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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Hurricane Frances: Tornado Warnings Extend To Southern Georgia

Aired September 5, 2004 - 15:00   ET

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


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: We're continuing our coverage of Hurricane Frances. Meantime, here are some other stories we're following for you and the latest developments on Hurricane Frances. As it creeps across Florida, heading toward the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, a hurricane warning has been issued for the Florida Panhandle. Widespread damage is reported along the Atlantic coast and nearly two million households are without electricity.
Tougher new airport screening methods could be in the works. The Transportation Security Administration is considering the new measures in the wake of two Russian plane bombings minutes apart. Among the methods being studied, open-hand searches of passenger's bodies and new explosive detective machines.

And two strong earthquakes rock southwestern Japan today. Both quakes were in the same area and had a preliminary magnitude around 7.0 and 7.1. The tremor was felt as far away as Tokyo, about 280 miles away. There were reports of two people injured in Kyoto.

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

Hurricane Frances is an unwelcome guest across the resort areas of Florida today. It shows no signs of departing, however. The massive storm has been downgraded to a category one hurricane, but it's lumbering along at such a slow pace. Fourteen hours after it roared ashore, it's still lashing the state with rain and wind. Our meteorologist, Jacqui Jeras, is keeping tabs on this hurricane, watching it as it makes its way, creeping across the state. She's in the weather center -- Jacqui.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You saw this wide "U" and you hesitated for a minute, didn't you?

WHITFIELD: Yes.

JERAS: Thinking I wasn't talking about the hurricane, but I wanted to use this as an example to show you the massive size of this thing. We've been hitting Florida so hard, and talk so much about that, but take a look a little bit farther on up toward the north. A tornado watch now extends into southern parts of Georgia, southeastern parts of the state getting hit right now with some pretty heavy showers and thunderstorms. And look at some of this, trying to pop up along the South Carolina coastline, and offshore from the outer banks area, and it goes all the way down, and see, well into the Florida Keys.

So, a very massive, very powerful storm, continuing to dump some very heavy rain. Seventy-five mile-per-hour, that's the maximum sustained winds, the center's about 55 miles to the east of Tampa Bay, but there you can see is the brunt of this storm. The worst part of the storm just starting to hone in just on the Tampa Bay area. So some very heavy downpours can be expected here. Again in the path, we're still expecting widespread rainfall amounts on the range of about eight to 12 inches. We are going it see locally heavier rain, maybe on the order of up to 20 inches. So flooding is going to continue to be a big concern especially since this thing is still moving pretty slowly. It's moving up to the northwest, west/northwest about nine miles-per-hour.

Here's a couple of rainfall totals that we've had since earlier this morning. Just over 10 inches in West Palm Beach, West Port Orange is at nearly five inches there, four inches in Jacksonville, Melbourne about three-and-a-half, and then you head down for Pembroke Pines and you had just over two inches of rain. But we're going to continue to see these numbers move on up.

This is our True View rainfall forecast. And this starts, as you can see, about 5:30 tonight. And there you can see some of these heavier bands pushing into northern parts of Florida. We're going to advance that for you, take you up to 11:00 for tonight, and some of these white areas indicating the potential of a good 10 inches of rain. You head down into these purple and red areas, more like four to six inches. And you can see it's going to be pushing down into the Tampa area as well, and we will advance that a little bit farther, and there you can see as we head into Monday, still kind of the same area getting hit with some of this heaviest of rainfall.

Flood watches are in effect across the entire state of Florida, also nudging up into southern Georgia and even pushing up into Alabama because we're going to watch this hurricane move over into the Gulf of Mexico and then move back up into the Panhandle of Florida; should be doing that sometime tomorrow morning, and then continuing in a northward track.

As for the strength of it, is this going to stay a hurricane? Still kind of iffy. Seventy-four miles-per-hour, that's the cutoff, and right now we're at 75, so we've got to go two miles an hour down to get this thing back down to a tropical storm. But, when it moves over the warmer water, we might see that intensify back into a hurricane just again, so kind of iffy if it's going to be a hurricane or not, making landfall, at this point, unless it starts doing more rapid weakening here, probably going to be maybe a weak category one hurricane, maybe a strong tropical storm -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And Jacqui, when you mention that the worst part is really that upper quadrant that's almost over Tampa right now.

JERAS: Right.

WHITFIELD: Is that in terms of wind dangerous and it's the backend that will bring most of the water damage, the flooding?

JERAS: Well, the flooding is going to be in the heaviest of rain bands, as well. You know, those rain bands that sit there and don't move a whole heck of a lot, but right in this area, that's where you're going to see some of that heavier rain coming down, as well. The winds are also going to be very strong right here. The higher returns that you have, the brighter the colors, that has to do with the intensity of the thunderstorms there, as well. And so your strongest of winds are going to be near the center, and that's also going to be very near where some of the heaviest of rainfall is going to be. So, it just depends on the forecast track of where it goes. So, the closer to the center that you are, better chance, especially on the north side here, that you're going to see some of those heavier rain amounts.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jacqui Jeras, thank you so much from the weather center.

Well, CNN correspondents and meteorologists have been braving the hurricane up and down the Florida coast. Among the meteorologist out there, Chad Myers, he's watching the storm from Melbourne. About and still windy and still rainy,

And Chad, Jacqui tell's us it's going to be like that for many more hours come.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Fredricka, yeah, I'd like to ask Jacqui really where we are in this storm now, because we -- just literally an hour ago I was driving around and there was nothing going on and then it seemed like we just got hit again with something coming out of the south now. And if we turn the camera, we're getting a lot of dots on the lens because of the rain, but here's what happened with the storm surge. The surge came up and this dock here, this entire marina was unable to cope with the high water. Water coming under the dock and pushing up on it, you can just see all of the boards that have been popped off here. A lot of dock rash here, on some of the boats. Many of the boats now taking on the water, getting lower in the water and I'm concerned for a lot of these boat owners and a lot of these boats, although they made it great overnight in the worst stuff, now just seeing the backside of this, now they're starting to lose their boats because the water is actually higher. There was a break wall out there. Now, the water, the waves are now breaching the break wall, coming over that break wall and really pounding the boats here, in this marina -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And Chad, I'm seeing, what appears to be, a boat on land. Is it on a trailer behind you, or is that a boat that was pushed onto land?

MYERS: Oh, that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is a boat that's -- yeah, this one is for sale.

WHITFIELD: Oh.

MYERS: And it actually made through. It's $129 a month for 120 months, if you are interest.

WHITFIELD: Yeah, good deal.

MYERS: But, all of the boats up here on land actually did very well. They did take a lot of boats out of the water and put them up in dry storage in this building that you can see over here. There was a building over here.

I'm going to walk next to this tree. We did lose one of the panels of aluminum, but I was very concerned that, as the door opened up last night, that kind of made like a little parachute out of that building. I'd thought we'd lose a lot more of that building, but so far it's held up very well. Here, all of that the storm surge, the water actually came up here, came up all the way up and onto this parking lot that I am on now and just dumped a bunch of debris back around the boats back here. I was actually concerned, last night, that if we were actually going to be down here or even up there where most of our live shots were, if these boats came loose of their mornings here, of their little mountings, that we were going to actually get all of this stuff bouncing around and then blowing into the wind back up here. But all of this stuff that you see here is actually blown all in from the water, as the water rose overnight and the waves came over and onto right where I am standing.

WHITFIELD: Wow, that's an incredible site. You know, I can't tell you how many times I've covered a hurricane and have seen boats that have been taken right out of the water and right onto the sidewalk or in the streets and it's an amazing scene.

But Chad, Jacqui Myers is back with us, because she heard your question, wanting to know exactly where this storm is as you guys are being pummeled, once again there, from Melbourne -- Jacqui.

JERAS: Hey, Jacqui Myers. No, we work together, but we're not quite that close.

WHITFIELD: Oh, did I say that? I'm sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

JERAS: Chad, love ya, but...

WHITFIELD: I have married you two.

JERAS: All right...

MYERS: We even live in the same neighborhood.

JERAS: I know!

Anyway, yeah, Chad's up here in Melbourne. Want to show you in this on the radar and he was taking about some of those heavier rains moving back in, and some of the gusty winds. Chad, we're not getting any data out of Melbourne (UNINTELLIGIBLE) sites, so I can't tell you exactly how the -- heavy the rain is or other than the Doppler radar estimates, right now. But you can see, that one little area right there is starting to push on in, so you're going to start to get a few more of these bursts. The winds ares coming in from the south/southeast, but take a look way back here. I don't know if you have a monitor, if you can see it at all, Chad, but it will start to take a little while. You're going to start to get some more heavy bands pushing into your area, so watch for more heavy rain and you're going to start to see those gusting up whenever those squalls come back in. So, you've got a long way to go still, Chad, before you're out of this.

MYERS: And you see, I was just driving around literally 15 minutes ago. There's a lot of people on the road because they thought it was over.

JERAS: Yeah, you don't want to do that.

MYERS: Obviously it's not.

JERAS: That's right. And the winds are going to be gusting within those squalls, so we could see have -- you know, maybe not whole trees coming down anymore, but still some pretty good branches could be going down, that could go on top of power lines. So no, you don't want to get out in this at all.

WHITFIELD: All right...

MYERS: All right, Jacqui.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jacqui Jeras, thanks so much. Chad Myers, be safe where you are, thanks so much, from Melbourne.

Well, scenes of hurricane-related damage are obvious all over Florida. Another example of how dangerous of storms of this caliber can be: In Hillsborough County, earlier this morning, a massive fire broke out in a tire company. Authorities say hurricane Frances' powerful winds ripped down nearby power lines, and they fell on or near that building and set off of that blaze.

Well, many Floridians who didn't evacuate the state are riding it out in their homes or perhaps even in shelters. There are 349 shelters open across the state, and nearly 90,000 people have taken cover in them. Although, some people from Miami-Dade County are returning to their homes, Florida governor, Jeb Bush, has asked others to stay put, still. In Fort Pierce, far north of the Miami-Dade area, some folks can't seem to sit still and that's where we find our Jason Bellini -- Jason.

JASON BELLINI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've moved south towards the path of the greatest destruction, and are currently in the marina at Fort Pierce. The scene here would be sickening for any boat lover. What happened is that during the night, at about 1:00 a.m., according to eyewitnesses, part of the floating dock on the upwind side of the marina broke away. This caused a catastrophic domino effect with boats, some weighing over 100 tons. They plowed their way through the rest of the marina. And we've been watching boat owners come to the marina and sometimes find their homes destroyed. Even though the police are saying, "please don't come of -- please don't come and check on your homes and on your boats," people are coming back here anyways.

We were, earlier today, we were at a shelter for 850 people in Melbourne, Florida. Many of the people there have been in shelters since Thursday and we really got the sense of restlessness was settling in. Most had gathered that their homes are probably OK, but law enforcement and shelter officials are telling people not to leave. It's not safe to be driving, that power lines and trees are blocking the roads, so they need to just hang in there a little bit longer. They're not saying how much longer that might be.

Making their job a bit more difficult at shelter is the fact that coffee was starting to run low and people who brought enough good them to last several days are beginning to run low on their food and now with it running out, they're having to eat peanut butter sandwiches and granola bars that are provided by the shelter. People are not happy to be staying there and really want to go back and see what damage the storm has dangerous even though the storm's still going on.

WHITFIELD: And Jason, a lot of those folk who are in those shelters, anxious to go to their homes; however, are the folks who are manning these shelters, keeping them from being able to leave at their own will?

BELLINI: we were told by a Red Cross official that they are not allowed to keep people in who demand to leave, but they are manning the doors to the building and strongly encouraging people not to leave. I don't think they really tell them that they're not allowed -- that they can actually leave if they want to, but if people force their way and say we're leaving no matter what, they'll let them go through, but there is really a -- almost a blockade at the door. Police officials, shelter officials, and other people who have pitched in to try to get people from leaving the building.

WHITFIELD: And because there are curfews still in effect in many of those counties a lot of the folks who do decide to leave are probably finding out the hard way when they run into law enforcement that they may have to turn back or at least get off of the roads by a concern is time.

Jason Bellini, thanks so much for joining us on the telephone from Fort Pierce.

Well, some Florida residents had been venturing out of their homes today, looking at the damage, and not getting stopped. Our Sean Callebs has been talking with some of them in West Palm Beach, and what have they been finding when they did that?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Fredricka, indeed, we have been able to go out. Believe it or not there, is a curfew in effect. People aren't supposed to be out at this hour, but this seems to be violated every few minutes. There are a number of cars up and down the main drag here, Flagler.

If you look behind us, way down there, you may be able to tell there is a traffic light now that is flashing. So we presume that power's been restored to at least a certain percentage of people here in this county.

Also, Governor Jeb Bush is scheduled to be at the emergency center operations, here in Palm Beach County sometime this hour to get a firsthand look. Now, this is an area that simply got punished by rain for more than 30 hours, intense winds of this category two hurricane; hurricane-force winds hitting this area virtually throughout the night. John Zarrella was out here, I talked with him earlier this morning. He said basically the eye never past over this area that it was on the eye wall, so it simply got hammered by rain and wind all night long.

If you look down this street here, you can see some residents are out. They're picking up, they're cleaning up, they're beginning to assess the damage, somewhat. Palm trees are now draped over the center of the road. You can see palm fronds and other kind of debris scattered all along the area, but this a pretty resilient lot. Basically, as soon as the rain stopped a lot of these people immediately came out of their homes to begin picking up. We don't know what city officials would think of this. There's still concern that there could be possibly gusts of winds that could pick up some of these -- some of this debris, toss it around and perhaps cause some injuries. But here, in Palm Beach County we know of no serious injuries, whatsoever, Fredricka.

We did talk to the mayor a bit earlier, there's one area called Pineapple Grove, that apparently experienced some significant flooding. We have a crew up there now getting some pictures. We haven't been able to determine just how bad it is, but think about it, with the amount of rain this area had over more than a day, the hurricane-force winds, for such a long time, very little structural damage, no horrible flooding, and certainly no storm surge coming up in this area. So this is an area that's says, perhaps, it was good planning, and perhaps some of it was simply good luck -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Sean Callebs in West Palm Beach, thanks so much. But, it's a deceiving time, because even though it doesn't appear to be very windy or very rainy right now, there in Palm Beach. We heard the governor earlier, who's imploring people to stay indoors because the storm is quite not over. Still a few more hours in which West Palm Beach and other cities along 230 miles along the Florida coast, along the Atlantic, could still endure some very dangerous conditions.

Thanks so much, Sean.

Well, getting the latest about Hurricane Frances is only a click away. Online, point your browser to CNN.com, there you'll find links to emergency information and resources for hurricane victims, and safety tips for protecting yourself and your family in a hurricane.

And we'll be right back right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JERAS: Live picture of Saint Augustine Florida. There you can see the winds are whipping, gusts right now at 61 miles-per-hour, those waves battering up onshore, there. The rain bands occasionally coming down through that area, but Saint Augustine on the northern fringes of some of these stronger showers and thunderstorms.

Welcome back it our continuing coverage of Hurricane Frances, a category one hurricane right now with winds around 75 miles-per-hour, moving across central Florida right now in some of the worst of the weather now honing in on Tampa.

We're seeing some sustained winds around 50 miles-per-hour into the Tampa area, this is near the center of circulation. Really no eye left here on this hurricane, and -- but still kind of the remnants here into the eye wall where we're going to see some of the heavier wind gusts still, possibly reaching hurricane strength here, and likely going to be somewhere around 70, maybe 80 miles-per-hour at times, so Tampa really hunkering down and getting in the worst part of the storm, right now. Flood warning, of course, is in effect. And there's your latest wind gusts at 52 miles-per-hour at the top of the hour, we've got 55, up in Orlando, 62 in Daytona Beach, and Jacksonville reporting 39 mile-an-hour wind gusts. And we're still seeing some very nasty conditions, as the center of this gets closer towards Tampa. Then it's going to be moving back over the open water and heading up towards the Florida Panhandle. A little additional strengthening may be possible as it moves back over the open waters, but we've seen a nice weakening trend now in the last three hours or so. We were up at 90 at about 11:00 this hour, and now we're back down into the 70s, so that's good to see and hopefully see this move back down toward tropical storm strength before it makes its way all the way across the peninsula -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jacqui, thanks so much. You talked about the north end of the storm being the mildest, well here is an example of how dangerous it still is. Our first reported death as a result of Hurricane Frances is just now coming in. One death being reported out of Gainesville, Florida, that's in north central Florida. Apparently it was a traffic-related death. We don't know anymore details of the circumstances of that death or who that person is. Only that it is the first reported death, so far, from Hurricane Frances. And we'll continue to cover this story for you as we get more information on it.

Meantime, just south of Jacksonville, Florida, in the nation's oldest city, we are talking about Saint Augustine, it is still being battered by Hurricane Frances, and apparently that city has canceled its 439th birthday celebration because of this storm, understandably. Kathleen Koch is monitoring things from there.

And, yes, you still got some pretty serious wind kicking up there behind you.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We do, Fredricka. And you know, you were mentioning that celebration, that was supposed to take place in the old downtown section of Saint Augustine, but again, because of this storm, they canceled it. So many businesses really have been boarded up, sandbagged, since Thursday last week. So this storm, even though we are getting some damage now, perhaps the greatest damage on this area is going to be through this economy, that relies so heavily on tourism.

Now, many people here were hoping that this storm may pass us by, because it was going so far to the south, but it is such a monster, that it's still lashing us here and some people, out of I guess, a false sense of security, thought they could ride it out on their boats. A few minutes ago, we saw a man out on the bow of this sailboat. I don't know if my cameraman, Jay McMichaels, can push to that, he's no longer out there any longer. But this boat is just bouncing, being tossed and jostled like a toy boat by the waves, and he was out on the bow, securing the lines and then he went to the stern, checked the lines there, and it was really frightening to watch because we were very concerned that at any moment of a wave could simply wash him overboard.

And what we're told also, at a marina just south of here, there are numerous houseboats where there are a lot of residents who are riding out the storm, but a very dangerous situation. Some 15,000 people in Saint John's County now without power. A spokesman, Paul Willington, a spokesman for Saint Augustine saying there are a lot of trees down, a lot of power lines down. Luckily, though, no deaths or injuries reported in this county, yet. But the day is not over yet, and they're expecting this storm to continue to intensify here, all the way through the 8:00 hour before it begins to slack off at all.

One of the other major concerns, besides power outages, falling trees and limbs, is flooding. Starting to get a lot of water building up in the streets, and obviously this whole old city, founded in 1665 by Spain, also has very little drainage system and all of this water that's just coming down in sheets, it just simply has nowhere to go. So they're talking about eventually having to simply shut down some of the streets in downtown Saint Augustine so that people don't drive down them in their vehicles and become trapped. But the problem is, as you can see, this city, the old downtown part of Saint Augustine is surrounded by water, a bay and two rivers, and so when the water comes up, this city, parts of it, are below sea level. So, it's a bowl and it just fills up. But again, the good thing is that we have no death, no injuries reported. We just got to hunker down and keep riding this thing out.

WHITFIELD: And you've got about four-and-a-half more hours, Kathleen, in which to ride it out, before the forecasters, including our Jacqui Jeras, are saying that Hurricane Frances makes its way away from the Florida east coast. And of course it's still making its way across the mid section of the state and then onto the west coast into the Gulf of Mexico. Thanks so much. And try to stay dry in between these live shots, if you can, Kathleen

And we'll be right back, continuing our coverage of Hurricane Frances.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHIL LONG, "MIAMI HAROLD" (voice-over): This is a strange storm, I'll tell you. And it is, it's the worst one that this area has seen in many years because -- you know, its climbing up the coast and going as slow as a turtle and chewing it up like a buzz saw. I mean, it was a -- it was a long night in Vero Beach, last night.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: And it's going to be a long recovery for many parts of Florida. In Vero Beach residents ventured out to start looking at the damage from the unrelenting wind and rain. WPTV's Tim Malloy shows us what they found.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TIM MALLOY (voice-over): WPTV REPORTER: 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 will 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, you know, 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's why. At the Fair Lane Harbor Trailer Park, it was clear there would be major damage when dawn came. Most found solace in the fact they had simply survived the storm. This man lost a carport, but ended up being happy about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our garage, in the back, flew off, where our car was, and it didn't damage the car, but we're okay.

MALLOY (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.

MALLOY (voice-over): The high winds lasted through the morning. It is expected the storm surge will recede with the tide. But, Vero Beach clearly has a lot of digging out to do. Damage assessments haven't even come in, but so far, no known loss of life.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And that was reporter Tim Malloy of WPTV.

Here's a look at our latest developments. Hurricane Frances is now a weakened hurricane, but it continues to wreak havoc in Florida. Widespread damage and power outages are being reported. Forecasters predict Frances will cross a part of the Gulf of Mexico, and then hit the Florida Panhandle, and possibly into Alabama. A hurricane warning is in place from the mouth of the Suwannee River to Destin in Florida.

In other news, one Pentagon official is expressing doubts that a former deputy commander of Saddam Hussein's forces is in custody. The Iraqi Defense Ministry says Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri was captured near Tikrit. An Iraqi official says blood tests are being done to confirm that it is al-Duri.

In Russia funerals were held today for the first victims of that Russian school massacre and there's word the U.S. is sending aid it help the victim's families. The U.S. is providing $50,000. The largest amount allowed by law. And a plane with specialized medical equipment.

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

Florida resident are swapping storm stories today, even as Hurricane Frances continues to hit the state and with rain and wind CNN correspondents are weathering the storm along the coast in Melbourne and West Palm Beach, and we'll also be hearing from them in a moment.

But first let's get an update on Frances from Max Mayfield with the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Well, Max we're talking about still quite a few hours right before this storm, Hurricane Frances leaves the east coast of Florida.

MAX MAYFIELD, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: This has been an agonizing slow-moving storm. And it's still taking a large area of the port of Peninsula and is now moving towards the panhandle. Out of these rain bands. Eventually it's going to move off of the coast tonight north of Tampa. The core of the hurricane, in fact the center is right here about 35 miles east of Tampa. Moving toward the west/northwest about nine miles per hour.

We think it will weaken down to just below hurricane status when it comes off this evening, but then once it gets out of the Gulf of Mexico, this is such a well informed and a large hurricane that the mid levels are still very strong. We think it'll strengthen back. And that's why we put up a hurricane warning now from the mouth of the Suwannee River over to Destin. We also need to let people know it's not just the coast being with the strong winds and the heavy rains and blankets of the eye central tornados that will spread well inland.

WHITFIELD: And that satellite shot you just showed a moment ago before the map behind you, showed sort of yellow markings in that swirl. Those yellow markings are really representing some of your biggest rains aren't they? Are you still looking at an isolated area of up to 20 inches of rain?

MAYFIELD: Yes, we had 11 inches down at Palm Beach International Airport and I'm sure there are some isolated areas that are much higher than that. That yellow you are looking at there is part of the eye wall, and it's going to continue moving off of the coast. But those bands cover most of the Florida Peninsula. And that's -- it's impacting -- in fact, it's so large there, you can barely see the outline of the state because of all of the rain bands.

WHITFIELD: Our meteorologist Jacqui Jeras is in the weather center, and she's just as busy as you guys have been over the last few days, and I think she's got a couple of questions for you -- Jacqui. MAYFIELD: OK.

JACQUI JERAS, METEOLOGIST: Yes Max, I just want to ask you a little bit more about the intensity, how much more do you think this could be strengthening when it moves over the open waters again? What category or what kind of winds are we talking about when it makes landfall again?

MAYFIELD: Jacqui this barely category 1 hurricane now, so expect it will come off of the coast here, in fact the next advisory I expect to be downgraded into a tropical storm before it moves off, and it'll take a little time once it gets off. It just looks to us like there is at least some chance for it to come back to a category 1 status. But we're still talking 75, 79 miles per hour. I don't think it will get any stronger than that.

JERAS: Are you surprised at all that it hasn't weakened quite all that much? I mean we were down to just what, 90 miles per hour at 11:00 and now we're down to 74. Did you think that it would decrease a little bit more rapidly or not?

MAYFIELD: Well, this is pretty much our forecast. We had it going down to a tropical storm by the time it got the west coast. And we may be a little generous on that intensity estimate now. We don't really know. We never get off of the observations that you need there. But I think it's still continuing to weaken. And even if there is nothing magical there once you get up to hurricanes status.

They are still going to have some gusts of the hurricane force even if it comes down to a tropical storm.

JERAS: All right, last question I have for you is how rapidly is this going to be moving on up to the north once it moves back into parts of Alabama?

MAYFIELD: Well, it'll probably move to eight to ten miles per hour here the rest of the afternoon, and into tonight. And at least tomorrow morning. And then it may pick up a little bit more speed as it goes up to the north here. The heavy rains' going to spread through Georgia and the eastern Alabama and eventually up into the Appalachians.

JERAS: How serious do you think that flooding is going to be? I was just looking at some of the QPF models showing maybe seven, eight inches even over the Atlanta area potentially?

MAYFIELD: That right, and the good news I guess Georgia and Alabama has been mostly dry. And so they can probably handle a lot of rain, but if they get that much rain over large area, they certainly could have some significant flooding.

JERAS: And how long before Frances is out of here altogether before everybody can take a deep breath, any guess?

MAYFIELD: Well you know Florida is certainly tired of it. Florida's had its fair share and glad to get rid of it, but it's going to be another day and at least through tomorrow night before it gets out of the Florida panhandle, at least the core and then it's going it move up into Alabama and north ward from there.

JERAS: All right, thanks very much, Max Mayfield, director at the National Hurricane Center.

MAYFIELD: Thank you.

JERAS: Thanks for being with us -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks to both of you and of course, Jacqui the next time that you and I talk, I want to know a little bit more about this, already category three Ivan. Another storm way out there in the Atlantic and let's keep our fingers crossed that maybe it'll lose a little steam.

We're continuing our coverage of Hurricane Frances right now right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Moments ago, we talked to Max Mayfield of the Hurricane Center who talked about in some isolated areas they're going to experience up to 20 inches of rain by the time this is all over. Well look at how creative these folks have gotten in St. Augustine, Florida. They have decided to do a little wake-boarding there with this high water in their SUV. Certainly not what the officials in Florida have been encouraging people to do.

Instead, they have been asking people to just stay indoors. Don't try to take advantage of the lulls in the weather, but these folks have decided you know what, we're going to try to make some fun out of this and hopefully, at end of their little escapade there, even though that spill has just occurred, hopefully everything is safe and sound with them.

Well Chad Myers is in Melbourne, Florida, where they are experiencing a lot of rain and some mild flooding but for the most part we're seeing a lot of damage on the marina behind you.

CHAD MYERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we've had wind damage here. The wind actually blew a lot of water over the break wall here in the marina, which held up very well until about 4:00 a.m. yesterday morning, when the winds started shifting around. They were actually from this direction all day yesterday. Now they're blowing completely in this direction, and this guy right here is trying to save the boat.

Take a look at the dock itself. The dock has come completely apart. There is nothing left here. He said he's going it stay on that boat and hold that boat away from that poll as long as it takes. That could be a long time. I have been trying throw him a fender so that he could put it in there, he has got so much gunel (ph) rash on there from the dock. That basically the gunel (ph) is gone, but he is still trying to save that boat. I said is it savable? He said if it's floating, it's savable. That's how much they love their boats here. Guys I will tell you what and everybody. Right on down this pier, all of this water and all of this wood, all came from the storm surge that was here yesterday. It's down about a foot now. But as soon as the water came up the waves came up from below. You know, you walk on a dock. You walk on the top, that's the way the nails are. But when the water pushes it from below, the water pushes the nails out, and obviously right on down here, you can see. All of this -- all of this wood completely disintegrating at this time.

This guy's got a lot of work to do. We're going to try to do what we can. The Coast Guard standing there and looking at him and not really doing anything. But we'll see what is do before it is all said and done. We had a couple of guy's way back out here on this dock way out there on the pier. They were trying to tie down that little bay liner there a little bit. Had one little bowline that broke but now it looks like it is in pretty good shape and you can see all of these boats.

That is just really taking a pounding. Not just up and down. Boats can bob; they can do this all day. They just don't want to hit anything. They don't want to be hitting the piers, they don't want to be hitting the pilings, they don't want to be hitting other boats and unfortunately as the winds shifted today, that's what they are doing right now.

WHITFIELD: Well Chad I wondered do you have enough cable to actually reach what appears to be a Coast Guard guy and what kinds of warnings he's giving to this guy who is trying to physically holding onto this his boat?

MEYERS: No, they just walked away Carol, or Fred I'm sorry.

WHITFIELD: That's OK. OK, well it sounds like --

MYERS: I'm going to go try to help him as much as I can. I feel for him. He's got a lot of work to do.

WHITFIELD: No kidding. It looks like he's physically trying to hold on to that post.

MYERS: Yes, go by.

WHITFIELD: Without any ropes or anything.

MYERS: He's just trying to -- no, he's got a bow line on the front and a bow line on the back -- on the left side on the stern, on the port side.

WHITFIELD: I see those.

MYERS: What happened was that he had a stern line off on the port side as well, but that line broke and now that's how he got pushed into this piling in the first place and so we're going to try do, is I'm going to try to throw him another line for the stern that we're going to tie off to the mid cleat here on the sailboat just to try to keep him off of this pier because the more that thing hits it, the more that boat just gets torn up.

WHITFIELD: Wow, well, we'll keep tabs on that Chad, and we'll check back with you to see how successful you or he --

MYERS: Here come -- maybe here committee cavalry. Here come the Coast Guard guys.

WHITFIELD: We will see what they are going to do.

MYERS: We will see if they will help him or not.

WHITFIELD: OK.

MYERS: They're just looking at the marina. I will go over there --

WHITFIELD: its looks like that are cautiously approaching. Yes we'll let you do that and we will check back with you in a moment. Thanks a lot Chad.

MYERS: All right thank you.

WHITFIELD: And good luck to that boat owner there. That is going to be indeed a huge challenge.

Well, Governor Jeb Bush promises emergency responders will get out quickly to help storm victims. In a news conference earlier today, the governor says crews won't be able to wait for the blue skies, but will have to let the storm weaken a bit. Bush also said that residents should stay inside until they get official word to actually come out again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JEB BUSH, FLORIDA: The storm is slow-moving, and it will take a while for it to cross the Peninsula, and I know the people have been anxious because of the wait, the heed of the advice of the local emergency operation centers and the local political leadership to evacuate, and it's been a long wait.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Well, in addition to a lot of displaced homeowners out there, some of the folks, when they do finally make it home, they'll find are there power outages everywhere. Already affecting 2 million households throughout Florida. When we come back the conversation with someone who can help us understand through Florida Power & Light. Just when some of that power just might be restored.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Well, up and down the Florida coast, Hurricane Frances is showing its strength, even through the mid section of the state. The National Hurricane Center says the size and motion of this storm is unheard of. Frances has blown off roofs, knocked down trees, and left nearly 2 million households without electricity. Jacqui Jeras is keeping a watch on things from the Weather Center and is back with us. And the majority of it is over land right now, right?

JERAS: Well, the center is over land right now. But in terms of the majority of the storm, there you can see that there's still a big chunk of this storm still well offshore that's got to go all the way across the Florida Peninsula and take a look out here to the west. So we still have quite a ways, numbers of hours to go before this is all going to be said and done. And those of you that live along the east coast here, well, even though the center has past you, you are still going to be seeing some strong gusts and some very heavy rain with some of these out ward squalls as they begin to move in.

Let's go ahead and zoom in for you and give you a closer look at where some of these heavier showers and thunderstorms are. We've been getting some reports of wind gusts and these squalls up to about 69 miles per hour. That was just reported around New Smyrna Beach in the last hour. You can see this is a real-time radar. This is from the next red radar out of Melbourne, which has been doing a fabulous job.

Unbelievable, you know there is no power in Melbourne and this radar is still going. So some great generators and a great job by the National Weather Service getting this data to everybody. Want to switch this over to the Melbourne next red Doppler radar storm estimates, actually, if we could go back and I want to show you some of the totals that we have been seeing that radar is estimating.

There you can see it, the heaviest stuff so far has been offshore. You can see in that big bullet there, estimating about 18 inches of rainfall, so some really incredible amounts. If you get on shore up around Fort Pierce, it's estimating about ten inches. We have a report, a little farther down to the south around West Palm Beach of almost 10.5 inches, and so there are some pretty impressive totals which already pushing in across the area and we'll watch those continue to add up.

If we could go on over back to the radar picture and show you what we are seeing here. There you can see the large circulation, just how big the size of the storm is Fredricka. So you can see, you know if I had to take a measurement, I would say overall we still have a long ways to go with the back half the storm. We're seeing more convection on the back half than we are seeing on the front half.

WHITFIELD: Wow, that is indeed a massive storm. All right, thanks so much Jacqui Jeras.

Well as Jacqui just mentioned, 10.5 inches of rain already in West Palm Beach. Much further south from where the eye has been passing over the mid section of this state, but our Sean Callebs is kind of waiting through it all. At least right now, you have a little bit of a lull and that's always good.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes indeed, it's very good. I think this is the kind of weather that people in this area of south Florida really look for this time of the year. Especially on a holiday weekend. But instead people are laboring, doing something else. Look at this; this is just some of the mess that has been picked up.

These palm fawns are tons of trash all up and down these streets here in West Palm. You are exactly right a big break here, not a lull. We've had nice sunshine, no rain for about an hour now. Don't know if it's going to last but people are certainly taking this respit (ph) to do what they can to begin cleaning up and picking up.

If you can just kind of look over this way. Look at the amazing amount of work this family's been able to do in just a short period of time. All of this has been picked up, presumably, out of the front yard. And joining us now Kelly and Eileen Cominski (ph), thank you very much. And we have to say happy birthday to you.

EILEEN COMINSKI (ph): Thank you.

CALLEBS: This is not the way you expected to spend your birthday.

E. COMINSKI (ph): No.

CALLEBS: Now you chose to ride out the storm on the second floor last night, what was it like?

E. COMINSKI (ph): It was scary. It was scary because one of the shutters was banging, and the noise was incredible! I was frightened a little bit, but I knew the house is very sturdy since I have lived here all of my life.

CALLEBS: When you say shutters, you actually have big heavy aluminum shutters put on that side. You have the plywood up here.

E. COMINSKI (ph): We had a different type of shutter and we just took down and before we could get new shutters, the storm came. So this is a temporary thing.

CALLEBS: Now you mentioned that you have lived here all of your life. There was a hurricane sometime ago, we won't say exactly when, but you have some stories about that, the chimney was damaged.

E. COMINSKI (ph): About the '28 storm. My mother and father had just moved in. They came down from Philadelphia. They didn't know anything about hurricanes, and they went to S. Edwards to mass that Sunday morning, evidently in September. And they said they have some terrible times closing the doors the front doors of the church. And they drove up to the ocean, and saw the ocean, which was just, you know -- it was incredible.

CALLEBS: Long before radar and the things that --

E. COMINSKI (ph): Yes.

CALLEBS: How much do you think of having this advance knowledge really made your life easier last night?

E. COMINSKI (ph): Oh it was incredible. We had everything done. My nephew came up from Boca and put up all the shutters and everything was done. So we all had a lovely dinner. Friends came, stayed the night here. We have four cats in the house, which we normally don't have. They brought all of their friendly cats, and so it was fun.

CALLEBS: Well Kelly let me ask you I understand you guys actually used a gas stove last night to bake a cake is that true?

KELLY COMINSKI (ph): Yes. I made a cake for my mom's birthday and the candles came in handy.

CALLEBS: What was it like last night? Your mom said it was quite scary I mean from really midnight until 6:00 a.m., this is a region that simply got pounded. Hurricane forced winds all of that time. As much as 10.5, 12 inches of rain. You had to be scared?

K. COMINSKI (ph): It was really scary. We were holding our breath for a little while, because the tiles were flying against the house and breaking. So you weren't really sure what it was that was shattering outside of the window, but you know, yes, we held our breath for a little while. You kept thinking something was going to fly off of the house, or the coconuts next door were going to become missiles and launch into the cars.

CALLEBS: Indeed. Well, thank you very much for chatting with us, both of you. That terra-cotta-type tiling on the roof. It can peel off these kind of storms and while the weather is great out here and people are certainly doing what they can, very resilient in this community to begin picking up and cleaning up there is, believe it or not, a curfew in effect.

Even though at this moment, there is absolutely no wind. We talked it the mayor a while ago. She said, people are supposed to stay off of the streets until tomorrow morning. But if you go up and down Flagler, the main drag here in West Palm Beach that is being violated constantly. All kinds of people coming up and down taking a look a look at the inter coastal waterway, the varies damage, debris that has been scattered all over the place.

And still Fredricka a lion share of the 1.3 million people in this county without electricity at this hour. Back to you.

WHITFIELD: Wow! And Sean isn't it true that these folks could be experiencing some more winds, significant wind over the next four hours, because apparently Frances is not quite done there in that part of the east coast?

CALLEBS: Well, one good thing about these two individuals, they don't have very far to go to seek shelter, but you're exactly right. That's the reason that the emergency authorities are telling people look, don't go outside. Don't be fooled. One thing the governor said time and time again, casualties can be expected in a hurricane.

What they don't want is somebody doing something foolish and putting themselves at risk. Not only here but as this storm moves up, we saw Bill Hemmer in Melbourne earlier today, then Orlando, and possibly the panhandle later on. A very powerful storm.

WHITFIELD: All right, Sean Callebs in West Palm Beach. Thanks so much.

Well, just north of West Palm folks in Fort Pierce at one time experienced some of the most intense, sustained wind gusts and that's where we find our Gary Tuchman right now where things look, how? Ooh, pretty nasty right there, Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka I don't know if you can hear but it is harder for us to hear. But I do think we are talking to all of the viewers on CNN right now about what happened here. At this marina in Fort Pierce, Florida. We spent the day here yesterday doing live reports about the hurricane. There were about 40 tail boats, cabin cruisers and yachts that were out here. They're now all gone.

The power from this hurricane has almost totally destroyed the city marina here in the city of Fort Pierce. This was a $10 million marine considered by mariners to be the best marinas in the state of Florida. You can see the light post fell right on top of this restaurant. We were using this restaurant as kind of a refuge, as an oasis during the storm yesterday to keep our equipment dry while we were delivering a live report.

Much the restaurant has survived, most of it though has also has been destroyed. But this is unbelievable because up until 1:00 in the morning last night, the 40 boats that were bobbing up and down, and you can see the posts. They went as far out as all of the posts in the inter coastal waterway. They were bobbing up and down. There was no damage whatsoever. But by 1:00 in the morning while we were still here, some of the boats, the high tide came in and some of the boats started to hit the side of the pier.

You can see right here. These are the decks where people walked to get on their boats. Now, floating around. But they were stationary at that point. They started bumping into here. One of them huge sail, one of the masts from the sailboat, hit this restaurant. At that point, we decided we better leave. We thought there would be a problem with these boats probably smashing into this dock. We left, we came back this morning and now as you can see, except for one boat. I don't know if you can see that boat out there, that is the only boat of the 30 or 40 that seems to have survived.

The other ones, you can see the wreckage there, and it's very sad. People have come by, crying. They all seem to have one thing in common they say, "oh, my God" when they come up here. Your personal possessions in the water, gasoline and boats that people have saved their money for all of their life to buy. Their pride and joy completely destroyed from Hurricane Frances. When it St. Lucie County yesterday, last night, early this morning and as you can see, we are still getting some remnants of it.

Fredricka back to you.

WHITFIELD: Wow a real disaster there in Fort Pierce, $10 million marina now a total loss and that doesn't even include the price of all of the boats that Gary was just showing us that have since disappeared except for just one. Gary thanks so much. Jacqui Jeras in the Weather Center isn't it amazing how just south of Fort Pierce it can look clear; it looks fairly mild in West Palm Beach. And there aren't a lot lost miles in between them. Just a few hundred miles between Fort Pierce and West Palm Beach and an incredible contrast in weather along the coast there.

JERAS: Absolutely, and this type of pattern is going to be happening now for several hours, for hours and hours from now. There you can see on the radar on the viper Doppler radar that nice bit hole over Fort Pierce but you get down here to Sewalls (ph) Point and there you can see some of these bursts of convections.

So you are going to see those winds pick up in those squalls as they move on through. You are going to see the heavy downpours and then you know maybe even 15 minutes later, everything's going to look just fine and dandy and then in another hour from then, things are going to be picking up. So it is going to continue to be touch-and-go. As we mentioned, Fredricka, even though the first half of this storm technically is well past you, you can see the back half of this storm is much chunkier.

So you still have a long way to go of seeing the showers and thunderstorms and the heavy rain bands, and with this thing still moving so very slowly, we're talking about some still very major flooding to continue in many of these areas, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jacqui thanks so much.

We're going to pick up with our continuing coverage of Hurricane Frances. We're going to take a short break and take you into our next hour of as we continue to watch this storm, not quite done with Florida before it makes its way, completely over the Gulf of Mexico, and then causing potential trouble for places, like Georgia, as well as Alabama. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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