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Hurricane Ivan Makes Landfall Near Gulf Shores, Alabama

Aired September 16, 2004 - 04:28   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: In case you're just joining us, hurricane Ivan has, indeed, made landfall in Alabama near Mobile, Alabama, to be exact. The eye is exactly over where Gary Tuchman is standing by right now. And that is Gulf Shores, Alabama.
It's a category three storm and the winds are very strong and the rain is coming down. It's coming down really hard.

We want to take you now to the city manager, Buzz Eddy. He's the city manager in Gulf Breeze, Florida. That's about 10 miles south of Pensacola.

Pensacola didn't get a direct hit, but, boy, the hurricane has spawned tornadoes and there is heavy damage there. And, of course, the wind and the rain wreaking havoc, as well.

Hello Mr. Eddy.

BUZZ EDDY, CITY MANAGER, GULF BREEZE, FLORIDA: Hey, good afternoon -- or good morning.

COSTELLO: I know, it's easy to lose track of time when these things happen.

Tell us your situation now.

EDDY: Well, we've endured a lot of the heaviest winds that we've experienced here in a lot of the citizens' longest term memory. It's been devastating. The storm surge is of record proportions. It's just been a terrible situation.

COSTELLO: Are the streets flooded? Trees down?

EDDY: Yes.

COSTELLO: Tell us how badly the streets are flooded.

EDDY: Well it - we got a couple of streets that go along the Santa Rosa Sound - Sound View Trail (ph), and Deer point. And those streets are all under water, under three, four feet of water.

COSTELLO: Are most - have most people cleared out of their homes and are someplace safe?

EDDY: Yes. Most of the people have - especially along those areas I just mentioned have evacuated. But we've got of a lot of people that are still here in the interior sections of town. And we've had reports into our dispatch center of roofs damaged and trees downed. And the streets are nearly impassable with trees and wires down.

COSTELLO: I can only imagine how flooded 911 is right now.

EDDY: Actually, we have not been getting a lot of calls. But when they do come in, it's - it's pretty bad.

COSTELLO: Is there any way you can get out to help people who call in?

EDDY: We have had firefighters and police officer out to try to aid people that need people. We've taken a few folks from their homes to the local Gulf Breeze hospital. And that's about all we can do.

COSTELLO: You know, speaking of hospitals - earlier we talked to the mayor of Pensacola, who said that a hospital there took a direct hit.

Have you heard anything about that?

EDDY: No, I have not.


EDDY: Our hospital - I spoke to the hospital administrator, Dick Fulfert (ph), and they're up and running and doing - taking care of folks.

COSTELLO: So your hospitals where you are in Gulf Breeze, they're fine?

EDDY: Yes.

COSTELLO: OK. That's a good thing.

Where are you exactly, and how are you keeping safe?

EDDY: Well, I'm here at city hall. We've got police officers and firefighters. We moved our dispatch center from the police department to city hall. And we've got a generator here and lights are on and we've got, -- you know, we're going to holed up here until the storm clears some, the winds die down. Then we're going to go out and assess the damage and get the streets clear.

COSTELLO: Yes, how do you do that when the streets are so flooded and they're blocked by trees?

EDDY: We just have to take it - get the main streets and take it piece by piece.

COSTELLO: Is this what you expected?

EDDY: No, it's much worse than we expected.

COSTELLO: How so? EDDY: Well, it - the storm surge is worse. And the winds were actually worse than we expected. I think the storm made a wobble back our direction, and it's ended up being worse than we thought.

COSTELLO: Well, stay on the line with us. I'm going to bring our meteorologist Chad Myers in. He's going to give you a bit of what may happen, you know, from now forward.

Chad, are you there?


COSTELLO: So how long will the rains fall there?

MYERS: Well (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the rainfall is one thing. And it could rain for a while there. But the wind will actually begin taper off. They are right now in the center of the eyewall itself, the most dangerous part of the storm. There's a little bit of a gap where they are right now, but really not very much.

I'm going to zoom into the Pensacola area. And if you take the bridge from Pensacola toward the beaches, it's this little island right there that we're talking about. And they're really not that high. These islands are really - they don't have a lot of topography for them. So as we get you even closer, those (UNINTELLIGIBLE) very low. I mean, probably 15 feet at the most. Maybe even 10. Basically, an entire sand beach, all the over to Fort McRee, and now getting right here, on to this island here. This is the island of Gulf Breeze, and obviously storm surge going to be really affecting the entire outer barrier island, and also Gulf Breeze itself.

COSTELLO: So Mr. Eddy, you've heard that. I'm sure you'll be able to deal with it, but of course all of this takes money. Are you fairly confident you'll get the help you need?

EDDY: Good meetings and briefings with our emergency operations center all week, and the state has poised some resources to come our way. As soon as they can safely make it this direction, I'm sure things will be fine.

We lost our water supply here just an hour or so ago. So residents are - in our area should boil their water. We hope to get that up and running at first - at first light.

COSTELLO: I hope so. Mr. Eddy, the city manager from the Gulf Breeze, Florida, thank you for joining DAYBREAK this morning and good luck to you.

Well, we want to head to Gulf Shores, Alabama and Gary Tuchman right now, because remember just a few minutes ago we said the eye was passing right over where Gary Tuchman was and it was calm and beautiful? But not so anymore.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol for (UNINTELLIGIBLE) minutes, you're right. We had the eye over us; it was completely calm and there was no rain. And then 20 minutes ago, as suddenly as the eye came, it went away. And we're back to the winds and the rains coming again.

Winds - the winds have changed direction. Before they were coming from the winds - this way. Now they're coming from the south, behind me, towards (ph) this direction.

We can tell you that there is a lot of flooding here in Baldwin County, Alabama, where we are right now. Gulf Shores is the town we're in, the southernmost town in the county. Behind us is a barrier island that has been evacuated now for many hours. That barrier island was under quite a bit of water eight hours ago, before we had even tropical storm-force winds. You can only imagine what it looks like right now. But it has been evacuated. We saw no civilians there whatsoever yesterday afternoon and early evening before we too left, when the water started getting up to our knees on the streets.

We're told that at some places, there's over a foot of sand from the beach on the streets. We are told that the firehouse, which is a couple of miles behind us on the barrier island, has lost part of its roof and has lost a door and is flooded inside; that other homes in this are have lost their roofs.

We told you the story earlier today, how emergency officials were not going out at all, except for life-or-death emergencies and extraordinary circumstances. One of those extraordinary circumstances when they found out that a woman was in labor. They tried to bring her to the hospital. They couldn't do it because trees were blocking the way. They then got a National Guard military vehicle to take this woman to the emergency operations center here in Baldwin County, which is 15 (ph) miles inland us. The woman was experiencing premature labor. As of now, she has not delivered the baby just yet. But she's in good hands at the emergency operations center.

Once again, we experienced the eye. Completely calm - you could have had a picnic outside. And now we're getting the back end of the storm.

Carol, back to you.

COSTELLO: Gary, I was just more curious about that pregnant woman. She didn't evacuate?

TUCHMAN: Well, no. She - she evacuated away from the coast. We are right near the coast right now, right near the beach. She was inland - probably - she was in the county. And that was one thing they said - they advised everyone to leave the county. However, they said everyone who lives north of Interstate 10 is safer than south of Interstate 10. We're south of Interstate 10 right now.

Now, we're not sure where (AUDIO GAP) north of Interstate 10 in the county. So she was in a (AUDIO GAP)

COSTELLO: Ah, we're going to lose Gary. I knew we would eventually because of the strong winds. Gary Tuchman reporting from Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Let's head to Biloxi, Mississippi, now. Three hundred thousand people there were told to move to higher ground.

One who didn't, our Susan Candiotti. She's in Biloxi.

It looks - well, compared to Gary Tuchman's location, it looks pretty calm.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's true. But most of the people did follow that mandatory evacuation order. And it's always a smart thing to do, because until the very end, really, it's impossible to predict for sure, as you know, Carol, which way the storm might jog at the last minute. So authorities stand by their decision to ask people to move to higher ground.

We can tell you a bit of a damage report from this area. It covers Biloxi, Gulfport and areas, communities in this area. At least one bridge had been shut down because of flooding. We can tell you that there has been flooding in low-lying areas and across the road. Trees are down; utility poles are down and there has been a power outage.

According to Mississippi Power, which handles most of the utilities in the southern part of the state, across three counties, about 40,000 customers have lost power. Now, according to a spokesman - he said, things are going smoothly considering the nature and the intensity of the storm. Of course, if you're one of those 40,000 customers, you're not too please about having lost power. And as soon as the wind lets up a little bit, they will go out to begin to make assessments. But for now, not quite sure that the winds have let up enough for anyone, really, to safely get out.

The civil defense agencies here tell me that sheriff's deputies have continues their patrols throughout the night. They're the ones that are able to make the damage assessments. For example, part of a hospital roof came off. They've had to put out a house fire. Part of a roof of another business came down. And they're very worried, once the curfew is lifted in about three and a half hours from now - they're worried about people going out to sneak a peek at the damage. Because, for example, if there is water in the street, they're warning people: be careful. You don't know if there might be a sinkhole underneath that water, if the street might have caved in. There might be some power lines in there that you don't see. So please, please, be very careful.

Evacuation shelters: about 3,400 took advantage of those. And unfortunately, one of those shelters lost power. So sometimes you can't have it all.

And, yes, Carol, we did speak with people throughout the day who decided to stay home and ride out the storm. They said that they just thought that their structures, their homes would be able to see things through. And they had plenty of supplies with them - I saw it. Plenty of water, batteries and felt comfortable that they'd be able to make it through. Of course, we'll be checking on them when the sun comes up - Carol.

COSTELLO: You know, Susan, we keep hearing about hospitals being damaged. And you would think that patients would have been evacuated from those hospitals.

Is that the case in your area?

CANDIOTTI: Yes, in fact they were. A number of them - at least 200 or more. Certainly, those who needed to get out of the area. And so they were evacuated.

In the meantime, they are staying open, however, for emergency care. I know that we talked to the people who run the ambulance services in this area, and they've been continuing to make their calls and said they could unless there were sustained winds of 65 mph.

I know down at the civil defense building about four miles or so from here, they did clock wind gusts of 66 mph. Those are gusts only.

And here, I mean, we've had squalls from time to time. But then it lets up. We measured about 30 mph wind gusts here. And so evidently they have been able to make their runs, emergency crews.

COSTELLO: Susan Candiotti in Biloxi, Mississippi, thank you very much.

We're going to take a short break. We'll back much - with much more coverage of Hurricane Ivan on DAYBREAK.


ANNOUNCER: August 245, 1992. Hurricane Andrew devastated southeastern Florida. The Category 5 hurricane flattened the town of Homestead, killing 15 people there and leaving a quarter of a million others looking for shelter. Andrew was the most expensive natural disaster to ever hit the U.S., doing $26.5 billion dollars in damage. So many Andrew-related claims were filed, nearly a dozen insurance companies went out of business.



COSTELLO: We have some developing news to tell you about. Gunmen have kidnapped two Americans along with a British citizen Iraq. The Iraqi interior minister confirms that the three were forced from a residence in an upscale Baghdad neighborhood.

CNN's Diana Muriel live in Baghdad with more for us.

DIANA MURIEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, the three men were all employees of al-Khalish (ph) Services Companies, which translates in Arabic as the Gulf Services Trading Company. It's a contracting and trading business in the Mansour District of town, on the western side of the river. Very upscale area of Baghdad.

It seems that just after 6:00, 11 men wearing civilian clothes arrived at this building. Six men went inside; five men stayed outside as lookout. They abducted the three men: one British citizen, two American citizens. They had arrived in a minibus and a sedan car, but they also stole a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) car that was parked outside the building when they left.

Police sources have told us that they found weapons in the building, but they believe that those weapons belonged to the al- Khalish Services Company. Not a shot was fired whilst the men were being abducted.

Now, Colonel Adnan Abdel Rahman of the Interior Ministry has expressed surprise that the building did not appear to have guards posted around it, given the very dangerous nature of the security situation here in Baghdad - Carol.

COSTELLO: I was just going to ask you that. They're in this house. This, of course, sounded like a planned operation. Why would they just be in a home in a Baghdad neighborhood?

MURIEL: Well, this particular area is actually where a lot of business and large villas are located, where a lot of Westerners here in Baghdad have rented space.

There is, in Baghdad, the International Zone, which is the home to the American embassy and to other embassies, and indeed, the headquarters of the Iraqi interim government. But not everyone can get into that area; it's a very secure area. But it's really used by the Iraqi officials and by the military, for the most part, and diplomats.

Now, for the rest of the Western population that's here - contractors, businessmen - they need to fend for themselves. Now, many of them - most of them - have got security. They've hired private security guards to look after them. Most people stay in hotels, but others have chosen to live in private houses which they've rented. And there they post security. But it seems that either security wasn't there, or it wasn't awake and operating when these men were abducted - Carol.

COSTELLO: So frightening.

Diana Muriel, we'll get back to you when you get more. Thank you so much.

It's back to Hurricane Ivan now, because it has made landfall. Still a Category 3 hurricane. Let's check in with Chad for more specifics.

Good morning, Chad.

MYERS: Good morning, Carol.

Yes, we do have the - the eye of the storm now on shore. And you can actually see some of the red zone up there. That's where the most intense rain is actually occurring right now. That intense rain is going to continue just north of Pensacola.

I'm going to move to one more little source here so you can actually see the rotation. At 3:00 this morning, the eye moved right over Gulf Shores. In fact, right over our Gary Tuchman. He saw the north side of the eyewall. Severe winds from the east. And now, he's picking up those winds from the west, as the eyewall moves around. Remember, this thing is spinning counterclockwise. Some of the very - and the highest damage I'm thinking now around Orange Beach. Also, just to the west of Pensacola, the naval air station, actually stopped reporting wind gusts when their wind gust to 98. Haven't had another wind gust since then. I'm afraid the sensor may have taken it.

Otherwise, scattered rain showers and thunderstorms now for you all the way into the northwestern Florida panhandle and into Alabama. Your winds are now picking up, Alabama. And I don't want to forget about you just because you're not on the beach. The problem is, a lot of folks that were on the beach actually evacuated into parts of Alabama. And now you're picking up that - all that squally weather as well.

We'll get you now into another source here. This is a source that actually will show you the rotation of some of the storms. This is an animation. So we move one frame into another, into another. And you're noticing these little spins, these little doughnuts, if you will. Every time the radar here picks up one of those spins, picks up a doughnut, picks up a shear marker as we call it, that means that there's a potential there of a tornado. And that happens when you get the rotation running onshore, you get a little bit of drag from the ground - we call it friction. That friction begins to make these storms rotate. We even had one tornado warning for Montgomery County in Alabama, which is significantly farther to the north. I'll walk into the shot here and I can show you - actually, they did have a tornado warning up here into Montgomery. And now we have this line - line - significant line of storms all the way down even into now western Florida. So we're going to keep that into the rest of the day.

Here's the animation as it keeps on moving from north to south. The entire area from Alabama down to Mobile into Gulfport and Pensacola, still now under the gun for more in the way of weather.

Here's the VIPIR system now from just a few minutes ago. Here's where all of the heaviest winds are. Here's Mobile. Mobile on the backside. I'm looking now at the live shot here out of Mobile. I can see it on some of my side monitors. The winds seemed to have slowed down. Winds there were almost 95 mph from the north, coming around this side.

Another thing they haven't talked about yet because they have been no reports, but I'm thinking Pensacola got a significant - and is getting a significant storm surge. We talk about that. It could have 10 to 15 feet. Pensacola is pretty high ground compared to Mobile. There are some, at least, higher ridges here in Pensacola for folks to get out of there. But as this wave action continues to come on shore here, from Orange Beach down to Frididio Beach (ph), there's going to be a lot of damage. Folks are going to wake up tomorrow morning and they're not going to recognize the place, I'm afraid, Carol. It's...

COSTELLO: I know you mentioned - you mentioned Pensacola in that line of tornadoes. A couple of tornadoes hit in Pensacola, Florida. We talked to Mayor John Fogg a short time ago.

MYERS: That was hours and hours ago, though. I mean, that was, like, eight hours ago when the line that's now over Tallahassee was over Panama City.

COSTELLO: Right. Right. But he was telling us the damage that occurred because of those tornadoes.


COSTELLO: A direct hit on a hospital. We would assume that most of those patients had been evacuated, but we don't know for sure.

MYERS: Not - a lot of times hospitals are the safe zone. They move people to hospitals.

COSTELLO: A lot of times, but we're trying to get him back on the line. He was holed up in his home, of course, trying to get more information.

MYERS: Sure.

COSTELLO: Also, the tornado hit the civic center in Pensacola, and that's where they had sent people to be safe. But it didn't take a direct hit, and they moved people to the center of the building. So everybody's OK there. And, of course, Pensacola is now experiencing pounding rain.

In Gulf Breeze, Florida - we just talked to the city manager. No electricity there, no water. So if the water comes back on, boil it first before you drink. Of course, people won't be hearing me anyway. They don't have electricity there.

The streets are literally under water now. And the city manager tells us it's worse than he expected. So he's, like, not looking forward to daybreak there.

Let's head to Okaloosa County, Florida, now and the Fort Walton Beach area. On the phone with us right now is Sandy Launch, an emergency management officer.

Good morning.


COSTELLO: Tell us the situation there.

LAUNCH: Here in Okaloosa County, we have several homes confirmed destroyed. We have five businesses in the north county, in Crestview, that are severely damaged, with one being totally destroyed. We believe that may have been the result of a tornado, but we have not confirmed that as of yet.

We have 77,000 homes without electricity right now. And we are still feeling the effect severely.

COSTELLO: Is it raining there? Is the wind blowing hard?

LAUNCH: It is raining very hard, and we have sustained winds of 57 mph with gusts into the 90s.

COSTELLO: We've been hearing from others that the streets are literally under water and power lines are down, creating a pretty dangerous situation.

LAUNCH: That is true. Our sheriff - Sheriff Charlie Morris (ph) - is asking people to remain in their homes until at least noon tomorrow, when we can get crews out to look at the situation. We do not want people to make the situation any worse by getting out there and finding themselves around downed power lines, live wires, that kind of thing.

COSTELLO: Wow. You want them to stay in their homes until noon tomorrow?

LAUNCH: Yes we do.

COSTELLO: I don't know - I don't know if 30 people will obey that order.

LAUNCH: I certainly hope some of them down, because we have downed power lines everywhere and we do not want to, you know, make the situation any worse by having people injured later on, you know? We want to keep them safe.

COSTELLO: You know, and there's also a danger of a sinkhole underneath the water, and the street might have collapsed. So you never know what's under there as you're walking down the street in the water.

LAUNCH: That is true. You never know what's under there. You never know if there's a power line or something that's going to harm you. So, you know, we are asking people to please stay in their homes. We will - we will get to you as soon as possible.

COSTELLO: So how do you handle it, as an emergency worker?

LAUNCH: We started preparing several days ago. We have been here in the emergency operations center. We are manning a 24-hour citizen line, where people are calling us to report what they are seeing. You know, we are monitoring everything as closely as we can. But right now, with the winds the way they are, we cannot personnel out. So we are hunkered down just waiting it out, until we can go out and really survey the situation.

COSTELLO: You mentioned that 24-hour citizen line. What are most people calling in to say?

LAUNCH: A variety of things.

We have people calling to say the roof has come off, the water is coming in their house - the rain, not - not storm surge.


LAUNCH: The rain is coming into their house. Can we come get them? Our answer is no. We cannot. You know, we cannot send our personnel until it is safe for us to do. So we are just telling people to, you know, go to an interior place in their home, some place where they can be the - as best protected as possible.

We are getting calls of people reporting, you know, storm surge. We don't have any confirmed numbers yet on our storm surge.

We're just getting a variety of calls. People who are afraid - you know, people who just want someone to talk to.

COSTELLO: I can certainly understand that. Thank you for joining us on DAYBREAK. Sandy Launch, an emergency management officer from Okaloosa County, Florida.

Let's head to New Orleans now and a check-in with John Zarrella, where it is indeed calm. Boy, people in New Orleans are lucky.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Breathing a real sigh of relief, Carol. That's for sure.

You know, I wanted to point out, listening to the emergency manager there from Okaloosa County, that back a few years ago, we had a Category 1 hurricane, Irene, go through Miami. And the dangers of the downed power lines you were talking about - we had an incident there as the storm went through that several children went out and were playing in the water and were all killed, electrocuted. And the - their mother when in to try and get them and she was killed as well.

So it is extremely dangerous for anyone to be venturing out after the storm blows through because of that very reason. It obviously can be a deadly, deadly situation.

Not so the case here in New Orleans tonight in the early-morning hours. This is Decatur Street in the French Quarter. You can see down there, virtually deserted. 2 p.m. yesterday a curfew went into effect. It remains in effect here until 7 a.m. Central Time. The mayor saying that after that they will most likely lift the curfew and the folks - the many thousands of people that evacuated the city are expected to start making their way in here again later this afternoon. In Jefferson Parish, they're asking people not to come back until later in the afternoon, as they assess what they might have in the terms of damage.

But considering what might have happened in this city that is below sea level, had Ivan taken a little more of a left turn and come here, the folks here are absolutely ecstatic as to the results. Because this is below sea level; you've got water on three sides: the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River. And in a major-hurricane scenario, 3, 4 or 5, this city itself - the entire city - can go under up to 15 to 18 feet of water, right here where I'm standing in the French Quarter.

Now we do have a report of some 31,000 homes that are without power. That is way down east, right along the Gulf of Mexico, the very low-lying areas. Some reports there also of some flooding. Very hard to determine how serious that is. Not from rain, but from the storm surge from the backside of the storm sweeping in and bringing in the water.

But all in all, just a very, very relieved sense here. The Big Easy is returning to that feeling of calm and ease that they did not have here for the past 36 hours or so as they watched Ivan get closer and closer before it made that turn due north and away from here in New Orleans - Carol.

COSTELLO: John Zarrella, live in New Orleans this morning, thank you.

We're going to take a short break. We'll be back with much more on DAYBREAK.


ANNOUNCER: September 8, 1900. The deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history ravaged Galveston, Texas. The Category 4 hurricane had no name, but would forever be known as the Great Storm. One out of every 6 Galveston residents - some 8,000 men, women and children died. The hurricane's 150 mph completely wiped out 12 blocks of Galveston, destroying nearly three-quarters of the island city.



COSTELLO: Hurricane Ivan slams ashore. It hit landfall, specifically 3:00 a.m. Eastern Time. You're looking at pictures of Mobile, Alabama. Technically, the eye of the storm hit Gulf Shores, Alabama. That's just to the south of Mobile. That's the picture you're looking at.

It's Thursday, September 16. This is DAYBREAK.

And good morning to you. Welcome to the second hour of our expanded, three-hour coverage of Hurricane Ivan. From the CNN global headquarters in Atlanta, I'm Carol Costello.


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