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Hurricane Charley Hits Florida

Aired August 13, 2004 - 16:31   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Miles, as you know, when you have storms like this or even lesser storms, miles can make a difference. We wanted to take our viewers about 100 miles south of where John is. And within the last hour, Maya Rodriguez, a reporter for CNN affiliate WINK filed this report from Naples.

MAYA RODRIGUEZ, WINK REPORTER: Right now we are in downtown Naples, this is actually our parking lot here. And you can see over here that some of the trees have fallen. The winds here are very, very strong. We have some minor flooding in our parking lot. I've got to tell you, I'm taking it a little bit personally because I usually park my car in that space where those trees fell. So I'm really, really glad that I actually didn't do that this time.

Now like you mentioned earlier, we were on Goodland. And I've got to tell you, we talking to residents there and they said that instead of heading further inland, they decided to weather the storm on the water.

(voice-over): High winds and water are whipping through the fishing village of Goodland. And some residents there have lost power.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no electricity. So the power is out, completely out. So we're just going to have to wait it out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't know the hurricane was coming so I guess I'm here to stick it out.

RODRIGUEZ: But sticking it out will involve high water.

(on camera): The effects of Hurricane Charley are really being felt on Goodland right now. Take a look at this dock over here. It is being ripped apart by the storm surge that's coming up. It's literally lifting the wood flaps off of this dock. And if you take a look further down, the seawall along this property is also beginning to collapse.

(voice-over): And more damage is expected in Goodland before the storm completely passes.

(on camera): We spoke to a lot of people in Goodland. And many of these people have actually lived there for several decades. And they say that as far as they're concerned they have never seen anything like this. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Once again, that is reporter Maya Rodriguez, she was reporting from Naples, she from our CNN affiliate WINK.

We want to go to Orelon Sidney now back at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Orelon, as I sort of read your map, actually Naples didn't get the eye of the storm, it's a little bit north of that.

ORELON SIDNEY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's correct. Naples got the right front quadrant of the storm though. It did not get to the center, remember the center is where we see the strongest winds. But that right front corner of the storm is the most dangerous. You can get very dangerous wind gusts, very dangerous tornadoes in that.

And Naples actually is down here a little bit to the south. So that storm, you can see, passed right by it. But that right front quadrant was over that area. Candy, I did want to show you that now the center of the storm is in the bay, it's in Charlotte Harbor currently as we speak, continuing to move to the north.

It looked like the storm, now maybe this is a little artifact of the satellite, we'll find out later, but it honestly to me looked like the storm in the last couple of frames just kind of stepped to the right. That's exactly what it looks like. We'll have to see if that's really true. But currently, it's, right now, in Charlotte Harbor, continuing to bring some very, very dangerous weather to the region.

Tampa you see up to the north really not going to get a whole lot of the wind. They're going to get some tropical storm force winds, I'm sure. But -- and they'll get rain, I don't think that they're going to get a whole lot of wind.

I've got a report coming in just now, Punta Gorda is reporting currently a wind gust of 96 miles an hour. Punta Gorda, for those of you who don't know, if you take the center of the storm which now, this is a little bit later image, the center is actually now here, is just off to the east. And they're reporting a 96 mile-an-hour wind gust there. So this is going to continue of course throughout the evening.

We do have a tornado watch in effect, remember, for this entire area. And if you look at the lightning data, you can see why. This lightning data traces the rain bands as they're working their way northward from Lake Okeechobee, continuing up through Kissimmee and Orlando.

Look at this lightning. They have got more lightning here than we've reported even where the center of the storm is. And that is about what you would expect, that and the outer rain bands is where you're going to get your most intense thunderstorms and your tornadoes. The wind is going to be a big problem as you get close to the center of the storm.

That tornado watch now, I do want to remind, is in effect until 2 a.m., not just for folks in Fort Myers, not just for folks on the west coast, it extends all the way through Fort Lauderdale, up northward through Orlando and Daytona Beach, both of those areas will be affected later on tonight, actually beginning right now -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Orelon, how quickly is this moving? If the storm is ashore in some of those places that you're showing to us, how soon does it move out of the way?

SIDNEY: Well, a lot depends on what it decides to do. Some storms as they move inland will slow down, some storms will speed up. The trough that's I think causing a lot of the motion of this storm, I'll go ahead and call it a cold front, because that's pretty much what it is, but in the upper levels of the atmosphere, the jetstream is moving very, very fast this way.

If it manages to continue to get up to that trough, it's really going to start accelerating off to the northeast. Moving now about 20 miles an hour, the Hurricane Center is going to update all of this information at the top of the hour so we'll have a better idea. But this cold front is really starting to weaken so it may not be as big of an influence as we think at this point. So we'll have to watch the next update. Once this center is inland, we will get a better idea whether the storm is going to accelerate or start to slow down a bit -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Orelon Sidney, thanks so much.

As you know, Governor Jeb Bush has been monitoring this storm, as governor of Florida he must. And looking ahead, one of the things he has just said is that this storm he expects will cost in the area of $15 billion. We expect that Jeb Bush will be a guest on WOLF BLITZER REPORTS coming up at 5:00 Eastern.

We want to go back now to Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: That's a big number for the first guess, $15 billion. And another number just to give you a sense, and these numbers will fluctuate as time goes on, obviously this is a story that is happening as we speak. But according to the utilities in Florida state-wide right now, a half million people are without power in the dark; hopefully have a transistor radio or something or have sought shelter somewhere else to remain connected to information that's important to them about whether they should return.

You're looking at live pictures of Venice, Florida. If you recall, we were just talking to John Zarrella there about 10 minutes ago, maybe less, and that flag was not doing what it's doing now. So already there a strengthening of the winds there in Venice as Charley moves in, homing in with a bull's eye towards Fort Myers, but 35 miles to the north, Venice, as you see here, feeling the early effects of this storm, Category 4 storm, which means winds in excess of 145 miles an hour. We're not getting that there in Venice, but nevertheless it gives you a sense of what this storm is doing up and down the coast of Florida.

CNN's Anderson Cooper joining us now from Tampa -- Anderson. ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Miles, you're seeing a picture of the flags right now in the harbor here in Tampa, just beginning to blow a little bit. We're really just starting to get the first gusts of wind here, the first rains are starting to hit, just a small sense of what is happening 60 miles south of here in the Fort Myers area where, of course, those winds are far stronger, far stronger.

Those of course are the winds that were anticipated to be hitting Tampa. Everyone earlier today thought the storm -- this was going to be ground zero for the storm, this was going to be where it touched ground first. That is not the case. It, as you know, veered off a little bit to the east, hit a little bit further south from here.

This city, though, has still been evacuated, this whole area is a mandatory evacuation area, this has been the largest evacuation of Floridians Hurricane Floyd back 1999. I think some 2 million Floridians then were urged to evacuate to inland areas back in 1999. About as many as a million have evacuated this time.

It is a mandatory evacuation. Of course, that a bit of a misnomer. No one actually being really forced to evacuate. Though people here have taken it very seriously. The hotel where I am staying in very close to here, literally as I was checking in, the employees of the hotel were checking out, they have all left. Basically, we're in our hotel by ourselves with just the keys to our room. There is no one manning the front desk.

The evacuation is in effect at some point here as the storm moves by further east, heading toward the Orlando area. It's anticipated the evacuation order will be lifted for these areas. There are a lot of people who are anxious to come back to their homes, anxious to come back to this city. But as for now the evacuation is still in effect.

And the electricity is out. The power company here turned off the power themselves several hours ago in fear of these storm surges that were supposed to hit. Those storm surges of course now not likely to hit here as well, but they are hitting further south, as we said, and anywhere from 10 to 15 feet of storm surges in the Fort Myers area -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: CNN's Anderson Cooper in Tampa, thank you very much. We're watching Charley every step of the way, up and down the Florida coast, interior and all across the Florida peninsula for that matter, all across the Southeast. Back with more in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: Live pictures, Venice, Florida, that's about 35 miles north of the eye of Hurricane Charley, a strong Category 4 storm that, as we speak, is making landfall in Florida and causing a lot of havoc up and down the west coast of Florida. CNN's Chad Myers, meteorologist extraordinaire, is in the midst of it, a little north of it, but in the midst of it, nevertheless, in Tampa, he joins us with more from there and a little word on evacuations up and down the coast -- Chad. CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good afternoon, Miles, I was listening to you just a few minutes ago, and you were asking the question about Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, how were the evacuations taken down there? Folks down there were planning for a Category 2 hurricane, they got a Category 4 hurricane.

So they were planning on evacuations for a Cat 2. They said everybody out if you're in a Cat 2 area, A, B, C, they moved them out. And in fact they moved them inland. They moved them exactly right where the hurricane is going now, up toward Kissimmee, to Winterhaven. And so now the folks that were actually rushed out of there, back into the path of this things because everybody there in Port Charlotte thought it was going to St. Petersburg.

Everybody in St. Pete and Tampa thought it was coming as well. All of those folks, 600,000 of them, moved inland and now they're in the path of this thing because the storm moved to the right about 30 or 40 miles, about 40 or 50 miles down the beach, if you will.

Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte really getting hammered hard, I'm watching here in the satellite center, watching what's going up on the Peace River. We were very concerned, Miles, about a 12- to 16-foot storm surge in Tampa Bay. That is now happening in Charlotte Harbor, up Port Charlotte, up Punta Gorda. And unfortunately, if they were only planning on a Cat 2 evacuation, those folks got a strong Cat 4. And there could be some real damage in there. I have already heard of quite a few rooftops from Punta Gorda, that was just in the past 15 minutes watching satellite feeds from other stations down heard.

O'BRIEN: Chad, give us a sense then, the difference in the magnitude of an evacuation when you're anticipating Category 2 versus Category 4.

MYERS: It's all about the level of where you live. Everybody here in Florida -- unlike where we live, where we live at 900 feet there in Atlanta, everybody here, whether you're in Tampa, whether you're in St. Pete, whether you're in Sarasota, or where ever, all the way down, they know where they live. They know what sea level they live at. It's at five feet above sea level, 10 feet above sea level, 20 feet, where ever it might be.

So when they get that call, they say, OK, anybody 20 feet or below, you're out of here, they know, they know where they are, they know where they live, they know where their flood plain is, and so a 10-foot storm surge on Cat 2 is so much more different than 18-foot storm surge in Cat 4. There may be some people that should have been evacuated that haven't been.

O'BRIEN: Wow. A terrible irony there. I can't recall a storm like this that has so much potential to cause difficulty interior, can you?

MYERS: Not really. This thing is now still about 140 miles per hour. It went over Captiva Island, it went through Charlotte Harbor. That's still water. I mean, if you've been down there, these islands are 10 feet high. So of that water may have gone completely over from the ocean and right into the harbor, right into the bayside, if you will.

And now this storm goes right up almost following the Peace River, making a beeline at Kissimmee and Orlando, this thing is still a 130, 140 miles an hour right now, Orlando could have wind gusts to 90 later on tonight. And then it runs right toward Daytona.

And like you were talking with, and I was talking with Dave Hennen before, it could get offshore, get back in the water or it could stay right on the shore, right around Jacksonville, back up into Savannah and the like, and just affecting so many hundreds of thousands, millions of people. And millions of people that didn't expect what they're getting right now in Port Charlotte, and all of those people in St. Pete that were all battened down, we're getting winds at about 20 at the most.

O'BRIEN: From coast to coast, from Venice to Vero Beach, this storm is causing trouble. Chad Myers in Tampa, thank you very much -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Miles, you know that old saying from the commercial, it's not nice to fool Mother Nature. "INSIDE POLITICS" did not, which is why we brought you continuing hurricane coverage through this hour. We did save a remnant, though. Our regular Friday feature, "Play of the Week." For that, we're going to bring in our Bill Schneider who is safe and sound in sunny Los Angeles. But guess who gets the "Play of the Week" -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Candy, lots of political turmoil this week. But suddenly a bigger source of turmoil has moved in, it puts everything in perspective and it claims the "Political Play of the Week."


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Big stories coast-to-coast this week. On the East Coast, the governor of New Jersey shakes things up.

GOV. JAMES MCGREEVEY (D), NEW JERSEY: I am a gay American.

SCHNEIDER: On the West Coast, the Bush and Kerry campaigns make landfall at the same time. On Thursday, the candidates blow into Los Angeles, where the subject seems to be body building.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Arnold has massive biceps and I have massive hair.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We both married above ourselves. We both have trouble with the English language. We both have big biceps. Well, two out of three aren't bad.

SCHNEIDER: The next day, Bush and Kerry both show up in Portland, Oregon.

BUSH: Laura and I are thrilled to be here.

KERRY: It is such a pleasure to be here. SCHNEIDER: It's almost like the two are tracking each other. Meanwhile, on the Gulf coast, the news media are tracking two very dangerous characters, Bonnie and Charley.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now we want to go back to Florida and Governor Jeb Bush talking about Hurricane Charley.

SCHNEIDER: Politics is dwarfed by the awesome force of nature.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a great threat to the Tampa Bay area. We've never had this kind of a direct storm coming directly towards Tampa Bay.

SCHNEIDER: This is a real battle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were bringing in approximately 1500 soldiers and airmen into our facilities to stand by for any missions that may come to us.

SCHNEIDER: Does it have political implications? Of course it does, Florida, where 2 million people have already been evacuated, is also ground zero in American politics.

GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: This morning I have requested from the president of the United States a presidential disaster declaration.

SCHNEIDER: Both Bushes now face a tough political challenge in Florida, not Kerry, Charley. Voters all over the country will be paying attention to how the government responds. The outcome of this election could be in Charley's hands. And so is the "Political Play of the Week."


SCHNEIDER: People say this election could turn on events, a terrorist attack, a sudden upturn or downturn in the economy, the capture of Osama bin Laden, and one nobody was counting on, Charley -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Thanks a lot. Bill Schneider out in Los Angeles. Our hurricane coverage continues in a minute.


O'BRIEN: Well, we've been dry and safe as we have been tracking Hurricane Charley, not the case for many folks along the west coast of Florida, Orelon Sidney has been giving us a step-by-step, blow-by-blow account, if you will, as this Category 4 storm bears down on the Florida peninsula -- Orelon.

SIDNEY: Thanks a lot, Miles. The update from the National Hurricane Center is coming in as we speak. They give us a major update four times a day, at 5 a.m., 5 p.m., 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. This will also update the track of the storm, where they think it will be going now that it has moved inland. And the official landfall point was Captiva Island. And that was a question we had is whether or not a barrier island would be counted as landfall, well, we now know that it is.

Captiva Island the official area of landfall. This is the marine advisory that I'm going to read. It has got some information for you. The other information we're waiting to get. But I'll give you what I have. The hurricane warning now continues from East Cape Sable, northward to the Suwannee River on the west coast of Florida, and Cocoa Beach, Florida, to Cape Lookout, North Carolina, on the Southeast U.S. coast, that's a hurricane warning. That means hurricane conditions are expected within 24 hours. That now extends up the eastern coast of Florida to Cape Lookout, North Carolina.

The current coordinates on the storm: 26.9 North, 82.2 West. I'm waiting to see what the mileage is there as far as where it's close to. We know obviously that it's very close to Punta Gorda at this point as the eye has moved inland.

And it looks like the winds are still holding at the current speed. They may be down about 5 miles an hour, it's either 145, 140. We'll have to wait again for the public advisory and the discussion to come out.

But the storm is indeed inland at this point. The winds have been gusting to over 100 miles an hour in Punta Gorda. We have continued to see very heavy rain, very dangerous surf, obviously. And now we're going to start to be concerned too about different areas for storm surge because you see the center of the storm is now working north of the bay. So the winds are going to start to switch, some areas that didn't experience storm surge when the storm came inland will now experience it as it moves off to the north and to the east.

We are also concerned about very strong thunderstorms to the east of the storm, across the Florida peninsula, there have been some really mean storms up to the north; especially around Daytona Beach to the north of Orlando. And look at this rain band here just about to impact Orlando. You're about to get a really good blow and some very strong thunderstorms. Tornadoes certainly possible here. Tornado watch again in effect until 2:00 a.m. this morning.

And don't forget about the flooding. Chances for flooding extend from South Florida up the coast. We have flood warnings currently around the Tampa area. And look at how far north they have extended the flood watch, all the way though the Georgia coast, the South Carolina coast, continuing up towards North Carolina. It ain't over yet, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Orelon Sidney, I guess we're going to be tracking this really all night long and probably into tomorrow?

SIDNEY: We certainly will and we'll be tracking it through the weekend, because now the question, once it moves on into Florida, the question becomes, is it going to move off the Florida peninsula and out into the water or is it going to move up the coast and stay inland? That's the main thing we're going to be watching right now -- Miles. O'BRIEN: All right. Orelon Sidney, thank you very much, up in the weather center.

Live pictures now from Venice, Florida, that's where John Zarrella and his crew is. I don't know if John can hear me. But that is about 35 miles north of the part of Florida where the eye passed across at 3:45 p.m. Eastern time, Category 4 storm, 145 miles an hour winds.

As we know now, the town with the bull's eye painted on it is Captiva, which shares an island with Sanibel. Sanibel and Captiva, they're just outside of Fort Myers and Charlotte Harbor. Back with more in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Hurricane Charley has now been on landfall for little more than an hour having passed over Captiva just outside of Fort Myers. A Category 4 storm, we're watching it. Stay with CNN all throughout the evening and through the night and into tomorrow as we track this killer storm.

On behalf of everybody here at CNN, I'm Miles O'Brien, we thank you for being with us -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Miles, it has been an interesting hour-and-a-half with you. A lot rougher than politics, I will say that. And as always, CNN on top of it.

O'BRIEN: Mother Nature always wins even in the game of politics. All right, Candy Crowley, thank you very much. And now we turn it over to the most able Wolf Blitzer.


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