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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Hurricane Charley: Life after Hurricane Charley

Aired August 14, 2004 - 18:00   ET

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


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Here's a quick look at what's happening now in the news. Hurricane Charley is now a tropical storm. But it was a category four hurricane when it slammed into Florida with wind gusts topping 180 miles an hour. Officials have confirmed five deaths there and say damage is in the billions of dollars.
No truce in Najaf, Iraq, where peace talks have broken down between Iraqi officials and supporters of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr. Iraq's chief negotiator says all efforts were exhausted and he announced military operations will resume in Najaf to restore order there.

Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani is in stable condition after a successful angioplasty heart operation. He is Iraq's most influential Shiite leader. His procedure was carried out Friday in a London hospital.

Keeping you informed, CNN, the most trusted name in news.

Hello, I'm Carol Lin and welcome to CNN LIVE SATURDAY.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess the closest thing you can think of is the Wizard of Oz, the scene where everything starts flying by. That's what we saw.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LIN: Life after Hurricane Charley. This hour, the survivors, the people still searching for loved ones and those who lost it all after one of the most devastating hurricanes in history. Joining me from the storm's ground zero, Punta Gorda, is Anderson Cooper.

Anderson, glad you made it safely from Tampa.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, it is a privilege for me to join you tonight from Punta Gorda. I say it's a privilege because this is a town, which has been broken, which has been battered, but which is still standing. And they are very proud of that tonight.

The people here have suffered greatly and there is much suffering tonight. There are thousands of people who are homeless. Everyone is without power. There is very little water. The people here are suffering greatly. But they also are determined, determined to continue, determined to rebuild and to remember and to survive. And they are doing that today and they are very proud of that indeed, Carol.

LIN: Anderson, we look forward to your first person coverage. Stay right there because we are going to have continuing coverage of the storm for the next several hours. CNN correspondents are stationed all along Charley's path to bring you live reports. John Zarrella has the latest from Punta Gorda. Gary Tuchman is standing by in Orlando and David Mattingly is in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

COOPER: Well, we begin right here in Punta Gorda. It has been just over 24 hours since Hurricane Charley then a category 4 hurricane slammed into the town. There's a helicopter passing overhead. All day long helicopters, relief helicopters, press helicopters, have been hovering over this town because it is from the air that you really get a sense of the devastation. And there is so much devastation here tonight. As I said before, thousands of people right now homeless, living in shelters or staying with friends. The hospital here in town says the injured were dragging themselves into the emergency room until the early hours today. I was at the hospital early this morning. They were actually evacuating the patients they had, trying to get them to other hospitals further north because the hospital itself was badly damaged in last night's storm.

CNN's John Zarrella has been with me all day long from before dawn talking with the people of Punta Gorda. He joins us now a little bit closer to midtown.

John, how's it look where you are?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Anderson, you know, today was a day really for the people here to come out and to start assessing what had happened, to start picking up the pieces. This is a community, a retirement community here, many elderly people here, many of the trailer homes that they live in were hit very, very hard. And the sense you get from what has happened and the people we've talked to is that everyone is just numb because there is so much, so much damage everywhere you look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZARRELLA (voice-over): The day after Hurricane Charley brought images that people of Punta Gorda hoped they wouldn't see but feared they would. Every block, every intersection, everywhere you looked there was destruction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's our Andrew. It may not be to the level of Andrew, but it's damn close. This exceeds any hurricane that has hit Florida since Andrew, certainly greater than Opal. It was far greater than Isabel last year along the East Coast. The destruction here is catastrophic. We have thousands upon thousands and thousands of homeless people this morning. The devastation in our beautiful city of Punta Gorda is extreme. We lost all three of our hospitals. Half of our fire stations were destroyed.

ZARRELLA: Trailer parks dot this retirement community. They were the hardest hit. Charley's winds battered the wood and aluminum homes to bits. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had planned to stay here. And the manager came and said, "It's not a good idea." I'm glad I listened. I'm glad he came.

ZARRELLA: Concrete block fared only a bit better. Using sledgehammers and crow bars, urban search and rescue teams broke down doors looking for survivors in this condominium complex. They found a handful of elderly people. They were OK.

In other parts of the city, the National Guard was called in to protect property. Governor Jeb Bush came here too to reassure the people.

GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: While this is a day of complete devastation and a real tragedy and there's a lot of sadness in people's hearts right now, I'm absolutely convinced that within a shorter period of time than what we experienced with Hurricane Andrew, people's hopes are going to be lifted.

ZARRELLA: Dave Greenly and his son William hoped for that help soon. They left their home to look for food, water and gasoline.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know what to do. There's nothing open, nothing to eat. I'm just trying to think how long we're going to go without electric, you know.

ZARRELLA: Here, the calm after the storm has brought with it for some sad sadness, for others relief.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZARRELLA: This is the condominium that we were referring to in that piece just a few minutes ago. And you can see there's an x on the side of the building there behind the police tape. The x there a marking from the search and rescue teamed that they had, in fact, looked through that building and had, in fact, condemned that building and the elderly that were in there were told they had to leave. Search and rescue teams -- folks telling us that that's what they do so that other search and rescue teams know that that building has already been searched, and, fortunately, no one was found in there dead and that the people in there were Ok, although they did have to leave -- Anderson.

COOPER: John, they've been very careful about talking about casualties. Have you heard anything from where you are about what kind of casualties we're seeing? And I talked to a nurse who said there were a lot of walking wounded, a lot of people with lacerations at the hospital this morning seeking help and yet, they were walking wounded. What have you heard?

ZARRELLA: Anderson, you know what we are hearing are the stories that are coming from people who just come up to us and say, you know, you need to go to this other trailer park. We had a woman just come up to us today, just a little while ago, and say east of here, west of Interstate 75, there's a trailer park demolished. There are homes demolished and nobody's been there yet. And you're hearing, I know, the same stories from people about where there may be victims, where there may be people. But officially, no, there's no official word, you know, other than the number we heard early -- very early this morning when the emergency manager told me that he had ordered 60 body bags just as a precautionary measure. He hoped he wouldn't need that many. He didn't think he would need that many, but he wanted to be sure that he had enough just in case. But no official word as to numbers. We know there are victims. We know there are people that are casualties of this storm, but officially, nothing -- Anderson.

COOPER: And that silence is deafening in some ways, John, as you know. I mean you and I both have been going to these mobile home communities all day long. We're in one right now. This is Park Hill. You can see this house behind me badly damaged. And literally every house on this street, the houses in front of me just destroyed. It is an eerie scene.

Before the hurricane struck, Punta Gorda, or Broad Point is what it's really known as, it was a comfortable community, a retirement community for many. Now there is silence. It is the silence of devastation. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: A lot of the people here in Punta Gorda ill tell you they didn't have much time to prepare. Yes, they knew the storm was coming, but they thought it was going to be heading north, heading toward Tampa. Just late in the afternoon though it changed direction, headed eastward and came straight for Punta Gorda. They only had a short time to get ready.

Some of these people you see on the road in these cars are returning to see if their homes are damaged, to see what kind of destruction the storm left behind. But a lot of them are just sight- seers and law enforcement are saying that's creating a big problem for them because the roads are actually jammed with people just slowly driving and surveying the damage. It's the last thing Punta Gorda wants.

You see scenes like this all over Punta Gorda today, some roofing material, which is wrapped around these -- the power lines. And the power lines are created big problems for authorities here who are trying to clean up and are trying to get to various areas. But some of the power lines are actually blocking neighborhoods. Search and rescue people are having a hard time actually getting to the neighborhoods to find out if there are any people there in need.

Wherever you go, you find people's possessions just strewn all about. There's a rake and a broom. Here's some liquor bottles. The bottle survived. It's so extreme. Some things make it through the storm. One house will be fine. The house next door will be completely destroyed. There's a golf cart.

Communities like Punta Gorda have experienced explosive population growth over the last couple of years, so a lot of the residents here have only lived here a couple years. They haven't actually lived through a hurricane. This is their first one. A lot of them say they simply didn't know what to expect.

In some houses, the rooms look relatively untouched. These book shelves still have books on them, still have ceramic figurines, perched precariously on top untouched. And yet, in this house, you move around the side and in this next room, the entire wall has been blown away.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And the mobile home community I'm in right now, Park Hill, is largely deserted tonight. There are a few residents here who are refusing to leave their damaged homes, but as you can tell by some of the devastation around me, some of these homes are simply inhabitable, never will be habitable again. They will simply have to be torn down and the people here will have to rebuild their lives -- Carol.

LIN: Amazing. All right, thanks very much, Anderson.

Let's see if we can get some of those firmer figures on casualties out there in Punta Gorda. Joining me by telephone is the Punta Gorda police chief, Charles Rinehart.

Chief, Rinehart, good to have you with us.

CHARLES RINEHART, POLICE CHIEF, PUNTA GORDA: Good evening.

LIN: Do you have any firm number on the number of casualties, the injured, the dead in Punta Gorda?

RINEHART: We do not have any numbers at this time. We are still doing a check of the entire area. We hope to finish out probably some time tomorrow.

LIN: Chief, why is it so hard to come up with a figure?

RINEHART: You know the problem is we really don't know who evacuated and who did not. It was a voluntary evacuation and then it turned mandatory. And so there is no real head count on who may have left and where they might be.

LIN: In terms of bodies that you've discovered, anything? Any numbers?

RINEHART: I don't have any numbers at all.

LIN: All right. Taking a look at some of the devastation that Anderson was just pointing out at his location, of all the problems that you have, the missing, the dead, the injured, the devastation, the rebuilding, what would you say at this very second is your biggest problem? What do you have to tackle first?

RINEHART: Probably the biggest issue right now is trying to control the foot traffic of people that want to drive through. You know if you don't -- if it's not needed, please don't come out and drive through the area, you know. We need to have room for emergency medical people, public safety folks to do their job and also the residents, the victims of this, give them a little privacy. It's important. It makes our job harder when we have to work around people like that.

LIN: Can you give us an update on the search and rescue operations?

RINEHART: It's extensive. I can tell you that it's a shame that it takes some of this devastation to show you just how much people come together. We have people from state, federal, law enforcement agencies, statewide here. It's unreal how they're all working well together and covering different areas and grids to make sure that we don't leave anything unturned and we've checked to make sure...

LIN: So you're going door to door then?

RINEHART: We did go door to door, yes.

LIN: And try to ask whomever it is that you found about their neighbors, that sort of thing?

RINEHART: Yes, ma'am.

LIN: The numbers out of Punta Gorda are amazing -- 50,000 in shelters, 80 percent of the buildings in Charlotte County damaged, many mobile homes completely destroyed. All three hospitals had to -- what -- you lost all three hospitals. They had to shut down?

RINEHART: They actually all have extensive damage and they were forced to shut down.

LIN: What was it like to evacuate some of those patients who may have been, you know, attached to life saving machinery?

RINEHART: I really don't know. We were not involved in that part of the evacuation. I couldn't answer that.

LIN: All right. Thank you very much, Chief Rinehart. I know you've got a big job ahead of you and I'm hoping that you find many of the missing still alive.

RINEHART: Yes, ma'am.

LIN: It has been a very busy day for our meteorologist Orelon Sidney. She's tracking Charley from our weather center. And Orelon, I hope it's good news. Charley is certainly not the devastating hurricane that it was.

ORELON SIDNEY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: No, this is not the Charley of old certainly. And it is -- certainly, we're seeing good news because of the hurricane center and their update at the top of the 5:00 hour Eastern Time that said that they expect the storm to be tropical storm for -- say for another 24 hours. But it's going to diminish in its strength, still 70 miles an hour winds right now, still moving to the north-northeast at 30 miles an hour. That's really fast for a tropical cyclone. It's going to start to get -- to interact with the trough of low pressure that's off to the west. And we're going to start to see it look a lot less like a tropical cyclone over the next 24 hours.

For now, heck, it looks like a pretty good one from here, at least on the northern and eastern sides. We're still looking at a pretty good area of low pressure here crossing the Albemarle Sound. Norfolk, you're just about to get into this calm area. You've got some thunderstorms heading through. But south of that, you're going to find your conditions really improving in about half an hour to 45 minutes. And then the southern half of this, there's just not much there at all. You might get another shower or two as this kind of wraps back around. But in general, you're not going to see a whole lot more action in Norfolk.

But things will be going downhill throughout the Delmarva. Still looking at a tornado watch in effect there. And here are the very latest coordinates, 75 miles south-southwest of Norfolk, 36 north, 77 West. We're starting to get a little bit of rain now in D.C. and Baltimore. You're not going to get a direct hit from that and neither will you in places like -- probably not New York City, even though you may be seeing it cross Long Island, Newark. New York City might manage to see some of the heavier squalls. So we're certainly going to keep an eye on that.

As far as we're concerned now, down in Florida, we don't have any more tropical storm warnings. But we've got lots of problems there. Chad Myers is in Punta Gorda. And Chad, I don't know if you can hear me, but I remember working in the weather center after this came through and you were the first person that I heard say, "I'm in Punta Gorda. It looks like the damage here is extensive. There are going to be a lot of problems." Is it what you expected to see?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEROROLOGIST: It is. You know what? I've been into a lot of tornadoes not -- this is my first significant hurricane. And Orelon, it's a 12-mile to 20-mile wide F-2 tornado. Typical F-2s are, you know, less than a football field and this is the damage you get from an F-2. The problem is it stretches for 20 miles in every direction and then all the way up to Orlando. So yes, it's exactly what I expected and in some spots even worse.

This place that we're in right here, according to some of the owners, they're going to have to level it. There's not one mobile home in here that they can salvage.

SIDNEY: Were you able...

MYERS: Here's the thing we got today, it's been a hot one. Go ahead. Yes, look at the sunshine. Just -- it's been ugly all day. The folks trying to get -- and it's like 93 and they're trying to do work outside.

Go ahead Orelon.

SIDNEY: Well, were you able to get down to any of the coastal areas and kind of evaluate perhaps how high the storm surge got? MYERS: You know it's a funny thing. This storm didn't really have a lot of surge. I would say at the most eight feet. It didn't have a lot of time. It had a very tight eye wall. As the thing turned in real fast and went right up through and over some of the barrier islands. There were some surges that went over the barrier islands, but maybe those barrier islands actually stopped some of that water from getting here into the Port Charlotte Bay area and then moving all the way up into, let's say, Cleveland and on up the Peace River. The water just never really came like sometimes you worry that it will.

SIDNEY: And that of course was one of the things we were really worried about with the storm surge there.

MYERS: Absolutely.

SIDNEY: Chad, thank you so much. Take care, get back as soon as you can, stay dry.

MYERS: All right.

SIDNEY: All right. Before I turn it back over to Carol, though, I do want to let you know we have a new tropical storm to talk about. Tropical pressure No. 5 upgraded now to Tropical Storm Earl. It's still way out there at 375 miles east-southeast of Barbados, winds 40 miles an hour. It is expected to strengthen into a hurricane over the next 72 hours -- Carol.

LIN: Orelon, you're keeping us busy up here, aren't you?

SIDNEY: Yes, I am.

LIN: All right, thanks for the warning on Earl. Well, we've got a lot more stories out of the hurricane zone. Up next, dusk is approaching. A look at how many Florida families will be in the dark on this Saturday night.

Plus, the beach was no match for Charley. We'll take you live to the coast of South Carolina.

And if you're looking to head to the southeast, I'm going to tell you what you can expect at the airports.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LIN: This is what is left of a mobile home park in Punta Gorda, Florida, ground zero of Hurricane Charley. So many people left homeless, so few people allowed back yet into this devastating scene to claim what's left of what they've ever owned. This is the latest in our continuing special coverage of Hurricane Charley, now downgraded to a tropical storm.

And this is a quote from the day that we will repeat over and over again, "Our worst fears have come true." That is how Governor Jeb Bush sizes up the category four storm that slammed into the retirement town of Punta Gorda, Florida, and swept across the state last night. Bush says Hurricane Charley caused billions of dollars in damage. They still don't know how much.

The Associated Press is reporting the death toll from Charley at 15, but the local police chief says that there's no way to confirm that just yet.

The storm knocked out power to about 2 million Floridians; 1.3 million are still without electricity. Rescuers fear the death toll may rise sharply as they search house to house for survivors and bodies in Punta Gorda.

The hurricane came ashore a second time near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, today, and by then it was a category 1 and caused only minor damage. Charley is now a tropical storm, spreading rain on a northward path over land.

Anderson, it is just remarkable to see the devastation behind you and know that there's a personal story to just everything that you're seeing there.

COOPER: Yes, it is hard to believe. You know, you see it on TV. You hear it. Rationally, you can sort of understand it, but really until you're standing here -- and we heard that over and over today from so many residents who had experienced it for themselves. You know what's interesting about this area, it has seen such an influx of population, such an explosion of population growth over the last couple of years, a lot of the people here are new to this area. They have not experienced a hurricane anything close to this. And so they really did not know what to expect. And when the hurricane changed direction late in the afternoon yesterday, some 24 hours ago and it hit here directly, that two-fisted sucker punch right to Punta Gorda, the people did not have much time to evacuate. They did not know what to expect.

The other unexpected thing here about this hurricane is that it basically went across the state of Florida exited Florida, then came back into South Carolina, making landfall around Myrtle Beach. And that's where CNN's David Mattingly has found enough to connect us with Myrtle Beach.

David, I know it's been a difficult day for you, but what's the scene where you are?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, just look at all this sunshine. This is what over 100,000 people came to the beaches of South Carolina to see this weekend, what was supposed to be the last big tourism weekend of the summer season. Instead, this is what they saw, about seven hours ago blistering wind and rain. Wind, according to the National Weather Service, that exceeded gusts of 90 miles an hour.

When Charley came ashore, it was just about an hour or so of heavy rains and furious wind. But it moved on quickly, downgrading to a tropical storm and leaving behind localized flooding, downed trees, power lines, tens of thousands of people without power and lots of cleaning up to do. But the good news is just look at the beach. The beach is just fine. That's because when Charley came ashore it was at low tide. So there was not much of a storm surge to speak of, no beach erosion problems to report today.

The mandatory evacuation has been lifted. So people are beginning to trickle back in, trying to make the most of what's left of this holiday weekend and to count their blessings, they didn't see anything like the people of Florida saw -- Anderson.

COOPER: David Mattingly reporting from South Carolina. David, thanks very much. We'll check in with you shortly here.

You know so many people were surprised by the path of this storm, meteorologists, weather people, did an excellent job of tracking it, excellent job of getting the information out, but Mother Nature actually just showed us does not always follow the computer models. A lot of surprises in this storm indeed -- Carol.

LIN: That's right. In fact, Anderson, you were expecting Hurricane Charley to hit right in the middle of your program, "360," yesterday while you were sitting there in Tampa waiting for it to strike some of the high-rises in the background.

COOPER: And it was so surreal because I actually flew -- the airport in Tampa was shut down. I flew in yesterday morning into Orlando because it was sunny there. It was a beautiful day in Orlando. By the time of my program last night around 7:00, Susan -- CNN's Susan Candiotti was in Orlando bearing the brunt of the storm. And literally, I had a beautiful sunset behind me in Tampa. It was a balmy evening, just one of those things. You cannot predict...

LIN: Exactly.

COOPER: ...where these storms go in the final analysis.

LIN: Ironic. Thanks, Anderson.

Still to come, it survived World War II but it was no match for Charley. We're going to show you what's left of one historic airplane. Actually, you're looking at much of it right now.

Plus, a look at how Charley is still affecting airport travel on this Saturday evening.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LIN: So many poignant stories of grief and sadness come out of a disaster like a major hurricane. In Orlando, a helicopter reporter for affiliate WESH came across the loss of an important piece of history.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vintage DC-3, that was a plane -- it was a cargo plane that was used during World War II. And you're looking at it right now. It's red and the belly of it is white. And you see that wing that says N22RB? Well that's a wing and it just completely clipped and it's laying on top of the plane. Bob, this plane was one of the first planes used in the commercial airline industry. In fact, our helicopter pilot, Bob, was telling us that it helped launch the commercial airline industry as we know it. Well, it was being renovated by the owners of Full Sale. Now, Full Sale is a media school and they tell us that Full Sale took insurance out on this vintage DC-3 just the day before Hurricane Charley hit. And I guess that's the good news.

Speaking of insurance, it's insured. The bad news, though, it's totaled and I'm sure that they're heartbroken.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LIN: So let's find out what planes are actually intact and in the air after flight disruptions caused by Hurricane Charley. Rally Caparas of Travelocity is on the telephone with me right now.

Hey there, Rally

RALLY CAPARAS, AIR TRAFFIC SPECIALIST: Hello, Carol.

LIN: Yes.

CAPARAS: Well, you saw...

LIN: Because if you're flying now, what are you going to do, if you're flying in or out of Florida?

CAPARAS: It's definitely a tough situation based on the mass of destruction that took place there yesterday. And during the overnight period, we've seen a lot of cancellations obviously. Orlando International has been closed for business the entire day thus far. And it's forced massive cancellations as you'd expect. It affects flights and passengers all over the country.

The good news is that it happened -- the timing of it is on a day that flight travel is at its minimal, volume rates for both today and tomorrow. So there'll be an opportunity for the airlines to be able to catch up. But Orlando shutting down yesterday, they reopened today right around 4:00 p.m. Eastern. Things are operating smoothly. But catch-up will take the next couple of days and hopefully, by Monday we'll have equipment and personnel in place to resume a busy work week.

Other airports that were shut down were a lot of the south Florida, private aeronautical industry, aviation airports down there, Ft. Myers amongst some of those. They've reopened, all of them except Kissimmee in central Florida, right outside of Orlando. That affects a lot of people flying into and out for Disney World obviously and Universal Studios. They've been shut down and they continue to stay shut down. They were expected to open up today around 4:00, however, they weren't able to do so.

But the good news of all of this finally is that Hurricane Charley is now Tropical Storm Charley and it's headed up the East Coast, the Mid-Atlantic States now. As a result, Philadelphia and the D.C. metro airports can expect some sporadic delays. However, the winds aren't near what they have been obviously and the volume is way down because it is a Saturday evening. So delays will be minimal throughout the rest of today. Tomorrow, we should see delays spread into New York City and Philadelphia. Boston will see some of them. The thunderstorms related to the remnants will continue to hamper flight schedules. But fortunately, it won't be anything like what we've seen and we should be back to business as usual, pending any more announcements of damage done to the FAA's air traffic control system or anything like that in Florida. But it looks like we've seen the worst of it so far.

Carol, I'll toss it back to you now back in the studios.

LIN: Sounds good. All right, thanks very much, Rally.

Well, he's declared the state a major disaster and now President Bush is taking a break from the campaign trail to help his brother in Florida. Details of the president's trip when we return.

Plus, they still haven't recovered from last year's hurricane, but find out how Isabel is teaching them how to prepare for Charley.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LIN: I'm Carol Lin and here's what's happening now in the news. The confirmed death toll from Hurricane Charley is five, but the Associated Press reports 15. It was the strongest storm to hit Florida in 12 years. Charley came ashore again in South Carolina today. It is now officially a tropical storm over land.

And efforts to broker a peace deal between the rebel forces of Muqtada al Sadr and the interim Iraqi government have failed. The government says military operations will resume in Najaf. Al Sadr has called on thousands of his supporters to come to the holy city.

And New Jersey governor James McGreevey is being accused of sexual harassment by a former aide. He has announced his resignation effective in November. Republicans want him out immediately.

And swimmer Michael Phelps is the U.S.'s first gold medal winner at the Athens Olympics. He won the men's 400 Individual Medley in a world record time of four minutes 8.26 seconds.

Keeping you informed, CNN the most trusted name in news.

In the meantime, President Bush will visit Florida to view the damage form Hurricane Charley tomorrow. And in this election season, every move the president makes is being viewed politically. White House correspondent Dana Bash is live at the White House with the latest.

Not just any political move but one in the critical state of Florida.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Carol. And as a matter of fact, this president just arrived back at the White House from a five-day campaign swing. He was supposed to be in Washington for just one day tomorrow before heading back out, but after declaring very quickly the state of Florida a federal disaster area last night, this morning, the White House announced that Mr. Bush wants to get down to Florida to see firsthand as soon as possible what's going on down there. Mr. Bush talked about it earlier today in Iowa.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tomorrow, I'm going to travel down to Florida to visit with those whose lives have been hurt by Hurricane Charley. I just want them to know that our federal government is responding quickly. We have got aid stations in place. FEMA federal officials are on the ground working with state and local officials. Many lives have been affected by this hurricane. And I know you join me in sending our prayers to those people who look for solace and help.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now Carol as you mentioned, there is absolutely no getting around looking at this event through the prism of politics. There are only 79 days left before the election, and Florida's 27 electoral votes are absolutely crucial to determining who will end up back in this White House after November 2. Senator Kerry, the president's opponent was in Oregon earlier today. He said he instructed his campaign staff in Florida to help with recovery and support efforts as much as possible. But he also tweaked the president a bit for going to Florida so soon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For the moment, our focus is on all of the police and response personnel necessary, not being diverted from a visit or anything, but really focusing on the recovery itself. And I think that's where the attention ought to be for the time being.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, usually getting in the way is a big concern for President Bush. He often times doesn't immediately go to disaster sites after hurricanes, tornadoes, fires and things like that. But this is also a president, Carol, who studies the lessons of his father. And 12 years ago, President Bush, his father, had a similar incident in August before his election day. He -- there was Hurricane Andrew that occurred and he was very widely criticized from state and local officials in Florida, even Floridians themselves, because they thought he didn't do enough to very quickly respond to what was going on down there, that he was slow with money and with troops that they said they needed. So looking at the speed with which this White House is dealing with this, it's important to note that perhaps he is looking at the lessons of his father. It's also interesting to note that that president's person who -- point person in charge of dealing with Florida after the controversy, if you will, was Andrew Card. That is this president's chief of staff. LIN: All right, thanks very much. Dana Bash live at the White House.

All right, we're going to go back to ground zero of Hurricane Charley, Punta Gorda. Anderson Cooper standing by there.

Anderson, boy, what a day and a night it's been for you.

COOPER: Carol, that's right. There -- especially, you know, in mobile home communities like this, this is where we're seeing so much of the devastation. So many people suffering tonight. Many people -- this area which is called Park Hill, there are really very few people left. There are a few die hard residents who refuse to leave their homes. But as you can see, I mean, most of the homes are just gone. I mean, this is literally the walkway to someone's home. You can see the path here. This is where the front door was. This is where a garden ornament was right here. But then the house itself is just gone. You can see a bicycle. I mean, all the -- the couch where -- in the person's living room all the way through the house. The roof has just collapsed. And you see this row after row after row.

This next house over seems a little bit -- watch your step here. There's -- you have to really watch yourself to be respectful not only of these people's property but there are also a lot of nails, a lot of sharp objects around. You really have to watch where you walk. This house, a little bit in better shape. The walls are still standing but the roof is largely torn off. And I want to show you this roofing, this aluminum roofing. I want to show you from another camera now, this aluminum roofing is -- you just see it everywhere, just scattered all across. It is in trees. It is wrapped around power lines. It is just all over. It's surreal how much of this stuff there is all over Punta Gorda tonight. It is a very strange sight indeed, Carol.

And there is so -- it is so eerie here because as darkness is descending, this place is just deserted. Is it so quiet here and all these people's possessions. I mean here's someone's couch with their throw just laying in the street. And, you know, a lot of people have come to their homes and they've looked around. But there's a sense of you know what can I do? I mean it's sort of -- for many people it's overwhelming. And they've come, they've checked out their house. They see -- but they've left because there's very little they can do today. There's very little they can do the next day in terms of cleaning up. It is going to take weeks if not months to clean up some of these areas.

There are a lot of these areas that authorities really haven't gotten very far into. They have been conducting search and rescue throughout the day, but as you can see, I mean it is just block after block after block.

This is someone's carport. Joan and John Mathis, this is their house. As you can see, the house is not in too bad shape but the carport is down. And you see this aluminum siding wrapped up in this tree here.

I want to show you from another camera, a boat which is just a few feet from me now, which has just sunk, has just submerged. And again, you see this block after block, community after community. There's a lot of suffering here tonight, Carol.

LIN: Yes, it sure looks like it. Anderson, are you saying that people -- some people are actually still living in what trailer homes have actually survived the storm? Have you actually seen people in the neighborhood?

COOPER: I'm having a little bit of a hard time hearing you, Carol, but I think you were asking about the number of people who survived in these trailer homes. A lot of people really did not get word until a short time before the storm hit. So they did not have the time to evacuate. So a lot of them were faced with the choice of, do I hunker down in my home, which a lot of people did. A lot of people sought the safety of their bathrooms, the sturdiest part of their house, away from the windows and they rode out the storm there.

In some of these mobile home communities, a lot of them did leave, but they went to a neighborhood shelter where they could gather. And in this community, a lot of people left to a neighborhood shelter. But people have slowly started to come back. And you see -- I've seen three or four residents here in Park Hill who are going to be spending the night in their homes right here, Carol.

LIN: That's not -- that is remarkable. Thanks Anderson. Brave people indeed.

You know we've been talking about, you know, the devastation of Charley and when we say that it's been downgraded to a tropical storm, that doesn't necessarily mean that there isn't trouble in its path. So we're going to check in with Orelon Sidney right now to see what's up with Charley.

Hey, Orelon.

SIDNEY: Thanks a lot. Thanks a lot, Carol.

Well, there's good news from the National Hurricane Center and from the Storm Prediction Center. I'll start with the Storm Prediction Center because remember, I told you earlier, I thought that tornado watch would be extended now up through the Delmarva. Well, it looks like most of the most active rain bands on the eastern side not going to be affecting land, so Storm Prediction Center not going to issue another tornado watch just yet. So that's excellent news. It looks like the chances for tornadoes certainly have diminished.

Let's take a look at where we expect the storm to go. It's now 75 miles south-southwest of Norfolk. This is what we think it will do through the rest of the evening as it continues to diminish in strength. Moving across the Chesapeake Bay into Delaware, and then continuing just to the east of Philadelphia and New York. Now, Long Island, I think, the center's probably going to cross there. Eventually, within 24 hours, this will become a tropical depression, probably crossing over Boston with rainfall, continuing northward through Bar Harbor on to Nova Scotia and Halifax. It does look like 24 hours from now it's expected to be below tropical storm strength. But it doesn't look like it's going to drop as much rain because it has been moving so fast. It's been forward at about 30 miles an hour, which is excellent news. That's what we want to hear.

Folks in those cities like Boston, like New York, you're not going to get hurricane force winds. You might get some good winds around some thunderstorms but you're not going to see structural damage. Maybe tree damage. Power lines might go down, things like that, but the winds are really starting to diminish.

You can see the low pressure areas opening up. And at the 8:00 advisory, I'm sure the National Hurricane Center will drop these winds into the -- somewhere in the 60 mile an hour range.

Getting better for you in Washington, D.C. You're on the back edge of the rainfall moving through. It's going to look a lot better for you in about a half hour to 45 minutes. Still a tropical storm warning up for the coast. They'll be dropping this from the south later tonight --Carol.

LIN: All right, thanks, Orelon. We always need the warning.

In fact, folks, still to come, prepping from Charley. How lessons from the past helped Virginians and the nation's capital prepare for Charley, but first, its powerful punch shut down Disney World. We're going to go live to Orlando.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LIN: Welcome back to our in depth coverage of Hurricane Charley. It is now a tropical storm, but Charley's impact is far from over. Across Florida, five people have died. That has been confirmed. And the Associated Press is reporting 10 more. The next hours and days could change that figure dramatically.

Already, there are signs that life is returning to normal. Central Florida's theme parks in Orlando have reopened their gates and commercial flights have resumed at Orlando International Airport. An emergency evacuation order has been lifted for Myrtle Beach. South Carolina residents are already returning to check on their homes along the coast. Many are finding widespread power and phone outages -- Anderson.

COOPER: Carol, there are -- yes, Carol, there is no electricity in all of these areas tonight. There is very little running water. There is no running water, in fact, in this area, of course. People are being advised to, of course, only drink bottled water at this point. A lot of the water just not potable and they are seeking shelter. I mean the -- most people are staying at emergency shelters, staying at government officials or they are staying with friends or families in other areas.

But you know what's so strange about this storm is that so many of people went to areas that they thought would be safe. I mean they thought Tampa was going to be the city that could hit. They ended up going to Orlando. But you know what? The storm veered and it hit right where those people were, in Daytona Beach as well. Those hotels were filled with people who had left the western coast seeking safer inland areas and they did not find it.

Gary Tuchman is standing by in Tampa, a city which really dodged a bullet. And they're breathing a big sigh of relief tonight as they did last night -- Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson we're actually a little bit to the east of Tampa, about an hour and a half drive in Orlando, which you were mentioning initially. And what's interesting about Orlando, it's a great place, friendly people, lot to do, good economy. But one of the knocks about Orlando is you're in Florida but you're not near the water. And then people in Orlando tell you but that's good because we don't get hurricane. Well, they did. Hurricane Charley did arrive here last night and this is an example of what we're seeing all over Orlando. Trees, branches, hundreds of hundreds of trees, branches and power lines that have been knocked down all throughout the Orlando metropolitan area and all the way to Daytona Beach, which you were also just mentioning. It's about a 60-miler drive from Orlando to Daytona Beach. And it's such widespread damage. We've seen very little catastrophic damage in this part of Florida but lots of damage wherever we've driven.

This is though an amazing example. This tree has been here for as long as the church next door, according to people who have gone to this church for a long time. It's about a 50-foot oak tree. And you get an idea right here, the power, 105 mile per hour winds about 9:30 Eastern Time last night in Orlando. And this huge piece of earth, which is taller than me, came toppling down. The people in the church behind us so grateful because if the tree went the other way, it would have toppled right on top of this church.

Now, you were talking about the theme parks before, Carol. The theme parks, the Magic Kingdom, MGM Studios, Epcot Center, Animal Kingdom, the four Disney parks, they were closed yesterday. It takes a lot to close those parks, trust me, because of all the tourists who come there. They've reopened today, three of them. Animal Kingdom is the only park that's still closed not because anything happened to the animals. We're told they're all safe. But a lot of the workers here had to stay home to tend to their own business. They didn't have enough workers to be at all four parks. And that's why three of them opened today. It's expected that all four will be open tomorrow.

But what we saw all over central Florida and the Atlantic coast of Florida were the roofs being taken off of buildings. Gas stations, homes, like I said, not catastrophic, but very widespread. Last night we spent the evening in Daytona Beach. The winds got up to 95 miles an hour there. Hotels completely full and that's so unusual during a hurricane. Usually, people get out, but because they thought the hurricane was only hitting the Gulf, they all went to the East Coast. It became a big party until the hurricane hit. Then everyone got into their rooms. An hour and a half of these unbelievable winds. Lots of damage today in Daytona Beach too, but fortunately for the people in central Florida and the Atlantic coast, it doesn't appear it was catastrophic damage.

Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: So unpredictable. Gary Tuchman from Orlando. Thanks very much, Gary.

Everywhere you go, you just find people's possessions and we've been very careful not to go into people's houses. We want to respect the privacy of their house even though their houses have been destroyed. But just on the street here, we've just noticed this, a frame -- a family. We hope they are OK tonight. You see this kind of stuff all over. We'll just put it back.

Chad Myers is standing by, CNN's meteorologist.

Chad, what surprises you most as you look at this devastation?

MYERS: The fact that in this trailer park everybody survived. But the fact of the matter is, Anderson, that about 10 percent of the people were here. Ninety percent of the people that live here are snowbirds. They're back home. They're in Wisconsin. They're watching this on TV and they're saying, oh, my god, there's my mobile home. There's my trailer. This is my park. This is my winter life. They just don't live here in August. They live up there in August.

COOPER: And you were telling me earlier about changes in the way these buildings are built and the impact that's had.

MYERS: Yes, we're going to get to that. I've picked up some roof trusses and they're amazing. I had no idea. They're like one by ones. I wouldn't build a dollhouse out of some of the stuff. But a lot of these were built back in the '70s. Brand new codes now. You can't build that anymore. And in fact, you can't even bring that back in here anymore. That is now going to be demolished. It's going to be taken away. And if this continues to be a trailer park, a mobile home park, they don't know if it will be, they're going to gave to bring in a brand new up to code 2004 mobile home.

COOPER: And a lot of the newer buildings have to have storm shutters, which I heard a lot of people talking about today. It really saved their property.

MYERS: Everybody that was in here that survived, everybody that was in here period, was in the clubhouse, built for the hurricane, built for strength. It was built out of concrete cinder blocks. And so that's why -- even though we've seen this one completely turned upside down, there was nobody in that because everybody was taken. Some were taken by force, from what I understand, but we're going, Charley.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: It was so late in the day, they were told, look, don't get on the highway, don't get on the Interstate...

MYERS: Right.

COOPER: ... you know you've got to seek safety somewhere nearby.

MYERS: Where do you go? You get three hours' notice and they say a Cat 4 hurricane is now coming to you; it's not going to Tampa. Do I get in the car and get in traffic? Do I go left? Do I go right? The storm's 80 miles wide. Do I go 40 miles south and in it? Do I go 80 miles north? I'm in it. Do I go to Orlando? I'm in it. So they just hunkered down and stayed here.

COOPER: There are so many stories to tell tonight. We'll be telling them, a lot of them in the hours ahead.

Carol, let's go back to you.

LIN: All right, Anderson, you know it's such an irony of the job that when evacuations are ordered, usually it's the photographers and the reporters that are disobeying and running straight into the path of destruction. So up next, we're going to take a look at some of the dedicated reporters and photographers who risked their lives to cover Charley and bring you the information.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first time you ever go through a storm, it's kind of scary at first, but then once you have one come through and you just ride the storm out and drink some beer, eat some food, and chill out, and just wait for it to pass.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LIN: All right. That's not how I would feel if hurricane winds were blowing my way. People have different ways of dealing with danger. You know, when you consider that Charley was hugging or chugging across North Carolina's eastern counties today and bringing heavy rains and fierce winds, you're looking at just some of it. But compare the destruction to what happened elsewhere, the damage was not so bad in the Carolinas.

In fact, we want to see how some of the newspapers in Florida covered the story. Taking a look at the Daytona Beach "News Journal Online," in one simple phrase, "One Big Mess," just showing one of the street scenes there with the telephone poles down. And the "News- Press.com," "The Day After," a boat toppled over so easily in the winds. "Naplesnews.com," "Governor Bush: Worst Fears Have Come True," a quote we have heard throughout the day.

Several billion dollars, that is the estimate of the kind of damage that occurred in the state of Florida.

Everyone knew Hurricane Charley was going to hit Florida but exactly where, when, how the storm would strike was not exactly known. When Charley did hit, it hit hard and it hit fast. Local reporters were among the first people to witness how completely devastating a category 4 storm can actually be.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The numbers are not in yet, but there are reports of several deaths and hundreds of missing people. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The one thing that you see on these trailers, x marks the spot where they found no one killed or injured. But as you look through this park, which apparently they had time to get through last night in the dark, just get a sense of what happened here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess the closest thing you can think of is the "Wizard of Oz," the scene where everything starts flying by. That's what we saw.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just amazing to look at this devastation here on Lake Wales. You're actually looking at Quails Bluff Apartments. It's on Burns Avenue. And as you can see, it looks like every single apartment complex has been hit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to show you something. This business is a prime example of what we've been seeing as we've driven through the county. From this side it looks like it was almost untouched, but then come around here to the back. It almost looks like something you would see after a tornado. But we're told this is a result of Hurricane Charley. This is what we're seeing all over Charlotte County. In fact, even city officials have said that they're seeing total devastation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just got a new report into Channel 4 that FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is sending a 25 person mortuary team to Charlotte County to help deal with the dead down there. If that doesn't give you an indication of what type of damage we are talking about, I don't know what would.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two minutes ago, somebody pulls up and hands me, hey, take a free Palatka paper. On the front page, "Charley Charges In." I gladly accepted that as we have a lot of things over the last few days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The devastation here in Punta Gorda is widespread from businesses to mobile home parks, to million dollar mansions. And there is a growing sense of dread about the death toll. One county emergency management official here in Charlotte County says he has ordered 60 body bags and he hopes that's enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This will be written up for a long time in the meteorological journals. This thing dropped 30 millibars of pressure, which most folks are going I don't know what that is. It just is a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's everywhere. You can accidentally drive over it. You can accidentally walk over it. So if you don't need to be down here in south Florida, in southwest Florida, don't show up. Again, authorities don't want you here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LIN: But we will be hearing from authorities shortly. In Charlotte County, we're expecting a news conference. At the top of the hour, just moments from now, out of Charlotte Country, from the Emergency Management people out there.

Anderson, that's where you are. We'll find out hopefully more about the death toll as well as some of the injuries. I know we don't have a firm figure just yet.

COOPER: Yes, Carol, we've been using the word devastation a lot, probably overusing the word. We're going to use a lot -- two more words in the next hour, hope and resolve, because there is a lot of that in Punta Gorda tonight.

We leave you with one more scene as we go to break. Our coverage continues from the scene here in Punta Gorda -- hope and resolve.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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