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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Hurricane Frances: Fraces Now Tropical Storm, Heads Towards Frances
Aired September 5, 2004 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR, CNN LIVE SUNDAY: Good evening. I'm Carol Lin here at the CNN Center. I wanted to take a quick look at what's happening right now in the news.
Frances is now a tropical storm as it bears down on Tampa, but forecasters warn it could become a hurricane again as it plods toward the gulf. More on that in just a minute.
Is Saddam Hussein's one-time right-hand man -- is he in custody or not? Earlier today we had word from Iraq that Izzat Ibrahim al- Duri was in custody. Now some U.S. and Iraqi officials say it's not him. So they are performing blood tests to find out.
And tall buildings shook and swayed when a pair of powerful earthquakes hit off western Japan. They caused waves up to three feet high, and more than a dozen people were injured.
Well, the unwelcome visitor that doesn't want to leave. All weekend long, Frances has been pounding Florida, weaving a path of destruction. And families are wondering whether this second punch from Mother Nature will be worse than the first.
Hello, I'm Carol Lin. Let's head right to meteorologist Jacqui Jeras in the weather center. Jackie, exactly where is Frances now, now that it is a tropical storm?
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, an hour ago, it was 20 miles east of Tampa, but it's moving up to the west-northwest around 10 miles per hour. So we're probably honing in within 10 miles of the center of this thing swirling over the Tampa Bay area at this time. You can see just the broad scale of this storm still though, just covers up the entire state of Florida, pretty much nobody getting the clear skies in there. The outer bands, you can see some of those top cirrus tops extending all the way out into the Carolinas and into parts of Georgia.
I want to switch over to our viper system now, and talk about some tornadoes. We've had a number of warnings on and off throughout the afternoon. And this cell right here causing problems right now. A tornado warning that was in effect for Atkinson and Coffee County has now been extended until 6:30. Our doppler radar here is showing some pretty good rotation right there. A couple of the cities within the path here as it moves on off to the west very quickly at about 20 miles per hour.
So this is a slower-moving storm. Most of these storms have been moving about 50, 60 miles per hour. So I am a little surprised to see that that one is moving a little bit slower. But Glory at 6:06, and 6:12, Alapana -- not sure if I am saying that one right. But that is a tornado warning again, extended now for Atkinson County, and also for Coffee County. Willacoochee, Pearson, also some cities in the path of this storm at this time.
Let's go back to our others stores, and talk a little about the forecast track. The latest forecast track here has it continuing on this west-northwesterly track, moving back over open waters. This is going to be happening again for tonight. And then we will see that likely strengthen just a little bit more. The winds are 70 miles per hour. In order for this to become a hurricane again, it has to get up to 74 miles per hour. So it doesn't have to strengthen a whole heck of a lot for that to happen.
Likely making landfall sometime tomorrow, especially in the morning hours we are looking at. But again, look at that cone here. It's moving in closer to apalachacola (ph), but we have a pretty wide margin here. So there's still a little bit of room for error of where this is going to be pushing back onshore, then weakening and becoming a tropical depression as it moves into Alabama. And then to Georgia, and of course spreading those flooding rains all across the southeast. We'll be looking at flooding rains in this area Monday, Tuesday, and then moving further on up to the north as we head into Wednesday.
And Jason, you have a new tornado warning? We have one more tornado warning. And this one just issued here for southern Bacon County and Southeast Georgia, including the city of Alma. So an extreme north-central Ware County. Ware County was under a warning earlier, so some of these feeder bands, some of these little cells with the twists in them are moving over some of the same counties, getting hit over and over at this time. Carol?
LIN: Information much appreciated. Thanks very much, Jacqui.
Let's move on to one of the hardest hit areas. West Palm Beach was slammed by hurricane Frances. CNN's Sean Callebs joins me now live with the aftermath. Sean, I heard that you might have gotten as much as 13 inches of rain just in the last 24 hours at your location.
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: it would not surprise me at all. Really for about the last 36 hours, this is a community that has simply been drenched. We had a couple hours of sunshine, but the weather is deteriorating, dark clouds moving in, and some more gusting winds. But that brief respite did allow some folks to begin going out to do an initial assessment of the damage. So far it is mostly some spotty flooding, some structural damage like you see behind me, and of course downed trees and power lines.
But in other parts of the state, right now Frances is hitting with the full force of those tropical winds. And by the time it finally moves out of the state, Frances will have touched almost every nook and cranny in Florida.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CALLEBS, (voice-over): It was supposed to have been even worse, but don't tell that to some residents of eastern Florida. Fires in Tampa, homes destroyed all along the coast. By mid afternoon, power out for 1.5 million customers across the state, and five counties reeling from what President Bush officially labeled major disaster areas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do we have reports of damages? The answer is yes we do have damages. If you want to know the extent and magnitude, all I can tell you is the storm is still making landfall, or has made landfall. But we still have hurricane force winds impacting many areas. So initial reports are very spotty. We're now starting to get again the areas of major impact. We're starting to see reports come in, and that will develop throughout the day.
CALLEBS: In Vero Beach, some residents tried to return, despite warnings from state officials not to do so. Only to find streets flooded and homes destroyed. In Melbourne, mobile homes flattened, many left homeless, but no one seriously injured.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're much more prepared this time because of hurricane Charley. That made believers out of just about everybody, I think.
CALLEBS: In Ft. Pierce, boats at this marina crushed, local storefronts ruined, and families still in hotels, not yet able to go home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Surviving, getting by, waiting for the storm to go away.
CALLEBS: Police and firefighters were out in full force across the state, helping to keep the peace, enforce curfews, and crack down on the few looters trying to take advantage of the disaster. Not all areas were hit as hard. In West Palm Beach, despite 30 hours of continuous rain, no major injuries, and relatively little serious damage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're very fortunate. I hope the people that live north of us are as fortunate as we. We have no structural damage. We lost a few shingles.
CALLEBS: All right. Palm Beach emergency officials are crediting their relatively good fortune in part to luck. The full fury of Frances actually just skirted the edge of this county and moved north. But these same authorities also say it was due to good planning, and the fact that so many people throughout the state heeded the mandatory evacuation warnings. Carol?
LIN: You bet. Learning the lessons of Hurricane Charley just a few weeks ago. Thanks very much, Sean.
All right. We want to go further north, closer to actually where the hurricane made landfall. Vero Beach Florida was one of the places hardest hit. The rains there were just pounding away, turning streets into rivers and backyards into complete -- almost like miniature lakes. Tim Malloy from affiliate WPTV has that story.
TIM MALLOY, WPTV, (voice-over): When the rains came, they came hard. The catfish were jumping, and people who weathered the storm say they never want to do it again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just continued to pour down. And the wind was terrible for the last 24 hours. So it's been kind of trying. I don't think I'll weather another one, though.
MALLOY: We were told all along the storm surge, in addition to the wind would be the issue. And it was clear, as morning came, the experts were right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The media, they're talking through the night and keeping you informed, and that's really appreciated.
MALLOY: In some areas along the coast, the water rose to waist- high. Most of the coastline had been evacuated, and that is why. At the Fairlane Harbor (ph) trailer park, it was clear there would be major damage when dawn came. Most found solace in the fact that they had simply survived the storm. This man lost a carport, but ended up being happy about it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The garage in the back flew off where the car was, and it didn't damage the car. But we're OK.
CALLEBS, (on-camera): You're a man with a smile on your face. I don't really understand.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm just happy to be alive.
CALLEBS, (voice-over): The high winds lasted through the morning. It's expected the storm surge will recede with the tide. But Vero Beach clearly has a lot of digging out to do. Damage assessments have not even come in. But so far, no known loss of life.
LIN: Amazingly fortunate. Our thanks to Tim Malloy from affiliate WPTV reporting.
Now, we have spent a lot of time actually, with David Mattingly out at St. Augustine in the calm before the storm, it seemed. St. Augustine, an historic city about to celebrate an important anniversary, but it looks like the winds are beginning to pick where you are, right now David.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They have picked up, and they have stayed up for at least an hour now. We're having some pretty strong gusts right now, tropical storm force winds battering St. Augustine. There's been a lot of comparisons made between this particular storm, and that of hurricane Charley. But there is one thing that have in common. There is going to be a lot of cleaning up to do after both of them.
MATTINGLY, (voice-over): Hurricane Frances lumbered ashore bashing Florida's East Coast barely more than three weeks after hurricane Charley cut a path of devastation from the west. There was not enough time to complete the cleanup. Major repairs and reconstruction were far from over.
SEN. BOB GRAHAM, (D) FLORIDA: We didn't need to have another hurricane. Hurricane Charley was a very high-intensity storm, did a tremendous amount of damage right over the center part of the state. Now we have this second hurricane, which is going to be a very wet hurricane. So we could have some serious problems there.
MATTINGLY: Hurricane Charley destroyed at least 12,000 homes, 19,000 more were rendered uninhabitable. Property loss estimates exceed $6 billion. But where Charley was a category four bullet, dashing across the state in a matter of hours, Frances is a show- moving behemoth, arriving as a category two, but big enough to potentially cause problems in nearly every county in the state.
Twelve hours after landfall, millions of Floridians were without electricity, and the battery in some parts of the state hadn't even begun.
CRAIG FUGATE, FLA. DIV. OF EMERGENCY MGMT: This is bigger than what I think we saw during Charley. And again as we speak, power is still going out. I want people to understand this storm makes landfall it just doesn't end. This is still a very powerful storm crossing the state.
MATTINGLY: If there is one benefit emerging from these one-two disasters, it is that the lessons of Charley were not quickly forgotten. Frances prompted the largest evacuations in Florida history. Millions listened, and got out of harm's way.
GOV JEB BUSH, (R) FLORIDA: The minute it is safe to do so, the first-responders will be on the ground providing relief, first to make the assessments of what the damage is, and then to address that damage.
MATTINGLY: Officials now constantly urging people here not to go outside, to resist the temptation to go out and do some sightseeing. But as you can see over my shoulder here Carol, there's still plenty of people driving around taking in the sights, taking in this Labor Day storm that will go down in this city's rich history. Carol?
LIN: David, what was it like? I mean I think a lot of these people might have been lulled into complacency once the eye of the storm passed over, and it was calm for several hours. What was it like for you to watch that situation unfold through the night?
MATTINGLY: Well, here in St. Augustine, the eye passed well below to the south of us. The complacency here came about from the fact that people boarded their businesses and houses up days and days ago before the storm slowed down, and actually stalled off the coast of southern Florida.
Now they've been fighting the temptation to take those boards down, get their businesses back in operation. It's a good thing they didn't, because this is everything they advertised. Very strong winds right now and some very strong rains. And it is going to go on for quite a few more hours right now. As you can probably see, this rain is just flying by horizontal right now, very similar to those pictures we saw in central and south Florida, Carol
LIN: Right David. They usually say that the backside of a hurricane can be even more ferocious than the first part of the storm.
MATTINGLY: And what we are seeing here are those waves, those bands associated with the hurricane coming in off the water, and coming over this way. We're in the middle of a pretty large band right now. And it's supposed to be sustained like this for quite a few hours into the night. So we will see how long it will take before we finally start to get some relief here.
LIN: All right. Let's hope those people clear the streets behind you. It is not clearly a safe time to be out. Thanks very much, David Mattingly reported from St. Augustine. Don't forget to log on to cnn.com/hurricanes to keep up with Frances. There is a map of the storm's projected path, and links to emergency information and resources.
And we're going to have much more on hurricane Frances straight ahead, including a look at the Bahamas, where the storm has come and gone and left an incredible path of destruction.
Also, we want to let you know, we're going to be putting the help line up for the American Red Cross up throughout the hour, and through the night of our special coverage. So grab your pens. This is not the last chance you're going to have to write down this telephone number. We will put it up again, as well.
LIN: A live picture that just blacked out it, it appeared, because somebody walked in front of the camera shot. But we want to give you every opportunity to see what is happening in real time with not tropical storm Frances. Welcome back to our storm coverage. We want to also bring you up to speed on the latest developments.
Frances is now a tropical storm, and centered just east of Tampa. But it is heading for the Gulf of Mexico, where it could pick up strength and become a hurricane again.
Hours of pounding winds and rains blacked out nearly 2 million power customers. And we're expecting more outages when Frances moves on shore again. More than 90,000 people are riding out the storm in shelters. About 23 airports in the state of Florida are closed right now, but Miami International and Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International are now open.
And there are hurricane warnings for Florida's panhandle, because Frances is heading out to the Gulf of Mexico. Jacqui Jeras tracking now in the CNN weather center. Jacqui.
JERAS: Carol, the tornado warnings are continuing to pop up at this hour. It's really getting quite active, especially here across parts of South Georgia. We've had the tornado warning for eastern Baker and southwestern Duval County, and northwest Florida. And this one right here, we're particularly concerned about. This one is in southern Bacon County, a warning for extreme north-central Ware County.
This one is indicating a tornado vortex signature, we call it a TVS, it is pretty good sign here that there may be an actual tornado within this cell. And there you can see the storm tracks, and some of the cities that will be affected by this, and the times. At 6:23, Chatterton (ph), down towards Huffer, and then into Douglas at 6:33, and, and Upton at 6:37. So this one could possibly drop a tornado really at any time. So tornado warning for Bacon, and also north central Ware County, this includes also the city of Ulma.
This storm is moving west at 65 miles per hour. So this is another one of those storms that I was talking about, that is moving very, very quickly. Mostly when we see tornado in hurricanes like this, they are generally weak tornadoes. But even when weak tornadoes can cause a fair amount of damage. You need to be taking cover at this hour.
Let's zoom out a little bit farther and give us another radar perspective here on this system, and just show you how far out those bands are going. Can you believe it, from Georgia extending all the way down into the Florida Keys? Our other weather computer will show you where that watch is located right now. As we switch sources here to 115 and show you that watch that remains in effect throughout the afternoon hours, and into the evening hours. If we could go over to -- there it is.
There's that watch of southern Georgia, down towards Jacksonville, extending over down towards near Melbourne. And there is the center right there. It is moving over the Tampa area. You're going to be getting some pretty gusty winds here. We have some gusts around 40 miles per hour. You can expect those to continue to increase as we get some of those heavier bands moving through your area. But there's really no eye any longer with the system. It's a tropical storm now, but it will likely intensify back to hurricane strengths as it moves back over the open water.
We were just hearing from David Mattingly, comparing this storm system to Charley. Want to know; is this going to be same kind of punch? Well, here is a little comparison in terms of their forecast, or their actual tracks they've been taking rather. This is Hurricane Charley that happened on Friday the 13th of this month. You can see where it hit through Ft. Myers, extending on up towards Orlando.
Then we will put this into motion for you, and show you the actual track that we have seen so far for Frances. And so quite a few people have been affected by both these storms. There is that area between Ft. Myers, extending on up towards Orlando. And then we're going to be watching the system move on up into the panhandle by your Monday. This part of the state of Florida really just pounded throughout the month of August, and early September -- Carol.
LIN: Yes. All right. Thanks very much, Jacqui. In the last 20 minutes you've seen rooftops being ripped off, fish in people's backyards. I'm going to be talking with the emergency management coordinator for one of the hardest-hit counties in Florida. Because they are saying, they are not waiting for blue skies before they go out and do the tough work.
And also we're going to show you the damage, the incredible damage in the Bahamas right after this quick break.
LIN: All right. We want to take a look at exactly what's happening on the ground right now. On the telephone is the mayor of Titusville, Florida, near the Kennedy Space Center, Mayor Ronald Swank is joining me. Mayor Swank, how are you doing? Winds were being clocked at about 120 miles an hour in your neighborhood last night as the storm moved over the state of Florida.
MAY. RONALD SWANK, TITUSVILLE FLORIDA: Good evening. We did take a pretty good beating from Frances. We were in the northeast quadrant of the storm as it went down south of us. We, as a community, I think, are holding up pretty well. We've got a lot of power outages, we've had a lot of roofs and some damages in that respect. Power lines are down throughout the city. Our employees are out, police, fire, water resources; they're out trying to stabilize things to the best of their ability.
And I think they're doing a fantastic job. We don't really expect to get power back for probably several days. Looking at the size of this storm, and looking at the way it hit the state, it's a pretty impressive storm. But we have a very good community here. Everyone's pulling together. We had no -- as of my last report, we had no major injuries or deaths. So I consider that a blessing. So, all in all, with what's happened, I think we're doing relatively well. But as the citizens need to have patience, because this is going to be a pretty large recovery effort for the state of Florida and our community.
LIN: Mr. Mayor, some people in other parts of the eastern coast there in Florida have been complaining that they -- that the shelters haven't been adequate, that people, for example, who didn't evacuate and called police yesterday as the storm was about to hit could not get help. There are problems of looting. One report of ten men trying to break open a bank, an ATM with a chainsaw. Are you experiencing any of these problems in your neighborhood?
SWANK: No, we have not. As a matter of fact yesterday I toured the shelters beforehand, or as the storm was beginning, the shelters in our community. And the shelters were set up very well. We still had a little bit of -- early yesterday, we still had excess space in one shelter. As far as the looting, we have not had -- I have not had any reports of any looting. But I did declare a curfew for the communities as well as Brevard County also did that afterwards.
We have a dusk to dawn curfew. We're encouraging citizens to stay at home, to not be out on the roads, so that our public works can get out there and make sure that emergency services can get to everyone. Public works can get to the sewer lift (ph) stations, and put generators on them. Just try to keep the services running as best we can.
There's a lot of -- there's some flooding out there, you don't know how deep the water is. There's power outages. There is lines over the road. So we encourage everyone to stay home. And it will make it easier for the police to make sure that there is no looting. But we have had none of that reported as of this time.
LIN: Good news instead. Mayor Ronald Swank of Titusville, Florida. It looks like there's some damage, but maybe compared to some of the problems that other people are facing, you're doing pretty well. We'll stay in touch throughout the rebuilding.
SWANK: Thank you very much.
LIN: Now before battering Florida, Frances roared through the Bahamas where people are just getting the first chance to look at the damage. Our Karl Penhaul takes a look, joins us right now from videophone from Freeport. Karl, I know there have been some reports of deaths as well the Bahamas. But what are people seeing as they return to the homes? What's left?
KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, for much of the day in fact, grand Bahamas is still being battled by tropical-storm- force winds. And rain has just been lashing down here. So that really has slowed a little bit the return of many people to their homes to pick up the pieces and to assess the damage. It's also meant that emergency services, whom we spent much of the day with, are also looking to look at emergency cases right now.
They're not yet going about a systematic damage assessment that we expect them to begin carrying out after tomorrow and in the ensuing days. But in fact, as we toured the island, we saw yes, many buildings, particularly the traditional wooden ones had had shingles or roofs completely ripped off. There are many many trees down. Power pylons have also been torn down. And much of the island or all of the island in fact is without electricity. Only very few telephone lines are functioning. There are no cellular telephone services.
For one or two of the people in the mid section of the island that we were talking to today said they were surprised the island hadn't been more devastated by this storm, by this hurricane. Particularly because the tail end of Frances was much more vicious than the leading edge. That really made people think twice. They thought they could get away lightly if the eye of the storm passed over. And then as the tail battered the island, then they thought it was really in for serious damage. Yes, as you say, in the Bahamas, two people are confirmed to have died. One an 18-year-old in Nassau, the other a 35-year-old here on Grand Bahamas. Police have told me in the last few minutes that they're still searching for an 80-year-old man. He was missing as of yesterday after the high wind completely destroyed his home. Carol.
LIN: All right. Thanks very much Karl, for the update from the Bahamas. Karl Penhaul, on the videophone from Freeport, where it is still raining in the tail end of now tropical storm Frances.
Throughout our special coverage we have had the benefit of our vast network of local affiliates. I want you to have you tune in now to air at WPLG in Miami. This is what they are showing their viewers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In fact, there's so much flooding, local 10's crew is stranded right now in the Bahamas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Planes are not taking off with the United States. So it is just a wait and see game. But the first plane that leaves, we're going to try and get them on. Reporter (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is still filing reports from Abaco, despite the fact that she was injured during the hurricane.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even folks that have big trucks are having a tough time getting through the flooded streets. We're going to talk to these folks over here, who are just coming from that area. What was it like over there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: High-tension lines down, plenty of water, trees all over the road, all kinds of debris. Everything is terrible down there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about some of the homes?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Homes damaged, you have roofs off, and all that down through there. It's terrible down through there. I wouldn't attempt to go down through there in a small vehicle. You wouldn't make it. That's about all I can tell you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're sitting in the back of a pickup truck making our way over to the airport. You can see this is just incredible. We have more than two feet of water here over the airport. The runway completely flooded out. Theirs is just no way any planes will be able to land out of here for at least a couple more days. You can see the water splashing. If I were to stand in that, it's probably way up to my knees.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just bring a lot of water and lot of breeze, and no one really expected all of this. But we'll get over it. Because we (UNINTELLIGIBLE). So everybody is secure and stuff, so I guess everything will be all right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We live on a poultry (ph) farm (ph). And II just came to check and see if everything was all right. We have a lot of damage up at the poultry farm. Abaco big bird poultry farm. We probably have five houses, and three of them are pretty bad damaged. And we have two that we could get up and running pretty quick.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the chickens? Are they alive or dead?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have quite a few dead ones, and there's a lot of water getting up there. We've lost one truck going up, but my brother's finally made it in one of the bigger trucks.
LIN: I'm Carol Lin at the CNN Center. We're going to continue with our special storm coverage, but first we also want to show you some other news happening right now.
Iraqi officials say they are conducting DNA tests to try to confirm the identity of a man captured near Tikrit. He was at first said to be Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, once Saddam Hussein's second in command. But Iraq's defense minister says the report is baseless, and U.S. commanders say they cannot confirm al-Duri's capture.
Russian television is reporting a suspect in the siege at a school in southern Russia. That has been captured. Today, families began burying the 338 hostages killed in the three-day standoff and shootout, including 156 children. And 26 hostage-takers were also killed.
And firefighters in California are battling a huge wildfire that is threatening the state's famous wine country. The blaze has already scorched 9,200 acres, and is bearing down on about 100 homes in Sonoma County. The fire is being fueled by low humidity, high winds, and tinderbox-dry terrain.
And President Bush has declared a disaster in Florida. Tropical storm Frances is still moving across the central part of the state. Residents of the Florida Panhandle are being warned they could be next.
And right now you would think it's been down graded, it's moving into the gulf, but tropical storm Frances is so big that St. Augustine Florida, on the upper part of the eastern shore of Florida is still being pounded even in a worse kind of way. Take a look at where David Mattingly is standing right now. David?
MATTINGLY: I'm standing up barely up here right now. It seems like even though this is a tropical storm, it's still packing quite a punch as it comes in here. St. Augustine is being hit with a variety of bands as they continue to come across the northern edge. This is one of the largest and most sustained of those bands. The intensity has (UNINTELLIGIBLE) down probably in the last half hour.
We're seeing some pretty substantial gusts just like this one right now. They are pushing the envelope of a tropical storm. If you talk around town to people who live here, people in St. Augustine love their history. They also love to talk about the storms in their history, like the one that actually helped the Spaniards defeat the French here, and establish this city. This storm is going to go down as the Labor Day storm of '04. And it will be remembered for the way it wiped out one of the biggest holidays of the year for this city.
They're talking about millions of dollars of damage to the economy before this first raindrop even fell here. Right now you'll see a variety of people in their cars getting out on the streets, driving around. We actually see some people out on the seawall over here, walking their dogs, riding bicycles, getting out and experiencing the elements firsthand. Of course now that the storm has picked up even another notch, everyone is staying in their cars right now.
You may see that boat being tossed and turned in the waves there. That boat was actually in a different position. It appears that the waves are pushing it back closer and closer to the seawall very slowly. So again this storm is picking up in intensity, and it is continuing this pace and continuing to hammer this very, very old city. Right now everyone's got their eye on city streets, and the city is below sea level in some places. And there is flooding, flooding knee-deep in some places.
Cars are still able to pass if you have the right kind of automobile. Some residents took the opportunity to hook themselves to the back of their vehicle and drive through on a board like they were surfing or something like that. We also saw a bicyclist trying to go through one of the flooded areas. He fell down and seemed to hurt himself. Officials are telling people, we don't have a mandatory evacuation, but we wish you would stay inside.
Look what's happening to me out here, you can see why they want people to stay inside. A lot of people are not listening to that. In fact, here we are in the afternoon, this should be a dinner hour, and yet you still see a lot of people out on the street. Here comes another couple of people out to walk in the wind and the rain right now. So, Carol, this has been a long way from over for St. Augustine. But again, it's something they have experienced in the past, and something that will become part of their history -- Carol.
LIN: David, while you were talking a couple police cars drove by. I'm wondering, does St. Augustine actually have a curfew? They're gently suggesting people go inside, that seems common sense.
MATTINGLY: No, no curfew. In fact there was no mandatory evacuation of the barrier island. You can see it across the bay here. Because of poor visibility, it's just that dark band. That's where the beaches are. There was no mandatory evacuation, so people were staying in their homes, and staying in their hotels. Basically, people have decided to stay here.
And they're riding it out right now. The winds on that barrier island are probably even a little more intense than what we're seeing right now. According to some of the weather reports we're seeing, the gusts have exceeded 50 miles an hour. It feels a little bit stronger than that right now. Not something you really want to be out in, Carol.
LIN: I understand, unless you're the pro that you are. Thanks very much David Mattingly. Live in St. Augustine right now feeling the hard-fighting effects of the tail end of now tropical storm Frances.
Most don't die from the winds. They actually doe from the flooding and the aftermath or tornado activity. Let's check in with Jacqui Jeras in the weather center. Jacqui?
JERAS: We have a public report of a tornado now. This one is in Putnam County; it is actually not that terribly far from where David is. He is up here in St. Augustine. Right down here is where Putnam County is. We've been trying to find this on radar. We're really not seeing any signatures right now by looking at this, or in the velocity mode. But the public apparently did spot a tornado, and that was about two miles west of Palatka. And it is moving west around 50 miles per hour.
Another city included in that past is Interlachen. So again, a tornado warning for Putnam County until 7:15 p.m. And Putnam County has had a couple of warnings on and off throughout the afternoon. So kind of a common area where some of these bands are coming in. We're getting some rotation within this area.
We'll go back to our other source, and I'll show you where the tornado watch is in effect. That will be in effect throughout the rest of the afternoon into the evening. We'll see it probably extended even beyond it's current expiration time. But you can see right here from Melbourne extending over towards the Ft. Myers area. And this goes all the way up in the southern parts of Georgia. We also had some strong signatures earlier this afternoon in southern Georgia of some possible tornadoes there as well.
But luckily, so far, we had a couple of reports of touchdowns, but no damage from tornadoes thus far. Carol?
LIN: All right. Keep your fingers crossed. Thanks, Jacqui.
One of our correspondents traveled a good length of the state right in the middle of the storm. Ed Lavandera right now, made it safely to Melbourne, we are happy to say. Ed, you traveled all the way from Lake Ocheechobee last night. Give us an idea of what you saw. What was the trip like?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It wasn't as bad as I expected, from the parts that we drove. We came in on highway 70 toward the coast. We didn't see a lot of power lines that were knocked down. There were some huge tree limbs that were knocked down, and the power lines as well. It's actually very flat land. There was a good number of fields that were just flooded out, spilling over a little bit into the roadways, but not that serious.
We drove around the city of Ocheechobee as well, which is on the northern edge of the lake this morning. And it seemed to have sustained the winds and handled the storm quite well, actually. You know, they had been anticipating 10 to 12 inches of rain, serious flooding in a lot of those areas. But the parts we drove through, everything seemed to hold up pretty well. The drive through back over this way does get perilous at times. We tried to get into Ft. Pierce, but officers had shut down the roadways.
What you find is a lot of intersections where the traffic lights have been knocked down. They have been spinning for the last 12 to 15 hours. So a lot of those are just dangling dangerously close to cars. So because of that, they've shut down several of the roadways. And that is what makes it a little bit harrowing for the people on the road. They are still urging -- the urge and the tendency for a lot of people to do, is once the storm comes by, is to get out into the roadways, and check out exactly what has happened, but you're not seeing that much traffic.
It's pretty controlled on the roadways this afternoon. And authorities are going out on the local radio stations and urging people to remain inside, because they have a lot of work to do. Here in Melbourne, we're getting pelted with another band of strong winds and heavy rain. You can see what the storm has left behind here. This is kind of typical of what you'd find making the drive from Ocheechobee to Melbourne here. And a lot of trees. But for the most part the power lines still standing, in most places that I have been, which a good sign is probably.
It's a category two hurricane. What we saw a couple weeks in hurricane Charley, a lot of these lines were just down littered across the highway. But nonetheless this storm is so large, I think it is safe to say that hurricane Frances, now tropical storm Frances has definitely worn out its welcome. This is one long-lasting storm -- Carol.
LIN: Ed, there are curfews in several different cities across the state trying to force people to stay inside. I'm wondering, did you see many people out there? Were people trying to brave the storm or simply having a moment of, hey, I was in hurricane Frances?
LAVANDERA: I didn't see a lot of that. In Ocheechobee it is the county that that city is in. It is a county of about 40,000 people. I was told by officials there yesterday that they thought the vast majority of people had moved up to higher ground somewhere. We kind of bunkered down in a small hotel there overnight, and there were a couple more hotels in that city as well. The hotels were full, so some people stayed behind.
But at one point it was incredibly eerie overnight. Because there was nothing. No cars driving down the roadways. No lights were on. And all you could see was kind of like the blue-green explosion of the transformers blowing in the middle of the night. So it was pretty common. I didn't see a lot of people going out tonight. Carol?
LIN: All right. Thanks very much, Ed. Good you had a safe trip, and it sounds like a very interesting one to experience the state as hurricane Frances was hitting full throttle. All right. One of the hardest-hit counties is Palm Beach County where West Palm Beach is. Right now we are taking a look at some aerials that our affiliate WPTV is offering up. You can get an idea of what damage -- it looks like that boat is half in, half out of the water. On the telephone right now with me is Gloria Calhoun, she is with Palm Beach County Emergency Operations. Gloria, I don't know if you can see our picture right now. We're looking at an aerial shot.
GLORIA CALHOUN, PALM BEACH COUNTY EMERGENCY OPERATIONS: As a matter of fact, I can.
LIN: Can you give me an idea -- can you tell what this area is, and give me an idea of what happened there?
CALHOUN: It's moving so fast I can't tell quite which area that is, but that was some of the damage that was caused by hurricane Frances.
LIN: I understand that you guys got winds of between 70 and 90 miles per hour last night.
LIN: What's some of the damage that you have seen, and how are you trying to address it to help these folks?
CALHOUN: Well, there's been a lot of -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and tree damage. A lot of trees are down, and some flooding. As you can see, that golf course is under water now.
LIN: That's a golf course? It looked like a lake.
CALHOUN: It is a golf course. We are still doing damage assessments, and we won't have those figures in until sometime tomorrow. We have teams out going around the county to do all the assessments.
LIN: Anybody hurt?
CALHOUN: I have heard that there were two deaths.
LIN: Do you know what happened?
CALHOUN: I think it was from a roof collapsing.
LIN: Do you know where? Because we've heard some shelters have had partial roofs collapse.
CALHOUN: We had one shelter that had some roof damage. But it didn't collapse here in Palm Beach County, and it was fixed. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) last all the way through.
LIN: Look at this, Gloria; can you see in the lower left-hand part of the screen that boat? I don't know if actually it is a yacht. It is actually pretty large. It looked like it was half on, half out of the water. CALHOUN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) unless the boat is secured to the docks, the water rose, and a lot of them beat and bang against the docks. As you can see, most of the docks are destroyed. That's from the boats not being secured properly, and the boats being damaged as well as the docks are gone.
LIN: We have a report of nearly 2 million people without power. What's the situation there?
CALHOUN: In the whole area, that's probably close to it. In Palm Beach County, it was a little over a half a million.
LIN: A little over a half a million. And no idea when the power is going to be restored yet?
CALHOUN: They're working on it. They have their power crews out now working on it.
LIN: Gloria Calhoun, a big project ahead for Palm Beach County.
CALHOUN: Yes, it is.
LIN: And counties around you. Florida being declared a major disaster area by Governor Jeb Bush. Thank you very much.
CALHOUN: You're welcome.
LIN: We've got much more ahead. We're going to be going live throughout the state of Florida. The danger is not over yet. Frances is a tropical storm heading into the Gulf of Mexico. We'll be right back.
LIN: Welcome back to our special storm coverage of now tropical storm Frances. And I want to welcome back my co-anchor tonight who barely made it to the live shot location. CNN's Anderson Cooper found his way just south of Melbourne, Florida. Anderson, I know you wandered out because you wanted to see a lot of damage for yourself, and you found yourself now in a mobile home park after a series of checkpoints?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, CNN LIVE SUNDAY: Yes, that is right. We're at a place called Barefoot Bay. It is a mobile home park about 20-30 minute drive south down route 1 from Melbourne. It's really a community breathing a sigh of relief tonight. It could have been so much worse here. I mean, yes, there are homes like this. But even this home here relatively is unscathed. The front porch has been knocked down. You can see a chair there that's still standing, but the home right next to it relatively unscathed. There are really no effects of the storm on that home.
So the people here, there are about 10,000 that live in this community, they're feeling lucky tonight. Most of them did evacuate. A few people -- a handful of people tried to ride out the storm, we'll try to talk to them a little bit later on. Very slowly you have people coming back to check on their homes, but for now it's still evacuated. And the police have set up roadblocks on the road. Really not allowing pedestrians. Not allowing cars to come down here.
Because they don't want sightseers, they don't want people even coming in to check on their homes until they've checked out this area, and made sure it's secure. Because you still have these high winds. You still have the occasional sort of torrential rain. And you still have a lot of debris that is flying around, and that you have to watch out for. So they don't want a lot of people stumbling kind of stumbling around, walking around, getting hit by debris, Carol.
LIN: All right. Thanks, Anderson. I'm glad you made it into position. We're going to have a lot more of your reporting, and your anchoring at the top of the hour in just seven minutes.
In the meantime, we're going to take a quick break, and we'll be right back.
LIN: By now you might know that hurricane Frances has been downgraded to a tropical storm, but it's still not to be underestimated. Take a look at this live picture of the historic city of St. Augustine, Florida, where winds are gusting. We don't know, but yesterday when the palm trees appeared this way, they were about 70 miles an hour. This area still being pounded by Frances.
In the meantime, check out these aerials that are being provided by our affiliate WPTV. You are looking at some of the devastation there at a mobile home. Probably one of the most vulnerable structures in a storm like this. The devastation there seems to be pretty complete as the saturation of the ground now may be just an indication of the flooding still to come.
We are going to have widespread coverage throughout the state of Florida. We have our correspondents across the state. Gary Tuchman will be joining us live from Ft. Pierce, near ground zero where the hurricane made landfall. And Anderson Cooper will also be joining me from Melbourne at a devastated site of a mobile home park. We'll be right back.
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