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Hurricane Frances: Location Has Changed But Intensity Has Not

Aired September 5, 2004 - 03:00   ET


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: It's just a few seconds before 3:00. Jacqui Jeras, we are expecting an update at 3. I'm wondering if you have the latest on this storm right now.
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, we just got it in actually and the location has changed. The wind has not. The intensity still has not changed with the storm, so still a very powerful Category 2 hurricane. The location now is 13 miles west of Stuart (INAUDIBLE) winds 105. The speed picked up just a hair, west northwest at eight miles per hour.

Let's go back over to the VIPIR now. We want to show you a little bit better idea of where the center of circulation is it this time. It's about 25 miles to the east of Lake Okeechobee about 13 miles to the west of Stuart, made landfall right here at Sewalls Point around 1:00 a.m. and it's right about over I-95 right now. Here's the very edge of Lake Okeechobee here, so we'll start to see this eye move onshore and by the way, along the northern shore, we just got a report of a wind, a gust around 95 miles per hour. So they're really starting to pick up here as this eye wall begins on over Lake Okeechobee.

If we can pan a little bit farther back to the east over toward the coastline, I want to show you where the back side of this storm is. It was trying to move in. It's getting very close, that eye wall is getting close to making landfall here and we do expect to see that move in probably by sunrise and that's when we're going to start to get more of those battering winds moving in like the band right now. It's really the worst spot has been up here towards Fort Pierce.

You can see these reds starting to pop up here, on up to the north. That's where some extremely heavy rainfall is coming down and we're going to start to see some of that flooding begin to kick up a little bit more in that area because of some of the heavy rains. So that's the latest advisory that we have right now, still a category two, 105 miles per hour, maximum sustained wind, about 14 miles west of Stuart or right along I-95 at this hour.

GRIFFIN: Jacqui, I wonder if we can put up that satellite view you had to show just how wide this storm is when we show the whole state of Florida. Do you have that available?

JERAS: I'd have to quit my show (ph) to get that. Can you do that over there Mike? He's going to try and get that up and we'll expand out for you. (INAUDIBLE) on the satellite imagery, some of these bands, the (INAUDIBLE) upper cirrus clouds are extending all the way out to North Carolina. Here we go, take a look at this. So here's the main edge of the storm, but still this is some outflow from it, kind of skirting along Georgia, up into South Carolina. You can see some clouds heading towards the outer banks area, so very large in size. We've been comparing it to about being the size of Texas.

CALLAWAY: (INAUDIBLE) Karl Penhaul report from the Bahamas said it was the back wall of this storm that ended up being the strongest. Do you still see it (ph) that way?

JERAS: Absolutely, it always is.

GRIFFIN: OK, Gary Tuchman is in Fort Pierce bracing for that back wall. Gary, you're going to be the first to feel the brunt of that back wall. You're just on the northern edge of the eye wall.

TUCHMAN: Well, the front wall hasn't been too great either Jerry (ph), so I could tell you that people who are still awake at this time here in the Fort Pierce, northern St. Lucie County area will not be looking forward to that back wall coming in. The rain is still coming down very hard as it has been for hours now. The flooding is continuing to increase. The winds are still very heavy, although not quite as heavy as they were about an hour ago, which is the only good sign I can tell you right now about the weather. But I think people here need to know that they have to be prepared for a lot more of this today, because (INAUDIBLE) instead they're getting the rather rude treatment from the eye wall.

GRIFFIN: Jacqui is talking about sunrise, that would be another four hours.

TUCHMAN: Well, if we could see a sunrise, that would be a great sign, wouldn't it?


TUCHMAN: When you sit in weather like this, it's just hard to believe that you'll ever see the sun again.

CALLAWAY: John Zarrella in West Palm, who also unfortunately for him missed the eye of that storm and the calmness of that eye. John, does it look like wind or the rain have let up for you?

ZARRELLA: Not too much. It's still gusting pretty substantially here. It let up for a few minutes. It has let up a little bit, but as you can see, these shots, that still pretty intense here and that wind, a good idea for Jacqui. She can see it now how it's absolutely blowing right from the south to the north here and the palm trees are bent over and leaning and I walked out a little bit further and you can see that all that water I was telling you about and it is gusting pretty significantly right now.

But several inches of water out here in the middle of the parking lot and into the street there on Flagler Drive off to my left out there behind me and actually we were able to broadcast right now because these winds are substantially less than what they were or I'd say 15, 20 even 30 minutes ago. For the last couple of hours, two and a half hours, it's been absolutely brutal out here with those winds gusting well above hurricane force. And it still comes and goes in squalls and you see the arcing of many of those electrical transformers blowing and the power lines. Now it's just pretty much pitch black. There's nothing out here all around us. We haven't even seen transformers blowing anymore. They pretty much are all gone. There probably aren't very many left to blow.

It's still, as I say, it comes and goes, the sheets of rain and the sheets of wind, just literally blowing the water almost into little waves here in the parking lot. It comes down so hard at times. And you can still see that we're getting a lot of rain. It's let up periodically and it will just mist for a few minutes and then it starts coming down again as it is now, just coming down in sheets of blowing rain.

It just whips off the top of the buildings and through the breezeways and up into those trees back there and you can probably get a good idea from this wider view that we were giving you now of how that wind is just - there was an arc that you probably couldn't see it of another transformer off in the distance up to my east (ph). Stay with us just a couple of seconds and it picks up again and you can see when that winds starts to pick up again. But again this is significantly less here in South Beach (ph) and as soon as I say it, it picks up, doesn't it and it was 15, 20, 30, 30 minutes ago. But now we're getting one of those squalls really moving through here.

CALLAWAY: John, are you seeing any structure damage to any of the buildings near you or is it just too dark out there to see?

ZARRELLA: It's just so dark out here. I have absolutely no idea if - there certainly isn't any at the building that we're at. I'm sure though with those winds gusting up to 100 miles an hour at some point here in the Palm Beaches that there's going to be some degree of structure damage in some places, but just absolutely impossible to make out anything.

As soon as you turn off those lights, it is pitch black. You barely can make out the palm trees behind me now and our viewers can see pretty clearly now in this shot. You can see the gusts of wind really picking up right now out here. The thing about it is that it makes it somewhat dangerous. All I can see is the light in my face and if something is blowing in my direction. I can't see it at all out here between the blinding rain and the lights that are lighting up this area behind me.

So it, we're pretty safe behind this building. Again it's a concrete block condominium structure here so that's fairly safe and again, even for as much as we've gone through, you know, look. The trees are still standing. The palm trees are still standing. There are a few smaller trees that have come over here. You can see some of these kinds of trees that have absolutely fallen, a big limb from this tree has come down, a few others like that around and again, a lot of water, just a lot of water and the rain just keeps on coming.

GRIFFIN: John, we want to stand by as best you can. I wonder if we can throw up the satellite in full screen so we can see where John is. He's down on the bottom edge of this storm in West Palm Beach. Up to the north in Melbourne is where Anderson Cooper has been posted, Fort Pierce, past there, right there and Anderson, you were at last we checked, bracing for what could the worst. Chad Myers, who is with you, said it was going to occur about 4:00 in the morning for you. It's 3:08 right now.

COOPER: Yes, it is gusting pretty badly and definitely the winds have been picking up. We're still not seeing that rain. Gary Tuchman is down in Fort Pierce and has been seeing torrential rain now for hours. We're still seeing sort of this fine mist. Frankly, when we were getting harder rain a couple hours ago, right now it is definitely - it is wet. Everybody is wet, but we're not seeing a torrential rain. We're still anticipating that perhaps around the 4:00, 4:00 a.m. time.

We got a little bit of good news though from Chad Myers. Chad actually drove back to the hotel, which is a couple miles from here, going to try to get about a couple hours sleep because he's been up a long, long time. But he said on the drive back, A, he was able to make the drive which he had had some doubts about so that's certainly some good news. He actually saw very little damage around the buildings. He only saw the buildings on the road he was driving, but didn't see extensive structural damage, which is certainly good news for the residents here in Melbourne. Yes, I saw some downed power lines, downed trees and the like but really nothing as bad as he had anticipated. It's surprising that he also saw electricity in some venues. The hotel where he's staying does not have electricity, but a lot of the buildings he saw do have electricity and that is certainly surprising and good news here. That makes the clean up that much easier when it begins sometime late tomorrow.

CALLAWAY: I wonder if he has electricity or if that particular hotel has a generator.

COOPER: The hotel itself has no electricity. He's out of luck there, but on his ride to the hotel he saw some, actually some street lights were on, some red lights turning to green were on, some buildings, some malls had electricity, had lights still on, but certainly unexpected. We've been seeing transformers exploding every half hour or so, lighting up the night sky. We anticipated basically that all the electricity would be off by now. We know some two million people or so in Florida right now are without electricity but here in Melbourne, for some people at least, at least parts of Melbourne seem to still have power and that is good news.

GRIFFIN: Yes, we don't want to jump the gun but that certainly is good news based on what Gary Tuchman was telling us from Fort Pierce. Things were looking quite dire there. We hope that maybe if there is extensive damage, that it's limited to a certain area.

CALLAWAY: Let's pop back with John Zarrella for a second. John, you say there is no sign of electricity anywhere where you are.

ZARRELLA: No, there really isn't. It's pitch black in every direction now, even across Palm Beach which is just across the intercoastal. I can't see a single light out there now, maybe one or two from somebody that may have a generator running, but absolutely no power on in any direction that I can see here, just pitch black all around and go ahead.

CALLAWAY: I was just going to say John, we said many times, you have covered so many of these and we hate to keep harping on electricity, but the utilities are going to be a major problem over the next few days.

ZARRELLA: Yes, it crossed my mind that it was such a remarkable feat that the utility companies, Florida Power & Light, were able to do over on the west coast after Charley. They had power back onto homes that could accept power. Not a lot of them were destroyed, but those that could accept power within seven, eight days was a phenomenal feat with all the tremendous resources that they brought in to help from other states. But I'm just wondering with, if the breadth of the power outages from this storm won't ultimately be much greater than Charley because it's going to cover so much more of a wide swath of the state of Florida than Charley did that the work of restoring power may be a greater challenge for Florida Power & Light, the other utilities, than it was during Charley, just simply because of the magnitude of the range of damage that the power grid's going to suffer.

CALLAWAY: And the drinking water is going to be a major problem too, not only because of the power but because of the flooding.

ZARRELLA: Oh, absolutely and with the power out in so many areas too, you know, you can't pump gasoline if you don't have power, so people are going to be traveling long distances perhaps until some of that power is restored, to be able to get gasoline, to get fuel so it's going to be a difficult time, even though the storm was quote, only a category two when it make landfall. But you could have fooled us here during the last couple of hours because it's been pretty potent, pretty potent.

CALLAWAY: And trying to get 2.8 million people back into their homes is no easy task.

ZARRELLA: As you were saying - what's that?

GRIFFIN: Go ahead John.

ZARRELLA: I was just going to say and as I know you folks were saying the fact that there's still going to be a lot of power lines down, people aren't going to be able to go back to some of those seaside, beach side communities right away. They may not be able to get back to their homes after the storm passes through, at least not initially so there's going to still be some more frustration added on top of the misery that everybody here has been enduring.

CALLAWAY: Well, Governor Jeb Bush and Mike Brown, the director of FEMA said this is going to be a response that's going to be massive as they say. They had been planning for days how to handle the aftermath. We will wait and see just how that goes and hopefully all will be on the way there to help Florida in whatever way it needs once the sun comes up and Frances passes, but right now, Frances far from passing anywhere. Gary Tuchman may be in the worst spot of all, Fort Pierce seeing extensive damage there. Gary. TUCHMAN: Well, Jerry, I hate to always make pop culture metaphors, but they seem appropriate and you drive down the street here, it feels like an episode of "The Twilight Zone" where everyone is just (INAUDIBLE) The streets are just completely abandoned, not just abandoned of life, but abandoned of light. Light and life are gone. There are things in the streets, debris. There are signs in the streets.

There are railroad crossings, gates (ph) in the streets and it's an obstacle course as you drive around, not that anyone should drive around for recreation, but we were driving for two reasons, one a journalist to see what has happened and two, to go from where we were doing our live reports all day back to the motel where we're staying and it is just a scene, although I've seen it in other hurricanes in smaller areas, I haven't see it in such a large extended area. We drove for miles and you just keep seeing the same thing over and over again, that all the signs down.

Normally, for example, hurricane Charley. John Zarrella and Anderson Cooper, different stories, tell about where they were for hurricane Charley. We started off at Cedar Key, which is in the north side of the west coast, the north side of the hurricane warning zone. When we realized that the hurricane was hitting farther south, we ended up crossing the state going to Daytona Beach. Daytona is where Charley ending up exiting the state with 100 mile per hour winds. But it was very quick. It was about a two hour span and we (INAUDIBLE) 100 mile per hour winds, but the damage, although it was, there's damage from one end of the state to the other, it was still semi-limited to the Daytona Beach area. But here, you just drive and there's nowhere you go where you don't see damage. And as I said before though and this is the real important point, we don't know if there's any catastrophic damage yet. We certainly hope there isn't. Emergency officials that we talked to here in St. Lucie County say they don't know if there is but they would have no way of knowing because they are not going out right now. They are staying home to protect themselves. They are staying at the police stations to protect themselves and they're staying with their families. So we won't know until the sun comes up how catastrophic the damage is and if indeed we have any casualties.

CALLAWAY: And you know we're talking Gary as if this storm is over. The worst is still to come for many areas.

TUCHMAN: It's just so hard to believe and I know that meteorologically correct, that the worst is still to come, but after going through this (INAUDIBLE) I just can't imagine, well, I certainly can, I guess I can imagine, if this was category four with 145 mile per hour winds this long, I don't know what would be happening right now.

CALLAWAY: Have you been able to get back into your hotel room yet?

TUCHMAN: Haven't bothered to even look. I don't even want to look yet. I'd rather talk with you about the hurricane and about what's going on and reporting back to you and we'll find out soon enough what the room looks like. We do know, we have been told, my producer Carlos Flores (ph) has informed me that he's been told by the manager at this particular motel that a number of the windows in the rooms have been smashed and when the windows are smashed I think the water gets in and floods them. So we just don't know if we've won the water lottery yet.

CALLAWAY: Quite frankly Gary, we should have been watching the demise of this storm. Once they cross onto land, they weaken and fall apart, break apart, the eye. But the winds are remaining constant, 105 and Jacqui Jeras says that really, it's not weakening at all.

TUCHMAN: Right. Give it more of a chance to go further inland. I mean I guess from what Jacqui was saying that the center of the storm is just 13 miles west of Stuart, which is in Martin County, so it's not that far inland yet, so maybe in a little while we'll hear the good news that it's decreased a bit. I just want to point out one of the ironies here. I've been saying, one of the things I've been saying all day is that St. Lucie County, where I am right now, hasn't been directly at the center of a hurricane, hasn't crossed the county line in St. Lucie County since 1939.

That's the last time and the irony here is while Fort Pierce in St. Lucie County are perhaps to be the most affected by this, officially in the meteorological record books, it will show that this hurricane center crossed Sewalls Point and Sewalls Point happens to be in Martin County, which may be one mile as the crow flies from the St. Lucie County line. So the record books will show that still a hurricane, the center of a hurricane, hasn't crossed in St. Lucie County, although they're getting much more affected than where the eye is going right now.

CALLAWAY: There are thousands of people who would love to add a footnote to that ... experiencing the last 24 hours.

GRIFFIN: Don't tell that to the people in St. Lucie. Are we going to Anderson Cooper? Is that where we're heading? Anderson Cooper, come on in. You are...

COOPER: I was going to say that, yes, in Melbourne, Gary Tuchman had predicted we were going to be getting more rain here, kind of the rains he's been getting for the last couple of hours. Just within the last two or three minutes, the rains have increased significantly and the wind is really picking up. The rain just moving directly horizontally, just whipping across when it hits your skin really feels like pin pricks. We're in a pretty secluded, pretty safe area here, got a wall on this side and a wall on this side so we are out of that storm. But it is just whipping incredibly fast. It's maybe some of the rougher wind that we've seen in the last four or five hours and that is about what the meteorologist had been telling us. Chad Myers predicting that around 4:00 a.m. here in Melbourne, we would be seeing the worst of the storm, the worst we were actually going to get hit. It's still about half an hour or more away, but it is getting pretty bad here and unfortunately we think it's just going to get worse.

CALLAWAY: Yes, let's bring in Jacqui Jeras and Jacqui, Anderson is saying, you guys were right on with where this storm was going to hit and when it was going to be the strongest.

JERAS: Yes, the stronger bands are pushing into Melbourne, probably, maybe another hour from now. It's still down to the south you can see where Gary is in the Fort Pierce and really getting the brunt of it right now and we haven't talked a lot recently about the flooding. So we want to really hit that whole (ph) because as we start to get this back side in, that's when we're going to start see some of the heaviest rainfall totals.

Now this is Doppler radar estimated rainfall totals over the last 24 hours and you can see well offshore, those heavier bands is where the heaviest amounts have been. This is show nine inches, but we've seen some estimates a little closer to nine to 12 within this swath. So far, as we head over towards land areas, about two inches in Melbourne. We've got about four inches into Fort Pierce now, about three inches around Sewalls Point and then two as you head down towards West Palm Beach. I think at least 2 1/2 for sure has fallen over West Palm Beach if not more.

We want to show you how much more you can expect on top of that. We'll take a look at the VIPIR cad (ph) and put this into motion for you and you can see just all that red blossoming and moving across that area and that is somewhere upwards of 15 to 20 inches of rainfall between now and early in the day on your Monday, on your Labor Day. So those rainfall numbers are going to be continuing to increase think as the second swath moves on through and even up towards Daytona Beach, take a look at that, potentially up to 20 inches of rainfall.

Now light (ph) flood across the state of Florida. We could easy see on the range of eight to 12 inches become quite common and then we'll see some of those isolated areas that really get stuck in some of these heavier rain bands that are going to be seeing that 20, maybe even 20 plus inches of rainfall. But a lot of people in the state, we haven't seen a lot of rain yet or at least rain accumulating. That is coming, that is very shortly as the back side of the storm begins to move onshore.

CALLAWAY: Jacqui, I just don't remember a storm with this kind of widespread rainfall. This is amazing.

JERAS: Well, right, because it's moving so slowly and because it also covers such a large area and unbelievable how long it's taking to get this eye across, though still on the back side, not on shore yet. We're talking maybe sunrise before that happens.

CALLAWAY: And that would be 7:00 a.m., several hours from now.

GRIFFIN: We're doing laps (ph) on this anchor desk. That tells you how long this storm is moving through. We're going to have live reports Jacqui from Orlando. That's a new one we're adding when we come back. Also Lake Okeechobee and West Palm Beach. Stay with us. CNN's coverage of hurricane Frances continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SYDNEY: ... fast around the pole and it would wrap itself around and then someone else would swing it back the other way and of course it gets slower and slower the long the cord gets and if you think about that cord as the radius of the storm and we've got a storm at least yesterday I heard that the eye of it was 70 miles wide, which if that's the case that means the radius is 35 miles. That's just huge, so what surprises me is that it was able to maintain 105 miles an hour with a center that large. Once the rest of this storm gets onshore, it's going to weaken, but I have a feeling it's going to be slow to do it and again, the main thing isn't going to be the winds as it moves on inland, it's going to be the rain.

CALLAWAY: Do you agree with that Jacqui?

JERAS: The eye is just a little bit by the way, so that's part of the reason maybe why the intensity has come up a little bit. It was 70-75 miles earlier but in the last six hours, I think it's down to about 52 miles across. So we've seen that close in just a little bit.

CALLAWAY: Well, we know that Lake Okeechobee is one area that's feeling the brunt of the storm and Ed Lavandera is there and has been all night. Ed, what's the situation?

GRIFFIN: Apparently we have lost Ed's audio. He is on the northern edge of Lake Okeechobee which is expecting to - but the eye actually passing very near him sometime in the next few hours or so. So we hope to reconnect with him. Jacqui Jeras, are you still there?

JERAS: Yes, the latest that I have from Lake Okeechobee, the 3:00 advisory at the top of the hour, a statement on there that there was some wind gusts reported about 95 miles per hour on the north shore and as that eye moves on over Lake Okeechobee, the center of it at the top of the hour also was about 25 miles off to the east of there. So that center is homing in on Lake Okeechobee. You want to be concerned about that storm surge coming up now, especially on the northern shores into this area, it may be as high as six feet so we're not seeing a lot of the heavy rains at this hour over the lake, just some lighter areas across central parts so you can see, here's the core of the storm and these are, this is where the real strong winds are going to be a little bit farther on up to the north at this hour.

CALLAWAY: Let's go back to Orelon Sydney who's in Orlando. How has that city prepared for this storm Orelon? I know the parks have closed there. Have people evacuated? What's the situation?

SYDNEY: I'm not sure about evacuations. I can't really speak to that, but I can tell you that just about every restaurant that we've seen since about 4:00 yesterday has pretty much been shut down. I think most workers are probably going to stay home. I think a lot of employers are concerned about their workers trying to get to and from work on the roadways.

In winds gusting 35, maybe 40 miles an hour you really don't want to be driving a car, especially not an SUV or something like that. So I think a lot of places have battened down the hatches to protect their employees and also to keep people off the roads, because even though this isn't the category four storm (INAUDIBLE), you just don't want a whole bunch of people on the roadways with driving rain and wind. So most places here are closed. Gas stations, I think, just about all the gas stations, at least in this part where we're close to Kissimmee are closed.

The hotel that we're staying in, I know that they've been kind of feeding us all in one big room because they're maybe having some difficulty getting the regular service going, so I think a lot of places are letting their employees stay home. I think a lot of people are staying home and - oh, here's a pretty good wind gust. I bet that one was about 35 miles an hour, but you know, you just don't want to be, you just don't want to be out and I've kind of scouted my area a little bit here, looking for anything lose that might smack me up side of the head while I'm standing out here. But you don't want to be walking around out here either, because lose debris, even small things that get picked up in 25, 30 mile an hour winds can be very dangerous. So I think most folks are heeding that. They're staying home. They're going to just ride this one out.

GRIFFIN: Let's bring in John Zarrella in West Palm Beach, Florida, checking the conditions there John.

ZARRELLA: That's - I'm pretty much numb, let's put it that way. The only way I can explain the way I feel personally and you can see it's just been relentless and nonstop. And I know, you were talking a lot about Lake Okeechobee and as I recall from reading about these, it's the 1928 hurricane, the great Lake Okeechobee hurricane which tragically killed about 1800 people and the waters spilled out of the lake and terrible flooding.

And when you think about why these storms may not die down so quickly, one of the things they were saying about the Okeechobee hurricane of '28 was, because it went right over the lake, it actually sucked a lot of the water, its strength kept it alive going over Lake Okeechobee because it is such a shallow body of water, only maybe 20, 25 feet deep if that in some places. And it's an interesting phenomenon that you know, the lake water actually helped to keep that hurricane generated. Of course it was a category four, much more a powerful hurricane than this it.

But as far as what we've been going through, it's a broken record. It's the same thing hour after hour after hour, with this driving rain, the stinging rain and the wind and the gusts and you can just see it swirling around here in every direction and for the most part, though still, going from the south to the north right now, but still swirling around and now it's really coming down hard again. I suspect we're probably pretty much on that back side of the storm by now.

CALLAWAY: Jacqui, are you still there? All right. We'll check back in with her in a minute. She'll give us an update on the eye of that storm.

GRIFFIN: But it did look like it was getting at least, getting the back side of the storm. I wish it was the complete back side of the storm (INAUDIBLE). Where are we going now? Shall we try to bring in Ed Lavandera?

CALLAWAY: As we just heard, John Zarrella saying the tragic story from Lake Okeechobee many years ago, with the storm actually picking up strength as it moved over Lake Okeechobee. What have you witnessed over the last hour or so?

LAVANDERA: I think it's starting to rain a lot harder and we have the sustained winds that we get, I don't know exactly how we (INAUDIBLE) we're kind of barricaded in here behind the wall to protect ourselves. It's just too dark to be able to start out (ph) in where to get a real sense of just how strongly these winds are. You hear debris flying everywhere. You just can't see it. A little while ago, we know that about 100 yards away from where I'm standing, a light pole just fell over, smashing onto the ground.

So there's definitely not anything where I really want to test out exactly how powerful these winds are. But everyone once in a while, we've gotten the winds to get up to a pretty good speed, but every once in a while, another wave comes through and just kicks it up a couple of notches more and that's when it gets a little more frightening. You can actually hear the wind kind of rolling off the rooftops here. You almost get the sensation that parts of the roofs are, the parts of the roof that we're standing next you are about to come flying off. So it's a rather harrowing thing.

You know a few hours ago, you'd see a couple of patrol cars driving up and down the road sporadically, but that has pretty much stopped as this rain is continuing to come down. When you shine the lights out in the darkness, it's hard to really make out with the camera here, but the sheets of rain are just blowing right past us and it's just intense and I can imagine that there's going to be a lot of areas that are going to be completely under water once the sun comes up here, we can get a sense.

Directly behind me is Lake Okeechobee. There's a levy there that the water would have to, the lake could have rise up above this and spill out into the - over it to start causing major, major flooding but we know in the areas around this, there are a lot of trailer homes and trailer parks and that sort of thing and there's just a system of levies and creeks that are surround - that kind of feed into the lake as well and we imagine that those are the areas that officials around here are most concerned about.

They were told to expect about 10 to 12 inches of rain. We haven't been able to contact them to kind of get a sense of exactly what's been falling on the ground here, but for the last five hours, it has been intense. I heard a report on the radio just a little while ago, that the eye of the storm was supposed to be approaching us and it could come fast enough quite honestly as I think the people here could take a little break from the intensity of the storm that we've experienced over the last couple of hours. Back to you guys.

GRIFFIN: We are looking at the Doppler radar now and you are indeed about to receive the eye, but before that, there are some incredible bands of showers coming in from your north. You're at the northern tip of Lake Okeechobee. Is that right? LAVANDERA: I think what I'm feeling. I think that's what we're feeling too. You know, the winds were, as I was mentioning, were - have picked up quite a bit, but every once in a while, you get that wave of wind that's even stronger than what it had been before and that's when you really start hearing that howling sound and in the darkness like this it's strange, but it's a very unsettling experience.

GRIFFIN: And describe for us again the area around there. You talk about trailer parks. Is it similar to Punta Gorda?

LAVANDERA: A little bit like that. I think - I don't think the concentration of them was as intense as on the west coast of the Florida peninsula, but you know, we did a little bit of driving as we pulled into town this afternoon right before it got dark and you do see a good number of them. I just don't think it's the vast amount that you saw on the west coast during hurricane Charley. But there's also this - remember, we're on the north side. There's also the south side of this lake that is going to have a lot of problems there. I wasn't able to make it to that south edge here before the storm started blowing in. So that's going to be another area of major concern because there's just as much rain falling on that edge of the lake as there is here.

GRIFFIN: Ed, we've been waiting for a day and a half for a reporter to be actually in the eye so stand by. If you're in the eye, jump back in. But we are going to move on right now.

CALLAWAY: Let's go to Anderson Cooper who says he's never been wetter and it looks like he's going to continue to get wet as he (INAUDIBLE) and looks like you're in for another few hours of it Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, that's certainly true. We've been dreaming about that eye but no luck in sight. We are not going to be seeing it. In fact it seems like, I might be wrong about this, but it seems like the winds are shifting a little actually starting to hit us a little bit more directly. We've been in this sort of protected spot for the last two hours or so but the winds seem to be shifting slight. There is definitely a lot of wind. The storm only seems to be increasing, at least in this area.

We're seeing a lot more rain than we've been seeing over the last couple hours and it is just this wind, this pounding, relentless wind that, I mean I fell like I can't even remember a time when I wasn't in this storm. It just keeps on going. We've been covering this since about 3:00 this afternoon. With every hour, it seems to be building and it still seems to be building at this, no let up in sight. And you see the darnedest things flying by. I was talking to my cameraman.

He was telling me that a Budweiser beer sign literally fly by. He actually picked it up, put it in his car as a souvenir and we're just seeing these roofing material, aluminum roofing material, which is just getting ripped off the buildings and that is flying through the air. In the location I was in before a couple hours ago, I was standing underneath a roof much like this roof here and it actually started to whip apart and come out as we were there. That's why we moved to this location now. But the storm seems to be at least here in Melbourne, seems to be intensifying. There is no let up (INAUDIBLE) anticipated. It will be like this for a good couple of hours more.

GRIFFIN: Anderson, tell us the direction of the wind. It seems from the radar that if there was a shift, the storm should now be coming from the south to the north. Does that make sense?

COOPER: That does. I mean north is this way, so what we're feeling is the wind coming up this way from the south, so that does make sense. I don't know that for a fact but it certainly feels that way. It could be a trick of the way our building is located. But it definitely feels like the wind is just beginning to shift and we had been anticipating that. We've been told that could happen. We weren't sure what (INAUDIBLE) might happen so if that is indeed what is happening, we may need to find another location because now the fear is that debris is going to start whipping up this way.

CALLAWAY: Anderson, with the electricity out, it's very difficult for viewers at home to get an idea of exactly where you are. Can you explain to us? Are you near a hotel? It looks like there's some kind of embankment behind you.

COOPER: Yes, I wish I was near a hotel. We're actually in the marina in Melbourne on the intercoastal waterway. There's also - there's a bridge to our south which goes over to Melbourne beach which is the barrier island. We left there because the winds were simply too hard early this morning. We've been here in the marina really all day. From what I can see, the last I saw, looked like most of the boats were OK. I mean, we've been watching the boats rocking violently all day long. A lot of them, the owners really prepared them, the people who own this marina, really battened down the hatches. So it looks like most of the boats are OK. I know where Gary Tuchman was, some of the boats had just, he had to in fact leave the marina because some of the boats had come up on the land. We have not seen that here at the marina in Melbourne. That is certain some good news. But the water is just - it's remarkable. It's the intercoastal waterway, but it looks like the Atlantic Ocean. I mean there are white caps and the wind is just chopping the water on top of those (INAUDIBLE), it's a remarkable sight.

GRIFFIN: Well as a way of tracking this storm, if the wind has changed, you are getting the beginning of the back side which is the strong side, according to our staff in the meteorology department. So if you do need to move Anderson, please tell us and of course you can get out of there. In fact Rob Marciano has now joined us from, in the weather center as we switch gears and bring in some fresh troops, although Rob was on it just a little while ago.

CALLAWAY: (INAUDIBLE) Rob. I heard you went home.

GRIFFIN: If you can get a couple hours sleep, you'll take it.

CALLAWAY: We want to thank Jacqui Jeras too who was just phenomenal today. Glad to have you with us Rob. MARCIANO: You know, it's hard to get reports out of these areas and I suppose the electricity is sporadic and not all these reporting stations coming in in a timely fashion, but we just got a report of wind gusts. What direction was that at Melbourne?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Melbourne, it was northeast.

MARCIANO: Yes, northeast OK so they are - there's the center of the storm. Melbourne is up here and so the eye is going to miss Melbourne but certainly the eye wall, the outer skirts of the eye wall is now spinning in some (INAUDIBLE) towards that area. Yes, this is definitely the strong part of the storm, typically the right hand quadrant, more so with fast moving storms when we got some that's moving over 10 or 15 miles an hour, then it really matters which side of the storm you are.

You got one that's just drifting and one that's fairly symmetrical like this one is, then you're talking about fairly even winds around the center of this thing. So there is Fort Pierce and you go down towards West Palm Beach and that's pretty much where it came on shore, so that is where the eye is and there's Okeechobee, the northern tip of the lake itself, so the center of the eye about 20 miles just to the east of that, Melbourne a spot that's going to see rough water really for the next several hours. They're not going to get a piece of this eye, guys, so they won't get any sort of lull I don't think until the entire thing has moved off towards the west and that will take roughly the next half a day so.

CALLAWAY: Anderson, any ideas of moving anytime soon?

COOPER: No, I think we're OK for now. I mean we're definitely out in a little bit more rain but just as I was listening to Rob talk, the wind here just picked up even more just hit that tree behind me. The tree was almost flat, all the palm fronds. It's just - it's just getting worse and worse. I'm not sure what more I can see and I'm sorry to hear from Rob that's it's going to go on now for a couple more hours. Rob, when do you anticipate the worst of it being here? I don't know if you can tell back on the thing, based on the radar you're looking at.

MARCIANO: Well, this thing, west northwesterly movement. You shouldn't see a decrease in intensity - you shouldn't see the conditions go that much farther down really, though I think they'll stay steady probably for the next several hours. They may pick up a little bit, but because you're so far away from the core of this thing, Anderson, you maybe OK. But it's not going to get any better I can tell you that, at least for the next five to six hours. You're going to feel the way you're feeling and you'll feel different squalls come through and the winds will remain where they're at, maybe bump up a little bit, but certainly not go down. You're not going to get into the lull of that eye. You're going to be in pretty bad conditions for the next several hours.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, I've been tempted to go out, kind of walked about 20 feet down and to show you guys how strong the wind is here, but frankly people are far smarter than I have advised me not to do that. There are things just being carried along by the wind, a lot of material we've been talking about all night long and it is still just hitting here and some people who are much smarter than I have advised me not to get hit by it. So I'm probably not going to do that, but I wish you could see just how strong the winds are here. It's a remarkable sight.

GRIFFIN: Anderson, we pretty much get the picture. I think we'll be all right with that. Hey guys, we have e-mail questions from our viewers. Why don't I give you this one, Anderson, to see if you know anything about this. After the storm, how much will the beach area and surrounding structures be affected by all the erosion caused by the storm surge? This is from James in Michigan. Have you talked to any of the officials about what they're expecting in terms of beach erosion?

COOPER: I haven't heard directly from them yet. We were out at the barrier island yesterday and with a crew out there early this morning. The beach has eroded significantly, eroded just yesterday, I mean from when we first got there until the time we left. A lot of the beach had already been eaten up. I don't know if that is permanent. I don't know if that sand's exactly been washed away or it was (INAUDIBLE) the tide, the water rising, the tide coming in a lot. I think like will be clearer in about two or three hours at first light when we're actually able to go out and see what kind of damage the ocean has done.

CALLAWAY: And so many of these cities along that coastal area have spent millions of dollars rebuilding that area, the beach area. It will be interesting to see what is left after Frances moves through. Well, let me ask you a question. A couple of e-mail we have received tonight are asking questions about storms that are behind Frances and is there anything else that we need to be looking for, looking at?

MARCIANO: We just have to look at Frances right now, but it's a good question. We're actually not at peak of hurricane season. We've ramped it up and by the time the second week of September rolls around, that's when we really see the intensity rise. But two weeks before September, which we're in or two weeks before the middle of September and pretty much the entire month of September is the high time.

So you'll often see more than one storm in the Atlantic basin and we certainly have seen that the past three weeks with Charley and now we're all the way up into the F storm. We've already had our G and H storm as well in between there and to answer the viewers question, we do have an Ivan and Ivan's way out there in the Atlantic Ocean. That is forecast to become a hurricane, although that is days if not over a week away from any threat to U.S. landfall.

CALLAWAY: As far as Frances is moving, let's just hope she's out of there by the time Ivan moves in.

MARCIANO: We'll we're encouraged (INAUDIBLE) by seeing the movement picked up. I mean when I left last night at 10:00, it wasn't really moving at all. It was just drifting to the west northwest. At least now we have some sort of movement west northwest at seven or eight miles an hour. So I know it may seem like it's crawling, but we've been watching it for a couple days now and we'll take anything that's closer to 10 miles an hour in movement as opposed to just sitting there and drifting.

I'll point out one other thing, because we've been getting great reports from Anderson here. This edge here, this back edge of the storm is about to spiral in a good chunk of weather for Melbourne. And I said this again, he's not going to be out of it any time too soon, probably six to 10 hours of what is seeing, he'll continue to see until the eye does one of two things, passes to the south and west or just gets far enough inland to where it weakens and then all the wind, the entire wind field will begin to weaken.

Then he'll start to see slightly better weather than that because he's not going to see the eye wall over him and because he's in a part of the storm which has hurricane force winds up to about 70 miles so he's going to feel the touch of that thing at least for the next six hours, certainly through daylight so we'll be getting good live reports from him including video with daylight here in about two hours.

CALLAWAY: Rob, Rob, just real quickly, it's moving seven to eight miles per hour. Which way? It seems to be moving - can't really make out which direction it's moving.

MARCIANO: OK, well, we've got the spin. This is time lapsed imagery, meaning we take, we take probably the last 30 minutes of radar - how many - the last hour of imagery and just like a cartoon, we throw them together and then make it look like it's moving when it's actually not moving quite this fast. It's moving in this direction though, Drew, so west northwest. There is the northern tip of Lake Okeechobee. We're about - the center of this thing is about 25 miles to the east of Okeechobee itself and it's moving in this direction at a west northwesterly movement and it's expected to continue to do that, across the Florida peninsula past just south of Orlando and then reemerge in the Gulf of Mexico. But that's not going to happen until late tonight or early tomorrow.

CALLAWAY: This is a very wide storm and just to let our viewers know how well we were covering it, so we have Anderson Cooper in Melbourne, John Zarrella in West Palm, Gary Tuchman in Fort Pierce and Ed Lavandera, Lake Okeechobee.

GRIFFIN: Not to mention our affiliates.

CALLAWAY: Yes, that's right.

GRIFFIN: ... just about everywhere.

CALLAWAY: And Orelon Sydney in Orlando, who we will hear from when we come back. So stay with us.



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