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Floridian Evacuees Anxious To Assess Damage To Their Homes

Aired September 5, 2004 - 11:00   ET


KELLY WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Kelly Wallace in Washington. More Hurricane Frances coverage in one minute. First, other stories now in the news.
The Pentagon is expressing doubt about a report today that the highest level military leader in Saddam Hussein's Army, who was still on the run, had been captured. Iraq's Defense Ministry had announced that Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri was captured earlier today near Tikrit, by the Iraqi National Guard and American troops. It was Saddam Hussein's deputy commander of armed forces.

Get well wishes are flooding in from around the world for Bill Clinton, as the former president gets ready for heart bypass surgery. The operation is expected take place tomorrow or Tuesday. Mr. Clinton was admitted to a New York City hospital after complaining to chest pain and shortness of breath.

And two camp counselors killed on a California beach are being remembered for their strong religious faith. Family and friends gathered yesterday in Ohio to honor the couple who had planned to marry. Their bodies were found last month on a secluded beach in Northern California. Both had been shot in the head while in their sleeping bags. Investigators have no suspects.

Even though Frances is still pelting the state, many Floridians who evacuated are already anxious to come home and find out what damage is waiting for them. The director of Florida's division of emergency Management is urging patience. Joining us now from Tallahassee, Craig Fugate.

Mr. Fugate, thanks for joining us.


WALLACE: I guess first and foremost is that your first concern that Floridians might think the worst is behind them and start rushing to their homes?

FUGATE: Oh, absolutely. Particularly people that traveled away from the areas. We got very dangerous conditions on these interstates as people try to head back in. So, I realize that you're frustrated, you want to come home, but I just need to ask you please give us time to get in these areas, make sure they're safe and let this storm move on off our coast.

Again, we have residents now in the panhandle. Hurricane watches will be going up and we may be evacuating the panhandle later on this afternoon early tomorrow.

WALLACE: And what are some of the biggest areas of concern for you? Flooding must be one of your top priorities right now.

FUGATE: Flooding, but this storm had a lot of wind. We've got a lot of reports different places of some wind damage. Again, we're just now getting out and starting to see what's happened. Melbourne and other areas are still being pounded by the storm. So, it is by no means over that it has moved inland. We still have impacts now going through Pope County heading towards Hillsborough County, Tampa Bay region going into the Gulf. So, by no means is this storm over and by no means has the damage stopped.

WALLACE: Wand what's the initial assessment of any casualties, injuries from Hurricane Frances? Anything you can tell us now?

FUGATE; No. We've gotten some scattered reports but again, the way that we work this in Florida medical examiners will be handling this process. That will be how we're going to determine if any fatalities are related to this storm. But obviously we are very concerned about life safety. That's why search and rescue teams are now, as soon as they can get out, going - we're not going to wait for blue skies to start this process. We just need to make sure that crews can be safe as they begin to operate as this storm moves out of these areas.

WALLACE: And what's the sense of the scope of power outages across the state right now?

FUGATE: Well, this is bigger than what I think we saw during Charley. And again, as we speak, power is still going out. I want people to understand this storm makes landfall it just doesn't end. There's still a very powerful storm crossing the state. Damage is still occurring. Power outages are still occurring. More residents are losing power and this will continue as this storm tracks across our coast.

WALLACE: We spoke with the president of The American Red Cross in the last hour and she talked about one of the biggest concerns, people going to their homes and thinking they're in the clear. But they have to be careful of downed power lines, standing water, other hazards such as those don't they?

FUGATE: Absolutely. Our big fear as in Hurricane Charley, more people died after the storm than died during the storm from accidents, power lines down, carbon monoxide poisoning and a whole lot of preventable deaths and injuries. So again, we're asking people to be safe. If the storm is in your area stay inside, let the emergency crews get their jobs done. Let the utility crews secure those power lines. We do not want people to lose their lives because they came out and got into these areas too soon

WALLACE; And Mr. Fugate emotionally what is this doing to the state of Florida and Floridians dealing with Hurricane Frances, such a slow moving storm right now, just three weeks after Hurricane Charley? FUGATE: I think Governor Bush sums it up best. We're getting battered, but the heart is strong and we'll survive. We'll rebuild. But I can tell you it's very frustrating here in Tallahassee and for the people on the ground that we're having to wait for this storm to move through so we can get into the response mode.

But again, Florida is very strong. As Governor Bush says a very resilient state. We're going to get through this. We're going to rebuild. We're going to recover. But it sure is frustrating and we're just ready to get to work.

WALLACE: Craig Fugate we thank you for joining us and we will keep checking back in with you throughout the day. Craig Fugate head of the office of Florida's Division of Emergency Management from Tallahassee. Thanks again, sir.

Now we want to take a look at what's going on in Melbourne, Florida. A short time ago we saw an affiliate reporter who was getting pummeled by heavy winds and rain. We turn now to Bill Hemmer to get a look at what the situation is.

Bill, what's it like there right now?

BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kelly listening to your guest talk about Melbourne getting hammered that's still the case here. This is Sgt. Sean Riordan. He's with the police department here in Melbourne, public information office here. We tried this a couple of hours ago. We lost the satellite signal.

You've been out surveying the area. What have you found?

SGT. SEAN RIORDAN, MELBOURNE POLICE: Yes. What we do is we have contingencies of officers out in our city right now going through our major roadways trying to see what kind of damage we have. We're trying to do an organized effort to report that damage. We're finding a lot more power lines down than what we had the last time I was here.

HEMMER: Those power lines hot or not?

RIORDAN: I wouldn't doubt if some of them are hot, but it's hard to tell at this point.

HEMMER: You also say some homes have caved in, at their roofs anyway. How many, how severe?

RIORDAN: Right. We had a few homes last night during the night time hours that the roofs did cave in. We were able to get there and evacuate the people out of those homes. The winds were very high, but we still went out and we got them out.

HEMMER: Any injuries?

RIORDAN: No injuries thus far.

HEMMER: Any injuries across the area that you can talk about? RIORDAN: No. There's - a lot of people -what's happening now is that the people that stayed here they're stating to worry about what's going on and they're calling for medical assistance and things of that nature.

HEMMER: Despite, I don't mean to interrupt you, but despite the winds behind us you painting a pretty optimistic picture about the expectations for this storm.

RIORDAN: Right. Well I feel we've been planning and going through this. We just went through this with Charley recently expecting stuff like this. We never got it then. But now that put us into a mode where we are prepared now. We're prepared all the way into the future right now on how we're going to handle things. We have resources waiting. Our officers are out there. They know what to do. And pretty much we're trying to make sure our message gets out to the residents who did the right thing by evacuating and watching your show now, that they know that we're doing everything we can to make sure they're property is secure and that we get some sort of damage report.

But right now overall, the city weathered fairly well.

HEMMER: Sgt. thank you for your time and thanks for coming back. We really appreciate the information. Good luck to you the rest of the day today.

Kelly, in the meantime though the last time we talked we could really feel these winds coming in almost at a right angle for the past four, 4 1/2 hours, which told us pretty much the northern edge, the leading edge of that storm is hitting Melbourne with a pretty direct shot.

Over the past 30 minutes or so we're still getting some strong winds here, but the winds at times seem to swirl more, which indicates to us anyway that the storm continues to push on shore and perhaps if not breaking up at this point it's slowing down a little bit, at least in this area.

More when we get it Kelly. Back to you now in D.C.

WALLACE: OK. Bill, we'll keep checking in with you. And some good news from the Sgt. who says that the city of Melbourne seems to be holding up pretty well.


WALLACE: updating the latest now on Hurricane Frances. The National Hurricane Center has issued a hurricane warning for the Gulf Coast of Florida. The warning covers the area from the mouth of the Swanee River to Destin. A warning means hurricane conditions are expected within the next 24 hours. Hurricane warnings for the Bahamas have been discontinued.

Frances still has maximum sustained winds of nearly 90 miles an hour and is moving west, northwest at nine miles an hour. It is expected to hit the Gulf Coast sometime by early Monday morning. Florida's Governor Jeb Bush is warning residents to sit tight until officials say it is OK to go outside. At a briefing this morning Governor Bush promised thousands of emergency responders will not wait for blue skies to move into action. He hopes to tour Florida's ravaged east coast later today.

And in south Florida international airports in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale are up and running again, but it will be a few hours before some airlines are back in business. Southwest Airlines doesn't expect to resume service until sometime tomorrow.

One of the towns on the Florida coast hit hardest by Frances was Vero Beach. The city owned utility says just about every one of its customers lost power in the storm. Vero Beach Mayor Thomas White joins us now by telephone with an update on how the town is handling the storm.

Mr. Mayor thanks for joining us.

THOMAS WHITE, MAYOR, VERO BEACH: (via-telephone) Just to let you know our power plant right now is under water. Some of the water over by the west side of the river, Indian River Lagoon is probably waist high. And we're having a lot of problems at the sewer and power plant. As soon as we can get the levels to go down we'll be in there trying to get water, at least water and sewer back on line.

WALLACE: is that your biggest concern right now, Mr. Mayor, the power plant and getting power to your customers and your residents in that area?

WHITE: Well, besides power we're more interested in getting them water and sanitary facilities so they'll be able to use their bathrooms. And we're trying to get those back in line.

WALLACE: What's the extent of the damage? Have you been out to look around the extent of the damage in the town of Vero Beach?

WHITE: We have extensive damage as far as trees down, limbs, power lines, power poles. We have some roofs that have come off some buildings. We've had a lot of flooding over on the east side toward the Barrier Island. We've had, in fact we've just had nine elderly people at - matter of fact a home park, who decided to camp out at a community center and they were almost waist deep in water and the police were able to get in to get them out and get them into shelters.

So, we've been trying to keep everybody safe. The storm is supposed to - heavy winds should be gone hopefully by noon.

WALLACE: Any word of casualties in your town, in your area?

WHITE: Not of as yet. We've had, you know, a couple of small injuries and things like that. But everybody so far has been very safe.

WALLACE; That is great news indeed. What's your sense -- are residents in your area staying put and staying inside? We're seeing in other towns across the state people are stating to get outside and look at the damage. What are you seeing in your area?

WHITE: We're starting to see the same thing. Some of the people are coming out. We still do have a curfew -- we have not lifted our curfew yet and we do have police officers out and we are telling them to get back inside until we give the all clear.

WALLACE: Mr. Mayor give us a sense of what the past 24 hours have been like as you've watched and listened to this storm ravishing through Vera Beach and other areas.

WHITE: This is probably one of the worse ones that has ever hit Vera Beach. Even David was, but nothing compared to Frances. has done a lot of water damage. It has done a lot of wind damage and we've never experienced a wide range of problems. Our generators are flooded out. That's the reason why we're even down in water and sewer because our generators went out.

WALLACE: Where are you joining us now from Mr. Mayor, from your home or...

WHITE: Yes, right now I'm heading to the command center as soon as I hang up. But I did ride the storm out in my home last night.

WALLACE: And the advice to residents of Vera Beach right now. What's your advice to them?

WHITE: Hopefully we'll be able to give an all clear in the next few hours. I would say later this evening. Governor Bush is supposed to arrive here around 6 o'clock. The National Guard is supposed to be coming in a little after noon.

WALLACE: And you/re getting all the help you need so far?

WHITE: Well, they've been offered. They're coming. They told us they're on the way. So, we're waiting for them.

WALLACE: All right. We'll check in with you later to see. Thomas White, mayor of Vero Beach, thanks for taking some time to join us by telephone this morning.

WHITE: You're very welcome.

WALLACE: And now just where is this storm, how strong is it, how slowly does it continue to move across the state of Florida? For answers we turn to Rob Marciano at the CNN weather center. Rob, what's it looking like right now?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN WEATHER CENTER: Kelly, it hasn't really diminished in strength over the past four hours. It's still a strong Category-1 storm with sustained winds at 90 miles an hour. Probably in part because, you know, much of Florida is swamp and marsh. You've got Lake Okeechobee there maybe helping this thing sustain itself. Anyway, it's engulfing the entire state. Shears run all the way up to South Carolina as do the battering of waves with this particular storm.

As far as the winds are concerned, interestingly enough the most intense winds or at least gusts have been fairly far away from the center. I mean Port Canaveral 124 mile an hour wind gusts. That's the first - the highest wind gusts that we've seen and that was easily 70 miles away from the center of this thing.

And even Orlando at last hour, 69 mile an hour wind gusts and that could easily increase because Orlando is in the path of what is going to be left of this hurricane, which doesn't seem to loose any strength.

On top of that, you go east to the center of this thing, as always you have the possibility of spin out or spin up tornadoes. Typically they're pretty small in intensity. However, it's a pretty wide box that we look for the threat to exist as we go right on through the afternoon as this thing continues its slow march across the state.

All right, exactly where is it? It is 80 miles east, southeast of Tampa. It has winds of 90 miles an hour, gusting to over 100. It is a strong Category-1 storm. It's movement is west, north westerly at nine miles an hour.

This painted in yellow are the tropical storm force wind field. In the red getting smaller. Thankfully hurricane force wind fields, but still a hurricane as it moves across the state of Florida just to the south of Orlando. Watch how that wind field center, the red, begins to shrink a little bit. It's going to take a while for it to get to the coastline. I mean a movement just under 10 miles an hour and about 100 miles to go you've got about 10 hours before it hits the coast line north of Tampa.

By then it should be down to a tropical storm, but still a strong one at 60 miles an hour and that would be at 8 o'clock tonight.

As of the last forecast advisory now the hurricane center brings us back up to hurricane strength as it heads towards the Appalachi (ph) Coast and the Panama City area early tomorrow morning with winds 75 miles an hour sustained, gusting higher than that. So, we're looking at the potential for a second landfall of Hurricane Frances as it heads across the panhandle of Florida during the morning hours tomorrow and then eventually up in through Alabama and Mississippi a fair amount of rainfall to the southeast.

What's going to bring it up there? Well, this cool front, which is finally going to help steer this thing. We've had not a whole lot going on across the northeast the past couple of days and that's why Francs hit the brakes and didn't really have anywhere to go. It has been so frustrating for the Florida residents along with Forecasters as well trying to get this particular thing out of here.

Next item up for business is what was Tropical Storm Ivan. Now it's Hurricane Ivan. And this thing is actually forecast to become our fourth major hurricane of the season. Could get into the Caribbean. Extended forecast bring it somewhere in here by the end of the week.

If I could I want to switch to PA-7 (ph) and show you some interesting shots now that the sun is up and this is of Hurricane Frances back to Florida. Look at how big this thing is. This is a visible satellite picture pretty much. We have to wait for the sun to come up because the sun is actually our light or our flash on the camera and then we look at the actually visual clouds and then we'll bump this and give you a little three dimensional look at this thing.

From the Keys all the way up to the Carolinas this storm is a monster, Kelly, and it just doesn't want to weaken. Winds still at 90 miles an hour. And some of the squalls that are moving through Melbourne easily packing winds of hurricane strength. And now it seems like some of that action is moving into Orlando. It's been the ongoing story this things refuses to give up and it will be a long day as we go through the afternoon.

And then maybe the panhandle of Florida tomorrow early morning, Kelly, with the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of landfall possible.

WALLACE: Exactly. And Rob put this all in perspective for us. We are really just at the beginning, right of hurricane season?

MARCIANO; Yes. Well, we're getting towards - we're ramping up I'd like to say. The middle of September is the peak. So typically September is the busiest month. August, I should mention, was a record setting month when we had eight named storms. So you're right in that we're not even halfway through really. We'll get to that in a couple of weeks here. So, it's not unusual to have more than one storm brewing in the Atlantic based on that one time. We've just had a number of them hit the U.S. seaboard, especially Florida and this one could be the next one. So, we'll just have to watch that.

First we'll deal with Frances trying to get it out of Florida, but having a tough time doing so. Still sustained winds of 90 miles an hour. Still strong Category-1 hurricane.

Back to you.

WALLACE; Rob Marciano working 24/7 from the CNN weather center. We'll keep checking in with you Rob. Thanks.

And in the past hour, he earlier hour, we were on the phone with CNN's Karl Penhaul, who was joining us from Freeport on Grand Bahamas Island. Our connection went down. Karl is on the phone now. Karl what's the situation there on the ground?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Weather experts are telling us when the storm did pass over Grand Bahamas and it was a hurricane Category-3, but those winds are now subsiding and it has now become a tropical storm. It has brought a lot of rain with it though too Kelly and so the pounding that the island has had is now being lashed by rain at this stage. What the emergency services are trying to do right now is get feet out on the ground, get the patrol cars out, get the fire trucks out. And what they're doing is a preliminary damage assessment, the buildings that have had roofs ripped out. They're checking out the power lines to see how long it may take to get power back to the island. Partial telephone service has been restored, but only very partial. There's still no cellular phone service.

Now the main thing in terms of fatalities and injuries and what the Bahamas police are reporting to us are that there have been two deaths. One was on Friday in Nassau and the second the body was discovered yesterday, a drowning death here on the west side of Grand Bahamas. And an 80 year old man is still listed as missing. Early searches for him have still turned up nothing. He went missing when his home was completely flattened by the wind.

Over the next few hours though the police are saying that they're going to mount one or two operations to bring people from some of the lower lying areas to dryer land to shelters where they can dry off and wait for the tidal surges to subside. Those tidal surges eight feet in places, flooded areas such as the airport and the north and west side of the island.

The west side of the island is currently out of communication with the rest of the island. The road is blocked by debris although we are told that the tidal surge has now subsided from there, Kelly.

WALLACE: And Karl we were talking to you about this last hour. Our viewers are seeing some pictures with extensive flooding throughout the area, streets, avenues. Do you have any sense of how deep some of the flooding is in certain areas?

PENHAUL: Some of that flooding, Kelly, was about eight to 10 feet. We saw some of that particularly yesterday afternoon. Because here, at least in the Grand Bahamas, the back tail of Hurricane Frances was way more powerful, way more vicious than the leading edge. And then as the eye of the storm came in almost there was a calm here. But then that tail edge really lashed the Island and that brought with it heavy rains, but particularly the tidal surge of around 10 feet.

That forced some people to clamber up on to their roofs for refuge. Those, of course, who still have roofs on their house. And the fire trucks and emergency services were working hard there to pull people out and take them to other shelters.

Some of that flooding, obviously before the hurricane hit there was a wide scale evacuation plan from ocean side areas. But the police and other emergency services were very surprised because some of that tidal surge came several miles inland and that was where additional evacuations, emergency evacuations have to be carried out.

But as I say, here on Grand Bahamas one fatality we know of so far. One man still listed as missing and then of course, that other death on Nassau, Kelly.

WALLACE: Thanks, Karl. Karl Penhaul with the Latest from Freeport on Grand Bahamas Island. We will keep checking in with him throughout this day.

When we come back more live coverage of Hurricane Frances and an update on the power outage situation. More than 1.5 million Floridians without power. We'll talk about efforts to get power to people throughout the state. That's next. CNN's live coverage of Hurricane Frances continues right after this. Don't go away.


WALLACE: I'm Kelly Wallace in Washington. A look now at stories making news this hour. The Pentagon has no immediate confirmation, and a senior Pentagon official expressed doubt that a key member of Saddam Hussein's inner circle is in custody. Earlier today Iraq's Defense Ministry said Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, deputy commander of Hussein's armed forces had been captured near Tikrit. The U.S. military says al-Duri is believed to be behind many of the insurgent attacks in Iraq.

Pope John Paul II offered prayers this morning for those killed in a school massacre in Beslan, Russia. That death toll is now at 338. The United States is providing funds and equipment to assist the victims. A plane with specialized medical equipment, including burn beds and monitors will arrive tomorrow.

In campaign 2004, President Bush continues his stomp through key states in the rust belt. He will rally supporters in Parkersburg, West Virginia, this afternoon. New polls taken during the first nights of the Republican National Convention show Mr. Bush has opened a double digit lead over his Democratic opponent, Senator John Kerry.

And as for Senator Kerry, he is home with his wife Teresa in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania this morning. Teresa Heinz Kerry was treated and released in Mason City, Iowa yesterday after complaining of an upset stomach. She had been meeting with local Democrats to talk about health care.

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

And as we've been telling you, as many as 200,000 Floridians taking shelter in some 407 shelters throughout the state. We want to turn now to CNN's Jason Bellini who is covering the storm in Melbourne, Florida. And he joins us from one of those shelters.

Jason, what is the situation like there?

JASON BELLINI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kelly, the shelter I'm in is Brevard Community College in Melbourne, Florida, is still in lockdown. The 850 people here are being told they should absolutely not leave.

This morning we have been seeing evidence of frayed nerves. I just heard about two separate incidents at the door of the shelter in which individuals wanted to leave the shelter and have gotten in arguments with the police officers.

The officers ended up winning the argument. They tol the individuals they should not leave, that they cannot guarantee their safety and that there are electrical lines on the road. It's just not safe to go out.

The halls here are also rumor central. The cable TV has long since went out. People in this facility are listening to different radio stations, and reporting to what they know to eachother in the shelter. And sometimes those reports contradict one another.

One thing from personal experience, Kelly, I can tell you is that the coffee shortage here is a morale crusher. And, also, the smokers who want to go outside are being told they cannot. They cannot even step outside, because the police are telling them they're taking their life in their hands with the debris projectiles flying through the air.

Most people here are not thinking about leaving, they know it can be more than 12 hours before it will be safe to leave. They may not be able to go home until Tuesday -- Kelly.

WALLACE: Yes, Jason. I just want to let you know, as you're talking, our viewers are looking at some new video coming in from affiliate WSVN. It looks like a horse got out of a stable and might be just sort of running through the streets right now. New pictures in from WSVN.

Jason, how are people trying to pass the time? Playing cards? What are they doing to try to keep themselves patient before they kind of go stir crazy in these shelters?

BELLINI: Well, believe it or not, people came here with DVD players, with game consoles for their children, a lot of elderly people brought knitting and brought books to pass the time. You see a lot of people playing cards. But I would say most people spend their day standing around talking to one another, comparing notes, speculating on how their houses are -- Kelly.

BELLINI: Well, Jason, we will keep checking in with you. Jason Bellini reporting to us from a shelter in Melbourne, Florida as people are getting a little bit anxious and wanting to head to their homes. And Florida authorities are urging them to stay behind and stay inside until they declare areas are safe.

Well, as we have been telling you, with hundreds of thousands of people forced to leave their homes, shelters across Florida are full. Reporter Will Manfell (ph), with our affiliate WPLG is at a shelter in North Miami Beach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The doors are open. People are starting to kind of file their way out of here. And the good thing is, they're coming out of here with smiles. It's been a difficult experience over the last few days. There's no doubt that the people who have stayed in these shelters, and this one in particular, have had a tough time.

Here are the taxies that you can see a lot of people -- taxies lined up here waiting for people to leave. Families kind of discussing what has gone on in the last few days, an experience that certainly they will never, ever forget.

There will also be bus service that is coming through here. There is also, in the next few minutes or so, as Jackie mentioned, it's 10:00 a.m. when it starts. So, any moment we expect to see buses come over and see people board those buses and go home. That's great news as these people file out.

Now, a few moments ago, I had a chance to speak to a couple of people who shared their experiences how these last few days were. Listen in.


RICARDO ORTIZ, FLORIDA RESIDENT: I got three kids, you know. One is 1, the other one is 4 and the other one is 8.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did they deal with it?

ORTIZ: You know, they counted on mom and dad to make them safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they are coming out of this -- I guess it's a life lesson learned at a young age.

ORTIZ: Yes, Yes. I just kept, you know, telling them, we're going to be all right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You looking forward to going back home?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's going it be a nice thing.

COLE: Right. I just laid on a quilt on the floor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But for the most part, did you make the most of it? I know it's tough in at a time like this.

COLE: Oh, yes. I had babies next to me. So I helped take care of the babies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So that motherly instinct, huh?

COLE: Grandmothering, great-grandma.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isn't that a great attitude? After a few days, you know, we've been talking, we've been looking at the damage and all the video and the storms and these folks were trapped, basically, inside of here. And even though it was for their safety, they were here, and yet they're leaving with smiles.

In here are some of the kids. Wave. Go ahead, wave kids.

They've been over here by the camera. They want to say hello, because they're going to get to go home soon. So, finally, some good news. It's been a long few days for people in South Florida. And the Red Cross did such a great job to get everyone safe in these shelters, but at the same time these folks are ready to go home. And finally the good news, they are starting to file out of here, as I said. The buses should arrive any moment, taxies are here. Other people have their own personal cars, friends picking them up. Good news indeed.

There you see the bags packed, ready to go where they belong, back home.

WALLACE: So, some good news there in North Miami Beach. But a place that is still feeling the brunt of Hurricane Frances, Melbourne, Florida, up along the coast. Our colleague Bill Hemmer is there. We have been talking to him throughout this morning. Bill, what is the situation like at this hour?

HEMMER: Hi Kelly, thanks. A couple of updates for you from the city Melbourne. My producer, Shirly Hung (ph) just off the phone with the fire department. They are saying, now, that they had tried to put all 20 vehicles back on the road about 6:00 this morning, but the winds have been too strong.

Same for the police department. They hoped to put about 35 to 40 patrol cars out on the road. They can't do it at this point, because the conditions will not allow for it.

However, they say they are now responding on a case-by-case bases. And listening from Jason report from inside that shelter about the anxiety. The 911 calls in here are quite frequent in Melbourne. A lot of people calling without a specific reason, or a specific reason to call for help and the assistant fire chief telling us that is an indication that the anxiety is high, yet, again.

And really, you have to feel for these people, they have been shut in since Friday morning when this storm first started to threaten the east coast of Florida.

Also, we are told that people are coming out when they should not. And, again, it sounds kind of ridiculous when we're standing in the middle of the storm, we're telling other people to stay home, but I think it should be a good firm reminder to the people at home, our own hotel that's been used, essentially as a shelter now for 3 days running, last night until the cable TV went out every single hotel room had the television on. Every television in the lobby of the hotel was on. And everyone was trying to get the very latest information they could get from folks like us standing out here.

I talked with the sergeant, Sean Riordan, from the police department here in Melbourne. This is how he characterized what he's experiencing as he drives through the city now.


SGT. SEAN RIORDAN, MELBOURNE POLICE: We've weathered the storm fine. We don't want people to rush back to say, hey, I want to find out how our home is. We're trying to do that for them so they can stay safe. So, that's why it's important for people like you going, that are going to a broad, to a very large audience to get that message out. And that's what we're trying to do.


HEMMER: Now, there are no fatalities reported. That is very good news here in Melbourne. And, in addition to that, very few injuries reported, as well. Two or three roofs, though, have collapsed in various parts of the city, two or three mobile homes suffering significant damage. But at this point, we are told through city officials that the city appears to be holding up quite well. But, Frances, still packing a punch here, Kelly, on the east coast of Florida.

WALLACE: Still packing a punch, indeed Bill. From your vantage point, what can you tell us about the flooding situation in the area of Melbourne?

HEMMER: Not many reports coming in at that. Waters are come up higher, the storm surge was reported, that's happening. But as far as widespread flooding throughout the city, frankly, we're not getting any. So that, again, is good news at this point.

In addition -- how are you, gentlemen? You're all right? Who are they? Oh, the owner of the marina now showing up. This is the first time we have seen them, Kelly, in about two days. So, once we get done with this, we'll go talk to them and find out what they think about the condition here for the marina. So, more updates in a moment here in Melbourne. Back to you now, Kelly.

WALLACE: OK. Bill, we'll let you go. We'll be checking in with you throughout the day. Bill Hemmer reporting live from Melbourne, Florida.

Obviously, a key concern right now, the situation of power outages. More than 1.5 million customers already without electricity in Florida. Most are served by Florida Power and Light. Company spokesman, Cathy Scott, is with us now. Ms. Scott, thanks for joining us.

CATHY SCOTT, FLORIDA POWER AND LIGHT: Sure, Kelly. We are still, just as Bill told you, taking a beating after three days. So, we're just seeing our outages increase over time, unfortunately, rather than decrease. We're at about 1.6 million customers out of service right now.

WALLACE: So, that's the latest number, 1.6 million. Are you expecting that to increase in the after effects of Hurricane Frances?

SCOTT: It's certainly possible. Because it's now starting to effect some of our northern counties and also some of our southwestern counties. The bands are just over, essentially, all of Florida now. So, we need any of those folks that are listening to -- that are Florida residents in the counties that we serve, to just be patient. And because of the size and intensity of this storm, I think everyone needs to plan and prepare for long, extended electrical outages. You know -- go ahead.

WALLACE: No, go ahead, finish.

SCOTT: And just listen to their local emergency management officials, you know, about what kind of recommendations they are making.

We have a work force ready and rearing to go. They would like nothing better than to get out there and start restoring service right this minute. But even in Miami-Dade we still have wind bands going through and trees bended sideways, and so, we're going to start in the south end today, we hope, but it may be a couple days before we can get our resources out into the field and really begin the really big push.

WALLACE: And we want to remind viewers in Florida for any concerns about downed power lines to call 1-800-4-OUTAGE. Ms. Scott, how concerned are you about downed power lines? And what is the main piece of advice to get out to Floridians about that?

SCOTT: Thank you for asking. The main thing we want to tell people is, if you see any power lines that are sparking, electrical equipment that looks sparking and dangerous, then please call that 800-4-OUTAGE number, otherwise please keep it open for police and fire. That's real important to us right now.

We do know where the outages are occurring. We will be putting our resources against that as soon as we're able to. But, by all means, don't walk near where there's a lot of debris, where there may be power lines down, don't venture out into flooded areas, or certainly don't go out in the dark, because you may not be able to see a power line that is still energized and dangerous.

WALLACE: And we were talking to the mayor of Vero Beach in this hour. And he was talking about how the power plant in his town is facing tremendous flooding. How many problems are like that are you hearing throughout some of these coastal areas?

SCOTT: We're aware of flooding coast to coast for sure, but it's not affecting any of our power plants at this time. For the most part our power plants and our backbone has survived pretty well, although we do have a few sections of main transmission that will have to be repairing first.

But, just to give people an idea of how we go about it, when we have a storm like this, the first thing we're going to be doing is helping those essential customers that provide for public health and welfare, helping them get their service back so they can provide for the community.

And then, of course, after that, we will be assessing the damage as a whole and taking a look at, you know, where we could put all resources to restore the greatest number of people first and then work our way down.

WALLACE: And we talked about downed power lines to call that 1- 800-4-OUTAGE number. What about just general Floridians who want to know when they can expect to get their electricity, want to know the status of crews coming to their area, do they call that the same number, or is there another number they should be calling?

SCOTT: We hope that they're going to be watching television and listening to the radio, because that's the way we'll get our information out. Right now, because we haven't even assessed damage, we could not give anyone, any kind of restoration efforts at this point. It's way too premature. I mean, we're still in the middle of the storm.

So, please, only call the 1-800-4-OUTAGE number if you are reporting dangerous sparking equipment, otherwise, we know where the outages are, we don't need folks to call, we will be working on it as quickly as we can and we really appreciate everyone's patience.

WALLACE: Good advice.

Cathy Scott, thanks for joining us. Cathy Scott, company spokeswoman with Florida Power and Light.

Saying the current number 1.6 million Floridians currently without electricity at this hour.

We are going to continue our live coverage of Hurricane Frances. We'll check in with Rob Marciano at the CNN Weather Center to find out exactly where the storm is. And how slowly it continues to move across the state of Florida. That's coming up next after a short break. Stay with us.


WALLACE: Now the latest summary on Hurricane Frances. The storm remains a category 1 hurricane, weakening somewhat. Top sustained winds are 90 miles per hour. Serious flooding is still expected. And it is raining over virtually the entire Florida peninsula.

Governor Jeb Bush is asking residents to remain out of harm's way until the storm passes completely.

Millions remain without power, mostly in the Eastern section of the state, where Frances first roared ashore. Forecasters say it could be downgraded to a tropical storm as Frances reaches the Tampa area later today.

Many people have already evacuated to Alabama and Georgia. Now authorities are advising remaining residents in Florida to prepare today for the storms second landfall, expected some time by Monday morning. Our hurricane warning has been issued from the mouth of the Sawani River to Destine.

So, for more on exactly where Hurricane Frances is and how slowly it continues to move Westward, we turn to Rob Marciano. Hi, Rob.

MARCIANO: Hi, Kelly. It's moving slowly. And it's not weakening as fast as we would like it to weaken, either. Still has sustained winds of 90 miles an hour. And it's still huge.

This is a visible satellite picture, kind of tilted it just a little bit to give you a three dimensional outline. And let's see, where is it the state of Florida? Maybe a little chunk of it over here. There's the panhandle. Other than that, I mean the whole thing is just swamped with this storm. It is huge. And it refuses to weaken to tropical storm statue, still a category 1 hurricane.

All right, we'll flip it a little bit 2 dimensionally and show you the radar. Here is the center, more defined at about 80 miles to the East, Southeast of Tampa Bay. And Orlando continues to get pommeled now, inland, well inland, with wind gusts to near hurricane strength. Melbourne has been getting peppered all morning long. And there still strong rain bands out here.

Look at it. It looks like almost 50 to 100 miles off shore, significant, rain here. And you bet there is some gusty winds in here, as well. And it seems like on and off throughout the morning, West Palm Beach still keeping in the act, although your weather will be improving slowly but surely as we go through the afternoon.

All right. We've already had a tremendous amount of rain with this system in spots, record rains yesterday in West Palm Beach. And now these are the rainfall estimates for the state of Florida for the next 24 hours. 14 inches possible in Orlando, Jacksonville possibly 13.5 inches, Gainesville, Florida, 11.3 inches and 11 inches possible in Tampa Bay. This is starting from about now until Tuesday morning.

All right. Let's switch sources over to GR-115, and we'll give you an idea of where this thing is and where it is going to go. Direction is moving westerly at 7 miles per hour. It's a category I, a strong one, with winds sustained at 90 miles per hour. Now 74 miles just to the west of West Palm Beach or about 80 miles East, Southeast of Tampa.

It is forecast to scoot just to the north of Tampa, weakening to a tropical storm. And then, eventually, strengthening back to hurricane status before it rolls inland some time during the morning hours on Monday.

So, that's one of the things that we're concerned about. It is going to get back out into the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico, whic hare easily 80 to 85 degrees. And with that, we'll probably see things reintensify, Apalachacola (ph) possibly to Panama City, maybe Fort -- Walton Beach as well.

Kelly, the other issue, tornado, small tornadoes possible, and high tide coming up here in an hour to two hours from Melbourne up to Daytona Beach, with the winds coming straight off the ocean pretty good and the high tides coming, storm surge will be an issue in some spots there, could see three to four to six foot storm surge. And depending on the topography, that will effect different people in different ways. We'll try to keep an eye on it all for you. Back to you up there in D.C.

WALLACE: Rob thanks for the update. Rob Marciano at the CNN Weather Center.

And as Rob was talking about, Orlando getting pommeled a bit. We want to take you to an area north of Orlando, Sanford, Florida, we have an afailiate there from WKMG TV. Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, WKMG CORRESPONDENT: We're here in downtown Sanford. At least starting to get a hint of what you've been talking about for the last coupld of days. Which is, this wasn't necessarily going to be a wind event, but a rain event that was still going to cause some damage.

With the trees, we're certainly not seeing the wind gusts like we saw with Hurricane Charley, but I think, finally, this has been so intense and so constant that things are finally starting to give after being under such pressure. It may not be the high winds, but the consistent pressure from the wind is starting to cause some damage out here.

Just taking a look at this tree over here to your left, Mike. Up there, I mean, it's not much right now, but you can see a lot of the limbs are starting to weaken and break off. If we look over here to the other side, Mike, across the way just slowly but surely over the past 24 hours that palm tree straight ahead was being held up with braces and just the constant nonstop pounding of the wind has finally caused almost all of those braces to break loose.

There wasn't any one particular gust of wind, say 100 miles an hour, 110 or 120 that knocked it over, it was just the 70 and 80 mile an hour winds just constantly hitting it, which is finally causing these things to weaken. And I would imagine that is taking place not only with these brand new trees here but also some of the big, old 100-year-old oak trees in some of these neighborhoods, especially up in some of the historic areas of Seminole County here.

Another thing we're getting now, finally, is the rain. If we could just walk around to the front of the truck, when we were hear for Hurricane Charley -- wow, the winds are kicking up. My photographer is having a tough time walking here. When we were here for Hurricane Charley we stood in the same position -- wow, Mike, come back. Are you OK?

I'm going to grab your elbow and help you out here. It's real hard for him to hold up his camera. If you don't feel comfortable, we don't have to do it.

Tell you what. You're going to have it take our word for it. We can't stand still any more. Mike, let's go to the back of the truck. We're going to walk to the back of our truck here. At least we're shielded from the wind here.

I can move around with a little bit of ease here, because I have just a flimsy microphone. My photographer, Mike Hannah, has just been doing a phenomenal job here, is carrying around an 80-pound camera.

You know what, why didn't we do this to begin with? This is much easier. You can see the street here in downtown Sanford. Is already starting to take on water. Now, this is, of course, after what I'm guessing has been about eight or nine hours of just this constant rain out here.

When we were out here for Hurricane Charley, that street flooded in the 45 minutes that Charley moved over here. So that was an intense storm, dumping tons of rain right away. But the duration of this is what is making this now a storm that is hard to bear, because we're starting to get the same street flooding we got with Charley just over an eight-hour period. And from the sounds of it, Tom. This is not letting up any time soon.

WALLACE: And we thank affiliate WKMG TV for that report.

The pictures tell the story, relentless pounding coming from Hurricane Frances. Wind and rain, it will continue throughout the day. CNN will be providing live coverage throughout the day. A team of correspondents up and down the Florida coast. Stay with CNN for all these updates.

Up next, "CNN's LATE EDITION" with Wolf Blitzer. Of course, looking at Hurricane Frances' wrath and fury as it strikes across the state.



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