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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Hurricane Frances Devestates Florida Residents
Aired September 5, 2004 - 9:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wife if Senator John Kerry, is said to be feeling better this morning after being admitted to an Iowa hospital late yesterday. Mrs. Kerry complained of an upset stomach while campaigning in Mason City. She underwent a series of tests at a local hospital, then she traveled to her home near Pittsburgh, as planned.
Well, good morning to you from the CNN headquarters in Atlanta. I'm Betty Nguyen.
We are continuing our live coverage of Hurricane Frances. I want to go now to a press conference in Florida where the governor will be speaking momentarily.
(INTERRUPTED BY LIVE EVENT)
NGUYEN: You have been listening to Governor Jeb Bush hold a press conference on the situation there in Florida with Hurricane Frances coming through. He urged people in the Panhandle to prepare for Frances as it makes its way toward that area. Also told people to stay inside and be patient.
We want to get an update on the storm, where it is right now. And for that, we go to the National Hurricane Center in Miami to talk with Ed Rappaport.
Good morning to you.
ED RAPPAPORT, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Good morning.
NGUYEN: It seems like the hurricane is pretty much taking control of most of Florida right now, looking at the forecast map.
RAPPAPORT: Yes, that's right. And looking at the radar map, too, this animation shows that there is rainfall, some of it very heavy, occurring across almost the entire state.
We had reports already of up to 10 inches of rain. There could be another 10 inches of rain. And it's still not done as a wind event. We just got a report from Port Canaveral of a wind gust of 124 miles per hour. So the strong band just to the north of the center is producing very strong winds still.
NGUYEN: 124 miles per hour. Does that mean this thing is going to be upgraded?
RAPPAPORT: No, that's the gust. NGUYEN: OK.
RAPPAPORT: The sustained winds -- and that was two hours ago or so -- the sustained winds are slowly coming down, just under 100 miles per hour now.
NGUYEN: OK. So still a Category 1 storm.
RAPPAPORT: That's right.
NGUYEN: What areas are getting hardest hit right now?
RAPPAPORT: That area just to the east and north of the center is getting hardest hit. So the area here along the Florida central east coast is having the strongest winds, the heaviest rain. The storm surge probably of five feet now, with waves on top. But as the hurricane moves inland, it will weaken, but there will be flooding rains over the inland portion of Florida.
NGUYEN: And this is going to last throughout the day and into the night?
RAPPAPORT: That's right. Conditions will improve in the southern part of the state today, but they're going to get worse in the northern part of the state as the hurricane moves slowly to the west and then the west-northwest.
NGUYEN: Yes, let's talk about that a little bit, because the governor was urging people in the Panhandle to brace themselves. What should they expect?
RAPPAPORT: That's right. It's a hurricane now, as you said, Category 1 hurricane. But it will be weakening slowly as it moves across land.
However, it has a chance to re-strengthen, at least a little bit, when the center moves back out over the water into the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. There are tropical storm warnings up now for the Panhandle area. And we may have to have a hurricane watch later today as well.
NGUYEN: And what about these tornadoes that are associated with hurricanes? Are you seeing many of these pop up?
RAPPAPORT: There have been a few tornadoes. And many hurricanes have isolated tornadoes associated with them, mostly in the bands that come around the center. You could see more of that later today.
NGUYEN: OK. So even though it's a Category 1, this thing still packs a very powerful punch. Your advice to people in Florida, all across Florida right now?
RAPPAPORT: Particularly for the central part of the state, today's the day to stay indoors, stay prepared. Northern part of the state, get ready. Southern part of the state, things will gradually improve. NGUYEN: All right. Ed Rappaport with the National Hurricane Center, providing valuable information this morning. Thank you.
Want to go on the scene -- well, actually, we have just lost -- now we have him back. That's the situation with a hurricane, things come in and out, according to whether we can get a shot out of particular areas. Want to go to Bill Hemmer, who is in Melbourne, Florida, where the winds are whipping.
And I see you have someone there with you.
And now Bill Hemmer is gone. That's a major concern in a hurricane.
Bill, can you hear us?
BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I sure can, Betty. If you can hear me, I'll continue. Do you got me?
NGUYEN: Got you.
HEMMER: Excellent. Sean Riordan is a sergeant with the Melbourne Police Department, public information officer.
Did you expect this?
SEAN RIORDAN, MELBOURNE POLICE DEPT.: Actually, you know, I wasn't expecting it like this today right now. I figured if (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at a point where we would have some high winds and some rain. But this is impressive right now.
HEMMER: You've been out now doing damage assessment. You've been up all night. What have you seen?
RIORDAN: We've had -- well, we've got teams out right now doing damage assessment all over our city. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and right now we have (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that maybe have some roof that is either torn or dislodged from the foundation. But for the most part, the houses are doing pretty good. Maybe some shingles lost, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) are down, things of that nature.
Nothing extreme yet. We've had a business fire overnight, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) damage. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) traffic lights and all kinds of road (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
NGUYEN: OK. We've lost the shot there of Bill Hemmer in Melbourne, Florida. We'll try to get back with him a little bit later. Of course the storm blowing through that area right now with strong winds.
Want to go to Sean Callebs, bring him in the picture. He is in West Palm Beach, Florida, and has an update on the situation there.
Good morning, Sean.
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Betty. We can certainly empathize with what Bill Hemmer and his crew are going through. Its really what this area dealt with all last night.
You can see behind me here in West Palm Beach, this drag just littered with all kinds of debris from the palm trees. Also, the street lights, these very decorative lights, also strewn.
Now, the West Palm Beach police officers are out this morning. They have already begun some initial checks of the area. We've got two officers in here.
Good morning to you guys. You have been out trying to get an assessment of downed power lines. How do things look here in West Palm Beach? How did it fare?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not too bad. We've got downed power lines, a lot of trees, mostly trees right now. We are doing a damage assessment and we're trying to figure out what we have right now.
CALLEBS: What was it like at the height of the storm? Were emergency crews able to get out if anybody needed any kind of help, or was it something they were just going to have to rough it out if they didn't heed the mandatory evacuation?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They would have to rough it out, because we were unable to get out where we were out also.
CALLEBS: And what about the situation? I'm sure you are telling people to stay in at this point. We've seen a lot of people out, just looking at damage. How dangerous is that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Extremely dangerous. We've got a lot of flying debris. They don't think about debris getting stuck in their eyes or hitting them in the head. They should be off the roadway. Like these individuals right here, we're going to tell them to get off the roadway.
CALLEBS: You know, actually, I've got to apologize. Those are two people that we had asked to come out and chat with us. They rode the storm out. But we'll be sure and tell them to go right back in.
So that's the situation here. We know we have a lot of downed power lines. We can see some behind us, a lot of trees down here.
Betty, you may remember yesterday we actually talked with Dave Schultz (ph). This is Dave Schultz (ph) and his wife, Chicky (ph). They rode the storm out.
That's their house there. They actually -- their mother-in-law lives there. And you can see this palm tree right here, Mike, is perilously close to falling down on the edge of Dave Schultz's (ph) mother-in-law's home. So they're somewhat concerned about that.
Dave, good morning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, Sean. How are you? CALLEBS: Good. And your wife, Chicky (ph)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chicky (ph).
CALLEBS: Dave, I want to ask you. You were here last night riding it out. Any regrets? How rough was it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it got pretty rough about 1:00, 2:00 this morning. But we're -- I mean, we're very fortunate. I hope the ones, the people that live north of us are as fortunate as we.
We have no structural damage. We lost a few shingles. We have a lot of tree damage, and it's a huge mess. It's going to take a long time to clean up.
CALLEBS: Yes. You lived here 30 years. Ever been through something like this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I never have. Chicky (ph) has been here for longer.
And have you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not anything this bad, no.
CALLEBS: Have you had a chance to speak with your mother who lives next to you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, she's fine. They have no structural damage either. It's my mother and my sister. And they're just hanging out.
CALLEBS: Dave, what was it like? Because if it was anything like we went through, it was very difficult to sleep last night. Very loud, a lot of debris flying around.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that's correct. It was very loud. And it got scary.
I mean, again, about 2:00 this morning the winds were pulling through so fast that you just didn't know what was going to happen next. But we were -- we were fine. And we're fortunate and feel very lucky that it's not any worse. And can you believe the canvas didn't suffer any damage at all?
CALLEBS: Yes, you can see -- if you pan off, Mike -- the back of an area that overlooks a pool. There's a canvas covering, I guess, for parties, things of that nature, that you for sure you were going to lose. But it never got that bad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it didn't.
CALLEBS: What about the flooding? I mean, this -- this rain is going to be with us for some time. You've gone through this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. CALLEBS: This obviously doesn't drain very well, this ground is saturated. And there's another storm off in the distance. How worried are you about flooding?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that was our major concern all along, was the flooding issue. And, of course, that hasn't been as bad as we anticipated it would.
But, you know, with Ivan out there, we don't know. I mean, we don't know where that's going to go. We don't know that this is going to get any worse. But hopefully not.
CALLEBS: OK. Dave, thanks very much for joining us here this morning.
Chicky (ph), best of luck to you both.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Thank you very much.
CALLEBS: Thanks again.
And we'll deal with Ivan down the road, Betty. But right now, of course, Hurricane Frances, the aftermath here in this area of Florida. But as Rob Marciano, our weather team, Bill Hemmer, and all the people throughout Florida we've brought to you, this is a storm that's touching virtually every area of Florida.
We heard the police say this is not a time for sightseers to go out and try to take a look at the damage. We actually drove across the bridge. We had a crew go across the bridge into Palm Beach a short while ago. They were met by police over there who politely said, "Turn back and go around. We don't want anybody over here right now."
Obviously concerned about looting, and concerned about all the downed power lines and the debris that could still fly around. There are tropical-force winds in this area, and it wouldn't take much to turn all of this palm fronts (ph), all of this damage into flying missiles.
Betty, back to you.
NGUYEN: No doubt. CNN's Sean Callebs in West Palm Beach.
Glad to see that the Schultz (ph) family made it through this safely. They decided not to evacuate, like so many others, and wanted to ride out this storm. And glad to see them this morning OK.
All right. We're going to take a short break right now. Stay tuned for continuing coverage of Hurricane Frances.
NGUYEN: Well, good morning, and welcome back.
For those of you just joining us, Hurricane Frances is not fast, but it is furious as it makes its way through Florida. CNN's Kathleen Koch is in St. Augustine, Florida, one of the nation's oldest cities. In fact, the nation's oldest city, with a look at the situation there.
Good morning, Kathleen.
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Betty.
Well, right here, they're describing the storm as not a sprint but a marathon. And really, here in northeastern Florida, we are only just now joining the race.
If you look at the historic Central Plaza behind me, this is pretty much what we have seen in the way of damage. A lot of branches down. You've got these trees, some of them hundreds of years old. These branches coming down during the storm.
We've been having -- winds are in the range of roughly 40 miles an hour. Some gusts up to 60. But not a lot worse than that.
Now, as you look down the street here, you see -- well, we'll walk down this way. We've got some businesses where they've been putting up some sandbags, because as we have been warning to you over the last several days, the big concern in this city is the fact that they -- that they are under sea level in some areas, literally. And so we are surrounded by water on three sides. We're a peninsula, so you've got a river, a river, and then you've got a bay here.
And so they have been very worried that this would basically fill up. But we haven't hit high tide here yet, Betty.
Now, that happens this afternoon, just around 2:00. So if we're going to see any flooding, we think we'll see it then. But we are among the lucky ones.
We've still got power here. We've have had some flickers, but we do still have electricity. There are some scattered outages in St. John's County.
The biggest worry here, besides some of the flooding in the old downtown area, is really the possibility of tornadoes. St. John's County is right now under a tornado watch until 2:00 this afternoon.
Earlier this morning, when we first came out and started working, right around 5:00 a.m., there was a tornado warning. Because a couple of tornadoes did touch down in this county. We haven't heard that they have done any severe damage. But when you're on this northeast quadrant of the hurricane, this is the area where you see these tornadoes being spawned and just popping up all around the area.
But right now, we are just waiting. And as you can see, the street is pretty empty. We have seen a few dozen cars go by this morning, but most of what you are seeing are police vehicles. We've seen some power company trucks go by.
And, you know, this is Labor Day Weekend. And in this resort town, this is a weekend where these businesses would normally be making quite a lot of money, doing quite a lot of business.
They were going to be celebrating this historic city's 439th birthday yesterday with a big party in the Central Plaza. But, you know, all that cancelled. So even if they don't get severe hurricane damage here, their economy is going to be quite impacted by this storm -- Betty.
NGUYEN: It seems like Hurricane Frances is throwing a party of her own right there for St. Augustine.
We want to bring in meteorologist Rob Marciano, because I believe -- stand by, Kathleen, because I believe he has a question for you -- Rob.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Kathleen, give me an idea, where is the coast, or at least the shoreline there? And about how many feet would the water have to rise to make for a surge type of flooding, as opposed to just fresh water, you know, filling up the sewer lines?
KOCH: Well, we actually -- we were just about, when you guys brought us on, we were about to go down and check out the water levels. Right now, my cameraman, Jay McMichael (ph), has panned up there to the sea wall.
You'll see that green slope of lawn that goes up. So, actually, in our next hit we can report back to you. But it would have to come up a couple feet, at least from my vantage point, is what we expect.
But again, at 1:55 today is when we will experience a high tide. And interesting to point out, that sea wall, as you can see, is not a very high one. And the city has, in the plans, a multimillion dollar, multi-year project to build it up and to improve it. But it's not under way, and hopefully they won't be regretting the fact today that they didn't begin it sooner.
MARCIANO: Well, it looks like -- it looks like it may very well be high enough, Kathleen, as high tide approaches. Maybe a two to four-foot storm surge at this point. So it looks like that wall will hold.
KOCH: Well, that's...
MARCIANO: All right. Go check it out and get back to us. Thanks very much.
KOCH: You bet.
MARCIANO: One other thing that I wanted to mention, just south of Kathleen, in southern St. John's and Northern Flagler County, we have another Doppler-indicated tornado, and it's moving west at 55 miles an hour. Again, it's not reported on the ground just yet, but a Doppler-indicated tornado.
All right. This is Fort Pierce. Here's Lake Okeechobee. The eye now here, so it's between Fort Pierce and Melbourne, and slightly inland. And you can see it's not nearly as defined as it used to be. It's beginning to fill in just a little bit, an indication that this storm is weakening.
One interesting thing is that storms or convection or the rain is increasing to the southern flank. I'm wondering if Lake Okeechobee has anything to do with that. And then, still, the eastern flank of this storm is still just off shore.
So -- well, the eye wall is onshore, but certainly rain bands still offshore and still gaining some strength. So this is still -- again, the buzz word is going to be slow and strong, and headaches for much of Florida.
All right. Let's go back to GR-115. And we'll show you the satellite imagery.
Here it is. It's, again, probably going to take 18 hours to get across the entire Florida peninsula because it's moving so slowly, about seven to eight miles an hour. And the peninsula itself, if you go slightly diagonally, you are looking at about 160 miles. So, you know, that equates to maybe 16 to 20 hours of travel time for this storm system.
It has weakened another five miles an hour to 90. So it's a Category 1 storm. It's movement is west at seven miles an hour. So right now, it's 74 miles from West Palm Beach itself. And it's track will take it between Tampa and Orlando, hopefully decreasing in intensity rapidly this afternoon to a tropical storm.
And then by early tomorrow morning, probably re-emerging in the Gulf of Mexico. You heard the governor talk about that, and maybe gaining strength back to hurricane status. That's a possibility, although not officially in the forecast.
And then heading into the Florida Panhandle and up through parts of southern Alabama, even spreading rainfall to Mississippi, Georgia and up into Nashville, Tennessee, maybe even up through Kentucky and the lower Ohio River Valley as well. So this is going to touch a lot of folks. Obviously, it's touching most folks in Florida.
But look -- from the Keys, all the way up to the Georgia border, this thing has -- is dropping rainfall. And not only that, but there have been wind gusts in almost every area at any one time, to about 30 to 40 miles an hour. Right now, the heaviest amounts of wind are in the Melbourne area, where earlier this morning we had reports of over 90-mile-an-hour wind gusts. And according to the National Hurricane Center, somewhere around (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
NGUYEN: OK. We've lost some audio with Rob Marciano.
We're going to try to get Bill Hemmer now on the phone. We were trying to get him live...
(AUDIO GAP) NGUYEN: OK. We've lost some audio with Rob Marciano.
We're going to try to get Bill Hemmer now on the phone. We were trying to get him live, but the shot was coming in and out because of the situation there in Melbourne, Florida.
Bill, are you on the phone with us?
HEMMER: Sure am, Betty.
Listen, we got knocked off because this storm just continues to rip apart the East Coast of Florida. It's slamming right into Melbourne.
For the past three hours, we have had a consistent, driving wind and driving rain coming directly from the east, which tells us that Frances is hitting this part of the state with a fury that others are not feeling right now.
I thought it was interesting. I could hear Ed Rappaport from the National Hurricane Center with you, Betty, 15 minutes ago, but I could not see the satellite image. He described the most intense area to the north and northeast of, I believe it was -- what's the island down there? It's not Jupiter, Florida, but it's right around that same area.
If that's the case, I'm curious to know if that is our area. And if so, that's going to explain, you know, the strength that we are experiencing right now.
We're sitting inside of a van, and the van is literally rocking as the wind comes back and forth. Across the street, just to give you an idea what we're seeing, Betty, there were huge signs being ripped apart from the shopping mall. And the front side of the shopping center also, about 15 minutes ago, came cascading down into the parking lot below.
There is damage here. Now listen, it's far too early for us to categorize the extent of the damage, but we were talking with the public information officer from the Melbourne police officer, and we got knocked off the air.
Sean Riordan (ph) is his name. He's been serving damage for the past several hours. He thinks Melbourne is holding up very well at this point, based on what he can tell.
His problem is, his concern is that every several minutes or so he'll see some residents from his community out driving around. And he says that is the last thing people want to do right now. That's why he's coming to people like us, so that we can get the word out.
The problem is, there's no electricity here. There is no cable TV. There's no broadcast television either because all the power has been knocked out. So, I encouraged him to talk to the radio stations in the area; and indeed he's going to do that. But then again, some of the radio stations cannot transmit at this point, either. So, if you can get the word out to folks out there, you know, stay home and stay safe because Frances is still kicking up in a big way here.
We talked with a hospital official about two hours ago. They say overnight about 13 people were admitted, mostly for chest pains and lacerations. That struck us as kind of a low number to be honest with you.
However, they warn us that most people, if they're going to go seek out some medical attention, will wait until the storm passes. And it's when the storm leaves is when they start to feel the rush of people showing up at medical facilities.
That being said, there was a silver lining in this storm. At a local hospital today, we are told at 2:27 a.m., a baby boy was born right smack dab in the middle of this hurricane.
They didn't give us a name, but they did confirm that it was -- he was not -- named Frances, a baby boy born in the middle of the night here in Melbourne, Florida.
Back more in a moment here with you, Betty.
NGUYEN: Well, definitely don't want to call him Frances, that's for sure.
Thank you, Bill Hemmer, in Melbourne, Florida.
All right. We want to dip into some live affiliate coverage. I want to take you now to WSVN in Florida, take a look at what they're putting on the air at this hour.
CARI CHAMPION, WPTV CORRESPONDENT: Do not go outside in Jupiter, if you live in that city, because of the flooding, downed power lines.
The rain, I believe, honestly, the rain really had -- it did more of a job on the area as opposed to the winds because, again, it was a category two. The winds weren't bad. I mean, structurally, a lot of places were able to handle that wind, but...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE, WSVN: Hey, Cari. I want a little figure -- I'm going to give you a little figure you can give to your newsroom.
CHAMPION: Yes, tell me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You had the equivalent of, I would say -- let's see. Two and a half inches of rain, you've had about 12. That's five.
You had about 250 million gallons of water per square mile poured on you in a very short period of time.
CHAMPION: And that's what they were saying. At the P.B.I.A., Palm Beach International Airport, they reported eight and a half inches, I mean, like three, in like three hours, maybe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
CHAMPION: It was amazing. It was really amazing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These two and a half inches of rain is 40 million gallons per square mile.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Palm Beach right now has over a foot total; so, I mean, you're talking billions and billions and billions of gallons of water dumped in a very short period. That's why people underestimate flooding.
CHAMPION: Your right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, WSVN: Yes, and sadly, it's not safe for drinking.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just a mass.
CHAMPION: It was a mess. It was a mess. But you know what? The resilience of the city, the people are coming -- I mean, today you see people out. They're trying to do -- now that, I mean, we're still in the hurricane, but the walls have left us.
And we're ready to just kind of deal with it right now. We are -- everyone is dealing with what they have to do to get their job done. For us, as you all know, we're still in the service industry. That's what we have to do. We have to provide everyone with as much information as possible.
Our crews are out there doing what they have to do. I mean, very little things have happened to our newsroom to affect how we go on with our day-to-day, our day-to-days here.
So, I mean, the good news is, is that we are able to still operate and get that information out; the bad news is, is that we have to learn the hard way like I'm sure so many people in this area did.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cari, let me ask you, two popular spots there in West Palm Beach, even for folks here in Miami Dade and Broward County, who like to head up north, City Place and Clamatis...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... have been getting footage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it looks like they took a beating there.
CHAMPION: You know, City Place, you guys, is walking distance from our station.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
CHAMPION: So, you know if we had a bit of a beating, they did.
City Place is -- and the thing is, is now that they know they're -- there's not much drainage there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
CHAMPION: So, of course they took a beating. I mean, a lot of places are now looking at their insurance policies. I mean, because flood insurance, believe it or not -- and I'm sure you all know this -- a lot of people don't have it.
They have, you know, the content insurance and homeowners insurance, but they don't have flood insurance. And I'm sure City Place does and a lot of those businesses do. But, I mean, it's going to be a lot of repair, and it's not going to happen in a day. It's going to take a bit of time just to kind of get things back to normal.
I thought -- I think most people, the tone of the community, they were all anticipating their homes being, you know, completely decimated, not necessarily flood -- I don't think flooding. And I don't know why, you guys, but flooding just wasn't a huge issue for them. And I don't know why. It just didn't register for us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, Cari Champion, WPTV reporter, we thank you.
CHAMPION: You're welcome.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks, Cari.
CHAMPION: All right.
NGUYEN: You've been listening to live coverage from affiliate WSVN in Florida on the situation there as Hurricane Frances still makes its way across the state. In fact, it's blanketing most of the state right now. We'll get an update on all of that.
But stay tuned for our continuing coverage.
NGUYEN: Well, good morning. If you are just joining us and waking up on this Sunday, I want to give you a look at what Frances is doing to Florida.
These are pictures that were just sent in from our Sean Callebs in West Palm Beach. As you can see, an ambulance is trying to make its way through this roadway that is flooded because of all the rain that's coming through Florida.
Obviously, emergency crews are going to have a hard time getting out to the people who need them because of flooded roadways, debris in the roads. We're going to see a lot of this throughout the day as people start to assess the damage and tend to the immediate needs.
Also have some pictures to show you of that debris that we've been talking about. This is some more of the video that was sent in by CNN's Sean Callebs in West Palm Beach, Florida.
It looks like a tractor is driving through the middle of the street trying to remove some of that debris so the ambulances and other emergency crews can make it out to the areas and meet the needs of people who could be in some desperate situations because of this storm. And some of them have decided to ride it out and not seek shelter as the governor had suggested.
But, of course, lots of downed trees; there are reports of downed power lines throughout Florida. We are reading, as well, on wire reports that some one and a half million people could be without power. We're going to get an update on that right now with Kathy Scott who is on the phone with us.
Actually yes, Kathy Scott are you on the phone with us?
KATHY SCOTT, FLORIDA POWER & LIGHT: Yes, I am.
NGUYEN: Give us a situation update on the power. We spoke with Tim Pagel with Florida Power and Light a little bit earlier this morning. He said 1.5 million people are without electricity. What's your assessment right now?
SCOTT: That's a correct number, Betty. The good news, I guess, is that we have restored power to 500,000 people. We were able to do that a little bit in the Miami Dade and Broward area yesterday when, you now, kind in between wind bands.
But the truth of the matter is this storm is still battering most of our service territory. So, we are seeing, you know, extensive damage and a great deal of work ahead of us. And, of course, want to remind everyone listening that the operative words right now are:
Be safe. Stay away from downed power lines. Don't venture out in high water or where there is an area of a lot of debris and you can't see a potentially downed power line that could be dangerous and still energized.
NGUYEN: We're looking at some of that debris right now and power lines throughout Florida.
As people wait not only to go back to their homes but to assess the damage, power is going to be a major concern for a lot of people. When do you expect -- I know it early. I know your crews are still trying to get out to the areas. But when you expect crews to start working on the situation?
SCOTT: Just to -- it really is going to be a long haul, and people are going to need to be very, very patient because right now we can't safely put our workforce out in many areas. So, you know, it may be a couple of days before we are actually able to get these crews that we have and asked outside of the state, into the state and get our own people out into the field where they can start assessing the damage first, which has to be done before we can even begin restoration.
And then -- and then, you know, staging crews and getting materials out there so that we can do this in a very organized fashion and get essential customers back in service first, and then, you know, work on the rest of the restoration effort that's ahead of us.
You know, we're talking a very, very long time and a very, very damaging storm. I mean, there may be some areas of our system that, just as we did a couple of weeks ago in Hurricane Charley over on the southwest coast, we may be rebuilding part of our system in the, in the Palm Beach and Treasure Coast counties there, where the storm came ashore.
NGUYEN: Now, you say a very long time. I know it's early, but are we talking days? Are we talking weeks?
SCOTT: You know, I can't -- we really can't give that any kind of an estimate until we get out there and assess the damage. But it's --
NGUYEN: Are you still on the phone with us there, Kathy?
OK. We may have lost Kathy, speaking on behalf of Florida Power and Light.
Crews are trying to get out to the areas where they have lost power throughout parts of Florida. Some one and a half million people without power this morning. A lot of information still coming in to CNN and, of course, we're going to give that to you as it comes in to us.
Continuing coverage right here on CNN of Hurricane Frances. We want to get a look at what's going on. As you heard, well over a million customers in Florida are without electricity. Frances, again, knocking out power along the coast early Saturday afternoon.
Reporter Shomari Stone from CNN affiliate WFOR watched as power lines came down in Fort Lauderdale.
SHOMARI STONE, WFOR CORRESPONDENT: Just take a look. Unbelievable. This thing continues to pop. That is extremely dangerous. Firefighters want you to stay away.
I'm now joined by an official just to explain what exactly is going on here. This is breaking right now as we speak.
Please, first of all, state your name for me.
LIEUTENANT JOSEPH (PH): Lieutenant Joseph.
STONE: Lieutenant Joseph, what's going on here? JOSEPH: What we have here is a broken power line that powers the building here. From the strong winds, it has snapped, and it is arcing on some of the other power lines to the rear here.
STONE: All right. And what -- we just got here, rushed here immediately after I saw this. What street are we at? Just what's going on?
JOSEPH: We're in the 500 block of Borden Ave.
STONE: Borden Ave. As soon as we saw the smoke up in the air from Sunrise and A-1A, we immediately jumped in our car and came here.
This -- just look at it. Just let it run. This thing just keeps on popping.
Sir, what would happen -- how many volts is that? That's amazing.
JOSEPH: I'm not really sure. It's definitely high voltage, though.
STONE: And what -- if you look right over here Wakim (ph), if you could pan there. There are some spectators who are seeing it as well, a guy drinking his coffee. What would happen, sir -- are they allowed to come over here and get as close as we are to see this thing?
JOSEPH: No. No, not at all.
STONE: What's your concern about them over there?
JOSEPH: Nothing really with them over there, as far as power, but my concern is the buildings here trying to catch it on fire from these embers coming from the live wire there.
STONE: Well, on behalf of CBS4, our anchors, Angela Rae, Iliana Barrella (ph), we want to thank you for, you know, allowing us to get so close to share this with our viewers.
And this is exactly why officials strongly recommend that you be careful. That's why we have the mandatory evacuations according to Broward officials. Why? Because things like this could happen.
Those bands from Hurricane Frances can continue to come on in. Sorry about the low visibility on your lens. There's a light drizzle right now, and the gusty winds continue to come in.
NGUYEN: Downed power lines obviously a big concern throughout Florida.
We want to dip in to some local coverage now, live coverage, with affiliate WFOR. Let's listen to what they're putting on the air.
TERI OKITA, WFOR CORRESPONDENT: Cara (ph), I'm hanging on, but it's really gotten quite relentless out here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, WFOR: You know, Teri, I got to tell you, I'm just a little worried about you. So, you go back in, and we'll talk to you a little later on.
But you be safe. But you're sort of scaring me out there in the middle of all that. It's just a little frightening.
Bryan, you see her in the midst of this in Daytona Beach. I'm wondering what are the wind speeds there? She's about to get blown away.
BRYAN NORCROSS, CBS4 METEOROLOGIST: Yes, the wind speeds are probably near hurricane force there. The wind is coming in off the ocean. Teri, can you hear me? You're right near the beach aren't you?
OKITA: I can hear you, Bryan.
NORCROSS: You're right near the beach, aren't you?
OKITA: We are near the beach. You're absolutely right. There is a very small sea wall that's between me and the beach.
OKITA: So, I'm getting a lot of that wind coming off of the beach and it's, we were hearing, 80 to 90 miles an hour. You would probably know better than I, but I can just tell you that as the morning has progressed, it's gotten just worse and worse. The winds have really gotten strong out here.
The rain has been off and on. We haven't seen, you know, buckets of rain, but when the rain does come and the winds pick it up, it's just, you know, pins and needles on your face out here.
NORCROSS: Right, where there is a -- what's happening is you have these bands, individual bands. And there is a very strong band going through your area right now. And that may very well have as strong a winds as we have in the hurricane, at the moment, very close to Daytona Beach.
So, yes, you may well have wind gusts there of 90 miles an hour, but probably sustained in the, you know, hurricane force, 75 miles an hour range because if the winds -- I'll tell you -- if the winds were really 90 miles an hour, you wouldn't be able to stand up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly. I was going to ask you about that.
NORCROSS: Here's the way you can tell is imagine standing on the roof of your car and driving 70 miles an hour. I mean, you couldn't stand there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. Exactly. NORCROSS: So that, you know, it really -- I mean Teri's really getting buffeted. And you really have to be careful, it's the debris that we're worried about here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
NORCROSS: Something that might fly by you there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.
OKITA: I'll be getting out of it.
NORCROSS: Yes, go ahead Teri. Don't stand there for our benefit, please.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, Teri, seriously, you go on in. Really, I'm a little worried about you. We'll talk to you a little later on, but you be safe, OK, hon?
NGUYEN: There in Florida, again, with live coverage from WFOR, the affiliate there in Florida, Daytona Beach, obviously getting hit hard right now with Hurricane Frances.
We're going to continue our coverage as well of this monster storm that's making its way through Florida. We invite you to stay tuned to CNN SATURDAY MORNING.
NGUYEN: Well, good morning and welcome back to CNN SUNDAY MORNING.
We've got a lot to tell you about. We want to move over to the Bahamas now and WPLG affiliate Judy Echavez.
She was hit yesterday by some debris and has, obviously, recovered and is filing this live report. Let's listen in.
JUDY ECHAVEZ, WPLG CORRESPONDENT: ... see that a lot of their property was just completely demolished. This was the storm that I thought would never end.
We went through, I think, maybe 36 hours of it, and it was so bad. It winds were howling. It sounded like a freight train. Shelter, at a point in the middle of, I guess -- what was a Friday? I lose track of time here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, WPLG: Sure.
ECHAVEZ: And then we were there throughout Saturday; and it's Sunday already.
So, even last night, the winds were still howling. And you can see that, you know, the cleanup is just beginning. We already have people on the island, who are beginning to sweep up and some, bringing in some chainsaws to cut up some of the downed trees.
There is a lot of power lines down, and there is a lot of phone lines down, which are pretty dangerous because if anybody gets near them, you know, you don't know if you're going to be electrocuted, especially when you're near the water.
We don't know if any of those are live wire. We don't...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we know how dangerous...
ECHAVEZ: We don't have water here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We know how dangerous the cleanup can be. Judy, I know you're physically and mentally and emotionally exhausted, as is your crew.
We have to say to Bill Donalis (ph) what an amazing job he did in picking up the microphone...
ECHAVEZ: He certainly did.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... and covering when you were down. I mean, we certainly appreciate that. O'Reilly (ph), as well, your engineer.
I do want to ask you, we have reports of two deaths in the Bahamas from this storm. And besides your injury, did you hear of others on the island as a result of the hurricane?
ECHAVEZ: We haven't been able to get that confirmed with anybody yet, but we'll be checking in with the town mayor. And I'm sure he'll keep us, keep us abreast of, you know, the injuries and the death that this Hurricane Frances might have caused.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Judy, again, a stellar job. We're so glad to see you in one piece.
NGUYEN: You've been listening to WPLG, Judy Echavez, a reporter for that station in Florida. She's reporting now in the Bahamas. She was hit yesterday by some debris but has since recovered and back on the scene.
Florida hospitals have their work cut out for them in the face of Hurricane Frances. You'll recall what happened to hospitals in southwest Florida during Charley.
Well, on the phone from Fort Pierce is Beth Williams from the Lawnwood Regional Medical Center to give us an update.
Good morning to you.
BETH WILLIAMS, LAWNWOOD REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: Good morning.
NGUYEN: Did you sustain any damage building-wise at the hospital from Hurricane Frances as it made its way through? WILLIAMS: Well, we have had some minor roof leaks. We lost power last night, Friday evening, about 6:00 p.m. and went to generator power. We, about 3:00 this morning, lost our water, which the whole community has. So, that's interesting situation to deal with at a hospital.
There a lot of trees down and light poles down on the property, but actually we've done pretty well considering.
NGUYEN: So, with the lack of water, what are you doing as you treat the people who come in with injuries?
WILLIAMS: Well, we have -- we have about 209 patients in the hospital. We also have our employees. We allowed our employees families to shelter here. We also allowed employees pets to shelter here because we knew they needed to be able to -- the employees -- need to be able to focus on taking care of patients and not worry about their loved ones at home during this dangerous storm.
So, we have about 1,400 people and 150 animals in the hospital, so it makes for an interesting situation. But it's gone very, very well.
We have sterile water for drinking water for the patients. Obviously, we prioritize. And we will be rationing water. Hopefully, we'll, the county will call an all clear within the next several hours, and those folks that are sheltering will be able to go home. And so, that will relieve a lot of the burden of supplying water to everybody.
NGUYEN: OK, Beth, quickly, you said 209 patients. How many of them came in because of injuries due to Hurricane Frances?
WILLIAMS: We were on lock down. The community was on lock down. But we had about 20 patients come in after the curfew either by police department or they drove themselves.
NGUYEN: Beth Wilbens -- Williams -- I should say, Lawnwood Regional Medical Center there in Florida. We thank you for your time and your information.
We are going to continue with our coverage of Hurricane Frances.
You're watching CNN SUNDAY MORNING.
We're going to take a short break, and we'll be right back.
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