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Mayfield: Tropical Storm Irene Unlikely to Regain Hurricane Strength

Aired August 23, 2000 - 2:06 p.m. ET

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

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Another big story we've been following all day today. and that is Hurricane Debby. We are going to go to Max Mayfield at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. We've been talking to him throughout the day.

Max, what is the latest with regard to the hurricane and its path?

MAX MAYFIELD, DIR., NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Well, if you look at the satellite imagery right behind me, you will see a tremendous blowup of thunderstorm activity. It looks very, very impressive on the infrared satellite loop.

However, if you look at the visible loop, what we will see here is that the low level circulation has become exposed. The terrain over Hispaniola and the high upper level winds has allowed the low- level center to come out from under the thunderstorm activity. That's really good news.

This system has definitely weakened. We have dropped the winds down now to 60 miles per hour on our intermediate advisory. It is moving more westward now, it is a little bit faster, about 18 miles per hour.

And if it continues this motion, which we now think it likely will, that will take it closer to over Cuba, and that should further inhibit development.

So, for once, we do have a little bit of good news here. It's just been struggling so much with the land mass there that it doesn't look like it has a chance to come back to a hurricane, at least in the short term.

PHILLIPS: Max, with regard to evacuations, what's the latest on that? you are recommending exactly what areas?

MAYFIELD: Well, we are really not doing the evacuations. We do have the emergency management director for Monroe County up here at the hurricane center today. And he really didn't feel like he had a choice this morning. He went ahead and started moving some of the non-residents out, you know, from the campgrounds and some of the hotels. This system could still come off the coast of Cuba as a very decent storms. So he is still doing the right thing. He just doesn't have the luxury to wait until it gets much closer. So my understanding is that they have asked for some movement of the non- residents down there in the Keys.

PHILLIPS: Max, tell me about the miles per hour again. You said it is up to -- what were the speeds?

MAYFIELD: It is actually down to 60 miles per hour. This morning, early this morning, it was 75. It's always been sort of a marginal category one hurricane and sort of struggling to maintain that intensity.

And then, as the center of the hurricane moved north of the island of Hispaniola, it just got very disrupted, and actually it is quite disorganized looking right now, and that's good news.

PHILLIPS: Yes, it is good news. You and I were talking about this yesterday. Let's put it in perspective. We were talking about how powerful can 75 mile-per-hour wind, now it is down to 60.

Can you give us an example, said we were out on the street and the winds were coming through, how much of affect would we feel?

MAYFIELD: Well, this is, especially for residents in South Florida, this is more like a -- Tropical Storm Irene right now, the winds speeds anyway, just below hurricane force. We will have to see, as it moves over Cuba, whether it weakens anymore.

But I think the good news is that we are really not going to see it strengthen back to a hurricane, at least in the next day or two, anyway.

I think the main threat, at least today, will certainly be the rainfall. The biggest concern that I would have for the United States would still be in the Florida Keys, Even a tropical storm can rally pile some water even over those roads. There is a place there in the Upper Keys that goes under any time the winds get up to 35-40 miles an hour. That could still happen. Some places down there people don't want to let down their guard totally here. They still need to pay very close attention to the storm.

PHILLIPS: Of course, you never know what Mother Nature is going to do. And we will continue to follow the evacuations taking place in the Florida Keys, also check in with you, Max, on a regular basis, thank you. Max Mayfield from the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

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