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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Gov. Jeb Bush Speaks About Hurricane Frances

Aired September 5, 2004 - 9:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: We are continuing our live coverage of Hurricane Frances. I want to go now to a press conference in Florida where the governor will be speaking momentarily.
CRAIG FUGATE, DIRECTOR OF THE DIVISION OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: This storm is very slow-moving and has very hazardous conditions. However, as conditions permit, rescuers and response teams are moving into the area. We will not wait for blue skies to start the response, but we will have to allow those conditions to moderate so the crews can get in and operate safely. With that, at this time, I introduce Governor Bush, the governor of the state of Florida.

GOV. JET BUSH (R), FLORIDA: Thank you, Craig.

Good morning, everybody. First and foremost, I urge all Floridians across the impacted area to sit tight and remain calm and stay in safe shelter. This storm is slow-moving and it will take a while for it to cross the peninsula.

And I know the people have been anxious because of the wait. They heeded the advice of the local emergency operation centers and the local political leadership to evacuate. And it's been a long wait.

And I appreciate the fact that people are waiting. And I hope that they will continue to be patient, because there are still dangers on our streets where the hurricane has passed.

Millions of Floridians are without power. And I can assure you, just as -- as Craig did, that the minute it is safe to do so, the first responders will be on the ground providing relief, first to make the assessments of what the damage is, and then to address that damage. So please be patient.

This is going to be a quick response by literally thousands of people. And just remember that you and your family are more valuable than your -- your valuables. So don't come back -- go back to your home if you are in a shelter, don't think that you need to get on the interstate to go back to your community until you are told to do so.

I also want to make sure that the folks in the Panhandle begin to prepare for this storm. This -- the Panhandle has not gotten much attention, but as Ben will tell you in a second, the -- the storm will cross the peninsula and then it will, in all likelihood, hit the Florida Panhandle as a tropical-force storm. And for those that think that these gradations are -- well, if it's not a Category 4 storm, I think people, if you watch TV enough, you start thinking, well, thank god it's not a Category 4 storm.

Tropical-force winds will create lots of damage. There'll be lots of flooding. So people in the Panhandle particularly now have today to be prepared. And I know that they are going to do so.

I want to single out the -- the American Red Cross for their work. And David Reddick is here, who is their coordinator.

There -- last night, there were 233 shelters opened up, and 85,934 people were in them. And in Martin County, a shelter was partially damaged. And people, thanks to the Red Cross, were moved to a nearby shelter. So, David, thank you on behalf of all the volunteers of the American Red Cross.

And for those that are watching this morning across the country, there are many ways to help. But the principal, easiest, most efficient way to help right now is to -- to call the 1-800 number for the American Red Cross and to donate your money -- 1-800-HELP-NOW would be the way to do so.

This will be the largest relief effort the American Red Cross has ever been involved in. And they're going to need a lot of financial support. And there will be other ways going forward that -- that people can help.

With that, I would like to ask Ben Nelson to give us an update on the storm.

BEN NELSON, STATE METEOROLOGIST: Thank you, Governor.

Good morning. Just before midnight last night, the large eye of Hurricane Frances moved ashore in the Stuart area close to the Martin and St. Lucie County line. Since then, we have seen a very slow westward motion into the Florida peninsula.

Currently, Hurricane Frances is located in Okeechobee County, moving very slowly to the west at about eight miles per hour. We had a Category 2 landfall last evening, and now Frances has finally weakened down to Category 1 strength. It is still packing winds of 95 miles per hour, sustained.

The effects of the storm are not just confined to the Melbourne, Ft. Pierce, Palm Beach area. They extend really all the way from Jacksonville southward to the Keys.

We are going to see the center of Frances move across the central peninsula this afternoon at a very slow rate of speed, dropping as much as six to 12 inches of rainfall on a widespread area. Locally, rainfall totals could be as high as 18 inches.

We've had rivers in west central Florida that have been above flood stage before this event even came to shore. So that will exacerbate flooding conditions all across the peninsula, including on the eastern side in the lower St. John's basin.

We expect the center of Frances to move into the Tampa Bay area as a tropical storm later this afternoon. And then it will exit into the northeastern Gulf of Mexico this evening.

When Frances does exit into the Gulf of Mexico, we will see a storm surge of two to four feet move up into Tampa Bay. If you'll recall, Tampa Bay was not affected by any storm surge significantly by Charley, just three weeks ago.

Once Frances moves into the northeastern Gulf of Mexico, the waters there are above 85 degrees. We could see some reorganization, and Frances will head towards the Panhandle coast early tomorrow morning, with a landfall anywhere from St. Marks all the way over to the Walton County area, possible tomorrow afternoon.

Right now, the expected intensity landfall is going to be 70 miles per hour, and that's right on the threshold of a tropical storm or hurricane. So all residents in the Panhandle need to use today to prepare and rush their family preparedness plans to completion, and be ready to act should local emergency management recommend that you move away from the shore.

BUSH: Bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Governor.

As the storm made landfall last evening on the southeast coast, the president declared, based on the request from the governor, that the entire state of Florida in a major -- is a major disaster area. And he empowered me to represent him to do whatever we can, and the federal government, under my authorities to coordinate the entire effort by the federal government with our state and local partners here. And that actually didn't start what we have done in preparations for Frances, however.

We continue to move resources into the Lakeland area and to Jacksonville as safety permits. And we've -- we -- and today, we are moving things down from our logistics center in Atlanta.

Additionally, we are working closely with the state and the state medical authorities to identify any -- any federal resources that are needed to -- to reinforce the state's already robust capabilities. And we're looking -- we have already moved some urban search and rescue teams in should they be required.

So we are grateful that the president acted very quickly in response to this storm. And now we're going to do our part on the ground.

BUSH: Any questions?

QUESTION: Any human casualty reports?

BUSH: None that I'm aware of as of yet. But fortunately, we still have contact with the local emergency operation centers. But the assessment process will begin once the storm passes.

People -- the first responders won't respond if -- if they're put in dangerous positions. They're not going to wait for blue skies, but they're not going to go out in hurricane-force winds. So that process will begin probably later this afternoon in the coastal counties.

QUESTION: Any details on where these power outages are specifically?

BUSH: It's throughout the state. And these are -- you know, the latest number we have is 1.9 million or 1,800,000 customers. So I don't know what the number of people per customer is, but it's in the millions.

And this storm will probably -- we'll probably see more power outages in the Panhandle and in the Tampa Bay area, as well as central Florida again. So that will be a major effort starting tomorrow and the day after tomorrow for literally hundreds of utility trucks that are staged outside the state to come in and provide support for our local utility companies.

QUESTION: You folks have been asking people to stay away from their homes, stay where they are. Are you getting reports that people are trying to go back, or is...

BUSH: No. I mean, it's just -- if you -- if you put yourself in the shoes of someone who has left their home and is worried about their property, you can -- and they have been gone for longer than they anticipated, it is logical that people would want to go. But we don't have reports that people are doing that in large numbers.

There will be -- and the team will develop a plan for this for -- for tomorrow and after that -- there will be a real challenge for folks that have left the state altogether, because we have a massive amount of support coming in, and we don't want to have everybody that left all at once come back all at once either. And so there are strategies that are being developed to help people get back and to make sure that they get back at the right time.

QUESTION: Could you elaborate on what's happened at the shelter (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

BUSH: Just that the roof didn't fall off. There was just -- it was damaged, and an abundance of caution for some people. Not everybody, but some people were moved. And it was a short -- thankfully, the -- there's another shelter that's within the -- in the same vicinity. It was a school.

QUESTION: Governor...

NGUYEN: You have been listening to Governor Jeb Bush hold a press conference on the situation there in Florida with Hurricane Frances coming through. He urged people in the Panhandle to prepare for Frances as it makes its way toward that area. Also told people to stay inside and be patient.

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