Early Show Tries to Make Wilma Another Katrina

The Miers withdrawal having not yet broken and indictments in the Plame investigation still uncertain, the Early Show focused primarily on Hurricane Wilma in their first half hour's coverage. They seem to have gone for the "government response is painfully slow while people suffer" angle, casting doubt on FEMA and state disaster relief agencies as millions are still without power and face long lines for gas, food, and water.

First co-anchor Rene Syler led off at 7:05 EDT, tossing to Trish Regan live from Miami:

"President Bush visits southern Florida today, where there is growing frustration over relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Wilma. There are shortages of food and fuel, and some four million people remain without power. CBS News correspondent Trish Regan is live in Miami with more on this. Trish, good morning."

Regan opened: "Good morning, Rene. Well, people are growing increasingly frustrated, they're waiting sometimes five hours in line for basic things like food, water, and ice. I can tell you this morning, already, the gas lines have started. The biggest issue here for people is their lack of power."

Regan then narrated a taped report:

"As Floridians try to recover from Hurricane Wilma, they're struggling to secure the essentials of everyday life. Endless lines stretch for miles around the few gas stations that are open."

Unidentified woman: "How frustrated are we? Let me tell you, I want to kill everyone around here."

Regan: "But facing mounting criticism, officials here, unlike in New Orleans after Katrina, are keeping a united front."

Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL): "If anybody wants to blame anybody, let them blame me. Don't blame FEMA. This is our responsibility. And we are doing a good job."

Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff: "We can't always get to people. But we hope to get to them as quickly as we hope to do it. But I will tell you, the people here are working 24/7."

Regan: "But even as fema and the state struggle to meet demand, many people are still without fresh food or running water. Florida Governor Jeb Bush says people should have known what was coming."

Gov. Bush: "People had ample time to prepare, and it isn't that hard to get 72 hours worth of food and water."

Regan: "And that, people here say, is exactly what they did."

Katrina Morris, hurricane survivor: "Luckily we were smart, got our food, put up our shutters, did everything we were supposed to do, but we have no power."

Regan: "Which means they're stuck in endless lines at the hardware store for gas cans and then again at the gas station, where they line up to fill up."

Juana McDonald, hurricane survivor: "We've been what, three hours here, and I don't know how many hours we're going to be in the [unintelligible] so."

Regan: "Juana McDonald was finally able to fill her tank so her family could drive to the Miami Orange Bowl...

McDonald: "I got six kids, so I'm very worried."

Regan: "...where FEMA is handing out ice, food, and water."

Regan closed her report again live via satellite: "We are here at the Miami Orange Bowl, and it is not yet known whether or not this facility can even open up today. The expectation is that it should open at 12 noon, but that's all dependent on whether or not FEMA can come through with some additional supplies."

A few minutes later, Julie Chen interviewed Mayor Kristin Jacobs of Broward County, introducing her guest grimly offering that: "Hurricane Wilma has left many Floridians desperate and frustrated. Residents are facing long waits for necessities like food, water, and fuel. And to make matters even worse, it could take weeks to restore power."

Chen's questions to Jacobs follow:

  • "You described the situation in your county as heart-rending. How bad is the situation there this morning?"
  • "What about telephone service?"
  • "We've seen pictures of many people waiting in long lines for food, water, ice, gas, things like that. Do you have any idea when the situation might ease up in that regard?"
  • "What's being done to help the elderly, those who can't get out and get in lines to get what they need, whether it's food or water or whatever it is?"

Chen closed her report urging Jacobs to plead with the president for federal disaster money: "We know the president's visiting Florida today. Hopefully you can ask for some federal assistance. Mayor Kristin Jacobs, we thank you, and good luck."

CBS Early Show