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Hurricane Jeanne: Storm Eye 15 Miles East of Stuart, Florida

Aired September 25, 2004 - 23:00   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to get back to Jacqui Jeras who's got a latest forecast on Hurricane Jeanne. What is it, Jacqui?
JACQUI JERAS, CNN WEATHER ANCHOR: Well, Carol, we're getting the latest advisory in and the center of circulation is about 15 miles east of Stuart, Florida at this time. The eye wall is on shore and we just got a report in here, Vero Beach Tower reporting sustained winds of 75 miles per hour with gusts up to 104 miles per hour. So this is finally translating with those sustained hurricane-force winds and gusts well beyond 100 miles per hour. There are the coordinates her if you are tracking this at home.

We're going to show you the radar and zoom in a little bit. And Carol, the one thing that just strikes me: Unbelievable the locators here just east of Stuart, Florida. Here is Sewell's Point. This is where Frances makes - made landfall. Unbelievable that we had two hurricanes within six weeks of each other making landfall in just about the exact same spot. There you can see the dropout here of the radar. That's where the eye is. That's just pushing on shore at this time and we will watch the center making landfall here within the top of the hour -- Carol.

LIN: All right. Thanks very much, Jacqui Jeras, with the latest forecast there as Hurricane Jeanne now, winds blowing 75 miles per hour as we take this live picture of Melbourne, Florida. Take a look at the rain. It's going completely horizontal. Palm tree leaning over. Anderson, are you out there somewhere?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Carol, I am. That shot you're seeing is about 100 feet away from me and to be honest I can't even see the rain like that because the visibility is so poor and it is so difficult to see really anything. I can see the camera right now in front of me but not much beyond that. The winds here, you can't even look into the wind. It's that strong and if you do the rain just goes directly into your eyes and it is extraordinarily painful so I'm going to avoid looking in that direction. But the winds here really picked up. Chad Myers has picked up a reading. I'm going to bring him in here in a second. He took a reading, 74, hurricane strength winds flowing. Chad, what have you got? You've been taking reading now, what do you - what is...

CHAD MYERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have sustained now of 62, but that last gust was 74, so that was the first hurricane-strength gust we've had now and that over 70 miles per hour. And let me tell you, we still have a long way to go before that part, the bad part, gets to us still. Another probably 45 minutes to an hour.

COOPER: So you don't think the worst part will get here until - for another hour?

MYERS: Probably not, no. On that north side of the eye wall literally is perpendicular, at a right angle - when that north side of the eye wall becomes perpendicular to the coastline, to our coastline, that's when our winds our actually going to pick up from here. They might even pick up another 30-45 miles from here.

COOPER: So you think it's entirely possible to have winds - like sustained winds over 100, or is that gusts you're talking?

MYERS: That would probably be a gust, because I think the sustained winds that are over 100 are down a little bit farther south than here. Right where you did all that damage on the old storm, remember the storm with Frances you were down there...

COOPER: Right.

MYERS: Barefoot Bay and then down to Sebastian Inlet. That's where the 100, 115 mile per hour sustained winds will actually be.

COOPER: Well, that's particularly bad news...

MYERS: That's 40 miles away.

COOPER: But that's particularly bad news to the people of Barefoot Bay because Barefoot Bay has a lot of mobile homes in that community and those are the homes which often see the most damage so we're going to have to check that out in the morning to see how conditions are there, but you know, it surprised me how conditions have really - I mean you always say, "Well, it's really bad." But then - I mean, it's really terrible now compared to what it was. I can't imagine it getting any worse at this point, frankly.

MYERS: We all look like multi-color Michelin men because we all just get blown up here in the air. You should see the crew over here. Every color you can possibly imagine and they're all as big as you possibly can be and you know, I'm sorry I wasn't measuring that gust, but I know that was more than 74 because I felt that 74 and that's about what it was just a few minutes ago.

COOPER: You know, it's...

MYERS: Wow, go ahead, I'm trying to block your - sorry.

COOPER: What's the worst winds you've ever seen, what's the worst wind that you have been in?

MYERS: In Oklahoma City we had 105 straight line winds coming out of a thunderstorm, a dying thunderstorm complex and I was in a very substantial brick building and sure wouldn't want to be out in it, but that's what we're going to see.

COOPER: So the northern part of the eye wall, really the worst part of the storm, that's going to be coming here or is that going to be a little bit south, the northern part of that eye wall. MYERS: The real heaviest wind, the part that we would call Andrew windspeed (ph), and this is not an Andrew, Andrew was 920 millibars, this is about 950 millibars, which means with probably wind speeds at least 30 miles less - per hour less than Andrew but that type wind - that type of damage will actually be 25 miles south of where we are right now. We'll obviously go there tomorrow to take a look at it.

COOPER: Let's - Carol, back to you, as you can see, it's not very pleasant out here right now. Yeah.

LIN: Thanks for bearing with us Anderson, Chad, you as well. Let's get to Gary Tuchman just south of there in Fort Pierce, Florida. The conditions there are pretty bad as well -- Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Are you wide enough? Are you wide enough? Anderson, it's hard for me to hear you now. Let me tell you what we are hearing from the emergency operations officials here in St. Lucie County. They have just told us that, quote, "Things are going downhill fast." They say they have gotten a call from two different people who called - they have not been able to confirm this because they are not letting emergency vehicles go out right now, but they've gotten two different calls saying a car was driving across one of the bridges over the Intracoastal about a mile behind us from Fort Pierce here to Hutchinson Island, that's the barrier island. Those two callers have told the emergency officials that the car has plunged into the Intracoastal Waterway. What makes this story very sad if it is indeed verified ultimately is they say right now it is too dangerous to send the emergency officials out to the Intracoastal Waterway. In addition, they say they have received many 911 calls from people who say their roofs have been blown off their homes here in St. Lucie County, population 210,000.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) has been extremely treacherous for the last couple of hours. Sustained hurricane force winds. We're on the balcony of a hotel with walls surrounding us, offering us much protection and that gives you an idea of how bad it is away from solid walls like the walls we're standing next to. But right now they're helpless, emergency officials. They say they are waiting for the eye of the hurricane to come, which they expect it will, the calmness to come in and they will then get the emergency crews out. But for now they're staying put for their own well-being. Anderson, back to you.

LIN: All right, Gary. I'm going to take it back from here. That is a really tough situation. It means that emergency crews probably won't be able to address any of these 911 calls for at least a couple of hours, and even then they'll only have maybe an hour to two hours before the backside of the eye wall, the more dangerous part of the eye wall once again comes through and Hurricane Jeanne goes full throttle, as it is now. We are going to go to West Palm Beach right now. The southern side of the hurricane's landfall. That's John Zarella standing by right there. John?

JOHN ZARELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, yeah, we've shielded ourselves a little bit right now behind this four-story condominium building where we have been set up pretty much all night. Give people an idea when I've been walking out earlier into it, but it had gotten to the point a few moments ago where it was just too dangerous to be venturing out into it. It has calmed down a little bit, but the wind direction again has shifted a bit, the winds blowing from the southwest now. You can see those palm trees, though, they are continuing to bend in the wind. We did lose the power here completely out now and reports, of course, that all of Palm Beach County are out so right now the lights that you are seeing, of course, are the lights that we have running off a generator powered to light up this particular area, but, again, it really has kicked up again. We thought it was subsiding a bit but once again it has really kicked up. Because of the change in the wind direction you don't quite see that driving wind and rain but believe me, when you step out into other areas it's still there, we're just shielded by this building, and, in fact it has been more intense within the past 20 minutes or so than it has been at any point up until this time. Carol?

LIN: All right, thanks very much John. John Zarella reporting live there in West Palm Beach, taking some cover behind a brick building there. We have much more ahead still in our special coverage and we're going to toss it back to Anderson right now, in Melbourne, where, obviously, the situation there is getting worse. Anderson, Chad said it was going to get even worse than this in the next hour.

COOPER: Yeah, really in the next couple of minutes, I mean, Chad, you just took a reading, it's now, what, the gust was 82, the sustained was 68, that's significantly higher than even like five minutes ago.

MYERS: Sure, but you know what, to get a hurricane, you have to have a sustained of 74. That still is not a Category 1. And anybody who says to themselves, "I'm going to ride this thing out at home and not go inland," has got to be a fool at this point because if this thing even picks up another 30 miles per hour I don't think we can stand out here, and as soon as we say that there's a lull, and there hasn't been a lull here for a while.

COOPER: Now, I want to show you that other shot from our other camera because you can really just see it is a wall of white. It's just ripping across the Days Inn, which is where we are right now in Melbourne, Florida. This wall of white - it makes visibility - I mean, you can't see more than 20 feet, maybe 30 feet in front of you. You used to be able to see the barrier island. There is no electricity right now, it looks like, on the barrier island. The lights are off on the bridge. I don't know - I don't have a vantage point of the rest of Melbourne, but I can tell you certainly in this area the electricity is out. We saw a lot of transformers blowing and this - it is hard to describe this rain as it whips across. Let's move over here if we can. I just want to show you - I don't know if this will show up - I mean, the rain seems to come from all directions and you can kind of see it in the light. You know, it's coming horizontally. It seems to come from down - the wind just takes the rain and when it hits a building like this you get hit from all side from the rain and then another gust will come along like it is right now and then you sort of lose your sense of direction and it - you kind of don't know where to look because the way it just is coming from all different directions.

And Chad - Chad, it's fascinating how the rain comes from all different directions. It's horizontal it's vertical, you don't know where to look.

MYERS: It's called "confused" when you have buildings like this.

COOPER: I'm confused.

MYERS: Well, of course. So am I at this point. The winds are blowing around these buildings and they make little mini wind tunnels for themselves. And the wind tunnels make eddies and these eddies really come. If the cameraguy could actually - if he could look back through here, right back there, right to the back of us, right back there, you can really see now the wind coming through. The issue here is that we are about 15 feet above sea level, and as the wind comes whipping up this little hill that we're on, the higher you get, the more the wind is and literally another 15 feet higher the wind is at least over probably 100 miles per hour. It's just so vivid. That rain is just so vivid that you can really see it in the light and that other camera does a really good job for it and the great news is that we're not getting hit by anything because we're not close to anything behind us.

COOPER: That of course the big danger in these kind of storms. With all this debris around, also if you look you can see the - I mean, just common everyday object, suddenly you start to worry about them. You can see that chain link fence, I don't know if you can see it, it may be too dark but it is already shaking. There is another fence behind us, they already took it out because they were afraid it was already shaking so much that they were afraid it was going to become airborne and that could very easily kill somebody. There are people who are out, sort of on the balconies of their homes just kind of watching this storm in awe and for goodness sakes, you should be inside in a pretty protected location, believe it or not.

MYERS: I'm just going to go ahead and we're going to spin the camera around and I'm going to go and talk (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Spin all the way around. All the way around. There we go. You can just see how the wind is coming over that hill and over the cliff and right back into that light. It's just amazing.

COOPER: At some point, though, the wind will change direction on us?

MYERS: It will. The winds have been coming from the north most of the day and now they're coming from the northeast and eventually, Anderson, they're going to come due out of the east at us, right across the barrier island. As the eye wall goes by it will actually come from the southeast then from the south and then from the southwest so we're going to have to keep moving our satellite truck. I was trying get in your way here - get in the wind's way so you don't - the stinging of the rain in your eyes is probably the worst part of it.


MYERS: That's the worst part of it. I can't tell whether I'm wetter on the inside or on the outside. It doesn't really matter at this point. But when you have to look into that rain that's when it really, really hurts. It seems like there's sand in the rain, but there's not. It's all just liquid.

COOPER: Yeah, and as Chad said, Carol, it is looking like it is only going to get worse before it gets better and these gusts, Carol, they just keep on coming.

LIN: Hurricane-force winds out there, Anderson, if you can - it's hard to believe but a lot of people decided they weren't going to evacuate their homes and go to a shelter, they were going to stick it out in this weather. This live picture of Melbourne, Florida, in hurricane-force winds, or at least gusts right now as the eye wall moves ashore on the coast of Florida. We have been with a family, actually, tracking a family every hour. The Vallejos family who decided to stay in their house in Port St. Lucie. And I've got Anne on the telephone right now -- Anne.

ANNE VALLEJOS, PORT ST. LUCIE RESIDENT (voice-over): Hi, Carol, how are you doing?

LIN: Hi, there. Well, a lot more people are losing power. I know you lost power a couple of hours ago...


LIN: ...and our correspondents are reporting hurricane-force gusts out there. 74 miles per hour.


LIN: With sustained winds of about 62 miles per hour in some spots.

VALLEJOS: I believe it.

LIN: What's happening at your place right now?

VALLEJOS: Well it sounds like some of the things in my attic are blowing around. Sounds like I got reindeer on my roof.

LIN: Gary Tuchman, our correspondent who is out at the - at that new downtown development in Fort Pierce...


LIN: He was saying that there's some pretty frightening reports of people making 911 calls because their roofs are being torn off their homes, the very homes that they are trying to hunker down in right now.

VALLEJOS: Yeah, I had heard this had happened with Hurricane Andrew. I've got some water intrusion, too, in my front door. My husband put towels and he took down the molding because we had water coming in so we're - he doesn't want to have mold.

LIN: Right. Do you regret this decision to stay in your home?

VALLEJOS: Well, we were just talking about it. My parents live on the island when they had originally thought it was not going to be so bad they were going to stay and it was kind of this morning that they decided that they were going to come to us and by that time we were starting to get windy and it seemed like it was kind of too late to do something but I'll let you know tomorrow if I regret it or not.

LIN: You sound pretty calm.

VALLEJOS: Yeah, we moved the kids to my closet and we're all kind of hanging out in the closet and it's not as noisy there. I'm talking to you right now next to my window and that's when it's a little frightening, when you hear those gusts of wind.

LIN: What does it sound like?

VALLEJOS: Well, it sounds like there's kind of little stones beating against my glass and then all of the sudden there'll be gusts of wind just a "woomp," you know, a big kind of a blowing sound and it's scary when you hear stuff on your roof, too.

LIN: Yeah, because you can't see. You really don't know what's going on there.

VALLEJOS: No, we don't know what's going on. We have a tree down outside my window from the last hurricane and I just hope that doesn't come blowing at us.

LIN: Anne Vallejos, thank you very much for keeping us posted. We're talking to you on the hour. I don't know how long, frankly, you're going to be staying up or how long we're going to be tracking your story.

VALLEJOS: Oh, you can keep calling. I don't think I'm going to go to sleep.

LIN: Well, it's good to know, it's comforting to hear your voice now that I've been talking to you for the last four hours. Anne Vallejos and her family. Her husband Marcos, her two kids now sleeping in the closet, perhaps the safest place to be is towards the center of the house. All right, Jacqui Jeras, you talked about the forecast, we've seen the reality in our live shots, where is this thing headed?

JERAS: Well, it's continuing to head west-northwest right now and I'm going to show you the forecast track in just a second because it looks like that turn it is going to be taking it a little bit more northerly is going to be a little bit later in our forecast period. It's still moving pretty well due west at this time and you can see on our radar imagery here we're getting these dropouts across Sewell's Point down towards Hobe Sound and that is that eye making landfall right now. The center of the eye still probably 30, maybe 45 minutes away from actually the exact center of the storm on land, but things are going to be calming down in this are right now for the next couple of hours but it is moving west-northwest and you're going to start to see the backside, more of this area of the storm moving on through several hours from now, probably three hours from this time. Still getting some very nasty conditions up towards Fort Pierce and also down towards West Palm Beach. I want to show you some of the rainfall totals that are starting to come in at this time. This is our VIPIR-estimated radar rainfall totals. You can see about three inches here towards West Palm Beach. Offshore you can see a six-inch total. Up towards Vero Beach about two inches and you can see Melbourne, Chad and Anderson have been saying they haven't had a lot of rain up until this point, well now we are only estimating about a quarter of inch, but we'll watch those numbers go up.

If we're to put this into forecast mode real quickly and show you the forecast rainfall total that we're expecting, and look at Orlando, really in a big bullet here of getting the flooding rains of about seven and a half inches. Just over two inches towards Vero Beach and you can see even Miami getting in on the action with a couple of inches of rainfall there. Carol?

LIN: All right. Thanks very much, Jacqui. We're tracking all kinds of facets of this story. Gary Tuchman reporting from Fort Pierce that a car may have plunged off the Intercoastal Highway. 911 calls of roofs being blown off people's homes. People who did not evacuate. More of our special coverage of Hurricane Jeanne coming up.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hurricaniffic - hurricanariffic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long will you stay out here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know, probably ten minutes and we're going mainland to party it up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're one of the smart ones.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. No, we got a rubber raft, we'll be out later.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you here for the last one?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No and I missed out last time but I wouldn't miss this one for the world.


LIN: Let's hope in some way that he was joking, let's hope that he's not out there somewhere right now. Joining me on the telephone now is the mayor of Melbourne, Florida, John Buckley. Mayor Buckley?


LIN: Some numbers you may be interested in according to our correspondents out there, 62 mile per hour sustained winds in your town with hurricane-strength gusts going right now.

BUCKLEY: You can hear them right outside the bedroom window here. LIN: In some other locations, too, apparently emergency management people are saying 911 calls are just beginning to come in from people who are either losing their roofs or in one case, and we're hoping that it may not end up being confirmed, that a car went off the Intracoastal Highway. Any problems in Melbourne?

BUCKLEY: Just what I heard my son mention, that the lights have gone out. He's a paramedic and they had to respond to a call and two cars had hit and everything and one of them ended up on its roof. They had to take someone to the hospital.

LIN: Yeah. Yeah, you must worry about your son having to work out in conditions like this.

BUCKLEY: Yes and it's difficult for everybody here. So...

LIN: Do you still have power, Mr. Mayor? Because I know you're staying in your house.

BUCKLEY: No, we're out of power. We lost power around 6:30 this evening.

LIN: I talked with Florida Power and Light. They are saying 271,000 people without power right now and this time around it may take as much as three weeks to restore power.

BUCKLEY: Yeah. I don't know - hopefully we can get it back fairly soon. It has - you know, we lost part of our food before and I think we'll lose a good 'nother part of it this time.

LIN: As the eye of the storm moves ashore there's going to be a break in the wind and the rain, probably around 1 or 2 in the morning eastern time. Are you going to venture out and take a look or are you going to wait until morning - are you going to...

BUCKLEY: Oh, I'll wait until morning. I'm going to go to bed and get up in the morning and try to do something.

LIN: What are you anticipating?

BUCKLEY: Pardon?

LIN: What are you anticipating? You must...

BUCKLEY: I really haven't any idea. I assume we're probably going to have the same thing last time with all kinds of downed signal lights, a lot of roof damage, trailer - quite a bit of damage to the trailers, but the aluminum carports and stripings around the trailers are all blown out into the street. One main trailer park we had, we only had two of them that were completely demolished, but the rest of them sustained quite a bit of damage.

LIN: All right. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. We're listening to you and watching our pictures out of Melbourne, Florida, where the rain is flying horizontal. Anderson? COOPER: Carol, the mayor there a man of few words. Yeah, the winds are really very strong right now as you said. It is just completely horizontal. Again, I want to show you that shot from the other camera and - excuse me - you really get a sense of just how strong these winds are and the gusts - I mean, at this point you can still stand, which kind of surprises me, frankly. As long as you can stay parallel to the winds. If you turn perpendicular, you really feel it - I'm sorry, I'm getting water just going right into the back of my throat because these winds - I mean, the rain is coming from all different direction. You sort of find yourself inhaling water. It's actually becomes difficult to breathe at times. It's sort of an odd experience. Let's bring in Chad here, who's been taking a lot of - really a kid in a candy store with his little wind meter.

MYERS: I think we all are. We have about three of them here. We're kind of comparing them. We've almost reached our mechanical limit to this machine here. It goes to about 75 accurately and doesn't go much higher than that. I just had a gust of 82 and confirmed it with the electronic wind meter that we bought. $149 wind meter, and in fact, it does a really nice job on sailing vessels. So that's why we bought it and its maximum speed is 150, so we know that our gusts are well over 80 to 82 miles an hour.

COOPER: Now is this pretty much the height of the storm for us?

MYERS: We're getting there. I would say maybe another 45 minutes and we will be in the height of the storm. That is saying from there to a least another two hours after that point, that will be the crescendo, that will be the highest threshold but we're not going to be able to feel the difference. For two hours it's going to be 20 miles an hour worse than this and it's going to stay like this. What really surprises me is all the buildings around here are really holding up very well and they were damaged by Frances. They were compromised a little bit by Frances and they're still doing very, very well here in this wind.

COOPER: Now are we going to get the eye of the storm?

MYERS: We will not get the eye. The eye, the calm part, as you talk about, that is actually...

COOPER: I wouldn't mind a little break, frankly.

MYERS: Well, there's a hotel room in there you can go in, but other than that that's not as much fun because the power's out. It was great when we could actually watch television and see where the radar was, but now with all the power out over this entire area, now the people are on their own. They have these battery-operated radios that they have been told to get over and over and over and unless you're on a battery-operated television, you have no communications now with the rest of the country.

COOPER: And it's really - it's times like this that sort of any communication becomes incredibly important. I have been in hurricanes where you're just kind of on your own and you don't know what's happening around you and certainly the radio, or CNN Radio, something like that becomes your lifeline.

MYERS: It does and a lot of these are just call-in shows at this point in time because now the anchors have said everything there is to say. Basically, once you say, "Time to board up, time to get in, here it comes," what do you say after that? "Oh, it's really raining, oh it's really raining."

COOPER: That's a question I've been asking myself a lot this evening.

MYERS: That's kind of where I was going with this. So what they're doing now in the call-in shows, they're asking people, "What do you see?" and so they have - literally they have 10,000 to 20,000 reporters out there reporting on what they're seeing in their neighborhood.

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