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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Hurricane Wilma's Impact

Aired October 24, 2005 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Good evening. Live from Hollywood, Florida tonight. We'll take you into the eye of the storm and show you what Wilma has left behind. 360 starts now.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: From Mexico, to Cuba, and finally Florida.

GOV. JEB BUSH, FLORIDA: Hurricane Wilma made landfall near Cape Romano with a Category 3 force.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at this.

COOPER: This is probably the worst that we have seen.

ANNOUNCER: The storm now over, but not the danger.

BUSH: Cannot say it enough. It is more dangerous after a storm than it is during the storm.

ANNOUNCER: A small city in the path of a fierce hurricane. This is what it looked like before Wilma hit. We'll show you what it looks like now.

This is just the beginning.

From Hollywood to Boca, down the Florida coast, driving through the heart of a hurricane. A ride they'll never forget.

And they went to Cancun to relax. Now they're stuck in shelters where food and water are running out. Americans on vacation stranded and struggling.

Live from Florida tonight, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Good evening again. We're live in Hollywood, Florida, a town between Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. From its west coast to its east coast, Florida is reeling from Hurricane Wilma. I'm standing in the wake of it all here in Hollywood. Wilma came ashore on the west coast at about 6:30 a.m. this morning as a Cat 3 hurricane, and though it weakened to a Category 2 storm as it crossed Florida, it still caused widespread damage, from Palm Beach to Miami, and as far south as Key West. Here is what is happening at this moment. Hurricane Wilma is churning over the Atlantic now, about 180 miles north of the northwest corner of the Bahamas. The storm has strengthened to a Category 3 storm again. It is moving northeast at about 37 miles per hour.

Much of Key West is under 3 to 5 feet of water. Wilma's southern eyewall brushed the Keys. Tourist hot spots Naples, Sanibel Island and Marco Island, where I was this morning, bore the initial brunt of the storm. At least three people were killed.

Tonight, more than 3 million homes and businesses are without power. More than 6 million people are affected. About 36,000 people staying in 124 shelters set up across the state tonight.

A dramatic and dangerous day here in Florida. We have reporters across the state and in Mexico and in Cuba as well. David Mattingly is here in Hollywood. Rob Marciano in Naples, about 100 miles to the east, hit hard by Wilma.

Lucia Newman is in Havana, Cuba, and we'll have the latest from Cancun as well, where those American tourists are stranded right now this evening. All of that ahead.

We start with David Mattingly, who began his day just after dawn by getting into a car in Hollywood and making his way north to Boca Raton and back. For close to three hours, he was in the teeth of the hurricane. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hours after Wilma crashed Florida's west coast, the hurricane was slashing its way east for a violent exit into the Atlantic. And we hit the road heading north, attempting to rendezvous with the eye of the storm.

(on camera): I can't see too well. I can't feel the road. And the wind has actually got a little more control of the car than we do right now.

(voice-over): Driving through sheets of rain in near whiteout conditions, we made our way up I-95, where outside Boca Raton, we came across a tractor-trailer rig, blown over on its side.

The relentless winds almost knocked me over as well. Fortunately, the driver was not there.

As the storm beared down on us, we exited into Boca Raton, headed for the beach. Some streets we found were blocked.

By now, trees, signs and power lines were down everywhere. I made the mistake of rolling down the window for a better look.

(on camera): Oh, man! The window is going back up.

(voice-over): There are occasional gusts of hurricane-strength winds as we reached the beach, but as the eye approached, there was an abrupt calm. Enough of the lull for local residents to run out for a peak at the pounding surf.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some real good waves. Real big. It never gets this big here.

MATTINGLY: But as quickly as the calm arrived, it was gone. Wilma hit the Atlantic with a roar.

(on camera): It hits you almost exactly like a punch in the face! And in textbook fashion, as the eye passes through here, the wall on the backside is definitely stronger than the leading edge.

It's time to get out of here!

(voice-over): Even back on the road, we found Wilma was far from done.

(on camera): The real hazard are these lights.

(voice-over): Heading south, fallen light poles blocked up to five lanes on I-95. Near the beaches of Ft. Lauderdale, streets of entire neighborhoods were flooded.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: And with so much electricity out all up and down the east coast of Florida, so many people preparing for a very dark night -- Anderson.

COOPER: And a lot of flooding, especially in this area around Hollywood. We'll show you that in a moment. David, thanks.

Before Wilma reached Boca, it had already left a mess in its wake on the western side of the state. Came ashore here on Marco Island. Winds of 125 miles per hour. The city of Naples is just north of Marco Island, and about 100 miles from here. It took a serious hit from Wilma. CNN's Jeanne Meserve rode it out. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): We're at the Admiralty, the condominium in Naples, Florida. We've been holed up here for about three and a half hours while Wilma has been whipping this area. I want to show you from this vantage point what she's been doing.

Look at all this water. This down here was driveways and roadways. And now it is a river.

And look at these trees. You can just see how the whole roof system has come right up out of the ground. Just the pressure of the wind and the moisture in the soil conspiring to bring these gigantic and old trees right down.

Now, we look around at some of the other buildings in the area, and you know, they don't look all that damaged. This white one over here, I see what looks to be a window out, and some things flying out. I've seen a couple of awnings down. But the physical structures actually seem to be fairly intact. It is the vegetation that is really suffering in this wind and in this rain that Wilma has produced.

This is that same area, but here from ground level, you can see this water and how the wind is just beating it, just beating it, whipping it along, and you also get a better sense of the debris that's coming down.

Look at this. Huge limbs! Huge limbs! And we're really getting battered here, still, three and a half hours after Wilma really made her force known here.

This is sand. What makes this unusual is that the beach is on the other side of the building. But the sand has been blown over here by the wind, through these portals on the first floor of this building.

This is the beach, where we were earlier. Come out here now, it's pretty amazing. If you look down here, you can see how the waves have totally eroded this beach front. This was a nice, smooth decline before. The water is way offshore. I'm not sure if that's tide, or if this is the result of these incredible winds.

For a while out here, it looked like Moses parting the Red Sea. There was just a wall of water out here. And the sand really hurts, let me tell you. We're being sandblasted, all of us.

Let's go!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: That was the scene this morning, probably about 8:00 a.m. this morning, when that storm started to come onshore in Naples, did a lot of damage there.

I'm in Hollywood, Florida now, on the east coast. And there is a lot of flooding in this area, probably about six inches of just water standing in this area. Let me -- almost lost our cameraman here.

Let me give you a sense, though. It's not so much of a danger to the houses. The houses in there have been very lucky. It's gone up, you know, most of them, or the houses are sort of rising up off the water, so the water hasn't actually entered a lot of these homes, but the streets are completely flooded. And they tell me that a lot of this flooding actually occurred from Katrina, a lot of the storm drains are filled up with palm fronds, and that's what's causing -- this water really has nowhere to go. That's causing some problems for Hollywood. We'll have more from here a little bit later on.

But coming up tonight on 360, the scene out of Cancun, Mexico. American tourists stranded. It is going to be a very difficult couple of days for them. We'll show you their story ahead.

Also tonight, explosions rock two hotels in Baghdad. We'll have the latest from there, next on 360. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really am having a hard time standing up. I got nothing to hang on to here. I'm going to stay near this sign. Because I can't stand up. I think we got to be close to at close to 100 miles an hour here now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, that was a scene, of course, this morning on the west side of Florida. We're now in Hollywood on the east side of Florida, a much calmer scene, of course, now but a lot of flooding. A lot more to talk about, about this storm.

But, first, Erica Hill from headline news joins us with some of the other stories we are following tonight. Welcome back Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, nice to be back with you Anderson.

We start off with news on President Bush saying he will not release documents written by supreme court candidate Harriet Miers when she was White House counsel, saying today he doesn't want to compromise the confidentiality of legal advice in the oval office.

Senators from both parties are calling for more information about the president's nominee for the high court. Mr. Bush says they'll have to wait for the congressional hearings which are scheduled to begin November 7th.

In Syria today, demonstrators taking to the streets to protest a United Nations investigation leaking Syrian officials with the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syrian official news agency said hundreds of thousands joined protests in the capital of Damascus and in Aleppo. Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has denied any involvement while officials from his government call the report politicized and inaccurate.

A drug lord with reported ties to the Taliban has been extradited from Afghanistan to face charges here in the U.S. Baz Muhammad is the first Afghan ever to be extradited. He is accused of smuggling more than $25 million worth of heroin into the U.S. and other countries.

And finally, remember "Good Fellas?" Because who could forget it. You might want to call them great fellas. The 1990 gangster flick is now the greatest movie of all time that's according to a panel of British film experts. The blood spattered, profanity laden real life tale of a New York wise guy, beat out a host of contenders, including "Jaws," "Vertigo," Anderson, even "Citizen Kane" can't muscle out the Martin Scorsese classic.

Of course, it could be too because the main character is Henry Hill. No relation, but, you know, sometimes I just like to pretend that we share a famous last name. COOPER: Do you find me amusing? Do you find me amusing like a clown? That is my little "Good Fellas"...

HILL: I like it, that's good stuff.

COOPER: ...sort of have to see the movie.

HILL: Keep working on it.

COOPER: I'm not very good. Yes, I will, believe me. Thanks a lot. Erica, thanks to you again. See you in about 30 minutes.

A look now at your world in 360. Smoke, rubble and lost lives in central Baghdad tonight after insurgents strike hotels favored by journalists and former contractors. The latest reports, Ten dead, 22 wounded. CNN's Nic Robertson has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Massive, spectacular and caught on camera. A bomb hidden in a cement truck detonates. The third, by far the largest of three explosions targeting two heavily fortified hotels used by international journalists, western workers.

It all began moments earlier with two smaller car bombs. The first car captured on this security camera detonates next to a concrete security barrier, blowing a hole in the hotel's defenses. The second car bomb approaches the breach but is driven back by gunfire and explodes about a hundred meters from the hotel.

Seconds later, the cement mixer drives through the gap in the security barrier exploding as it approaches the hotel lobby. Inside, stores were ripped apart. Hotel workers and some journalists among the walking wounded, others fared far worse.

Police said all three of the vehicles were driven by suicide bombers. The pattern of the attack mirroring what U.S. and Iraqi officials believe, but insurgents want maximum publicity to instill fear among Iraqis and the international community. U.S. troops bolstered security around the hotels on streets, that have been virtually sealed off to most traffic since coalition forces first arrived two and a half years ago.

Indeed, the round-about outside the hotels is the same one where U.S. marines famously tore down Saddam Hussein's statue, symbolically ending his regime April 9th, 2003.

(on camera): Beyond the deaths and the damage, what the insurgents have been able to do is lay down a marker showing they can pull off big and complex strikes. But, with potentially more prestigious targets inside the hard to attack highly secure green zone, it is also an indication that perhaps they've been forced to choose softer or albeit high visibility targets. Nic Robertson, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Still to come tonight on 360, Hurricane Wilma tears through the Mexican Riviera leaving tourists and locals stranded in shelters, are running low on medicine and food. We'll take you there.

Also, tonight, what the storm did Everglade City, Florida, a portrait of a pretty -- now a pretty badly punished place.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is painful rain, horizontal, sheets of rain like a constant acupuncture is what I'm going through right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: It is hard to imagine a place more exposed to the elements than the resort town of Cancun. There's the ocean, of course, and a very long strip of sand, on top of which, like giant pale dominoes on a beige carpet, the high rise hotels parade off toward the horizon. There isn't any shelter from the sun, let alone from a storm. CNN's Susan Candiotti found that out firsthand. She was there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Desperation setting in after four days without power or water in Cancun and Cozumel. Mexicans cuing out in seemingly endless lines for something to eat and drink. President Vicente Fox told CNN help is on the way.

PRES. VICENTE FOX, MEXICO: The supply of food, the supply of medicine -- right now, we have just come out of a meeting. We do have all the merchandise. It's totally available. The problem is logistics to move fast, to move very, very fast, to have all of this products in the hands of people.

CANDIOTTI: Oliver Torre (ph) says they're worried how long supplies at shelters will last.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Supplies are running short. Really short. We don't know what's going to happen today. But everybody is starting to get very hungry.

CANDIOTTI: An estimated 20,000 tourists remain stranded in temporary shelters in Cancun and the island of Cozumel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every day, they keep on telling us tomorrow, five days. The next day, they say, no, four more days. No, nine more days. They just -- I wish I had an answer. That's all I want to know, is when I can get to the hotel or get to the airport.

CANDIOTTI: After visiting a shelter and touring the region, Mexico's president promised tourists would be bused starting Monday from Cozumel and Cancun to Merida, and flown out of Mexico on chartered flights. He said Cancun's airport might reopen late Tuesday.

FOX: As of tomorrow, the latest at 9:00 tomorrow, the local airport, the Cancun airport will be at service again.

CANDIOTTI: But on Monday, roads to Merida were flooded, and it remained unclear how buses could get out. Mr. Fox said he had about 450 federal police sent to the region to prevent further looting that's been going on for days.

Tourism makes up 75 percent of the region's economy. That made hotel repair an urgent priority.

FOX: I'm absolutely sure and convinced that if today we're at zero, at zero, not one single operating; in the term of two months, you will see this up to 80 percent, 75 percent or maybe higher.

FOX: The government promised to make sure everyone keeps getting paychecks, a lofty goal for a recovery with a yet undetermined price tag.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, Cancun, Mexico.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: As you just heard, Mexican President Vicente Fox said today that Cancun's airport should be open tomorrow. That's certainly good news for about 20,000 stranded tourists in the area.

Michael Attardi is an American who after gale-force winds rationed food and water, had no contact with U.S. embassy. He is ready for his so-called vacation to end. He joins us on the phone from a hotel in Cozumel, Mexico.

How are you holding up? Michael, can you hear me? Trying to reestablish contact with Michael. He is in Cozumel in a hotel. We'll try to get him a little bit later on in the program.

A monster storm, a near miss. A sigh of relief, and then suddenly, unexpectedly, massive flooding. Of course, it sounds familiar. This time it wasn't New Orleans. It was Havana, the capital of a nation with a reputation for hurricane preparedness. Lucia Newman reports from a city trapped by the sea.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The waves nearly reached the top of Havana's Morro Castle lighthouse. No one had ever seen anything like it, not even what Cubans call the storm of the century 12 years ago. Wilma's storm surge turning the city's avenues and streets into saltwater river in the blink of the eye.

Berna Racquel (ph) barely had time to get out of her basement apartment in the middle of the night. "It was very quick, very fast. The sea is full of surprises," she says.

Cuba's civil defense is using boats and anything else that floats to rescue people, while the army joins in with Soviet-made amphibious vessels.

These alleged looters were among the passengers.

The flooding extends all the along the shoreline for at least 10 miles, from downtown to mid-town, to the Fifth Avenue tunnel, to the Santa Fe area on the city's outskirts, where these homes were covered by the water.

Elena (ph), a hairdresser, takes us to see where she lives. Everything she owns is now under water. "Down there, there's nothing left. Not even the walls, but I have to keep on living there," she says.

These soldiers rescue a sofa. In Cuba, items like these are too often once-in-a-lifetime purchases, impossible for many to ever replace.

(on camera): These people are taking advantage of low tide to cross here. The current is very, very strong, and in a few hours, the water level will go up again.

(voice-over): It's a race against time, to get the sick, the young and the elderly to dry ground, to save as much of what is still salvageable, in a country where people already have very little.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NEWMAN: And, Anderson, now it's been nearly 20 hours since the sea started flooding the streets of Havana. And as you saw in those pictures taken just a short while ago before it was dark, the sea is still invading this city.

Now, the last time, in fact, that the Malecon seaside wall was broken was in 1917. The good news is there have been no fatalities reported -- Anderson.

COOPER: That certainly is some good news there. Lucia Newman, thanks very much, live from Havana tonight.

When we come back, we'll have the scene in Key West, Florida. Extensive flooding there. As you know, about 80 percent of the people decided not to evacuate. Now a lot of them are trying to seek shelter, because they can't go back to their homes. We'll have that story ahead. Plus, the latest forecast from CNN's Rob Marciano. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's really blowing down.

COOPER: Yeah. (INAUDIBLE). We were down there. We were down there probably about 20 or 30 minutes ago. The entire beach now is gone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That the scene early this morning on Marco Island. A rough and deadly day in Florida. Hurricane Wilma causing widespread damage from Palm Beach to Miami, and as far south as Key West.

I'm in Hollywood, north of Miami, on the east -- east coast of the state.

At this moment, Wilma is churning over the Atlantic, about 180 miles north of the northwest corner of the Bahamas. The storm has strengthened to a Cat 3 hurricane again. It is moving northeast at about 37 miles per hour -- a fast-moving storm it is.

In its wake, a lot of mess. Much of Key West under 3 to 5 feet of water. Wilma's southern eyewall only brushed the Keys. To the north, Naples, Sanibel Island and Marco Island bore the initial brunt of the storm. At least three people were killed.

Tonight, more than 3 million homes and businesses without power. More than 6 million are affected in one way or another. About 36,000 people are staying in 124 shelters across the state tonight.

It was just over 12 hours ago that Wilma slammed into Marco Island with winds of 125 miles an hour. Happily most of the inhabitants had headed out. They heeded warnings to evacuate. Many are already back at home. John King is standing by to tell us what they are finding back there -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Anderson, you can't walk around this town or any of the surrounding towns that see much that makes you stop and say, wow. Not much total destruction. But just about everything in this community and the surrounding communities took a nick or a hit.

I just spoke a bit ago to the city manager Bill Maas. And he says 75 percent of the buildings in Marco Island were damaged.

After we were here this morning hit, just as the eye passed over, we went down to Everglade City about 30 miles to the south. There much more significant storm surge. At one point, the storm surge flooding was knee-high, some places a little bit higher. Debris flying in the air as the backside of the storm came through after the eye passed through. Significant damage in Everglade City.

That's a relatively small city, about 600 people. Most had evacuated, although we did meet a few hardy souls who rode out the storm there.

They will have significant reconstruction there especially the coastline.

The locals, though, say the water tends to recede within a day or two. So, we can check back on that.

We also went to a small gritty fishing community, Goodland. That's just south of Marco Island, a bit closer than Everglade City. There, most of the homes, unfortunately, are modest trailers right up along the canals and right up along the Gulf. We had visited Sunday. It's a very neat community even though it is modest. Much destruction there. Much -- trailers just ripped apart as you see when a big hurricane hits.

And again here in Marco Island, the power went out. You were here, Anderson, when the power went out last night. The city manager said by the end of the day tomorrow, it should all be back on.

COOPER: It is so terrible. It's often those who can afford least are the hardest hit. John King thanks for that.

CNN's Rob Marciano is standing by in Naples, Florida for us tracking the storm. Rob, where is the storm headed?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's heading off to the northeast. It's picking up serious amount of steam, Anderson. As it does so, it remains a strong storm.

As you know, it came on shore as a category three major hurricane yesterday -- or I guess this morning now with winds in some cases over 130 miles an hour.

Here is a laundry list of some of the wind gusts that peaked out in the Keys and the Dry Tortugas, 132, not a whole lot of people live there, but certainly Key Biscayne 123. Right here in Naples, 121 for a mile an hour wind gust. Pompano Beach 120. West Palm Beach and also parts of Miami over 100 miles an hour on the east side of this storm.

Satellite imagery shows the size of this storm, the wind field, hurricane force winds to 105 miles out. Where is it exactly? Well, it's about 300 miles to the northeast of West Palm Beach how far it's traveled in the last six or so hours.

It's moving northeasterly now at 27 miles an hour. And tropical storm force winds stand now. So it still remains not only strong but very big as it heads off toward the northeast. And because it's going to be close enough to the coastline of the U.S., that's going to pose some problems for folks who live across the northeast. It's actually going to combine with another weather system and some cold air. What that means for folks in major metropolitan areas across the northeast, believe it or not, you are going to get a taste of Wilma as well, but in a much colder fashion.

A nor'easter will develop. You'll see wind and rain in the New York area. And that will spread to Boston area over the next couple of days. And there will be enough cold air so that there will be some snow in the mountains, in the Poconos, in the Catskills, the Burkshires. The mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire as well. A winter storm watch is posted for elevations mostly over 1000 feet.

So Wilma, after taking its time heading towards the Yucatan and eventually coming through Florida, looks like it wants to head up the east coast. And at least a part of it wants to get into the act across the northeast. And some of it may fall in the form of snow. That's the latest from Naples, Florida Anderson, back over to you.

COOPER: It is still out there. Rob thanks very much.

It's amazing, Rob, talking about 27 miles an hour when you think about what the speed of the storm was when it was over Cancun in the single digits. Just the breadth of the storm, the variety, its wind speeds amazing.

There's an expression that people use so unthinkingly and so often that it's really lost most of its real force. But it happens to be the right thing to say just now about Everglade City, Florida. The expression is, what a difference a day makes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): This was Everglade City yesterday. City Hall, the town center and home to the mayor's office and library. This is Everglade City today.

Normally, the city is at sea level. Today, it is three feet underwater. The historic Rod and Gun Club, once visited by presidents Nixon, Eisenhower and Truman. It sat on the banks of the Barren River. Now it's an island.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I tell you, I've been on that for a week.

COOPER: Locals worked until late last night encouraging the 800 or so residents who call this home to get out. Some stayed, some out of stubbornness, others out of duty.

MAY. SAMMY HAMILTON, EVERGLADE CITY, FLORIDA: I'm staying in town because I'm the mayor of the city. I want to see what happens to the city. I want to be there. And if something -- anything I can do, I just got to be there. That's my city, my people, I'm going to be there.

COOPER; Everglade City is the self-proclaimed stone crab capital of the world. The stone crabbers set up shop around the rivers. Today, some traps remain today, but thousands have been swallowed by the Gulf.

Richard Wahrenberger is the owner of City Seafood, a popular local restaurant.

RICHARD WAHRENBERGER, CITY SEAFOOD: Stone crabs is our No. 1 seller. And I own my own boats. And we catch them, and cook them, and serve them right here. And every crab I catch, we sell through our cafe here.

COOPER: This was City Seafood yesterday. This is it today. Wahrenberger took nine years to build the cafe, drove every nail himself. He chose to ride the storm out here.

WAHRENBERGER: I was sure it would be all right and it was. There's no problems at all except the roof, took off part of the roof. So I'm fine, yeah. Ready to go again. Just another -- another experience!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll give you call after awhile.

COOPER: Mayor Hamilton expects other residents to do the same.

HAMILTON: Less than a month, about a month from now, three weeks from now, this city look like brand new at the end because we jump right on it. We don't play.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, as bad as things were for people in Florida today, they have been far worse for people in Mexico for the people who live there and for the Americans who are visiting. I want to check in with Michael Attardi. He's one of about 20,000 American tourists stranded in Mexico. He joins us on the phone from a hotel in Cozumel. Michael, how are you holding up?

MICHAEL ATTARDI, TOURISTS STRANDED IN MEXICO (via telephone): OK so far. I think we need help here.

COOPER: What kind of help? Do you have food?

ATTARDI: Well, the food is being actual rationed, so is the -- so is the water supply. I was able to go out today and sort of canvas the area. And the only words that can describe it is it looks like it got hit like an atom bomb. It's just -- I mean, buildings that were made out of concrete are into rubble. People just walking the streets.

But it was amazing to see the Mexican people trying to work and trying to get this place cleaned up in such a quick and rapid pace, just amazing.

COOPER: You know, often one of the hardest things is lack of information in a situation like this. Are you getting information? Do you have a sense of when help may arrive?

ATTARDI: No. The only information that we've been getting is CNN. I mean, that's all we get here. And we have been trying to reach the embassy. We have no contact with the embassy.

I have contacted my congressman back in -- and I still haven't received any type of information of when there will be flights. There are some rumors that it will be possibly coming on Tuesday, Wednesday. And then they're saying it could be shut down for a month. We're not getting any...

COOPER: I can tell you the Mexican president Vicente Fox said some planes are going to be arriving tomorrow. Let's just see if we can maybe get some help to you. What hotel are you staying at?

ATTARDI: I am staying with 107 U.S. citizens over at the Hotel Cozumel and Resort. And they have been absolutely wonderful here. They are an incredible staff. They have been trying to make this a stay as, you know, as good as it could be.

And we're just one of the fortunate hotels that are still standing. If you saw the devastation here, you would be amazed to find out that we were OK.

COOPER: Well, we're going to hopefully maybe someone from the U.S. embassy is listening to this. There are more than a hundred Americans at the Hotel Cozumel who would like to get -- try to get some information. Maybe they can try to get somebody over there.

Mike, we want to check in with you tomorrow as well just to make sure how you're doing and the other people in the hotel are doing. So, we'll check in with you again tomorrow.

ATTARDI: OK. Also, sir, if there is any way to call Continental Airlines and please tell them to try to get us out of here now, because most of the people that are in this hotel have traveled Continental. That's actually one of the main airlines coming in. And we are not getting any information. So please, if there is anything.

And I'd like to tell my son, Mikey Jr., that I'm OK. He is only 2 1/2. And my gorgeous wife Colleen that I'm OK.

COOPER: I'm glad we can pass along the message. Michael, our best to you and to all the others who are dealing with this situation. We'll try to keep following up on it. We'll check in with you tomorrow.

Still ahead tonight on 360, we are going to talk to the police chief of Key West, much of that city under water tonight, we'll get a live report from him.

Also, ahead, Hurricane Wilma as captured by our Florida affiliates. Astonishing pictures of a remarkable storm.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The winds whipping out of the north. I'm hiding behind John Zarrella for safety, as I often do. But, it's really picking up, really even the last five minutes. I mean, we were watching the storm surge about ten minutes ago. That is significant. But really the story of the last five minutes has been the wind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: There is nobody better to hide behind than John Zarrella. The folks in the Florida Keys were among the first people to be told to evacuate ahead of Wilma. Not everyone listened, to say the least. The tourists may have left but some estimates are that 80, even 90 percent of the residents of Key West tried to ride it out.

Now they are looking at extensive flooding, no power and a dicey road back to the mainland. Lucky ones do have phone service like police chief Bill Mauldin who joins us now. Chief, how many homes have flooding?

CHIEF BILL MAULDIN, KEY WEST POLICE DEPT.: Good evening, yes, we have probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 to 60 percent of our homes in Key West have been flooded. Now, fortunately, it is starting to recede and we're getting that water back where it's supposed to be but that's what we estimate the homes to be at this time.

COOPER: So, are those people able to spend the night in their home or do they have to try to find a shelter?

MAULDIN: Well, there are some homes that I'm sure that we're going to find are uninhabitable. And we do have a shelter established. We did that today. We have supplies and we have food and anyone that feels that they cannot live in their home, they're welcome to move to the shelter.

COOPER: Where is that shelter?

MAULDIN: That shelter is at Key West High School. And it's a nice facility. It's -- I think we can probably put somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 to 500 people in there. So far, we've only seen about 30 people come to the shelter.

COOPER: And what do the streets look like? I mean, did the -- I know late last night, there were people out, you know, drinking and having a good time. Are there people still doing that?

MAULDIN: Well, in actuality, we have a curfew up tonight from 10:00 to 7:00 tomorrow morning. To answer the question, yes, indeed, we do have some people who continue to do that. But, you know, we're asking people to stay off the street and to continue the vigilance and continue to recover from this. It's been pretty devastating and, of course, it's been a very long night for all of us.

COOPER: Yes, I'm sure you've been up just around the clock. Any injuries? Any people wounded?

MAULDIN: We were very fortunate that we had no injuries and fortunately, no deaths from this storm. And so, you know, most people did heed the warning. Last night, the streets were absolutely deserted.

COOPER: Well, I'm glad no one was injured and certainly glad no one was killed. Chief, I know you've got a long day and it's going to be a long night. Appreciate you joining us.

MAULDIN: Sure, thank you.

COOPER: Should also just point out that our thoughts and our prayers are with a firefighter here in Hollywood, Florida who we were told was electrocuted earlier this morning when he went out, went through some still standing water, there was a wire, a live wire, in that water and he was in his vehicle, apparently got electrocuted by that wire while he was still in his vehicle.

So, he's apparently in the intensive care ward here in Hollywood and our thoughts are with him and his family right now.

In a hurricane season that has used up all of the available storm names and then some, journalists have learned to be prepared, prepared to throw extra batteries in a bag in a moments notice and head for the storm, cameras in hand and rolling. It's an easy be that Wilma, is one of the most photographed hurricanes in history.

Here is a scrapbook we have compiled from the best footage of our Florida affiliates. We'd like to say it shows the many moods of Wilma but really there was just one mood, angry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to give you an idea of how high this storm surge is. I'm sitting here and you can see the water is just overcoming this bus stop. I'm going to walk away because it's shaking a little bit.

Now, over here is Roosevelt Avenue, it is one of the main streets in Key West. But you can't really tell it exists at this point because it is completely under water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wind is blowing so hard that it actually supports my entire body if I lean into it, it's almost like I'm leaning on something right here. But then it stops and then I can stand up.

JOSH TALKINGTON, WFTS: Now, I'm looking at the radar and it looks like it is about 40 miles from where we are right now, the eye of the storm. So we're getting pretty close to the eye wall. I'm sure you just figured it out the lights just went off behind me, so we are definitely getting electric problems down here.

DR. SEAN KENNIFF, WFOR: All across A1A you have tire tracks like snow tracks from the northeast, all up and down A1A. That's how badly the sand has been coming across.

JANINE STANWOOD, WFLO: The worst damage that we've seen so far in downtown Miami, just take a look. The entire area virtually has turned into a lake. All of the fronts of the hotels and the buildings along here have turned into ponds.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Some of our local affiliates here in Florida, that was their coverage. Erica Hill from "Headline News" joins us with some of the day's top business stories. Erica, hey.

HILL: Hey, Anderson. A drop in health insurance costs for some Wal-Mart employees next year. That's the word from the retail giant. It's new policy would offer coverage for as little as $11 a month. Now, the company which has 1.2 million workers has been criticized by employee advocate groups who say the benefits are insufficient.

A possible successor for Fed chair Alan Greenspan, today, President Bush nominated Ben Bernanke to head the federal reserve. Now, Bernanke is currently the chairman of the president's council of economic advisers. He is also a former Fed governor. If confirmed he will be the country's 14th Fed chairman. Greenspan will step down in January after 18 years as head of the central bank.

Financial markets cheering that announcement today with a rally on Wall Street. The Dow, as you can see, finishing up 169 points to close at 10,385, that's it's biggest daily gain since April. The S&P and Nasdaq also closing higher.

And for the first time since Katrina, the oyster boats are running. Health officials have cleared about half of Louisiana oyster beds for harvesting. The first shipments to processing plants were delivered this weekend.

High level of bacteria from the hurricane's flooding and sewage spills remain in much of the coastline where the oysters are grown though. That's going to mean a lot fewer oysters this season and, yes, higher prices but still good to hear that business picking up once again for some of the folks down there --Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, they desperately need the money. Thanks very much, Erica, for that.

Still to come on 360, CNN's intrepid photo journalist, Mark Biello points his lens into yet another powerful storm.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We've seen a lot of hurricane damage along both of Florida's coasts but don't forget it's a storm that tore clear across the southern half of the state. Clewiston, Florida is smack dab in the middle and the damage there is so extensive officials are asking for the national guard. CNN Photo journalist Mark Biello was there. When you got there what did you see?

MARK BIELLO, CNN PHOTOJOURNALIST: Well, when we first arrived, we were traveling from the west coast to east coast. So, we got to the town of Clewiston, which is on the south shore of Lake Okeechobee.

And we first came across a lot of damage in the town, itself, in the marina. But, when we arrived at the tropical mobile park, these trailer homes were completely ripped off their foundations and turned upside down on their sides. And the devastation in the park was severe.

COOPER: And it had a lot of flooding too?

BIELLO: A lot of flooding, significant flooding, nothing like past hurricanes like Katrina, but it was still knee-deep. It was significant.

COOPER: And you got there just before FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Squad?.

BIELLO: We were the first ones that arrived there. There was one local sheriff trying to keep looters out and people that didn't belong in this trailer park. And we had one military helicopter do a site survey.

But, after we were shooting there after a while, we noticed that the Jacksonville fire and rescue folks showed up and they were going door-to-door on rescue missions trying to search to see if there were survivors or people trapped in these mobile homes.

Now, a lot of these people did ride out the storms in these trailers.

COOPER: In the trailers, they did, really? Wow.

BIELLO: Yes, we talked to a couple that tied themselves together and...

COOPER: Literally tied themselves together?

BIELLO: ...with strips of cloth and hunkered down in the bathroom in the tub and just hung on and they were terrified because they said their whole home shook, it trembled. And they were very, very lucky they weren't killed because that home was just shaking and rocking from side-to-side.

COOPER: As far as you know, were there any fatalities there?

BIELLO: At the time we left, the fire and rescue missions were continuing, they were going door-to-door, they were spraying, reminiscent of some of the other hurricanes we've covered where they're marking the homes.

COOPER: Right.

BIELLO: It's very difficult because these homes are very fragile and everything is jumbled and turned around.

COOPER: But, as far as you know no fatalities?

BIELLO: At this time, we don't know. We're not sure.

COOPER: OK. You didn't see anything?

BIELLO: We did not see anything while we were there at that time.

COOPER: OK. Mark Biello, great work as always, thanks.

We have a lot more coming up on 360. But, first let's find out what is coming up at the top of the hour on "Paula Zahn Now." Hey, Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Anderson. Thanks so much.

In part to Hurricane Wilma they are expecting a raw wet day tomorrow in Washington, but President Bush may need to hang on to an umbrella for more reasons than that. A huge political storm is brewing and it may be a whopper. Just ahead, we're going to look at three separate stories that are just about to break and they could make or break the president's second term.

That plus complete coverage of the hurricane and all and that and more about four minutes from now -- Anderson.

COOPER: Paula, thanks very much. In a moment, we'll have the latest forecast. This storm is still out there. Where is it headed? We'll tell you , Rob Marciano joins us live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, a lot more of us may be feeling the effects of Wilma in the days to come. The question is, where is the storm now and where it is headed and in what form? For that we go to CNN's Rob Marciano -- Rob.

MARCIANO: Great.

COOPER: Hey, Rob, if you're in Naples, where is the storm headed right now? Clearly, having trouble. Clearly having trouble getting Rob Marciano, who was standing by in Naples.

When we had talked to him earlier tonight, he had said that the storm though it is dissipating out over the Atlantic, it may come back actually in the form of snow around to some of the northeast regions. Rob, I'm told, is joining us now from Naples. Rob, where is the storm now?

MARCIANO: Just about 300 miles from where you are, north of the Bahamas and northeast of where you are and very quickly moving out to sea, as you know. But, not moving entirely out to sea. It's moving northeasterly at 27 miles an hour so that means it's going to kind of scoot the coastline.

As you mentioned, some of that moisture may fall in the form of snow above about a 1,000 feet across the northeast over the next couple days, very interesting set up. That's the latest, back to you.

COOPER: This storm is certainly not gone. Rob Marciano, thanks.

That's it for our coverage on 360. CNN's prime time coverage continues right now with Paula Zahn. Hey, Paula.

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