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Hurricane Frances Plods Across Florida; Interview with Maj. General Douglas Burnett

Aired September 5, 2004 - 10:00   ET


KELLY WALLACE, CNN, WASHINGTON: I'm Kelly Wallace in Washington. INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY preempted today so we can give you extensive live coverage of Hurricane Frances. First a look though at other stories making news now
The Pentagon cast doubt on reports out of Iraq that one of the most powerful figures in the former Iraqi regime has been arrested. The Iraqi defense Ministry has said that Izzad Ibrahim al-Duri was captured near Tikrit by US and Iraqi forces. He was deputy commander of the armed forces under Saddam Hussein. Al-Duri is number six on the U.S. military's list of most wanted Iraqi officials

People in the grief stricken town of Beslan in Southern Russia are burying their dead, many of them children. They were killed in a school hostage seizure that ended in disaster with 338 hostages killed. President Putin has declared two days of national morning. Flags will fly at half staff and TV entertainment shows are suspended.

In northern California homes and wineries are threatened by worsening wildfires in Sonoma County. A blaze there has been burning out of control as it nears a group of 200 homes. A second fire has already destroyed eleven homes in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

And tall buildings in Tokyo swayed during a strong earthquake. It was centered almost 300 miles west of the capitol in the ocean floor. Police are checking reports an elderly couple in Kyoto may have been injured.

And now to Hurricane Frances, which weakened slightly after making landfall. The huge storm though almost the size of Texas is moving very, very slowly across Florida and it is making a huge mess. Bill Hemmer is in Melbourne with the latest.

Good morning, Bill. What is it looking like out there right now?

BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT; Hi, Kelly. Good morning. Just to update our viewers on our experience, I use that word liberally here, experience here so far today. Over the past four hours, right around 6 o'clock AM local time, it's now 10 o'clock local time, so four hours ago we noticed a sudden up tick in the winds in their strength and intensity.

Now listen, the winds have been blowing all night, but at around 6 o'clock in the morning they were just coming in to the east coast of Florida almost at a right angle with a strength and voracity that we had not experienced in the previous day or even last evening. Now - so those winds have continued for about four consistent hours now here in Melbourne. And the east coast of Florida, Kelly, waking up without a lot of power. Three million people without power.

At one point that was well over four million, but the power crews out in certain parts of the area up and down the coast working to get a million restored. So, three million is the mark we have right now.

For Melbourne specifically we were with some hurricane hunters about two hours ago, they had noticed on their instruments gusts of about 97 to 98 miles an hour. Earlier than that they had winds sustained in the low 90s. It's tough for us to say how strong it is right now, but we can tell you he damage we're seeing ins quite obvious. The aluminum siding coming off of buildings and homes. We're seeing signs down literally rolling down the highway here, US-1, which is where our location is right along the Atlantic inter coastal waterway.

There will be extensive damage with these traffic lights hanging in the middle of intersections. And the power lines too are of significant concern. There are power lines down but it's tough for us to say how many and whether or not those power lines are dead or alive. And if they're alive, that's the real danger.

Last hour we talked with a member of the police department here in Melbourne. His concern is that too many people are thinking that's it's OK to come out and do some sightseeing and have a look around before the area is secured.

That was the bad news that he gave us. The good news is that he believes this town, to date anyway, the city of Melbourne is holding up pretty well given the fury of Frances and the strength we're seeing now.

Kelly, back to you now in DC.

WALLACE: Bill how is it comparing? You've been out there on the scene since 6 o'clock this morning, how is it comparing now to what it was like early this morning before sunrise?

HEMMER: I've got to tell you, since 6 o'clock in the morning, this is the same thing we've been getting, Kelly, for the last four hours. It has not given up very much at all. In fact, I'd say it has been more constant than anything.

If you want to step out on the other side of this building you can literally find yourself facing the wind straight on like this. We have some protection here. We have a wall about 12 to 14 feet high and that's what's helping us to transmit at this point.

WALLACE: Bill, and I heard you say something interesting in one of your earlier reports. You were talking to someone in the hotel who was comparing Hurricane Frances and the time it has taken to move across Florida with Hurricane Charley. What did you learn?

HEMMER: Yes. Well, Hurricane Charley, you know, came in and took that right hand turn right into the southwestern portion of Florida and all the tracking had it going further north. The thing that was so devastating about Charley is that the upper right hand corner of every hurricane always packs the biggest punchy.

Charley was 145 miles an hour when it came on shore and that's why you saw the extensive damage done in southwest Florida coupled with the tornadoes that were spawned as well. Frances is a much larger storm and a slower storm, but it doesn't have the intensity of Charley.

Now what we did - what we were told yesterday one of the locals here at the marina, who runs the shop here, had a Web site up for us. He was calling it Really fascinating too Kelly. He could track every hurricane in the history of Florida. And what he saw on Andrew from 12 years ago, Andrew crossed the southern part of Florida and was only over land, get this now, for six hours. And still Andrew brought an amount of destruction that we have not seen in natural disasters pretty much in the history of the past century.

Now Frances does not have the same strength as Andrew, but it's going to be a longer storm. And that consistent pounding that we're experiencing now that's what's going to result in the damage that we'll see once this storm passes and we can all get out and have a look around.

WALLACE: Bill, exactly. The relentless pounding when it comes to wind and flooding something we'll be watching. Bill Hemmer we'll be checking in with you throughout the morning.


WALLACE; Bill Hemmer reporting from Melbourne, Florida.

Just as Hurricane Frances is working its way across Florida we are working our way, along with our correspondents. Sean Callebs is in West Palm Beach just to the south of where the eye of the storm came ashore.

Sean, what is it looking like from your vantage point there right now?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, really out here Kelly the damage the teeth of Frances has come and gone. You can look behind me. This is a scene that's virtually played out through all the streets throughout West Palm Beach, just littered with all kinds of debris. These royal palm trees losing their prawns. Lots of downed power lines as well.

Like Bill we had a chance to talk with the local enforcement officer a short while ago and he's also concerned that a lot of people are out right now just trying to get their first look at the damage. There are about 1.3 million residents in this county virtually all of hem without power or were at one point. The authorities tell us that some 580,000 homes lost power.

Here's just some of the problems. If you look there are all kinds of these decorative lights like this in Palm Beach, just this tossed around debris everywhere. Authorities worry people are going to go out and with these winds still picking up, some strong winds in the are, more problems. And this too, if you look at this royal palm how it's listing and the tree over this home right here. We know the people inside there rode out the storm so, there could be all kinds of damage.

There's standing water all over the streets. Flooding is going to be a concern. We expect more rain. It has been raining for about 25, 28 hours throughout this area.. Some of the onlookers out main drag here in West Palm Beach.

Across the way Palm Beach Barrier Island really took the brunt of the storm. We had a crew out there this morning, got some pictures. More of the same that we're seeing here. A lot of downed trees, a lot of downed power lines. They were met by officers right when they got off the bridge leading over there who basically said turn back around and go back to West Palm Beach.

They were concerned about the possibility of looting. . A lot of officers, a lot of emergency personal are out this morning. We know that there are a lot of downed power lines as well. The major concern, are those lines alive? If so, certainly they don't want anybody anywhere near that.

But the heavy winds that we saw really tapering off somewhat dramatically. The rain too, which had been coming down in sheets until about an hour ago has dissipated somewhat. We're still getting these gusts like we're feeling right now. But for the most part, the hurricane has come and gone. Now they're trying to assess the damage to see just how bad it is -- Kelly.

WALLACE: Yes, Sean, we could still hear those winds picking up on your microphone. We're also seeing some cars on the streets behind you. Are you starting to see more and more movement Because Florida Governor Jeb Bush, as you know, is expressing a great deal of concern that people will start rushing to their homes before the worse is behind them.

CALLEBS: Yes. And we heard at least -- we heard him say this for 24 hours. Yesterday at a news conference he said that he knew this was the kind of storm that was going to bring heavy damage, and virtually it's touching every part of the state. Worried that it's not just the winds, but also flood waters. And he said they didn't want anybody to get hurt, in his words, by abject stupidity. So they don't want anybody out at this hour.

We know that a lot of the shelters throughout the state seeing a lot of people. Some 80,000 people are seeking solace in the shelters. Here in West Palm Beach we know that there were 28 shelters set up. Thousands of people there. Clearly these are people who've been in there for two or three days. We can understand why they might want to go home. You could just see it on their faces over the past couple of days as Frances lumbered slowly toward the Florida coast. They wanted it to come and go.

Now that it has moved on somewhat they're eager to get back home. But the authorities are doing everything they can to make sure those people do stay inside until all of the danger has passed -- Kelly.

WALLACE: And Sean we keep putting a number up for any Floridians who are concerned about their power. They can call 1-800-4-OUTAGE to get some information.

Just looking around there Sean, do you have any sense of the magnitude of the power outages in the West Palm Beach area that you're in right now?

CALLEBS: Well, in talking with the authorities this morning virtually all of the power is out here. There are no power lines down on this street. But we made the drive in around four in the morning, I'd say what about six hours really at the height of the storm and the conditions were horrific. The wind was really whipping. We saw downed power lines in one area. We drove around them obviously, but if they are down transformers have been attacked by the heavy winds.

We actually saw transformers going off on the Barrier Island yesterday cutting off power to parts of Palm Beach, but clearly a lions share of the people in this county without power this morning.

WALLACE: Sean Callebs reporting from West Palm Beach. Sean, we'll keep getting back to you throughout the hours this morning as well.

So, where is this storm right now? What can we expect? For some answers we go to Rob Marciano in the CNN weather center. Rob, this storm downgraded to a Category-1, but still very, very severe for Floridians.

ROB MARCIANO, BTS METEOROLOGIST: Yes it is. It probably won't be downgraded to a tropical storm still for a few hours to go. It has moved inland band because of that it's weakening somewhat. You can see the last several frames of this as it moved inland. There's the well distinct eye. As it moves onshore that eye begins to collapse, close up, the system begins to weaken somewhat.

But it is so big the outer arms and the spiral bans still reach out into the Gulf Stream of the Atlantic Ocean. So it still has the ability to pick up some energy and that's why likely even though it's overland it will be slow to diminish in intensity, as it will be slow to move across the state. It's only moving to the west at about seven miles an hour.

Right now figure it's about 30 miles to the west of West Palm Beach. And then to get to the Gulf of Mexico it's well over another 100 miles. So moving at that rate, we're looking at it taking all day long to move across the peninsula.

This red box that keeps flashing up here and then jogging up to the north, the reason it's jogging it's following the hurricane itself. Typically the northern half of these systems not only is there heavier rain and just straight on winds, but because you have this swirl happening, almost like throwing a frisbie out from an arm, you often get a lot of spin in the atmosphere and little tornadoes can drop out of the sky. So that's why there are often tornado watches that are posted for these particular storms.

And the suspect areas would be north of Melbourne into Kissimmee and Orlando up through Daytona even maybe into Jacksonville later on today.

All right. Where is this storm exactly and then what's the track for this thing? Because once it gets into the Gulf of Mexico it likely is going to affect the rest of the state as far as the panhandle of Florida is concerned.

Ninety mile an hour wind gusts - winds sustained. That means it's a strong Category-1 storm. Seventy miles an hour sustained winds would make it minimal storm and we'll have to wait to see how long it will take to decrease in intensity.

We'll run the map for you. As it heads to the west just north of Tampa and just south of Orlando, gusty winds around this thing. And then into the Gulf of Mexico late tonight early tomorrow. Could re- strengthen into a hurricane by that time as it moves into the Panama City the panhandle of Florida as likely a strong tropical storm, maybe a minimal hurricane. In through Alabama weakening rapidly as it does so because then it definitely doesn't have any water to deal with. So, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia even through parts of Texas or Tennessee, I should say, will feel the affects of this.

Briefly Labor Day weekend, nice day across the northeast today. This storm, this front is what's going to help pull this hurricane into the Gulf of Mexico and eventually up towards the north. But because there hasn't been a whole lot happening up here that's one of the reason why the steering currents have been so weakened it's the main reason really, that this storm has just put on the brakes the past couple of days. .

All right. Another storm, we're ramping up, we're getting into the height of hurricane season and we look out into the Atlantic Basic, not to get anybody too worried, but this now is Hurricane Ivan and it's expected to head into the Caribbean and actually be off the shorelines of the U.S. probably by the end of this week. We'll watch that carefully, no doubt about that.

Kelly, that's the latest here from the weather department. We'll keep an eye on Ivan, but right now Frances is going to be a big trouble maker. Flood watches out for the entire state. We've had reports, Kelly, of rainfall amounts eight to 10 inches in some areas. We could see another eight to 10 inches on top of that s this thing moves so slowly with such a tremendous amount of moisture. Rainfall and flooding, on top of all the dramatic pictures that we've seen, rainfall and flooding could easily be the bigger factor come this time tomorrow morning.

WALLACE: It's all too much to bear, Rob. You mentioned tornadoes at the top.. Right now any tornado warnings in effect in any parts of the state that you know of?

MARCIANO: Not since I ran downstairs about 10 minutes ago. There have been about half a dozen that popped up as far as radar indicated tornadoes throughout the morning. What that means is that it's not necessarily touching the ground. We had one report that I know of of an F-0 tornado, and that means a very, very weak tornado.

Typically, the other thing Kelly, is that the tornadoes that pop out of these storms are fairly weak although they still can do some damage. Right now as far as I know there are no tornado warnings out. But of course we'll keep an eye out as this system slowly marches off towards the west.

WALLACE; And Rob, you've been following storms like this for years. Have you ever seen anything quite like this. We're all talking about the slow moving storm and the relentless pounding of wind and rain at such a slow speed travelling across the state of Florida.

MARCIANO; No. Certainly not effecting land mass. We've all seen storms that have been big and just sitting out in the Gulf of Mexico like Carla. I mean to see a storm take this much time, approach land mass like the peninsula of Florida and then this much time getting across the land mass of Florida, no. I mean I haven't seen it. I'd have to search back into the history books to search for a track. We've been doing that and I haven't found one yet.

So, every storm, Kelly, has a different personality. I suppose it's one of the reasons that we name them. But like Bill Hemmer said this one totally different from Andrew. Andrew moving very rapidly with a narrow very damaging swatch. This one a much wider swatch pounding people -- lots more people for a longer period of time. Totally different story.

WALLACE: Thanks, Rob. We will keep checking in with you. Rob Marciano at the CNN weather center in Atlanta.

And here now an update on the slow push of Hurricane Frances across Florida. The hurricane has slowed down and is now, as Rob was saying, a Category-1 storm with maximum sustained winds of 90 miles per hour. According to The National Hurricane Center, Frances will continue to weaken. But the still powerful storm is only moving across the state at about seven miles per hour and will continue to lash the state with winds and rain.

An immediate effect of those strong winds is the loss of electrical power when poles and lines get knocked down. Florida Power and Light says more than 1.6 million homes and businesses have lost power as a result of the storm. Because the storm is lingering it will be sometime before power workers can get out there and begin that repair work.

Many people went to the 407 evacuation shelters around the state. The Red Cross is saying as many as somewhere between 80,000 and above spent the night in shelters and centers. It was a big increase from the 63,000 who came to the shelters Friday night.

Strong winds and steady rains, as we've been telling you, hit Florida as Hurricane Frances blew across the state. Officials in Brevard County right on the coast had urged thousands to leave before the storm hit. Steve Barrett of CNN affiliate WFTZ looks at the damage done by Frances.


STEVE BARRETT, WFTZ: We got up with the sun this morning to go and assess damage in the south Brevard County area. That in Florida is what was the north side of the eye wall. I just want to show you some of the video that we captured this morning.

A common sight traffic signals laying in the road. Another common sight, same thing as Charley, gas stations that have lost their canopies. That's one thing that takes them much longer to reopen we have found just in the last weeks. Power lines are down, long lengths of them or the poles have actually just snapped and they're just dangling there. The polls only supported by their own lines at this point in a lot of cases.

But the winds still battering them and there's still time for them to actually fall, take the complete fall all the sway tot he ground. That of course is when it becomes very dangerous when you're walking out of your house when a power line is hanging there or dangling in front of you. Of course you're not supposed to go outside and assess the damage yourself. You should always wait for the experts to do that.

The Indian River is flowing over here. Trees getting knocked down not on the power lines. We haven't seen a lot of that here and that is a good thing. That was a huge problem in Charley. But the storm surge is blowing the Indian River out of its banks. We haven't been to the coast of the Atlantic because we cannot get onto the Barrier Islands. But all along this strip of south Florida trees are down.

A lot of streets are now blocked. That's going to take some clearing, difficult to get around because of that and what you see here. Traffic signals dangling hanging on for their lives. This one here, these three here actually have several hours to go to take the beating.

A lot of people want to know what their homes are like along this Indian River stretch. About 26,000 mobile homes in the area that were evacuated. We can tell you that most of the mobile home parks look about like this one. The are in very good condition. They've got some, you know, carports ripped off, things like that. But for the most part the mobile homes we've seen are structurally sound. Some of them though look like this one with the front of them just bashed in. But we can tell you out of maybe 50 homes just one or two look like this.

But this area is still taking a pounding. You can see right on this inland lake how strong the winds are. That means that the power grid and those homes have a lot of beating yet to take. But it is hoped, at least for the power, electricity here in south Florida that it's not going to be the rebuilding effort after Charley. More of a restoration effort because they won't have to go house to house because trees have fallen and taken down everyone's power line from the house to the pole. So, that's the hope here. Maybe people can get electricity back sooner even though the storm lasted a lot longer.

Reporting in South Brevard County, Steve Barrett, Channel Two Action News.


WALLACE: And what is going on when it comes to relief operations. A major relief operation underway in the entire state of Florida. At the center of it all, the American Red Cross. I have the pleasure of talking to the president of the American Red Cross right after this.

CNN's live coverage of Hurricane Frances continues right after this break. Stay with us.


WALLACE: The Bahamas are still struggling to clean up from the damage left behind by Hurricane Frances. CNN's Karl Penhaul has the latest from Freeport on Grand Bahamas Island.

Carl, what's the situation there now?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Hi, Kelly. There certainly is a lot of cleaning up to be done here and so far police what they're doing right now is trying to concentrate on getting preliminary damage assessments. Because only just now those hurricane force winds beginning to subside somewhat down into tropical storm force winds. But that's bringing a lot of rain with it.

Luckily though what the police are telling us is that the tidal surge is beginning to recede and some of those areas that were locked in up to eight feet of water last night are beginning to get some relief this morning. But what police are telling us is that here on Grand Bahamas at least one man has died from drowning. An 80 year old man is also listed as missing after winds completely destroyed his home.

Elsewhere in the Bahamas we know of another death on Nassau. A young man electrocuted when he was trying to organize his power plant to get through this storm.

And as I say, the main mission for police is to get out on the ground and check out what really has happened. Certainly we know of many roofs that have been knocked off. There are hundreds of trees lying around. There's no power on the island. Telephone lines are down, the cellular phone is out. But the real key area to get to will be the low lying areas around the coast particularly on the west and north side of the island.

The airport is still flooded and the airport is expected to be out of action for several days still, Kelly.

WALLACE: Karl, as you have been talking our viewers are looking at some incredible pictures. Several inches of water on streets and other avenues. What is the flooding situation there that you've been able to see?

I think we've just lost our connection with CNN's Karl Penhaul, you can understand that talking by telephone, as we're dealing with some -mother nature stepping in. We'll get back to him reporting from Freeport on Grand Bahamas Island..

Well, the Red Cross says as many as 200,000 people may have spent last night in hundreds of shelters across the state. Massive damage is expected as Frances continues its slow march across Florida. That means challenges to the ongoing process of trying to help storm victims.

Red Cross President and CEO Marsha Evans joins us now here in Washington to talk about efforts to help. Thanks for being with us.


WALLACE: The first thing I had read, your relief effort for Hurricane Frances, you expect it to be larger than even Hurricane Andrew of 1992. Why is that?

EVANS: Well, it's shaping up to be a very, very large operation. Our largest in Red Cross history because of the size. You've seen certainly the size of that storm, what its covered and the population density. So, we're expecting a much larger operation actually than Andrew. And when you combine that with the operation that has been ongoing with Hurricane Charley it's huge.

WALLACE: What are the biggest issues right now for American Red Cross?

EVANS; Well, we want people to stay in shelters. It is not safe to be out yet. We need to have people follow the direction of the Florida emergency managers because they will know and tell us when it is safe to move.

The second issue is that we want people to know that the Red Cross is going to be there. We are staged in Atlanta to move in as quickly as possible to set up feeding operations, sheltering operations. People often times want to get back into their homes, but they find out that they're not inhabitable. So he Red Cross will be there and they can get information about where to find a shelter by calling 1-866-GET-INFO.

WALLACE: Right. I want to make sure we'll continue to put those numbers up for any people who need help. They can call 1-866-GET-INFO. For Americans across the country who want to help donations you say are very important and they can call 1-800-HELP-NOW. How important are donations right now?

EVANS: It's extremely important. The American Red Cross is not a government agency. We are partner of the government and we stand by to serve the American public and it's only possible by the generous donation of the American public. So, we're asking everyone across the United States to make a contribution so that we can insure that the people in Florida, not only from the Charley disaster, but now the Frances disaster have the help they need.

WALLACE; Are you pleasantly surprised that so many Floridians did go to shelters last night and the night before? Do you think it had something to do with the effects of Hurricane Charley and the disaster that Floridians saw based on that hurricane?

EVANS: The Red Cross is not only abut disaster relief. We're also abut preparation. And we have been teaching the preparedness message for many years. We hope that people learn from this experience, that you cannot anticipate when a disaster is going to strike. And we saw certainly with Charley that it didn't come where a lot of people thought it was going to some. So, every American needs to be prepared all the time.

WALLACE; And you were talking before we went on air, something very important. As people go back to their homes and they're told it's safe to go back to their homes still some danger out there. What should they do when they go to their homes to be safe for themselves and their families?

EVANS: The conditions are going to be very challenging. There's going to be no electricity for a while at lease. That means that the temperatures are going to cause people to become dehydrated. They're going to need a shoulder to lean on. And so, we ask them to come to The American Red Cross, to come to our shelters and they can get support. They can get a hot meal. They can get that, all of the thins they need for the basics of life.

WALLACE: And are you all strapped in though? As you said, just three weeks ago Hurricane Charley, you still have relief operations underway. How strapped is The American Red Cross right now?

EVANS: The American Red Cross is a national network of Red Cross chapters. Over 800 in communities across the nation. We're ready. We're ready to surge. We're on the job in Florida and we're on the job in many other cities right now as we speak.

WALLACE; Marsha Evans, president and CEO of the American Red Cross. You're getting on a plane this afternoon, right on your way to Florida?

EVANS: As soon as the airports in Florida open.

WALLACE: Again to our viewers, if you want to help, 1-800-HELP- NOW for donations. If you are in Florida and you need help in particular, call 1-866-GET-INFO. Much more of our continuing coverage of Hurricane Frances right after this. Stay with us.


WALLACE: Welcome back to our continuous live coverage of Hurricane Frances. First though, a look at other stories making news right now. Pentagon officials are casting doubt about reports a member of the former Iraqi power structure was captured near Tikrit Saturday. Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri was deputy commander of Saddam Hussein's armed forces. Al-Duri is No. 6 on the list of most wanted Iraqi officials, the King of Clubs in the U.S. military's deck of cards.

A car bomb went off near a U.S. patrol north of Baghdad this morning. An American soldier was injured, as were two Iraqis. U.S. troops grabbed 3 suspects nearby. That adds to earlier violence in Iraq this weekend. A car bomb killed 15 yesterday in Kirkuk.

And Teresa Heinz Kerry is back home in Pennsylvania today. She was taken to an Iowa hospital Saturday evening. The wife of the Democratic presidential nominee complained of an upset stomach while on the campaign trail. She left the hospital after getting some tests.

And now -- Governor Jeb Bush has declared a state of emergency throughout Florida, activating the National Guard.

With us now from Tallahassee, the commander of the Florida National Guard, Major General Douglas Burnett. General, thank you so much for joining us.


WALLACE: What can you tell us right now about what the Florida National Guard is doing to help?

BURNETT: Well, right now we have over 4,000 Florida National Guardsmen mobilized. That number will grow to 5,500 to 6,000. We're moving 1,500 vehicles, and about 15,000 gallons of our own diesel fuel toward the affected area as we speak.

In fact, some of the soldiers are actually moving in that area right now. Special forces units doing the reconnaissance piece, pushing back information, damage, if you will, on satellite phones. And then, of course, the security piece will follow that. And right in close, obviously it's a parallel effort, we'll see pushing emergency supplies. And the big key here is search and rescue.

So, it's about a multi-pronged efforts that's taking place as we speak, right now.

WALLACE: And general, for those teams that are already out, do you have any initial reports and any initial search and rescue operations under way?

BURNETT: Well, the reports are coming back, much as we see on your CNN and other networks. You folks do a great job out there as giving us the eyes on. But we won't wait until blue skies to get the first responders on there, that will happen as soon as it's safe. And again, the primary effort here is a joint synchronized unity of effort all the way from U.S. Northern Command, FEMA, First Army, the National Guard Bureau and, of course, this great state team that Governor Bush has put together to respond to these citizens in need.

WALLACE: How strapped are you? I was just talking to the president of the American Red Cross, you all are dealing with Hurricane Frances just three weeks after dealing with Hurricane Charley?

BURNETT: Well, there are a lot of challenges there, lessons learned. I think the major lesson was learned from Andrew. I think we learned to work together, again, a unity of effort. The difference that Charley and Frances is this, the per square mile resident, the figure is exponentially higher in the path of Frances. And we also see Frances coming across with a lot more flooding. The rivers in Central and West Florida were right at flood stage before this started.

So, we'll see flooding up there. And that softens the ground. It didn't take a lot of wind to blow trees up with the ground very soft.

So, the challenge is going to be more widespread. We're going to need more folks to do it. We think it is very well covered, though. And the Red Cross, again, great effort. And they're doing the great, job that they always do in these times.

WALLACE: And is that the concern, general, right now, the extent of flooding? As you're saying, the ground is going to be saturated, power lines, other kind of structures could easily topple down.

BURNETT: Well that is a problem. And again, as Governor Bush has well said, we have got to be careful about folks going back too quick. We had some casualties down in Punta Gorda. Folks walked out of the house, walked in the water, downed power lines that electrified the water, and we had casualties there. Folks got up in the roofs too quick and soggy roofs cave in, as you know.

So we've got to be careful, particularly from the standpoint of folks getting back too quick. Allow those first responders and the National Guard do the job that they're well trained and can do.

WALLACE: Give me a sense, also, general, how far out are the teams right now in terms of the state of Florida. You are not able to go, though, in certain places still seeing hurricane force winds, is that correct?

WALLACE: Well, we had soldiers and Armies surrounding to the north of the effected area, to the Southwest and down in Miami. The First Battalion of the Florida National Guard certainly just came back from a year and two months in Iraq, I would add. So, 75 percent of these soldiers are combat veterans, right fresh from Iraq and Afghanistan.

They've been moving up from (UNINTELLIGIBLE) armies since very early this morning. So, they're closing on that area as we speak. And you'll start to see them driving the streets in the next hour or so down there in the Melbourne, Brevard County, St. Lucie, Martin County area.

WALLACE: General Burnett, we'll leave it there. We look -- glad you could take time with us. And we'll keep checking in with you throughout the day. Thanks, again. That was Major General Douglas Burnett with the Florida National Guard.

Right now, though, we want to take you to our affiliate coverage WPLG TV in Miami, on Hurricane Frances, let's listen in. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...destroy mobile homes that have been built with the new construction code. So, I suspect most of those held up fairly well, there's probably a few that have damage. And again, it just depends upon which wind gust hit which particular mobile home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As we look at this police vehicle making its way down the road, we should remind our viewers, that's exactly what's happening this morning in your neighborhood. Emergency officials have sent out officers to kind of scope out the damage for them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they've really been doing that. I notice that when we I left in the wee hours of the morning to come in here, that in parts of Broward County there's just police. And this -- now they're really a patrolling in this type of situation. Lights on, so they can bee seen. And there's just a steady flow of police officers in and out of the neighborhoods, for obvious reasons.

They want to make sure that, A, they're there. And B, that they show that there is a presence for any of the riff-raff that might want to take advantage of power outages and things like that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well it's interesting, we learned today, also, the police are not only doing this themself, but their asking the public to be their eyes and ears. You know, we're all in this together. And they are asking all of us as we see damage, or perhaps trees obscuring traffic flow, to call it into them so that they can make up their priority list to try to get things cleaned up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And take care of each other. You know, this is the time to be a good neighbor.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have the 11:00 advisory, let's keep rolling the video. I'll just, sort of -- basically down here, nothing has changed as far as the warnings are concerned from 5:00.

The hurricane warning was dropped at 5:00 this morning. We are under a tropical storm warning still here in South Florida. No surprise that is probably going to be in effect all day long.

Those of you who are listening to us in the Bahamas, or perhaps, if you're fortunate to have a generator and a television, your warning has now been lifted. So, all warnings for the Bahamas are discontinued. And a hurricane warning now has been issued up along the Gulf Coast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. We just took a hit there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hopefully -- I will assume we are still on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don, one thing to mention it you, even though we might lose our TV signal from time to time, we know that our radio partner still have a signal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly. I wasn't sure how much power went out where.

WALLACE: And you've been watching our affiliate coverage, WPLG TV in Miami. As you can imagine, all Florida affiliates covering this story 24 hours a day. We will continue to dip in.

Right now we're going to take a break, our coverage on CNN, live cover coverage of Hurricane Frances as it slowly moves westward across the state of Florida, continues after this brief break. Stay with us.


WALLACE: The latest now on Hurricane Frances. Most of the Florida peninsula is in for a prolonged lashing as the slow-moving storm moves across the area. Frances made landfall earlier this morning near Stuart. After pushing ashore, it was downgraded to a category 1 hurricane with sustained winds, right now of 90 miles per hour.

Florida Governor Jeb Bushes has declared a state of emergency as the storm batters his state. And he has activated the National Guard. Mr. Bush says a lot of people in Florida will experiencing a lot of trauma and tragedy in their lives, because of this storm. And he's promising a quick response to help those affected by Frances.

Before battering Florida, Hurricane Frances pounded the Bahamas with high winds and heavy rain. Trees and power lines are down. And flood waters cover the streets in Nassau and other parts of the country. And a search for survivors is underway. Reports say at least two storm-related deaths occurred in the Bahamas.

Now, we're going to dip in again to some affiliate coverage. We're going to go to affiliate WSVN TV, a reporter in Vero Beach, Florida, that is north of Ft. Pierce. Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...personnel, equipment and life-saving system; anything from that, to the delivery of heavy-duty generators, plastic sheeting, tents, cots, food, water, medical aid, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So, that is certainly good news that, you know, that has been approved, because we know that our ready relief is on the way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And one place that will most probably need that aid is in Melbourne. And that's where we find Sarah Dorsey who is standing by live. Sarah, last time we checked in with you, we saw a major shed torn apart. Talk to us a bit about that, first and foremost.

SARAH DORSEY, WSVN TV: That's right. There's was a shed, it's down the way, you're not going to be able to see it. We had walked over there. It was taken off of the concrete slab it was hooked to and it just flew away. Now all that's left there is what was inside that shed. And some of that is even blowing away. I just wanted to show you, this is one of those palm branches right here, that flew through the air. This is very hard, it's not breakable. So, it is a projectile in the air, it could harm anyone at any time.

Those are the type of things we're seeing down here right now. And we talked to a Melbourne officer earlier. He said they were seeing people out on the streets not walking, but driving. Still, that's a very dangerous situation. These winds are throwing things. They make the car go on and off the road. Not a good idea to be out. But they're seeing it here, nonetheless.

As far as damage goes in this area, the police officer said the damage was better than what they expected to see so far. The one place he hasn't been was to mobile home parks. And, of course, We drove past one on our way to this vantage point, and saw a lot of aluminum on the ground, one twisted around a tree. So we suspect those mobile home parks will have taken a good hit so far.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would not be a live shot with Sarah Dorsey, if I don't ask have you gotten any breaks at all from the weather?

DORSEY: And it wouldn't be a live shot if I didn't say no, right? We haven't gotten any breaks. It's just still coming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sarah Dorsey, earning her pay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My goodness. Since 3:00 in the morning, she has been pounded by the rain there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we're glad to see that she stayed safe. You know, when that shed just disintegrated next to her, she just knew, she looked over and she said, hey, this is gone. Didn't even know where it was. So, we're glad to see you are safe, although, certainly, after this, you'll want to stay home for a couple days under your sheets and in the warmth and comfort of your home, I'm sure. Thank you, Sarah.

DORSEY: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And take a look, more video out of West Palm Beach, an area really slammed by Hurricane Frances. Downtown, we understand, is this area, a lot of fresh trees that were planted about a year ago because there are so many new developments over there and the construction is so new, many of those trees were ripped out of the ground, not a very difficult test for Frances.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, one things that you mentioned, Richard, and I just want to touch upon it again today, although, this was yesterday I think that you were talking about it, but all the days are kind of coming of together...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: were talking about developments, new developments, and I just thought of it now as you were looking at these pictures, and you mentioned these new trees and how the guard gates, you know a lot of the securities in these new complexes, and there are so many of them in Broward and into West Palm Beach, and they've been relieved, obviously, because it's not safe for them to stay in those little guard gates. And then, at the same time, the gates have been opened and so you see police officers patrolling your neighborhoods, I've seen quite a few in my community. And again, they're doing it, because all of a sudden anybody can get into your complex, whereas, you know, you usually need the decal or some form of I.D., everybody has access now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In fact, we spoke to a reporter a short while ago who said there were three suspects in Dade County who were arrested in Loxahatchee for breaking into a luxury home there.

Speaking of arrests, an update, Davie Police Department releasing the following information. They were doing just a routine traffic stop after Hurricane Frances, they arrested 3 suspects in a vehicle after discovering, get this, they have stolen, of all things, traffic signs. They found 13 traffic signs in their vehicle. So, now, after living through Hurricane Frances those 3 suspects are behind bars.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. And it does give you some comfort as always, when you see a cruiser, you feel a little safer. And it's nice to see them in your neighborhoods when you know that security guard who was normally there is not there any more. And obviously, the gates are open for a reason, people have to get in, they have to get out, but you don't want the wrong people coming in, or getting out for that matter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff Ken Jenning holding a news conference at 10:00 a.m. Or it might have been a little before, saying, don't worry, the deputies are out there. They're taking to the streets. They are assessing the damage, checking on the neighborhoods.

He also said, there are dozens of traffic lights that are out. So, obviously, if you're taking to the roads, be careful.

We are expecting a news conference out of EOC in Broward in about an hour and ten minutes. And the reason that may be so important is because the evacuation ordered there in Broward County has not yet been lifted as it was lifted 49 minutes ago in Dade County.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I want to get back to the situation that Carmelle (ph) covered for us not too long ago, and just to mention what happened there. This was a Hospital in Ft. Lauderdale, where I believe they had 20 something, I can't remember the exact number, but 20 something patients there and they all happened to be on ventilators, the ones who were there, they lost power. The generator kicked in partially. Then it went out. Then they had fire trucks come in. They used their generators to power the ventilators.

I mean, it was just so amazing. Thank goodness it had a great ending. But it goes to show you that, we think of power outages as, I can't cook, not that I look forward to cooking, but no AC and things like that. Whereas for some people, it really is a matter of life and death. If they don't have that power, in their case, they couldn't breathe. They would have died. Thank goodness, they got the help they needed. But that was just an incredible story that Carmelle Cafero (ph) brought us a short while ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are looking at some of the damage and flooding coming out of West Palm Beach. We want to take you north now to Stuart. And that's where we find Rick...

WALLACE: And you can see those pictures, West Palm Beach flooding, trees down, extensive damage. We want to move now up the Florida coast to Melbourne, Florida. We have a report now from Orlando Affiliate WKMG TV. Take a listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was going to say, we're not taking precautions here, necessarily for our safety. I mean, it's definitely whipping out there. And we don't want to be out there as much as we can. But it's more for our comfort, because it's really bolting.

If we just maybe take a step down here. And we'll do the reportedly thing and just step into the storm here, just so you can see the comparison once we step away from the building. Which hopefully will encourage you not to step away from the safety of your buildings and homes where you're right now.

Yeah, we're really getting nailed here. I've got this piece of weed, some kind of grass or something that was growing here and if we let it go let's see how it flies. It's a little bit wet there.

You know what, for the first time I have been wondering about one thing down here. If you take a look, Mike Hanna, if you can see on that pole there, there's some of those -- the yellow sign up there. They've had these welcome to the brand new Sanford Riverwalk signs, and I've been amazed at throughout hurricane Charley and now here they've held up pretty well, but looks like that flag is getting beaten up along with this road work ahead sign.

What that road work ahead sign is referring to is all the construction they're doing on 1st street in downtown Sanford. We haven't had a chance to venture over there yet, but they have completely torn up 1st street in front of all those antique shops and historic businesses there.

And there are the barricades like you see, and construction equipment and barrels and lots of dirt. So, we can imagine that's just whipping around like crazy over there, as well. I'd rather not going over there and venture and risk getting hit in the head by one of those bright orange construction signs.

A little bit of a headache there, yes.

You know what, do you have a quick second, we have got someone who's out driving. Let's see if we can chat with them. You got a second?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First of all, just wondering what you're doing out here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sightseeing. What you're not supposed to do, probably, but we do it all the time in hurricanes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're sightseeing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're hurricane chasers sometimes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been at sea in Hurricanes. So, we kind of get a kick out of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm having a tough time hearing you, because the rains are pelting. But they definitely want people to stay off the roads as much as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah. We're heading back.


What are you seeing out on the roads here so far?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I've been here all my life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of power lines down and trees and a lot of snakes on the road.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't believe you guys are out here. You're about the only ones we've seen. I know we're not holding up any traffic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I going to apologize. I can't hear a word you're saying right now. You guys be safe and take care of your selves.

Well, they definitely don't encourage the sightseeing out here. But at least they were able to give, hopefully you guys, some perspective of what's going on.

Hey, Mike, take a look at this here, I was just fighting this sea of weed here, trying to fight the storms here. This is just insane. It's been relentless up here in Seminole County. And it just keeps getting more and more intense. I'm assuming, again, Reynold (ph), we are in the midst of one of those bands.

WALLACE: Some pretty incredible pictures.

We thank Orlando affiliate WKMG TV. You can see that reporter getting tossed around by the heavy winds and the rain. And the reporter stressing that it is not safe to go out there. You saw a couple people in a car, some stormtrackers, but Florida governor Jeb Bush urging all Floridians to stay safe, to stay in shelters until they are told their neighborhood are safe.

We are following Hurricane Frances, downgraded to a category 1 storm, still winds of 90 miles per hour, moving ever so slowly across the state, just about 7 miles per hour. Those pictures you see now.

We want to put up numbers on our screen. The American Red Cross urging Americans who want to help, donations definitely needed. You can call 1-800-HELP-NOW. If you are in the state of Florida and you need some help, call that response center number 1-866-GET-INFO. And those numbers and staffers are ready to help you.

More of CNN's extensive live coverage of Hurricane Frances just ahead. Don't go away.



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