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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Hurricane Charley: Storm Headed Towards Charleston, S.C.

Aired August 14, 2004 - 07:59   ET

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


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: From the CNN Center in Atlanta, welcome to this special edition of CNN SATURDAY MORNING. It is August 14, the day after. Good morning, I'm Drew Griffin.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Betty Nguyen. Not a good morning for a lot of folks, especially in Florida. We want to thank you for joining us. The focus this morning of course Hurricane Charlie. So let's get right to it.

Hurricane Charley right now is marching at a steady clip up the Atlantic coast towards Charleston, South Carolina. Landfall is expected within the next couple of hours. We'll have a live report from Myrtle Beach in just moments.

Dawn in Punta Gorda broke with an eerie silence. The tiny community took the full force of the hurricane. Authorities fear they will find dozens of fatalities amid the wreckage. CNN's Anderson Cooper reports the main hospital has been knocked out of commission and patients are being taken to other facilities. We have a live report from Punta Gorda also ahead.

Well, Charley's wrath can be felt far beyond the immediate impact of the storm. More than 2 million Floridians are without power today. So many poles and power lines are down across that state that emergency workers have not been able to assess the damaged areas.

President Bush declared Florida a federal disaster area even as Charley was still tearing up parts of the state. The National Guard has also been mobilized. Many of South Carolina's coastal areas have already been evacuated. Keeping you informed, CNN, the most trusted name in news.

GRIFFIN: Back in Florida, authorities fear several people killed in the town of Punta Gorda. It's on Charlotte Bay. It took the brunt of this storm. It's north of Fort Myers, south of Tampa.

Now our John Zarrella in the last hour reported that body bags had been ordered, 60 of them. Unclear yet how many will be used. John is now on the phone with us.

Now, John, what can you tell us the latest there from the scene?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. I followed up with the emergency manager, Wayne Sallade, just a little bit ago. And Mr. Sallade was saying, again, that he decided on that number just as a precautionary measure to make sure that he had enough, but two refrigeration trucks did arrive at the same time. He has no idea at this point the number of fatalities that he has. He said that he does have sheriffs' deputies out at areas around the county where there are known fatalities, standing by there until they can get the search-and-rescue teams in to actually go in and find other bodies that may well be there.

But, again, he emphasizes that he doesn't know exactly the number. He knows there are fatalities. He says that this was his Andrew, referring, of course, to the 1992 devastating hurricane. He said that the damage here is, in his words, "catastrophic." The hospital, as you mentioned, as Anderson Cooper reported, is knocked out. Wayne Sallade, again, saying that two other hospitals in this area also severely damaged.

As we are driving through Punta Gorda right now, we are seeing a continuation of much the same damage. It's scattered throughout the community, buildings demolished, power lines down, trees down everywhere, people wandering around assessing the damage. Some places appearing to have fared much, much better than others, but, Drew, clearly, a very, very devastating situation here in Punta Gorda, and the emergency manager saying that they are getting the help they need. They are getting emergency services from all over the state already coming in. So they are quite confident that they will be able to handle the situation here in Punta Gorda.

Drew?

GRIFFIN: John, is there any sense of anger at the reporting of the predictions on this hurricane's track and how it literally cut off people from a possible evacuation until it was too late?

ZARRELLA: Well, I talked to Wayne Sallade about that. And he said that, you know, this was the worst case scenario. The scenario they practiced for. The one that the hurricane forecasters have predicted, that you have a hurricane off the coast, it rapidly intensifies as it nears the coast, and then suddenly takes that turn into the coast. And he said that they gave the people -- he was almost in tears when he said, "We told these people some 20 to 24 hours ahead of time to get out of those mobile homes." They were ordered to evacuate, and he says, there's just nothing they could have done to prevent what had happened, because the people just didn't leave, the ones that are trapped in these mobile homes.

So, again, they practiced for these scenarios. They know that hurricanes can do this. And this is exactly what happened. It was a worst case scenario. And people did not heed the warnings that they were given to get out.

Drew?

GRIFFIN: All right, John Zarrella on the scene of a developing tragedy there in Punta Gorda, as they begin to search and have found, apparently, bodies amidst the rubble.

NGUYEN: Hurricane Charley is still moving outwards, or inwards, we should say, at this hour, now. It went out to the Atlantic Ocean. Now it's headed back inland. We want to talk to Rob Marciano here at CNN at the weather center here with the latest on the storm.

What do you see so far?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, it seems like the folks in Myrtle Beach are high-tailing it out of there after they saw what it did to Florida and the residents there that chose not to leave, and probably they should have.

Hey, here it is. Just to the south and west, or south-southwest of Charleston. It still has winds of 85 miles an hour, and, if any, it's gotten a little bit better organized. Already the rain bands beginning in Charleston up to Georgetown in through Myrtle beach and Wilmington, and eventually into the outer banks of North Carolina again, a place that gets a lot hurricanes. They already had one last week in the form of Alex.

Here's a NEXRAD Doppler radar sight out of Charleston, the eye wall right about there. So, yes, less than 100 miles out there. And this particular part of the high wall, not only heavy rain but winds certainly at least of hurricane strength, if not 85 to maybe even 100 miles an hour. But most of the action -- most of the strong stuff is off to the north and to the east. And that's why, when this thing came onshore, across Port Charlotte, they were right in the right-hand quadrant, and that's where the max winds are, to 100 and -- at the time -- 45 miles an hour.

Max winds though now only down to 85, so that's good news. North-northeasterly movement at about 25 miles-an-hour, and that will bring it to the shoreline of Charleston or just to the east and north of Charleston, South Carolina, in the next two to three hours, and then it will strew across parts of North Carolina, and eventually up into Virginia, decreasing rapidly in intensity as it does so, but it will bring a fair amount of rain and a threat for tornadoes will exist. We had seven reports of tornadoes across the state of Florida yesterday, on top of the happy rain, and on top of the straight-line winds there.

Orlando had 105 mile-an-hour wind gusts. Rainfall, good news yesterday, as these are rainfall totals. The brighter colors indicates about three inches of rainfall. It could have been a lot worse as far as flooding goes. So if there's a bright spot here, Drew, that is is that the flooding not as bad, but I mean, the winds -- the pictures that we're getting right now are just amazing. And I'm (UNINTELLIGIBLE) so I'll just toss it straight back to you.

NGUYEN: Devastating, nonetheless. All right. Thank you, Rob. Now we want to get an official fix on this storm from Ed Rappaport. He is at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Good morning to you.

ED RAPPAPORT, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Good morning.

NGUYEN: We just looked at Rob's forecast. If you could, and I know we're predicting the unpredictable, but as best you can, do you know how forceful this storm will be once it hits the Carolinas?

RAPPAPORT: Yes. We're just about three hours or so from landfall in the Carolinas. The center of Charley is about 30 miles or so to the south of Charleston. It's moving a little bit to the east and north. So the worst of the weather is going to pass by, then, to the east, up towards Myrtle Beach and Wilmington. And we would suspect that the winds will come ashore there about 85 miles per hour as the highest, maybe some gusts to 100 miles per hour, and there will be a storm surge of about four to seven feet.

NGUYEN: So, is that, what, a Category 1, Category 2?

RAPPAPORT: That's Category 1. There are a few more hours for possible strengthening. But category one looks the most likely now.

NGUYEN: But nothing like the Category 4 that folks in Florida saw yesterday?

RAPPAPORT: That's right. This is not nearly as strong, but there is going to be concern along the coast from those winds and surge, and then inland with the flooding and some isolated tornadoes.

NGUYEN: What are you advising folks in the areas right now, in the Carolinas, to do, as they prepare for Charley, which is headed their way?

RAPPAPORT: The most important thing is to follow very closely the recommendations of their emergency management officials.

NGUYEN: Absolutely. Because, yesterday, many folks in Florida, a lot of them appeared to be caught off-guard. I know you say there was a blanket warning along the coast, but a lot of folks, especially in the mobile home parks, there in Punta Gorda, experienced extreme damage.

RAPPAPORT: That's right. There were warnings and watches up. There was a hurricane watch up for that area about 41 hours in advance and a hurricane warning 23 hours in advance. And that's pretty close to what we shoot for. But having a major hurricane is a rare event, and people weren't necessarily experienced with this kind of a hurricane. So, in some cases, this is not too surprising.

NGUYEN: We're looking at Charley today as it heads inland, but there's also another storm brewing. Tell us a little bit about that. It seems to be going in Charley's path as well.

RAPPAPORT: Well, we're a long ways off for that. There are a couple more storms in the Atlantic, as we might suspect for this time of year. Both are, at least, a couple days away from landfall, and that landfall would be down in the Caribbean. The United States does not have a direct threat for at least five days to a week.

NGUYEN: All right. Ed Rappaport, stay on top of it. We thank you.

RAPPAPORT: Thank you. GRIFFIN: Hurricane Charley barreling in now on Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and that is where our David Mattingly, our reporter is right on the beach right now.

David?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Drew, the winds are picking up here by the hour. And if the forecasts are true, we could be seeing tropical storm-force winds hitting here within the next couple of hours. And if Hurricane Charley is still a category one hurricane by the time it gets here, those hurricane-force winds could be hitting around noon.

I want you to look at the surf behind me. You can see it's pretty choppy right now, but strangely enough, no one is expecting this to be a problem, because Charley could be coming ashore after low tide today. So the storm surge is not expected to be much more than five or six feet, and not expected to cause much of a problem. They're looking for problems from this storm from the wind and from the rain.

If there are any true problems, any sort of casualties to report, the officials here want them to be strictly economic in nature. And, already, you can see, just take a look down this beach. This should be crawling with tourists right now, this, supposed to be the last big tourism weekend of the summer. The beaches absolutely deserted this morning. The Grand Strand, as it is called, full of towering luxury hotels completely empty today.

One hundred and eighty thousand people listening to the governor of South Carolina when he issued a mandatory evacuation yesterday evening. People packed up their cars and hit the road, clogging state highways for a time, but everyone able to get out ahead of this storm. The concern right now is for the local residents, the hurricane veterans, if you will, who might be tempted to go outside and experience this storm, because it will be a day time storm. They want people to remember what happened in Florida, to stay inside, hunker down, stay inside at least from noon until 4 when this storm is expected to pass through.

Drew?

GRIFFIN: David, thank you for that report. The reason that so many people in South Carolina might be taking heed of the governor's warning is because of what has happened in Florida, specifically, Punta Gorda, Florida. We're using all of our resources to show you the damage. We're going to have a report now from Warren Elly of affiliate WTVT.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARREN ELLY, WTVT REPORTER: The path of destruction stretches from miles and miles, just south of the Charlotte-Sarasota county line. Entire neighborhoods trashed, pieces of roofs strewn for miles along the interstate. This is testament to the strength of the tornadoes that came through with the hurricane. This overhead sign at the Peace River bridge, blocking two lanes of I-75. Huge tractor trailer trucks were no match for Charley's tornadoes and winds, but nowhere was the damage more total than here at Charlotte County airport in Punta Gorda. Two dozen planes destroyed, and a dramatic tale of survival from people who sought shelter here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's indescribable. You just pray that the wind drops, because we don't seem like we could have taken another five minutes.

ELLY: Six of them took shelter in this office trailer inside another building. Fortunately, it was tied down. As the planes were tumbling like toys, they were scrambling to an interior room in the trailer with mattresses and prayers for protection.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we rode it out, and it was really the most incredible experience. It was really horrid. I mean, can you imagine ever having gone through something like that? The whole trailer was vibrating, and it blew out all the doors, the end of the building, the metal was flying everywhere. It was just unbelievable how it was just vibrating. We just didn't really think this would hold.

ELLY: Did you think this was it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. We really didn't think we'd make it through this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: We are going to switch live to WTVT is reporting from Lake Wales. This is northeast of Tampa, between Tampa and Orlando. Let's listen in.

RANDY POWERS, WTVT REPORTER: ... just making their way around here, guys. And it's truly overwhelming. Like we said before, the Lake Wales airport is completely destroyed. Every single hangar, every facility there was destroyed. We landed there moments ago, and I talked to one of my mechanics who works on Sky Fox, Tim, and he was saying that, when it was coming this way, he was in a mobile home. He left the mobile home, started putting his stuff in a storage unit. The storage unit was destroyed. His mobile home was OK. He took his family to the National Guard armory at the Lake Wales airport and the armory itself was completely destroyed. And they actually had one safe room in the armory. And he said there was about 100 people or so that made their way into the armory, into that safe zone, and that they were just surprised about the amount of damage that would happen and they were just (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and like it was a war zone. You know, there's nothing you can say. These people were truly lucky they made it inside to what they did. Reporting in Sky Fox, this is Randy Powers, Fox 13 news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, Randy, thank you. And more pictures... GRIFFIN: Live coverage from WTVT in Tampa as we try to bring a big picture of the wide devastation of Hurricane Charley from all of our affiliates and our reporters across the scene.

NGUYEN: There's devastation all over the area, in parts of Florida, as we want to continue to bring you some more video of that. Here's a look at some video yesterday, I'm being told. Trees being blown about along Florida. We understand Punta Gorda received the brunt of the damage. A death toll has not been determined just yet, but we understand the emergency organizer there says he has ordered 60 body bags so far. So the news is very devastating out of Florida this morning. Throughout many parts of Florida, in Orange County, Florida, we understand that there is 163,000 people without power, but the good news there is there is no loss of life or no major injuries in that area.

And as we just saw in Lake Wales, which is between Tampa and Orlando, in that live report, the airport has been destroyed in that area. So, as you can see from this video, and from all the reports all morning long right here on CNN, an extreme amount of damage in Florida, thanks to Hurricane Charley, which is headed inland once again.

GRIFFIN: More live coverage from Florida, North Carolina and other parts of this storm's path when a special edition of CNN SATURDAY MORNING returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: Hurricane Charley also spawning tornadoes. This is the scene in Florida, Orlando, Florida. More live coverage along the path of Hurricane Charley on this special edition of CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

Rob?

MARCIANO: Drew, one of seven tornadoes that touched down yesterday. That is a problem with these systems, especially to the right, and it is still a hurricane. And because of that, we have a tornado watch out for much of the Carolina coastline, both north and south as this thing scheduled to make landfall over the next two to four hours across South Carolina. A complete forecast track coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CLAIRE METZ, WESH-TV REPORTER: In the event they're just joining us, I think we have to reiterate the fact that we suspect many people could have died in this storm in Punta Gorda. It is a community of 15,000. There are many mobile home parks there and a lot of the folks, unfortunately, did not leave. Whether they should have or not will be speculated upon for weeks. But what about the numbers of people who could have been killed?

BOB KEATING, WESH-TV REPORTER: Well, Claire, and that's a good point. They have over 30 mobile home communities in this area. The good news is, this time of year, in August, a lot of them aren't here. Thank goodness for that. But the emergency management director told me earlier that they had more than 24 hours warning to get out, and he blamed the loss of life on a couple of things. The fact that so many of these models had the storm going much further north into Tampa Bay, and the fact that they haven't had a really big hurricane come through here since Donna, we mentioned, back in 1960. And people just decided this one will miss us, too.

METZ: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the governor is headed your way, leaving Tallahassee airport shortly. So much more from you in the next coming hours. We continue our coverage in the aftermath of Hurricane Charley.

RAOUL MARTINEZ, WESH-TV REPORTER: Now whether there was a lack of respect for the hurricane, not believing it was going to hit or, as the governor mentioned yesterday, hurricane amnesia. A lot of folks just maybe didn't remember the last time one hit or the last time one did this kind of damage.

METZ: And we have to point out they were 75 miles south of what they thought the center was supposed to be. They probably felt like they were fairly safe, although mobile home communities are always very, very tricky to stay through.

MARTINEZ: And they still got the word to evacuate, but they just took a gamble.

METZ: I don't know. You hate to find fault anywhere, especially if it's the kind of devastation and death we hope against, but unfortunately, believe is likely.

MARTINEZ: And as we mentioned also, you know, just 15,000 folks live in Punta Gorda. But we do know 30 mobile home communities in that small town, a lot of retirees, I'm sure, so...

METZ: Let's talk about power in the Orlando area. Sheraton Becks (ph) been kind enough to stay with us, Sheraton (ph) representing OUC (ph), and we heard earlier...

NGUYEN: ... WESH television reporting on the damage out of Orlando and Punta Gorda this morning.

President Bush has declared the state of Florida a major disaster area. In the Fort Myers area alone, a local appraiser estimates 250,000 buildings, homes and churches are damaged. For more now, here's Jay Gray of NBC news.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAY GRAY, NBC NEWS: A testimony to its strength, Hurricane Charley ripped the roof from this mail center in Fort Myers. The category four hurricane attacked the southwest Florida shoreline, 145 mile-an-hour winds tossing trucks and planes like toys. Twisting road signs and dropping power lines, more than 300,000 people were without electricity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a lot worse than I expected. GRAY: A severe gust sheared the roof and wall from this shelter in Desoto County where more than 1,000 had gathered for safety, but instead were forced to scramble to survive. The storm mangled everything in its path.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think I've ever been so scared in my life.

GRAY: Really?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When those winds got up there it sounded like there was 1,000 guys marching up on our roofs.

GRAY: There is still no clear indication of the extent of Charley's damage, but there's no question that thousands will never forget the most intense storm ever to strike this part of the state.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: Of course, we will continue to show you all the damage throughout Florida this morning as long as -- as well as covering Hurricane Charley as it heads towards the Carolinas. So you want to stick with CNN for the latest on all this coverage.

GRIFFIN: We want you to take a look at pictures of Hurricane Charley. It was category one when it passed through here, this is Daytona Beach.

NGUYEN: So far, no reports of fatalities is in this central Florida city. We will have more of our live special coverage of Hurricane Charley when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: No doubt it has been a very busy morning as Charley continues to pack a punch. We want to see where Charley is right now. And for that we go to Rob Marciano.

Good morning.

MARCIANO: Good morning, Betty. Good morning, Drew. We'll take you across where this thing went and where it's headed. Just to give you the review here, there's the eye, there's central western Florida. A category four and then ripping right across Florida quickly. That's the good news. They didn't have a whole lot of flooding from excessive rainfall because of that, but obviously, the winds did most of the damage.

Here it is now. Center of it right about -- let's see. Right about there, it's just less than 100 miles south of Charleston, and obviously heading towards the Carolinas, already getting some rain bands with some squally weather in through Myrtle Beach and up towards Wilmington. As a matter of fact, Wilmington and the outer banks may very well see the brunt of this storm, much like Port Charlotte and the Punta Gorda area. There to the right of this system, that's where you see the strongest winds because you couple in that forward motion which now is at 28 miles-an-hour. So it's moving rapidly.

And, on top of that, we do have tornado watches out there. There were seven tornadoes that touched down during the day yesterday, and because of that, because of what's to the right of this system, tornadoes a possibility, and that will be through the rest of the afternoon.

Drew and Betty, one other quick note. I want to keep you posted on this. Our next tropical depression could be a tropical storm by the end of today and it's kind of taking a similar origin, at least, as Charley. Nowhere near landfall for at least five days, but there's more out there where Charley came from. Back to you guys.

NGUYEN: All right. Thank you, Rob.

GRIFFIN: We want to get the latest from South Carolina. Our affiliate WCSC is what we're watching right now. We're going to listen in there in Charleston.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the storm as it moves mile-by-mile. Let me throw it back to, I guess, Bill. And questions from your end?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Bill, so right now, from now, I guess it's 8:30 until, what, 10 o'clock we're experiencing the brunt of this storm. Is that correct?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is absolutely correct. Right now, between now and say, 10, 10:30 we are feeling the brunt of the storm. Maybe a later along the north coast, because it is moving north- northeast at 28 miles-an-hour. So you just do the math, as we move into time, it's going to move rapidly to the north and be out of here in a very short amount of time relative to some storms that can inch forward and drop tons and tons of rain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So that is good news, Bill, I understand. So where are we now with the storm as best you can determine, Bill? It's off...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just to the our southeast I would say probably -- let me show you a live super Doppler real quick and I can kind of pinpoint it for you right there. Ignore what you're seeing right there. I'm just going to clear out a couple of things and show you here what it looks like. I'd say the center of the storm distance-wise from Charleston is probably around 30 miles, 29 miles to the south-southeast of us right there. As I zoom out a little bit you'll see the core of the actual winds, which are -- I mean, the center of the storm, which is right about down in here.

So I'd say around 29 miles to the south-southeast, probably just southeast now. And again, the heavy wind fields now moving on up into northern Charleston County, also up toward the Georgetown county line. And, as we move our way northward, up toward Myrtle Beach, we're looking at very heavy winds, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and northward up toward the Grand Strand. As the storm itself, the center of the storm, is still to the south. And that's kind of a good representation right there, if you look at that. The center of the storm, of course, right in here. And we're looking at these winds moving in this direction onshore pushing all that wind and water...

NGUYEN: All right. We're taking a look at WCSC as they prepare for Charley to hit the Carolinas. But we want to move you over now to WESH, which is in Volusia County. This is in Florida. They have a look at the devastation there. Let's listen in to their newscast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The real tough part was probably around 11 o'clock. We lost power about 11:30.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did it sound like? What were people doing? Where did you go? Did you stay away from the windows?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It sounded like a bomb going off. I mean, things were hitting the hotel, things flying through the air. That's what was the scary part. But everybody just kind of bunkered down, and thank God it wasn't any worse than what it was.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now that the sun is up, people are starting to come out, assess the damage. Kind of give people a feeling of what it's like out here, it's kind of eerie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it's a little quiet. You don't normally see the quiet around here as this. But I think after a day or two, it will get back to normal but there's a lot of damage, a lot of work to be done and we're just lucky that we made it through it all right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Thank you so much. Be safe. And of course, everyone is being asked to stay inside if possible. There are a lot of cars here. Some of these are emergency vehicles. These are damage assessment teams but a lot of looking going on right now. We can see a lot of glass in the street. We also had one unfortunate fatality this morning on Martin Luther King Boulevard. We've heard of one electrocution, a very sad situation there, still waiting to notify the family.

Also, a couple of injuries, one on the beach side, one in south Daytona. People have had reports of a possible tornado or a microburst that came through there last night tearing off roofs. We've also heard along U.S. 1 or Ridgewood in Port Orange, a lot of damaged homes, mobile homes just blown to bits. Of course, thousands of people staying in shelters last night. I heard a couple of people saying that the shelters were very accommodating, feeding them, taking care of them, had a pretty good restful night believe it or not, even though their homes were blown away. A lot of these mobile homes, people just getting back to them right now but again here on the beach side, quite a sight here where the Taco Bell, all the windows completely blown out, a lot of damage to the motels and certainly a lot of cleanup. Back to you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shannon, Eugene is shooting south I know, excuse me, north I know and that's the redevelopment area north of you. I wonder, what have you heard from those folks, the folks around the (INAUDIBLE)

NGUYEN: And that's a look at WESH television in Orlando as they assess the damage. We want to take you to the town that took the brunt of the storm from hurricane Charley. And for that we go to John Zarrella who is in Punta Gorda. What's the latest there, John?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now I am standing at a condominium apartment building that I mentioned to you folks a little earlier in the day that was devastated and there are - there is a search and rescue team, perhaps two dozen members from Hillsborough County just north of here. They are going door to door. They are using crowbars to break the doors open. I don't know if you can hear this or not, smashing doors with sledge hammers and crowbars, breaking into try and find out if there are people who are alive, if there are people who need to be rescued if there's anyone in these apartments at all.

Some folks we talked to earlier said they believe that everyone had gotten out of here, this particular condominium. But there are literally, there are dozens and dozens of them. They are going absolutely door to door and knocking and if they don't hear something, they're breaking the doors down. There is a cadaver dog here as well, one of the dogs that these teams employ to look for victims who may be dead. The dog is standing by with its handler.

Now earlier we -- you probably hear that banging a little bit. We had heard from Wayne Sallade, who is the head of emergency management here saying that he had ordered 60 body bags. He's hopeful he will not need that many, but it was a precautionary measure. He knows he has a number of dead here in Punta Gorda. The exact number at this point or any real number is impossible to gauge, but he also said that there were thousands of people homeless, hundreds of people that have injuries of one sort or another and hospitals, three of them in this area pretty well damaged.

The main hospital completely being shut down right now and Mr. Sallade telling us that the sustained wind gusts there of 173 miles an hour was the wind gusts that they reported at the hospital before the anemometer blew off. Again, search and rescue teams hammering door to door here, opening doors to see if there are victims, if there are people trapped inside this condominium, which has been completely demolished.

NGUYEN: John, you talk about the condominium. Let's go back to the mobile home parks where we're thinking that that's where we're going to get most of the death toll out of. We heard a little earlier that there is some 30 mobile home parks in that area. Are you seeing a lot of destruction in those areas?

ZARRELLA: We have not been able to get to the actual mobile home parks (INAUDIBLE) at this point, probably hear a helicopter flying overhead to see that (ph), but Wayne Sallade said he believes that the mobile home parks certainly had taken the brunt of it and the worst of it. Many people in those mobile home parks did not heed the evacuation warning and leave, and mobile homes were the ones that were ordered evacuated immediately, some 20, 24 hours before the storm. You probably can hear that hammering of the sledge hammers and the crowbars as they're opening these doors to these apartments to see if they can find people who may be inside, trapped inside or perhaps injured.

NGUYEN: Desperate situation there. John Zarrella. We thank you for that. Drew?

GRIFFIN: The residents of Florida's Gulf coast have been watching Charley for more than a day when it suddenly gathered strength and then turned toward land and here's how it unfolded as reported by some of our local affiliates there.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: We've heard the phrase rapidly deteriorating weather (INAUDIBLE). We wanted to kind of show you what that looks like from up here. These are the 60 or 70 mile-an-hour gusts. I can tell what you that sound was that you heard in the studio a few minutes ago. We lost a satellite dish up here and we're about to lose an antenna over there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: At the southern-most point waves crashed out of the ocean hitting anyone standing too close. It's a powerful sight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty crazy. I've never seen anything like it before. Never seen the waves come over the wall like that before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Down the street, debris crashed out of the water, carried by angry waves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've had some winds probably pushing 60 miles an hour. We've got a lot of breakers coming over our sea wall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About 50 miles south of the strike zone Craig and Bill (ph), before we get into some video I want to show you the breaks in the clouds over here. For the past hour and a half we've been experiencing a very violent feeder band, some very strong storms that went through here, 75 mile-an-hour winds, a lot of driving rain. This stuff hurts when it hits you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're here on Venice Beach, which is roughly about a half hour, 35 minutes north of Port Charlotte and right now the winds are picking up quite a bit. A rough estimate, maybe 20, 25 miles per hour coming out of the north. The rain is starting to get a little bit heavier. These are bands of the storm across us, behind us right now. You can see that they are moving fairly rapidly. Like I said, boy, 15, 20 minutes ago, there was hardly any wind here at all but now it's definitely picked up.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: Some of the reports from the reporters on the scene. We will be right back with more coverage of hurricane Charley, where it's been, where it's going, after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of hurricane Charley.

NGUYEN: You're looking at storm damage pictures from WTVT in Tampa/Port Charlotte. Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the light itself is all trashed out but the bulb is whole. The bulb isn't even cracked and you see this kind of random destruction everywhere you look. For example, back over here. You see this particular trailer, this home has, of course, a good deal of damage, but structurally it's still standing. Look at the one right next to it, absolutely trashed. Nothing left of this one. Saved the kitchen wall and the family's china. They're just now beginning to get some folks out here to try and clear the highways.

The big problem is a traffic jam as folks begin to come in here from the shelters. Another thing, Bill, that really surprised me. A lot of these folks said the shelters they were in were very frightening, that walls were moving, that glass was breaking and many of them didn't even think they'd make it in shelter. It was that serious. And we've seen very little in the way of police presence. Most of it has been convoys of ambulances as they're being forced to move patients up to Tampa. I know Tampa general is one of the hospitals they're moving to. They seem to be overwhelmed.

We saw for the first time a few minutes ago the presence of the National Guard. Three National Guard Blackhawks flying in formation, circling the area, obviously, doing aerial assessments. For all we know, there could have been some high officials aboard. We haven't heard whether or not the governor's flying with them or what. But nonetheless, we're beginning to see the beginnings of what's going to be a very long, very long, and tragic recovery here in the billions and billions, Bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tom here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's all right. As we listen to a couple of the interviews you had with residents there, we realize that this story is no longer as much about the storm or the damage left behind. This is a story about people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's very true, and I've said this before this morning and I can't really keep it out of my head. How close many of us came with the threats to our own homes back there in Tampa, and you can really empathize with these people, because we had that state of mind that as we left our homes yesterday morning, that we were perhaps seeing them whole for the last time. These people are having the same trauma but for real. And they keep telling us, everyone we see says, this was supposed to be your storm. Well, let's hope that the next one isn't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, Warren. Thank you very much, Warren.

Parts of Polk County also took a pounding. There was very heavy damage there this morning. Let's go live to Amani Channel to see what he has found for us. Amani.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know you guys have been seeing those aerials from the sky. Now we can show you some - what it looks like from the ground. We're here at the Lake Wales airport. This is just one of the buildings that has been devastated by hurricane Charley. This is the U.S., the Florida skydiving center here in Lake Wales. It's a complete mess. This is just one of the offices that has been devastated. This was actually where the pilots came in. They were scheduled to actually do some skydiving this weekend.

The U.S. national skydiving team is in town. They have canceled all those. Of course, this place is out of business. You can see wood, insulation, roofing is everywhere. We're going to take a walk alongside. I'm just going to give you a little tour here of what things look like. This is actually the hangar that we're approaching right now. You can actually see, Alison (ph) can show you, this is a plane that was inside. They say that this plane spun 360 degrees because of all of the wind from hurricane Charley as the roof was blowing off, as the winds were blowing this evening.

Now as well as it being the Florida national hurricane - I'm sorry, the Florida skydiving center, there were several other businesses inside of here. There was a restaurant. There was a movie theater. There was a gear business that sold skydiving equipment. All of that is a complete mess now. They say they don't know how long it's going to take them to clean up. They say that's their mission now. Over here to this side you can just see, the roof has collapsed. The structure is completely a mess.

Now this isn't the only place that was destroyed. The actual Florida National Armory, the National Guard armory is here. One of the skydivers actually spent the night here. He spent part of the night there. He decided instead to sleep in his car because he said the walls were shaking. He didn't feel safe inside. Unfortunately, there were no injuries but it's certainly a mess. The cleanup's going to take a long time. Now the owner of (INAUDIBLE) says this is completely devastating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had things closed down and sealed up as best we could. So there was some preparation. A lot of things -- anything loose was picked up. So we did good basic preparation. But with the basic damage that's been done here, it's too much wind to -- for anything to hold it back. It took off the ends of buildings and very severe. So --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, they say that this building, this airport was actually in the northeast corner of hurricane Charley's eye. You can see what happened here. Of course the sight is similar around all of Polk County. Anything that is south of 60 and east of 17, there's tremendous damage here in Polk County. The cleanup process is going to take a long time. Now the EOC (ph) tells me that they have three hurricanes that are currently assessing the damage. They're going to try and take a look and see what - how bad the area is and they will of course start their clean up mission this weekend. But it is going to be a long time to get things cleaned up here. We're live in Polk County, back to you guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amani, when we cover storms, we're used to seeing things like that corrugated siding and so forth flying around. It looks like behind you we're actually seeing steel that looks like it's been bent like matchsticks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, it looks like - I mean hurricane Charley just completely destroyed this building. The roof is a mess. The metal is twisted. There's insulation everywhere. It's completely amazing that no one was hurt, that no one wasn't hurt in this storm, but certainly, you know, people, there's going to be a long cleanup process here. The owner says that he, of course has insurance. He's hoping to get some government assistance in getting things back on track here. We'll just have to see what happens. He hopes to be back in business however. Thank you guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amani, thank you very much. We appreciate it and we will be right back in just a moment.

GRIFFIN: That's WTVT. They are based in Tampa and surveying the damage from hurricane Charley all across the state. In fact, Polk County, northeast of Tampa.

NGUYEN: Charley is not done yet. Charley is headed inland once again. Hopefully the damage won't be as bad. We understand it's only a hurricane or a category one hurricane at this moment. Rob Marciano (ph).

MARCIANO: Hey, guys.

NGUYEN: Hi, there.

MARCIANO: Hey. Sorry. I'm on the phone with one of our weather vendors. You can just hang up. I'm going to do this weather. Yes, it's still a category one, Betty and Drew. It was a category four, as you know when it came through last night across Florida and then re- emerging into the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. Luckily, it hasn't strengthened to anything more than a category one at this point. It may do that, but it's running out of land.

It looks like it's going to make landfall somewhere in here again here in the next three to four hours, probably sometime -- actually sooner than that, more likely between 10:00 and noontime. Already starting to feel the effects of some rain and squalling weather and some gusty winds from Charleston up through Myrtle Beach and then Wilmington and Cape Hatteras will feel a good chunk of this storm as well as it continues to move its northward march at 28 miles an hour, really, really picking up some steam.

Here's a category one, what you can expect from it, as far as winds, 74 to 95 miles an hour. This particular one right about mid- range at 85 miles an hour, minor coastal flooding. It looks like this one will come on shore during low tide so that's good news. Limited structure damage. Category four, extensive structural damage, major coastal flooding and winds in excess of 125 miles an hour. So this a shell of what it was last night and that's good news. But you can also get tornadoes in these things, especially to the right of the storm. Florida saw seven tornadoes touch down yesterday associated with hurricane Charley.

Now there's a tornado watch box out. These are the Carolinas, here's Columbia, out towards Myrtle Beach and this red box shows the potential for tornadoes, a tornado watch box out until noon. It will probably be extended and then moved up the coastline. The eye is back down here, about, less than 100 miles to the south of Charleston and rain bands will continue to move in from time to time.

I want to keep you updated on Tropical Depression No. 5. By the way, we already have another tropical storm well off towards Africa. This is tropical depression five which will be heading towards the Caribbean over the next couple of days, nowhere near the U.S., Drew and Betty, but certainly something we're going to keep an eye on because where it's originating from is where Charley originated from and kind of taking a similar track. So hopefully we won't have similar results.

GRIFFIN: Rob, I want to ask you about hurricane Charley and that is the latest updates we have. How soon can we expect the next update to tell us about the strength of this thing, whether it's going to stay at one?

MARCIANO: It just came out at 8:00, so it's still a category one storm at 85 miles an hour. The next update will be in about three hours. Typically as they get closer to shore they give you a position update. So if it strengthens more, they'll let us know. But as of 8:00, it's still a category one storm at 85 miles an hour.

NGUYEN: And also residents in the Carolinas need to be aware that tornadoes can spawn from this as well.

MARCIANO: Right and obviously, tornadoes, you can get winds in excess of 100 miles an hour. A lot of times they're small tornadoes so we don't harp on them too much. We talk more about the storm flooding, the storm surge and the wind damage and the flooding from the rain. But what we saw from Bonnie and what we saw from Charley were some significant tornadoes that did damage in places like Orlando and Jacksonville. So it looks like the last couple of storms have dropped some tornadoes that were actually pretty significant. So that shouldn't be taken lightly either. Just because you're not going to get the extensive storm surge and straight line wind damage that they saw across Florida, any isolated tornado that drops down will certainly do a fair amount of damage as well. So a serious storm still as it makes its second landfall Drew and Betty, later on this morning across the Carolinas. We'll keep you up to date.

NGUYEN: Charley keep churning. OK. Thank you, Rob Marciano.

We invite you to stay here with CNN Saturday morning for complete coverage of hurricane Charley as we leave you with some storm damage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Good morning, and welcome back on this Saturday. I want you to take a look at this radar picture as Charley is not done, no, not at all. Charley is headed towards the Carolinas. We understand he's going to skirt across Charleston and then up into Georgetown and Myrtle Beach. We are continuing to follow Charley. Right now it appears this hurricane is just a category one. Hopefully it won't pick up too much power and speed before it hits the mainland. Drew?

GRIFFIN: From where it's going to and where it has been, it's going to be a while before the death toll and damage estimates from hurricane Charley in Florida are calculated. The storm hit Florida's west coast at 145 miles an hour and then moved northeast. Mike Walcher (ph) of CNN affiliate WINK surveyed the destruction in Punta Gorda.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE WALCHER, WINK REPORTER: We joined sheriffs deputies and firefighters in the Charlotte jail to ride out the storm. Winds roared by at 100 miles an hour. A violent, frightening experience, worse than any storm pictures you've seen. Anxious firefighters itched to get out and answer calls, but when we left, the damage stunned everyone. The winds moved huge dumpsters 100 yards and slammed them into cars. Large concrete block buildings disintegrated in the winds. The storm broke many power poles and downed lines.

The winds made toys of planes at the Charlotte County airport, crushing many in a jumble under collapsed hangars and twisted steel. The hurricane also lifted the roof right off the airport administration building. Later we drove to east Punta Gorda and saw the devastation in residential neighborhoods. A woman rode out the storm in this house. Another fled just before the winds destroyed her place. And Judy and Fred Hildebrand lost the roof on their house.

FRED HILDEBRAND: I'm just devastated. I just -- I can't believe it.

WALCHER: The Hildebrands say they survived by following a tip on WINK news from emergency manager Wayne Sallade. They pulled a mattress over themselves but they're having trouble coping with their losses.

JUDY HILDEBRAND: I'm very, very upset. There's no place to go. I --

FRED HILDEBRAND: We lost everything. We lost everything. Take -- go look in the house. There's nothing left. It's all under water, man.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: ...Walcher of our affiliate WINK reporting there from Punta Gorda.

NGUYEN: Many shelters were full in Florida last night as thousands looked for a haven from the hurricane. We track the powerful storm's progress when CNN SATURDAY MORNING returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Good morning. We are continuing to track hurricane Charley, which is still very much alive in the Atlantic Ocean. It's right now headed toward Charleston, South Carolina up the Carolinas. Folks there are bracing for Charley, which is right now just a category one storm. We're hoping that it won't get much more power than that. But also there are tornadoes that are related to these hurricanes, so many folks in the Carolinas are bracing for Charley as it heads inland this morning.

GRIFFIN: The hurricane stayed in Florida just eight hours but long enough to leave a lasting impression.

NGUYEN: We leave you this hour with these memorable images of Charley's wrath on Friday, the 13th of August.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to get worse before it gets better. Awesome force winds, as you can see, coming through.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty crazy. I've never seen anything like it before. Never seen the waves come over the wall like that before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very, very treacherous heading out now and there's going to be quite a clean up job come daylight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They came over here because it was going to be no problem and Charley pulled a fast one on a lot of us. Charley is here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's something that's going to have all of our attention for the next two days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Clean your house up, board your business up and survive the storm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See this building right here, this was an Ace hardware store, owned and operated by a local family and check it out. It was just torn apart by the wind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are buildings that -- this is a new facility that has just been reduced to rubble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, again, here at southwest Florida, we're taking a beating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've heard the phrase, rapidly deteriorating weather a lot this afternoon. We wanted to kind of show you what that looks like from up here. These are the 60 or 70 mile an hour gusts. I can tell you what that sound was that you heard. We lost a satellite dish up here. We're about to lose an antenna over there. The wind gusts here are fierce.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here in Jacksonville Beach things went from somewhat windy to downright hurricane conditions as you can see behind me. The street signs are being blown by gusty winds. I'm having trouble keeping my balance in fact.

And you can look across the street to some of the palm trees that are being blown around pretty well by a lot of this wind. But of course, this is just the beginning of it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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