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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Devastating Storms Strike Florida; Interview With Florida Governor Charlie Crist; National Intelligence Estimate Makes Harsh Assessment of Iraq

Aired February 2, 2007 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You were talking about strength and courage, well, the people here are exhibiting a lot of that, strength and courage, tonight. And they need it.
Nothing really prepares you for this, Larry, not to see it, certainly not to live it. They get hurricanes in this part of the country, of course. Yet, even houses built to take a Category 3 or 4 storm could not stand up to what happened here overnight.

Ralph Schiflette (ph), who lives not far from where I'm standing, said it simply and said it the best: "Everything just exploded."

I just want to show you a house here that we are standing in front of. This is a -- a mobile home that was blown about 50 feet off its foundation, blown from right over there, landed in this grove of trees, its wreckage very similar to what we have seen, of course, in Hurricane Katrina or other tornadoes we have covered -- the refrigerator there.

This was probably the living area, also the sleeping area. This is their door. This is all that remains. Someone found one of the -- a child's doll, found some family photographs and some sunglasses, put it out there.

We're seeing this block after block after block in county after county here, four counties in Florida severely impacted. This is the second of deadliest tornado and storms that have hit the state of Florida.

Here's the bottom line. At least 19 people right now are known dead. Many homes and businesses are either damaged or out-and-out leveled. The governor has declared a state of emergency in this and three neighboring counties. We are going to talk to him in a moment.

People are spending their first full night in shelters. They have got nothing to go home to.

We are going to be looking at this from all the angles tonight, asking questions about warning systems and FEMA and whether any of this might have been avoided.

First, though, the big picture.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COOPER (voice-over): When you see these images, it's hard to believe that, just yesterday, this was a community. People lived here. Children played here. Today, nothing is left, nothing except the devastation. And it's complete, catastrophic.

Block by block, homes were obliterated, entire neighborhoods reduced to debris fields. This is how it looks from above. And this is how it felt on the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then you heard a train. And then the windows imploded. Then the wall came down. And then it was over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's -- I have never seen anything like it in my life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I ran into my closet and huddled on the floor and prayed.

COOPER: Officials say killer tornadoes swept across central Florida, cutting a path of destruction across Sumter, Lake, Seminole and Volusia counties.

GOV. CHARLIE CRIST (R), FLORIDA: Early this morning, we had a significant weather event. The state emergency operations center obviously is in full mode.

COOPER (on camera): The storms arrived in the dead of night, around 3:00 a.m. Most of the people around here were asleep. The National Weather Center says that warnings were issued about an approaching storm, but that came as news to many of the residents here, who said they had no idea what was about to hit.

IRENE MARTIN, RESIDENT OF FLORIDA: It seemed, like all of a sudden, it got very, very windy. And, then, for even a minute there, it just got -- it seemed like not even a minute, maybe a second -- and it got very, very quiet, and, then, all of a sudden, bam, just a big, big explosion.

COOPER (voice-over): Among the victims, a high school student, killed inside her family's mobile home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I'm so sorry. I really am.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was she the 17-year-old...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, she was. She...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did -- did you know her?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I walked to the bus stop with her in the mornings. We waited on the bus every day together. It makes me sad.

COOPER: Many residents were rescued, but, for some, it was too late.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were at this house right here. Some lady, I was trying to help her out, but she didn't make it. It was -- I tried my -- I tried my hardest. I feel real bad.

COOPER: Debris lies scattered everywhere. Tonight, thousands of people are still without power.

And, as the search for a victim goes on, survivors embrace one another, knowing they were the lucky ones.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Lucky, indeed.

Nineteen people, tens of -- are -- died -- are dead. Tens of thousands escaped with varying degrees of damage to their homes and lives and with stories to tell, what stories they have to tell.

Terry and Donna (ph) Hamilton join me now.

Guys, it is so good to see you safe and alive. An incredible night, you had.

You got warning that the storm was coming. You were watching it on TV?

TERRY HAMILTON, STORM SURVIVOR: Yes. Yes.

We had been to a concert, and returned home late. And, instead of going right to bed, for some reason, I turned on the television. And I saw the forecast.

COOPER: Around what time was that?

T. HAMILTON: This was probably around 1:30.

COOPER: OK.

T. HAMILTON: And they were talking about storms heading our way. She went on to bed. And I stayed up and watched.

COOPER: And at -- at what time did you realize it's heading your way?

T. HAMILTON: At about 3:00, they announced that it was headed towards Lady Lake with winds of 100 miles per hour or more, and it would be there in about 10 minutes.

COOPER: So, what did you do?

T. HAMILTON: I went and woke my wife up, and we went to an interior room in the house, to a small bathroom, got in the bathtub. And I just held her and put my hands over my ears, and just prayed. I mean, it was incredible.

DONNA HAMILTON, STORM SURVIVOR: Out loud.

COOPER: Well, what was it like for you?

D. HAMILTON: It was -- it was scary. It was the scariest thing I think I have ever been through in my life.

COOPER: Now, you guys have been through hurricanes.

D. HAMILTON: Yes.

T. HAMILTON: Yes.

COOPER: This is worse than any hurricane you have seen?

T. HAMILTON: Yes.

D. HAMILTON: No comparison...

COOPER: Really?

D. HAMILTON: ... whatsoever

COOPER: What -- was there -- what was the noise like?

D. HAMILTON: It sounded like a locomotive was parked in our living room, just revving up the engine.

COOPER: That loud, really?

D. HAMILTON: It was so loud. Mm-hmm.

COOPER: How long did it go on for?

T. HAMILTON: Probably only lasted about 10 seconds. It seemed like an eternity. But I could hear the -- the vinyl siding on the house rattling. And so much pressure built up in the attic of our home, that it blew out the attic wall...

COOPER: You're kidding. Wow.

T. HAMILTON: ... on one -- one end of the house.

D. HAMILTON: Mm-hmm.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: And your neighborhood, I mean, it's decimated. The church...

T. HAMILTON: It's terrible.

COOPER: ... is completely destroyed near where you live.

T. HAMILTON: It's terrible.

(CROSSTALK) COOPER: Do you -- do you know -- I mean, have you lost friends? Do you know people...

T. HAMILTON: I don't know of anyone that has passed away.

But we have -- our friends have lost their homes. Our neighbor across the street, her house was totally obliterated.

(CROSSTALK)

T. HAMILTON: A neighbor had just left and asked us to watch his house for him. He was going away for the weekend.

COOPER: Oh, you're kidding.

T. HAMILTON: So, I had to call him today and tell him that my oak tree was now his living room. So...

COOPER: Wow.

T. HAMILTON: Yes.

COOPER: Well, it's amazing that you guys made it through. How long did you stay afterward in -- in the bathtub? Did you get out right away?

(CROSSTALK)

D. HAMILTON: We got out right away, and kind of made our way, tried to find some flashlights. And then we looked outside, and it was total darkness, but just devastating.

COOPER: Unbelievable.

T. HAMILTON: That was the eerie part, just waiting for daylight, you know, and to see what...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: And was there -- were -- I mean, were -- were there other people walking around, or was it just kind of silent?

T. HAMILTON: One of the neighbors came over with a flashlight about 4:00. A policeman came to our door and asked if we were OK and if we needed any help. But it was really just waiting until daylight to see the devastation. And, when we saw it, it was like...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Well, it's amazing that the police were on the scene that quickly, though.

T. HAMILTON: Yes.

COOPER: That's certainly a good sign.

(CROSSTALK)

D. HAMILTON: Yes.

T. HAMILTON: Yes, it was.

COOPER: And -- and, frankly, a miracle that you were watching TV. I mean, so many people out there weren't watching TV, didn't have any -- any warning at all.

Obviously, that's one of the things, I guess, that is going to be looked at a lot. Is there anything else that can be done? Can siren -- would sirens make a difference?

But -- well, it's -- it's great that you guys got out. Thank you so much for...

T. HAMILTON: Thank you.

COOPER: ... for talking with us.

D. HAMILTON: Thank you.

COOPER: I know it's been a long day for you.

D. HAMILTON: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

T. HAMILTON: It has.

COOPER: All right. Well, I wish you...

D. HAMILTON: Thank you.

COOPER: ... a good rest tonight.

T. HAMILTON: Thank you.

D. HAMILTON: Thank you.

COOPER: Is your -- can you go back to your house? Is it...

T. HAMILTON: We're staying in a hotel tonight.

COOPER: Uh-huh.

T. HAMILTON: We don't have electricity or anything like that. So...

COOPER: OK. But the house itself is...

T. HAMILTON: The house is fine. I got some blue tarps today and -- to cover the end of the house up. It was blown away. And...

COOPER: Wow. Well...

T. HAMILTON: So -- but we're here, so...

COOPER: I'm so glad you're all right.

D. HAMILTON: Thank you.

T. HAMILTON: Thank you.

COOPER: Really nice to meet you.

T. HAMILTON: Yes.

COOPER: All right. Stay strong.

Well, Florida's governor tonight formally asked for speeded-up disaster aid from the federal government. This weekend, FEMA's director is expected to survey the damage.

He's supposed to come tomorrow, something CNN's Gary Tuchman did from above today.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Flying above the scene, you get a very clear idea of the terror these entire communities went through early Friday morning.

This looks to me very much like what we saw in September 2005 when we flew over coastal Mississippi and Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. Normally, you don't think of tornadoes causing the same kind of damage, the extensive, widespread damage that you see during hurricanes.

And, certainly, this isn't the same kind of damage as Katrina, which was widespread through two states. Nevertheless, when we're in the air now, at an altitude of 750 feet, all we can see is damage.

We see flashing police lights, helicopters flying around, police helicopters, traffic jams that go for miles, and very extensive damage. It's sad and it's tragic. We see lots where there are no longer homes, because the homes have been blown to smithereens, mobile homes, larger homes.

And the damage is unbelievable. And the area called The Villages, where its an upper-middle-class community, where there are golf courses, where there are tennis courts, you see parts of homes inside the sand traps on the golf course, inside the water hazards of the golf course. You see shuffleboard courts and tennis courts ripped up.

But, of course, the saddest thing are the homes, the places that these -- many people have lived all their lives, just completely gone. The fact is, less than 24 hours ago, it was a normal night. People went to sleep. They know they had a rainstorm coming up. Very few people heard about the tornado warnings, because it came at the absolute worst time, after 3:00 in the morning, when people were sleeping. Now, the fact is, when you see the damage from this high in the air, and you see that businesses and the stores and the churches and the homes destroyed, it's actually amazing that more people weren't killed.

The fact is, though, that this area will take a long time to rebuild. We see it happening in earnest right now. There are many workers below us, 750 feet below us, on the streets trying to fix the power lines right now, because thousands of customers are without power, already putting the blue tarps on top of the houses. That's something we still see in Mississippi and Louisiana after Katrina, blue tarps covering the damaged roofs.

We already see dozens, scores of blue tarps on top of the houses right now. But the fact is, when you're on the ground, you see how sad and you see how devastating this is. But, when you're in the air, and only in the air, can you how catastrophic the entire situation is.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Gary -- Gary joins us now live.

It is hard, when you're on the ground, to get a sense of the scope of this.

TUCHMAN: I mean, that's what was so amazing, being up there and just seeing how spread out it was.

And it was just an amazing feeling of deja vu I had, feeling like I was flying along the Gulf of Mexico, along the Mississippi coast, a few days after Katrina. You kept seeing it for minute after minute while you were flying at high speeds in the helicopter.

But, also, what stood out were -- we weren't that high. We were 500 to 750 feet. And you saw people just standing out in front of their houses forlornly. You could just tell how distressed they were.

And one thing I also thought of -- and you can relate to this, with all the stories that we have done over the last year-and-a-half since Katrina -- is knowing, when you saw the blue tarps on these people's roofs and the destroyed houses and seeing the people standing out there, knowing the insurance hell that a lot of them are going to through...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Yes, it's a long -- it's certainly a long road ahead.

FEMA, we -- as we said, the director is coming down tomorrow, going to tour around with the governor. And we're going to talk to the governor in just a little bit.

But, you know, 19 people is a horrible death toll. And it could go higher. But it is remarkable that that's all, considering -- I mean, we're talking about hundreds and hundreds of homes. I have heard estimates from 500 to 700 homes destroyed. When you see this kind of devastation, that -- it's amazing more people weren't killed.

TUCHMAN: I know it sounds maybe cliche to some of our viewers, but these people, so many of them are so lucky to be alive.

We just saw collapsed house after collapsed house, and not just mobile homes, upper-class homes, homes that cost $400,000 or $500,000 here in Florida...

COOPER: Right.

TUCHMAN: ... destroyed on the ground. And it was 3:00 in the morning. Almost everyone was sleeping. It's absolutely amazing that this death toll is not higher than 19.

COOPER: I know. Our last guest was lucky, watching TV. But, you know, at 3:00 a.m. in the morning, not a lot of people are actually watching TV.

Gary, appreciate your report. Thanks very much.

Perhaps you have been noticing the information that we have been showing at the bottom of the screen, numbers to call if you would like to help the people down here. You can also find a complete list on our blog. The address is CNN.com/360blog. Again, that's CNN.com/360blog.

The power of even the smallest tornado is staggering. We are going to take a look at that now, as well as the forces that drive them.

For that, let's turn to CNN's Reynolds Wolf in the Weather Center -- Reynolds.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Anderson.

This -- what we have been seeing here is very consistent with an El Nino pattern. And to -- to give you a better explainer of that, let's talk about El Nino very quickly.

And what that is, is basically an unusual warming of the ocean's water in the Pacific. And, when you have that buildup of warm water, it can wreak havoc with the southern and northern branch of the jet stream. The northern branch of the jet stream will keep a lot of that cold air to the north.

But the subtropical jet stream, well, what that can do is, that can enhance storms. On any given situation, when you have a cold front move through parts of Florida, with a lot of that moist air, you have a good chance of strong storms, a good chance of a lot of thunderstorm activity.

But, when you have the strong jet aloft, what that will do is, that will enhance lift. That's going to give it more energy, more of a boost to produce some of these strong storms. And this scenario is precisely what we saw around 3:00 this morning.

Take a look at this Google Map animation that we have for you, then also kind of lays out the path of this storm. It took nearly a 70-mile jog across parts of central Florida, the counties of Sumter, Lake, Seminole, even Volusia County.

Now, unlike the storms that you often see in parts of the Central Plains that's almost like a giant wrecking ball that will roll through the Plains, this storm was a little bit different. It kind of -- it made a touchdown. Then, it kind of hopped, skipped, and jumped through the area. You can see some of the widespread devastation on one corner of the screen -- and, again, very, very fortunate.

It's awful -- awful -- that 19 people lost their lives. But, with very little warning -- or no warning whatsoever -- it's a miracle that there weren't more fatalities -- Anderson.

COOPER: Reynolds, at this point, do we know how many tornadoes were involved in this storm?

WOLF: That's the million-dollar question. The National Weather Service, out of Melbourne, Florida, definitely thinks there were at least five tornadoes, maybe more. It is so hard to say right now.

We did have this one big tornadic system, this one large cell that really began to develop, began to rotate, say, around 3:00 this morning. It really made landfall near -- not landfall -- but made a touchdown near Lady Lake, that community, around -- I think around 3:30 this morning.

Very tough to say, but I would say at least five -- at least five.

COOPER: All right.

And Lady Lake is where we are coming from tonight.

Reynolds, thanks for that. We will talk to you a little bit later on in the program.

You may have heard it before, but the United States is the tornado capital of the world. Here's the "Raw Data" on that.

In an average year, about 1,000 tornadoes are reported across America; 80 people are killed, on average. And more than 1,500 people are injured. That's the "Raw Data" for tonight.

Just ahead, though: heroes of the storm and a father who risked it all for the love of a child.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Missing, presumed dead.

MARYANNE HORNER, NEIGHBOR: We didn't know what happened to Gene. When we came around the corner, it was devastating. And we kept saying, has anybody seen Gene?

COOPER: He lost everything but his life, the one thing he simply could not live without.

Also tonight: Early warning, who had it? Who didn't? And would it have made a difference?

We're "Keeping Them Honest" -- next on 360.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I'm deaf. I wear two hearing aids. And I don't wear -- and I take my hearing aids off at night.

And I heard the sound. And it got louder and louder and louder. And, then -- then, I knew right then, oh, my God, it's a tornado. And, then, next thing, you hear crash.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, the tornadoes were loud and destructive and deadly. Lake County, where we are tonight, took the brunt of the storm. There are 19 deaths so far reported. Lives were literally blown away, homes reduced to rubble. By the time our reporters and crews arrived, stories of terror were everywhere.

Here's CNN's Rusty Dornin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GENE BARTHAUER, TORNADO SURVIVOR: I see one of my jackets.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There was no place to hide, no safe place to go in Gene Barthauer's mobile home. So, when the tornado struck, he stayed right where he was.

(on camera): So, where were you when this happened?

BARTHAUER: That's my bed right there.

DORNIN: Oh, my God.

(voice-over): And, there, 86-year-old Barthauer stayed, huddled for 20 minutes, until neighbors came with flashlights.

His friends Rich (ph) and Maryanne Horner lived around the corner. When they discovered their house was OK, they came running.

MARYANNE HORNER, NEIGHBOR: We didn't know what happened to Gene. When we came around the corner, it was devastating. And we kept saying, has anybody seen Gene? DORNIN: When they got to the remains of his mobile home, Gene wasn't there. He had walked down to the clubhouse of the Lady Lake mobile home park.

From the air, it appears flattened. From the ground, it's not much better, sheet metal wrapped around trees like paper decorations.

Barthauer's clock marks the hour when his life here blew apart. Across the street, the only thing left from his neighbor's place is sand and a concrete pad, along with her couch and some other belongings.

BARTHAUER: The whole place just blew right over the top of mine, and along with her, and took it right across over...

DORNIN (on camera): And they found her somewhere over here.

BARTHAUER: Found her out in the field over there.

DORNIN (voice-over): One of two residents here believed to have died in the storm.

Barthauer has no insurance. It was canceled by the company last year. He says he never filed a claim for anything, and they didn't give him a reason. Now, out of this mess, he only wants to find one thing.

BARTHAUER: I'm looking for a Michigan jacket that my daughter bought me last Christmas.

DORNIN: So, with hammer and crowbar, they set to work. Soon, search-and-rescue crews come through, looking for survivors.

BARTHAUER: Oh, these -- these are all accounted for, all the way to the end. Does that look blue over there?

DORNIN: Then, they struck pay dirt, the closet.

BARTHAUER: There it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can see it?

BARTHAUER: Right underneath this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can see it.

DORNIN: Just another closet rack, and...

(CHEERING)

(LAUGHTER)

DORNIN: And then was the Handy Andy doll his granddaughter gave him, but not much else.

BARTHAUER: My life here -- I think my life here is gone. I don't -- I wouldn't -- I don't think I would rebuild here. I have got a place in Michigan on a lake.

DORNIN: A man with a place to go, but not much to take with him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: And there are many, many more stories of survival.

I'm Rick Sanchez here in Atlanta.

Apparently, we're having a little bit of a technical difficulty with Anderson Cooper. But we're guaranteed by some of the technical people that we are going to get back to him in just a little bit.

And what we have coming up are more stories of survival from what has happened on this day in central Florida. We will take you back in just a little bit.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN MCCARTHY, WESH REPORTER: The destruction we see here is just beyond words: homes completely destroyed, moved off their foundation. You can't even tell that there were some homes in this area -- trees uprooted, cars flipped over. It's like out of a horror movie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Welcome back to A.C. 360.

I'm Rob Marciano in Lake County, Florida, where hundreds of homes were damaged. Some completely collapsed. So, you can imagine that, when a home is -- collapses, when a tornado comes through, those first-responders are critical.

Well, today, we headed out with the Lake County Fire and Rescue Squad.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARCIANO (voice-over): The call came at 4:30 in the morning: A tornado had hit. There could be people trapped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can take your crew right through there.

One of the first to arrive, Lieutenant Charles Blinco and his elite special ops squad from the Lake County Fire and Rescue, found this. This was Blinco's first tornado call. But he's no stranger to tragedy. He went to the Gulf when Katrina blew through. There destruction today in Florida looked sadly familiar.

LIEUTENANT CHARLES BLINCO, LAKE COUNTY FIRE AND RESCUE: What you see here is what you had with Katrina over a much larger area.

MARCIANO: Blinco's Squad 76 searched what a few hours earlier were homes.

But the Sunshine and nearby Lady Lake mobile home parks were devastated, almost every home severely damaged. But, with no heavy equipment on site yet, they used the only tools they had, manpower. Moving sheets of metal, busting in doors, crawling through tight spaces, they hoped not to find the worst, a fatality.

After searching a home and finding no bodies, they marked it with an orange X, meaning all-clear. But, unfortunately, they did find some bodies. Three people died at Sunshine.

BLINCO: Now, unfortunately, you are going to find some people that have expired.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARCIANO: Special Ops Squad 76, again, part of the Lake County Search and Rescue Team, it's a 40-man elite -- elite group of guys that are specially trained to go in to collapsed buildings and safely pluck out hopefully survivors.

And they travel all around the world -- or the country -- in cases like this.

Could have been used in the house behind me. This was the home of an elderly couple, both of whom were buried under the rubble of -- of their roof, and -- and walls that were collapsed, as a tornado ripped through this brick-made home. The elderly man got out from under the rubble first. And then he was able to pull the walls and debris off his wife. And they -- they got out of there with just some scratches, a couple of bumps and bruises and some minor cuts, in an unbelievable survivor story.

Anderson is having some technical difficulties.

We will go up to Rick Sanchez, who is holding up the desk in Atlanta -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Let me ask you the question I think a lot of people are going to be wondering about, as they look at those pictures. And that is, how is it possible -- and you are there, so you can really give us an explanation of this -- how is it possible that only 14 people died here?

MARCIANO: You know, a lot of people are calling it a miracle.

When -- when you see -- when you see the -- the -- the aerial photographs, and -- and then you see it on the ground -- that number, unfortunately, is 19...

SANCHEZ: Right.

MARCIANO: ... which -- which -- which may very well grow. But that number is minuscule, when you think about how populated this area is, especially just north of here, and how strong this storm was, Rick. So, yes, in many ways, it's miraculous.

SANCHEZ: Thanks so much, Rob. We certainly appreciate that.

Well, about two dozen FEMA assessment teams are on the ground right now, surveying the damage.

Director David Paulison is going to be here tomorrow. A briefing is scheduled, we understand, for the morning in the Orlando area around 11:00. And CNN will, obviously, bring this to you as it happens.

Well, as we have been reporting tonight, Florida's new governor, Charlie Crist, has declared a state of emergency in four counties in central Florida. Three of those counties were also hit by tornadoes on Christmas Day. Back then, FEMA denied a request for federal help, a decision that the governor is now appealing.

It was just a month ago today that he was sworn into office, taking over, of course, for Jeb Bush -- today's disaster his first major test, really.

So, Anderson had a chance to sit down and talk to him about this just a little bit ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: You have toured the devastation area by air. You have been on the ground a lot.

What have you seen?

CRIST: Well, it's unbelievable. I mean, the devastation is like I have never seen before, Anderson. And I have seen a lot of hurricanes here in the state of Florida, serving as attorney general before serving as governor.

But the -- the concentration and the surgical strike of a tornado is something like you -- you don't experience in a hurricane, unless it's a Category 5 hurricane. You know, obviously, we had fatalities here today. Florida is suffering. But Florida is responding in -- in the way that she usually does. And an awful lot of people are working very hard to help out central Florida. And we're grateful for that support.

COOPER: The FEMA director is coming down tomorrow. Are you confident you are going to get the help you need from FEMA?

CRIST: We're very optimistic. I mean, I had a conversation with Director Paulison today. Also...

COOPER: And you talked to the president?

CRIST: And I talked to the president. Yes, sir, I did. And -- and both of them were very encouraging about getting Florida the support that we need in order to make sure our people get the kind of care that they deserve. And, so, I'm hopeful, after the tour tomorrow with the director from FEMA, we will get the kind of response and the kind of funding that we need to make sure our -- our citizens are taken care of.

COOPER: What's the number-one priority right now? Is search- and-rescue still going on?

CRIST: Well, to a degree, it is, yes.

But what we're trying to do now is make sure that the areas are secure. There are some curfews, obviously, throughout central Florida, to make sure that there is security, there isn't looting going on, that people aren't price-gouging in trying to get repairs done. I mean, people are trying to get back online, get power restored, try to get back to some sense of normalcy.

Obviously, they're suffering because of the fatalities. And our hearts goes out to those families that are suffering as a result of that. But we're -- we're trying to get Florida back to normal as -- as quickly as we possibly can in a compassionate way, so that we take care of our people.

COOPER: Do you think there could still be people trapped underneath wreckage? Are there still bodies out there?

CRIST: Well, it's possible, but we don't think it's that likely. As more time goes by, the less likely it becomes.

Each of our law enforcement have responded in a tremendous way. They have, you know, dogs out trying to make sure that there aren't additional individuals out there.

So we're pretty sure that things are settled in that regard. We certainly pray that they are.

COOPER: What about the warnings? A lot of people -- you know, there were warnings. The National Weather Center put out a warning. There was a warning on TV and radio. A lot of people didn't hear them. They were asleep. Is there anything -- there were no sirens in a lot of these places. Is there anything that can be improved upon?

CRIST: You can always do better. There's no question about it. The thing about hurricanes, you get incredible advance warning. The thing about tornados, you really don't, especially when they hit at, like, 3:30 in the morning. It's incredibly difficult to get the kind of advanced warning that would give people an opportunity to respond, or at least get to a safe place in the home.

COOPER: And are sirens just not practical? I read that someone said you can't have sirens in some of these counties because you're talking about such a wide swath of territory?

CRIST: Well, it's very difficult. You know, but we want to look at all these options. I mean, you know, I think the best way to approach any problem is look back at it, learn from it and do the best you can going forward. What we're focused on right now is not so much that, but making sure that people are safe, that they're secure, they're getting the health care that they need, the food and water and ice and other provisions they need.

COOPER: Was there one thing that really stuck out today in your mind, that you'll remember?

CRIST: The thing that struck out in my mind was the level of devastation. I've never seen it this severe. It's like a bomb went off in central Florida. It was just unbelievable. And we're doing everything we can to move forward as quickly as we can. We look forward to the help from our federal friends. And I can't compliment the local authorities enough for the response that they've given Florida today.

COOPER: A tremendous response from local folks all around, a lot of people just pitching in.

CRIST: It's remarkable. I mean, that's the most heartwarming thing of a disaster like this, is how people just turn out, and they want to help. And they're heroes all over Central Florida today. We're grateful.

COOPER: Thanks.

CRIST: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, in a moment, the church that fell and the congregation that could not be shaken.

Also tonight, this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Early warning. Who had it? Who didn't? And would it have made a difference? We're keeping them honest.

Also Iraq, blockbuster new intelligence report. What it says about the chaos and the chances of more American troops making a difference. That and more, ahead on 360.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And we are live tonight from Lady Lake, Florida, in the wake of killer storms, and we're "Keeping Them Honest". As we've been reporting the storms that devastated central Florida swept well before dawn when most people were still sleeping.

As the storms approached, the National Weather Service was issuing urgent warnings but unless you were awake or lived within reach of a warning siren, you were out of luck. Sounds unbelievable that in this day and age, sirens aren't everywhere. But there's a reason they aren't.

We asked CNN's Joe Johns to investigate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the warnings came, between 9 to 16 minutes ahead of the twister, almost everyone was fast asleep. There were no siren systems in places. Volusia County is deemed too large an area for such a system to be effective.

Warnings did go out to radio and TV stations, and the language was dramatic, the weather service advising that persons in the path of this dangerous storm should take cover immediately. Heavy rainfall may obscure this tornado. Take cover now. If you wait to see or hear it coming, it may be too late to get to a safe place.

And then it hit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got off the bed, down beside the bed, and it was happening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We thought we were going to die.

JOHNS: "Keeping Them Honest", it's still too early to start picking apart the warning system and whether improvements could have been made that would have given people a better chance to get out of the tornado's path.

But what seems clear already is that people in the affected areas who had NOAA Weather Radio in their homes clearly had an advantage. The radios emit a tone and deliver a forecast when severe weather is coming.

DENNIS FELTGEN, NOAA METEOROLOGIST: On these short fuse situation such as severe thunderstorm or flood or a tornado warning, these radios will go off with an alarm the instant that warning is issued. And that is going to roust you out of bed in the middle of the night. I don't care how sound a sleeper you are, you're going to hear it.

JOHNS: Florida authorities say the pre-dawn death and destruction proves people living in tornado zones need the radios.

BEN NELSON, STATE METEOROLOGIST: And if there's any more evidence that any of our state's families need for having a NOAA weather radio or all hazards radio, this is another example of having that device to warn you in the middle of the night when you aren't necessarily watching TV or listening to radio.

JOHNS: So how do you get one? It's not that hard. They start at about $20 at your local electronics store and guess what? The system is already designed to deliver warnings about terrorism.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Well, you heard from the governor tonight and local officials also earn their pay. For more on the situation here in Lady Lake, we're joined by Lake County deputy manager, Greg Welstead.

Greg, thanks for being with us.

GREG WELSTEAD, LAKE COUNTY DEPUTY MANAGER: Thank you.

COOPER: First of all, the official death toll is at 19 so far?

WELSTEAD: It is 19 at this point.

COOPER: Are there still search and rescue crews out there?

WELSTEAD: We have crew who will be continuing to go through the residents. One of the issues that is not typical of other areas, we've got a lot of transient people, people who are here for most of the winter but they may pop up to New York or Michigan. And we have to rely on the neighbors to identify whether they're actually here or not.

COOPER: One of the blessings, if there is anything good, is that because this only hit a certain air, local officials from all around, police, emergency personnel have been able to come, unlike with Katrina, where everyone was kind of strapped.

You've been in the emergency center all day, working with all those different groups. How is everyone working together?

WELSTEAD: Actually, we're working very well together. It's sort of a stroke of luck, too. Because today was the last day of the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association. All the emergency management directors for Florida were over in Daytona Beach, about 45 minutes away. They all pitched in, came over here, and we had excellent support from all the state and local authorities.

COOPER: What about the warnings? What can be done in the future? Because, obviously, this is -- it happened at the worst possible time, 3 a.m. People aren't watching TV. Some people like yourself, you had a radio that popped on. And some -- you know, a lot of people have those. But for those who don't, would sirens be practical?

WELSTEAD: Probably not, simply because Lake County is a fairly rural county. We've got some clusters of large population centers, but most of it's rural. And it's just going to be difficult for people to hear a siren, particularly at night.

COOPER: What about Reverse 911?

WELSTEAD: We are in the process of doing Reverse 911. I'm hoping it will be -- I think it's online in...

COOPER: How would that actually work?

WELSTEAD: The way our system will work is that we would put in an emergency notice or whatever it might be, and the 911 system automatically dials residents in that area.

For something like this, where it was sudden, and you know, we weren't sure exactly where it was going to go, I'm not certain it would have been any good.

COOPER: Right. In the next 24 hours, what's the priority, and what's the priority right now overnight?

WELSTEAD: Well, the priority right now is securing the individuals' property that's out there. We've got a number of areas that are under curfew, to ensure that looters don't come in. I don't -- I haven't heard any reports of that. But we've got deputies and police officers on scene.

COOPER: What about power? How many people without power right now?

WELSTEAD: I believe, the last I had heard, it was in the thousands. That's as I drove up here. It's obviously a lot of the people that we thought were out of power currently have it. And I see as we were driving up here, too, we've got power crews working all over -- all over the area.

COOPER: What should people watching around the country know about what's happening here right now? What do you want to tell people?

WELSTEAD: Well, Lake County is -- we're doing everything we can at this point. The local municipalities, the federal government, the state government, they're all here helping as best we can.

COOPER: Do you need help from FEMA?

WELSTEAD: Actually, we've got FEMA on site. They were out this afternoon and will be tomorrow and over the weekend with our crews on site looking at individual areas to make sure that we have enough supplies.

One of the things that we're particularly interested in, because a lot of this was -- happened on private property, FEMA normally doesn't allow us to clean up and receive reimbursement for private property. So many people here have lost everything, and it's our obligation to go in there and help them.

COOPER: Right. Well, Greg, appreciate all your efforts so far. I appreciate you talking about it. I know it's been a busy day for you.

WELSTEAD: Hopefully, you will come to Lake County on a better day.

COOPER: I would like to. Definitely will. And I know it will be a hard night ahead for you, so thanks for the time to talk to us.

Just ahead, if you want more information how you at home can help folks down here, you can go to the 360 blog, CNN.com/360Blog. Got a lot of information there.

Just ahead there tonight, a new and sobering report on the violence in Iraq and why the authors say maybe it may be worse than a civil war.

Plus, people who lost their homes and also their church, a spiritual home reduced to rubble and some memories. One congregation's story, ahead on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Some of the devastation and destruction here in Lady Lake, Florida, 19 people so far known to have died in this county alone. We're going to have much more ahead on the devastation here in central Florida.

But first, some of the other major stories of the day. Starting with Iraq and a sobering report from the National Intelligence Council. Parts of its 90-page National Intelligence Estimate were declassified today. And the message from the 16 spy agencies that contribute to the report is clear.

Conditions are getting worse faster than ever, and civil war may actually be too mild a term to describe the conflict.

With the report -- a look at the report, CNN's Ed Henry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The report suggests the violence in Iraq will only get worse, and hopes of political reconciliation are fading fast.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, FORMER ACTING CIA DIRECTOR: The situation is deteriorating and continues to deteriorate at an accelerated pace.

HENRY: The White House responds the situation is so desperate, the president's plan for increasing troops needs time, though aides admit that might not work either.

STEPHEN HADLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: The president made it very clear it's going to be hard, and there's no assurance for success. The president believes his strategy has a prospect for success. It's going to It be hard, the NIE says that. The president has said that.

HENRY: In fact, the National Intelligence Estimate challenges the president on key fronts. Though the White House continues to refuse to call the struggle a civil war, the report says that term does describe key elements of the conflict but does not express its full complexity, suggesting that it's worse than a civil war.

MCLAUGHLIN: This is more complicated than civil war. Civil war is checkers. This is chess. In fact, it's a multi-dimensional chess board. HENRY: The president has increasingly been pointing the finger of blame at Iran for the violence in Iraq. The report acknowledges Iranian support of Shia militants is intensifying the conflict, but it adds "the involvement of these outside actors is not likely to be a major driver of violence or the prospects for stability."

The report did bolster one argument the White House makes, that withdrawing U.S. troops would spark massive civilian casualties and a refugee crisis.

HADLEY: An American withdrawal or stepping back right now would be a prescription for fast failure and chaos that would envelope not only Iraq but also the region.

HENRY (on camera): CNN has confirmed that on Monday the White House will ask Congress for another 240 billion dollars over the next two years to fund operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing the total tab to over $600 billion.

Ed Henry, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We'll, we're going to have our "Shot of the Day" a little later, a different look at the immense power of these tornados that ripped across southern Florida. But first, CNN's Rick Sanchez joins us with a 360 news and business bulletin -- Rick.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good job out here, Anderson.

The world's leading climate scientists are meeting in Paris this week, and they're say that people are very likely to blame for global warning. The group released a report today. They said that global warming is probably going to continue for centuries.

But the researchers also say the worst case scenarios could be avoided by curbing greenhouse emissions. The worst could mean more than a million dead and hundreds of billions of dollars spent across the world by the year 2100.

To Massachusetts, where the state and Turner Broadcasting are now said to be close to reaching an agreement on restitution for the Cartoon Network's publicity stunt in Boston. The state is also considering dropping criminal charges against the two men accused of placing those devices believed to be bombs. Turner Broadcasting System is the parent company of CNN.

On Wall Street, mixed day for stocks capped a strong week. The Dow Jones was down 20 points. The NASDAQ rose 7.5, and the S&P 500 gained 2 1/2 points.

Also, the job market is off to a slow start in 2007. The unemployment rate is at a four month high of almost 5 percent. The government says there were only 110,000 jobs created in January, far fewer than expected.

I'll be here to back you up, Anderson. If you have any more of those technical problems, we'll cover you.

COOPER: Al right, Rick. Rick, thanks very much.

Here's our "Shot of the Day". It comes from Deland, Florida, via i-report. Alex Woods sends us this incredible photo he took of a tree that he spotted while driving around his neighborhood in the Hartoon (ph) area, as you can see. The tree was completely uprooted by fierce tornados.

Alex said there was no power in his neighborhood. He was able to upload the picture by using a generator to power his computer.

Alex, thanks for the effort. We appreciate it.

Coming up, a story of unspeakable destruction and unshakable commitment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Damaged beyond words. A house of worship leveled, a congregation wounded but not broken.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, the building is gone but the church is still there.

COOPER: Stories from the rubble, next on 360.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I went through three hurricanes sitting right here and I was scared, but nothing like this, nothing like this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Their homes are destroyed, but their faith is intact. That is the message from parishioners at the church in Lady Lake. Well, it was a church before the tornado hit. Still, services are planned for this Sunday, even though the building was reduced to rubble. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): It's hard at first to tell what you're looking that. This pile of wood and steel was, until early this morning, the Lady Lake Church of God.

(on camera) That was the steeple right over there. Completely collapsed. You really can't even see where the roof was. You can see the outer wall still remains. But there's very little that indicates this was a church.

(voice-over) All day parishioners stumbled amid the wreckage, stunned at the damage that lay about their feet. Pastor Larry Lynn still finds it hard to believe.

LARRY LYNN, PASTOR, LADY LAKE CHURCH OF GOD: People got married here and people had funerals here. There's all kind of things. I'm sure there's a lot of memories and a lot of things there that will sink in, in a day or two.

JOE KOWALSKY, PARISHIONER, LADY LAKE CHURCH OF GOD: This is my church, my family. These are all my people. It's just devastating to see where we spent all our time worshipping and praising him. And it's gone.

COOPER: In past hurricanes, the church was a sanctuary, a solid structure meant to withstand major storms.

(on camera) The church was built about 31 years ago, and they say it was built to withstand winds in excess of 150 miles an hour. Obviously, it didn't survive this storm.

ANNE MATTHEWS, YOUTH PASTOR, LADY LAKE CHURCH OF GOD: We found our pastor's Bible, the one he preaches out of every Sunday. We found that. And I have to say that was probably the most important thing.

COOPER (voice-over): They found a Bible, some hymnals, a flag of their faith. They did what survivors do, standing together, staying strong.

(on camera) Think you'll be able to rebuild the church?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. Yes. We're going to have church here Sunday.

COOPER: You're going to have church?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to have church on this ground on Sunday. You know, the building's gone but the church is still here. This is the church.

COOPER (voice-over): A sentiment echoed by the pastor, who despite the devastation all around him, is already planning his Sunday sermon.

LYNN: We'll rebuild and get it together and be out on this lawn Sunday morning celebrating Jesus Christ, and we invite you to come and all your friends out there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Everyone is welcome.

During the show, we've been showing you numbers of various agencies you can contact if you want to help the people here. You can also find a complete list of organizations on our web site, CNN.com/360blog. That's CNN.com/360blog.

For the latest on the killer storms, you can also tune in tomorrow for a special "AMERICAN MORNING". Soledad O'Brien is going to be live in Lake County. That's Saturday starting at 7 a.m. Eastern.

But we have much more in the hour ahead. Our coverage continues. In the next hour, it is hard to imagine but tornados can do even more damage than this. We'll take a look at some of the world's worst.

Also, the full scope of the story from the air.

A break first. You're watching 360, from Lake County, Florida.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Stories of loss and survival. Tornado terror. The very latest, next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The terror came in the night, for many almost without warning. Now comes the aftermath: digging through rubble, burying loved ones, rebuilding lives.

We're in Lady Lake, Florida, one of the first towns hit by a line of storms and as many as five tornados that cut all the way from here to the Atlantic coast.

One person described it as a huge explosion. That's how it sounded to some people. Others said it was like a freight train in their living room. This is one of the homes that we just stumbled upon.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com

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