Guests: Michael Brown, Kelly Donaghy, Collier Merrill, Ginny Graybiel, Trent Lott, Tommy Thompson, Sam Cochran, Bob Riley, Haley Barbour
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Tonight, the Gulf Coast braces for the horrific onslaught of Ivan the terrible, as the killer storm slashes its way towards Mobile, Alabama, and my hometown of Pensacola, Florida.
Welcome to a special two-hour edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
Florida braces for the third killer storm in less than a month. But tonight, it‘s Mobile, Alabama, as well as Pensacola, Florida, that has a bullseye on its back. Florida has taken a beating this summer, first Charley, then Frances, now Hurricane Ivan, and this time, the Category 4 storm is targeting my backyard, the Florida Panhandle.
And it promises to wreak havoc all along the Gulf of Mexico. Tonight, we are going to take you to the eye of the storm, all around the Gulf Coast, with live reports from Pascagoula, Mississippi, New Orleans, Louisiana, and my home, Pensacola, Florida, where residents who haven‘t already evacuated are battening down against 135-mile-per-hour winds and are waiting for the wrath of Ivan.
ANNOUNCER: From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all. Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
Welcome to the show.
Along the Gulf Coast tonight, of course, people are locked in their homes. Those that haven‘t already left, they‘re preparing for the worst. One of those places, New Orleans, Louisiana. Hours earlier, many thought that New Orleans was going to be hit. And, of course, anybody that knows about New Orleans knows that, if it gets to the eye of the storm, then it‘s very bad news for the city.
Tonight, perhaps New Orleans may have been spared in the worst of Ivan‘s wrath, but it‘s still being lashed by wind and rain.
And that‘s where NBC‘s Martin Savidge is.
Martin, what‘s the latest in New Orleans?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, good evening to you, Joe.
They are breathing easier in the Big Easy tonight. In fact, they are saying that they have dodged the bullet. It was not the big one that they feared, say, 36 hours ago. The winds are picking up here. The storm has not actually fully struck, but they are still feeling that it‘s not going to be anywhere near as bad. The winds blowing now probably tropical storm force kind of winds, and that‘s all they expect to get. There have been some gusts about 90 miles an hour, but that‘s not the major rule here.
So they think they are going to get off easy with winds. And the amazing thing is, not a drop of rain, at least not being felt in the major downtown area of New Orleans. There are some parts to the east that are getting hit, some power outages, said to be several thousand people in the dark tonight. That number likely to grow as the winds continue to blow and the tree limbs come down, bring down the power lines.
Lake Pontchartrain right now said to be up to its brim. And that is a concern, especially if the rains did finally arrive. They could then start flooding over the levees, and that would could get into the internationally famous French Quarter. But, so far, that hasn‘t happened, and people are keeping their fingers crossed that it will not happen. There are people in shelters. About 1,000 are inside the Superdome tonight riding out the storm, watching the big screens, enjoying television and meals. For the most part, though, people here are feeling pretty lucky.
That‘s if they remained. About 65 percent of the population left, triggering gridlock. But that‘s all a thing of the past. The only other gridlock to come, likely when they start returning, which they hope will be as early as sometime late tomorrow—Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thanks a lot, Martin. We greatly Appreciate it.
And with me now, we‘ve got Jay Gray. He‘s in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
Jay, what‘s the very latest in Pascagoula?
JAY GRAY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joe, you are from Pensacola. I was born in Mobile. You know these areas can‘t take the rain. They are getting plenty of it here in Pascagoula. We are feeling the outer bands of this storm right now.
We have seen the rain and wind really grow in intensity. We have already felt gusts early on over 50 miles an hour here, and we have still got hours to go. This storm is still about 80 miles off the coast right now. They are getting a pounding rain here in Pascagoula. I can tell you, the ground is already damp, something they didn‘t need. It‘s already been a wet summer, so flooding is going to be a serious issue here.
Most of the people in this town have pulled out. They have moved to higher ground to safety, and that‘s the good news. All we have seen on the streets over the last couple of hours are police patrolling just to enforce the curfew, but, again, nobody really to pull up out there on the streets. Everybody at this point has moved to higher ground.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, Jay, what‘s the thought? Do they believe in Mississippi also because the storm seems to be coming into Mobile, Alabama, that they have dodged the worst of this storm? Or are they still very weary, because, as you and I both know, growing up on the Gulf Coast, these storms can, these hurricanes can turn sharply left or right at any time.
GRAY: No, you are absolutely right, Joe, and that is a big concern here. No, they are not breathing easy at all. And they think even if this thing does, as it‘s currently tracking, come into the Mobile Bay, that this area is going to get quite a hit.
Now, they are on the better side, if there is a better side of this storm, but they still believe that they are going to see some very serious damage here. They believe they will have downed power lines and trees. We have already seen in the last 30 minutes or so a couple of transformers pop, so they are experiencing some of that right now. Again, there‘s a river that runs through Pascagoula. That has been rising through the day, and they are worried about it lapping up over the banks here and causing some serious flooding issues. So, no, they are not breathing easily at all right now in Pascagoula.
They are very concerned and watching very closely.
SCARBOROUGH: Jay, as you know, a lot of people usually die after these storms actually come onshore. What do the authorities think may be the greatest danger after the hurricane comes onshore and hits? And after the storm surges, after the initial impact, where are the greatest chances people could actually lose their lives or have their property destroyed?
GRAY: Boy, that‘s such a great point. You bring up just a tremendous point there, Joe, because that is the most serious time, is after that storm.
People get a little too brave a little too early on a lot of occasions. There are still downed power lines. The flooding is a serious issue. But it‘s moving back in, and even something as simple as running a generator, trying to power your home, when people don‘t let it air out properly and they choke on the carbon monoxide, and that will kill them. So that‘s a very serious issue.
Driving into standing water. Sometimes it looks like it may be only three or four inches deep. The next thing you know, it‘s up over the hood, and you have got a serious problem. That water will pick up a car and wipe it away, as you well know, so that‘s also an issue. Just a lot to watch for as this storm moves through, and then right after the storm, again, a very serious time.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Jay Gray in Pascagoula, thanks so much for being with us. We are going to be coming back to you throughout the evening. We greatly appreciate it.
You know, there is a danger. Of course, these storms come onshore. Initially you have the storm surge. Tonight, in Mobile, Alabama, in Pensacola, Florida, chances are good these communities are going to be hit by storm surges as high as 10 feet. When that happens, you actually see a wall of water that will move over what are called barrier islands, and islands are literally barriers to the mainland. And they will actually cover up an entire island like Pensacola Beach, which is a beach that my family and I always go to.
And you go to a storm site after it hits, and you literally see where this wall of water went, because it destroys absolutely everything in its way.
Right now, let‘s go to Pensacola, Florida, where Kerry Sanders is standing by. Obviously, Pensacola is going to be ground zero tonight and tomorrow, when this storm hits.
Kerry, what‘s the very latest in Pensacola?
Actually, we are having problems with the satellite, because the storm is starting to pick up.
Let‘s move instead to Washington, D.C., where Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson is monitoring Ivan from his operations center.
Secretary Thompson, thanks for being with us tonight.
What is the latest from your vantage point?
TOMMY THOMPSON, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Well, Joe, first, thank you for letting me be on your program tonight. And let me also express my deepest sympathy to you and all the people that are going to be suffering through this, this evening.
Right here, we are observing what‘s going on. We have approximately 400 people in the area, doctors and nurses, radiologists, people like that that can fill in if there‘s an emergency for medical care, also, to substitute for people that are on the front lines that may have to be spelled sometime tomorrow, after they stay up all night.
And we also want to make sure, Joe, as you‘ve indicated, that people realize that, after the storm goes through, it‘s probably the most dangerous time, with the electricity out. People should not eat the food that they have in their refrigerator, because it could become adulterated. We have a lot of people get sick like that. We also, of course, are very concerned about people overexerting themselves, ending up with a heart attack or a stroke and doing things that they are not familiar with, like cutting down trees and things like this that they should avoid.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, obviously, this is the third storm that the state of Florida has faced over the past month. Do you believe that the government is going to respond, going to be able to respond adequately now because, obviously, there‘s only so much help to go around, and it seems like emergency services have been stretched to a breaking point?
THOMPSON: Well, the emergency services have been stretched, but, luckily, this is not going to hit the coast of Florida, where it was originally thought to, down in the Keys, and where Charley went through before, Joe.
It‘s going to hit hard the Pensacola area, but we are hopeful that we have enough backup here at the federal level to pull in and encourage people to volunteer to go in as soon as the storm goes through to help out the emergency workers, who really are stretched very thin at this point in time.
SCARBOROUGH: Mr. Secretary, final question tonight. Obviously, there are a few people still along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, that are watching you. What instructions would you give them, and what instructions would you give people from this area that have evacuated and are trying to get guidance on what they should do?
THOMPSON: Please just be careful, No. 1. No. 2, don‘t go back before the authorities tell you that you can. Three, don‘t eat the food that‘s in your refrigerator. Four, do not drink the water unless it‘s bottled water. And, five, make sure you are protected when you are outside from any kind of flying debris.
And don‘t try to overexert. There are plenty of people that will come in and assist you, and we will send more people down. We got hundreds of people ready to go in as soon as it‘s needed.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for being with us tonight. And thank you for all the help. We greatly appreciate it.
THOMPSON: Good luck, Joe. Thank you.
SCARBOROUGH: Let‘s go to Sean McLaughlin right now. He has been at the MSNBC Weather Center all day, tracking Ivan‘s progress.
Sean, tell us what‘s happening now, where the storm is heading, and when you believe it‘s going to hit the Gulf Coast.
SEAN MCLAUGHLIN, MSNBC METEOROLOGIST: Well, Joe, I will tell you what. There‘s very little that has changed from Ivan since we have been tracking this all day long, and that‘s really not good news. This is going to make landfall as a major probably Category 4 hurricane, sustained winds now of 135 miles an hour.
And we believe now it‘s going to make landfall within the next six hours. And it looks like the target zone continues to be Mobile Bay, somewhere between Mobile Bay and Pensacola, your hometown.
Speaking of your hometown, Joe, let‘s go ahead and show you what‘s going on in your hometown. We have got some flash flood warnings in effect now for your hometown, as well as tornado warnings. These red boxes here are the counties that under tornado warnings, and this area near Panama City, Pensacola, has just been getting raked by ban after ban of severe thunderstorms. You can see these outer bands are bringing hurricane force conditions, hurricane-like conditions all along this stretch of Gulf Coast line.
Tornado watch boxes still in effect throughout tonight and through tomorrow morning. Again, these tornado warnings just keep popping up in the same counties. That‘s what‘s bad about it, is these same counties have over and over experienced tornado-type conditions, as well as tornado touchdowns, over a dozen tornadoes now being reported in there, this flash flood warning in effect for this part of Florida, will be in effect through tonight and tomorrow.
They can expect rainfall conditions anywhere from 10 to 15 inches. And you know this area well. This low-lying beach area has been hammered by straight onshore winds, because they are on the right front quadrant of that eye wall.
If we can switch over to graphics 81, we can kind of show you a better picture now of Hurricane Ivan, still about 80 miles off the coast of Mobile Bay. That bay is going to have dramatic storm surge once it makes landfall, again, in about six hours. There we go. Now we can see this eye wall.
Joe, this has not changed at all, all day long. It‘s stayed tight. It‘s stayed concentric. This has been very active all day long. And it‘s now just jogging here just slightly to the north and east at about 12 miles an hour, with sustained winds at 135. And the hurricane force winds extend out another 100 miles from the center.
Here are a couple of updates for you. Here‘s your hometown, Pensacola. It‘s got heavy rain, temperatures 75 degrees, gusting 44 miles an hour. Let‘s stay in this general area. New Orleans, they are actually probably, cross our fingers, dodging a major bullet. They are still going to have a lot of power outages, a lot of wind damage and possible flooding, but it looks like they are going to be west of the eye wall, gusting to 47 miles an hour.
So we are going to continue to follow Hurricane Ivan, again, landfall, Joe, in about six hours or less.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, great. Thanks a lot, Sean. Got questions for you coming up in a little bit.
But we will be right back when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns, talking about Ivan the terrible.
SCARBOROUGH: One of the most powerful storms in recent Gulf Coast history zones in on Mobile, Alabama, and the entire Gulf Coast. We are going to be telling you more about Hurricane Ivan, giving you the very latest, when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
SCARBOROUGH: Even as Hurricane Ivan batters the Gulf region, plans are being made for cleanup.
We have got Senator Trent Lott here. He‘s actually riding out the storm in Jackson, Mississippi.
Senator, thanks so much for being with us. Where are you right now?
SEN. TRENT LOTT ®, MISSISSIPPI: Actually, I am just north of Jackson in a rural community, Flora.
We are positioned where, as soon as the winds subside, we will head on to the Gulf Coast, assess the damage, and begin the recovery. I have been through many hurricanes. And, unfortunately, we are going to have another mess on our hands. It looks like it‘s going to be over in your neck of the woods, Joe, over there pretty close to Fort Walton Beach, Destin, and Pensacola.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, it looks like they are going to get the brunt of the storm, along with Mobile, Alabama.
Now, Senator, of course, you know about Hurricane Camille and other storms that have hit the Gulf Coast and Mississippi. Do you think that Mississippi is going to dodge the bullet tonight, in a sense, but, also, do you still want to get the message out to people of your state and the Gulf Coast region that they are still in an awful lot of danger?
LOTT: First of all, I stayed on the Gulf Coast during Camille. And let me tell you, Joe, it was scary. And I promised myself I would never stay on the coastline again, so that‘s why I am about 180 miles north of there.
It is serious. We still don‘t know for sure if it will continue to slide a little bit more to the east or take a turn to the west. So the people that could have already evacuated. Those that are still there, they need to make sure they are in a secure building, a school, perhaps, or a bank facility, hospitals. And they should take it very seriously. This is still a very dangerous storm—Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, Senator, because you are a son of the Gulf Coast, you do understand also about these hurricanes. Can you explain to our viewers just how impossible it is to predict which way one of these things are going, and though it may be going to Mobile right now, it could veer sharply to the west or the east at any moment?
LOTT: They are totally unpredictable.
Although the hurricane hunters, the airplanes from Keesler Air Force in Biloxi have helped give us a lot more certainty, and the projections are getting more and more accurate, they still can make turns to the left or the right at the last minute and cause additional damage.
But, also, on one side, you have to be more concerned about the storm water surge. On the other side, you could have really whipping winds or, of course, if you are right in the eye, you get it first one way and then the other. These things are very dangerous.
SCARBOROUGH: Senator, in the late 1970s, I made the decision to stay in Pensacola and ride out a storm called Hurricane Frederick, which also came in like this one, came in over Mobile Bay.
And after that night, when I looked up at my roof and I kept waiting for it to be ripped off the top of our home, I swore that I would never, ever try to ride one of these things out again, because we were close to Escambia Bay.
Can you explain to people that are watching us tonight, listening to us tonight, what it‘s like riding through one of these hurricanes, like you did in Hurricane Camille? Explain what that is like.
LOTT: Well, we were about 50 miles from the eye when Hurricane Camille really went in right over Pass Christian, Mississippi. We were at Pascagoula. And it was a deafening sound, like freight trains, more than one, and a steady roar.
And you could hear the trees popping and falling. The next morning when we got up, pine trees were all over the yard, crisscrossed every way. None of them hit the house, absolutely a miracle. The good lord was looking after us. But it‘s the most scary sound I have ever heard. And the thing is, it doesn‘t stop.
It goes on for quite a while, and you just begin to wonder if you are going to make it at all.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, that is the most frightening part, that it just continues. It‘s not like an earthquake, obviously, that comes and goes in a few seconds. These storms just continue. And you are right. It is a roar, the most frightening night of my life.
Hey, any final words for the people that you have represented so well through the years? What is your suggestion from them?
LOTT: I have already talked Governor Barbour and we talked to federal officials. The president has assured the governors of the four potentially affected states that the federal government will be there to do its part. We will all be on the ground, state, local, and federal officials, no later than Friday morning.
We will assemble ourselves. We will look at the damage and we will begin the repairs. It takes some time to get the power back up. People need to be careful, because there are downed lines. There are trees limbs or trees that are still very dangerous. So I will just say a prayer for all of them tonight, but tomorrow, be careful.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Senator, and, obviously our prayers are with you, your family, the entire state of Mississippi tonight.
Thanks for being with us on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
LOTT: All right, Joe. Thank you.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, now let‘s move on to Senator Mary Landrieu. Of course, her home state of Louisiana is also in Ivan‘s path. She also joins us on the phone from Washington, D.C.
Senator, thanks so much for being with us tonight.
SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: Good evening, Joe. And thank you for your help and your coverage and your counsel.
SCARBOROUGH: Senator, obviously, you also have grown up in this region. We have all grown up in this Gulf Coast region. Maybe that‘s why you have been able also to respond to your constituents so well in these times of crises.
Does it look tonight to you—and we all know, like Senator Lott just said, that these hurricanes are very unpredictable, but does it look to you like New Orleans, your hometown, and also Louisiana has dodged the bullet tonight from Ivan?
LANDRIEU: Joe, thankfully, yes, it does. And I heard Trent‘s discussion with you over the last few minutes. And he is absolutely right. I mean, these storms are dangerous. I remember Camille. I remember Betsy, which devastated half of the city of New Orleans.
And, as Trent described to you the sound of one of these hurricanes bearing down on a community for hours at 100-, 150-mile-an-hour winds, it‘s extremely frightening. And, of course, the electricity is the first to go. And then the trees begin to fall. Roofs start caving in. Cars can be hurled for not just a few minutes, but this continues on for hours.
So when our mayors and governors ask people to evacuate, people need to evacuate. And I am proud today that a great number of people along the Gulf Coast over the last two days heeded those warnings and got on the interstates, I-55 and I-10 and I-12 and made it north and west. Now, I think we can improve on our transportation plan, and it‘s something I will speak with federal officials about.
I think we have done an excellent job today, but there‘s always room for improvement. And we can talk about that in lessons learned, but we have done, our elected officials, a great job today moving millions of people off of the Gulf Coast region, because, as Trent said, even though we have gotten better about tracking the storms, you never really know which way these big storms can turn.
And they can turn on a dime in a minute and put a lot of lives at risk if people are not in secure shelter.
SCARBOROUGH: You are certainly right. You know, I remember back in 1995, my first year in Congress, Pensacola went to sleep, and there was a storm called Hurricane Opal. It was a Category 1.
When we woke up the next morning, it was a Category 4, Category 5. And it was gridlock on the roads. It was very, very dangerous. A lot of people just barely escaped death. But of all the cities in America that are vulnerable to a hurricane attack, and this risk of not being able to evacuate, New Orleans is obviously at the top of that list.
Can you explain to our viewers just how serious a direct hit from Ivan or any other storm would be on New Orleans?
LANDRIEU: Yes, I can.
And let me just say that I think Mayor Nagin did a magnificent job today, along with Aaron Broussard, our parish president of Jefferson Parish, and Kevin Davis in Saint Tammany Parish, Saint Bernard and Plaquemines Parish officials, urging people to evacuate.
New Orleans itself is a city of about 500,000 people. Jefferson Parish and Saint Tammany add over a million. New Orleans sits nine feet below sea level. We have some of the finest and most sophisticated pumping systems in the world, literally. But all the best pumping systems in the world cannot keep out 15 or 20 feet of water coming either out of Lake Pontchartrain or flooding from backing up the drainage pipes.
So New Orleans is vulnerable. And, you know, we also contribute so much, Joe, to the nation‘s energy supply; 30 percent of the nation‘s oil and gas revenues come out of the Gulf; 6,000 people work on the platform in the Gulf of Mexico every day. Those people had to be evacuated. New Orleans is home of the large largest port system in the country, when you combine New Orleans Port and the Baton Rouge and lower Louisiana ports.
So this region contributes a great amount to the nation, and we need some help and attention reinvesting some of this money to help this infrastructure sustain these storms and help people keep safe.
SCARBOROUGH: You are exactly right, Senator.
Thanks so much for being with us. We greatly appreciate it. And, again, our prayers and thoughts are with you, your family, and all of New Orleans and Louisiana tonight.
LANDRIEU: Well, thank you, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: All right.
Let‘s move on now to my hometown. Ron Reagan is on the beach right in the middle of it all.
Ron, what‘s the very latest from Pensacola?
RON REAGAN, NBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the very latest, Joe, from
Pensacola is, I am wondering why you are not here in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY,
Joe? Come on.
REAGAN: People are asking.
SCARBOROUGH: I am in your neck of the woods.
REAGAN: That‘s true. Yes. You are up in Portland.
The latest here is that things are really getting rocky. In the last hour and a half or so, the winds have really kicked up, heavy rains, as you can probably see, behind me. A lot of people, not surprisingly, are seeking shelter here, the people who haven‘t evacuated.
There‘s 11 Red Cross shelters in the area. They are all full. In the Pensacola Civic Center, about 16,000 folks are holed up there, including 485 Naval personnel from the Naval Aviation Technical Training Center. They are providing food service. They are also handling security, but they are also, those 485, taking shelter.
Now, we spoke to the woman who is in charge there, Petty Officer 1st Class—I got to get this right—Zorida Zias (ph). And she told us about some of the stress some of these people are undergoing now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It‘s more of the civilians that are getting stressed out. And we had to secure down or close down the smoking area, because that kind of builds up a lot of tension, the people that actually do smoke.
The closed quarters are for children and the elderly. We try to separate them, so they are not together, they‘re not in each other‘s face. But there‘s still a lot of tension. And just a closed environment, with a lot of people sleeping next to each other, there‘s a lot of stress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REAGAN: Hey, Joe, I misspoke a moment ago. I said 16,000. I should have said 1,600 people there in the civic center, but, nevertheless, it‘s not pleasant there.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Ron, I will tell you what. Stay with us.
We will be right back with you live in Pensacola in just a minute.
SCARBOROUGH: As our coverage of Hurricane Ivan continues.
SCARBOROUGH: In a few hours, Hurricane Ivan is going to roar on to the shores of the Gulf Coast of Alabama or Florida. We are going to be here telling you about it at MSNBC.
Stick around. We have got much more, including Ron Reagan in Pensacola.
But, first, let‘s get the very latest headlines from the MSNBC News Desk.
ANNOUNCER: From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all. Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, welcome back to the show.
Obviously, we are talking about Hurricane Ivan and the devastating impact that it‘s going to have on the Gulf Coast of Alabama and Florida tonight.
Right now, let‘s go back to Pensacola, Florida, talk to Ron Reagan, who is in Pensacola.
Ron, obviously, earlier today, you were on Pensacola Beach. I would guess almost everybody has been evacuated from there. How concerned are they about these storm surges that obviously are going to probably hit Pensacola with a greater impact than any other city tonight?
REAGAN: That‘s right. Earlier today, in fact, this morning, we spent the night last night out on the Pensacola beaches, Sea Breeze. And we gave some thought to actually hanging in there and just sitting it out, but after talking with the police, we decided that would be really foolish.
They are talking about a tidal surge in the range of 12 to 16, possibly 20 feet in localities. On top of that, though, they are talking about surf, 30- to 40-foot waves. So those low-lying islands, those barrier islands out there are probably even now under water.
SCARBOROUGH: Ron, has anybody tried to stay out on Pensacola Beach, or do police and local law authorities believe they have gotten everybody off of Pensacola Beach, evacuated safely?
REAGAN: There‘s only one person I know of out there, and that‘s Kerry Sanders, who is hunkered down, an NBC correspondent, of course, who is hunkered down in what we are calling the hurricane house, but some of the locals call it the Frisbee house.
It‘s a house that was apparently specifically designed to withstand hurricane winds. Now, the owner of the hotel that we were staying at, before we left, told me that the owner of that hurricane house had built two previous hurricane houses, both of which were destroyed by hurricanes. So I am wishing Kerry well out there tonight.
SCARBOROUGH: I‘m actually hoping somebody can talk sense into Kerry in the future before the next storm hits.
Ron, when do officials believe that this storm is going to come onshore, possibly Mobile, possibly Pensacola, and when do they think the brunt of the storm is going to hit?
REAGAN: It will probably be another four or five hours before the eye actually moves onshore. That‘s the last I heard.
Now, just recently, watching in the satellite truck, the eye of the hurricane had been heading straight north. And just at the last, it seems to have taken a northeast sort of bend, which would be bringing it right towards Pensacola. So we could be right in the bullseye here.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Ron, thanks a lot. Our thoughts are going to be with you tonight. Stay with us. We are going to be joining you later on.
REAGAN: It‘s Ivan after hours, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: It is Ivan after hours, but I think you are going to find New York and Boston a little bit more enjoyable than my hometown tonight.
REAGAN: You bet.
SCARBOROUGH: And now with me also from my hometown in Pensacola, Florida, we have Ginny Graybiel. She‘s the managing editor of “The Pensacola News Journal.”
Ginny, thanks so much for being with us tonight.
And it looks right now, from what Ron Reagan has told us and also from what we are seeing on the map, that the bullseye tonight may be Pensacola, Florida. What is happening?
GINNY GRAYBIEL, “PENSACOLA NEWS JOURNAL”: Right now, the wind is really picking up.
All day today, it‘s been blustering. It‘s been raining. So far as I know right now, no trees have come down. There‘s debris everywhere, but I expect that‘s going to be changing probably just in the next few minutes.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, Ginny, you have obviously been in Pensacola, Florida, for quite a while. You remember 1979. It was hurricane Frederick. It looks like this storm may be almost a carbon copy of what happened back then.
Tell me, what kind of devastation should Pensacola and surrounding areas expect to face from Hurricane Ivan?
GRAYBIEL: Well, goodness, it is a lot like Hurricane Frederick in that Hurricane Frederick also came up toward Mobile Bay, and then, of course, we were in a really bad position, being in the northeast quadrant.
And that is probably similar here, but as you just pointed out, the storm does now seem to be moving even more directly toward us. But I think -- excuse me.
SCARBOROUGH: Go ahead.
GRAYBIEL: I think you can just see the beaches absolutely devastated here. We have just had a huge renourishment project on the beach to widen our beaches. I expect that all or much of that may well be washed out. And I think you are going to see just a major mess in the city, with trees down all over the place.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, when you have these storm surges, 12 to 15 feet, and that‘s what they are talking about right now, will that completely obliterate everything in its path, and is it quite possible that Pensacola Beach could be almost completely wiped out by this storm surge?
GRAYBIEL: Well, now, of course, that‘s speculative, but I think, you know, that would certainly be a possibility.
A lot of people across the country are familiar with Gulf Islands National Seashore, where Fort Pickens is. And in previous hurricanes, that load has been totally washed away. The dunes have been totally washed away there. And I think Fort Pickens is really just going to be damaged very badly.
And then the other end of the beach, a lot of those houses before renourishment were literally about two feet from the water, so I don‘t think they are going to be in good shape after this.
SCARBOROUGH: No. And, of course, 1995, Hurricane Opal, we actually saw in Panama City a lot of those homes that were close to the beach and close to the water, close to the Gulf Coast actually swallowed up by that storm, and I am afraid that may be happening tonight.
Ginny, any final thoughts for our viewers tonight?
GRAYBIEL: Well, just one thing is, we have had a good bit of warning about this storm. You pointed out, with Opal, it literally popped up on our coast overnight. We have really known that this storm may well be on the way since last week.
So I think people here were about as prepared as you could be. The schools were out yesterday. It was a nice day yesterday. So a lot of people are boarded out. A lot of people moved out, too.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Ginny Graybiel with “The Pensacola News Journal,” thanks so much for being with us.
And, Ginny, our thoughts and prayers are with you and obviously your family and the whole Pensacola community.
GRAYBIEL: Thanks, Joe. We will look forward to seeing you back here.
With me now on the phone, we‘ve got Collier Merrill. He‘s the chairman of the University of West Florida.
Thanks for being with us tonight.
Collier, I understand you have actually been in contact with the governor‘s office. What have you learned?
COLLIER MERRILL, CHAIRMAN, UNIVERSITY OF WEST FLORIDA: That‘s right, Joe.
And the governor is planning on coming over here first thing he can, either tomorrow afternoon or Friday morning. He just flew back in today, from Punta Gorda, giving out several hundred thousand for their hurricane relief. I think some of it went specifically to the elementary schools and to some indigent care that needed some money to get back on their feet. The office told me that, when he was flying back in, he told the pilots, as soon as he could get back out, he wanted to get to Pensacola, which just—as Ginny said, there‘s going to be massive devastation here, and it‘s just nice to know that everybody is going to work together to move forward.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, you obviously run the board for the University of West Florida. You have also got a restaurant downtown, the Fish House. I was wondering, as this storm approached, what are you doing to try to prepare? Because, obviously, your restaurant is on the water. Is there anything you can do to prepare for the type of onslaught that you are going to face? And what was downtown Pensacola like? Were there still people boarding up or was it essentially a ghost town?
MERRILL: Yesterday, about noon, it became a ghost town. And people here in Pensacola, as you know, Joe, being from here, that it‘s a lot of native people here, and they take the hurricane very seriously.
The call was made on Monday to cancel classes at the university to give all those students time to evacuate, the ones that wanted to evacuate. If not, there was a shelter at UWF, which is full. The civic center was a shelter downtown, as you know, holds 10,000 people. It was full early. Just showing that people take it very seriously, moving.
And Tuesday afternoon, Pensacola became a ghost town. Today, it was a ghost town. Just showing that people move out, take it very seriously. And there‘s not a lot you can do.
MERRILL: But you can board up, which we have done on all our properties that we could. But, you know, Mother Nature comes in and you just have to deal with it, and it‘s the after—what everybody does afterwards that really pulls together.
Charlie Crist called me today. You know Charlie very well, attorney general. He called today, just saying they are on standby. Everybody is ready to go. And you plan for the worst and hope for the best.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thanks so much, Collier Merrill. We certainly appreciate you being with us tonight.
And, obviously, Charlie Crist, the governor and other officials in the state of Florida have been through this drill already two times this month. It‘s unbelievable that they are going to have to go through it again, but this looks like it may be one of the worst of the three storms.
We are going to continue talking about Ivan the terrible. I am looking at the clock right now. We‘re probably three, four hours away from it actually reaching landfall. Whether it‘s going to be in Mobile or Pensacola or some point in between, we will know in a little bit. We‘re going to get the latest weather updates. We‘re also going to be talking to the Red Cross Center, see what they are doing to help those that are going to be battered by Hurricane Ivan.
That‘s all when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns in minute.
ANNOUNCER: You‘re watching SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. Now here‘s some Hotwire travel trivia. Florida has been hit by more hurricanes than any other state. Which state is second? Stay tuned for the answer.
ANNOUNCER: You‘re watching SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. And in today‘s Hotwire travel trivia, we asked you: Florida has been hit by more hurricanes than any other state. Which state is second? Give up? The answer is Texas.
Now here‘s Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, in the past month, the Southeast has been slammed by these monster storms. For the American Red Cross, it‘s been the largest shelter and feeding effort in their 120-year history. They have opened 760 shelters, housed over 200,000 people and served over 5.7 million meals.
With me now is Kelly Donaghy of the Red Cross.
Kelly, what are you doing tonight to prepare for this latest storm?
KELLY DONAGHY, AMERICAN RED CROSS: Well, it‘s a continuation of a five-week effort. The latest numbers I got earlier this evening is that we had over 200 shelters open, with more opening every minute as they were filling up and needed to be. Prepositioned packages of supplies, food, staff, it‘s a magnificent effort from the organization.
SCARBOROUGH: How stretched out are you guys? It seems like you have got to be stretched to the breaking point, right?
DONAGHY: Well, we are definitely using every resource we possibly have, both human and material resources. We are very fortunate that we have amazing volunteers, which is what makes the Red Cross able to do the job that it does, and companies and people that donate money and supplies, so that we can do it, but we are tired.
You know, back after back after back storms take its toll, and we are feeling it too, so we desperately need people‘s help.
SCARBOROUGH: Kelly, how can they help you?
DONAGHY: Monetary donation is, in fact, the best way to do it. We consider our organization really a mechanism of people helping people. The way to do it by calling 1-800-HELP-NOW or logging on and making a secure donation to www.RedCross.org.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Kelly, thanks a lot.
And I want to encourage everybody from all across the country to help Kelly out, help Red Cross out, because they have been there in the times of crises across Florida‘s Gulf Coast and obviously across the entire Gulf Coast region that is just being slammed by one storm after another.
Talking about getting slammed by storms, let‘s talk to Joe Bastardi right now.
Joe, what is the latest and where is this storm going to go onshore?
JOE BASTARDI, SENIOR FORECASTER, ACCUWEATHER: Well, I think it was 13 days ago, Joe, you and I nicknamed the storm Ivan the terrible right on the show, and it turned out to be every bit as bad as it looked.
And here we go. It looks like the landfall is going to be made probably 3:00, 4:00 in the morning, between Pascagoula and Pensacola here, right at the mouth of Mobile Bay. You can see the storm doing the jog around the southeast tip of Louisiana there and getting back on that northerly course there.
And here, we have got an interesting problem setting up here. First of all, New Orleans, the only kind of flooding they would have gotten in New Orleans is off Lake Pontchartrain, quite a bit different from what happened in ‘47, when the hurricane hit from the east-southeast, forced the storm surge back into the lake, and 10 to 15 feet of water came into the city. This was never that type of storm.
Instead, the storm of the historical proportions is in the Mobile-Pensacola area, where Mobile, Alabama, may have their worst hurricane ever, and Pensacola storm‘s on par with Opal back in 1995. Here‘s our storm surge map. You can see 10 to 18 for storm surge. And I‘ll tell you what.
You see these barrier islands here, Dolphin Island and back toward Gulf Shores? These are going to be permanently rearranged. They will not be the same after the storm. A big problem in Mobile, water being funneled up the bay into the city, and then wind gusts, 120, 130 miles an hour, Pensacola also could get wind gusts as high as 120 -- Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: It‘s very frightening, Joe. Thanks for filling us in.
We are going to stay with you tonight and get the very latest.
And we‘ll be right back with more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY in just a minute.
SCARBOROUGH: We have another hour on this special Hurricane Ivan coverage from SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
We also want to let you know that if you‘re near Simi Valley, California, Friday, come by and say hi. I am going to be hosting the show from the Reagan National Library. And if you want to be in our live audience, contact the library at 1-800-410-8354 for reservations. I hope to see you there.
And, again, stay tuned for more of our special coverage of Hurricane Ivan. This is going to be one of the toughest storms to hit Florida‘s Gulf Coast in quite some time. And, of course, right now, the residents of Mobile, Alabama, may be in the eye of the storm here. Of course, the last time a hurricane went in there, it actually—the surges were absolutely unbelievable, went in, slammed the city, and then sucked the water out of the bay for a while and then went back in. Obviously, Pensacola also slammed in 1995 by storm surges of 10 feet.
This is going to be a devastating storm. It‘s going to wreak havoc across the Gulf Coast.
And we are going to give you the very latest when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns on the other side of the hour.
SCARBOROUGH: Hurricane Ivan the terrible is bearing down on the Gulf Coast tonight, and Mobile, Alabama, and my hometown of Pensacola are in its sights.
Welcome to the second hour of the special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, live from Portland, where no passport is required and only common sense is allowed.
With maximum sustained winds of 135 miles per hour, 25-foot waves and ferocious winds, Hurricane Ivan is tearing through the Gulf Coast tonight, slamming beaches and causing flooding throughout the region.
We‘re covering Hurricane Ivan from all points as it‘s hammering down on the Gulf Coast.
ANNOUNCER: From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all. Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
SCARBOROUGH: Hurricane Ivan zeros in on 300 miles of coastline, from Louisiana to Florida; 25-foot waves are already destroying homes in Florida, and, tonight, New Orleans may—and I say may—have been spared from Ivan‘s wrath.
Let‘s go to Martin Savidge right now with the very latest.
Martin, what does it look like in New Orleans?
SAVIDGE: So far, so good, Joe.
And, in fact, city officials are saying that they have dodged the bullet on this one. And they are even saying that perhaps as late as tomorrow afternoon, all those people that left in that chaotic scene of yesterday can soon start coming back, probably triggering another round of gridlock, this time as they come back.
At this hour, they‘re getting strong winds in New Orleans, but I don‘t even think that they are up to tropical storm force winds. They expect tropical storm force will be about as bad as they get. Some gusts have occasionally gone up to near 90, but those are very much a rarity. And most surprising of all is the lack of rain. There was so much fear about the prospect of flooding, flooding that could come from a number of different ways.
It would be the storm surge, plus the wind-driven waves, and then on top of that, whatever rain that fell from the sky. They were talking about the potential for maybe six feet, five feet, sometimes they were talking even as high as 20 feet of water possibly covering the downtown area. So far, no reports of any major flooding. There are some power outages in the area, several thousand, most of that lying to the east, not surprisingly. That‘s where the brunt of the storm has been, 65 percent of the population said to have left the New Orleans area.
They are watching the storm from afar. They may feel frustrated about doing that, but city officials are glad it worked out that way. There are several hundred thousand, though, that also rode it out, and there are at least 1,100 people that are tonight safely inside of the Superdome. It‘s no sporting event. It is a shelter of last resort.
So they are feeling pretty good about how things are right now. Of course, there‘s still a lot more of this storm to go. Lake Pontchartrain is close to the brim. If the rains come, it could be forced over top. That could harm the French Quarter, but, right now, they have got their fingers crossed and are feeling pretty lucky—Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Martin, these storms obviously can turn either way. It looks like New Orleans has been spared tonight.
But Louisiana officials that I have talked to, of course, told me, the week leading into this storm, that they were concerned about it obviously going into New Orleans because it would cause a catastrophe.
Can you explain to our viewers exactly what would happen if this storm or any other hurricane like it made landfall in New Orleans?
SAVIDGE: Well, the worst-case scenario they would see is either
Category 4 or 5 like this one coming straight up the mouth of the
Mississippi or going to the west of New Orleans, which would bring the
brunt of the storm right over the heart of the city. They call it the Big
Easy. They might as well call it the big bowl, because so much of the city
· in fact, it is the largest city in the United States that is located below sea level, on average, about six to eight feet in most areas.
The only reason it stays dry is through a dramatic system of levees, of canals, and pumps. Now, when you start introducing all sorts of water that can come from the sky or from the sea, that could be a serious consequence. If any of those systems are breached and the water starts flowing in, then the very systems designed to keep it out would hold it in, so that‘s where the problem lies. They are just so low below the water in New Orleans—Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thanks so much, Martin Savidge, doing great work down there. Thanks a lot for being with us tonight.
SAVIDGE: Thank you.
SCARBOROUGH: Now let‘s move on to Jay Gray. He‘s getting battered near the Alabama-Mississippi border in Pascagoula, less than 100 miles offshore. And Hurricane Ivan is generating 50-foot waves in the Gulf of Mexico.
Jay, what is the latest there?
GRAY: Well, Joe, we just talked to the sheriff here not more than 30 minutes ago, and he has moved indoors. They are beginning to really feel the effects of Ivan here in Pascagoula.
Power lines are down. Most of this area is without power. There is some serious flooding already in low-lying areas. You talked about the storm at 65 miles south of the Gulf Coast, the eye of the storm is. So it will still be hours before we feel the full effects of this powerful Category 4 hurricane here in Pascagoula. But, already, they are beginning to have problems, no electricity, power lines down, and a lot of flooding in low-lying areas.
SCARBOROUGH: And what are the law enforcement officers most concerned about right now? Now that it looks like the eye of this storm is going to be going in over Mobile Bay, what is the biggest concern east of there—or west of there? I‘m sorry.
GRAY: Well, the biggest concern in this area—and, as you well know, you know this area very well, Joe. We are only seven miles from the Alabama border. The biggest concern in Pascagoula is the flooding. They are really worried about all of this water.
We have had a pounding rain for quite some time, and it‘s going to last for quite some time. This storm is going to linger for a while, especially on this side, the good side, if you can call it that, but we are going to get a lot of rain. They are already experiencing flooding right now. It‘s only going to get worse.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, Jay, because, obviously, we are from the Gulf Coast, we may be talking in shorthand here. Can you explain to viewers what the so-called good side of the storm is, what the bad side of the storm is? And again, tonight where you are, it looks like you are on the good side of the storm. What does that mean?
GRAY: We are on the west side of the storm, so, as the storm circulates, we won‘t feel the major effects of this storm. We won‘t feel the strong, strong winds. That‘s the dirty side, or the other side, the east side of the storm, that will get that. We will continue to get a lot of the rain.
And as this thing breaks up as it comes ashore, as they often do, we could see some of those bands sit for a while and soak this area. So they call it the good side, but there‘s not a whole lot good about it, as you well know, but we won‘t see the damaging winds that they will see on the east side of this storm. We are on the west side, so we won‘t get as intense winds.
Saying that, now, we will still get gusts over 100 miles an hour, we are told, so there‘s nothing good about that, quite frankly, but we won‘t see the damaging, pounding winds that they will see on the east side of the storm.
SCARBOROUGH: What have the police officers done in that part of Mississippi? Have they forced any evacuations? Also, are there any curfews in effect tonight?
GRAY: Yes, there are curfews in effect up and down the coast, a curfew in effect here. There has been a curfew in effect in the Mobile area, where we were earlier, since about 2:00 in the afternoon.
Another interesting aspect, some of the police officers we have talked to in Alabama and this area were actually issued chain saws so they could get right to it when things calmed down. I have never really heard of that before. I have covered a lot of the storms, lived in this area, as we‘ve talked about. They have chain saws now that they have been issued to help cut away some of the debris, help who they can.
But, again, when things get really bad in this area, they are going to move inside. And the chief here is already inside. He said he was driving his car a bit earlier, a gust came through and kind of hopped his car, moved it along the road there. And he said, I have had enough. I am moving inside. I am going to wait until the major effects from Hurricane Ivan pass through Pascagoula.
SCARBOROUGH: And when do they expect that to be, Jay? GRAY: I‘m sorry?
SCARBOROUGH: When do they expect the storm to come onshore and start really hammering Alabama and Mississippi and Florida?
GRAY: Well, it looks like it‘s still going to be three or four hours before they really suffer the major winds, the major rain from the storm. That‘s the latest that we have heard in this area. And, again, it‘s going to be much worse there in Mobile, the Mobile Bay area, and to the east.
But here, they expect the heaviest effects to be about three or four hours—Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Jay Gray, thanks so much for being with us. Please stay safe out there tonight. And we will be back with you later. We appreciate it.
Right now, let‘s go to FEMA director Michael Brown. He joins us now with the latest on the federal government‘s preparations for Ivan.
And thank you so much for being with us, Director.
You know, when I was in the United States Congress, we got hammered by two, three storms. And, of course, the FEMA director would get all of the representatives on the phone and basically give the worst-case scenario and instruct on what we should be doing to keep our constituents safe.
As you talk to leaders in Florida, in Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana, what warnings were you giving them earlier today, and are you afraid that some of those worst-case scenarios may be coming true later on this evening?
MICHAEL BROWN, FEMA DIRECTOR: Well, you are right, Joe.
I have been talking to Governor Bush, obviously, for the past four weeks. I met with Governor Blanco today and Governor Riley this afternoon. I talked to Haley Barbour yesterday. The good news is, all of them understand emergency management. They have all put together some very good emergency management plans.
And so the warnings I had to give them, they really already understood. They knew what they were facing, what they needed to do. They weren‘t letting their guards down. They were ready to go, so I was very proud of the systems they have put together down here.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, we have obviously had two storms in Florida over the past month, caused tens of millions of dollars in damage, probably a lot more than that. What do you think we are looking at right now with Ivan? How serious is this storm going to be, and where do you expect the major damage to take place?
BROWN: Well, this is a very, very serious storm.
You know, we often—we keep our hopes up, that, as Ivan was getting closer to the coast, that he would start to lose some of the steam, that some of the wind shear would take away some of his power, but that has not happened yet. He remains a good, solid Category 4 hurricane. What that means is, a lot of the coastal areas are going to see and are now seeing already hurricane force winds.
At one point today, the hurricane force winds were extending almost 100 miles from the eye. That‘s an almost 200- or 300-mile radius that have these strong winds in. So between that and the amount of moisture that Ivan is packing with him, I expect to see a lot of wind damage. I expect to see an awful lot of flooding, particularly as it comes up Mobile and continues all the way through Montgomery and up into Birmingham.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thank you so much, Director. We greatly appreciate it. And we look forward to talking to you over the next couple of days.
We are going to be taking you straight to the storm front now with NBC‘s Kerry Sanders. He‘s live in Pensacola.
Kerry, what you got?
KERRY SANDERS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joe, you know this area better than most. I‘m out on Pensacola Beach, which of course is a barrier island. The winds are buffeting me here right now.
We are actually putting ourselves in an experiment, as you might say, a home that was built here designed specifically to withstand the forces of hurricane category 5 storms. It‘s called a dome home. You can kind of see over there a traditional home. In all likelihood, by tomorrow, a good portion of that home will be gone.
Right on the other side of that home is the beach, but, really, the surf has already enveloped most of this barrier island. The highest point on this barrier island is at about 11 feet above sea level. Down below right now, where we are, all I can see is water. And it will continue to rise.
Now, what I am going to do is, I am going to come back inside here. Well, let me do one thing here. I‘ve got this wind meter. Let me see what we have got on the wind. All right. That‘s about 65 miles an hour right there, just below hurricane force.
I am going to come in, because I am able to hold my body there safe for a second. OK. Hang on one second. As I close this door, one thing I will point out is, among the structural things that they have done here, that‘s what they call impact glass. It‘s designed to withstand a force of about 125 miles per hour. What they do down in Texas is, they take some two-by-fours and they actually shoot them out. And they hit into the glass to make sure they don‘t shatter.
The home we are in, as we said, the dome home—let‘s look up for a second. You can see a portion of the dome. You see the structure there. It‘s different. It‘s kind of like an airplane wing. When the wind comes, it shears over. This is Mark‘s (ph) home, Mark Seeler.
Thank you very much.
SANDERS: He has decided to let NBC News stay here with him.
Mark, first of all, just point out some of the features. I just showed them a little bit about the window. What are some of the features that you have here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the whole house is designed—this isn‘t some sort of prank or some kind of stupid trick or something. There‘s been thousands of hours of design and technology involved in this. These walls that we are looking at here are 10 inches of solid concrete, with over five miles of steel in it.
So I mean, so far in this, we haven‘t had a shudder. The windows don‘t vibrate. This house, it‘s been beyond my wildest expectations so far, so I am really excited about the result that we have had so far. We are about two hours from maximum wind. And so far, it‘s been very comfortable. We are not talking in a loud voice. We are not screaming. I mean, there‘s no water around. We have a few small leaks, so the house has performed above my expectations.
Now, everybody who has been following this understands that when a hurricane comes ashore, there‘s that storm surge. In this case, where we are, meteorologists are suggesting we might see about a 14-foot storm surge, waves on top of that. So explain. This house is actually on 16 pilings. How high is it? How many stories do we have here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first living floor is 18 foot above that, above sea level. And so you are going to have to get 18-foot waves to get to that first floor. We are another 12 feet above that. And we have got another place we can go that is about another 10 feet above that. So you would have to have a catastrophic event, more than a force five, to have waves go where we are at.
SANDERS: Now, one of the things that I thought was interesting is the design of this house—hurricane force winds could get up to say, 220, 230. This storm, they believe maybe it‘s going to be around 130, 135. Hurricanes also spawn tornadoes. This building, I understand, is stressed out at about 300 miles per hour.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the shell itself is going to take winds in excess of 300 miles an hour. At those kinds of winds in a tornado, you are going to lose your windows. They are going to suck out. There‘s a safe room in the house that has no windows. You could go in that. The house is really designed to take tornadoes without taking them down.
SANDERS: Now, Mark, as we stand here, you do have behind that door a closet, but it‘s also like a safe room, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Exactly. This is the safest room in the house. That‘s why we are all standing around up here. If a window was to breech or the skylight come off or something like that, we would be in this room in a hurry. We would camp out the rest of the night. We would wait until morning. They would come do a rescue on us.
But I wouldn‘t be out here if I thought there was going to be a problem or I was risking my life.
SANDERS: OK. And, of course, that really raises the question. We are here because we wanted to see whether something like this and whether what you have done here is going to work. But why are you here? Why did you decide to stay here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am here because I would like FEMA and Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac get together and offer financing on these types of homes to people, so that you can be in a home that can withstand a major storm, or you can be in a school that became a sanctuary for the students because it could take a tornado without a loss of life, so that churches and schools could become real sanctuaries for students and for people in storms, fires, earthquakes, wind storms, I mean, a variety of things.
So this type of structure has—our capital is this type of structure. It is a dome. The Eskimos used little ice domes to take 100-mile-an-hour winds. The dome is the strongest structure that we know how to build. This kind of situation requires this type of structure.
SANDERS: OK. Well, thank you very much. We are going to ride this out with you.
I guess some people are going to probably wonder, OK, how are you actually doing a live broadcast from out there in the middle of the hurricane as it‘s hitting? So we will give you a quick sort of explainer.
Over here, we have got a piece of technology which is a microwave connection. That‘s sending a signal back to the mainland, about five miles from here. There‘s a receiver on that end. And over on the mainland, we have a satellite truck. Many are people are familiar with it, called Bloom-mobile. It has a dish that‘s actually inside a giant dome, so, as the winds are going around, the dish is not rattling because it‘s in the dome, much like this house. And the wind goes around it and allows us to continue broadcasting out.
And then I know Craig White, who is on the camera here, sort of panned around. Sitting here with us, we‘ve got A.J. Goodwin, (ph) who is the producer here coordinating all of our coverage. And then there‘s Chuck Stewart (ph), who is here who is handling all of our audio connections, which, I think—do you still have the mike outside, or did we bring it in? OK, we brought it back in.
We had a mike outside for a while when the winds were around 70 miles an hour, so you could hear that really furious wind that—of course, I was standing out there for quite some time. And then finally, as the signal fires back from here to where that location is, with the Bloom-mobile, we have got two engineers in there. It‘s Kevin Parish (ph) and Rob Grant (ph). And they are the ones who are keeping this connection going.
So that‘s kind of the picture of what we see. I think the real test here is going to be as the storm surge comes in, how this—how the structure handles that—Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Kerry, you know, anything that‘s ridden through a storm, a Category 4 storm, doesn‘t realize what you all are in the middle of right there out on the beach. I mean, the fury of Mother Nature on a barrier island like Pensacola Beach in the middle of the Category 4 storm is absolutely hellacious. Everybody gets off the island.
I am curious. Storm surge may come in at 10, 15 feet. Are you all high enough up there not to get slammed by that?
SANDERS: Well, that is the design of the building. This goes back to the engineers here.
My understanding, and I have been covering hurricanes now for 21 years, based on what I have seen, and we have done a lot of stories on trying to build structures that can actually handle a hurricane, because, as you know—you live in this area—you know what happens here. These hurricanes come in. They destroy the homes. And then everybody goes to their insurance companies. They get the money. They come back and they rebuild the home. And then it happens over and over.
And what Mark is suggesting he is trying to do here is, with the engineers and the architects he has worked with, to say there is a better way to do it. With all the reporting that I have done, it certainly looks like they have got their—all their I‘s dotted, their T‘s crossed, and they have got all the points connected here, because everything in this house was designed with Hurricane Ivan or a hurricane like this in mind.
The real question that you ask about, the rising tide that comes in the storm surge, we are about 35 feet above sea level where I am standing right now. So if those pilings do as they are supposed to, 16 pilings in the house, down 17 feet into the sand, into the soil, mostly sand because this is a barrier island—and one thing that‘s interesting.
You know, when you build a house in Florida, you pour that concrete slab. Well, in this house, they did something different with those pilings. The concrete slab down the , it‘s real thin concrete slab. And it‘s designed that, when the water comes in, it actually breaks up that concrete slab and just pushes it out. Why does it do that? Because, if you have a real deep, thick concrete slab, the water comes in. It undermines the foundation and it just tips over.
That‘s what happened in other cases on some homes that they built that were hit during Hurricane Opal. So they think they have got that figured out. So indications are—and what we are experiencing right now—and we are not being hit quite yet by the strongest force of this hurricane—indications are that the engineers, from what we can see, have figured something out. I think what we will get a better view is in the morning.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Thanks so much, Kerry Sanders, live from Pensacola. We greatly appreciate it.
And I will tell you what. The fact that Kerry can be sitting there on a barrier island, with, again, the hell and fury of a Category 4 storm bearing down on him, talking about engineering and construction and insurance policy, tells me that that home is quite a bit different from most of the others that have got to be getting absolutely blasted on Pensacola Beach tonight.
We will be back with much more coverage of Hurricane Ivan. It‘s moving closer and closer to the Gulf Coast, about to land on the shore of possibly Mobile Bay, possibly Pensacola, or somewhere in between.
We‘ll continue the coverage live from SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY in a minute.
SCARBOROUGH: A Category 4 hurricane, Hurricane Ivan, is bearing down on the Gulf Coast. And SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY is there. We are going to continue our coverage of Hurricane Ivan in just a minute.
SCARBOROUGH: Welcome back.
We‘re taking you to the eye of the storm, or at least where the eye of the storm may be headed in the next few hours. Let‘s go back to Pensacola with Ron Reagan.
Ron, obviously, we just heard from Kerry Sanders out on Pensacola Beach. Things are starting to get fairly violent out there, but, still, on the mainland in Pensacola, are you feeling any effects of this hurricane yet?
REAGAN: Just a few, Joe. It‘s a windy night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, I‘ll tell you.
Just before we came on the air, a transformer blew up just behind us. They are popping all over the city now. We have probably got sustained wind here of at least 50, maybe 60 miles an hour, and gusts that are probably in the 70- to 80-mile-an-hour range. This thing is still two, three hours away from landfall. So it‘s only going to get worse.
SCARBOROUGH: Are you seeing any people out on the streets at all, other than reporters? Are the law enforcement officers out there moving around? Or are you basically standing in the middle of a ghost town?
REAGAN: We are standing in the middle of a ghost town. Most of the people that live here are in shelters now. I saw a police squad car go by just a few minutes ago, but they tell me that when the winds start hitting about 70 miles an hour or so, they are going to pull the people off the streets. They just can‘t have their officers driving around in sustained winds like that. So that could be happening in the next hour or so.
It‘s getting very violent here. You can hear the difference in the way the wind sounds. And I am not a hurricane pro. This is my first hurricane. But it‘s gone from sort of whistling wind to now more of a roaring wind. And pretty soon, I imagine it‘s going to be a shrieking wind.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, that‘s what Trent Lott was talking about earlier this evening. Even when you are inside, this wind roars, and it just stays there. It‘s like a jumbo jet hovering right over your home, and it stays there for several hours, very disconcerting, obviously very troubling.
Have law enforcement officers told you basically that they are going in for the evening, that they are not going to be patrolling? Do they have a curfew in place for Pensacola? Are they doing anything once this storm hits?
REAGAN: Yes. There was a curfew in place at 6:00 p.m. People would still wander around a little bit. The officers told us that, again, when the sustained winds reach 70 miles an hour, which technically makes it a hurricane, they are going to pull their officers off the streets. They just can‘t have them driving around in wind like that. It‘s dangerous for them, even in a car.
SCARBOROUGH: And what are you hearing about when this storm is going to hit, about how long?
REAGAN: Well, we are thinking maybe three hours or so. It‘s a little hard to tell. It could slow down. It could speed up. And, again, it‘s jogging northeast, so it‘s heading in our direction. I don‘t know that the eye is actually going to pass over us. In fact, I think it will probably be to the west of us, but maybe between Mobile and us, maybe Gulf Shores or something like that.
SCARBOROUGH: And, of course, as I am sure most of the people you have been talking to down there that have been through these types of storms will tell you, that‘s absolutely the worst-case scenario for Pensacola because the eye goes in between Mobile and Pensacola.
And, again, everything on the east side of that storm is really where the rage and the fury is in the storm.
Well, Ron, where are you going to be going when the storm hits?
REAGAN: Where are we going to be going when the storm hits?
REAGAN: We are right here. We are in this motel here. It‘s a brick building. It seems pretty solid. My room is on the south side, though. And that was just a loud noise, as some sign, I think, just flew off into the air. It‘s going to be a little rocky here. Our windows could blow in.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Ron, we will be back with you in a little bit. Thanks a lot, and be safe there.
And we‘ll be back with Kerry Sanders live from Pensacola Beach when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
SCARBOROUGH: Only a few hours until Hurricane Ivan hits the Gulf Coast, Florida or Alabama. MSNBC is going to be here to covering it for you, and we are going to be right back talking about Hurricane Ivan, but first, let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC news desk.
BILL FITZGERALD, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hurricane Ivan hits the Gulf Coast. Puerto Rico took a pounding from Tropical Storm Jeanne, officials say at least two people were killed when the storm slammed into the island with near hurricane force winds. Forecasters say Jeanne could grow to hurricane strength and hit Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina Sunday or Monday.
The surge in violence continues in Iraq. Officials say ten people were killed in clashes between insurgents and U.S. forces in Ramadi and two were killed when a car bomb exploded at a military checkpoint near Baghdad. Also, three decapitated bodies were found north of Baghdad. They are thought to be Iraqis.
And Martha Stewart now says she is ready to go to prison as soon as possible. She told a news conference in New York she no longer wants sentence delayed pending appeal. She was sentenced in July to five months in prison and five months of house arrest for lying about a stock sale. Now back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY‘s coverage of Hurricane Ivan.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, I have been living in Florida for quite some time now. We have a report of another hurricane coming, possibly, a tropical storm. Oh, wait, let‘s go to Kerry Sanders now. Kerry, what‘s the wind like there? It was 65 miles an hour, it looks like it‘s really starting to heat up.
SANDERS: It is. It‘s incredible. I have got this mask on just to keep the droplets of rain from stinging my eyes. I have got this wind speed gauge. Let me say if I can hold it out here, get a reading on it, with a gust that comes through. You can see I am kind of holding myself. We have a railing back there, just in case I am slipping. Let‘s see. Well, we got a little lull here. They do come in gusts. That‘s only about 45 miles an hour right now. A second. There we go. That‘s 67. All right. Topped out about 67 miles an hour. I am going to just come in here. Fortunately, get in here and close this door. Now one thing we were talking about earlier—go ahead, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: I was just saying you were saying right now it‘s 67 miles an hour. Those of us looking at you are surprised that you haven‘t actually been lifted off of that deck. It looks so fierce. But actually, tell me, aren‘t we supposed to be seeing wind speeds of almost twice that level tonight?
SANDERS: Oh, yeah, we are going to get up to, I am told by meteorologists, at the location we are, to about 110 miles per hour at this location. You know, just because the very spot I am standing on is 67 miles an hour (INAUDIBLE) right over there (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...behind, you would be blown away.
SANDERS: Right, I have got protection there. You have to understand the shape of the house, I was holding myself in a position where the wind would not knock me over. I had a little bit of protection there. One of the things we were talking about, you kind of heard me out there, the wind and everything. Just listen for a moment. I am not going to say anything. We are inside this (INAUDIBLE) now. You heard the fury out there.
SCARBOROUGH: Unfortunately, we can‘t listen to Kerry right now. We are losing video. Obviously the storm is starting to really get fired up on Pensacola Beach. Let‘s move down the coast, though, a little bit west to Pascagoula, Mississippi, where we have been going to NBC‘s Jay Gray. Jay, can you fill us in on just how much the hurricane has intensified along the Alabama, Mississippi border?
JAY GRAY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Joe, it really feels like over the past 20 or 30 minutes, the winds have really picked up here. The gusts are picking up. We have had gusts over 50 miles an hour, sustained wind right close to 50 miles an hour at times, so it is really picking up. The rain continues to pound this area. They have already flooding in low-lying areas, which is a very, very serious problem.
They already have some flooding in low-lying areas here which is a very, very serious problem. They didn‘t expect that until much later in this storm, and they are already getting flooding, so that is not a good sign. We have talked with the sheriff within the last hour. He has moved into their bunker. They are inside and staying inside at this point. A lot of the emergency management teams are inside. Most of this area has been evacuated. There were some who were going to ride out this storm. The police, the sheriff‘s department went in and pulled them out. Just wasn‘t safe enough where they were.
They were in a low-lying area. The flooding had started, and they physically went and picked them up. Of course, that‘s very dangerous for everyone involved. You have got the emergency teams out there, trying to take care of these people. It‘s dangerous for the people who stayed in their homes, so they have been pulled to a safer place. That‘s the good news. Now everybody is just kind of battening down the hatches here in Pascagoula and waiting for the most intense effects of Ivan, which should be in the next couple of hours.
SCARBOROUGH: For those who have stayed and those that may need medical help, what can they do? Have storm shelters been set up there and is it too late now for anybody that may be caught in this storm to go to those storm shelters?
GRAY: Yeah, at this point, Joe, it really is too late. They don‘t want people out on the road. The sheriff shared a story with us about how his car during one of the stronger gusts was picked up and it kind of hopped along the road. They have lost primary power even in the emergency center. Their two-way radios have been shut down. They are on backup power now. When they hear about problems, they get to the people they can, but they are telling people, if you stay, stay where you are. Get in the safest place in your home, and just stay and try and ride this thing out.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, Jay, we have been hearing it happens, in every hurricane, there have been tornado sightings throughout the day. Any tornado sightings in your neck of the woods right now?
GRAY: Not that we have heard about at this point. No tornadoes in this area. We did hear about a tornado very early on in Panama City, that two people actually died as a result of that tornado that was just on the outer bands, as the outer bands of Ivan moved in. Again, we need to remember, this storm, the eye of this storm still more than 60 miles off the coast, so we still have a couple of hours where things are going to intensify here.
When we were talking with the emergency officials earlier, and throughout our trip up and down the Gulf Coast here, actually a lot of these guys have been issued chain saws at this point. I have never heard of that. I have been in a lot of storms. They have chain saws, so as soon as it‘s safe, they will be able to get out and start cutting away some of the debris, but that‘s going to be a long time, and things are going to get a lot worse before that happens, Joe. That‘s the situation here in Pascagoula.
SCARBOROUGH: Thanks so much, Jay. We greatly appreciate it. Now, going from Pascagoula to Mobile, Alabama, the eye of the storm. We‘ve got the chief of police from Mobile, Alabama. Sam Cochran on the phone. Thank you so much Chief Cochran for being with us. What is the latest in Mobile, Alabama, where apparently Ivan is going to come on-shore?
SAM COCHRAN, MOBILE POLICE CHIEF (ON TELEPHONE): Well, we are just awaiting its arrival. We are having wind gusts, not real strong wind gusts, but some rain and wind gusts, 35, 40 miles per hour right now. Not real strong, but we are anticipating. We are getting reports on the coast a little further south from us that it‘s starting to come ashore, but we are expecting it to get real bad here in another couple of hours.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Police chief, if you can stay with us through the break, we are going to have to go to break right now, but we are going to be right back with you, and also coming up next, we‘re going to be talking to the governors of Mississippi and Alabama. So stay with us. SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY will be right back.
SCARBOROUGH: We are now joined by two good friends, we have got Alabama governor, Bob Riley, and Mississippi‘s governor, Haley Barbour. Let me begin with you, Bob, it looks like your state is going to be ground zero for Hurricane Ivan. What‘s the latest?
BOB RILEY, ALABAMA GOVERNOR (ON TELEPHONE): It really does. The storm surge is beginning to push across the barrier islands out here. We have lost a few buildings. A lot of damage on the islands right now. We are just sitting here waiting for the eye to come across, and let it move on out so we can get some of the rescue people in there and some of our mitigation crews in there.
SCARBOROUGH: Haley Barbour, what‘s the latest in Mississippi right now?
HALEY BARBOUR, MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR: It appears, Joe, the eye of the storm is going to move east of us, but this is a huge storm, it‘s a killer hurricane. And we still take it very, very seriously. The storm surge will be greater over on Bob‘s part and, of course, in Florida. But we are going to immediately after daylight go to search and rescue to try to find people. We had great cooperation with people in evacuation. And we hope that this will just have a major impact and not be catastrophic.
SCARBOROUGH: Bob Riley, in Florida, two people have already died because of tornadoes that have been spawned off of this thing. Is there a danger of people going back down to the Gulf Coast while the storm is still moving north?
RILEY: Well, I was just talking to some people down in Maeemo(ph) down in Mobile, in Baldwin County and they said, what we want you to do right now is encourage people not to come back in tomorrow morning. Because there is going to be a lot of devastation down there, Joe, and we don‘t need any sightseers, we don‘t need anyone coming down to gawk and just see what happened. It‘s going to be, as Haley said a moment ago, it‘s going to be a catastrophic event for this whole Gulf Coast. Pensacola included.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, certainly. Haley Barbour, obviously you remember Hurricane Camille and the devastation that visited on your state 30 years ago or so. Tell me, what are you expecting from this storm in Mississippi and across the Gulf Coast? It‘s a Category 4. How dangerous is that going to be for Gulf Coast residents?
BARBOUR: Well, it‘s very dangerous, and candidly, if the eye had moved to the west as it did for quite a while, it could have been catastrophic on a scale though not as strong as Camille by any standard, our Mississippi Gulf Coast has grown so much, and there‘s been so much development right on the beach, that it could have had even as great a catastrophic result, and I feel terrible for Orange beach Alabama, Destin, Florida, where you have had a tremendous amount of growth in the last 15 years, and they are right on the beach, and while this storm is no Camille, this is a tremendously powerful killer hurricane.
SCARBOROUGH: And obviously you are right, the Gulf Coast has become a lot more populated since Camille. Bob Riley, obviously you‘ve got Alabama residents that still have power, that are able to listen to you tonight. What message do you have for the people of Mobile and your state, as they appear to be in this center of this storm?
RILEY: Well, to the people that are on the Gulf Coast right now, I wanted to remind all of them that we have all of our teams stationed all over Alabama. They are ready to come in, whether search and rescue or debris removal, but I also want to encourage all of the people that are north of the Gulf Coast. This is going to track right across our population centers. If there‘s anyone who is in a mobile home or anyone out there that hasn‘t tried to find shelter, please go ahead and do it tomorrow morning. You know, we don‘t have a second chance at this. We can rebuild buildings. We can rebuild roads. We can‘t replace a life, so as this moves up through Montgomery, moves up through Birmingham, on up into Tennessee, we are going to still see a tremendous amount of damage, and I just want people to take it seriously, and if they can, move to a safer shelter.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Governor Bob Riley of Alabama and Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi, we know you are very, very busy tonight. We want to thank you for coming out tonight and talking to the residents of your state, and also everybody across the country. Our thoughts and prayers are obviously with you, your families, and your state tonight. Now stay tuned. We are going to check in with favorite AccuWeather meteorologist Joe Bastardi after this short break.
SCARBOROUGH: Welcome back to our special coverage of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. With me now, we‘ve got AccuWeather meteorologist Joe Bastardi. Joe, what‘s the latest on Hurricane Ivan right now?
BASTARDI: Well, Joe, it continues to close in. It looks like landfall-actually, it is going to go right up Mobile Bay, probably 3:00 in the morning is when it will be crossing Dolphin Island, Alabama. I‘ll tell you what it looks to me like this is the storm of historic proportions, for the Mobile, Pensacola area. And in addition, we are probably going to see a rearrangement of those barrier islands.
Now, there‘s been a lot of speculation about New Orleans, an it was sort of baffling to some of us. In 1965, Hurricane Betsy came up the mouth of the Mississippi with winds 150, 160 miles an hour. New Orleans had a lot of damage, but still not a catastrophe. The real catastrophe came in ‘47, when a storm hit north of the mouth of the Mississippi, forced a storm surge in to Lake Pontchartrain, elevated its level 10-15 feet and it dumped in the city.
These storms that go east of New Orleans, while you can have damage, it‘s not like what is happening in here, where we are looking at a storm, as I said before, I think this I going to go down in history as the worst storm ever around Mobile, Gulf Shores, perhaps even Pensacola. Mobile Bay, shaped like a funnel. So what happens when all that water comes in here, it has no place to go at the top of the bay. You get a 10-18 foot storm surge, it comes up in the city. Sort of the same kind of problem in Pensacola.
And we want to look at something here. I want to point these islands out. These probably will never be the same. When we get a new picture after this storm, you‘re probably going to see new inlets cut in there. Things may disappear and never to be seen again as far as the land mass goes. And by the way, Joe, we have mean Jeanne, the wind and rain machine, near Puerto Rico, an I hate to say it, but this is coming back toward the west. I think there is going to be a problem on the United States coastline for that. This may get all the way back into the Gulf of Mexico. So we‘ve got a lot going on. A lot more to talk about in this hurricane season.
SCARBOROUGH: Unbelievable. Now, tell me, if you will, Joe, about the very latest on the winds. There was some talk earlier this evening that this storm, by the time it hit, would be downgraded from a Category 4 to a Category 3. But listening to you right now with this storm only a few hours away from landfall in Mobile, or possibly around Pensacola, it‘s not lessening. It‘s still a Category 4, isn‘t it?
BASTARDI: Well, it‘s still a Category 4, but it is weakening some. I described it in my Web site at AccuWeather.com pro as before, it was like Mohammed Ali in the late ‘60s. Now it‘s like Mohammed Ali in 1974. It‘s still a formidable fighter, something nobody wants to fight. And those folks that are reporting from Pensacola and Mobile, they‘re going to be taking their lives in their hands. Because that storm surge is going to come in there, and there‘s going to be winds of 100 to 120 miles an hour at least in gusts in there. And on those beaches, I‘ll tell you, we‘re going to see winds gusts of 140, 150 miles an hour. This will be the benchmark storm for those areas at Mobile Bay, Gulf Shores, Alabama, perhaps even in Pensacola. In Pensacola it will be much like Opal in 1995, I‘m sure you‘re very quell acquainted with that, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: I sure am, Joe. In fact, I went on the beaches the next day with the governor then, Lawton Chiles, toured around the area. Devastation was absolutely unbelievable. Hey, Joe, thanks a lot for being with us. And don‘t forget, you can join me for a special SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY this Friday at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. You can call the Reagan Library for reservations. Coming up next, my colleague, Keith Olbermann is going to take you through the latest on Hurricane Ivan. We‘ll see you tomorrow night for more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. But for tonight, our prayers were the people of the Gulf Coast.
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