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Four Central Florida Counties Hit by Violent Storms

Aired February 2, 2007 - 12:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: You're with CNN. You're informed.
I'm Tony Harris.


Developments keep coming in to the NEWSROOM on this busy Friday, February 2nd.

Here's what's on the rundown.

Breaking news. Search and rescue in Florida. Four central counties hit by violent storms.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You heard it. Did you have time to get to a safe room or anything?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All we did -- all we did was just grab the kids and just hovered over them and just rode it out.


HARRIS: CNN confirming more than a dozen deaths. That toll could go higher as search crews reach more destroyed homes. The latest this hour in the NEWSROOM.

Normally at this time we would be joining our friends at YOUR WORLD TODAY, but how could be on this day? So we won't.

More than a dozen people dead. Neighborhoods flattened. We are following breaking news from central Florida, where severe storms and a suspected tornado hit with devastating fury overnight.

Authorities in Lake County report at least 14 people killed. Among the hardest hit areas, the town of Lady Lake. At least two mobile home parks there devastated.

Florida governor Charlie Crist has declared a state of emergency in four counties.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. CHARLIE CRIST (R), FLORIDA: Obviously, early this morning we have had a significant weather event. I have just signed an executive order that will affect the four affected counties. They are Volusia, Sumter, Lake and Seminole counties.

The state emergency operations center obviously is in full mode. These people are working hard and they're doing great work.

We are coordinating with local officials to make sure that Floridians are safe, that they are secure. You know, this is one of the most important things that we do in government, is protect and serve our citizens. And that's exactly what is happening here.


HARRIS: The storm struck quickly in the middle of the night while many people were sleeping. Search and rescue crews are sifting through debris for people who may be trapped. The Florida Highway Patrol says tractor-trailers were blown off the road along Interstate 4 in Volusia county. Thousands of people are without power across the region -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Chad Myers is standing by now to give us more information on this.

For a while there, we had some other storms that were kind of building. What's the very latest on that?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, we're kind of now not in that warm part of the day yet.


COLLINS: For now I do need to move on to one of our affiliates, WKMG.

This is some of their on-air coverage that happened just moments ago. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we can see where the tornado carved a path of destruction through this area. You can see it in the form of toppled trees.

You can pan down here.

This road, neighbors have been leaving from here all morning long with tissues in their hands, their eyes red, their homes destroyed. You can see, there is a vehicle, distinguishable only because you can see the tires. It was shredded by this wind, it was flung up against the trees, and you can just pan around and see the devastation and destruction from this tornado.

But the destruction you're seeing here is nothing compared to the loss of life in this area of unincorporated Lake County. We're hearing confirmed 11 people dead here in the area of Paisley, Lake Katherine Heights (ph), and Forest Hills, which is where we were.

When you spoke to Donald Forbes (ph) earlier, you did hear that he was -- he saw search and rescue crews going to door to door, knocking on doors, checking to see if everyone is OK, accounting for all of the lives here. The death toll, again, stands at 11, but that could rise before the end of the day.

But the search and rescue effort actually began shortly after the storm passed. But the neighbors, shortly after the storm passed, about 4:00 this morning, neighbors say they came out of their homes, they saw the devastation, they came out with chainsaws, they went searching door to door. We spoke with one woman who described quite the horrific scene out here.

She said when she got to the neighborhood, she saw bodies lying in ditches. She saw numerous people with broken legs. She said it was absolutely horrible.

This area of unincorporated Lake County, it is a small area. Everybody does know each other out here. So the loss of lives, the loss of those 11 people certainly having a devastating effect out here.

And it continues, the recovery right now, because there are a lot of downed power lines, there are a lost people still unaccounted for. They set up a little command post near a fire station where everyone is supposed to go and meet. And they also brought out dog kennels, because a lot of pets are missing. So animal control also out here trying to round up animals. And again, the search just continues for more people, more bodies.

It looks like a rake literally just went over this whole area of unincorporated Lake County -- Bob.


HARRIS: Was that a vehicle tangled in the...

COLLINS: Oh yes. No question about it.

HARRIS: ... in the tree there?

COLLINS: She said distinguishable only because you can see the tires. Unreal. I don't remember ever seeing anything like that, but...


COLLINS: ... you know, these people have suffered similar damage back in 1998, tornadoes going through this area as well.

HARRIS: Look at this.

COLLINS: Holy cow.

HARRIS: Look at that. COLLINS: It's awful. You can imagine if you were a person experiencing that as it went through early in the morning.

HARRIS: And what is that?

COLLINS: A caterpillar, bulldozer. Can't really tell, but heavy equipment, that's for sure.

HARRIS: We have some first-person accounts now, witnesses giving their -- their story, what they saw, what they witnessed this morning. These are people talking to a reporter from our affiliate there in central Florida, WESH.

Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When the tornado stopped, it was gone. We heard people hollering, and we came across the street to find total devastation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. And over at this house right here, some lady -- I was trying to help her out, but she didn't make it. I tried my -- I tried my hardest.

I feel real bad, because that guy -- I was in there checking her pulse and everything. I had seen two dead bodies. It's not right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's it like in there?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, it's just rubble and trees down and cars. Just a lot of trash and people's belongings everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was in my House right there with out two children and my wife.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did it sound like? What happened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sounded like a freight train.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What were you thinking?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I was mostly thinking, just take care of my wife and kids. Wasn't nothing else we could do. It was on us within 20 seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where was your house? Honey, you're telling me right there, that used to be a mobile home?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. That used to be a mobile home, and that's where we were -- that's where we were when it came (ph).


COLLINS: Want to take you back to another affiliate of ours, WKMG. This is Tarik Minor in New Smyrna Beach. Let's hear his report.


TARIK MINOR, REPORTER, WKMG: We're here off of US 1, New Smyrna Beach, just a couple miles North of the airport. And we just got back from the Norgman Avenue (ph) area, which was the hardest-hit area. We wanted to get right to some of these pictures, some of the video that we shot earlier.

This is devastating where this storm has ripped through and just really destroyed a lot of the houses in this area. It's hard to believe, absolutely amazing to see what we witnessed, and at the same time, this is very sad for the homeowners in the area.

A lot of their homes are a total loss. We've seen roofs ripped off the walls, blown down walls. You have people and their personal belongings exposed now.

Residents are sifting through their rubble in these neighborhoods, grabbing everything that they can. A lot of people realizing that they have lost everything.

Here in New Smyrna Beach, we're told 69 homes have been destroyed, according to the New Smyrna Beach Police Department, 800 people here in this area are without power. But luckily, here in New Smyrna Beach, there's only one reported injury at this time.

Now, city workers are arriving to clean up this debris. They're cutting away trees from these battered homes.

Let's listen in to some of the witness accounts from earlier today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's crazy. I feel bad for everybody. I really don't know what to say.

It's going to be a lot of work. You know? Everybody is just going to have to help each other out and do what they've got to do to get it done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What have you seen -- is this your buddy's house?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What have you seen damage-wise here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything. There's nothing salvageable. Everything has water damage, all the floor came in -- I mean, all the roof came in. The roof in the garage trapped the bikes, dirt bikes. It's all -- everything is tore up, all the computer equipment, stereos, TVs, beds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A shelter has been opened here in New Smyrna Beach at the Babe James Community Center off of Myrtle Avenue. While storm victims regroup in the area, the property appraisers officers are arriving to get a handle on the damage.

Members of the fire department are putting Xs on those houses that have been deemed dangerous. Witnesses, of course, say they heard those heavy winds and then the sound of a -- of a -- a sound resembling a freight train. Homeowners say the winds only lasted some 15 seconds.

Now, the search and rescue efforts continue here in Volusia County as firefighters, police officers are still going house to house just to make sure that everyone inside of those residents did indeed make it out.

For now, though, we're live in New Smyrna Beach.

I'm Tarik Minor, Local 6.


HARRIS: And right now, emergency management officials in Lake County, Florida, are holding a news conference. Let's take you to Barris (ph), Florida.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... local legislators. And additionally, Senator Mel Martinez has been briefed on the situation. And we'll continue to keep all of them advised. They've all assured us that any assistance that we may need will be forthcoming.

I would like to pass it off at this point to Jerry Smith, our emergency management director.

JERRY SMITH, LAKE COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Good morning. And thank you for coming.

Some of the things I want to talk about first is the utmost concern that we have for those that did lose their loved ones. And also to let you know that our main priority is those that are without homes and that are in the damaged area.

We are doing a house-to-house searches at this time. We have well over -- we have several hundred first responders out in the areas combing the area.

It's a unique challenge, logistically, for the -- because we've had to divide our forces. We've had an incident that occurred on the most western edge of our county, and then on the most eastern edge of our county. It takes approximately an hour and a half to drive from one to the other. So we're working on getting resources.

We've had outstanding mutual aid support from our area counties and from the state, and we cannot ask for any more support than we've had. It's been overwhelming and we're very appreciative.

Currently, I will tell you that on the Lady Lake area, we are looking at a 20-square-mile area that has been affected. There are probably -- there are thousands of homes in that area. And it is going to take us a significant amount of time to get specific answers about what -- how much damage is in that area.

If you're familiar with the area, I've spoken to the Sumter County emergency manager. It starts at Highway 301 in Sumter County and goes all of the way west to the western shore of Lake Griffin in that area. Then it starts in Paisley area on the east side of our county and goes to the St. Johns River, and then I understand there are some issues in Volusia County.

We have opened -- currently, we've opened three shelters. We've opened a shelter at the North Lake Presbyterian Church on Rolling Acres Road in Lady Lake. That's behind the Home Depot. We have also opened a special needs shelter at The Villages Elementary School in Lady Lake, which is also on Rolling Acres Road.

We are working with the First Baptist Church of Paisley to open up -- we have a shelter there. We are also identifying other potential shelter spots in that area so that we may be able to serve those better.

We are evaluating areas for long-term recovery sheltering, at least for the weekend. We understand that the weather will not be very complimentary this weekend. And so we want to get people in to some other structures so that they are safe and warm. We are -- we are definitely working on that at this time, and we have a lot of support in that manner.

We do have a citizens information line. And that phone number is 352-343-9732. And if you have any questions about exactly what's going on, and if you have things of that nature, we have many operators standing by to take the calls.

I will tell you that we've had a lot of calls about well-being checks, about an individual, their mother, their father, their aunt, their uncle. The challenge there is they can't tell us the exact address. They are not able to tell us a phone number of the individual in that area.

Our information right now is -- as I spoke earlier, is sketchy at the time. We have an idea of the area. And we are going house to house and finding that, but gathering that information back from the field at this time is a matter of logistics, and we are working on it.

We do know that, again, that The Villages elementary school was closed, and that we are utilizing that as a shelter. There will be -- debris pickup sites are being arranged at this time. We have -- are working with our debris collection contractor so that we can get the debris out of the way, so we can have an idea what the impact is, so that when we do a search and rescue, we're able to get that out of the way and get a better idea what's going on within the different homes.

We do want to precaution individuals that they should -- with the power outages -- that they should boil their water, and any unrefrigerated food, or the food that was in the refrigerator is more than likely spoiled. And we encourage them not to eat that. And we are working on getting feeding stations into the areas so that we can provide for our citizens.

We have -- representatives from the state emergency operation center are here in Lake County. We have representatives from other emergency management offices here to assist us, and we'll be getting more information out with you later.

And at this time, I would like to introduce our superintendent of schools, Anna Cowin.


Early this morning we closed The Villages Elementary School because of transportation difficulties in getting the children to school. We sent out an alert to all the families letting them know that the school would be closed at The Villages Elementary School but would reopen on Monday.

All our other schools are intact and open and functioning.

I, first of all, would like to thank the county commission and the EOC for the services that they're providing to us. Unfortunately, some of the dead hit our school system.

We had two students that are confirmed dead, two high school students. One at Umatilla High School and one at Leesburg High School.

One of the families was hit very -- with much tragedy. Both parents were killed. There were four in the family. One of the children also died, and one other student is in an area hospital right now with some bone injuries. I don't know the status of the other two children in that family.

Obviously, there is potentially one other fatality, one other student that I cannot confirm.

That's all of the information that I have at this time.

The grief counselors are at the schools working with the students, and they will also be there on Monday to assist any of the children who knew the families. The school system is alerted to notify the county commission of any families that may be without homes.

We -- I put a notice out to let the principals notify us of that fact. And also, our safety officers working with area churches to look to potential sites for homing -- home, in case there's a need for that in the days to come.

With this, I hope that everyone stays safe over the weekend, and that to please remember that the children should not be playing in an area that may potentially be dangerous with the weather said to be coming over the weekend.

Thank you. SMITH: I would like to reiterate the point that the superintendent just made. It is very important that we ask that unless you have an absolute need to be in the areas affected, that you do not drive there. This is to protect the individuals that live there, and it's to protect those that could be driving in the area. We ask that if you do not live in that area or have a specific need to be in that area, that you do not go to that area.

There are law enforcement officers out in the area, and confirming that people are there need to be there.

At this time, we'll open up to any questions.

And start with you, sir.

QUESTION: Sir, you mentioned that you guys were going door to door doing those searches. Are you concerned that the number of fatalities could increase?

SMITH: That's certainly a possibility. And we are marking each site as we go along and working through that and gathering that information as we go along.

We're working closely with our medical examiner's office to make sure that we provide accurate numbers and confirm any fatalities that -- we don't just go along with what we hear, we work directly on the medical examiner's office on that issue.

QUESTION: And are there still power outages?

SMITH: Yes, there are. There are approximately 6,000 people without power between our two power providers, Progress Energy and Ceko (ph). And the best guestimate we can get out of that right now for returning power is sometime tomorrow.

QUESTION: Jerry, any information about the injured? Do you have a sense of how many people are being treated in hospitals?

SMITH: We're trying to gather that information right now. As you can imagine, the amount of people that have been transported by the hospital -- by the ambulances, and just drove to the hospitals on their own, was extensive.

You know, it's spread out through different areas. We have three different hospitals, and we're working with them to gather that information at this time. But I don't. I don't have specific numbers.

QUESTION: Have you heard stories of people actually being rescued by these search teams, being found in the rubble and still alive? Have you heard anything like that?

SMITH: No, I haven't. We've had a big of an issue with our communications in the Lake Mack area. We had a radio tower that was destroyed by the wind. So it's hampered some of our communication efforts in that area, and so we're still trying to gather some better information.

QUESTION: Can you characterize this as the worst disaster to hit Lake County?

SMITH: I can certainly do that. This is basically the worst disaster to strike Lake County, yes. It's much more extensive than the damages of the storm of -- no-named storm of 1993.


SMITH: Yes. And we do have buses that are transporting individuals from the area, back to the shelters, so that they can -- we can get the people out of the inclement weather and get them into a safer, warm environment.

QUESTION: Jerry, one question we'll get a lot from our viewers is people will be so moved, and they'll say, "How can I help? What can I do?"

Can you answer that question today? Is there anything folks watching can do?

SMITH: At this time, we're creating a database for people to be able to log on to our Web site so that they can be able to provide that information. So we're working that out. And as soon as we get that we'll be able to share that with everyone.

But I would also suggest that if anyone has that, they would call Volunteer Florida. They're usually the clearinghouse for that type of stuff. They can call that 1-800 number. I don't have it on the top of my head. But they can call that, or go to their Web site and they can work that issue.

QUESTION: Is the Red Cross involved.

SMITH: Yes, the American Red Cross is running our three shelters at this time, and we have worked with the Salvation Army, who is going to be working their feeding stations.

QUESTION: Ms. Cowin, if you could just clarify for us, did you say an entire family, a mother, a father, and students? And if so, which school is that student...

COWIN: Yes. We received a call early this morning from one of our food service workers who told us her brother and sister-in-law were killed.

The family lived just a few houses down from where she lived. And they had triplets, and two other children -- one other child. The one child in that family also died. And one other child was transported to a hospital in the Orlando area.

QUESTION: So one child and both parents?


QUESTION: And that child attended school...

COWIN: At Umatilla High School.

QUESTION: Do you know how old that child was?

COWIN: A freshman, one of the triplets.

QUESTION: And they do have a second child?

COWIN: And then another child. That was in the Lake Mack area, if I'm not mistaken. And then there was another child that I got an early report on, which I've just now confirmed, that died in -- a 17- year-old in the Leesburg area, that goes to Leesburg High School, who lived in Lady Lake.

And then there's a possibility of one other student, but I can't confirm that yet.


COWIN: A freshman -- 14, 15 probably.

QUESTION: And what school was that?

COWIN: Umatilla High School.

QUESTION: Can you talk about any injuries that have been incurred after the storm with downed power lines, anything such as that?

SMITH: Actually, at this time we haven't got specific information about that. We haven't got any reports of anything. You know, the typical chainsaw injuries or wires down, but you bring up a good point.

We definitely want to encourage our citizens not -- if a wire is down, presume that it is a hot and live wire, and that it will do damage to you. And please don't be wading around in water -- with water, wires down.

It's the same typical safety precautions that we preach after a hurricane, same type of situation occurs here. So, we're working that issue.

Is there any other questions?

QUESTION: With the timing of the storm, could it have been much worse if it was in the middle of the day?

SMITH: The timing of the storm, any time the storm would occur would have been a miserable time for the devastation that we've occurred -- that has occurred here in Lake County. There were some issues that were -- because of the dark, the early hours of the morning, and getting rescuers on. But I have to command our first responders. They all did a tremendous job. They are working through it. It's the same crews that were on last night that are out there working today.

They are going to work until they get some relief in and get a better understanding of what's going on. So, timing, no time is a good time for the disaster we had today.

All right. Thank you all very much.

HARRIS: Jerry Smith, director of emergency management there for Lake County.

I think we're beginning to get a sense of how grim this assessment may ultimately be. Twenty square miles in Lake County impacted by the storm. House-to-house searches going on right now.

And then you heard from Anna Cowin, the superintendent of Lake County Schools, who has been so helpful in our coverage this morning, starting to tell some of the stories of the individuals who have lost their lives. Two high school students dead, and then there's the story of this other family.

What a story this is turning out to be in Lake Mack. One family, four children, triplets and one other child. The parents killed, the triplets surviving, the other child also killed. A devastating story, a devastating account.

Let's get to Chad Myers now with more on this continuing weather story -- Chad.


COLLINS: And we will continue to follow the story here on central Florida as all of these developments come in to us. We continue to get news conferences, which always gives us more information.


COLLINS: So that's why we bring them to you.

Stay with us right here, CNN NEWSROOM.

We'll be back in just a moment.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was total devastation. I've never seen anything like it in my life. Very scary.

QUESTION: How thankful were you to find her OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank God. It was a total miracle. Total miracle.

QUESTION: Ma'am, how do you get through it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know, really.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very frightening, very frightening.

QUESTION: And your name, ma'am, is?


QUESTION: Helen. Your last name?


QUESTION: And you are?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Laura Christie (ph), her daughter.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, there was no warning. I mean, my sister heard something fly through her bedroom, and she thought mom was gone. She had to go through the trailer and she couldn't find her, and surprisingly enough, mostly everybody is okay, but there's just total devastation.


COLLINS: A mother and daughter coming to us from Deland and our affiliate, WESH.

Now I want to take you to another affiliate of ours, WFTV. This is Amanda Obert (ph), does an excellent job of walking through Lady Lake, one of the hardest hit areas in all of this in Lake County, walking among the destruction there.


AMANDA OBERT (ph), WFTV REPORTER: Yes, we actually moved around it, because we couldn't get through. We're on Alma Street right now, off of Griffin View Drive. Take a look here at some of the damage. Amazingly, I am being told that no one was injured here. But you see the X's on the trailers? This means that the home has been searched. And we've just talked with some Marion County deputies coming through. And they say that they're doing a secondary search of each home.

But we'll start over here if we could, and we'll just walk back this way, Carl, and show that it obviously came from this direction. And you can see some of the destruction right here. There are these power lines that are down everywhere, obviously a huge concern right now. There are a lot of folks right here. There's a Hispanic family, and I've been trying to relate to them as they were making their way through to stay away from those lines.

And take a look over there. You can see that IS part of a mobile home up in a tree. Just behind us here is the Lady Lake Mobile Home Park. They are only letting immediate family in there right now, but we're trying to give you a sense of this street, which is seeing the most damage.

And amazingly, I keep asking, are you okay? Is your family all accounted for? And everyone is saying yes. But obviously the fear of what happened was tremendous.

Show you a little bit more here of some of the pieces of metal that are hanging on the power lines right there.

We have Chris Stone, who lives nearby, who has been surveying the damage himself here.

Chris, I appreciate you taking a moment to talk to us. You've made your way around the community. What does this look like in comparison to everything else you've seen so far?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This isn't near as bad as -- I'm sorry -- as just back behind us. Behind you there. It's real bad over there.

OBERT: Flattened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty much. Pretty much.

OBERT: You were telling me about your own home. You were home when this happened. You were what, a few blocks away from here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm probably 150 yards from this spot. So it was noisy and scary, and I got some big limbs down and a trampoline wrapped around the tree, other than that, but other than that, I mean, I'm not missing a shingle or anything. I just thank God that my family got out safe.

OBERT: Is this surreal to you as you talk to your neighbors here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I've never seen anything like this.

OBERT: What are you trying to do now? I mean, obviously I've seen you walking through the streets looking for yourself, but know, I'm sure you've been trying to communicate with your neighbors here to see if they need any help. Is that really your goal right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Everybody so far it seems like they're just not even really worried about starting to clean up yet./ It's still trying to sink in.

OBERT: It's still a shock at this point?


OBERT: Chris, thanks for taking a moment. I appreciate it.

As we said, Marion County deputies are making their way through here. We talked with them a moment ago. They said they don't believe there are any fatalities on this street. But let's just show more of the damage here. As you can take a look at this mobile home just to the right, and you can see the insulation. The entire roof was pulled off. This is a family that lives here. The rest of the family lives in a mobile home right next to it, and I was talking with one of the little girls who speaks English, and she was telling me that, you know, the family had no time to react. They heard that horrible sound of a freight train, tried to get into a closet, but there was no time. Part of the roof was off. They can stand in their trailer and look up and see the sky.

And this is where I was referring to, that just behind here is where the Lady Lake Mobile Home Park is. And if you take a look at this mess of trees right here, just beyond that is the area where deputies are not letting anyone into, just immediate family, and we'll just show you here and survey what it looks like. It's unbelievable. These are pieces of people's homes that are in the trees right now. Some of the glass on the windows just completely came out. We can move over to the side here. You can see that it just completely punched out from the winds that came through here.

But again, people are walking around, shaking their heads. You see them here, saying they're absolutely terrified, and yet thanking God that they came through it, without a scratch. I mean, there's no one on this street that's injured. That's phenomenal, considering that we're hearing reports of fatalities on such a difficult day.

COLLINS: We of course will have more from Florida.

But first we want to get this information just coming into us here at CNN. We are learning about a new budget the president is putting out on Monday for Iraq and Afghanistan -- $100 billion extra money needed for funding these two wars. I want to go to straight to White House correspondent Elaine Quijano, who is standing by for the very latest on all of this.

Elaine, what will the money be used for? Is there any breakdown of this figure?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Not yet, but what we can tell you, as you just reported, a senior administration official telling CNN that, in fact, when the president's budget comes out Monday, as you noted, there will be a request there for an extra $100 billion in funding this year for Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as $145 billion for the year 2008.

Now certainly this coming at a time when there's a great deal of attention on the situation on the ground in Iraq. Today, of course, just a couple of hours ago, we learned about the declassified key judgment of the national intelligence estimate on Iraq, painting a very break picture of this situation on the ground there.

In fact, the president's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, just wrapped up a briefing on this on camera, just a short time ago. Let's take a listen to some of what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STEPHEN HADLEY, NATL. SECURITY ADVISER: It shows, and the president clearly understands that is clearly a difficult, challenging and complex situation on the ground in Iraq. This is not a simple problem. And we came to the -- that is to say, the president came to the same conclusion that unless efforts to reverse these conditions in Iraq show measurable progress in the coming 12 to 18 months, the overall security situation will deteriorate.


QUIJANO: And, Heidi, as we've been reporting all day today, what this National Intelligence Estimate, the declassified key judgments, illustrate is that in the opinion, collective view of the intelligence community, the 16 intelligence agencies in the United States, that in fact they believe that the primary source of conflict in Iraq, not just -- not al Qaeda, but rather the sectarian violence and the sectarian divisions that continue to exist in Iraq.

But it's interesting to note, Stephen Hadley was pressed on the question of whether or not the president would be ready now to call the situation in Iraq a civil war, because this estimate does talk about the term "civil war" accurately describing key elements of the Iraqi conflict.

At the same time, Stephen Hadley pointing out that also in this estimate, Heidi, the intelligence community judges that the term "civil war" doesn't encompass the full picture, because, for instance, they say, there is Shia-on-Shia violence, so the term "civil war" is in question.

Nevertheless, Stephen Hadley refusing to use that word to describe what is taking place there.

But certainly this coming at a time when the president is trying to convince skeptics, of course, on Capitol Hill that his plan for more U.S. troops in Iraq can work. Interesting to note, Heidi, that while the key judgments do talk about the consequences, possible consequences of rapidly withdrawing coalition forces, it does not talk about the possible consequences of adding U.S. forces. As you know, the president has in mind sending some 21,000-plus U.S. forces to pacify Baghdad and the Al-Anbar province, but certainly this will continue to be examined here. This out now in a few hours -- Heidi.

COLLINS: And another key judgment, wondering about what's being said about this, if anything, Elaine. When we talk about this Iraqi- on-Iraqi violence, that really being the primary source of conflict there, there's also something written about the administration expressing deep uncertainty about Iraq leaders' abilities to overcome the sectarian interests and where they lie politically. That speaks directly to Nuri al-Maliki, does it not?

QUIJANO: Absolutely. And what we should note of course is that this particular document was developed by the intelligence community, in essence, to inform those policymakers, like the president, of course his top advisers. So what this is, is their view of the difficulties that the Iraqis themselves are facing. And as you note, there is in fact a great deal of skepticism expressed in this report about the ability, even if the violence in Iraq is somehow stabilized, if it's diminished, whether or not a political reconciliation among these various factions, the Shia, the Kurds, the Sunnis, can really take place. There is skepticism expressed in this. And skepticism echoed, frankly, by the president's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley. At the same time his response to that is that the administration and the president himself privately and publicly have made very clear that in fact, to Nuri al- Maliki that this is the time for him and his government to step up, to really come through here, making very clear that the stakes are quite high -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Elaine Quijano reporting live for us on those the key judgments that have been declassified from the new National Intelligence Estimate. You see the cover of it there, "Prospects for Iraq's Stability: A Challenging Road Ahead."

Elaine, thanks so much.

HARRIS: We are going to take a quick break. When we come back, we'll take you back to the unfolding story in Central Florida. We will check in with Tarik Minor. He is with our affiliate station there, WKMG. He has been surveying the damage in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. That is in Volusia County. One of the counties now covered by a state-of-emergency declaration.

You are in the NEWSROOM.



HARRIS: Take a break?

COLLINS: I think we should take a break. We have so much more coming up. Stick around, everybody, we'll be back in just a couple seconds.


HARRIS: Let's say we get folks on the ground. Great aerial views of the devastation, obviously. But let's put you on the ground now. This is a report from Bill Logan with affiliate station WFTS. He's in Lady Lake.


BILL LOGAN, WFTS CORRESPONDENT: This is the area where three people have lost their lives during this storm. A total of 14 people here in lady Lake have perished, with this quick-moving tornado that moved through.

I want to give you a sense of where we are. We are kind of land- locked right here on median strip of U.S. 27 that goes north here through Lady Lake. So the best way to see around is to go to the air. And Action Air One, we do have pictures from Action Air One showing how folks from Wildwood to Paisley are having to pick up the pieces of their lives, most trying to salvage some of the family keepsakes they have held close for so long.

But they couldn't carry out the safety as the storm steamed in in the dead of night -- 3:00 to 4:00 in the morning was hour of destruction. And basically as the sun came up, hundreds who were hunkered down in the dark saw what havoc Mother Nature has wrought.

Now you can see right here up in the air, there is still some steel from the church, the Lady Lake Church of God that is still up in the air. Folks here are still up in the air as to what they're going to do, where they're going to stay together. But everyone here is vowing to pick up the pieces, even as they sift through the debris. We're live right now in Lady Lake. Bill Logan, ABC, Action News.


COLLINS: We want to stay in the same region now quickly and take you to our affiliate once again, WKMG. This is Mike DeForest in Lady Lake. Take a look at this one.


MIKE DEFOREST, WKMG CORRESPONDENT: A lot of heart-breaking stories out here in Lady Lake. We just heard of one man whose father is actually in one of these mobile home parks, believed to be in one of these mobile home parks hit hard by the devastation.

And apparently his father who's over there recently suffered cancer of his mouth and had to have his tongue removed. And so the son has been frantically waiting for authorities here to try to reach out and see if his father's doing OK because they have not heard from him.

Another heart-breaking story here, but fortunately one that does not involve any casualties. It involves the Lady Lake Church of God, it's just a couple of blocks away from here. This morning the pastor, who you're going to hear from in a moment, he's the man wearing a red shirt -- received a call that there was problems at the church because of this tornado that ripped through here.

And when they arrived, they could tell even in the darkness that there was destruction. The pastor along with the congregation actually met at a Denny's up the road to try to let this all sink in. And by daybreak, they came and saw and we're going to show you exactly what they saw. Take a look.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It certainly is a devastation and a loss that's been here 30 years -- 31 years, actually. And a lot of history, and a lot of mementos inside. But we'll recover.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's heart breaking. It shook me, I cried. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've never seen anything like it. I heard them talk about storms like this, but I never see a little building like that blow away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From that door forward is the sanctuary. On the other side was the fellowship hall. And it's all completely flattened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't know the purpose, but it will be back, it will be built back soon. It won't take that long.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a matter of fact, during hurricanes, this is where people come and stayed.

DEFOREST: This was the shelter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The building was rated for 150 mile an hour winds. And so evidently we exceeded 150 mile-an-hour or something happened, but anyway, it's gone and it didn't stand and I'm glad there was nobody here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess God had a reason for it. We'll build it back bigger and better.

DEFOREST: A lot of people out here in Lady Lake trying to understand why this happened. Now, you saw how bad the destruction was at that church. We can tell you there are several mobile home parks just beyond that in the path of this tornado that authorities are not even letting us get out to yet. That's because all of the trees are down. There's power lines in the way.

And right now, what is most important is the search and rescue crews who are based here at this command center, gathering information and heading out there, going door to door, trying to find out if there is anybody inside any of those mobile homes as well as other homes in the neighborhood here. And so it must be bad for the fact that they're having a tough time getting back there and they don't want us back there.


COLLINS: There you have it, the very latest in the situation in Lady Lake, Florida. We will continue to cover the entire situation across central Florida. All four counties now declared state disaster and emergency areas. Fourteen people are now dead. CNN NEWSROOM continues the coverage of this story in Florida.



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