Return to Transcripts main page
PIERS MORGAN LIVE
Oklahoma Tornado Coverage
Aired May 31, 2013 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Good evening. This is PIERS MORGAN LIVE with breaking news of tornadoes on the ground in Oklahoma.
Right now, there's a confirmed tornado that's four miles from Moore, the same city devastated of course by that catastrophic storm earlier this month. The National Weather Service is declaring a tornado emergency for Oklahoma City and the surrounding areas with warnings that a destructive storm with widespread damage and fatalities is likely.
We are closely following this dangerous weather situation.
Joining me now live is Corey Miller, who is in a shelter in Oklahoma City.
Corey Miller, can you hear me?
COREY MILLER, TAKING SHELTER (via telephone): Yes, sir.
MORGAN: Tell me exactly what is going on where you are right now.
MILLER: Well, I can hear the sirens outside of our shelter here. One of our best friends in an underground shelter locked up tight and my -- our 4-month-old baby is sleeping through it.
MORGAN: And from what you're hearing and feeling, has the tornado passed close to you?
MILLER: It's hard to tell. We have just been beaten down with rain and some hail and a lot of wind, but our shelter's so tight that it's hard to tell, you know. We're just listening to the emergency radio here in our shelter and trying to stay up with our phones and stuff.
MORGAN: But it's your understanding, Corey, that there are multiple tornadoes. That what's we're hearing.
MILLER: I think so. We've been trying to track it and also listen to the weather. A couple tornadoes, they might be just south of us, I guess toward Tinker Air Force Base or Moore. But that's as far as I know. We were looking at it earlier until it just got green, the sky was green, and we thought time to shut the door and we've been here safe and sound.
MORGAN: Well, Corey, you and your family stay safe. I'm glad you're in a shelter.
We will move on to storm chaser Brandon Copic. He's at the center of this massive storm.
Brandon, tell me what you're experiencing right now.
BRANDON COPIC, STORM CHASER (via telephone): We are actually south of the main circulation at this time. We have seen the large wedge tornado. We are moving south away from it to avoid getting caught in the circulation like we have heard many storm chasers have. We have seen debris and many power flashes.
MADDOW: In terms of the damage, apparently the most serious concern right now is there are so many cars on the various interstates, 40 and 35 in particular, that they are a direct target. Is that what you're hearing?
COPIC: Yes. I have heard that. I have seen it with my own eyes. We stood at I-40 and watched the tornado come down I-40. All the power flashes, saw it all.
As the local station says, they were telling everyone to go east. We saw people in pickup trucks full of people going east but I-40 eastbound was just completely -- it was a parking lot. So people were getting chased by the tornado but they couldn't go anywhere.
MORGAN: Did people ignore the warnings, do you think? I mean, it seems strange that there's a parking lot when you've got tornadoes coming. What happened here?
COPIC: I don't think so much that people ignored the warning. I think it's actually quite the opposite. The fact that people did listen to the warning but the fact was there were just so many people on the highway that they couldn't get anywhere.
MORGAN: So, it's Friday night, just a busy night on the roads. Not a typical time of the day for these kind of tornadoes to strike.
COPIC: Well, I wouldn't say it's not a typical time. I mean, tornadoes happen any day of the year, any time. It's just the ingredients were just perfect today, prime environment for large destructive tornadoes.
MORGAN: Brandon, stay with me for a moment. I will go to Samantha Mohr at the Atlanta weather center.
Samantha, tell me exactly what we know about these multiple tornadoes.
SAMANTHA MOHR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, of course, we started a few hours ago during the evening hours, during the rush hour, and we started to see them form on the west side, then they just formed this line basically two super cell thunderstorms here spawning multiple tornadoes.
Here's the latest warning into Norman, Oklahoma. Of course, that's where the storm prediction center is. This is the cell coming out of Moore going into Norman at 8:15, Noble at 8:24, Slaughterville at 8:31, moving to the east-southeast at around 30 miles per hour.
Here's the other cell. Notice it is very close to the radar site. This is Tinker Air Force Base and we had many reports of power flashes there as a tornado was on the ground, that tornado also moving to the east-northeast -- east-southeast, excuse me, into Stella at 8:19 and Pink at 8:29.
So, the good news, at least that one moving a little further away from the most populated of areas. But then we still have another rotation here, a tornado warning, severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado here that is approaching Tuttle. That's been another area of activity, south of I-40 today.
And it looks like it will be moving into Tuttle at around 8:29. Before that, it will hit Minco right around 8:16 as it continues on its east-southeasterly path -- Piers.
MORGAN: And in terms of where our storm chaser Brandon Copic is, he's in Chandler. What do you know about that area right now?
MOHR: If Sean or Dave are listening, can you give me any reports about what is happening in Chandler? Chandler. That's where one of our storm chasers is.
MORGAN: What we'll do, Samantha, while you check that, we'll go back to Brandon, who's still with us.
Brandon, what can you see right now?
COPIC: We are actually not (AUDIO GAP). We are just east of Moore. (AUDIO GAP) there's a lot of trees, like I said, about five minutes ago we saw a large tornado on top of the hill and we thought we were safe but we heard about three tornadoes on the ground at once so we need to continue south to get away from the other tornadoes.
MORGAN: So, Brandon, just to confirm, you are heading towards Moore, is that right?
COPIC: We are now -- yes, sir, we are heading right towards Moore.
MORGAN: And has there been a tornado on the ground in Moore? Can you confirm that?
COPIC: I cannot confirm a tornado in Moore. I believe it's just north of town. It is moving towards Shawnee, though. That was also a place that was hit by the tornado -- by I believe the EF-4 tornado on May 19th.
MORGAN: And in terms of the strength and power of the storm that you're experiencing, how would you describe it?
COPIC: This is a very powerful storm. I have been chasing for about four to five years now and I haven't seen anything like it. This is one of those times where I'm just -- this is the first time I can actually say I feared for my life when the tornado was coming towards me.
MORGAN: And, Brandon, in terms of what else you can see, are you seeing structural damage or cars turned over? What kind of thing are you picking up on?
COPIC: I cannot confirm on any sort of cars being flipped or I can confirm factual damage because we are right on a previous tornado path of damage, so I can't -- I can't figure out if that is previous damage or if that was current damage.
MORGAN: Let me just go back quickly to Samantha Mohr because Samantha, it wasn't Chandler, he had moved and was heading towards Moore. Obviously, everyone's attention will be focused on Moore given the appalling tornado catastrophe they suffered already.
MORGAN: What do we know about Moore itself in terms of whether a tornado has touched down?
MOHR: There was a confirmed tornado, it wasn't a particularly strong tornado. We don't have any reports of damage yet. Hopefully that is the situation. Fairly small scale tornado moving through Moore. It has now passed through Moore.
That is the one -- if, guys, if we can move this radar up a little bit -- that is the one that is now moving towards Norman, Oklahoma. So we may want to go ahead and put a track on that. So, that tornado, that severe thunderstorm that spawned a tornado in Moore is now moving into Norman.
So, now they are the ones under the gun. Of course, that's where the storm prediction center is, in Norman, Oklahoma, 8:22 is when that cell is going to be moving through there, so potentially could see a tornado there as well as in Slaughterville at 8:37, as it continues east-southeasterly, moving a pretty good pace, too, around 30 miles per hour.
So, as far as tornado speeds, that's probably in the average range from 20 to 30 miles per hour, but at a pretty good pace. So, it will be moving into Norman at 8:22. Of course, people in Norman, very familiar with having to take cover at times.
And we're not out of the woods yet. Once that passes, look at all this activity we have seen on the southern end of this and in Minco, we do have another vortex moving on in, another center of circulation. You can see moving into Tuttle, we have very heavy rain that's getting ready to move in.
Looks like also tremendous amounts of lightning. In fact, the lightning detector almost being overwhelmed by how much lightning is coming in. Of course, that can mean more shear within the storm system itself. So, we have just moved up here, way up the road here to Bluff Dale and you can see this is north of St. Louis. These cells are tracking to the east-northeast. This is going to be a major area of concern. We have tornado warnings in place on the northern end of St. Louis, also coming through Union now, the south end of town. We have another tornado warning in place.
So this looks like a very strong line getting ready to enter the St. Louis area. Tornado warning in place in -- and so the cities of Arnold and Melville will also be affected. That's 112,000 people, Piers, as this powerful line of severe thunderstorms works its way into St. Louis as well.
So, Oklahoma obviously not alone in this. We're dealing with very destructive weather with tornadoes in the St. Louis area, too.
MORGAN: Samantha, for now, thanks. I'll be back to you soon.
I want to go to Denise Quan. She's a CNN producer who is at the airport in Oklahoma City.
Denise, what can you tell me?
DENISE QUAN, CNN PRODUCER (via telephone): Well, we have been here for about an hour and a half. We were all set to board our flight back to L.A. and, all of a sudden, they came and said the flight has been canceled.
Not 10 seconds later, the warning signals went off and a voice came over the loudspeaker asking us to go down to the basement, which we did. There are probably about 1,000 of us down here from canceled flights. We're talking about passengers. We're talking about TSA workers. We're talking about the guy who checked my (INAUDIBLE).
We're all down here. We were here when the first tornado passed overhead. We didn't hear it. Things are really orderly. They had us sit in the hall with our hands over our heads, you know, sitting on the floor.
Once that passed overhead, they kept us down here because -- another 45 minutes while a series of storms overhead passed by. The mood down here is considerably lighter now that we weathered the worst of them.
Kids are getting restless, they're running around.
MORGAN: Denise, if you can just stand by for a moment. We have actually got the governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin, who's on the phone.
Governor, thank you for joining me.
GOV. MARY FALLIN (R), OKLAHOMA (via telephone): Piers.
MORGAN: Obviously, another very serious situation tonight. What can you tell me?
FALLIN: It is a very serious situation. I'm here in Oklahoma City close to the capitol and the tornado siren's going off right now for the fourth time. So, it's been a little crazy around here.
We -- our biggest challenge right now is the storm's pretty large and it's had several spin-ups of funnels in it and really strong winds and lots of hail. We've had a lot of power flashes which I'm seeing right now even on our local news in different areas. Probably five or six different communities moving close by the Moore area, down by Norman which is University of Oklahoma, and it just passed through Tinker Air Force Base area right outside of Oklahoma City.
As I said, sirens are going off here in Oklahoma City right now. Our biggest challenge has been it came on about the time people leaving from work, and so we had major interstates, I-35 which ran in front of the area that was hit in Moore so bad where the businesses, the theater, where all the media was located during the last tornado last week. So, that highway's been backed up with traffic and I-40 which is the east and west interstate across Oklahoma, also had a lot of traffic and we do know that there was some damage and overturned semis on that highway.
So, two of our major interstates have been backed up with traffic. And I called out the National Guard, of course, and our highway patrol and we have local police out trying to get these people that are stuck in really bad traffic --
MORGAN: Governor, what advice can you give anybody who may be in a car stuck in what they're calling a parking lot now on one of these interstates, should they stay in their car, should they leave, get on the ground? What should they be doing?
FALLIN: Well, first of all, listen to the newscasters on the radio. It's very, very important. They can tell you where the storm is moving and if you can get off the interstate, go the opposite direction of where they say the storm is heading.
I've heard several newscasters tell people go a certain direction like go east on a certain road if you're that way. Also, if they can get off on an exit, just to go to a building. There's a lot of buildings that have basements in them, lot of buildings that are sound, big buildings, and certainly take shelter in that.
But what we saw from the tornado that came through Moore and the other ones last week was that people who were in cars on the interstate were in peril. And, fortunately, we didn't have a lot that were on the highway because we kind of cleared it off.
We send our law enforcement up and down the highway with their sirens and mikes to tell people just don't go on the highway, don't go there in that area. But we also saw a lot of cars that were picked up in the parking lot and dropped in different areas.
So, it's better not to be in a car. Don't get under a bridge. Get in a building and if you have the opportunity to get a mattress over you and a closet, bathtubs certainly are a way you can somewhat protect yourself, but to try to take cover if you can.
MORGAN: Governor, are you hearing reports of injuries fatalities at this stage?
FALLIN: At this time, we are trying to get the highways cleared off. What I have heard is there's been some areas of trucks and cars on the highways that are blocking the roads and that's our biggest concern right now besides just letting the public know the area where the storms are on the path -- so they can take shelter. That's our big thing we're doing right now.
We haven't had time to go out and survey because as I just said, the tornado siren's gone off four times. We have been here at the command center in Oklahoma City.
MORGAN: Are you hearing anything from Moore in particular? Because obviously they're still reeling from the devastation of last week. Have you picked up any intelligence about what may be happening there?
FALLIN: Well, looking at a map right now, of the storm itself, it is lit up pretty good right over Moore. There is, of course, great concern that Moore would be in its path and it certainly is going through there.
I heard a reporter a few moments ago locally say that he was seeing debris flying around that area. They were certainly trying to get the cars off that major interstate that goes right through Moore itself. And so, we're working our law enforcement. I talked to highway patrol, I talked to our National Guard. They're all in the field doing what they need to do along with the local police and fire departments in those areas.
I don't have any reports other than what we're hearing on the news right now.
MORGAN: Governor Fallin, I know you have a very busy night ahead of you, thank you so much for taking the time to join me. And I'm sure we'll talk again as the night progresses. Thank you very much.
FALLIN: You're welcome. Thank you.
MORGAN: Let me go to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers on the ground in noble, Oklahoma, near this massive storm system.
Chad, tell me what's going on where you are?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST (via telephone): You know, Piers, I just can't believe the amount of traffic on the roadways today. I can't describe whether it was a Friday night and everyone was going to go out anyway and didn't pay attention or people were so scared, they just started driving to get away. They saw the pictures on the ground.
We were on the ground in El Reno, hours ago, maybe 4:30, with the tornado on the ground. It's very large, dangerous EF-3 tornado on the ground. Luckily, it was kind of in a rural area, not over a lot of buildings. We know structures were damaged out there.
It recycled, kind of lost power, came back again and moved south to Mustang and then into the Will Rogers Airport area. It kept moving to the east, kept going bigger and smaller, bigger and smaller.
Now it just seems like this storm won't stop. It just keeps coming to the east and more tornadoes keep forming just off to our west. Here you go. This is what it sounds like.
MORGAN: Are those tornado sirens going off?
MYERS: We have been dropping south away from the cell and they just keep reforming more tornadoes, more tornadoes back out to the west.
Talk about shell-shocked, the people of Oklahoma are that. I mean, this is a day that people will remember because the storms just keep regenerating, one after another after another.
MORGAN: And, Chad, that sound that I'm hearing in the background, are those tornado sirens or vehicles? What are they?
MYERS: They are tornado sirens. Yes, they are. There is a tornado to our northwest coming our way but we are in no danger at this point.
I know where we are. I know where the radar is. I know where the circulation is.
I can't tell you the same thing about everyone else that's stuck on the roadways. There were so many people stuck in traffic. It took us almost an hour to go about two miles for awhile. Finally, we did get out of that traffic. We moved to the south away from all this.
But I do know that there are people that are probably stuck in cars that either had baseball size hail or, yes, tornado damage for sure.
MORGAN: And, Chad, in terms of the timing of these tornadoes, am I right in thinking it's quite unusual for them to strike at this time of night and that coupled with so many people on the road because it's Friday night and going to the weekend, it's created almost a perfect storm, if you like, in terms of tornado meeting cars.
MYERS: Well, what you had today was storms that didn't fire until around 4:30 or 5:00. That allowed the sunshine to heat the atmosphere up all the way. It was maximum heating.
It was 94 degrees outside of our car for awhile today and all that heat and humidity went up all at the same time and created these big super cell thunderstorms. It was so hot -- there was so much fuel that these storms are still using that fuel, still using that 94 degree air although it's cooled off some. This is just a day where the atmosphere was explosive. It went up -- the storm west of El Reno that we watched went from zero, nothing, a cumulus cloud, to 56,000 feet in about 20 minutes. So this storm went from a cloud to ten miles high in less than a quarter, you know, quarter of an hour to 20 minutes. It was the explosive ability you don't get on a normal day. That's why these storms are still going now even though it's already getting dark.
MORGAN: And there are many problems facing people there. We're told over 50,000 people are now without power in Oklahoma City. Also, there's a serious threat of flash flooding in that area, too, and other areas. People have to be pretty careful here.
What would you recommend, you're in one of these large moving, slow-moving car parks as they're calling it. What do you think the best course of action is for anybody in a car on one of these interstates?
MYERS: You have to watch where you are and for awhile, being in your car is still the safest place. That's when the hail is coming down. If you're in a hail core, you can't get outside with baseball size hail coming down. There's no place for you to be. Even if -- unless you can find an underpass or something and that's not the place to be when the tornado comes.
So the best place to be for awhile at least is in your vehicle but if you see the circulation getting 60, 70 miles per hour or if you see the tornado coming your way, you absolutely must get out of your car. We took pictures today and I wish we could have fed them to you. I just didn't get a chance. We never got another a satellite truck.
We took pictures of the cars that were hit by the Moore tornado. And when that tornado was done with the cars, there was no room for you left inside. There was no space inside the car. The roof was all the way down on the seat.
And one car that we know was a Ford because we saw the hubcap, that's the only reason we could tell what type of car it was, didn't even have the engine in the car anymore. It was a new car. It wasn't like somebody was working on this car. This was a newer car, later model, 2010, '12, whatever it might have been. And the engine, transmission, completely gone. We looked around in the field. Could not even find the engine.
That's what will happen to your car if you get hit by a major tornado.
MORGAN: Chad, we'll be back to you later in the show. Thank you very much for now. Stay safe there.
MYERS: Thank you.
MORGAN: It's obviously a moving and dangerous situation.
Now with us from El Reno, Oklahoma, is storm chaser Nick Hellums.
Nick, can you hear me? I know, it's a bad line. Can you hear me?
NICK HELLUMS, STORM CHASER (via telephone): Yes. We're here. Can you hear me?
MORGAN: Yes. What is going on where you are?
HELLUMS: We are about 10 miles south of Minco right now. We were in El Reno when the large wedge went through town. Just south of I-40, we were about 100 yards away from it.
Right now, we just have lots of rain. Still some rotation on radar, it's actually all wrapping around us right now.
MORGAN: In terms of damage that you've seen to vehicles or to property, what have you seen so far?
HELLUMS: We did see a very large three story house with the whole top roof gone or the whole top second floor and roof gone. We did --
MORGAN: Well, actually, Nick, if I could stop you, as I talk to you, we're looking at a picture. This is a Weather Channel car that's been damaged tonight by one of these tornadoes. You can see there, pretty extensive damage.
That is the official Weather Channel car. We believe the people in it are OK. It gives you some indication of what is going on.
Continue what you were telling me.
HELLUMS: We were right by them when they did roll. We did call off the chase at that point and went and checked on the people in the house. They were OK. They were in a shelter. They had about 50 horses in a barn that also had damage but, thankfully, they were OK and we continued on at that point.
MORGAN: What is your plan now? Where will you be going to next?
HELLUMS: Well, since we can't really get on any of the main highways, I honestly don't know right this second. I guess we're going to wait here and just see what's coming behind this line.
MORGAN: Well, stay safe, Nick. I'm sure we'll talk to you again later on in the evening.
HELLUMS: Will do. Thank you. Appreciate it.
MORGAN: With me now on the phone is Betsy Randolph, state trooper with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
Can you hear me?
BETSY RANDOLPH, OKLAHOMA HIGHWAY PATROL (via telephone): Yes, sir, I can hear you.
MORGAN: What is the state of play where you are? RANDOLPH: Absolutely chaos. We have got multiple crashes, on I- 40 west of Oklahoma City from El Reno all the way across the Oklahoma City metro area as the storm tracks, basically along I-40, touched down several locations.
We have power lines down across I-40, overturned semis, crashes, just multiple -- too many to count at this point. That extends from El Reno all the way to Tinker, which is east of Oklahoma City, and now, the storms are tracking south, along I-35, so south of Oklahoma City through Moore and we're shutting traffic down that's coming into the metro from the south side. We're stopping it all the way south of Purcell, which is south of Oklahoma City.
So, we have got just a nightmare situation going on right now.
MORGAN: In terms of advice to people who are in cars, it seems to be a crucial question right now, because there are so many people on these interstates right in the middle of all this. What is the best thing they can do?
RANDOLPH: The best thing for them to do is exit the interstate, whether it's I-40, I-240, I-35, exit the interstate and seek immediate shelter. We know from the storms in the past that if you're not underground, the chances of your survival are very slim.
So if they can seek immediate shelter away from the interstate, abandon their car because your car and your truck and your semi is not a safe place to be. You can be sucked out even from your seat belt.
The best place to be is underground and the second best place to be is in a low-lying area like a ditch. We strongly discourage people seeking shelter under an overpass because those essentially turn into a wind tunnel and the higher you are in elevation, the higher the wind is. If you can lay on your belly in a low-lying area, ditch, along the side of the road, that's your best bet, that's the best thing you can do. Abandon your vehicle and lay in a low-lying area.
MORGAN: And in terms of people who may have been casualties, in terms of injuries or possibly even fatalities, what can you tell me?
RANDOLPH: I don't -- I cannot confirm any numbers at this time. As you can imagine, a massive amount of radio traffic and just listening to what's been going on, seeing the reports, watching the television, watching the Internet, listening on the radio, it's absolutely chaos. It's mind-boggling.
It's hard to get a grasp of on just the widespread damage and how many crashes that have occurred. I don't have a number for you. I have not been able to confirm fatalities right now. I know at one point we were taking people, I-40 and Banner Road, where (INAUDIBLE) was staging there, it was sort of a triage area where we were assisting people at that location and trying to keep people to that location.
A lot of troopers were piling people into their car and taking them to that location, I-40 and Banner, because it was west of where the storms were moving as they move east and now to the south. So, we really want people to understand they have to get off I-40, they have to get off of I-35.
If you're driving and you see a storm cloud and it's black, that is bad. Do not drive into it. We have people again, abandon your vehicle and seek shelter in a low-lying area. Do not drive into the storm.
MORGAN: If people are literally jam-packed in what is being described as a parking lot on one of these interstates and they simply can't exit, what is the best thing they can do?
RANDOLPH: The best thing for them to do, especially -- the winds like I said will suck them out of their car. I know that there is -- that the interstates are shut down. I know they have no place to go. They are essentially sitting ducks on the interstate.
The best that we can tell them to do is abandon the vehicle and find a low-lying area because there isn't anything that's going to keep them from getting sucked up into the tornado and the whirlwind effect, if you will, if they are in their car and they're sitting, just sitting on the interstate. So, we want them if they can get off the interstate and stay in their vehicle and get off the interstate, that's great.
But if they're at a standstill situation and the tornado is right on top of them, the best thing for them to do is abandon their vehicle and get into a low-lying area, a ditch, away from the interstate, and simply just pray. We -- our prayers are going out to those people that are already affected and those that are in the storm's path right now.
MORGAN: The picture you're painting is extremely serious. Have you in your time as a state trooper encountered anything quite like this?
RANDOLPH: Absolutely not. This is something that I can't even put into words just how terrified I feel because it's so chaotic and there are so many things that are happening at so many different locations that it's so widespread, that I can't even put my mind around just what a huge event this is right now going on and just how serious and dangerous it is for the people that are in the storm's path that are essentially sitting on the interstate in their cars with no place to go.
MORGAN: So, the particular crisis that you're facing is with so many cars on these interstates trapped really right in the eye of the storm.
RANDOLPH: Right. That's exactly right. We feel so helpless. We are pleading with media outlets to get information out there for people to not drive into the storm and that if they're already on the interstate and there's no place to go, they must abandon their vehicle and find shelter either in an underground shelter location or again, in a low-lying area. That is the absolute best information that we can put out for people right now. But do not seek shelter under an overpass. Do not do that. Again, it makes a wind tunnel effect, people think that they're safe there, but there's no place for them to go and they essentially are underneath this elevated structure. And when the wind and the tornado come underneath there, not only is their body essentially a pin cushion for all the flying debris, but they will get sucked up. There's no way and nothing for them to hold on to and there's no way they have enough strength to hold on to anything even if there were something to hold on to.
So don't seek shelter under an elevated structure.
MORGAN: It's a terrifying situation. State trooper Betsy Randolph from Oklahoma, thank you so much for joining me.
RANDOLPH: Yes, sir.
MORGAN: We go now to Samantha Mohr in the Atlanta weather center.
Samantha, that was an extraordinary conversation with that state trooper. She has never seen anything like this. Incredibly dangerous, incredibly serious. The scale of it, the widespread nature of what is happening and the particular problem --
MORGAN: -- it's Friday night on these big interstates. They are effectively car parks of people who are sitting ducks. As she said, they can be sucked up out of their cars. Very, very serious indeed.
MOHR: It is. I think part of the problem is it's just such a huge system. We still have our two super cells.
The good news is right now, the tornado threat appears to be diminishing for now. We still have one warning, though, in place that is really east of the major populated area of Oklahoma City but we still have this tornado warning in place stretching out here from the radar site over towards Shawnee.
So, we're still going to have to watch that. That tornado warning is in place until 9:00 for Tecumseh and also Shawnee. It's about 47,000 people n that live in this area as this severe thunderstorm continues to move to the east.
Now we're very concerned about the straight line winds. Obviously, we could have gusty winds still out of these very strong severe thunderstorms but also, the flooding risk. We have had thunderstorm after thunderstorm training over the same area, so inches of rain have fallen in some of these spots.
So flash flooding is a very big concern here tonight across the Oklahoma City area. So, it's not just the tornadoes but it's also flooding, and flooding kills more people than any weather related phenomenon, Piers.
MOHR: Samantha, thank you for that. Stay with us.
With me now on the phone is Matt White. He's the mayor of El Reno, Oklahoma.
Mr. Mayor, can you hear me?
MAYOR MATT WHITE, EL RENO, OKLAHOMA (via telephone): Yes, I can, Piers.
MORGAN: Obviously, a very serious unfurling situation. I just spoke to a state trooper from Oklahoma City describing a very, very nasty situation with so many cars stuck right in the eye of the storm.
WHITE: Yes, Piers. You know, in this situation (INAUDIBLE), that's exactly right. The highway is really no place to be.
Here in Oklahoma, we just try to seek shelter as fast as we can and really the last week was just get underground.
MORGAN: We're hearing that there may be tornado warnings in Joplin, Missouri, as well. Have you heard that?
WHITE: Well, the way I understand it, I think you're correct, it's moved on past us. We're about 30 miles west of Oklahoma City and it's east of us. I think last we heard, it was in the Shawnee area going towards Tulsa and Joplin area.
MORGAN: What we don't have any reports of yet are injuries or even potentially fatalities. Can you tell me anything about that?
WHITE: Well, I think (INAUDIBLE) there is so much chatter going on, a lot of people responding to different things. Here in El Reno, we had some minor damage out by the airport and we are assessing some damage, how serious it is. In other communities as far as south of us, (INAUDIBLE), but we can't confirm anything. Everybody is trying to assess, trying to get through.
I think the main thing is now the potential flooding. We've got an awful lot of rain here in this area in a short amount of time, and I urge people to stay in. The flood waters rise so quickly and they're really more dangerous, it's been proven, than the tornado activity.
MORGAN: The state trooper I talked to earlier, Betsy Randolph, said it was like nothing she had ever encountered or experienced before. Is that your view?
WHITE: Not in El Reno. We had some damage here. We had some minor damage. We are the very first line, it started with us. Of course, of all the things going on the last week in Moore and Shawnee and all the other communities, everybody is on high alert.
You know, the thing we're fortunate about here in Oklahoma is our meteorologists. It doesn't matter what station they're with, they do a super job about keeping everybody informed, telling them when to go underground and they track it so that no matter what channel you watch, those guys, those meteorologists have really been really on top of their game here the last couple of weeks.
MORGAN: Thank you so much for joining me. I'm sure we'll talk to you again before the evening is over.
I'm going to go now to Eric Ferguson, who lives in Choctaw, Oklahoma. He joins us on the phone where he is taking shelter from this massive tornado system.
Welcome to you, sir. What can you tell me?
ERIC FERGUSON, CHOCTAW RESIDENT (via telephone): (AUDIO GAP) you've got a code yellow up there because of the tornado on I-40 and tornado heading towards my way (INAUDIBLE) --
MORGAN: I think we may have lost connection. Can you hear me, sir?
I think we've lost connection. We'll try and get that back.
Let me go down to Leslie Buford. She's spokesperson for the University of Oklahoma Hospital.
Leslie, obviously a very serious night for you. What can you tell me?
LESLIE BUFORD, UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA HOSPITAL (via telephone): Right now, we are on code yellow which means that we are preparing for a massive external emergency with massive amounts of patients coming into our hospital.
As Betsy Randolph said earlier, I-40 is complete chaos and a parking lot at this time. That is hindering the ambulances getting to our facility a little bit faster than we would like them to. But all of our trauma teams are staffed and ready to go waiting for those patients to come in.
MORGAN: And in terms of the number of people who may be injured or possibly even killed by this, the picture that Betsy Randolph, the state trooper, painted to me was a very, very wide-ranging and serious situation with many, many car crashes.
What are you seeing coming in at the moment?
BUFORD: Right now, I don't have information on what we're seeing at the moment. I do know that several field operations have been set up to transport those patients to us, but I don't have any information of actual casualties that have come into the hospital at this time.
MORGAN: Are you anticipating having a lot of people in with a lot of injuries?
BUFORD: Absolutely. We have every single trauma team fully staffed and ready to go for our trauma one unit.
MORGAN: Thank you very much indeed for joining me. Obviously, you've got a busy night. I'll let you get back to what you have to do.
BUFORD: Looks like it will be a long one. Thank you.
MORGAN: Sorry. Are you still -- I'm sorry.
We are going to move to Glenn Lewis. He's the mayor of Moore.
Mr. Mayor, can you hear me?
MAYOR GLENN LEWIS, MOORE, OKLAHOMA (via telephone): Yes, sir.
MORGAN: Tell me what is happening in Moore. We understand there was a touchdown of one of these tornadoes in Moore itself.
LEWIS: Yes. It appears that it went pretty much across the diagonal that it came in last week, and it's almost the opposite path, but almost a diagonal in some of the hardest hit areas that were already hit.
I haven't seen the damage yet. It was hailing so hard awhile ago we couldn't hardly get out to get to the car yet. But I understand we have quite a bit of damage, not as much as Oklahoma City or Norman, maybe, but we're going to be going out and surveying it just a little bit.
MORGAN: And in terms of what you're hearing from other parts of the region, I spoke to an Oklahoma City state trooper who said it was complete and utter chaos, the likes of which she had never seen before, and a very dangerous situation, particularly with so many cars trapped on the interstate.
What are you hearing?
LEWIS: We actually saw that. My store happens to be right here on I-35, and we were looking out the jewelry stores windows and we could see that I-35 north was just backing up like crazy. It must have been from what we were hearing at the crossroads, which is about seven miles from here.
And all of a sudden, they stopped going north, they stopped it just south of Norman and had all the cars turn back around and headed south. Unfortunately, the tornado came across her and went to Norman. So, I don't know what the situation like on I-35.
But out here, there's no cars on I-35 right now. Here comes a truck. But other than that it's pretty clear.
MORGAN: And, Mr. Mayor, in terms of damage to property or injuries to people in Moore, what can you tell me?
LEWIS: I don't have a report back on that yet. We're actually assisting a couple of our other neighborhood cities and they called in all the ambulance service people from both Oklahoma City and Norman to go to work. So that is not a good sign.
MORGAN: Is it your understanding that people may have been injured in Moore?
LEWIS: Not so much in Moore. I don't know yet. We know that just to the west of us in Yukon, I'm sitting here watching the local news, they're reporting that a woman and her child were killed on the Interstate, on I-40.
Like I said, I can't confirm that. It's just what they're reporting. The highway patrol is now reporting that.
MORGAN: Right. Just to confirm, you have heard that a mother and her child have been killed on the --
LEWIS: According, yes, according to Channel 9 here that we're watching in Oklahoma City.
MORGAN: And from other local reports that you're seeing, are they matching what the state trooper told me, that there have just been an extraordinary large number of crashes involving vehicles?
LEWIS: Yes, sir, that's what we're hearing. Like I said, I'm not outside so I can't really confirm that. I don't see any cars right now on I-35 whatsoever, going north or south.
MORGAN: Mr. Mayor, thank you for joining me. I do appreciate it.
LEWIS: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me on the show. Bye-bye.
MORGAN: Joining me now is storm chaser Ben McMillan.
Ben, where are you and what is happening where you are?
BEN MCMILLAN, STORM CHASER (via telephone): Hi, Piers. We're located near the town of Blanchard, Oklahoma, which is just south of the storm area. We have been able to drive far enough away from it to take shelter and get into an area of safety.
MORGAN: From what you're seeing and hearing, how bad is this on the ground?
MCMILLAN: It's extremely bad due to the time of day that it impacted the metro. We had a lot of traffic on the interstate and when everybody tries to leave the city at once, it backs everything up and nobody can leave, then unfortunately, we did have some tornadoes that moved into those areas and people were not able to get out quick enough.
MORGAN: And I'm presuming that you're talking about thousands of vehicles in that case.
MCMILLAN: Yes. I mean, Oklahoma City obviously has a very large population so when everybody tries to get on to the roadways at once it's just a recipe for disaster.
MORGAN: Have you seen any local reports about the number of car accidents and crashes that have been happening tonight?
MCMILLAN: I haven't seen any reports but we've been tracking the storms throughout the day and we just in our vehicle probably checked at least three overturned vehicles on their tops and probably saw another three or four that were left just abandoned in roadway. I don't know if the folks ran for shelter and just left their vehicle there but lots of cars out of place and kind of a chaotic situation.
MORGAN: Ben, in terms of the power and strength of this storm, how would you describe it to me?
MCMILLAN: Well, it started off as just a single what we call super cell west of El Reno and it intensified into several super cells. What was different about this storm is it had several tornadic circulations on the same front. And usually you have just one or two areas with these large cells but we had tornadoes going over areas that have been hit by earlier tornadoes.
In one situation we were south in the town of El Reno and the fire department officials and ourselves and police were trying to do search and rescue and we had to take cover for another tornado that was coming at us. It was extremely dangerous.
MORGAN: And where will you be headed now, Ben?
MCMILLAN: We're probably going to continue to head south until it's kind of a state of emergency in the metro area right now. It's not good for people to try to go back in. Once the storm has cleared the area, and we feel the risk is not as dangerous, we will probably try to head back into town and assist where we can.
MORGAN: Ben, stay safe. It's obviously an ongoing dangerous situation there. Thank you for joining me.
MCMILLAN: Thank you.
MORGAN: Mick Cornett, who is the mayor of Oklahoma City, he's joining me now.
Mr. Mayor, thank you for joining me. What can you tell me?
MAYOR MICK CORNETT, OKLAHOMA CITY (via telephone): Well, so far, our preliminary reports inside the Oklahoma City limits are that we were spared any significant damage or injuries. We're still looking into it. It's a very broad city limits of 620 square miles. It seems likely we will find something eventually but right now we haven't found anything.
We had a lot of high wind, had some hail, but it appears that the tornado was largely west of Oklahoma City and as it approached us, it pulled back up and then I think it had dropped again after it passed over our city. We feel relatively fortunate but the night's young and I don't think we have quit crossing our fingers. We're hanging in there.
MORGAN: The big problem seems to be on these interstates with thousands of cars trapped right in the eye of these storms. What do you know about that?
CORNETT: Yes, you bring up a good point. I'm wondering if this isn't a reaction to the Moore tornadoes of a couple weeks ago.
CORNETT: It is very unusual and very unwise for people in this part of the country to get in their cars and try to get out of the way of a tornado. They should know by now you stay in your dwelling, you get as low as you can, you get into an interior room and you are going to be fine 999 times out of 1,000.
But I'm wondering if the Moore tornadoes which was such a horrific storm didn't scare people into thinking they needed to get out of the way and as a result, the interstate highways got clogged up and I got a feeling we're going to have some injuries because people got in their cars instead of staying where they were.
MORGAN: That was certainly the concern of the state trooper I talked to who was painting a very serious picture to me of thousands of vehicles right in the eye of the storm and many, many crashes going on, and she was assuming a lot of injuries.
CORNETT: Yes. I don't doubt that. I saw some helicopter pictures of the interstate highways, it looked something like a parking lot and I know that the storm was headed in those ways. If the storm dropped down to a tornado at that point, people aren't safe in a car. I don't doubt that there were injuries if that scenario took place.
MORGAN: Mr. Mayor, thank you very much indeed for joining me.
CORNETT: You bet, Piers. Thanks for your coverage.
MORGAN: I now have Todd Lamb, who is joining me now.
Mr. Lamb, can you hear me?
LT. GOV. TODD LAMB (R), OKLAHOMA: Loud and clear.
MORGAN: What can you tell me, sir?
LAMB: Piers, it's early for assessment, I know you talked to highway patrol. I have been in contact with them as well. Power outages we're looking at 50,000 is the unofficial report. I don't have any assessment right now or any reports on injuries or anything worse than that at this time.
But on the countryside, I know we have a lot of highways and byways under water. I have had reports that interstate 40 is like a parking lot. I think you reported that. We have to wait and see what those initial assessments are from first responders in the field right now.
MORGAN: And as lieutenant governor of the state, how do you feel about the fact this is coming so soon after the devastation in Moore? LAMB: Well, it's not easy. I'll tell you that. It's certainly not easy. We've got wonderful people in Oklahoma. We respond well when faced with adversity and with tragedy and with devastation like this. I know that a touchdown in Moore, I think that was the -- it's very tough, piers. Very tough.
I was out in Moore today thanking Red Cross workers from the state of Kentucky and the state of Texas who I was visiting with, thanking them for being here and their service to Oklahoma. We will continue to work through it. We will get the assessments from the storms that wreaked havoc today in Oklahoma and we're still looking at the possibility for more.
So, we'll hunker down, wait and see and respond as need be.
MORGAN: My last guest suggested this may be a particular issue tonight with these interstate parking lot buildups, as a direct result of people reacting to what happened in Moore and wanting to get away from any further tornadoes tonight -- basically ignoring the usual advice that people would follow in this kind of situation.
LAMB: You know what, I heard that as I was on hold waiting to visit with you. I don't want to say anything I should not say.
Now, part of the challenge, the reason there are so many people on Interstate 40, it's a very well traveled interstate. It runs from one end of the country to the other in many respects. It's well trafficked, it goes right through Oklahoma. And people were getting off work at that time.
I know a couple of companies and corporations let their people out early so they won't have to be in the traffic during the time of the storm.
So, we'll wait to get those assessments. Right now, I understand a lot of roads backed up and as you reported, Piers, a lot of crashes on the interstate right now.
MORGAN: It does appear to be the main focal point of the problem tonight. Lieutenant Governor, thank you very much for joining me.
LAMB: You're welcome.
MORGAN: I want to go to storm chaser Jeff Piotrowski.
Jeff, what can you tell me?
JEFF PIOTROWSKI, STORM CHASER (via telephone): Piers, it's been an unbelievable evening. We have been tracking tornadoes most of the evening. It's slowly calming down now. (INAUDIBLE)
Earlier this afternoon, we tracked violent tornadoes, some of them a mile wide, west of Oklahoma City. This is where most of the injuries and damage has occurred. This is earlier this afternoon. It will be south of El Reno, as well as south of (INAUDIBLE), and south of Yukon. That is where we have a number of injuries. The tornado did cross I-40 between Yukon and El Reno I understand from a number of sources from Oklahoma Highway Patrol and personal friends at the location that a number of vehicles and 18-wheelers were overturned. There are a number of injuries on I-40, as the tornado went across I-40. It's confirmed. People are still, I understand, as of an hour ago still trapped, they are pulling people out of the wreckage on I-40 and looking for people.
And they also say there are people missing in mobile homes and houses south of Yukon and southwest and south of El Reno where this trail was up to a mile wide. (INAUDIBLE) tracking across I-40 for about 45 minutes and then it got (INAUDIBLE), the tornado became rain- wrapped, and it became much small tornadoes at the end of the city.
MORGAN: Jeff, we had it confirmed by the highway patrol that a mother and a child have been killed in a vehicle after a tornado hit their car and flipped it over. From what you're seeing and hearing, do you imagine there are many more casualties?
PIOTROWSKI: I don't want to speculate. But I think -- I can tell you that one location -- and again, I do not know if the people are in these mobile homes. I can see (INAUDIBLE) tornado upwards of three quarters of a mile wide, approach a mobile home. This is not a heavily populated mobile home. We have hundreds of mobile homes, in a rural setting, you have maybe 30 to 40.
I saw a mile-wide tornado go over and hit the mobile home on the eastern -- western side of that. I don't know how many mobile homes were destroyed. I don't know if anybody were in those mobile homes. But I will say there is major damage west of the city.
MORGAN: Jeff, thank you for joining me. Stay safe out there. It's still an on going, very dangerous situation.
PIOTROWSKI: Thank you, Piers.
MORGAN: Major Tom Louden from the Salvation Army joins me now.
Major Louden, what is the situation where you are?
MAJ. TOM LOUDEN, SALVATION ARMY (via telephone): Good evening, Piers.
It's very tense right now. We've been weathering a lot of severe weather that's coming through. We're getting reports of severe damage to the west of Oklahoma City. Lots of power outages and reports of property damage.
At this current time, we are actually staging, prepared to go with first responders and support them and the rescue of any victims tonight. But, you know, this city has endured great losses over the last several days and our teams have found folks to be carrying heavy burdens and trying to weather, if you will, all the impacts of these storms.
And, tonight, we'll just add to that in a way that really none of us can imagine. So we're prepared to go. But we're uncertain, really, what we're going to face in the next few hours.
MORGAN: Is the particular problem, do you think, what is happening on the interstates tonight?
LOUDEN: Yes, most definitely. We've gotten reports of significant road closures, flash flooding. We have about 80 to 100 personnel on site and a number of their locations where the water has reached up to the hoods of their cars and half way up the doors of their vans. And that's caused a lot of concern for those that are -- have been trapped in those flood waters.
MORGAN: What advice -- I've asked several people this but you seem to be a good person to ask. What advice do you give people who may be stuck in their car on one of these interstates?
LOUDEN: Well, the most important thing is not to find yourself stuck in the water. It's to avoid all of those areas that are high and not to drive into standing or flowing water.
Oftentimes, people want to be able to continue traveling and when they're in uncertain times, you know, we've gotten a couple reports from our personnel tonight of a husband-wife couple that were helping us. They were actually Salvation Army ministers here from Oklahoma City. They had to leave their home and run from the storm. And they found themselves in the water.
So, you know, we try and caution folks not to panic. To always be weather aware and find a way to seek shelter in a moment's notice.
So, you know, it's a very difficult thing to do. It's easy for me to say those things. But when the situations are shifting and changing so quickly as they have tonight, it does create some panic and people do make decisions that put themselves in harm's way.
MORGAN: Major Louden, you're doing a terrific job, as always, tonight. Thank you for joining me.
LOUDEN: Thank you so much, Piers. God bless you.
MORGAN: We're going to go back to Samantha Mohr, who is in the Atlanta weather center.
Samantha, a lot of pretty grim reports coming in from all over this region. How widespread is it now, do we believe?
MOHR: Well, you know, it does extend all the way on up toward St. Louis. Look at what we've seen during the passed hour, Piers. We have multiple tornado warnings right now. We have this bow shape as it moves through.
We have some reports of some damage here in Erg (ph) City. It is moving right along that interstate 70 here, as well. In fact, we may want to zoom in. This has been the most powerful of the super cell thunderstorms that has spawned the tornado here in the St. Louis area.
It is amazing how the system moves through earlier, causing a lot of destruction here. This particular cell is moving to the east. It's some 55 miles per hour. So, it's really moving at a very, very fast speed.
So -- excuse me, Sean? I heard about K.C. there. So, anyway, I'm going to leave St. Louis and we're going to head on over to Oklahoma City where, right now, we can see most of the activity is south of the interstate here.
And you can see this warning is now going to expire in about five minutes, Piers. So that is some good news. A tornado threat is diminishing now. It's a flash flood threat. That's what we're concerned about, three to five inches of rain within the past couple of hours.
Back to you.
MORGAN: Samantha, thanks for the update.
Joining me now is Ladonna Cobb. He survived the tornado on May 20th in Moore. And it has emerged tonight, welcome to you.
Welcome to you. Obviously, an appalling thing to go through so soon after the devastation. How are you feeling? What is going on there?
LADONNA COBB, TORNADO SURVIVOR (via telephone): We're pretty scared here. We're terrified. We just really thought it was going to go completely north of us and just kind of turned south and it hit pretty close to where we're at. So, we were down in the shelter waiting for it to pass.
So, it missed us. But I think it got pretty close to where we're at.
MORGAN: Yes, we do know it touched down in Moore. But we're not hearing of any extensive damage. Is that your understanding?
COBB: Yes, that's what I think. We don't have any TV right now. We're just trying to get on the Internet. We just got out of our storm shelter maybe five minutes ago.
MORGAN: I mean, I'm looking at the pictures. Obviously, I remember you and your family from what happened in Moore. How are the kids doing? Because it must be pretty terrifying for these young children to go through this so soon after the last one.
COBB: They were not handling it very well. They were pretty upset.
We just have to tell them, this time, we're underground. We're safe. Even if it hits, things can be replaced. We are underground. We are safe.
So, thankfully, one of our new neighbors in our new house had a storm shelter and we were underground. MORGAN: That's good to hear. And, obviously, our thoughts with all the people down in Moore, just about certainly recovering from what happened before, and now, hit again by tornado.
Thankfully, it doesn't seem like it's been too bad tonight.
COBB: Yes, hopefully so.
MORGAN: Ladonna, thanks for joining me. Appreciate it.
COBB: Thank you, Piers.
MORGAN: I want to check back in now, storm chaser Nick Hellums, who's near El Reno in Oklahoma. Nick, what's going on there now?
HELLUMS: The line is funneling out of the area. We're just getting small hail and rain now. We're moving back up 81. We're going to go back to the house where we saw damage earlier and checked on them and make sure that they don't need anything, and also be back at 81 to El Reno and see if we can help them at all in that area.
MORGAN: And in terms, again, of damage that you're seeing or hearing about, how would you describe it?
HELLUMS: The house that we saw, it was definitely damaged. The whole upper floor was gone, also. They had the image in the back. It wasn't a complete loss -- devastation loss. It was definitely a good amount -- I would say a total loss.
MORGAN: Do you believe the worst has passed through El Reno now, in that area?
HELLUMS: It definitely seems to be, looking at radar, there's nothing behind this building. Thankfully, it looks the whole line that moves east is breaking apart, going towards Oklahoma City and Moore area. So, thankfully, hopefully, this is over with. And we can just help (INAUDIBLE) we can.
MORGAN: For those of you just tuning in, Nick, tell me again, Nick, the power and size of the tornadoes tonight in that area.
HELLUMS: The one that we were about a hundred yards from, it was definitely a very large, dangerous wrapping around fast wedge tornado. We were about a hundred yards away. We had about 87 mile an hour winds coming off the north edge of it. It was definitely a violent tornado.
MORGAN: And do you have any knowledge of what's going on on the interstate at the moment? That seems to be where most of the trouble has been tonight.
HELLUMS: It was only about 300 yards away from I-40 when we were next to it. As far as we were told, it was parallel to I-40 at cross over I-40 at point. And, so, we have heard that all of the interstates going into and out of the Oklahoma City are shut down at this time. MORGAN: OK, Nick, thanks very much, indeed, for that update.
Stay with CNN for continuing live coverage of tonight's tornadoes in Oklahoma. Now, it's Anderson Cooper.