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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Hurricane Charley Makes Landfall at North Captiva Island, Florida

Aired August 13, 2004 - 15:57   ET

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


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go up to the Weather Center, Orelon Sidney.
I don't know if you heard it, but Mayor Humphrey, Orelon, was referring back to Hurricane Donna, which you've been talking about all morning long, and how similar it was. That was really the last time Fort Myers bore the brunt of a big storm like this.

ORELON SIDNEY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's correct. And remember, if you converted the dollar damage of Donna to $2,000, it was $2.4 billion worth of damage. That is a lot. That's more than Gloria or Elana (ph), and a lot of folks remember those.

As we're talking right now, the center of the storm is very close to the coast. The satellite image is updated every half-hour. The radar image is updated every 15 minutes. And as you can see, right across the Barrier Islands there, we're starting to see the outer -- the inner eye wall approach that area.

So we can say that it's landfalling at this point. Where they're going to actually call the landfall, I don't know yet. I'm going to let the Hurricane Center decide that, obviously. But it is a landfalling hurricane at this point. We are seeing the center of the storm about to move across the coast of Florida.

Florida -- excuse me -- Naples just reported a 51-mile-an-hour stained wind. That's tropical storm force. And a 72-mile-an-hour gust. That is just below hurricane force.

And, of course, they're here to the south. This area obviously is getting much stronger winds. I'm still not able to get a current wind report out of Fort Myers, unfortunately. And I do believe that they're probably just not able to get the reports out of that weather service office -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Oh. I'm sorry we don't have the mayor. I bet he could have given us some information on that.

And Fort Myers is a place -- and he pointed this out -- within in the past 45 minutes, basically issued the order, stay put wherever you may be. And the other thing he said is that those folks aren't hearing our voice right now because they don't have any power there at all. But for folks who are, you know, still seeing us, a storm headed your way, it's important to move at the right time, isn't it?

SIDNEY: It really is. When local officials tell you to move, you really should. And I know a lot of people like to play the game of, "Can I ride this out, is it going to be as intense, what's really going to be the track?"

That's just -- do you want to play with your life? That's the question. And for me, the answer is, absolutely not.

When your local officials tell you it's time to go, you need to go. And I personally was rather shocked by seeing people hanging out on the beach with this storm coming in, because I was just looking at the Category 4 storm surge estimates, and three to five hours before the center makes landfall, low-lying areas can be cut off from evacuation. So that would mean maybe you tried to get out two hours before the storm and hit and there's nowhere for you to go. That would be a horrible situation.

O'BRIEN: Orleon Sidney in the Weather Center. Thank you very much, appreciate it. And I think we're going to Candy in Washington. Take that back. We're going to Dave Hennen who is right behind me to give us a little more information about how these storms work and how they wreak all the damage that they do -- Dave.

DAVE HENNEN, METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Miles, really in the most dangerous part of the storm right now, when the center makes landfall in the eye wall, the core of the hurricane as that pushes that water forward we get the storm surge and the Hurricane Center will tell you that the areas they're most concerned about are New Orleans from a major hurricane and the south coast of Florida, on the west coast.

And one of the reasons, the water is so shallow in that area, in the Gulf of Mexico. So that water gets pushed up into the shallow water, it gets piled up and thrown forward so a storm surge can be six to sometimes ten feet higher than it normally would in say another part of the Atlantic basin and you can see the eye wall.

Just to give you an idea let me draw on this map here. Right in here that is the most dangerous part now. That is what we call the core of the hurricane. That's about how far the hurricane force winds extend, about 30 miles away on each side of the storm. So you're talking about about a 60-mile wide area and it's right along the eye wall that you see the most serious damage.

Take for instance, Andrew, only about 15 miles of landfall away from Miami. They certainly had quite a bit of damage in Miami but the worst of the damage was certainly in Homestead where we saw the catastrophic damage. It is in this area probably around Sanibel Island and especially moving into Charlotte Harbor that we would expect to see that sort of damage.

Let's show you our keyhole graphic. I want to point out another interesting thing. We are talking about Charlotte Harbor and right there in the center of your screen, you have this hurricane right now located to the center right about in this area. The winds are pushing this direction right now, counter-clockwise, around that hurricane flow, very strong winds pushing all of that water on to that side of the bay. Now as the hurricane moves northward you're going to get the winds around the other direction that is going to push the water even farther on the other side of the bay, so you're not out of the woods yet depending on which side you live on. This hurricane, we should point out as well, is going to be a lot like Hurricane Opal, accelerating as it moves inland. That means that hurricane-force winds will affect Orlando and we may very well see stronger winds in Orlando than in Tampa. And we certainly wouldn't have expected that earlier today -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: And maybe even, Dave, when it finally gets to the other coast there, could regroup and become a hurricane once again?

HENNEN: Yes, that's something we'll watch. I don't think that is going to happen because I think it's going to hug right along the coastline and so the actual center won't get back out into the water and of course that is where the hurricane gets its strength so you don't get that moisture and that strength to reform. It probably will just move in as a hurricane but as we said, it's going to be a hurricane probably into Georgia and maybe right as it goes towards Savannah, cities like Charleston, and northward even into the outer banks, we're looking perhaps the potential for some tropical storm force winds as it moves through.

O'BRIEN: Oh, boy. Sounds like a wild ride. Dave Hennen, thanks very much -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Miles. About 25 miles north of Fort Myers is a town called Punta Gorda, Florida. The city manager there, a man named Willard Beck, we have him on the phone now. Mr. Beck, can you hear me?

WILLARD BECK, CITY MGR., PUNTA GORDA, FLORIDA: I can hear you.

CROWLEY: OK, great. By the way I read this map it seems to me Charley has come ashore in Punta Gorda. What can you tell us about how it looks?

BECK: It looks pretty bad right now. This is a guest we would just as soon not have had. We would have been very happy for it not to have come here.

CROWLEY: So where are you physically now? Can you see this storm?

BECK: I'm located in the police department, rather, in the command center right in downtown Punta Gorda.

CROWLEY: How about electricity?

BECK: Do we still have electricity? We're on generator. We're on generator. I think the electricity is already gone.

CROWLEY: And what can you see from where you are in terms of the storm or what did you see before you went to where you are? BECK: Oh, I saw a lot. I've been in the building about two or three hours now since it started and it's a lot of wind, and a lot of wind pressure, a lot of trees moving. I'm just hoping it's not doing damage to any property. I can't tell from here. We shut down about an hour ago because we pulled all our people in off the streets but we're prepared to go back out and see what they are once we get opened back up.

CROWLEY: What do the people of Punta Gorda know? What did you tell them prior to this?

BECK: We had announced on the radios, TV stations, and we gave them all information that we had. There were certain sections of town that we asked the folks to voluntarily leave the area because it's flood zone. And we sent our fire trucks out, our police cars out and had announcements made through the P.A. system and went door to door. And we encouraged people to leave. We can't make them leave, but we asked them to leave because of possible flood. We're just concerned with any other damage that's out there. We've basically -- we've been doing the press releases and our emergency management group has been making announcements to the town all the time. This is a surprise for us...

CROWLEY: Mr. Beck, I'm sorry to interrupt you. It seems as though you have it under control there. We want to be back in touch with you at some point but right now, of course, Charley coming ashore in Punta Gorda. We want to move about 100 miles north of where Mr. Beck in Punta Gorda are to Tampa and our reporter, Keith Oppenheim.

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi. The situation has changed in Tampa significantly from what we thought was going to happen earlier in the day. The thought was that this was going to be the center of the action. And if you kind of go to the water's edge here, we're actually seeing the water recede here in this channel that leads into the bay.

To show you what actually is happening where it's worse right, we'll just throw to some video of what's happening in Naples. And there you can see the storm as it's heading northeast. And it's beginning to take some portions of roofs off and it's also causing a significant amount of flooding throughout the region.

Now this is not necessarily the worst part of this storm. Sanibel Island, which is a bit north of where this tape was shot is now experiencing winds of 145 miles an hour. That is in the heart of a category four storm.

So it shows you what they're dealing with out there. We were on that island yesterday in fact and they were not expecting to get what they are getting today.

We take you back live now to the skies over Tampa. And you can see we're getting some of those feeder bands coming in. We're getting a little bit of rain and just a bit of wind. The question here is, how bad will it be here? The back and forth is that the storm is stronger but it's also veered a bit to the south. So with a category four instead of a category three, but getting the perimeter here, will we get much of a storm surge? That's the question we will have answers to as the days go on. Back to you.

CROWLEY: Keith Oppenheim. Thanks so much. It looks like Tampa sort of dodged it at least a little bit. We want to go further north up to Ocala, Florida. That's where we find our Gary Tuchman. Gary, give me a situation report of where you are.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, there's a lot of confusion in cities like Ocala and other towns in the interior of Florida. Because normally, when you evacuate a hurricane, you'll leave the coast and come to the interior. But the forecast for a place like Ocala which is about an hour north of Orlando is for tropical storm force or hurricane winds.

So people who live in places like this, this mobile home park in Ocala don't know whether to leave or stay. We just talked to two people who live in this particular mobile home right here and they have decided it is time to go because they just don't know what to expect.

With us here is Brent Moss (ph) who lives here and Valerie Earken (ph), who is going to take him in at her home which is on the second floor a little distance from here.

What made you make the decision to leave here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been through too many storms in Miami. I've been 35 years down on the Keys so I don't want to go through it anymore

TUCHMAN: Now you were telling me before that your home right here is kind of the first in line of all the mobile homes down this...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is. If the wind is -- the storm is coming from the south, I'm getting hit the hardest, you know.

TUCHMAN: Now if you get the tropical storm force winds -- category four winds here in Ocala, what do you think will happen to your home?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would probably turn it over. It's supposed to be tied down but it don't always work.

TUCHMAN: A lot of your neighbors are staying, though. We've talked to quite a few that say, we're not going anywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're hard headed, some of them. They're from up north. They don't know about storms down here.

TUCHMAN: OK. The message from somebody down south is to get out of here if you have a mobile home here in this area. We can tell that despite the fact that we're in the interior, schools are closed as are most of the businesses. Candy, back to you. CROWLEY: Gary Tuchman in Ocala, Florida. Miles, I'm going to throw it back to you. It's so interesting to watch. First we see a picture that you can barely see and then we sort of move up the coast and it looks like any other day in Florida.

O'BRIEN: Yes, it's deceptive, though. The calm before the storm is a cliche but it is true in a case like this. Let's move it as we continue moving up and down the Florida Peninsula.

Let's go to Charlotte Harbor, Punta Gorda specifically, where Christy Arnold has been with us. She's with the "Charlotte Sun Newspaper" and she's been watching the storm from that vantage point. When last we spoke, Christy, you said you didn't see anybody on the streets, pretty well deserted and you're just beginning to feel the effects of the storm. I suspect now it's a different story.

CHRISTY ARNOLD, "CHARLOTTE SUN NEWSPAPER": Yes. We're certainly getting the full effect of Charley at this point. The winds are really picking up. You can hear the winds coming through our own hurricane shutters here, against the windows. You can see actually these styrofoam sort of tiles inside our office that are moving back and forth at times as well. Our power is flickering on and off. Anyone outside now is just in a lot of bad luck.

O'BRIEN: Boy, I'm kind of surprised we have a nice clear phone conversation, and are able to do that. What does it sound like when it blows through those shutters?

ARNOLD: It's just a real loud deep howling wind at this time. Just sort of a booming at times as well.

O'BRIEN: That howling almost like you hear in the movies, I guess. Is it frightening from where you sit? You feel where you are?

ARNOLD: I do feel very safe where I'm at right now. This seems to be a pretty sturdy building. We have lost our company sign outside so far with the wind but we're doing the best we can here.

O'BRIEN: Yes, we're taking a look at a picture right now. The storm as it comes across, coupled with information from the FAA on flights. The Air Traffic Control is keeping those blue dots, the airplanes well out of harm's way there. And you're telling us that on the ground, folks are staying pretty well out of harm's way and got the word about evacuations in time you think?

ARNOLD: I do think so. I think everyone pretty much heeded the advice of emergency management officials. Of course, there's going to be a few that, you know, are just stubborn and refuse to go anywhere. But the interesting thing about Charlotte County is that the last time a hurricane of this magnitude hit was about 44 years ago when the population was about 120,000 less people here.

So you're dealing with about 90 percent of the population here who has never ever experienced a storm of this magnitude.

O'BRIEN: And hopefully, they're listening up. It was interesting when I just spoke to the mayor, he said, it's been now almost an hour, they just said, wherever you are, stay put. It's not time to move now. And I suspect you can bear that out just by what you're witnessing.

ARNOLD: I'm not even sure you could walk very well down the street right now let alone get in your car and drive anywhere. It would be very unsafe to be outside right now.

O'BRIEN: All right. Christy Arnold who's with the "Charlotte Sun." She's in Punta Gorda, that's at the mouth of Charlotte Bay, a little bit north of Fort Myers.

We're told right now Fort Myers appears to be the bull's eye for Hurricane Charley. Category four, 145 mile-an-hour winds. Most folks in the swath of that right now probably can't hear our voice. They don't have any power. But nevertheless, up and down the Florida Peninsula today, and as Gary Tuchman pointed out very well, the old axiom on hurricanes is is head in.

Well, in this case, that isn't necessarily the place to be because of the way this storm is moving up the Peninsula, it's got a strong northerly component to it, and as a result places like Orlando are in its path for possible hurricane strength winds all the way perhaps even into Jacksonville. So it's a storm to watch.

And people are saying that it's a lot like a storm that went through there back in 1960, Hurricane Donna.

Well, here we are on Friday the 13th of 2004 and we have Hurricane Charley recreating what happened perhaps 44 years ago. Back with more in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Welcome back to CNN's continuing coverage of Hurricane Charley which has just made landfall in southwestern Florida packing winds of about 145 miles an hour at its top. More inland and further north, residents there bracing for what comes next. No one is quite sure except of course our Orelon Sidney who is in the CNN center in Atlanta to give us an update. Where is Charley headed?

SIDNEY: Well, you know what, Candy, I wish I was sure. Wouldn't I be a really rich woman if I were?

I can tell you where it's headed now and the most likely spot. It looks like the center of the storm indeed is heading right now into the open mouth here of Charlotte Harbor. It still looks like it's going a little bit more north than northeast so I think it's going to continue to push its way across Punta Gorda as you talked about earlier and then continue up towards Interstate 75 if it maintains a straight line from its current path and current direction.

It again is showing winds of 145. We had reports just a moment ago of a wind gust at Fort Myers of 76 miles an hour. That is hurricane force. Remember, the center of the storm though is just off to the west of Fort Myers. So they are not getting the strongest wind gusts and the strongest sustained winds. The center of the storm at about 30 miles outside of it is where we're finding hurricane force winds. That means those 145-mile winds are here and then as you get about 30 miles away those winds will drop down to about 73, 74 miles an hour at their outer edge.

So there's a big difference in wind speed depending on where you are versus the center of the storm. Outside of that we are getting tropical storm force winds. In fact, we had a tropical storm force wind gust as far inland as Orlando in the last hour.

Did want to show you what it looks like on the satellite picture. Here's that big trough I've been talking about because -- take a look at the eye of the storm, the center of it and then watch how it jogs right off to the right. I believe that's when it starts to come under the influence of that big trough because the winds from the trough are coming from the southwest to the northeast.

It's also going to start to share the storm as it moves more across Florida and closer to the trough. But the trough itself is now starting to weaken so it's not going to be as much of an influence on the storm from here on out I think as it has been over the previous 24, 36 hours.

Here, we're looking now at a different vantage point, a different radar picture. Here's our trough, here's our storm. New tornado watchbox extends northward through Ocala, southward down to the Keys. In effect until 2:00 a.m. this morning. That one just coming out from the Storm Prediction Center.

Take a look at Daytona Beach. Look at these thunderstorms, the big reds and oranges, those show very high cloud tops, very intense thunderstorms and some of those outer rain bands as they sweep through. That area is going to really have a rough night and that's going to be working its way up the coast towards Jacksonville as the center of the storm is still to the south.

So you can see that this is just a huge area that's going to be influenced by the storm as we head on through the rest of the evening. This is the radar out of Melbourne. You can see some thunderstorms there to the north of Titusville, along Interstate 95. Big rain there now about toward northward from Lakeland through Interstate 4 right up to Orlando.

So you folks are going to get a pretty good bump there in Orlando over the next hour -- Candy.

CROWLEY: OK, Orelon, you want in some ways for a hurricane to hit land because doesn't that suck some of the strength out of it?

SIDNEY: It certainly does. It sucks all of the strength out of it. What a hurricane actually does is it takes the warmth and the moisture from the ocean and converts it into energy. Once it moves away from the ocean waters, especially once its center moves away, you basically cut off all of the -- you shut off the engine, you unplug it from the wall, you take the tablecloth and sweep it right out from under because it now no longer is in contact with what gives it energy.

The good thing about this storm is that it's moving very rapidly. The last we saw was north, northeast at 20. That's good and bad. You want it to move fast because then it's going to drop less rain. But remember if you take the storm and you bi-sect (ph) it, I'm going to change views here and give you a little bit different vantage point, if you take the storm and you cut it in half, the right side of the storm in the direction of motion, you have to add its forward speed to the wind speed.

So in the eye, even though we see sustained winds from the hurricane hunters of 145. On this side of the storm in this direction of motion, you've got to add 20 miles an hour.

So those winds are really 165. If you go on this side, you have to subtract 20 miles an hour. Those winds then are 125.

So it's a mixed bag. Want to get this over with as quickly as possible for these folks and get things cleaned up because I think there's going to be a big clean-up effort over the weekend -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Orelon Sidney, one of the few people I know that can look at all those colors and all that movement and make it make sense. Thanks very much.

SIDNEY: You're welcome.

CROWLEY: We want to take it from you in Atlanta but then toss it back to Miles in Atlanta.

O'BRIEN: Around the horn we go. She is gifted, isn't she? She really can make you understand complicated things. Good job, Orelon, keep it up.

Judie Zimomra is on the line with us. She is the city manager of Sanibel Island. Fortunately she's not in Sanibel Island right now if I can try to get you a map up here but basically if you look at the mouth of the bay there right near Fort Myers, underneath that blob there, Sanibel is really sort of the first line of defense if you will for anything as it comes in there. There you see it beneath there briefly.

In any case, Judie Zimomra, how far away are you from home right now?

JUDIE ZIMOMRA, CITY MGR., SANIBEL ISLAND, FLORIDA: Eight miles away. The city of Sanibel takes hurricanes very seriously. We've taken this one very seriously. We declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, put curfews in effect, began voluntary evacuation on Wednesday morning, we started mandatory evacuations and we moved our city hall to a temporary facility, approximately eight miles off island to be able to track the storm from here. We have all of our city personnel, our city government, our mayor, our city council all here in a temporary city hall. Police chief, fire chief, you'll hear phones ringing in the background. Our phone service is still up on an emergency generator. O'BRIEN: All right. And I'm not sure what we're seeing there. That is -- appears to be WINK. That's their towercam in Fort Myers which gives you a sense of what's going on there right now. It's getting quite a jostling here.

ZIMOMRA: It's bad here. It's much worse on island.

O'BRIEN: OK. And that is apparently tape, I should tell you that. And whatever we're seeing in Fort Myers, you definitely perhaps in order of magnitude even on Sanibel Island. Is anybody on Sanibel or Captiva right now?

ZIMOMRA: Unfortunately we did have people who refused to evacuate.

O'BRIEN: Really?

ZIMOMRA: There are people there who refused -- at 8:00 a.m. our chief of police put out a plea through all the electronic media for all souls to evacuate. At that time we were having a forecast of at least an eight foot storm surge. And that is our big concern. The wind is important but we're a barrier island, Sanibel. A lot of the island is only three, five, seven feet elevation. The high point on the island is only 13 feet. And there's various forecasts for the surge perhaps eight, 10, even higher feet. The storm surge right now is our primary concern.

O'BRIEN: Any law enforcement or rescue officials left on Sanibel to assist those that...

ZIMOMRA: That's why we evacuated for two days. And there was a point where we gave prior announcement. But we did pull off to protect the lives of our emergency workers or the last of the emergency workers.

O'BRIEN: So if you are on Sanibel, you are truly on your own. Judie Zimomra, we wish you well. We hope all is well when the dust settles and you return at your home there on Sanibel Island, the barrier island.

CNN's John Zarrella has -- well, he's covered an awful lot of storms over the years and he joins us now from Venice, a little bit north of where we expect the eye to actually be hitting almost as we speak. Nevertheless, he's starting to get a little taste of Hurricane Charley in all its category four power. John, what have you seen there in Venice?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, within the last hour or so, of course, the conditions as expected have gone downhill. Certainly not severe by any of the stretch of the imagination yet here. Certainly expected to get worse. The wind is actually whipping, you probably can see the trees there behind us not terrible, gusting perhaps up to 35, 45 miles an hour periodically.

So still maybe below tropical storm force here, the flagpole is blowing. Everything over on Venice Beach which is about three miles west of us here has been pretty much totally evacuated, condominiums completely locked up and shut down, a lot of people boarded up here.

We're in a Holiday Inn right here which is right off of 41 and the main road that goes over to Venice Beach and the hotel is filled with people who have evacuated here to which is more of the mainland side here in Venice.

Again, with the wind blowing the way it is we can tell that we're still on the left side of the storm, which would be the weaker side of the storm, the wind coming somewhat out of the north and east to the west, that counter-clockwise rotation.

You see here a girl walking her dog out here with his rain suit on. And so you can tell it's not that bad yet. But again now a little bit of a gust of wind squall coming through again and we would expect that the conditions would continue to worsen here as we go through the next hour or so, as Charley sort of moves inland and wobbles up the coast perhaps a little bit.

So we may well be on the, again, hopefully on the weaker side of this storm -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: John, are you close enough to talk to the woman who's out there walking her dog as the storm bears down or is she too far away?

ZARRELLA: She's too far away.

O'BRIEN: I'm just a little curious. Have you seen a lot of people out just kind of walking their dog, trying to get it all kind of squared away before this hits?

ZARRELLA: Here at the hotel you've got a lot of youngsters, teenagers who have come here with their parents and they're planning on a hurricane party later this afternoon. Not too many people anywhere else around Venice. It literally shut down. The main downtown area completely closed down, the beach area as I mentioned completely closed down.

So the situation again, everybody is indoors, they're not out on the streets. Did not see very many people anywhere. So I would say it's pretty safe to say that people have taken this very seriously as well they should and have gone to inland or have gone to hotels like the people here. Again, it's packed here at this hotel and are just going to try and ride it out.

And as everybody on the southwest Florida coast is doing, hoping for the very best out of all this and hoping that Charley moves through very very quickly. It continues to deteriorate, Miles. But we must emphasize that it really is not at this point in time a serious condition here in Venice. Of course, again, that's likely to change as we move a little further along into the afternoon hours -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Well, yes, certainly compared to some of the storms we've seen you in, in the past, this isn't quite it yet. Of course, the afternoon is still a little bit young. We were talking to the mayor of Fort Myers, about 35 miles south of where you are right now just a little while ago, Jim Humphrey. And he said that a little more than an hour ago he just issued the order to cease and desist on evacuations. In order words stay put wherever you may be. It appears where you are there is still some time to get to some safety. And do you see much evidence of that or is everybody kind of where they're going to be for where the storm hits?

ZARRELLA: Very, very few cars on the road at all this afternoon during the past couple of hours. Even driving Interstate 75 down from Tampa. I have driven Interstate 75 umpteen times over the years and I have never seen it so deserted. That is a major thoroughfare down the west coast and there were hardly any vehicles on the road, either northbound or southbound, completely empty highways, completely empty roads.

So, no, I don't think that there are too many people. And the word here has been the same that if you are out, if you are home, do not try to evacuate at this point, it's too late, you have to stay where you are. Don't even consider moving any further -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Stay put. That's good advice, I guess at this juncture. John, you've been there now, I guess you pulled in last night. We had talked earlier about the concern that the evacuation orders or advisories whatever they might be might not have been heeded as well in these places south of Tampa because all the focus had been on Tampa. Did you see much evidence of that, do you think that is the case, or did people take it pretty seriously?

ZARRELLA: I think at least at this point, Venice, that's still not all that far from the Tampa Bay area, the Sarasota area, that the folks here did take it seriously enough. I know that down further south, that very well could be an issue simply because of the fact that the storm was forecast to move further north along the Gulf coast before coming inland.

But this area here was still somewhat of a wildcard. It certainly could have been affected. It just takes that wobble, a little bit of a wobble one way or the other, as this storm obviously did.

So, you know, the people that we have seen on the streets today are police officers. And there are a number of police officers blocking roadways, blocking crossways, just out enforcing the law, making sure that people are not on the roads. So that is what we're seeing. But again, no evidence of people out here. And quite frankly, in of all the hurricanes as you mentioned that I've covered over the years, this one as far as evacuations have been concerned, to me, has gone extremely well.

Now that may not be the case in retrospect certainly not down south but I've seen situations, you know, far worse as far as evacuation goes over the years where people did not leave, they refused to leave.

Now we were inland yesterday in Pasco County which has a mobile home -- trailer park communities more than just about anywhere in the nation, a lot of retirees, and the people we've talked to there, that's about 50 miles inland, were saying, they weren't going, they're not leaving. And that was a very serious concern up there.

And there are numerous trailer parks and mobile home parks here that probably would be in the same boat had those -- anybody who stays in those is certainly going to be in dangers. But those were the first evacuation orders. Get out of mobile homes, get out of trailer parks, get out of low-lying flood-prone areas and move inland.

And again, from my years of experience, I have seen a much greater degree of compliance with what emergency managers, law enforcement, hurricane forecasters, have been recommending to people to go ahead and get out of harm's way -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: We're glad to hear that. John Zarrella, we appreciate it. Keep us posted, stay close and stay safe as well there in Venice.

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