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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Tropical Storm Dennis Continues Northward Path
Aired July 10, 2005 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Larry. Excellent, excellent show as usual.
I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Center in Atlanta.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kyra Phillips. Let's get right to it. The storm came ashore at about 3:30 this afternoon. And this is the moment captured by our Anderson Cooper and John Zarrella.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are back on the air, John Zarrella and I. Let me just explain where we are. We're basically seeking the safety of a Ramada Hotel. There's two walls business on -- behind our camera and we are all basically kind of clustered behind these walls for safety. And if you look just out there, that is an enormous Ramada sign which has just been twisting in the wind, as you can see, I mean, it is moving. That is a big concern, we are very afraid that that thing could just come down.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it's been spinning around like a top and right really what we're experiencing right now is a little bit of a lull compared to what we had. The gusts before were well above hurricane force. It had to be in the 95, 100 mile-an- hour range.
COOPER: Minutes ago -- I don't know how much -- when I called in, I don't how much of that you could get, but it has actually gone down from that point. That was really -- it was this extraordinary wall of white. It was like a solid mass.
ZARRELLA: You couldn't see a thing out there. And the trees were bent, as they're bending again now. We're starting to get another one of those...
COOPER: Yes, and look at the tops of those trees over there. You see some of them have snapped already. But these things are moving and as these bands of the storm come...
ZARRELLA: Here it comes again. Look out here.
COOPER: You can feel it, right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch out for that aluminum!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get back! Get back!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's coming apart!
ZARRELLA: It's coming apart.
COOPER: Look over there. That is aluminum. That's part of the sign.
ZARRELLA: Look at this, it's all coming apart.
COOPER: Look at this.
ZARRELLA: The trees are coming down! Big trees coming down. Big trees coming down.
ZARRELLA: Oh, here comes the sign, it's down! It's falling apart! Get back! Get back! Get back!
COOPER: Unbelievable. I've never seen anything like this, John, this incredible. Have you ever seen anything like this?
ZARRELLA: Never seen anything like this. I've never experienced anything like this before.
COOPER: This, of course, is the most dangerous time, when the winds are this strong...
ZARRELLA: Tree limbs are flying down. These pine trees, you see them out there, they keep -- big branches coming down, huge limbs.
COOPER: And it's incredible when you think, I mean, these are strong pieces of metal. This is not, you know, a little tin, this is a huge metal sign that survived Hurricane Ivan, it has not survived Hurricane Dennis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: CNN's Anderson Cooper and CNN's John Zarrella doing excellent work for us. We're going to bring them in live shortly. We've got some forecasts, Kyra, first and foremost.
PHILLIPS: That's right. We want to check in with Jacqui Jeras. She's been working the storm for us all morning, all afternoon. And it's been downgraded.
JACQUI JERAS, METEOROLOGIST: Yes.
PHILLIPS: That's the bit of good news, Jacqui.
JERAS: Yes, Tropical Storm Dennis we're talking about. Maximum sustained winds one hour ago when the official advisory came in were 60 miles per hour. And I'm sure it's down from that a little bit. It will progressively go down, eventually become a tropical depression.
Still have the potential for causing maybe some scattered power outages. Certainly some tornadoes possible. But you can see part if that watch starting to get caught off now. That was an association with that eye wall there, as it continues to push on up to the north. Of course, you know, no eye wall really existent any longer.
I want to show you the forecast track and where this was going to be going now. We're expecting a little bit of a northwesterly turn. So it's going to be moving into northern parts of Mississippi, maybe even western Tennessee here, and then making it up towards the boot heel of Missouri.
And notice how the time progresses here. It really starts to slow down a little bit and stall out. And that's why we're getting very concerned about some flooding.
This is a computer model forecast of where we're expecting the heaviest of rainfall in the next 24 to 48 hours. And when you start to see the purples and some of these whites, that's a good two, three, four, five inches of rainfall plus. And then we'll get lesser amounts as you can see on the outskirts. So stalling is going to be our big concern there.
We just heard in the last hour from Max Mayfield, we've been watching a little disturbance here off the coast of Africa. There you can see the lesser Antilles and way up here. Here's Florida, the United States.
He said they're going to be issuing advisories on this, that this will become tropical depression number five. I assume that that will probably be coming in at the 11:00 Eastern time advisory. And if it becomes a tropical storm, which it very well could, it would become Tropical Storm Emily.
Right now, our biggest concern would be the Atlantic coast. Of course, it's way too early to say, but it's something to keep an eye on for maybe the middle part of next week.
BLITZER: CNN's Jacqui Jeras reporting for us, helping us through that forecast. Jacqui, thanks very much.
PHILLIPS: And traveling all over the hardened areas throughout the day, of course, in our mobile hurricane unit, CNN's Rick Sanchez. He joins us now live. We had trouble getting connected to you, but Rick, can you hear us now?
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I got you, Kyra. And we've been heading back through highway 90, toward Pensacola, where we have been seeing some of the worst devastation yet that we've seen at all any time today.
Milton, in particular, in the little town just outside of Pensacola, that's really been hit really hard. As a matter of fact, as you look at that down, you see that most of the infrastructure is gone. At least now how soon they'll be able to repair.
You know, in Florida, we have these live oaks, big thick oak trees. And you just don't think that those things will ever be able to fall down, but boy, they did there. And you could see them all over the place.
And this is what else they do. We stop right now. We're on the highway, because we just came across something, Kyra, I want to show you. We've stopped a vehicle in the middle of the road. And I don't know if you can see us. Stewart, are you in on that right now? There's a power line that has just crashed onto the road. Part of the road is - almost appears like the power line's coming out of the middle of the road on the right hand lane of this road. This is highway 90, we're on right now, one of the principle roads leading into Pensacola. And there's this huge power line on the road, which you know, certainly looks precarious for somebody going by it.
We're being real careful, as are most other vehicles. There's a transformer. In fact, that - you know what, Michael, get a little closer so Stewart can shoot it from the side of the - Stewart, see if you can shoot it from the side of your window over here as we shoot that.
You know what it is? We just discovered this is a power pole. This is a power pole down with a transformer crashed on the pavement in the middle of the road. You see that? I mean, these are the kind of things that we're seeing now.
You know, when you cover these storms, I'm going to turn this light on, see if it helps a little bit, when you cover these storms for many years, you realize that whatever you think the damage is, never quite realizes it that way because the next day...
SANCHEZ: ...when you wake up, and you look around, you find out that there's a lot more. And I'm sure they'll find a lot more around tomorrow as well.
PHILLIPS: Now Rick...
SANCHEZ: Yes, go ahead, Kyra.
PHILLIPS: ...well, I mean, we're looking at these pictures. They're pretty amazing pictures. And you see the after effects here in the downed power lines.
But I mean, there's a threat here to you and everybody else on the ground and in that area. I mean, these are hot wires. These are hot transformers. So how do you - how are folks proceeding with caution? How are you proceeding with caution? I mean, this is not a safe area, obviously, to be in.
SANCHEZ: One of the things I've known for a long time is, as long as you're inside a vehicle, usually you're going to be OK because you've got four tires that are made of rubber. Don't get outside the vehicle. Stay away from the power line. And if the power line is anywhere near a puddle, you stay away from that puddle because the water actually conducts electricity and makes it worse.
I've covered stories in the past where you've seen a power line down, and then near that power line, there's been a puddle. And you know, people have either been very hurt or actually lost their lives as a result of them.
So usually, you know, from covering these things and talking to emergency management official, you know the ground rules. So you know how to stay within the periphery of a story cover, but not get yourself hurt doing it.
As we did all day long, when we were trying to cross over and we saw the gulf get breached, or the roads be breached by the gulf, or when we were over in that hotel that lost its roof and suddenly started flying all over the place.
I mean, you know, same thing. So you know, you stay within the realm of being responsible and careful, but you still try and give the viewers a picture so they can understand what kind of damage happens in their communities, that they're not able to see with their own eyes and ears.
PHILLIPS: Well, and you're bringing us those amazing pictures, Rick Sanchez, there via hurricane one. Rick's sort of in our mobile unit there, bringing us live shots as he's traveling along the coast there. Of course, he's been in Florida all day, Wolf, heading toward Alabama now.
BLITZER: He's moving in that direction. It's an amazing situation, the technology very impressive. Rick Sanchez reporting for us.
Hurricane Dennis has been downgraded to a tropical storm, but Anderson Cooper and John Zarrella are still on the scene for us. Tropical storm or not, this was pretty dangerous when it reached the height of the moment. That was around 3:30, 3:25 p.m. Eastern, Anderson.
COOPER: Yes, it was. We're calling ourselves now Hurricane 2 and Hurricane 3, by the way. You know, in this order that we've been building here.
But yes, it was - it got very hairy there. You know, this was such a fast moving storm. 18 miles an hour. Unusually fast. And you know, it hit hard, but it moved on. We thought we were in the eye of the storm after really seeing some fierce winds.
And we were, I think, in sort of the northern...
ZARRELLA: Right on the edge of the western eye wall there. And we could see that daylight coming through. And you know, it never got completely calm for us. But for a few minutes there, almost dead calm that we saw. And it was a tremendous - you pointed out that white. You couldn't see anything, just almost white out behind us.
COOPER: And it - I mean, it sort of got, you know, intensified really just in a matter of seconds, it seemed like. I mean, it was bad for many hours, but then all of a sudden, that wall of white, it was the wind combined with the rain, it looked like a solid mass just in front of you. You couldn't see through it. It was an extraordinary moment. And the trees blowing all down.
And of course, we saw that Ramada sign just, you know, we saw it wobbling a lot. And then it just came tumbling down.
ZARRELLA: More than that, it started spinning like a top.
ZARRELLA: And then came down, but yes, you're absolutely right. It came on us fast.
It was going downhill steadily, but the worst of us - it hit us almost instantaneously.
COOPER: Yes, we had been in this location, which we thought was relatively safe. And then all of a sudden, their satellite truck went down, because the winds shifted, changed direction a little bit. John and I ran. We had a back up location already set up with another satellite truck for this very contingency.
And that satellite truck went down for a few moments. Luckily, it went right back up at the moment when that sign came down. So it was a very traumatic day, but you know, breathing a sigh of relief here, and as you heard from the mayor of Pensacola on Larry's show earlier, you know, no one lost their lives. And you know, it could have been much worse, Wolf.
BLITZER: Anderson, was there ever a moment you and John had to actually go indoors because it was simply too dangerous?
COOPER: No, actually, we - you know, we had this - our back-up location. We felt pretty good about it. I mean, there were times where, you know, John would grab me and you know, push me against the wall. And we'd be pressed pretty tight against the wall, all of us. And we had about, you know, a crew of a half dozen or a dozen people.
ZARRELLA: We were watching it very carefully.
ZARRELLA: Because if it had gotten much worse with that aluminum flying around in all directions, we were contemplating - in fact some of our producers were giving me the let's get inside...
ZARRELLA: ...and we kind of ignored it.
COOPER: But it really died down...
COOPER: ...just when we thought, you know, all right, it's getting to be about the worst it can be. It died down. So we were very lucky in that regard.
BLITZER: Very lucky indeed. Anderson Cooper, John Zarrella reporting for us. Thanks, guys very much.
PHILLIPS: Well, you didn't have to be near the center of the hurricane to feel its tremendous impact.
In the Tallahassee area, which is many miles away from where the storm came ashore, there's a lot of flooding. In some areas, a whole lot of it.
Joining us now on the phone from Tallahassee, Michelle Bono. She's the city's communications director. And I'm being told we just got some new video from Tallahassee, Michelle. So as we're looking at these pictures for the first time, I don't know if you have a monitor there, and if you can see these.
But why don't you give us an update on the damage coming out of Tallahassee at this point?
MICHELLE BONO, TALLAHASSEE COMMUNICATIONS DIR.: Well, absolutely. In terms of Tallahassee, the - we're about 30 miles inland from the coast. And I think some of this footage is closer to the coast in Ricola (ph) County, which is very close to us as well.
The big impact in Tallahassee has actually been wind. Much like you were just talking about, we have massive light that we're a tree city USA and have trees everywhere.
So over the last about 12 hours, we had 100 trees that were down and blocking roads. We - or the electric provider here in the city as well. And we had about 30,000 customers who lost power at some point or another during the day.
The good news here is that we've got all but about 500 customers restored with power. We have all the streets back open.
The other thing is we've got a lot of visitors in town, because as people fled other parts of Florida, they came to Tallahassee. So about every hotel here is booked. And I think people have enjoyed the southern hospitality here. But I think they're going to be ready to head back home.
And we think things will be pretty much back to normal in Tallahassee. These shots that you have here near the coast certainly show that there's a lot more damage. If you get closer to our surrounding counties, they definitely got a lot more flooding.
We were fairly spared here in Tallahassee besides the wind damage.
PHILLIPS: Yes, it's so hard to look at these pictures and think that things would be back to normal in a short period of time. Give me a feel, Michelle, for resources you're receiving from FEMA. We, of course, talked to its director a couple of hours ago. And after the president declared this as one of the areas as a disaster area, we understand that resources, money, will be coming forward.
Also, are there enough shelters? Has the Red Cross may be able to come in and set up shot for those that are not able to go straight back home.
BONO: Absolutely. The places that you're seeing here, Frankly County, Wakulla County, those are all south of Tallahassee, closer to the coach.
And indeed, we've had many of their residents in our shelters right here in Tallahassee.
So in terms of the assistance coming, we became experts in that area last year as well, when FEMA came in. And we've learned a lot of lessons of how to very quickly get help to people. And I think as you were saying, these coastal areas are going to have much - a harder time recovering. But even in terms of Tallahassee's crews, we have mutual aid to be out helping our surrounding communities. And so, I think that assistance will be given.
We feel very blessed that the impact in our area was not as severe as it was in some other areas up the state. So...
PHILLIPS: Well, let me ask you this, Michelle. Considering that you were not hit that hard in Tallahassee, when you look at places like this video along the coast, and specifically in St. Mark's, Florida, the little fishing village, it is now totally underwater.
How will you be able to help support these folks because you didn't get as, you know, hit as hard as these other areas. What will you be able to offer to small areas say like St. Marks?
BONO: Well, in fact, we have a power plant. Our Purdum (ph) power plan is right there near the coastline in St. Marks. And they did get some water there, but we were able to keep the plan fully operational.
So in terms of the assistance that we can provide, it is everything from helping with water services, to sewer - being able - we have a request from Santa Rosa County to take 60 animals from their animal shelter and store them temporarily at our shelter. So we're working that out tomorrow.
We have - we've had a lot of people coming into Tallahassee in terms of fire rescue crews from other parts of the state. And they really camped out in Tallahassee until the state deployed them to other areas.
So we've got our own fire services that are able to go in and help these other communities. So there is a great sense of support throughout all of Florida to help these other communities. And we're going to be right in there with them.
PHILLIPS: And Michelle, can I ask you, too, if you've received any reports of any major injuries or fatalities at this point? BONO: No. In the Tallahassee area, we have not had any fatalities. Some traffic accidents and some houses with some roof damage and that sort of thing. And again, a lot of trees down.
But - and even in the surrounding counties, have not had reports of fatalities. So again, we feel very blessed. And I'm glad that Dennis wasn't more of a menace than he was.
PHILLIPS: Well, it's amazing. We continue to get in pictures from all our affiliates from throughout that area. And I'm curious how long you've been working throughout the day? And how long the city's communication department will be up and running as the storm is still active?
BONO: Well, we're committed to making sure that all of our citizens get all the services they need. So we will be working around - at least through the next 24 hours or until we get everyone's service restored in terms of electric service.
We've had our emergency operations center going since early this morning. But I think that as you were saying, these coastal communities are going to need help far longer than that.
So our assistance to them will be going much further. We always encourage people one way to keep track of what's happening in this portion of the community is to go to the city's website at talgov.com. T-a-l-g-o-v-dot com. We're trying to keep updated there in terms of services and our ability to help other communities as well.
PHILLIPS: All right, once again, that's calgov.com, T-a-l-g-o-v- dot come.
PHILLIPS: All right, Michelle Bono, city's communication director there in Tallahassee. Sure appreciate your time, Michelle.
BONO: Our pleasure.
PHILLIPS: I know it's been busy, thank you.
BONO: Our pleasure.
BLITZER: Kyra, Dennis was a Category 3 hurricane, when it lunged ashore in Florida earlier today. Thanks to lessons learned from Ivan last year, an estimated 90 percent of Panama City beach residents had hit the road when it arrived.
Reporter Emily Pantelides joins us now from Panama City in our affiliate, WJBF. She has the latest residents will find when they return Emily.
I hope I pronounced your last name correctly. If I didn't, go ahead and tell us how to pronounce it.
EMILY PANTELIDES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You've got it right. You've got it perfectly right. Right now, you probably can't see me. It may look like I'm in a black hole. That is because the power here in Panama City is from officially out. It really is a ghost town right now.
Nobody on these roads. No life. Absolutely nothing.
And we really have seen the worst of Hurricane Dennis, but it's these winds, these really strong winds that are continuing. Right now, you can see right now they are sort of lessons a little bit. But we've had a hard time standing here, just talking to you because they have been so strong. You probably can't see the ocean behind me, but it is still gusting very heavily.
Not too much damage. That's the good news here in Panama City. The only problem that we saw to the right of me is the city pier. It's made of concrete. And half of it is already buckling. The railings on the bottom portion are completely gone.
We did have really high waves that are actually topping the pier. So it seems like it's taken out part of the pier. There are a few hotels along this front beach road that have been taken out. But the good news is we have heard that there are no casualties right now.
And people who really are taking heed, the advice they were told they had mandatory evacuations yesterday at 7:00. They actually did that. Nobody is here.
Like I said, completely quiet. And there are curfews in place for people here in Panama City right now. Nobody here, like I said, heeding those warnings. Any questions, you guys?
BLITZER: Emily, a quick question on the mood among those people you have spoken to, in Panama City. Was it worst than they expected or a little bit easier?
PANTELIDES: It's a mixed reaction, Wolf. A couple of people came here. The police are running them off actually, just to take pictures and find out what was going on.
And the people taking pictures over on the pier, the pier I was telling you about, were actually happy. They said that their homes were fine. They just kind of were enjoying, if you can believe it or not. That's what one man told me, enjoying taking pictures in the scene.
But there are a few people, hotel owners, that have missing bricks. There are some construction buildings. People that are - buildings that are actually under construction here.
There's some loose debris. And there's some concern that some of that may have gone into some hotel rooms. We are still checking on that.
But the mood is really mixed here.
BLITZER: Emily Pantelides from our affiliate, WJBF, in Panama City. Emily, be careful over there. Thanks very much.
PHILLIPS: And our team coverage continues. Jacqui Jeras will have the latest on the dangerous flooding. Plus, we're going to have an update from Pensacola.
And keep sending in your photos. CNN viewers who are experiencing Hurricane Dennis' first hand. We appreciate you e- mailing us your pictures. Keep them coming. If you've got some in the affected area of Hurricane Dennis, send them to us now.
Our address? CNN.com/hurricane.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Dennis. Let's go to Zoe Mansfield. She's the city manager of St. Marks, Florida, a beautiful little town. Now much of it underwater.
Zoe, we've been showing our viewers these incredible pictures of the floods that have really come on and taken over your little town.
Tell us what's going on?
ZOE MANSFIELD, CITY MGR., ST. MARKS, FLORIDA: Oh, we are - we're really devastated. We've never had this much water before. There is some extensive damage. We have been - we haven't been able to get down to the river to actually see it. But hopefully tomorrow, we can.
BLITZER: It looks like it's just simply took over, not only these houses that we're seeing, but the markets, the restaurants, the parking lots, the manufacturing areas.
How much of an area is now underwater?
MANSFIELD: Most of the town.
BLITZER: How big is the town to begin with?
MANSFIELD: Acreage? I really can't tell you.
We have - it's a small town. We have around 325 people, residents that live here. And everybody - most of the people are under water.
BLITZER: So almost the entire town is affected by these floods. Is this the first time this has happened? Or is this something that often happens in St. Marks.
MANSFIELD: No, this is a first time that we've been devastated. I mean, this is the first time we've had this much water.
BLITZER: And it's relatively far away from the eye of the hurricane. Was there any indication - did you get any warning from authorities to be careful?
MANSFIELD: Oh, of course. We do know that. What really happened, I think that had something to do with it, is it came in on the high tide. And I think that made it higher than it was.
BLITZER: And St. Marks is relatively low. Is that right?
MANSFIELD: That's correct.
BLITZER: How far are you from the ocean, from the water, from the Gulf?
MANSFIELD: Oh, about five miles.
BLITZER: So you're inland. So you're basically on the intercoastal, if you will.
MANSFIELD: Yes, that's true. We are between two rivers. St. Marks River and the Waculla (ph) River.
BLITZER: How are people dealing with this? You've spoken to your neighbors and your friends?
MANSFIELD: Actually, they're pretty calm about it. And they understand. They are, you know, concerned about their homes, having water in them.
BLITZER: What about your home? What about you personally, Zoe?
MANSFIELD: Personally, I had live water - a great deal of water in my yard. But none in my home.
BLITZER: And your home is basically what?
MANSFIELD: I beg your pardon?
BLITZER: Your home is under water, is that what you're saying?
MANSFIELD: No, my home is not under water. I do have water in my yard, but not in my house.
BLITZER: You're one of the lucky ones, because most of the pictures that we've seen, the water clearly going through much of the first floor of a lot of these buildings.
BLITZER: You've seen the videotape that we've been showing our viewers.
MANSFIELD: Yes. Now the city hall, where I work, I'm the city manager, it was underwater. I've been unable to get in there.
BLITZER: Well, Zoe Mansfield, the city manager of St. Marks. Good luck to you. Good luck to all your neighbors and friends in St. Marks. We're hoping that you get through this relatively quickly and calmly, although it is pretty devastating. Appreciate your joining us.
MANSFIELD: Thank you.
PHILLIPS: And this just in, our Rick Sanchez, as you know, all throughout the day from morning to this point, he's been traveling via our hurricane one unit. Our videophone remote system, I guess you could say. And he's checking in with us now evidently outside of Pensacola.
Is that right, Rick? You came across a pretty devastated area?
SANCHEZ: You know, Kyra, the closer you get to Pensacola, the easier it is to find areas that appear like the one that you're seeing behind me.
It's interesting now, a category 3 hurricane can literally take a gas station and turn it into scrap medal, which is what this is. What's left of this gas station, which usually is the case, even with not only Category 2s, but Category 3s as well.
They basically get wind, enough of it, underneath the roof and then the aluminum itself just starts to peel off in layers. What we've seen a pattern of throughout the course of the day is not only you got this particular gas station, but many others, where the pumps would actually fall over as well.
So you know, it's difficult to see something like this, because at first glance, it's scrap medal. It's just damage. But this is someone's livelihood. This is someone who was - who has built this business for a very long time and is now left with partly boarded windows, shattered glass, items strewn about throughout the parking lot, no roof, pumps that don't work, and essentially a place that looks like it's going to need a whole lot of help.
One can only imagine that someone like this has insurance, but stories like this will be told all over this part of town, especially as we see now, because remember, it's a northwest quadrant with a hurricane comes in. And it's everything, as you look at it going - looking at it from the Gulf of Mexico toward the United States.
Everything on the right, you'll see more damage. And that's exactly the way this one is playing out.
From Pensacola to Milton, you're seeing this type of damage. Typical of a Category 2, Category 3 hurricane. And that seems to be the case right here as well.
PHILLIPS: Now Rick...
SANCHEZ: Kyra, back to you.
PHILLIPS: Rick, just quickly, because if you look at what we're seeing right now of you via the videophone, it's like an interrogation light on your torso. But just so our viewers know, there's no - there's absolutely no electricity. So these are your car lights that are attempting to light you up and what you're trying to show us there, the gas station, right? I mean, there's no power in this area.
SANCHEZ: Yes. This is what...
PHILLIPS: This is what -- Michael, do you have your high beams on? Are they on? Oh.
Yeah, go ahead. Put them back on.
We're doing the best we can. We've been doing this all day long. We've got a little lamp that we've tied with tape to the back of my neck when I was doing some live shots for you earlier and when I was on with Larry King. We've got wires that we essentially rigged through a computer to be able to get the signal out. We've changed vehicles and gotten in something much bigger, because we were afraid that the first one wouldn't be able to make it across some of the highways. So we've basically been making decisions as we go all day long, to try and beat the conditions, and kind of use both luck and ingenuity, probably more of the former, to bring you these reports, and sometimes, you know, we have, and other times, you know, we haven't been able to, because it's just -- it's too difficult to do. But yeah, you know, you do the best you can.
SANCHEZ: But some of these folks, as you know, at CNN are very smart. They've done a good job putting this together for us today. We've done stuff I never could imagine that we could do in the middle of the hurricane.
PHILLIPS: Well, that's the best part. I mean, between our tech department and your enterprising, Rick, and your amazing sense of creativity. We appreciate it very much.
Once again, our Rick Sanchez, via Hurricane One, our mobile unit there, bringing you live pictures from driving to standing still. We'll continue to check in with you, Rick, as you move along from that demolished gas station just outside of Pensacola and move more into that area -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Kyra, let's take a closer look at some of the headlines tonight and tomorrow.
The former hurricane named Dennis is now a tropical storm. Winds dropped below 60 miles an hour as it moved north through Alabama and Mississippi. That's less than half what they were at landfall earlier this afternoon. Coastal communities under water, thought, tonight. This is Saint Marks, Florida. A CNN cameraman captured these amazing images. He says almost the entire town is under water, some people were trapped in their homes. One official says similar scenes stretch for miles along the coast.
The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency says President Bush has declared parts of Florida, Alabama and Mississippi disaster areas. That makes residents eligible for grants for temporary housing, home repairs at low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.
And Florida Governor Jeb Bush will visit the hardest-hit areas of his state tomorrow. He'll be joined by both of the state's United States senators, at least one congressman, and several other federal and state officials.
PHILLIPS: Battered by Hurricane Dennis, Pensacola was right in the path of destruction, causing widespread power outages. We're going to find out just how bad it was straight ahead.
BLITZER: Welcome back. Let's get the latest on Hurricane Dennis. For that, we turn to our meteorologist, Jacqui Jeras in the CNN Weather Center -- Jacqui.
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Wolf. This is actually just coming in off the printer. I haven't looked at it. It's the 11:00 advisory coming in a little bit early here. It says Dennis continues to weaken, still heavy rainfall and tornado threat. Let's see, I'm looking for the maximum sustained winds -- have weakened, near 65 miles per hour. Still some higher gusts. Should rapidly weaken and turn into a tropical depression by tomorrow.
I want to point out here, we've been looking at that video from the Saint Marks area and how much flooding that they had from the storm surge and also from the heavy rain. They're still in the thick of it. The outer feeder bands have really been unrelenting over about the last hour to an hour and a half, and there you can see some of that video. You heard it from the folks that live there; they said the entire town is under water, so we are adding insult to injury at this hour, and it looks like this feeder band is going to be rather persistent. So unfortunately, some more bad news for those folks getting in more of that heavy rainfall. We could easily, I think, another couple of inches of rain on top of what you already have.
Flooding becoming more of a concern inland as well, as rain showers spread all across the southeast, and now they're making their way into the Tennessee River valley.
Tornadoes still a threat here yet tonight, but notice some of these watch boxes getting shaved off a little bit. So southeastern Georgia, extending over towards Savannah, looking a little bit better here, and then also into southern Mississippi and southern Alabama, part of your watch box has expired earlier. That's as the inner core, then, of the tropical storm, makes its way a little bit farther and up to the north.
You can see it's starting to get a little bit more parallel to Birmingham, so it's getting just off to the west of you at this hour. Still expecting some stronger wind gusts. You can see some 40-, 50-, maybe 60-mile-per-hour gusts. This is the updated forecast track here too, and as I eyeballed it, it looks like it's pulling a little bit farther to the west in the latter part of the forecast period, looking pretty much on course here as we expected it to, moving into eastern parts of Mississippi. The previous forecast kind of had it curving back around a little closer into this area, and this one, you can see, pushing it a little bit closer towards the Boot Hill (ph), maybe up towards the St. Louis area. So that's a little bit more significant. And if it does that, it's going to take even longer to get this storm offshore, talking about the latter part of the week instead of the middle part of the week -- Wolf, Kyra.
BLITZER: Jacqui Jeras, reporting for us. Jacqui, thanks very much.
Quick question, Jacqui...
BLITZER: ... before I let you go. How is this weather going to affect air travel tomorrow? As you say, this hurricane, now a tropical storm, is going to move up toward the Ohio River valley.
BLITZER: What do people in this area expect?
JERAS: Well, they should expect delay, absolutely. Delays have been averaging about two hours all day long out of Atlanta, Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. A number of the smaller airports along the Gulf Coast have been closed. I'm not sure when those are going to be reopening, but keep in mind, when one hub starts to have a problem, that tends to delay a lot of flights all over the country.
We also have a hub up in Memphis and Nashville, I believe, and also into Cincinnati, and I think that all of these areas are going to be affected for tomorrow.
I'm not sure what this is. Forecast to become Tropical Storm Emily? When?
Don't know when, OK. But the official forecast coming in, we talked to Max Mayfield, if you recall, Wolf, in the "LARRY KING LIVE" hour, and he said that we've been watching this wave, as we have here, the CNN weather team as well, it's right out here into the Atlantic, and it's really starting to blossom right now. They told us that they were going to issue tropical depression number five on this one, so it looks like that's coming in, and that it's forecast to become Tropical Storm Emily.
BLITZER: And it goes alphabetical, from Dennis to Emily. Let's hope Emily stays a little tropical depression, way, way out in the Atlantic Ocean someplace. But we'll watch it. No one will watch it...
JERAS: Keep dreaming, Wolf. BLITZER: ... closer than Jacqui Jeras. Jacqui, thanks very much.
PHILLIPS: Well, the eye of the storm made landfall right between Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach, on Florida's Santa Rosa Island, about 2:55 p.m., 3:25 p.m. Eastern time. That's where our John Zarrella has been all afternoon. He joins us live once again from Pensacola.
John, I've been getting a number of Blackberries from friends who are out driving around sort of assessing the damage and taking a look at what has happened. Not nearly as bad as the last storm that hit Pensacola, boy, and just really wiped out that area.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very, very lucky indeed, the people here, that we're on the western edge of the eyewall here, and that it moved further east, and that the intensity of the storm dropped down before it made landfall. At one point a category 4, 145- mile-an-hour winds, coming ashore 120-mile-an-hour winds. That's a significant difference in the amount of damage that you see. We've seen a lot of tree limbs down, they've got crews out all over, tree limbs down everywhere, some power lines down, but beyond that, very little structural damage.
Tim Wald (ph) is going to give you a look over to the left here at the -- this is -- besides the lights that are on me and the lights that are over there on those satellite trucks in the distance by the Ramada, and you can't see anything. This is the way it is all over the city here of Pensacola. It's pitch black, because there is no power on, again, other than generated light from satellite trucks and their generators. So it is going to be a very dark night here in Pensacola.
I've seen some cars on the road, and there is a curfew in place until 6:00 a.m., so it's hard -- not sure what they're doing out on the road, but they should not be.
Now, we really took the brunt of it, at about 2:30 our time here, 3:30 Eastern time, when we got that western eyewall come over us, and at that point, it was like a whiteout for a while. And as you look out, you could see the pine trees beginning to snap about halfway up on the sides. The posts and poles and telephone poles began to shake.
And the Ramada Inn sign actually collapsed. And there were flying pieces of aluminum and flying pieces of plastic that were just hurtling through the air, so we took cover at another location, away from where we are now. And that lasted for about 30 to 45 minutes of that really intense weather inside the western eyewall.
And at one point, it cleared up, where you could just about see the sun, and we were right on the edge of the eye. So a little bit of the sunshine was peaking through.
But consider this, as you see those pictures of how intense that looks there, category 3 hurricane, the folks here very, very lucky that it was not in fact a category 4 as it might have been. And of course, you know, now we all have to look ahead to storm number five, Emily.
But right now, all eyes here in Pensacola. People cleaning up, going to start cleaning up that debris first thing in the morning, and start looking ahead. They're still cleaning up from Hurricane Ivan a year ago, and the mayor had told us that it's still about four or five years before that project will be done. And of course, now we still have an awful long hurricane season ahead of us. We're not even anywhere near the height of hurricane season, and already four named storms, and a fifth one on the way -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: That's pretty frightening when you put it in that perspective.
PHILLIPS: We've got a long way to go. Our John Zarrella there in Pensacola, Florida. Thanks, John.
BLITZER: We're going to take a quick break here. When we come back, we'll go out near Ft. Walton Beach in Florida, another area that was hit. You're looking at some pictures from earlier today. Our Alina Cho is on the scene. Much more coverage of Hurricane Dennis right after this.
BLITZER: Our Alina Cho is in near Ft. Walton, in a place called Mary Esther, along the Panhandle. She's joining us now live. She's got some new information -- Alina.
ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. All is quiet here in Mary Esther, and that is partially because the National Guardsmen and the sheriff's office, they are out while no one else is, doing a detailed survey of the damage.
Now, good news in this immediate area in Mary Esther, but quite a different story about 15 miles east of here in Destin, where there is a report of an entire home washing away into the Gulf, and significant structural damage to several homes in that Destin area. But thankfully, no reports of injuries or fatalities in that area, and Wolf, I can tell you, that is largely because there was a mandatory evacuation order in place for that area, and these residents, having gone through Hurricane Ivan just 10 months ago, heeded that warning, and it appears most of them left their homes.
And so again, no reports of injuries or fatalities in that immediate area.
We can also tell you, since we were last on the air, that all of the bridges in Okaloosa County have reopened, though county officials say they have not checked those bridges out, so the word here tonight is travel with caution. Also, the road behind me, which is Highway 98, interestingly enough, there was a section of that highway that washed away during Hurricane Ivan 10 months ago. County officials tell me they are nearly certain that that same stretch of highway washed away again during this storm.
But overall, the picture, county officials say, is that about 30 percent of the county suffered damage. They are calling that very good news. And certainly residents we spoke to, Wolf, are breathing a big sigh of relief. They say they feared the worst. They thought this storm would be far worse than Hurricane Ivan, and they are thankful that it wasn't -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I assume, though, Alina, that much of the area where you are is still without power. Is that right?
CHO: Well, there are sporadic power outages in the area, Wolf. I believe I lost your sound, so you won't be able to ask me another question, but I can tell you there are sporadic power outages in the area. Thankfully, personally speaking, we just got our power back on here in the hotel, so that is very good news for all of us here. All of the media is staying in this hotel. And so, we will be able to take showers tonight. So that is very good news.
But yes, we're not exactly sure how many residents are without power tonight. We can also tell you that parts of this area, residents are being urged to boil their water as a precaution. There are some fears of contamination -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Alina Cho, on the scene for us in Mary Esther, that's near Ft. Walton, in Florida. Thanks, Alina, very much -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Ten months after Ivan invaded, Dennis descends on Pensacola, Florida. We're going to get a live update from the battered community.
Plus, cleanup in Cuba, where Dennis took a deadly toll just days ago. Our coverage of Hurricane Dennis continues from the CNN hurricane headquarters.
BLITZER: Lots more on Hurricane Dennis coming up, but some other news we're following around the nation tonight.
Sad confirmation today from the FBI. Remains found in Montana have been positively identified as those of missing 9-year-old Dylan Groene. Dylan and his 8-year-old sister Shasta disappeared from their home May 16th, after the beating deaths of the other family members. Shasta was found alive last week after witnesses spotted her in an Idaho restaurant with a man now in police custody.
The Pentagon says the body of a Navy SEAL has been found and recovered in Afghanistan. This would account for the fourth member of that team that disappeared two weeks ago. Two other bodies have been found; only one member of the team survived. Prices at the pump are higher than they've ever been. The cost of a regular gallon of self-serve gas surged over the past two weeks, jumping nearly a dime to an all-time high of $2.31 a gallon -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: And we're being told -- I was just being told, actually, in my ear that we've got some developing news. A collision, we are being told, at an air show. This video just brought into us from Saskatchewan, in Canada. Look at these pictures. Two biplanes, we are told, collided mid-air during this air show that was taking place. You can see emergency vehicles responding, actually -- no, actually, it looks like -- no, this is part of the air show. This is one of the trucks with one of the cars on back, one of the airplanes actually that was participating in this aerobatic show. But this video just coming into us. Now, we can see the aftermath of two biplanes that collided in the air during an air show in Saskatchewan, Canada.
If I remember correctly, this air show does take place every year, and this is always the risk that takes place when you've got aerobatics taking place airborne. Some pretty...
BLITZER: It was -- this air show, in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, in Canada. Both pilots, unfortunately, were killed. They were engaged in an aerobatics demonstration. Let's take another look at this picture, if we can see it. Very sad to see this whenever this happens, but there it is. There's the -- their wings clipped, we're told, as they were engaged in some aerobatics. Both pilots killed in the plane crash in Saskatchewan, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in Canada. Our deepest condolences to their families.
While Dennis has caused significant damage to Florida, in Cuba, the storm was devastating and deadly. Ten people were killed when the hurricane blew through that country on Friday. Two days later, residents are just starting to venture outside. More now from CNN's Lucia Newman.
LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): A scene that could be entitled "after the deluge." Havana residents coming out of their houses at last in the wake of Hurricane Dennis to buy bread, their government ration cards in hand. Stores are slowly beginning to open. All over the island, millions of Cubans are still without electricity.
Seventy-year-old Dona Caridad shows (ph) us what's left of her only candle, but is thrilled that the gas finally returned, so she can cook this fish.
"Everything else in the fridge is spoiled, because we haven't had power since Friday," she says.
Hardest by Dennis was south-central Cienfuegos Province, where the storm entered Cuba, and where scores of families are now homeless. The hurricane's savage winds destroyed or seriously damaged thousands of houses. Flooding, too, was extensive. Emergency teams all over the country are working round the clock to try and reestablish basic services, and provide shelter for those who no longer have it.
But the housing problem, in particular, is only expected to get worse.
(on camera): The dilapidated buildings here in Old Havana, in central Havana, were drenched during the hurricane, and now as they begin to dry, now that the sun has come out, many will crack and are expected to collapse in the next few days.
(voice-over): With the airport finally open, thousands of overseas tourists who were trapped by the hurricane are starting to go home. But for those who aren't going anywhere, like Jose Cabrisas, there is little relief. A tree collapsed on his decrepit house during the hurricane.
"And unless there's a miracle, it won't survive the next one," he says.
And that's the worst part for many. The fact that Dennis isn't the final storm, but just the first for this island nation that's almost always directly in the path of these vicious seasonal hurricanes.
Lucia Newman, CNN, Havana.
PHILLIPS: Well, from all our correspondents to all of you, we've been able to cover Hurricane Dennis, a number of you have been gracious enough to send us digital pictures as you've been traveling through the areas hit, like Charlie (ph) here, sending us a digital photo from Kirabel (ph), Florida. You can see basically this area under water from floodwaters that are already taking place at the aftermath of Hurricane Dennis.
This again from Atley (ph) in Keaton Beach, Florida: A dock, as you can see, submerged, because of the floodwaters, and the waters coming up from the beaches after Hurricane Dennis. And Gary (ph) from Pensacola, Florida -- you know, Pensacola got pretty hard hit. That's pretty much what started our major coverage this afternoon. Gary (ph), we appreciate you sending us a picture.
We ask for more of you, too, as you take pictures throughout the night, even tomorrow, continue to send us your photos so we can highlight our citizen journalists who have been helping us bring an inside look to the devastation of Hurricane Dennis.
Stay with CNN. More coverage right after a quick break.
BLITZER: Let's get another update on the forecast. Jacqui Jeras standing by at the CNN Weather Center -- Jacqui. JERAS: Wolf, we have a correction for you, actually, from the National Hurricane Center. When we got that advisory out to you, there must have been a typo on it; they said 65 miles per hour -- it's actually 50 miles per hour, which makes a lot more sense. We thought that those numbers were a little higher than the previous advisory. So a little typo there. So 50 miles per hour, which still keeps it at a tropical storm status. It continues to spin. Still a threat of tornadoes, and that flooding threat will continue, that one unrelenting band still moving over the Saint Marks area up towards Tallahassee, right here in the big band.
Here is the official forecast track for you: Weakening by tomorrow morning, becoming a tropical depression, and then taking its time, making its way toward the middle of the Mississippi River valley and up towards the Ohio River valley. So this storm is really going to be stalling out and sticking with us now, looks like, through at least the middle, more likely the latter part of the week.
We also officially have tropical depression number five, and there you can see it, still way away from the Lesser Antilles. It's about just over 1,000 miles away from land. It's moving off to the west at around 12 miles per hour, and we just got a new track on it for you, showing you that it will be a most likely a tropical storm sometime tomorrow, and that would make it Tropical Storm Emily.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZARRELLA: It's falling apart, get back! Get back! Get back!
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Unbelievable. I've never seen anything like this. John, this is incredible. Have you seen anything like this?
ZARRELLA: Never seen anything like this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The wrath of Hurricane Dennis moving ashore, demolishing parts of the
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