The Web      Powered by


Return to Transcripts main page


Hurricane Charley: Into Atlantic Heading for Carolinas

Aired August 14, 2004 - 06:00   ET


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: From the CNN center here in Atlanta, this is a special early edition of CNN SATURDAY MORNING. I'm Drew Griffin. It is August the 14, 2004, the morning after the big storm blew through.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Betty Nguyen. As the day dawns on a hurricane battered stretch of Florida, government officials and folks in the hard hit areas are beginning to assess the damage from Hurricane Charley.

Now in the news, ripping through Florida from Fort Myers in the southwest to Daytona Beach in the northeast, Hurricane Charley, now downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane, is currently in the Atlantic Ocean. The eye of the storm is east of the Florida-Georgia state line near Jacksonville. It will brush up the Georgia coast, then take aim at South Carolina, probably hitting near Georgetown.

And along the South Carolina coast, they are boarding up and moving out. An evacuation order is in effect for South Carolina's Grand Strand. Hundreds of thousands of residents and tourists are said to be clogging the highways heading inland. Charley should come ashore in Georgetown in about three hours.

But the hurricane leaves massive damage behind in Florida, and at least three fatalities, not counting those at a mobile home park in Punta Gorda. No firm figures yet on the deaths and injuries there, but one emergency official says there are several fatalities.

Keeping you informed. This is CNN, the most trusted name in news.

GRIFFIN: It is time to assess the damage in Florida. Emergency officials say there have been a number of people killed in Punta Gorda, a town on Charlotte Harbor; it's just north of Fort Myers. It took a direct hit and one of the hurricane's tornadoes may have hit some mobile homes there.

John Zarrella, CNN's reporter is in Punta Gorda with the latest on this developing story. Where apparently, John, the bulk of the damage has been centered.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Drew. We are right now on a main street here in the downtown area. I'm walking along the street. There are, as you might expect, pictures of storefronts blown in, trees down, power lines down on every road. The emergency operation center by the hospital is being set up; a triage area is being set up to treat the injured. There are search and rescue teams that are lining up to the entrance of this area to Punta Gorda. We saw dozens of emergency vehicles lined up, ready as soon as they can at first light to begin moving in to assess the damage.

This whole area of Punta Gorda is dotted with mobile home parks. And as we all know, the first places that need to be evacuated in a hurricane are mobile home parks. But unfortunately, the storm having taken that surprise right turn, a lot of people did not evacuate. There are reports of hundreds of people missing, thousands of people homeless. And again, just looking here at what we have seen in this very narrow corridor, which we have been able to inspect, that is not surprising.

The officials are saying it's going to be a little while before obviously, that they can really get a handle on the magnitude and the scope of what's happened here. But in Charlotte County, as you said at the top, certainly extensive, extensive damage.

And this of course, is one of the worst-case scenarios for hurricane forecasters, when you have a major hurricane rapidly developing as Charley did, as it approached the coastline and then coming inland and trapping people. That has happened here.

Again, it is still pitch black here. There is not a light on anywhere. There is one clock tower that we see. And the clock stopped at 4:30 yesterday afternoon -- Andrew.

GRIFFIN: And John, I know you have talked to the emergency director there in Charlotte, Wayne Soledad (ph), I believe is his name. And he is reporting to CNN that there's four different areas where they may have fatalities. Is the problem you're facing there problem as well, they just can't get to these areas?

ZARRELLA: Well, they're having a little better luck to get to the areas. But they are so devastated and so blown out. You know, you're talking about perhaps in some areas, perhaps I'll stress the kind of damage that you saw in Andrew, where building are completely collapsed. Where you have trailer parks, mobile homes completely collapsed. And it's going to be impossible until they can get search and rescue teams in there and dog teams in there to begin searching for those victims.

We understand they started that last night as best they could. But again, they are mobilizing at the command center, setting up triage areas, and setting up a mobile command center by the hospital, just about a quarter mile from where I am. But it is so difficult in this darkness here to really get a handle on the scope of what's happened.

But yes, the difficulty is, is they've got to get those search and rescue teams in there. You've got to get the dog teams in there, because apparently in some of these areas -- and again, apparently because there's no first hand accounting yet. That some of these areas have really, really taken such a beating that the mobile homes have been completely destroyed. And it's going to be first light before you can really get in there and start doing what needs to be done to try and find victims and rescue people, or find whatever casualty -- Drew.

GRIFFIN: OK. John, we're going to be watching you all morning, as you get your shot up as the sun comes up. Thanks for that report. We'll get back to you.

NGUYEN: A lot of devastation as you can see in that video. We do want to tell that you the weakened hurricane is in the Atlantic Ocean right now. But it is expected to hit land a little bit later this morning, in about three hours, we understand.

Now, we want to get the latest on this storm from Ed Rappaport, who is deputy director of the National Hurricane Center. He joins us live this morning from Miami.

Good morning to you.


NGUYEN: We just listened to Rob Marciano about the path of this storm. Let's talk to you a little bit about that. For the folks in the Carolinas, what should they expect this morning?

RAPPAPORT: Yes. He described it quite well. The center of the hurricane, you can still see on the radar, not as well formed clearly as it was yesterday. But moving up towards the north-northeast very rapidly. But of the weather, the heavy rain and the wind is now on the east side. So where the center crosses the coast, from there northwards is where we're going to see rains up to six inches or more. And we do expect a storm surge perhaps four to seven feet as well.

NGUYEN: All right. Let's talk a little bit. As we look at the damage as well from the hurricane from yesterday and how it hit Florida, there are a lot of concerns this morning about the forecasting of this, how powerful that hurricane was because at first it was only expected to be a Category 2. All of a sudden, it turned into a Category 4 and it hit in an area that wasn't first on the map. What do you have to say about that?

RAPPAPORT: Well, there are two issues. One was the track and one was the intensity. In terms of the intensity, the forecast did have it go from Category 1 and Category 3, which the rest is actually quite aggressive. That's quite unusual for us to forecast a storm would get that strong. It did go from Category 1 to three and then went one more category. And we're the first to acknowledge that there are limitations in that.

In terms of the track, there was a hurricane warning up for the Florida southwest coast. And the hurricane came ashore in that hurricane warning area. The problem with the track is that there are going to be some wobbles and of course, because of that we have a warning that's larger than the size of the hurricane forced winds. The center did come ashore in the warning area, a little south of where we had initially indicated.

NGUYEN: Hindsight is always 20/20, though. It's definitely hard predicting storms. Ed Rappaport, we want to thank you for your time this morning.

RAPPAPORT: Thank you.

GRIFFIN: People are trying to assess where this thing is going are up in South Carolina. And so is our Dave Mattingly. He is live in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Dave, what's happening there?

DAVE MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Drew. We've already been through some heavy storms, some heavy rainfall this morning on the beaches of Myrtle Beach. Everyone looking seaward right now, trying to keep an eye on this storm, they are anticipating perhaps a Category 1 Hurricane Charley to make landfall sometime around the middle of the afternoon.

Already, a mandatory evacuation order has gone out. That order coming from the governor of South Carolina, that effects what is known as the Grand Strand. If anybody has ever vacationed here, they know that is a long, long road of hi-rise, luxury hotels on this part of the South Carolina beach. Today, those hotels are empty. A hundred eighty thousand tourists and residents given the mandatory evacuation, been packing last night.

According to state police, there were some clogging of the roadways, as people tried to get out last night. But the traffic did move and it did move slowly. And no incident reported with that.

Right now, everyone is anticipating Charley to come ashore here sometime in the mid afternoon. If it comes in, as they expect, it would be some good news in terms of the timing. Because it would happen right after low tide, which means the storm surge would not be a huge factor here. So everyone is keeping their fingers crossed, hoping that Charley will either be a Category 1 or possibly downgraded to a Tropical Storm Charley by the time it gets here -- Drew.

GRIFFIN: Dave Mattingly live on Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in the path of what will be hopefully a downgraded hurricane by then.

NGUYEN: Hurricane Charley is also expected to slide along Georgia's coast near Savannah. And we are joined on the phone this morning by Otis Johnson, the city's mayor.

Good morning to you.


NGUYEN: Let's talk a little about the preparations in your area for this hurricane, as it starts to hit land, just a little bit later today, couple of hours from now.

JOHNSON: Well, we have been preparing for the last several days. Our Chatham Emergency Management Agency has operationalized their command center. The city crews are all in place. We have backup units here from our power and utility. So we were ready. And it appears that we may be spared and we are very thankful for that. NGUYEN: Are you ordering folks to evacuate or are you just going to stand firm and think that the emergency crews are prepared for what's to come?

JOHNSON: We have encouraged people to shelter in place. To prepare themselves with additional food, water, batteries, and a portable radio and those kinds of things. So, it appears that we've had a great sort of dress rehearsal, but we know that this is coming up to the height of season now. And even if we don't get hit, we had a good rehearsal.

NGUYEN: It's always wonderful to be prepared, especially in the case of a storm. And you never know what's going to happen. But let's talk about those necessities that folks are stocking up on. Are you wondering, or at least worrying perhaps about price gouging in the area as folks prepare?

JOHNSON: Well, our governor issued an emergency order and that is to put in place the kinds of measures that would punish people for doing those kinds of things. So they're on notice. And we've sort of tried to be proactive in that area.

NGUYEN: All right. Otis Johnson, the mayor of Savannah. We thank you for your time this morning.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

GRIFFIN: We are getting our first live pictures this morning out of Punta Gorda. And we want to take them now if we can, showing trees, apparently down on a main thoroughfare there. John Zarrella is reporting from Punta Gorda and we hope to have that shot up very soon.

NGUYEN: That's an area that was hit very hard by this hurricane. We understand there are a number of fatalities. That exact number has not been determined just yet. But as the morning goes on and folks start to scour the area and determine the damage, we'll have that for you. And we'll report that to you just as soon as we get it.

Well, if something like Charley hit your neighborhood, how would you storm -- or weather this storm? Just ahead, some tips to help you prepare for the forces of nature.

GRIFFIN: And the Red Cross is there as well. We're going to talk with aide workers dealing with the worst of the aftermath.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Hurricane Floyd formed into a powerful Category 4 on September 14, 1999. It ravaged portions of the Bahamas. Watch its destruction as Floyd tore a part a pier as it hit Daytona Beach, Florida. As Floyd turned north, it weakened a bit, but hitting land again near Cape Fear, North Carolina. The high rainfall created massive inland flooding. Floyd is responsible for one death in the Bahamas, but claimed 56 lives in the United States.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Our prayers are with you and your families tonight. We have deployed resources to help. I have declared a emergency and the process is now in place to aid, provide federal aid to those who maybe effected by this hurricane.


GRIFFIN: In many parts of Florida, this morning the emergencies are just beginning, as crews try to find out what happened and where the damage is.

NGUYEN: And how bad that damage is. We understand there are a number of fatalities. We'll bring that information to you when we get that in as well.

GRIFFIN: We want to go right now to Venice Beach, Florida. Which is just north of where that hurricane made landfall. Mayor Dean Calamaras joins us by phone.

Mayor, what can you tell us about your city's damage?

DEAN CALAMARAS, MAYOR OF VENICE BEACH, FLORIDA: Good morning. We had very little damage. We were very fortunate that the storm managed to turn east and bypass us. We had been prepared to be the epicenter of that storm and took it very seriously. But we were spared. We had very little damage. In fact, we are sending emergency crews down to Port Charlotte to give them a hand. And we were just very fortunate here in Venice.

GRIFFIN: Mayor, that is good news.

I want to talk about the forecasting of this storm, which seemed to catch Floridians off guard. They, of course, are prepared for hurricanes. But in this situation, the hurricane was to go north of your area. And it was only supposed to be a Category 2, maybe possibly a three. The fact of the matter is that people south of that did not only not evacuate, they really had no incentive to evacuate, because the evacuation route would have been right through the proposed path.

CALAMARAS: That's correct. We had kind of that -- we were right in the middle of the predicted path. So we were able to take it very seriously. We were ready for it, we evacuated, we had most of our buildings boarded up and we were ready to go.

Unfortunately, since that hurricane took such a quick jog off to the right and intensified so quickly, the people south of us, who really didn't expect to get hit, were caught in the middle of it. And especially in the center of the state, Arcadia and DeSoto Counties were devastated. They only had about two hours warning as the storm came across for them. GRIFFIN: OK. Are you going to be looking to the forecasters, or doing anything to try to find out what went wrong, or how this forecasting could have been improved?

CALAMARAS: Well, I don't know. We were actually marveling at the fact that we could sit here in Venice and watch the progression of the storm on satellite photos, and all the news cast, such as yours, as it actually showed it coming up state. So were following it all morning as it was coming at us. And it's such an inexact science; we were surprised when it jumped up to a Category 4. We never expected that.

And as it was coming towards us, it was actually coming right at Venice. And it was at the very last bit that it turned in. It's only 20 miles south of us when it actually turned into to the -- and made landfall. So we were really fortunate that 20 miles -- but for that 20 miles, that devastation that has occurred in Port Charlotte, would have been right here.

GRIFFIN: All right. Mayor Dean Calamaras with Venice Beach, I guess breathing a sigh of relief this morning, as you have escaped the eye of the storm. Thanks for joining us, Mayor.

CALAMARAS: Thank you.

NGUYEN: A sigh of relief in Venice Beach but not in Punta Gorda. It took a direct hit. And this morning they are assessing the damage and the death toll.

CNN John Zarrella is live in Punta Gorda with the latest there.

John, what have you been able to see so far this morning?

ZARRELLA: Well, Betty, as you said, they're certainly not breathing any sigh of relief here in Punta Gorda. This took a direct hit from the eye wall of Hurricane Charley. You can see, we are on the main street coming into Punta Gorda. And this is just some of the damage. There are the trees down, the storefronts are damaged, many windows blown in here, streetlights have been knocked down. And this is just one little swathe that we have been able to actually get to at this point.

There are so many power lines down, so many trees down all around the streets here, that it's very difficult to navigate, to negotiate your way through these streets to find out exactly what's happened. And that's the same problem that Emergency Management teams, search and rescue teams that are here are going to have until the sun comes up. We're beginning to see a glimmer of light to the east, as the first bit of daybreak breaks over us here. And that will give everybody a better opportunity.

Maybe you can see a little bit further down this street. You can see that all the way down this block, there are aluminum roof panels that are down, sheet metals that's down. And again, there are trees that are down, no power anywhere here, anywhere in this city. As you drive in here there are certainly that eerie feeling you get when everything is very lifeless, very still, very calm. All that's moving, of course, on the streets besides members of the media gathered here, are those emergency vehicles that you see.

And about a mile from here, is where they are staging, so that they can begin to move in to the area and begin the real evaluation of what's happened in the search and rescue -- Betty.

NGUYEN: It looks like that area, many folks have evacuated obviously. But let's talk about that mobile home park, where unfortunately, a lot of residents stayed and weathered this storm. And this morning, they are looking for a death toll in that area. What do you know about what they found so far?

ZARRELLA: Well, the information is just starting to trickle in. What we know is that there are fatalities in that mobile home park and other mobile home parks, perhaps as well. The numbers are not clear. Emergency Management officials here in Charlotte County are saying that there are multiple deaths; that they have thousands of people homeless at this point in time. And there are many, many injuries here in Punta Gorda.

And again, that's going to be the issue that I know you were talking to the mayor a few minutes ago of Venice. Talking about rapid intensification of this storm, it's the worst-case scenario, these storms rapidly intensifying, catching people off guard, particularly in these mobile home parks who did not evacuate -- Betty.

NGUYEN: It's going to be a very rough morning there. John Zarrella, thank you very much.


NGUYEN: And as we've been covering this hurricane, we've seen some incredible images. Coming up, a look at some of the local reporters who set up their cameras to capture the landfall.

GRIFFIN: Plus, what happens when the rescuers need to be rescued themselves. We're going to share some tense moments, caught on tape inside a Sheriff's Department, as Charley struck.


GRIFFIN: Here's what we know about Charley at this hour. The storm, right now off the coast of the Carolinas, expected to strike there in about four hours north of Charleston, Georgetown, Myrtle Beach perhaps. It's considered a Category 1 at this point. The storm moving inland is expected to pass west of the resort town of Myrtle Beach, continue on a track north into North Carolina. That means the next major city could be Raleigh that is one 130-mile inland. Forecasters predict it should strike there mid afternoon today.

NGUYEN: Meanwhile, residents of Florida's Gulf Coast have been watching Charley for more than a day, when it suddenly gathered strength and turned toward land. Here's how it unfolded as reported by some of the local affiliates.


CHRIS CIFATTE, WINK-TV CORRESPONDENT (on camera): We've heard the phrase, "rapidly deteriorating" weather a lot this afternoon. We wanted to kind of show you what that looks like from up here. These are the 60 or 70 mile an hour gusts. I can tell you what that sound was that you heard in the studio a few minutes ago. We lost a satellite dish up here. We're about to loose an antennae over there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): At the southern most point, waves crashed out of the ocean, hitting anyone standing too close. It's a powerful sight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty crazy. I've never seen anything like it before. Never seen the waves come over the wall like that before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Down the street, debris crashed out of the water carried by angry waves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perhaps some winds pushing 60 miles an hour. We've got a lot of breakers coming over the seawall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (on camera): About 50 miles south of the strike zone, Craig and Bill, before we can into some video, I want to show the breaks in the clouds over here. For the past hour and a half, we've been experiencing a very violent feeder band. Some very strong storms that went through here, 75 mile an hour winds, a lot of driving rain. And this stuff hurts when it hits you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're here on Venice Beach, which is roughly about a half an hour, 35 minutes north of Port Charlotte. And right now, the winds are picking up quite a bit, a rough estimate, maybe 20, 25 miles an hour coming out of the north. The rain is starting to get a little bit heavier.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are bands of the storm across us. Behind us right now, you can see that they are moving fairly rapidly. And like I said, boy, 15, 20 minutes ago there was hardly any wind here at all. But now, it's definitely picked up.


GRIFFIN: Reporters on the frontlines covering the approach of the storm. And today, will mostly likely be covering the aftermath.

NGUYEN: And another busy day, especially along the coastline of Georgia and the Carolinas. We'll keep you on top of that. We have much more hurricane coverage coming right up, right here on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.


GRIFFIN: Trees bent, buildings flattened.

NGUYEN: Parts of Florida devastated 14 hours after Hurricane Charley roared through. GRIFFIN: Ripping through Florida from Fort Myers in the southwest to Daytona Beach in the northeast, Hurricane Charley downgraded now to Category 1. It is out in the Atlantic. The eye of the storm east of the Florida-Georgia state line near Jacksonville, it will brush by Georgia, then take aim at South Carolina, probably hitting near Georgetown.

NGUYEN: The hurricane leaves massive damage behind in Florida and at least three fatalities, not counting those at a mobile home park in Punta Gorda. No firm figures just yet on the deaths and the injuries there. But one emergency official says there are several fatalities.

GRIFFIN: The next target, the South Carolina coast. And they are boarding up and moving out there; evacuation order in effect for South Carolina's Grand Strand. Hundreds of thousands of residents and tourists clogging the highway heading inland. Charley should come ashore near Georgetown in three hours.

Keeping you informed, this is CNN, the most trusted name in news.

NGUYEN: Well, after pounding Florida, Charley is still a hurricane with its eye on Georgia and the Carolinas.

Chad Myers is in the Florida. But first, we want to go to Rob Marciano at the CNN Weather Center here in Atlanta with the latest on this storms path.

Good morning, Rob. It's been a difficult one for many folks.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Oh, yes. Betty, for sure. Betty, Drew.

A brief shot of some video shot from Orlando, where we had 150 mile an hour wind gush yesterday. They were also seven reports of tornadoes that touched down. This is some amateur -- amateur video of some funnel clouds that may have made it all the way down to the ground. Anyway, that's some dramatic video there.

Chad Myers is in Tampa Bay.

Chad, you're on the northern fringe of this storm. Tell us what it was like yesterday.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We totally got missed. We got missed, Rob. And here is the front-page of the St. Petersburg Times." "A Hard Turn," and it certainly was a hard turn. And a very had turn for the folks down there in Punta Gorda and also Port Charlotte. And I know we've been focusing on those two cities today, but let me tell you, this storm was still a Category 3 about 30 miles inland. It wasn't downgraded to a Category 2 and then to a Category 1 until it was well past Orlando. Folks all the way across Polk County, DeSoto County, Arcadia, all with damage, all with fatalities.

I've been watching some of the local reports here out of Fort Myers and some of the national guard guys down there. And this is a little ominous to what we're going to see as daybreaks here. National Guard guys this morning said there are stacks of bodies in that mobile home park, that mobile home park in Punta Gorda. They're obviously getting to there right now, officially only three fatalities, but I know we will find more. They've already found them in the overnight hours. There are so many building down there that are completely collapsed.

Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, a large retirement area. Folks move down there. They get these little houses. They get a mobile home. They get these homes that are actually put together in a factory. They bring the walls up and they screw them all together. Those fared a whole lot better than the mobile homes did. But as we were talking to one of the guys from a cell phone in one of those manufactured houses, the roof completely came off. And he was only on the one side of the eye. He still had to other side of the eye wall to go, because then he ran into the eye itself, which was a completely clear and sunny spot.

Rob, this is going to be devastating. We are grabbing a helicopter this morning. We're going to head on down from Sanibel Island -- I mean we haven't talked about the Barrier Islands either. They really got hit hard. And people were out there. They didn't evacuate either, which I can't believe, 145 miles per hour winds. And we're going to have some images later on today. I don't think people are going to want to see it. It's going to look an awful lot like maybe Homestead did back in -- or Andrew. But we just don't have those pictures out year yet.

MARCIANO: Chad, I'm kind of scratching my head as to why folks wouldn't have evacuated. The entire western coastline of Florida was under a hurricane warning.

MYERS: Rob, you know what? There was that wedge, that cone. And I'm telling you, people up here are all screaming, clamoring well, how come the Hurricane Center forecast was so bad. Rob, that forecast was great. That forecast that we call it a wedge. We call it this color, that's usually a red color, where we say the tornado or the hurricane, whatever; could -- the hurricane could go this way. And Fort Myers, Port Charlotte, they were always, they were always in that cone. They were never out of that cone. And they were always in that hurricane warning as well.

MARCIANO: Tough go, Chad. You're right. They do a good job there down at the National Hurricane Center and...

MYERS: They did. They really did.

MARCIANO: ... hopefully, the pictures won't be as bad as you described this morning, as we go on through the afternoon. Thanks, Chad.


MARCIANO: All right. Betty, that's the latest from both weather departments, both here and on location. We'll keep you updated throughout the morning. NGUYEN: All right. Thank you, Rob.

And as Chad mentioned about the report of stacks of bodies, we just want to make a little news note here that CNN has not confirmed that. We do know that there are some fatalities, but an exact number has not been confirmed just yet, according to CNN.

Also this morning, things are far from calm before the storm in Georgia and the Carolinas. Georgia Governor Sunny Purdue has declared a state of emergency, as Hurricane Charley gets closer to coastal Georgia. Now, North Carolina Governor Mike Easley has also declared a state of emergency. And South Carolina chief executive Mark Sandford has urged people along the coast to evacuate. Of course, we will continue to follow all of this.

As other states prepare for Charley, Florida is starting to deal with its aftermath. Authorities report several deaths at a mobile home park in Punta Gorda, as we've been talking about all morning long. That is just north of Fort Myers. Dozens are also reported injured across the Sunshine State. Officials say many buildings are damaged and power lines are down.

People have been boarding up windows on Georgia's Tybee Island, as Charley approaches, that's near Savannah. But the state is preparing for more than just flooding and other damage from the hurricane. The Governor's state of emergency declaration is also aimed at preventing price gouging. Georgia law forbids prices from being raised on basic goods and services once a state of emergency is declared.

And winds of 60 miles an hour and up to a half foot of rain, that is what forecasters say Hurricane Charley is likely to spread across sections of South Carolina this morning. Then it moves to North Carolina, where officials say tornadoes spawned by Charley and Tropical Storm Bonnie have already killed three people -- Drew.

GRIFFIN: On the phone with us now is the spokeswoman for the Red Cross in St. Petersburg-Clearwater area of Florida. Her name is Lisa Hutchinson.

Ms. Hutchinson, thank you for joining us this morning.


GRIFFIN: What can you tell us about the state of injuries or fatalities, before we get to what your operation is actually doing?

HUTCHINSON: Well, the state releases those figures. And we're just trying to assess the damage as the sun is just really starting to rise here in Florida, and see what we can do to assist people in need.

GRIFFIN: Have you gotten any direction from the state as to where they need you to go right now?

HUTCHINSON: No. We pretty much handle everything across, you know, the state. Our chapter is called in and tell us where we need to be, and that's where we send our emergency responsive vehicles. So, I mean the damage is widespread. You know we've been hearing, you know, about Punta Gorda and the Port Charlotte area, but it's all across the state. And that's what we're doing right now. We have volunteers and staff all across, making sure everybody, not just in the hardest hit areas, has the necessities.

GRIFFIN: And what will your agency be doing? It looks like there will be a need for temporary housing at the least.

HUTCHINSON: Yes. You know, we provide sheltering still. There are still people in shelters and they need to stay until Emergency Management tell them it's safe to go home. And so we will provide funds if necessary for them to receive temporary housing if that's what's required. And that's what's being assessed at this time. This is going to be a massive operation, our largest in the state since Hurricane Andrew obviously.

GRIFFIN: Yes. Miss. Hutchinson, do you have any statistics as to how many people took advantage of your shelters?

HUTCHINSON: No, that's a fluid situation. I mean those reports are coming in now because people moved in and out of the shelters. But typically in a storm, in an evacuation, three to five percent of the folks take advantage of the shelters. Others go to hotels or families' and friend's homes that are in safer areas.

GRIFFIN: OK. Spokeswoman for the Red Cross this morning in St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida, we thank you, Miss. Hutchinson for joining us.

HUTCHINSON: Thank you.


NGUYEN: Charley lashed Florida's west coast with 140 mile an hour winds. The Charlotte County Sheriff's Department found itself directly in the path of that storm. And Jason Wheeler, of CNN affiliate WINK found himself in the eye of the storm along with those deputies. Take a look.


JASON WHEELER, WINK-TV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Piece by piece, the Charlotte County Sheriff's Department was taken by storm. About a half dozen deputies and the sheriff himself now faced with a personal emergency...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is everybody together?

WHEELER: ... how to deal with a roof that was disintegrating. We joined them as they searched for a safe room in their own building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're all holed up in here. It is the only place that's seems to be holding together. If the eye passes, we're going to make a run for the main headquarters. But don't... WHEELER: Our ears popping from a drop in pressure, we listened to the storm roar by outside, inviting the roof to join it. Communications were hampered to. The situation had become serious. Finally, the call was made to notify others of who we were and where we were, just in case the worst was to come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll give you the names of everyone with us.

WHEELER: Finally though, the worst of Charley passed. And the men and women who were just hanging on for survival began to inspect the damage.

(on camera): When we were in there, would you have imagined that it would have been this bad?


WHEELER (voice-over): Not only to their building, but also to their community. What they found was astounding. This Friday the 13 has been unlucky indeed for this area. As far as the can see here, it appears that no place has been spared. Charley, through here quickly, but left a lasting impression to say the least. People here walking around in a daze say they can't even begin to think about cleaning up right now, because the damage is just too overwhelming.


NGUYEN: So much devastation there. That report was from Jason Wheeler of WINK.

GRIFFIN: Betty, we have breaking news now from anchor and correspondent Anderson Cooper of CNN, who is at the Charlotte Regional Medical Center.

Anderson, good morning.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm actually now just about a block away from there. I am in downtown Punta Gorda, right on Marian Avenue intersection, where there are (AUDIO GAP) just scattered throughout this area, one right in the middle of the street. Streetlights hanging down, barely hanging on off their cords. Right on a lamppost right on the corner, there is what looks like part of a metal roof, it loops (AUDIO GAP) around the lamppost at the Charlotte Regional Medical Center, which is (AUDIO GAP)

GRIFFIN: And we apparently have lost Anderson's signal. If he gets back we'd put him right on. Apparently not, the phone sketchy. So are the cell phone towers there. So we're going to try to get right back to him. And we'll be right back after this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): September 12, 1979, Hurricane Frederick swept across the fragile, coastal reaches of Alabama and Mississippi. Witnesses say the Category 3 storm leveled parts of Mobile, making it look like a bomb went off. Frederick caused millions of dollars in damages to southern Alabama alone. With the added destruction in Mississippi and parts of Florida, Frederick proved costly indeed. Damage was more than $2 billion.



GRIFFIN: Our Anderson Cooper back on the phone now. He's in Punta Gorda with the latest.

I guess, Anderson, on the report of fatalities or injuries there.

COOPER: Yes. There are some reports of fatalities. We don't have a number yet. Apparently at a mobile home park, which is now being guarded by the National Guard, there have been a number of fatalities. Again, we don't have a clear number.

At Charlotte Regional Medical Center, which is the only hospital here in Punta Gorda, the hospital itself has shutdown. Right now, at this moment they are transferring patients who were in the hospital before the hurricane hit. There are a number of ambulances lined up outside the hospital as we speak. They are putting (AUDIO GAP) inside the ambulance, taking them to other hospitals in the area, in the Tampa area hospitals that are still functioning. The hospital is no longer functioning.

The nurses told of a harrowing night last night, as the altered doctors and nurses who were on duty tried to protect the patients against the breaking windows, against the shattering winds, which hit Punta Gorda with some 140 mile an hour winds. Which have caused here just devastation throughout this town. And as dawn is breaking here, right now as we speak, the devastation is just becoming clear.

GRIFFIN: Anderson, we are just getting a live shot now. And I don't know if this is your location or not. A car in the midst of debris; the car seems to be floating on a sea of debris here.

COOPER: Yes. That's not the location I'm at but those scenes are common right now throughout Punta Gorda. On the corner I'm standing, there are literally a number of say, two or 300-pound air condition units, which have just been deposited haphazardly in the streets. One is literally in the middle of right next to an intersection in downtown Punta Gorda. There are street signs have all virtually been knocked down. It's very hard to find your directions here because all the signs are simply gone.

GRIFFIN: Yes. Actually, this live shot I can see now is it looks like a car repair shop. The shop has literally melted, or been destroyed around this car, which is up on a lift.

Anderson Cooper joining us from Punta Gorda and we look forward to your reports this morning, as you survey the damage there in Charlotte. Thank you, sir.

NGUYEN: That was a situation in Punta Gorda as you look at the devastating video right there. We want to take you now to South Daytona, where we understand Jen Roberts of Central Florida's News 13 is with us this morning to give us an update on the damage in that area.

What are you seeing this morning?

JEN ROBERTS, CENTRAL FLORIDA NEWS 13 CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's certainly is a lot of damage at this point. And the wind did amazing things out here overnight. We're in the Daytona Beach general area, just about a mile south of there. And when Charley came through, it was actually a Category 1 storm by the it hit this areas. It left behind quite a bit of damage. We'll show you what we have out here right now.

We're at a gas station, just off U.S. 1 south of Daytona Beach and what's left of this Valero station isn't much. The awning was just ripped off the top here. You can see the support sticking straight into the air. Obviously the one car that was left out here in the parking lot is in the exact wrong spot here. The woman trying to figure out how she's going to get her car out from under that this morning.

But during the storm here in south Daytona, a carport detached and re-attached itself on part of an apartment complex. And while in flight, that metal roof hit several cars along the way out here, causing some damage for those folks. There are downed trees and power lines; we've heard estimates in one city here in our county that 40 trees are on top of homes in that City. It just seems that about every few blocks, there's a tree and power line down. It's really making dangerous conditions for drivers.

Also, the railroad crossing signals, they are all signaling and the arms are up this morning. And certainly, that's a dangerous place for drivers to be, although some folks are braving the road.

Here in Volusia County, where we are, there was a late evacuation order for all folks in mobile homes because of that last minute eastern turn of Charley. Folks here, some were left unprepared for exactly how severe things were going to be in our area. Just a few hours for some of those folks to evacuate, therefore, some of the folks decided they were just going to wait out the storm.

And some we talked to were very sorry that they did that. One had a tree come through their bedroom. At that point, they grabbed the dog and got out of the house, and tried to move a safe a place as possible. And of course, that was during the middle of Charley's worst.

Betty, back to you.

NGUYEN: We've been talking this morning about Punta Gorda and the damage at a mobile home park there. You say a lot of folks did get out of mobile home parks in your area. Any indication as to injuries or perhaps any deaths in that area.

ROBERTS: At this point in time, we don't have any indication of injury or death at this point in time. Folks did get a late evacuation out of mobile home parks here. A lot of folks probably stayed -- decided to stick around. They just had a -- just two to three hours really to go to a shelter or find some other place to stay when that order was given, before the storm actually started in this area.

So it is uncertain exactly at this point in time how many of those folks made it out. But at this point, the injury total seems very, very low.

NGUYEN: All right. Jen Roberts with Central Florida News 13 this morning, giving us a damage update there in Daytona Beach. Thank you -- Drew.

GRIFFIN: This is continuing coverage of Hurricane Charley, still on its way into north -- South Carolina; it should make it there in a few hours. We'll be back to check its progress right after this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): August 24, 1992, Hurricane Andrew devastated southeastern Florida. The Category 5 hurricane flattened the town of Homestead, killing 15 people there and leaving a quarter of a million others looking for shelter. Andrew was the most expensive natural disaster to ever hit the U.S., doing $26.5 billion in damage. So many Andrew related claims were filed; nearly a dozen insurance companies went out of business.




GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The streets of Daytona Beach are relatively deserted. Once in a while, you see a police car going up. A few joy riders, but not a good idea on this night, where the winds have been gusting, according to the police, up to 90 to 95 miles per hour.

Right now, the roads are starting to flood. On this abandoned road, you can see across the street some of the signs have been blowing off the buildings, as the brunt of Hurricane Charley comes to the east coast of Florida. Over on this side, you have the traffic lights that are shaking. You have a bridge that goes over the street that we're very concerned about that hangs over the street from a hotel into a parking garage. So far, it has remained intact.

But the police have advised everyone, the tourists to get into their hotels right now and play it safe.

It's a very unusual hurricane, in the sense that normally, we expect a hurricane that enters in the Gulf of Mexico to end up with people coming to the Atlantic side to escape it, not to have to worry about a hurricane. Instead, they ended up coming here and the hotels are full because so many left the west coast of Florida and central Florida to stay away from the hurricane and they ended up in it.

The hotels in Daytona Beach are almost 100 percent full. Normally when we end up covering a hurricane, we are about the only ones in the hotels. Now, people are staying in their rooms. They're being advised it's very dangerous to be outside and they're waiting for this to pass by, go in the ocean and continue its way.

But right now, there does not appear to be any major damage here in Daytona Beach. But of course, it will take us to go into the morning hours where it becomes daylight to see everything.

This is Gary Tuchman, CNN, in Daytona Beach, Florida


NGUYEN: As we've been reporting all morning along, Hurricane Charley delivered devastating blows, as you just saw, to the area around Punta Gorda, Florida, as well as many other areas. Punta Gorda is some 40 miles south of Tampa.

GRIFFIN: For more of the situation there overnight, here's Mike Walcher of affiliate WINK.


MIKE WALCHER, WINK-TV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We joined deputies and firefighters in the Charlotte jail to ride out the storm. Winds roared by at hundred miles an hour; a violent, frightening experience worse than any storm pictures you've seen.

Anxious firefighters itched to get out and answer calls but when we left, the damage stunned everyone. The winds moved huge dumpsters a hundred yards and slammed them into cars. Large, concrete, block buildings disintegrated in the winds. The storm broke many power poles and downed lines. The wind made toys of planes at the Charlotte County Airport; crushing many in a jumble under collapsed hangars and twisted steel. The hurricane also lifted the roof right off the airport administration building.

Later, we drove to East Punta Gorda and saw the devastation in residential neighborhoods. A woman rode out the storm in this House. Another fled just before the winds destroyed her place. And Judy and Fred Hildebrand lost the roof on their house.

FRED HILDEBRAND, HURRICANE VICTIM: I'm just devastated. I just can't believe it.

WALCHER: The Hildebrands say they survived by following a tip on WINK News from emergency manager Wayne Saladay. They pulled a mattress over themselves, but they're having trouble coping with their losses.

JUDY HILDEBRAND, HURRICANE VICTIM: I'm very, very upset. I -- there's no place to go. I...

F. HILDEBRAND: We lost everything. We lost everything. Take -- go look in the house, there's nothing left. It's all under water, man.


GRIFFIN: You're watching continuing coverage of Hurricane Charley. That hurricane now Category 1 is heading towards South Carolina. In fact, later on this morning, two to three hours perhaps, expected to strike Georgetown. You see its path right there, Florida. More than 1.8 million Floridians right now are out of power.

NGUYEN: And as we look at this satellite image here, it's going to hit the Georgia coastline, head up to the Carolinas. And our own Rob Marciano is tracking this storm, as we give you damages as well from many other areas, where Charley hit a little bit earlier overnight and yesterday afternoon.

And Florida, as you mentioned, 1.8 million people without power in Florida alone. Punta Gorda, one of the areas hardest hit in Florida, there is a death toll there. That exact number where still trying to figure out because a lot of this damage assessment is happening right now, as the sun begins to come up.

GRIFFIN: That's all for this hour of CNN SATURDAY MORNING's live coverage of Charley's path. And other news straight ahead here on CNN.


On CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNN AvantGo CNNtext Ad info Preferences
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.