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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Tornado Hits Moore, Oklahoma

Aired May 20, 2013 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon, everyone. It's Jake Tapper.

Breaking news, a tornado just touched down in Newcastle, Oklahoma. We are watching live footage of a tornado touching down in Newcastle, Oklahoma. We have been monitoring this. There was a tornado warning. This is near Oklahoma City, which has a population of about 600,000.

I'm now going to go to Chad Myers in Atlanta.

Chad, tell us what we're looking at right now.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We're looking at what we call a very large -- we will call this a stovepipe or an elephant trunk tornado, straight from the clouds straight to the ground, at least 140 miles per hour at this point.

And, Jake, I'm telling you not 10 minutes ago this wasn't in contact with the ground. This was a very fast-developing storm. We knew it, we saw it. We had severe thunderstorm warnings on it about 20 minutes ago, tornado warning on it about six minutes ago. And then the tornado dropped right straight to the ground.

This is just north to the town of Newcastle, just cropping over the H.E. Bailey Turnpike. That's the turnpike that goes from Oklahoma City all the way down toward the Altus, toward the southwest of Oklahoma. There are side-by-side pictures, two different helicopters flying through this storm, KFOR, KOCO.

And it's a tremendous storm here on the ground, power flashes. These are the lines. These are the power lines that are attached to the power poles being ripped from the power poles and in sparks. You will see a blue one once in a while. That will be the transformer blowing as well.

If you are in the Moore area, from H.E. Bailey to Moore, please take cover now, 171,000 people right now within this tornado warning polygon or square, if you will, Jake.

TAPPER: And we should make sure that our viewers know the picture on the right of the funnel, that is from earlier today. What we're looking at right now is -- the live picture is on the left of your screen. MYERS: Much bigger.

TAPPER: That is a bigger -- that is a bigger tornado, and it is live. The other footage was from earlier today.

We're now going to go to a storm chaser who is on the phone, Spencer Basoco. He sees the tornado on the ground.

Spencer, describe what you see to us.

SPENCER BASOCO, STORM CHASER: Tornado on the ground.

We are just west of I-35 on (INAUDIBLE) road.

TAPPER: So, you're on I-35 outside Oklahoma City. And tell us what you see other than this tornado. What is it hitting? What is in its path?

Spencer, can you hear me?

All right, we're going to go back to Chad Myers.

That was Spencer Basoco, a storm chaser on the ground near Oklahoma City that's population of 600,000. And we're watching a tornado that has touched down right outside Oklahoma City.

Chad, how did this storm event happen? What exactly was going on in Oklahoma City to create this tornado?

MYERS: About two hours ago, there wasn't a cloud in the sky.

That sounds like a great thing, but in fact it's not, Jake. When you don't have clouds in the sky, the sun heats the ground rather quickly. There was humidity everywhere from yesterday's storms and just from the Gulf of Mexico. That humidity and that hot air wants to rise.

As it rises, you get the towering cumulus. The towering cumulus were all the way from Oklahoma City all the way down even toward to Duncan, all the way down even to the northwestern parts of Texas. And now as the storms continue to develop, this is a supercell storm, we call them,all by itself, not in a big line, one supercell storm with a very large -- we will call it a wedge tornado on the ground creating damage right there at the contact with the ground.

We're seeing power flashes left and right now. This is north of Newcastle, crossing the H.E. Bailey, eventually crossing the I-35 into Moore, Moore very familiar with very large tornadoes, as the F-4/F-5 tornado rolled through that city years ago. You need to take cover now. You need to get inside, get out of your car, knock on somebody's door, get into an interior part of a house, put as many walls between you and the outside as possible, the outside wall, a closet wall, a bedroom wall, whatever.

You could even get inside the bathtub. It's a very strong -- usually, the bathroom, the bathtub the last things to be standing in a home when you have a tornado that is this large coming upon you this quickly. No time to get out of the way. There's literally too much traffic to try to drive out of the way of this quickly developing tornado heading right into downtown Moore, Oklahoma. That's south of Del City. That's south of Oklahoma City proper, but, Jake, this is a big tornado.

TAPPER: So if you're just tuning in, what we're watching right now are live pictures of a large tornado that has touched down south of Oklahoma City.

And I have on the phone -- in addition to Chad Myers in Atlanta, we have on the phone Spencer Basoco, who is a storm chaser. He is on the ground on I-35.

Spencer, we see a lot of large buildings that seem to be in the path of this large tornado. What exactly are these buildings? Do you have any idea?

BASOCO: Right now, that would be just the western-like construction district, that type of deal.

But right now, this storm is -- oh, my goodness, it's almost -- it's three-quarters-of-a-mile wide, and it's moving into eastern -- or western sides of Moore. It is coming into the highly, highly populated areas.

We obviously have our live stream on. And we're streaming it. And it's right in front of us. We are actually headed west towards it We're going to get as close as possible. And we're going to be safe about it, but we want to make sure that we can just help anybody out, because I'm telling you we're going to need emergency personnel on the south side of the Oklahoma City Metro.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: And, Spencer, there wasn't -- Spencer, there wasn't much of a warning. There was just a storm warning just a few minutes ago, then a tornado warning just about 10 or 15 minutes ago.

You say this is a highly populated area. Oklahoma City has a population of 600,000. You're talking about a tornado touching down in Moore, which is south. How much of a population are we talking about in the path of this tornado?

BASOCO: Oh, we have got power flashes.

Yes, this thing literally developed from a thunderstorm into tornadic within 20 to 30 minutes. Yes, go north a little bit. Within 20 to 30 minutes. It -- they did as good as they can. They don't want to scare people too much. But I think they should have had the warning out a little bit earlier today, was highly conducive for big- time tornadoes, just like yesterday was. And we're seeing living proof of that right now.

TAPPER: And, Spencer, when you talk about this is a highly populated area, describe it. This is an area south of Oklahoma City. Is this a highly populated suburb?

BASOCO: Yes, a highly populated suburb.

It's where a lot of the Oklahoma City workers that will go -- they live there and then they will commute to the city on Monday through Friday, which most of them are still at work right now, so that's one good thing. Kids are locked down in schools. All right, we have got to slow down. We're going to have to get ready to pull over.

TAPPER: Spencer, you have covered a lot of these tornadoes. How big is this tornado compared to other ones you that normally cover?

BASOCO: This is -- this is actually probably bigger than the tornado yesterday. This would rival the Canton, Oklahoma, tornado of May 4, 2011, as far as the width, and it's -- like I said, it's huge.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: And what kind of destruction does a tornado this size, what is it capable of doing?

BASOCO: This type of tornado will just level towns. Honestly, this is getting very scary here. We're going to sit here on this road.

We have got the tornado due to our west right now (INAUDIBLE) on live stream. And it's moving right towards us to the east-northeast, and we will book south if we got to. But we're going to stay here if possible, so you guys can see it.

TAPPER: All right, while you sit tight there, I'm going to just say to any viewers in the area of Oklahoma City, especially south of the city in Moore, according to our affiliate KFOR, the Red Cross has set up three shelters for victims of the storms at the following locations, the Carney Senior Center, which is at 301 East Maple in Carney, the Shawnee High School Athletic Center, which is at 1001 North Kennedy and Shawnee, and Little Axe Resource Center, which is 1971 56th Avenue Northeast in Norman, Oklahoma.

Red Cross volunteers will be providing shelter, clothing and food for the storm victims.

I'm going to go back to Chad Myers at our storm center in -- at our Weather Center in Atlanta.

Chad, you heard Spencer there talking about how this is one of the larger tornadoes he's seen in recent days. It can level a whole town, he said.

MYERS: No question about it.

We're talking about an EF-3 or an EF-4 tornado. I'm looking at wind speeds of 140 to 160 miles per hour. We also have on Doppler radar what's called a debris ball.

Jake, this is a brand-new term. You have heard of squall line, you have heard of tornado. But debris ball is a new thing, because now we have new radar technology. It's called dual pole technology. Not only one direction is this radar beam going, going in two different directions, horizontally and vertically.

That allows us to determine that are not only raindrops in the sky, there's no only hailstones in the sky. There are shingles, there are boards, there are trees, there are leaves, there are parts of Moore now getting thrown into the sky by this very large tornado.

And the debris ball is now just to the extreme southwest of Moore. If you are anywhere near Moore, you absolutely need to take cover. The next town, if you keep on going, would be like toward McLoud, but there's a lot of territory to cover here.

We're still seeing those power flashes. We absolutely know that this tornado is on the ground in a populated area. You asked, how many people are affected? Right now, the latest number for the tornado warning proper, Jake, 170,000 people inside this warning.

It's getting a little hard to find where this tornado is on the picture here. That's because it's getting a little bit wrapped in rainfall, rain coming all the way around the tornado. I don't need you out there taking pictures or iReports. I need you inside your home, away from the windows. There you go. There's the contact with the ground, easier to see now. Away from the windows, inside a bathtub. Cover yourself up.

It doesn't even matter if you just put motorcycle helmets on your head. Very good idea there to protect your head. This is the dangerous storm, EF-3, 140, 160 miles per hour. I can see the wedge on the ground very distinctly from our affiliate there, KFOR.

TAPPER: And if you're just tuning in, what we're watching right now are live pictures of a large tornado traveling at about 140 to 160 miles per hour. It has touched down south of Oklahoma City; 170,000 people are inside the area for warning of this tornado, for the tornado warning area.

Anyone who is watching this who is in the Oklahoma City area, especially south Oklahoma, get away from windows, put on helmets, do not go out and try to take footage of this tornado. It is very dangerous.

MYERS: Right.

TAPPER: Chad, explain. When you talk about an EF-3 or EF-4 category tornado, explain what that means.

MYERS: We're talking about numbers. If you talk about an EF-0, we will start from there and we will go to 5. An EF-0 will remove shingles from the home.

An EF-1, 90, 100 miles per hour, that will take the shingles and maybe a couple of those four-by-eight sheets of plywood off the top of the home. As you get to 2 into 3, now all of a sudden you're losing a roof. When you lose a 3, you actually lose all the trusses. You lose the structure of the roof altogether.

EF-4, you may even lose some outside walls. Now, that's a stick- built house. An EF-3 and 4 into a mobile home is the kind of damage we saw yesterday not that far from Shawnee that we literally just showed on television about half-an-hour ago.

This is about the same size tornado as that went through that Shawnee neighborhood, that Little Axe neighborhood yesterday, almost about this exact same time, maybe a bit little later in the day. It's a hot day there today. The humidity is high. And temperatures and the humidity will always get together with a cold front to the west or a dry line to the west to make big weather.

You get to the EF-4, you not only lose outside walls. You lose some inside walls. That's why you want to be on the inside of your structure, maybe the bedroom or the bathroom or a closet. And when you talk about EF-5, greater than 240, 250 miles per hour, at times, the entire structure is gone. When you come back to your home, all you find is that concrete slab.

Remember in Oklahoma City, this is built on rock. There's not many people with basements in this town. I lived up in Norman, up in -- and Edmond as well, no basements in my house whatsoever, not even a storm shelter. You have to shelter inside your home if you can. Or if you know a neighbor that has a storm shelter, get over there as quickly as possible.

This is a tornado going right into downtown Moore, almost an identical place where a very large tornado went many, many years ago. Maybe it was '99 or 2000. I wasn't living there at the time, but right through Moore and houses were scoured from their foundations, Jake.

TAPPER: If you're just tuning in, what you're looking at is live pictures from KFOR, our affiliate in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City and the area are in the path of a tornado right now, especially south of Oklahoma City in an area called Moore. Oklahoma City proper has a 600,000 population, but this area inside the warning is 170,000. And the tornado is, according to warnings, approaching an area of 170,000 people are within the warm area.

You're looking at a picture right now of the storm, according to our radar.

We're going to go to Spencer, who is a storm tracker. And he's with -- following the tornado. He pulled off to get to shelter -- not to shelter, but to get out of the path of the tornado.

Spencer, what are you seeing?

BASOCO: Right now, at least a quarter-to-half-mile-wide large tornado. We are on the south side of it, maybe, maybe a quarter-of-a- mile from it.

I mean, it's just destroying everything. There's so many homes in the air right now. The motion -- the motion on this storm is sickening. This is almost as fast as what I was seeing yesterday near Shawnee.

Oh, my goodness.

TAPPER: What are you seeing? What are you looking at? What are you seeing out the window? Is it hitting buildings?

(CROSSTALK)

BASOCO: Yes.

We're heading west on Southwest 34th Street -- or east on Southwest 34th Street paralleling the tornado.

And I'm actually -- I had to jump in the back seat to keep filming, but it's just a huge tornado. It's -- I mean, it's moving as fast as we're moving. And it's destroying everything. I'm seeing debris, horizontal vorticities, lots of debris, large debris. Oh, my goodness.

TAPPER: All right, Spencer, Spencer Basoco, storm tracker, we're going to -- we're going to check back with you in a second.

Right now, we're going to go to our affiliate's live coverage from KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see the tornado on the right-hand side of your television screen. Again, that is right here over Southwest 149th Street. Again, that becomes South 34th Street and Moore. That is going to be one block north, one street north, of Indian Hills Road and Moore.

Danielle Dozer (ph), go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, David. Yes, we're still following this tornado. The street you're looking at, we're drive to the east trying to get away from it. But we're coming up on it looks like Wilson Boulevard and Markwell (ph) Avenue. And the storm --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do we lose her? Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- a hundred thirty-four, Chris Lee is telling me another exact location, and it formed actually behind us. It is still a large tornado, debris is evident, flying in the air. People in Moore should be underground if they are not already. Chris Lee is taking the camera right now, trying to point it toward the TV. We're trying to get safely east of this thing right now but we're still staying on top of it, David.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. You can see right here is our high- resolution mapping. We have plenty of neighborhood developments right here. Lots of high density neighborhoods. So, this is moving into a very dense part now of Moore. It was moving through southwestern parts of the Metro here where it wasn't nearly as dense, but now we're getting closer to I-35. This tornado is going to pass right over I-35 here and eventually right on 19th Street there. OK?

Rusty, can we put some more street locators on there? I can believe that's going to be 19th Street and Moore right there. Again, 19th Street and Moore, West Moore trails park, the community of Stone Meadows, west Moore, southwest 19th Street. That's going to be right where they have the Home Depot. There's a Wal-Mart. There's going to be a Buffalo Wild Wings on the left-hand side there, Louis Jewelers, all of you, you need to be in your tornado shelter immediately.

Charles Codiron (ph), you're live no. Go ahead. Go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) about a quarter mile, it's rain- wrapped now. (INAUDIBLE) everybody in Moore needs to get off the roads and in their shelters. It's going -- moving (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Yes, so, once again, here we are. This is going to be Santa Fe here. This right here is going to be I-35 right here. That is going to be 19 -- let's -- Rusty, let's go to 134th Street. This right here is going to be 19th Street.

Here we go, 19th Street and Moore, all right? This right here is going to be -- there's Wal-Mart right here. There is going to be a PetSmart right here, tornado moving right over. This is going to be a density area. Right here, we have a Lowe's. Sorry, the Lowe's here, Home Depot is here, Dick's Sporting Goods here. This is going to be the tornado right here.

This is going to cross over 19th Street here and make its way right over I-35. Again, this is a very large tornado, very large tornado. You can see it there on the right-hand side of the television screen. This is 4th Street. This is going to be 19th Street right here.

This is moving into Moore. Looks like the last radar scan may have just nudged it a little farther down to the south. Again, we continue to monitor this. Those of us from the Moore athletic club, right around the oak ridge elementary school, the West Moore Trails Park, just west of I-35, this is going to be especially just right around the Warren Theater, the Moore Medical Center, Royal Park, Moore. This is all on the west side of I-35. You are in the path of this tornado.

Again, this is a tornado emergency for Moore. We have a tornado emergency for Moore with this storm as it continues to move. So if we look here, we're zooming in real close, this is going to be 4th Street. Here's 19th Street. If we're looking on the west side of the highway here, this is going to be where the Warren Theater is right here.

So the Warren Theater is right here. There is a Lowe's right here. And then there's going to be a Wal-Mart right here. This tornado is going to cross over 35. It is just west of the Warren Theater right now.

Here is Santa Fe. Right here, you can see the tornado there on the right-hand side of your television screen.

Chris Lee, go ahead. Go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're running about a mile, mile and a half ahead of this thing on 19th Street in Moore. There's a bunch of -- we're going by a school. The school is getting ready to let out. The buses are here but they're not letting out.

I have to point out, this thing is so big that -- it's so big it really doesn't look like a tornado. It's got a lot of rain around it so it doesn't have that defined -- you know when it was forming it had the edges that looked very well-defined. Now, it's -- kind of almost looks like a cloud on the ground.

Then as it gets bigger you start to see pieces of debris flying around above the ground. So this is definitely a very large tornado heading across the south Moore area. We are on southeast 4th Street in Moore and running a little bit ahead of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Chris is at southeast 4th Street and Moore. So, looking at this, and even looking downstream here. For those of us east of I-35, if you live anywhere right along Eastern Avenue there, that is also known ads Toby Keith Boulevard and Moore, if you live along that, if you live even farther east near Bryant, near Veterans Memorial Park, if you make your way to Sooner Road, I know the communities, the creeks of Wimberley, Rock Creek, you're in the path of this.

Again, if you live in Creeks of Wimberley or Rock Creek, you need to be in your storm shelter immediately. Again, this tornado, it is still on the west side of I-35.

TAPPER: If you're just tuning in, you're watching live coverage from our affiliate KOCO in Oklahoma City, about an intense tornado has touched down in Moore. There are 170,000 individuals in the warning area for the tornado, in the city of 600,000 or so.

We have on the phone right now, Jamie Shelton. He is the emergency official for the city of Moore, Oklahoma, which is south of Oklahoma City.

Mr. Shelton, thanks for joining us.

What is your recommendation for anybody in the area who is listening right now?

JAMIE SHELTON, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, MOORE, OKLAHOMA (via telephone): People have to take emergency precautions. We see debris in the air over city hall in Moore. We are at 301 north Broadway. We have debris in the air over city hall.

Everyone in Moore needs to take precautions immediately.

TAPPER: And if people are at their homes, in their homes, obviously they -- SHELTON: They need to be in the center of their home, in a closet or a bathtub in the center of the home, covered with a mattress or blankets. If they have bicycle helmets, they put on bicycle helmets. Just be in the center of their home or basement or cellar or storm shelter.

TAPPER: Get out of the way of the windows is what you're saying. How much --

SHELTON: Do not be looking outside. Do not be near the windows looking outside. Be in the center of your home in a storm shelter. There's debris falling on to the hall on 301 north Broadway. People just need to take that seriously. It is happening.

TAPPER: Take shelter immediately. Go to your storm cellars, go to the basement. If you don't have a basement, go to your bathroom, go into the bathtub, cover yourself with a mattress.

Take shelter. Have you, sir, heard of any injuries or fatalities?

SHELTON: Things are -- it's just happening right now. It's just the middle of it, happening as we speak.

TAPPER: All right. If there's anything else you want to say to anybody else who is in the Oklahoma City area, please say it, sir.

SHELTON: Take precautions. Be aware. Stay weather aware. If you're outside the area, just pray for us.

TAPPER: All right. We will do so. That's Jaime Shelton. He's emergency official in Oklahoma City.

If you're just tuning in, a large tornado has touched down just south of Oklahoma City, in the area of Moore. This is an area that has drawn some of the deadliest tornadoes in recent memory, in 1999, 36 were killed in an Oklahoma City tornado. Oklahoma City, the general area, has been struck, but more than two dozen times by two or more tornados. It is an area prone to this sort of activity.

We are right now looking at live footage from our affiliate KFOR of this tornado touching down. We were talking earlier to Spencer Basoco, storm tracker. He was talking about huge buildings in the path of the tornado being struck down, buildings in the path of the tornado.

I'm now going to go to Chad Myers who is in Atlanta at the weather center.

Chad, what is the latest? What are you hearing about the storm?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, we just talked about this debris ball, which really is a matter of just things in the sky. As the emergency manager just said to you, we are seeing things flying over our head here at a city hall. There are thing flying over people's heads for a diameter of 2 1/4 miles.

This is a huge tornado on the ground, almost -- you can't hardly see it because there's so much of other stuff in the sky. There are shingles. There are leaves. There are trees. There are parts of people's lives literally in the sky in Moore, Oklahoma, right now.

This is traveling to the east, almost due east, right through the town of Moore. That is south of the Oklahoma City proper, south of Valley Brook, south of Dell City, south of Oklahoma City, but moving toward maybe Choctaw or Harrah in the next few minutes as it moves across I-35.

This will travel north of Norman. Norman is where the University of Oklahoma is. This will go right through the town, right literally through downtown Moore, Oklahoma, and across a populated area, miss a little bit. Just on the other side, in Cleveland County, Pottawatomie County, you begin to see just a slight unpopulated or less populated area, then finally back into more population as you get closer to I- 40.

Right now, people's lives are being tossed around. This tornado on the ground the way I can see it 140 to 160-mile-per-hour tornado, the same type of strength that we saw in the Shawnee tornado yesterday.

We've been showing pictures of that damage. We're going to see similar damage here but not only 15 or 20 homes. We're talking thousands of homes going to look just like those pictures out of Shawnee that we showed you today and then from last night's storm.

This is a major damaging event. This is a deadly event. Even the weather service saying many fatalities are likely with a storm of this size. If you don't take the precautions necessary, again, inside the house.

Some tornadoes -- one of the storms that went over Moore at some point in time in years past was called unsurvivable. I don't believe that's the case here yet. I believe you can still get inside of a home, get into your storm shelter or get into a bath tub, get into a closet. Something that's nice, sturdy and safe in the middle of your home away from the windows if possible, certainly not on any higher floors.

If you live in an apartment building in Moore, east of Moore, you need to knock on your neighbors' downstairs and say, please let them in, you can't survive this on the third floor.

TAPPER: If you're just tuning in, you're watching live footage from our affiliate KFOR in Oklahoma City. You're looking at live footage of tornado, and KFOR reports that the tornado is two miles wide, seemingly destroying everything if its path as it touched down just south of Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City has a population of 600,000; those inside the warning area for this tornado reportedly 170,000.

It touched down in the suburb of Moore, Oklahoma, just south of Oklahoma City. Moore has a population of 56,000.

Ken Garcia with the American Red Cross in central Oklahoma is on the phone with us.

Ken, what are you seeing, and what is your advice to those who are tuning in right now?

Ken, are you there?

All right, Ken's not there. We'll check back with him in a minute. As we can, we talked earlier to an emergency official in the town of Norman. He was telling individuals who are in Norman and south Oklahoma -- we're going to listen in right now to KFOR as they cover the storm live.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Moore high school is where it is. We're talking about Sunny Lane and Bryant -- Bryant, Sunny Lane and Sooner at about south 4th Street and north 12th Street. It could go up to near the G.M. plant and it could go up to near Tinker Air Force Base. Recall the May 3rd tornado, made a hard right turn and went up toward Haderberg (ph) Drive and I-40.

We don't know if this will do the same thing, but it is now east of Moore high school at Sunny Lane, Sooner and south 4th and north 12th Street.

Go, Jon Welsh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm going to tell you exactly where this is, this is right on my house. It's crossing right now, Bryant, just north of 12th Street. We're getting highlights of flashes in there, and their antennas that are just north of 12th Street. That's where we're hitting.

It looks like from our vantage point it's right there. It looks it's kind of weakened a little bit. It's still tracking straight east. It looks like on 12th Street where you have -- it's fixing to cross, if it hasn't already, Bryant, looking to cross Sunny Lane. It will hit the bend where they hit the annex for the proposed lake they made years ago.

That's where it's headed right now, straight east. It looks like it's over 12th Street. We're still getting tons of power flashes, way in front of the storm.