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CNN LIVE TODAY

Now a Category 1 Storm, Ivan Came Ashore Near Gulf Shores, Alabama

Aired September 16, 2004 - 10:31   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hurricane Ivan tops our stories now in the news. Now a Category 1 storm, Ivan came ashore near Gulf Shores, Alabama, about seven-and-a-half hours ago. At least seven people have been killed in Florida's Panhandle. At least the latest numbers actually are eight killed in the Florida Panhandle, most of them linked by tornadoes. Also a young girl died when a tree fell on her house.
Tornado watches and warnings are in effect throughout the day in Alabama and Georgia, as well.

Ivan has knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people.

Ivan may be weakening but Jeanne in the Caribbean is getting stronger. Jeanne reached hurricane status this morning. The storm is hugging the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. Up to 16 inches of rain pounded Puerto Rico, closing roads, downing power lines, flooding homes and trashing crops. The storm's being blamed for two deaths in Puerto Rico.

And we're told that a group of kidnappers slipped into a Baghdad home at dawn, abducting two Americans and a British citizen. The house, which also serves as an office for the Westerners, usually has a guard on duty both day and night. A neighbor said the guard didn't show up last night. More than 100 people have been abducted in recent months in Iraq.

And President Bush is pitching his health care plan during a bus tour of southeastern Minnesota today. He's in Saint Cloud this hour for a rally. This is the president's fifth trip to Minnesota this year.

John Kerry has made six stops there. The latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll shows the state is a tossup, with less than seven weeks until the election.

Intelligence reports suggest the immediate future for Iraq is, at best, pessimistic.

CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux joins us now from Washington with more on this document that was released -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is called the national intelligence estimate. It was actually prepared through the intelligence community. It was not commissioned by the president, but rather within that community. And the last one that was prepared, as you may recall, was in October of 2002. That was assessing whether or not Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, created quite a controversy over that one.

This one was prepared, however, it was distributed in late August, completed in July, and essentially it lays out a number of scenarios in post-war Iraq. We have been told the document is about 50 pages in length, much of it classified.

But what we did get from National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormick, he talked about the declassified portions, and in general, what this document is about. This is something that is circulating within the White House, as well as the Pentagon and the State Department.

It lays out a number of scenarios. Some of those scenarios we have been told are not positive. Some of them are dire. They talk about the possibility of civil war, about an increase in the insurgency, as well as violence.

But at the same time, this is not something that is necessarily new. Sean McCormick pointing out the fact that the president, as well as White House officials, have said even before the war in Iraq, that there are a number of possibilities that could unfold, including things that have not happened. That being mass migration, starvation, and even a worse-case scenario.

What this document is being used for, however, it is being analyzed, it's being looked over. These are simply descriptions, they say, of the possibilities that could unfold within the 18 months, starting in July, just what would happen inside of Iraq and what it does is it gives a blueprint for the administration to take a look at the situation on the ground, and decide how are they going to best handle this.

Sean McCormick saying that they are still working on, of course, building Iraqi forces, training those forces, and making sure that they can go ahead and handle their own security. The administration still confident that the Iraqi people will be able to hold those elections in January.

But we heard as early as today, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan saying he was not so sure, because of the security situation being rather unstable in that part of the world. But again, the White House saying yes, they have this document in hand. They're using it, really, as a guide to see what they need to do next -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: And so, Suzanne, this document really is a contradiction to what we've been hearing from President Bush, as well as his White House spokesperson Scott McClellan recently, saying that there is progress that's being measured in Iraq. So, how is the White House responding to those questions now this morning?

MALVEAUX: Well, McCormick took issue with that, because that is a question that I asked him, and he said he does not think its contradictory at all, because the president, as well as other White House officials have been saying, look, they're tough challenges. There's still a lot of ahead. We have a lot of work to do.

But he also lays out a scenario. He says that there are a lot of doubters and pessimists who said that they could never hold elections, say they would never have respectable, credible leaders that more dire situations would take place.

So, McCormick taking issue with that description, and he says when he takes a look at this, he doesn't see a gloomy, dark, pessimistic picture, he says one that lays out those possibilities, very real possibilities, of, yes, perhaps dire consequences, but also perhaps a more positive scenario.

WHITFIELD: And so far, those elections you describe are still scheduled for January.

Suzanne Malveaux at the White House, thanks so much.

Now back to Ivan as it slogs northward. People are emerging from battered homes and shelters to assess the damage.

CNN's Bill Hemmer is in Mobile, Alabama, and that's exactly what's been happening behind him all morning -- Bill.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Fredricka, thanks.

(INAUDIBLE) move further upstate, because that's the way Ivan is going right now. Just a few hours ago, this was still a very strong storm, winds of 80 miles an hour.

Drew Griffin is live upstate in Alabama.

Drew, where are you, No. 1? I believe it's Montgomery. Is that your location, also? What are your conditions right now as Ivan comes your way?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bill, we are in Montgomery. The gusts have been as strong as 40 miles an hour, I'm reading. Officially gusts have been higher than that. We've had steady rain since about 7:30, 8:00. And what's interesting is this feels, having covered hurricanes on the beach, it feels very much the same way, 170 miles or so inland.

The squalls come through, and then you have lulls, and then ferocious winds come through again. There've been scattered power outages here around Montgomery, but those scattered outages are becoming more frequent to the point of 10,000 or so people now without power here. They're expecting most of Montgomery to be without power at some point today.

We feel like about an hour and a half is when we're going to feel the real brunt of this. Right now that's going to the southwest of us, coming basically taking the interstate, straight up I-65 it appears.

HEMMER: All right, Drew Griffin, thanks, in Montgomery. Having a bit of a breakup on the satellite. Understandable right now, though, with that weather system moving through Alabama.

Back here in mobile, a lot of people coming out of their homes, returning back to the city, trying to get a glance at their town after Ivan moved through. Talked with officer John Young just a few moments ago about what he has seen right now as he surveys the area here.

Here's Officer Young.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OFC. JOHN YOUNG, MOBILE POLICE: Just downed trees, downed power lines. The damage isn't nearly as severe as we thought it would be. We're very satisfied and thankful for that.

HEMMER: How would you categorize the amount of damage you've seen so far, between the power lines and the trees?

YOUNG: It's moderate. It isn't severe. And it's a little more than light. It's just moderate.

HEMMER: I take it that's very good news for a found like mobile?

YOUNG: Very good news. We're very satisfied with what happened.

This area that you're in now would normally have a lot of water, but there isn't, so we're satisfied with everything.

HEMMER: Does it strike you as a hurricane, or a bad thunderstorm as you said earlier?

YOUNG: It wasn't nearly as severe as we thought it would be.

HEMMER: How about the flooding?

YOUNG: That wasn't as severe as we thought it would be. Like I said, normally this would be underwater.

HEMMER: You also were concerned that residents are coming out too soon. What do you want to tell them, officer?

YOUNG: We want people to stay home. Until this clears up completely, when it stops raining and the wind dies, we'd like for people to stay home.

HEMMER: OK, and your name?

YOUNG: Young.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER: Officer John Young a short time ago. And he told us, essentially, that he shouldn't be doing the interview and asked us if we could send out a word to his chief, essentially. But he's doing his best out here on the streets of Mobile.

In fact, about 12 police cars have just rolled up to this hotel, Fredricka. They've been working an overnight shift. It's the first break they've been given. They're not done yet. They'll head back out after they get a full stomach.

And by the way -- John, go on up to the hotel here. This is where we stayed overnight, Fredricka. We stayed on the much lower floors -- right around number four -- five, rather, and number six. I can tell you, some residents, though, stayed up there overnight. And boy, when Ivan came through about midnight and 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning, I mean, the winds were just pounding at the windows outside. Almost a thunderous roar right now as Ivan came through.

And I tell you, we tried to get some sleep. I think we checked in about 45 minutes worth. But again, I don't think it might be that much in the end.

Hang on one second here, Fredricka. How are you doing? Do you live here? How far is that from here? And what is the name of that town?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Spanish Ford.

HEMMER: OK. So, you're on the east bay, is that right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eastern shore of Mobile.

HEMMER: And that got a lot more damage than here, based on what I understand. How bad is it over there?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have four trees down at our house with part of our roof off. And a lot of trees down.

HEMMER: Power and electricity, on or off?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No phone. No electricity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No phone. No electricity.

HEMMER: What are you doing over here in Mobile?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I work at Children's and Women's. I'm going to work.

HEMMER: OK. Well, good luck to you, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

HEMMER: Thanks for stopping by. You got it.

Fredricka, we'll follow it here in Mobile. The rains coming off and on. The gusts are still around. But again, we expect Ivan to move out of here before we go too late now into the early afternoon hours -- Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: All right. Moving out of there on the Gulf coast, but then heading further in throughout the state of Alabama. Thanks so much, Bill.

Let's check in with Chad Myers. Chad, you described earlier and showed us the map that Ivan has essentially consumed the State of Alabama.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's almost covering up Georgia, too, now.

(WEATHER REPORT)

MYERS: Right now, Category 1. Wind speeds at 75 miles per hour. In about half an hour, I'm going to show you, Fred, some incredible numbers of how much rainfall has already fallen and obviously how much is still to come if this storm only moves this far in four days.

Back to you.

WHITFIELD: And Chad, does it lose its hurricane status only by virtue of the winds?

MYERS: Yes.

WHITFIELD: Or the fact that it's over land, almost over land completely? It doesn't lose status automatically?

MYERS: It is still a hurricane right now. Still Hurricane Ivan until it becomes less than 74 miles per hour. Then, it is Tropical Storm Ivan. Then, it will be a tropical depression, and then it will roll out to sea as an extratropical storm, which is a typical storm that we'll get from the northwest of from the southwest. It actually just turns into a low itself, and that will eventually move out to sea.

WHITFIELD: All right, Chad. Thanks so much.

MYERS: You're welcome.

WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.

MYERS: All right.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(STOCK MARKET UPDATE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

WHITFIELD: Well hopefully no tornadic activity. But certainly Biloxi, Mississippi is one of the places that got a taste of Ivan.

Kathleen Koch is there.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fredricka. But you know, what a difference just nine hours make. It was around 2:00 a.m. Eastern Time when Hurricane Ivan roared onshore just east of here. And it did whip up a lot of very heavy winds here. We reported them.

We're some six miles north of the beach, and we reported winds around 65 miles an hour here. Now what it left in its wake, lots of branches down, trees down and flooding. Biloxi is a peninsula. So, the waters came up all around on all three sides of Biloxi, flooding the boardwalk area, flooding some of the areas near the 12 casinos that dot the Mississippi Gulf coast.

Now we do have more than 4,000 people who fled to shelters up and down the Mississippi Gulf Coast. And officials are asking them to stay put, because again, there is still this high water that is standing in some areas. There are still a lot of trees down, power lines down, some 71,000 residents in southern Mississippi still without power.

The hope is, though, that the power will be returned very soon, because these casinos are a big revenue generator for the Gulf Coast area, also the other major employer is Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding. Between them, they employ about 30,000 people. Those people would like to get back to work tomorrow. That may be a little optimistic, but hopefully by next week.

Back to you, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Kathleen, thanks so much.

And more of CNN LIVE, when we come right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Let's take a look at other stories making news coast to coast. It's the U.S. versus Europe at the Oakland Hills Golf Club outside of Detroit. The Americans, led by Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Davis Love, appear to have the edge in this year's Ryder Cup competition. But keep in mind, team Europe won six out of the last nine matches. Practice round today. Play begins tomorrow.

In Santa Maria, California, attorneys for pop star Michael Jackson are due back in court today. They'll try to convince the judge to throw out evidence seized from Jackson's Neverland Ranch. Jackson has pleaded not guilty to child molestation charges. He's expected to appear at tomorrow's hearing when the mother of his accuser takes to the stand.

And in Los Angeles, Johnny Ramone, lead guitarist and co-founder of the punk band The Ramones, lost a five-year battle with prostate cancer. Ramone died in his sleep on Wednesday. He was 55.

Ivan moves north. We'll tell you what lies ahead in the path of this still extremely dangerous storm. The second hour of CNN LIVE begins right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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