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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Hurricane Frances: Frances Downgraded To Category I, Iraq Defense Minister Claims al-Duri Caught near Tikrit
Aired September 5, 2004 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR, HURRICANE FRANCES: It is 2:00 p.m. on the East Coast, 11:00 a.m. out west. I'm Fredricka Whitfield at CNN's global headquarters in Atlanta. Our special coverage of Hurricane Frances begins in a moment, but first a look at other news topping these stories.
A senior Pentagon official is expressing some doubt about the reported capture of a top Saddam Hussein deputy. The Iraqi defense ministry says Ibrahim al-Duri was captured near Tikrit Sunday. An Iraqi official says blood tests are being conducted to confirm al- Duri's identity.
A top Iraqi official says Saddam Hussein and his top ads will soon go to trial. The minister of state Kassam Dode (ph) says the trial will begin before elections in January. Preliminary charges against the former Iraqi president were spelled out in a July hearing. They included killing religious figures and gassing curds.
The first funerals for Russian hostages killed in a school standoff took place today. The number of hostages killed stands at 338 but could go higher, 190 people remain unaccounted for. Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared Monday and Tuesday national days of mourning.
Two strong earthquakes rocked western Japan today, the tremors happened within five hours of each other. The first quake had a preliminary magnitude of 7.0, the second one in the same spot measured 7.1. Two people were injured.
In a word, relentless, Hurricane Francis is pelting the sunshine state with punishing winds and rain today. The storm's eye roared ashore with winds topping 105 miles an hour about 1:00 this morning at Sea Wolf's Point near Stewart, Florida. There are widespread power outages, and numerous reports of damage. Frances is now a category 1 hurricane and it's expected to weaken as it moves across the state, but the danger is far from over. It could hit the panhandle next. A hurricane warning has now been issued for that area. Florida's governor is telling residents there not to take the threat lightly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JEB BUSH, (R) FLORIDA: The panhandle has not gotten much attention, but as Ben will you in a second, 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, you know, well, if it's not a category 4 storm, 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 will be lots of flooding, so people in the panhandle particularly now have today to be prepared.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: CNN correspondents have been braving the hurricane up and down the Florida coast. Our Bill Hemmer is looking at the damage right now in Melbourne, Florida. Bill.
BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey Fredricka, yes Frances is not done yet. We thought maybe an hour ago we might have been out of the woods but that's not the case. The rain is coming back right around this way, right into the side of our skin. We're at this marina here and the damage is extensive. They have a 45-foot yacht that went down, a 50-foot yacht that drowned as well.
These sailboats here in the near picture, here Fredricka just taking a pounding all night long.
Now get this, the owner stopped by about two hours ago. He had no insurance. He says he's had this business here for 20 years. He says the insurance would have cost him $200,000 a year, said he couldn't afford it, so he took his chances, and this year he lost. With Frances coming on shore. Come here a second. What is your name?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vern Densler (ph).
HEMMER: And you had a boat here is that right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I've got a Catalina 22 down there. She has got a big gash on the side of her, but she's still there. She bobbing around hopefully no other boats has hit her. My brother's boat's right out here, a 37-foot Endeavor, and we have got the two boats there. The only reason those guys are still there, is because they thought to anchor right before they left. They're hitting each other hard.
We hope they stay. We don't know where we're going to go after we're done, if he can't rebuild this marina. Chris is a great guy. I hope FEMA can help him out. There's a definite shortage of marinas around here.
HEMMER: Hang on Chris is the owner you are saying?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris yes.
HEMMER: What is his last name.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romeandetie (ph).
HEMMER: OK, and he's had the place here for some time?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, and he's been great to us. This is a great place, but you know, if we can't get this place rebuilt because he doesn't have the money or because they won't let us have the permits, it is not going to be fun. It's happened many times before. They won't rebuild the marinas, there's a lack of places to go.
HEMMER: How long have you been in the area?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been down here since 1988.
HEMMER: So that's roughly 16 years. Ever seen a storm like this come through here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I've been through four hurricanes here, it's been interesting. My brother lived on that boat for four years, went through a couple pretty nasty storms there but this is the worst we've ever seen here.
HEMMER: Hey listen good luck to you. All right and thank you for sharing your story with us. Good luck to you and your brother.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
HEMMER: All right. You know Fredricka there's a local legend that we've learned over the past four days. The legend goes like this -- many people thought a direct hurricane would never come to this part of Florida, because we're essentially on the space coast. Up the coast a little ways here is Cape Canaveral. The locals will tell you that they thought NASA had a little bead on the geography in this area, and that is if NASA thought that they could built the space program here, it would be safe and OK for just about everyone else.
That is only myth. It's been a long time since a storm of this size came through Melbourne, but it is only because these people have been lucky and Frances is now ending that streak. Again, she's not done yet. It is close, but not yet -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: And Bill I guess those folks haven't taken a good look at those fortified hangars and buildings over at NASA. It's a very different situation. Just taking a look at the camera panned over to the dock behind you there, all that debris, that's a result of the dock breaking up, or are we see the remnants of what used to be some intact boats?
HEMMER: No, these boats have been hammered by these docks for the past oh gosh I'd say more than 24 hours now and all the plywood you see, that's just part of the old dock that was set here. This is a pretty large marina Fredricka. It's impossible for us to show the entire scope of it. There are literally dozen and dozens of boats still moored here, but as you can see like the sailboat right here, not at the moment, but a few short seconds ago before we came on the air, this boat was getting pounded up against the dock.
And that is going to be devastating news for the owners. I will tell you one more thing. All these docks up and down here they have waterlines and they have electric lines that go out to them to give them power essentially and water, and all those lines we're told by the folks who work here earlier, they've all been cut and they've all been broken. It's going to take a massive repair job if they even choose to repair it at this point.
WHITFIELD: A very costly one indeed, if they choose too like you said Bill. Thanks so much, Bill Hemmer in Melbourne, Florida.
Well it is going to take some time for the storm to cross the state, and then it's back over water. The Gulf of Mexico. What could happen then? Our meteorologist Jackie Jeras is tracking Frances. And is there always that chance that when it heads over water as warm as usual the Gulf that it could pick up a little bit more steam?
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, potentially it could fire up just a little bit more, but I have great news to tell you Fredricka. In the 2:00 advisory, that this has weakened pretty significantly 11:00 we're still looking at winds at 90 miles per hour, and now they dropped down to 75 miles per hour so that makes it a very weak category 1, so barely even a hurricane.
You have 74 miles per hour or greater winds in order to become a hurricane. So it is just barely hanging in there. You see my graphic still set category 2, but that should say category 1 now. Location is 55 miles to the east of Tampa, so it's making a bit of progress, moving west-northwest around 9 miles per hour. You can see the wide view here on the radar, still that threat of tornado. The tornado watch box is farther up to the north now. That will likely be extended. It was supposed to expire at 2:00, but I'm sure we'll see a statement here on this very shortly that it will be reissued.
Want to go over to our viper system now and show you a better radar picture on this storm. We want to talk a little bit more about the eye wall. And there you can see it getting very close to Tampa right now. The outer edge of this, we're going to put a storm tracker on this and let you know exactly what time you can expect the worst of these winds and some of these very heavy rains to be moving in, there you can see 2:29 expected to be in Tampa, about 3:30 in the St. Petersburg, Clearwater about ten before the hour and right at the top of the hour as it heads towards the Spring Hill area.
I want to talk a little bit more about those winds. Let's go back to our other weather maps now and show you some of the wind gusts that are being reported across the region, 63 miles per hour in Daytona Beach, got 60 in Orlando, Tampa above tropical storm force at 41 miles per hour there, 38 in Ft. Myers, and 36 miles per hour in West Palm Beach. I'm just getting a note right now that the tornado watch has just been reissued until 9:00.
Forecast track has us moving over Tampa back over the open waters here as we head into the overnight hours for tonight and into your Monday likely making landfall somewhere up here tomorrow morning and moving on up into parts of Alabama. Still kind of iffy if this is going to be a category 1 or maybe a strong tropical storm, we'll have to wait and see how much more this weakens over the next couple hours while we still have that eye over land -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: Jacqui when we look at that satellite view of just how wide the back end, the eastern side of that eye wall is, we're talking about still quite a few more hours aren't we of pounding along the Atlantic coast before they are in the clear?
JERAS: Absolutely. All the rest of the afternoon throughout much of the evening, and that's when the stronger winds are going to start to die down then overnight for tonight, but you can see -- look at this. This goes all the way out into the ocean and this is Monday at 8:00 in the morning, so we are going to still see the effects of this for a long time to come.
WHITFIELD: All right Jackie Jeras thanks so much. There have been a number of amazing images and close calls from this storm, reporter David Martin with CNN affiliate WOFL takes us through his experience.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID MARTIN, WOFL: Oh!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's get out of here.
MARTIN: I'm OK. That is all right, yes the palm tree. Wow. Are you all right back there? I don't know if you saw it -- whoa. I'm not sure where it came from, but the thing landed right on top of our set. Wow!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: And as a result of those hurricane-force winds, a lot of flying debris. It happens all the time and folks have to take heed. And that's why you heard the governor asking people to stay indoors, even when it seems like the rain bands have passed by. Stay in doors because a lot of flying debris can make things very dangerous.
At least two hurricane-related deaths have been reported in the Bahamas, where Frances battered and bruised the island residents there before heading toward Florida. Our Karl Penhaul is on the line from Freeport with details on the damage there -- Karl.
KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Fredricka we've been riding around parts of the island this morning and early afternoon trying to get some idea of what kind of damage Hurricane Frances has done. As you say yes two fatalities, one of those was on Nassau, an 18-year-old man and here on Grand Bahama, a 35-year-old man drown, his body lay in water for much of yesterday, but police now inform us that his body has now been recovered. An 80-year-old man how ever is still missing. He went missing when the winds completely demolished his home.
Now driving around part of the island, the main town Freeport seems to have survived pretty well. Yes there are many trees down, power lines are down, and electricity is still out. But the main damage seems to be partially roofs have been torn off the shingles, have come off roofs and such like that. We haven't seen any houses that have been completely flattened.
Then as we move toward the west of the island and that is still under water. We've had to turn back now. We haven't been able to reach the west point of the island where there's another community there. We understand that's still flooded, and our experience is we were driving through probably a foot and a half of water still at this stage, and there is still some kind of risks as the tide once again rises, but those water levels could increase but certainly the people closest to the ocean side have been most affected by that flooding, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right Karl Penhaul thanks so much for that report coming out of Freeport, Bahamas. The first to feel the fury of Hurricane Frances.
Well you can track Hurricane Frances' path at CNN.com, and there are links to emergency information and resources for hurricane victims. Plus you can learn safety tips for protecting yourself and your family if a hurricane is to hit.
And we'll be right back with more of our continuing coverage of Hurricane Frances.
WHITFIELD: Here is the latest on Hurricane Frances. The storm is losing strength as it slowly crosses Florida and heads toward the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. A hurricane warning is up for the Florida panhandle from the mouth of the Suwannee River to destine thousands fled to shelters before the storm even hit.
The Red Cross estimates more than 87,000 people stayed in shelters overnight. Earlier CNN's Kelly Wallace spoke with Marsha Evans, CEO and president of the American Red Cross.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARSHA EVANS, CEO, PRESIDENT AMERICAN RED CROSS: We want people to know the Red Cross is going to be there. We're staged in Atlanta to move in as quickly as possible, to set up feeding operations, sheltering operations. People often times want to get back in their homes, but they find they're not inhabitable. And so the Red Cross will be there and they can get information about where to find a shelter by calling 1-866-GET-INFO.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: And Evans is soon to make her way to Florida now that the airports across the state are slowing reopening. Miami International and Ft. Lauderdale Airports are now open, but Orlando remains closed.
Our coverage of Hurricane Frances will continue, but first a developing story out of Iraq. The Iraqi defense ministry says it has one of the most wanted men in Iraq in custody, but the Pentagon is not so sure. For more on this story, we turn to CNN's senior international correspondent Walt Rodgers who joins us live from Baghdad -- Walt.
WALT RODGERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello Fredricka. The Iraqis do indeed claim they have landed a very big fish from the former regime of Saddam Hussein, but the Americans remain skeptical. Iraqi's defense ministry claims it has captured Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri now his was the highest-ranking Baathist Saddam Hussein official still on the run. There was a $10 million price tag on his head.
He incidentally was responsible for participating in the coupe that originally brought Saddam Hussein to power. More notoriously he was noted for ordering -- or ordering in part the attacks on the Kurdish village of Hallabja in 1988, in which chemical weapons were used and killed some 5,000 Kurds.
The difficulty and the confusion in this story is that the Americans claim that an al-Duri has been captured, but it was not Izzat Ibrahim. So at this point we're awaiting blood tests, DNA tests to determine whether this is the real man who had a $10 million dollars price tag on his head, which perhaps some Iraqi's will now be able to collect. Or is this simply a case of maybe it is al Duri, and maybe it isn't -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: And well mean time if it is confirmed that it is him, al Duri among others, excluding Saddam Hussein are likely now to be tried very soon, right? In a matter of weeks before a scheduled January election?
RODGERS: Yes. Let me add one thing. It's important to note that this is not the first time that the Iraqis claim al Duri has been arrested. There have been several false alarms. One of them I recall was December 2nd when I was here last year.
Yes indeed if indeed this is Izzat Ibrahim al Duri, he would certainly go on trial with Saddam Hussein. By the way, al Duri was thought to be wanted earlier for war crimes because of the Hallabja massacre and the use of chemical weapons. The Iraqi officials have told CNN that the trial of Saddam Hussein and whatever other officials are custody and ready to go to trial could begin sometime before the elections in Iraq. Those elections are tentatively scheduled for early January -- Frederick.
WHITFIELD: And Walt has there been any expressed concerned that the interim government may not be equipped to carry out these trials before this election?
RODGERS: It's a matter of keep your fingers crossed. The situation here remains very unstable. The interim government has made some strides, Prime Minister Allawi's government has made some strides, but again it has not restored security and stability to this country, and until it does, one can only imagine what conditions, what environment elections will take place in next January.
Everyone is hoping -- that is, to say, the United States and the Allawi government is hoping that there will be elections in January coming no one is betting the farm or the last family cow on it -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right, Walt Rodgers from Baghdad, thanks so much.
Well more our continuing coverage of the top stories, including Hurricane Frances when we come right back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: October 5, 1995, Hurricane Opal slashed across the Florida panhandle. The category 3 storm crashed ashore from the Gulf of Mexico, destroying waterfront homes and causing extensive beach damage with wind gusts of 144 miles an hour. Opal's heavy rains and winds had widespread effects, spotting tornados.
More than 500,000 people in Florida, Alabama, and Georgia lost power. Opal caused $2 billion in damage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Probably worse than I expected. As far as the wind through the night, like my husband said, it sounded like we were in a car wash, when there's water coming at you in every direction. That's what we were experiencing through the night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: The result of Hurricane Frances and it's far from being over. In fact right now this massive storm is just creeping across the midsection of Florida, dumping lots of rain in places like Orlando, and that is where we find CNN's Jonathan Freed, who is hunkered down along with his family in Orlando. He joins us on the telephone right now. Jonathan, what are you all experiencing?
JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well Fredricka I can tell you that we're here with the Golf family, and they are a family that we first profiled in a story that ran on "Newsnight" on CNN on Friday night and also ran yesterday, so some of our viewers may have been introduced to them then.
And we decided to ride out the storm with them, and to see what their hurricane experience was going to be. The reason that we picked them to begin with, when we caught up with them on Friday is that their home was hit particularly hard by Hurricane Charley. They hadn't even gone through the process of dealing with their insurance company yet, when they had to board up the home again. And do what they could to make it weather ready to handle Frances.
And I can tell that last night even 12 hours before the stronger winds and rain, which we're experiencing now, a good half day before that hit, they already lost power yesterday, had to fire up the generator. And just as we arrived to check back with them earlier this morning, part of the roof of the ceiling right over where one of their children would have been sleeping, just completely collapsed. You can see right up into the rafters of that room.
Fortunately they had made the decision to keep everybody in the master bedroom, and the whole roof is covered with a makeshift tarp right now. They weren't even able to find adequate supplies to secure the roof for that. So far, only part of it is holding. We've been sitting here counting the shingles as they've been flying off the roof again today. But the family Fredricka is in surprisingly good spirits.
And when we asked the parents how they were able to do that, and they say for the sake of the kids, they don't want to panic the kids at all, so they're putting on their best faces.
WHITFIELD: And Jonathan a lot of folks in Orlando expected to feel the brunt of Frances, especially since they were caught off-guard three weeks ago by Charley who certainly made it's presence known in Orlando and in other in land kind of communities. But this family, what's their explanations as to why they decided to stay, knowing that they're closer to the east coast, knowing that Frances was on its way, it was likely to dump some wind and rain on them?
FREED: Well that is absolutely the best question. It was the first question that we asked them as well, and it was the husband, his name is Mike, and he decided that he just couldn't -- he felt he could not abandon his home. The rest of the family decided that they couldn't leave him alone. His wife Jody was telling us that she was having visions of ceilings falling on him, him being pinned in the middle of the night unable, to get himself out. And then they just decided, well, they were going to prepare this closet that they have, the master bedroom closet, which has no windows, the classic interior space of the home that you're supposed to go to.
And they prepared that as best they could, and just decided to take a deep breath and hold out. So far that they did spend last night in the closet, but the strongest winds and rain really are just hitting the area right now. Despite that, we still see the odd person coming outside of their homes and looking around, trying to check out the damage, which of course is what all the warnings tell you not to do. They say that although it may seem like it's calm at any particular moment, the gusts can come out of nowhere.
And if you've been watching the coverage at all for the past couple days, you can see that, that these gusts can really surprise you. And on the subject of warnings, Fredricka, I can tell you one thing that happened to me this morning, we were at our hotel getting ready to come over, this was earlier this morning getting ready to come over and visit again with the Golf family.
When and now -- I have to describe the condition of the hotel for you. It was under lockdown. So there were security people everywhere, and they were not letting any of the guests leave the building for their own safety.
FREED: And you could see what was going on outside. You could see the rain and the wind at the highest level that it's been so far. Right now, there's about 60 say gusting up to around 60 miles an hour. It wasn't quite there this morning, but it was the most active that it had been. So with all that as a backdrop, I had somebody come up to me and somebody was obviously a tourist and say, excuse me, sir, but do you think that I'm going to be able to fly out of here today?
WHITFIELD: That's not going to happen, not for a while. Orlando among the airports, the Florida airports that remain closed, and it looks like it will be that way for a while. Because Frances is so wide, virtually the entire midsection is likely to experience some kind of damage. Jonathan Freed thanks so much for joining us. And in addition to the mid section of Florida experiencing some damage it is likely that a good part about 230 miles along the Atlantic coast of Florida is going to experience something there all still under a hurricane warning. Our Kathleen Koch is along the coast coming to us from St. Augustine. And yesterday -- you look at that shot right there, it was fairly sunny, fairly mild.
Well look at the contrast. Kathleen now decked out in yellow, lots of wind, lots of rain and some kicked-up surf in the background. Kathleen.
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes indeed Fredricka. Actually high tide just passed here, but you know when you look at those two pictures, I mean that really encompasses, saying what a difference a day makes. What we are finding here today is you know what a difference one hour, two hours make. Right now the winds are not as bad as they were say just two hours ago here. Two hours ago, you couldn't see this bridge. The bridge of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a huge squall came through, completely obscured it.
You're not seeing much vehicle traffic on that bridge, because police around 10:30 this morning pretty much shut down the eastbound lanes. Out to the Barrier Islands, Anastasia Islands they're letting a few cars go out there only in case of an emergency, people who absolutely have to get to the islands, who have homes out there and have no choice. They are letting people cross the bridge westbound, because they're really encouraging people to get off that island. And believe it or not the winds here are not as strong as they are out there on the Barrier Island.
We are some what protected, by that Barrier Island right now and we were predicting that we would start seeing a lot more damage, start seeing some power outages with these high winds and the rain that kicked up around midday today. I just checked in a few minutes ago with St. Augustine police and emergency officials and they said yes right now they have numerous power lines down, a lot of trees and limbs down.
Power outages right now are just sporadic -- whew, that rain really stings, Fredricka, but we still have power here where we are. But another thing they're quite worried about is the flooding. As you mentioned, the waves crashing over the seawall, this is the oldest city in the entire country, founded in 1565, it also and has an extraordinary drainage system. So in the downtown area there is just not anywhere for all the water to go, so police are talking about at some point today having to barricade off some of the streets downtown, because the water will simply get too deep.
But right now the good news is there haven't been any injuries. We did hear some police with a home just north of here a few miles up the beach did have its roof ripped off, but again we were told that no one was hurt. So we're pretty lucky right now, and it's amazing. Because again, looking at the picture from yesterday, we thought maybe Frances would pass us by, but this storm is so immense. Here we are in the northeast corner and we're getting lashed by these winds. Another piece of good news is that just a few minutes ago, just 30 minutes ago they dropped the tornado watch from this area. Because we're here in the danger of threatening tornadoes that are spanned so many tornadoes so when a hurricane goes through. So that is the good news. But we're still dealing with this wind and this rain, and they say it's going to intensify, as (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and they don't expect this to slack off Fredricka until say 8:00 or 9:00 tonight.
Back to you there in Atlanta.
WHITFIELD: All right, Kathleen thanks so much. You have a few more hours to go before things seem to die down now. And of course we're going to continue our coverage on Hurricane Frances in moment, but first we want to bring you up to date on other stories making news now in the news.
The Pentagon is not confirming a report that a former deputy commander under Saddam Hussein has been captured. The Iraqi defense ministry says Izzat Ibrahim al Duri was caught near Tikrit today. Al Duri was number 6 on the U.S list of most wanted Iraqi officials.
A top Chechen leader condemns their recent terrorist attack in Russia, but Aslim Miscada (ph) blames the Russia government. He accused the regime of carrying out a quote genocide (ph) of the Chechen people, the most recent attack at a school left more than 300 dead, many of them children.
President Bush is campaigning in West Virginia right now. Mr. Bush is attending a rally in Parkersburg, just across from the river from Ohio. The president is hoping to build a lead in this battleground state. It's Bush's eighth visit to West Virginia this year.
Senator John Kerry briefly left the campaign trail after his wife became ill. Teresa Heinz Kerry had tests at an Iowa hospital after complaining of an upset stomach Saturday night. She was released a few hours later and plans to meet up with her husband today in Pennsylvania.
And we'll have more news in a moment, including our continuing coverage of Hurricane Frances right after this.
WHITFIELD: Florida Governor Jeb Bush is urging residents to remain indoors as Hurricane Frances churns over the state. The governor warned against venturing out to see the damage. In a news conference today, he said first-responders will provide relief as soon as it is safe to do so.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JEB BUSH, FLORIDA: The storm is slow-moving, and it will take a while for it to cross the Peninsula, and I know that people have been anxious because of the wait, they heeded the advice of the local emergency operations 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Among the coastal cities along 230 miles of stretch along the Atlantic coast of Florida, still feeling the brunt of Hurricane Frances, West Palm Beach, and that is where we find our Sean Callebs, who is braving the storm, although it looks like you're in that on again/off again kind of section of these bands of rain and wind.
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes without question, Fredricka, this was a just mammoth storm, really punishing Palm Beach County area with intense rain and wind for more than 30 hours, including probably hurricane-force winds that hammered this area overnight for about eight hours. We're now starting to get some rain. It had been relatively dry for the past hour. So it just kind of goes to show you exactly what is going on?
We also know that Governor Jeb Bush is expected to visit the emergency operations in this county sometime this hour to get his first look. Without question, the brunt of the hurricane has moved through this area, but still, as he and other emergency officials have pointed out, they don't want people out on the streets. They're worried about possible damage. In fact, the West Palm Beach mayor told us there's actually a curfew in effect here for at least -- until at least tomorrow morning.
People are not supposed to be out on the streets, but this is being violated by virtually every turn. Cars are up and down the roads; we've seen people out. We asked the police chief what could happen, and she had it gives us probable cause to stop them and we could just ask them to go home or we could take them in depending exactly on what plays out.
You remember the story yesterday about the Wayward Yacht the one that broke loose of it's moorings and began drifting down the inter coastal waterway. And then the captain was able to tie up right here at the corner, this pilings and where that dock runs out a little bit. Well, it's no longer there. Last night the winds were coming in from the north-northwest, now blowing from the south. If you look across through this mist, you can probably see the luxury yacht.
Last night it blew back down the Intrercoastal Waterway slamming into another yacht. It is pinned up against the seawall down there. We spoke with the captain. He's been trying to get over to see it, but there is a curfew police are not allowing anyone to cross the bridge to go into Palm Beach. Clearly he would like to get over there and see what kind of damage that craft sustained, but that isn't going to be able to happen.
We know the Coast Guard is out as well. They have been going out checking all kinds of small crafts, whether they be sailboats, yachts, any kind of boats. They are trying to see if any people tried to ride the storm out on those boats. In the process, they are also checking the seawall to see if any damage could have been done there as well.
Hurricane Frances still dumping rain on this area. There are some areas of flooding in the county, relatively small however. City officials said considering everything that this region went through, perhaps it was a bit of luck or perhaps it was well planning, but they say they have weathered the storm so far pretty well. No serious casualties that they know of, most of the structure damage has been somewhat minor.
Windows, doors things like that. There are trees blown down everywhere, people without power but the good news, so serious injuries. Once again the governor is expected to be here within this hour to get his first look at some of the area really affected, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: And Sean at the top of your live shot we were looking at some taped video of some sunken boats, are you seeing much of that in that area near that marina where you are?
CALLEBS: Well, we saw that happen yesterday. Really, when Hurricane Frances really began to kick up, with some serious winds, apparently some kind of pier or some kind of docking area down the intercoastal basically just disintegrated under the force of the waves and the wind, and we saw a number of sailboats come down this way. Some were able to actually hit the bridge go under. A couple others simply didn't make it. There mast either broke or they hit the brick siding and we don't know what happened to them at that.
We saw at least five or six sailboats go down, and we know of at least two luxury yachts that are now across the way. You can see them a little bit better that are pinned against sea wall. Without question, this is an area, if you have a pleasure craft, I mean it's a great thing for south Florida to get out enjoy the weather and fish, do whatever you want. But at a time like this, it can be a very scary proposition.
WHITFIELD: All right, Sean well it sounds like in a strange way, at least the owners of those two luxury boats ought to feel lucky that they can at least see their boats, at least for now. Thanks so much from West Palm Beach.
Well, the National Hurricane Center says the winds of Frances will weaken some as it crosses the state, but what does that mean for rainfall? For a closer look at the storm let's check in with meteorologist Jacqui Jeras -- Jacqui.
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well Fredricka the rainfall is still going to be a big problem. Sean had mentioned some of the heavy rain that they had around there in West Palm Beach that has one of the highest totals we've seen so far more than 10 inches of rain has fallen in that area. And you can see that southerly flow pushing into the region. So they're still going to get rain here for a while but certainly not baring the brunt of the storm anymore. We'll take you out a little bit wider and give you a better perspective here of Frances. Still a hurricane with 75 miles per hour winds, but a pretty weak category 1 now, so that is some really good news. There you can see the center of circulation, we will take you in and over towards the Tampa area, because that is going to be our next big concern as this eye wall continues to break apart and move into the area. So we're going to see some tremendous downpours across Tampa, we're probably going to see a lot of flash flooding here, in very short order, and travel of course certainly not advised.
This is going to be the worst of the storm for Tampa, and it is going to be several hours lived as this storm system is still moving very, very slowly up to the north and west around 9 miles per hour. We also still have that threat of tornadoes all across central and northern Florida. That watch has been bumped up a little further up to the north. Now lets talk a little bit about that forecast track Fredricka.
We'll go back to our other computer map and show you our latest track. And there you can see the latest statistics with that as well. Moving across the Florida Peninsula right now, just kind of nudging across the Tampa Bay area. Tonight back over open water. And you can see that icon changed just a little bit to a whole in the middle and then back out closed whole. And that means it might weaken down to a tropical storm and then fire back up possibly over the Gulf.
Of course that's what fuels these hurricanes, that warm ocean water there, it is going to continue to move on up then into Alabama, and this is the time stamp there, you can see it on Tuesday. Now, in addition to Frances, believe it or not, we have another hurricane out there that we have to talk about.
And this is Ivan. This is a tropical storm yesterday; I think we mentioned it maybe once to let you know it was out there. But already in the history books, this intensified big time today and it is now a category 3 with 115 miles per hour winds. This is the strongest hurricane to develop this far south in latitude. Take a look how close that is to South America. So we've got another one we're going to be watching. This is going to be moving over into the greater end probably on Tuesday -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: Well let's hope that Ivan fizzles please.
JERAS: Cross your fingers.
WHITFIELD: Still a lot to deal with Frances. All right thanks so much Jacqui.
And we'll continue our live coverage of Hurricane Francis and other top stories right after this.
WHITFIELD: Hurricane Frances is slowly making its way across Florida today. It's been downgraded to a category 1 hurricane. Storm trackers say Frances may go down in the record books for its sheer size and excruciatingly slow pace. Frances is causing wide spread damage knocking out power to nearly 2 million homes and businesses. Repair crews are already trying to assess when they can try to fix things.
In the Bahamas where Frances first hit, power lines are down and at least two deaths are blamed on the storm. Flooding is a huge problem there as well.
Let's find out how things are looking in central Florida. Reporter Mike Deforest with WKNG joins us live from Seminole County. Where it looks like he got some significant flooding already.
MIKE DEFOREST, WKNG: We have quite a bit Fredricka. Entrepreneurs waste no time here in central Florida. We were already able to get our hands on one of these. I survived Hurricanes Frances and Charley. And if you take a look at the little map that is drawn on there you can see it makes a perfect X. And where that X meats is right here in Central Florida. We're located in Sanford, Florida, which is about 15 miles northeast of Orlando. So we are a significant distance away from where the eye of Frances actually passed, but you can see we still got considerable flooding here.
The talk all along was that this was going to a rainstorm not so much a windstorm. And although that may look like the ocean back there, that is actually an inland marina on one of the largest rivers here that runs through center Florida. And of course, as you can see right back here flooding was the main concern.
This is actually the first break in the storm that we've had since about 8:00 last night. We actually had trouble dialing our cell phone into you, because my assumption is that people are finally getting out, the rain has stopped, and using their cell phones to call families to tell people how they're doing. To tell you the truth, the cell phones lines are just jammed down here.
WHITFIELD: And Michael you talk about possibly people getting out, have you seen any folks kind of wandering out or even walking through some of that high water behind you?
DEFOREST: Unfortunately in the last probably hour we've seen a lot more people, especially with this marina back here. I think a lot of people have been coming out to check out their investments to see how their boats are staying afloat. While the storm was going on, I think like we saw through out the rest of Florida, occasionally you would get a sight seer who would come driving though, just wanting to see what the storm was, and emergency officials have been stresses over and over again that was the wrong thing to do.
Wait until the storm has passed, because emergency officials just simply could not get to you if you were to run into some trouble out sightseeing.
WHITFIELD: And Mike that's a sizable marina you've got behind you. How did most of those boats fare?
DEFOREST: It is unbelievable but they just must have these things tied down. Again, we are inland, so you are not actually getting the coastal waves. We actually stood in this exact same spot three weeks ago for Hurricane Charley, which actually when it passed right through Seminole County and Sanford here in central Florida, was a lot more intense. It was a category 2 hurricane when it roared through this part.
And even then those boats managed to stay upright even though the wind was whipping. It was barely a category 1 when Frances rolled through over the past 12 hours or so.
WHITFIELD: All right, well if the forecasters are on target, it looks like you're still going to be feeling a lot of bands of wind and rain until at least 8:00 p.m. tonight. So find cover if you can. Mike Deforest thanks so much.
We'll have more of our continuing live coverage of Hurricane Frances right after this.
WHITFIELD: Wow. Well, a host of intrepid reporters and photographers have been braving the elements so that you can see the fury of Frances. Here's a summation now of some of what they went through to bring you some of these images.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most ferocious winds are happening now, an estimated 100 miles per hour-plus sustained winds are moving into this area now. It is the nightmare that these folks have been worried about.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: oh!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is amazing. This is the worst so far. I can't turn my head right now. I don't know how Scott is doing it. It feels like rocks pelting your body, that is what it feels like right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's what we've found in the street. And this is why you're not supposed to come out. We are not sure what this piece of metal is, but it is definitely dangerous. This is another reason why they ask you not to come outside of your house. This is why you evacuate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to be large-scale every shingle on the roof is going to be gone. You may not lose the sheeting under the roof, but you're going to start losing and we are already seeing it now. You are going to start loosing siding, just because it keeps going and going and going.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See the conditions I would say are not good right now. As we've been saying, the sustained winds right now are 90 miles per hour, and people are wondering if a 170-pound man can withstand 90 mile per hour wind, the answer is yes, but barely. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is powerful and let me tell you this rain feels like somebody nailing you with pins, needles, and rice all at the same time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As you can hear and see, this wind is ferocious. I'm going to have photojournalist Jeff Sweeney pan over just a bit so that you can see where many of us slept right here. It is one of our windows, and the wind was just rushing up against here, howling and that is what you had to fall asleep to. Very nerve- wracking. But of course for us everything was safe here, but there were a lot of people waking up in shelters who don't know what they're going to go home to. They don't know what is going to be left behind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: As we head into a new hour, more of our continuing cover an of Hurricane Francis and it's fury.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: October 1998, Hurricane Mitch and its heavy rains caused some 10,000 deaths, it stalled over central America for several days, shredding homes with 180 miles per hour winds and creating floods and mudslides. Mitch then drifted north. Now a tropical storm, it made landfall in south Florida, killing two people before moving back out into the ocean.
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