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Hurricane Wilma: Special Coverage

Aired October 24, 2005 - 03:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Just trying to give you as complete a picture as we can of the situation in Florida right now.
All right. Four boxes on the screen right now. Let's start upper left and work our way around.

Fort Myers, upper left. Upper right is Marco Island. Islamorada lower left. And that's that poor reporter...


HARRIS: ... alongside Gary Tuchman.

NGUYEN: He's still out there.

HARRIS: And Key West, Florida.

Hurricane Wilma, strong, huge -- hope you're getting this -- category 3 storm. It has winds now up to 115 miles an hour, and is expected to make landfall with all of this power and the storm surge that goes with it.

For those people who ignored evacuation orders, there are curfews, and emergency officials are trying, at best, to keep everyone safe.

NGUYEN: All right. Let's find out exactly where Wilma is. Wilma is about 50 miles west of Key West, Florida, and about 75 miles southwest of Naples. Because of the sheer size of this storm, hurricane winds will be felt all across the southern tip of Florida. Landfall expected between 6:00 and 7:00 Eastern. And Wilma is expected to be in the Atlantic Ocean by noon.

So did you get that? It came ashore on the west side, will be out on the east side by noon. Not a lot of time in between, so this storm is moving fast.

From the CNN Center in Atlanta, we want to say a good morning, a very early morning. Welcome. I'm Betty Nguyen.

HARRIS: I'm Tony Harris. Welcome to our special coverage of Hurricane Wilma.

Hurricane Wilma nearing the southern tip of Florida. CNN, your hurricane headquarters, brings you complete coverage.

Rob Marciano is on Fort Myers Beach. Jeanne Meserve is in Naples. John King is at Marco Island. And Gary Tuchman is in Key West.

NGUYEN: For the latest on where Hurricane Wilma is heading, so let's check in with Chad Myers. I know there was supposed to be an advisory, an update, at 3:00.

CHAD MYERS, CNN SEVERE WEATHER EXPERT: There was supposed to be. But I tell you what, the hurricane hunter aircraft just found a wind gust to 154 miles...


MYERS: ... per hour.


MYERS: Now, that does not translate all the way down to the surface. That's at 10,000 feet, and the winds are always stronger at 10,000 feet.


MYERS: But my guess is that the Hurricane Center taking a long, hard look at whether this is still 115, or whether it's stronger than that. And do they have to up that number? So that's probably why it's delayed. As soon as it comes out, I'm going to run right in front of the camera, and I'll tell you what's going on.

HARRIS: Great.

MYERS: But as of 1:00, still 115 and a category 3, forecast to be a category 3 at landfall, and probably still a 2 or maybe a small 3, even making what I'm calling backward city fall, city landfall, where all the big cities are here, from West Palm right on down to Fort Lauderdale, possibly even into Miami-Dade.

The deal with this storm, and why it could still be intensifying a little bit, is the warm water. Here's the Caribbean, here's the Gulf of Mexico. The water in the Caribbean, when this thing was getting so large, about 87 degrees down there. Got into about 84- degree water, and then it really didn't intensify much. But now it has been in very warm water the past few hours. As soon as it gets closer to land, it'll be out of that water.

But look at the intensity of the storm now coming into Key West. I just really want to keep our live shot with Gary Tuchman up as long as possible. I also want him to be as safe as possible, because of the winds now there. I don't have a number yet from Key West. I'm sure they will update it for us at the top of the hour. That always comes in a few minutes late, but that looked like a wind gust to at least 90 miles per hour. That was well over hurricane strength, without a doubt.

And as that storm makes this part of the eye drive itself right up through Florida Bay, across Monroe County, and then into the big cities, right through Miami-Dade, possibly Fort Lauderdale, all the way up to West Palm, there will be significant damage to the cities here.

And you still have a few minutes. If you can get out there and bring some things inside, you still have time. Key Biscayne, right up through Miami. Yes, your winds are 20, but you can still bring a lawn chair in, if you know that it's west of your house, and that west is going to blow into your house.

So there's still a few minutes of a window of opportunity there, but not much left.

Back to you guys.


NGUYEN: Good advice there too, though.


NGUYEN: Because both coasts are going to get hit by this storm.

MYERS: No question.

HARRIS: All right.

NGUYEN: Thank you, Chad.


MYERS: And look at Gary Tuchman. Can you see...

HARRIS: Well, yes...

MYERS: ... this shot?

HARRIS: Yes, yes...

NGUYEN: We're trying to get through right now.

HARRIS: You set the stage...

NGUYEN: Yes, look at it.

HARRIS: ... for that very thing...

NGUYEN: Right there.

HARRIS: ... I don't get...

MYERS: He can't even hear us, but I...

HARRIS: Can you hear -- yes, (INAUDIBLE)...


HARRIS: You can?

TUCHMAN: I can hear you (INAUDIBLE).

MYERS: Oh, wow.

HARRIS: All right. Gary, take it away.

TUCHMAN: You guys, it will not be hard to hear you. We've got a real good setup, so that's not going to be an issue today.

What may be an issue is standing here. I weigh about 170 pounds. It's not so easy right now. I think if you weighed any less, you might be flying down the street. And indeed, when I was talking to you last time, there was a reporter who also happens to be here who was standing about 25 feet away, weighs less than I do, and he started rolling on the ground. That gives you an idea of the force we're dealing with right now.

This is a serious situation. It's one of the reasons we're out here, to demonstrate that perhaps if you live in a place where hurricanes come, you may want to consider evacuating.

Indeed, here in Key West, where 28,000 people live, they call this city Paradise, and it indeed is, most of the time, perhaps 364 days out of a 365-day year. This is the day where it is definitely not Paradise.

This city, Key West, this southernmost city in the continental United States, has not been directly hit by a hurricane since 1919. Now, Chad may have to answer this, but if it's the eyewall that ends up hitting Key West and not the eye, does that officially constitute a direct hit? I don't know. But either way, they're going to have a serious situation once this all comes to an end.

It seems to me we're peaking. It's hard to imagine the winds could get much worse. But I anticipate, from what Chad tells me, it will get worse.

What's amazing is, only three hours ago, there was a parade of cars coming up and down this street, Duvall Street here in downtown Key West, people yelling and shouting stuff at us, holding drinks from bars that were still open, despite the mandatory evacuation. There were people, up until two and a half hours ago, on bicycles coming down the streets, even though we had the winds and heavy rain.

Now even those people, even the people who imbibed a little bit, are at their homes. We haven't seen anyone else out in a while. This is some serious stuff. And it's expected to last a while longer. Those people, still in their homes, a big storm surge expected as this goes on.

Tony, Betty?

HARRIS: Oh, boy. Chad Myers, you have the latest advisory?

MYERS: I do, I have it in my hand, and I was just walking over, trying to find the latest wind gusts from Key West. I don't have it yet. But they did up the number from 115 now, the wind speed, max, sustained wind speed, not gusts, sustained wind speed, 120 miles per hour.

Back to you guys.

HARRIS: ... 120 miles per hour.

NGUYEN: ... (INAUDIBLE) miles per hour.

HARRIS: Gary Tuchman...


HARRIS: Yes. Do we have Gary's shot, is he...

MYERS: Still there.

HARRIS: He's still there?

Gary, I think what is scary about your situation, not only the fact that the winds are clearly intensifying and threatening to blow you down the street, is the knowledge that there is still a significant number of people in that population who decided to try to ride this thing out.

TUCHMAN: You know, I said this during Hurricane Rita, which struck around the same time, in the middle of the night, that is the absolute scariest time. (INAUDIBLE) hurricane hitting is never good, but hitting in the middle of the night is a real frightening thing. And you just feel sorry for the people who didn't evacuate, because it's amazing, because we're staying -- we're right outside a hotel. And I went into the hotel a few minutes ago, and inside the hotel, it is so incredibly noisy and frightening. If you were a child or an elderly person who didn't evacuate, it's really hard to comprehend the nightmare you're going through tonight.

Yes, tomorrow, when it's daylight and it moves out, everything's better. But right now is such a frightening time.

And one thing we thought about, after Katrina, three weeks later Rita came, and almost everyone evacuated where I was in Port Arthur and Beaumont, Texas. And it really was a legacy of what happened during Katrina. And we talk amongst ourselves, all the CNN people, and we thought, This will be a legacy that people will realize it's serious, that we're not crying wolf.

And indeed, in many areas of Florida, people have evacuated, but not here in Key West. There are some who evacuated, but there's no doubt that most people are still here.

HARRIS: You know, it's -- the other thing that's amazing, we talk about wind speeds and we talk about gusts and we talk about sustained winds. And we're getting a sense of what it means when we're talking about sustained winds, just watching you.

TUCHMAN: It's a pretty intense sustained wind situation. There's no question about it. But we've also -- are now having these torrential rains, which have lasted for two or three hours. And they thought, in a best-case scenario, they'd end up with eight inches of rain and an eight-foot storm surge here in Key West.

And it's funny, we're talking about sustained winds. That's the first time it's died down a little bit. Now it's picking up again.


TUCHMAN: But anyway, that's the best-case scenario. (INAUDIBLE)...

NGUYEN: Look at that!

TUCHMAN: What ultimately happens, we won't know, yes.

NGUYEN: You know, Chad was checking, Gary, to see exactly how strong those winds are. Maybe we can bring him in, and he has a better idea. They come and go, apparently, as we watch you. And another part of the problem too, of all these people who have stayed, and I think we're also kind of amazed that 80 percent of Key West has decided to stay and not evacuate. The fact -- I mean, look at the street that you're on. There's no power. The power is out.

TUCHMAN: Right, the power went out at 12:30 Eastern Time and has now been out for two and a half hours. And I think that put the scare into some people who were sticking around with us...

HARRIS: Oh, boy.

TUCHMAN: ... watching us do our reports. They ended up going home. So we think the people are home now. But it's hard to imagine what they're going through right now. And I think a lot of people are second-guessing their decision to stay here, unfortunately.

And as (INAUDIBLE), I really want to make this very clear. We've (INAUDIBLE) -- Can you guys still hear me?

HARRIS: Yes, yes, we can hear you.

TUCHMAN: OK, (INAUDIBLE). We do not want to preach to people. That's not our role. Our role as reporters is to report the information, and then hopefully people will make the right decisions for them.

But it's a very low risk evacuating. It's inconvenient, but evacuating's a low risk. Staying, you have an element of risk.

NGUYEN: As you can see right now with the winds bearing down.

We're going to get a number for you, Gary, because I think we're all interested to see just how strong those winds are, because we can definitely see you being blown around.

We're going to give you a break. I know it's tough standing out there. We're going to give you a break right now and speak with some of the other reporters that we have all across Florida.

So Gary, we'll talk to you soon. TUCHMAN: OK, thanks, guys.

NGUYEN: Where are we going to next?

HARRIS: Well, I see Chad, so let's just spend some time with Chad.

NGUYEN: Do you know, Chad...

MYERS: That was, that was...

NGUYEN: ... the number?

MYERS: ... 76, that was 76...

NGUYEN: Seventy-six.

MYERS: ... sustained, and probably gusts over that.


MYERS: So that was significant hurricane-force winds sustained, right there in Key West. And you can see this other reporter, just -- and I've been watching him on the other screen. He's been trying to just kind of stay as low to the ground as possible.

And that's something you want to think about. You know, there's this tradeoff. If you stayed, and now you know it's too late to leave, you don't want to go any higher than you have to. The higher you go, the faster the wind speeds are. The lower you go, the more threat you have of getting something called storm surge.

So there's a happy medium there somewhere. And I can't determine that for you. You have to decide that for yourself.

You see water started coming into your first floor, you need to make sure that you can get to your second floor. You want to make sure that, if there's three feet of water in your second floor, that doesn't cut you off somehow from getting to your second floor.

Also, you always want to stay away from those windows, because those are the first things to go, and those winds from the southeast there.

We're going to get another update here in probably two or three minutes. But this guy, just trying to stay on the ground, some incredible shots here. A lot of folks there really probably now did not anticipate the southern eyewall, and they really wish they weren't there at this point.

But here's Key West, right here, one of the little outer eyewalls coming on through. In fact, it still could get even stronger. The winds could get stronger than what they're seeing right now, as soon as this part comes over Key West and then rides up the lower keys as well.

We'll keep you up to date, though.

Back to you guys.

NGUYEN: All right, (INAUDIBLE)...

HARRIS: It's going to get stronger.

MYERS: It could be absolutely get stronger, because they're still, in fact, on the latest advisory from Key West, there's still 60 miles to the eye, center of the eye.

HARRIS: Oh, boy.

NGUYEN: My goodness. Hey, let me ask you this really quick, Chad. As we're looking at that behind you, the eye is awfully big.


NGUYEN: When we've seen these other storms, we see these really tight eyes, powerful eyes. What does that tell us, with the big eye?

MYERS: The fact that we can get a wind speed of 120 miles at a diameter of 60 miles, or 50 miles, it's different, because you can see that the eye is not circular any more. It's been getting a little bit oblong. It's longer this way, it's 60 miles top to bottom, about 45 miles east to west.

The fact that there is that much of a wind speed, period, in a storm that has an eye that small, makes us know that the rest of the storm is probably as strong as it was...



MYERS: ... when it was a category 4 or maybe even a weak category 5.

But this storm does not have category 5 winds in it, because the eyewall did not shrink down to that five-mile-wide eyewall that it had south of Cancun, right before it made landfall in Cozumel.

But this is a wide, large storm, with an awful lot of people in there. I know this is the straits, and nobody lives there. But an awful lot of people going to feel the effects of that hurricane. And the other side going to feel the effects.

I know we talk about, like, Marco Island being the easy side. There's nothing easy about 120, whether you go on the right side or the wrong side.

NGUYEN: All right. It's all the wrong side, it seems.


MYERS: Yes. NGUYEN: Chad, thank you.

MYERS: Sure.

NGUYEN: We're going to check in right now with CNN's Jeanne Meserve. She is in Naples. And when we last saw her, things were starting to pick up there. Jeanne?


Betty, I think you just threw it to me. I got a little interference there on my line. But let me tell you, after listening to Gary Tuchman, I feel like I should spread out a blanket and have a picnic on the beach here. I mean, it's relatively mild as compared to what he's going through.

The rain picks up from time to time, really pelts you. Now when you look down this beach, you see a lot of white, even in the darkness, that surf showing through, because it's so strong.

Taking a walk around here, things seem to be holding up very well. There's a building with scaffolding nearby. The scaffolding has held. There's sort of a canal coming in next to the condominiums here. The water level is still perfectly manageable. No signs of flooding, even in the below-sea-level parking garage that's over there.

So in this immediate area, all appeared well.

One of my co-workers just recently did a little driving, came back and said everything was fine. He didn't go through any neighborhoods that had lost power. There were a few palm fronds down, but really, that was about it.

So at this point in time, the Naples area appears to be doing fine. But, of course, that important caveat, we're not out of the woods yet. It's going to get worse before it gets better.

Back to you guys.

HARRIS: Boy. OK, Jeanne, thank you.

So why don't we head south? The brunt of the storm is expected at Marco Island. That is just south of Naples, Florida.

And that's where our John King is. John, the situation, give us kind of a situation update.

And his picture just froze. His picture just froze. I think...

NGUYEN: So the situation is getting worse there, apparently.

We're going to try to catch up with John in just a moment.

But as you see on the right-hand side of your screen, Key West still getting pounded. Now we understand John King is back...

HARRIS: Back up.

NGUYEN: ... again, John is in Marco Island, where he says some 2,000 people did decide to stay, and this is what they're facing right now, John.


As you can see, you don't need me to tell you the rain is more intense, the winds are picking up quite considerably. And despite this, just moments ago, we had -- we try not to editorialize in this business, but I think what you have to say is that a bit of a misjudgment at best, a clown perhaps. I think we have some video of a gentleman who, just 10, 15 minutes ago, came running down this boardwalk to the beach and took a swim in the middle of all this.

And as I was coming out, he was coming out of the water, and, of course, it's our cliche here, he said, "Just another day at the beach" as he ran off. Now, in my days at the White House, we used to have people jump the fence and occasionally pose for the cameras. And we didn't put them on TV that much because we thought it would encourage more people to jump the fence and pose for the cameras.

So I hope by showing this gentleman's exploits tonight, we don't encourage a parade here.

But certainly the conditions are getting worse. I want to show you something, if you bear with me just a second. On my way out, I picked up this. It's a picket from part of this fence. And obviously, the winds are picking up, but they're not strong enough yet to rip this off, had it been secure. So this obviously was loose before the storm and just loosened more by this storm.

But I'm going to take this inside, and that's one of the things they tell you do in a situation like this, because we're close to the point when these winds pick up over the next few hours that this will start flying. And a piece of wood or a piece of heavy metal as a projectile can cause significant damage, especially if someone is out here walking in the dark.

So this is what you start to look for when the conditions worsen like this.

As you know, about 20,000 people were on this island when the evacuation orders went out over the weekend. They think they're below 2,000 now, more than 90 percent off the island. Police patrols were continuing. They said that would continue until they believed it was not safe -- unsafe to drive, and we're getting close to that point now, I would think, Betty. And as you can see, the wind's swirling quite a bit.

But still, as Jeanne just noted, after listening to Gary Tuchman, this is not good, but it's not as bad as Key West at the moment.

NGUYEN: Well, you're right about that. But for those 2,000 or less people who are there, has the power gone out just yet?

KING: Not yet, at least not anywhere where we can see. And we've been in touch with local officials, and they have not reported any power outages to us. And from where we can see along the beach, the hotel we are in, I can see a stretch of condominiums and apartments down some ways to my left, and another stretch up to the right. You can still see lights going on for, oh, at least more than a mile in the distance.

So as best we can tell, no power outages as yet. We will continue to check, of course, and that was the big fear. They believe that when the storm hits, or is very close to hitting, that they will lose most if not all of the electricity on the island.

NGUYEN: That's usually what happens. And the good thing is, it hasn't happened just yet.

John King on Marco Island, thank you, John.

HARRIS: And Betty, let's bring those pictures full, if we could. Let's do that, (INAUDIBLE) these reporters. That's where?

NGUYEN: Key West.

HARRIS: Yes, that's Key West, and Gary Tuchman is there, getting blown all over the place.

At various times, we've seen these reporters try to stay as low as possible.

NGUYEN: And Chad was saying, just moments ago, that sustained winds...


NGUYEN: ... these aren't the highest of the winds, just the sustained winds, were at 75 miles per hour. So you can understand that when the really strong gusts come across, he had said somewhere maybe around the 90-mile-per-hour range, these people are really getting blown all about.

And the scary thing is that a lot of people in Key West decided not to evacuate it.


NGUYEN: Some 80 percent of the people who live there decided to stay behind and ride this one out.

HARRIS: Well, a quick break. When we come back, we'll talk to emergency officials with the Red Cross manning shelters there throughout much of south Florida, find out what the situation is like in some of those shelters.

CNN is your hurricane headquarters all night and through the day, as Wilma bears down on Florida. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: No doubt, CNN is your hurricane headquarters all night long and through the day, as Wilma bears down on Florida.

Want you to take a look at what you're about to see right now. We're going to put all of these areas up on the screen for you. Right there, top left-hand corner, yes, that is what you think it is, a guy out in this hurricane...


NGUYEN: ... as it comes ashore, taking a little dip in the water, a little swim. He said it was another day at the beach, that's what he told John King. He is in Marco Island.

And smart guy now, because he's getting out of the elements. Hopefully he will get out and stay out, because this hurricane is nothing to play with.

In your right-hand corner is Naples, top right, and then at the bottom there is Islamorada, where you can see the winds are whipping with the reporter there, and the hammock in the background just blowing all around.

We did have Key West where that radar is, in the bottom right- hand...


NGUYEN: ... corner, but, boy, things are really getting nasty there. We lost that shot, so that's why we had the radar up.

But at last check, Chad was saying winds, sustained winds, were 75 miles per hour, wind gusts on the high end were around 90 miles per hour or even greater than that. And when we get a chance, we're going to check in with Gary Tuchman. He is there in Key West, which is just taking a pounding right now.

HARRIS: Wow. Emergency officials are waiting, watching. What is Wilma actually going to do besides local, state, and federal authorities?

The American Red Cross is keeping a close eye. Peter Macias is in Fort Myers, and he's on the phone with us.

Peter, good morning.

PETER MACIAS, AMERICAN RED CROSS (on phone): Good morning. How are you this morning?

HARRIS: OK, have to ask you, well, thank you, thank you. Have to ask you, as you look at the reporting that you see our correspondents doing, and you see the path of this storm, are you saying to yourself, Boy, we're probably going to have quite a job on our hands? MACIAS: You know what? I have to tell you, from the Red Cross perspective, we always plan for the worst and hope for the best. It'll be a big job, but we've had plenty of practice this year for this particular (INAUDIBLE), so we're ready and (INAUDIBLE) to get after it.

HARRIS: How many shelters operating in your area? You're in Fort Myers?

MACIAS: I'm in Fort Myers. I'm in Leed (ph) County. And the particular Red Cross chapter here in Leed County has five shelters open, the largest being the Germaine (ph) Arena, which is an ice hockey arena. And we actually have a little over 4,000 people who have evacuated into that arena. A lot of them are on top of the ice. They put down a wooden floor (INAUDIBLE) the ice, and many people are sleeping in cots on the top of that rink.

HARRIS: I got to (INAUDIBLE), how many are you prepared for?

MACIAS: Actually, in this particular county, they're prepared to handle over 12,000 evacuees if necessary.

HARRIS: Really? Give us a sense of the kind of supplies you have, and what kind of volume.

MACIAS: You know what? For this particular county, they've been planning this for a long time. They were -- we have plenty of volunteers, hundreds of volunteers who have come out, who have just recently returned from Rita and Katrina, who are now back in their homes and working with their local friends, families, and neighbors. And we have plenty of food and plenty of cleanup supplies ready to move in just as soon as the storm passes through.

HARRIS: Yes, those folks back from Rita and Katrina had some, I would imagine, some incredible stories to tell.

MACIAS: They do have some incredible stories to tell. And now they can apply them right here to home and the experience they've had, and the recovery process back in the Gulf Coast area will help them here, and should go a lot real smooth here.

HARRIS: You know, it's interesting, I was going to ask you, were they able to bring back some lessons learned? But you're the Red Cross. I mean, you know how to do this.

MACIAS: Yes, we do. And it's -- each operation is its own unique entity. But we learn from all our experiences, and we'll apply them to the operation here, and we'll ensure that our friends, families, and neighbors who have evacuated from Wilma's path are well taken care of.

HARRIS: I know that right now your focus is on the work at hand. But I just had to ask you, since we've got some time, small hours of the morning, when you do the kind of work that you do, you walk out of the house, I don't know if you're married, with kids, but you walk out of the house and have to essentially tell your family, I'm going to a danger zone.

When you go through a season like this one, and you reflect on a season like last year's hurricane season, does it begin to wear on you and on your family -- families, a little bit? (INAUDIBLE)?

MACIAS: You know what? I have to tell you, it's kind of like being in the fourth quarter of a football game, and what we're trying to do now is to ensure that (INAUDIBLE) and keep moving forward and keep our focus on the job at hand. We do get a little tired, and thank heavens we have -- we rely on the generosity of the American people to step up and volunteer when needed. And they come out of the -- the volunteers come out of the woodwork. It's wonderful.

In particular, in the shelters, in this -- in Leed County, Florida, volunteers spontaneously, people spontaneously step up and volunteer in a particular shelter. So we had people who were volunteering to be translators, people who were volunteering to register people, people who were volunteering to help clean the facility. So it's absolutely wonderful when it comes together, and they pull through in this particular time of, you know, uncertainty.

HARRIS: One final question, Peter. It doesn't look like, relatively speaking, that your area's going to be particularly hard hit, at least right now. Are you in a position, maybe at first light, to sort of move some of your resources elsewhere to other areas that might be kind of harder impacted by the storm?

MACIAS: Absolutely. As soon as we get word from our logicians and our folks who run the operation on a statewide level, we'll be ready to move those resources, both human and material resources, into other parts of the state.

HARRIS: Peter Macias in Fort Myers, the Fort Myers Leed County chapter of the American Red Cross. Peter, thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

MACIAS: Thank you.

NGUYEN: You're looking at this six-box screen right here. We're taking you both on the west coast and the east coast of Florida. And each side is feeling the effects of Hurricane Wilma. She hasn't even made landfall just yet.

When we come back, we're going to talk once again with Gary Tuchman. He is in the middle of what is happening in Key West, winds of some 75 miles per hour. That is just sustained wind gusts there. And see, there's the shot from Key West. We can get it up...


NGUYEN: ... for a little bit, and then it gets knocked out, simply by all that's going on with the storm there.

So stay with us. We're going to check in in Key West when we come back.


HARRIS: CNN is your hurricane headquarters all night and through the day, as Wilma.

Wilma's all over Florida right now.

NGUYEN: Wilma's a big storm. And we're going to give you a look at that. We're going to look at some live pictures up here. Look in the top right-hand corner. We're going to -- That's Marco Island, what I'm being told, where the rain is just coming down on. And all the other pictures that you see here in Florida, the winds are just gusting. I mean, we're going to get some better numbers on exactly how strong these winds are.

But Wilma is making a presence, obviously, a big one, in southwest Florida. The hurricane is spawning tornadoes and waterspouts, very dangerous. It has winds now up to 120 miles an hour, and it is expected to make landfall in three hours or less, Tony.

HARRIS: The latest Hurricane Wilma stats are these. The eye of the storm is less than 100 miles southwest of Naples, Florida. Wilma is moving to the northeast at 18 miles an hour.

NGUYEN: From the CNN Center, we've been here all throughout the night. We want to welcome you, if you're just joining us. Category 3 storm, that is what Wilma is. Good morning. I'm Betty Nguyen.

HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris. Welcome back to our special coverage of Hurricane Wilma.

NGUYEN: Heading now to the furthest southern point of the United States, Key West. That is what you're looking at right there, as Old Glory blows in the pounding winds.

And look who's standing out there, Gary Tuchman.

HARRIS: Barely.

NGUYEN: Boy, you have worked hard for your money...

HARRIS: Barely.

NGUYEN: ... tonight, Gary. Those winds, we were told, sustained at 75 miles per hour. Is that what it feels like? Because it looks like it.

TUCHMAN: No question about it, Betty and Tony. We have had for about the last hour the sustained hurricane-force winds. In the days before Noah took the animals two by two on his ark, you wonder if this is what he experienced. The torrential rains have been coming down, straight down, for about three hours, horizontally, vertically. When they go in your mouth, it tastes like salt, because they are coming from the south, a few blocks away from me, the Atlantic Ocean. So you taste the ocean as it comes in. The city now is quiet, finally. For the last two days, even though there was a mandatory evacuation, even though there's a curfew in effect, there were people out in the streets. There were actually restaurants and bars open. Last night, people were sitting outside eating dinner here on Duval Street, in a beautiful night. They were at the beach today.

Obviously now, things have changed a great deal. Police are no longer patrolling the streets. They've told everyone who's decided to stay behind, there was no protection for them right now. They have to take their own risks. All the hospitals in the keys are closed.

It's amazing how the wind just came to a dead stop for a minute. This is just really incredible.

Hurricanes really are, no matter how many times you've covered them, are just amazing things, because the weather changes so dramatically and so quickly, you don't know what to expect.

Behind me, you can see there's some stores here that are boarded up, and you can see those lights swinging from the top of them, The Zone, Venus World. And you see two people right there at that store, Skyware (ph). I have no idea what they're doing. These are the first two people I've seen on the road for the last hour.

Well, I actually do have an idea what they're doing now.

So I'm going to stand here, because this is a family television show, even at this hour.


TUCHMAN: Well, on the West Coast, there's still kids up, you know, and you know who you are. You should be in bed right now.

But anyway, we have some...

NGUYEN: In the middle of a hurricane? What are people thinking? Hey, Gary, obviously the power is out. And with all this rain and the wind, what do you know about flooding in that area?

TUCHMAN: Power's been out since 12:30 Eastern time, not a big surprise. We've spent a lot of time this summer and fall dealing with days of power outages in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and now Florida. As far as flooding goes, there is some significant flooding a few blocks to my left and a few blocks to my right, the bay, the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean.

But, this is very important to mention, because we don't want to blow flooding out of proportion, they get a lot of flooding here, even in minor storms. It's this area in the downtown, these streets here, a tremendous amount of rain so far. But the streets here haven't flooded. And that's what officials here are very concerned about, if these streets flood.

I've got to tell you about people like that behind me. Police -- to be honest with you, keep this our secret, have nowhere to bring lawbreakers right now. The jails are closed. They took prisoners and they moved them away. So they're hoping they don't have to deal with anything serious. But what they've been telling people who've been out causing trouble, we actually had a fistfight out here with two people who were under the influence of something. And the police didn't even arrest them. They don't have the manpower...

NGUYEN: Really?

TUCHMAN: ... right now to deal with taking people to a jail. It's not safe. So let's keep that our secret, but that's part of the scenario here, and part of the scenario in other hurricanes that we've covered too.

NGUYEN: Hey, Gary, speaking of that secret, are police even out on the streets in the midst of all of this right now, or are they even out and about?

TUCHMAN: I'm sorry, Betty, is who out and about right now?

NGUYEN: Police, are -- police, are they even out on the streets at this hour, and with the conditions as they are?

TUCHMAN: What we were told very specifically was, once the winds reach hurricane-force strength, they would not be out any more. And that's what they told the people who decided not to evacuate, that there would not be police to help them. There would not be 911 service to help them. That's what a mandatory evacuation is. It's not like they take you and force you to leave, but they tell you, OK, you're supposed to leave. We can't offer you the services that you as a citizen are normally entitled to if you decide to stay.

So the police are in the police station right now. They're working, but they're working out of the police station.

What they've told me, frankly, is unless there's a major catastrophe, they're not leaving that police station while they have these hurricane-force winds.

HARRIS: So there comes a moment in covering these stories, and Gary, you've done it enough to know where -- there's that moment when it looks like you're about to get blown over. And it begins to feel like we're waiting for that moment.

And maybe it's a good time to check in with Chad now, and maybe you can get a little cover, and get the latest on the movement of this storm. Chad?

MYERS: I want to take you down here to Key West. Key West's here, the eye of the storm still very, very defined on the radar. Here's Key West. And I'll zoom in a little bit for you. We did lose the data out of Key West, so I don't know what the latest gusts are. In fact, I lost the data out of Key West, Marathon, and also up to Islamorada. That entire area there now cut off, probably because of the power, probably some phone lines coming down as well. Here's a couple things that I want to take you to. We're going to move you back up a little bit farther to the north, because I want to get you to Miami. There you go, Miami International Airport, southeast at 29, gusting to 46. Opalaca, gusting to 45. Fort Lauderdale, it's 36, and the Executive Airport at 37 miles per hour. So the winds are now even picking up on the north side of this storm.

And then farther to the north than that, from Orlando back to Kissimmee, all the way to Palm Bay, all of the red (INAUDIBLE) -- just significant rotating storms tonight. I'm afraid we're probably going to have more than one tornado warning. And if I zoom out, we'll be able to see that most of the state, in this big red box, that's the tornado watch.

And you can clearly see the reason why on up toward the north. This is where most of that weather is going to be today, Orlando right on over into the Space Coast, significant, severe weather possible. Obviously we get you back down toward Key West, and that's where the eyewall is making landfall now, maybe not quite into Key West, maybe the landfall, the eyewall is a few miles north of Key West, but folks there don't want to split hairs, because I tell you what, the winds are more than they counted on for sure right now.

HARRIS: Yes. And Chad, Duck Key is...

MYERS: Duck Key?

HARRIS: Yes, yes, is right along the Florida keys there.

MYERS: It's just north of Grassy Key, right?

HARRIS: Right, (INAUDIBLE), yes, yes, exactly.

And Douglas Rucker is on the line. He is there now, riding out the storm.

Douglas, good morning.

DOUGLAS RUCKER, DUCK KEY, FLORIDA, RESIDENT (on phone): Good morning, how are you today?

HARRIS: Well, well, how are you is the real question here.

RUCKER: We're fine here, thank you. We, here at Mile Marker 61, up from Key West, we've got power, we got a lot of wind and rain, obviously, and we're just trying to stay inside and stay dry.

HARRIS: Why'd you make this decision to ride it out? Talk us through that decision.

RUCKER: Well, it's -- you know, we've got only a very few, you know, management people here. We're basically just doing firewatch and security of the property. We've got, you know, 452 units here, and we're just trying to make sure that the property's taken care of. We've got it all tightened down. And again, you know, we haven't had any damage here. So we're just trying to be careful and watchful. HARRIS: You know, there's more weather to come. I mean, it's bad now, it's going to get worse before it gets better.

RUCKER: Yes, we understand that, and we've taken as -- you know, all the precautions that we can to make sure that we're safe. But we're in good shape at this point. This is -- this resort was built strong, and we're relying on it to take care of us. But we're also trying to take care of her at the same time.

HARRIS: Yes. How many people with you now?

RUCKER: Not many. I've got just a handful of people that are here. Everyone else has chose to evacuate.

HARRIS: OK. Is part of the concern that if you leave, it might be a while before you're allowed to go back?

RUCKER: Well, that's always a concern. But we follow Monroe County emergency management. When they call for evacuations, you know, we heed their warnings, and we make sure that we communicate to all of our employees that, you know, they take care of themselves first, and they make informed decisions. And we'll follow Monroe County's advice, you know, in and out for all of those people, because they're important to us, as well as, you know, the guests and tourists that come to the Florida keys.

HARRIS: Yes. As you see the reporting, watch it, you more concerned, less concerned? I know you've been through this before.

RUCKER: Yes, we have. We have. This is the fourth time this year that (INAUDIBLE) as a resort in the Florida keys, as (INAUDIBLE) with others, have, you know, chosen to cease operation and, you know, ask our guests to leave for their safety, and then go to our employees and tell them to make informed decisions as well. It's been more than we've asked for this year, unfortunately, but we're trying to be safe and really just kind of button down tonight, and, you know, weather this out.

HARRIS: There's the storm, and then there's the storm surge. And Chad Myers wants to talk to about this.

MYERS: Doug, I want to know what you did with the dolphins there in the pens. Did you let them go? Are they still swimming around? Are they going to be fine?

RUCKER: They are here. They're being well taken care of. Their handlers are some of the few that are here with us tonight, and they're making sure that they're safe. The six guys are swimming around, and, you know, they're -- they keep on a regular feeding schedule. That's, you know, important for them.

MYERS: I know the area well, and I was wondering now, I know you're basically in the marina, which is kind of this part right here, although this isn't the highest-resolution graphic. What do you know about the south-facing shores, where the winds and the waves may be actually coming on shore and breaking over that sea wall? RUCKER: Well, to be honest, I haven't been down there lately. You know, we've been -- we've stayed closer to the hotel here. We've relied on our marina personnel and the owners of some of the boats that are there to make sure that they're lashed and secured properly. But we've got no reports of any damage or no high concern at this point for marinas or shorelines.

MYERS: Tony?


Douglas, be safe.

RUCKER: We will.

HARRIS: And thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

RUCKER: Oh, it's my pleasure.

NGUYEN: OK, we want to take you to Key West right now, where a situation is taking place. A tree, in all of this wind, and winds were sustained at around 75 miles per hour, fell over onto a house where a woman was staying. She did not decide to evacuate, as did 80 percent of the people who leave in Key West.

Gary Tuchman is there right now and is going to tell us the latest about what has happened. Gary?

TUCHMAN: Well, I told you guys how the police and fire officials were not going to go out in the streets unless there was an emergency. Well, there was an emergency. Right now behind me, Engine Company Number 4 from the Key West Fire Department just arrived here.

We are doing these reports outside of a hotel. They have transported the woman, who, as you just said, Betty, a tree fell on her house. She had -- did not evacuate. She was hurt. She's been brought into here for medical care. There are no hospitals open.

I can tell you, the good news is, she is not seriously hurt. She was able to come off this fire truck under her own power.

How is the woman doing, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'd have to speak to my commander, sir.

TUCHMAN: How is the woman doing, can you tell us?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, she's doing all right, just a little shaken up.

TUCHMAN: A tree fell on her house?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it was collapsed down onto the structure, and it caused the building to sort of -- the ceiling caved in on her, so -- But she's OK.

TUCHMAN: Anyone else hurt in the city so far that you know of?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not that we know of. That's our first call that we've ran on, because of the winds.

TUCHMAN: Thanks for talking with us, sir.

Hey, nice guy. Busy guy, but he decided to talk to me and confirm that the woman is OK.

That gives you an idea. They wanted everyone to evacuate, because these eventualities, because this is the kind of stuff that does happen when you're in a house and the winds are blowing up to 100 miles per hour.

Back to you.

NGUYEN: (INAUDIBLE) to the point, though, Gary, even though the power is out through much of the area, obviously the phone system has to be up for her to make some kind of call to emergency personnel.

TUCHMAN: Well, that's a good question. I can tell you, if that captain was still here, I'd ask him that question. But Betty, most likely, you're right, because we have telephones here, and we are still using them. The cell service is still working.

That's one thing we saw during Katrina, the cell service went down right away. We still have perfect cell service here, so it's very likely that somebody called on a cell phone and got the help that she needed.

But she's now being treated in this temporary, quote unquote, "medical facility" inside a hotel. I don't even know if there are doctors inside. But we saw her walk in under her own power, so she, as he said, was not serious.

NGUYEN: Good news there as Wilma comes ashore, category 3, causing all kinds of problems, not only with the winds and the rain, but with what it's doing to the soil and trees toppling over as a result of all that has happening. And power outages, and the list goes on and on.

HARRIS: We'll take a break, and we'll come back, and we'll check in with all of our reporters, John King, who is -- well, let's do that right now. John King, John King is at Marco Island. We'll check in with him when we come back after the break. Gary Tuchman, once again, at Key West, Jeanne Meserve, Naples, and Rob Marciano at Fort Myers.

CNN is your hurricane headquarters all night and through the day, as Wilma bears down on Florida.

Put some pictures up for you now. And let's see what we have here. OK. Fort Myers, upper left. Miami, Islamorada, and the radar picture, as -- boy, look at that eyewall. Look at that storm. And we just switched it out to Key West, where Gary Tuchman is. And there are a couple of other reporters there, and as you've seen throughout the morning, they're just, they're just getting hammered. That's where the outer edge of that eyewall is.

NGUYEN: And, you know, another area that's taking bit of a beating too is Marco Island. And look, look at this radar picture. Look how big Wilma is, category 3 hurricane. And...

HARRIS: One hundred fifteen, 120 miles per hour?

NGUYEN: One hundred -- it's been bumped up to 120 hours per hour, the winds there. And Isla -- let's go to actually Marco Island.

And before we get there, though, this is a whole tape that was shot earlier. And we don't put this up be -- to show you what you shouldn't be doing. But you know what? This is what you shouldn't be doing, getting out in the ocean, taking a dip, as a hurricane is coming ashore. We don't know what this guy's thinking. But apparently he is not thinking what the rest of them, who have evacuated from the area, because John King has mentioned that, about 90 percent of Marco Island has left. They've packed up, and they've headed out.

This guy is going in the wrong direction.

HARRIS: Maybe it's -- that could be...

NGUYEN: He's headed out to sea.

HARRIS: Maybe that should be the last time we show him taking that dip.

NGUYEN: Exactly.


NGUYEN: And John is there now. John, did you ever get to speak to that guy? What's going on with him?

KING: I did speak to that man briefly, Betty.

Also, the control room's trying to talk to Rob, and they're talking to me, so that may be why they can't hear Rob.

But I did speak to the gentleman. He's staying here at the hotel, and -- clown, I think, is about the best term we could put, although he's putting his life increasingly at risk, given the circumstances here. If he gets caught out in that water now as the tide begins to rise and the surge begins to come, he could be in some trouble. So hopefully he's taken his last swim of the night.

I want to show you something else. Last time I showed you a picket off a fence. On my way out this time, one of the palm trees ahead of me here lost this. It's about 10 feet in height now. We are beginning to see -- I'm just going to go over the edge here, where it can't fly and hurt somebody. But we're beginning to see now more and more of that. These trees are starting to bend quite considerably. That, about a 10-foot branch, came off a palm tree that is over here at about 2:00 to me. You can see the wind picking up, the intensity picking up. We heard -- (audio interrupt) ... emergency operations center. That is up in Naples. Obviously Marco Island has a sub-emergency operations center. And the power here, which local officials predicted would go out relatively early in the storm, so far, so good, from that perspective.

We still see power up and down the beach, but we also see increasingly -- and you can't see it, because it's so dark, but the tide is high. I can see the whitecaps on the waves. They are higher on the shoreline, they are coming in with more power and more force.

Earlier I was saying that the rain was intermittent and would stop. Well, I'm not saying that any more, Betty and Tony.

NGUYEN: You can see that things have actually changed a lot since we first spoke with you, I don't know, about four hours ago.

I don't know if you can tell, it's very hard to tell from our vantage point, but do you know how much the winds have picked up there where you are?

KING: We were getting gusts earlier we knew had gone into the 40s. I have not had an accurate reading since. But I would guess they've gone up since then. I would not call this hurricane strength yet. I think we're still an hour or so away from the hurricane strength based on the conditions in Key West, based on the -- (audio interrupt) ... in the Weather Center can tell you more.

If I had to guess -- (audio interrupt)

NGUYEN: Well, obviously, the situation is getting worse, because we've lost that shot.

And it's going to continue to do so as Wilma comes ashore.

HARRIS: Rob Marciano, meteorologist Rob Marciano, is in Fort Myers for us. And Rob, we haven't talked to you in a while, but, well, we can see, it's coming down, you -- I don't know, it's -- doesn't appear to be quite as windy -- Oh, well, there it is, it's kicking up on you.

MARCIANO: Well, it's not too bad, Tony, the wind's not too bad. It's probably been blowing gusts to 35, maybe 40 miles an hour. So we've had tropical storm-force gusts, sustained winds probably around 20 to 30. And they've been -- just to give you an idea of Fort Myers Beach, it's about 15 miles southwest of Fort Myers proper. The beach actually doesn't go north to south, it kind of faces the southwest.

So right now, the winds are blowing into my face, and the waves are coming this way. So actually, as the waves and the tide try to come in, the wind's actually blowing out. So we're not getting much of a surge here at all, and that's kind of what Chad and I and everybody else expected with the storm taking the angle that it's taken so far. But the rain is certainly coming down, and in some cases be coming down an inch to two inches per hour, so much so that this beach is starting to look more like a bit of a -- a little bit of a lake as this water tries to make its way back into the Gulf of Mexico.

There are a number of barrier islands up and down Leed County, up towards Sanibel Island, Captiva Island. Those have been evacuated because they have bigger bridges that you have to get to and from those areas. And they all shut down when the tropical storm-force winds kick in, and that's about what we have here.

So Leed County is -- has evacuated those areas. But Fort Myers proper, and actually Fort Myers Beach right here, not evacuated. But it's pretty much a ghost town. All the businesses along this beach have shut down, boarded up, and they've kind of just taken off a little bit farther inland until this storm blows over.

But rain has been coming down heavily, and the winds have been picking up from time to time. But certainly nothing compared to what Gary Tuchman has been going through.

But you know, Tony and Betty, the storm, pretty much that way, by about 70 miles. So with tropical -- or hurricane-force winds going out about 70 miles, mostly to the right of this storm, we're not going to see hurricane-force winds really until that eyewall, the front part of it, at least, is right on the coast of Naples, Marco Island, and down across the Everglades.

And then we're going to start to see some action up here. But, you know, you don't have to be in the eye of the hurricane every time. That's for sure. So they're going to get a little bit of damage here, probably up in the Fort Myers area. There's going to be some power outages. Power outages will be widespread, and that's going to be the main inconvenience.

And then there's going to be a swatch of damage, namely from Naples all the way up to, say, Hollywood Beach.

We've also been having some transmission problems with my earpiece, Tony and Betty, so it just went out on me again. And I think my time's up anyway.


MARCIANO: So we'll check back with you in a little bit. I'll toss it back to you in Atlanta.

HARRIS: OK. Thank you. Thank you, Rob.

NGUYEN: We're going to give you another glimpse right now, though, what is happening in Key West, because that area, as we've been showing you, just really getting hammered by this storm.

This is our affiliate WFOR, and we're going to try to take a moment now, just to see the wind as they're whipping around, some 75 to 90 miles per hour. The thing about this, Tony, is, much of Key West, about 80 percent is what we're being told, have not evacuated, didn't really think this was going to hit them, it hasn't hit them in many, many years. And they were thinking that this one, they could just ride it out.

Well, now it looks like they might get the brunt of this.

HARRIS: And there is more to come, Betty. There is much more of this storm to come.

NGUYEN: This is just the beginning, yes.

HARRIS: And this -- in a sense, in a sense. So there is much more to come, and, of course, we'll continue to follow it.

NGUYEN: We sure will. We have round-the-clock coverage of Hurricane Wilma, much more. You want to stay right here on CNN.

HARRIS: Carol Costello joins Chad Myers for "DAYBREAK."



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