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Hurricane Frances: Threatens Florida Coast

Aired September 5, 2004 - 00:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let's go right now to CNN's Jacqui Jeras up in the weather center watching everything for us, everything from the surges to the rainfall to the winds to the tornado warnings. Jacqui, go ahead.
JACQUI JERAS, METEOROLOGIST: Well, we're looking at that eye. Part of the eye is on land now. We want to show you the VIPIR system here, the Doppler radar and zoom on in. Most of the impact being felt between West Palm Beach and into Melbourne. Some of the worst of the weather has been around Fort Pierce where Gary Tuchman has been and he's been reporting sustained winds there, around 90 miles per hour.

You can see that quite a few cities here all along the line are still getting into that eye wall North Palm Beach down here and here's West Palm Beach and you can see the very edge of that eye is just trying to nudge its way into West Palm Beach. It's going to take about 12 hours for that eye, the center of the eye, to make its way on land and this is a huge storm.

I want to go to our other weather source. There you go, you can see just how out that goes, rain bands well into Orlando, well into Tampa. We had the tornado warning earlier near Tampa. We're into Polk County and spotted tornado there. However, hasn't heard any reports of damage on that one just yet. It's very difficult right now to get much information. All we're getting information in is really from the emergency managers and from people who are out there reporting because most of these sites are now going down and we're not getting any readings out of there.

The latest out of West Palm Beach is a gust of 69 miles per hour in Daytona Beach at 45 miles per hour and you can see they're still pretty strong, almost tropical storm force winds, just shy of that here in Fort Myers at this time. We're expecting it to stay pretty strong. Here we are at the category two, the maximum sustained winds with the 11:00 advisory just an away ago at 105 miles per hour, so still status quo. It's been at 105 by the way for more than 24 hours now, so very few changes in intensity here lately, 35 miles northeast of West Palm Beach and that's where the center is, still moving west northwest at five miles per hour.

Forecast track, what can we expect in the future once we get through these couple of hours with the eye making landfall? Well, it's going to continue to push across the Florida peninsula. Take a look at your times (ph) and the forecast intensity as it moves to the south of Orlando, to the north of Tampa, back over open waters into the Gulf of Mexico and then making a second landfall across the Florida panhandle and continuing to weaken as it moves into Alabama and finally becoming a tropical depression.

Flooding is going to be a major concern and what I see again Miles, we're going to talk more about flood potential, because that probably is going to be the biggest story out of this storm.

LIN: All right. Thanks Jacqui. In fact, let's go to our CNN affiliate WSBN right now and listen in to some of their coverage while Miles pours through hundreds of e-mails that you're sending to us. Here is WSBN story coverage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Haven't had much trouble. That's...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It looks like they're not messing around they. They see someone's on the road and they go see why.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They haven't had much problem out here. Everywhere we've been today, we've been up in Hollywood. We were in Hallondale (ph), all the way up here. Police officers hadn't had a lot of trouble because who wants to go out in this kind of weather? This is not the kind of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) it gets really - even if you wanted to come out and watch it because it is like you say like a movie set there, special effects. It's fascinating but it gets real miserable real (UNINTELLIGIBLE) as you've seen from everybody out today, but it's just pouring. That rain is pouring and then being pushed right down the street.

Now the lights are back on, maybe you can see how it just - it sort of makes that right hand...

LIN: Thanks to affiliate WSBN. We're going to be dipping in and out of some of our affiliate coverage as they've got teams of reporters all across the state. Our own correspondent Gary Tuchman who's been reporting all day long out of Fort Pierce. That location is now experiencing hurricane winds, very dangerous conditions. I want to share some of his experience that he filed a couple of hours ago.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Hugo and Andrew come to mind, but never anything that just lasts as long as this. It's just wearing down south Florida and central Florida where it is hitting. Since 10:30 this morning, we've had these torrential rains and winds and right now it is worst it's been at this point. You can see behind me, the palm trees blowing.

Five minutes ago, there's a light pole between the palm trees. I don't know if you can see them. Five minutes ago, a light pole just like that knocked four poles down, fell on the street and that's why we stay as far as we can from the light poles and we keep a careful eye on the palm trees. But right now we just talked to the police a short time ago. They say we're having sustained winds now of 85 miles per hour, sustained hurricane force winds. As I said, it's been doing this all day since 10:30 this morning.

Hours ago, when it wasn't as bad, we went out to take a look at some of the damage. Some of the damage was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) middle of the afternoon included a street with one car parked at the side and a tree on top of it, very unlucky motorist who decided not to move his car. All up and down U.S. 1 along the coast, which is just about a mile and a half from the beach. Right now we're a half mile from the beach, signs were down. Trees were down. Power lines were down. Much damage and that's hours ago. We've talked to police, to authorities here who say that there are many structures, businesses, homes and stores that have had partial collapses or complete collapses. A Kmart in Fort Pierce, most of the roof has blown off and it's now flooding from these torrential rains that are pouring inside.

We saw a boat in the intercoastal, a boat with no one at the helm. We're near a marina now where there had been 90 boats bouncing up and down but one of the boats apparently go away and is floating around in the intercoastal right now with no skipper. We anticipate finding lots more damage when daylight comes, but we're still talking about nine hours from now before daylight.

Authorities here at the emergency operations center in St. Lucie (UNINTELLIGIBLE) very concerned. They've had lots of calls from people who all of a sudden are saying, we wish we went to the shelter. Can you please help us and police are telling us now, we are not out in the street. We can't help you. Get in your house. Get behind as many walls as you can and wait it out.

There was a checkpoint over a bridge behind us that goes onto the barrier islands, Hutchinson (ph) Island. It's supposed to be abandoned. No one's supposed to be there. Police were guarding it for the last two days. We were there about two hours ago. The police are gone. You want to go there you can, but if you do it, you're not too smart.


LIN: All right. That's a report that Gary Tuchman filed from Fort Pierce. Frankly we rolled that tape because Gary is fighting those winds right now. He's trying to go live from the location, but frankly it's too dangerous because he's in the brunt of it right now as that eye wall passes right through his area.

O'BRIEN: And that sort of brings us to a lot of the questions and concerns and in some cases complaints that you have about the way we do this coverage and when we get Gary back and John Zarrella and others, we can sort of explain to you why we do this. We're trying to tell a story here and this is part of the way we tell a story. We're not needlessly putting people in harm's way. These are people who have great amount of experience and a lot of care. This isn't a walk on the beach so to speak.

LIN: And it's not for self glorification. They're really trying to bring you first hand information and to share the experience of what it's like to be out there. In fact West Palm Beach, John Zarrella, standing there as the hurricane passes through his area. John.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Carol. We're starting to see a lot of the flooding here now. You can't really tell behind me now, but the street behind me, the water is rushing down the street behind me here and the parking lot has begun to flood here. There's a drainage system here that's absolutely backed up now. The water's just coming up from the drainage system. It's just overflowing with all the rain that we've had here in the last four hours or so.

And again the winds, you can see I'm sure on this wide shot of me standing out here in all of this is the palm trees, the palm fronds continue to be broken off and bend down and we continue to see arcing of transformers, those flashes of blue lights in the distance, mostly inland back in towards the interior of West Palm Beach and in Palm Beach County periodically these flashing lights and when we walk out towards the street to my left, which is towards the intercoastal waterway and you look down into the pitch blackness for the most part, you could see a lot of flying debris, blowing across the streets.

But fortunately here in Palm Beach, most of what we're seeing are trees limbs, a few light posts are down. Some of that minor damage, because we're on the south side of that eye and the wind blows from the west to the east and a counterclockwise rotation of the hurricane, so we're getting most of it coming from the west to the east now, which probably will mean that there won't be any storm surge down here on this side, because the water in the ocean is going to be blowing out.

In fact a good portion of the bay will probably or the intercoastal, will get pushed back out over towards Palm Beach. So that's a saving grace at least down here. But there have been reports of tremendous amount of beach loss all up and down Palm Beach and further up into the Riviera Beach and places like that, all along up and down the east coast of Florida, simply because of this relentless pounding, hour after hour after hour.

But again I think significantly as I heard Jacqui Jeras talking about, the flood waters that the flooding that's going to be the real story out of this ultimately and even though we're on the coast, all of this rain has got to go somewhere and this just the drainage system can't handle it and all the parking lots, everything around it is starting to fill up with water here. So that's the story right now here, the rising of the water. Now it's only still a few inches deep right now, but it was completely dry a couple of hours ago. So the ground is completely saturated and there's just nowhere for all of this rain to go. Carol.

LIN: All right. Thank you so much John. Miles.

O'BRIEN: And before you get away there John, we should point out too the tide is rising there in Palm Beach so he is in store for more flooding. John, at your post earlier today, Sean Callebs witnessed that remarkable event of that multi-million yacht being docked in the midst of all of this. Mike wants to know what happened. What happened to the guy that was out there on the boat around 4:00 this afternoon. Has anyone figured out why in the world he was out there. That's a tough question. Haven't heard any more about it, just if you could tell viewers who may be seen that earlier what happened on that one. There you see the pictures (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ZARRELLA: The pictures of it, yes, they're pretty dramatic pictures. It broke loss. He had two anchors down in the water. He was anchoring out in the middle of the intercoastal and the two anchor broke lose on him and then he lost some of his power as he was trying to come over to the dock, which is over to my left. Of course no way you can see it now. And the water is literally up over the dock.

The man, as he and his first mate, to get the boat - I think it was about a $3.5 million yacht, he managed to get it to a mooring over there and tie it up and last we were able to see it a couple of hours ago, it was still there and was riding it out pretty well and they got off the boat safely and I don't know where they are tonight, but I'm sure they're a lot drier than we are, at least I hope they are.

But yes, they managed to get off all right but it was a very harrowing experience for a while there. They were extreme - you could see there was a great deal of fear in their eyes, when they got off that boat, because they were in a tough, tough spot at that point until they managed to get over here, because a bunch of sail boats we've seen earlier today that broke loose of their moorings, actually floated down from north to south underneath the bridge that goes over to Palm Beach and the masts were literally just sheared off. In fact, one mast of one sailboat is laying across the bridge that goes over to Palm Beach. Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right. John Zarrella, thank you very much for buttoning that one up for us and we're glad that that worked out well, because it sure was harrowing watching that to say the last. As we have been doing all throughout the night, we've been just kind of trolling through the local affiliate coverage, sort of listening in as they helped tell this story. This is WSBN signal and as you can see, I think we probably hit them at a bad time. Yes, there's their studio and like our studio, they've got TVs (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we've got TVs behind us.

LIN: Yes, but the picture that you saw before, the water was going...

O'BRIEN: It was pretty amazing.

LIN: ... horizontal to the ground. Let's go to WPLG and see what they've got here, a similar picture looking at the surf.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... five feet in this boat. Obviously viciously bobbing up and down and we've seen the bow now kind of get dipped under the water there a couple times, but it is still obviously afloat and not capsized.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is a great reminder by the way, we want to of course welcome those of you who are listening. When I came in, I was checking the dial. I know that those of you listening to 560 WQAM, that you were listening to our continuing coverage. This is Mark Schumaker (ph) with Diane Magin (ph) and Trent Eric (ph) here and of course KISS (ph) country, a number of other stations. If you're listening to us by radio, we'll do our best to paint of picture with our word as what we're seeing on the air. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we know we've been on the air for several days now and the reason is, what we're experiencing right now. This is the heart of the hurricane finally reaching the shores of south Florida and even though Miami Dade County and Broward County for the most part have dodged a bullet with this, we are still experiencing some very heavy weather and I guess the biggest concern now Trent, not only for our neighbors to the north, but those actually for our viewing and listening area, is not to be lulled into some kind of sense of complacency because these bands coming ashore can fool you. One minute it could be fine in your neighborhood and the next it's not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. You mentioned driving in this morning that conditions were OK. They're not OK. We had these rain bands moving through and yesterday afternoon, as many of us were trying to catch some shut eye before we can back in on another 12 hour shift, conditions got a little vicious out there with these rain bands coming through and at times obviously very loud and a little unnerving at places here across Miami Dade and Broward County and I know a lot of folks up, and especially in the southern parts...

LIN: All right. Our thanks to WPLG for sharing some of their coverage. We've got our own Ed Lavandara further inland and higher up on the ground at Lake Okeechobee. Ed, what's the situation there? Are you feeling some of the effects of Frances yet?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think we are Carol. We're starting to brace for the strongest parts of this storm to begin hitting this area, about an hour and a half, two hours ago the power started out and it's quite an eerie feeling here in the city of Okeechobee which is on the north edge of Lake Okeechobee. There's an eeriness because it is completely dark, but the darkness of the night is broken up occasionally where you see blue and green kind of almost like an explosion lighting up the horizon where you can see transformers and power lines going out in the middle of the night.

So you see like these pops of light throughout there and it doesn't look like lightening. It's definitely got this bluish greenish tinge to it which is kind of a harrowing experience. Also the darkness of the night too, it's much harder to see the debris that is flying around. So it's kind of frightening from the standpoint where you're standing here, you're hearing the wind. You're hearing the wind howling. You're hearing debris flying all over the place, but you're really not seeing it.

We're kind of barricaded here with a wall that breaks up from the strongest parts of this wind so we can feel pretty secure where we're standing right now but of course we're further inland because the concern in the hours ahead as this slow moving hurricane comes on shore here in central Florida, is the flooding.

Lake Okeechobee is a shallow lake. The National Hurricane Center predicting that they expect a six foot storm surge off of this lake perhaps and that could cause major flooding, not just on the northern edge of this lake but also on the southern edge of the lake, closer to the Palm Beach and the Miami areas. So that is why we're inland. We're about 35 to 40 miles inland and you've seen here in the last hour and a half the power going out and we've driven the streets a little while, just before it got completely dark and it was empty. It's a ghost town. We were told earlier in the day that many people evacuated. Also many people just barricading themselves inside of hotels and hunkering down for the rest of the night. Carol.

LIN: All right. Ed, obviously Frances moving inland and more than a million people now without a power, feeling the effects of this hurricane as it makes its way onto the Florida land.

O'BRIEN: We haven't spoken a lot about Okeechobee but that lake and the immediate area surrounding is part of the hurricane warning and so folks there obviously need to heed the calls from the hurricane center as well. We'll take a break. We'll be back with more in just a moment.


LIN: The long slow passage of hurricane Frances means parts of Florida are going without normal police patrols for hours on end. As reporter Arlene Rodriguez (ph)of CNN affiliate WPLG discovered, that has some Florida homeowners taking matters into their own hands when it comes to defending their property.


ARLENE ROGRIQUEZ: ... with a homeowner who was armed and ready to protect his property. So you came out here, you saw us out here. You didn't know who we were. You came to check it out. Why?


RODRIGUEZ: Oh my God and you have your gun out here too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes ma'am, I'm licensed to carry it.

ROGRIGUEZ: And you guys don't have power, so obviously your worried for your safety and for your family's safety.


RODRIGUEZ: Did I almost get shot?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not at all. I mean I'm (UNINTELLIGIBLE) who I shot (UNINTELLIGIBLE) problems with looters and that type of thing We're out here just to protect our property.


LIN: What people will do in an emergency situation. There is an emergency situation when it comes to power outages at that man's house. He didn't have any power. I've got Tim Pagle (ph) now on the telephone from Florida Power & Light. Tim, can you give us the situation? The number that we have right now is 1.3 million people without power or actually households without power. TIM PAGLE, FLORIDA POWER & LIGHT: That's correct. We have approximately close to 1.3 million customers out of power right now. Florida Power & Light serves about 27,000 square miles of service territory, mainly on the Sarasota on south and then up most of the east coast of Florida, about 35 counties. We've restored since hurricane Frances has impacted the state of Florida, almost 370,000 customers. Obviously we do that only when it's safe to do so when winds are under 35 miles per hour.

LIN: Well, Tim, that could be, that could be more than a day. It may even be a couple of days before then you can even think about repairing any of the damage.

PAGLE: Yes, this is going to be a long night. It's going to be a long day tomorrow. We're certainly asking our customers for a great deal of patience. This slow-moving storm and unpredictable storm will bring us a lot more wind, a lot more rain and there's a long rebuilding restoration period ahead I'm afraid. But the good news is that we're ready for this. This is a well tested plan and we've been through this before, particularly just a couple of weeks ago with hurricane Charley. We've got 6,000 restoration personnel from other utilities and contractors that will be joining FPL's line crews out there and support people. We'll have an army of some 10,000 when it's safe to do so but this will be a long restoration and we may not start restoring until some 24 to 36 hours or so after the storm makes landfall.

LIN: Right, Tim, I know you're going to have a lot of manpower, people power out there on the street, 10,000 workers from frankly for those people just aching for their electricity, it won't happen so enough. We'll see what happens.

PAGLE: That's right. We're asking for patience. We're all in this together and we'll get it done.

LIN: All right. Tim Pagle, Florida Power & Light. Miles.

O'BRIEN: Let's take a look at the Bahamas for just a moment. We got an e-mail along these lines from Candice Guy (ph) in Portland, Maine. She asks this, everyone keeps talking about the damage this could cause. Based on the Bahamas, could I please see or hear more of what happened there so that I can have a better idea? Our Karl Penhaul is there. He joins us now on the line. Karl, if you can give us a sense of the damage you witnessed and to what extent do you think that might be a predictor for what happens in Florida over the next few hours.

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miles, if anything by today, if today is anything to judge by then certainly what we can tell you is that it looks likely that the tail end of hurricane Frances has been way more vicious than the leading edge. Yesterday, when the leading edge came in, we looked at that and thought these winds aren't particularly strong, not too much rain, but then in the course of today, the eye of the hurricane passed over. The winds dropped off, but the tail end came through, things, really picked up, really tough day as you can see from this report we've prepared for you.


PENHAUL (voice-over): Waves battered the Grand Bahamas shoreline, wind and driving rain bend the palm trees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Houses have been blown apart. We are asking people to go into bathtubs, to hold onto anything that's safe and to do so, stay where they are.

PENHAUL: As the eye of the hurricane passes over the island, the winds drop, but homes like this have already been ripped apart. Some residences have taken refuge on the roof. Every available vehicle (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is to safety, away from the danger of storm-driven tidal surges. Rising flood waters cover vans and cars. Those who dare wad to slightly higher ground. Police are already reporting deaths and disappearances but that's not the end of the hurricane.

As the tail of Frances lashes into Grand Bahama, winds seem more vicious than ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The back end seems to be far worse than the front of it. The front went by and it gave us a false sense of maybe it's going to be OK (UNINTELLIGIBLE) That's not the case at least (ph).

PENHAUL: Police decide to take this bulldozer on a mission to the north side of the island to rescue an elderly couple who'd refused to abandon their home. We joined assistant police Commissioner Greenslde (ph) and his emergency team. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) SUVs smashed, fallen trees everywhere. The winds are too powerful. About 100 yards from the home of the couple police are searching for, this site, a luxury home partially destroyed.

The winds finally there Miles proved too powerful. Police were unable to reach the home of that elderly couple and check up on how they were doing. That won't now come until morning, then until daybreak, once the police are sure that the winds have subsided and some of the ocean swell is also departed, they'll venture out and try and check on the fate of that elderly couple.


At that phase too (ph), they'll be able to put together some preliminary damage assessments but because the tail of the hurricane is only just starting to pass away from Grand Bahama now, it will still be a few hours before those assessments start, before the police can tell us exactly how many homes have been damaged. What we can tell you now though, is that they're no power on the island. Most of the telephone system is down. The cellular phone system is down and the only radio broadcaster that was left broadcasting on the island is now out of action too Miles.

O'BRIEN: Karl, I suspect it's very difficult to make an assessment of damage and injuries when you're talking about an archipelago like the Bahamas and in some cases, I know some of these island are completely cut off right now.

PENHAUL: Indeed Miles. The Bahamas are an island chain of about 700 islands and key islands and keys and that makes it very difficult. However, the hurricane has been moving progressively through those islands. Grand Bahama is the last of the Bahama islands to be hit. What we can tell you is in the course of the day, one man was found drowned. An 80-year old man is still listed as missing. His home is completely destroyed by the hurricane. Police have got no idea of where he is right now. But certainly people are going to have wait now until daybreak, until those winds and the rain dies down before the emergency services can begin to do a systematic damage assessment. Miles.

O'BRIEN: CNN's Karl Penhaul, Freeport, Bahamas, thank you very much. Carol.

LIN: So possibly an indication of things to come for the folks in Florida. Quickly recapping the situation here. Hurricane Frances, the eye wall has now gone onto the - onto land, made landfall. Officially the hurricane will make landfall when the center of the eye moves onto land. That could take another 10 to 12 hours, but right now there are tornado watches and warnings out, some 2.8 million people in 21 counties have been evacuated from their homes.

The latest, the very latest update from the emergency response people is that some 73,000 thousand people are living in shelters right now. The state of Florida is in a state of emergency and the Red Cross is mobilizing the largest response ever to a natural disaster in the state of Florida.

Let's go to John Zarrella, our John Zarrella, who is in West Palm Beach. That is just south of where hurricane Frances is actually just beginning to make landfall. John, the situation where you are.

ZARRELLA: You can probably see it. It's pretty intense right now. You know, all of a sudden, the wind and the rain, the trees are really bending now. You can see those palm trees bending and blowing and the wind is swirling around through the buildings and I've seen pretty frequent arcing of the transformers in the distance, that blue green flashing of light of the electrical transformers being hit with the rain and the wind and salt air and it's just - they arc and they explode and it's been continuous throughout the night, but more so in the last few minutes. Before I was seeing it to the west, interior of West Palm Beach.

Now I'm seeing a lot of it down to our south, the south end of Palm Beach. I'm going to - saying that the water - I know Jacqui Jeras has been talking a lot about the high water and the flood potential which, with the slow moving rain maker and this has all come up - and again, it's only a few inches deep here but the drainage system is down here somewhere. I can't make it out.

But it's completely backed up now and the water is just coming up out of the ground because everything is so saturated. And you can see that I'm stand in about two, three, three or four inches of water here and it's just come up like this in the last hour. Before that it was completely dry.

But if walk back out here to where the wind is - I'm not protected so much by the building, you can probably get a better of how it's blowing out here and everything here that I'm standing in, this grass here is completely saturated and there's a good idea of the gusts that are coming. But remember, I'm standing up in this so we're not talking even about hurricane force winds now, up higher up, maybe 30, 40 feet up where the winds are stronger, it may be gusting to hurricane force, but down here, where we're protected Carol by the buildings, around the sides and other structures and I can always hold onto the palm tree if necessary, we're pretty much protected here so we're not getting those hurricane force winds that Gary Tuchman's getting further up the coast 40 or 50 miles up the coast there in Fort Piece.

But this has been what we've been going through for about 4 1/2, five hours now, no different, about the same. Periodically it gets very intense like it is right now and the wind is really swirling around now, doesn't seem to be coming in one particular director or another, although generally out of the west and the east, but a lot of the rain now being blown it would seem the other direction, now getting blown from the south to the north, though, I don't know what that's all about. But in general a west to east because we're on the south side of that eye wall. Carol.

LIN: All right. Thanks very much John. We're also seeing some debris flying around in front of your camera position. That can also get pretty dangerous as these hurricane force winds pick up speed, 100 miles an hour in some cases in these gusts John. Be careful out there.

Let's go to Jacqui Jeras and see really what the situation is on the ground right now. Jacqui, John was describing as we look at John's picture right now, John was describing a situation where the winds are constantly shifting direction.

JERAS: That's because he's right where the - let's go back to the - I'm sorry. He's in West Palm Beach, is that right? It's been a long day, I'm sorry.

LIN: I understand.

JERAS: Let's move on in. I want to show you where the eye is. It all has to do with the circulation, right. It depends where you are in location to the eye because winds are changing. You might be dealing with some of those wind gusts overall, but they should still be coming into this area, moving in from the north into the east. So that should be his sustained winds, really should be sticking that way, I think for a while. It's certainly going to move up to the north a little bit more, but I don't think his winds should be changing a lot, unless he's getting some gusts right now coming in with some of these thunderstorms in addition to that.

And speaking of thunderstorms, we do have a new warning, a tornado warning which is in effect for northwestern Hillsborough County in Florida and also for eastern Pasco County and this is just up to the north of the Tampa Bay area. I want to talk a little bit more about that eye and that eye wall. We're going to zoom in, well, that's the Tampa radar. There you can see up here, this is where we've got the Pasco County and Hillsborough County and that's the storm that's diving on down to the south and this is a Doppler radar indicated tornado at this time.

So you go back to that VIPIR image, because I do want to zoom in and talk a little bit more about the eye and the eye wall at this time. Here's West Palm Beach. This is where John is right now. I'm not sure if he's on the south side or the north side. Those rain bands are still coming down pretty heavy. He's probably a little bit south of that area. If you can zoom on up to the north just a little bit more, not far from where he is right now. There you can see Palm Beach Isles. This is where that eye is on shore right now and where those winds are going to be calming.

We were talking earlier about the difference between the winds in an eye compared to the eye wall. The eye wall is producing wind around 105 miles per hour and you get well into that eye, into the center, we were getting reports of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) moved through around 10 miles per hour. So a very dramatic difference and John is just in kind of one of those key locations where he's just kind of touch and go in terms of getting some of the stronger bands in.

I think he should be seeing a little bit more of a break here probably as this eye continues to make its way onshore, but it is moving up to the north and to the west as well, so that's something else to keep in mind, that he could get kind of missed there. It's kind of iffy where John's at right now. Carol.

LIN: All right. Thanks Jacqui.

O'BRIEN: Thanks Jacqui.

LIN: All right. Our affiliate coverage continues also. WSVN showing up here, a live picture of North Bay Village. Miles, you were saying?

O'BRIEN: Yes, this is West Palm Beach area and not too far from where John Zarrella is. Looks like they're doing some fishing. Let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: pummeled yesterday by (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ferocious waves and now what's happening is the waves are lashing up against the homes in Normandy Isle there and they must have pretty good sea wall protection over there because it doesn't look like there's any damage around here per se but I can see and you can't because it's too dark, but the waves are just smashing up against that wall over there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...good protection over there?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think all those sea walls are pretty sturdy.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And if they're not, all those are about to find out too they're not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the other big concern out here guys as you know, has been the flooding situation, but I don't see a lot of that either. Now this is an evacuation zone and they did that because we just didn't know where the storm was going to make direct landfall. Lucy for us here in Miami Dade County anyway, that that happened north of us. But there's no real flooding around here, because we didn't have the surge in the bay that might have come with this storm.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Tom Haines (ph) out there, behind the studio alongside Biscayne Bay. We're going to...

LIN: All right. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) coverage as we get an idea, a bird's eye view from the affiliates on the ground.

O'BRIEN: North Bay and that's the Palm Beach area, giving a sense of what's going there. I don't know if Jacqui Jeras can hear me, but these e-mails are for her. I hope she's still in the loop. If not, we can share with you some other ones first.

Some of the questions people have is now that the eye has kind of straddling the land and the sea, will Frances lose some of her strength? Do we have Jacqui? She's not ready right now. Let's move down to some of the other ones and we'll get her - oh, she is ready. That Jacqui Jeras - (UNINTELLIGIBLE) she just strands right up...

JERAS: Can you just put up the radar while I'm fixing my show and then I can just...

O'BRIEN: Yes, we'll put the radar and Jacqui Jeras, can you hear me?

JERAS: Yes, I can hear you.

O'BRIEN: All right. Once the eye wall hits land fall as it is now, kind of straddling, does the hurricane begin to lose strength? This is from Chris Williams in North Babylon, New York.

JERAS: Maybe a little bit, but really you've got to get that center over it in order for it to start to lose strength. You know, the heat source, the thing that drives this hurricane is that warm water and that's your energy source. So as long as a lot of the eye hear remains over land, this could continue to stay strong. In fact the 11:00 advisory, we were already seeing the eye wall well on shore and the discussion was that there was still time for this to strength even a little bit before the center made its way on landfall and also when you get some of these outer bands pushing on land too, the elevation starts to get up and so you get a little lift and you might see a little bit more of intensification into that eye wall as well.

O'BRIEN: Now this next one from DeeDee is kind of a trick question. How long do you think Frances will last and I guess the real question is, perhaps, how long is a hurricane? How long is a tropical storm? How long is a depression that you can answer that any number of ways, right?

JERAS: Well, the whole eye itself, once the whole thing is on shore, we're going to see some pretty rapid weakening I think and this should be a tropical storm sometime tomorrow likely staying as a tropical storm but then it's going to move on over to the Gulf of Mexico, so you might see a touch of a fire (ph) up there once you get warm water source once again. But this is probably going to be a tropical depression I would say late Monday, maybe into Tuesday and as it makes its way up into parts of Alabama and maybe even pushing as far west as Mississippi.

O'BRIEN: All right. One more for you. Joshua Button (ph) up in Canada, Winnipeg. Heard from a lot of Canadians tonight. Just wondering, who decides the names of the hurricane? Are they all pre- picked or is it someone lucky enough to have it named after them? I guess would you call that Lucky?

JERAS: I don't know. It depends (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you want to be right? The World Meteorological Organization chooses the names and they have a set of six names that they rotate every six years and then once a hurricane becomes notorious so to speak or it becomes very significant, that name gets dropped off the list. It gets retired just like a football number perhaps and you put in a new name there. So the World Meteorological Organization - most of the names are English, Spanish and French and we've been talking about that French one, Gaston and some of them are kind of fun to say.

O'BRIEN: All right. We're going to assume Frances is going to be retired after this one. I think that's probably safe to say.

JERAS: I would think so. We've got an Ivan out there too by the way guys. We've been talking so much about Frances.

O'BRIEN: Eric wants to know about that. What about tropical storm Ivan?

JERAS: Yes. Ivan has been pretty strong actually, intensifying throughout the day today. Sean, if there's any way you could get up, I've got an Atlantic satellite that was just going to show us Ivan up there. Ivan is still more than 1,000 miles away from the leeward islands. It has intensified today with winds around 70 miles per hour and so one could very likely become a hurricane, possibly even before the 5:00 advisory rolls around tomorrow morning. And Ivan's forecast track right now has it moving through northern parts of the Less Antilles, maybe over towards Puerto Rico, so we're going to have to be watching, maybe a week from now, what Ivan can potentially do.

O'BRIEN: Oh boy. All right.

LIN: All right. Speaking of, let's go back to at least via telephone. we're going to talk to Gary Tuchman right now who's in Fort Pierce. It's just too dangerous to get in front of the camera right now because hurricane Frances is making landfall right at Gary's location. Gary, what do you see outside?

TUCHMAN: Well, Carol, I want to tell you, it's not that it's too dangerous, I wouldn't say it's exactly say, but because of the winds which are now approach 100 miles per hour our live signal has gone down. So that's why we're not able to give you a live picture but the cell phones that I'm on right now, very prehistoric compared to everything else we have, are still working and we can tell you that, for the past two hours and 45 minutes now, we've had the hurricane force winds that came in about 10:00 Eastern time about 80 miles per hour, building up from the tropical storm force winds which we've had all day since 10:30 this morning with hurricane gusts throughout periods of the day.

This (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for 2 1/2 hours, no signs of letting up yet. Things are just blowing all over the place. We've been using a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) called the Tiki bar and restaurant is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) refuge for some of our equipment and an outdoor popular bar and restaurant but parts of the roof are now starting to blow away so we're shying away from that refuge and going somewhere off next to a building that's very secure. But we hear things popping. We see sparks on transformers. It's anybody's guess what the families who decided to stay in their homes close to the coast are going through right now, because it is just so loud, this noise and interesting (ph) (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for small children must be so frightening and normally when we cover these hurricanes they only last a couple of hours, but fairly typical. This one is lasting for such a long time. It's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a night here in St. Lucie County where the center of this hurricane is aiming towards right now. Carol.

LIN: Gary, I think after your description of what's happening outside, I still think it's fair to say it's too dangerous to go outside, as brave - you know, our reporters just don't want to be accused of being chicken, but you know frankly...

O'BRIEN: No, we certainly don't...

LIN: Technology does get in the way sometimes in a storm situation.

O'BRIEN: Yes but the cell phone keeps on ticking at least for now. Gary Tuchman providing an excellent description. In some cases you don't need pictures because you have a good idea of exactly what's going on there in Fort Pierce even as we speak.

We're going to take a break. Back with more in a moment.


LIN: When we have a story as big as hurricane Frances, sometimes the best thing we can do as journalists is just get out of the way and let the pictures tell the story.

O'BRIEN: Worth 1,000 words as they say. In our spotlight segment tonight, here's what we've seen and heard so far from hurricane Frances. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're on the north end of South Hutchison (ph) Island where the wind obviously (UNINTELLIGIBLE) one of the sailboats already gone under water. The wind and the rain is whipping. Power lines are down and at this point, probably just a matter of time before the water comes up over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're trying to get a camera up in a stable position. This is Juno Beach on Labor Day weekend. Obviously nobody on the beach. We've got sand flying like little razor blades and salt water and I don't know if you can make out the ocean. It's just like one big white misty broiling concoction out there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take a look at the waters coming down the street and there are some cars behind us and in fact we have an apartment building and the winds are really kicking up hard and take a look at how far - I had to get barefoot out here because my boots could not handle the rain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The water's really getting deep over here. You have a car in this lot here where the water is all the way up to the doors, lots of water in the car. Another car by the house over there, the water up to the door of the house and the rain just continues to pound.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What a sight right here as this huge tree came crashing onto this house, destroying the fence, landing right on top of the property, but that's not all. Let's go inside and see exactly what went on here, pretty nerve racking, wasn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was definitely pretty scary there for a few minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you took a pretty nasty blow. How you doing there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all right, headache now and a cut here and I'm lucky that's all it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now here is evidence of storm surge. What you have is you have the sea right over here. When the winds are at their highest...

LIN: All right. We're interrupting that piece to bring you Gary Tuchman who's standing by at Fort Pierce.

O'BRIEN: He has cobbled together some technology for us. We're actually going to see him via videophone. Gary, what's the latest?

As fate would have it, let's...

LIN: Well, we've got a team up in Melbourne who actually had to move their location Anderson and Chad, Anderson Cooper and Chad Myers, because the roof of the building that was protecting them was actually unraveling in the wind. Anderson. COOPER: Yes, it wasn't a good scene. All of a sudden we were - when we last spoke to you though, we were covered by a roof just a little bit. That started to keel away. I'm actually going to show you a piece of it. It's incredibly flimsy, but what you don't realize - Chad will join me in a second as soon as he gets - there he is. He's fully dressed now. What you don't realize is just has sharp this is and flying around and you see this stuff now, just flying all around behind us.

MYERS: This came off the sofffit, the bottom side, but sometimes this is made of wood, but on this building obviously just aluminum or vinyl siding, depending on where it is. This is a vinyl piece that came off, but when this thing's going 100 miles an hour Anderson, this is what we're talking about. This is how people get hurt. Even in a tornado or a hurricane, don't go outside and take pictures of it. Stay inside, because this stuff hurts.

COOOPER: It's one of the things that is so strange about being here is that you're so limited in the information you can get. I mean and I can only imagine what it is like for people inside their homes, inside a closet, inside their bathrooms, listening to their transistor radios, because the electricity is out. But even us, I mean we're pretty cut off, don't have much of a sense of what else is happening out there in Melbourne.

MYERS: You know, every time we get a little break between our live shots, I go to the car and turn on the radio, see what the radio station was saying and people are just calling in and they're really - now they're scared because these winds are much more than they thought. Remember everybody said, oh, it's only going to be a category two. What we saw earlier was only category one storm and this is probably pushing 95 to 100 miles an hour now, so I think we're into the category two winds for sure and it's scary.

COOPER: Have you been able to look at any projections lately about in terms of the time, are we still in that sort of 4:00 a.m. as being the height of the storm for us?

MYERS: Maybe a little bit earlier than. Whoa, did you see that? That's why we're not back there. That's why we're in here, kind of in a little alcove. We're actually, we are very safe. I feel really good where we are and our camera is even in a little...

O'BRIEN: Guys, hey guys, real quick, real quick, I got to interject here because Mark and Amanda in Toronto have a question on this vein. How far are the reporters standing from protective cover and can they get hit by the flying debris where they are? We're very worried for that hot Anderson Cooper. We love his smile. So Anderson, why don't you just tell us exactly how you're protecting your smile and the rest of you for that matter.

COOPER: Well, I think both of us are feeling rather cool right now, not too hot. We're actually very protected as Chad was just saying.

MYERS: We're not getting out in that again. That was fun for a while and now it's dangerous and now we're here.

COOPER: We've got a wall right here. We've got a wall right here. You can see panning over here, this is a very secure building, got another wall here. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we're keeping a pretty close eye on them and sorry, I should talk in the mike, it's TV after all, but a wall here, a wall here. We do have these two trees over here which we've been watching pretty carefully but they're holding up pretty well so we feel pretty secure here. It's actually we're out of the wind gusts as you can tell. I mean you step out there, that's where the wind gust is.

MYERS: Yes, we're not going out there again. There's just too much stuff flying. We had the opportunity to go down there and do that wind tunnel live shot but as soon as this piece broke off and we saw the pieces going, there's too much now, too much (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

O'BRIEN: All right. Well, that leads us to the next question. It's the final question for this little hit (ph), seems like the reporters are still able to stand OK during their live reports. At what wind speed in a hurricane can a person no longer stand and resist the wind? Did you test that out?

MYERS: I had wind gusts over by the Mercury marine, I would say it was I think 92 and I couldn't stand up any more (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I- 85 is OK if you're holding onto something. After that, absolutely not. You're done.

LIN: All right. Thank you guys.

O'BRIEN: Obviously the audio is fading there and we'll obviously get that rectified.

LIN: Or fixed.

O'BRIEN: And that too.

LIN: That too. All right. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.


O'BRIEN: Jacqui Jeras is performing yoeperson's duty up there in the weather center and she actually has the, do you have the 1:00 update already?

JERAS: Yes, they're coming in every two hours now. I know I'm just going through this. This is literally hot off the press. It says Miles, you were asking about when it makes landfall officially and we talk about how the center of the eye. Well here we've got it. The center of the large eye of hurricane Frances finally makes landfall near Sewall's Point, Florida. This is also in the vicinity around Stuart, Jensen Beach and Celerno (ph), Florida.

Here we go, zooming in. There is Sewall's Point so you want to see the eye of the hurricane, that's where it's at at this time and it's only took us what, five hours to get to the center of the hurricane onshore. We were talking about maybe 12 hours, so if it continues at this speed as it has picked up a little bit now, maybe another five hours to get the other on landfall.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) sustained winds still at 105 miles per hour, still an opportunity for some slight strengthening over the next several hours. So you've got to wait for this whole thing to get onshore, before we're going to see any real significant weakening of this storm. The hurricane force winds extend out 85 miles from the center of the storm. Tropic storm force winds extend out about 200 miles from the storm and the pressure, here we go, still the same, so no big changes in intensity right now.

We're going to have some more updates for you coming up in the 1:00 hour here pretty shortly, about some of the storm surge. We're going to give you some of the high tides that we're expecting here and what kind of wings you can be expecting and that's in just a little bit.

LIN: All right. Thank you very much Jacqui. It has been a pleasure.

O'BRIEN: It has been a pleasure. It's been a long night.

LIN: A long night.

O'BRIEN: And it is just getting started in some cases, certainly for the folks behind us, but want to leave you with this one thought from Leon Susseran (ph). He says I've been watching CNN's coverage all day from Guinea (ph) South America. My heart really goes out to those people from Florida. Let us include them all in our prayers as they struggle through this most slow moving storm. I've never seen anything like it. Neither have we Leon.

LIN: No and our coverage continues with Drew Griffin and Catherine Callaway. I'm Carol Lin. Thank you very much for joining us in our prime time coverage.

O'BRIEN: I'm Miles O'Brien. We appreciate your being with us.


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