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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT
Tornado Emergency in Oklahoma; Latest From Joplin, Missouri
Aired May 24, 2011 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a half-mile-wide wedge. It's another killer tornado.
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PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Breaking news tonight: tornado emergency in Oklahoma. Everyone in the area warned to seek immediate shelter.
We have the latest, and survivor stories from Joplin, Missouri, coming back to life after 122 people have now been declared dead.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is just not the type of community that's going to let a little F-4 tornado kick our ass.
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MORGAN: The search for the missing.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really incredible the fact that we're still finding people. We're hoping to find more folks, and that's why we're doing these searches.
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MORGAN: Survivors who still can't believe their luck -- mothers, fathers, babies just barely getting out alive.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've never taken any of the warnings seriously, but something snapped in me and I put pillows and some blankets in the bathroom. We were just praying and screaming. And, you know, it was very loud, and it all happened so fast.
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MORGAN: The terrifying moments that changed their lives forever.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's indescribable. I don't know what to say other than that. I've never seen anything like it.
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MORGAN: What happens now?
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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to stay there until every home is repaired, until every neighborhood is rebuilt, until every business is back on its feet.
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MORGAN: And with more storms threatening tonight, is the city safe?
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you hear and a tornado comes through, you have no place to go. There's no place to hide now.
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MORGAN: I'll ask the world's leading tornado expert how you can protect yourself.
This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.
MORGAN: We begin tonight with the latest breaking news. A tornado emergency near Oklahoma City, the National Weather Service warns anyone in the area to take precautions immediately, calling the situation extremely dangerous and life threatening.
This extraordinary video shows you just how dangerous. Take a look at this truck. You see a twister coming towards it and then literally demolishing it. That's the power of what is going on right now in Oklahoma.
There's also a new warning in Joplin, Missouri of possibly another tornado there.
And I want to bring in storm chaser Jeff Piotrowski, he's on the phone. He's on the trail (ph) of the twister in Oklahoma.
Jeff, what is the latest from where you are in Oklahoma?
JEFF PIOTROWSKI, STORM CHASER (via telephone): Piers, we've had an incredible tornado outbreak and we have massive damage in so many locations.
Let's start, this afternoon, shortly after 3:00, we had severe storms about 70 miles of Oklahoma City that produced significant damage. Northwest of Oklahoma, we had tornadoes cross I-40, west of Oklahoma City. We had major damage in the Piedmont area with confirmed fatalities. Back southwest of there, a mile-wide tornado on I-40. And then that tornado went up to the northwest side (INAUDIBLE) just missing the heart of the city, up towards Guthrie.
We had another tornado track in the southwest suburbs of Oklahoma City. Also the tornadoes tracked on the east sides of Norman, out to east of Norman, across I-40, near Shawnee. And we just filmed a couple more tornadoes east of Shawnee and east of Oklahoma City. Now, we're tracking tornadoes back towards Tulsa, where I live, tornado warnings are in effect in Tulsa.
We just had a tornado on the ground literally about five miles to the Northeast. I'm on I-40, tracking between Tulsa and Fort Smith and that's where the tornadoes are tracking at this time, as well as --
MORGAN: And Jeff, Jeff, if I may, just -- Jeff, if I may just interrupt you there. I understand that you personally were helping with the rescue operation and pulling people out of debris and stuff. Is that right?
PIOTROWSKI: Today, not in that situation, but in Joplin on Sunday, yes. I stopped to help with the tornado damage there in Joplin and recover people out of rubble and finding people, both alive and that had perished.
MORGAN: And obviously, the death toll in -- yes. I mean, the death toll in Joplin has now risen officially to 124. They're expecting that to rise again.
The figures from Oklahoma at the moment: four confirmed dead, another four believed to be dead. And again serious concerns that figure will rise.
I mean, in your experience, Jeff, you've been chasing these storms for a long time. How bad is this situation that's now enveloping this region?
PIOTROWSKI: It's bad today. The good news so far, on most accounts I've heard is the really large destructive tornado stayed just outside of the heavy metropolitan areas, the Oklahoma City areas where you have high concentration of people, that we do have a lot of homes destroyed west of Oklahoma city in the rural areas. If there's any good news about today, that's what I've heard so far, with my limited knowledge of all the damage strikes.
But we did have major tornadoes in the state of Oklahoma. Some of them probably going to be on the high end, stronger than EF-3, and several tracks that we did have, large damage -- very damaging tornadoes, and they're very large.
I filmed a mile-wide tornado coming across I-40 west of Oklahoma City about 30 miles, and luckily that stayed just west of Oklahoma City and stayed out of the heart of the city, which is very, very fortunate today. MORGAN: Well, Jeff, I mean, stay safe down there. I know you're doing a very dangerous job. It's a very valuable job. You got great research information from this storm chasing. We'll come back to you throughout the hour if and when you have any news for us.
I'm going to go now to Sam Champion, who's been monitoring what's happening in Joplin. There's now a new warning tonight of a potential second tornado that may well hit Joplin.
Sam, what's the latest?
SAM CHAMPION, ABC NEWS WEATHER EDITOR: Good evening, Piers.
The tension herein Joplin is just incredible, because we are all watching this line of storms develop from Dallas-Ft. Worth, all the way through Oklahoma City. Tulsa's involved in this as well, as you guys were just report, well up into Wichita, Kansas. And these are big-time powerful thunderstorms.
All the ingredients are right. The National Weather Service issued that PDS, particularly dangerous situation. It's not something they do frequently. And so, when that happened just west of here, everyone here perked up and was ready.
As you can see around me, we still have so much debris around the area, and the knowledge that even if these storms weaken a little bit, as they move from Oklahoma into Missouri, which isn't that likely, we're going to have straight line winds of probably 30 and 40 miles per hour, at the very least with these storms. This debris will be airborne and flying everywhere.
A lot of the kind of the idea of searching for people today -- people were just out everywhere because yesterday's storms tapered them off. We know tonight we're going to have more storms, and we think that will continue into midday tomorrow. And that's going to shut down the rescue and recovery operation as well.
So, everyone's watching these storms very carefully to see exactly what happens. My expectation is that tonight, we will see very powerful thunderstorms through this area, lasting up throughout the midnight hour and well into about 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, with at least those straight-line winds, and the sincere possibility that some of these tornadoes, they have been long running, up to 60- mile-per-hour -- I mean, 60 miles on the ground tornadoes can actually make it through this region. And that's not -- it's just not something we want to hear here.
MORGAN: Sam, thank you very much for that. Obviously, a desperate situation for the people of Joplin, as if they haven't suffered enough, now facing more horrendous storms tonight, as hundreds of people in Joplin are searching for loved ones from the previous tornado.
Michelle Hare's 16-year-old son has been missing since it hit on Sunday. Michelle joins me now.
Michelle, your son, Lanzt, has been missing. Do you have any clue as to where he may be?
MICHELLE HARE, SON, LANTZ, MISSING AFTER TORNADO: We really don't. We are starting to finally get some sort of leads, but they seem to be coming to dead ends, just as quickly as we get them.
Of course, it's always better than getting no leads at all. We have, today, there is a possibility that there was a body found very close to where my car was located, but we have no confirmation of that whatsoever either.
MORGAN: It's an appallingly worrying time for you and our hearts go out to you and your family. We understand that the car where Lantz was last seen, its windows blown out, across a set of railroad tracks. What do you think may have happened?
HARE: I mean, we know for sure that they pulled into that grocery store parking lot, because they couldn't see where they were going. There was a friend with him that is a survivor from the accident, and he's been able to remember little bits of information. They pulled in there and the front window blew out and the friend, Jonathan, jumped into the backseat. The back window blew out. At this point, he doesn't remember whether Lantz was trying to get out of the car, moved, ducked, did any sort -- all he knows is when the back window blew out, that's the last thing he remembered, he woke up in a vehicle on the way to the hospital, somebody had just picked him up.
So, that's our last word, is that they were in the physical vehicle when the tornado hit.
MORGAN: Michelle, I know you've been calling hospitals all day. It's obviously very chaotic in Joplin. And in terms of Lantz himself, I want to read out some details, specifically about him, if anyone's got any information that could help you find him.
Lantz is 16 years old. He's 6 feet tall. He weighs 190 pounds. He has sandy brown hair. It's long in the front, it hangs over his eyes. He may have facial lacerations and some sort of head trauma. Lantz was last seen in front of a Dillon's on 32nd street --
HARE: Excuse me, on 20th Street.
MORGAN: On 20th Street?
HARE: I'm sorry, on 20th and Wisconsin is the corner where the car was --
MORGAN: It's 20th Street.
HARE: Yes, 20th street, one of the hardest hit areas.
MORGAN: And Lantz's friend is Jonathan Taylor, and his last memory is that he may be still alive, he thinks?
HARE: No -- well, really his last memory was just of the windows breaking and that's it. He doesn't remember anything until he woke up in someone, some grateful stranger transporting him to the hospital. I was able -- I did go to the hospital that night and physically saw him. Of course, at that time, he didn't remember anything. All he asked -- he lives with us, and all he could ask me was, mama, can I come home, and I said, you can't, and then they wheeled him back into ER.
I spoke with his grandpa, and that's how we've gotten some of the information to know at least -- because at first we didn't even know where they were driving. We knew they had left 28th and Wisconsin, and were possibly heading to my house, which is west of there. And so, to at least know where they were was how, obviously, the car was -- actually, some of his friends, his grateful friends that stayed out all night found the car before we even got the news that we knew where they were.
So, they literally walked streets, looking for this car, day and night. So, we're grateful for that, because at least it gave us a focal point to start some sort of search, you know? Before that, we just didn't have any -- you know, we were randomly walking around in three, four, five-square-mile blocks -- or you know, distances. And so, at least that gave us a start.
MORGAN: Well, Michelle, I can only just, you know, offer our prayers and hope that you find Lantz and we'll give the information out again. And if anyone's got any information, just make contact with the authorities so that we can put your mind at rest.
Obviously, it's just complete chaos there and this worry tonight of a second tornado coming in, it just, you know, not quite sure what to make of that until we see it. But, hopefully, it doesn't disrupt your attempts to find your son and I wish you all the very best with it.
HARE: Well, thank you, thank you very much. We appreciate you.
MORGAN: Good luck, Michelle.
I now want to bring in a man with a very emotional survival story. Creed Jones' oldest daughter just back from college. His youngest graduated from high school. And for one terrifying moment, he thought he'd last his family.
Mr. Jones, an extraordinary story. Tell me about what happened.
CREED JONES, SURVIVED JOPLIN TORNADO: We were at the high school graduation that was actually being held at the university on the other side of the city. The exercises had ended and we started home, my wife and I. My two daughters were, they were behind us, because they were staying a little bit longer in a separate vehicle. And on the way home, we were headed west and it just got uglier and uglier.
And we turned, getting very close to home and we saw the swirling and knew immediately what was going on. We couldn't hear anything. So, I did a quick u-turn, went -- tried to find a good structural building, as close as I could, heavy cement building and I pulled the car up on the north side, the northeast side, tried to get out, but couldn't -- the pressure wouldn't allow us. And we just sat there in the car and rocked and rumbled and rolled and we were just trying to text or call or girls and the calls wouldn't go through.
My last text message to them was, "tornado!" with exclamation point. And I was worried they were driving right into it. So, we couldn't hear, we couldn't get through for the next -- for the next hour and a half, we thought we lost them. We didn't know.
Finally, I got a text that came through from my oldest daughter, said, "We're OK." I texted back, it says, "So are we. Where are you? Can't go home. It's gone."
We, eventually, we stopped right there and just had a good cry, my wife and I, just grateful that what was important we still had. We didn't care bout anything else.
When we finally linked up with them several hours later, we got their story. They were in a car and they got the text of "tornado!" They got out, tried to go into a convenience store somewhere, it was locked, couldn't get in, they got back in the car, and it took off, without the car, lift up, they just ducked and the thing exploded.
They said it was a giant explosion with just shards of glass going everywhere, every window on the car and stuff -- they ducked down and covered themselves as best they could in the front seat, went for a ride the car just looks like it was in a crusher, a battering ram. They eventually -- things settled down. They couldn't get out, some people came, helped them get out of the car. They crawled through the window.
My oldest daughter had a lot of glass, some minor cuts and a lot of bruises. Youngest daughter, not so many. Of course, they had it in their hair and everything else. And then they got some help and walk for a while, got a ride, made it to some people's places.
And about three hours later, we finally linked up and just couldn't stop hugging them -- and being grateful for them and the blessings that they are to us.
MORGAN: Mr. Jones, I can see obviously, you're very emotional. I mean, what an extraordinary story that you're telling. And the picture you're painting, every parent's nightmare. This thing is coming, you can't track your daughters.
I'm just so glad you managed to find them and they're safe. There are so many heartbreaking stories emerging from Joplin from people who aren't that fortunate. And although you lost your home, you can build a new home, but you can't replace your children.
MORGAN: I'm so thrilled for you that you found them.
JONES: Thank you very much. You really focus on what's important and the eternal things and the family relationships. And you know, I grabbed my daughter to hug her, but it hurt her to hug her, because of her superficial wounds, which was kind of ironic and laugh a little bit about it now, but they're doing well, and we're all happy and just feel very blessed and very fortunate. We're much more fortunate and blessed than a lot of people in this community.
MORGAN: Creed Jones, thank you so much for joining me tonight. It's been an extraordinarily emotional conversation. My heart goes out to all of you in Joplin, and I just hope tonight with this new tornado warning, that there isn't yet more devastation wrought on your town. You just don't deserve this. Thank you very much.
JONES: Thank you.
MORGAN: And we'll be watching through all the breaking news on those twisters in Joplin, Missouri, and in Oklahoma. And we'll bring you the latest news when it happens.
And when we come back, a report on what's already been lost already in Joplin, Missouri.
MORGAN: Looking at scenes from Joplin in Missouri where a devastating tornado has killed officially 124 people now. The death toll is expected to rise and tonight, new warnings of a second tornado possibly hitting the town.
Tarah Castleberry has an extraordinary survivor story. She was staying at her mother's house on Sunday night and the worse tornado she's ever seen barreled into the house. And Tarah -- you see her now.
Tarah, thank you so much for joining me. Tell me about what happened to you.
TARAH CASTLEBERRY, TORNADO SURVIVOR: Hello.
Basically, my husband let me know the tornado sirens were going off. I was actually just taking a nap. I had just finished my finals. And normally around here, that means to us to turn on the weather, look at the sky, and that's what I did. And the local weather led me to believe that it was going to be central and northern of Joplin, and we're in the south end.
So, I looked at the sky and the south side of the sky was blue and pink. The north side was dark. So, I just went ahead and contacted my family that was farther north and let them know something heavy was coming their way. I didn't think we were in my immediate danger.
And -- you know, shortly after that, we noticed the sky started getting dark really fast. The birds started flying around, they looked disoriented. And the by time I got to our backyard so I could get a better view of the western sky, it was almost just black and there was no other warning. The ground started to rumble and it just, you know, sounded like a train.
My mom always said if a tornado is really close, it will sound like a train. It sounded like three freight trains being five feet away from you and it was just -- it was unreal. I looked up at the hill and just saw a moving wall. And we ran and the farthest we could get was the hallway. I shut the door behind me to the master bedroom which leads to the backyard.
And shortly after, the roof above our heads started to rip off. The door flew open and one of the closet doors ripped off and flung back around and slammed into my back, which was actually a blessing, because trees and other book shelves slammed into the door and my husband was looking at me and saw the room behind me just suck out.
MORGAN: I mean, Tarah, it's a desperate story --
CASTLEBERRY: It felt like it was never going to end.
MORGAN: Tarah, let me ask you now, what is the situation with regard to your home? Is it completely gone?
CASTLEBERRY: It's gone. It's gone. It's -- there's -- it's just rubble. There's nothing there. Our cars are gone, the house is gone, and our whole neighborhood is just gone. The school at the end of our neighborhood is gone.
The kids were walking up and down after the tornado crying, asking how they were going to go back to school to see their friends before summer. There's just -- there's nothing. It's just devastation everywhere. You can't even tell where the houses were. It's just piles of wood and mangled metal. There's nothing there.
MORGAN: Tarah, I'm so sorry to you for your dreadful loss and to all the people of Joplin. It's -- you know, the eyes of the world are on you right now and it just seems a total devastation. I've never seen anything quite like this and I really, I just hope you can all start to rebuild your lives some way soon. But we're all thinking of you.
CASTLEBERRY: Thank you.
MORGAN: Thank you, Tarah.
President Obama is headed for the disaster zone on Sunday, but CNN's T.J. Holmes is there for us tonight. It's a part of the country he knows very well. He used to work there.
T.J., you were very emotional last night when you saw the devastation. You've been back now to where you used to work and I know it's obviously bringing back horrible memories for you now, to see this place that you loved so dearly, just wrecked in this awful manner.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And, Piers, we were talking about that last night, and here we go tonight. I mean, the question is, how are you supposed to now, with this tornado watch in place, seek shelter when you literally don't have a shelter left? That is the question for a lot of folks now.
Piers, this happened just a few minutes ago, literally, about three minutes ago. A state trooper -- two state troopers came up, just coming through the neighborhood and they said, hey, guys, they're telling us to come through the neighborhoods and tell folks, you need to start thinking about shelter because of the tornado watch in place and other wind advisories in place. You need to have a plan for where you're going to go.
And they advised us to shut down and get out of here. We told them we had one more live shot here with you and we would be on our way, but even though state troopers, Piers, didn't know where they were going to go if something went down. They pulled out a map and they say, hey, they say city hall and they say the municipal building over here. But we don't know, we're not from this area, we're just here helping out.
So, that's the situation here tonight, night falls, we went into a couple of restaurants, everyone has got the TVs on, everyone has the radios up, listening to the weather, because we're told it's coming. You hear about another tornado watch, are you kidding me, coming this area? And the only thing, Piers, and you could probably this, that's giving people comfort is they're just them saying lightning is not about to strike in the same place twice, and that's the one thing that's giving them comfort right now.
MORGAN: I mean, it's a small comfort, but the warnings are pretty specific, that they may well be that there may be another attack coming from a tornado. And it just begs belief as to what would happen if that happens tonight, T.J.
HOLMES: Well, if that happens tonight, all bets are off, quite frankly. There are a few -- a lot of people right now are staying with their friends and family. A lot of people are in hotels, but a lot of people are in shelters.
A lot of people are, frankly, roaming around with -- not sure where to go. A lot of people are still traveling. It's too hard to get around the city. If you needed to get somewhere last minute with all the streets that are cut off, you can't just zip across town to find shelter.
And can you imagine being in this neighborhood right now if another storm, another tornado came through and started whipping up what was already whipped up like this and tossing these things around? So, it's a scary thought. Everyone's watching that map closely, but people here are paying very close attention right now to that storm system and we're seeing now, as you've been reporting here, Piers, what it's already done in Oklahoma. And you just can't believe that they're going through this, two days later, another tornado scare.
MORGAN: It's terrifying, T.J. And I think you should go and find somewhere safe too, because, clearly, it's going to be a very long night for the people in Joplin.
I thank you for joining me, but get somewhere safe.
HOLMES: You got it, Piers.
MORGAN: Coming up, Joplin high school's graduating class and their close call with a twister. Also ahead, why this tornado season is already the deadliest in more than 50 years.
MORGAN: You're looking at what remains of Joplin High School in Missouri. It was flattened by Sunday's killer twister; right after graduating seniors got their diplomas. But in a freak coincidence, because the ceremony was held at nearby Missouri southern state university and not at the high school, disaster was averted.
Here now to tell their extraordinary story of escape, three graduating seniors. Elizabeth Brown, Vivien Moreno, and Allison Brister.
Thank you all very much for joining me. What a amazing story.
I mean, just by pure chance, you happened to have your graduation ceremony away from the school and you happened to all be out of there on the day that this happened. How do you feel?
ELIZABETH BROWN, GRADUATE, JOPLIN HIGH SCHOOL: It's pretty terrifying.
VIVIEN MORENO, GRADUATE, JOPLIN HIGH SCHOOL: For me, I actually couldn't believe that there was a tornado watch. I mean, we've had it so often, but I didn't think there was actually going to be something on the ground this time.
ALLISON BRISTER, GRADUATE, JOPLIN HIGH SCHOOL: It just seems really surreal to me. It seems like I'm just in a bad dream and I'll wake up from it, but I know it's not and it's reality. And so it's just really hard.
MORGAN: I mean, obviously, a very emotional time for everyone in Joplin at the moment and for all of you at the school to see your school just completely devastated like this.
Elizabeth, when you saw the pictures of the school, what went through your mind?
BROWN: My heart pretty much stopped, because, I mean, we've gone there for four years. That's like that's all we know in this town now is our high school that's gone.
MORGAN: And Vivien, I know that you spoke at the graduation ceremony. Obviously, you wouldn't have been aware what was going on. When did you become aware about what was happening?
MORENO: Well, shortly after we had to go get our diplomas, one of our senior principal actually said that there was a tornado watch, and that everyone should be careful and he was -- he was just telling us to keep check on the weather and if we were going to go home, to go home directly.
MORGAN: And did you think, when he said that, that there was a real likelihood? Do you get trained for this? Do you have any family members who have been through this? Did you see it as real, or did it all just seem like, oh, well, it's just another warning?
MORENO: Frankly, I took it as another, oh, well, it's another warning. I mean, we've had plenty of summers where we've had, you know, another tornado watch and it just ended up being just a really bad thunderstorm.
MORGAN: And Allison, let me ask you, I mean, do you have any idea now what's going to happen with schooling? Do you know what you're going to be doing?
BRISTER: I'm going to Ozark Christian College here at Joplin, and it didn't get affected by the tornado at all, because it's on the north end of Joplin. But for the others, I'm not really for sure what's going to happen. It's going to take quite a few years to get Joplin back to the way it was. And I honestly don't know what they're going to do about schooling for all of the kids here in the Joplin School District.
MORGAN: Vivien, finally, tell me what the mood is amongst the people of Joplin. Obviously, you've lived there, I presume, a long time. You know the people well. How would you describe the mood?
MORENO: Well, a lot of us are in shock, because we've always been, like, oh, Joplin is always the place where the tornado misses or we've always been like, oh, nothing ever happens in Joplin. So just to see something happen on this scale, I mean, an F-4 tornado just plow by Joplin, a lot of us don't know how to react to it.
MORGAN: And Elizabeth, I guess that's something that we would all feel. I mean, I've never been near a tornado. I have no idea what it would be like to see a town that I grew up in decimated like this. It's heartbreaking, isn't it?
BROWN: It is. When I walked down Main Street, I just started crying, because you can see from one side of town to the other. And that's honestly, I've never been able to do that and it kills me.
MORGAN: Well, listen, get somewhere safe. We know that the storms are coming again tonight and I really appreciate you taking the time. And I wish you all the best in rebuilding not just the school, but your town. Thank you.
MORENO: All right, thank you.
BROWN: Thank you.
MORGAN: We're going to take a short break now. When we come back, the latest on the search and rescue mission in Joplin, Missouri, and the science behind this twister season. Why are we getting such wild weather?
MORGAN: New breaking news tonight. CNN's Ed Lavandera is live for us in Dallas, Texas, where there's a confirmed tornado on the ground.
Ed, we're seeing some pictures from Dallas. What are you -- what are you seeing or hearing down there?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, we're really paying close attention to this one storm cell that is cutting across, basically through the heart of Dallas County and it is the storm that produced a little while ago from the National Weather Service, a confirmed tornado on the ground.
We're seeing the storm really starting to intensify as it cuts across Dallas. Severe lightning, the wind starting to pick up. The hail is really the concern at this point, so far. And there have been reports of baseball, tennis ball-sized hail in some parts of Dallas County as the storm cuts across from the west to the east. So an intense evening.
This storm is capable of producing tornadoes. It's already kind of produced one and put one on the ground. No reports on whether or not there have been any injuries or the extent of the damage because of that particular tornado, but this is a quick-moving storm. There's a tornado warning here in Dallas County that is lasting until about 9:00 Central Time, I believe.
And, so, everyone's seeking shelter and heading for cover at this point, because it's a very intense and very dangerous and scary storm at this point --Piers.
MORGAN: Ed, thanks very much, indeed. And we'll keep posted with you as the evening wears on.
This tornado season is the deadliest in more than 50 years, but why is it happening now, and what's the science behind it?
CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano is here to explain.
Rob, we're seeing some pretty apocalyptic scenes, particularly from Joplin here. What is going on? Is there a bigger picture involving the weather here, not just in America, but globally?
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, you know, when you think about scary things like this and when you think about how much we know, and then how much we realize we don't know about the atmosphere and how the atmosphere works with the oceans and land, it scares you, doesn't it?
And the elephant in the room is, people want to associate this with something. Global warming or climate change. And the bottom line is that, yes, increasing the temperature of the globe will increase the moisture content. More evaporation. That adds fuel to the fire, for sure. But the question is, do we increase the shear? Do we increase the power of the jet stream? It's the shear. Winds coming out one direction at lower levels of the atmosphere, winds coming at another elevation and a different direction up high. That's what really spawns the tornadoes. And we don't know what climate change will do to that. So there's still so much we don't know.
What we do know that, in April, the La Nina that we have experienced, that adds a little bit more fuel to the jet stream. That likely had a little bit of a signature in April. But in May, for this month, we had two quiet weeks, and now things are just blowing up.
I want to show you one -- if we could put the one graphic up, I want to show you this, Piers. Just how much tornado fatalities have decreased over the last century. Obviously, at the turn of the century, we had very little technology to warn us of these things. So we had hundreds of people dying in any one particular year. But as you go throughout the decade, through the '60s, through the '70s, through the '80s, and there was a steep, steep decline.
We drop the number of fatalities year after year dramatically with the advent of Doppler radar, but this year, boom, 480 plus fatalities. The deadliest year since 1953, and for that we really don't have much of an explanation.
MORGAN: Rob, if you can stand by for us. We're going to go back now to one of the rescue teams who's in Joplin. 750 people have already been treated at area hospitals in the wake of the twister there. The city manager says that two survivors have been pulled from the rubble in the last 24 hours. 124 people are now confirmed dead.
Rescue workers have been traveling to Joplin from all over the country. Ford Sypher is one of them. He's a member of Team Rubicon. A group of returning veterans helping in disaster relief, and Ford joins me now.
Ford, I mean, it looks appalling from where we're looking at it. You're there. Given other scenes you've had to go and help at, how does this rank?
FORD SYPHER, TEAM RUBICON RESCUER: Well, Piers, I can tell you, I just got back from Alabama, it seems like yesterday, and it never ceases to amaze me, the destruction is just epic. You know, it really -- words don't describe it and a camera doesn't express it well enough.
MORGAN: In terms of how you go about starting a rescue operation here, what is the process in somewhere like Joplin? Obviously, unusually, the twister has hit right in the heart of the town described to yesterday as like hitting in Fifth Avenue in New York. I mean, I can only imagine what that would do in somewhere like New York. So we can get a sense of the scale of this, what do you do to commence this rescue operation?
SYPHER: Well, let me, first of all, go ahead and make a comparison. In Alabama, you know, we saw a tornado that struck a populated area that was not geographically located near major urban centers. Now, what we have here in Joplin is an urban area that was hit, you know, right through the center of town. However, we are geographically located near Springfield, Missouri, and Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas.
The first responders that have come to Joplin have been just amazing. The tier 1s have just been doing it phase line by phase line. So initially what you're going to have is you're going to have a lot of debris clearing. You're going to be pulling people out of houses. It's just all basic search and rescue, which is not really galvanized, not really organized.
But here, you know, they've really been on their toes and they've been really organized. So after that, once they establish a structure, you know, it's going to be day by day, phase by phase, and they're going to go down grid lines, down individual blocks and individual houses, they're going to have cadaver dogs, they're going to have fiber optic cameras, they're going to be in there and they'll be searching for these people and it's just been incredible right here.
MORGAN: From what you've seen, Ford, I mean, has the operation been as fast as it could have been. Are you impressed by the speed of the response?
SYPHER: Yes. I am absolutely impressed here. I think with Alabama, we learned a lot. Here, we've kind of brought a different angle. In Alabama, we were working mainly in the rural area. Team Rubicon, the organization that I work for, at that point in time, established the command and control element. They established the system in which the people in Walker County could better organize and bring volunteers to clear debris and to do search and rescue on their own accord, because it was more rural area.
Here, the structure, it's already in place. So Team Rubicon's mission is very, very different because we're an organization made up of military veterans and medical professionals. We have kind of a dynamic that's a little bit deferent than most. So we're very, very pliable.
When we got in, we didn't initially know what we are going to be doing. So it's kind of changed. It's not a C-2. It's not a command and control. It's not an establish structure. It's a participate with the volunteer, participate with the search and rescue, with the clearing of debris and add or augment to those who already have that structure, bring something different, and hopefully be a force multiplier throughout this whole clearing process.
MORGAN: Well, Ford, listen, we wish you all the very best with this extraordinary job you're doing. You're doing a fantastic job for your country down there, and I hope you just continue to pull people out. I really do. Thank you.
SYPHER: OK, thank you.
MORGAN: I want to get back to Rob Marciano now, CNN meteorologist.
Rob, I want to talk to you, really, about what we can expect over the next 24 hours. Lots of pretty serious warnings now involving heavy storms through Oklahoma, through Dallas, other parts of Texas, and indeed, back in Joplin, Missouri.
What do you think we can expect?
MARCIANO: Well, we've already seen tornadoes that have dropped big tornadoes across Oklahoma, at least four fatalities near Oklahoma City. And now that line of thunderstorms is moving through Tulsa and heading towards Joplin pretty rapidly.
As a matter of fact, increasing in its speed, it appears to be. And these in some cases are tornadic thunderstorms. We have a tornado watch out for Joplin, through the overnight period, but no warning for Joplin yet. It's going to get rough there, regardless of a tornado, in about 2-1/2 hours' time. By about 11:00 or midnight, you're going to get rough weather and you're going to need to take whatever cover you can.
The danger here is regardless of a tornado, if we get winds of 30, 40 miles an hour, there's enough dangerous debris on the ground that will be thrown around. So we're worried about that. We're also worried about what's going on in Dallas. You heard Ed Lavandera earlier. We have this tornado warning out for Dallas proper, especially, for Dallas Fort Worth.
The airport itself, where they've taken precautions and have had passengers get into safe room and they're moving equipment around in order to -- oh, you can actually see a little bit of a hook there and some hail moving towards plain O as well and yet another storm firing up here behind Fort Worth.
So it's not just Oklahoma. It's not just Kansas. It's not just Nebraska. We easily have over half a dozen tornado warnings out right now, Piers, and all of this is pushing off to the east. And tomorrow afternoon promises and tomorrow night promises to be a rough day across the Mississippi River Valley as well.
MORGAN: Rob, thank you very much, indeed. We're keeping an eye on Oklahoma's tornado emergency tonight and in Dallas and in Joplin, Missouri, where storms are due to hit within the next hour. We'll bring you all the latest breaking news as it happens.
When we come back, a live report from Anderson Cooper who's in Joplin tonight.
MORGAN: You're looking at extraordinary images of hail the size, bigger than golf balls, almost baseball-sized hail that's been raining down in Dallas this evening, where there's a tornado on the ground, sent in by Liz Sullivan via Twitter, a CNN viewer.
We're having reports of tornadoes in Oklahoma and in Dallas and of a big storm, possibly tornado strength, heading into Joplin, Missouri, that's already reeling from the tornado that struck on Sunday night.
I'm going to go straight to Anderson Cooper who is live in Joplin.
Anderson, still extraordinarily bad scenes from where you are. And this warning now of a serious storm, possibly another tornado, coming within the hour.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, within 10 to 20 minutes we've been told. We've actually moved to a different location. We're underneath a brick structure that we think is pretty safe. So we're hoping to be able to complete our broadcast at the top of the hour on "360."
We're also going to be following the new tornadoes that are rolling through the heartland. As you mentioned, Piers, Oklahoma picking up the pieces, at least four people killed west of Oklahoma City and Canadian County. We're going to speak to a storm chaser there on the middle of it and with the governor of Oklahoma.
And in Joplin, Missouri, the tornado watch in effect right now. We are going to basically ride it out with the citizens of Joplin tonight, and they have already suffered so much, coping with so much. The death toll climbing to 124. A staggering number of people unaccounted for. Some 1,500 unaccounted for. We're going to take you tonight on a search and rescue mission with the task force, Missouri task force one, looking for survivors. Unfortunately, they're finding a lot of deceased people, Piers.
MORGAN: And Anderson, when you've covered a lot of disasters this year alone. The scale of this, how would you position this in terms of what you've seen before? Does it looks from where I am, absolutely appalling there.
COOPER: Yes, you know, I mean, I think you got to look at each incident like this separately. I try not to compare, but I mean, it's just, you know, you go into some neighborhoods, Piers, and you turn completely around and it is just destroyed as far as the eye can see all the way around you.
I stood with a woman today in what used to be her bedroom, and on the top of her house, the roof is gone. You know, how do you begin to rebuild? How do you begin to rebuild your life, to restart? And that's one of the things we're going to be talking about tonight and showing you how the residents of Joplin here have already begun to do that, Piers.
MORGAN: And we've had some very, very emotional interviews on the show tonight with people who survived, who thought they had lost their children and survived. The common theme of all of them, they all lost their homes completely.
And you can see a sense of jubilation and relief that they're alive. But also this growing sense of utter despair about what they're going to do for a place to live, for a place for their kids to go to school. I mean, it's just been decimated, hasn't it?
COOPER: Yes, and you know Piers, after an incident like this, a disaster like this, often, you know, there's adrenaline and the adrenaline carries you through. Off in the first day, the first 48 hours, but then, you know, the reality of it starts to really set in. And you know, the crowds kind of dissipate and just the grim work of rebuilding begins and it's a long process and it is a painful process. And it's not something which anyone can understand really who hasn't been through it themselves, I think.
MORGAN: Anderson, be safe tonight. It's going to be a rough night I think in Joplin. I mean, just hope and pray that it doesn't make the damage there considerably worse than it already is.
COOPER: Thanks, Piers.
MORGAN: When we come back, more breaking news. But this time the former president of Pakistan calls the mission to take out Osama Bin Laden, quote, "An act of war." A preview of my extraordinary interview with General Pervez Musharraf.
MORGAN: I sat down today with the former president of Pakistan who called the mission that took out Osama Bin Laden to be seen as an act of war. Listen to what he told me, an exclusive one-on-one.
MORGAN: President Obama said this week on British television for a state visit to Britain that if the same event arose again, he would do the same, and if it happens in the future with other known terrorists of al Qaeda, he'll take the same action. So we have a clear now flashpoint between Pakistan and America.
GEN. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, FORMER PRESIDENT OF PAKISTAN: Yes. I think this is putting the Pakistan leadership and government on the dock. And I think it's not a very responsible statement.
MORGAN: You think it's irresponsible for President Obama to say that?
MUSHARRAF: Yes, indeed.
MORGAN: Because it basically implies that America has rights in terms of taking action on the sovereign soil as in Pakistan, we saw with Bin Laden, that it has a right to do that when you say it has no right to do that.
MUSHARRAF: Certainly, no country has a right to intrude into any other country. Actually, I mean, technically or legally you see it it's an act of war. So therefore, I think it is an irresponsible statement and I think such arrogance should not be shown publicly to the world.
(END VIDEOTAPE) MORGAN: That startling interview with the former President Musharraf from Pakistan. Plus, an exclusive interview with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Thursday night.
That's it for us tonight. Please stay with CNN all night, including Anderson Cooper coming up on the tornadoes in Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas tonight.
COOPER: Piers, thanks very much. Good evening, everyone.