Return to Transcripts main page


Blocks Destroyed in Tornado's Wake; Toronto Mayor's Showdown

Aired November 18, 2013 - 08:00   ET




CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Heartbreak in the heartland.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You always watch TV and say, that would never happen to us.

CUOMO: Tornadoes and thunderstorms wreak unimaginable damage. Dozens injured, at least six dead. Communities flattened, and for hundreds of thousands, still no power. Where homes and offices once stood, now rubble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was tearing it apart like it was just a cardboard box.

CUOMO: Today, search and recovery efforts begin and we are there.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Plus, a CNN exclusive. Mayor Rob Ford under fire from an entire country. His first face-to-face interview since this scandal broke with CNN's Bill Weir.

ROB FORD, TORONTO MAYOR: I'm not an addict. Why go see an addict if I'm not an addict?

BOLDUAN: Does he think can he survive this scandal?

ANNOUNCER: This is "NEW DAY" with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.


CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to "NEW DAY". It's Monday, November 18th.

I'm live in Washington, Illinois. This is -- you're seeing the morning sun revealing the destruction from Sunday's tornadoes.

We'll also have more -- Kate, over to you, sorry, I almost read your tease. I'm so cold, Kate, I almost read your tease.

BOLDUAN: You're doing great work there, and that is the big story, Chris. As you know, and you see the devastation behind you. We'll be getting back to you and get hot coffee to you very shortly. But we also are talking about CNN's interview with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. His first t face-to-face interview since the scandal began. He could be stripped of more powers today. So, what is he thinking?

First, let's get back to Chris in the big story out of Midwest this morning.

Hey, Chris.

CUOMO: And I'll tell you what, Kate? You know, it is telling. It's so cold here this morning but the people are literally warmed by their resolve of getting back together and the feeling of community here, something we'll tell you about as we talk about the twisters that just ravaged the Midwest. Some people had to run for cover, sirens, minutes before massive tornadoes came and many when they came back up from their basements nothing was left except the clothes on their backs.

So far, six people have been killed, dozens more injured, there are massive power outages across Michigan, Missouri, Indiana and Ohio. And so, so many without homes, as I said, and remember we're heading into the holidays.

And also important to note, this wasn't just one storm, 81 tornadoes reported. The damage is great, the need is great, so we are here covering this CNN way with team coverage.

First, we're going to start with a look at what rolled through right here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's on the ground!

CUOMO (voice-over): It's like being under attack. Over 80 massive funnel clouds slash across the country within hours Sunday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our father, who art in heaven --

CUOMO: Prayers echoed through basements as a monster size twister roars above. Central Illinois took the brunt of the furry, a string of tornadoes, left several dead, dozens more injured. Just north in Peoria --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We may need to take shelter right now ourselves.

CUOMO: Newscasters were brushed off air.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will be back as soon as we can.

CUOMO: Tornado ripped right pass their studio.

Down south, Washington County was devastated by a tornado. Wind reports of 200 miles an hour spun entire blocks of homes to the foundation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I felt the house shaking and waited probably a minute then I came back up and saw what you are seeing here.

CUOMO: In the community of Pekin, authorities went door-to-door checking on residents for fear of gas leaks. One resident described the aftermath as a war zone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just devastated. I just feel sick.

CUOMO: Further south, the tornado carved a path of destruction in Brookport, directly hitting two mobile home parks.

MICHELLE CRUMRINE, TORNADO VICTIM: I don't have anything. My whole -- it's gone. I don't know where it went.

CUOMO: Wide spread funnel clouds even spotted in Chicago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please clear the seating area calmly.

CUOMO: Tornado warnings forced officials to evacuate Soldier Field, delaying the Bear's game. Once the twister passed, there was a new blast of energy, clean-up efforts, waves of people coming to each other's aid, looking for survivors, searching for valuables, toppled semis pulled upright. Most importantly, spirits raised.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will make it through it. We are so grateful the Lord preserved so many lives here.


CUOMO: I'll tell you. As powerful as these storms were, it seems the power of this community, the strength to want to get back on its feet is stronger.

But so many say, I want to bring in Indra Petersons, our meteorologist, one of the things we keep hearing from everybody is, it happened so fast, wow, they just shocked us. How do so many tornadoes surprise people?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, because they were moving so fast. We're talking about 55 miles per hour. This is a nice springtime system, a system that was happening pretty much feeling like a wintertime system.

Let's talk about how rare this is. We actually had a high risk yesterday. That's only the second of the entire season, and let's kind of put it in perspective. In November, this late in the season we typically only have 50 tornadoes for the entire country in the month of November.

Yesterday, we had 81 reports in a single 24-hour period.


PETERSONS (voice-over): Sunday's dramatic tornado outbreak is one for the record books. Eighty-one reported tornado across 10 states, initial estimates show this monster storm cycle produced at least one EF4 tornado touching down in New Minden, Illinois. It would be the first ever recorded in the state's history of November.

EF4 tornadoes are capable of packing wind gusts of up to 200 miles per hour. Those gusts were powerful enough to annihilate entire neighborhoods and flip cars in Indiana. The storm system isn't believed to be as powerful as the EF5 tornadoes that devastated Moore, Oklahoma, in May, in Joplin, Missouri in 2011. But its timing sets it apart.

A strengthening area of low pressure moved over the Great Lakes with very cold, dry air behind it. That mixed with the warm moist from the gulf ahead of it, and that big contrast in air collided with wind shear, a sudden and drastic change in wind direction at different heights in the atmosphere.

A hundred and one tornado warnings were issued in Illinois on Sunday. That's more than half of the warnings issued in the state since 1986, in one day alone.


PETERSONS: Chris, one of the things they were talking about why did this take people by surprise? Well, this particular case, it was raindrop. So many of these tornadoes that spawned up had heavy rain surrounding them, they couldn't see them come and they were moving 55 miles per hour. Of course, the next step right now is the National Weather Service, is going to come out here and they have to survey the damage and look at the difference.

Yes, we had trucks and trailers overturned but were they far? These are the kinds of things that are going to differentiate from an EF4 or an EF3, and also the structural integrity of the buildings that are left, if at all.

CUOMO: They say the "Welcome to Washington" sign was found 50 miles away and the debris field is 100 miles. So, they have a lot of searching to do.

PETERSONS: It's what's in the debris 100 miles away that will make the difference.

CUOMO: Thank you for teaching me about this all morning. And some more evidence that we could see right now, from New Minden, Illinois. This is live picture of the aftermath that you're looking at. This is what the community is waking up to.

Remember this happened yesterday, it was Sunday. Many of the people were in church. They were home with their families and now this is going to be their first real chance to get out and look around as the sun is coming up and so many are going to be so heartbroken by what they see, but hopefully the numbers hold and we know that most people made it through, and we're going to keep hearing just amazing tales of survival through this situation.

We want to bring in some people right now who did it. Curt and Mike Zehr, they weathered the storm. They survived. When the storm hit, Curt was huddled. They were huddled in their church basement, while some (ph) was at their home's basement as their home was destroyed, so they had to live through it separately but they're here now together.

Hey. Thank you very much for joining us. I'm sorry to have to meet you this way but thank God you got each other, you got what matters most.

CURT ZEHR, SURVIVED TORNADOES: Thankfully nobody was hurt, you know. We're just thankful, thank the Lord that son and wife are OK, you know?

CUOMO: I know that's what worried you most.

C. ZEHR: Yes, I took my dad to church in the morning and right at the end of the service, they said people's phones went off, tornado warning, so we went to the basement and then my wife texted me and says that see a tornado and five minutes later she texted and said the house is gone.

I said, whose house? She said our house.

CUOMO: Now, you're there with your father, as you said, in the church basement.

C. ZEHR: Yes.

CUOMO: If there were anything that would have motivated you to go in the storm knowing that your wife and son are somewhere else.

C. ZEHR: When the thing went off I thought about --

MIKE ZEHR, SURVIVED TORNADOES: That would have been a bad idea.

C. ZEHR: The Lord was looking out for us. I went and got the truck and thought, I'll just go home, you know, and looked to the southwest from church and there was a pretty black and I thought, well, my dad's pretty slow moving around, I thought well if we get stuck somewhere I can't get there to move him around, so we went back to the basement.

CUOMO: Yes, we're dealing with the aftermath now. You can hear the helicopter going over there. They're still surveying the situation of what the Zehrs had to live through.

So, your father is at church with your grandpa. You're with your mom in the basement.

M. ZEHR: Yes, we're in the basement and the dog.

CUOMO: What do you hear above you?

M. ZEHR: I mean, first, you just hear -- well, I watched it go through Washington and it was headed straight for us, we live about a mile north of Washington. I can hear it now so we better get in the basement, just huddled in the basement, a couple minutes later started to hear things hit the house and all of a sudden it's white noise, the loudest thing I ever heard, and next thing you know the sun is shining through the basement.

CUOMO: Through the basement?

M. ZEHR: I mean, we were getting hit with debris when it was happening, like dirt and stuff and then the next thing we know it's completely quiet and the sun is just shining through the stairs in the basement. I walked upstairs first and you know, you look behind you, basically looked like this, just nothing. Our house is floorboards and that's it.

CUOMO: Can you even make sense of it in that first moment when you walked up?

M. ZEHR: I can -- I was in shock. I just kind of walked around, like a zombie, didn't quite know what to do or think. Yes, just taking it all in. Yes, I don't know how to explain it. There's no words for it, really.

CUOMO: Everything's gone.

M. ZEHR: Pretty much.

C. ZEHR: Our farmstead, we had a machine shed and a barn and some bins and a little bit of equipment in the shed and --

M. ZEHR: Trees completely ripped out of their roots.

C. ZEHR: We had like a 200-year-old pine, it was about three-foot in diameter, just laid over, and yes, there's nothing standing on our farm. We've got bins that, the roof's come off, they were clear full of beans, we have to figure out before it rains how to get them out and we got all our records, you know --

CUOMO: I heard somebody found an invoice of yours.

C. ZEHR: A guy that we do business with texted me last night and said the owner's son lives in Morris, and they found a Zehr Farms invoice in his front yard. That's probably 75, 80 miles away.

CUOMO: Tell him pay it.

C. ZEHR: Yes.


CUOMO: You found it, pay it because you need the cash.

C. ZEHR: Yes.

CUOMO: How do you tell yourself this is, when you look at it, it could just consume you, what you've lost?

M. ZEHR: I haven't felt that at all.

CUOMO: Not at all?

M. ZEHR: None of it matters. The most important thing I have my life, my mom has her life, the dogs are there. We can move on. CUOMO: You need to mention him, too.


C. ZEHR: You know, we can, we got insurance and question rebuild the house but you can't rebuild lives and you know, it's going to be -- that was where the farm office was and I think about all the records we had there, and we found a couple computers, hopefully maybe we can retrieve some of the data off the hard drives.

CUOMO: We've been saying this morning, this is so hard when it happens, but certainly heading into the holidays but you think about it especially as a prayerful community, what you want the holidays to be about -- you know, you've got the biggest gift. You've got the reminder.

M. ZEHR: Everything's on perspective.

C. ZEHR: The Lord was looking out for us, no question about it.

CUOMO: Thank God you're OK. I'm hoping the farm is good, you get back up on your feed.

C. ZEHR: Thank you.

CUOMO: That guy pays that invoice. Thank you very much.

C. ZEHR: Thank you for coming and telling us people's stories. There's a lot, we're just one family of a lot of people who got less than we do and really devastating. So keep us in your prayers.

CUOMO: Everybody says it and we're seeing it's true, a special community of good people and it's one of the opportunities we have to come here and make sure we tell the right stories and let people know there's a need.

C. ZEHR: There was, within three hours there was 75, 100 people around our house picking stuff up.

M. ZEHR: It's really humbling.

CUOMO: It's good to know you have friends. I know you'd do the same thing for them and you have in the past.

C. ZEHR: You bet.

CUOMO: And this is a time when you show that you're strong and you're a strong community.

C. ZEHR: Yes.

CUOMO: So, God bless and thank you for being here with us.

C. ZEHR: Thank you.

CUOMO: Good luck going forward. Michaela, there's a lot of other news. We'll give it back to you in New York.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Such emotion there. Let them know we're certainly thinking of them and sending our prayers as well.

Let's update you on the latest news.

Investigators are trying to find the source of a carbon monoxide after two Colorado miners were killed. At least 19 others were sent to the hospital. "The Denver Post" now reporting an explosion has been ruled out as an immediate cause. The mine which produced silver from 1876 well into the 1940s began operating once again in February, but it is now closed as authorities investigate.


(voice-over): Take a look at this video. It is the most up close look we've got on the typhoon Haiyan hitting the Philippines. Look at the surge, sending water rushing in overcoming a house. It was filmed by an aide worker last Friday from the roof of a boarding house. And we want to show you this extraordinary video of the damage. It is simply staggering. It's taken by a drone showing a bird's-eye view of all of that destruction caused by the typhoon in Tacloban.

A Senate showdown is expected this week over a military sexual assault bill that has divided both Republicans and Democrats. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's proposal gives rape and sexual assault victims in the military and independent rub (ph) outside the chain of command for prosecuting attackers. Opponents of the proposal insist that commanders should be accountable for doling out punishment.

This morning, two North Carolina foster parents are behind bars after police make a horrifying discovery at their home. Dorian Lee Harper, Wanda Sue Larson, one a nurse, the other a social service worker are now facing charges after an 11-year-old boy was found handcuffed to a porch with a dead chicken around his neck. Four other children who lived in the home were placed in the custody of social services.

The Cheney sisters trading jabs over same-sex marriage. Mary Cheney who's married to a woman telling her sister, Liz, that she's, quote, "on the wrong side of history" on the issue. She was responding to an interview where Liz Cheney said she believes in the traditional definition of marriage. Liz Cheney is vying for the GOP Senate nomination in Wyoming.


PEREIRA (on-camera): One of those situations where you think, OK, if this is happening out there in public, what's happening behind the scenes.

BOLDUAN: Definitely going to become a centerpiece of the campaign now --

PEREIRA: It will. BOLDUAN: Coming up next on "NEW DAY", his power is being stripped piece by piece, the Toronto mayor, Rob Ford, isn't going anywhere. He talks to CNN in his first face-to-face interview. That's ahead.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to "NEW DAY", everyone. His behavior has been described as wild, irrational, bizarre, pick the adjective. Toronto mayor, Rob Ford, is gearing up for a showdown today with the city council, seeking to strip him of more of his remaining powers, most of the power that he has left as mayor. But Rob Ford remains optimistic.

CNN's chief innovation correspondent, Bill Weir, got the first face- to-face with the mayor. What do you make of all this? How did this come about?



WEIR: I hung out in the Toronto housing project with the Ford Brothers. It all happened Friday night. We had Doug Ford, the brother, fellow counselor on "AC 360." We're bantering (ph) via satellite afterwards, and he said "I want to you come up here after we've won the re-election next year." I said "I'd love to come up there anytime, visit your ward and meet your supporters." He said "done."

Called my bluff, so less than 18 hours later, I found myself in a Toronto housing project, listening to a Rob Ford rant.



WEIR (voice-over): A lot of people are worried about Rob Ford these days, worried that he'll never leave office or that hiss appetites will kill him, but you know who's not worried, Rob Ford.

MAYOR ROB FORD, TORONTO: I'm not an addict. Why go see an addict if I'm not an addict. I'm not an alcoholic. I'm not a drug addict.

WEIR: And in the heart of Ford nation, they believe him.

ROSE, ROB FORD SUPPORTER: People can set him up, too, you know?

WEIR: Oh. You think he might have been set up.

ROSE: Yes.

WEIR: Well, he admitted to smoking crack.

ROSE: Well, maybe, he just get fed up with everything.

WEIR: Have you purchased illegal drugs in the last two years? Sure he may be a pariah on the floor of city council and a punch line on "Saturday Night Live."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa! That's a lot of crack!

WEIR: But out in the suburban public housing project he is, no pun intended, a rock star. See he may be a slash and burn fiscal conservative downtown, but out here, they say he's the bleeding heart they call when the eviction notice comes.

COUNCILOR DOUG FORD, BROTHER OF ROB FORD: Everyone keeps saying Rob's a conservative. He's a huge, massive social liberal. He loves Obama.

WEIR: Councilor Doug Ford invited us here, and when his little brother showed up, we saw why. Almost everyone was thrilled to see him.

These folks love you. But do you realize how you're perceived around the rest of the country, around the rest of the continent?

ROB FORD: They can make fun at me. They can laugh at me all they want. They don't know Rob Ford. These people know me. They've known me for -- I was born and raised here.

WEIR: Why did you decide to finally admit that you had smoked crack?

ROB FORD: I'm not going to run around and be phony and you know, lie and I'm not going to have someone try to blackmail me and say they've got videos of this.

WEIR: But you did deny it for months.

ROB FORD: You don't trust what the "Toronto Stars" is -- I just had enough. I was sick and tired of all these allegations and all the (EXPLETIVE DELETED), excuse my sorry. That's how it is, sorry. I shouldn't swear in front of the kids. You know what? I made mistakes. I drank too much. I smoked some crack sometimes. What can I say? I made a mistake. I'm human.

WEIR: Can't you see why some would question your judgment?

ROB FORD: To lie about it. Just hide --


WEIR: Just that you would do it in the first place.

ROB FORD: No, I didn't say that. No, I didn't say that. You're wrong. You're absolutely wrong what they said. They said, do you smoke crack and are you a crack addict? No, I don't smoke crack and I'm not a crack addict. Have I? Yes, I have. So, that's what I did. I didn't lie. I don't smoke crack. I haven't smoked crack in over a year but did I? Come on.

WEIR: That's semantics, mayor. Come on.


ROB FORD: Typical media. You guys are the same. You're all cut from the same cloth.


ROB FORD: You know what I mean? You guys can spin it every way you want. But you know what --

WEIR: At this point, Doug tries to calm his brother, which as we've seen ain't easy.

ROB FORD: When you come and accuse me of being a crack addict and saying do you smoke crack? No, I don't. Have I? Yes. I don't like people attacking my integrity.

WEIR: Couldn't you be even more effective if you were a little healthier?

ROB FORD: I'm trying to lose some weight. I'm working out. I'm not perfect.

WEIR: But why not see some addiction specialist, just to make sure --

ROB FORD: I'm not an addict. You guys can spin it. You can tell me whatever you want. These people more than a month (ph), you ever got drunk before, though?

WEIR: Of course.



ROB FORD: This is the thing, I don't look at myself as the mayor. I look at myself as just a normal, regular person.


ROB FORD: Yes. You know, that's enough, so guys, I'm sorry.

WEIR: One more question, and this is the one that really gets it for me. I know a lot of people who would party their brains out, but they're parents. I'm sure you're insulating your children from what's going on now?

ROB FORD: Absolutely. I'm the best father around.

WEIR: There's going to come a day when they Google their dad --

ROB FORD: Absolutely. I'm going to explain what they're hearing. I'm straightforward with my kids -- you just walk away. I don't walk away from anyone, Bill, in life. All these richy elitist people, I'm sick of them. I'm sick of them. They're perfect. They don't do nothing. Get out of here they don't do nothing. They're the biggest crooks around. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's why they want to get richer.



WEIR (on-camera): Yes. Any reporter who has ever covered politics and complain that candidates are way too media managed and predictable, it's not all the time with the Fords.

BOLDUAN: Any time they start blaming the media and saying you didn't ask the right question, you know that they're generally on the wrong side of the story, first off.

WEIR: Yes.

BOLDUAN: You spent time with him and he would argue that people are taking him, you know, taking him in sound bites and they don't know the real -- what's your big take-away from spending time with Rob Ford?

WEIR: Well, he is a talented politician. What was so interesting, he got aggravated because we were challenging him, obviously. He wanders off. His brother was trying to broker a friendship. They know these are good guys, you know, he was trying to set, you know, obviously he had us there around his supporters trying to start to, you know, rehabilitate the image a little bit.

And yes, he did. He finally -- once he got over his outburst, he hung out. He talked about football. He talked about the fact that Charlie Sheen wants him to come to California.

He shoots the breeze and he's the kind of -- his brother says he is the best retail politician in the country and it's hard to argue with that, but, and what's interesting is the more we question his judgment, the more we wonder about what other skeletons are coming out, the more he can say see, liberal elites! They're all against us!

They're all part of the establishment. So our hate only makes him stronger, you know, to clip something from "Star Wars."

PEREIRA: Talk about that dynamic between the two brothers who we know that they're supposed to be starting a TV show furthering what they had going on the radio a while ago.

WEIR: Yes.

PEREIRA: This dynamic is kind of a good cop/bad cop routine it's seeming.

WEIR: It really is. Now Doug was interesting. You know, Doug says I think my brother should take some time off and, you know, let things blow over, but at the same time, they go and agree to do this deal with Sun media up in Toronto, which is sort of their version of Fox News. And in fact, they premiered just last night. Here's a little taste of what that "Ford Brothers" look like. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROB FORD: I'll do a drug test, alcohol test right now and I put a motion forward that every councilor do it, too. I know people party on the side. I know lawyers, doctors, everybody has a good time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who else has done it, anybody else?

ROB FORD: I'm not going to name names.


ROB FORD: -- see who comes forward and who doesn't.


WEIR: They were really playing that hypocrite card. And here's what's interesting, not only do they have a plan for survival just to hang on, but Doug Ford was describing his plan to totally annihilate everyone on the city council politically. They're going to find other Rob and Doug Fords, members of the Ford Nation, true fiscal conservatives, do the same kind of populous thing and try to unseat everybody in city hall.

BOLDUAN: In the meantime, though, the city council is meeting to strip Rob Ford of more and more of his powers. What does he say about that? I mean, he basically -- after today likely will have no power as mayor. He'll just have the title.

WEIR: And their excuse for that is the mayor of Toronto is not like the mayor of Chicago or New York. He's just one member of 45 councilors. he Never really had all that much power to begin with. Nothing gets done without those people. There've been plenty of votes that were 44-1, and Rob Ford was that dissenter. So, again, they just think that there are more poor people than rich people, power is with them and they're doubling down. They're not going anywhere.

BOLDUAN: He definitely does not look like he's going anywhere, unless, he's forced out, right? And it doesn't look like there's any way to force him out.


PEREIRA: What a bizarre scenario.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Bill. Amazing interview.

WEIR: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Nice job.

For more, you can see all of Bill Weir's interview with Rob and Doug Ford tonight on "AC 360." That, of course, is at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Do not want to miss that.

Still ahead on "NEW DAY", an unexpected birth control connection, a new study exposing why being on the pill may be bad for your eyesight in the long run.