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Frances Winds Down to 65 MPH

Aired September 5, 2004 - 20:00   ET


I'm Carol Lin at CNN's headquarters in Atlanta. We have reporters covering all fronts of Tropical Storm Frances, including Anderson Cooper in Melbourne, who's going to join us again throughout the hour. But right now, first to you Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, as you said, a lot of people without electricity right now. Darkness is falling in this mobile home community in Barefoot Bay (ph) which is about 30 miles or south of Melbourne. And there is just no power here. The few residents who have actually come back to their homes, and they're going to have a very tough night, just because there's just no electricity, no lights at all, not even street lights. It is about to get very, very dark here. We've actually lit up some house which has sustained some minor damage really, it kind of probably looks worse than it is. It's just the front porch which has fallen down. And you see this kind of debris all around. But as darkness comes, one of the fears is, you know, you have this debris still whipping around, the aluminum sheets from roofing, from aluminum siding. And some people are figuring that's still going to knock in to their homes, still cause some damage. So you still have the potential for, you know, you can hear it. I don't know if that comes across on the camera, but you can still hear it.

And then it starts to rain again. Right now, literally right now the rain is starting, and we've been seeing this all day. The rain torrential at times, then it will stop. Almost looks like the sun is about to come out. We actually saw a little bit of blue sky but we have not - it looks like it's just going to start raining again. It's going to be a pretty miserable night. Jacqui Jeras is standing by.

Jacqui, let's try to get some sense of the weather for this area, and really where the storm is now, Jackie.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. We're going to give you the update, first, Anderson, because some important information just coming across now with the 8:00 advisory and that's that Frances has weakened further. It's still a tropical storm, but the winds are down a bit. Kind of 65 miles per hour. It's also stalled out just a little bit more. It's still moving at an OK rate, at 8 miles per hour, but we were up to 10 last go around. So certainly, don't want to see that sign of it slowing down, because the more it slows down, the more flooding problems you're going to have right where Anderson is and where everybody is.

I want to show you our VIPIR Doppler radar now, and show you where some of these rain bands are across the state of Florida, going over to the VIPIR. There you can see, how the center of circulation right now is just on the east northeast side here of the Tampa Bay area. You can kind of see that little swirl right there, and it's just really been hovering around Tampa, over the last three hours or so.

If we could zoom in towards the Orlando area, this is also an area of concern at this hour. You can see some of these heavier bands are starting to push up in to Orlando. You can expect to see some good gusts of winds, as this moves through. And also, some very heavy downpours maybe half an inch to an inch per hour. We'll take you a little bit closer over Anderson up there in Melbourne, can we go down towards Melbourne, and show you what's going on in your neck of the woods. You're also kind of here in the line of fire. Your showers and thunderstorms are coming in from the south. So you see a little bit of activity. Right now, you have maybe a little bit of break, but coming right along I-95 right there, we'll watch for another burst for you, so those winds are going to be picking up and you're going to see some more downpours.

I want to go back and show you the forecast track of what you can expect. Even though this has weekend, it's going to strengthen, once again, likely as it moves back over open water. This is going to be happening late tonight. And then it will be back to hurricane strength likely, maybe a weak category one before it makes landfall again. Our best estimate on our second land fall with Frances is likely going to be midday-ish tomorrow, give or take a couple of hours. And then it's going to be moving on up in flooding parts of the southeast as well. So we're waiting for that second punch to be moving in for tomorrow. Carol.

LIN: All right, thanks very much, Jacqui. Well, Hurricane Frances is no more, at least as a hurricane. It's officially a tropical storm, but the storm still represents a dangerous situation as Jacqui was outlining, especially for Floridians, and a massive clean up yet to come. CNN's Sean Callebs has that story.


SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was supposed to have been even worse, but don't tell that to some residents of eastern Florida. Fliers (ph) in Tampa, homes destroyed all along the coast. By mid afternoon, power out for a million-and-a-half customers across the state. And five counties reeling from what President Bush officially labeled major disaster areas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do we have reports of damages? And the answer is yes, we do have damages. If you want to know the extent and magnitude all I can tell you is the storm is still making landfall or has made landfall but we still have hurricane force winds impacting many areas. So initial reports are very spotty. We're not starting to get, again, the areas of major impact. We're starting to see reports come in and that will be develop throughout the day.

CALLEBS: In Vero Beach, some residents try to return despite warnings from state officials not to do so, only to find streets flooded, and homes destroyed. In Melbourne, mobile homes flattened, many left homeless, but no one seriously injured. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're much better prepared this time actually because of Hurricane Charley. They've - that made believers just about everybody I think.

CALLEBS: In Ft. Pierce, boats at this Marina, crushed, local storefronts ruined. And families, still in hotels not yet able to go home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Surviving. Getting by, waiting for the storm to go away.

CALLEBS: Police and firefighters were out in full force across the state, helping to keep the peace, enforce curfews and crack down on the few looters trying to take advantage of the disaster. Not all areas were hit as hard. In West Palm Beach, despite 30 hours of continuous rain, no major injuries and relatively little serious damage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're very fortunate. I hope the ones, the people who live north of us are as fortunate as we. We have no structural damage. We lost a few shingles.

CALLEBS: Palm Beach County emergency officials are crediting their relative good fortune in part to luck. The full fury of Frances barely skirted this county and moved north. But these same officials also credit good planning. And the fact that so many Floridians heated the mandatory evacuation warnings.

Sean Callebs, CNN, Palm Beach County, Florida.

LIN: We also have, this just in to the CNN Center, because we are covering other news that you need to know about. CNN has learned that Former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to undergo bypass surgery, early Monday morning, tomorrow, contingent upon one last check by his doctors. President Clinton having blockage in his arteries and suggested to have a triple bypass.

In the meantime, getting back to our storm coverage, CNN's John Zarrella is live in West Palm Beach. The last we saw him, he was talking with a family that was weathering out the storm and the blackouts in their house.

John, back on the ground terra firma there.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they're in the dark tonight like most people here in West Palm Beach are in that Sean Callebs report a few minutes about, talking about how lucky they were here. And certainly, they were on the south side of that eye wall all night getting pounded with rain. But you can see how dark it is here tonight on the streets. There is a curfew in effect. It was a 24 hour curfew. We expect maybe by tomorrow, they'll change that to just a dusk to dawn curfew.

There are, actually, some houses that do have electricity. Over here to our left, there's a street with actually some homes that do have some electricity. So there are few spots that due. And there's some debris that people have already begun piling up, doing a lot of clean up here, already. Most of the damage that you see in West Palm Beach in this particular area, lots of trees down, some power lines down, some awnings off of buildings. There is one neighborhood called Pineapple Park, which is prone to flooding, even during bad thunderstorms here in south Florida, and they got hit pretty hard. A lot of flooding in that area. Cars driving through water up over their wheels today trying to get through that neighborhood. So they're suffering in that particular area, some of the worst flooding that we've seen in the West Palm Beach area.

And if you take a look from the sky, an aerial view from helicopters that have been surveying the area, you can see that there are few places in West Palm Beach where some roofs did come off. They did have a little bit of structural damage here. But overall, county officials in Palm Beach County and city officials here in West Palm saying they are very, very lucky.

Now the island of Palm Beach itself is still closed off to residents. I don't know when folks will get back in to Palm Beach itself to assess the damage over there. But again, you can't over emphasize the fact here Carol on the ground in West Palm that the folks at least here on the southern edge of where the storm hit, consider themselves very, very lucky tonight -- Carol.

LIN: John, right now, we're looking at some aerials, not off the rooftops that you were talking about, but an area, where there are it looks like, at least one very expensive yacht that looked like it crashed in to a pier. There's a yacht that we're looking at here that is half sunken in the water out there in West Palm Beach at what appears to be a very posh neighborhood.

ZARRELLA: Right. A lot of - well there are a lot of posh neighborhoods up here in the Palm Beaches, and certainly some very expensive boats. There was a $3-and-a-half million yacht that broke loose of it's anchor, yesterday, out in the inter coastal waterway. They managed to moor it to a pier, just across from where we were live all night. And then, during the worst of the storm, when the winds were blowing from the south to the north, it broke loose again, and made it's way, all the way back across the inter coastal, but it seems to be in pretty good shape. But yes, lots of sail boats damaged and sunk, a lot of other boats damaged and sunk. So there's certainly going to be an expensive toll, in some of those expensive toys that people have up here.

But fortunately, as you heard in the Sean Callebs report, also, no serious injuries and that is the best news that anyone can have here in this particular county -- Carol.

LIN: You bet. And amidst the damage behind you, electricity on, and someone walking in to the neighborhood just beginning to check out the damage. Thanks very much.

ZARRELLA: Right. A few people still out.

LIN: Yes, John Zarrella in West Palm Beach. You can track Frances's path at And there are links to emergency information and resources for hurricane victims. And you could also learn safety tips for protecting yourself, and your family if a hurricane hits because right now, there is a hurricane warning for the gulf coast of Florida and the - from the mouth of the Suwani (ph) River, all the way to Dustin Beach (ph) as tropical storm Frances begins to pick up steam as it cross the gulf of Mexico.

Well southern Florida has born the brunt of Frances' fury. And now other parts of the state are coping with the storm. Up next, the impact, farther north as I was saying. Plus, as if one is not enough, another one, yes a hurricane is on the way. Will Hurricane Ivan head for the mainland?


LIN: In case you're just tuning in, Frances is now a tropical storm. As it crossed Florida, the winds began to die down below, just below hurricane strength, but it is still very dangerous. It continues to hammer the Tampa St. Petersburg area as it gradually moves towards the gulf of Mexico. The storm has left a great deal of damage in its wake. Trees are down, the power is out for about two million homes. And there has been significant property damage. CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining us live from Melbourne, Florida, with the very latest from there, Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Carol. Well it's been a long 24 hours for the residents, the thousands of residents in this part of Florida. You know, as hurricane Frances started to make its way on shore yesterday, we were - we had gone inland about 35 to 40 miles to the town of Okeechobee which is just on the northern edge of Lake Okeechobee where there, officials have been anticipating what could have - what was supposed to have been severe flooding, expecting 10 to 12 inches of rain in that area.

The major flooding disrupting homes, and getting in to homes we didn't see materialize. But nonetheless there's still a lot of clean up to do, a lot of tree limbs and debris on the roadway. But we didn't see a lot of power lines knocked over, which probably is a good sign for the hundreds of workers who will be moving in to these regions here in the next couple of days and the weeks ahead to clean up the mess left behind.

But the roadways were difficult to navigate. A lot of traffic lights that have been swinging throughout the night because of the high winds kind of knocked down, made it a little bit dangerous. We came across a few incidents where the roadways were shut down because of that. And one stretch of Interstate 95 south of where we are, a sink hole shut down part of - shut down the roadway for a while, today as officials kept motorists trying to get - be careful, because you can actually fall in to that sink hole. So that was what officials were worried about. It means your motorist didn't fall in to that. But we drove I-95, another stretch of I-95 and it was baron. You didn't see many people driving the roads today, because as we've been talking about, this is such a slow moving and large storm, that the rain has just continued, and it continues here tonight in Melbourne, as we've seen bands of high winds and more rain continue to fall on this area. And quite honestly, it's just one of these storms that just really knows how to take it's toll on you. Carol.

LIN: You bet. All right, thanks very much Ed. Interesting journey that you had. In fact, we want to show you it's relatively calm in Ed's location. But other areas are still getting heavy winds and rains in that part of northeastern Florida where we find David Mattingly joining us live from St. Augustine -- David.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, we continue to have these strong straight line winds here in St. Augustine. But we just got reports of a tornado that touched down about two miles away from here, according to county officials. It touched down briefly. Knocked out a lot of trees and some signs but other than that, no major structural damage. So far, this county seems to feel like it's handling this storm fairly well, not a direct hit from a hurricane so not to be expecting the early major damage that you would see in an event like that.

Still, these winds and these rains will not relent. We went around town and got some video earlier tonight, and there were some flooding, some trees down. St. Augustine though looked - always looking for flooding in events like this. Parts of this town are under seawater. And we have seen an awful lot of rain coming down. That rain is going to have some difficulty in getting out of here through the drainage system.

But at this point, county officials feel fairly optimistic that they're going to weather this storm fairly well. There was some report earlier tonight, that on the beaches there has been some beach erosion, an area that we saw yesterday, where there was a multi million dollar project, where the army core of engineers pumped thousands of tons of sand in, so an area could have a beach. We've been told that portions of that beach have been eroded away all the way back to the seawall.

There's also been report of one breach of a small area, of a barrier island. But again, according to county officials here, not as bad as it could have been. And they feel like they're doing fairly well here. But as you can see, we're still getting these tropical storm force winds. This is going to go in to the night, still a lot more rain to fall to here, and more potential flooding problems with the next high tide -- Carol.

LIN: All right. Do you know what time that's going to be David? High tide - do you know what time the next high tide is going to be then?

MATTINGLY: That's going to be in the middle of the night. But what we're going to be seeing, that high tide may not be as high as the one we saw at 1:30, 2:00 this afternoon. So again, we may catch a break there. But with all of this rain coming down, that rain has got to go somewhere. And when the sea water backs up in to the drainage system, you do have that localized flooding effect. So that's what we'll be looking for later tonight.

LIN: You bet. All right, thanks very much David (ph). Stay safe. Some of the most extensive hurricane damage we're seeing is in Fort Pierce. CNN's Gary Tuchman joins us by video phone with that location. Gary, it looks like it's still raining in your location as well.


LIN: Gary, I don't know if you can hear me, but we can't hear you right now. I know you're struggling with the storm effects there and the technology, so we're going to try to get back to Fort Pierce, because it's still being pummeled by rain. And still ahead, right here, the road to recovery, it is going to be a long-one for many Florida residents hit by hurricane Frances. I'm going to talk to one resident who knows what it's like to rebuild after a storm. She also survived Andrew. Stay with me.


LIN: All right, Hurricane Frances has now been lessened, weakened to a less powerful tropical storm, but it's still battering Florida with punishing winds and rain. The flooding that you're looking at right now is in Palm Beach. Frances dumped as much as 13 inches of rain along Florida's central east coast. Power is out, streets are littered with debris as you can see here. The storm, right now, is barreling across the Tampa area. Once Frances hits the Gulf of Mexico, it will probably regain hurricane strength before making landfall again in the pan handle.

Now some of the most extensive hurricane damage we're seeing is in Ft. Pierce. We're going to go back to CNN's Gary Tuchman, joining us there as the weather is still pretty bad -- Gary.

TUCHMAN: It really is still pretty bad, Carol, and that's surprising but nothing about this hurricane has been expected. It lasted so long. And it's so big. And it's caused so much damage here in this county, St. Lucie County. This is some of the damage. And at night, it looks absolutely surreal. This is the Fort Pierce city marina. Yesterday, Carol, you may remember we went live from here all day. There are about 150 sailboats and cabin cruisers and yachts bobbing up and down, burying the hurricane very well, but then high tide came about one in the morning. We were still here when it happened. And these boats that you're looking at right now that have crashed in to each other, starting slamming in to the dock right here. They started all piling up on each other. Some of them ended up sinking. Others were let free and floated away. They floated miles away, nobody aboard them right now.

A total of 75 of these boats have either been damaged, destroyed, lost, people have been coming here all day crying, saying oh my gosh they can't believe what happened. For us it was amazing too, because we had spent the whole day here, all of the boats were fine for virtually all of the day, and then within one hour, even though the winds were 80, 90, 100 miles per hour for two hours before that, nothing happened until the tide came in. And then the boat slammed in to this $10 million marina. It's almost a total loss. There has been lots of damage here in St. Lucie County. Just south of here in the city of Port St. Lucie, that is the spring training home of the New York Mets, the stadium has suffered $4 million worth of damage. The nearby St. Lucie County Airport, $4 million to $6 million worth of damage. It is so dark outside, at least the weather isn't as bad. Last night everything was howling. It was quite a frightening evening for a lot of people because all of the power was out. Now, although the weather is inclement, at least the hurricane has passed by, but the power is still out.

The reason it's so noisy here, you can look up there, and this is what we've heard all day. These sales snapping in the wind, after being destroyed from hurricane Frances. How long will the power be out? Authorities here are telling people to expect the power to be out for more than a week in some cases. There is a curfew in effect, as we speak from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m., nobody is allowed on the streets. Carol, back to you.

LIN: Gary, a good number of people are still in shelters.

TUCHMAN: That's right. Five thousand people in this small county. This county, Carol, only has a population of 213,000 people. The estimate is that 5,000 people were in shelters last night. That's one out of every 40 residents. That's a huge percentage. There are some hurricanes we cover, we go to a shelter, it's hard to find 20 people inside a shelter. People really took this seriously. I am totally convinced that the seriousness with which they took it based upon hurricane Charley, three weeks ago, absolutely saved lives this time around.

LIN: You bet. All right. Something to be thankful for there. Thanks, Gary.

All right, Jacqui Jeras is still watching tropical storm Frances, still making trouble Jacqui. It's amazing to see, just the level of winds and rain both at David Mattingly's position in St. Augustine, and Gary down at Ft. Pierce.

JERAS: It's all over. And it just depends, if you're not close to the center of circulation where the real strong winds are, you've just got to be in one of these squall lines, and some of these bands. And some of them are still well offshore. These still haven't made their way on to the coast yet. And so we are still going to see these for hours and hours before it's going to be all said and done. Occasionally where Gary is you're going to see those winds gusting up. Every time one of those squall lines moves on through. We do want to zoom in and tell you about another serious situation.

We've got another tornado warning. And this one, showed a very nice signature on radar as well for Atkinson County. Atkinson County you have been getting hit over and over. This has all been up to the north of Wave Cross (ph). We've just been getting cell after cell after cell begin to push through that area. And there's a lot of rotation here. We're putting a storm tracker on it for you. And there you can see some of those cities effected and what time it's going to be hitting you. Henderson right around 8:30 so that's coming in very shortly. And then, heading down towards Weber at 8:43. So a very strong rotation indicated right there on Doppler radar. And that storm is moving off to the west around 50 miles per hour.

Now the storm system is moving up to the northwest overall. The tropical storm itself, I wanted to take you over to the real wide view, and show you the forecast track now, what we can be expecting. Because what's to come is going to be very important here over the next 12 hours or so. We are expecting this to stay a tropical storm force probably until tomorrow. And then, just energizing, once again, once it gets over those warm waters. And we'll watch for a second landfall sometime tomorrow, midday, possibly as a category one. But we've been taking a look at some of the satellite imagery at this time. And it looks like it's really starting to spread apart a little bit more, and becoming more disorganized. So a little iffy, whether or not it's still going to be a tropical storm possibly, or a weak category one hurricane.

Now talk about a good hurricane, we've got something to show you here, and this is a hurricane Ivan. We don't want to forget about Ivan because this one started out as a tropical storm this morning, and now it is a Category 4 hurricane with 135 million per hour winds. It's going to be moving through the western and Greater Antilles by the middle of the week.

And we don't want to neglect the upper Midwest either, because we have a tornadic situation here too, Madison County and Iowa, also seeing Koi County (ph) in to Wisconsin, we've got a tornado watch in effect across Minnesota down through Iowa. Kansas City is getting clocked. So a pretty serious situation unfolding right now in to the upper Midwest as well -- Carol.

LIN: All right, thanks, Jacqui. Thanks for all of the hard work in the weather center because there are a lot of people out there that are watching as this weather moves towards them and not sure what to do given what we're showing them on the screen.

JERAS: Right. .

LIN: All right, thousands of people in the path of Frances are facing a long recovery in the meantime. Yolanda Ulrich, the editor of "The South Dade News Leader" lived through Hurricane Andrew, which devastated the Miami area in 1992. She joins me to talk about the obstacles that people are going to face, trying to rebuild from this storm.

Yolanda, as you watch Hurricane Frances unfold, now tropical storm Frances what goes through your mind from the experience that you had covering Hurricane Andrew?

YOLANDA ULRICH, "THE SOUTH DADE NEWS LEADER": Well, actually, this one was a little different. First of all, I only watched Andrew before it smashed into South Dade for a day. We've been watching Frances for a week, and probably seriously for about five days. So the stress level before Frances even arrived was much higher than it was with Andrew. And I was I guess on your program a couple of weeks ago, we talked about Charlie at that time. And as I said then, and I'll repeat it now, the stress of what's facing the people who are going to be cleaning up after Frances is far greater than what they face during the storm. This storm was something that we didn't think was ever going to get here, that we didn't think was ever going to leave, and it still hasn't left, it's still here.

LIN: Yes, which is hard to believe. You know ...

ULRICH: Right.

LIN: ... I'm just -- go ahead.

ULRICH: And Andrew came in and came out, and was gone. And of course he certainly left a calling card that in some cases it took several years to fix.

LIN: You know, when you - when you look at people's homes like this, when they come back to this, it's been described to me as like a death in the family, and that just - there's the physical recovery of your home, and then even a year out, two years out there's still the emotional repercussions that Marty Evans with the Red Cross, whom I just interviewed, was talking about that oftentimes they are still with these people a year to two years out.

ULRICH: Well, you know, there's an economic toll, there's a - there's an emotional toll. And I grew up down here, I'm a native, I was born here, prepared for many, many hurricanes during the '40s and the '50s, and a couple in the '60s. And it wasn't until Andrew that I realized exactly what it takes to recover from a storm. And you're right, you really don't recover. There's a portion of you that the beginning of every hurricane season you start - you start thinking about it. And it's in your mind, maybe the back of your mind, but it's in the mind. And when I started preparing for our coverage at work, writing the stories for our readers down at "The South Dade News Leader," and speaking to the people out at the hurricane center, they told me then, I hate to tell you, but Frances isn't the only thing that we're worrying about. And I could only deal with one thing at a time, and that was Frances.

And now of course we hear that there's another monster out there.

LIN: Ivan -- Hurricane Ivan.

ULRICH: Ivan the Terrible, I'm sure that that's going to be in a headline in a lot of papers. But I feel so sorry for the people who are going to be mopping up, I'm very, very lucky. Down where I live, and my neighbors and my family, we're fine, I mean some broken branches, and that's about it. We have no damage. But I look at the flooding, that I understand, thank God I've never been in a flood. But I look at the flooding, and I just don't know how those people are ever going to recover.

LIN: Yes, because - you know, you go back home, and six feet of water, 10 feet of water in your living room. ULRICH: That's right.

LIN: It's gone, everything has to be ...

ULRICH: That's right.

LIN: ... replaced.

ULRICH: And from what I gather, from people who have been in floods, they say that even though it dries out, we repaint, but there's an odor there that is never, ever, ever gone. I mean you just know that your house has been flooded at one time or another.

LIN: Yolanda, it is -- it's going to be a long recovery for ...

ULRICH: It is.

LIN: ... those folks.

ULRICH: It is.

LIN: All right.

ULRICH: It's going to be hard.

LIN: And the waters unfortunately are still rising in many places. Yolanda Ulrich, I'm sure that your experience with Andrew, and your compassion for the - for the people, the victims out there is only going to add to your coverage. Thank you.

ULRICH: Thank you.

LIN: All right, we want to check in one of the hardest hit places, Fort Pierce was very close to where Hurricane Frances made landfall, very early, 1:00 Sunday morning, this morning. Jason Bellini is standing by there, Jason has been to homeless shelters, he's been out on the road with his camera.

Jason, what have you seen in the last 24 hours?

JASON BELLINI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, we've seen a lot. Well here we've seen some very interesting - some interesting stuff, just a few hours ago. Now it's going to be difficult to see over the water, but right over there there's a bridge that goes to one of the barrier islands named Hutchinson (ph) Island. We tried to go over there around 3:00 today, the police did not let us go, they weren't allowing anyone to go over there because it was so hard hit. Then we tried again around 6:00, and they were allowing members of the media for the first time to go over and take a look, and got some of the first pictures over there. And we saw some of the devastation in a trailer park that's right on the other side of that bridge.

We took a look around, and saw walls battered, we saw streets in this small trailer park completely covered with clothing, with furniture, with items from the households, you really couldn't pass through very easily, except on a few of the streets. One of the hardest hit areas certainly from this hurricane. And the people, when they finally do get to go back there, it doesn't seem like they'll have a whole lot to go back to in most cases.

We then ventured toward the ocean coast of Hutchinson (ph) Island where we encountered some flooding.

We're driving right now through one of the barrier islands off of Ft. Pierce. Here there's about a foot and up to three feet of water on the roadways. They're not allowing people to come back here, we're probably among the first journalists who've been allowed to come and visit this island, which at this point is completely abandoned.

Carol, on our way back we encountered a number of people who were trying to go visit the island, people who live there, wanted to see what had happened to their homes, to their trailers. The police were not allowing them through, they said perhaps around 2:00 tomorrow they would get the opportunity to go and take a look. But I think in many cases it's not going to be good news that they're going to - that's going to greet them when they get there -- Carol.

LIN: Jason, as we look at your pictures, what they are returning to now, it's a heartbreaking preview you're showing us. Jason Bellini, live in Ft. Pierce.

Let's go back to Melbourne where we're joined by CNN's Anderson Cooper -- Anderson.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want me to step back?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, thanks very much. I -- we just ran into a family, Carol Pena (ph), who has just returned to her home for the first time. Your home is doing OK, that's ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, our home is doing wonderful compared to the friends around us.

COOPER: Were you surprised when you came back and - to see your neighbor's homes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh yes, I'm glad it wasn't mine, but I feel bad that it's theirs, yes.

COOPER: You were saying you regret even buying this kind of home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well no, I think it's ridiculous that I bought this kind of home down here knowing that there's winds like this, I'm probably going to try to get out of here as fast as I can.

COOPER: Really, is it ...


COOPER: Excuse me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dangerous. It's too dangerous for me and these kids to be down here in this foolishness. (INAUDIBLE). COOPER: Briana (ph), what was it like to be in the storm last night?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought it was exciting, I liked it.

COOPER: You thought it was exciting?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I wasn't scared very much.

COOPER: What'd you like about it? I was scared. Why weren't you scared?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know, I like hearing all the wind and stuff, just - the only thing I was scared about is that a palm tree was going to come and shoot me in the chest or something through the screens, so.

COOPER: What was it like for you? Did you -- what'd you think of the storm?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wasn't too scared, but I was scared a little bit, because inside of our room where we were sleeping, the wind was like really whistly (ph) and ...

COOPER: Yes, sounded like a howl at times.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. But it was sort of scary, but not too much.

COOPER: Yes, sort of scary, but kind of exciting too.


COOPER: Yes, that's what I thought too, I didn't want to say that on camera, but it's kind of true. But you said it was a nightmare for you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a nightmare because you have no control, you realize how little control we have over our lives, and there was nothing we could do. And I'm sitting there, and I'm going oh my God, what have I done moving down here from Massachusetts to be into a hurricane?

COOPER: Yes, you don't have hurricanes in Massachusetts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, we have snowstorms, I'd much rather be in a blizzard.

COOPER: Well I'm glad your house is OK, and I'm glad you all weathered the storm safely. And it's going to be a difficult night for you, you don't have electricity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh no, but we're going to bed, we ate, we're blessed, we got a house, we had candles, and now we're going to go to sleep. And when the sun gets up, we're getting up with it.

COOPER: She has the most beautiful eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, thank you, that's Gabrielle (ph), she ...

COOPER: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... she's a good baby. She survived the storm not even a year old.

COOPER: That's great. Well I'm glad you all made it safe and sound, and I know your home's right over there, and I'm glad it's doing OK.


COOPER: It's good to meet you. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks for everything ...

COOPER: Have a good night, sleep well. All right.


COOPER: All right. They're really the only people in this community, at least on this block, who have come home. As you know, this neighborhood has no electricity in Barefoot (ph) Park in this community of mobile homes. They're not going to have electricity really, there's no guarantee of when they're going to get it. Crews are trying to restore power as quickly as they can, but you know, there are no guarantees -- Carol.

LIN: Yes, but it's nice to see that people are just, you know, weathering out the storm and making the best of the situation.

COOPER: Yes, they've got a great spirit, and you know, a lot of optimism. So that's a good thing.

LIN: Yes. And the kids seem to really relate with you, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, hey, what can I say?

LIN: Kid at heart. Thanks much. Anderson Cooper, live near Melbourne. Well it was one of the town's hardest hit by the hurricane, and one where parts were almost covered by the storm's surge. Up next, I get to speak with the mayor of Vero Beach, Florida.


LIN: Well it's too early to assess the extent of the damage from Hurricane Frances, but one city that was hit hard was Vero Beach. Tim Malloy from CNN Affiliate, WPTV, spoke to some of the residents as they ventured out for the first time today.


TIM MALLOY, WPTV REPORTER: When the rains came, they came hard. The catfish were jumping, and people who weathered the storm say they never want to do it again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just continued to pour down, and the wind was terrible for the last 24 hours. So it's been quite a fine - I don't think I'll weather another one though.

MALLOY: We were told all along the storm surge, in addition to the wind would be the issue, and it was clear as morning came, the experts were right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The media, you know, they're talking through the night, and keeping you informed. And that's really appreciated.

MALLOY: In some areas along the coast, the water rose to waist high. Most of the coastline had been evacuated, and that's why. At the Faylaine Hover (ph) trailer park, it was clear there would be major damage when dawn came. Most found solace in the fact that they had simply survived the storm. This man lost a carport, but ended up being happy about it.

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

MALLOY: You're a man with a smile on your face, I don't really understand. But ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well just happy to be alive.

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


LIN: All right, our thanks to Tim Malloy. Flooding is still a big concern across much of Florida.

So we want to get the latest situation in Vero Beach, now that you have the big picture, Mayor Tom White is on the telephone. Mayor White ...


LIN: ... good evening. What is the situation there? How much damage have you been able to assess after we've heard waist high water? And in the piece we just saw, fish swimming in people's back yards?

WHITE: We have had a lot of water. We did a damage assessment cruise this morning, we went out to the Barrier Islands. We have - some places have extensive damage, and some places did pretty good. We've lost our Con (ph) Beach parking, but the boardwalk stayed, but the parking was gone. A lot of beach erosion, we have a lot of roofs that were destroyed, and a lot of trees and limbs down.

The water is starting to recede, which thank God for that. And we are hoping by tomorrow if it recedes enough we're going to open the - we're hoping tomorrow - we'll be able to open the Barrier (ph) Islands so that people can go back into their homes and see - and assess their own damage.

LIN: Have you had any problems with looting?

WHITE: We had one incident where two fellows from a town south of us had come up here and broke into an electronics store, and they got caught by the Vero Beach Police, and they had a list of other stores in the area that they were going to hit. So we were able to stop them, but looting has been at a minimum, and we also had the National Guard arrive here about 2:00 this afternoon.

LIN: All right. Where are they going to be stationed? Are we going to see soldiers on the streets?

WHITE: Well we got - they're here, and they're going to help the sheriff's department and police department to help maintain the looting, you know, keep that down. And also while we're in the process of restoring roadways to making them passable, hopefully tomorrow we'll have seven priorities that are going to be back online on power, the hospital, the county administration building, city hall, and - oh the airport.

We will have that - of course Governor Bush is supposed to be flying in tomorrow morning, so the airport is cleared already so he can land. So we're doing - we're doing real well. We're hoping to get some homes online tomorrow too.

LIN: That is good news indeed. You know, Governor Bush has said that he's not going to wait for blue skies before some of the repair work is done. Some of the agencies I have been speaking to though say that that - it's pretty dangerous out there. They can't send crews in until the weather passes. So frankly it's a delicate balance for someone like you in a town that desperately needs help.

WHITE: Absolutely correct. And we are lucky, we're getting some rain bands, and we're getting some high winds, about 40 or 50 mile per hours every once in a while. But hopefully by tomorrow - we sent our crews home at, 5:30 today, home and get a good night's sleep, assess their own damage in their own homes, and be there bright and early in the morning. We got double shifts going out, and we're going to, you know, try to get as many people back online, water, sewer, and electricity as we can.

LIN: Mayor Tom White, you're absolutely right, because a lot of these first responders and the repair people don't even know the damage to their own home they've been so busy.

WHITE: Exactly. They've been out since the storm started.

LIN: Yes. Vero Beach Mayor Tom White. Good luck, we'll be following your progress.

WHITE: Thank you so much.

LIN: We've got much more ahead, so please stay right there, we're going to be right back.


LIN: We've got some other important news to report to you. CNN has confirmed that former President Bill Clinton may very well be scheduled for heart surgery tomorrow up in New York. Our very own senior medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, out there in New York to cover that story.

Sanjay, is -- have you learned more about the nature of the operation?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the operation that we've been talking about for some time is bypass surgery, it's cardiac bypass surgery. The reason on the still uncertainty about the date really has to do with the medication that is a blood thinner. A common medication that's taken by a lot of people, (INAUDIBLE) including the president. And they have to really make sure that the blood thinner is gone so that his body will respond well to the operation, and he won't have too much bleeding.

You mentioned, Carol, he's going to have his blood checked one more time. If the number looks normal, and that is to say that his blood is not too thin anymore, then the operation very well may - very well may be tomorrow, Carol.

LIN: All right. What's his -- what's the likelihood of survivability with this kind of operation? Is it - it's pretty routine, isn't it?

GUPTA: It is. You know, they - this sort of operation for the last 20, almost maybe 30 years now has been considered routine operation, they do almost half a million of these operations a year in the United States. Some of them like former President Clinton, otherwise healthy, relatively young, no history of diabetes, stroke, previous heart attack, anything like that, should do very well from an operation like this. You asked about survivability, I'd say it's 99 percent probably an operation like this.

There is concern about bleeding, we were just talking about that, and that's one reason they're particularly sure about making sure the blood is not too thin before an operation like that.

LIN: And the recovery period?

GUPTA: You know, as far as sort of standard recovery, he'll probably be in the intensive care unit for about a day or so. But out on the general care floor for a few days. He'll be out of the hospital I think surprisingly fast, most people find it surprising how quickly he gets out. The overall recovery though, Carol, you know, just in terms of rehabilitation for the body, for the mind, two - a couple of months usually of rehab type thing. Patients after this sort of operation sometimes do have significant fatigue, for example, they may have aches and pains, the shoulder and the back and the chest. And they sometimes have mood swings, sometimes a bit depressed after an operation like this, all those sorts of things for a couple of months. LIN: All right. Well he so far seems to have a pretty sunny outlook, and he's been very busy even from his hospital bed calling our very own Larry King and talking to him live on the air. Thanks, Sanjay.

GUPTA: I imagine if I know him at all, he's probably a little bored sitting around in that hospital bed.

LIN: As most people are. All right, Dr. Gupta, we'll be looking forward to your reporting tomorrow.

GUPTA: Thank you very much.

LIN: We're going to be right back.


LIN: All right, it's been a great experience following Hurricane Frances as it crossed the state of Florida, now it's downgraded to a tropical storm. We are going to be following her progress as she enters the Gulf of Mexico, probably picking up steam, probably becoming another hurricane. CNN's Anderson Cooper is just south of Melbourne where he's been talking with people in a mobile home park.

Anderson, what a heck of a last 24 hours it's been for you.

COOPER: Yes, it certainly - it feels - it's hard to believe that it was just less than 24 hours ago that we were standing in the midst of that storm, Chad Myers and I. I actually want to show you a clip from around 10:00 last night, you know, we didn't get the full brunt of the storm until about 4:00 a.m. this morning. But at about 10:00 is was pretty bad, let's take a look.

How does it feel to you, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, I think the wind picked up again, but we had a squall that did it. It wasn't so much of a sustained wind, it was like gusty wind. I just had another gust of 76, and we are on the protected side of the building. I was just talking to some storm chasers that are here actually from Tampa, and they are down - they're down below the building on the other side where it's wind tunneling. They have a machine just like this, and they got a wind gust of 120. Now that's not an official gust, that's literally a building effected gust. It's like in New York, you know, you live there.

COOPER: Yes, the wind tunnel.

MYERS: The wind's blowing through the wind tunnel hitting the building, and that's what they got there. But if you were living in that wind tunnel area, you would be receiving 120 mile an hour gusts down there.

COOPER: The fact that this storm is so slow moving, I mean five miles an hour, is nothing. I mean that's a person walking a fast walk. What does that mean for us here MYERS: You know, this one's going to do way more damage than Charlie did. It's just going to do different kind of damage.

COOPER: There we were like idiots standing out in the middle of the storm, Carol.

LIN: No, not like idiots, you guys are really helpful in just bringing the action, and you managed to answer e-mail in 70-mile-per- hour wind, which we really appreciated at the time. The viewers had a lot of questions. Thanks, Anderson.

He's going to be back with us in our prime time hour. But right now that's all for us right now. I'm going to be back at 10:00 p.m. Eastern as well tonight when we're going to be looking at how some people are making a bad situation even worse by looting. I'm going to speak with the Orange County Sheriff to see what's being done to try to stop them.

Stay tuned for "LARRY KING LIVE," that is up next. I'll see you at 10:00.


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