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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Tornado Warning West Of Oklahoma City
Aired May 31, 2013 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, breaking news. We have confirmation of a tornado that has touched down in Oklahoma.
Plus, more breaking news, information from the poison letter investigation just in. CNN has just obtained a copy of one of the ricin-laced letters. We will show it to you.
And the bizarre case of the blade runner, Oscar Pistorius charged with the murder of his girlfriend. Tonight, photos from the crime scene, seen for the first time. Let's go OUTFRONT.
I'm Jake Tapper in for Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news, a tornado warning is now in effect west of Oklahoma City. The storm is moving east along I-40 at about 25 miles an hour. It could hit the Oklahoma City area. The area devastated by the May 20th storm.
The governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin, is telling residents across the state not to take any chances. Large destructive hail, strong damaging winds and tornadoes are likely. Chad Myers joins me now from El Reno, Oklahoma. Chad, what is the latest?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST (via telephone): We're seeing an awful lot of chase vehicles drive straight into this what I believe is a funnel, maybe not all the way to the ground, but certainly a developing tornado west of El Reno, about two miles south of I-40. It has been developing all afternoon, Jake. We had about five or six cells that popped up early.
Now they've all merge into one cell. They're all together. They're all beginning to rotate on the southwest side of the main cell itself. This is where we are. We're literally about eight miles away. But everything is difficult to see right now because the rain has wrapped around this funnel or tornado.
And so if you are in El Reno, you don't want to be outside looking for it. This could be a dangerous situation if you are because you might not be able to see it ever until literally the rain stops and there it is and so we're going to watch it for you here. We're going to have to break down our shot here in just a couple of minutes and move off to the east away from the power and let it pass us to the north.
But as this develops and gets stronger, this will be moving into the Oklahoma City metro area without a doubt. Now if you can see my shot, you can see my shot, Jake, I believe that there is now getting to be very close to a tornado on the ground. There is a lot of wrapping going on. You can see all the clouds are wrapping into one major area in the middle.
That one major area in the middle is the developing tornado itself. I can see it. I can watch the rotation coming in here. We're in a very safe place. We're at least eight miles away from this from my wife and family. We're in no danger whatsoever, but there is the tornado coming down. There is a funnel on the ground. I can see it now.
There's a car in front of it. It's going right to left on your screen with flashing lights on. This has been the first touchdown we think we've seen all day here in the central part of Oklahoma. It will continue, I believe, to get bigger as it moves into the Western Oklahoma City suburbs -- Jake.
TAPPER: And, Chad, we saw -- we saw on the left side of the screen there it looked like a funnel touched down on the ground.
TAPPER: There it is. You can see it.
MYERS: It's on the ground now for sure.
TAPPER: The rain is providing some cover of it. So it's not always visible, but now it sure is visible. You can see it right there. Are there reports from inside the area of El Reno? Have we heard anything from anyone there?
MYERS: We are still -- this storm is still about eight miles or so still west of El Reno. So El Reno is still in the clear, but we are in the hook echo. We're in the hook echo part of this storm, which means that the big hail is to our north. The rotation around the backside is coming into it.
And now that is -- that is what I consider to be a large wedge tornado on the ground, multiple tornadoes. It almost looks like there is more than one tornado on the ground. It will combine to be one large tornado and probably now you know moving on up the EF scale, Ef- 1 and EF-2. The more we see these come together, there is going to be one large wedge.
And that wedge means that even if the ground wasn't there, this tornado could go farther down. We can see it is almost spinning around itself now. This has been developing for hours. We've been watching this all day long. The temperature today was 92 degrees. There is a lightning strike right there in the middle where that tornado is on the ground.
We saw the 92-degree air all day. We knew this is going to be a big day because all the other days we thought we could see something out here, there was only about 80 when the storms popped. Now with this 92-degree air, we talked about this. The hotter the air, the higher it goes. And it was a hot air balloon today and 10 degrees warmer than we've seen all the ground. There is the tornado coming and going. This is normal for a tornado. We have probably had damage already, but where I'm looking right now, that is a wheat field. That truly is not a populated place. We're very thankful for that.
TAPPER: Chad, we keep seeing, as you say, the tornadoes from the storm pop in and out. At some point will it -- hopefully this doesn't happen, but at some point it will just stay that, one big strong tornado will funnel would stay. Is that what we fear the most?
MYERS: That's correct although I am seeing another cell to the southwest of this storm that could affect it. Remember, as we talked about this -- remember when we were kids we used to have this game called battling top. If you pull the string on one top in this bowl, the top would go for minutes if not 5, 10 minutes.
But if you pulled all of the little strings and all those tops went around, they would bang into each other and then one would fall and then the other would fall. They wouldn't spin as long. If there is only one spinner, it spins a long time. If there are many spinners trying to bump into each other, the spin definitely slows down and the tornado does not last as long.
TAPPER: And where are you exactly? Are you in your truck?
MYERS: I am sitting inside the truck. The photographer is just outside the truck with our camera pointing. We are on something called live view, live view. It is just showing this. It is about a five second delay or so, but we're seeing it basically at the same time. I'm watching it on television as well.
TAPPER: And where are you in relation to Oklahoma City? You're west of Oklahoma City?
MYERS: I am west of Oklahoma City. The town is El Reno, but I'm still about eight miles west of there. I would say if you could find a map there, Calumet is the north south part of the cell itself. You would cross, you take Calumet and go due south ten miles across I-40 and that's where you would be.
Now this storm has technically gone a little bit to the southeast. So for this to move into Oklahoma City proper along I-40, it would have to go a little bit further to the north. I believe this is probably turning a little further to the south. If it continues, that could take it into south Oklahoma City or maybe even populated areas around Moore. But from the northwest, not from the southwest or from the west like the storm took the track it took two weeks ago.
TAPPER: All right, Chad, stay with us. We're also going to bring in storm chaser Dave Holder. He joins me on the phone. He is also in the El Reno, Oklahoma area, just south of Oklahoma City. Dave, what are the conditions like where you are?
DAVE HOLDER, STORM CHASER (via telephone): We are just watching a developing strong tornado right now. We're southwest of El Reno by the -- we're sitting there at the El Reno Air Park watching. It had multiple vortices which is a sign of a very strong tornado. It does look like it is moving southeast. We do actually have quite a bit of traffic on the road here, which is probably not a good thing, but definitely very, very rapid rotation.
It is kind of left, but I almost guaranteeing that it's going to put one back down. We had like very, very strong inflow into this and -- yes, I'm expecting -- yes, it looks like it touched down here. Big cone tornado just to our west.
TAPPER: Dave, now far away are you from the tunnel? -- I mean, from the funnel?
HOLDER: I'd say about three miles or so right now. It is moving southeast. We're south of here. We're in a safe location right now, but it definitely looks like a very violent tornado, could be very violent. By the looks of things, it could be on the ground for a little while here.
TAPPER: That is distressing that there is a lot of traffic around there. Obviously, the governor and all of those in charge of safety in the state of Oklahoma are telling people to seek shelter. That advice would be even more recommended now that we have reports of a tornado having touched down. Chad, let me bring you back in. What are you seeing where you are?
MYERS: I just saw two funnels touch the ground, which tells me that there -- it's a multiple vortices tornado, it's trying to become an EF-3 or EF-4 large wedge tornado. It still hasn't got all of the energy that's aloft down to the ground, thank goodness. This is only creating EF-1 or 2 damage because it hasn't gotten itself all the way around in a wide, let's say, nine-block wide or even mile wide tornado. That is not it just yet.
But it is certainly trying. Think of an ice skater with her arms out skating in a circle trying to do the spin. When the arms and one leg is out, she spins quite slowly. When the arms come together then all of a sudden pulls her arms in then right away she spins so much quicker. And that's what this tornado is trying to do. It's trying to pull the arms in.
It's trying to make itself a strong storm and you're seeing it develop right there. That now is getting certainly stronger, moving to our east. Jake, I have to break off here for about 3 minutes. We're going to have to move the car a little further to the east. We have to reposition ourselves so we can get a better picture for you and also to keep ourselves safe.
TAPPER: Chad, yes, stay safe. Stay safe. Get where you need to go. We'll touchback with you in a second. You're looking at live footage from CNN affiliate KOCO of a tornado that touched down west of Oklahoma City. It is a multiple vortices tornado, many funnels touching down. It seems to be gaining strength.
I'm going to go to Samantha Moore at the CNN Weather Center who has the benefit of some perspective that those in the tornado area do not have. Samantha, what is the condition of the storm right now? Is it gaining strength as it appears to be on the ground?
SAMANTHA MOORE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, we have another warning on that same storm. In fact, it's this one has been deemed particularly dangerous by the SPC as it moves to the east. In fact, take it -- taking a look at the path this thing is going to take as we head through the next 45 minutes to an hour, it's going to put it into Oklahoma City, western Oklahoma City as we head towards the top of the hour here, local time.
So around 6:58 in Oklahoma City, we'll likely see this system moving on in and right now, we do have funnels on the ground as Chad was saying multiple vortices moving to the east. We've had -- we've shown you the debris vortex spinning around here as well. So this is a dangerous situation, especially since people are out on the roadways.
It is a Friday night, a lot of folks heading home from work out there on Interstate 40. This is a bad timing indeed on a busy Friday night to have this powerful destructive storm head right down Interstate 40. So by the way, this is El Reno.
Chad is just about eight miles west. He was going to move a little further to the south. You can see that hook is approaching him right now as we speak. That's why he needed to move his vehicle to get into a better vantage point as far as safety is concerned -- Jake.
TAPPER: And we need to reiterate, I thought this wouldn't need reiteration to people in Oklahoma since they were so used to this. But when I was in Oklahoma last week reporting on the tornado that hit, several people told me that it was just this one last warning that they heard on television, usually from local broadcasters that convinced them they needed to seek shelter.
Anyone watching right now, anyone in the Oklahoma City area, seek shelter. There are several tornadoes that have touched down west of Oklahoma City. Samantha, what else can you tell us about the storm? What are the forces causing it to gain strength?
MOORE: Well, we've had just so much moisture in the air, an incredible amount of lift. I mean, this cell when it formed initially was just exploded up some 56,000 feet in about 45 minutes. So that tells you how much lift is present in the atmosphere largely because you have drier air moving in from the west. It acts like a bulldozer and push that's air up very abruptly. Then we have a lot of moisture.
The air here, when you have dew points in the 70s, it's one of the days where you feel like you can't get dry. You're covered with sweat. That's how it feels when you have dew points in the 70s and temperatures in the upper 80s. We have heat indices here that feel like temperature in the 90s. So the air is moist and unstable.
You get the cool air coming from the north. You get the dry air coming in from the west. You get incredible amounts of lift. So that's what we're seeing. You also have the jet stream in a position that is adding lift to the atmosphere, too. And on top of it all, Jake, we had that day of pretty sunny skies. It is pretty calm. I mean, these storms just blossomed out of nowhere.
And they grew, you know, some 10 miles high in less than hour so that tells you how much vertical motion is present in the atmosphere and that can make for some really mean tornadoes and we do have these tornado warnings in place here. This particular area has been deemed by the SPC to be particularly dangerous tornadoes so a very strong tornado.
As Chad was saying, made up of multiple vortices. You can clearly see that hook right here on the radar taking that forward as we head into the next hour taking it towards Oklahoma City. You can see how things were going more north easterly, now going more easterly.
Now Chad was saying now taking a little bit more of a southerly component to the direction of the movement here. That puts it into mustang at around 6:51, putting it into Oklahoma City at 7:12. Once again, this isn't a storm to mess around with. You need to get off the roadways into a shelter below ground if you can. Make sure that everyone is accounted for and in a safe place because this is not something you want to mess around with -- Jake.
TAPPER: If you're just tuning in right now, we have reports of tornadoes hitting west of Oklahoma City in the area of El Reno. Not in the city itself, but close to it, several miles away. El Reno is about 1,800 -- I'm sorry, has a population of 18,000 people. It's about 30 miles west of Oklahoma. The storm appears to be gaining strength.
We're going to check in now with George Howell. He's in Moore, Oklahoma, of course, the site of the tornado that hit on May 20th that was such a disaster killing 24 people, many of them children. George, what are you seeing where you are?
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, you know, we've been watching very closely the track of this storm in relation to Moore here and I hate to say to this, but there is a newly updated tornado warning, a cone that puts Moore in the path of this tornado warning. Again, if the storm continues on this new path which takes it a little further south, takes it closer to Moore. Moore could very well be back in the path of this tornado warning.
It is not in the cone yet. The cone extends south. It is headed this direction it seems. So you can kind of see where we are now. I want to show you over here from light, you can see a bit of blue sky there. Pan over a bit. You can see this big wall of gray. That is that tornado warning that everyone is concerned about.
This tornado that is moving right down Interstate 40 right into the Oklahoma City area. Again, we have just enough time, Jake, I think to give you this live report and then get out of the way because right now, we can head south it seems though. There is a severe thunderstorm headed our way from the southwest as well. So a lot of things are popping up here.
Jake, one other thing I want to show you. Dave, can you pan up and look at the clouds? There are some really crazy cloud patterns out here. They changed a bit, but as this storm moves in, you start to see the clouds doing some really strange things. It is a sign, you know, an indicator that the weather is changing and it's time to take shelter if you're in these areas.
TAPPER: That's good advice for you, George. Why don't you go take shelter? We'll check in with you in a little bit when you get to a safe place. Let's go back to storm chaser Dave Holder who is in the El Reno, Oklahoma area where several of these tornadoes, several of the funnels have touched down in this multiple vortices tornado. Dave, what are you seeing where you are?
HOLDER: We're just south of a pretty rain wrapped strong tornado. We're kind in a dicey situation right now. We're trying to get east ahead of it, but there is so much traffic on the road right now. It's just to our north. We're going to try to get two miles into Union City here and then drive south and try to get out ahead of it. But it's definitely kind of a crazy situation right now in this area.
TAPPER: Dave, describe the traffic. We're not seeing what you're seeing right now. What traffic? Is it bumper to bumper?
HOLDER: We're on a lot of county roads here driving around and we're just a lot of people out. They're not storm chasers, not spotting. I'm not quite sure what they're doing, if they just want to come out and see it. But we're basically getting into traffic and we're lined up. A strong tornado is coming right at us.
TAPPER: Dave, you're breaking up a bit. We hope you're seeking safety. I'm going to check in again with Samantha Moore at the CNN Weather Center. When you look at this storm as it gains strength, Samantha, how does it compare with the tornado that hit the city of Moore a week ago Monday?
MOORE: Well, when the tornado hit Moore last -- well, May 20th, it was an EF-5 when it was at its strongest. This tornado has that potential to be in the EF-3 to EF-5 range. So once again, we're talking about a very dangerous situation. And as you notice here, as we track the tornado and where it's going to be within the next hour putting it in through powers at 6:23 and Mustang at 6:50, Wheatland at 6:57 and then arriving.
If it stays on this path and maintains its intensity, it could arrive in Moore, that very populated area where we just had the devastation some 11 days ago. It could put it right into Moore at 7:17 so a very dangerous situation and not just the tornado. I mean, even around here we're going to be dealing with incredibly large destructive hail, gusty damaging winds and flooding is going to be a concern.
If you have people on the roadways and they are jammed up like some of the chasers have been talking about, bad news if we get into some flooded roadways here as well. So we have so many different elements to this storm that could indeed be deadly. So, folks need to seek shelter immediately. TAPPER: It is distressing news that we heard from Dave Holder, a storm chaser. There are so many people out right now looking at this tornado, not people that are storm chasers, not people who are spotters, but individuals trying to get a look at the tornado. Obviously, it is very dangerous. The governor told people to seek shelter.
We know how potentially horrible and destructive these tornadoes can be. We have reports now of several funnels touching down in the area of El Reno, Oklahoma, population 18,000. It's about 30 miles west of Oklahoma and as Samantha pointed out, if the tornado continues to head in the direction it's heading within the hour.
It could hit Moore, Oklahoma which just 11 days ago suffered that devastating storm, category EF-5 tornado that killed 24 people. We have Chad Myers back on the phone now. Chad, where are you and what are you seeing?
MYERS: We had to scramble east just a little bit. What we had to do that for because the storm, we were in perfect position to watch the storm from the southwest to the northeast. This storm decided to actually turn. It is called a right mover. It's about to turn right into and south of I-40. El Reno has not been struck by a tornado.
To the south, maybe five, six miles south of El Reno proper in the farmland, in the wheat fields there, yes, this is where the tornado is on the ground. The right turn is very concerning for the people in southern Oklahoma City around Will Rogers Airport and also obviously the people of Moore.
What I've notice just in the past few minutes, I believe the storm may have just wrapped itself all the way around. That's why the chasers are saying this they couldn't see it. I was listening to the broadcast and looking at the storm. The rain went all the way around. And sometimes that can actually cut off the circulation or the inflow and slow the tornado down.
This appears to be a huge circulation around this tornado. It is still circulating. It may be a rain wrapped rotation. Now soon all of a sudden this rain is going to stop going around and it's going to reform. It's going to cycle. The cycling will cause this tornado to reform. There is nothing to the south right now to inhibit its development.
TAPPER: Chad, we heard from storm chaser, Dave Holder, about all the traffic. He was encountering a lot of individuals. Obviously these are not major interstates. He's driving on the small county roads. But there are a lot of individuals not storm chasers, not spotters, individuals who should be seeking shelter right now.
Who should be going to tornado shelters or to safe spots in their homes, in their basements away from the windows if you have nothing else, you go to your bathtub, you put a mattress over yourself. Are you encountering a lot of people out and about right now?
MYERS: Yes. I'm encountering a lot of people now. They're not even stopping at stop signs anymore. It is really making a dangerous situation for the people that are out here, even for the sheriffs that are having their lights flashing. They just have people running through stop signs and red lights.
So, yes, this -- there is much traffic out here. It truly is a danger to people that are out here. I'm a few miles from the rotation. We're in very, very heavy winds. This is just a storm. This is wind event now probably 80 or 90 miles per hour trying to bump our car all over the place.
You want to be southeast of a tornado when it actually comes in. So you can see it coming. We're really, really getting hits by winds right now, Jake. We're not even close to the tornado and the winds are -- that was at least a 70 mile per hour gust trying to get into the tornado itself, trying to reinvigorate the storm.
TAPPER: Chad, from your vantage point, can you see if there is still a funnel on the ground? We can't tell from what we're seeing.
MYERS: You know, where I am, I'm in a new developing area. There is not a tornado on the ground that I can see. I see a dust devil on the ground. That is sometimes called a suction spot. That suction spot can be the evidence of a brand new tornado forming. That will happen.
A new tornado can form whether you lose the first tornado itself, the first big cone. When that goes away, a new one can form behind it. We're very, very far away from the tornado itself. It's hard for me to get a feel for it, but the winds even where we are, are approaching and that is around 80 miles an hour.
TAPPER: Right now, we're seeing footage from CNN affiliate KFOR and the winds appear very strong there. They're bending trees like they were blades of grass. Chad, where are you right now?
MYERS: Right now we're traveling south on a county highway. I would say we're -- gosh, not that far west of Mustang, Oklahoma, looking to the west, looking back toward that funnel. I would consider that scud, which also I would consider to be -- that's at least eight miles from me, but there are all these little spin-ups, Jake. It's almost like the whole storm is trying to reform just southeast and we're seeing that. I'm actually seeing debris in the air a mile, mile and a half from me. It is nowhere near the main circulation. I believe we're seeing multiple tornadoes falling out of the same storm.
TAPPER: And, of course, one of the big fears is that there is still so much debris from the major tornado that hit Oklahoma City and specifically Moore, Oklahoma, just 11 days ago still so much debris on the ground, still so much debris that is dangerous if it were to become airborne. The winds could really push that debris around, debris that would not be created by today's storm and cause serious damage.
We have George Howell with us again. George, I hope you took my advice and sought some safety. Where are you calling from?
HOWELL: Absolutely, we're taking the advice of the officials and getting out of the way of the storm. It's on its way. The new warning basically puts us in the path of Moore, Oklahoma. Moore is not in that cone presently. It is in the path. So we have just enough time and we have a plan to get out of the way should the storm come our way.
You can tell the storm -- we're on the edge of the storm. There are very dark clouds. Right here in Moore right now, people are not on the streets. People have taken shelter, gotten out of the way and we're doing that as well. We're passing through this area. People have gotten out of the way of the storm.
It's kind of different. I've been on both sides of this storm chasing. In this case, we're in the path of the storm. That's when you take shelter. You get out of the way. That's what people are doing. We're watching the affiliates here.
TAPPER: There's a -- the National Weather Service has tweeted that at 7:22 p.m. Eastern, a violent tornado has been spotted east of Highway 81 near El Reno and Mustang. And the National Weather Service is advising individuals to take cover. In addition, we have word that Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City has been evacuated.
This is obviously a very, very serious storm, just to reiterate for anyone tuning in now. You're looking at footage of CNN affiliate KFOR in the Oklahoma City area. There are several tornadoes that have been spotted in the area surrounding Oklahoma City. In the area of El Reno, population is about 18,000, 30 miles west of Oklahoma City. Several funnels, multiple vortices tornado.
Then we have on the phone George Howell that was moved from Moore, Oklahoma, where he was reporting all day for CNN, Moore, Oklahoma, so devastatingly hit 11 days ago, now traveling away. George, one of the things we've heard from both Chad Myers and storm chaser Dave Holder is that there is a lot of traffic because there are a lot of individuals not storm chasers, not spotters.
But just civilians who are looking at this beast instead of seeking shelter as the governor, as you point out, has advised everyone to do, to take shelter, to seek shelter. Are you encountering that as well?
HOWELL: In fact, we're not. We selected a path that would get us out of the way of traffic. I grew up in this area. I dance with these tornadoes before I get it. So we had a plan in place to get out of the way in advance of all the traffic but absolutely. There will be a lot of traffic as these storms come in to play. People get on the highway.
They find themselves stuck in traffic and that is a big danger. You have to really watch these storms closely and, you know, good 10, 15, 20 minutes before you know that storm is coming, you need to take shelter. And also you listen to the sirens. You have a weather radio. You watch the affiliates. When you get that warning that it's time to move, it's time to move.
TAPPER: Exactly. You're looking at live footage from CNN affiliate KOCO outside Oklahoma City. There are major storms and, in fact, several funnels have touched down, several tornadoes, multiple vortices tornado. Probably a category EF-1 or EF-2 at this point spotted near El Reno which is about 30 miles west of Oklahoma City. Chad Myers who tracks these storms for us. Chad, where are you? What are you seeing where you are?
MYERS: I would say that we're probably 5 miles southeast of El Reno. We're directly behind us. We watched it spin up. I watched it as my driver drove as straight as he could in the wind that was 80 to 90 miles per hour. Watching the tornado spin up in a wheat field and I saw dirt and debris being sucked up along with the roots of the wheat crop.
So we stopped at the corner. We took a couple pictures. Now the storm redeveloped. It's just a funnel cloud. I don't believe it's on the ground. I'm looking straight north at it. I have great definition. We're in no danger whatsoever. It looks like it's going to recycle. It's going to lose power for a while and then all of this moisture, still 80 degrees outside, 85 degrees where we are. All of this moisture, all of this humidity will be sucked back into this storm and it will regenerate.
What I'm concerned with now, now we're only 30, maybe less miles into a major metropolitan area. Now, we're probably 15 miles into a minor metropolitan area, and five miles into the suburbs of Oklahoma City. And this is where we start to now worry that it's not a wheat field anymore. Now, it's people's homes, people's lives and they need to take cover.
They're hearing the sirens. The sirens are definitely going off across the area now. If you hear the sirens, you need to take cover. Although right now the storm is regenerating. In three minutes, this could be back to that EF-2 or 3 storm and maybe even stronger.
TAPPER: And just to bring people up to speed, the National Weather Service says that at 6:22, so roughly nine minutes ago, 6:22 Central Time, a large violent tornado was reported near and just east of Highway 81 near El Reno, Oklahoma. That's about 30 miles west of Oklahoma City moving straight east at 25 miles per hour. An area of Mustang, the city of Mustang should take cover and in addition we have word that Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City has been evacuated.
Ben McMillan is joining us on the phone. He's chasing storms south of El Reno.
Ben, what are you seeing and where are you, exactly?
BEN MCMILLAN, STORM CHASER (via telephone): We're two or three miles southwest of the city. We're coming on structures that have been hit. We're checking for injured right now.
We've noticed several barns at this point. They are completely destroyed. However, most of the houses we've seen are intact. However, we're getting further into the damage zone. We've had gas leaks. And it appears like there are residential homes that have been damaged. I'm just rolling up on them now. If you can pull my dash cam, you'll see some of the structural damage. I'm very concerned for these people.
TAPPER: We're seeing on the left a live picture, Ben, of what you're seeing. Is that a truck that's being fell by the tornado? Was that a home?
MCMILLAN: Yes, I'm just about to pull into a drive way of a home that's been hit. We have safety patrol on scene here. This is a disaster zone. There are gas leaks. Please bear are with me as I check for the injured. This is a very fluid situation.
MCMILLAN: I'm going to put the dash cam on one of the homes that's been hit. You can see as I zoom in on the structure -- it's almost gone. I'm not seeing anything. This is heartbreaking.
TAPPER: Right. You be careful, Ben, because, of course, as you know better than anyone, but just for our listeners, a lot of the injuries that take place in tornadoes, they're not necessarily during the tornado itself but afterwards because of gas leaks and structures that are not secure.
We're now looking, I think that's your camera on the left of the screen, as you set that up. And, obviously, you're going to go there to see if anybody needs your help. And we'll keep watching that while you do that.
Samantha Mohr is at the CNN weather center. We're going to keep our eye on what Ben McMillan and his team are doing. They're trying to save people if anybody needs saving. A home that looks just devastated in the area just about two miles away from El Reno, Oklahoma.
Samantha, what's the condition of the storm right now? It appears to be, chad said he thought it was basically taking a break and regaining strength. But that's not the technical term, of course.
How does it look from where you are?
SAMANTHA MOHR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it does look like it is strengthening. And, of course, the National Weather Service issued a tornado emergency on the storm. It's not just a typical tornado warning. This is a tornado emergency which takes it up a notch -- meaning that it is a particularly dangerous storm, as it moves off to the east at 40 miles per hour.
We do have some debris showing up here, this is because we have dual polar radar now that can actually sight some of this debris in the circulation. So, we do have some debris signature here's right along I-40 itself. And that tornado warning with the tornado emergency in place extending into Oklahoma City. So if we track that for you -- by the way, that will be some 43,000 people expected to be affected by this system, in Mustang and Yukon. I think Shawn is going to try to track this system and show us where it's going to be within the next hour, as it moves to the east at 40 miles per hour.
And you can see it takes it along that easterly path, which it will take right into Oklahoma City, through Banner at 6:37. So that is just a few minutes away.
If you live in Banner, you need to take cover now.
Yukon at 6:46, have your plan in place.
And Bethany, as well, be thinking about where you are going and be ready to react. Go ahead and get there. Get the kids in there. Get the helmets on, the shoes on, in the lowest level of your house.
Hopefully, it's a storm cellar if it's not the interior room, the most interior room of your home and pad yourself with blankets, a mattress that you can fit through the door, pillow, anything soft that will cushion you.
Of course, Oklahoma City within the next 45 minutes or so, you're going have an extremely dangerous storm rolling into town. We have confirmed funnels on the storm. And particularly strong, I should say confirmed tornadoes, particularly strong tornadoes. So that's why we do have this tornado emergency in place for this entire region.
So, Banner, Yukon, Bethany, Oklahoma City, you need to have your plan in place and be ready to react, because this is a dangerous storm. Not just a tornado itself, but the winds associated with the storm, incredibly large hail as large as soft balls. So, that's some four inch as cross. And also the flooding conditions.
So, you need to be off the roadways at this point. There is no excuse for anybody except for emergency personnel and some of our trained chasers to be out at this point -- Jake.
TAPPER: It's a good reminder, of course. If you're just tuning in, you're seeing live footage from CNN affiliate of KOCO of an immense storm heading east towards the Oklahoma City area. The storm has already produced several tornadoes, one violent and large tornado according to the National Weather Service, touched down east of Highway 81 near El Reno. The town of Mustang has been advised to take cover.
We're also told that Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City has been evacuated. One other note is that the women's college softball World Series is being played in Oklahoma City this week. Organizers were expecting somewhere between 60,000 and 70,000 people. The games being aired on ESPN. They're currently on a weather delay at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. The stadium is an open air stadium.
There were two big games scheduled for tonight. The games are not important. We're hoping that everybody in that stadium has sought cover and shelter as well. But that's a lot of individuals, 60,000 to 70,000 individuals who will need to be heading for shelter as well.
On the phone right now, we have Reed Timmer. He's a storm chaser. He's southwest of El Reno.
Reed, tell us what you're seeing and where are you?
REED TIMMER, STORM CHASER (via telephone): Right now, just south of Union City. We're doing search and rescue. This home is destroyed here. Storm chaser vehicles are flipped over. And we intercepted our armored vehicle.
We're fine. We're reporting live for Channel 4. People in Mustang, south of Oklahoma City, watch out. Violent tornado.
All right. I got to go. I got to go here, guys.
TAPPER: All right, Reed. Do you what you need to do. You go look for individuals.
I think that's Reid's camera that we're looking at on the right there as he runs towards a car. He and another member of his team trying to make sure nobody there needs his help. An incredibly violent tornado has hit in the area of El Reno, Oklahoma, which is 30 miles west of Oklahoma City.
The storm is making its way east. It has already produced several funnels. Multiple vortices tornado is what they call it that has touched down. And that violent tornado east of Highway 81 near El Reno.
And we're looking at some of the damage that it has caused so far no reports of injuries. But several homes and vehicles just utterly destroyed.
Chad, where are you? Chad Myers, where are you and what are you seeing?
MYERS: I'm still about eight to 10 miles now southeast of the storm, having a very good look right into what we call the cage to the storm.
The hail is on the north side. If you look at a tornado from the north, all you're going to see is hail. If you look from the west, all you're going to see is rain from the back.
I'm looking at it direct from the southeast, and a perfect location, and the tornado still on the ground just about a mile, mile and a half south of I-40. And it could possibly even cross over I-40. Maybe toward that Chisolm Trail Park, along I-40. This would be north of Mustang.
So, we're almost, I mean, I'm probably within four miles, I think, of the circulation of the downtown Yukon area. If you're in the Yukon area, you need to be taking cover right now. The storm is very, very dangerous. TAPPER: And how far are you from Moore, Oklahoma? The storm was predicted if it was continuing to follow the path it was on, it would hit Moore, Oklahoma, which was so devastatingly hit about 11 days ago. A little bit more, at roughly a quarter past the hour, so in 30, 35 minutes.
Where are you in relation to Oklahoma City and Moore, Oklahoma?
MYERS: I'm counting my thumb widths on my Google map. We are now 14 miles from Moore. And as can you also count the roadways. Every major road in Oklahoma is one mile apart. And so that tornado on the ground is still to the northwest of Moore so where it was hit so very hard. I normal track for a tornado would be from the southwest to the northeast.
This hasn't been on that same track all day. It's actually been traveling almost to the southeast from the northwest. Even only a few miles to the south for every ten miles it moves to the east. So that is kind of a backwards way for a storm to come in. It can catch people off guard.
But I suspect as the storm becomes mature, it may actually keep moving to the east and move to the north of Moore into southwest Oklahoma City, into that -- right where the airport is and possibly even (INAUDIBLE).
It's too early to tell. These storms do cycle on and off, every time they get strong, they could turn left or right, not violently turn 90 degrees. But they can turn 10 or 15 degrees. That is just enough to catch you off guard.
Clearly, you heard Reed Timmer say the chase vehicles where there is so much traffic, they did get caught in one of those vortices, because that storm -- I would say the tornado almost jumped from where it was to where the new vortices came down, probably four to five miles that it jumped eastward and it caught a lot of people there off guard.
TAPPER: George Howell is in Moore, Oklahoma, driving.
George, what are you seeing?
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Jake, we are en route on I-35 south. We still see the storm just up to our north. It certainly good to hear Chad talking about the nature of the path of this storm taking an erratic turn, the tornado possibly tracking to the north of Moore. That is good news, absolutely. This cone of concern though, this tornado warning, cone of concern still has Moore in the path if that cone is extended. So that is a big concern there.
I can say that we're solidly out of the way of that danger zone. I think what we're going to do now is monitor with local officials to see if there are any reports of damage or anything from this storm that is now tracking into the Oklahoma City area.
You asked about traffic earlier. I can tell you on Interstate 35 headed south, traffic is not that bad. We do see a lot of people here who are taking those precautions and getting out of the way. And the officials are urging people to do that. As this storm heads into Moore area, a little north of Moore and into the Oklahoma City area.
TAPPER: If you're just tuning in, the National Weather Service has issued a tornado emergency for the western Oklahoma City metro area. That is more serious than a tornado warning. A tornado emergency which has been declared.
The tornado emergency includes the suburbs of Yukon, Bethany and Oklahoma City. A tornado emergency means that a large destructive tornado is moving into a densely populated area and widespread damage and fatalities are likely. That's what it means. It is likely that there will be widespread damage and fatalities.
We also -- we already know that a tornado touched down in the El Reno, Oklahoma area. You see some of the wreckage. You see some of it on your screen now. Some of the tornado chasers that we've been touching base with all evening have talked about and shown us homes that are destroyed, vehicles that are destroyed and now that tornado is heading to the east-southeast according to Chad Myers.
Samantha Mohr is at the CNN weather center.
Samantha, what's the condition of the storm right now?
MOHR: Well, it seems to be recycling on the back end here. Notice how stretched out it looks compared to how it looked earlier. And just to get your bearings here, of course, here is Oklahoma City. Here is I-40. And we have that tornado emergency extending all along this route over to the east it's moving at around 40 miles per hour.
And we are seeing some debris signatures here. These are actually picked up by dual polar radar. We end up seeing debris circulating in here. So, that's what that is, radar-indicated debris that's being picked up within the system itself. Of course, we have had reports of that dangerous tornado on the ground and many reports of damage.
We even had a report from Mike Bettis (ph). His a former partner of mine at the Weather Channel, and his tornado hunt vehicle was actually picked up by this dangerous tornado and thrown some 200 yards.
It was one of those armored vehicle. So thank goodness. The air bags deployed. No injuries, thank goodness as a result of that accident.
But here is the path the storm is taking just so you know if you're watching us right now and you live in Bethany, you need to take cover right now. Within the next 15 minutes, this is coming to your house, in the Village 707 and Forest Park at 7:18, Spencer at 7:26, Sunji (ph) Park at 7:34, at the system just rips along to the east at a very brisk pace at 40 miles per hour.
Not only are we worried about that incredibly dangerous tornado, but we have large hail out there the size of softballs. So that itself can be a fatal blow if you get hit in the head, also flooding and incredible danger here as we're getting torrential rain on saturated ground, a lot of lightning out there as well. And, of course, a lot of debris now out there that you're going to have to contend with.
So, a very dangerous situation. That tornado warning does continue yet this evening, Jake.
TAPPER: And that tornado emergency, more serious than a tornado warning.
MOHR: Right, tornado emergency.
TAPPER: Yes, continues for Yukon, Richland, Wiley Post Airport, Bethany and the Village. Everyone is being told by the government and by the National Weather Service to take immediate tornado precautions right now.
Right now, we have reports that Will Rogers Airport has been evacuated. We've seen wreckage created by this storm in El Reno, Oklahoma. Homes apparently destroyed according to what the pictures that we've seen from the storm chasers.
And, of course, Samantha talking about a different storm chaser whose vehicle was picked up and thrown 200 yards. Luckily, it was a storm chaser vehicle which was highly -- had a lot of protection and the air bags deployed. No one was seriously hurt. But it's an example of why no one should be out there right now other than emergency personnel and those who have been trained to spot and chase storms for safety reasons.
Chad Myers, we're going to go to you now. If you're there, where are you right now? What are you seeing?
MYERS: We have moved well away from that circulation. And we are actually just at the corner of 152 and 4, which would take us well south of Yukon, almost moving closer and closer to the Wiley Post Airport, southwestern Oklahoma City proper.
And this is important. I think it's important to know that I know Mike Bettis well. In fact, he lives in my condo complex. We talk all the time. One of the most experienced storm chasers I know out there.
And for his vehicle to be caught in a tornado will tell you something about how unpredictable they can be. Even though how good you think you are, that this can actually happen to anyone even a professional like Mike. And I do hope for him that I hope he is the best. We did get the report that there were no injuries whatsoever in that accident.
TAPPER: But that's a good reminder for people that are out there, who are either listening on their satellite radio or maybe they're watching at home and have loved ones out there, looking at the storm. This is nothing to mess around with. As you say, this is an experienced storm chaser who is trained and has years of experience in avoiding tornadoes while watching them and he still was caught up in this tornado and his vehicle, luckily one that was prepared for such an incident.
But his vehicle was thrown 200 yards. Luckily air bags deployed. No one was seriously hurt.
But this is another reminder that those individuals who are out and we keep hearing reports from Chad Myers and from storm chaser Dave Holder and others that there are a lot of Oklahomans who are out this evening. Do not be out. Unless you are an emergency personnel, do not be out. Get into shelter. Avoid being out on the roads right now.
George Howell, are you there?
HOWELL: I am still here.
TAPPER: What are you seeing where you are?
HOWELL: Can you hear me?
TAPPER: Yes, what are you seeing where you are?
HOWELL: We see absolutely -- we see light sky where we are and to the north of us we see a dark ominous cloud. I can say that we're probably in a safe location right now. But we're trying to figure out the best way to maneuver around the storm to survey any damage, just Oklahoma City, we heard reports of damage.
You find people out here. They are driving pretty safely. Everyone is taking their precautionary plan in advance of the storm coming through. So there is not a big rush to get out. People are pretty calm and it's organized moving out of the city.
But again, you know, the big concern is if this storm, if it's a concern area of the tornado warning continues to track toward Moore, which seems to be the case right now, you know, it's bad news for people who suffered through this storm just a week ago. You know, it's -- you just hope it doesn't come through this area.
TAPPER: It's horrifying. We're watching live images of a major storm containing a tornado, several tornadoes in some -- at some periods. Heading east towards the Oklahoma City area, it is so severe that the National Weather Service has issued a tornado emergency, not just a tornado warning. A tornado emergency which means a large destructive tornado is moving towards a densely populated area.
Again, expected are widespread damage and fatalities. That is expected. That is how serious this is.
The National Weather Service has issued this tornado emergency for the western Oklahoma City metro area. The tornado emergency includes the suburbs of Yukon, Bethany, Oklahoma City.
We know that Will Rogers Airport has been evacuated. We know that a violent, a large and violent tornado touched down east of Highway 81 near El Reno. We have seen some of the images from storm chasers such as Dave Holder and others, as they came upon wreckage, as they came upon destroyed homes, destroyed vehicles.
We -- I want to go now to -- is this someone we have on the phone? Jim Routon is a Moore survivor. He's on the phone with us. His sister's house is getting hit.
You may remember him from this photograph taken, we're not going to show that photograph. OK. We'll show that photograph in a second.
But we're going to go to Jim, who survived the Moore tornado. Jim, where are you now?
JIM ROUTON, MOORE, OKLA. RESIDENT (via telephone): Right now, I'm at home, in my home, watching the tornado coverage on the local news. One of the shots that they keep showing is a wall cloud with some very rapid rotation that is over -- it hasn't actually hit my sister's horse ranch, Penny and Sean Jones, but it is a shot of the tornado that's right above where their horse ranch is.
TAPPER: Have you heard anything from your family? Are they OK?
ROUTON: No, I have not been able to contact them. I have called -- it's just they have no cell phone service right now. We've tried texting, texting is not going through. And the land lines are probably not -- the service has been interrupted on the land lines, because we're unable to get through on a land line.
TAPPER: And, Jim, do you have a shelter in your home? Is there a shelter in your neighborhood if you need to run to one?
ROUTON: Yes, there is. My neighbors have one, which is the one we were in on the May 20th storm that just recently came through Moore. It's about five doors down from my home, and my sister at their house, they have one as well. So I'm sure they will be in there if possible, if the storm -- if it warrants that type of action, they definitely will be there.
TAPPER: We have -- this just in from the National Weather Service, just a few minutes ago. There may be another tornado forming north of mustang, north of the city of mustang in Oklahoma. So if you are in that area, obviously you should be -- you should have sought shelter already, but here's an extra warning for you.
There may be another tornado forming north of Mustang, according to the National Weather Service. Here's the video that we were talking about before, Jim, you talked about that -- this is from the Oklahoma -- from May 20th, the tornado that hit about 11 days ago roughly before 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, 3:00 p.m. Central.
Jim, how much time do you need, how much warning do you need before you can run to the shelter five doors down?
ROUTON: Well, my sister, that's where she lives is just north of -- she's right in the Mustang area, just on the outskirts. As far as us, we can get to the shelter within -- with, you know, within three or four minutes. On May 20th, we literally stood or I stood outside the shelter and watched the tornado until the debris was kind of snowing, it was kind of snowing debris, if you will, with two by fours and fence pickets and shingles and decking and insulation and stuff like that, until it was a couple hundred yards away before I went into the shelter.
So, you can get into them fairly quickly if you're close. We're within two or three minutes of being able to get to a shelter if we need to.
TAPPER: And you are warned about that, you were warned by sirens or do you listen to the local affiliate, the local TV weathermen telling you get to a shelter right now? How do you know when the moment is that it's time to leave your living room and go?
ROUTON: Well, ironically enough, we were -- we were observing looking to the west on May 20th and what we literally watched the tornado form from just a small funnel cloud to then it became -- then there was swirling down below that and the funnel cloud went up and down, then it just became like a cylinder that we could see from the wall cloud down to the ground. It was just like a cylinder and then within like five seconds, it just exploded into this -- to the F-5 that it turned out to be, I mean -- and there was debris clouds on both sides of the tornado.
And my niece who lived in Mustang, Melissa Jones and her sister, Lexi Jones and Jaycee Jones (ph), they were all on the phone with me and they were telling me -- they were watching it on television and telling me as I was on the phone to them to get in the shelter, it's hitting your neighborhood right now. So, that was when I realized, then I saw the debris snowing down, I was mesmerized by the force of nature and the roar of the tornado.
And so, that's when my niece told me to get into the shelter, that it was hitting my neighborhood right now, that's when I went ahead -- and, you know, and discretion was the better part of valor, I guess, and got in the shelter.
TAPPER: We're thankful for that. We'll check in later. Jim, hope you stay safe. Hope your sister is OK.
The National Weather Service has issued a warning, dangerous storms in the Oklahoma area, multiple tornado locations. Please take cover. They have made it very clear that there may be another tornado forming north of Mustang.
We also already know of one large violent tornado east of Highway 81 near El Reno that hit roughly half an hour ago.
If you're just tuning in, there is a National Weather Service tornado emergency that is a more serious warning than a tornado warning, a tornado emergency means that a large destructive tornado is moving into a densely populated area and widespread damage and fatalities are considered likely. That is what the National Weather Service is warning right now. A tornado emergency has been issued for the western Oklahoma City metro area that includes the suburbs of Yukon, Bethany and Oklahoma City.
We keep hearing reports and we see right now in the footage from KOCO, CNN affiliate on the right side of your screen, that there are a lot of people out driving tonight. Obviously it's almost 7:00 in the Oklahoma area. Some people coming home from work, some people probably fleeing the area of the storm.
But others are curious, others want to see the storm, and the government and the National Weather Service and the governor's office are saying do not do that. Seek shelter immediately. This is a large violent storm and they expect there to be widespread damage and fatalities.
George Howell, who is from the area and also obviously covers -- is covering this storm for CNN is now in Norman, Oklahoma, where that horrific tornado hit 11 days ago.
George, where are you and what are you seeing?
HOWELL: Well, right now, Jake, we are north of Norman, and I would say out of the way of the danger zone at this point. I can tell you the winds are picking up. We can still see on one side of the sky it's bright and the other side of the sky is dark clouds and we are on the southern edge of the storm. People, you know, as far as getting out of the way of the storm, it is an organized exit out of Oklahoma City, out of that area, on I-35.
That's not surprising. People are taking action. If you are in that zone of concern where this tornado warning is currently updated, you know, you definitely need to take precautions.
TAPPER: And, in fact, George Howell, we're told right now the tornado emergency which as you know is much more serious a warning than just a tornado warning. A tornado emergency, meaning a large destructive tornado is moving into a specific densely populated area, widespread damage, fatalities are considered likely, that tornado emergency that the National Weather Service has declared for the Oklahoma City western metro area has now been expanded to include Oklahoma City and Moore, Oklahoma.
Moore, of course, hit so devastatingly 11 days ago by that other tornado, the worst one seen since 1999, May 3rd, 1999, in that area, just absolutely horrific. And there is a fear that this is going to be if not as devastating, similarly devastating, similarly deadly. That is why we have a tornado emergency that has been issued.
Our continuing coverage of the Oklahoma City tornado emergency will continue with Anderson Cooper in just a few seconds.
Before we go to Anderson, though, I just want to get a final word from Chad Myers, who has been tracking the storm all night. Chad's not there right now?
OK. Then we will go to Anderson Cooper, who will continue with our storm coverage.
Just a repeat, the National Weather Service has issued a tornado emergency for Oklahoma City and the Moore, Oklahoma area. This is a very serious warning. It means that large destructive tornado is moving into a densely populated area, widespread damage and fatalities are considered likely.
I now turn it over to Anderson Cooper.