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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Hurricane Jeanne: Storm Moves to Inland Florida
Aired September 26, 2004 - 02:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CATHERINE CALLOWAY, CNN ANCHOR, HURRICANE JEANNE: Relentless wind and torrential rain, Hurricane Jeanne having it's way with Central Florida. And we've just begun. From CNN Center here in Atlanta. I'm Catherine Callaway. And we will be with you all night long as Hurricane Jeanne rips across Florida.
Of course as you know we have Rob Marciano, he is in the Weather Center here in Atlanta for us. Team correspondents all along Florida's east coast. Anderson Cooper, and Chad Myers who are in Melbourne. We have Gary Tuchman in Ft. Pierce and John Zarrella down in West Palm. But first here is an update on all the news we are following this evening.
Hurricane Jeanne left behind desperation in Haiti. The U.N. peacekeepers had to fire into the air to keep hungry crowds from mobbing and looting shipments of aid there. The death toll from that hurricane is staggering, estimates put it at 1,500 with many more still missing.
And we are following developments in Iraq. At least 14 people are dead after several U.S. air strikes in Fallujah. A military spokesman says that the latest air strike was aimed at Abu Musab al-Zarqawi terror network there.
And an Israeli missile strike Gaza has destroyed a workshop said by Israeli to be a weapons factory used by Palestinian militants. There are no reports of causalities though. And in the past week Israeli has launched several strikes against similar facilities.
As we continue our coverage of Hurricane Jeanne we are going to check in with John Zarrella who is joining us from West Palm. And it is good to see you again; I know the winds prevented you from getting your live shot up about an hour ago. Certainly looks calmer than it was then.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes no question about it. The winds have died down considerably; we don't have the steady heavy wind that we had before. It is coming more in the gusts again, again right out of the south from the south to the north that we were on that backside of the storm. We talked with emergency officials a little bit ago, with in the last half hour or so.
And they were telling us that of course it is still way to miserable of conditions to get out and check much. But they have a report that down south of here in an area called Manalapan (ph) that they had a huge Australian pine fall on A1A, and it is blocking both the north and southbound lanes of A1A. And as I reported in that phone before, we had a report from fire rescue of a man who was up in his attic checking a leak and fell through his ceiling and they can't get to him.
And also water coming up on Singer Island witch is north of us here. And you know continually through the night and even within the last half hour or so we've seen tremendous burst of those blue green flashes of the exploding transformers off to the north of us. It is hard to imagine that there is any thing left out there to explode but they are still doing it. And again Catherine it really has let up right now within the last 30 minutes or so. And we are just now just getting gusty wind.
But the rain has just been none stop since about 8:00 tonight and I know during Frances the rain totals are probably going to end up to have been more during Frances, but that is because it lingered so long. But here we are getting a lot more rain, a lot more quickly. And I can feel the wind gusts picking up again a little bit here as we get another one of those gusts of wind and the rain that is blowing, again it is horizontal. Absolutely horizontal rain still and this storm is considerably worst than what we experienced in this very same spot three weeks ago to the day. Three weeks ago to the hour when you and I were chatting in the middle of the night here Eastern Time.
And so we are still not out of the woods here in West Palm Beach Catherine by any stretch of the imagination. It will probably several more hours. But it is good news that it is letting up a bit.
CALLAWAY: It really is good news. But you know John I don't want people to get the wrong idea because you able to stand there and it doesn't appear that the wind is blowing that hard because as we said it wasn't to long ago that you were saying this was the worst that you have seen of all the hurricanes you have covered in the last few weeks.
ZARRELLA: Oh with out a doubt. You know certainly the strength of this storm by far exceeds what Frances was three weeks ago and as I know I've heard Gary Tuchman reporting comparable to what he experienced during Hurricane Ivan. Now Hurricane Charley that came a shore, as a Category 4, and you know the devastation that we saw over in Punta Gorda was certainly just astronomical. What those folks went through over there.
But power is out everywhere. Power again is going to be a tremendous concern here, wide spread power all of Palm Beach County reportedly out of power now tonight and certainly further north all of those counties out of power. You know the big issue that we talked about before the fact that a lot of folks didn't go to shelters apparently this time and decided maybe to ride it out instead. The shelter numbers have been down in Palm Beach County they didn't have oh maybe 6, 7,000 less than they had during Frances.
And this being considerably worse. But they are getting reports from people you know earlier in the evening who were concerned about the high winds, and the heavy wind and rain but there is nothing they can do if those people wanted help they couldn't get to them. And they are still not going to be able to get to these people for several more hours.
CALLAWAY: Well John lets back up just a little bit and remind everyone this storm hit a little bit before midnight. And it is ironic that it came a shore same location as Frances. Just on that southern tip of Hutchinson Island. What are you hearing about that area which is near Stuart, Florida?
ZARRELLA: Well what I'm barely hearing you now, but if you are asking about Hutchinson Island that is considerably north up around where Gary is and where the eye wall coming a shore very near there. Certainly they are going to have some tremendous storm surge in that particular area. Not any -- we are not going to get that, didn't get that here with the winds blowing off shore most of the night. Blowing from the west to the east and then from the south to the north now.
Same identical path and experience that we had during Frances. But a lot worse, so didn't have it here. Singer Island far north and they were reporting that they did have a lot of water coming in at Singer Island, it is interesting because they still would have been on the south side of the storm there, so it will be interesting to see what exactly happened over there in Singer Island. But sure Hutchinson Island up in that Ft. Pierce area, the Stuart area, Ft. St. Lucy really taking a battering tonight.
Far worse than what we've seen here, but again we are on the southern side of the eye wall. And never experienced any of the eye at all again just as in Frances. Never experienced it.
CALLAWAY: It seems to always be on the right side of that hurricane. And believe it or not John we actually got Gary back. Gary Tuchman in Ft. Pierce is back with us now. Gary just talking about the damage near where you are and how incredible the right side of the eye of that storm is.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right Catherine, you know we moved in those, the north side of the eye itself about two hours ago and it seems like we are just coming out of it now. The winds are finally starting to pick up and it has been a relative low over the last two hours. The rains are starting to come down again also. We had about a half an hour where there was no rain what so ever.
But there is tremendous damage here in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) county just north of where the center of the eye crossed. We talked to emergency operations officials who said there are many roofs that have collapsed on homes and they are still dealing with the situation we reported hours ago. Two reports came in of people who saw a car plunge off the bridge just behind us over the Intercoastals we are told by authorities that they have not been able to go up there, it is to dangerous.
The currant moves to quickly and if a rescue had to be done they couldn't do it anyway, because the currant. But they do say and this is important because it hasn't been confirmed yet, but they tell us they do have reason to believe there is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that a car did indeed go over the bridge it wasn't suppose, it went through a barrier and the bridge got damage and the car couldn't see where it was going the driver and plunged off the bridge. So they have to wait till daylight...
How can a car plunge off a bridge and no one go help him or her? And that is the situation that is the warning over the last four hurricanes repeatedly. And they are very serious. If you choose not to evacuate the coastal area you are left on your own once the hurricane comes in. It gets to dangerous for the emergency officials to go out and help and that warning has to be taken seriously and this obviously is evidence of that.
But there is much damage. We have been out taking a ride when the winds got calm to get a look. There is sheet metal everywhere. Traffic light in the streets, railroad crossings, trees down, power lines down, and they are going to be big problems for the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for devastation caused by this hurricane. And right now the winds are starting to pick up again. We started the night with the worst of the winds coming from the north then we went to the beginning of the eye, the winds shifted from the east.
Now they are behind me from the south.
Back to you Catherine.
CALLAWAY: All right Gary we will check back in with you. We are going to bring in Rob Marciano who has all the pictures to tell us exactly where Jeanne is and what Gary has been living through and all the people in that area the last few hours.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLGIST: Catherine we are relying heavily on this satellite radar that we have been showing you and also our reports from the field. Because the remote stations that the National Weather Service uses to measure temperature, wind, barometric pressure all that kind of jazz they are automated. And a lot of them get knocked out really easy, be it a lack of power or just because they just got blown around.
So a number of these reporting stations have stopped reporting anything places like Melbourne, places like Ft. Pierce and Tampa and West Palm haven't reported in the last several hours. So we really have to go by what our folks are saying. Here are the radar shots, Gary Tuchman right about there so he is yes about to get into the back half of this storm. He will get strong subtlety winds and according to the National Hurricane Center they are pretty strong out of the south there.
Notice how symmetrical this storm is. One thing this storm hasn't had a lot of thank goodness are tornadoes. Ivan had a ton of them way out from the center of the storm across the Panama City and the Florida Panhandle area. Way before the center of Ivan reached landfall. But because this storm seems to be more symmetrical it has got less convection and less little rain bans that are sprawling out from way out in the center so I suppose that is good news. Either way we slice it though there is still a tornado watch out and will be up for the next several hours. We will just keep updating and nudging it up to the north. Because typically we will get thunderstorms and tornadoes that fire off to the northern flank of this system. But we think that the southern part was so well organized when this thing made land fall that the northeastern quadrant of this storm maybe didn't get enough of a chance to spawn some of those more convicted showers and storms that produced those little tornadoes.
So that is a little bit of a sober lining is that we haven't seen much in the way of tornadoes yet. Orlando is reporting we've got a 49- knot wind gusts in Orlando that is about a 55-56 mile an hour wind gust in Orlando. And you are nowhere near the center of this thing, so your conditions will go down hill.
Kissimmee St. Cloud you will see similar rain and wind gusts. This thing is going to slide through between Tampa and Lakeland, and Orlando here in the next several hours. It will weaken but because it is a strong Category 3 it is going to take some time to do so.
Power outages are going to be a huge concern this particular product from WSI says that extensive power, we have already seem almost a million people without power and this thing will extend well in on this. Hurricane force winds are expected to go well, well inland. This is the latest forecast advisory out of the National Hurricane Center at 11:00 p.m.
They will update it again at 5:00 a.m. with a new forecast track but we can pretty much do what we call now casting and just give you updates as we go and as we see them. So making landfall, heading towards the Tampa Bay area, Tampa you are going to see a similar results from Frances and then I think the back half of this system will probably give you a ton of rain through the early morning hours tomorrow through about lunch time with gusty winds as well.
By tomorrow night, I guess tonight Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. it should be down to tropical storm force and then heading into Georgia and the Carolinas with flooding rains potentially. Shouldn't bring as much rain as Hurricane Frances did because there is a little bit dry air in there and also it is moving a little quicker. So we don't expect to see as much but because it is a tropical system we are going to see a bunch rain.
Flood watch and warnings are out already saturated grounds so that is going to be an issue as well. Surpluses for this year here you go, West Palm Beach almost a foot of rain over what they average for this time of year. Orlando 2.97, Daytona Beach looks at these numbers 8.77. Vero Beach 10.67. Vero could easily see six to eight inches of this thing before it is done.
All right here is the radar again, Melbourne, south, Sebastian towards Vero Beach still very, very strong little line here. This is really the eye wall; northern part of the eye wall is coming your way. It is jogging a little bit to the north, that is not probably a temporary jog I think that is probably the actual move northward that we have been waiting for. A little too little to late. Three days ago we thought it might jog a little bit to the north and scrape the coastline. Maybe heading out to sea that was the hope at least. Obviously it didn't do that.
But now we are starting to see that move to the north. Avon Park we mentioned Lakeland you are going to be seeing gusty northeast winds as this thing moves inland.
Catherine we are probably going to see it decrease in intensity but it is going to be real, real slow. Florida is flat area it does have some moisture and lakes and swamps that this thing can pick up. It can also tap moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. So typically hurricanes this strong take a while a long while to weaken to tropical storm statue. So it probably will be at least through daybreak that this thing will be a hurricane and until then we have tropical or tornado watches out for this red box.
But that I think is the silver lining here I know it has been an awful, awful night for folks who live in this part of Florida especially after going through Frances. But there is one good thing I could pick out is that we haven't seen at least right now much in the way of tornadoes.
CALLAWAY: But it is not over yet. And at least we forget Ivan and we had this killer tornado hit in Panama City from that storm. But you know also Rob as that moved inland and up through Georgia and on up we saw more tornadoes and more fatalities. What are the chances of this system you know continue to wreak havoc as it moves on up through Georgia?
MARCIANO: Well we think that the main threat is going to be flooding because it will slow down as it heads through Georgia and South Carolina. Same areas that saw the flooding rain from Frances and Ivan. It will be interesting to see that if more tornadoes pop up with this system. I think the air right now is not particularly unstable. Chad mentioned a lot of dry air across Georgia, and fairly cool air for this time of year.
So you know if I had to make a guess I would think that the number of tornadoes that are spawn from this hour forward shouldn't be as much as Ivan. And that is certainly what we often hope for --
CALLAWAY: Stay there in front of your weather map OK. Because we are going to bring back Anderson and Chad now and they are getting whipped around pretty good right now. Let's see if they have anything they want to ask you. Hello gentleman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey how is it going?
CALLAWAY: It looks like the fence is falling down now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually you know it is just brutal out here, I mean it is really just relentless, there is just nothing pleasant about it, it is just hour after hour, minute after minute these winds are just not letting up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you realize that the eye made landfall at the exact same spot as with Frances let me tell you this is the worst storm than Frances. Not even close, this has way more winds, the gusts are much stronger. And it came in much faster and that is probably bad it didn't give people a chance to get off the road. We still saw people on the road two hours ago. And they should have been well at home by then.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And with Francis I felt like at around this time maybe it was just that we sort of found a safer location but the winds feel much stronger at this point than they did in Francis.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely no question. We were in a different location then, but I will tell you what this entire area is getting blown around by wind gusts at times at 95 miles per hour. Finally our little wind vein doesn't work anymore. It blew the top right off the popper as they said about the old popcorn popper. But we know that and I can tell that when it broke at 95 that some of these are still 95 mile per hour gusts because they are equal to what broke that weather vein.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we were anticipating a ban, a pretty bad ban of storm coming up right about now in the next couple of minutes so we are kind of getting ready to prepare for that. And I mean this maybe it right now because it feels like the winds have just picked up. Even at this time that we have been speaking here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is hard to look at you, so I'm just going to look at the camera up there because it stings the eye so badly. What has been miracle here is that we have been able to stay on the air that entire time. The satellite dish is not wiggling where we have it, we have it parked behind a very large building and so just like a satellite dish on the roof if you get a big storm it wobbles and you lose the signal, if we wobble we lose sending the signal and that hasn't happened.
But on this side of the building wow it just rocked.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes it is -- Catherine I wish you were here.
CALLAWAY: I have only experienced hurricane winds a couple of times but never to the extent that you gentlemen have. I don't know how you are doing this over the amount of time that you have been out there and plan on staying there all night long. It is amazing. You know guys stay with us because on the line we are going to talk with a chief that can tell us about the seriousness of this storm and we do mean serious.
Chief Jeff Alter he is with the Martin County Fire and Rescue and this of course includes the area near Stuart, Florida where this horrible storm blew a shore. Chief what can you tell us about what the situation is in your county?
CHIEF JEFF ALTER, MARTIN COUNTY FIRE & RESCUE: Well Catherine right now we're out during the eye doing some quick damage assessment. We had four buildings that had total collapse with occupants, no injuries or very minor injuries. Our fire crews were able to get them to a shelter. We've had quite a few buildings with full as partial collapse. We some citizens trying to get to a shelter that may as far as the under passes of the one expressways and we had to go out and get them. And get them to a shelter.
CALLAWAY: Chief is Hutchinson Island part of your county?
ALTER: Yes ma'am it is.
CALLAWAY: What are you hearing in that area?
ALTER: Right now the bridge going there we have a large over pass and then a draw bridge, right now the draw bridge is sprung so we can not use that. And the causeway north getting there is being invaded with waves right now so we have no crews out there on the island that was a mandatory evacuation.
CALLAWAY: How successful were you with that? Because we have some complacing (ph) up and down the coast with residents who were frankly afraid to leave because they were afraid they wouldn't be able to get back. Do you think that there were some people that were trying to ride it out there?
ALTER: Yes ma'am we do. From one of my lieutenants on their way off of the island to get to their shelter place they say that they estimate about 200 citizens did not leave the island.
CALLAWAY: And what are there fate? What are you hearing if anything via radio, I guess you're not even able to have that now are you?
ALTER: No ma'am, no contact what so ever. But as a matter of fact I just demobilized from Pensacola through Ivan I was over there doing work and to come home here and if it is anything like what we saw over there at Ivan there is going to be a lot of beach erosion and hospital compromises some of the structures there.
CALLAWAY: So far what are you hearing about injuries although a home collapsed that you have been to so far, they have been lucky.
ALTER: Yes we have been very lucky. Right now what most of the damage as far as injuries go has been minor. Nothing serious so far.
CALLAWAY: Are your hospitals up and running?
ALTER: Well we did take them; you got to remember the path of Jeanne has taken the same path that Frances did.
CALLAWAY: It is amazing. Your luck is - nothing to laugh at for sure. But you couldn't write this you know. Fiction.
ALTER: No. Yes it is almost like Steven Spielberg movie you know, one of those. But we've had some damage to one of our hospitals and they were damaged again due to the fact that repairs weren't completely made, just because it has only been three weeks. So right now, but they are still functioning the South Hospital that we have is still functioning. And our fire department has a mobile 50-bed hospital that will be deployed as soon as we can post storm. CALLAWAY: You have no idea of when you will be able to reach those people on Hutchinson Island do you?
ALTER: No ma'am what we are going to try and do is at first light this morning, Sunday morning we will be starting our search and rescue and that is one of our goals is to as quickly as we can get out on the island. We have requested some air assets from the National Guard that if we have to, you know if we can't get there by land then we are going to have to do aerial reconnaissance to see what damage is out there on the island.
CALLAWAY: We are getting reports that millions of customers out of power and when we say customers we mean businesses, and homes. Which of course include more than one person. Does anyone have power in your area?
ALTER: Unless they have a generator I would say no. Right now I think in Martin County we are 95 to 100 percent with out power within our community.
CALLAWAY: Chief I'm concerned about you and your rescue crews; you have to just be exhausted after weeks of this.
ALTER: Yes, yes we are. I've been going myself since August 10 with Hurricane Charley, I was over there deployed came home in time to work in Frances and then deployed again for Ivan. And now I'm back here dealing with Jeanne. But you know the fire rescue systems through out the state have a good resolve they will buckle up and they will go ahead and definitely get the job done. There is no question about it, we will be, and you know we are tired but we will be ready.
CALLAWAY: And you say Jeanne is going to be felt a lot more than Frances.
ALTER: Yes, definitely. The thing with Frances that was unusual was the length of time that it stayed here. And that was what probably caused the most of the damage. But this has been tremendously worse I believe and I've been in Florida 50 years and suffered through Hurricane Leo and Donna and some of the big storms in the early 60s. And I don't remember it ever being this bad.
CALLAWAY: What about water, what about utilities, all of that going to be worse than what we saw with Frances? I mean it is hard to imagine that being worse especially with gasoline.
ALTER: Yes, there were tremendous lines at the gas stations yesterday trying to get fuel. You know the thing is that one of the things we do out on the barrier island, on Hutchinson Island is we reduce the water flow out there and take care of the sewage lines and the electricity to try and protect it from the storm.
CALLAWAY: All right, I'm going to ask you one last question Chief. I know there is people out there actually most of the people watching you are the ones that are not in harms way. What can people do to help the residents of your area? ALTER: Basically pray for us. Make donations to the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. My last deployment over in Pensacola was trying to do humanitarian effort of getting food, ice and water. And that is going to be the thing that people of our community is well as St. Lucy County and India River County are going to need is that support of food, ice and water. Because we probably now that Florida Power & Light has lost what ever they put up from Charley and Frances and Ivan.
Have been destroyed again. We maybe three maybe six weeks with out power. I know that they are tremendously working a group of people I have all the respect for them of what they do, but the facts are the facts. We are probably going to be with out power for a while so --
CALLAWAY: Well you have all of our respect Chief and I hope that you will call us tonight, call us back when you hear anything about what is going on there in Hutchinson Island and that area. A lot of concerned people, a lot of concerned family members too. So call us back if you can this evening we will be here on the air all night long. And our thoughts and prayers are with you. That is Chief Jeff Alter he is with the Martin County Fire & Rescue.
He spoke a lot about the power situation there and in a moment we are going to be speaking with officials with the power company, one of the power companies there. After the break. Stay with us.
CALLAWAY: Hurricane Jeanne has left behind desperation in Haiti. U.N. peacekeepers had to fire into the air to keep hungry crowds from mobbing and looting shipments there.
The death toll from the hurricane is staggering. Estimates put it now at 1,500. And, of course, many people are still missing.
We are also following the developments in Iraq tonight. At least 14 people are dead after several U.S. air strikes in Fallujah. A military spokesman says that the latest air strike was aimed at the Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi terror network there.
Still no word in the last few hours on the fate of Ken Bigley. He, of course, is the 62-year-old British citizen being held hostage in Iraq. His captors have threatened to kill him unless all female prisoners held by Iraq and U.S. forces are released.
We continue now without our coverage of Hurricane Jeanne. We're going to go right to Anderson Cooper who is in Melbourne, Florida. Looks like you're getting hammered.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Catherine. I think this is sort of one of the big bands of the storm really hitting us hard. But just to give you a sense of how strong this wind is, I'm right now in sort of a protected area. I'm just going to walk a few feet. And you can see the difference.
The wind now -- basically I'm directly in the wind. And it's obviously very hard to stand.
It's extraordinary how just a couple of feet can make such a huge difference. You know, it is very easy in this kind of a wind to sort of move your body in wrong way and let the wind sort of take you. As long as you stay sort of parallel to the wind, you're pretty much OK.
But it's remarkable. I'm literally 10 feet from the last location I was in when Chad and I were out there. We were a little bit more protected over there. But this is the kind of wind we're seeing, which, you know, it felt where we were sitting -- it felt like when we were right over there, but the wind was dying down. But the wind certainly does not seem to be dying down right now.
Yes, Rob, are we in -- I mean, is this some sort of a band or something?
COOPER: Yes? I'm sorry. Sorry, I was trying to...
CALLAWAY: Yes, we're trying to get -- we're trying to get Rob. He's trying to get the map up. We wanted to find out, as you do, we want to know what's going on there. It certainly looks like things have picked up there.
It is the worse you've seen it so far, Anderson?
COOPER: You know, I don't think it is. It may just be I'm in a different location. The cameraman is pretty much protected right now.
But the wind is kind of whipping around the corner. Before, the wind was kind of going over me, sort of like four or five feet. And I think we were experiencing these kinds of winds all along. But they were just sort of higher up.
At this point now, they're right down on ground level, and they seem to just be, just hammering the ground right now. It's -- and it just seems to be getting worse, which is a little bit surprising because we sort of thought the worse was beyond us.
Now, the cameraman, as you can tell, has just moved out from beyond the sort of protected area, and you can tell how hard it is for him to stand up.
CALLAWAY: Well, I think we have Rob now, Anderson.
Rob Marciano, what's going on where Anderson is, Rob?
MARCIANO: He's getting the northern part of the eye wall right now. This thing has jogged north, or actually it's started it turn to the north.
So, you know, about an hour and a half ago, the whole system was farther to the south. But now you can kind of see how this whole eye has now gone from here to a little bit up there. So, here's Melbourne. Here's where these guys are. And they're getting some, not only a part of the eye wall but some of that forward momentum as well.
So they're getting, unfortunately, the strongest part of this storm at the moment. With winds coming off the ocean, there's not a whole lot of friction there. They've got a little forward motion, too, with this thing moving west, northwest, 13, 14 miles an hour. That adds to the forward -- to the wind speed as well.
So, they're just getting pummeled with the north -- they're not going to get a taste of this. So -- Can Anderson hear me, or is he still getting blown around?
COOPER: Yes. No, I heard you. I think the -- by the way, I think the term "a little forward motion" is a little bit of an understatement.
MARCIANO: Yes, you probably...
COOPER: It feels like an awful lot of forward motion to me.
MARCIANO: Hey, man. We ran into the same thing in Ivan. We were just off -- we were on the northern -- the western fringe of the eye wall. We didn't get a taste of that calm.
In Ivan, though, we were on the weaker part of the storm. Right now, my friend, you are on the stronger part of the storm. And obviously you'll feel it.
How strong do these winds feel compared to Ivan a week and a half ago?
COOPER: This feels about the same, maybe a little bit weaker, although it's hard for me to tell, frankly. Do you have any sense of how long the northern part of the eye wall is going to last at this location?
MARCIANO: I think you're going to be in it for another 45 minutes to an hour. And then you'll get...
COOPER: Forty-five minutes? Are you kidding?
MARCIANO: Yes, I'm sorry, buddy.
Listen, they pay you the big bucks. Come on? Suck it up out there.
COOPER: I literally thought you were going to say like five more minutes.
MARCIANO: You're doing a great job. Just hold tough. Hold tough, buddy.
Yes, unfortunately, you're still going to get blown around. I don't know if you can run for shelter. It looks like you guys don't have much place to take shelter. But here you guys are.
And I'll tell you what, Vero Beach, you might get a little bit of a calm right here. Fort Pierce, you're about to get into the backside of this thing. So, you know, it's...
COOPER: Rob, do you have any sense of how high the winds are around now, I mean, in this northern part of the eye wall?
MARCIANO: Well, the ASOS, or the automated sensors that we use have been blown out. We haven't seen anything for the last three or four hours. One of the radars, I think, out of either Melbourne or Miami that are read had an estimate of about 120 knots. That's at that about 5,000, 6,000 feet.
So, I'm thinking you're up there, easily hurricane-force sustained, like Chad said. And you're getting gusts over 100 miles an hour.
And you're not even -- right now, you're protected, aren't you? Right now you're protected?
COOPER: Yes, I mean, we're -- you know, I am not sure how protected I am, quite frankly.
MARCIANO: My goodness. Hey, take...
CALLAWAY: You notice Chad's not there.
CALLAWAY: Chad, having sense to get in out of the rain there, Anderson.
COOPER: That's right.
MARCIANO: You're making me nervous here. Get on one knee or something.
COOPER: Well, it's actually -- it's interesting I didn't really intend to -- I was just walking away from the place where we were, and then all of a sudden the winds just picked up like this. And I just happened upon the camera here. We are at a different camera, a different location. So I figured, you know, I should get on the air as quickly as possible.
But it's amazing how strong these winds are right now. I literally thought we had sort of seen the worst of it, the worse had passed. I thought we were, that the northern part of the eye wall was going to be south of us.
Clearly, or, I guess what we should say, it's not. And this is kind of it. It's really bad. It's very interesting -- Catherine?
CALLAWAY: All right. We're going to check up with you in... COOPER: My crew over there is laughing. Everyone is laughing at me.
CALLAWAY: We just want you to stay safe, Anderson.
All right. We're going to talk now with Tim Pagel. He's with Florida Power in Miami. He can tell us exactly what the situation is and how many people are without -- how many customers, rather, are without power.
Mr. Pagel, are you there?
TIM PAGEL, FLORIDA POWER & LIGHT: I sure am, thanks.
CALLAWAY: What can you tell us?
PAGEL: Well, FPL, as of an hour or so ago we're reporting about 817,000 customers without power, primarily in Palm Beach County in the Treasure Coast.
In Palm Beach County, we have about 487,000 customers without power, a significant percentage of our customer base in Palm Beach County. And in the Treasure Coast, which is St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River and Okeechobee counties, we have about 220,000 customers without power this evening.
CALLAWAY: Did you still have people that were out of power from the last hurricane, or had you just gotten all that settled?
PAGEL: Well, we essentially had restored all those customers. And that was about 2.8 million customers out of our 4.2 million customer base, with the exception of some that had structural issues at their homes.
And we're faced now here with a very challenging situation because this is another -- this is a strong storm, stronger winds than Frances really. We've got flooding issues here that are going to be -- going to be with us. And we've got to wait, of course, until those flood waters recede.
And, by the way, we certainly want our customers, too, not to venture out into any standing water where power lines could be down and energized. We ask them not to go out at night where they maybe can't see downed power lines, and certainly if they see any downed lines or sparking lines to call 1-800-4OUTAGE.
CALLAWAY: You know, I hope that we could stress that enough because it's so sad. After every hurricane, we get the reports of a fatality of someone who either steps on or walks into an area where there's a live wire.
PAGEL: That's right. And that's really what we would stress. We want to keep our crews safe and our customers safe. And we don't send crews out when the wind is more than 35 miles per hour. And we want our customers, above all, to be -- to be safe, to watch out for those downed lines, to also operate their -- if they're using generators, to operate them outside.
Follow the manufacturers instructions. Connect appliances directly to them. Do not wire generators directly into your breaker or fuse box because of the back feed that...
PAGEL: ... that could put into the system. So, those safety tips we're very serious about.
CALLAWAY: You know, and unfortunately, the 800,000 people who are without power right now are the ones that need to hear that message, and they're not hearing it.
Do you expect that number to grow, to -- as the evening, as this storm continues to move through?
PAGEL: Yes, I don't have any specific estimates on how it might grow. But certainly the storm is still moving through. And I would expect the numbers to -- we would expect the numbers to increase.
CALLAWAY: And how are you going to address this, Mr. Pagel? Your crews have to be exhausted already after the last few weeks trying to recover from Frances.
CALLAWAY: Do you have enough help from other states, power companies coming in to assist you?
PAGEL: Well, we have about 6,000 employees from FPL who will be on the restoration team in the field and in support rolls. And the biggest challenge right now, however, is going to be assembling a large enough cadre of external resources because those resources are clearly very stretched, not just from the physical standpoint.
But, you know, we've got some of them that had helped us here in Florida that are now helping in the, still in the Panhandle and elsewhere in the Hurricane Ivan restoration.
And then we, in our arrangements with other utilities in the Southeast, are a mutual aid system. So programs that we have here in the Southeast, many of those personnel may be held back until their home utilities find out whether this storm is going to move through their service territory or not.
So we're really faced with an issue where we're reaching, literally, across the nation. We're calling utilities in all parts of the country. And, you know, we've got a really good logistics operation that knows how to do this and knows how to put together a team, but that's going to be our biggest challenge right now.
CALLAWAY: What is your estimate on getting power back to these people? Could we see this stretched to weeks, possibly a month?
PAGEL: Well, we have been very candid. Yesterday afternoon we had a news conference. We talked about customers being -- need to be prepared for extended power outages, possibly up to three weeks.
And this is -- it's very difficult. We emphasize. We understand the tremendous hardships that this is going to be for people and -- but we're dealing with these issues just like they are. We are asking for their patience and understanding.
We've got a lot of, hundreds of employees with damaged homes. And, you know, we're putting aside our, in many cases, our own, personal issues to help our customers.
PAGEL: And that's important to us. We're very customer focused, and we're going to continue to do that. But we're all in it together. And it's going to be a tough goal. And we would like to ask our customers for patience and understanding, as difficult as that is going to be.
CALLAWAY: Our thoughts are certainly with you, Mr. Pagel.
That's Tim Pagel. He's with Florida Power. He's in Miami. And we will talk with you soon to find out how recovery efforts go and getting that power back on.
PAGEL: Thanks very much.
CALLAWAY: Let's check back in with Anderson Cooper, who is in Melbourne where a big band of wind is blowing through. Anderson, are you they are?
Do we have Anderson?
All right. Well, we've lost Anderson for the moment. We'll get him back in just a few minutes and check in with him.
We're going to take a break. And Hurricane Jeanne coverage will continue in just a moment.
CALLAWAY: We're going to try to reach Anderson Cooper again, who is battling incredible winds there in Melbourne.
Anderson, can you hear me now?
COOPER: Yes, Catherine. I'm sorry. We were having a problem with the microphone. In these winds, it's really hard to just -- our equipment keeps breaking down. The cameras keep getting water inside them, as you can probably understand.
But we're still in this northern part of the eye wall. The wind is very extreme.
Chad Myers, our meteorologist, has been taking some...
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Bud. COOPER: This is -- I don't know. You probably didn't hear Rob earlier. He was saying that this is the northern part of the eye wall.
MYERS: Yes, it is. And if this storm is actually turning to the north or making a little bit of a right, we're going to be in it for a while. That's the problem.
Now, there's just no way to get out of it now that we're in it. And this is just relentless the way we've been getting this now. But what I've been seeing here, some of these gusts now 89. And then I'd just had a 92-mile an hour gust.
So I know we're kind of, you know, it looks like we're in a wind tunnel, but in fact this is just mother nature at her worse.
COOPER: Yes, it's interesting, when you're outside -- I mean, some areas get more wind than others. Like there's an area over there, which is like a natural wind tunnel, but this is really just open to the water. This is not any sort of artificial wind tunnel.
COOPER: This is just the way it is.
MYERS: Yes. No, not at all. I mean, we couldn't probably get over there where the truck is parked, where there's a little bit of a walkway. And the winds are probably a 120 in there.
COOPER: Yes, it's very interesting. I can't even hear. In this wind, with these speeds, I can't even hear what Chad is saying. I assume you can. I assume the mic is picking it up.
CALLAWAY: Yes, we can hear Chad. Just not your head and keep asking questions.
COOPER: I assume he's not calling me nasty names or making...
CALLAWAY: No, he's not.
You know, if -- you were in the same location before, weren't you?
COOPER: Yes. Well, it's interesting. We, both Chad and I were both out here during Hurricane Frances. We were about, probably about a mile or so further up along the water, but this is much worse than anything we saw during Frances.
MYERS: And I touched on that before. And I don't know whether I got my point across. But if the eye wall made landfall in the same spot, if the eye was in the same spot...
MYERS: ... and we are in the same spot, and this is so much worse, than everybody else south of us is also feeling it much worse than what it was.
You know, it's interesting, it's no longer a matter of sort of gusts coming and then there being a lull. This is just relentless, nonstop, just brutal winds. And there is really no let up in sight.
MYERS: Yes, and at this point in time, it is hard to stand up. Remember when you asked me -- you asked me about 20 miles an hour ago, when is it going to be very hard to do this. And I said about 100. And this is pretty darn close to 100.
COOPER: Yes. I'm sorry. Literally, the equipment starts to rip off you in these kind of winds. I'm trying to put this back.
But Catherine, it's amazing, you know, we thought this thing was kind of -- we thought we had sort of seen the worst of it, but this is definitely the worse we've seen so far.
MYERS: Yes, no question about it. And whether this was just one squall inside that band, because sometimes that will happen. Sometimes you'll get one squall.
COOPER: Sorry, I can't start stop -- Wait, it's Chad.
MYERS: Sometimes you get one squall that will make a heavy wind even, you know light time, in a light squall. But this is obviously one of the bigger ones inside a heavy rain band.
COOPER: So there's really no telling how long? I mean, Rob was saying it might last for 45, 50 minutes.
MYERS: It sure could. And if the storm continues to turn right, which it's not doing yet, we could be in the eye wall for an even longer time.
COOPER: That's certainly not good news for us here. But -- I mean, I don't know how much you can see on the camera, but it is literally -- I mean, you look 20 feet away, it's this wall of white water.
It looks -- I mean, it's like a solid mass. It's remarkable actually kind of seeing it this far up close.
CALLAWAY: Trust me. We can see how difficult the situation is there for you and all the residents there
CALLAWAY: Oh, my goodness.
You know, this is just not safe. I think you guys need to get into shelter here, Anderson. And we'll check back with you in just a few minutes because that does not look safe.
These are professionals, people, believe it or not. Meteorologist Rob Marciano is going to give us an update on exactly what they're trying to stand in. You know, it's not funny, ha ha. It's just ridiculous.
MARCIANO: I'll tell you what they're trying to do. They just trying to depict and display the force of these winds.
MARCIANO: And trust me, from being in that situation, the crew doesn't want to risk their lives. So Chad and the rest of the crew, before they figure out where they're going to set up, they look around to see if there's going to be any sort of debris that may be flying their way, where they can get protection if they need it at any particular time, and where they can seek shelter and just how bad it's going to get.
So hopefully that sort of judgment is going to lead to some, their safety tonight, but -- and they won't see any sort of debris. But they are just trying to depict the force of those winds.
All right. Hey, I said -- I mentioned that the automated systems that report some of the winds, the barometric pressure, the temperature, all that stuff, pretty much are kaput from Melbourne all the way down to West Palm Beach.
This is the Doppler radar sight out of Melbourne. And we've coupled this with our bearings of FasTrac. And this can measure the winds.
The reds are the winds going away from the radar. And the greens are the winds coming toward the radar. And these bright, bright greens -- actually Craig, take that off. That's a little bit misleading.
It's at least 74 miles an hour sustained, but some of the other things that we've been able to see but not rapidly put up here, somewhere -- I'm not sure how far up, but likely below 5,000 feet -- the winds are at 120 knots in this green area.
And that means that they are at about 138 to 140 miles an hour. And I'm not saying that those are reaching the ground, but that's how strong the winds are, potentially, in this area just off the ground.
So easily, these guys are getting, in this circular area, are getting easily sustained hurricane-force winds. And those gusts that are blowing those guys around are 90 or 100 mile an hour, plus winds to be knocking them around like that.
And just to answer Chad's question whether or not this is a squall, or whether it's actually the eye wall. It is the eye wall. As a matter of fact, there's another little squall within that eye wall. This brighter orange is about to show up in Melbourne.
Vero Beach, you're probably getting a little bit of a respite. Fort Pierce now getting out of it. And this is all heading toward Kissimmee, St. Cloud and eventually toward Orlando. Orlando almost gusting to 70 miles an hour. So they'll start to see their weather get a little bit worse as this thing continues to make its trip up toward the north.
Catherine, do we still have those guys, or have they run inside?
CALLAWAY: Yes, I want to bring Anderson back on. We don't want people to think that he's put himself in harm's way.
Anderson, your fine, right?
COOPER: Yes, absolutely. I know it probably looks bad from where you're sitting. We really are in a very protected zone. We have a number of crew personnel who are right here, and they are shielded from the winds.
I mean we're really -- this is a very, actually, safe location. The big danger in something like this is debris flying around. We don't really have that concern here because we're actually on the water, and there's really nothing -- there's no debris that could come, theoretically, and hurt us.
MYERS: And you know, we talked about this earlier, but a lot of people probably are either just joining us or have been watching something else during the night.
The fact that we know what's going on makes our life a lot easier, but the people that live here have no power. They have no cable. They don't know what's going on and they have to listen to this, and they're thinking to themselves when is it going to stop? And they don't have an answer because nobody can give them that answer.
CALLAWAY: You know...
COOPER: You know, I mean, actually, just from -- if I could just say, you know, it's very easy to sort of get caught up in sort of the excitement of this sort of -- it's very easy to kind of lose focus on the fact that right now, you know, there are families, there are children, there are, you know, whole families crowded into their bathrooms, into their closets. And they are afraid, and they are trying to ride out this storm.
And it's nice, actually, after you cover a couple of these storms, the e-mails you get from people and the letters you get from people who say, you know, thank you for actually going out there. You know, you really gave me a sense of what it was like out there. You told us information, and it made the night go by just a little bit easier.
And that's certainly a nice thing to hear.
MYERS: We talked about his earlier, as well, is that we thought that Melbourne, itself, was not prepared for a storm like this. They weren't leaving.
There were some boards up. There were some buildings there were boards up. But I'll tell you what, there was a lot of traffic on the road today. And they weren't headed out of town. Many of them were going over to the Barrier Island to take a look.
And we think that they are in the area hunkered down in their homes rather than evacuating. We didn't see -- we didn't see the mass evacuations with this one that we saw with Frances.
When you and I came here for Frances, we were the only two cars that were going east, and everybody else was going west, getting away from the storm. And we did not see that with this storm. People were not evacuating for this storm.
CALLAWAY: It is so similar...
COOPER: Well, let's hope they are hunkered down safe.
CALLAWAY: All of this is just, really is deja vu. There you are, the same place you were in Frances. Here I am, the same place I was in Frances, same time of night.
We're getting a lot of e-mail, though, people asking a lot of questions, first of all, wanting to know if you're doing this for a raise, Anderson, that you certainly deserve one.
COOPER: Wait, I'm sorry. They were wondering what?
CALLAWAY: If you were doing this for a raise, that you certainly deserve one.
COOPER: You know what, I'm sorry. I actually have water in my IFB. With the IFB, this earpiece here that we actually hear you through, you actually gets swimmer's ear because the rains go into your ears.
And so, it actually sounds like you're talking to me under water. So, I might have to clean out my IFB here, for a second.
CALLAWAY: All right. We'll take a break.
COOPER: All I've heard...
CALLAWAY: We'll get back with you guys in just a moment. We do have a lot of e-mail we want to get you. We want to get some of your answers.
We're going to take a break. We'll be back in just a moment.
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