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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Continuing Coverage: 170,000 Without Power in Midwest; Tornadoes Rage Through Oklahoma Heading Towards St. Louis
Aired May 31, 2013 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer, in for Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news. At least two people are dead, a mother and a child, after a line of powerful tornadoes swept across Oklahoma and Missouri tonight, including the area -- get this -- the area devastated by the May 20 storm.
At least 20 people were hospitalized due to injuries suffered in tonight's storm. These are preliminary, early numbers. Winds of at least 87 miles an hour were recorded. All tornado warnings for the area have now expired, but there is still a great risk of flooding across parts of Oklahoma and up towards the St. Louis-Missouri area.
Right now, more than 170,000 customers across the Midwest, they are without power. Parts of Interstate 35 and Interstate 40 were shut down. A spokesperson from the Ohio, Oklahoma highway patrol calls conditions there, and I'm quoting, "a nightmare situation."
Chad Myers, our severe weather expert, he's on the ground for us, in Oklahoma. He's joining us on the phone. Chad, where are you now, and what is the latest?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I'm about 25 miles south of Oklahoma City right now, making our way back to the north. We were chased by this weather, farther and farther south. Understand, Wolf, that the first tornado kind of tracked from El Reno to, I think to Oklahoma City.
Then there was another one about five miles farther south. So the farther we drove away from these cells, another one would develop just to its south. And then just to its south, so at some at point in time, we were 35 miles away from Oklahoma City, still waiting for these cells to die off and move to our north, move away.
And now, as we're driving back to the north, I'm seeing so much lightning. I mean, I have not seen sparking like this in severe weather, for a long time. This is not tornadic(ph) sparking, but this is the very heavy rain that we're seeing now, even some gusting winds, though. Probably seeing still seeing winds around 40.
But the winds are not the issue. But right now, as you mentioned, it's the rainfall. Already six to eight inches of rain in some areas, from El Reno back into Oklahoma City and this rain could keep going for two or three more hours. So that could total at least 10 inches of rainfall and Oklahoma is very flat, the water doesn't run there very fast.
But if you get a low spot, that 10 inches of rainfall turns into a 10 foot flood.
BLITZER: So we're talking about flood warnings all of the place right now, and not only where you are, but elsewhere in Oklahoma. Certainly in Missouri and maybe even in Kansas.
MYERS: Oh, absolutely. A very large area, Osage(ph) up toward Tulsa, this is well north, into the northeast corner of Oklahoma City, A big flashflood warning up there as well.
Understand what happened today. There wasn't a lot of upper level wind moving these storms along. We had winds that were almost swirling from the south, at the surface, and then west a lot but then almost north, really, really way up high, 40, 50,000 feet, and it was a very strange little jet pattern that we saw when we were calling about photographs as we were looking at them today, that shows us what the wind direction is.
So the kind of confused wind pattern created the circulating in the storms, caused the storms to spin, but it also didn't move them along very much. And so they're moving so slowly, and if you get two or three inches per hour, for three hours, all of a sudden, you have a flashflood.
BLITZER: And we remember it in Moore, Oklahoma, a major suburb of Oklahoma City, back on May 20th, suffering as it did. And now this tornado, it actually goes through Moore once again. What are the chances of that, Chad?
MYERS: I do believe this was a small tornado for Moore, and that's not insignificant in any way. Any tornado is big, but -- or a big deal. But the thing I believe is that when this storm gusted out through Moore, through these devastated areas there was widespread areas with 80 to 90 mile per hour wind and hail.
We walked through these neighborhoods today and people were still trying to pick up some of the parts of their homes, separate the good from the bad, and what they could save from what they couldn't save. And again, here we go. Another round of weather that blew it all apart again.
And I know that there was so much debris just sitting there, and then you blow around more debris, and that becomes an absolute hazard. Anderson Cooper and I went through two hurricanes: Frances and Jean. They both went right over Melbourne and this was in 2004. Only about a month apart.
The first storm did the damage, and the second storm picked up that damage and threw it again, and it was even more deadly the second time. And that's pretty much what happened today. Not that this storm is going to be more deadly, but picking up that stuff, picking up that debris, and throwing it high in the sky, because it's already destroyed. BLITZER: We spoke late in the afternoon, as you remember, Chad. And you were getting pretty close. You were between Norman, Oklahoma City -- how close did you personally get to one of these tornadoes that touched down?
MYERS: Well, I think everyone got a little closer than they wanted to, all the storm chasers that were out in El Reno. We had live, on television, fantastic pictures of, you know, 10 mile away, a large tornado, probably an EF3 tornado.
And then that storm started to travel off to the east, and kind of away from us, or under us, to the south of us. We got in a car, drove about 10 miles to the east, just to kind of catch it, and get around the other side of it again, the easy side.
You want to be the southeast side of a tornado if you're looking at it. But I believe the storm stopped spinning in one area, and re- developed about three or four miles farther to the east. So almost an instantaneous skip where it wasn't just a 30 mile per hour storm. The storm just started and dropped a new stop.
That we suction, suction spot that we saw, we were probably a half a mile from it, but at the time it was a zero. At the time that the tornado chasers that we know about it, it was already a much bigger storm. It was already 120 mile, about a 130 mile per hour storm.
What I saw, which was as close to that a mile, or a mile away, was probably only a 70 or 80 mile per hour, what I would consider to more like a (dust zone).
BLITZER: Well, that's still pretty significant, 70, 80 miles an hour winds. An EF-5, which we saw, what, 12, 14, day -- almost two weeks ago. That was 200 miles an hour, so an EF-3, you think that was the biggest tornado that we saw tonight? EF-3, maybe an EF-4 in some places?
MYERS: Well, here's the deal. We won't know that until we go out tomorrow, or the next weather service, and I'll probably tag around with them as well, to take a look at some of this damage. Because for a lot of the time, Wolf, this was wrapped in rain.
Think about the tornado in the middle of a storm, but you can't see it. You can't get those pretty pictures that we like to show on TV, because the rain was all the way around it. it was a ring around the tornado, so there's no definition to the tornado at all, and at a time, it may have been stronger than that. I haven't seen those kind of damage reports coming out.
But what I could see before it was wrapped in rain, it was definitely in the 150 mile per hour category, yes.
BLITZER: Well, though, that's, that's pretty significant. You know what's impressive to me, Chad, and I'm anxious for your perspective, by what, 2:00, 3:00, Eastern Time, this afternoon, we had all the warnings, all the alerts were out there, People were ready for this. That's a pretty good indication that the National Weather Service and other forecasters, they were on top of this situation and could give folks some, some early warning.
MYERS: There was some very, very early warning with this, and it's very disappointing to me that so many people were hurt on the roadway, and that they were stuck on interstates when the tornado was going over them, or the hail core was going over them.
But at 3:00 this afternoon, we were driving from Edmund, Oklahoma, which on the north side of town, down to Norman, where the University of Oklahoma is, we were meeting up with some chasers there, and we were going to take it off to the west, and we were going to just tag along with these guys, because they know what they're doing.
They know every road, they know every paved road. And it was -- the traffic was very heavy, and I was thinking to myself, this is fantastic. Everybody is getting out of work early, the kids are going home early, the kids are getting picked up. Everybody is going to be in their storm shelter and ready for this.
And then all of a sudden, at 5:00, 6:00, when this was going on, people got back in their cars, and they started driving away from the weather. And then they got caught, trying to drive away from the weather, because it just kept catching them, moving the storm, was farther south, a little farther south, a little farther -- you couldn't move. Traffic was just at a standstill. You absolutely couldn't move for at least 20 or 30 minutes.
BLITZER: Chad, hold on for a moment, because we have some amazing video, as we talk about the power of this storm. We're getting an up- close look at the power of, of what exactly happened. AC360 obtained this video from Brandon Sullivan(ph), a storm chaser.
I want all of our viewers to take a close look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MALE: You OK?
MALE: You fine?
MALE: We'll live. (INAUDIBLE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You can see that smashed the window of that vehicle, as it's going through. You see the power of that tornado, courtesy Brandon Sullivan(ph), a storm chaser who caught this video there, and it's really, it's frightening to imagine someone driving through. Let's watch a little bit more.
Oh, we're going to queue that up and get back to it, but that, you get the sense of the enormity of the power of this storm. Let's watch it one more time.
BLITZER: So you see the enormity of what, what's been going on in Oklahoma. One of the areas hit El Reno. The Mayor of El Reno, Matt White, is joining us on the phone right now.
Mayor, thanks very much. Give a sense of the damage in your area. What do you, what do you assess?
MAYOR MATT WHITE, EL RENO, OKLAHOMA: Well, Wolf, for what we're doing right now, we're trying to sense everything. You know, it started, you know, around 6:00, six o'clock this afternoon and, you know, it had some still us back behind it. So we're all just trying to, trying to scramble around and figure out the damage.
We're not really -- we don't have a lot of damage as far as the tornado goes. There's property here in El Reno, it's our outlying areas, and like you were talking about earlier, the main thing is the I-40 area, along from El Reno to Union City, and 91 and from El Reno to Yukon and into Oklahoma City, where the cars were.
BLITZER: So, so is there a flooding issue right now, or what's the major problem you have?
WHITE: Yes, that's a good point. That's, that's the main thing right now, Wolf. You know, we, we've gone through -- two years ago, in the last two years, we've had a drought here in Oklahoma, and it seems like the last three months, we've had -- made up for all those rains, and we are really flooded around here.
We got a lot of rain in a short period of time. Here in El Reno, that's kind of where the tornado and the front line started going east, and yes, it just kind of hung over us for quite a while. People were trying to get out and see the damage. It's hard, a hard time trying to get the response people in and out, the fire department, the police department and Mercy Hospital and a lot of those.
BLITZER: What about casualties? Are there people who were injured in your community of El Reno? Any fatalities?
WHITE: I haven't heard -- you know, in the (sunshine), in the funnel, there was two incidents on I-40, that's I'm not really at liberty to release, but I know there was some incidents on I-40 with some vehicles, but we don't have any confirmation here about that.
BLITZER: So where -- what do you now, Mayor? What's going on?
WHITE: I think, you know, as I'm talking to you again that it's starting to hail again, and starting to rain again. Short -- so we're telling to tell people to stay inside. You know, we don't need anybody out looking around and driving around in this, because we're having a lot of stalled vehicles, flash flooding.
You know, Oklahoma is a flat place. There's not a lot of room for this water to go, Wolf, and then -- and really just people stay, stay inside and be aware, and you know, mainly just try and stay and watch the news channels.
You know, the (pillet)'s been really good. All the (pillets) as far as the weathermen here in Oklahoma, they really have tried to make everybody aware, way ahead of time, you know, trying to keep everybody aware of what's going on and informed, and they've done a real good job about trying to keep everybody inside and underground, and everybody that came to where the tornados are.
BLITZER: Did the National Weather Service and the other forecasters give you enough warning, as far as this tornado is concerned?
WHITE: I feel like they did. I think the National Weather Service and all the affiliates done a real good job, you know, you know, being a small town mayor, and I say small town, you've got 20,000 people, I hadn't -- still though probably, because of the local tag offices is closed, because really, they got on their weather, and wanted to look -- the weatherman told them to go home.
You know, be with your kids, and get, get aware. And people were upset with that, that they were going. I think they made the right call.
You know, here in Oklahoma, we just have to be aware of what's going on. These storms just pop up, and as you can see today, you know, we were on the front line. It started here with us, and then as it moved towards Yukon, into Oklahoma City, we had another breath of it, just a little bit south of us here, between us and Union City. So yes, they did an actual job, I think, and you know, you just kind of heed their warning.
BLITZER: So right now, what I hear you saying, Mayor, is that when it's the daylight tomorrow, you'll be able to go out in your community, and have a complete assessment of how much damage there was. In the middle of the night, it's hard to go out there. It's dangerous right now, and as you say, there are still fears of flooding.
WHITE: Yes. There are still fears of flooding. They're staying in, they'll be going back tomorrow. Yes, we'll be out and assessing, you know, the Governor's office always been real helpful for us, the Oklahoma state government's been great for us, and timely, as need.
Our local staff here is top-notch, our fire department, police department, and our city crews are already out, and assessing, closing roads as we speak, with, you know, right when this happened, we had a lot of closures and we had a lot of our guys out, getting everything prepared.
So you know, we're doing the best we can. We're not, we're not near as bad shape as some of the other communities, so.
BLITZER: So basically, your 9-1-1 calls, your hospitals, your first responders, the firefighters, the police, are they overwhelmed right now, or they have this situation under control.
WHITE: Well, I think, I think that's a good statement, there, Wolf. The bottom line is, there's (wind), because it's hard to get around with people trying to get out, and there helps the flooding areas.
You know, we can get to the people. We're responding to them. They've done a very good job of getting there. We've just to get everybody off the roads and stay, you know, stay inside and stay out of those people's way because there are calls, our concerns go out -- some power outages and some things which people need, you know, needing their medication, people needing help.
The main problem is when they try to go around town, you know, people are in the way, or they're flooded out in the middle of the road. You know, those -- let those first responders, the police, the fire department and the ambulance service, let them get -- let them do their job.
BLITZER: And especially, at the emergency rooms at the hospitals as well. And Mayor, good luck to you. I know you have your hands full. Matt White is the Mayor of El Reno, Oklahoma, one of the areas hit. We'll stay in close touch with you.
Seeing as George Howell is in Paul's Valley, Oklahoma, right now. What are you seeing, George, where you are?
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you know the winds are certainly pretty strong out there. In fact, we were debating, deciding whether we could do a live shot with our satellite dish, but you know, we're in a good place to do it now.
Chad said it best, this storm was chasing us. We were able to get out of Oklahoma City early enough, so that we were ahead of the traffic, but I can tell you, and you can kind of see behind me, there's a lot of traffic on the highway, on the roads right now. That is Interstate 35, headed north, and you know, people are still trying to head south, out of the way of this storm.
And I want to show you a family here. A lot of people got on the road. Some people got out when the traffic was really thick. I'm going to talk to Nancy Vickers(ph) here, and Harold Vickers(ph). What was it like? You guys got on the road about what time from Oklahoma City?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, boy, what, what time was it? About 4:30, I guess, we left...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...around 4:30, I think, it's when we left there. And we hit - I think we left on -- went out on 9, and headed south, and it was just behind us, and you could just see it coming, and we're like, "oh, my gosh." And our son had called us first, and said, "get outta there, get the kids, get outta there, it's coming right at you."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know we want our kids safe and gathered everybody up and just got in the cars and left.
HOWELL: Talk to us about the traffic, you know, because as people kept getting on that highway, I know it was really tough. What was it like?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was horrible. It was just plain stop and go. It just -- you could move a little bit and stop, and I mean, people were trying to get around you, turn around. It was crazy, it was just crazy. I've never been in anything like that before.
And we're not from here. We're from Washington State, so this is our first experience, and I don't know what to tell you but it's just scary. It's frightening. It is very frightening and our son and daughter-in-law was stuck right in the middle, in Oklahoma City, they didn't even get out on 44. They were stuck.
HOWELL: Definitely a shock, I'm sure for you coming from Washington State. I lived up there. A lot of rain.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
HOWELL: This is different out there, yes?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is different. Lots, lots different and our kids, our grandkids mean everything to us, and we just wanted them...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...to be safe, so it's better to be safe than sorry, and just keep moving, but you know, the traffic is, is -- I think one of the disadvantages of getting of a situation like this, because so many people were in accidents and hurt, and it's sad, it's very sad.
HOWELL: I'm very guys that you guys are all OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And so are we, and we thank God for that, believe me.
HOWELL: And Wolf, you know, one other thing. I have one other person to talk to, because the thing you can do in this sort of situation, you can either get underground, you can shelter in place, or you can get on the road early and go.
A lot of people did that, and Kevin Meskita(ph), you did...
KEVIN MESKITA: Yes.
HOWELL: ...the same. Talk to me about what it was like for you to get on that road and just get, get the heck out of Dodge.
MESKITA: Well, when I first initially left Oklahoma City, I already heard the sirens going off, tornado's already hitting westbound I-40, so I went ahead and got a couple of relatives of mine. We straight and ran down the highway, I believe it was 240, got the service road, I- 35. It was just chaos.
I mean, car to car, we were just wanting to get out as soon as we can before all the destruction, and it was already hitting the city, you know, there was already cars turned over, and you know, just utter chaos. But it was just frightening just to get out of the scene, man.
I mean just coming down here, we were going at least maybe five miles an hour, and that thing was heading straight for us, you know?
HOWELL: Did you look back from time to time and see that big thick black cloud?
MESKITA: It was, it was pitch black, and you know, we're hearing on the radio period -- you know, we're just hearing it and hearing it, and it said it turned due south, because it was almost heading downtown, and I was already on the I-35 and Norman, and I was like, well -- I need to just keep heading south, because I'm -- I just need to get out of the way.
HOWELL: You, you trying to get back tonight?
MESKITA: Trying to, but apparently, I overheard somebody on Facebook saying something about the highway 35 to get back into town, it's closed, and they're not going to let anybody in, because of power outage, and there's just so much flooding and, and they're just trying to get everything situated, and it's going to be hard to get back.
HOWELL: All right, and sir, we'll look into and confirm that, to see if Interstate 35, to see what the situation is. But I'm very glad that you are OK.
MESKITA: Yes. It was a relief to get on out of there. I mean, I just got everything I could, and got my dog, so was...
HOWELL: What's the dog's name?
MESKITA: Bella. Yes, I've got her with me. Luckily, I got her, because that wasn't -- I was just -- wasn't too far away from home, to leaving her behind for a few minutes, and now like, well, something told me in my heart, I needed to take my dog, so, I'm glad I least have, have her and my family with me, so...
HOWELL: I'm glad you're OK.
MESKITA: Yes. I appreciate it.
HOWELL: Thank you.
MESKITA: All right.
HOWELL: Thank you. And you know, you just find, Wolf, a lot of people who did pay attention to the storm, got out of the way quickly, but it's been one heck of a night out here.
BLITZER: Yes. It's not over with yet. All right, George, thanks very much. We're going to get back to you. I want to speak to -- I want you to speak to some more folks who have gone through this ordeal over the past few hours.
We're taking a quick break, much more of our extensive live coverage when we come back. We're going to speak with that storm chaser who shot the amazing video. This video that you saw, we're going to go through exactly what happened. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our breaking news coverage of this deadly outbreak of tornados into Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and elsewhere. Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma is joining us now on the phone, his district includes Moore, Oklahoma. That's a suburb of Oklahoma City.
So much of Moore was devastated by the May 20th tornado. Congressman, where were you when this latest storm was going through? What was it like?
REP. TOM COLE (R), OKLAHOMA: Well, I was actually in downtown Moore, about a half a mile from the damage went in a school building, which is now a combination office and event center. And they were holding, the local Republican woman's group saying, that's my mom, Helen Cole(ph), Republican women were holding a banquet to award scholarships to students.
They wanted to go ahead, you know, in the light of everything that had happened. Then, of course, this came in and we sort of sped the ceremonies up as quickly as we could because it was literally torrential rain coming down. We had a guy there that is city councilman here, is also a first responder. So he was keeping an eye by cell phone and radio, on what was going on.
And at that point, at a certain point, we just ended it. There's a vault in the building. Most people went there. I'm a half a mile from my home, so I headed home. I walked in the door. My wife was fortunately next door, where there's a shelter, we have an in -- indoor reinforced interior room here that's usually pretty safe. But she moved to the shelter next door, and I just sort of rode it out through there.
BLITZER: What was it like riding it out? How, what did it feel like?
COLE: Well you know, the power gone immediately, phones, everything like that and literally torrential rain. I was just keeping in touch with people by Blackberry and cell phone. And they were keeping me warned, that we had a tornado immediately to the north of here, along I-40 and another one south of here, toward the Norman area.
And then a third, evidently, east of here, not obviously as severe as we had on May the 20th, we weren't at five. But fierce enough, and certainly really, really intense wind. Lots of lightning. And we probably got five or six inches of rain, almost immediately. I mean, that we're clearly going to have major flooding problems.
And then I can just kind of walk to my door, which is close to I-35, 119th and Moore, and watch emergency vehicles both coming off I-35 and proceeding west, so you know, you kind of worry for a little bit about whether or not there's going to be a tornado, and, and then obviously, very serious and severe straight winds.
I don't know how high they were here. My guess would be, you know, in the neighborhood of around 60 miles an hour, it could have gone higher elsewhere. But, you know, and it was fine, because they would -- you know, it would come and then all of a sudden this area was almost in the center of a lot of this activity. It got very, very calm. No rain, and then all of a sudden kicked off again.
So, you know, it's been obviously, very severe weather. We're still sitting here with no power, no telephones, those sorts of things.
BLITZER: Do you have any sense of how -- of the casualties, those injured? And worse?
COLE: Only, only what I've heard on the radio, Wolf, and the Governor's been on, emergency management people have been on, and you know, the only thing I have heard, and I have no official word, a couple of fatalities on I-40, very tragic, evidently a mother and child.
But I don't think we have the kind of mass casualties and injuries that we had on May the 20th. We're going to have a lot of damage, a lot of flooding and probably a lot of isolated people, and a whole lot of power to restore. Evidently, about 70,000, 75,000 so people with no power, about 60,000 of them in the Oklahoma City area, many, many in the areas that were affected on May 20th.
BLITZER: It's hard to believe that the same areas affected then, affected once again right now. Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma, thanks so much for joining and sharing some thoughts with our viewers here in the United States and around the world. We'll stay in touch with you.
Right now, I want to go to Farrah Fazal from our affiliate, KSDK. She's in St. Charles County, which is in the western part of St. Louis. Tell us what's going on where you are.
FARRAH FAZAL, KSDK REPORTER: Wolf, we're about 30 minutes from the city of St. Louis. Well, here's what is going on in this area. We don't know if it was straight line winds, we don't know if it's a tornado, but you know, straight line winds can do just as much damage.
Take a look at the top of that house. It doesn't have a roof anymore. This is where the roof is. These are pieces of that 6,000 square foot home, and they are on the lawn of this, of this house. There was a couple who lives here that is 82 years old, both of them. This was their dream home. They built it from the ground up, and it is now just a mess, it is just boards and debris everywhere.
For a few minutes ago, Mr. Weiss(ph), Robert Weiss who lives here, took us inside and we saw chunks of that, that roof inside his living room, inside his bathroom, inside of all of the places, the common areas. You know, it seems to me that he's in a little bit of shock right now. I mean, he just cannot process this.
But you probably wouldn't be able to process it either, if the dream home that you had -- you had wished for all of your life is sitting actually in your front yard. Now, this area has had quite a lot of damage. We've seen trees down, just big trees taken out of their -- the ground and on, on the roads. We've seen other roofs just on, on the streets as well. It's -- there's quite a lot of devastation here, but Wolf, this is perhaps the worst of this devastation in St. Charles County, and the area that we are, off of Highway 94, if you are familiar with the St. Louis area, about a half hour away from the city of St. Louis.
BLITZER: Yes, heartbreaking, Farrah, heartbreaking indeed. All right, thanks for sharing that with, with our viewers as well, Farrah Fazal for us from our affiliate, KSDK and not far from St. Louis. So you see the extent of these storms from Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and beyond, we're hearing there's some tornado warnings in Illinois as well.
Brandon Sullivan is joining us on the phone right now. He's the storm chaser who shot this truly amazing video in Oklahoma. We've been showing it, Brandon, to our viewers. Now walk us through where you were, and what was going on.
BRANDON SULLIVAN, STORM CHASER (via telephone): Well, we were just northwest of Union City, Oklahoma, it's west of Oklahoma City. You know, we could tell the tornado was pretty imminent, at any time. You know, a tornado formed and it became very large, and very fast.
We initially knew it was time to go south, so we began moving south. And the tornado actually crosses, maybe a half mind behind our car, but the inflow to the tornado was so strong that it, you know, ripped the barn apart and began carrying debris across the road, which you see on the video. You know, it smashes into our car.
So we basically had no choice but to, you know, slow down and move very slowly as this debris, you know, came flying towards us.
BLITZER: Well, we saw at one point, some debris smashing your windshield. What kind of vehicle is this?
SULLIVAN: Well, I drive a Jeep Patriot, so it's kind of a lighter, a smaller SUV.
BLITZER: And was it -- is it armored? Is it safe to go through a, a dangerous situation, a storm like this?
SULLIVAN: I mean, it was no special armoring. You know, I don't have a tank or anything. So I mean, I guess you couldn't, you know, you couldn't say it's armored, but, you know, in my opinion, I don't believe it's really safe to, you know, to ever be as close as we were, even in those armored vehicles. The flying debris can -- it's very, very deadly.
BLITZER: We just saw it. The windshield smashed. What, you-- were you driving? Were you in the front seat? Where were you when that windshield was smashed like that, and what went through your mind when that happened?
SULLIVAN: Well, I was actually in the passenger's seat. My friend Brett(ph) was driving. You know, honestly, you know, my, my concern was, you know, I knew we weren't in, you know, in the tornadic circulation. We, we were in the inflow, so I really wasn't concerned about being picked up or carried away by the tornado.
You know, my main concern were, obviously, flying debris and you know, possibly, you know, getting, getting tipped over by the wind. But you know, those are my main concerns. I told everybody in the vehicle to duck down, you know, try to cover their eyes and just try to avoid the flying glass, and we decided to wait it out there for, for about 30 seconds.
BLITZER: What was the most fear -- frightening moment that you and your colleagues had to endure/
SULLIVAN: You know, the tornado, like I said, it grew very large and it, you know, it turned right, and you know, it came right at us. You know, I would say that moment of the tornado coming right at us was, was probably even more scary than the debris actually hitting, hitting my car.
At that point in time, when the debris is hitting the car, I knew we were at least out of the tornadic circulation. You know, I wasn't too worried. I knew I was getting some damage to my car, but that was a lot better than being picked up and, you know, possibly flipped or carried away by the tornado.
BLITZER: With some other vehicles we saw today, were flipped, and carried away. And there once again, you see your windshield shattered. How long have you been doing this, chasing, chasing storms like this?
SULLIVAN: Well, you know, I'm only, I'm only 21 years old, but I've been doing this since I was about 14, so seven, almost eight years, you know, I've been doing it for, for quite a while. But today was just a lot of experience.
BLITZER: Yes, this, it's pretty frightening to see the video. But do -- you just had a camera attached to your front dashboard and just let it roll, was that it?
SULLIVAN: Yes. Yes, we have the camera's on the front dash and on the hood, and we even have interior cameras so, we're really able to capture pretty much anything that happens.
BLITZER: Are you OK now, Brandon/
SULLIVAN: Yes, I'm fine. And I'm at home and got cleaned up and just trying to have some dinner and relax.
BLITZER: What about your friends?
SULLIVAN: Yes, everybody in the vehicle is OK, and we're all sitting here, kind of sharing our pictures and videos and just, you know, reminiscing about the day.
BLITZER: Well, Brandon, be careful the next time this comes, and we know in Oklahoma , there will be a next time. Brandon Sullivan shot this amazing video, and we've been showing it to our viewers. Thanks very much. Let's take a quick break. We're going to continue our extensive coverage of the storm. More storm chasers' videos coming up as well, stay with us.
BLITZER: Tornados have ripped through several states. Let me update you. Some new information just coming in to CNN. In Missouri, the Governor, Jay Nixon, has declared a state of emergency due to what he describes as, quote, "a widespread severe weather system moving across the state."
That's in Missouri. In Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation has urged everyone, all travel in the metropolitan Oklahoma City area, now strongly discouraged. Also in Oklahoma City, the international airport there, Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport, is without power, late into Friday night, forcing the airport to cancel all flights according to an airport spokeswoman.
While the airport did not take a direct hit, she says there is debris on the airfield, quote, "until we decide the airfield is cleared, we will not be allowing flights." Oklahoma City's airport shut down, at least for now.
Let's bring in storm chaser Dave Holder, who's joining us now. Dave, where were you, where are you now and what did you see?
DAVE HOLDER, STORM CHASER (via telephone): Well, we started the day in Norman, actually and that's, that's where I'm from. But we knew the storms were going to fire just west of the city, so we, we actually positioned ourselves in El Reno, which is the town that unfortunately, ended up getting hit today. We started out there, and start -- watching the storms fire, and they got very, very intense, very quickly and within a matter of -- it almost seemed like minutes, there was a strong, violent tornado forming just to our west.
We dropped south, trying to get out of its path, and unfortunately, it also took kind of a southerly path. It turned a bit to the right, which oftentimes they do, and I was amazed about how many local people that were out, on the road. It was like, it was pretty much a traffic jam, out on the road during the, during this, this time when an highland tornado was kind of heading at us.
So I know, I know unfortunately, a few other people kind of got into unfortunate situations, but I was kind of thinking it was going to happen, just because of the, the amount of people that were on the road. It was, it was crazy.
So we ended up going south, and we managed to stay out ahead of everything, but, but the amount of traffic on the roads, I think from people actually fleeing the storms was incredible also. It's something I've absolutely never, ever, ever seen in almost 10 years of storm chasing, how many people were actually trying to get out of the way of these storms as they were coming in.
I think maybe what happened was that the, the Moore tornado sort of about 10 days ago was fresh in the minds, and people just panicked. I've never seen, I'd never seen people panic the way that I saw today. I see people going down the wrong side of the road, trying to get south. It was like, just like a mass evacuation going south of the metro, as these storms came through.
And I -- it's -- I'm still in shock, actually. We, we couldn't get back into the metro, so we actually had to going south here. We're down near Ardmore, now. Just because of all the highways that were closed, because of all the traffic and all the accidents I'm hearing about. And, and now some crazy flooding, back, back in Oklahoma City. Just all around, just an insane day.
BLITZER: Because usually the advice is given to people, stay put, don't go on the road. But what you're saying is people just got on the road, tried to drive away, as far away from these tornados as possible, caused massive traffic jams, and traffic was barely moving. Is that what I'm hearing/
HOLDER: Just, yes. And every southern artery out of the Oklahoma City area, traffic was at a standstill. People were panicking and, I was hearing reports that people were actually telling -- or some of the TV outlets were reporting that to get south. I'm not quite sure exactly what the circumstances were, but it was just a really potentially awful, awful situation.
I mean, thank goodness it wasn't as bad as it possibly could have been. Just the amount of traffic on the roads and the amount of accidents, it's just kind of unfathomable, unfathomable to witness what, what I did today.
BLITZER: How long have you been chasing these kinds of storms?
HOLDER: This is my eighth year of doing this, and it, it's -- I don't think I've ever gone through a stretch of days where I've seen so many violent tornados in a short span of time. The season started out very slowly, but it's ramped up in a huge way here over the past few weeks.
BLITZER: What we saw today, though, it really can't compare to the EF- 5 that we saw rip through Moore, Oklahoma on May 20th, is that right?
HOLDER: Yes. That, that's correct. I mean, the tornadoes today, there, there is not, there are no near comparison of the EF-5 that hit ten days ago. Of course, there was a tornado that did touch down, I'm hearing, in Moore, but it's -- I mean, obviously, we can't forget about it. But it's nowhere near in comparison to the tornado that, that hit ten days ago.
For all the bad things that have happened today, in a way, we try to touch (the bull) and I think for the, for the parameters that we're setting for this afternoon and evening.
BLITZER: Dave Holder, I'm glad you're OK. Dave Holder is a storm chaser, joining us on the phone. Thanks very much.
The, I think we have the Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma joining us on the phone. Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb. Are you there, Lieutenant Governor?
LT. GOVERNOR TODD LAMB, OKLAHOMA (via telephone): Wolf, I'm with you, I can hear you. BLITZER: All right, good. So tell us first, what can you tell us about the damage and the destruction in Oklahoma, the casualties, give us an update if you can.
LAMB: Well, I wish that I could. I wish I had something more concrete to share with you Wolf. Because I know a lot of people are watching you and want to know what's going on in Oklahoma. It's still so early, we don't know what the injury reports are. There have been some initial reports of fatalities, and I don't want to get into numbers, because they've been somewhat unconfirmed, certain reported on broadcasts, but that's not been confirmed in any office or anything of that nature.
There will be significant reports of injuries, I do believe. I'm on the road right now. We'll (bomb) in Mustang, Oklahoma. That's a suburb southwest of Oklahoma City. It's received a little bit of damage, either through high winds, or maybe a tornado touchdown. I don't know for sure, but one of the challenges we are having right now, and I know you've reported it and talked about it already, it's the significant flash flooding that we've had.
And that's by the Interstate 40 and the Interstate 35 and some of the other highways and byways, or just parking lots. One, because cars couldn't go anywhere, as they started to get into crashes, and that just resulted in cars being immobile and jam-packed and injury after injury. When I first got on the road, I saw several ambulances heading to the hospital and I assume those, that was loaded with victims from crashes on our interstates.
BLITZER: What are you hearing from the emergency rooms in the major hospitals in and around the Oklahoma City area? Are they, are they getting full? What's going on?
LAMB: Well, I've not visited with any, any of the emergency rooms directly, Wolf. But there are reports that all the trauma centers are fully staffed throughout the metro area. They are ready to receive the injured, wherever they are in the metro area. And you know, the, some tornadoes touched down, like that was unique this time, is that the significant flash flooding.
The last report I got from O G and E, one of our major utilities in Oklahoma and this number is maybe old at this point, but roughly 50,000, just over 50,000 Oklahomans were without power. And of course, that it makes it very challenging with the flash, with the flash flooding, without power, the intersections are not lit up. The streetlights aren't on. Just making it even more dangerous for the kind of getting from one place to another.
And that's why, you know, the Department of Transportation has requested that nobody travel. That's absolutely necessary.
BLITZER: I was in Moore, Oklahoma, Oklahoma City last week in the aftermath of the May 20th tornado, and clean up is, has been going on. And, and it's just heartbreaking, Lieutenant Governor, to think that yesterday, they were engaged in clean up and all of a sudden, a storm like this comes, comes up, which can dramatically set back all of those efforts.
What do you need most now as far as recovery is concerned, let's say from the federal government, from FEMA.
LAMB: Well it -- I appreciate you asking. Well, we need everybody's prayers, of course.
I mean that very, very sincerely, come appreciate your prayers. And through, through the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the (Babishino) Commission of Oklahoma, just three, for example, there are a lot of charitable organization, non-profit organizations that will receive their help, and if you earmark that to Oklahoma, either the Moore Recovery, Bethel Acres, Carny(ph) and then we'll see what the destruction is from the tornadoes and the flash flooding this evening.
Anybody that wants to offer financial assistance, we would appreciate that, just as much.
BLITZER: And people can do to cnn.com/impact, impact your world, we have a whole bunch of good opportunities for people to make some financial contributions and help out the folks in Oklahoma and elsewhere. Lieutenant Governor, thanks very much for joining us and good luck. And Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb of Oklahoma. Let's take another quick break. We'll continue our coverage. We'll go to the CNN weather center.
We're going to find out where the storm is now, where it's heading, the extent of the destruction, not only in Oklahoma, but Kansas, Missouri, maybe Illinois. Stay with us.
BLITZER: On away to breaking news. Samantha Mohr is joining us now from the CNN weather center. Samantha, these storms, they're widespread. Update our viewers right now, where they are right now, and where they've been.
SAMANTHA MOHR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, I'll tell you what. A lot of rainfall in Oklahoma, some of the worst flooding we have seen since the sixties, in fact, as we animate on the rain, you can see we have had up to four inches of rain across Oklahoma City, and they're saying the widespread flood damage is really going to be something, as we head into tomorrow.
So it can be record flooding from this event. Now, most interesting, I wanted to show you how this storm really blew up, out of thin air, even though we knew we had all the ingredients right for severe weather development.
If you look at around, oh, 5:00, six o'clock, there was nothing here. And then look how everything just explodes from Oklahoma into parts of eastern Kansas, and Missouri, where they saw those strong, severe thunderstorms spawn tornadoes earlier this evening.
Now, currently we still have some severe thunderstorm warnings here, across the Oklahoma City area, but the primary threat is the flooding, and you can still see heavy rain here, from El Reno, to the north of El Reno, stretching over into the northern end of Oklahoma City and into Shawnee, and we're going to continue to see that heavy rain as we head into the overnight hours.
So look at those flash flood warnings in the red here, and Oklahoma City, stretching on up into Missouri and into the St. Louis area as well. Don't drive into any flooded roadways, and be particularly careful because there's a lot of power lines down here. You just don't want to be out in this, especially in the dark.
And St. Louis, we had confirmed tornadoes earlier this evening. That threat is ending, or being, diminishing at this hour, but we still have some very strong cells south and east of town, so we'll see some heavy downpours there, a lot of lightning and some gusty winds as well. So still some tornado watches in place here, stretching from Oklahoma on up into Illinois. We're seeing the one in Indiana, that tornado watch doesn't expire until 6:00 a.m. local time, so really, really something here.
Quickly, I wanted to show you this, how the inflow boundary moved on in before the storms exploded, and then you see the outflow boundary here, these -- this is how the radar looked from about six o'clock on, so the last six hours of radar, and you can see all that moist air flowing into the storm, and then all the rain-cooled air flowing out of the storm, as it moves slowly across the Oklahoma City area. This is just a fascinating time lapse to me, Wolf.
BLITZER: We have a lot more coming up, Samantha. Don't go too far away. Our coverage of the breaking news continues right after this.