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Bracing for Ivan's Arrival; Putin's Beslan Response Questioned; Martha Stewart Case

Aired September 15, 2004 - 11:00   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Live picture there of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, looking pretty empty now as folks hunkering down in the New Orleans area.
It is 11:00 a.m. in Washington, 10:00 a.m. in Mobile, Alabama, and New Orleans. From CNN Center in Atlanta, good morning once again. I'm Daryn Kagan.

Up first this hour on CNN, bracing for Ivan's arrival. The menacing storm is moving on the Gulf Coast with 140-mile-per-hour winds. Hurricane warnings are posted from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.

People in Ivan's projected path are being warned to get out of harm's way. And many are heeding that warning. Road crews were crowded early today as the exodus from New Orleans continues.

Plywood is flying off the shelves at hardwood stores. People are boarding up homes and businesses, hoping to protect their property from Ivan's wrath.

Just where is the storm and how quickly is it moving towards the Gulf Coast? Let's check in with Chad Myers. He is tracking those very events from our weather center -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Now up to 13 miles per hour, Daryn. And so, it has picked up a little bit of speed.

Yesterday, it was only nine miles per hour. And that pickup of speed is actually going to rush it to the shore a little bit sooner than maybe some of the earlier computer models had it. You can now see from Panama City, back down to almost Tampa, a significant storm here. And now some of the outer bands coming on shore.

We can zoom you in to Panama City, to Destin, to Fort Walton Beach, and even to Mobile, and you can now begin to see some of the earliest bands, some of the earliest light rain coming on shore. When this heavier rain comes on shore, the winds are really going to pick up.

One last spot for you, down to the eye. Yes, you can now see it on the radar. Here it is, kind of a wide eye. But still, the winds in this eye, 135 miles per hour.

We will have the rain showers continue over most of this area for much of the day. And as that continues to move on up from the South to the North, it's going to start making a right-hand turn, Daryn, right on up into Mobile Bay, maybe over to Pensacola.

To the right of this line is the most dangerous part of the storm. But everywhere in this entire cone, all the way from Mississippi, right on over to Apalachicola, you are going to experience hurricane conditions. That's why hurricane warnings are actually in effect.

If you're writing the numbers down, here they are: 27.3, 88.0, 135 miles per hour. So, as of the 11:00 advisory, the hurricane center brought the winds down five miles per hour from the 140 that we had earlier. And then what happens, the storm gets into Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. It basically comes to a stop. And we're going to see significant flooding across all of the Southeast and the East Coast -- Daryn.

KAGAN: All right, Chad. Some busy days ahead. Thank you.

Meanwhile, we have reporters all along Ivan's projected path. Bill Hemmer and meteorologist Rob Marciano are in Mobile, Alabama. Jason Bellini in New Orleans. And Rick Sanchez is in Panama City, Florida.

First to Mobile, Alabama. It could find itself in the eye of the storm by early morning. That's where we find our Bill Hemmer, beginning our live coverage at this hour.

Bill, good morning once again.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Daryn. Good morning as well.

Nobody taking any chances here. Four busloads of inmates from the local jail just escorted by local sheriff deputies by us along the road down here, taken out of the local jail to a safer area to ride this one out. And Ivan has been an absolute killer everywhere he has been so far, places like Grenada, Jamaica, the Grand Caymans, Cuba.

At least 68 deaths blamed on this storm so far. Now Ivan dead set on the Gulf Coast here in the U.S.

An awful lot to talk about in the next five minutes or so, Daryn. Let's start off now -- Rob Marciano also here with me in Mobile.

Rob, what have you noticed? No rain just yet, but the rain's getting a bit -- the wind, anyway, I should say, getting a bit stronger at this hour. Hello again.


You're right about that, the winds are getting stronger out of the East and Northeast. That storm, as Chad mentioned, is approaching more quickly, so now may get here overnight, if not closer to 6:00 a.m., then, tomorrow morning, when there's daylight.

That doesn't bode well. But hopefully it will be knocked down to Category 3 status at this point. Not a whole lot of rain to report to you at this hour. The clouds certainly are whipping up above us. The rain for the most part is just offshore. It probably won't come on shore probably for another hour or two.

Pan over, if you could, to this building. I still did a lot of research in the past half an hour to no avail.

This building built in 1994, so it has yet to withstand a major hurricane or major hurricane-force winds. And we'll be curious to see just how -- how much it does withstand as we go through the afternoon and the evening.

Right now, the center of the storm to the left of that, down to the South, by about 230 miles. So, it has to track pretty much due north to hit Mobile Bay directly. If it nudges at all to the East, we'll be on the lighter side of this storm. And that's good news, especially for storm surge, because the bay is right next to the city, and the city is not very high at all. It pretty much floods with the heavy rain.

Forecast models show this city to flood with a Category 1 storm surge. With a couple rivers flowing out into the bay, any water that's pushed up typically floods quite easily.

1979 was the last time we had a Category 3 storm roll through here. That was Hurricane Frederick, $2 billion in damage. That was the costliest hurricane of its time until Hurricane Hugo rolled around.

I should mention, a lot of times when we talk about storm surge, we're concerned about high tide. When's high tide coming in? How high is the high tide?

Well, it turns out that the tides really aren't really going to be that much of an issue, because on either side, the most they go up or down is by two or three feet, up and down the bay. So, if there's any good news in that -- in this, if it does come up the gut, we're not so much concerned about the high tides as much as we are the storm surge.

And the surge by some of the computer models, anywhere from 12 to 20 feet with a Category 4 storm. It looks like it may be downgraded to a Category 3 before it makes landfall.

Bill, that would certainly bode well for -- for me and you, as conditions certainly are expected to deteriorate throughout the afternoon. Are you ready? I know you just went through Frances. Are you ready for another one?

HEMMER: I tell you what, well, Frances was so slow, Rob, and this storm is exactly the opposite. It almost seems to be picking up speed. Now 13 miles an hour, which is much quicker than yesterday, which means it's going to get here sooner.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New Orleans is all about attitude. From its music to its streetcars and river boats, it oozes charm. It's a city that moves a bit slower, saving its energy to party a little harder. It is also a city that flirts with disaster nearly every hurricane season.

DR. WALTER MAESTRI, JEFFERSON PARISH EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: It's going to happen, you know. We can't continue to beat the odd. We've beaten the odds for a long, long time now.

ZARRELLA: Walter Maestri is the Jefferson Parish emergency manager. Of the 1.3 million people living in metropolitan New Orleans, he is responsible for nearly half a million, which during hurricane season leaves him with many sleepless nights. Maestri is keenly aware there is little he can do to keep people from falling victim to a natural disaster or to save his city.

MAESTRI: Very, very rapidly, within a 10-hour period, you know, the metropolitan New Orleans area is totally devastated, gone.

ZARRELLA: Several expert studies and computer models show New Orleans even more vulnerable than anyone previously thought. Maestri says levees and floodwalls designed to protect the city from moderately-intense hurricanes might be overtopped and fail in just such storms.

MAESTRI: The way it's described, we describe it here is, Lake Pontchartrain has now become Lake New Orleans.

ZARRELLA: Maestri estimates most of the dead would be people for whatever reason did not or could not evacuate, left trapped in the city as the water rises. The problem is, population has mushroomed. Evacuation routes are limited.

And New Orleans is like a bowl. The city sits below sea level. On three sides, there's water: the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Pontchartrain, and the Mississippi River.

(on camera): The experts say, in a major hurricane, the water here in the French Quarter could be up to the nose of Andrew Jackson's horse, or as high as the second-story windows on the cathedral behind it.

(voice-over): Jackson Square, the cathedral, and just about everything else in New Orleans would be under water -- 12 to 15 feet of it. In the storm's aftermath, water would sit in the city for an estimated six months. Pumps needed to get the water out would be, themselves, under water.

MAESTRI: This is the one agency in government that not only is allowed to pray, it's demanded. We've got calluses on our knees in this business.

ZARRELLA: Divine intervention, good fortune, the winds of nature: whatever it is, it is all that separates this city on the Mississippi from Walter Mestri's nightmare.

John Zarrella, CNN, New Orleans.


HEMMER: Watching New Orleans quite closely, listening to the mayor talk there in New Orleans last hour. He seemed to indicate, based on the projected path of this storm, that New Orleans could be on the back side, far removed from the most intense winds, which would be on the northeastern quadrant of the storm that we have seen so many times in storms past.

Where is it headed now? In Miami, the National Hurricane Center, Ed Rappaport my guest now.

And Ed, we have talked too many times lately. We're talking again today. Your projected path now, as of 11:00 a.m. Eastern time, is what for Ivan?

ED RAPPAPORT, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Yes, the path is pretty much locked on right now. It looks like we've had this turn to the north that we've been suggesting would occur.

The center's now about 230 miles south of the Mobile, Alabama, area, and about the same distance either side a little bit. It does appear that the center will be moving northward and coming ashore late tonight, early tomorrow. But as we've talked about, this is such a big hurricane, that hurricane-force winds will extend out 100 miles to the right, almost that far to the left.

And you're talking about New Orleans. They'll be in hurricane force or near hurricane force by late tonight.

HEMMER: Yes. Ed, earlier, the projection we got here is that it's been dropped about 135 miles an hour, which is slightly less than what we talked about earlier today, 140 miles an hour. Can you tell at this point whether or not that storm continues to decrease in intensity, or not?

RAPPAPORT: We think there may be some further slow weakening. The hurricane is moving into an area where the waters are not going to be quite so warm and the upper level environment is not so conducive. But either way, this will still be coming ashore, we believe, as a major hurricane. That means at least Category 3.

HEMMER: Ed, we're in Mobile, Alabama. When will we start to feel the effects of Ivan?

RAPPAPORT: It will be pretty soon. In fact, if we switch over to another view that we have here, this is the radar from the National Weather Service.

You can see the outer bands are now lined up right along the coast. Those bands have tropical storm-force winds. And as you get closer to the center, it increases to hurricane force. All this will be moving up to the north over the next 12 to 24 and 36 hours. HEMMER: And back to your previous answer, if I could, just pick up that just a little more. In the past, these hurricanes have been downgraded right before they reach the Gulf shore because of those cooler waters in the northern section of the Gulf. Are you saying yet again today that the water temperature is cooler, which may give us a chance for further weakening of Ivan?

RAPPAPORT: It may weaken a little bit. But the difference between a 3 and 4 is not that great.

It could still bring devastating impact to the coast. There are other cases where they -- where they've strengthened. Hurricane Charley this year strengthened rapidly right at the coast. At this point, we think it will be Category 3 or 4 at landfall.

HEMMER: Yes. And Opal of nine years ago carried a 15-foot wall of water. Do you anticipate that same size of water to come ashore today?

RAPPAPORT: Approximately. And Opal did something that was similar to what was forecast.

It got very strong in the middle Gulf and then it weakened. But even though it weakened, it still brought that 15-foot storm surge or so, and we think that will still be the case for Ivan as well.

HEMMER: Which brought so much damage to places like Destin, Florida, and Fort Walton Beach, Florida, as well. Ed, good luck. And thanks again for your time this hour with the new coordinates now on Hurricane Ivan. Ed Rappaport at the hurricane center in Miami, Florida.

I mentioned the Panhandle, places like Destin and Fort Walton Beach. In Panama City Beach, Rick Sanchez reporting there again.

Rick, good morning again. We talked about an hour ago. How are things this hour?

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've been monitoring it, and we've been seeing a change, Bill. I'm sure you're probably seeing some of the same things that we're feeling here. That is, the very first rain bands coming through this area, at least sustained rain, I suppose, we should call it.

They also have, as you know, in meteorological terms, the sustained winds that they often measure. And we've had this wind gauge that we've been monitoring throughout the morning.

And we've seen the winds pick up as well, up to 16, 20 mile was hour. But you know, that's down here. And for the most part, when you try to gauge wind in an area that's obstructed, it's very difficult to do that. And you also need to be at least 33 feet in the air to get a true measurement.

You and I, Bill, talked earlier about this. And this is certainly something that is important. And that is the storm surge that could affect areas like this in Panama City Beach.

Because so many of these areas are not just a straight coast, but in actuality they are little peninsulas that go almost parallel to the shore, so if in any one of those areas the surge were to go over the water, the people living on the other side would literally be cut off, something that has happened in the past. In fact, it happened not long ago with Charley around Punta Gorda.

So, those are the things that we're going to be following here. And of course, as you know, it all depends on what direction this storm takes in the next 12 hours or so -- Bill.

HEMMER: It certainly does. All right, Rick. Thanks.

Rick Sanchez watching things there in Panama City Beach. And we are watching it here in Mobile.

Daryn, it's quite likely the next time we talk, the rains going to be coming down. Nothing yet. We're still dry in Mobile. But that's going to change at some point -- some point, rather, very soon.

Back to you now at the CNN Center.

KAGAN: You got that rain gear ready go, Bill?

HEMMER: Yes. In fact, the cortex is standing right off to the side here, Daryn.

KAGAN: Excellent.

HEMMER: You knew it wouldn't be far, right?

KAGAN: I knew. I was checking. OK. We will check back with you.

We're also following a different type of storm, a legal storm. Martha Stewart in about 15 minutes is expected to hold a news conference from New York City. We here she's going to be talking about her sentencing. That is just ahead. You're going to see that news conference live right here on CNN.

We are back after this.


KAGAN: And we're looking at live picture from the Gulf of Mexico. Ivan, getting ever closer. Much more coverage and pictures ahead here on CNN.

Meanwhile, we want to go ahead and check the markets.


KAGAN: All right. Rhonda Schaffler, thank you for that.

Also coming out of New York in about 10 minutes, we expect a news conference with Martha Stewart, talking about her impending trip to prison. That is just ahead.

Right now, another quick break. More Ivan coverage ahead as well.


KAGAN: Pictures of Russian children returning to classrooms today in Beslan, Russia. It is the first day of school since the terror siege that killed more than 300 hostages.

The survivors of the school massacre aren't going back right now. They have been given two months off in order to recover from that horror.

Russia's president is responding to the terrorist attack with what many analysts call a power grab. Our international correspondent, Matthew Chance, here in town at CNN's world headquarters.

We decided to take the opportunity to talk to you about what is taking place. The answer for President Putin, he thinks, is to try to clench down and be even more hard line.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, in the aftermath of this terrorist atrocity in Beslan, the people of Russia were looking to their president to take some kind of action. And so, obviously, he felt a good deal of pressure to go out there to the Russian public and say, this is what I'm doing.

What he's chosen to do is to pull in the power that he's already tried to establish for himself in the Kremlin. He's stopped the local governors in the various republics in Russia from being elected.

Instead, he's going to appoint them now. So, this is being seen by people as an attempt by -- of Putin to, you know, kind of make his power even stronger than it is. It's been criticized as well by pro- democracy activates for rolling back on the moves towards democracy in Russia.

But the irony is, I think, Daryn, is that many people in Russia want to see this kind of strong leadership in their eyes. They want to see more control, more security in their country.

KAGAN: Some people want to see that. Some people, as you were saying, the critics say he is doing this power grab on the blood of these children that died in Beslan, that this is what he always wanted to do, and this was just the opportunity, he could finally go ahead and do it. And that is exactly the opposite thing of what he needs to do. Actually, this is going to make even more frustrated people and perhaps even more terrorist acts.

CHANCE: Well, I think there's sense in that, because he's done this, he's enforced his popularity -- rather his strength in the Kremlin. But one of the big issues that many critics point to is this is no good without some kind of way of addressing the problems in Chechnya. Certainly, this has been a terrible atrocity that's been committed by these people from Chechnya. But this is a conflict which is still there. It's mutated into this kind of dreadful situation which is producing these kinds of attacks, the theater siege a year ago, you know, this school situation which went so terribly wrong in the past few weeks. There's been airlines bombed by suspected Chechen suicide bombers.

KAGAN: The subway.

CHANCE: The subway and the suicide bombings. These things really have to be addressed. The problem of Chechnya really has to be addressed for this to end.

KAGAN: And meanwhile, we were having a chance to talk before we came out of the commercial break. You were saying that within Russia, in some sort of sick, twisted way, this school siege is in some ways seen as a success, that it captured the world's attention, it did what it was intended to do.

CHANCE: Well, I mean, unfortunately, from the point of view of the militants inside Chechnya, certainly the ones that ordered this attack, this siege to be carried out, the world has been ignoring the problems in Chechnya for many years now. It was 1999 when Vladimir Putin first, as the Russian prime minister, ordered in Russian troops into Chechnya.

It received some coverage then. But since then, it slipped off the headlines. But the war in Chechnya was raged, and many thousands of people have been killed since then, both Chechen civilians and Russian soldiers.

Unfortunately, many people in Russia believe that this kind of high-profile event, this high-profile massacre, has focused the world's attention on this -- this conflict. And unless these issues in Chechnya are resolved through political means, we may see more Beslans, more school sieges, more targeting of innocent people.

KAGAN: Wow. Let's certainly hope not. You saw the story we had in the last hour, the mother who had to choose between her two children, which one -- which one to save. To do it on the lives and the souls of children, is just absolutely...

CHANCE: Beslan is full of stories like that.

KAGAN: Yes, absolutely sick. All right. Matthew, thank you for stopping by. Appreciate that.

Coming up next, we are going to continue to track the path of Hurricane Ivan. More live coverage coming up. We'll go back to Mobile and check in with Bill, and take you live to New Orleans as well.


KAGAN: I'm Daryn Kagan in Atlanta. Let's check what's happening "Now in the News." It is Wednesday, the 15th of September.

Hurricane Ivan is expected to make landfall early Thursday morning along the central Gulf of Mexico. Mobile, Alabama, appears to be a prime target at this hour. Ivan's winds are now about 135 miles an hour. More live CNN coverage in just a moment.

On Ivan's heels, Tropical Storm Jeanne is on track for Puerto Rico. Top winds are 70 miles an hour, just shy of hurricane strength. Jeanne could bring a foot of rain to the Caribbean islands.


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