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 » 2006 Forecast  | Saffir-Simpson scale  |  Your stories

Bush: Sad for 'trauma, tragedy' storm will bring


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Florida Gov. Jeb Bush
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HURRICANE FRANCES
5 p.m. Saturday ET
  • Position of center: About 50 miles (80 kilometers) east-northeast of West Palm Beach, Florida
  • Latitude: 26.9 north
  • Longitude: 79.3 west
  • Top sustained winds: 105 mph (165 kph)
  • Map: Projected path

    Source: Natl. Hurricane Center
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    Jeb Bush

    (CNN) -- As Hurricane Frances began to lash the Sunshine State on Saturday afternoon, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush spoke to CNN's Fredricka Whitfield about his state's preparations for the storm.

    WHITFIELD: Governor, you asked people 72 hours ago to get prepared for this storm. And just earlier today, you said if you haven't done that, now is the time. But certainly it's too late for any stragglers who decided to stay along the coast to get on the road. What should they do?

    BUSH: A great majority of people have prepared. They have prepared their homes or they went to the shelter or they left the area. And I'm proud of their efforts, because it saved lives.

    WHITFIELD: Well, let's talk about what you all are up against. You're still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Charley. Billions of dollars in damage, more than 25 people killed in that storm. And you have a lot of state workers and volunteers from all over the country who are trying to help out the folks. How strapped are you now, given that this is a much more sizable storm, and could cause much [more] widespread damage, given that you're dealing with a greater populace?

    BUSH: Well, we're going to need a lot of help. And thankfully, we're going to get it. I've talked to the CEO of the Red Cross, and she's told me that this will be the largest recovery effort, relief effort, that they've ever been involved in. And [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] probably has the largest effort under way that they've ever been involved in, and our state clearly this is -- we've never done anything quite like this.

    So we are staging trucks and water and ice and food and volunteers in safe harbors, in Atlanta, Georgia, and other places, ready to come down when the storm finishes, and we'll be on the ground as quickly as possible.

    WHITFIELD: And particularly, I saw some numbers that said that you arranged to deliver something like 1 million meals a day, along with 600 trucks of water and more than 200 trucks of ice. Getting all of that to the people in need is going to be probably your first challenge, however, right, with a lot of downed trees and power lines, just getting around is going to be a nightmare.

    BUSH: It is going to be a challenge. And then you consider the fact that a sizable number of people have left the state or have moved -- have gotten up into the northern part of the state, are going to want to go back to their houses. So we're developing strategies to allow people to come back. But over time, they need to be patient so that we can get the relief workers tomorrow and the day after, particularly, on the ground so that we can help people.

    WHITFIELD: Part of that strategy, you have other states that are already at the ready to help. Alabama, they've lined up their trucks, they're ready to start coming into your state. In what capacity are many of these other state agencies going to be helping?

    BUSH: Oh, the support has been fantastic, from National Guard to C-130s to all of the utility trucks. Most of the power lines that are down will be put up by utility workers from different parts of the country. The faith-based groups and the Red Cross volunteers are coming from around the country. It is remarkable. And I appreciate my fellow governors' offers of support. We've taken them up on it, and we're really grateful for it.

    WHITFIELD: Already something like 450,000 customers of Florida Power and Light are without power. And that's primarily just on the east coast and some of the central parts of Florida. For the areas like Punta Gorda, that are still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Charley, what are some of the complications that you're dealing with there, as you try to resume some sort of normalcy on the west coast of Florida?

    BUSH: These are heroic people. For example, that the schools are double shifting schools, because the schools were damaged. So schools are open from 7 to 7 almost. And now, starting Monday, they're going to have to get up and do it again, and they may not be able to immediately.

    So we've got to get power back on, we've got to get the roads cleaned, as you said. We need to remove the debris, fix the houses, make sure kids go to school, make sure the hospitals are open. This is a huge challenge, but I love my state, and I know my state will respond to this.

    WHITFIELD: You talk about the challenges. As one of the challenges that you all faced, I remember Marty Evans from the Red Cross talking about this for the folks in the Punta Gorda area, is the psychological help that many of these residents are going to need, particularly those who have decided to stick around and ride out the storm.

    How are you prepared to help those people along the east coast?

    BUSH: Well, one of the things that we've discussed with the federal government is to try in the supplemental [bill] that the president will submit to Congress to include additional money for mental health counseling, because there's going to be a great need for people in Charlotte County -- but don't forget, Orlando as well, where the storm passed, as well. And a lot of people are still struggling there as well, and the storm certainly will go through central Florida again. So we're going to seek additional support to allow for our mental health system to have the money to make a difference.

    WHITFIELD: And right now, your emergency preparedness offices are like what?

    BUSH: Well, we're on 12-hour shifts, and people have been working for the last three weeks. But you know, these are dedicated public servants, and they are inspired by the people that are struggling to rebuild theirselves in Hurricane Charley, and concerned about their fellow man in the middle of this storm.

    So they're just taking it up a notch. I am really impressed with them, and the local emergency operation centers around the state that are in harm's way. I mean, these are true heroes, and they don't get the credit they deserve.

    WHITFIELD: And governor, how nervous are you personally about this storm?

    BUSH: I'm not nervous. I'm concerned. And I'm sad. I'm sad for people that are going to have a lot of trauma and a lot of tragedy in their life because of this storm. And it just makes me want to re-energize and to do all I can to lead this army of people to help them.


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