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Hurricane Frances: Hurricane Frances Starting to Weaken a Bit, But Still Packing Powerful Punch

Aired September 5, 2004 - 06:00   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR, CNN SUNDAY MORNING: Good morning from the CNN headquarters here in Atlanta. I'm am Betty Nguyen, continuing our live coverage of Hurricane Frances.
Hurricane Frances is starting to weaken a bit. But it is still packing a powerful punch. It's top winds are at 100 miles an hour, down slightly from earlier. Frances remains a category two storm, but could lose more steam over the next 24 hours as it turns slowly over Florida. Frances is moving west, northwest at eight miles per hour.

Rain and flooding on one coast, flames on another. A 9,300-acre wildfire is burning our of control in Sonoma County, California. It is threatening up to 200 homes in California's wine country. Meantime, another wildfire as burned 11 homes in the Sierra, Nevada foothills.

In Southern California, Los Angeles airport is open again, after two security scares forced a closure for a few hours yesterday. Officials don't think the incidents are linked to terrorism. Faulty flashlight batteries in a passenger's luggage apparently sparked a small blast injuring some workers. And a man breached security at a United Airlines terminal.

In Raleigh, North Carolina, a shooting at a tailgate party. Police are now looking for suspects. The shooting killed two men, one a Marine Corp officer. It happened yesterday, before North Carolina State University football game. Witnesses say a fight broke out before the shooting apparently over an incident of reckless driving.

And two other shooting victims are being remembered for their faith in God. A memorial for the couple, both Christian camp counselors drove out 300 mourners to an Ohio church. The two were found shot to death on a Northern California beach last month. One of them was from Ohio. Police have not found any suspects as of yet.

I want to go now to meteorologist Orelon Sidney, who is in Orlando. She has been there since yesterday, where thousands of tourists are riding out this storm. Orelon, has it begun to rain? I see you have your rain gear on.

ORELON SIDNEY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. It is official. I officially weight 125 ponds soaking wet. We know that now for a fact. And I tell you what; we have a ball game going on here to. Because we finally have gotten some wind gusts that are certainly tropical storm force. Probably sustained tropical storm force. You have to get to 39 miles an hour or above to tropical storm force. And I think we certainly seen that sustained.

The gusts are probably, Rob Marciano said it a little bit ago, 58 mile an hour gusts. The most we have seen. And we have seen some gusts that were the strongest we have seen since we have been here. So there may well be gusty winds in the 60-mile an hour range now in Orlando. And I do want to emphasize folks, because it has been so quiet here from yesterday through last night, a lot of folks may start to say, well it is not so bad. Maybe I will go out and kind of drive around and check things out.

I would not advise that at all. Because you don't want to be on the roadways, especially a lot of people on the roadways with the winds gusting like this. Because Florida being as flat as it is, you are going to have some dangerous crosswinds on the highways. And especially in a high profile vehicle. You have slick streets. You have rain coming down at an angle. And you are going to have those winds. You do not want to be driving around.

If you don't have to get out and why would you? Then you really don't need to at all. Because I think for the next -- I would estimate six, maybe eight, maybe 10 hours, we are going to be seeing this. I think the worst of this is probably going to move by fairly quickly, simply because it is not a very large area of tropical storm force winds.

But the problem is, the storm is so slow moving, and the area outside the center is so large with tropical storm hurricane force winds, you should be prepared for at least tropical storm force winds, and perhaps, hurricane force gusts for the next -- I would say at least the next 10 hours. Betty?

NGUYEN: Now as this first band has come through, have you seen the type of flooding that you were expecting yesterday, when looking at the hurricane?

SIDNEY: Well, here in Orlando we have not gotten much rain at all. And the rain that we are going to see is starting up now, and will continue in those eight to 10 hours that I am estimating. I am sure Rob can give you a better idea about that. But it just hasn't rained very much here in Orlando at all.

Of course, remember that they did get rain when Charley came through earlier. So there is not a whole lot of place for any rain to go. The rain amounts that I heard last night were about half an inch, to an inch an hour. So you figure if the rain takes the 10 hours to get over us, we have maybe as much as a foot of rain possible in some areas. And some localized locations could get more.

So the flooding has not started here yet. That remains to be seen. But certainly is a very very strong possibility that some areas could find some very high water.

NGUYEN: And that could be the biggest part of this danger. Simply the flooding and people wanting to go back into their homes. Obviously they are anxious to get back to see the damage. At this point, you caution them to stay inside. Stay away. Because there is about what, eight, ten more hours of this yet to come?

SIDNEY: Yes. I mean I just can't imagine. I have a really small little sports car. And I would not want to be on the highway in this weather. And you just don't want to come back right now. Because what might happen is that a whole bunch of people think, well you know, it is really not -- it doesn't look that bad. And they start coming back. And then you've got a disaster. Because you have all this rain. You have all this wind. And people trying to get to and from.

It is just not a good idea. There is a very good reason why people need to hunker down right now. Wait this out. It is not going to last forever. This too shall pass. In another 24 hours, you will be amazed at how much the weather is going to be here. So just, you know. Sit back. Relax. It is not a category four storm. You don't have to worry about expensive structural damage. But there is the potential for flooding.

There are dangerous winds. And you don't want to be out in these winds in case it might pick up something as simple as the lid of a trash can. That can hurt if it is coming at you at 60 miles an hour. So stay inside. Wait it out 24 hours, and I promise you, things are going to be a heck of a lot better.

NGUYEN: Well we are going to let you get inside right now. Orelon Sidney in Orlando. Thank you so much. We will check in with you a little bit later. Want to go to Rob Marciano tracking Hurricane Frances at the CNN weather center. These bands are still coming across parts of inland Florida. Are they weakening any?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Not yet, no. I do expect that to happen as the back of this eye-wall begins to move in. But in places like Orlando. Places like Cape Canaveral and Titusville, they are not weakening. If anything, they are getting stronger now that the center is getting a little bit closer to them.

Here is where Orelon is. Of course Mickey Mouse and the whole gang there. And the brighter colors now indicating that this rain now about to come into them. They have already had wind gusts at 58 miles an hour. And as we get these rain bands that come in one after the other, those wind gusts will get stronger, until this hurricane begins to weaken. And that is not going to happen until the whole thing, the whole eye is on shore. And that will not happen for another one or two hours.

The we will look for the thing to start to decrease in intensity. But, it is going to take all day long to scoot just past Orlando. You mentioned, you questioned to Orelon about rainfall. We will give you radar estimates as exactly how much rainfall has fallen. Or how much rain has fallen. Just about an inch in Orlando. So certainly not enough to do any sort of flooding.

Let's slide the map down Craig (ph), and give some relativeness to everything. Ft. Pierce, will pretty much the eye came onshore just to the south of Ft. Pierce. We saw some rain there. Certainly rainfall estimates there. Give me a little lower. Four inches. So you know, four times as much. A little bit farther to the south, five inches. And four inches up in -- offshore we have rainfall estimates as much as eight, seven, and nine inches. So there is more rain still to come.

All right. Let's go over to GR-115 (ph). Here is a satellite, or the -- is that GR-15? OK, 114. Here is radar information for you. Ft. Pierce -- here is the eye wall. Or the eye of the center of the eye. But look at the lineation here. This is the coastline. Just to the east of I-95. And that is where all the bright colors are. You go west of the coastline, you are inland. You cut off the moisture source.

So once we get the back half of this eye wall inland, this system is going to decrease in intensity rather dramatically. But it has not done that. And that is why the latest advisory only knocked it down by five miles an hour. Once we get this eye wall in, it will start to decrease in intensity. But that back of the eye wall is going to be just as strong as the front. Possibly stronger. So folks, who got the front half, are going to get the back half here in the next couple of hours as well.

You can see that the moisture content not really all that impressive in the front of this storm. I do want to show you one thing. One more thing, which is the track. The forecast track of the National Hurricane Center as of 5:00, which shows you landfall just to the north of West Palm Beach as a category two storm. And the decreasing in intensity to category one. And eventually into a tropical storm.

By later on this afternoon, they expect it to be a tropical storm. So that is good news for folks in Orlando and Tampa. Then reemerging in the Gulf of Mexico, and maybe hitting the Panhandle of Florida by late tomorrow. Hopefully, just as a tropical storm.

So that is the latest Betty. We have to get the back half of this thing on shore. And once we do that, it will start to weaken dramatically. But it has not done that. So we are still getting rain bands that are moving in. And especially up to the north, they are still pretty strong.

NGUYEN: Yes. We want to talk about some of those rain bands right now. Because in Melbourne Florida, they have already seen part of this back half possibly. That could be moving through right now, if that is what you want to call this. We are looking at an affiliate live picture right now from WOFL. Now as you can see, this one possibly has already fallen down. Our Bill Hemmer is there. Bill, are you seeing this kind of wind and rain where you are standing?

BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Listen Betty, when we woke up this morning, about 90 minutes ago, about 4:30 local time here on the East Coast. At our hotel, which is three miles inland from our live location here. The winds were stronger this morning than they were when we went bed about six hours earlier. Gives us in indication about how this storm has moved in the northern edge, the way Rob describes it anyway. On the northern edge of the storm, that explains pretty much why again the winds are as gusty as they are again today. Driving over here today, there is a lot of damage. But listen, it is far too early for us to categorize this damage as we did three weeks ago with Charley. Although, we can tell you though, traffic lights dangling in the middle of intersections. Electricity is out just about everywhere, including just about everywhere we are working at this location, and our hotel.

Trees are across the roads just about everywhere you look. And really, up and down the strip here, which is the road that rides right along the Atlantic inter-coastal waterway, it is nothing but darkness, Betty. An indication again that the traffic light shave been out for -- extinguished (ph) about 12:30 we are told, 12:30 local time last night.

The word we had from Florida Power & Light is that 1.2 million people are without power. If you add that to another energy company, another power company here in Florida, that works inland in Florida, they are reporting 400,000. So put together, you are talking this morning, 1.5 million people waking up without electricity today throughout the entire state.

This storm is big. This storm is slow. And it is quite likely throughout the entire day today; the conditions we are getting will stay just like they are. I think the governor hit it on the head about this time yesterday. He said no two storms are a like. And we are seeing that yet again, with this storm Frances. Betty?

NGUYEN: Absolutely. And this thing looks like it is only just half way over. You talked about the power being out. Are you seeing power poles laying in the street? Are you seeing more trees down? What kind of debris is around you?

HEMMER: Yes. More trees than power lines. Now listen, there was a tree lodged up against our car this morning. Pretty good-sized tree by the way. That was blown into it over night. It was lodged there pretty strong. We saw some power lines last evening when we were calling an end to our long day yesterday. But we do not see power poles lying in the road. And that is going to be a really good thing for emergency crews.

Once daybreak hits here in about an hour, maybe about an hour- and-15 minutes from now. Because of those crews want to get up and down these roads, they are still going to have access. Yes, there were trees and palm prams (ph) everywhere. But listen, those things are pretty easy to go over. It is the electric line that really sometimes can be the biggest danger, and the more precarious moments for people trying to access the precarious roads around here.

As for the streets, nobody is out. And nobody should be out. Why you ask, are we out? Because we are simply trying to get the information out to people here. We found another secure location this morning Betty. So we feel rather comfortable with our location today.

NGUYEN: That is some good news. I know a lot of people are holed up in shelters. They can only hear what is going on around them Bill. You were there. I know you try to get a little bit of sleep over night. But what were you able to see, and were you able to sleep though all of this? The wind and the rain.

HEMMER: Yes. I can tell you, I did. I had no problem. I was so tired from working yesterday Betty. And the day before, and the convention up in New York City. I was out like a light. But I can tell you, in our hotel, which has really acted as a shelter anyway. The Courtyard Marriott is where most of the CNN folks are staying here. And we are intermingled with a lot of the folks who live in this area.

They are playing cards. They were watching TV, so long as the cable signal was up. But a lot of people just buying their time. And biding their time rather. They brought their pets. You see dogs. You see cats. You see little kids. And they are waiting this one out. I think the one thing about this storm that really strikes a lot of people.

If you go back to 1992, we were watching a gentlemen earlier today. I'm sorry, yesterday, at a local marina. And he was showing us on the Internet a great Web site. It was called And he was showing us the track of various storms over the history here in Florida. Andrew in 1992 was only over southern Florida for six hours. Now we know the devastation that was brought on by Andrew.

This storm however, is going to linger for a much longer time. The winds will not be nearly as intense as Andrew. But still, they will be sustained. And you have this rain issue here that could result in massive flooding. Depending on where you are in these low- lying areas. Some predictions say 20 inches of rain. Could we go higher than that? Maybe. It just depends on how long Hurricane Frances wants to stick around.

NGUYEN: Absolutely. Flooding is obviously the biggest issue. As you say, the winds are coming through right now. But the rains are going to hold on for a long time to come. Especially throughout this morning. Are you seeing any flooding right now?

HEMMER: We have not seen that. Listen, the water has come up on the inter-coastal waterway. And yesterday, when we were out of the ocean, yes, the water was coming up. But we don't see standing water on streets. Which is another good sign, frankly. But I have to tell you, it is still dark here. And we are going to get a much better picture once the sun comes up and day breaks here.

Just to go back to your previous question here, and back to the damage issue. There are categories in these storms for hurricanes, and also categories for these storms when we talk about tornadoes, that list the damage in different areas, depending on how severe they are. I can tell you at this point, a lot of these plastic binding (ph), a lot of the awnings we see on the fronts of businesses, throughout the strip here. A lot of damage has been incurred there. But if that is and as it is, that is a really good sign.

But again, we are not going to have another picture until daybreak here in Florida, Betty.

NGUYEN: And we will check in with you a little bit later on in the show. And hopefully we will be a daybreak look at the damage, and how extensive it all is. Thank you Bill Hemmer, in Melbourne, Florida this morning.

We want to take you now to Sean Callebs, who is in West Palm Beach, with a look at how Hurricane Frances has come ashore there. Good morning to you Sean.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you Betty. Pretty much our morning has mirrored what Bill Hemmer's has been so far. We have been up for a couple of hours. The drive over, however was somewhat sketchy. Right now, the best weather conditions that I have been in here in Pam Beach County, and more than 12 hours.

The wind has dies down somewhat. It could just be break perhaps in the southern area of the eye wall as it continues to move over. Yesterday, the wind, and the rain coming directly from the northwest. You can see it is coming exactly opposite now, as that counterclockwise turn moves in. The drive over was -- we had to go over a couple of overpasses. And the wind was howling at that hour. It was somewhat difficult.

We saw a lot of trees. A lot of limbs down. Mostly the palm prams (ph). The stuff you see behind me. These trees that have basically been picked clean after 18, 20 hours of intense wind and rain. We also saw some power lines down. Basically power is out to a large, large part of this area. At our hotel last night, we actually had the alarm go off around 1:30. Apparently there was some concern perhaps having to evacuate us. Went down for about a half an hour. Everything worked out pretty well.

But really, people just waiting for sunrise. Especially the emergency officials so they can get out and begin to do their first look at this area. They are going to find a lot of trees down. There is s a lot of flooding. You can see in this parking lot, water several inched deep where we are. You can't see. But it extends out over on that road. And of course Flaggler Avenue, which really is the main drag that separates West Palm Beach from Palm Beach.

A great deal of flooding on those roads. All the storm drains were backed up yesterday before dusk even came. So flooding is going to be a major problem. This is a storm that is just came so slowly and dumped so much rain on this area. A low-lying area that has just been saturated over the last 24 hours Betty. And just waiting until daybreak comes to see exactly what kind of damage has been done.

And certainly the legions of Floridians who have been riding this storm out in the shelter, they also want to find out how their homes fared. How their county fared. But emergency officials have stressed time and time again, even after daybreak, do not try to make a mad dash to try to get home.

Some of these roads are flooded. There is concern that in some areas, they may be washed away. So people could drive up thinking the avenue is perfectly fine, only to find it simply gone. And there are also a lot canals in this area of southern Florida. So you could be driving down a flooded road, and not know that there is a turn, and drive off into a canal. And clearly, that would be a disastrous situation. Betty?

NGUYEN: Flooding a min problem where you are. And also, you say the debris in the roadways. This is going to really complicate matters for emergency crews trying to get out there to rescue folks who may need help, once day breaks.

CALLEBS: Right. Well I was at hurricane Charley three weeks ago. And we actually -- the day after, spent some time with an emergency unit at a fire department right in Punta Gorda. They said during the height of the storm, they simply couldn't come out. That is the key reason that they demanded all these evacuations. That they were mandatory evacuations.

Because if someone tried to ride it out in their home, or in a tailor, it could be disastrous. Because at the height of the storm, if something really tremendously bad happened, their hands would be tied. They could not get out and risk their lives to try to rescue these people. Especially since they were already in an area that should have been evacuated.

So the big concern, you don't want to get on the roads. Especially in the next several hours. There are a lot of power lines down. Very sketchy situation. And obviously the wind picking up here. So this storm is still going to be felt in this area of Florida for hours and hours and hours to come.

NGUYEN: Sean, is the power out to all of West Palm Beach right now?

CALLEBS: Difficult to tell. We made some calls to emergency officials this morning. It is out to a lion share. I look across -- as I look across to Palm Beach, you can some light son in some of the buildings. But those could just be generators that are supplying power. We know that our hotel that we have been staying at, which is -- it has not lost power. But they have had generators on for (UNINTELLIGIBLE) as well.

But power lines are down everywhere. So certainly -- and the wind has just been howling. It was a very fitful sleep last night, as I am sure it was for virtually everybody in this area. You could just hear the wind howling. And the rain and debris smacking against the window. So I can only presume that electricity is out to a very large area.

NGUYEN: Did you ever get a chance to check back with the Schultz (ph) family? I know they were trying to ride out this storm at home. Any power to their place?

CALLEBS: Well their windows are all boarded up, or have those metal shutters over them. We are going to check back with them later on this morning, and see how they are doing. We did not get a chance to check back yesterday afternoon. But we went in there a couple of days ago before the storm. And it was really kind of like a bunker. They were very confident that things would be fine.

And really, the kind of punishing wind that comes with a category three or four that does structural damage, they did not have to worry about that. The storm surge simply has not happened. There was some low flooding, a couple of inches. But not any kind of disastrous kind of water that could cause all kinds of problems.

NGUYEN: All right. Hopefully they made it through this storm. And yet more of it is still to come today. Sean Callebs in West Palm Beach. Thank you so much for that report. We will be checking back in with you throughout the morning.

WE also will be going to St. Augustine to see how the damage is there. But first we are going to take a short break. You are watching CNN SUNDAY MORNING.


NGUYEN: Good morning, and welcome back. Hurricane Frances is still bearing down on Florida. And this morning there are reports of over a million people without power. We want to get an estimate on that number. Actually, an official number from Tim Pagel who is with Florida Power & Light. He joins us now. Good morning to you.


NGUYEN: We are hearing somewhere between 1.2 million and possibly 2 million people without power. What numbers are you seeing?

PAGEL: Well, that is right in the ballpark. We have approximately 1, 560,000 customers out of power right now. FPL serves about 4.1, 4.2 million customers. It is a pretty significant percentage. Some good news is we have restored since the effects of Hurricane Frances have begun to be felt in Florida, we restored just over a .5 million customers, just over 500,000.

NGUYEN: And what is causing the major outages? Down power lines? What are the problems that you are facing?

PAGEL: I don't have a lot of information on that. I have not been out there. I have seen some of the coverage that you all and many of your viewers have seen. We will be doing a full assessment down here. As soon as it is safe for our crews to get out. And we usually go up by air, on the road, and often neighborhood-by- neighborhood by foot.

I don't have a way of characterizing the types of damages yet though I am afraid.

NGUYEN: So at this point, crews have not been able to go out there and assess the damage just yet. You are waiting for daybreak for that?

PAGEL: Well we are really waiting for in the you know significantly impacted areas for the winds to subside to hit the low of 35 miles per hour. That is when our crews can get on the road. And you know. From the numbers that have been restored, we have been able to do that when those winds have come down. And those -- the restorations that have occurred thus far have been -- the cast majority have been in Miami, Dave (ph), and Broward (ph) Counties in South Florida.

However, there have been some restorations in a number of other counties as well. But we do wait until winds are way down, and it is safe for our crews to be out there. That is our first priority.

NGUYEN: And you know, as daybreak comes, a lot of people want to peek outside, check out the damage. But these down lines are going to pose a problem, and a big danger. What should people know about these down lines? Obviously stay away.

PAGEL: Well, stay away absolutely from down lines. Any kind of standing water, you should stay away from. Do not go outside in the dark before daybreak. Because there may be lines you are not able to see. In water, or whatever that are energized. And we do have a number of course, to call if you do spot a downed line, or a sparking line.

NGUYEN: OK. What is that number?

PAGEL: We would ask our customers to call 1-800-4-OUTAGE. That is 4-OUTAGE.

NGUYEN: OK. And no estimate as to how long it is going to take at this point. Because you still have not assessed the damage.

PAGEL: That is correct. You know, one way of characterizing it. If we have major damage to infrastructure, it will take longer. If it is a lot of trees and branches down, and power lines, and some poles down, it probably would be quicker. But we really don't have any of those estimates. However, as soon as we are able to get out there and make an assessment, we will certainly make that public.

NGUYEN: Do you have the crews and the resources to handle a storm this size, and the possible damage that could come with?

PAGEL: Actually, we have had some very good experience just a couple of weeks ago unfortunately, with hurricane Charley. Which, whipped through some of the same sections of our service territory. But also went through obviously, impacted significantly the southwest portion, which is not as effected by this storm. But we were able to mobilize a very large and effective crew for that restoration.

And rebuild I might add. There was a lot of rebuilding to be done. We did that in around two weeks total. We had many of those customers restored within the first few days. And we do have 6,000 restoration personnel from other utilities, and independent contractors waiting, and traveling as we speak to basically, the area to Florida and Georgia border. But we are not able to move them to staging sites until the weather calms down.

And those 6,000 are -- will be added to the FPL work force. So we should have in the neighborhood of as many as 10,000 workers in the field when we are able to get to it.

NGUYEN: And hopefully that will happen some time soon. Again, the number for people to call to report outages, 1-800-4-OUTAGE. Tim Pagel with Florida Power & Light. We thank you for your time and your information this morning.

I want to go now to our Kathleen Koch who is in St. Augustine, Florida. And I understand Kathleen; you are under a tornado watch.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes Betty. Right here in St. Augustine Florida, what we are really feeling now are the very first (ph) effects of Hurricane Frances. What they were warning was that when we got these first tastes, these first rain bands coming in, that what would happen on this northeast (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that we are in is that we would have a chance of tornadoes.

And that is -- we had early this morning. It was one of the first things as we got up and turned on our televisions. Just to check the weather, check with the weather channel of the local stations. It was the blare of the Emergency Broadcast System came on. And it was not just a rehearsal. There was a tornado warning. Tornadoes spotted in this area, in St. Johns County. But that was again, that was about an hour-and-15 minutes ago. But now all of St. Johns County is in a tornado watch until 2:00 p.m. today.

Now as you can see right now, we are just getting a lot of rain. The winds they are estimating are right around 40 miles per hour. Perhaps some wind (ph) gusts up to 60 miles per hour. If you look over here against the wall here, this business is one of many that has sand bags. Now these sand bags should probably do the trick. But that is one of the real problems here in St. Augustine. Is that a lot of the historical downtown area, you can see that we are in an area where we have these buildings -- very old buildings.

Some dating to the 1600s. Others, 1700s, 1800s. And while the building are very well built, the drainage system in this city is not. And when you get a very severe rain, a tropical storm, you have a lot of severe flooding. Now up here, there is a -- this city is surrounded on three sides. It is a peninsula. Two rivers and a bay. And just to the east of us, there is a very low seawall. They have a project that is due to begin this year to improve that seawall. To strengthen it to make it higher. But they have not yet started.

So what they are expecting is, if we do get something along the lines of eight, 10, 12 inches of rain over the next 24 hours, that we are going to have a lot of severe flooding here. But when it comes to power, we are doing great. We have plenty of electricity. There are some scattered outages in St. Johns County.

Same thing with evacuations. No mandatory evacuations here, though they did suggest that people in mobile homes, people in RVs, those with special medical needs who really rely on electricity, that they might want to get to some of the three shelters that have opened up here in the city.

But some of the very few cars we have seen on the road today. Maybe we have only seen a handful. Mostly just patrol cars, going up and down the streets of this city. But obviously everybody is hunkered down. Everyone is ready. And the dual concerns here again right now, are the flooding and the tornadoes. Betty?

NGUYEN: CNN's Kathleen Koch reporting on the damage, or at least the rain right now in St, Augustine Florida. The nation's oldest city.

We want to take you now to CNNs Ed Lavandera who is at Lake Ochechobee this morning, with a look at the damage there. Good morning Ed.

Ed, are you there? OK. We are having a problem getting this shot out of Lake Ochechobee with Ed Lavandera. We'll try to get to that a little bit later on. Obviously with the storm coming through we are having some technical difficulty. But not with CNN's Bill Hemmer. He is on the scene this morning in Melbourne with the latest on the situation there. Boy it is windy.

HEMMER: Yes it is Betty. Indeed you are right about that. Listen, we talked about 20 minutes ago. Let me update you on what we have found out since then. One local hospital reporting 13 people admitted overnight. Mostly for lacerations and chest pains.

They also caution us. They say that number is low because typically in storms, in hurricanes and tropical storms, most people will stay hunkered down inside of their own homes. And wait for the storm to pass before they go out and seek medical treatment. So they gave us the indication those numbers are expected to go up later in the day here once the winds die down.

I don't know if you can see it over my shoulder Betty, the fire department now is out here in Melbourne as well. I was talking to them a short moment ago. They are responding to some sort of water pump that may have blown here, or gone wrong. Also asking them about the number of power lines they have seen in the area. They say they have not been out long. They have not canvassed the entire city.

But they do indicate some lines are down. But they could not sat whether or not that is going to impact the rescue effort throughout the day here. The winds are strong. I mentioned a short time ago that when we woke up this morning at our hotel, three miles inland, that the winds are stronger this morning than they were last night. And that is a fact. Because you can feel it again today.

How long this will last? Who knows? But if you listen to Karl Penhaul's reporting in Freeport, Bahamas, listen Karl was reporting late last night, just about the same thing he was reporting early on Friday morning. The winds had sustained themselves. The rains still came down. And Hurricane Frances big and large just plotting her way first over the Bahamas, and now over the east coast of Florida.

We are under a protective covering here Betty, so you know. But already the aluminum siding on the top of this roof where we are standing is starting to rip off and fly off, and go past us. We are pretty well protected though. We have a good strong wall here and a good roof over top. So we feel pretty good. I'll talk to you again in a couple of minutes Betty.

NGUYEN: All right. CNNs Bill Hemmer in Melbourne, Florida. We'll be checking in with you throughout the morning. We want to go now to Orlando, and meteorologist Orelon Sidney with the conditions there. It looks like the rain is really starting to come down.

SIDNEY: Yes. The rain is coming down, and the winds are starting to pick up. And I think -- I don't know. You'll have to check with Rob and see maybe if the Orlando airport has put out a special statement. But it looks like we may have -- I think, gotten a near hurricane force gust here about three minutes ago. It really came through. The palm prams (ph) on the palm trees were straight horizontal. And the winds were just really whipping around.

It has calmed down quite a bit since that one gust -- again, it was about two minutes ago. But this is what Orlando is going to be going through now for the next several hours. It is not going to get any better folks. It is going to get worse, or stay the same. And then things will be getting better later today. And again, I think it is going to probably be eight to 10 hours before this really starts to improve much.

Hopefully, the storm might speed up a little bit, and we will get out of this. But it is definitely raining now. The winds are definitely gusting. And you don't want to be out in this, I will tell you that for a fact. We kind of in a little area that is a little bit sheltered here. So I'm not getting the worst of it. But some of the rain is pretty much coming down horizontal at this point.

So here comes a pretty good gust now. That one was not to bad. We have seen some that you really have to brace yourself for. And we tried to stay in shelter. But even then we are just getting drenched. Just from really head to toe. And here comes another pretty good one. The winds, the last time I looked, were sustained at about 45 miles an hour.

So that would mean the gusts would probably be up in the 60-mile and hour range. And the last gust I had, I don't have any instruments, obviously. But it seemed to me that there was very close to hurricane force. Betty?

NGUYEN: Now that this rain that has started to come down, do you expect it to stay at this pace, or get stronger? Or do you expect it to kind of come and go?

SIDNEY: Well, it is probably not going to come and go at this point. We are getting into the more solid area of rainfall. Instead of being in the rain bands where you kind of -- rain bands are kind of like mountains and valleys. You get into the mountains, and the rain starts to pummel you. And then you get to the valleys and you kind of in between rain bands. You don't get a lot.

But as you get to the center of the storm, that becomes much, more concentrated and steady. And I think now, we are in steady increase towards more rain and more wind. I am not sure when it is going to peak. But then it will peak. And start to become less and less as we go on through the morning. Betty?

NGUYEN: So folks in Florida or actually in Orlando need to be ready for the rain that has already started in that area. And will last for quite some time. Thank you Orelon. I want to check in now with Rob Marciano who has been tracking Hurricane Frances in the weather center.

She has been talking -- Orelon has been talking about the rain that is coming through. Is this the band of it that is just going to start to get stronger?

MARCIANO: Well, it is one of several bands that will be working their way through. The way they kind of -- they alternate from a band to fairly calm weather, to another band, to fairly calm weather. And as you get closer to the center of these things, the bands of fairly calm weather get a lot smaller. And a lot less frequent until you get right into the center.

Here is where Orelon is. And this is the this is the band that is moving right into her area with heavy rain, and some gusty winds. The most I can see right now, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) peak wind gust out of there was just over 50 miles an hour. So nothing to severe just yet with the center of this thing right here.

All right. Let's roll that in -- let's show you some tornado warnings. Just to the north of the center, from here northward, is that a different source, Craig (ph)? GR-114. All right. There we go. We have a tornado warning out for Marion County, which is where Okala is. And Archer is in the path of this particular tornado. This viper radar has the ability to pick up these circulations.

There is one there. There is -- this one is not officially a tornado warning out the National Hurricane Center. But this one is. And obviously with rainfall from St. Augustine, everything is coming down to the towards the east. So as far north as St. Augustine, we are starting to get these rain bands Betty. So it is getting fairly impressive.

All right. Let's go back to GR-115. And we will get -- show you where the winds and the rain are going. Here is Ft. Pierce. West Palm Beach. West Palm Beach on the southern flank of this thing. And then still the back half has yet to move on shore. WE are looking at a westerly drift at about seven or eight miles an hour. Once we get this on shore, then we will start to see this whole system weaken.

But until that happens, from Ft. Pierce north to Melbourne, up to Cape Canaveral and Titusville, these rain bands will continue to hold their strength with hurricane force gusts. And our reporters on the scenes. And especially in those cities. And actually in West Palm Beach, and Lake Ochechobee, it will be rough weather for the next several hours.

So actually for those watching away from Florida, decent viewing. West wind at eight, category two. This is the wind field. And then I will toss it back to you Betty. Where the reds are is where you are going to see the hurricane force winds. Until it decreases in intensity. And that could happen as soon as 2:00. I would suspect closer to 3:00 to 4:00 this afternoon.

WE will look for it to drop in intensity to a tropical storm as it passes just underneath Orlando. But tropical storm winds extended this thing still, 200 miles from the center. So it still remains to be a very big storm. Still a slow mover. And until we get the back half of that back eye wall in, the rear eye wall, it is not going to weaken.

Once it does though, once we get out on land it will weaken from that point. So we are just waiting for that to happen.

NGUYEN: Yes. It is going to take a little time. All right. Thank you Rob. I want to go now to Lake Ochechobee with Ed Lavandera who is on the scene with the latest on the damage and the rain wind situation. All that is going on with Hurricane Frances as it comes through. Good morning Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning Betty. Well it has been a long night here. Almost nine hours of just being battered by the front edge of this hurricane. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) kind of calmed down. It is the most calm we have had all night. We are on the northern edge of Lake Ochechobee. Of course, we are here because we are about 34, 40 miles inland.

And the story here, we anticipate might be the flooding issue. And all the roads still too dark to kind of venture out onto the roads yet this morning, to kind of determine just how bad it will be. We do know that there is a series of creeks leaking (ph) out that lead into this lake. And there are a lot of residents that make their homes (UNINTELLIGIBLE). That is why we are just afraid (ph) that there might be some problems here.

And the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) expected about six-foot storm surge off of this lake. And expecting 10 to 12 inches of rain, which would lead to some of that severe flooding in the areas around it. Not just on the north edge, but on the southern edge as well. And we have seen it rain here ferociously overnight for as I mentioned, almost nine hours. It has been exhausting.

And also extremely dark. No one out on the roads. Most people were told (ph) to evacuate this area. Although, we have been seeing a lot of people that have taken shelter inside some of the small hotels on the north edge of the lake here. And the number of people who are starting to stir a little bit as the first glimpses of the sun is trying to break through the clouds.

But until that happens, no one will really be venturing outside to kind of get a gauge of what has happened in the front edge of this storm. And of course, while it is calmer for a little while, as Rob had been mentioning, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the back half of the storm, which will bring even more rainwater and that will make it even more difficult. So that it is still not over yet, as everyone around here well knows. Betty?

NGUYEN: Yes. The second half is yet to come. I know it is dark there. But looking around you, have you seen debris on the roadways? Have you seen roofs comes off buildings? What are you looking at?

LAVANDERA: Well, there were a couple things. We were driving around right before it became too dark, and they set (ph) the curfew into play. There was already little trees, or a couple of downed trees. A lot of leaves and branches, and tree limbs along the roadway as well. A few hours ago, there was a light post here in the parking lot of the hotel where we are reporting from that all the sudden just fell over in the middle of the night.

And you couldn't really see it fall over. You just heard it smash against the ground, which is been one of the problems here this evening. That (UNINTELLIGIBLE) debris and you can hear metal flying through the air, and scraping along the ground. But you just can't see it. It is kind of a (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

We do anticipate that there will be probably a good amount of damages is what I am guessing. But that is just kind of a preliminary feel of what has happened, given just how strong and how long the winds and rain have lasted in this storm from the first part of it.

NGUYEN: And have you been able to assess whether there are power outages in that area?

LAVANDERA: Yes. About 10:00 last night, you could see the power just start popping off all over the area. And it has been totally dark ever since. In fact, that was the other eerie part of this storm. IS that as you could see transponders and electrical lines kind of go out, it would send off these blue and green kind of explosions in the dark nighttime sky. And you could just -- it kept happening over and over and over again.

And as every one of those happened, the area just became more and more dark. So you could just -- you could see neighborhoods losing power one-by-one until it was completely dark around 10:00 last night.

NGUYEN: What about emergency calls, and crews responding to those calls, or are those crews simply hunkered down like everyone else?

LAVANDERA: We have seen a couple of them kind of going up and down the roads here in the last couple of hours. It has calmed down a little bit. At the height that we were experiencing, there was no one on the road.

And that was kind of what we heard from a lot of law enforcement and emergency officials, that said -- there was a certain point in these storms that it is just too dangerous for even them to go out. And there was no point in putting more people at risk. So we're experiencing a little bit of a time when they can kind of get out, and get a feel for what is going on.

But once that second half of the storm returns, they will have to hunker back down again as well. And not be able to venture out onto the street if it gets as bad as it did earlier this evening.

NGUYEN: And you can be one of them as well. Ed Lavandera in Lake Ochechobee, Florida this morning. Thank you for that report. Of course, we will be checking back in throughout the morning.

You are watching CNN SUNDAY MORNING. We will have continuing hurricane coverage when we come back.


NGUYEN: That is just one example of the wind and the rain, and the danger that comes along with Hurricane Frances, as you just saw in that video. This is a reporter for affiliate WFL in Orlando. He was doing a live shot in Melbourne when a palm tree almost hit him because of the strong winds there. WE are going to be going back to Melbourne a little bit later in the show to talk with our own Bill Hemmer about the situation there.

But as we have been reporting all morning long, Hurricane Frances has hit it's mark, pounding the Florida peninsula. Here is how it looked to Jay Grey (ph) of affiliate WPTV.


JAY GREY (ph), WPTV CORRESPONDENT, (voice-over): With nightfall, the storm stepped up it's intensity. This mobile home was ripped apart. There were fireworks from Hurricane Frances up and down the coast. Storm transformers and downed power lines left at least 2 million without power. Conditions were so severe, police used armored personnel vehicles to patrol and enforce the curfew.

Though much earlier in the day, many made a last dash to safety; thousands are waiting and watching Hurricane Frances from shelters. Wind gusts close to 100 miles an hour sucked the roofs from homes. Traffic lights hung by a thread. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ripped from their (UNINTELLIGIBLE) were tossed around like toys. All day and all night, Hurricane Frances continued to pound the Florida coast with no clear end in sight.


NGUYEN: And we will see more of that throughout the day no doubt. Extensive damage and at least two deaths. That is what we are hearing from the Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Frances. CNN's Karl Penhaul filed this report from Freeport, which bore the brunt of the big storm.


KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (VOICE-OVER): If Grand Bahama is anything to judge by, then Florida can expect that the tail of Hurricane Frances could be even more vicious than the leading edge. That certainly has been the case here in Freeport, and the rest of Grand Bahama Island.

The first leading edge came through on Friday afternoon. And seemed surprisingly unpowerful compared to what we have seen in the course of Friday. The island has really taken a pounding according to the assistant police commissioner here. At least one man has been found dead, drowned. Another man, and 80-year-old is still listed as missing. His house was completely flattened by these powerful winds. There is no sign of him as of yet. In fact, the winds at one stage were so powerful that the police and other emergency services were all battened down too.

They couldn't go on patrol. They couldn't attend to the tens of, or even hundreds of emergency calls they were receiving from frightened residents as roofs blew off buildings, and residents were forced to scurry and try and seek refuge either on roofs of their houses, on the roofs of other houses, or even with the neighbors.

Police have told us not though, that winds are dying down. That the tail of Hurricane Frances now seems to have passed over the island. And they will begin their full damage assessment tomorrow. But certainly, beyond that one death and one man missing, no other reports as of yet of death and injuries. But we do believe there is widespread damage.

All the power is out on Grand Bahama. The telephone lines are out. The cellular phone lines are out. And the last remaining radio station that was broadcasting here fell silent a short while ago. The power and the satellite signal to that radio station now out also. Karl Penhaul, CNN, Freeport, Grand Bahama.


NGUYEN: Now we do want to tell you, since Karl filed that report, the missing person he reported was found dead.

I want to show you some more work from another one of our CNN affiliates this morning. Heavy rain, wind, and storm surge worked together to take a huge toll. Hurricane Frances is excavating some of Florida's precious beachfront. Chamarie (ph) Stone, a CNN affiliate WFOR shows us what it is like at Ft. Lauderdale Beach.


CHAMARIE STONE (ph), WFOR CORRESPONDENT, (VOICE-OVER): We are here in this open parking lot between the Sunrise Bridge, and the 17th Street causeway on the intercoastal. And these wind gusts are very, very strong. I would say -- see here it comes. There it is. I would say it gets between at times, 50 to 60 miles per hour or more.

You can just see how this just comes through here. If my photographer (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Garcia could just somehow get to some trees, and just show people what I am talking about. The rain here on Ft. Lauderdale Beach is -- it is very, very strong. Now there are boats out here that are tied down, whereas some others are swaying, because they weren't tied down properly.

Take a look. Right now, as you can see, it is a little calmer. And then, three minutes later, it will pick up again. Now there is something that I really want to point out, to let our viewers know. On A1A, between Sunrise, and the 17 Street causeway, there is sand just covering the southbound lanes. And what is happening according to meteorologist Brian Norcross (ph), how he explained it to me earlier in the day, the bands, the feeder bands associated with Hurricane Frances are coming in, pushing that sand from the east to the west. Pushing it against the AIA. And it is coming into the street.

Also, the waves are just some serious beach erosion. It is pulling the sand into the Atlantic Ocean. So much that possibly -- notice I say possibly -- there may not be a beach. The storm surge may come in from Hurricane Frances and just come out. And we could have some potential flooding.


NGUYEN: And you can log onto for up to the minute local weather reports throughout the morning and throughout the day, for that matter. Forecasts, and satellite maps. That is at Also, we have important links to emergency web sites. Plus the special report on hurricanes, including safety tips on what you can do in a hurricane. You will find all of that, and much more at You are watching CNN SUNDAY MORNING. WE will be right back after this short break.


NGUYEN: Now in the news, Hurricane Frances has weakened slightly since making landfall this morning near Ft. Pierce, Florida. But it is still a category two hurricane, with top winds near 100 miles an hour. And is accompanied by flood and tornado warnings.

Hurricane Frances is moving west across the Florida peninsula at eight miles an hour. That is up from six all day yesterday. The hurricane warnings extend from Deerfield Beach in the south to Flaggler Beach in northern Florida.

The death toll has reached 374 from Friday's shoot out between troops and hostage takers in southern Russia. Of those, 338 were hostages, 156 of the hostages were children. Officials say up to 190 people may still be unaccounted for. In a television address, President Vladimir Putin called for a national mobilization against terrorism.

It is another bloody weekend in Iraq. More than 40 Iraqi deaths reported Saturday, including 15 from a suicide car bomb in the northern city of Kirkuk. Another car bomb exploded this morning north of Baghdad as a U.S. patrol was passing. One American soldier was wounded. And U.S. troops are holding three suspects in that bombing.

Former President Bill Clinton is being flooded with messages from people wishing him well on his upcoming heart bypass surgery. Vice President Dick Cheney, who has a history of heart problems also called Clinton in a show of support. He says he told Clinton about having undergone a quadruple bypass some 16 years ago.

Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wife of Senator John Kerry is said to be feeling better this morning, after being admitted to an Iowa hospital late yesterday. Mrs. Kerry complained of an upset stomach while campaigning in Mason City. She underwent a series of tests at a local hospital, then traveled to home near Pittsburgh as planned.


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