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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Hurricane Charley: Dazed Floridians View Charley's Aftermath
Aired August 14, 2004 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: A scene of devastation in Punta Gorda, Florida, where Hurricane Charley focused its furry. We will go there live in just a moment.
While the South Carolina coast in the eye of the storm as Hurricane Charley roars ashore once again.
It is 10:00 a.m. on the East Coast and 7:00 a.m. on the West Coast. Good morning. From CNN's global headquarters, this is a special edition of CNN SATURDAY LIVE TODAY.
We'll get started with our hurricane coverage in just a moment. First, a look at the top stories in the news right now:
And we begin with Hurricane Charley. It is bearing down on the Carolinas this morning after a deadly rampage across the Florida peninsula. Right now, it is just south of the Charleston, South Carolina. The storm is still packing a powerful punch and heavy winds and heavy rain. South Carolina's Grand Strand, the Myrtle Beach area, is deserted after tens of thousands of people were ordered to leave.
Meanwhile, North Carolina watches and waits its turn as Charley moves to the north. A state of emergency is in effect for the Tarheel State. Parts of the North Carolina coast were battered by Hurricane Alex less than two weeks ago.
By the light of day, the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Charley can be seen in Florida. Right now as damage assessments and cleanup get under way, authorities are adding up the death toll. There's no firm number yet. Damage in the state is expected to be in the billions of dollars. Florida Governor Jeb Bush has toured the damage. We'll have live coverage of his news conference. That's expected to begin about in a half hour.
Keeping you informed, CNN is the most trusted name in news.
We begin in parts of Florida. The damage from Hurricane Charley is almost unbelievable this morning. Swaths of land stripped completely bare, neighbor hoods flattened. Just hours after the storm moved across the Florida Peninsula, the grim task of adding up the death toll is under way.
So far there's no way of knowing how many people were killed. In hard-hit Charlotte County, 60 body bags have been ordered as a precaution. And when the sun came up this morning, more than 2 million people in the storm's path were without power. The storm came ashore in southwestern Florida yesterday. It left the state after cutting a path of destruction from the Fort Myers area to Daytona Beach. These are scenes from Winter Haven, Florida.
In one area, the damage, though, simply overwhelming. It's a small retirement town of Punta Gorda, is taking a direct hit. Thousands of people there are now homeless.
Our John Zarrella is keeping track of the situation in Punta Gorda. John, the latest, please.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Hi, Daryn.
Yes, the situation here you can see in Punta Gorda behind me here. That was a gas station, and a bunch of cars in there. There's one car still up on the rack. That's about - about it here at the gas station.
Now, all morning -- we'll pan over here -- Charlevoix (ph) condominiums. These are the condominiums that were completely gutted, destroyed by Hurricane Charley yesterday as it came through here, and we had members of the search-and-rescue team from Hillsborough County going through this condominium complex about an hour ago search searching door-to-door, house-to-house, breaking down the doors with sledgehammers and crowbars. In fact, they did find some people in there, elderly people, mostly all elderly people in that condominium. They told them they had to get out. It was unsafe to live there any longer.
I'm not sure if you can see it, but on the wall -- now there's a blue truck that's stopped right there in the way as he's trying to wait for vehicles to get by -- you can see the orange sign and the yellow police-line tape. They've condemned that property. Of course, we got a lot of people running through the community who police want off the streets. That's a serious problem here. All of these people that are coming out, looking to see the damage and assess the damage, who don't belong out on the streets when emergency vehicles are trying to get around.
But again, they did find people in there, some still in those apartments, elderly, probably dazed and they talked to them, told them they had to get out. A few taking the belongings they had and leaving.
If we can pan around a little more, you can see this was a strip mall here right adjacent to the condominium. Again, completely gutted, the storefronts blown in. But surprisingly, as in all hurricanes, Daryn, you see some of the awnings still up. So things that should come down, didn't come down, and some things that probably should have stayed up, came down.
So again, the very early hours of the assessment here. Emergency managers telling us here earlier that the scope of this is catastrophic. It is on the order to them here of what Hurricane Andrew did back in 1992 in South Dade County. They did, in fact, order 60 body bags here, the emergency manager telling us he hoped he did not need that many, but he was going to err on the side of caution as these dog teams, these search-and-rescue teams literally have to go door to door to find people.
Again, very early hours, trying to get a grips and a handle on this. Thousands of people homeless. The hospital has been closed down because it was so heavily damaged. Two other hospitals in the area as well heavily damaged.
We've seen helicopters flying overhead, National Guard helicopter a few minutes ago flying overhead. So again, the assessment of damage is under way and the search for people, victims, survivors and those injured, is in full force here in Punta Gorda - Daryn.
KAGAN: John, a couple questions for you if you can hear me.
First of all, besides the physical devastation of the property there in Punta Gorda, it sounds like residents did not heed the warning to evacuate that area before it was too late.
ZARRELLA: That's right. A very good point.
What happened was -- and the emergency manager was telling me earlier, almost in tears, that they gave them 20 hours' warning, 20 to 24 hours. They told the people in the trailer parks, which are the particularly hard hit, which is where they believe most of the fatalities will be found, that they told them they had to get out. Those are the first things evacuated. And because the storm was paralleling, they didn't think it was going to hit here. Many people did not get out. And it was the worst-case scenario, as he put it -- the one they drill for, the one they practice for, where the storm suddenly intensifies, as Charley did as it approached the coast, and then took a sharp right turn into them with so little warning to the people. And at that point they were trapped, they couldn't get out. It was too late; it was on them too fast.
So it was the worse case, the nightmare scenario that developed here in Punta Gorda and in many parts of Charlotte County - Daryn.
KAGAN: We're looking while we're talking to you, John, at some live pictures from our affiliate WTVT of some of the hard-hit mobile- home parks in the Punta Gorda area.
Another question for you is, looting a concern of officials in the area now that that storm has past?
ZARRELLA: Yes, Daryn. It's always a concern after these events because of the fact that there's no power, there's no -- there's no telephone service, very spotty cell phone service. They have National Guard people out in the streets, National Guard people at some of those trailer parks, which have been very heavily damaged. There's one that we heard of that's not far up a main highway here, 41.
The problem is that this community is just filled with trailer parks. It is a retirement community here, many people living in trailer homes. And again, many of those people who did not heed the word to get out. So looting a concern, but we have not seen any of that at this point. The problem we have here now and which is growing is that there are a lot of people getting on the streets who probably shouldn't be - Daryn.
KAGAN: All right. We're going to be back with you, John Zarrella, in Punta Gorda.
Also making use of our affiliate WTVT. Let's listen in to their coverage for a little bit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...everybody in Polk or Hillsborough and Pinellas made their way over here. We thought it was going to be safe. And these people - you're right, Kathy (ph) and Denise (ph) - I think they were just blind-sided by the path of the hurricane and nobody was really prepared and, you know, I hate to say it, but when you're in a mobile home that is not the safest place to be.
I was talking to one of my mechanics when we landed at Lake Wells earlier and he lives in a mobile home in that area, and when he saw it was coming this way, he took everything he had out of the mobile home and put it into a storage bin. The storage bin was annihilated. His mobile home was OK. He took his family to a National Guard armory at Lake Wells airport, and you saw the aerials earlier. Lake Wells airport was leveled. The armory had a tremendous amount of damage. And luckily him, and his family survived.
But you know, you can prepare for one thing and another thing's going to happen. That's just the power of a hurricane. You just really never know.
When you're looking at a tornado it makes like a -- maybe a 300-, 500-foot path and it just goes straight down one line. This hurricane was several miles wide. And when Rick (ph) pulls out, you can see every single place you look here in this picture has some sort of damage, some sort of debris flying around. Every place you look in this town of Moffitt, there is wood laying around, there is trees uprooted, there's glass. Every place you look you see something like that, ladies. It is just -- it is overwhelming to look at this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And yet, Randy (ph), a little while ago you were showing a couple mobile homes that were completely devastated, then you panned over and one looked like it was relatively unscathed.
Are you seeing some spottiness in how some of the storm hit?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems to be. Here in Moffitt, it seems to be more spotty. The town a little bit north of us, Moffitt -- or Watchula (ph) rather - it actually had a lot more damage. And then the farther you go up to the north - wow, look at that. Look here at Lake Wells. It was even worse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, that is a heavy vehicle right there when you're looking at a vehicle of that size. You imagine that vehicle being flipped around like that. That takes a tremendous amount of power for something like that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, what bothers me, Randy, as we look at these pictures and especially the pictures of those trailers over there, is that we're not seeing as many people as I would like to see going through all of that rubble. I mean, we don't know yet the extent of the loss of life right there where you are.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that's a good point. I'm looking down U.S. 17 at some of the roads coming in. We have a little bit of traffic coming in here. You know, Denise, I'm with you. I'm praying that a lot of these people evacuated, got out in time.
And look at that, Denis. That's just amazing to see. You know, we look at that as an RV that's flipped upside down, but people live there. That's somebody's home right there, and to see that upside down like that - everything in there is just a turmoil right now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you seeing rescue crews in that area?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's hit and miss. Most places where there's power down, there's people injured, we see crews there. But scenes like this - you know, the police made their way in here initially is anybody injured, is anybody hurt, when they got -- did an initial survey. Since everybody seems to be OK and they've taken care of those people -- but right now, it looks like they're taking care of power lines and getting trees out of the road with chainsaws and things of this nature.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you have to wonder where these people are going to go for water, for shelter tonight and this afternoon.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wherever they went yesterday, I suppose, when they evacuated. Hopefully they have friends and family and people they can go to. The ones that don't, I have no idea how they're going to -- look at that one, is completely gone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we know that we're going to see more of that, unfortunately. And Randy Powers (ph) is going to bring some more of those pictures as he continues to fly over the area.
You know, one of the worst hit areas, of course, Punta Gorda.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And there have been reports of several deaths at a mobile-home park there. We were talking about loss of life and where this is happening. We know for a fact that it happened in Punta Gorda.
And Glen Selig (ph) has been following the storm, right in the middle of it, is live in Punta Gorda with this morning's aftermath. What is what happening there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, lots of folks are coming back to what used to be their homes. Virtually every single mobile home in this mobile-home park has been destroyed.
I'm going to step out of the shot so you can see how bad the damage is. One after another completely decimated, every single one of them. There are a couple that only sustained minor damage, but virtually everything else is completely destroyed. The whole swath here, every single one, one, two, three, four, five, six, all of them completely destroyed.
What we've noticed is people one after another coming here assessing the damage, seeing that everything that they own is completely gone.
Just a few moments ago, we spoke to a woman who lives here and she came and noticed that her entire home is a complete loss. Let's take a listen to what she had to say had. Her name is Connie Larson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONNIE LARSON, RESIDENT: I planned to stay here and the manager came and said, "Not a good idea." I'm glad I listened. I'm glad he came. And I stayed at a friend's from church in Punta Gorda and they took a lot of damage too, but...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this is what was your kitchen, huh?
LARSON: Well, this was my dining room and this was my living room and the kitchen I can't get into and the two bedrooms I can't get into because they're stuck blocking the doors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, after coming back here and seeing all the damage that you have here, when you think about the fact that you almost stayed here...
LARSON: I know. I know. I have a lot to be thankful for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Connie Larson from Port Charlotte Village.
One of the interesting things that she said to us is, besides all the damage she encountered and as devastating as it is, one of the things that was most upsetting is the fact that she hasn't had any communication and she hasn't been able to let her family and friends know she is all right, that she had survived. Obviously, people turning on the TV. This has gone, obviously, nationally and internationally and seeing all the devastation here, and she was concerned that her loved ones didn't know whether or not she survived.
We, fortunately, in our satellite truck have a satellite phone and we let her use the satellite phone to at least call some family members to let them know that she was OK. And, of course, anybody who sees it in our viewing area she says that she has a lot of friends there and she's hoping somebody sees her and lets everybody know that she's all right.
But that story is repeated -- being repeated over and over and over again. There is no electricity; there is no phone service. Cell phones are very, very hard to use out here. It's hit and miss. And a lot of folks haven't been able to find out whether their loved ones are OK, and they haven't been able to call out and let their loved ones know they're OK.
So on top of all the devastation that they're experiencing, there's also a lot of that frustration and a lot of shock that's going on this morning.
Back to you guys.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Glen, where are these people that you've been talking to this morning say they're going to go tonight and for the next few days? Do they have places to stay?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we asked Connie Larson that very question, and she wasn't sure at first, but she said she'll probably stay with that -- those friends from church.
This is -- a lot of people have no idea. I mean, you have to realize that just yesterday they had a home, today they don't. And they're taking it day by day. They're just trying to get used to the idea that everything that they own is gone and they don't have anything any more.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Glen, how much time did she have to get out before that storm hit and caused that destruction? Because she said that the manager came and told her to leave and others to leave.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not -- not much time, and I can tell you first-hand that this storm, once we knew that it was coming here - you know, we were in Manatee County when we got the call. We came down here and came to it while most people tried to get away with it - away from it, we go to it.
But supposedly about an eight-hour heads up is what they got, that the storm was coming so they can get out. But once the storm started to approach, it came very, very quickly and it didn't take long for these winds that were gusting to turn into full hurricane strength. And like you said, they -- she was told to get out of here, and thankfully, most people did. And it's good that they paid attention because if anybody stayed here, they did not survive very likely.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it really says a lot about how long it's been since we've had a direct hit like this on Florida's coast because I've heard a lot of stories that people saying, Well, I was thinking about staying. I mean, there really is a sense that there was some waffling early on as to Well, how bad is it going to be, especially people who lived in mobile homes were really considering staying, many of them, until the last minute.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I -- right before I came on live with you, I thought about one thing, one thing that I hope people take away from all these broadcasts that we're doing and if there's one life we can save by saying this -- after experiencing this firsthand, do not, absolutely do not stay in your mobile home when you're being threatened by a hurricane.
These winds are so strong, it takes down -- they take down strong structures, let alone a mobile home. And we're talking about just devastation all around here. And it is just a bad idea to stay inside. And you're right, like something like one out of five people decide to stay. You know, and it's just plain stupid to do that. You can't hold on to your mobile home. You can't hold on to your things and you certainly can't replace your life. It is not a smart thing to do, and you should absolutely get out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've even seen pictures of concrete block homes destroyed by this storm, so you know a mobile home is certainly not going to be able to withstand those kinds of winds.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it makes...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, there are virtually buildings that were destroyed in the motel that we were staying at. Part of it collapsed. And as you drive down 75 heading south, there are telephone poles that, you know -- light poles, light poles that are usually standing up straight that are kind of like this, just bent in half. That's how -- these are metal light poles that are just bent in half like somebody went, chink (ph), and just bent them over. And you can see exactly where -- the direction that the hurricane was traveling, that's exactly the way they bent.
It is pretty scary stuff, and it is -- these are -- I can't even put into words what it's like. These aren't gusting winds. These are like full strength, going 100 miles per hour and just continuing, 100 miles per hour and pushing something, and that's why you see this type of devastation. It's just horrible.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It makes me wonder, Glen, if maybe talking about where these folks are going to go tonight, if maybe some churches and different organizations...
KAGAN: We had been making use of our many affiliates in Florida. That is WTVT giving us coverage from Punta Gorda, the -- so far the hardest hit community. You saw the pictures telling the story, a number of mobile homes turned over and destroyed. Big fear that there are also many bodies still to be discovered in that community.
Much more ahead from there. Right now, we want to focus on exactly where Hurricane Charley is headed and where it is right now. For that, we bring in Rob Marciano - Rob.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Daryn. It's making landfall again, this time across the Carolina coastline, South Carolina specifically, and with it it's bringing in some hurricane conditions, albeit Category 1 as compared to Category 4. I mean, it's a serious downgrade, but it's still a serious storm. Thank goodness - or, thank goodness it was downgraded.
Charleston up through Georgetown and Myrtle Beach - really, between Myrtle Beach and Charleston is where it's making landfall. Center of it right about there. So it's bringing in some serious rainfall - I mean, rain probably sideways in some of these areas. This is the Doppler radar site and this band - really, this is the eye wall right there, the northern fringe of the eye wall. Here's the eye. Here's where it's all calm and nice and actually probably sunny.
And Myrtle Beach, you folks getting the brunt of the action right now, you'll probably calm down here in about a half hour, maybe even 20 minutes. Things will be nice and quiet, and then you'll get the back edge of this thing, which in this case isn't a whole lot. So this is the worst part of the storm as it moves onshore.
Wilmington, North Carolina, you're going to get some of this too. You're getting it right now. You'll just get it a little bit later than Myrtle Beach. Myrtle Beach last hour was not reporting much more than 30 mile-an-hour winds. I suspect they have increased since then, and some of the buoys offshore have gusts over hurricane strength. So this is still a Category 1 hurricane by verification of those buoys.
All right. Flip that radar on its side - we do three-dimensional number and throw in some more complex data. Basically, though, oranges mean heavy rain and those heavy rains, we've have (ph) gusty winds. And again, the center of it is right through here as it moves up towards Myrtle Beach.
Here are the exact numbers: 85 mile-an-hour max-sustained winds. Moving quite quickly, north northeasterly at 28 miles an hour. As of the 8:00 advisory, it was 35 miles from Charleston. But now it's parallel, if not just a little bit to the north and east of Charleston.
Here's how we expect the forecast track to take place here in the next 24 to 48 hours. When it makes landfall, it will decrease in intensity, eventually going down to tropical-storm status. But likely a hurricane through 2:00 this afternoon with winds possibly gusting to 100 miles an hour. Last one that got into this area was Isabel last year and Baltimore, you folks remember the storm surge.
The good news about the storm surge across South Carolina is that right now the tide's going out. So even though South Carolina and up through the outer banks of North Carolina will be experiencing the brunt of this storm, most of it will come during low tide. As this storm gets up towards D.C. and Baltimore area, it will be closer to higher tide there, but the storm will be weaker. It shouldn't be what Isabel did to Baltimore last year. You can thank your lucky stars there. But it will be a tropical storm likely with gusty winds and some heavy rainfalls across that area.
Just to kind of recap what's been going on, hurricane force winds to Category 4 strength came on shore southwestern parts of Florida during the afternoon and evening yesterday. Inland flooding yes, but the biggest story was structural damage. We had winds sustain at 145 miles per hour. Now it's been down graded to a Category 1 storm - again, still a serious storm, but a lesser storm than it was this time yesterday. Winds 74 to 95 miles per hour. We will see minor coastal floods and more flooding probably from the heavier rains that will going over what's an area that has already seen a fair amount of rain this season and limited structural damage.
So good news, Daryn, is that we don't expect to see the pictures that we're seeing out of Florida this morning.
MARCIANO: We don't expect to see that out of South Carolina.
KAGAN: Seen enough of that.
I'm about to talk to the mayor of Charleston. You say Charleston, South Carolina, has seen the worse of what they're going to see?
MARCIANO: Yes. Yes. Oh, yes. It's actually probably pretty nice in Charleston right now. Most of the bad weather is to their north.
KAGAN: All right. Let's fine out. Rob Marciano, thank you very much. We, obviously, will be back to you many times throughout the morning.
As I said, we have the mayor of Charleston, Joe Riley, on the phone with me right now. Mayor Riley, thank you for being here with us.
JOSEPH P. RILEY, MAYOR, CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, it's my pleasure and the sun is shining in Charleston, I'm happy to report. The storm passed us by. We were prepared. Our citizens and all of our crews were ready, but it left us, I guess now, probably about 30, 45 minutes ago, and it's up in the Myrtle Beach, Georgetown area. But we're very fortunate this beautiful city is now basking in sunshine again.
KAGAN: It is one of the most beautiful cities in the country, one is that only too familiar with nasty hurricanes, however.
How would you rate what this experience felt like, Charley, coming through compared to some of the others that Charleston has made it through in the past?
RILEY: Well, we were late to the Florida experience. We had a very devastating hurricane, Hugo, in 1989, so I really feel for those people. And because of that, we know how to prepare and we are ready. You cannot take hurricanes for granted, and they're out there. They have a mind of their own, so you got to be ready.
And the tragedy of people in mobile homes - I mean, when a hurricane is nearby, mobile homes need to be evacuated and you get people out of low-lying areas and these are -- these are killers, but we were -- we prepare every hurricane season, we're ready. Our teams are ready. We've got all our plans in place and as soon as there is a tropical disturbance that looks like it could come anywhere near our direction, we get ready.
KAGAN: You mentioned Hugo in 1989 and the folks in Punta Gorda -- a lot of people saying one of the problems in Punta Gorda this time is people did not heed the warnings and get out when they were told.
Do you think, in the Charleston community, the lessons of Hugo still remain and people take warnings more seriously?
RILEY: They do. They do take warnings more seriously and we work with that. I mean, you have to -- you know, every year, some new people move in and memories dim a little bit. So we work hard in our - early on to remind people of the damage and danger of storms and, you know, as I tell them every time, usually every hurricane season, no one ever got hurt because they were too prepared. No one ever got hurt because they heeded timely an evacuation warning.
And, you know, we live in the beautiful part of America. This, I think, is the most beautiful city and the Atlantic is gorgeous. So this part of the price of the great beauty that we have is, this time of year you heed your precautions, be careful and if you are, you can escape unharmed and uninjured and that's, of course, what happened here.
But the season is still on us. We know there are two more named disturbances out there, and we'll be preparing for those if they come anywhere near us.
KAGAN: We might be talking to you again before this hurricane season is over.
RILEY: I hope not.
KAGAN: I hope under better circumstances, mayor, absolutely. And here's giving thanks that Charleston escaped the wrath of Charley this time.
Thank you so much. Mayor Joe Riley, the mayor of Charleston, South Carolina.
You heard from Rob Marciano and from the mayor that this time for Charleston, this storm was not quite that bad.
Also, rob telling us the storm moving up the Carolina coast. Our David Mattingly standing by in Georgetown with more on that. Good morning.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Daryn.
We are in Georgetown, South Carolina, where the leading edge of the storm is coming in. Make no doubt about it, Charley is making landfall here. But Charley does not nearly have the punch it had when it crossed Florida just hours ago.
What we're seeing now are sustained winds -- we are expecting up to about 60 miles an hour, that's tropical-storm strength, maybe gusts up to 80 miles an hour. There's been a mandatory evacuation in this area that was put out late yesterday. In this particular area of Georgetown, 25 to 30,000 people, residents and tourists, were part of that mandatory evacuation. People having plenty of time to get out of here before this weather came in. I'm speaking to county officials pretty regularly. They say this could have been a lot worse. They're actually a little relieved right now with the fact that the storm is coming in only with 60 mile-an- hour wind. And also, it's coming in at low tide which means that the storm surge should not be causing too much of a problem. They're expecting, generally, in most areas a storm surge of only about five to six miles per hour.
But it is quite blustery out here. There are -- the trees are bending over in the breeze. The rain is head hitting you hard enough to make a stinging sensation on your skin. So not good to be outside, but not nearly as bad as what Charley was just a short time ago.
KAGAN: And David, does it seem like people were heeding the warnings even though things are a little calmer than they might have expected?
MATTINGLY: The mandatory evacuations were heeded. People took to the streets. There were some clogging some of the state highways. The traffic was very slow going, but state troopers say that the evacuation was complete about 2:30, 3:00 this morning.
As far as the voluntary evacuations, a lot of residents who are hurricane savvy have decided to stay here and stay put, and that decision appears to be a good one. This storm is something that they should be able to ride out without any problems.
KAGAN: All right. David Mattingly, we'll be checking back with you along the South Carolina coast. Thank you for that.
As we just heard, Hurricane Charley churning its way up the coastline, making its way toward North Carolina. The governor of North Carolina has declared a state of emergency as turbulent weather affects different areas.
There have been heavy rains in Raleigh already. Reporter Tony Jones with affiliate News 14 Carolina in is live in Raleigh near a rising creek.
TONY JONES, NEWS 14 CAROLINA CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, to you, Daryn. As you said, we are here in Raleigh, North Carolina, where the creek and stream levels are beginning to rise.
Take a look behind me. This is the Crabtree Creek. It's - and it's a good spot to really get a gauge as to how high the waters are right now. Now when I got here early this morning about at 7:30, the level was around nine and a half, maybe nine and three-quarters feet high. Right now, it's leveled off at 11 feet. So that's the good news. But the bad news is that it just continues to rise and the water levels continue to go up.
Now let's go to some video that we shot earlier this morning. Now the heavy rains which fell earlier this morning are causing all -- many, many streams and rivers to rise quickly. However, driving on most streets here in Raleigh is free and clear for the moment.
Now if you were going to do a little new-car shopping today, well your can forget about it. And that's because all of the dealers here along this major thoroughfare here in Raleigh have moved their stocks to higher ground. And with the forecast calling for heavy rain throughout the day, those dealers simply did not want to take any chances.
Now back here live in Raleigh, as you just said -- mentioned a moment ago, Governor Mike Easley has declared a state of emergency statewide and has mobilized several units of the National Guard to help out in any way that they can.
Now, in this area in central North Carolina, we are right now under a tornado, high-wind and flood watch and -- watches and warnings, and they will remain up for the better part of the day as we await Hurricane Charley's arrival.
Back to you.
KAGAN: Tony, give us an idea of what kind of year it has been there in the Raleigh area. Have you had a lot of rains or is there room to get more rain?
JONES: Well, ironically, before we had all the storms this month, it seems as though August has been very, very wet. Through -- up through the end of July, we had been in a deficit. We have been at as much five or six inches below what we normally would have at this time of the year. Now with all the rain which has come through, we've wiped out that deficit and we're over what we should be right now.
But when you get so much rain in such a short period of time, that is the problem. And a lot of -- a lot of folks, a lot of emergency management folks are very concerned about that right now. We can stand some rain, but if the forecast holds true and we get three, four, maybe five inches of rain, there's going to be a lot of problems around here.
KAGAN: I'm looking at the scene behind you. People out walking dogs or walking babies and doing the regular Saturday stuff. Not a lot of concern in the Raleigh area for what Charley might be bringing to town it seems like.
JONES: Well, not quite yet. I think that the forecast called for the remnants of Hurricane Charley to pass over our area later this morning and earlier this afternoon. And we were told, many of our meteorologists have been calling for most of the bad weather, really, to hit this afternoon and this evening. So you're right, most people are out and about this morning, coming here - we're in front of a breakfast restaurant, as a matter of fact, and folks have been coming in and out seemingly rather calm right now. But, of course, everyone is really keeping their eyes here on the Crabtree Creek and eyes to the sky, seeing what will happen later on.
KAGAN: Well, go on in and grab yourself and your crew some breakfast. Good work there. Tony Jones from our affiliate News 14 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Thank you so much.
Not such happy relief times in Punta Gorda Florida. This along the western coast, the southwestern coast of Florida, a community largely made up of retirement folks, very hard hit, perhaps the hardest hit from Hurricane Charley.
Our Anderson Cooper is standing by with a look at the devastation. Anderson, hello.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, good afternoon.
We are down in downtown Punta Gorda; I'm here with John Zarrella.
And the town -- we've been driving around, really, for the last several hours. We got here -- both got here very early this morning. The town is really devastated. Right now we're in a mall area, and as you can see off to the side here, all these stores here are just destroyed. A lot of the shop owners, a lot of families just coming out, trying to inspect the damage, seeing what is left of their business, seeing what is left of their homes in many cases.
John, you've seen a lot of these storms. How is this?
ZARRELLA: Yes. You know, this one is not Andrew, thankfully, but it's pretty close. And the emergency manager that I talked with, Wayne Sallade earlier today was saying this is his Andrew, that it's catastrophic here.
You know, this is that condominium building that we've been reporting on all day, all elderly people. Search-and-rescue teams had gone through there. Fortunately, no victims, but they did find people that were still in there, elderly people in daze that - they had to get out. They've condemned the building. Just had to condemn it right away.
COOPER: Also, a lot of these communities are so new that a lot of new people are moving into them, people who have not had the experience of living through one of these things. So when the storm shifted, these people really didn't have very far to go; they weren't able to really leave. A lot of them thought they could just ride it out in their homes. I talked to a lot of people this morning who were hiding in their bathrooms during this storm. And they are picking up the pieces.
We also -- I was at the hospital earlier this morning where they are actually transferring patients out of the hospital to Tampa, to other areas because the hospital sustained a lot of damage last night. But they did take care of a lot of people and had a lot of walking wounded early this morning. A lot of people with lacerations, things like that. They were trying to care for them as best as they could.
But at this point, people are still assessing the damage and a lot of people still have not gone back to their homes. They are just slowly starting to come in now and the streets are very difficult to get around. You have a lot of downed power lines. It's very tough. ZARRELLA: Yes, that's the big problem that emergency-rescue teams are going to face is, because you've got so many people now that are coming out on the street to try and see if the ones that evacuated have come back. And that's not really what they need, the emergency- management teams, the search and rescue teams. They've got to get around on these streets and the streets are going to start getting crowded. We saw that in Andrew. And finally they had to just shut the area of south Dade County down. Unless you lived there, they don't want sightseers coming down and that's a problem.
COOPER: And the -- we were told the National Guard had been brought in here earlier in the morning. As I was driving in here, again, just about an hour ago, I saw another large convoy, multi- vehicle convoy, probably about 30 or so trucks filled with National Guardsmen, filled with supplies.
So relief is on the way. FEMA is here. But there is a lot of work to be done -- Daryn.
KAGAN: All right. Anderson Cooper and our John Zarrella in Punta Gordas (sic) -- what we can assess so far as the hardest-hit area of Florida by Hurricane Charley at this point.
Our hurricane coverage continues. Right now, we fit in a quick break.
KAGAN: One of the many strengths for us here at CNN, our affiliates in the local markets. We have more than any other network.
WTVT in Florida is one of those. Let's listen into their coverage and watch their pictures for just a bit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...trees and stuff like that just pretty much everywhere you go knocked over.
That's Arcadia High School right there. There's a command center, and -- which you just can pan across the horizon and pretty much every place you see, it is just like that. We're going to make our way to the center part of Arcadia in just a minute and in the south part of Arcadia to see if we can see any more.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, Randy, you know the mobile-home park that you were showing as you were first talking to us, those look to me like they were larger than the traditional single ones. They look more like double-wides. And so after Hurricane Andrew, I know that there were a lot of new regulations put in place about the newer ones having different tie-downs and different structural requirements, and yet these that looked like much newer ones than the earlier built ones looked like they sustained -- an equal amount of significant damage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're absolutely right. These -- this was a nice area, newer mobile homes; they had higher codes that they had to meet with. And you know these things were tied down with hurricane/tornado straps. And what you're seeing right now -- we believe is a restaurant on State Route 17. And it is completely gone. We've flown over it earlier. You can see that there's lots of tables in there. And we think this was a restaurant. We're not really sure.
And then up - well, either you go behind it to the left or behind it to the right, Rick, you choose -- you see another mobile home destroyed, and there's just lots of debris laying everywhere. And if you go farther to left, I think it is, Rick -- I'm getting my bearings turned around here, you can see another building very, very close to that restaurant in the lower part of your picture there. A lot of damage to the roof.
And I'm looking out the window of Sky Fox to the south, southeast, and there is a massive rain cloud heading this way towards me. I'm kind of even wondering if I'll be able to make it up here much longer. So that's something else these people have to deal with, is that in just a matter of moments this rain shower is going to be hitting these people. There you see it. We're looking south, southeast from Arcadia, and that is a large rain shower. And I'm not sure which way that's coming, but like we said that's one less thing they have to deal with.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that rain cloud coming and so many of these people don't have shelter at this moment. That's Randy Powers. We're going to let him go because of that rain cloud heading that way.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And just a little while ago, Florida Governor Jeb Bush talked about the storm damage from Hurricane Charley and this is what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: It's heart breaking. I love this state and I love the people in it. Southwest Florida is a beautiful place with really great people and I just know that they're going to have a lot of suffering and it's really important for us to organize ourselves in the most efficient way possible to provide the quickest support and the most compassionate support.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What kind of assistance can you let folks know is coming from the feds and in terms of the speed of getting services restored?
BUSH: Well, my guess is, if people were on I-75 right now, they would see a phalanx of trucks.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Corps of Engineers...
BUSH: Military support -- and that will take the form of water, food, tents. There are going to be a lot of people who are homeless. Electrical support, utility trucks coming to restore electricity, debris removal. There's tons and tons and tons of debris that has to be cleared.
So there's just -- I mean, the good news is that we train for this and we're well-coordinated. FEMA has done an extraordinarily job, and so I doubt that - I mean, people are going to be frustrated, I imagine, and impatient and that's natural, and -- but we're going to do everything we can to provide support.
And it's unlike Andrew, where the damage was equally extensive -- it was located in one community or one part of a community. This is wide-ranging, best I can tell. And so it's going to require a little bit of different response.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Guys, a last question?
BUSH: Well, one of the questions that I know that you wanted to ask was how people can help.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
BUSH: And I would urge people to provide financial support if they want to act on their compassion and act on their heart. The experiences of past disasters when people send clothes or people send food, it just creates a logistical nightmare, and the well-intended support doesn't get to where it needs to go.
So, through the Salvation Army and the Red Cross it's very easy to provide financial support and it will go to the people who need it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have a safe trip.
BUSH: We will.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, guys.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMA:E That's Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we'll be right back with more coverage of Hurricane Charley.
KAGAN: All right. We were listening into coverage from our affiliate WTVT in Florida, as you heard from Governor Jeb Bush. We're expecting him to hold a news conference sometime - actually, we were expecting it to start about 15 minutes ago. Things being fluid in a breaking news and in a crisis situation. So when Governor Jeb Bush does speak and does hold his news conference, you'll see that live right here on CNN.
Meanwhile, I bet those of you moving up the East Coast are wondering what you can expect as Charley heads your way. Our Rob Marciano is tracking that for you - Rob.
MARCIANO: Hi, Daryn. Making landfall in the process right now, the northern fringe of the northern part of the eye wall is making its way on to -- well, South Carolina. Specifically, the Georgetown area up through Myrtle Beach, although Myrtle Beach not reporting a whole lot of wind right now. They're certainly getting some heavy rain, but not a whole lot of wind. Georgetown reporting wind gusts to about 50 miles an hour out of the east. So that means that winds coming this way, the storm is still yet to make its -- or at least the center of it on shore. And once it does, once it's scooted past Charleston - I mean, the sun broke out and it's still kind of breezy there, but it's a lot more pleasant than it was a little while ago.
All right, here are the hurricane warnings, and these will be updated in probably in the -- within the next hour, so the ones down across parts of south South Carolina and Georgia will be dropped. But hurricane warnings all the way up to the North Carolina/Virginia border and then tropical warnings for the DelMarVa and even into parts of New Jersey.
So this storm is not yet over. It will decrease in intensity once it does make landfall, but it's doing that right now. So it's not going to decrease in intensity, really, in the next hour or two.
Here is the Doppler radar site, and this is what is impressive. The center of it right here, just south of Myrtle Beach. That is where the eye is. And south of there, it's pretty quiet because the southern part of this thing has been torn off. The farther north it gets, it gets into those strong steering currents, the jet stream - you hear us talk about that -- and that kind of rips the southern half of the storm up; doesn't allow it to intensify much. Down across the tropics you don't have the strong jet and these things get really strong. And that's what happened yesterday when it was a Category 4. But luckily it's a Category 1 right now.
Here's Wilmington, Cape Fear, a very strong band of rain and gusty winds making their way into the southern part of North Carolina, and then all this rain is going to be moving up the shoreline.
There is a concern with flooding. There are flood watches out. But this thing is moving at nearly 30 miles an hour, which means that we shouldn't have as much of a flooding issue as we would if it were moving at, say, 15 or 20 miles an hour. But it is marching onshore as we - as we speak right now.
The other issue is even though we're not going to have straight- line winds of 100, 120, 130 miles an hour, there's a threat for tornadoes. We had that yesterday. We had seven tornadoes touch down in Florida, one of which in Orlando where they had a wind gust of 105 miles an hour. So you're going to have these isolated tornadoes touch down, mostly to the north and to the east of the center of the storm system. So this red box is where we have a tornado watch out through at least noontime today for isolated tornadoes, Daryn.
The other one -- thing we want to touch on, once Charley is over - we've got another tropical depression that may become a named storm later on this afternoon or maybe sometime over the weekend. Same origins as Charley had last week, which was out in the Atlantic and eventually into the Caribbean. So we'll keep an eye on it.
That's at least five, if not seven days away. Right now we were focused on Charley. Hurricane -- Category 1 making landfall right now. Myrtle Beach, not the best place to be visiting, at least right now. Usually a beautiful spot.
KAGAN: No, unless you're a reporter chasing the story and that's exactly where you want to be. And if you want to see what Charley is doing we have to look or listen no further than our own David Mattingly. He is in Charleston, South Carolina, there on the coast.
And David, as I understand it you are really feeling the affects of Charley as we speak.
MATTINGLY: Well, Daryn, I'm actually a little further north in Georgetown, South Carolina, and, yes, we are getting hammered right now. The -- this is tropical-storm force winds, but there is so much rain here and it's blowing horizontally in and at us, that it's hard to even see across the roadway at this point.
There's a lot of debris that we have seen blowing out of trees and across the roadway. There have been reports of downed trees and some blocked roads and crews are already trying to work their way to them to clean that area up.
But the worst of what's left of Charley apparently hammering us right now in Georgetown. This is exactly what officials were expecting here. They are hoping that it moves through pretty quickly. The storm is picking up speed and they expect it to be in and out of here in a matter of hours.
So all said and done, they're looking at four to six inches of rain, but you would have to think that we were looking at four to six inches right now. There's just that much rain in the air coming at us right now, Daryn.
KAGAN: Kind of gives you perspective, because to hear Rob Marciano talk what you're experiencing is nothing compared to what the folks down in Florida got from the same storm.
MATTINGLY: Absolutely. This is a very pale comparison to what Florida saw of Charley and this is a lot less than what the authorities in South Carolina were preparing for. This is tropical- storm strength, not hurricane strength. This is the worst of it right now. It's hitting - is (ph) expected to move through. Nothing they say that they can't handle - Daryn.
KAGAN: And it sounds like most folks in that area chose to stay put?
MATTINGLY: There were about 25 to 30,000 people who heeded the mandatory evacuations in the low-lying areas. The mandatory evacuation coming from the governor last night. Those people moved out. There were volunteer evacuations. Some people did that as well.
But most people are staying put. A lot of seasoned hurricane veterans in this area, this part of the coast. And again, this is not a hurricane. Tropical storm-force winds, something that they believe that they will be able to ride out without too much of a problem, Daryn. KAGAN: And another break that this part of the Carolina coast catches is that as this storm hits, it's actually as the tide is going out rather than the high tide.
MATTINGLY: That's right. We are in a low-tide period right now, so that really does a lot in terms of the storm surge that's coming in here. At most, in most areas, generally they're expecting to see maybe five to six feet of a storm surge. Not really all that much, and it could be less in actually some areas as this storm continues to come on.
KAGAN: All right. We will continue to track it. That's our David Mattingly in Georgetown.
Along the South Carolina coast, the storm is making its way northward. We are tacking it. We are also checking out the devastation left behind in Florida.
A lot more coverage here on CNN. Right now a quick break.
KAGAN: And let's take a look at where we are in our coverage here. We are watching Hurricane Charley as it makes its way up the East Coast. Right now, passing over the Myrtle Beach area. We have our Rob Marciano on that tracking it and bringing you the latest information about which community might be seeing the effects of the storm next.
The hardest-hit community so far has been Punta Gorda, Florida, on the southwestern shores of Florida. Our -- we have our Anderson Cooper and John Zarrella are there.
A lot of mobile homes in that community, a lot of retirees and a big concern that not only were a lot of homes and buildings were lost, but also a large loss of life. An exact number we don't have yet, but we're working on that. Also expecting any minute -- this has been within the last half hour -- the governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, expected to hold a news conference from Punta Gorda. And, of course, as soon as the governor begins to speak you're going to see those comments and get the latest information right here on CNN.
Meanwhile, let's go ahead and bring in a federal official. Mike Bolch is the federal coordinating officer with FEMA. He's in Tallahassee, in the state capital, bringing us the latest on what kind of help coming to the victims of Hurricane Charley.
Mike, thank you for being with us.
MIKE BOLCH, FED. COORDINATING OFCR., FEMA: Thank you, Daryn.
KAGAN: I don't know if you've had a chance to make it down to Punta Gorda or just look at the pictures, but it would seem to us here at CNN that that is the community that has been the hardest hit so far. BOLCH: No, unfortunately, I have not been there yet. I'm headed there this afternoon. I have been in the state of Florida for several days now, as has a lot of the rest of the FEMA team working with the state officials and the local officials to try to determine where the aid is needed most and where we can direct it to the most critically damaged areas.
KAGAN: That is one advantage of hurricanes. You know they're coming. You don't know exactly where they're going to hit, but you can get in place. So I would imagine that would put you in some sort of position to send help to the folks who really need it today?
BOLCH: Well, that's correct, and that's the reason we came to Tallahassee, to work with the state, anticipating at first it was going to go a little bit further north, but then it took a jog to the east. And so we're just relocating our focus right now on the southwest Florida section.
KAGAN: Yes, and when you look at these pictures, it's just so sad to look at the loss, to look at the devastation, especially -- not just at the mobile homes, but these are retirement communities, these are older folks living out their dreams of retiring and spending their final days in Florida.
BOLCH: Well, it's always sad to see anybody with a disaster, particularly at the level we see here. A lot of people, like you said, they expected to live here and in a nice, sunny, bright location by the seaside. But bad things sometimes happen.
But there is help on the way. The state, the locals, and the federal government, they're bringing help needed to those victims just as soon as possible.
KAGAN: We heard John Zarrella report that there's talk about in the Punta Gorda area setting up tent cities. Do you know anything about that?
BOLCH: We're looking for a lot of options for housing disaster victims. Really, not talking too much about tent cities right now. That's not something we'd prefer to do. We'd prefer to find some other type of more long-term permanent housing. We want to get people into something that's safe and sanitary and then we'll work on a long-term plan for them.
KAGAN: To help them get re-established so they can really get their lives put back together.
BOLCH: That's correct.
What about in terms of just - Mike, in terms of just simple dollars. There's really no replacement for that when you're trying to put your life back together.
BOLCH: No, we can never put people's lives back together the way it was before. We can help them out. We encourage people to be prepared for disasters, to have flood insurance and to do things like that for themselves.
We will do the maximum it takes to help disaster victims. And other agencies such as volunteers, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the local communities, church groups and other people like that pitching in together can make a big difference.
KAGAN: And really, what's going to be the first step when you get - when your people get in that area in Punta Gorda?
BOLCH: Well, our first step is to help the people who need rescuing, with the injured and the people who are without a home right now, to try to find them a place to stay. And like I said, we need a place that's safe and sanitary for them for the time being until we can find something more long term.
But our first priority is on those people who are missing and the injured.
KAGAN: Absolutely. Well, if the pictures tell any of the story, you do have quite a bit of work cut out for you. We wish you well in helping the folks of southwestern Florida.
And that is Mike Bolch, the federal coordinating officer with FEMA in Tallahassee making his way down to Punta Gorda.
Once again, we're standing by. We expect the governor, Jeb Bush, to be holding a news conference from Punta Gorda. We'll carry that live when it begins.
Right now we take a break.
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