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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Hurricane Charley: Surivors Assess Damage, Cope Without Utilities
Aired August 14, 2004 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Carol Lin. Welcome to CNN LIVE SATURDAY.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think I've ever been so scared in my life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When those winds get up there, sounded like it was a thousand guys marching up on our roofs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LIN: Surveying the damage caused by Hurricane Charley, the rescue and recovery efforts continue long after the storm has passed.
I'm Carol Lin at the CNN Center. And once again joining me from Punta Gorda, the city that took the hardest hit from Hurricane Charley, is Anderson Cooper. Hey, there, Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Carol, good evening. Dusk is now descending here in Punta Gorda. It has been a difficult day, indeed, a difficult 24 hours, even more than 24 hours now. So many stories to tell you about over the next hour. We'll be right back in just a moment -- Carol.
LIN: Thanks, Anderson. We also have continuing coverage of the damage caused by Charley all along the storm's path. CNN's John Zarrella is reporting from Punta Gorda, Florida, and our David Mattingly is farther up the Atlantic coast, near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina -- Anderson.
COOPER: Carol, there are, as we've been showing, so many stories, so many scenes -- no matter what block you go -- I mean, you can pick any block, and you can find scenes like this. This is someone's home. This is their recliner. These are their books. This is their stuffed animal here. And people come to these homes, and the question they face is, is, What do I try to salvage? I mean, what is salvageable here? Is it the TV? Is it these tapes? I mean, you see these, you know -- "The Sounds of Christmas From Around the World." Is that something someone would salvage? A lot of people come to these homes, and they look around, they say, You know what? There's nothing left. There's nothing left I need. There's nothing left I can take. And they simply move on. And we've seen a lot of that today, people coming by, spending a few minutes here, a few tears are shed, and then they move on. They don't know what else to do.
John Zarrella is in downtown Punta Gorda tonight, as he has been all day long. John, what's the scene where you are?
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, much the same as what you describe. Here it's the shop owners who have come to survey much of the damage to the shops down there, the storefronts in this strip mall here completely devastated, completely wiped out. But you know, the things that we note here, as we see what's going on, is that things that should be destroyed aren't destroyed, and yet there are cards standing on a rack in a shop that are completely -- are completely sitting there, haven't been touched at all, a rack of sunglasses not touched at all.
The urban rescue teams we've talked to -- in fact, right behind us here, behind this building, this condominium building, that is where the search-and-rescue teams have gathered. And some of the Metro Miami-Dade contingent that are here, about 60 strong, tell me they were out this afternoon searching some homes, searching -- again, they look for the living. They have dog teams with them, but they look for the living. They are not cadaver dogs. They said they had found no one, which was a good sign, not living or dead, so there were no victims that they found trapped in the rubble.
Behind me, you can see another building. This is a blown-out condominium that was filled with elderly people, and those elderly who were in that building this morning -- there were still some there -- search-and-rescue teams from Hillsboro (ph) County went through that building literally with sledgehammers and crowbars, breaking open every single door to see if anyone was in there. And they did find a few elderly people in that building. They were all OK. But they were told they had to leave, it was no longer a safe structure.
So you're seeing these signs all over of just the devastation. The back of a car, Anderson -- as you're talking about people trying to figure out what little things they can take out -- a chair stuck in the back of that car, and a few other little knickknacks that people are getting out from this particular condominium.
So all over Punta Gorda, these are the kinds of scenes that we are seeing, and I'm sure, Anderson, we'll continue to see -- Anderson.
COOPER: Yes, absolutely. This is not a story which is going to be ending any time soon. There is so much that people have to go through here, so much debris, so much of the residue of their lives. And you know, John, as I'm sure you've heard all day long, people say, Look, you take the photos first. That's what you take. Sadly, we have seen family photographs sprinkled throughout here, people who maybe who weren't in the area, who, as Chad Myers was talking about before, live away. They just use this as a vacation home.
But you know, the stories here are not just about homes lost, it's also businesses lost. There is a lot of money that has been lost in this town, a lot of people's livelihoods, not only for the people who own those businesses, but for the people who work in those businesses. We met one young -- one man who was visiting his ice cream parlor today for the first time after waking up this morning in a -- in a town which is forever changed. Take a look.
(voice-over): When David Drake stepped through the broken window of his ice cream parlor, it was worse than he'd imagined.
DAVID DRAKE, BUSINESS OWNER: Oh, it's just devastating. You know, it's just -- you know, you never expected this at all, and then all of a sudden, you know, it wipes out the -- you know, everything all at once.
COOPER: The ceiling was destroyed, the sitting area a mess. Almost nothing was salvageable.
DRAKE: It's scary because, you know -- you know, this was obviously our livelihood. I mean, this is where we made our living.
COOPER: David and his family survived the storm hiding in a closet in their home.
DRAKE: You see these things on TV, and you think, you know, This is something that -- you know, that you don't realize what the people, you know, that are in those -- that this has happened to really go through.
COOPER: His house remains intact. His business is ruined.
DRAKE: You know, we laugh about it because, you know, you're tired of crying. You got to do something different, you know?
COOPER: With the toll of destruction in Punta Gorda still being calculated, David knows, for him and his family, Hurricane Charley could have been much worse.
DRAKE: You know, there hasn't been any major injuries or anything like that, so we're -- we're happy about that. It's going to be tough for -- you know, for the next few months, until...
COOPER (on camera): So do you think you'll make it?
DRAKE: Oh, we'll make it.
COOPER: There are so many things that people need, and with all these businesses out of commission, the question is where do people find these? CNN's meteorologist Chad Myers here has been talking to a lot of people here in Punta Gorda. What have they been telling you they need now?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, one thing that you would never guess, and then three things that kind of make sense. They need satellite phones. They need someone to get in here so that they can call their loved ones up in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania...
COOPER: We just had a woman asking to borrow our cell phone. We gave it to her. What, the cell connection doesn't work here?
MYERS: When they see we're here, they just say, Please, can I use your cell phone? They're not working. You can't get out. You can get a tower. You know, the lights are there. But when you try to press, you know, "Go," you sit there for 20 minutes and you get nothing.
They also need wet wipes, little hand towels -- you know, you pull them out, little baby wipes -- because you can't wash your hands. There's no water. And you can feel it. You can feel how clammy you are already. And you know, we've just been working here. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) trying to fix our house up.
They need ice and they need charcoal because at some point, they actually want to make some warm food. Or if they don't get it and they get their water back, they're going to have to boil that water. How're they going to do it? There's no electricity. They're hoping that they could do that with some charcoal.
COOPER: It's so basic. You forget about these kind of things in our day-to-day life, and then when something like this happens, it's back to basics.
MYERS: Yes. And I'm sure -- and FEMA is probably all over these things, but if somebody's out there and they've got these things and they have more ice than they can possibly use, you can get on the road and drive to Punta Gorda and no one would really mind, I tell you what, tonight.
Our Brad Huffines has some more information on what Charley's doing right now. And you know what, Brad? It's not just Charley. There's Danielle. And then you know, the potential for Earl down there in the Caribbean. This is going to get one busy time for us. It's kind of a hectic season already, but man, oh, man, we didn't need this.
BRAD HUFFINES, CNN METEOROLOGIST: No, Chad. In fact, in times like this, one of the hardest things that FEMA has to deal with, that the Seventh Day Adventists have to deal with, who are one of the largest volunteer organizations for taking all the resources that come in and moving them around like shells, are finding out who needs to donate what, who wants to give where, because again, people do load up trucks -- truckloads of things and just drive down, think they're being helpful. And suddenly, they find themselves in a situation where they have a truckload of ice or baby wipes or anything else that they think the community might need, and they don't know what to do with it. So again, you might want to coordinate that through the Red Cross, make sure that any donations that you have are coordinated, or you may get down there with these wonderful donations and not be able to do anything with them.
Tropical Storm Earl is where we'll start talking about right now. First off, Earl is about a 40-mile-per-hour tropical storm, and the forecast is for Earl to continue to move toward the and into the Caribbean, with tropical storm-force winds first, and it should get down south of Santo Domingo or Cuba as a category 1, possibly weak category 2 hurricane. And we may have to be dealing with yet another hurricane in the Caribbean, entering the Gulf of Mexico sometime next week. So we'll watch that for you, as well, here at CNN.
We're watching right now scattered showers and thundershowers just about everywhere but where you just saw Chad pitch to me, right here down in parts of -- just south of Fort Myers, widely scattered showers right along here. Again, Fort Myers not seeing any rain showers, again, where they're standing, but just inland from there, scattered showers, thundershowers already causing some problems with folks. They're trying to clean up some of the damage, that damage path (ph).
Of course, we still have Tropical Storm Charley to talk about, tropical storm warnings from Cape Lookout all the way up to the Merrimack River. So anywhere on the Eastern seaboard, you can expect to see tropical storm-force winds, as the winds continue to blow around the center of what was Hurricane Charley, now Tropical Storm Charley. And you see the way these winds are blowing in, heavy winds right now into Williamsburg, up north into parts of Washington, Philadelphia.
Expect to see some very heavy rains, heavy winds and possible light storm damage, possibly even along the shoreline, Carol, some potential for some local flooding because the winds are going to be blowing directly into the shoreline, perpendicular. That helps to push that water right up toward the shoreline.
We'll be watching this and have another update on both Earl and also Charley coming up the next half hour.
LIN: You bet! All right, we're going to need that update because, obviously, the danger is still not over yet.
HUFFINES: Not at all.
LIN: In fact, Brad, we've got an updated number on the number of people dead from Hurricane Charley, the number 13 now total so far reported. We are expecting to hear from the emergency management people in Charlotte County, which is where the brunt of the storm hit. It made landfall in Punta Gorda. So stay tuned for that.
In the meantime, there are some political overtones to this disaster. President Bush said today help is already on the way to the people of Florida. And in fact, he's heading to the state tomorrow to see the damage firsthand. Our White House correspondent, Dana Bash, has this report.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Little more than an hour after Hurricane Charley made landfall, the president declared Florida a federal disaster area. Less than 48 hours later, he'll be on the ground for a firsthand look at the devastation.
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm going to travel down to Florida to visit with those whose lives have been hurt by Hurricane Charley. Just want them to know that our federal government is responding quickly.
BASH: Mr. Bush's disaster designation set into motion this central command post in Washington.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This team immediately goes into operation. You're looking at a 24/7 operation right now.
BASH: FEMA officials fielding requests for everything from money to supplies to search-and-rescue personnel. Florida governor Jeb Bush asked the president for federal aid even before the storm hit. Perhaps the brothers Bush remember a lesson their father learned the August before his election day, 1992. State and local officials 12 years ago were infuriated at what they saw as a president slow to respond with money and troops to help after Hurricane Andrew. That President Bush went on to narrowly win Florida but lose the White House. This year, it's hard to envision a Bush victory that doesn't include Florida's 27 electoral votes.
Mr. Bush's hurricane damage tour will be his 25th trip to Florida since taking office, there just this past week asking for votes in the Panhandle.
BUSH: Many lives have been affected by this hurricane, and I know you join me in sending our prayers.
BASH: The president's opponent, John Kerry, offered his own sympathies for those affected by Hurricane Charley, but he said he wouldn't go to Florida now and seemed to question the wisdom of Mr. Bush going so soon.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: 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.
BASH (on camera): In fact, the president does not usually go to disaster sites so quickly just for that reason. A spokesman for the president said they're going to do what they can to minimize any disruption his visit may cause.
Dana Bash, CNN, the White House.
LIN: In fact, our own Anderson Cooper is still at the scene of disaster in Punta Gorda. We're going to get back to his reporting in just a moment.
And we want you to know that we're still chasing Charley because still to come, I'm going to talk to a man who makes a living chasing hurricanes and tornadoes. It is not your everyday job. And in Florida, the rescue effort goes full throttle as the big clean-up starts. Relief supplies are being airlifted to communities devastated by the fury of his hurricane.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: People talk a lot about the devastation here, but there -- as I said in the last hour, a lot of hope and resolve. These are some volunteers who have -- young men who've just come here on their own accord. They're not being paid, they're volunteers. They're just coming to help, pitching in. I'm going to talk to one of them right now.
Leon, if we could pan over here? Let's talk to Travis (ph). Travis, you've come up from Tampa. That was a city that really expected to get hit hard. Why'd you come here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, this is where it did get hit, so we wanted to come down and help out as much as we can. As I say, you know, it missed us, but these guys got it, and it's unfortunate.
COOPER: So you just -- you're just driving around, and wherever you see people in need, you just stop?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. We started at Coral Beach or, you know, a little bit south of here, and drove north. And just -- we've been stopping wherever, you know, we saw the need for help.
COOPER: You said you're an eighth-generation Floridian. Have you ever seen anything like this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I drove through Homestead shortly after Hurricane Andrew, and that was pretty bad. But I mean, you know, I couldn't describe the scene here to anybody, if anybody asked me. It's just devastation.
COOPER: What is the mood of people you've talked to and that you've helped out? I mean, what have they said to you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some people are really disappointed, some people -- you know, about what's happening, you know, and you can see they're very emotional. And some people, you know, are just very appreciative. But overall, I mean -- I mean, everybody's a little bit different. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
COOPER: How long are you going to stay here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I got to be back to work mid-week, so definitely through the weekend and maybe Monday, Tuesday.
COOPER: Well, it's a great thing you're doing, Travis. And I know you hope a lot more people come out here to help out, and obviously, there is a lot of need here, as well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely.
COOPER: Thanks very much, Travis.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Thank you.
COOPER: Good luck to you. All right. David Mattingly is standing by in South Carolina, where they have just received the storm a short time ago. David, what's the scene where you are?
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, entire families are now trickling back to the beaches of South Carolina in the aftermath of this hurricane. It was just last night that the mandatory evacuation order went out. People were seeing what was happening in Florida. They listened to that order, and they got out of town. And this is what they missed.
(voice-over): Significantly weakened but still packing a punch, Hurricane Charley made landfall, hitting the South Carolina coast with winds reportedly exceeding 90 miles per hour and with blistering rain. In this frenzied moment, a satellite truck used by CNN is pushed like a toy across a parking lot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The truck is moving! The truck is moving!
MATTINGLY: The truck operator jumped for safety and was unharmed.
(on camera): The biggest concern is flooding. Here at the height of the storm, there are dangerous gusts of wind. There are only 4 to 6 inches of rain forecasted, but it seems to be coming in all at once. But as the wind brings it in, you can see how it's whipping across the water here. A tidal surge associated with this storm not that high. But again, the water has already saturated the ground here, and it just keeps on coming.
(voice-over): Charley's latest rampage, however, proved to be brief, moving quickly to the north, downgrading to a tropical storm. But it left behind localized flooding, downed trees, blocked roads and widespread power outages, nothing comparable to the devastation in Florida. And according to local residents, who immediately took to the beaches afterward, Charley's South Carolina run was not much compared to hurricanes of the past.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I lived through Hazel. I lived through -- I wasn't here for Hugo, but my family lived through it.
MATTINGLY (on camera): So this was nothing to you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really and truly, for me it was nothing.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Nothing to some, but days of clean-up are ahead, as thousands are without electricity and hotels are scrambling to reopen for what should have been the last big tourism weekend of the summer.
Instead, it turned out to be the last big destructive blow of what has turned out to be a very, very deadly storm -- Anderson. COOPER: It certainly did, indeed. David Mattingly, thanks very much. We'll check in with you later.
After the break, we're going to talk to someone who rode right into the heart of the storm. We're going to leave you with a picture of Travis and his friends, who are helping out, volunteers who've come up from Tampa. They're paying their own way. They brought their own equipment with them, trying to help the people here in Punta Gorda.
LIN: For an idea on the size and the ferocity of the storm, we're joined by telephone by Mark Suddath. He is a hurricane hunter, and he joins us right now by phone from Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.
Mark, if I understand your role correctly, you literally chase hurricanes like Hurricane Charley.
MARK SUDDATH, HURRICANE HUNTER: Hurricane Charley certainly chased us down near Punta Gorda. We have been doing this for several years. We used to work with Jeff Flock when he was with CNN...
LIN: Oh, yes.
SUDDATH: ... and we've covered several hurricanes. And nothing could have prepared me for what we saw just outside of Punta Gorda, as that eyewall came over.
LIN: Really? Really? Because -- how long have you been doing this?
SUDDATH: I've been doing this professionally for about eight years, and this one was absolutely the worst...
LIN: And what was different about Charley?
SUDDATH: ... I've seen.
COOPER: What was different about Charley?
SUDDATH: Charley's inner core, when it came over our area, was like being inside of a cage filled with wild lions ready to eat you, and you can't get out of that cage for 30 minutes, and you know it. And you don't know if they're going to eat you. That's the best way I can describe it. It was fierce. It was intense. And truthfully, we had no business being there, and we will never do it again in a hurricane of that intensity, not in the inner core.
LIN: Really? Because you were...
COOPER: You were at the time where, in your car?
SUDDATH: Yes, well, we're in a specially-equipped vehicle with all the sensors on it, but it's no different. We weren't in a Sherman tank or anything. So for all intents and purposes, yes, we were in an automobile, a large SUV. And we were there to gather data, which we did. We talked to the National Hurricane Center live. Although they certainly don't want us out there, they do appreciate data that they can get, but not at the risk of lives.
SUDDATH: So they got to hear me on the phone as my adrenaline was going up and as things were hitting the vehicle. And they got to hear a little bit about what it was in real life. And of course, now we see the aftermath. And they know what it's all about there.
LIN: What do you think was the most critical information that you gave them that they would not be able to get if it weren't for people like you on the ground in the eye of the storm?
SUDDATH: Well, there's -- certainly, there's folks like what we're doing with the hurricane (UNINTELLIGIBLE) research team, and there's others like us that volunteer this information, and it gives them real ground truth data, whether it's from an instrumented vehicle -- we have the University of Florida doing these things and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) University and private firms such as mine that are trying to piece together the puzzles of these hurricanes because as Max Mayfield had said, intensity forecasting is the toughest thing to get under control. And maybe this kind of information, little by little over the years, can help.
LIN: May Mayfield, who is with the...
SUDDATH: Director of the Hurricane Center. That's right.
LIN: ... the director of the Hurricane Center, who's been helping us a lot throughout our coverage. Mark, thank you very much. I took a look at your Web site, some of the pictures that you actually took from Hurricane Charley. And I got to say, you're talented, but you've got to be crazy.
SUDDATH: Well, we're going to be a lot more careful in the future.
SUDDATH: We have an exciting project we're going to roll out in September, as the peak of the season comes around, so that we don't have to be out there in these intense storms, but something else can be, with instruments and cameras on it, and we can fall back to somewhere safe. And that'll be ready...
LIN: Wouldn't that be something!
SUDDATH: That's going to be good because then there's...
LIN: All right... SUDDATH: ... fewer risks to us.
LIN: You bet. Mark, we love your stories. Thank you very much.
SUDDATH: Thank you. Appreciate it.
LIN: Mark Suddath, who is a hurricane hunter.
Now, coming up, relief for the state of Florida. I am going to talk to a Red Cross volunteer in Orlando. And we are going to look at how the federal government is jumping in to help those affected.
LIN: I'm Carol Lin checking the headlines this hour. Police now say they have confirmed, at least, 13 storm related deaths in Florida. Meanwhile, the clean-up has started. Hundreds of rescue workers and volunteers are picking up the pieces in the wake of hurricane Charley. Charley was downgraded to a tropical storm as it lost steam over the South Carolina coast later this afternoon.
And heading home. President Bush will announce a major reduction and redeployment of U.S. forces around the world next week. Pentagon and administration officials say most of the reductions will come in Europe. Some will come in Asia. The move will see some 100,000 troops and family members return to the United States.
And the man known as the American Taliban wants the courts to have another look at his case. John Walker Lindh was sentenced to 20 years in prison after admitting to helping Afghanistan's Taliban government. Now, as negotiations continue for the release of another U.S. citizens arrested in Afghanistan, Lindh says he wants his case reviewed.
Massacre in Burundi. Armed attackers raid a refugee camp in the central African country, killing as many as 180 people, most of them women and children. Burundi Hutu rebels claimed responsibility for the killings. They say the camp was a hideout for rival soldiers and militiamen.
Keeping you informed, CNN, the most trusted name in news.
In the meantime, back to the disaster we are covering. Tons of emergency aid are headed to Florida tonight. Several cargo planes, packed full of food and other needed supplies left for the Sunshine State from Dobbins Air Force base right here in Georgia. CNN's Denise Belgrave was there.
DENISE BELGRAVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, calls it the largest air operation ever from the continental United States. Tons of relief supplies are en route to Florida, bringing much needed help to areas hardest hit by hurricane Charley. FEMA has been tracking the storm for the past four days, so officials were ready when Florida asked for help.
KEN BURRIS, FEMA REGIONAL DIRECTOR: We worked with them closely to determine what their needs will be. They make the request, and then we work through removing those items that they're requested from our territorial logistics centers, and then move them to Florida.
BELGRAVE: Everything, from supplies to manpower, to logistics, has been minutely planned at FEMA's disaster operations center. These C-17 cargo planes will carry pre-assembled shelter kits, with blankets, cots, water and other essential relief supplies. In addition, FEMA is sending what it calls initial response kits. They contain tarps and ladders, nails and generators, and other things that residents will need immediately to secure their homes.
Two FEMA medical teams and two search and rescue teams are already on the ground, and 12 more are on the way.
Charley isn't the only emergency FEMA is responding to this week.
BURRIS: Right now, without Florida, we have 17 other disasters going on in this country, from floods, to fires, to anything else that you can -- you can probably imagine.
BELGRAVE (on camera): Officials are FEMA say they were ready for hurricane Charley, and they also say that they're ready for any other storms this hurricane season might bring.
Denise Belgrave, CNN, Atlanta.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I want to show you a very unusual scene here, which is actually, sadly, a very usual scene over the last 24 hours or so. Look at that tree, which has been stripped of foliage, but wrapped around the tree, aluminum siding from roofs. Now, this aluminum siding is everywhere here in Punta Gorda. It is wrapped around cables, it is wrapped around trees. Just one of the many odd scenes that are all too normal in this new normal situation here in Punta Gorda.
Want to talk now with Peter Teahen. He's with the American Red Cross. He's standing by in Orlando. Want to talk about disaster relief across the state of Florida. Peter, thanks for joining us tonight. I'm sure it's been a very busy day for you. How is Florida doing tonight?
PETER TEAHEN, RED CROSS VOLUNTEER: Florida is pulling together and being unified tonight after a long night of anticipation, and a day of shock, surprise and horror. It is amazing, the breadth of this destruction, and the unity of the people of Florida.
COOPER: Peter, how many people are in need tonight? What kind of needs do they have, and how are you meeting them?
TEAHEN: Well, we've had 45,000 people take -- seek shelter in Red Cross shelters, and last night, and thousands are seeking shelter again tonight. Red Cross is on the scene, providing -- seeking -- providing emergency needs, such as trying to provide food, shelter and clothing to families. We have our stuff coming in, volunteers from all over the United States, more than 700, and that number is growing at this point. Trying to care for families from the west coast to the east coast.
COOPER: Peter, how do you get the aid to them? I mean, do you go to them? Are there central points that they can go to in each community?
TEAHEN: Well, we have people on -- in each of these communities, local chapters, local volunteers, serving now. We are providing a toll-free number for families to call. It's an 866-GETINFONOW. That's how they can apply and seek Red Cross assistance. We will have mental health folks in the field, because many people have been emotionally affected by this disaster, either because they've lost personal possessions or loved ones, but even those who sought shelter and came home to a house that was intact still will feel emotional trauma from the experience, and so mental health counselors will be provided throughout the area.
COOPER: And that is a trauma which doesn't go away anytime soon, and which some people are probably not going to react to it until several days from now. How long do you anticipate these kind of needs to last? I mean, how long is this cleanup going to take?
TEAHEN: This cleanup is going to take months, if not years. Red Cross will be -- was here before the incident, was coming in larger numbers as larger -- the chapters throughout the state, and we'll have volunteers and staff here as long as it's needed to take care of these families.
We're still serving the families of disasters of several years ago. As long as there's needs that we can meet, we'll be here.
And you talk about the emotional impact of disasters. One of the key things that I encourage people to think about are what we call the three T's. It's very important to take the time to talk. Talk to family members, talk to friends. Share your experience of what you went through yesterday, last night and throughout the day. Take time to shed tears, because often times it's an easy way to cleanse our feelings and to really release the pent-up feelings. And most important is just to take time. Time to heal. Time of taking in, absorbing your feelings and feeling out what do I do next, realizing there's more than time in the next half hour, the next day, and that people will be there. Red Cross will be there, to help you take that time, to shed those tears and to talk about what they've experienced in the last couple of days and in the weeks to come.
COOPER: Yeah, Peter, we have certainly heard a lot of talk here in Punta Gorda today. We have seen a lot of tears, no doubt about it, we've shared a few of them ourselves. We appreciate, Peter Teahen, the job that you are doing and all your volunteers at the American Red Cross are doing, and all the volunteers who are working so hard across the state of Florida. The work has just been extraordinary, both in predicting the path of this storm, but also in reacting to it. We have seen volunteers coming out. We have seen people from law enforcement authorities, rescue authorities, from all surrounding counties descending on Punta Gorda. You know, they're not being paid extra to do this. This is their weekend. They're doing this because the people here would do it for them. Peter Teahen, thanks for your work. I know you have a busy night ahead. Thanks for being with us tonight.
TEAHEN: Thank you.
COOPER: So much more to talk about here in -- over this coming hour. We'll be right back after a short break.
LIN: Well, very little was left intact in Charley's path. Buildings, power lines, trees, even an airport hangar, were smashed as the storm barreled its way across Florida. This report from Bob Keeling (ph) of affiliate WESH.
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 (voice-over): In Arcadia, 1,200 people at the civic center saw their shelter crumble around them. Only one person suffered minor injuries. The evacuees were relocated.
In Lake Wales, the high water washed away a road and claimed the life of one person. And all over this region, airports and airplanes sustained heavy damage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, by last night, we knew that we had a really, really bad situation, so this is what it is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Patrol teams from all over the state are watching the streets, those not blocked by debris or downed power lines.
LIN: That report from Bob Keeling from affiliate WESH.
And it will take months, if not years, to repair all that damage. Insurance officials say payouts are expected to run into the billions of dollars. And we want to take another look at the weather and also some of the damage out of Punta Gorda. We're lucky enough to have our own meteorologist, Chad Myers, out there. Chad, the scene behind you is unforgettable.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's devastating. And it's devastating to drive into it from the north. We came down from Tampa, and all of a sudden we saw a couple of trees down, and we knew it, and we knew we were getting closer, and we knew it was going to get a whole lot worse than what it was. And we always talk about how a tornado will hit a mobile home park, or whatever. But it's not so much that tornadoes are attracted to them; mobile homes just aren't constructed like your house is, and they're not made to be constructed. They're made to be mobile. If you made a mobile home as good as your house, you wouldn't be able to put it on wheels and move it.
This literally is the truss of a mobile home. This is the roof rafter of your mobile home. If this is part of your house, you wouldn't be able to walk on your roof, and typically you can't walk on these.
I'm going to try this, because I really don't know if I can do this or not, put (UNINTELLIGIBLE). That is what the roof of a mobile home is made from.
Now, go up here. And if you have any kind of construction degree at all, or any kind of knowledge of a house, here, this top of a window. No header. No header whatsoever, just a little one by two on top of this, being supported by literally one by threes or maybe even a -- that might be a five quarter by three, not much bigger than that.
So these things are not built to withstand 145-mile per hour winds. That's why they came down so fast. That's why we're here. The destruction in Punta Gorda is literally in mobile home parks, in trailer parkers, if you will, too, because there are some that are actually considered park homes, not even as well constructed as these.
Now, now I want to get to this. This house was built in 1972. The ones that are built in 2000, after -- basically after hurricane Andrew, are not built like this. They are built much better. But if you're interested in buying one of these, you better find out when it was built, and you better find out if you're in a hurricane zone or not, because that's why they come apart. They're just not made to stay together in a 145-mile per hour wind.
LIN: And Chad, you owe that mobile home owner a roof truss. Put it on your expense form, will you?
MYERS: Fair enough.
LIN: Next on CNN, a day after hurricane Charley slams Florida, we are going to talk to an insurance agent about picking up the pieces.
ANNOUNCER: August 24, 1992. Hurricane Andrew devastated southeastern Florida. The category five hurricane flattened the town of Homestead, killing 15 people there, and leaving a quarter of a million others looking for shelter. Andrew was the most expensive natural disaster to ever hit the U.S., doing $26.5 billion in damage. So many Andrew-related claims were filed, nearly a dozen insurance companies went out of business. LIN: And that was from just one hurricane, hurricane Andrew. It was extremely expensive, and we've got the bigger picture in terms of what other hurricanes will make the top 10 list. Hurricane Hugo, for example, back in 1989, comes in second, with the cost of $7 billion. Hurricane Floyd, third place, in 1999, with $4.5 billion. And Fran comes in fourth place with $3.2 billion. And hurricane Opal is fifth, at $3 billion. Hurricane Frederic is in sixth place, followed by Agnes, Alicia and Bob. And finally, hurricane Juan in 1985, with damage of $1.5 billion. A lot of numbers to throw at you there.
In Lake Wales, Florida, coping with the aftermath of Charley, CNN's Bruce Burkhardt talks to an insurance agent, who lost much of his shop, but at the same time, has to go out to help others.
BRUCE BURKHARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The day after, 10:30 in the morning, and Jim Rainer (ph), the State Farm agent in Lake Wales, Florida has already received 50 to 60 claims.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) repairs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. Temporary repairs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, to keep it from getting any worse, you know. Like put a tarp over the roof.
BURKHARDT: There would be a lot more claims if the phones were working. Not only does Jim have to tend to others, he's got his own problems.
(on camera): You got hit hard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, pretty hard. Kind of unexpected.
We lost part of our roof over here.
BURKHARDT: You got a sunroof.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, we got a sunroof, yeah.
BURKHARDT: In a situation like this, whose problems -- do you take care of this problem first or other people's?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, a little bit of this, but mostly other people's, because, you know, other people haven't got any place to live. This is just where I work.
BURKHARDT (voice-over): Though the coast was hit much worse than this, no one around here expected this much damage this far inland, about 80 miles from where Charley came ashore.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the dry cleaners there.
BURKHARDT: Soon, a national catastrophe team will arrive to settle claims. In the meantime, Jim's job is first aid, to people like the Garfields (ph), whose home is unlivable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it rains, it could rain -- it could come in everywhere in the house. So you might want to take all your bedding off the bed and put everything away, you know, in a plastic bag.
BURKHARDT: When it's all over, billions will be paid out in claims, but it starts with just enough money to find temporary housing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $500 will be enough to start?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. Like I said, just hang on to all your receipts.
BURKHARDT: At the home of another policy holder, insult added to injury. Yet more rain had poured in through the damaged roof.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those big concrete ones?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those big concrete ones are all laying over on 27th (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, man.
BURKHARDT: It's days like this that an insurance agent earns his keep. In more ways than one.
Bruce Burkhardt, CNN, Lakes Wales, Florida.
LIN: We've got much more special coverage on hurricane Charley, now a tropical storm. Especially reports live from the scene at Punta Gorda, Florida.
COOPER: It has been a very long day indeed for the people here in Punta Gorda and really throughout the storm-affected areas in all throughout Florida, a difficult day indeed. You know, Chad, we were talking a little bit before the break, and for me, I mean, these kind of storms are always sort of these digitized dots on some radar somewhere, not something you actually experience for yourself. To actually be here, it is horrible, it is terrible, it is awe-inspiring when you see the power of Mother Nature.
Do you ever get used to it? I mean, you've been in a lot of these storms.
MYERS: No, you don't get used to it, but it gives you a sense of how important your job is. A lot of times I say, yeah, I'm a weather guy, you know, but then when you think about how important everything you do is, you know, what the people here needed to know, we didn't get it to them. The hurricane forecasts were wrong by a few miles, not huge, but they were wrong by a few miles. It makes the gravity of the situation -- next time maybe it does hit Tampa.
COOPER: Because that small deviation and that small amount of time in which it made that deviation, this is the result.
MYERS: Yeah, it is. And you know what, millionaires don't own mobile homes, all right? Somebody -- this is somebody's house. This might be all they have. And I just looked at that computer right there, and I'm thinking to myself, the guy, the woman that has that computer will probably never, ever be able to see the computer graphics, the images of her granddaughter. Anything that might have been downloaded on that computer is trash, and it makes it a human element rather than a physical element. To me, weather is physical. If there is a tornado, there is a hurricane, there's 80-mile an hour wind, the Doppler is rotating this way, the Doppler is rotating that way, the storm is curving left or the storm is curving right, but when you see people's stuff, it's hard to take.
COOPER: And to see it block after block, and that's what we're seeing all throughout Punta Gorda, and in many communities throughout Florida tonight. Our thoughts and our prayers are certainly not only with the owner of this home, but with the owners of all the mobile homes around here, and all the people here in Punta Gorda, who are without power tonight, who are homeless tonight, thousands, tens of thousands of people, homeless tonight, in shelters, staying with friends, staying with loved ones. Our thoughts and our prayers go out to them.
And our coverage continues. Chad Myers will be here in the next hours, Carol Lin, continuous coverage into the 8:00 o'clock hour. I'll be back at 10. Carol, a difficult day, but our coverage continues.
LIN: Yeah. Anderson, a quick question for you. You've covered war zones all around the world. I'm just wondering how this experience compares with that.
COOPER: Yeah, you know, it's interesting. I have been in a lot of war zones. I was actually thinking about back in Sarajevo, seeing some of the devastation there. Of course, the result, the cause of it completely different -- war, a man-made cause. It's different. There is not the same level of violence to it, of hate involved. But so much of the wreckage is the same, and my thoughts kept going back to other scenes I've seen in Sarajevo, in Rwanda, throughout the world. You know, human suffering, there is so much of it throughout the world, and when it touches down in a place, it is something to remark.
And for me, the saddest thing is always that people suffer in silence, and people suffer without anyone noticing they're passing or they're suffering. And I'm glad that we are here at least to witness what has happened here, and to continue to witness the recovery of this town -- Carol. LIN: That's right. And it's good to share the coverage with you. Thanks very much, Anderson. We're going to see you in our prime-time hour at 10:00 o'clock Eastern.
And that's all the time we have for this hour. Coming up next, more in-depth coverage of hurricane Charley. I'm Carol Lin at the CNN Center.
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