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Hurricane Wilma: Key West Begins to Feel It

Aired October 24, 2005 - 01:00   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: We are just one hour away from the next hurricane advisory, the latest word from the National Hurricane Center tells us that Wilma will come ashore near Naples, Florida, on the southwest Florida coast.
The Keys are already seeing wind gusts near 40 miles per hour. And the eye of this storm is huge. Just take a look at it, so big that even central Florida will see some of Wilma's effects.

Good morning, it's very early, we want to welcome you. From the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Betty Nguyen.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Tony Harris. Let's get you right down to the National Hurricane Center and the hurricane center's director, Max Mayfield.

MAX MAYFIELD, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: ... 85 miles west of Key West. It's moving toward the northeast at about 18 miles per hour. That motion will continue through the night and during the day on Monday with an increase in forward speed.

By the time it gets to the Florida peninsula it will likely be moving about 25 miles per hour. We just had a report in from the Dry Tortugas of 70 to 80 knots, so that's about 80 to 90 miles per hour. And if you look at the radar loop behind me here, you can see that these really heavy rain bands were just now getting to the Dry Tortugas.

So conditions will continue to go down, you know, through the Florida Keys all through the night. The center will likely get on to the Gulf Coast and Collier County about 6:00 or 7:00 a.m., move on a track just south of Lake Okeechobee, and then exit in Palm Beach County, likely around 11 a.m. give or take.

The wind swath that we're envisioning looks like this, where the red area represent the hurricane force winds, and the yellows and blues tropical storm force winds. So it will really cover a pretty good portion of the Florida peninsula before it's all over. We need to remember that a hurricane is not just a coastal, though strong winds, heavy rains and tornadoes will spread well inland all the way across the peninsula.

A big, big concern with the storm surge and that's going to be highest on the Gulf Coast of Florida near and to the south of where the center crosses the coast. We're forecasting nine to 17 feet. If it comes on to our forecast track here just south of Marco Island, the biggest impact will be to the south there all the way down to Cape Sable.

This is Marco Island right here. There is Naples. They will certainly have some storm surge flooding up there, but not as high as to the south of the forecast track. The -- we also need to mention rainfall, forecasting four to eight inches of rain with some areas (INAUDIBLE) there is likely up to around 12 inches.

And then we also need to talk about the tornadoes. These tornadoes will be in these outer rain bands. We've already had some reports of tornadoes all the way up near Titusville, Cocoa Beach area, and around Tampa Bay much earlier this evening. We'll likely continue to get reports of tornadoes all through the night here and during the day on Monday in the Keys, South Florida, and even well up into central Florida.

This is a very dangerous hurricane, people really need to stay hunkered down. Please don't go out driving around during the day on Monday here as this hurricane passes the state. This is Max Mayfield reporting for the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

HARRIS: OK. There you have it, from the man himself.

NGUYEN: Boy, Category 3 moving 80 to 90 miles per hour. This is a fast-moving storm. And I think, to put it in perspective, Max Mayfield says that it's going to enter around Collier County, the Naples area, 6:00 a.m. this morning, just about five hours from now, and then exit in Palm Beach County at 11:00 a.m. From 6:00 to 11:00 it's out of there. So this thing is moving fast.

HARRIS: Wow. Hurricane -- wow, that's fast. Wilma is only -- as you're hearing only hours away from landfall along the west coast of Florida. CNN, your hurricane headquarters, has reporters across the state. 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. We'll check in with all of them in just a couple of moments.

NGUYEN: But first some more perspective for you and where the hurricane is heading. Let's check in now with CNN's severe weather expert, Chad Myers.

Chad, you listened to what Max Mayfield had to say, no surprises there.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: No. Actually, what he said was 18 miles per hour, though, not 80. Thanks goodness, because if it was moving 80, we would really all be in big trouble. Eighteen miles per hour on up toward the northeast, and from Fort Myers right on back down into Monroe County, including the Lower Keys into Key West, really going to take the brunt of this storm.

If the whole storm, at least storms around the eye wall are moving at 115 miles per hour with those winds, and you move it ahead at 18 miles per hour, right across the southern portion of Florida here, including Miami-Dade County, you're going to encounter those Category 2, possibly Category 3 winds. There will definitely be Category 3 winds here into the Everglades, possibly extending right into Florida City, South Dade, and then exiting right through here. But the entire eye wall still has to take its time moving right through and even into the West Palm Beach area, all the way down even in for that matter, Fort Lauderdale, going to see the heaviest winds there. This is the latest satellite picture. You can clearly see the eye, it moves right on through. By 8:00 in the morning it is onshore, literally by noon it is gone.

Back to you guys.

NGUYEN: That is quite a path and running through it awfully quickly. Chad, thank you, we'll be checking in with you.

Well, Marco Island, just south of Naples, Florida, and our John King, he is there on Marco Island. As you can see, the winds are picking up. John joins us now with the latest.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The torrential rain has begun. All this as this resort island prepares for a hurricane that is still a few hours away.

NGUYEN: All right. Obviously, he's having some problems hearing us and we were having a little of problems there. We're going to try to get in with John King in just a little bit and bring you the latest from the area. But for now -- Tony.

HARRIS: Ah, the Florida Keys. Wind, rain, flooding, CNN's Gary Tuchman is live in Key West.

And, Gary, 65- to 70-mile-per-hour-winds, it's no joke.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, no joke at all, Tony. And the rains are picking up too. Some food for thought, this Hurricane Wilma, when it hits land it will be almost exactly eight weeks to the hour that Hurricane Katrina hit the very southwestern coast of Mississippi, setting off a chain of events that really changed an awful lot of lives.

And here Hurricane Wilma, Category 3, there was some speculation just yesterday that it could be a Category 1 when it hit Florida. Now it looks like it will be a Category 3, 155 miles per hour. The amount of damage we don't know. But we can tell you here that people -- the authorities here in Key West are taking it very seriously.

The police are still on the roads trying to corral people into going into their homes. There is a curfew in effect right now. It went into effect at 10:00 Eastern time, which is over three hours ago. Still people out on the streets, but these cops aren't going to be driving around all night once we have sustained hurricane-force winds, there will be no more police cars in the street.

And no more for protection for the people who have decided to stick it out. Mandatory evacuation went into effect yesterday, nevertheless, most Key West residents, 28,000 people live here, have decided to stay in their homes in this area where the highest elevation is a foot-and-a-half above sea level.

It's expected that at the very least there will be an eight-foot storm surge here within the next couple of hours. So they're really imagining there's going to be significant flooding. We can tell you that about 40 minutes ago the power went out in most of Key West. So things here are very dark right now, very eerie, just a few hours ago there were still bars open. People were partying in the streets.

Now except for some people who aren't particularly sober, it's pretty quiet here on Duval Street in the heart of Key West, Florida. Tony, back to you.

HARRIS: OK. Gary, thank you.

The storm expected to hit near Collier County, Florida. CNN's Jeanne Meserve joins us from Naples.

And, Jeanne, Gary was talking about losing power. Do you still have power where you are?

MESERVE: Yes. We do have power. I'm looking around as you're talking to me and it looks to me as though most of the buildings around us still have some illumination. We obviously still have some from our satellite truck.

I'm down here on the beach, I have to tell you, 10 minutes can make such a difference. I was down here 10 minutes ago, pretty quiet evening. I thought, not a bad night for a walk. Now the rain has picked up a little bit, the wind has too.

But I'll tell you what people are more worried about is what is behind, the ocean. There were surfers at 5:00, 6:00 this evening. I don't think even the surfers would be braving this. Obviously it's going to get a lot worse.

I spoke to some local officials. They say they are expecting a storm surge here if the storm sticks to its current track of about five or six feet. It's going to be high tide when this storm hits, that might add a couple of feet to that. But they say, boy, that it a lot better than we expected here in Naples.

Now the other big thing that they've been worried about is tornadoes because of the cold front coming down from Canada, as it's explained to me, that increases the risk of tornadic activity. They put out an alert at about 10:00 this evening, telling people who were in mobile homes to get to a structurally secure building, to get in solid construction, or at the very least to get into an interior room. Simply, mobile homes are too dangerous to be in in these kind of conditions.

Of course, we now do have a Category 3 storm. The sad irony is that I can't tell you how many people I've spoken over the last three or four days who said, we're not going to evacuate for a 1 or a 2, but we would evacuate for a 3. But Wilma moved up to a 3 so late in the game that it's too late for them evacuate. If they weren't out of their places before it reached Category 3, they're not going to get out tonight without considerable risk. Back to you.

HARRIS: Yes, Jeanne, I remember hearing some of your reporting earlier today, and folks were making that point, they would stay and try to ride out that 1 or 2, but 3 they were going to try to get out of there. But you're right, it has just sort of -- it has happened, it's a 3, and now you can't get out. Jeanne Meserve in Naples for us, Jeanne, thank you.

NGUYEN: We want to go now live to Fort Myers Beach, Florida, and meteorologist Rob Marciano, he's braving the elements out there.

Rob, what is the situation now?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's raining and windy and the surf is coming up just a little bit. I want to add one more point to this Category 3 status. It is at the lower end of the Cat. 3 range. And as Chad showed us a little while ago, it -- the storm still has to go over relatively cooler waters before it makes landfall.

So there is a possibility that this thing gets knocked down back to Cat. 2 status before it makes landfall. And of course that would bode for folks, especially in Naples, Marco Island, and to the Everglades.

And really a spot that hasn't been getting a whole lot of play tonight, and I suspect will change our tune come tomorrow morning, the folks in Fort Lauderdale, in Miami-Dade County, down through Homestead, got hammered with Hurricane Andrew. This storm is still going to be at least a Cat. 1 if not a Cat. 2 when it heads across that area.

All right. As I say that now the wind and the rain, it's really starting to come down and we've been having these pulses come through the area the past couple of hours, not really seeing any sort of true break in the action, just lulls. So we went from a lull about 10 minutes ago, now to really big raindrops coming down.

So the rainfall rates at this rate easily an inch, maybe an inch- and-a-half to two inches per hour. If this storm was moving more slowly than it is, we would be talking about flooding not so much on the storm surge end of things, because it looks like we won't get much of that here in Fort Myers.

But we would be talking about rainfall flooding. And if you've been watching any of our coverage tonight, not only in Marco Island are there are number of canals, and not only does Marco Island sit pretty much at sea level, but Cape Coral, which is the land mass just to the west of Fort Myers proper has a similar setup. And they kind of call it the "Venice of Florida" -- or the lower Southeast U.S. That's an area that could easily flood as well.

Right now just some heavy rains and some gusty winds. We're in an area of town which has a voluntary evacuation. The other areas that have mandatory evacuations are all the other barrier islands that have longer bridges that you have to take over. All of those bridges pretty much shut down when tropical storm force winds kick in.

We have seen some tropical storm force gusts, but sustained winds haven't really been over 20 or 25 miles an hour. So the core of the wind field, Betty, really has yet to get to us. But certainly the rain shield and will be with us probably for the next five to even eight hours until thing makes landfall and moves off over towards the Miami, Broward, and Dade -- Miami-Dade, and Broward County areas over on the east side.

That's the latest from Lee County here on the west side, back over to you.

NGUYEN: Yes, and speaking of that area, Rob, I want to touch on something that you mentioned just moments ago that -- we're talking about the west coast, because that's where Wilma is going to first hit. But it's that east coast of Florida that needs to be aware as well because -- are you saying that when Wilma goes through it's really not going to lessen in strength that much, so they're still going to get the brunt of this storm as well on the east coast?

MARCIANO: Yes. This storm is different in that it's moving very quickly. And as Max Mayfield said at the top of the hour, it could easily be going 20 to 25 miles an hour when it makes landfall along the southwestern coastline of the state.

Now, you know, from Everglades City or Marco Island over towards Homestead and the South Miami area, what is it, 40 miles, 30, 40, maybe 50 miles? And this thing is moving along at 20, 25 miles an hour. So it is only going to take a couple of hours to pass across the peninsula.

And typically you take 12-hour -- half a day cuts the strength of a hurricane in half, so 12 hours of time over land would take that hurricane from, say, 120 miles an hour wind down to 60 miles an hour. Basically what I'm trying to say is it's not going to have enough time over land to weaken very much before it hits the east coast of Florida.

So I'm certain that the local stations there, and, boy, do they do a great job in the Miami area of keeping their folks informed, I'm sure they've had their folks on the up-and-up and prepped them out to anticipate this, and the folks in that area of Florida certainly no stranger to hurricanes.

So they may not be used to the hurricanes coming from the west side, but they are used to hurricanes coming in from the east side. So they're probably on high alert from the local stations there.

And if they're not and they're watching us tonight, be prepared from hurricane-force winds in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, even through West Palm Beach come, say, 7:00, 8:00, 9:00 tomorrow morning, maybe even though lunchtime before this things heads out to sea.

NGUYEN: (INAUDIBLE) be prepared. Thank you, Rob, we'll be checking in with you shortly.

HARRIS: Betty, the Marco Island, just south of Naples, Florida, our John King is there.

And, John, it sounds like Fort Myers is going to get a bit of a break, relatively speaking, maybe Naples a bit of a break, again, relatively speaking. But it sounds like the area where you are in south is really going to get an event.

KING: It sure looks that way, Tony. We're beginning some advance sign of that. Just a few moments ago there was a torrential downpour. It has stopped. That tends to happen in the hours just before the hurricane hits, you get some downpours, a few ebbs and flows.

But the wind certainly has picked up. The key question here on Marco Island is will the storm come in pretty much as a direct hit as many officials believed here this morning, or will it, as it now looks, pass a bit to the south? That would of great relief to the leaders of this community, obviously, not so much to those to the south.

But all affects the storm surge, and what they are worried about if this hits as a Category 2 is a storm surge of seven to nine feet. The Gulf of Mexico is just about 75 yards over my shoulder, that would bring the water up through here and flood many of the canals in the low-lying communities here, many of which have million dollar condominiums and homes right near them.

If it passed to the south, they believe that surge would be significantly less than if it hits as a Category 3, Tony, they think it could be as high 10, 12 feet, perhaps a bit more. That is the key thing. And they are saying by daybreak, obviously, they will have a better sense. At the moment they're more optimistic.

Another reason they're relatively optimistic about the damage that could be done from a human perspective is that local officials believe at least 90 percent of the 20,000 people who are on this island when the mandatory order went out over the weekend have left. So they believe there are 2,000 or fewer people on the island now.

We did visit with some of them tonight, hardy souls riding it out, in one case, four British tourists who said they had no place to go during their holiday. But for the most part, local officials say people listened, they got out early, most of the businesses are boarded up. And the key question, of course, is how big will that storm surge be and how long will the rain be here?

As Rob just noted, with it passing so quickly there is not likely to be any sustained flooding. So the big question is, where does it hit and what type of surge does it bring with it? Tony.

HARRIS: Boy, that's what we're watching. OK, John, thank you.

NGUYEN: And speaking of watching, we want to show you now some local affiliate coverage. WPLG, the Miami station there covering this. Look at the winds there. Let's take a listen.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: ... 7:00 Monday morning. You could really the winds starting to pick up. Believe me, we are doing our best to stay safe. Every one of us, from other stations, we are really kind of coming together to make sure that we watch out for one another.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yvonne (ph), just to give you some idea, we were hearing about winds gusts of about 54 miles an hour. Trent (ph) is back with us now.

Trent, exactly what is your data showing is happening in Key West?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yes, wind gusts have actually come up in Key West. We're seeing wind gusts of 67 miles per hour now in Key West. That's just about seven shy of becoming hurricane force gusts. The (INAUDIBLE) is just off the coastline. The center of circulation less than 100 miles now.

And that core extends out some 85 miles from center. So it's just 15, 20 miles away from you right now. And as the storm moves at 18 miles per hour, you're talking about an hour before you're in the hurricane-force core for good.

And if we look at the radar here, she is on the outer edge of what we're seeing for the damaging tropical storm force core, and eventually the hurricane force. Let's take a little closer view of that. And as you can see, the solid green shades here? That's that core we're talking about. What they're picking up right now is the southern part of a feeder band that's very close to the center of circulation.

That right in there is actually a false return coming in out of the Key West radar site. So right now the rain not as heavy as it will be here in the next hour or so.

NGUYEN: We will return to WPLG. And the reporter there, as you saw in those pictures, in Key West where the winds have really picked up and the rain is just coming down. And they're going to see much more of that as this morning rolls on.

HARRIS: So here's what we're going to do, take a break, come back, and we'll talk to Anita Foster (ph). She is a spokesperson for the American Red Cross working out of Naples and we'll get her sense of what is going on there on the ground and the relief effort that might be necessary at first light and when this storm moves off the east coast, now, of Florida.

NGUYEN: So much more to come. CNN, of course, is your hurricane headquarters all night and through the day as Wilma bears down on Florida.


NGUYEN: Time now for us to check in the Red Cross. Anita Foster is spokeswoman for the Collier County in Naples, Florida. And she joins us by phone.

Anita, as you know, Naples is right there in the path of Wilma. How many shelters do you have set up so far and how many people are in those shelters?

ANITA FOSTER, SPOKESPERSON, AMERICAN RED CROSS: Well, throughout the state of Florida we actually have 77 shelters open. We had, at last count, right at 6 p.m., around 15,000 people in those shelters.


FOSTER: We know that that most likely went up. We saw people streaming into shelters all night long.

NGUYEN: So do you feel like people are definitely heeding the warnings?

FOSTER: Well, we do. And there are a couple of reasons for that. Florida is such a well-prepared state just as a result of last year's hurricane season. And then so many have just -- we've talked to them in the shelters, said things like, you know, we saw what Katrina did and we don't want to take any chances.

And so Florida, already a well-prepared state, really even better prepared as people take precautions for their own personal safety.

NGUYEN: True. Florida is a well-prepared state. I have to ask, though, about the state of the American Red Cross. You guys have really been stretched to the limit. It has been a busy hurricane season. Of course, after Katrina and all that happened and that aftermath, how is the Red Cross being able to handle hurricane after hurricane, are you stretched thin?

FOSTER: Oh, it has definitely been a difficult year. There is absolutely no question. One good thing about the American Red Cross is that we are nationwide and we're in every community. And as a result of those -- the hurricanes, Katrina and Rita, we actually trained thousands of new volunteers, and those volunteers are being called to action right here for hurricane Wilma.

So we do have several thousand volunteers either on the ground or on standby that come into the area as a result of Hurricane Wilma. And we're certainly going to do everything that we possibly can with our volunteer force to ensure that people who need help because of this storm get it, and they get it as quickly as possible.

NGUYEN: Obviously a lot of people are hunkered down in their homes if they haven't made it to a shelter just yet. But for those who are watching this night, you know what, I don't think I can handle this at home. I may need to head to a shelter. Is it just too late at this point? Are the doors shut?

FOSTER: Yes, it really is. The emergency officials do have curfews in order throughout the communities, and so if someone is at home and really the best thing you can do is know that that's where you're going to be and make sure you've got your supplies on hand. Do you have your bottled water, that you know where the interior room of the home is, and that you have those supplies with you in that interior room. And just hunker down and ride the storm out. And if help is needed afterwards, we'll certainly be there.

NGUYEN: And as you talk about supplies, we saw with Katrina many of those supplies ran out and ran out fast in the days that followed a storm of that magnitude. How many days can you handle the folks in the shelter, especially 15,000 who have already gone to shelters in the area?

FOSTER: Well, the Red Cross is prepared for as long as it takes. We have actually pre-positioned in the Orlando area just over half a million heater meals, just around 600,000, which are prepared meals- ready-to-eat, basically that are pre-positioned.

We've also pre-positions supplies such as cleaning supplies, tents and -- I'm sorry, tarp and shovels, rakes, things like that that a family might need to clean up after the storm. Those items are also pre-positioned. So we can operate for as long as it takes.

If we need additional resources, volunteers or material resources after Wilma makes landfall, then we'll put that appeal out through our Red Cross network and make sure that we get the resources that we need. I speak for all of us in the Red Cross when I say that we certainly hope we never see anything as devastating as Hurricane Katrina again.

But there were some great lessons learned for the families here in Florida, and that is to be prepared, to do everything that we can ahead of time, make family communication plans, tell someone where you're sheltering before you leave so that your loved ones know where you are. And have a few supplies on hand. So hopefully that lesson has resonated here with the people of Florida.

NGUYEN: Yes. There have been a lot of lessons learned in the aftermath of Katrina. Well, we wish you the best, Anita Foster, always there when it counts, when it comes to situations like this and shelters are up and running, 15,000 in them, in Florida right now. Thank you, stay safe.

FOSTER: Oh, thank you so much.

HARRIS: You can follow Hurricane Wilma day and night, check Wilma's position and speed. There is also a huge archive of this season's hurricane photos and video reports, it's all free,

We're also looking for citizen journalists. Send us your photos and your video of Hurricane Wilma. Long onto, but we want to stress this, be safe when taking those pictures. So please, don't put yourself or others in danger.

Just see a couple of live pictures if we could here. Do we have some? Wilma, just a couple of notes here on Wilma, Category 3 storm now as we take a look at Marco Island where John King is. Landfall between 6:00 a.m.-7:00 a.m., hurricane-force winds to be felt before landfall. Storm surge, nine to 17 feet predicted near landfall, Betty. Wilma to come ashore on southwest Florida coast, a shot of Naples now.

Is that...

NGUYEN: Jeanne Meserve.

HARRIS: Is that Jeanne? OK. Jeanne is there. Low-lying Florida Keys, a target for flooding, most of the residents of the Keys haven't evacuated, just hunkering down and trying to ride it out.

NGUYEN: Yes. They said 80 percent of the residents near the Keys have not evacuated, so this is a point when they need to stay inside and keep it tuned, if the electricity is on, hopefully it still is, we'll be checking in on that when we go to our reporters.

But you definitely want to stay tuned because there is much more to come. CNN is, of course, your hurricane headquarters. We're going to be here all night and through the day as Wilma bears down on Florida.


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

NGUYEN: Take a look at these pictures. They are out of Marco Island. Actually we have three different areas here. Jeanne Meserve at the bottom of the screen, she is in Naples, Florida. John King at the top right of your screen is in Marco Island, which is really getting hammered right now with the wind and the rain. And to the top left, I'm not for sure who that -- or who is in the shot there. Where is that? If our producers can give us a little direction here.

Anyways, that palm tree that you see right there, the winds are still blowing in that part of Florida, that particular part. We are told now is Fort Myers, Florida, where our Rob Marciano will be joining us momentarily.

HARRIS: Welcome back, everyone. Wilma's extended stay over the resort area of Cancun has left the popular Mexican vacation spot a huge mess. CNN's Susan Candiotti reports on the damage as well as efforts to help the thousands of stranded tourists.

All right. Let's not do that right now. Let's get the latest on the track of Hurricane Wilma. Let's go upstairs to the CNN Weather Center and severe weather expert Chad Myers -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Tony. Yes, got a new tornado warning actually for east Orange County in east central Florida, that includes the town of Christmas, Florida.

Here is the problem. We have a tornado watch over almost the entire state of Florida. Here is Saint Pete, Tampa, Orlando. For a while, Orlando, you were not in the tornado watch. But then just a little bit ago the tornado watch was expanded to include the entire east coast of Florida all the way from Daytona Beach down even into Fort Lauderdale.

Back over here to the next machine. The storm itself getting very close to Key West. There it is right there. Every time one of these outer bands comes through, the storm and the winds pick up. By the time this outer band here, which is only about 40 miles away, by the time that gets to Key West the winds are even going to be stronger.

Here is the storm right here, east of Orlando to Christmas. This is the storm right here with the tornado warning on it. And look at this, all the way up to the north, even into parts of Georgia, just south of Savannah, there's Tybee Island, right on back to and northwest of Jacksonville, it is raining and thunderstorming because of Wilma.

Back behind me here, back on this map, I have another great animation that the hurricane center has given us. Here's Naples, Florida, here's Marco Island. This part here, that's all the Everglades. And we're going to watch as the animation comes through, watch the lighter colors coming in. That's the hurricane storm surge.

There goes the hurricane right there, right up through Collier County, and this orange and red zone here, picking up storm surge totals, almost 14 feet, that number right there, 14.2 feet just south there, south of, let's say south of, let's say, Cape Romano, Marco Island, but north of Florida Bay, which would be on the bottom of this island.

This is going to be a major storm surge event for this area. The only good news is there aren't many people that live here. And the people that did live here did evacuate, this is basically Everglades. They're going to get an eight- to 10-foot storm surge throughout the Everglades. And that could push all the way to the east coast.

Another thing for the east coast will be the winds. The winds are not going to slow down, Everglades are swamp, that's not going to slow down a hurricane. This is thing is still going to have 110 mile- per-hour wind speeds, maybe 100, but close, all the way in to Fort Lauderdale, possibly Miami-Dade, but more likely on up into Broward County; and from Fort Lauderdale to West Palm all the way up even into possibly Palm Bay and Melbourne, picking up wind speeds there 100 to 110 miles per hour, and that's the east coast cities, even though the storm came in from the west.

NGUYEN: That really puts it in perspective right there, how fast this thing is moving and how both coasts are going to get hit by it.

HARRIS: And you know what, Chad? I think we talked about it some, and maybe just another moment on it, as this thing makes landfall, well, actually, we're seeing tornadoes pop up ahead of it?

MYERS: Absolutely.

HARRIS: And probably after this storm makes landfall. MYERS: Sure. Right along -- after it makes landfall, though -- it's usually kind of on the front and the right quadrant, as soon as it makes landfall that will be very close to offshore in the Atlantic.


MYERS: So there will be water spouts in the Atlantic. But that will take the severe weather, the tornado risk away from most of Florida as the eye passes over. And as soon as it gets out into the Atlantic there are always very few tornadoes behind the eye. It can happen, but not near -- there are probably 20 times more ahead of this storm's landfall than behind it.

HARRIS: But, Chad, what happens when it makes its way to the Atlantic, is there the chance of another landfall? Will it reform at all or is that it?

NGUYEN: Do you even have to bring that up?

HARRIS: I'm sorry.

MYERS: There is certainly chance for Atlantic Canada: Nova Scotia, even possibly Maine. We've been talking about this "Perfect Storm" scenario for a couple of days now. I hope that because this storm has so much momentum now, has so much momentum going across Florida, that it ejects far enough into the Atlantic that that won't curve back up into New England.

But, Tony, there are still models that do that. And out of the 15 models that we have, there are still a couple of them that get it very close to the New England coast, and obviously that's concerning because one of the models is going to be right. You know, it doesn't matter how many lotto tickets you buy, one ticket is going to win at some point, right?

HARRIS: Right. I only ask because I thought I heard you mention that during the course of the day. All right, Chad, thank you.

MYERS: Sure.

NGUYEN: Right now we want to go to one of the areas that is really getting a pounding from Wilma. Our John King is on Marco Island. He joins us now live. You can hear the rain already. There he is as we see him.

John, what is the situation now?

KING: Well, Betty, since we last spoke, the rain has intensified. Again, it was a downpour a while ago and then a little bit of a lull. Now we are getting a downpour and the swirling winds. Again, still not hurricane conditions, but obviously the advance party, if you will, of Wilma approaching here.

The big question is exactly where will it hit and what will the storm surge be, how big will it be? I can tell you a few little things, though, that had local officials very concerned. Number one, they were worried about people coming down to the beach here to see -- check out on the storm.

Now that's dark here now at night, so that won't happen as much. One of the things they're concerned about is we are just about at the speed of the wind with these little sharp pieces of seashell, and they are everywhere out on this beach, start to fly, a few of them scattering about here now, when the winds pick up, they will start to fly.

Tomorrow is supposed to be trash day in this community as they called every house, an automated recording to every house on this island today. One of the things they urged people is don't put your trash cans out because that would only add to the blowing debris.

Now as we watch to see what happens here on Marco Island, you just heard Chad talking about the storm surge, especially at least as of now with the tracking, more at risk a bit to the south up here.

We visited this morning a little community called Goodland. This is an upscale community, Marco Island, pricey condominiums; it's much more gritty down in Goodland. It's a fishing village, there are many people in trailer homes that are literally just a step or two from a canal or in some cases a step or two from the Gulf of Mexico.

That is one of the places we will be watching over the next several hours as this hurricane comes ashore as daylight approaches the extent of the damage there, could be significantly higher here because the people have much less expensive and much less protected, much more vulnerable homes -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Point understood. John King, thank you. And, of course, we're going to be checking in with you as well.

HARRIS: Wilma's strength already being seen in waterspouts, tornadoes, this waterspout, let's take a look at it here. It was captured by one of our citizen journalists off the coast of Miami towards Key West -- we don't have it? OK.

The National...

NGUYEN: It's coming.


NGUYEN: There it is.

HARRIS: Slow down.

NGUYEN: Look how big that is.


The National Hurricane Center is warning everyone that you probably will see more of these as the storm moves across Florida all day today. The Keys already losing power and experiencing a lot of flooding, CNN's Gary Tuchman joins us now live from Key West with the latest. And I understand Gary has actually lost his power.

TUCHMAN: That's right, Tony, about one hour ago the power went out in most of Key West. This is Duval Street in the center of what would be a very crowded city on any night of the week, even at this hour of the night.

But right now curfew in effect, mandatory evacuation, torrential rains, and amazingly strong winds for the last hour, but still not sustained hurricane force. They were told -- the mayor and the city council that around 2:00 a.m. Eastern Time, 20 minutes from now, they could expect sustained hurricane-force winds.

They appear to be getting very close. Conditions very inclement, there is some flooding, as you said, but it is very important for us to stress the flooding has occurred in areas that flood even in small storms.

This area, this is the key area, if this area floods there is a big problem, and that's what the police and fire officials are keeping a careful eye on right now. But we are getting hurricane-force gusts at times, but not sustained.

Now we want to tell you one thing, this particular city, Key West, population 28,000, it has been since 1919 that a major hurricane hit this city. And while there are a lot of people who attribute that to just dumb luck, there are others, many others who attribute it to something more.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): A mandatory evacuation has been in place since Saturday, but at the St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Key West, praying to God has trumped the orders of man. The church is mostly full.

Also busy, a shrine behind the church, a coral grotto built in 1922 by a nun who declared: "As long as the grotto stands, Key West will never again experience the full brunt of a hurricane."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, God, for protecting us and continue to protect us from the storm. We love you very much.

TUCHMAN: Hundreds died in Key West after a direct hit three years before the grotto was built.

(on camera): There hasn't been a major hurricane that has hit Key West since then. You think the grotto has something to do with it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, absolutely, absolutely, yes. I think every church should build a grotto, all over the world, and then we would all be safe forever.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The faith in Sister M. Lewis Gabriel's grotto was strong. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You ask anybody in town, and they will say, there won't be a hurricane here. Go to the shrine.

TUCHMAN: Throughout the day, they came to light candles, praying for Key West to be protected.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the most candles I've ever seen lit at one time in the grotto, and I come every Sunday.


TUCHMAN: They have had lots of close calls here in Key West. Just this year Katrina and Rita left a lot of damage here, but no direct hits for 86 years. The last time they got a direct hit was the same year that the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series. That was "Black Sox" scandal, not to be confused with today's White Sox who won Game 2 of the World Series -- just to intersperse two big stories of the day, Tony.

HARRIS: Very nice, very nice, very nice. All right, Gary, Chad has some questions for you. He wants to talk to you a bit.


MYERS: Now what -- did you just feel a wind gust to about 74, Gary? Because that was your first Hurricane gust about three minutes ago.

TUCHMAN: There minutes ago, exactly, when we started this report, Chad, we felt it, it blew me back. So I'll tell you, I just need to keep you in my ear the whole day and I'll know what is coming up. You can tell the future for me.

MYERS: Well, I'll tell you what, the future doesn't look very good for especially everybody on the south end of that island. I have the radar pulled up. I know you can't see it, but I'm going to describe it to you, wave after wave of next -- squall after squall-dy (ph) weather, but then just a little bit farther back out to the west is your eye, Gary.

And every time that gets closer, especially when you get that right there, your wind speeds could be 100 miles per hour or more. The maximum sustained winds in the storm still 115. The maximum measured by the hurricane hunter aircraft at 10,000 feet, 127. So be careful out there.

TUCHMAN: Chad, when does it look like it will be peaking here in the Lower Keys?

MYERS: I think you probably have three hours right to your peak, and then it depends whether your peak is in this squall or whether there's another squall that develops on the south side because, Gary, I think Key West gets the southern eye wall. I do think it's going to be a very dangerous and maybe even destructive storm for Key West tonight. TUCHMAN: And that is what we're trying to tell the residents here yesterday. I mean, we are not here to preach, we're here to report. We're not telling people they have to leave. But we're giving them the information with which they help to make the decision to leave.

And the fact is that most of the 28,000 people here have stayed put. And there is going to be a huge storm surge and we're only 18 inches above sea level.

MYERS: Find yourself someplace safe that you can hide from that wind. We would like to stay with you all night. Considering you're not in a live truck, right? You explained that earlier, say that again.

TUCHMAN: It's really an interesting thing, even for those of us in the business. But we have what we call a fiber hook-up and we literally take a plug, put it into the wall and it allows us to transmit live pretty much no matter how strong the winds are.

So we don't have a truck to worry about, and that is one of our worries when you're out in the field, and when I'm out in the field, we can't keep those satellite dishes up, and winds that get too strong. But in this situation we're hoping we can stay up live all night.

MYERS: Well, there's not a million-dollar live truck out there to keep safe, but there's you and all the crew to stay safe, so make sure you do that for us, all right?

TUCHMAN: Thank you, Chad.

MYERS: It's going to downhill from here in a big hurry. Back to you guys at the desk.

HARRIS: Yes. That is amazing that Chad can see it on all of his equipment and can give the information to Gary. And it's just amazing. Thank you, both, very much. Thank you.

NGUYEN: And the time was right on with that, too...

HARRIS: It really was, it really was.


NGUYEN: ... that it happened just as he started that report.

We have a lot more to come with Wilma. We are going to be speaking with an emergency management official in Lee County. Now as you know, Lee County includes places like Fort Myers, one of the areas where Wilma is going to come to ashore. Stay tuned. CNN is your hurricane headquarters.


NGUYEN: Let's take you back to Fort Myers, the Cape Coral area now. Joining us on the phone is David Kainraid, the -- with the Lee County Emergency Management Office.

David, the first thing I want to ask, we're looking at a live picture in the Fort Myers area where we can see winds blowing the palm trees around. What is the whether like where you are?

DAVID KAINRAID, LEE COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Well, to be honest with you, I'm in the Emergency Operations Center; I can't see anything, so I'm...

NGUYEN: You haven't even been outside to look?

KAINRAID: No. I've been pretty busy here. So I've been relying on the media, by looking at the pictures there. But from -- people are coming in with rain coats and they're looking drenched. So I can only assume that it's raining out.

NGUYEN: You say you've been pretty busy, tell me what's going on?

KAINRAID: Well, we have a number of the different agencies here that will be responsible in doing the assessment afterwards, after the storm has hit. So they're manning the phones and they're just standing by, doing interviews, those type of things.

NGUYEN: Are people heeding the warnings? Do you feel like people in the Fort Myers area are in shelters? That they've evacuated?

KAINRAID: I believe they have. They've -- we have been real pleased with the way they have responded to the plea for evacuation of for those going to the shelters. We have approximately, just about 6,000 in shelters right now. And a number of people evacuated long ago, actually, up to two days ago, two or three days ago when Hurricane Wilma first came around, it looked like it was going to hit Florida.

So we've been real pleased. And we can accredit that to the experience that we had last year with Hurricane Charley and the other hurricanes and then the Hurricane Katrina and Rita did to the other coastal states earlier this year.

NGUYEN: Well, that's good to hear that people are taking this seriously. Now you are focusing on the aftermath. What are expecting to see? What, downed power lines, debris in the roadways? What are you preparing for?

KAINRAID: That's about it. It's going to be a wind event for Lee County in particular because the eye of the storm is large. They're saying it's about 60 miles wide. So it's going to enter into some of Lee County. And so we're expecting to see hurricane gusts, if not some sustained winds, in Lee County. So we're looking at structural damage. We're looking at downed power lines, trees and that.

NGUYEN: Have your heard as to whether any power is out at this point? KAINRAID: We've heard in southern Lee County that there have been a couple of places reported some outages.

NGUYEN: Mm-hmm. And as this hurricane comes ashore, there's always the talk, and we're even seeing it on the screen that there is going to be an advisory at 2:00 a.m., but also there's talk of the tornadoes that are going to be coming as well. What are you hearing to that aspect and is that something that you are preparing for damage after a tornado could hit?

KAINRAID: That's probably our largest concern that is coming with Wilma is the moderate chances of tornadoes. And there is a fair number of mobile home communities, manufactured home parks in Lee County. And they're just -- you know, they're vulnerable to these types of storms.

NGUYEN: Well, we are going to let you continue with your preparations, David Kainraid, with the Lee County Emergency Management Office. You're doing the right thing, staying inside. And we appreciate your insight on what you're preparing for and how you're preparing for Wilma as this storm comes ashore. Thank you.

KAINRAID: OK. Thank you.

HARRIS: And one of the things we've been doing, Betty, all evening long is we've been keeping an eye on our affiliate stations and trying to bring you the best reporting and the best pictures from as close to the storm as we can possibly take you.

When we come back after the break we will bring you one of those reports from one of our affiliate stations. CNN is your hurricane headquarters all night and through the day as Wilma bears down on Florida.


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

So as we watch and wait, take a look at these pictures. In your upper left-hand corner is Fort Myers where you can see the winds are blowing a little right now. Marco Island, where our John King is standing, a little busier right there as far as wind gusts go. And in Naples you can see the water out there, the waves crashing ashore.

We're going to be checking in with reporters in all of these places, but as you know, if you have been watching, Wilma is now a Category 3 storm, expected landfall between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m. Eastern time this morning.

HARRIS: And just a short time ago, Alex Loeb from our CNN affiliate WPLG in Miami filed this report from Islamorada, and that was just a short time ago, let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ALEX LOEB, WPLG REPORTER: I'm Alex Loeb at Islamorada. We are standing outside of our hotel, just yards away from the ocean, but more importantly, I want to show you a lagoon that is prone to flooding during hurricanes.

I'm going to walk out on the dock right now right into the water. Now this dock is supposed to be covered by the time we really start feeling hurricane-force winds. These are tropical storm-force winds and as I said, this is expected to flood during Hurricane Katrina.

This flooded all the way back into the parking lot. So, again, you're looking right around the lagoon. This leads right into the Atlantic Ocean. If we can take a look at the inlet right behind me to my left, there is the Atlantic Ocean, off there.

So especially the -- I mean, the flooding you see right now, which is right up to the rocks, isn't because of rain, that is because of storm surge. Now it is starting to rain and we expect the flooding to get worse.

Reporting in Islamorada, I'm Alex Loeb, back to you.


NGUYEN: And we will be here all night as we track Hurricane Wilma. The next hour though of CNN early, early this morning will start right after a quick break. But as you know, CNN is your hurricane headquarters. We're here all night and through the day as Wilma bears down on Florida.



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