Guest: Booch DeMarchi, Mark Sanford
ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of Deborah Norville Tonight, Hurricane Charley, the aftermath.
DEBORAH NORVILLE, MSNBC ANCHOR: The deadly storm that left a wake of destruction, devastation and death in its path.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘ve never been in one of these before, so no one knew what was going to happen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We‘ve got two by fours right through the wall.
NORVILLE: Thousands remain homeless.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire department, hello?
NORVILLE: More than a million without power.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don‘t think I‘ve ever been so scared in my life.
NORVILLE: We‘ll take you to the flashpoints across the south as the storm continues to cut a path up the coast.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My house is in Northport, and I don‘t know what‘s happened to it.
NORVILLE: Tonight, Hurricane Charley, a direct hit.
JEB BUSH, FLORIDA GOVERNOR: That‘s the way life is when you‘re hit by one of God‘s most powerful forces.
ANNOUNCER: From Studio 3K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.
NORVILLE: And good evening, everybody. You‘re looking at a live picture of perhaps the hardest hit area of Florida, the city of Punta Gorda. Hurricane Charley left a path of death and destruction in Punta Gorda, ripping up mobile home parks, destroying and damaging thousands and thousands of other structures.
Sitting on Florida‘s gulf coast between Sarasota and Fort Myers, before Charley hit, Punta Gorda was a quaint riverfront town of about 15,000 people. Now it‘s mostly a city in ruins, ground zero for Hurricane Charley. And tonight, the people of Punta Gorda are picking up the pieces. At least 10 of the 15 people killed in Florida lived and died in that area.
And few buildings in Punta Gorda were left unscathed.
The storm also wiped out a historic downtown district that was in the process of being restored. Tonight we begin in Punta Gorda.
Louise Little lost her home. Judy Calman (ph), however, was one of the lucky ones. Her home managed to weather the storm. Also joining us there in Punta Gorda are Chris Paladino (ph), who is with the American Red Cross and City Councilman Thomas Pool (ph). And I thank you all for being with us in what‘s obviously about the worst night in your lives.
Judy, let me ask you. What happened that your house was able to survive this storm when so many other people lost their homes?
JUDY CALMAN (ph), PUNTA GORDA RESIDENT: I live in a newer mobile home that was build after Andrew that had stricter FEMA regulations. And so, it was able to withstand a higher wind.
NORVILLE: And were you in your home, Judy, when the storm hit?
CALMAN (ph): No, I had evacuated into Punta Gorda.
NORVILLE: And you were in one of the evacuation centers that the village had set up?
CALMAN (ph): Actually, no, I was in a condo of a friend. And there was some damage there, but we were safe. It was a big concrete block unit.
NORVILLE: So absolutely nothing happened to your home? We‘ve seen these incredible pictures of houses literally just reduced to sheets of cardboard and sheet metal. Your house is perfectly intact?
CALMAN (ph): No, no, no. I have a broken window that had glass through my entire living area. And then I had the siding stripped off and also a carport, an aluminum carport was mostly taken off. So there is some damage I sustained, but not a lot.
NORVILLE: But the lady next to you, Louise, was not nearly as lucky.
Louise, can you tell us what happened to your home there?
LOUISE LITTLE, PUNTA GORDA RESIDENT: It‘s just - the roof went off and everything went with it. It‘s just basically gone and picking up bits and pieces that are left on the floor. But that‘s it.
NORVILLE: Ms. Little, how were you able to get back into your home?
We know how difficult it is just to get around down there right now.
LITTLE: Well, I‘m fairly close to the entrance, so it was - I was able to get in OK.
NORVILLE: Yes. And when you got up to where your home had been located, what were you able to find?
LITTLE: Basically just little knick knacks and small stuff. Some stuff was left in the cupboards, dishes and so on, but not much. It‘s mostly ruined.
NORVILLE: Now were you insured, Ms. Little? Is there any coverage that can help rebuild your home and rebuild your life?
LITTLE: Yes, I had insurance on the home. And hopefully we‘ll be able to come out of this.
NORVILLE: I know everybody says the blessing is when you don‘t get hurt. Were you there at your home when this happened, or had you managed to get - obviously you‘d gotten away to an evacuation center. Had all of your neighbors been able to get away as well?
LITTLE: Most of them did. There were a few that rode out the storm, and they survived. We were lucky we‘re all survived.
NORVILLE: And where were you, Ms. Little, when the storm hit? Where did you go?
LITTLE: I was in a shelter in Port Charlotte in one of the middle schools in Port Charlotte. And we had about 500 people in the shelter. And it was damaged some, but we weren‘t injured or anything. So we were good. We were lucky.
NORVILLE: Tell me what it was like when you and the other people were there in the shelter. I‘ve never been through a hurricane, but I understand there‘s this incredible high-pitched noise that just doesn‘t stop for the longest time. Can you describe for us what it was like as the storm was passing over there?
LITTLE: Well, the entire roof was just rumbling, just like sheets of aluminum just rumbling and rumbling. And then finally you could hear things break loose from the roof. The air conditioning went and all the duct work with it. And then pretty soon, the ceiling started to leak in the gym from the exposure. And, you know, then the eye came and then some more noise, and then that was it, I guess.
NORVILLE: You must have been terrified that the building was going to blow away all together hearing all the duct work and everything go flying.
LITTLE: No, I felt confident because it was a brick building. But, you know, I knew what was up there. I basically had an idea, so I just didn‘t think that far.
NORVILLE: Yes, well, sometimes it‘s better not to think too far down the pike about what might be coming up. Well, it‘s a miracle that you‘re well and that your home survived, even the small things that you are able to take.
I want to ask the camera to switch over to Mr. Paladino (ph) and Thomas Pool and get a perspective from their sense on just exactly what‘s been going on.
Thomas Pool (ph), when you all set up those evacuation centers for the residents there in Punta Gorda, how do you know that they are going to be secure enough that when people like Ms. Little or people like Ms. Calman (ph), who ended up with a friend, go to these places that they‘re going to be secure when they‘re there?
THOMAS POOL (ph), AMERICAN RED CROSS: Well, you try to make sure that the building you select previously is of good construction, is out of the flood areas and does have the facilities, the bathrooms and things that will be adequate.
NORVILLE: Yes. And...
POOL (ph): The county...
NORVILLE: Go ahead.
POOL (ph): The county does—I‘m sorry. The county does have a full-time disaster manager. And that‘s a major part of his function.
NORVILLE: The reality, though, is that you‘ve got a disaster manager and that‘s his full-time function. You haven‘t had to really put it into place in many, many years there in Punta Gorda. And I think a lot of people thought yours was a charmed area where storms just magically wouldn‘t hit. Has the shock of what‘s happened there truly settled in on the townspeople?
POOL (ph): It only takes a minute of looking around for the shock to be there. But, yes, we‘ve been lucky in the past. We‘re not right on the coast. But seeing is believing. We know we‘re vulnerable.
NORVILLE: And we‘re looking at just incredible pictures. It looks like a movie set. The house has no roof, the furniture all mostly in place, the video that we‘re looking at as we speak to you. And yet, I know in many areas people have not been able to get back into their homes. They‘ve not been able to go and check and see if they still exist. Of the percentage of people who were evacuated out, how many have had an opportunity to go back to their neighborhoods and check on their homes?
POOL (ph): Well, you have to understand that we do have a lot of snowbirds here that were gone during the whole summer, so it‘s hard to get a count of how many people who have evacuated just for this event and who are out of town for a month or two months of three months.
NORVILLE: So you really have no way of knowing...
POOL (ph): But they‘re starting to come back.
NORVILLE: ... until you physically get in with your teams into each and every apartment and condominium and house trailer whether there will be a higher death toll than the 15 we‘ve already been told about?
POOL (ph): Exactly. The police and the first responders have been going door to door checking to make sure that if there is anyone in the home that they‘re alive and well and to keep track of things like that.
NORVILLE: And so, let me ask you, then. Of the door to door searches that you‘re having to make, what percentage of the community have you been able to hit so far?
POOL (ph): I‘m not sure of the percentage that they‘ve completed. But, however, they started yesterday night, and they are probably pretty close to finished, if not finished.
NORVILLE: Yes. And a quick question before we go to the break. We‘re going to keep all of you with us and talk some more after the commercials.
Chris Paladino (ph), we know in times like this, everybody wants to help. They all want to contribute. But you don‘t really need people putting clothes in boxes and mailing to Punta Gorda, do you? What do you need down there?
CHRIS PALADINO (ph), AMERICAN RED CROSS: No, we learned this over many disasters. After Hurricane Andrew, we saw truckloads of totally inappropriate clothing arriving for this hot, August summer. The best way to help is by making a financial contribution. That allows the Red Cross to buy whatever‘s needed at the moment. Today it might be food and water.
PALADINO (ph): Tomorrow it might temporary shelter or medications.
And people can call 1-800-HELPNOW to do that.
NORVILLE: All right. And we‘re going to be putting that number up throughout the broadcast to give folks a chance to write that down. We‘ll take a short break. We‘ll be back. More with our guests when we come back.
And coming up, a look at the devastation that Charley caused the rest of Florida, including - check this out - 60 miles away from Punta Gorda on exclusive North Captiva Island, Hurricane Charley literally tore through and split it into two islands. We‘ll hear from people who lived through the hurricane and had their lives turned upside down as a result. Stay tuned.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never expected - I mean, the kids were shaking and scared. And it‘s just all you can think of is, “God, am I going to get out of here”.
BUSH: Once we approach Punta Gorda and saw a community destroyed, in essence, I mean, particularly the mobile home parks, it is - it‘s just - you know, it‘s hard to describe seeing an entire community totally flattened. And that‘s what happened in many of these mobile home parks.
NORVILLE: Remarks from Governor Jeb Bush in Florida after he toured the devastated area of Southwest Florida today. President Bush has declared Florida a federal disaster area. And he will be making a stop in the state to see the disaster firsthand himself tomorrow.
Joining me again from Punta Gorda, which is hardest hit by Hurricane Charley, are residents Louise Little And Judy Calman (ph), also Chris Paladino (ph) with the American Red Cross and city councilman, Thomas Pool (ph).
Ladies, as you know, with the president declaring it a disaster area, that means more money will be available for people like you to rebuild. Have either of you been told how you go about getting disaster relief funds, Ms. Calman (ph)?
CALMAN (ph): No, not a thing yet, because we have no radios and we have no TV and we have no telephones.
NORVILLE: So anything you know right now is word of mouth, people knocking on doors, right?
CALMAN (ph): And no one‘s doing that yet.
NORVILLE: Councilman Pool (ph), what about that? It‘s obviously just the initial hours after the storm, but these people need information, they need water, they need ice. Electricity, we know, is not on for a million residents in Florida. How are folks making due?
POOL (ph): Well, they‘re making due like we‘ve done for centuries. We‘re moving as quickly as we can on the water situation. A large number of power line crews are coming in to start the repairs on the power lines. There is some telephone communication. Some areas have it, some areas don‘t.
NORVILLE: Yes, yes.
POOL (ph): But everyone‘s just having to step back and make due with what they have now.
NORVILLE: You mentioned telephones. A lot of folks who have friends or family down in the Fort Myers area have tried unsuccessfully to get through. Can you give any prediction when folks will be able to make contact with friends and loved ones in the area?
POOL (ph): I have no knowledge as to when they expect to be back up and running. Like I say, there are areas that do have phone lines working. A lot of the cell phones aren‘t working. It‘s just as they can get to it.
There‘s no predetermined expectation as to when it‘ll be done.
NORVILLE: Chris Paladino (ph), we know the Red Cross‘ job is not search and rescue but to offer support and help to people after a disaster happens. What specifically are you doing for folks who are like Ms. Little, don‘t have a house to live in? You can‘t sleep in the school gym because the roof was damaged during the storm. What can you do to give these people some sort of place to be safe in this initial period?
PALADINO (ph): Well, there‘s a number of things we‘re doing. First of all, though, I‘d like to point out for the folks who are around the country who are unable to reach their loved ones or family members, friends, they can call the Red Cross. They can call 1-866-GETINFO. That‘s a different number than the number I gave before the break.
PALADINO (ph): But they can open what we call a disaster welfare inquiry with that number. And our trained Red Cross volunteers will go out and try to locate those folks and get a message to them and get a message back to the original caller saying all is well.
NORVILLE: So how many people have you got on the ground to be able to do that?
PALADINO (ph): Well, we have over 1,000 volunteers, both locally and from around the country that are here right now. And more are arriving every day.
NORVILLE: And what is it that you see the need greatest as being as you look around and go through the area, sir?
PALADINO (ph): Well, the needs are what you were asking about. It‘s a roof over their head, some place to sleep, some place dry and safe to sleep, something to eat, something to drink. We have - we had 82 shelters open at the height of the storm. We still have a number of shelters open where folks can go.
The high school that was damaged was unfortunate. It wasn‘t a Red Cross shelter. But we do have a number of other Red Cross shelters that are open where people can sleep, where they can get a hot meal and where they can get something to drink. We do tell people that unfortunately you do really need to take the message seriously. Be prepared to take care of yourself for up to the first three days because, as you heard earlier, the storm damage is not restricted to Punta Gorda. It is across the state.
PALADINO (ph): And it‘s going to take time for us to get resources to everybody. But beginning tomorrow, we have - right now we have 98 emergency response vehicles or mobile vehicles that are in the state, more arriving again tomorrow. Those will start going out tomorrow delivering meals and water into the hard-hit communities. We will be taking them fliers with information about how to apply for FEMA assistance, how to apply for Red Cross assistance.
NORVILLE: Right. Yes, and it‘s a big job that you‘ve got. And you mentioned it‘s not just Punta Gorda that‘s been hit. We should note that Punta Gorda was in 2003 noted as the fourth best place to live in this country. I‘m sure right now people are happy that they‘re alive. And it‘ll be a while before Punta Gorda is back on that list.
But, Thomas Pool (ph), thank you very much for being with us.
Louise Little, we wish you good luck.
Judy Calman (ph), the same to you.
And, Chris Paladino (ph), thank you for the work that you and the Red Cross are doing.
As we mentioned, about 60 miles away from Punta Gorda on the gulf coast are the barrier islands of Florida. And they felt the initial wrath of Hurricane Charley. Officials estimate that about 250,000 buildings were damaged in Lee County alone. That gives them an initial damage estimate of $3 billion just in that one county. And on North Captiva Island, which is dotted with million dollar mansions, Hurricane Charley hit with such devastating force that it literally tore the island in two. It cut a path through the island and turned Captiva into two islands.
Joining me now is Booch Demarchi. He is the public information officer for Lee County. And he has had his hands full. Sir, what‘s the situation right now in terms of how many people are without shelter this evening?
BOOCH DEMARCHI, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, LEE COUNTY: Good evening, Deborah. IN our shelter situation before the storm, we had about 10,000 people in our public shelters. Right now most of those people have gone home, and we‘re down to one shelter from the original 11. And we‘ve got about 1,300 people still homeless, still trying to get back to their homes.
NORVILLE: And how many people were the type that you hear every time there‘s one of these disasters who say, “I‘m not going to leave. I‘m going to ride this one out”? Do you have any idea how many people did stay in their homes or condos?
DEMARCHI: One of - and you mentioned in your introduction to this bit that we have a lot of barrier islands in Lee County, and we do. And I think you even mentioned the Sanibel Island. We were very pleased that Lee County that are residents were very responsive and took the storm very seriously. Sanibel has about 6,000 people. And by the time the storm hit, only 100 people were left on the island. So our citizens took the storm seriously and reacted accordingly.
NORVILLE: And so, only 100 people actually hung in there. And all 100 are fine? Have they been accounted for, as far as you know?
DEMARCHI: As far as I know, yes. In Lee County, we only had one personal tragedy. One individual, a male in his early 20s in North Fort Myers made a bad mistake. He went out during the hurricane and got in the path of a falling tree. So to the best of our knowledge, we‘ve only had one fatality. So, thought that is a personally tragic story, the big picture is, there was very little death in Lee County. And that‘s always a good news thing.
NORVILLE: You know, I‘ve seen some people wondering why they couldn‘t predict better the path of the hurricane, that some people mistakenly thought, “It‘s going to Tampa, it‘s going to Tampa.” And I know representatives of the hurricane center said, “No, we said the West coast of Florida.” Why is it so hard for people to believe that, yes, it really could be coming your way?
DEMARCHI: Well, being in public education myself and trying to constantly inform the public about hurricanes and how deadly they can be, in southwest Florida, in Lee County in particular, we haven‘t had a hurricane—up until yesterday, we haven‘t had a hurricane since 1960, Donna.
DEMARCHI: So we‘ve gone 44 years of near misses. And unfortunately I think as a population we get a little complacent. After 44 years we start assuming that all hurricanes are going to be near miss. And yesterday that wasn‘t the case. So it‘s sort of hurricane amnesia. We sort of forget what they‘re really like because we haven‘t been hit. And maybe sometimes we get a little lazy. And so, unfortunately we all learned a lesson yesterday when Charley came through Lee County.
NORVILLE: Given the fact that you don‘t have any experience with direct hits from hurricanes in your area, what do you guesstimate (ph) it‘s going to take time-wise to get your community built back so that folks can get back in their homes and those tourists who come every year and pump a lot of money into the local economy are able to come and enjoy themselves again?
DEMARCHI: And that‘s a very difficult question, Deborah, to try and answer. We‘re going to have to guess obviously. But some of the homes—
I think you mentioned earlier in the show that Northern Captiva, Useppa Islands devastated. I think in that case about 90, 95 percent of the homes there were damaged, 30 percent destroyed.
And so, if you‘re looking at a community that‘s pretty well devastated, it‘s going to take a long time to rebuild that community. The spirit‘s going to bounce back right away, but the physical structures, that‘s going to take some time to get those rebuilt. So it‘s going to be a difficult time in Lee County, but we‘re going to bounce back.
NORVILLE: Well, we wish you luck. And we‘ll be checking in with you to see how the progress goes. Booch Demarchi, thank you so much for being with us.
DEMARCHI: Sure. Thank you.
NORVILLE: Hurricane Charley was the worst storm to hit the United States in more than a decade, the latest one being Hurricane Andrew in 1992. And the city of Punta Gorda took a direct hit, feeling the full force of those winds of 145 miles an hour. Residents of Punta Gorda today saw what was left in Charley‘s wake. And here they are in their own words.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just moved here a few weeks ago. How can something just come along that quick and just ---
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘ve never been in one of these before. So, no one knew what was going to happen. So I just took off and went to my daughter‘s house, came back and saw this. Surprise, surprise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The best thing to do in a hurricane is get out, worry about it later, sort it out later. And that‘s what we‘ll do today. We‘ll sort out and see what happens.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I haven‘t even seen my house yet. I know - I understand stuff went right through walls.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know it‘s not good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m fine. How are you? How did you fare?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don‘t know. I‘m going to find out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Holy Moses. Well, compared to the other (INAUDIBLE) section (ph), we‘re maybe luckier than other people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My word.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the storm shudder‘s (ph), Jane (ph), right behind my chair.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now where did the thing go into the house?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over here, mom.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How did it get through?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We‘ve got two by fours right through the walls.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They‘re at the other end of it. It‘s part of Dad‘s shelving.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My god.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that‘s where your painting was.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It went right through the wall.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There‘s a lot of old people in here that this was all they had. I have no idea what I‘m going to do right now. I think I‘m going to pray for everybody else.
NORVILLE: And when we come back, Tropical Storm Charley, as it‘s now called, is making its way up the Eastern Seaboard at the moment, but it has left thousands without power in the Carolinas. A live interview with the Governor of South Carolina coming up next.
NORVILLE: And back now with our special coverage on the destruction caused by Hurricane Charley. Florida, of course, hard hit and a key battle ground state in this year‘s presidential election. And today both President Bush in Iowa and Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry in Oregon addressed the devastation in Florida. Here‘s a little bit of what both men had to say.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tomorrow—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.
SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D-MA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Teresa and I extend our deepest sympathies to the people of Florida, and obviously particularly to those whose lives have been just turned topsy-turvy and devastated by the destruction of the last hours.
Hurricane Charley has changed people‘s lives within an instance. And the work of a lifetime for many people has been blown away and washed away. I have instructed our people in Florida, all of them involved in the campaign to try to turn their attention to helping in recovery efforts, in providing whatever support that they can, food or clothing or shelter or otherwise.
And obviously I support President Bush in the emergency declaration and provision and the governor of the state.
Teresa and I are really thinking about those folks, and our prayers and our thoughts are with them in the next hours. We hope very, very much that the recovery can proceed as rapidly as possible and lives can be put back together.
NORVILLE: By the time Hurricane Charley hit the Carolinas in its trek off the east coast, it had lost a lot of its steam. And when it reached North Carolina, its wind speeds were down to 75 miles an hour. And shortly after that it was downgraded to a tropical storm, that when the winds fell below 69 miles an hour.
But it still packed enough of a punch to knock out power to more than half a million people, uprooting trees and causing some minor flooding. But Charley was moving so fast that the bad weather lasted only about half an hour in any given spot.
Before it hit North Carolina, though, Charley was still considered a hurricane when it struck and came through South Carolina. Thousands in that state were left without power, and the governor ordered a mandatory evacuation of about 180,000 people along the Grand Strand Resort area along the coast.
That, of course, brought back memories of Hurricane Hugo which hit South Carolina 15 years ago and caused heavy damage.
Joining me now from Charleston, South Carolina, is South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. Good evening, sir. How are you today?
GOV. MARK SANFORD, SOUTH CAROLINA: I‘m doing fine, Deborah. How are you?
NORVILLE: I‘m good, thanks.
I know you had a chance to survey the coastline there in Carolina and see what damage had occurred. How badly were you all hit?
SANFORD: You know, it was a grazing blow if you want to call it that. Mother nature was very nice to us when you compare what happened in South Carolina with what happened in Florida. I would echo what was just said in this last segment. We in South Carolina send our thoughts and prayers as well to a lot of folks whose lives have been interrupted and property devastated down in Florida.
NORVILLE: I know one of the things that‘s so important when you have got a storm bearing down is to get people who could be in harm‘s way out of there. And that was something I know when you came in as governor, you took a look at and realized there had been some problems in previous evacuations. What did you all do differently this time around?
SANFORD: We set up—without boring you with all the mechanics, we set up a whole series of different lane reversals so that we would have four lanes of traffic leaving from major metropolitan areas on our coast, whether it‘s the southeastern quadrant, the middle coast, or the upper northeast coast.
And I can‘t give enough credit to a lot of folks in law enforcement, both at the local and the state level, who did an absolutely superb job last night in, for instance, a lane reversal that we had set up that moved more than 100,000 people last night between 8:00 p.m. last night and 6:00 a.m. this morning out of the Grand Strand Area, which is the Myrtle Beach area for us.
NORVILLE: So did you have any injuries at all associated with this storm? We‘re looking at damage from the beach. It looks like the beaches are messy and there is a lot of debris, but it frankly doesn‘t look like anything compared to what we‘ve seen in Florida.
SANFORD: It‘s not comparable to what you see in Florida. We roughly had 60, 70, 80 mile an hour winds which are not comparable to 140 mile an hour winds. We have certainly seen 140 mile an hour winds before along the South Carolina coast, whether with Hazel in 1954, or whether with Hugo more recently, but this was not a Hugo, this was not a Hazel, and it was not the Charley that you saw down in Florida.
What was impressive, though, was the way that people came together. I went through Georgetown, South Carolina, middle of the day today, and already there in the yards were people cleaning up limbs, helping each other with chain saws. A great community spirit that I think you probably see, not only in South Carolina but down in Florida right now as we speak.
NORVILLE: Well, you‘re a politician. You know that I guess no good deed goes unpunished. While you did evacuate 180,000 people and lifted the evacuation order today at noon, there are some people in the Myrtle Beach area who are thinking, particularly shop owners, that maybe you were a little too quick on the draw and they lost a lot of business as the result. What do you say to them?
SANFORD: Well, you always get second-guessed in the process, that goes with the territory. But what I would say is you‘ve got to make an informed decision based on the science and based on what the National Weather Service tells you. And what, for instance, caught people down in the Punta Gorda, Fort Myers area unaware was the way that the storm track changed. Everybody thought Tampa. Well, it changed and it strengthened. A lot of devastation was done.
What we didn‘t know was when that storm re-entered the warm waters of the Gulf stream, would it restrengthen again? And if it did, there would be no time for people to exit. If you didn‘t put in place that mandatory evacuation order as of 6:00 p.m. last night. So we went ahead and did it.
You‘re always going to be second-guessed in this process. But what I would say is property can be replaced. Lives cannot. We thought that it was the right call. And I think that history will prove us right in this one in that it was a flawless execution, thanks to the great work of law enforcement in South Carolina last night.
NORVILLE: Governor, I know you were not in office at the time Hurricane Hugo came through which is the worst thing your states had to deal with, but you certainly do have to be prepared. And I‘m curious, we know how many national guardsmen around the country have been taken out of their home states and deployed to active duty in Iraq. How much less strength do you have in your national guard today as a result of the Iraqi deployment, and would that have left you stranded had there been real devastation you had to deal with?
SANFORD: In round numbers, about a third of our force, if you want to call it that, is deployed overseas right now. It would hurt us, but no, we have had numerous conversations with the general and the folks at the National Guard. They had in place, again, enough men to get the job done. We were short on some different pieces of material.
But, you know they are sharing agreements with different guard units across states. And we were going to borrow some things from Tennessee, we were going to borrow some things from Texas. And the same thing is going on right now in Florida. They were going to borrow two Black Hawk helicopters from us. Instead as it turns out they are borrowing actually chinooks from Kentucky. I was on a conference call this afternoon on that.
So, there is a lot of borrowing, a lot of helping each other out that goes on with these different states. Again, Florida is receiving a lot of that right now from a whole series of different states up and down the South Atlantic.
NORVILLE: So can you sit there as governor and say in every state in this country, people can feel secure that there are enough national guardsmen to do the job they need done locally, given the demands that has been put on the guard force this year?
SANFORD: I can‘t say that in an informed sense about other states. I can certainly say it about South Carolina. And I believe it probably with great probability in other states, because of the fact that there is a real, again, sharing agreement between different states in these kinds of emergencies.
NORVILLE: Well, I have to say that‘s very reassuring to hear. And we thank you very much for sharing that information with us as well as the rest of your comments tonight. Governor Mark Sanford from South Carolina. Thanks so much, sir.
SANFORD: Yes, ma‘am. Take care.
NORVILLE: You, too.
When we come back, we‘ll hear from another hurricane survivor. And we‘ll find out where the storm is now as our coverage continues. Stay tuned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m going to pick up all the trash in the yard and call somebody to fix the shingles on the roof. Just clean up the mess.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We missed a big blow. Now you get to see the big waves. And you‘re out in the fresh air. You can‘t live in a better place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Hurricane Charley is quickly moving it‘s awy up the East Coast. John Marshall from NBC station WNBC has been tracking this storm --
JOHN MARSHALL, WNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Deborah. Thanks a lot. and yes, this storm system has been ever changing. Take a look right now at the satellite picture. You can see that the storm system that was a category 4 hurricane over Florida is now down to a 50 mile an hour tropical storm just to the northeast of Virginia Beach.
The problem right now is all the rain that is heading up the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast seaboard, you can see the swath of rain working up toward New York City. The heaviest precipitation is located over Delaware. And that‘s what we‘re going to watch the next several hours. But again, the storm is weakening.
Take a look at the track. The storm system right now is located near Virginia Beach. And by 2:00 in the morning, the next several hours, it‘s already going to be by the Central New Jersey coastline. And we‘re thinking it‘s going to be farther offshore than that.
That‘s the good news. It‘s going to spare much of the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast Coastal areas. Just a lot of heavy rain and some wind maybe gusting up to 40, 45 miles an hour.
But unfortunately, the tropics are very hot. And guess what? Another tropical storm has formed. Its name is Earl, located about 500 miles east of Barbados. Winds of about 50 miles an hour moving to the west. And by five days from now, the National Hurricane Center has a storm system near Jamaica as a hurricane.
So Deborah, you get the idea things are very hot in the tropics.
The good news is Charley is weakening and moving rapidly to the northeast. Some heavy rains and gusty winds in store for the Mid-Atlantic and northeastern coast. Back to you.
NORVILLE: John, how bad do you expect those rains to be? What kind of precipitation should people be expecting if they live somewhere in that track zone?
MARSHALL: We were thinking between, Deborah, one and three inches of rain. We‘re watching it very closely, this system. Flood watches are up for coastal areas from New York City to Boston. But again, it‘s moving so quick, I don‘t think it‘s going to be a devastating flooding rain. That‘s the good news. The storm is weakening and moving very quickly.
NORVILLE: Turning into a nonevent. John Marshall from WNBC. Thanks so much for being with us.
When we come back, one resident who was there when Hurricane Charley made land. We‘ll be back in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I expected—I mean, them kids were shaking and scared. All you can think of is God, am I going to get out of here? .
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: When Hurricane Charley made landfall in Florida, the storm was packing winds of up to 145 miles an hour. That‘s a category 4 storm that absolutely no one wants to be in its way, but some people were, including Charlotte County, Florida, resident Paige Strike. Here is his firsthand account.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAIGE STRIKE, HURRICANE SURVIVOR: I could feel the pressure dropping inside of my house, severely. I mean, my ears were sucking inside of my house. That‘s when I decided to take the mattress off my bed and get under it, because I‘m thinking man, when this happens, it‘s the time the roof comes off, you know?
And it—obviously, it didn‘t, but man, it was—the pressure drop was incredible, you know?
And the wind. It was just—it was just unbelievable. It was—I got a little porthole on my front door that I would peep out every once in a while, and I mean it—it was just incredible.
I was seriously wondering if I was—if I would make it, if I wasn‘t
· if I—if the house wasn‘t going to just come in on me and there was nowhere I could go. It‘s just—it‘s total devastation. I mean, it‘s like a bomb went off, you know?
And I got a chunk of a trailer sitting in my—in my yard that came from a field behind my house. It‘s got a big chunk of the front of a trailer with an air conditioner attached to it that I never even knew was in that field.
It was loud. I could just barely hear my radio. I could just barely hear the radio. The wind was like roaring. Just a roaring, roaring sound.
Man, I will tell you what. I just feel so lucky. I mean, I feel really fortunate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: That was hurricane survivor Paige Strike in his own words.
We‘ll be back in just a moment. But first, here is a look at some emergency phone numbers that might be useful for you.
FLORIDA EMERGENCY INFO HOTLINE: 1-800-342-3557.FLORIDA VOLUNTEER AND DONATION HOTLINE: 1-888-993-1023RED CROSS INFORMATION HOTLINE: 1-800-HELP-NOW
NORVILLE: And that‘s our special Saturday program for tonight. I‘m Deborah Norville.
For the latest on Hurricane Charley, now Tropical Storm Charley, keep it here on MSNBC.
We‘ll be back on Monday night. And I will be joined by country music superstar Travis Tritt. He says he has music in his blood. Monday night he will tell me how he rose to the country music challenge by selling more than 10 million albums. That‘s Travis Tritt joining me on Monday night.
Coming up next, a special “MSNBC REPORTS.” Thanks for watching. See you on Monday.
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