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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Tornado Warnings in Oklahoma

Aired May 30, 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: Breaking news right now.

Take cover right now if you're anywhere near Oklahoma City.

I'm Jake Tapper, and this is THE LEAD.

Our national lead, as we speak, potential for another violent tornado in the very last place in the country that can withstand it, the exact same region of Oklahoma that was devastated by an EF-5 tornado last week.

Tornado warnings are in effect for a wide swathe of the country, including the already reeling community of Moore, Oklahoma, which is still littered with debris from the tornado that killed 24 people.

Joining us on the phone right now is CNN meteorologist Chad Myers, who is in the area where the storms could hit.

Chad, where exactly are you and what is the latest?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I'm about 10 miles east of Chickasha, Oklahoma, now, kind of on the road up toward Blanchard, because I believe that that is kind of where this storm is heading.

And what you said earlier was very important. This storm is headed to the areas that were hit so very hard, Jake. And even if we don't get a tornado -- and hopefully we do not, because this storm did lose some organization just in the past 15 minutes. That's why we're on the move, going a little bit farther to the east to get a little bit better of a look at this tornado or potential tornadic storm.

Right now, it is just a severe thunderstorm warning. But think about winds of 60 or so miles per hour and hail falling on those people that are trying to pick up their lives in Moore. And that's what we're seeing. This is the hail core of the storm almost turning into more important than the rotation.

Certainly, the storm can reinvigorate itself. We do have a tornado warning for the area up near Perkins, Oklahoma. That's north of Oklahoma City. We will keep you advised on this. Right now, Chickasha's storm, because it's the one that could cross over I-35 in a very populated area in that corridor from Oklahoma City, Moore, down to Norman, we're watching as it moves off to the east. It has been moving very slowly, and that may be some of the reason why the organization isn't there yet. But it is still very hot outside. It's muggy outside. And all the humidity is being used by this one storm. It is the big dog. It is the supercell thunderstorm that is headed to a populated area. We will keep watching it for you.

TAPPER: And, Chad, I was just texting with someone I met when I was in Norman, Oklahoma, last week covering last week's tornado. He told me that there is a supercell with a possible tornado obviously heading -- as you reported, heading toward the area of Moore, and he also said that sirens have sounded.

We expect, of course, that individuals in the area are in their shelters, as they were told to be last week. Are you seeing anybody as you drive around Oklahoma or has everybody taken cover?

MYERS: Everyone is outside looking at this, because this is now still a low precipitation thunderstorm. If a tornado were to fall out of the backside of this storm, it would still be visible.

As soon as this storm gets wrapped in rain or gets all the way around it, where the tornado is invisible because all you can see is the rain all around it, that's when people will begin to take cover. This is -- I know this seems like an out-of-the-ordinary event for people in the East and the West, but for Oklahoma this is something that they want to know where it is so they know what to do, what part of their house or what shelter to get to.

They are very well-advised on what to do in this part of the country and they are still watching the storm. When they get a tornado warning on it, I think that is when they begin to go to cover, but right now not.

TAPPER: And, Chad, we're looking at right now this -- these images from CNN affiliate KFOR. And it is this immense, dark rain cloud and it looks as though we recall looking at this a week ago Monday where a tornado could appear at any moment.

This supercell, how often do Oklahomans see -- or not just Oklahomans, anyone in this part of the country, how often do they see supercells like this? And how often do they turn into tornadoes?

MYERS: Well, we get 1,000 tornadoes in the U.S. a year on average, some years more, some years less. Not all of those are made by supercell thunderstorms. Some of them are made by line echo wave patterns, which is just part of a line. They're not as big of a tornado. You get EF-0, EF-1.

But I would venture to guess -- and this is literally my opinion only, just working in the business for as long as I have -- that there are at least 60 days, 60 days a year out of 365 that would have some type of supercell thunderstorm with either a tornado or a hail core producing damage in America.

That's how common they are. What was uncommon and still is uncommon is what happened in Moore, as that EF-4, EF-5 damage, was one out of 1,000 storms, one out of 1,000 tornadoes would be an EF-5. And most of them happen in the middle of a wheat field.

What was unusual with Moore and still is, is that it happened in a populated place, and that's when it gets devastating.

TAPPER: All right, Chad, we're going to check back with you in a little bit, Chad Myers.

We are going to listen in right now, listen in on our affiliate KOCO.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... move over Perkins.

And, again, looking at your shot right there, that is -- again, that is one of the more impressive shots and one of the more impressive storms that we have seen so far this afternoon. And again this is a storm that is well east of I-35. The amounts of wind shear coming into that, Mark, is very high, especially in the mid-layers of the atmosphere.

The winds are just screaming across Oklahoma right now east of I-35 and so you have -- that storm has all the right ingredients it needs to produce a tornado and again as it continues to move east that wind shear is going to increase. Again, that jet stream right now is moving -- is right over Oklahoma.

So, yes, that storm right there is one that we are going to watch very, very closely. On the right-hand side of your television screen there, you can see the rotation right now is moving over the town of Perkins. All right, it is moving over the town of Perkins, but in Perkins the rain is going to pick back up and you are probably going to get some heavy rainfall and it is going to come down pretty quickly now.

Again, you're probably starting to get some light rain coming in right now, but it is going but it is going to pick up. And again looking at your shot right now, Mark, again, that's -- again, that's probably a more impressive shot.

Let's go over to Advantage Doppler 3 to use and put a storm track on here with the rotation and this is going to moving into Cottingham (ph) there about 3:14, Anna Belle (ph) there at about 3:31, Cushing, all right, Cushing at 3:39, Cushing, of course, a town that is known for its oil.

All right? So, again, Cushing, you need to be watching this storm very closely. Of course, you know we're giving you the latest information. We're staying on with these storms, by the way, OK? We're not getting off the air whatsoever, OK, but you can see here hail is coming in here.

And again the rotation is still there, although it appears to be mid- level rotation that I have within this. But, again, it is still going to likely increase. So again the potential for this produce a tornado is going to be high, but we're now casting this -- and of course Rusty and I right now, we're analyzing these storms live on television, so when we're in this type of mode, we do have to sample a lot of different type of forecasting tools. TAPPER: We're listening right now to CNN affiliate KOCO. We're looking at a huge supercell of a storm heading in towards Oklahoma City the area, an area of the country that was just hit by a devastating tornado Monday last week.

I want to check in now with storm chaser Spencer Basoco. He's on the phone right now.

Spencer, we talked days ago as the tornado was hitting Moore, Oklahoma. How does this one, this supercell that we're looking at, how does it compare with what you saw last week ago -- a week ago Monday?

SPENCER BASOCO, STORM CHASER: Well, right now, you know, it's uncomparable to the Moore storm.

By now, we had a huge tornado on the ground. This one, though, is really, really starting to organize. Within the last five minutes, it's gotten the little hook (INAUDIBLE) that people always talk about. And the velocity of the winds in and around the storm are really, really picking up.

We are moving into position to get visual on it again.

TAPPER: So, explain again in more detail if you would what has happened in the last five minutes exactly with this storm?

BASOCO: Basically, the storm was fairly outflow-dominant, cold air rushing out of the storm, undercutting the storm.

But now this storm has moved a little further east and there's more southeasterly winds in-flowing into this storm, and that is allowing for the cold air to stay in the forward flank downdraft, the hail and rain part of the storm, and it is allowing the rear side to back in and rotate.

So we're getting the turning with winds right on the southwest quadrant of the storm.

TAPPER: And where are you exactly, Spencer? Where are you?

BASOCO: We are just south of Cole, Oklahoma, which is southeast of Blanchard. We are literally right in the path of the hook and we're just getting into position so we can get great visual on it on our live-stream.

TAPPER: And as you drive through Oklahoma, where are people? Have they taken shelter? Or are they outside watching the storm?

BASOCO: Most people right now are out watching the storm, driving around kind of seeing if they need to get in shelters.

But the way this storm is really ramping up, if I was them, I would advise them to just go ahead and get home and be ready to open that shelter and pop in. Don't be driving around no more. This is getting serious. MYERS: All right. So, your advice is as a storm chaser out there in the grim storm is for people to stop following your lead and to go home and take shelter.

BASOCO: Yes, definitely.

Yes, right there. See if you can pull up there in them streets. I'm sorry.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: That's fine, Spencer. No, we want you to be safe.

We will check in with you in a little bit.

Right now, I want to check in with Samantha Mohr. She's tracking these storms for us live in the CNN Weather Center.

And, Samantha, obviously, we have been focused on just Oklahoma. But this is a big storm system.

SAMANTHA MOHR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. Millions of people could be affected this afternoon and evening, as this whole -- this whole line of thunderstorms moves to the east,.

And we will show you those watches in a second that are in effect throughout the evening hours. But we need to talk about this area that's of most immediate concern. And that is for high tornado danger.

The National Weather Service office out of Norman, the local office, issued that statement for high tornado danger on the cell over Perkins, tornado warning currently in place for this cell that is moving to the east at around 25 miles per hour.

You can see that hook coming off the back end of it as it moves to the east, so currently moving through Perkins. We have had reports of funnel clouds coming out of the tail end of the system. And it is moving to the east there. That puts us into Cushing at about 3:37 Central time.

So starting in through as it continues that movement to the east, putting it into Cushing at 3:37, so that is the cell we're most concerned about at this hour. Also, in Chickasha, we still have that severe thunderstorm warning that is in place here. And this cell is approaching Norman as we speak.

Now, the National Weather Service office there has said that the conditions are more favorable for development on the northern side of the system, rather than the southern end of it, so things are a bit less conducive for tornadic development here. It's a less rich environment in Norman than it is as you come into the northern side of Norman and up towards Moore.

So, this particular cell moving to the east, which will put it into Norman at 3:38 and Topeka at 4:15 and into Shawnee at 4:38 and still a potentially dangerous storm, even though there is not a tornado warning on it. You could still see some gusty, damaging winds, as well as some large hail -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Samantha, thanks so much.

We are going to check in right now with our affiliate KFOR in Oklahoma. Let's take a listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See if we're getting any kind of rotation there on the ground, but that is going to be, obviously, like you said, just south and east of Perkins. And it's going to be south of the river right there.

We're kind of getting a little bit of lowering right there if you will take a look at just the center, very top of the screen, kind of one little defined area that is poking its nose out there. As far as like coming into the storm, we have just, you know, a long shelf coming in. Then we have some feeders, bands that are coming in. Just to the north side, it's heavy rain.

This whole wall cloud, as we kind of just sit back and look at it, it is rotating a little bit. It looks like if it does hit the ground and go south, it is going to kind of follow the river and then it looks like where the river bends back up to the north, it will be just south there on a similar line.

And out the left window, the -- right there in Cushing, all the tanks, it looks like it (AUDIO GAP) if it does touch down, but as Travis is kind of zooming in there, we're looking for any indication that it could be on the ground. We haven't seen anything yet. Obviously, there's not a lot of power line poles or anything to get some power flash indications.

It doesn't always mean a tornado. It could just be wind. But we're staying zoomed in there. And it looks like, if it is going to put one down, it's going to put one down right there. So, you know, obviously, Mike, we are going to stay here and we will see what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go to Mike Bennett (ph) here live. I think it is on the ground right now. It's coming down Highway 33 from Perkins to Cushing now.

Let's go to Mike Bennett live -- Mike.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Mike, yes, rapid rotation. I don't see anything on the ground right now.

It's just -- it's imminent. It just -- I'm not sure what is actually preventing it right now, but we're south of Perkins looking east. And it -- I'm going to reposition here, Mike, in just a minute, but I just don't see anything on the ground right now, but I don't know what is stopping it -- back to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Mike, appreciate that.

Let's go to Reed Timmer, Dominator 4.

Reed, it looks like it's on the ground from here. What do you got?

REED TIMMER, STORM CHASER: Well, we're right underneath the circulation right now. And the (INAUDIBLE) wrapped all the way around this thing, and it looks like...

TAPPER: We are going to take a quick break, but we're tracking this potentially violent storm. We have got more for you when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN's breaking coverage of a storm cell, a massive storm cell Oklahoma, in the area of Oklahoma City, right near where that tornado struck a week ago and change, last Monday.

Local media reporting that there looks to be a tornado on the ground east of Perkins, Oklahoma. That's about an hour northeast of Oklahoma City.

I want to bring in Tammy Glasgow on the phone. She survived the massive tornado last week in Moore, Oklahoma, at Briarwood Elementary, where she bravely protected her students. She is at her house in Moore right now.

Tammy, I assume you're taking cover. How are you taking cover? Do you have a shelter, tornado shelter in your home?

TAMMY GLASGOW, SURVIVED TORNADO IN MOORE LAST WEEK (via telephone): Yes. We have a shelter in the backyard. It's an in-ground shelter.

TAPPER: And alert was your area, was Moore and the surrounding area for this tornado, as opposed to the one that struck a week and a half ago?

GLASGOW: Well, that's hard to say. I'm home today, of course, on summer break so I'm able to watch it and it's been on TV for about two hours now as opposed to that day when we were in school. We didn't really -- we could just take the word of our principal. We didn't really know what was going on.

TAPPER: I want to talk about what you're seeing outside your house but before I do, how is the school recovering? How is the community recovering from last week's tragedy?

GLASGOW: Oh, it's recovering nicely. We've gotten a lot of donations and every family has been taken care of. There's a large abundance of love and care coming out of the community.

TAPPER: How soon -- when did you seek shelter to -- from this storm? Was it just within the last few minutes? Was it an hour ago? When did you go to your shelter?

GLASGOW: We didn't actually get into a shelter yet. We're watching it in the house, just watching it on TV. It's not very far away from our back door. So, once the sirens go off, it's usually when we'll decide to get in it.

TAPPER: All right. Tammy Glasgow, thank you so much and thank you for your heroism last week. We'll check in with you later.

GLASGOW: OK.

TAPPER: CNN meteorologist Chad Myers is driving around the area.

Chad, we heard from a local media, one of our affiliates there, that there looks to be a tornado forming on the ground east of Perkins. That's about an hour northeast of Oklahoma City. We also heard word of a rope tornado. Explain what that is.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST (via telephone): A rope tornado literally looks like a rope from the bottom of the cell of the thunderstorm all the way down to the ground. It's very skinny. Its usually an EF-0 or EF-1, wind speeds less than a hundred miles per hour. That will still do damage if it hits your home. The good news is it isn't going to hit very many homes because it isn't very wide, less than probably one house wide.

But we're seeing on the storm that I'm on -- I'm not on the Perkins storm. I'm on the storm that may affect the south side of Oklahoma City proper into Cleveland County, into possibly Norman.

Probably at this point, as I look at the radar, slightly south of Moore. That's good news. That's where the rotation will be south of Moore but that means that the hail core could be back into Moore because the hail is always north of the storm when you have the storm moving from west to east.

One thing I can tell you is that the rain has picked up where I am but, more importantly, the lightning has picked up as well. The lightning --

TAPPER: Why is that significant, Chad, the lightning?

MYERS: Because that tells me that there is more shear going on in the storm and the storm is probably re-intensifying, Jake. Think about taking your old leather shoes and rubbing them on a shag carpet and then touching the doorknob. That rubbing, that shear, you know, that -- your feet on the carpet, that creates electrons or (INAUDIBLE) electrons in your body and you touch the knob and, all of a sudden, you get a shock. Well, that's what the storm is doing now. It's rubbing its feet on the shag carpet and creating more lightning, more electricity, more shock.

And so, the storm as it makes more and more lightning tells me there's more feet rubbing going on up there, more shear, more intensity, more hail being formed as well. And pieces of particles of water being sheered apart creating this difference in electricity, this difference in charge and the charges being discharged to the ground. I do believe that the storm that is out -- was out here in Chickasha now moving to the south of Blanchard is probably intensifying just because of what I'm seeing in ground truth right now.

TAPPER: Spencer Basoco joins us now. He's on the phone. He's a storm chaser.

And, Spencer, where are you and what are you seeing?

SPENCER BASOCO, STORM CHASER (via telephone): I am about three miles south of Cole, Oklahoma, which is southeast of Blanchard. We have a rapidly rotating wall cloud that developed in the last 10 minutes and it looks like it could drop a tornado at any time.

TAPPER: And where are you in relation to -- we know that -- we heard from one of our local affiliates that there looked to be a tornado on the ground east of Perkins which is about an hour northeast of Oklahoma City. Where are you in relation to that and to Oklahoma City?

BASOCO: We are south of Oklahoma City. We're south of Norman, which is where the University of Oklahoma is. And this storm appears that the tornadic part will miss the Norman area but it is headed towards the Washington and the Dibble and Purcell area.

TAPPER: So, this is all one big super cell with lots of different storms within it. Have you heard about this tornado on the ground near Perkins?

BASOCO: Yes. Well, actually, these are all different cells associated with a dry line and the storms fired up on the dry line earlier and they became discrete. They're individual storms that have an individual updraft which sustains these. And we are on the -- one of the further south ones. There are actually more storms back to the southwest which could also produce tornadoes later on as well.

TAPPER: Spencer, how often is there a super cell like this or different storms, different cells like these in Oklahoma without a tornado that causes damage appearing in your experience?

BASOCO: If they stay out west, usually they don't cause any damage. But as soon as they hit I-35, you hit population, you hit trees, so people can't see them and get out of the way and that's what's going to be occurring shortly. So, this is just west of I-35. So, let's get south.

TAPPER: All right. Spencer, we're going to come back to you.

We're going to take a very quick break. We're tracking this potentially violent storm. We've got much more for you when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN's breaking news coverage of some severe weather in Oklahoma. We have reports of a super cell and many tornado warnings in the area.

Samantha Mohr is tracking these storms live in the CNN weather center.

Samantha, earlier I heard some local media, one of our affiliates say that there looked to be a tornado on the ground east of Perkins, which is about an hour northeast of Oklahoma City. What can you tell us about that and what can you tell us about the tornado warnings in the area?

SAMANTHA MOHR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. We did have some reports of some funnel clouds associated with the Perkins storm, Jake, and that system continues to move off to the east here. You can see also it has some signs of rotation on this cell I believe. We can go ahead and put the information up on that.

But there is a warning on that cell as it moves to the east, tornado warning in effect until 4:00 local time. That includes the cities of Cushing, and Yale.

You can see signs of rotation showing up here on Doppler radar. Some 11,500 people affected in this region. It should be moving through Yale at around 3:51 local time, and if it maintains itself, if it holds its strength, getting toward Tulsa around 5:08.

So that's one of the systems we're very concerned about having had reports of some funnel clouds with that particular cell. Also, severe thunderstorm cell with a tornado warning on it here southwest of Norman is the main area of rotation. The warning, the warn cell is moving to the east.

Also, at around 25 miles per hour, Blanchard and Purcell in the crosshairs here. Over 22,000 people affected here and this is the same cell that came out of Chickasha.

This is the same area where Chad Myers is right now tracking this storm.

We've had reports of a lowering wall cloud. No reports of a tornado yet. But certainly capable of producing one as it continues to strengthen. Putting it here in Noble at 3:58 local time and Etowah at 4:22.

So, a dangerous storm. If you're in its path, do take cover now.

TAPPER: All right. Samantha, thank you so much.

We're going to keep a close eye on these tornadoes and tornado warnings.

And also, yet another suspicious letter has been intercepted on its way to the White House. Soon after we learned a letter possibly tainted with ricin was sent to New York City's mayor. Is there a connection? We'll talk to Congressman Peter King of New York, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)