surface, the storm's aftermath doesn't appear to be significant. Sure there are signs and light posts that have fallen down. You also have debris littering the streets. Also, if you listen to the reaction from some residents, they'll tell you Wilma was "just a bunch of wind and we're very lucky." (Watch Miles O'Brien assess the damage from Hurricane Wilma -- 1:53)
The response from the city, however, is much different. The mayor's spokesman says about one third of the island is under water -- 3 feet deep in some spots.
Emergency vehicles are also trying to get to damaged neighborhoods but there are huge sections of trees blocking the path. The Florida Department of Transportation says they'll try to assess the condition of the bridge leading off the island once the winds subside.
Hurricane One is on the road
Monday, October 24; Posted 8:40 a.m. ET
We left the hotel in Hurricane One at about 5:15 this morning. Hurricane One is one of several specially equipped CNN vehicles being used to cover Hurricane Wilma.The hotel staff hid it well, but I think they may have thought we were crazy for heading into the hurricane.
First, we drove down through Naples. The rain was coming down in sheets. Some trees were down and we saw a few transformers blow.
The weather has continued to worsen here in Naples. Right now Hurricane One and its support vehicle are parked. They are illuminating some fallen trees with the headlights. The wind is really shaking the vehicle back and forth.
Most of the power in the area is out. We have seen several flashlight beams from people in a nearby hotel looking out into the storm and down at us, no doubt wondering what we are up to.
With daylight, those of us in Hurricane One are better able to look for damage. We are doing a live shot in a neighborhood in Naples right now and there are about six inches of water in the low-lying streets from the intense rain.
We also saw several signs that were down, a KFC that lost parts of its roof and some streetlights that had been blown over. Right now the plan is to investigate a little more around here and then follow the storm east.
Human pressure washing
Monday, October 24; Posted 7:36 a.m. ET
The rain is painful. It's like horizontal sheets of rain and feels like a constant acupuncture or just being pressure washed. I'm right beside an inlet here in a nameless condo complex, which seems to be holding up pretty well. I haven't seen so much as an awning come off of it yet. But it's built in a way which is actually very hurricane friendly.
Thirty miles to the south of me as we go down the coast is Marco Island. This is where some of the priciest real estate in the United States of America is. The median house pry price here in Naples is $1.6 million and it's even more in Marco Island. There's a lot at stake here economically. Of course, there are lives at stake as well for people who didn't listen to the warnings from public officials.
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