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Deadly Storm Tearing Through the South; New Arizona Law Targeting Illegal Immigrants Sparks Heated Debate

Aired April 24, 2010 - 19:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Don Lemon.

Breaking news here -- and this is really getting worse by the moment. We want to tell you about that deadly and unpredictable storm system tearing through the south right now. We're going to get you some pictures and radar. Jacqui Jeras will join us in just a moment.

But pay attention, if it's raining in your area, dark clouds or what-have-you, you need to watch, because your safety could be in jeopardy.

Emergency officials are now saying seven people are dead in Mississippi, two of those, they believe, are children. And you need to be on alert this hour if you're in Alabama, Kentucky or Tennessee or anywhere along the region. Even in the Midwest, we've gotten some reports from St. Louis.

Already there are 43 unconfirmed reports of tornadoes from northern Missouri through Mississippi, that's a really big area. And perhaps the most destructive one hit Yazoo City, Mississippi, before the storm cell traveled across the state and then into Alabama. The tornado that blasted through there was almost a whole mile wide, imagine that.

The Yazoo City fire chief says 20 to 30 homes destroyed and he believes some people were inside of them when that happened.

Search and rescue efforts are underway at this hour. Overall 12 counties are reporting injuries here. That's according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

Let's get to our expert now, meteorologist Jacqui Jeras tracking all of this.

Jacqui, this is getting worse here.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it's not getting better, that's for sure, Don. And this is going to be ongoing into the over night hours and even into tomorrow as this storm system approaches the eastern seaboard. The areas of concern are highlighted in red here and it does stretch from Missouri all the way down into the Florida Panhandle.

And it's this midsection right here, these watches that we see here, what we called PBS watches, are particularly dangerous situation and that's where we're expecting more violent long track tornadoes. They can cause a lot of damage, just like they did in Yazoo City.

We've got a couple of warnings we need to pass along to you -- this one in the St. Louis metro area. If you got, drop that for just a second to put this in better perspective for you. There you can see St. Louis, and the storm itself right up here to the north and east. This is I-55, leading all the way up towards Springfield. So, this entire area is under a tornado warning at this hour. This storm has a history of producing some wind damage.

Now, the next area we're watching, Nashville, Tennessee and neighborhoods off to the west and southwest. See how these storms are developing right within this line? Any one of these could start with rotation. There you can see one that has it and as that moves up to the north and the east, it could be impacting Nashville. So, be aware, your storm's right around the corner.

And then last but not least, we're looking at storms which have been firing up across parts of Alabama. These storms started out in Mississippi right now. They are not severe, but we could see these strengthen and intensify as well. So, a lot of different areas that we're going to be watching here over the next couple of hours.

Now, what can you expect as we head through the rest of tonight and into tomorrow? Look at this huge area of high risk. We only get a handful of these high risk outlook days per year, Don. And so, we've had a really slow start to the tornado season, and we are really hit hard here for today. And, you know, maybe a 50 percent shot that a tornado is going to come within 25 miles of your home if you live in that area.

As we head into tomorrow, you'll see that risk spread from parts of Pennsylvania all the way through the Sunshine State. So, the risk tomorrow is not as favorable for tornado development.

I got a picture that I want to show you from our affiliate, WDBD- TV. And this is from that heir tornado in Yazoo City. And I really want to point out here -- that was a home that was sitting there. The foundation on this thing just leveled. All that debris, that whole entire home was kind of picked up and pushed over.

And you can tell that that's a tornado because straight-line winds just don't cause damage like that. And by looking at that, Don, this tells me, this was easily probably an EF4 tornado, maybe the worst of all, and there's no way to survive something like that. If you're living in that home, you absolutely have to be underground.

So, take these warnings seriously tonight, folks. And please get to the lowest level of your home, away from doors and windows. And when those sirens go off, make sure you have a plan.

And now that we're getting towards sun down, Don, it's a little bit more dangerous because we can't see things that are going on and, you know, those search and rescue efforts still going on in that area yet.

LEMON: Jacqui, this is a -- this is a big part of the country for this to be affecting -- to be affecting this many people. Listen, stand by, Jacqui Jeras. We'll get back to you.

Our Jacqui is checking on this dangerous system. It's deadly because we are getting reports now confirmed seven people have died.

Listen, we want to tell you we're getting information as well from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. I just got an e- mail from them talking about the damage and exactly where that damage is, what's going on. It says that in Attala, damaged to homes, with numerous trees down; Holmes County, trees down; Jasper, some homes are damaged, and then, of course, admissions of death as well.

So, the information is coming in.

We also want to tell you now that Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, he was at his home in Yazoo City when that tornado hit. We're told that he is OK, but he's got a long night ahead of him as damage reports keep rolling in from across the state. I want you to take a listen to the governor.


GOV. HALEY BARBOUR (R), MISSISSIPPI: We're here on the edgy Yazoo City where there has been a devastating tornado, an enormous tornado that appears to be several miles wide. By God's grace, it did not go into the central part of the city, or the most populated. However, it went through the southern edge and eastern edge of town, but through a number of large neighborhoods.

As you can see, there are a number of businesses that have been destroyed, others that have been severely damaged. There are churches that have been obliterated. And as you go into the areas, you can't get to right now because of the trees that are down and the power lines that are still down because the crews can't get to them. There are many, many homes that are damaged, some that are destroyed.


LEMON: All right. Now, we want to get to Governor Haley -- Governor Haley Barbour's spokesperson. His name is Dan Turner. He joins us now from -- by telephone from Jackson.

Hey, thank you. We really want to hear from the governor, especially since he was at home at the time and we know that he is taking some media reports. I've seen him on other people's air -- other network's air.

Can you try to get him on? We know he's busy.

DAN TURNER, GOV. BARBOUR'S SPOKESMAN (via telephone): Absolutely.

LEMON: Because we need to know.

So, listen, tell us what's going on and there are seven people now dead from this. TURNER: We have unconfirmed reports. Generally, we don't release those types of statistics until we have heard from the various coroners that are involved.

But what we're looking at is probably an EF3 tornado with winds of about 150 miles an hour. It cut a three-quarters-of-a-mile swathe, starting in Louisiana and it came across the river and it hit an area near Vicksburg, and destroyed about 30 homes there, continued to go across the state that hit -- as you heard the governor describe -- that part of Yazoo City, and the terrain in that area is what makes search and rescue particularly difficult.

Yazoo is right on the edge of the Mississippi Delta. So, you come down into a hilly area, down into the delta, and it's hard to get into some of those areas right now because of the destruction.

LEMON: That's what I wanted to -- that's my next question. Oftentimes when things like this happen, we don't discover some of the damage until much, much later. And you're not exactly sure really just how much damage it is. You may come across more.

TURNER: We may be coming across damage for a day or two, just because of, like I said, the terrain and getting from one place to another, clearing the roadways to get to the houses and the various businesses in that area is going to take a little time.

LEMON: Mr. Turner, what's the governor out doing now? Is he dealing with his home, or is he out assessing damage? What's going on?

TURNER: He's been -- he's a busy day. He has -- he drove up, at my understanding, right as the storm hit. He was just a few miles away from it, went in and saw the early parts of the damage.

We have established a command and control center there and had rapid response teams deployed and heard that the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency has been on site. They have gone up and viewed the damage from helicopter. He's been busy working the area and maybe --

LEMON: Do you have enough resources to deal with all of this?

TURNER: We have probably -- you know, the resources to deal with the emergency end of it, yes. And, again, the people in Mississippi have responded with neighbors helping neighbors, very much like it happened after Katrina. Long-term, we'll have to see how extensive the damage is and what the dollar total is to know whether we can truly deal with it.

LEMON: All right. Listen, we want to thank you very much, and again, our invitation is extended to Governor Haley Barbour to come on because we're going to be following this breaking news live on CNN, and giving our viewers update. So, thank you, Dan Turner, who's the spokesperson for Governor Haley Barbour, we appreciate it.

TURNER: Very good.

LEMON: All right.

So, listen, we hear the damage report that's just coming in. As a matter of fact, as I said before this, we just got a damage report from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. I got an e-mail here, and it says, it goes through to tell you exactly what is going on.

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency continues to receive reports of damages from counties across the state related to a severe spring storm system and possible tornadoes moving through the states. And then it goes in a list of counties, 10, 12, 13, 14 counties of the damage, homes, trees, all kinds of properties. And, also, seven, we are told, seven people are dead.

We're going to talk to the Mississippi Emergency Management right after this break with this breaking news -- severe weather, deadly weather hitting much of the Southeast.


LEMON: Breaking news we're following here on CNN. So, please stay tuned. We are looking out for your safety, and if you're not in the area, a big part of your fellow Americans are dealing with this. And at least, we're told, seven people just in Mississippi have died.

And then this storm is moving, it keeps moving into the Midwest, we're told, all the way from Mississippi to Missouri. So, take a look at this.

This is from -- is this from one of our iReporters? This tape that we have in, guys? Yes, this is from one of our iReporters.

And again, this was sort of at the height of that storm as it was rolling through. People have been sending us pictures and videos.

And let's go to the next video. Look at the destruction that's happening on the ground there. You can see the structure. Claude (ph), take the next shot and preview.

You can see that the structure -- look at that -- wow, unbelievable. The structures are just to the ground, a lot of them just really demolished here. Because it came through so quickly, a lot of people didn't have time to -- take this next shot please so that our viewers can see this, they can see the destruction of this. The one preview, the shot, the video, the ground video, Claude, ground video, please. That one, thank you very much.

That's what we want to show you, that's exactly what is happening right there. Imagine being in that home or anywhere near it.

So let's go now to the ground, joining us from Mississippi is -- with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency is Greg Flynn.

Greg, you are just outside of Jackson, Mississippi. The biggest danger now that you're seeing and where are people needing assistance? GREG FLYNN, MISS. EMERGENCY MGMT. AGENCY: Well, Don, right now, thankfully, most of the weather has moved east of Mississippi, but it has left behind a large trail of destruction, as you mentioned before.

Unfortunately, we are confirming that seven people have died across our state. We had three in Choctaw County, three in Yazoo County, and one in Holmes County. And two of those fatalities, we're told, that in Choctaw County, were children.

Right now, we are undergoing a massive cleanup effort and recovery effort, still making sure that folks are all accounted for. There is just untold damage numbers in Yazoo City. The hometown of our governor, Haley Barbour, that has been obliterated as using his words from earlier today -- just a large swathe of destruction from the Mississippi River all the way to the eastern edge of Alabama, all from one -- what seems to be one tornado that they said was three- quarters-of-a-mile wide and possibly an EF3 with winds up to 150 miles an hour.

LEMON: Unbelievable. Listen, we know it hit a big part of your state, as you said, three-quarters-of-a-mile wide. There are some reports that said it was up to a mile wide. So that's -- I mean, that's incredible damage. Tough economic times for not only cities but states as well. What about your resources there.

FLYNN: We, thankfully, prepare for this kind of things. We keep those -- that set aside. We have all the state agencies right now working together to provide resources to all these communities that have been hit -- everything from the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, to our Department of Transportation, public safety, Department of Health -- all of these resources are flooding the areas just to make sure that they're taking care of the way that they need to be.

LEMON: Greg Flynn, we want to thank you very much and we know that you're very busy. Listen, if you get anymore information, please call back because people are interested and we want to help out people who have been at least touched by this really deadly tornado.

FLYNN: Yes, Don. Don, if I could point out one thing.

LEMON: Yes, go ahead.

FLYNN: That is one thing, I know that we saw this after Hurricane Katrina and we've had a lot of folks that have called wanting to know how they can help because they want to help with the cleanup effort and the donations. But at this time right now, the areas are so saturated with emergency workers that we're really asking people to kind of take a step back and wait possibly even until tomorrow because it's just not safe to be in some of these areas.

We have some of the generous people in the Southeast that want to come in and help. But right now, we just need them to kind of hold back just a minute until we can make sure that these areas are secure.

LEMON: Greg Flynn is with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and he will get back to us if the situation warrants to update you on it. Thank you very much, Greg. Best of luck to everyone there.

So, listen, there's much, much more news ahead here on CNN as we follow this breaking news.

More problems for the investment firm Goldman Sachs, some lawmakers question its leader's honesty for emails released today.

And you've heard of pet hotels, right? Well, what about pot hotels? Pot hotels. Yes, this is the first of its kind for allowing marijuana. Find out where it is. I visited it.


LEMON: We're going to get back to our breaking news in just a moment. Our Jacqui Jeras is checking on all of it for you as torrential tornadoes ripping across the big part of the Southeast.

On to other news today that you need to know about.

The Coast Guard says that oil rig that sank off the Louisiana coast is leaking 1,000 barrels of oil a day. Eleven people were killed in Tuesday's explosion.

So, joining us now to talk about it is Petty Officer John Edwards. Thank you for joining us now.

When did the Coast Guard discover the oil leak and what is being done to stem it?

JOHN EDWARDS, PETTY OFFICER, U.S. COAST GUARD (via telephone): Well, good afternoon, Don.

First off -- first off, the unified command announced today that the mobile offshore drilling unit, the Deepwater Horizon, was located capsized on the sea floor approximately 1,500 feet northwest of the well site, also the riser was located. Now, our submersible remote operating vehicles locate two places where the oil is leaking. One was found at the riser, and one from the riser, and another that's from the pipe near the well itself. Our technical advisors have confirmed that this is -- this is definitely fresh oil from the well.

LEMON: OK. It's fresh oil from the well. How did you -- is that where how you discovered this?

EDWARDS: Right. We've had those submersible ROVs down for a few days now, trying to locate the Deepwater Horizon, as well as to locate the riser and the condition of the riser. The riser being that the piece that connects from the seabed to the unit itself. Once that 1,000 feet of riser had been examined by the ROV, we noticed the leaking from not only the riser but also from a pipe near the well site itself.

LEMON: This is not an easy cleanup, is it? Tell us about it.

EDWARDS: Well, no, it's not going to be an easy cleanup. The command -- the unified command bringing together the regulatory and technical experience and knowledge necessary to successfully perform, you know, this sort of cleanup operations.

Already, we've successfully recovered 33,726 gallons of oily water mix by surface skimmers and we've also been deploying -- 1,900 gallons of dispersants were used to break up the slicks. And, currently, we have 11,360 feet of boom currently in place to contain the spill.

LEMON: And we said at the top of this that 11 people were killed. Initially, they were searching for them, hoping that they were alive, but the search has now been called off.

EDWARDS: That's correct. The search was suspended pending further development. The unified command has certainly shifted its focus over to the containment and recovery operation. But, you know, certainly, our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the affected.

LEMON: They certainly do. Very well said. Thank you very much, John Edwards, who is a petty officer with the Coast Guard. We really appreciate it.

More top stories right now on CNN.


LEMON: As we just told you here, and this was at the lead of our show, the breaking news here, seven people are dead in Mississippi as dangerous weather sweeps the south. Perhaps the worst of it was in Yazoo City where a tornado almost a mile wide touched down. It flattened as many as 30 homes. Some had people inside at the time.

The storm cell raked across the entire state before crossing into Alabama. We're going to keep you updated on that throughout this broadcast.

$18.5 million -- that's how much an Oregon jury has awarded a 38- year-old man sexually abused by his Boy Scout leader 25 years ago. Boy Scouts of America has not commented on this decision. Kerry Lewis and his attorneys say the scouts' organization knew the leader had a history of sexual abuse but allowed him to continue as a troop leader. Five other people have fled similar claims or filed -- excuse me -- similar claims in the Oregon court.

The image of Goldman Sachs took another hit today from emails released on Capitol Hill. The email show how the firm was making lots of money by betting that mortgage securities would go down in value. Lawmakers point out that that contradicts what Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein told them back in November of 2007, saying his company lost money from what's called shorting these types of security.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges that Goldman Sachs defrauded investors. Tuesday, its leaders, including Blankfein, are scheduled to testify before a Senate committee.

We're back in a moment with the breaking news: tornadoes sweeping much of the south and Midwest.


LEMON: Back to our breaking weather news in just a moment. We want to tell you about some other news now.

A new Arizona state law targeting illegal immigrants has reignited a long running and emotional debate. Arizona's governor yesterday signed a bill that's being called one of the toughest in the country. It requires immigrants to carry their registration documents with them at all times and it requires police to question anyone they suspect is in the U.S. illegally. It also targets the businesses that hire illegal day laborers.

CNN's Thelma Gutierrez is standing by now for us in Phoenix.

Thelma, thank you for joining us. Are things winding down now at the capitol?

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, there are definitely not as many people here at the state capitol as there were yesterday. However, later tonight, another candlelight vigil is planned. Now, the vigil, the protests all been organized by students activists, and while this is just one opinion on a very complicated immigration issue. They're definitely leading the charge to fight back.


GUTIERREZ (voice-over): After the hurt and anger over S.B. 1070, student leaders in Arizona jumped into action.

CHRISTIAN VITO, STUDENT: My name's Christian Vito. I attend South Mountain High School. I'm 18 years old and I'm organizing a group to protest against the law.

JESSUP FINO (ph), STUDENT: My name's Jessup Fino (ph) and I'm a youth organizer here in Arizona. And we're going to kick off the summer of hope, it will be 90 days of organizing and getting people together.

GUTIERREZ: This generation of student activists are social media savvy. And their message of protests is going viral.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we're doing is we're using databases. We're using text messaging systems and doing phone banks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have thousands and thousands of people looking on to us for what is next.

GUTIERREZ: Jeff Sabino (ph), an Arizona State University graduate student in public policy is organizing a coalition of college students to fight the law that was signed Friday by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.

JEFF SABINO (ph), ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY GRADUATE STUDENT: As soon as she signed that bill, it shook the hornet's next. It awoke not only Arizona, not only our community, but the nation. We have solidarity events going on in North Carolina, and Denver, and New Mexico, Colorado, Washington, D.C. and New York. People are all flooding us with support and I think we need to garner that support.

GUTIERREZ: Back on the streets of Phoenix, Christian Brito (ph) led a chorus of high school protesters from a pick-up truck. They are students who fear that the new law will pry apart their families and separate friends.

CHRISTIAN BRITO (ph), STUDENT: And if we get deported, you know, we lose a part of each other. There's some, a piece of our heart that they're taking with them.

GUTIERREZ: Brito (ph), a high school senior says for him this is personal.

BRITO: My dream is to become a Marine. I want to serve this country. I want to serve everybody in it. I want to help them and I want to protect them.

GUTIERREZ: Christian Brito (ph) is in a youth training program for aspiring Marine recruits. He says after high school, he hopes to defend the U.S. constitution, even though he believes that the law in his own state is unconstitutional.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: And Thelma I understand that the challenge to this new law may come from city hall right there in Phoenix?

GUTIERREZ: Yes, exactly, Don. In fact that challenge is suspected to come from Phoenix's mayor, Phil Gordon. He says that on Tuesday, he will direct his city attorney to file a legal action possibly against the state that would ask for this law not to take effect also declaring it unconstitutional. Don.

LEMON: Thelma, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

We want to get back now to our breaking news. We told you about the situation that's happening in the south and even in the Midwest as far up as Missouri. We want to get to our Ed Henry now who is joining us by telephone. Ed is traveling with President Barack Obama in Ashville, North Carolina.

Ed, you have been briefed, he has been briefed, I should say, on this situation.

What can you tell us?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): That's right, Don. We've got a little bit of information, obviously the White House paying close attention to CNN, now reporting at least seven deaths from these tornadoes. I just spoke to White House spokesman, Phil Gordon, who is traveling with the president here. He said of course, the president has been briefed in the tragedy in Mississippi and the situation is being followed by the White House.

Obviously, we're trying to get more information right now as we are gathering exactly how terrible this tragedy is, the president and the first lady with some of their friends who are traveling here in North Carolina have been - at the Biltmore Estate (INAUDIBLE) that but in between some of that (INAUDIBLE), we're told the president got this briefing to get up to speed on this situation.

The first family is now having dinner here in Asheville, but as Phil Gordon said, they're getting as much information as they can as quickly as they can because this is an evolving situation. But clearly (INAUDIBLE) Mississippi, the president wants to be on top of it now.

LEMON: Yes, absolutely. And you hear about seven dead from something like this, the president usually speaks out about it. Our Ed Henry traveling with the president who's on vacation in Ashville, North Carolina. The president has been briefed on this and we will be checking back with Ed to see if there's any more information.

So, listen, we are following this situation that's happening in the south. A line of storms, really beat a path through the south today. We are told killing at least seven people. I'm being told joining us by telephone now is Governor Haley Barbour, Mississippi governor.

Thank you so much for joining us. We understand that you were home in Yazoo City when this happened. Did you see any of it? If so, what did you do right after?

VOICE OF GOV. HALEY BARBOUR, MISSISSIPPI: Actually we were on the road between Jackson and Yazoo City, trying to get to Yazoo as soon as after the storm hit. The storm hit about 10 minutes after 12 central time and we got there about 30 minutes later. But this is a gigantic storm, this tornado in places appeared to be several miles wide. It set down on the ground in Madison Parrish, Louisiana, and crossed the river into Mississippi, hit Eagle Lake. By the time I got to the edge of the city, (INAUDIBLE) about 70 miles and it looks like it was on the ground at least another 80 miles when it hit Choctaw County, Mississippi.

But at Yazoo City, it skimmed the edge of town, it hit a lot of neighborhoods just outside the city limits, went through a shopping center, absolutely obliterated a church. It's a very, very bad storm and regrettably we have some fatalities. Reportedly five at this point, that's not official. But the other side of this is the outpouring of volunteers in the community who went out in these areas that are on state roads and county roads and some even on dirt roads, went with four wheelers and took a chain saw to help out their neighbors.

It was very powerful to see the community come together and people immediately within the hour were out trying to get roads open and save people from their entrapment.

LEMON: Governor, listen, you're saying five and you're still checking on, and this is according to our check here, and, you know, it would be great if this number goes down. We're hearing seven and here's what we're hearing. We're hearing three in Yazoo, one in Holmes, three in Choctaw and two of those three in Choctaw, sadly children.

BARBOUR: Well, I was going say the five number is for Yazoo County, though one of the - the Holmes county, the way Yazoo and Holmes county meet, it's in a big rural area and there was a lot of damage in there, so it could have been on either side of the county line. But, yes, I was led to believe that there might be fatalities in Choctaw county.

LEMON: And with those children, you know, when this thing comes through, when things like this, you know, a tornado, there's really not much you can do unless you get some warning and get out of the way and many times, most times there's no warning. You get the storm system warning but you don't know what's going to happen after that.

BARBOUR: Yes. There was the - the weather service did a very good job on this and there was a lot of effort but nevertheless, particularly for people who live in rural areas or children anywhere, they just may not have been made aware. But I can tell you the devastation for this storm, there was some people killed who knew it was coming. I mean, this storm was very powerful and enormous.

LEMON: You say they knew it was coming.

BARBOUR: I will bet you there were people who were killed who knew it was coming because you could have gotten in the closet inside your house and still not have been saved.

LEMON: Yes. But sometimes there's nothing you can do, especially when the whole structure is demolished as we're looking at these pictures and you're talking, governor. Hey, listen, I want to ask you this, we're going to get back and talk about the folks there, but I got this from the Mississippi Emergency Management, governor, and it just goes on to list the counties here, Choctaw, Desoto, Holmes, Jasper, homes damaged, trees down and destruction, on and on and on a big portion of your state.

And as I said to you representative earlier. I know you guys go plan for this, when something like this happens, especially during tough economic times, it costs a lot of money, do you have the resources to deal with this? Are you reaching out to anyone in Washington maybe for some federal funds?

BARBOUR: We do have resources to deal with it. However several of these areas we anticipate will qualify for federal disaster assistance. We will begin in earnest Monday, putting together the figures that are required for the federal government to make that determination. We already have people who have arrived in Mississippi from FEMA, the federal government.

So right now, we're still on the search and rescue effort, you may not - your listeners may not know it, but the areas you talked about, many of those counties were the same tornado, one line, but then Desoto, Jasper, we have other parts of the state that were hit by other tornadoes. We had a big, big swathe of bad weather that went through here and spawned a lot of tornadoes, not only in Mississippi, but probably in Arkansas, Louisiana and Alabama as well.

But yet, we have got the resources to help our people. We're putting the National Guard on the ground tonight for security. Won't be any looting here. And then hopefully some of these people will qualify for the federal programs because they're very beneficial.

LEMON: Hey, governor, don't go anywhere. I just want to update our viewers, so they know who they're listening to. You're listening to the governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, who is joining us by phone, who is not far away when this tornado, this devastating tornado came through the state and really just not knocked out a big portion of the state.

Trees, you can see, power lines in that video, many structures we're getting word that seven people have died and that is from officials in Mississippi, but there are still, still many areas there as we were told by the governor's spokesperson that they can't get to. So they may find more damage.

So governor, let's continue real quickly and talk about the people of Mississippi and beyond. If people are watching, especially in areas that are in the path of this storm, your advice?

BARBOUR: Well, this storm system spun off some powerful, powerful tornadoes. We live in a part of the country where we have tornadoes. But the one that hit Yazoo City, Mississippi and stayed on the ground for about 150 miles was a huge tornado in width and extremely powerful. It went through some very hilly land, we don't have mountains in our state, but it went through a lot of changes in elevation and never got up off the ground for any appreciable length of time.

It is a bad or it was a bad, bad, devastating tornado. Worse than we're used to, I would say.

LEMON: People who are looking for loved ones or information on loved ones, governor?

BARBOUR: The Red Cross is setting up as is the Salvation Army. The Red Cross has two centers in the state that they have set up, one in Yazoo City and one in Vicksburg. I suspect there will be others particularly around Choctaw county where it seems to have been an extremely large amount of damage, what we're seeing here, Don, is a lot of damage in non-metropolitan areas, but areas that have healthy populations.

Neighborhoods and lots of people who live on this county road or that county road and so you're seeing that a lot of these areas are hard to get to, particularly if you got 100 trees down every mile. And you got to clear them, and that's the case in many places. We have lots of resources that have been applied here, including as I mentioned earlier, tons of volunteers who we're just pouring out to help their neighbors. LEMON: Governor, listen, thank you very much. One quick question before we let you go, you've got a lot of people who are homeless, without homes, what are you doing for those folks?

BARBOUR: As we say, we have Red Cross shelters that are set up, I will be very surprised if tonight in many areas of Mississippi, you don't have many families who are taking in family members or people that go to their church or people whose kids go to school with their kids, whose kids play Little League with their kids.

This is a very, very giving state and our people, particularly because of Katrina bend over backwards to help their neighbors and even to help people they don't know, as was the case so often today in Mississippi. So I don't think we're going to be finding people that don't have a place to be tonight. But we will have a lot of people tonight who are not where they slept last night.

LEMON: Well, Governor Haley Barbour, thank you so much for joining us. The governor was near this tornado when it came through, got on the ground and started helping there very quickly and he has just offered some information to you if you want to find loved ones, get in touch with the Red Cross.

Governor thank you for your time. You mentioned people who are homeless, they are offering areas for them, from the Red Cross. This is a really big deal. He said they haven't seen a tornado like this ever, according to him. He said it was very unexpected and very big. Mentioning the homeless people.

Look at this, this was shot by one of our very own who works here, homeless people there, sitting in the back of what was their property and you see their truck there and that's what they having to deal with tonight in Mississippi and other areas in the southeastern part of this country. Unbelievable.

We're going to continue to follow this breaking news and again our thanks to Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour for taking the time out to come speak to us here on CNN. A line of storms really beat a path to the south as we have been saying. It left a string of tragedies, communities are mourning the dead right now. The very latest on this storm coming up right after the break.


LEMON: All right, we're told at least seven people dead, many more wounded from today's storms and we're told two of them were children. It's really a violent storm that moved across the southeastern portion of the United States and you need to be on alert this hour if you're in Alabama, Kentucky or Tennessee. Because there are people as we said who have been killed because of this.

I want to get to now on the phone, Dr. Richard Summers. He is the chairman of the emergency medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, joining us now live. Listen, we hear that you got a number of patients. Tell us about that and what's the severity of their injuries? DR. RICHARD SUMMERS, UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI MEDICAL CENTER (on the phone): We have about a dozen patients from the accident, from the tornado, victims. And about four in critical condition. I'm sitting in the med com room here at the University of Mississippi Medical Center where we run our disaster system out of and we're the only level one trauma center in the state. So we sent a helicopter and a crew into a parking lot up in Yazoo City to stage some of the victims and bring back the critical ones by helicopter.

LEMON: Listen, here hearing about, you know, the governor said that he had five in one county or what have you. Are you hearing about - because often you guys will share information about other hospitals and other injuries and what they're dealing with at this hour?

SUMMERS: Yes, from King's Daughters in Yazoo City and the Lexington Hospital that we're affiliated with, we are hearing information from them and actually in the staging that we did in the parking lot of a grocery store up there with our helicopter system, we did send some minor injuries to those closer hospital where is they could handle those and then brought the critical ones back to us.

LEMON: To you. I guess I would imagine the stories for these for when the victims come in, they just say, you know, obviously it sounded like a freight train, we hear that all the time. But it really just came out of nowhere and I'm sure they were surprised really just by the magnitude of this storm system?

SUMMERS: Yes. We had heard that there was a storm coming for a day or so. But everything seemed fairly calm and then it just hit all of a sudden.

LEMON: Do you expect to get more? I know that's not an easy question to answer.

SUMMERS: Yes, I think that we got the initial phase and as they explore the path of the tornado and are cutting through to get to other areas, we're expecting another one or two waves of victims.

LEMON: The governor said to me here just a few minutes ago, he said this one is bigger and more powerful than he has seen in a while. Can you - do you feel the same way?

SUMMERS: From the crew that we've had come back from the staging area, they were amazed and astounded about the amount of damage. And said it was surrealistic.

LEMON: Richard Summers, the chairman of the emergency medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center joining us by phone and saying they've got at least 12 patients, other hospitals in the area got more patients. They're keeping in touch with each other there, to try to get all of those injured patients treated and well again.

And he said he expects to get more, and again as the governor said, if you're anywhere in the path of this storm system, you need to seek shelter because this one was bigger and more powerful than he had seen in quite a while, if ever. We're following the breaking news here on CNN. Make sure you stay tuned. Your safety, our utmost importance.


LEMON: We want to check your top stories right now on CNN, as we have been reporting, there are some strong reactions, they're pouring in on both sides of this immigration debate. Arizona's governor yesterday signed what many are calling the toughest anti-illegal immigration law in the country. It requires state police to question anyone suspected of being in the U.S. illegally and immigrants must carry their registration documents at all times. Critics say it opens a door to racial profiling. Supporters call the law, long overdue.

That oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday is continuing to cause some big problems. The Coast Guard now says that the sunken rig is leaking about 1,000 barrels of oil each day. 11 people are assumed to have been killed by the blast. Authority are investigating what caused the explosion, which happened about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

You know you can call it the "Blindside meets Barbados." Ramon Herwood (ph) is going to the NFL just like the player in that hit movie. The Baltimore Ravens took the Morehouse College lineman in the sixth round of today's draft. Herwood (ph) grew up in Barbados and had never even played football until four years ago. But as they say, you can't teach size.

And at 6'7", wow, 360 pounds, he was a prospect the Ravens just could not pass up. Congratulations to him.

You know the weather in the southeast is a big story of the night with at least seven people dead. And we are going to turn to our meteorologist Jacqui Jeras very shortly to give us the latest on that. At least seven people dead and they're thinking they're going to find more damage as this goes on.

We're back in moments.


LEMON: Here's breaking news going on when it concerns the weather and we're on top of it here at CNN.

We want to update you now. We're being told that seven people have died in a tornado that touched down in Mississippi, and they are still assessing the damage. The governor says they may find even more damage and they are concerned about the safety of the folks there. It is getting dark here in the southeast, and so that creates another problem with electrical lines and debris and what have you, so we're checking on that for you all the way up to Missouri, we are told.

And this tornado that touched down there, there are reports that it was up to a mile wide. It affected really a big portion of some counties there as the governor said, skipping over from Louisiana to Mississippi and then moving on and on and on, so we're following it for you here, this breaking news on CNN. The damage, it's just unbelievable. There are folks now who are homeless because of this.

The Red Cross is having to go out and help people and according to the governor of Mississippi, they're finding shelter for people who may be seeking it tonight or either tomorrow when the sun comes up and these folks have really nowhere to go.

Again, the American Red Cross, as always, on the scene, and we're going to follow this breaking news for you here on CNN, just as long as this system is active and it is moving. It is moving across a big portion of the country. We know you can predict these tornados, like where they're going to happen, but the storm system, you don't know quite exactly where they're going to go and just the power and the size of them until they hit the ground until maybe possibly it is too late.