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WEEKEND EARLY START
Oklahoma Hit by Five Tornadoes; Firefighters Killed in Houston Fire; Oklahoma, Missouri Under States of Emergency; Asteroid Misses Earth
Aired June 1, 2013 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for starting your morning with us. We're coming up on the top of the hour, and we, of course, are following the severe weather in the Midwest.
BLACKWELL: That's what it sounded like for people around El Reno, Oklahoma. There are reports of as many as 23 tornadoes touching down in five states. Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Illinois.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Five deaths are being blamed on these storms, including a mother and her child. At least 71 other people were injured.
And as morning breaks, we did get new reports of injuries and damages. This secondary problem now is flooding. The same storms that brought the tornados also brought up to 11 inches of rain to places like Moore, Oklahoma, that's already been through a lot.
In El Reno, Oklahoma, residents are being told stay inside because of the flood threats. Oklahoma's still under a state of emergency from the storm that hit almost two weeks ago.
BLACKWELL: Missouri's governor has also declared a state of emergency. The main airport in St. Louis is open again. It closed last night so they could clear debris from the runways. Now, a tornado touched down nearby. The storms also brought 70-mile-per-hour winds and hail that caused some serious damage.
KOSIK: We begin our coverage out of Oklahoma with George Howell. He's in Union City, one of the communities that's really been hit hard by the storm.
George, let me ask you this. You are in front of a home there that's been destroyed by the storm. Tell me what it looks like out there. Bring us - bring us some details.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. You know, and when you get in front of a home like this, Alison, you really get a sense of the power of one of these storms, the power of one of these tornados. And, you know, thankfully, the family here, they got out of the way.
But let's take a look at this because we've been taking a look this morning just to see what's leftover. You see that red top to what used to be the tractor there just taken off. The storm took the top of the tractor off. Come over here and you can see the side of this home, the winds, the tornado so strong that it knocked the bricks off the side of the home and even ripped a hole in the roof up there.
But, you know, the real damage, if you come over here, you can kind of see exactly how this tore down the second floor of this home. Look at this. I mean this is all, you know, all the stuff that used to be upstairs. Chris Merit (ph) tells me that, you know, he had to go up there because water was running. He had to go up there and turn it off. But this is -- what are we looking at? We see a bed over there. You see furniture. It's just amazing to see the power of what one of these tornadoes can do.
And, Alison and Victor, the funny thing is, this was the lucky -- they were the lucky ones here because the house over there, you can't see it yet, but we drove down there. That house is gone. The house that was next to it is gone as well. You know, we were trying to determine whether this was a, you know, a sporadic event. I mean did it go in - just trying to figure out, how bad was this tornado. Did it tear many homes down or just in different places, you know? When we get the light of day, we'll be able to see. But certainly when you look at what happened right here, this was a tough, bad tornado.
BLACKWELL: George, are you seeing any of the survey teams there? We know that power is out to hundreds of thousands of people. Who are you seeing there working to recover from the storm?
HOWELL: You know, as far as crews coming out to deal with, you know, downed power lines and things like that, quite honestly have not seen a lot of that at this point. That may happen, you know, in the next couple of hours.
But I can tell you this, Victor, there are a lot of people without power this hour. There are a lot of people, you know, who are trying to get back to their homes but may not be able to get to their homes because of downed trees and power lines. The winds last night were very strong, a lot of rain, a lot of standing water in the way for people. As you know, it will probably take a few hours before people can really get back into their neighborhoods and assess the damage.
BLACKWELL: George Howell in Union City. Thank you, George.
I want to stay in Oklahoma and show you this. This is what the main highways look like as people tried to get away from the storm. But that left them right in danger's path. The highways are open now. Most people are back home assessing their damage if they have any. Some of the damage was seen by Dave Holder, a storm caser who got a good look at what was going on in Oklahoma.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVE HOLDER, STORM CHASER (voice-over): There were people were trying to evacuate all over the place. The whole metro, it was basically a huge evacuation zone it seemed as we kind of got south. All the areas, all the roads, the arteries going south out of the Oklahoma City metro area, it was completely jammed up with traffic. It was just bumper to bumper traffic all the way like south of the metro. And it was kind of a scary situation there because if something had actually, you know, a tornado had formed south and (INAUDIBLE) areas, there would have been hundreds and hundreds of cars and people stuck in these huge traffic jams during a very violent tornado.
Something I haven't seen before. We were south a little ways and people were actually driving southbound in the northbound lanes to try and get out of the way. Even though, in effect, there was actually no imminent tornado threat, people were really, really panicked. You could tell by their erratic driving. We almost got into a head-on collision trying to go north and having cars coming at us the opposite way.
It was - it was almost like a - I thought about people evacuating from a hurricane or something where they open up the other side of the lanes to let people go. But, I mean, such a dynamic, changing, evolving situation with tornados forming and these storms coming in, it was - it was really just asking for a catastrophe. I'm really surprised there wasn't more problems or more - I'm not hearing any more reports of injuries from car crashes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: In Missouri. And there was a - there was some violent storms there as well. They stripped the siding off buildings and just sent the roofs flying there. No deaths have been reported, fortunately, but at least one apparent tornado damaged homes around St. Louis. Governor Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency. St. Louis-Lambert International Airport is now open again after battering winds spread debris across the runways and passengers and crew literally running for cover. But almost 90,000 people across Missouri still have no power. Officials warn that more strong winds, more hail, more tornados and flash floods could be on the way today.
KOSIK: Oh, it just doesn't end.
KOSIK: They don't get a break.
BLACKWELL: It's been a tough couple of weeks for that area of the country. You know, from Oklahoma to Indiana, more potentially dangerous thunderstorms, as we said, with the flash floods and the winds, there's still a major threat.
Let's go to CNN's Severe Weather Center and meteorologist Karen Maginnis joining us this hour.
Karen, what's out there right now because it's gone from a wind event to a rain event, right?
KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. There is essentially a crisis on several fronts, and that is from May 20th, when we had the EF-5 tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma, they're still dealing with that. Now we get another round of severe weather. You get power outages and flooding. And those are many different levels of an emergency situation that you can think of.
All right. Here we go. Oklahoma City right here. We are seeing the bulk of the precipitation. It has now moved along Interstate 40 to the east. And we've still got some of these embedded cells. So if you look at this region just to the south - I apologize -- we are looking at the bulk of the precipitation, the heaviest right along the Interstate 40 to the south. Those are not the areas that it is exclusive. So the rain keeps coming down and those basins, those wash areas continue to fill up.
And this is kind of our 3-D look at the storms that happened last night. Some of these thunderstorms were up to 60,000 feet. And I'll tell you this. We did see those temperatures up over 100 degrees. And Altic (ph), also in Allmore (ph), we saw these temperatures up around 102, 104 degrees.
You ask why do I say that? Because triple digit temperatures, warm, moist air coming up from the south, that cooler air coming from the north, and you get the ideal ingredients for these storms to start to build. That's why they were so intense and so powerful.
They'll send out National Weather Service people. They'll survey the damage. They'll assess just how intense these tornados were. The EF-5, that was in Moore, Oklahoma. I think we might see something a little less than that only because we didn't see the population density that we saw in Moore. So as soon as we get that information, we'll pass it along to you.
KOSIK: OK, thank you.
The National Weather Service says that five tornados of the 23 in total, five of those hit Oklahoma. Our Nick Valencia joins me now from El Reno, where one struck.
Nick, tell me what you're seeing this morning.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Alison.
We drove here about 25 miles west of Oklahoma City to a town called El Reno, Oklahoma. We saw a lot of damage on the way in. A couple of overturned semis. First responders were helping them out. Lots of debris on the side of the road.
And we're outside of the Canadian Valley Technical Center, which appears to be sort of the center of this strike zone, or at the very least part of the area that got hit hard. You see debris all up alongside this structure in the back. You see another structure with half of its roof torn off.
Now, also, on the way in here, we saw first responders going up and down the road here, Alison, with their flashlights, doing a second sweep of this area. We understand they've already done one sweep. They are not reporting injuries or fatalities as of yet. We expect to get a new update from the Canadian County Sheriff's Office later this morning at about 8:30, 9:00 a.m. local time. That's about 9:30, 10:00 Eastern. So when we have more information on that, we'll bring it to you.
But the good part of this - of this all, we understand that the mayor is concerned about major flooding. We haven't seen any of that on our drive in. We do see, though, that there is very little light out here except (ph) for our crew and a couple other crews out here, news crews out here, there's no light out here, Alison. It's completely pitch dark and pitch black. And as we've been mentioning all morning it's really going to be a testament to how strong this tornado system was that came through here when first light comes up.
Until then, this is what we've sort of got to go off here. This debris next to this technical center. And what we've seen on the way in, there's overturned semi and some debris alongside the road. But, so far, we have not seen the catastrophic or major damage that we saw on May 20th when that EF-5 tornado ripped through Moore, Oklahoma.
So there are some good signs so far in these early morning hours -- Alison.
KOSIK: OK, Nick Valencia, thanks. We're going to make sure to check back with you a little later, especially when the sun comes up.
Going in the direction of the storm.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brett (ph), go! Quick! As fast as you can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: As fast as you can. That's what it's like to be a storm chaser. We're going to bring you more from the danger zone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brett (ph), go now! Hurry!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOSIK: You know, the video coming out from these storms is just stunning. And you almost can't get enough watching it because it's really incredible. And its these storm chasers who are capturing this video. And these are the people who actually drive toward the storm instead of seeking shelter.
BLACKWELL: Yes, this is amazing. You'll want to sit down and just, for the next four minutes or so, watch this. Brandon Sullivan (ph), he's one of those storm chasers, this is what he and his team ran into in Union City, Oklahoma. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my goodness! Oh, my goodness! Oh, no. Man, oh.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twins.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twin tornadoes. Just continuous vortices. Continuous vortices here.
Brett (ph), turn the car around! Let's get ready! Brett, go fast! As fast as you can! It's turning right now (ph)! Brett (ph), go now! Hurry! Forty is not enough!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're fine?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE). Head down! Duck down! Duck down! (INAUDIBLE). You're good. Drive. Oh, (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
Go now! (INAUDIBLE)! Go! Go! No, no, turn now! Go south. Brett (ph), if you don't go south, we're going to die! Go, Brett (ph), go!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Flying debris from a roof.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just go, just go, just get around them, man!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) right, man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It's RFD. Just go!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, just drive south! It's RFD, you're fine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's blowing me off the road.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's fine, dude, just go!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't stay on the road!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) fine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we going to be OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
Limb. Get down. Duck down! Duck down! Go as low as you can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: You know, I have a different feeling every time I watch it.
KOSIK: Oh, yes.
BLACKWELL: This is the second time I've seen it now and -
KOSIK: And now what do you think?
BLACKWELL: I think they're surprisingly calm, even for the shouting.
KOSIK: Yes. And I can't believe he wasn't wearing a seat belt until like the end.
BLACKWELL: Yes, until the very end. He's like, oh, you know what, this is getting real now, I should put my seat belt on.
KOSIK: What's interesting is when you see all that debris just smacking into the car, Brandon did an interview earlier this morning -
KOSIK: And he apparently said that that's actually a good sign because it means that they're going farther and farther away from this storm. It's sort of the wake of the path of the tornado.
BLACKWELL: They clearly know what they're doing and the signs to look for. That driver, to me, he is just white knuckled, nervous, are we OK? But they are OK. That's the good thing about this story. They know what they're doing. Unfortunately, some bumps on the vehicle, but they're alive.
We're also following news of a tragic fire. This is in Houston. Flames and smoke engulfed a Houston hostel.
KOSIK: Firefighters went inside to find anyone who could be trapped and then the walls collapsed on them. This is a really sad story and we're going to take you live to Houston, next.
BLACKWELL: We're following news of a deadly hotel fire in Houston this morning. Four firefighters were killed in this fire. They died when a hotel wall collapsed on them. We want to go to CNN's Sara Ganim in Houston.
Sara, what happened here?
SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Victor, unfortunately, four firefighters were killed here yesterday. This fire started around noon at this building behind me. It's a motel inn. It also has a restaurant attached, adjacent to it. And firefighters who arrived here say that's where the fire began. And, unfortunately, they may have underestimated the power of those flames when they entered in believing that there were people trapped who needed to be rescued.
Now, what happened was, as far as we know, there are no civilian injuries, but there are four firefighters who are dead, 13 who were injured, some of them from heat exhaustion but some of them when a wall collapsed on them. And, you know, firefighters are telling me that people who were outside of the building actually rushed in and began picking their firefighter colleagues out of the rubble.
I just talked to a firefighter who is on the scene here. He showed me a picture on his cell phone of four axes that were turned upside down and dug into the ground with four helmets sitting on top of them as a makeshift memorial in front of the scene as they still continue this morning to put out some minor flames and wait for investigators, state and federal, to arrive to determine exactly what happened -- Victor.
KOSIK: Sara, it's Alison. Let me ask you this. Houston's mayor called Friday the worst day in the history of the Houston Fire Department. This is just a really, really somber day.
GANIM: Yes. And, unfortunately, it's been a pretty rough year for the state of Texas. There have been quite a few firefighters killed already this year in this state. Of course you know in West, Texas, several rescuers were injured in an explosion at a fertilizer plan. And this is just another incident, and one of several, that's happened already this year. Like you said, it is the most deadly in this Houston Fire Department history. And, unfortunately, it seems like the number is not quite exact yet. Thirteen people additionally injured. One still critical. And those are all first responders.
KOSIK: Oh, so sad. All right, Sara Ganim, thank you.
BLACKWELL: Coming up --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Large tornado. Very large tornado.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: It's not so much a funnel cloud as just a wall of wind. We'll have more on the wedge (ph) tornado caught on tape near Union City.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
KOSIK: Let's get you up to speed on this morning's top story.
As many as 23 tornadoes have touched down across five Midwestern states.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, horizontal!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: South of I-40. I'm a tornado route (ph) south of I- 40 and it's going to be right here in front of me, Mike. It's coming down right now on a very, very, very low to the ground. The entire vortex coming down to the ground, Mike. I've got to back out of this.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLACKWELL: In the Oklahoma City area, five people, including a mother and her child, they are dead, and at least 71 others are hurt. But the town of Moore, that's where a tornado last month killed 24 people, largely was spared here.
In the wake of all that, Oklahoma and Missouri, they are under states of emergency. All the way east to Indiana, more 200,000, about 212,000 actually, they have no power there. And while the main airports in Oklahoma City and in St. Louis, Missouri, they have re-opened all morning, departures out of Oklahoma City have been canceled and now another threat is looming.
KOSIK: Heavy rain from the same storm system. That can trigger flash floods. Today's forecast also includes large hail and the potential for more tornadoes. Officials are warning people to stay inside.
For now authorities are monitoring the rising water and they are also waiting for daylight to assess the damage. So let's begin our coverage out of Oklahoma with George Howell. He is in Union City. It's one of the communities that was really hit hard by the storm.
BLACKWELL: George, you are in this area right in front of we've seen this home that has been damaged, probably about 45 minutes from sunlight here. You have covered Moore, Oklahoma, with the storm that hit 12 days ago. How does this compare?
HOWELL: It's hard to say. You know, because let's talk about it. With the Moore, Oklahoma, story, and let's not forget Shawnee, Oklahoma, that was the day that an EF-4 tornado came through and killed two people, then the next day an EF-5 -- this powerful tornado that was caught on tape by many different people -- came through and really just demolished parts of Moore.
This was very different, Victor. This was a storm that really just blossomed, blossomed through the evening, developed and grew, and dropped tornadoes right and left. We understand at least five tornadoes on the ground confirmed. And it was the sort of storm that parked itself over Oklahoma City and just stayed there.
You know, as far as our, you know, our ability to get out of the way, we had a plan in place, we got ahead of the traffic, but still we found ourselves being chased by this big black cloud that just kept coming our way. Even Chad Myers, our meteorologist, found himself in the same position, because this was really just a storm that kind of had its own way about it. It just grew and developed and went in its own path. It was a crazy storm to deal with, but a lot of people did get out of the way.
Alison a minute ago mentioned the importance of waiting until daylight, and I want to show you exactly why. Look right up there. See these power lines? Let's just follow the lines. You know, right there on the ground, and that's the problem. This is the home back there. You can barely see it. I will put a little light on it. But the home that we've been showing you. The power lines right in front of it, and that's the problem, because if you are driving at night and you don't see these lines, and you know, we know that these power lines have been cut off, but, you know, there is a danger in that. So it's really important for people who may have left these affected areas to wait until daylight to get to their homes.
Also, there's this -- a problem with flooding in Oklahoma City. There are still many storm showers around. And they have caused flooding in different places. That's another part of the story that we are still trying to assess. We will have a better understanding of what happened when we have light, but a lot of rain fall. Even driving throughout different neighborhoods, a few hours ago we ran into a lot of standing water, and that can create a real problem on the roads, guys.
BLACKWELL: All right, George Howell there in Union City, Oklahoma. George, thanks.
And storm chasers Aaron Eastman (ph) and Cody Howard (ph) captured this monster tornado yesterday near Union City.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Large tornado. Very large tornado.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Now, I am looking at this and I don't see what we would typically call a tornado.
KOSIK: No. It's in there somewhere.
BLACKWELL: It's in there somewhere. It's a block of dark clouds here, and it's known as a wedge tornado, because it looks wider than it is tall. That's why you don't see it clearly as you would typically identify a tornado.
Now, when this video was shot, authorities were calling the situation on parts of Interstate 35 and 40 a nightmare. Big rigs, cars tossed around on the road, thousands of commuters stuck there. The officials there said they were sitting ducks. Two of the five people killed were in Union City in southwest Oklahoma.
KOSIK: And our Chad Myers, he was driving around all night in Oklahoma, and this -- and he is checking out all the damage. I want to show you some of what he saw.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: What you are looking on your screen here is a semi trailer that has been tipped over, and a couple of men here and a couple of very big tow trucks, an air bag that is being inflated underneath this truck to try to set it back up on its wheels. There are three other trucks behind me that have also been turned on their side. The irony is that this happened about six hours ago.
The eeriness is that the lights are still on. The headlights are still on and the flashers are on as these trucks are laying on their side. So the guys here are trying to get this back up. This was kind of a truck parking area, kind of a little rest area or it used to be a weigh station. But now it's an area where usually when we get a tornado, there are chainsaws. The only chain we are listening to now are just these big diesel trucks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: When storms hit Oklahoma, people took shelter wherever they could, and Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, that meant the basement for a lot of people.
KOSIK: So let's go ahead and get an update now on what's happening at the airport. Joining me on the phone is Karen Carney, she is the spokesperson for Will Rogers Airport. Thank you for joining us. Is the airport open at this point? Any flights going in and out?
KAREN CARNEY, SPOKESPERSON, WILL ROGERS WORLD AIRPORT: The airport is open. From the airport's perspective, our first priority is to try to get the airfield open so planes can take off and land, so we have got the airport re-opened.
However, we do have quite a few cancellations, because obviously no planes could get in pretty much after 6:00 last night because of the storms. It has just been raining and raining and raining. And so those flights that generally come in at the end of the day are the first ones to go out in the morning. So there are no planes.
The airlines are really working hard. They are trying to -- they have got a lot of people that they have to reaccommodate. So a couple of airlines are trying, working maybe to bring in an extra flight or something like that. So we are just going to have to watch it as it develops throughout the day.
You know, I think we will see some more cancellations, but I do think we will start seeing some things starting to get back, you know, in operation, airlines flying out today.
BLACKWELL: Karen, last time we spoke, you said you had about 100 to 150 people. I want to talk now about the damage. Has there been any clearer picture of the damage to the planes and to the airport itself?
CARNEY: Well, certainly, you know, as you all were just talking about, when daylight comes, we will be able to see a lot more, what the damage really is. But we know that we have the airport, we have a corner of our building where the roof's kind of was blown away. And so we have a little waterfall inside the terminal building, we have had a lot of signs that were blown off and around. Airlines, we had one airline, Southwest Airlines actually, the plane kind of moved and was blown into a jet bridge, so it has sustained a little bit of damage. We had a UPS aircraft that basically was just kind of flipped around. I mean, it was flipped around about 90 degrees, amazingly. I think they have to replace some tires, but amazingly the aircraft was not hurt.
So we are starting to get these reports. We have several maintenance facilities on our airport property, and they are starting to report aircraft on which they had some damage or hangars, a hangar door that flew off. So I think in the morning we are going to see a lot more. BLACKWELL: All right, Karen Carney, a spokesperson for the Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City. Thank you, Karen.
CARNEY: Thank you.
KOSIK: Flooded streets, broken power lines. The list of damages goes on and on. Parts of the Midwest are being called a nightmare.
BLACKWELL: Yes. Stay with us for the latest recovery efforts, and take a look at some of the amazing footage from yesterday's deadly tornadoes. It was not just a wind event, but it now is an ongoing rain event. More to come.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go! Fast as you can! It's on the right, go! Brett, go now!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOSIK: That's some storm chasing video you are watching, and that's Brandon Sullivan, the guy in the passenger seat, the one who's making all that noise. We have got him on the phone right now from Oklahoma City. Brandon, thank you for joining us.
BRANDON SULLIVAN, STORM CHASER: Thanks for having me.
KOSIK: What in the world was going through your mind?
SULLIVAN: Well, to state the obvious, I guess, I was just thinking that we were a little too close. The tornado strengthened really rapidly and kind of took a turn right at us, and I was just hoping that we could get us out in time.
KOSIK: At some point, did you really feel like your life was in danger? You do this often, don't you?
SULLIVAN: Yes, I have been doing this for quite a while. And, yes, I mean, definitely the most scared I have ever been in a tornado situation for sure.
BLACKWELL: We see that at some point the windshield breaks. What are you guys driving?
SULLIVAN: We are just -- we're in my car, which is -- it's a Jeep. We don't have any armored vehicle or anything like that. So yes, a piece of debris from a barn actually blows into the car and hit the windshield.
KOSIK: How do you decide what to do when you are feeling that fear the most and you are screaming at the driver about what to do, how do you decide what to do? How do you decide what the best move is when you are right in the middle of it? SULLIVAN: Well, there was a couple things going through my head at the time. You know, is it safer to, you know, abandon the car and seek shelter in a ditch, is it safer to turn a certain direction or continue? So you know, at that time I decided that we were south of the tornado. With the flying debris that was going on, I knew that we had to stay in the car. Getting out was not an option. So we just continued south to try and get away from the path of the tornado. And luckily, there were some other storm chasers that were injured, their cars were flipped, but luckily we were able to get south, even though we still did get some damage.
KOSIK: Brandon, what were you thinking not wearing your seatbelt into the final moments of that video?
SULLIVAN: Well, you know, originally, the -- in between the video, I had to jump back in the car as we filmed the tornado. And I guess it slipped my mind to put my seatbelt on, I was so focused on getting south. But as we started getting really strong winds, I got worried that the car could blow over, and at that time, my conscience caught up with me and I realized I wasn't buckled, so that's when I immediately buckled up.
BLACKWELL: Brandon, you appear to be a pretty young guy. How long have you been doing this?
SULLIVAN: I actually have been doing this since I was about 14. I am 21 right now, almost 22, so seven or eight years. So I have seen my fair share of tornadoes. But today I guess it just kind of snuck up on me.
BLACKWELL: Who are these other two guys in the vehicle?
SULLIVAN: I am sorry. I didn't hear that question?
BLACKWELL: Who are the two other guys, the guy driving and the guy in the backseat?
SULLIVAN: Yes, the guy driving, he is I guess my best friend and my roommate. He's always driving for me. His name is Brett. We both go to school together for meteorology. The passenger is a friend from Mississippi, who is actually coming out to the planes for his first storm chasing trip and trying to see his first tornado.
BLACKWELL: That was his first? This is the first one?
SULLIVAN: Well, actually, we got into a big tornado in Kansas earlier this week, but he tells me that he has got his money's worth.
BLACKWELL: Yes, because he is silent, jaw dropped in the backseat the whole time.
SULLIVAN: Yes, he was -- he handled it much better than I anticipated, I will admit.
BLACKWELL: How does this compare to other storms you have chased?
SULLIVAN: Well, I mean, we definitely got closer than we have ever been before. Something I don't want to do again. But, I think what was so impressive about this storm is how rapidly it strengthened. We were originally what we felt in a safe position, and it intensified so quickly, the atmosphere was very volatile. And things just changed so rapidly.
BLACKWELL: You are screaming in a lot of this video. Is that out of necessity because the wind is that loud, or is that all adrenaline?
SULLIVAN: I would say it's a combination of both. The window is open for some of it. I am really trying to stress to my driver, to Brett, that we need to go south now. What is not shown in most of the video is that there is actually a car in front of us, multiple cars. I don't know if they were locals or other storm chasers, but they were preventing us really from being able to go south any faster than we were.
BLACKWELL: Wow. It looked as if those cars were bouncing. Were they bouncing or was that just the reflection or the way the image was kind of maneuvered through the crack in the window?
SULLIVAN: Yes, you know, I think it was just, you know, it was just kind of how it was portrayed there. Some of those that were behind us, like I said, the tornado actually passed about a half mile behind us, but the winds were so strong around it, that's where all the debris came from. Some chasers were not lucky enough to go south when we did and actually got their vehicle flipped.
KOSIK: Brandon, one last question and we got to go. Will you get out there again?
SULLIVAN: Yes, I will be out there again. I will get the Jeep fixed up and we will go out. But definitely a little humbled and just -- it's a good reminder that Mother Nature is the stronger force and she will always win.
KOSIK: All right, Brandon Sullivan, you are quite the storm chaser, be safe out there, OK?
SULLIVAN: All right. Thank you.
BLACKWELL: Wow. He is there with his roommate, Brett. A guy from Mississippi, who wanted to come and see --
KOSIK: I get the feeling he is not going to want to go back.
BLACKWELL: No, he's seen all he needs to see.
We have new details coming in out of Missouri.
KOSIK: Up to 200 road closures. We're going to give you more details after the break.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLACKWELL: Coming up on seven minutes before the top of the hour, we are following breaking news in the Midwest, where almost two dozen reported tornadoes touched down yesterday.
Now, after hitting Oklahoma, the storm roared through Missouri, caused damage and flooding in St. Louis -- look at this home. The tornado hit this house in St. Charles, Missouri. The roof ripped off. You are looking up at just dark sky, and there is debris in this family's living room.
KOSIK: Such fury.
And this storm damaged telephone poles. The one that you see here, that caught fire. More than 89,000 people are without power in Missouri. Emergency crews rushed to a Holiday Inn Hotel in Earth City after the storm hit. We are not clear if they were checking for structural damage or if they were any injuries, but there were no reports of deaths in Missouri.
And the rain that came after those tornadoes blew through, after the tornadoes blew through, are wreaking havoc on Missouri's roadways. The state's Transportation Department says that portions of more than 200 roads have been closed because of flooding. These are some of the roads that saw emergency crews rescuing stranded passengers last night. If you want to go ahead and check your commute, you can head to Missouri's DOT website.
BLACKWELL: It is never a good idea to drive through standing water. Even if it does not appear to be that deep.
KOSIK: Your car can float before you know it.
BLACKWELL: Just a few inches will move it.
Lots of news for you ahead. First an update on just how many in the Midwest are still without power. Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands. We will give you the precise number. Also, more on the deadly tornadoes. Plus, images of space. A dangerous asteroid that flew past our little blue planet.
BLACKWELL: We're bringing you breaking news from the Midwest. Nearly two dozen reported tornadoes have ripped through that area. Now the sun may be coming up in just a few moments, probably 20 minutes from now, but these downed power lines have become a familiar sight. Meaning more than 212,000 from Oklahoma City to Missouri spent the night in the dark. The real concern this morning is the flooding, though. Water tire high is stopping SUVs and Jeeps from moving there.
KOSIK: A huge asteroid whizzed by earth yesterday. You may have missed it. It never though came any closer than 3.6 million miles from our planet, but at 1.7 miles wide and equipped with its very own moon of all things, a rock that size hitting us would cause a global catastrophe. BLACKWELL: Yes, 3.7 million miles, we missed it, we didn't see that one. To put it in perspective, it's believed the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs was about six miles in diameter.
CNN's Tom Foreman has more for us.
Good morning, Tom.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Alison; hey, Victor.
You know, NASA has been talking an awful lot about tracking things in space that might be headed toward our earth to try to steer them away if there is some kind of problem. And this really is the reason why. If you were to go out to Meteor Crater, Arizona, this isn't far from Flagstaff, you can see this. This is a crater left by a meteorite that hit many, many years ago, and it's huge. From this edge to that edge is about a mile. And this was caused by a meteorite that was only about 50 yards across, and an explosion that would have wiped out almost any city.
So how big was this one that just passed us by? Was it this size? No, this is about the size of the one that blew up over Russia and scared everyone half to death. So was it this size? More like the size of a football field? No, this is the size of the one that flew by earth with no impact that day. The asteroid that just passed us is really much more like this size, traveling some 20,000, 24,000 miles an hour. The simple truth is, if we had something like this hit earth, the impact truly would be catastrophic, a huge, huge impact, and that's why NASA is watching the skies so carefully to see if there is some way we can avoid any such problem in the future -- Alison, Victor.
BLACKWELL: All right. Thank you, Tom.