Red Cross Cleans Up in Charley's Aftermath

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," August 16, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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JOHN GIBSON, GUEST HOST: In the aftermath of Hurricane Charley (search), at least 16 people are dead, thousands homeless and about a million Floridians still without power. And insurers are estimating $5 billion in losses.

Now some forecasters are saying brace yourself, this may be just the beginning of a very deadly and very costly hurricane season.

Joining us now from Punta Gorda, Fla., is Michael Spencer, a spokesman for the Red Cross. And from State College, Penn., Joe Bastardi, the chief hurricane forecaster for

Let me go to Michael first. So the situation, Michael, down there for the people — all those people are homeless. Their mobile homes have been torn up and can't live in them, obviously is what? Are they living in tents?

MICHAEL SPENCER, RED CROSS SPOKESMAN: No, actually, they're staying in Red Cross (search) shelters for the most part. Many people are returning home during the day to begin their clean-up efforts and to try to put their lives back together. And then at night, they're heading back to a shelter where they have air conditioning, a hot meal.

GIBSON: So how many people are in this situation?

SPENCER: I'm not sure how many stayed in last night, but I know it is into the thousands. So far, we've set up seven kitchens in the hardest hit area. And we're serving about 100,000 meals a day.

GIBSON: And the Red Cross is soliciting cash donations to help out in this effort, right?

SPENCER: Right. Our disaster relief fund is what allowed us to be here, even before the first dollar was raised. The guys here before the storm, it's what's going to keep us here for weeks. And so what's going to help us as we head into the busiest part of the hurricane season. People can donate by calling 1-800-HELP-NOW or visiting

GIBSON: All right, Michael, now let me turn to Joe a second. You are the chief hurricane forecaster for So what's in store?

JOE BASTARDI, ACCUWEATHER.COM: Well, first of all, it's not just forecasters say now. had a forecast out before the season began, warning people about this season being a particularly nasty one.

Back in the '40's and '50s as far as our climatological pattern, there were huge hurricanes that hit the United States. And all my research indicates that September is going to be a very active month. The rest of the hurricane season's very active.

Our pre-season forecast, John, called for the Florida coast to be hit. And the ranking we had was that we're the number one area between Apalachicola and Key West (search) to be hit. We had the Carolinas hit. And of course, we've already had two storm hits in the Carolinas.

Let's keep in mind that Karen on Bermuda a couple years ago and Claudette are firing warning shots. And that is, both those storms were intensifying as they reached landfall, just as Alex did with Hatteras, which was a very bad storm at Hatteras and Charley did as it came ashore in Florida.

Storms that intensify upon landfall we think this season has that signature are the ones that are the worst storms. And there's a lot of hurricane season in front of us.

I'm working right now on our update, which is going to be out next week, strangely enough. And I just don't see any backing down from what our preseason forecast was.

GIBSON: Joe, you know, at the risk of making it sound like Mr. Wizard, why? Why would this season be any worse than any other season?

BASTARDI: Well, first of all, we've been living on borrowed time. See, a lot of folks a couple of years ago didn't realize if Lily and Isadore had done what their three-day forecast had done, that would have been the worst forecast on record. Fortunately, Isadore went and the Yucatan weakened. And Lily weakened rapidly upon landfall.

But even two years ago, we had an unheard of event. Two category 4 hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico within 10 days of each other, John. So we are back in the — well, I want to stress this — the climate runs in cycles. We are back in the '40's, '50's, and early '60's as far as our climate pattern goes. And I'll tell you what, those years there were a lot of big hurricanes on the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. 1954, the United States was hit by three category 3 hurricanes within a month and a half period from September into the middle part of October.

And you had Connie and Diane in '55. You had the big hurricanes in the '40's. That's where we are now. The climate runs in cycles, so get used to it.

GIBSON: All right. Well, let me turn back to Michael Spencer, who ought to have the blood draining from his face after hearing that. Michael, according to Joe, you're in for a long season.

SPENCER: This is a very, very scary thing. We're not even in the busiest part of hurricane season yet and we've already had this massive storm that has just ripped apart thousands upon thousands of lives. And as we head into the busiest part of the storm season, we have to have a healthy disaster relief fund or we're not going to be able to respond to these storms. So it's so important that people donate.

GIBSON: Michael, let me ask you something before we go. We just got a few seconds. I mean, when you see this kind of damage, are you saying to the local county officials you can't let people put up buildings as fragile as this and try to live in them?

SPENCER: We are working with our government partners to do some mitigation and make sure that if another storm were to hit, that we can help them rebuild in a way that the damage won't be so bad. But the most important thing people can do is evacuate.

GIBSON: All right. Michael and Joe, thanks a lot. Appreciate it. And good luck.

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