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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Hurricane Charley: Florida Residents Face Aftermath of Hurricane Charley
Aired August 14, 2004 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were blown around pretty well by a lot of this wind. Of course, this is just the beginning of it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was really (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I mean, can you imagine, ever having gone through something like this? The whole church, really, was vibrating, and the -- it blew out all the doors at the end of the building. The metal was flying everywhere.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We lost everything. We lost everything. Take -- go look in the house. There's nothing left. It's all underwater, man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was indescribable. You just pray that the wind drops, because we don't seem like we could have taken another five minutes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just didn't really think this would hold.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you think this was it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I -- we really didn't think it we'd make it through this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: But they made it through the storm, just barely. Now Florida residents face the aftermath of Hurricane Charley.
Good morning. This is CNN SATURDAY MORNING. I'm Betty Nguyen at the CNN Global Headquarters here in Atlanta.
We are following the path of Hurricane Charley at this hour.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Drew Griffin.
It came ashore in Florida, left a trail of destruction all through Florida, and now it's headed up the Atlantic coast. Let's get the very latest here. Hurricane Charley, dashing north, and aiming for the coast of South Carolina. An hour ago, the downgraded but fast-moving storm was centered 30 miles south of Charleston. It's expected to make landfall north of that city in about two hours.
Back in Florida, Charley has left death along with devastation. Several deaths being reported in Punta Gorda, north of Fort Myers. And authorities there have ordered body bags and refrigerator trucks. The medical center at Punta Gorda was so badly damaged, it had to be closed, patients taken by ambulance to other hospitals in the area.
Florida Governor Jeb Bush is scheduled to make a flyover of this area within the hour to survey the damage. He says damage from Charley could exceed $15 billion. His brother, the president, has declared Florida a major disaster area.
Keeping you informed, this is CNN, the most trusted name in news.
NGUYEN: With the morning light, grim discoveries in southwestern Florida. As Drew just mentioned, authorities have ordered dozens of body bags and two refrigerator trucks for the recovery effort in hard- hit Punta Gorda.
We want to get the latest now from John Zarrella, who is in the midst of all this devastation.
You've seen a lot this morning, John.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Betty, we certainly have. And I may lose you here. Our cellular service is very spotty, as you might expect here.
But a search-and-rescue team from Hillsborough County just north of here has just finished going through a condominium building here that probably has a good hundred units in it, and they literally went door-to-door in these hundred units with sledgehammers and crowbars, banging on doors, opening doors to see if there were any people inside. They did not find anyone here.
They then moved on to a Holiday Inn next door that was also severely damaged, part of the roof torn off. At this point, they are still over at that Holiday Inn searching. But word has it that the people were evacuated from that Holiday Inn as the storm's fury descended upon this area.
Now, we did talk to the emergency manager here about an hour or so ago. And he gave us all those grim details that we have been relating of the number of body bags that he had ordered as a precautionary measure, some 60 body bags. Two refrigeration trucks have been brought in here. These are the mobile morgue units to handle any of the victims, the casualties that they expect to find here.
And again, at first light, there are people wandering around. There are elderly people who lived in this condominium building that we are at. And as we have been standing here, the fire rescue people have gone in again and they have told people that were still inside, they did found -- find some people in these buildings. They (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
It was a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) situation as many elderly people were trying to put their homes back together, and the search-and-rescue team telling them that, no, they can't stay here, the building is condemned. Big orange X marked on the side of one of the buildings and yellow police line tape now around this entire complex here marking it as uninhabitable and that anybody has to get out.
An elderly man wandering around right now looking through possessions, another one just a few minutes ago loading some shirts and pants in the back of his car to take them away from here.
So this is just the very, very early stages of assessment of damage. One of the personnel that I talked with, members of the Hillsborough County team who had been down in Miami during Andrew, said that it's very much reminiscent of what happened in Andrew. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) quite that bad, thankfully.
But it's certainly bad enough. Many demolished buildings, and, again, power lines down everywhere, trees down everywhere. Many buildings collapsed. And, again, door-to-door search-and-rescue has begun in Punta Gorda, Betty.
NGUYEN: Lots of devastation there, and a lot of grim news this morning. John Zarrella, thank you.
So where is Hurricane Charley right now? Somewhere near Charleston, South Carolina, we hear.
GRIFFIN: Let's check in with Rob Marciano in the Weather Center. He's tracking all of this storm. Rob?
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Drew, hey, Betty.
It's 35 miles south-southeast of Charleston, South Carolina. And Charleston right now under some heavy showers. Brighter oranges indicate those are the higher cloud tops that the satellite is picking up. And the center of the storm, well, it's right about there.
Most of the action is to the north and to the east of this storm. It's undergoing some winds at the upper level that kind of tearing the tops up, not allowing it to strengthen a whole lot more.
Most of the strong storminess -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) heavy rain, the squally weather, the gusty winds, it's to the north and to the east of this storm. And the winds that are hurricane strength expand about 60 miles on either side, but mostly to the eastern side of this storm.
We do expect it to make landfall. It actually pretty much is making landfall across northern parts of South Carolina and North Carolina right now, and it will be doing that in the next two to three hours. This is a 3-D radar shot. You can kind of see the higher tops here. This is the center. So there's not a whole lot going on below the center of this thing. And yesterday at this time and through the afternoon, Drew and Betty, the entire eye was wrapped in heavy thunderstorms.
So this is definitely a weaker hurricane, but it's a hurricane, and it's a category -- it's a category one hurricane as compared to a four, but it's still a hurricane. And the folks in Myrtle Beach and across North Carolina are going to be enduring hurricane conditions here in the next, well, four to six hours.
NGUYEN: Brace yourself. All right. Thank you, Rob.
MARCIANO: You bet.
GRIFFIN: Rob, we're going to listen in back to our affiliate, WCSC. Bill Sharp, longtime anchor there, is reporting from Charleston this morning. Bill?
BILL SHARP, ANCHOR, WCSC-TV, CHARLESTON: OK, just want to tell you, a flood warning was just issued for Georgetown County. So a flood warning now in effect for Georgetown County. You take the weather pro right here, and again, these are the warning areas.
Georgetown, you are in a flood warning. A flash flood warning is in effect for northern Charleston County. Flash flood means it can happen real quick. Flood warning means that it can happen over time. Again, the flood warning now in effect until a little bit later on, about 1:00 this afternoon at -- up in Georgetown.
A quick look at Super Doppler 5000, and there's the -- that's a very live picture right there. Georgetown right there at the top. See all those lightning bolts up there in northern Charleston County? You folks are starting to really see the brunt of this storm.
And I think the core of the storm, as I kind of zoom out and push it up here -- Let me show you the -- what looks like is the center of the storm is still down in here. So all of these little bands are going to continue to move onshore. But there is also some drying in the southwestern portion of the storm.
And a quick look at our Doppler network again, and this is just kind of show you the core of the storm working northward. This is kind of a tough picture to look at, but I just want to show you. Here's Charleston. Here is Georgetown. Here's the core of the storm, going pretty much where we said it was going to go, right up there, on into that area.
So again, we're going to continue to monitor this. That tornado watch has been dropped south of Charleston but it continues north. So just kind of keep an eye open for those type of situations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
SHARP: ... and you can see -- so -- yes, back in the Midlands, we're looking at some much better weather.
But notice how that core of that energy now is pushing north on up into northern Charleston County, Georgetown, Little Beach. Now you are receiving the worst of Hurricane Charley that you'll get between now and, say, 10:00, 10:30, once the center moves over land and pushes northward, and then you'll see rapid clearing.
But indeed, take a look just right of Charleston, north of Charleston up toward Georgetown and Myrtle Beach. Myrtle Beach, you're getting ready to see some -- and Georgetown, in fact -- very gusty winds and some strong -- If you want to go up to -- back to Mandy (ph), I'll send it back to you, Bill, and you can get another look up there.
(INTERRUPTED FOR BREAKING NEWS)
NGUYEN: Of course, we are following several events this morning, breaking news events. And Hurricane Charley, which is headed toward the Carolinas, is one of those events. We'll have much, much more on this hurricane coverage, so stay tuned to CNN SATURDAY MORNING.
GRIFFIN: Hurricane Charley is right now barreling down on Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It is now a category one hurricane, far less than it was when it struck Florida. The damage in Florida forced patients of the Charlotte Regional Medical Center in Punta Gorda, Florida, to be evacuated.
Joining us on the phone is the hospital CEO there, Josh Putter.
Josh, tell us what happened last night, and when you decided you had to get out.
JOSH PUTTER, CEO, CHARLOTTE REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, PUNTA GORDA: Well, as the hurricane came ashore, the winds were incredibly strong. And as those winds picked up, we started having structural damage to our hospital. Windows were being blown out. Some walls were having some major damage. So we had some wind damage, which resulted in a lot of flooding in the hospital.
We're currently on emergency power. But as -- when the hurricane ended, we realized that we need to evacuate our patients. So when the hurricane ended -- and I don't remember what time that was -- we made that decision, and we're still in the process of evacuating our patients to other hospitals.
GRIFFIN: So your staff and your patients rode out the hurricane within the hospital. It's the lack of power, and, I guess, the damage you have to deal with now that makes you have to evacuate.
PUTTER: Yes, absolutely, although we have emergency power and we're (UNINTELLIGIBLE), we're taking care of our patients. It's just too much damage for us to do it long term.
GRIFFIN: Josh, are you also taking care of people who may have been injured in this hurricane? And what can you tell us about those injuries?
PUTTER: Yes. Right after the hurricane winds subsided, we had a lot of walk-in patients come in, and there was a lot of crush injuries with a lot of vascular injuries, you know, arteries being cut by flying glass, and just a whole bunch of crush injuries. About...
GRIFFIN: What are crush injuries, Josh?
PUTTER: Where something falls on the leg or bone. We've had a lot of people where just their mobile homes fell in on them. And just the bones were just broken in several places.
GRIFFIN: Have you been able to handle those emergencies?
PUTTER: Yes. We're able to handle them. I got to hand it to my staff. I've got some of the best doctors and nurses that I have ever seen. And we were able to stitch them up and get the bleeding stopped. And the Florida Hospital Association and several other agencies were able to get ambulances down to us, and we were able to evacuate them via helicopter. I think the Coast Guard sent one down fairly quickly. So they were here about four or five hours, and we got them out, because they needed surgery.
GRIFFIN: And can you guesstimate how many people were injured in -- that came to you for help?
PUTTER: Right after the storm, we had, oh, 50 or 60 people just drive up in trucks and cars and sort of drag themselves in. And then about 1:00 or 2:00, they stopped coming in. I don't know if it was just because everyone was just tired and couldn't get in, or the word was out that really, we couldn't take any more patients.
GRIFFIN: Josh Putter is the CEO of the Charlotte Regional Medical center in Punta Gorda that is right now being evacuated. Thank you, Josh.
NGUYEN: That's a look at the situation in Florida. Now we want to talk about the Carolinas, where Charley is headed right now. To get that, we go to Ed Rappaport, the deputy director of the National Hurricane Center. And he joins us live from Miami.
Good morning to you.
ED RAPPAPORT, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Good morning.
NGUYEN: Well, we understand it is headed toward Myrtle Beach. Is that your assessment right now?
RAPPAPORT: Right. And as your viewers heard a few minutes ago, the worst of the weather is now beginning to move onshore north of Charleston in the Myrtle Beach and then eventually into the Wilmington area.
NGUYEN: So what should residents along those areas be doing right now? RAPPAPORT: At this point, it's not good to be out. You want to be in a safe structure. There will be hurricane-force winds over a small area near the center. There will be a storm surge, perhaps three to six or seven feet just to the north and the east of the center. So, again, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Myrtle Beach to Wilmington region.
NGUYEN: All right. Deputy director of the National Hurricane Center, Ed Rappaport, we thank you for that information.
And we do want to remind you that we are following all of these events today. Governor Jeb Bush is touring the devastation in Florida at this hour. And at 10:30, we will have a live news conference from Governor Bush. So you want to keep it tuned right here to CNN for continuing hurricane coverage.
GRIFFIN: Hurricane Charley, there you see the latest radar live pictures we have as the front edge of the storm is now crossing Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The eye expected to cross there within the next couple of hours, actually. We're continuing to track Hurricane Charley as it makes its way up the eastern seaboard.
NGUYEN: And Hurricane Charley is bolting toward Myrtle Beach to South Carolina's Grand Strand. Many tourists have gotten the word. They've heeded the warnings and have already evacuated, which is good news.
But our Kareen Wynter has stayed behind in Myrtle Beach awaiting this storm, and he joins -- she joins us with the latest.
It appears the rain has already headed in.
KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it's already here, Betty. Right now, we are getting the outer band of the storm. We've been experiencing on and off rain all morning. What we're feeling at this moment right now is a lot of the wind pressure coming in up off the beach here. We're in a low-lying area. We're definitely feeling it.
And as you know, with hurricanes, it's not just the wind, that's always a concern but also the storm surge and the damage, the devastating effects that can result from that.
Now, just moments ago, as you mentioned, Betty, this area was evacuated, a mandatory evacuation last night. But hotel workers over here who were at work getting rid of the chairs, the tables outside, in light of the storm that was coming through here, just basically cleaning up. This is a beachfront that you're looking at in -- on Myrtle Beach, where it's a hot spot. There are a lot of tourists this time of year. Right now, of course, a ghost town.
But anyway, they were out here on the beach hitting golf balls, that's right, golf balls into the water here. So we saw several security Jeeps roll up. They're taking this very, very seriously. Officials are making sure that no one is out here. We, of course, the media, are on standby, informing the public on what's going on. But they want absolutely no one out here. So it's a very, very cautious situation right now.
NGUYEN: Hitting golf balls. Some people simply want to have fun with these storms, but it's no laughing matter. In fact, a lot of folks in Florida did not heed the warnings, they did not evacuate. Are you seeing, for the most part, everyone in that area pretty much has left?
WYNTER: I wish I could stand here and say that is the case. But it is not. Just from hearing the word, there are several shelters that are set up around town, Betty, for people who wish to stay here and stick out the storm to the very end. People are in shelters.
Now, just to make it clear, here on the beachfront, it was a mandatory evacuation. But further in, away from this low-lying area, it was voluntary. So many people decided to stay here. Police are, of course, patrolling the roadways, watching the activity, making sure that people, if they have stayed here, they're inside their homes and not out at the current moment.
NGUYEN: Well, that being the case, we wish them the best. Kareen Wynter, thank you for that report.
GRIFFIN: Just about 20 miles south of Kareen is WCSC's reporter at Litchfield Beach, where it looks like the winds have arrived along with the rain. Let's listen in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... have definitely dropped since the last time we talked. And I also like to give some talk out here to Gary Killo (ph), because he's just standing straight up. He's the photographer out here. And it's very hard for me to stand up, so I can't imagine what it's like for him, as he's trying to hold the camera and hold it steady as we talk to you there in Charleston.
But, again, a lot of pelting rain at this point. This is probably the worst we've felt it so far. I'm just trying to hold my hood over my face, not because I care about getting wet, but because it hurts when this rain hits your face.
So that's where we are right now. One last look down the beach as disappearing even more as this storm is heading closer and closer to us. I'm wondering if we won't even be able to see hardly any of the beach by the time Charley actually makes his way.
So for now, this is what it is here on South Litchfield. We'll send it back to you in the studio.
SHARP: All right, Mandy Gaither (ph), you hang on. Be safe up there, and break down if you have to.
The storm will make landfall around Pauley's (ph) Island at about 10:00, in about 30 minutes. The weather deteriorating up there. Georgetown, stay where you are. We are with you. We're riding the storm with you. Orey (ph) County, again, we're right here with you as well. Eastern Williamsburg County, northern Charleston County, still under the gun.
So for the folks who are watching us, West Ashley (ph), Summerville (ph), Beaufort, Walterboro (ph), we're going to kind of put our attention up there, up along the north coast right now. And the sun might come out where you are, and you say, What are they doing? Well, Georgetown, you guys are still under the gun. And we just saw it with Mandy Gaither right there.
So we're going to continue here. We are still broadcasting on sunny 96.9. If you lose power, you can flip us on on sunny 96.9, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) our 2,000-foot-tall tower (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to 100,000-watt signal. Also, Rocky-D (ph) is on News Radio 1250, WTMA.
Now, there's the radar. And again, it is -- the gusts to 80 miles an hour occurring pretty much in Georgetown as we speak. Charley is going to continue to move up there toward Pauley's Island. They'll be near Bucksport (ph) by about 10:45. Tornadoes certainly possible to the north of that as we watch the bands continue to spiral into the Georgetown area and Charleston actually northward.
We're looking at some very, very heavy rainfall. Let me change the radar collection here real quick. Super Doppler 5000 as that sweep comes around, picking out that very heavy burst of energy. And you can see the lightning right there in the red areas. That's where that wind is very strong as well.
Of course, Mandy was up there at Litchfield, which is further north of that. But as you watch the radar paint the heaviest stuff on there, it continues...
GRIFFIN: You're watching live coverage from WCSC in Charleston as they hone in on exactly where in their region it's going to cross, somewhere between Georgetown and Myrtle Beach, tracking Hurricane Charley.
NGUYEN: No doubt the folks in Florida where Charley has already passed through are looking for a lot of relief. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is dispatching tractor-trailer loads of relief supplies to Florida.
GRIFFIN: Ken Burris is FEMA's southeast regional director, and he joins us now.
And you have a busy couple of days, and actually probably a couple of months ahead, as people need immediate help and then long- term help.
KEN BURRIS, SOUTHEAST REGIONAL DIRECTOR, FEMA: That's correct. Our response operations are for the immediate needs of the citizens in Florida, as well as the long-term recovery of those. We also are focused on what's going to happen in the Carolinas as well, as we direct federal resources to the entire southeast United States.
NGUYEN: It's wonderful that these items are available, these immediate needs are available to the folks who are in desperate help, or in need of help right now. But the problem, especially with emergency crews in those areas, is, they can't get out to the folks who need it. Are you seeing a problem like that?
BURRIS: Well, what we're doing is coordinating with the state of Florida. We've worked many disasters with the state of Florida, and Governor Bush and Director Fugate (ph) do an excellent job there in Florida. We respond to their requests. We've sent in de-mort (ph) teams, or they've requested the de-mort teams, de-matt (ph) teams are on the scene as well as urban search and rescue teams.
NGUYEN: And we were just looking at some raw video that was coming in of the areas in Florida that were hard hit. For the folks who do have power and who are watching, is there a hot line where they can call if they need help?
BURRIS: You can call the FEMA line, it's 1-800-621-FEMA, to register for disaster assistance in those counties that have been declared disasters in the state of Florida.
GRIFFIN: Ken, a lot of -- excuse me, a lot of people surveying the damage this morning. Maybe they don't have insurance. Maybe they don't have adequate insurance. Maybe their home was destroyed, and they're pretty much in a panic right now, not knowing what to do. Is there going to be help for those people?
BURRIS: Yes. There's several different federal assistance programs. I mean, if you have insurance, we encourage you to work through your insurance company first. Contact them. We've -- we have needs assessment teams and disaster assessment teams that are in the area at this time determining what those needs are so that we can address those in our regional operations center, which is here in Atlanta.
We've got C-17 aircraft on standby at Dobbins Air Force Base. They're being loaded with equipment and supplies now. We've got an airhead (ph) in Florida that we're flying that stuff to as we speak.
NGUYEN: We're looking at some more video of the devastation therein Florida. Folks are in immediate need. But some of this is going to take quite a while for items to be fixed, homes to be rebuilt.
BURRIS: Correct. Hurricane of this magnitude, last one being Andrew, I mean, we worked the recovery effort, the community there was years. When you rebuild the infrastructure that's been damaged, people rebuilt their homes, it's a long-term effort in which FEMA partners with the state of Florida to make those things come to fruition (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
NGUYEN: So in the interim, what are you suggesting for folks who have lost their home, everything they own?
BURRIS: Well, into -- in the interim, we're working on a catastrophic housing plan with the state of Florida currently and the Army Corps of Engineers. It's definitely what we're working on right now. How do you house this displaced populace? Currently they'll be in shelters. We're sending extra shelter equipment to the state of Florida to handle that overflow. There's somewhere near 47,000 people in shelters currently.
We actually go through a process in which we try to get those individuals back into their homes that have sustained the least amount of damage and kind of work backwards from there while we try to find temporary housing or long-term housing for those their homes have been destroyed.
NGUYEN: What about the folks in the Carolinas, as they brace for Hurricane Charley to come ashore? We understand it's a category one, but, of course, with all hurricanes, there's usually some sort of damage. Has FEMA dispatched folks to those areas?
BURRIS: That's correct. We've been having our other FEMA regions out of Washington state and out of Colorado as well, they're already in place in South Carolina and North Carolina to assist FEMA's region four here in the southeast United States for whatever needs those states may have as we come -- as the hurricane passes through there.
NGUYEN: So again, the number for people in need, 1-8000-621- FEMA?
BURRIS: That's correct.
NGUYEN: All right. We thank you for your time today.
BURRIS: Thank you.
GRIFFIN: Ken Burris with FEMA with some hard numbers there, Ken, 40,000 people in shelters right now in Florida.
We want to go to John Zarrella. He's in the midst of the destruction in Punta Gorda and in the midst of possibly the major tragedy of this hurricane. John?
ZARRELLA: That's right, Drew. Again, very early hours of this assessment of what's going on there. And I know in your conversation just now, the talk of the numbers of people that have to be housed.
And in my conversation awhile ago with Wayne Sallade (ph), the emergency manager here in Charlotte County, I asked him about the possibility of tent cities being erected, very reminiscent of Hurricane Andrew in '92. And he said that's on the table. Possibly more than one tent city would be needed here to house the numbers of people that have been displaced by this storm.
And, again, the concern he had is for the number of fatalities they might have. He expressed to me that he had requested 60 body bags, because he did not know how many casualties there would be, but it was a precautionary measure.
Again, the mortuary trucks, refrigeration trucks have arrived here, and of course the search and rescue teams, one that we have been following this morning going through a condominium complex, called the Charlesvoix (ph) Condominiums, filled with many elderly people. In fact, they did find some elderly people still in those buildings who were huddled in their homes, and they told them that they had to get out. They have stretched the police tape around the building, marked a big orange X on the buildings, condemning them.
Periodically, people who did evacuate have been coming back to try and pick up whatever belongings they can to get out of this particular condominium and go stay with friends.
And at this point, again, just assessing the level of the damage and the level of injuries, the hospital damaged here significantly to the extent they've had to close that hospital. And Drew, so, again, there is just now a sense that they don't even have their hands around this yet, because of the early hour in the aftermath of what's happened here, Drew.
GRIFFIN: OK. John, any more indications on the deaths?
ZARRELLA: No, none whatsoever. It is literally a door-to-door search for survivors in Punta Gorda. And the numbers even of missing is undetermined, according to Mr. Sallade. They're getting lots of phone calls from people saying, We can't find a loved one, we can't find a family member or friend. But there's no way to confirm anything.
The frustration is, as you're well aware, the cell phone service, the phone lines are all down. There's no communication. Cell phone service is sporadic. So trying to reach people is extremely difficult, people who may have evacuated, may have made their way out that they don't know about.
So even trying to get a head count of the missing at this point is very frustrating, exasperating for emergency officials here.
GRIFFIN: And as we learned this morning, it was John Zarrella's reporting which brought us to the news that 60 body bags have been ordered for this area, although we have no idea how many will be needed. We certainly hope that it's nowhere near that many needed.
Have you talked with the emergency director since then, John, and whether or not that, the, that, that, that there is any confirmed deaths, people that you really can tell us have died because of this storm?
ZARRELLA: No. The only confirmation I had was from Wayne Sallade. And I asked him, Is there a specific number? Can you give us any number? And he said, No, I don't have a number. I just know that I have sheriff's deputies at places, at locations where we know there are bodies. But how many, he couldn't say. It could be any number.
But certainly, again, the hope is that it's well below the number of body bags that they had ordered here. But, no, he just had no idea. Real level of frustration at this point, because it's so difficult to get their arms around the magnitude of this. GRIFFIN: Yes. John, I can sense your frustration as well, trying to report on all this in such a developing situation in a chaotic state. Thank you for that this morning.
NGUYEN: And as we look at emergency crews going door to door, trying to find survivors in the aftermath of Hurricane Charley, we want to be quick to remind you that Hurricane Charley is not done. Yes, it devastated Florida, but it is headed up to the Carolinas, just as folks in Florida are waking up, assessing the damage, seeing what was left behind, and much of which was just destroyed in the storm's aftermath.
We understand some 2 million people in Florida are without power at this hour, which is a big problem, because of downed trees and downed power lines. That's also causing a lot of danger in the area for folks who are trying to get back to their homes and assess the damage.
It's a desperate situation. But we see one lady did, in this video, come out of one of those apartments. So, luckily, they are finding people as they go door to door looking for survivors and people who somehow weathered this storm.
GRIFFIN: Yes, these are people that were told to evacuate, which is why that now what we're seeing, we're seeing this video again where the firefighters are going door to door. They knock on the door. Nobody answers. They knock it down to make sure that nobody is inside there hurt or worse.
And as you can imagine, with so many various places to check, including mobile home parks -- 30-some in Punta Gorda -- it's going to take a long while before they can assess, number one, the injuries, number two, the possible deaths, and number three, finally, then, the needs both short term and long term for the people who live in this hardest-hit area.
NGUYEN: And all the while, Charley is headed toward the Carolinas. We want to give you a live look at WCSC, one of the stations there, one of the affiliates, as the reporter is on the scene. Let's listen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we're definitely feeling some hurricane-force winds. The sand is flying at us now, and we pretty much can't see anything at this point.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So this is probably the hardest we've felt and hardest we've been hit here in South Litchfield Beach is right about now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hurricane-force winds right there, 80 miles an hour probably, right by where you are, a category one hurricane. Believe it or not, that's a minimal hurricane. And that's why we're very, very careful with these storms. But, again, if you are up there, stay indoors. And Mandy, thanks to Gary Kilo and Matt Gladwell (ph), yourself, and our team of engineers keeping you on the air. We'll keep -- we'll get back to you in a little bit. And just hang in there up there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sounds good. We'll be here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'll be here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mandy Gaither, reporting live...
GRIFFIN: Give you some perspective here. That was Litchfield Beach, where the front edge of the hurricane is coming across. And they're actually seeing now the storm -- the windstorm, I guess, Rob Marciano, that comes along with -- first you get the rain, then you get the wind, then you get the eye.
MARCIANO: Well, you see that 3-D animation right there. The orange is there, and you see it kind of in rows. We call those, you know, bands or leader bands, ahead of the actual center of the storm, which actually is not encompassed in a whole circle like it once was when it was a category four. Now a category three. The southern half of this thing has pretty much been torn apart. Most of the energy is to the north.
And those orange bands that you see -- this is a three- dimensional radar that we're looking at what we call level two data, which is a higher-end, more complete data set. And it gives you an idea of where the strongest storms are. The oranges there, the heaviest amount of rain. And within a hurricane, the heaviest amounts of rain in those bands will correspond with squally weather, to use a sailor term, meaning heavy rain coming down sideways with winds at hurricane strength.
And certainly that reporter experiencing some gusty winds, possibly to hurricane strength. Now, this thing begins to make landfall just to the north of Charleston, Georgetown, and in through Myrtle Beach. It is now a category one. Want to give you a little bit of comparison when we look at what it once was less than 24 hours ago, when it was category four storm. And you've seen the pictures.
So these numbers and this description shouldn't really intimidate you. Inland flooding, yes, but structural damage, that was the main thing with this thing, because winds were at sustained at 145 miles per hour, strongly within a category four storm.
Now we're looking at a category one storm, which, if we didn't have category four status, we would really be blowing the whistle on. But because it's been downgraded somewhat, I guess, we're relaxing a little bit, but you really shouldn't, because coastal flooding is possible. There will be some structural damage, although much more limited than a category four storm.
Winds right now are sustained at 85 miles an hour. So it is a moderate category one storm. These are the latest numbers for you. Max winds, 85 miles per hour, north-northeasterly movement. So it really is picking up steam. That's why the southern half of this thing has been blown apart, because it's in the steering currents of the upper level of the atmosphere.
It's beginning to pick up speed at 28 miles an hour, so it's making landfall here in the -- pretty much right now. And in the next 45 minutes to an hour, the eye wall will be onshore across the South Carolina-North Carolina border.
And then as we go through time, this cone, which is what we've been using for the past couple of days, will indicate where the center of this thing will be. It will decrease in intensity quite rapidly. Could very well be at tropical storm strength still in through Richmond and maybe D.C. later on tonight and early tomorrow morning. But by then, the winds won't be so much the issue as the rains will be.
Two-dimensional radar now, the Doppler radar site out of Wilmington, here is Myrtle Beach. The eye of this thing is just south of there, but these leading bands, actually, this is pretty much the eye wall right here, where the strongest winds are, and to the right of the eye wall.
So this band right here, certainly some hurricane-force winds in there, and heavy rain. Again, the brighter oranges, the reds, that's where the rain is coming down. And typically in a hurricane situation, that's where you have the strongest winds as well.
Wider shot, composite, this red box, Drew and Betty, we've been talking about that. We had tornadoes touch down in Florida yesterday. The right and northern quadrant of these systems typically will spin little tornadoes. So we have tornado watches out as this thing makes landfall through the rest -- well, officially till noon, but they may very well extend that.
GRIFFIN: All right, Rob.
MARCIANO: That's the latest.
GRIFFIN: Far from out of the woods on this one.
And as we continue to watch Charley, folks in Florida are still picking up the pieces this morning. Governor Jeb Bush is touring Charlotte County as we speak. But before he left for that tour, he had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: Today is a day of assessment and of mobilizing literally thousands of people in a well-organized way to provide support to not only the coastal areas but also the inland areas have had serious damage as well. So...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're hearing reports of 60 dead in a mobile home park in Charlotte. Is that true?
BUSH: I can't -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- we just don't have accurate information yet. But clearly, there was major devastation. And with a category four storm, that's to be expected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NGUYEN: And right now, again, Governor Jeb Bush is touring the storm damage in Florida. At 10:30, when he gets back from that tour, he's going to be holding a news conference. And we will take that live right here on CNN. Drew?
GRIFFIN: The storm right now is hitting South Carolina. WCSC is our affiliate in Charleston. Let's listen in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... our Live 5 News Center has some new information that she would like to pass on to us too today this morning. Good morning, Ann.
ANN MCGILL, WCSC ANCHOR: Good morning, Bill.
We know that folks in our area are seeing that the storm has sort of passed us by, and we're OK. But they have relatives in the Georgetown and the Orly (ph) County, Myrtle Beach area that they are concerned about. So we gave a call to those folks to see how it's going.
A lot of people are taking cover in the shelters, thank goodness. Overnight they had about 1,200, 1,300 people in those shelters. At last check, they had well over 1,800 people. There are 10 shelters total open in Orly County area, and she made a check of seven of them, and they're already at 1,850 people just in those seven. She didn't have a chance to check the other three shelters. So they may be close to about 2,000 people that, again, have taken cover in those shelters. So that is good news.
She also told me that according to their EOC officials in that area, they are bracing for the worst of this storm sometime around 11:30 and noon. So between 11:30 and noon. So they are still waiting to see some of those really harsh effects from Charley today. But a lot of folks, again, have taken cover in the shelters.
She says right now, things are actually very calm up in the Myrtle Beach area. Very little wind, not a whole lot of hard rain at this point. But they are bracing for the worst within the next couple of hours or so. They have the capacity to hold 6,000 people in those shelters. So if you are in the Myrtle Beach area, Orly County, you're thinking maybe you need to go ahead and take shelter, you can still do that. They can handle up to 6,000 people, so they still have plenty of room.
Also talked with some emergency officials in Georgetown, the city. They are bracing within the next few minutes, as Bill also said, for the conditions to worsen there. At 9:00, he said they still had normal winds, some steady rain. They made a check. There was no flooding, no trees down, no power outages. But, again, they were expecting the worst of this storm around 10:00, expecting their winds to increase, and, again, for conditions there to worsen and to deteriorate.
So, again, if you have family, friends, loved ones in the Georgetown, Myrtle Beach, Orly County area, folks there are taking shelter from this storm, and they are just waiting for the worst to come their way and taking shelter so that they will be safe. Bill?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And while it's coming their way now up in those areas. Thanks very much, Ann McGill, live in our News Center with updated information. We appreciate that, Ann.
Now let me show you how it looks out live west of the Ashley and tell you too that as you look at -- My goodness, look at this. This is outside our West Ashley studios, live pictures. It looks fine. We're hearing reports of on again-off again rain, West Ashley. Other than that, not much. It has passed us by where we are. Unfortunately not the same for the folks in Georgetown and Orly Counties, where that hurricane bearing down right now with 80-mile-an-hour winds in gusts, Hurricane Charley is.
Now, I want to show you how it looks outside with our Live 5 Traffic Tracker. We're going to show you some pictures right now. Thank goodness traffic still at a minimum. This is Leeds Avenue, 526, the West Ashley area, from North Charleston. And traffic beginning to pick up a little bit, but not bad. Look how sparse the traffic is here, mile marker 288, and that is I-26.
Once again, most of you are staying off the roads. But the situation in Charleston, from Charleston south improving dramatically. Unfortunately, from Charleston north, it is not doing so well right now.
As a matter of fact, let's go to Bill Walsh (ph) as we head to a break to find out some more information. Bill?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, indeed. Again, I really want to focus on Georgetown County, and, in particular, as you get up toward Pauley's (ph) Island, Litchfield, Merle's (ph) Inlet, Surfside Beach, very, very heavy wind, hurricane-force winds right now moving right into that area. And for the next hour or so, as you look at Super Doppler 5000, you'll see that energy being pushed right up there.
The weather will clear rapidly from Charleston south and westward, but the folks up in Georgetown, you need to really focus and stay inside here for the next hour and a half, two hours, as the center of the storm moves across the coastline there and brings very heavy hurricane-force winds up your way.
And, again, we are simulcasting on our radio partner, Sunny 96.9 and News Talk 1250, WTMA, for all the information. When we come back, we'll continue to cover Charley as Charley moves north... GRIFFIN: Charleston station WCSC, reporting on the damage that is headed towards Myrtle Beach, but Charleston itself, the city, apparently, has been spared. That's...
NGUYEN: And we want to take you now to WESH out of Orlando, which knows a lot about the damage. They experienced it yesterday. Let's take a listen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... during the evening hours. At this time, we have seven of eight water plants that are fully operational. One of them is on emergency power. As the mayor said, we're asking you to basically conserve at this time. We did have a number of breakages as a result of trees and the root system damaging underground water distribution lines. We've worked safely and progressively on those.
And right now, the system is at a positive pressure, where it needs to be. And there is no boiled water alert required at this time. And we hope we can sustain that.
The -- there's a lot of hazards out there that we're all aware of. As the mayor said, the tree canopy, a lot of it is laying across the streets, and -- or on our power lines. We certainly have to have the city and the county remove those trees from the streets. And then, of course, we'll restore and rebuild the lines that are laying on the ground.
A lot of these lines are very tight. That is, the trees themselves are basically lying on the lines, and they're stretched. And please stay away from those lines, because our trained professionals need to come in and release that tension in a cautious manner.
We are systematically restoring all the critical customers. We restored the hospitals, the police and fire departments. We've got all the emergency communications systems that have been brought back. We're working hard still on the emergency operation center here as well.
At this time, we have a wastewater facilities to bring back. As I mentioned, we have the potable water plants up and running. So we'll continue to go through those...
GRIFFIN: Watching a live news conference with Bill Dyer (ph), the city of Orlando, talking about the aftermath there. Orlando pretty much damaged, but not terribly bad damaged there.
A storm like Charley is what storm chasers live for. Mark Suddath is one of them. His team in the eye of the hurricane as it passed over Punta Gorda and are now driving or have driven -- I'm not sure yet -- hoping to intercept the storm in North Carolina.
Mark Suddath is on the phone. Mark, Where are you?
MARK SUDDATH, STORM TRACKER: Right now, we're in Savannah, Georgia, trying to get back to Wilmington, North Carolina, and the southeast North Carolina coast for our third trip into the eye wall of Charley. We had it once at Punta Gorda, twice in Orlando. This would be the third time in southeast North Carolina. That might have to be a record.
GRIFFIN: And what is the point of this operation, Mark?
SUDDATH: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the original point and the plan is to gather information on the hurricane and try to better understand how it affects people. But we certainly had a lot more than we could handle yesterday, and are very lucky to be alive today, to be quite honest with you.
GRIFFIN: Maybe you could describe what you did go through, what it was like when that storm -- when the eye passed.
SUDDATH: Well, we are all veteran hurricane hunters and some, you know, sort of storm chasers. We don't like to -- we don't really chase a hurricane. It comes over you. But in this case, we set up at just near Punta Gorda yesterday afternoon with our weather equipment to measure everything. And the eye wall passed over with us with just blinding, howling, fierce winds.
It was just like being in a cage with just an out-of-control animal, and you can't get out. It was very intense, and rocks were pounding the vehicle coming up off the road. We saw buildings disintegrating in front of us. Large, 70-foot light poles that light up the interstate bending over at their bases, and cell towers just ripping apart, yet they still remained standing, which was amazing.
It was just an unbelievable scene of the raw power of nature.
GRIFFIN: Now, Mark Suddath, one of the few people who actually chose to put himself in the path of Hurricane Charley. Thanks for joining us, sir.
SUDDATH: You're welcome. Thank you.
GRIFFIN: And we'll be back right after this.
NGUYEN: Well, good morning, and welcome back for those of you just joining us.
We do want to remind you that Hurricane Charley is still packing a powerful punch. It's headed over Myrtle Beach right now, toward the Carolinas. And we understand that in Georgetown County, it is packing 80-mile-per-hour wind speeds. Some 1,800 people have already headed to the shelters. And we, of course, will continue to follow Hurricane Charley.
GRIFFIN: In fact, the very latest now from Rob Marciano in the Weather Center. Rob?
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, guys.
Yes, it's making landfall pretty much. The northern fringe of the eye wall is beginning to come onshore across parts of northern South Carolina, just north of Charleston, actually Georgetown and Myrtle Beach. That's the areas that are under the gun, and a lot of oranges flaring up here, meaning it's still a category one storm.
I didn't mean to load this. This is our next tropical depression.
What you do need to know (UNINTELLIGIBLE) heavy rains and gusty winds will be coming into that area over the next, well, just the next couple of hours. It's Hurricane Charley category one storm now. Yesterday a four, today a one. Still a hurricane, and the reports that we're getting in from the reporters show that it's still blowing pretty good.
Good news is, as it comes in, for the most part, a fairly low tide, and so the storm surge is not expected to be all that great.
We'll talk more about this guy. It's taking a similar life as Charley was, at least in the early stages, our next tropical depression, possibly a tropical storm by the end of today.
And, of course, more on Charley throughout the morning.
GRIFFIN: All right, Rob, thanks for your work this morning. That will do it for us right now.
NGUYEN: There's still much more to continue here on CNN as we continue our coverage of Hurricane Charley. Up next in the anchor seat, Daryn Kagan. Stay tuned.
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