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Deadly Tornadoes In Midwest And Plains; Australian PM: Flight 370 "Must Be Somewhere"; L.A. Clippers Owner Under Fire; Australian PM: New Search Could Take 6-8 Months

Aired April 28, 2014 - 06:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: We're live in one of the hardest hit towns.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, the search for Flight 370 now enters the next stage.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An intensified underwater search.


BOLDUAN: Covering a larger area of the ocean floor that could take up to eight months. We have the latest on the new plans.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, growing outrage against the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers over comments he allegedly made about black people.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it bothers me a lot. Broadcast that it you're associating with black people. You're supposed to be a delicate white or delicate Latina girl.


PEREIRA: Players showing their feelings from the court.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now.

Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. Breaking news, indeed the deadliest tornado outbreak so far this year. At least 18 people killed but search and rescue is just getting under way after intense twisters that were reported in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri. One dead in Oklahoma. A tornado absolutely crushing the town of Quapaw near the Kansas border. Another death just reported in Iowa, but those numbers are short-changed.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. At least 18 of those deaths -- 16 of those deaths are in Central Arkansas. A massive twister. Half a mile wide. Wiping out home after home in the northern suburb us of Little Rock. Let's bring in Chad Myers live from Mayflower, Arkansas, a small town, Chad, that really got the brunt of this storm. CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It certainly did. The tornado touched down rather quickly and it became large very quickly. We have now reports, we're going to talk to a storm spotter who saw this live. You're going to talk to him in just a second. He's going to think that this is probably an EF-4 or EF-5 tornado. I can only see EF-3 damage. That's it behind me.

That is a store that is no longer a store, but you can still see where the walls are or at least were. That indicates that it was not a storm of 200 miles per hour or more. At least not right here. We're standing right on the edge of I-40 here, north of Little Rock, but we are sure that the death toll is going to rise today.


MYERS (voice-over): Scenes of devastation this morning after a series of deadly tornadoes ripped across the mid-south on Sunday. The hardest hit, Arkansas. The massive destruction resulting in the most deaths. More than 100 people treated at various local hospitals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow, guys, my ears are popping. Yes, we're in it right now. We're in the tornado.

MYERS: A tornado as much as a half-mile wide with winds estimated up to 150 miles per hour demolished the area north of Little Rock, leaving the towns of Mayflower and downtown Vilonia in ruins.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a few buildings partially standing that the amount of damage is tremendous.

MYERS: Civilians and rescue workers frantically searching the interstate littered with crushed and overturned vehicles desperately trying to fee people trapped inside their cars. Witnesses capturing this deadly twister slamming Quapaw, Oklahoma, a small town near the Kansas and Missouri border flattening homes. The brutal band of tornadoes barreling north into Kansas striking Baxter Springs injuring several people. Officials say the storms destroyed at least 70 homes and at least 20 businesses were leveled.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All at once we heard the sirens going off and everybody was told to get to the bathroom. And we did and we heard this cracking and breaking.

MYERS: First responders out in full force, urgently going house to house, checking on residents and setting up emergency shelters for those now homeless.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Things can be replaced or rebuilt. Family cannot be.

MYERS: That tornado was one of several tearing through parts of Kansas and Missouri. Leaving trails of devastation in their paths.


MYERS: As we arrive on the scene last night, we saw families calling for their pets. They were lost in the storm. We know there are families that have also lost loved one it's in storm as well. The rescue continues, but this area is so long, the devastation is so long, all the way from Mayflower, you can look at it on the map. All the way to El Paso, Arkansas, miles and miles of destruction. Many homes destroyed. And not enough first responders, at least when we got here to cover the homes that are flattened, Chris. This area is say big mess this morning and we're hoping they find more survivors in the rubble.

CUOMO: All right, Chad, give us updates on what you learn there on the ground. We want to get to somebody who has lived through and is in charge of helping his community recover from it. James Firestone, he's the mayor of Vilonia, Arkansas, very hard hit. Mr. Mayor, you can hear us.


CUOMO: I know you got a lot of work this morning but we want to help you get the word out of need for your community. What did you live through there?

FIRESTONE: Well, a little bit before 8:00 last night. The storm signs had gone off. All of a sudden, of course, it sounds like a train coming which is all too familiar because we went through this almost exactly three years ago. It was three years and two days ago we went through the same thing. The storm here, it's almost the same path. It struck the southwest corner of town first. Came across all the way across the city, probably a 6 1/2 to 7-mile track across.

And last time, we were an EF-2 and it did a lot of damage, you know, blew shingles off roofs. Broke out windows. Privacy fences were blown down. Trees but this time, the storm was much stronger. Buildings are completely leveled. Very few walls left standing in its path. Just a tremendous amount of damage. It's just hard to look at and believe this happened to us.

CUOMO: It's a terrible coincidence. No two ways about that. Was there advance warning, were people able to evacuate and shelter in place. What do you know about the human cost?

FIRESTONE: Yes, sir, I think that's probably going to help us as far as our casualties. Of course, the weather service had been predicting an outbreak of storms all weekend. So everybody was on the lookout, on edge. We actually -- the fire department turned the storm sirens on about 45 minutes before the storm actually hit, which gave people a lot of time. I had folks call me that wanted to know if the storm shelters were going to be open. In fact, we had a grant to build a shelter at the school after the 2011 storm, and I was told there were between 300 and 400 people in that shelter from the storm here.

CUOMO: That's good news that you were a little bit ahead of it. Luckily, if there's any luck involved with this, it was the weekend so, you didn't have to deal with all the kids being at school. How are you? How is your family? How is your home?

FIRESTONE: My family and I were in a safe room. I did not have any damage to my house. Very fortunate. A lot of other folks here weren't that lucky.

CUOMO: One of the worst parts about a tornado is how random it is in terms of who gets destroyed and who winds up making it through. But obviously, it's horrible for everybody trying to recover. We know how to reach us, Mr. Mayor. We want to be here to get out the word of what's needed as you go through the recovery process. Please let us know what we can tell people to send that way, other than prayers which I'm sure you want for everybody. Stay in touch with us, let us know what you need. And what you discover.

FIRESTONE: OK. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: You see that video right there, what the storm looked like as it was coming through. As the mayor said, it's a good thing it was on the weekend.

The threat of weather is not over yet. Several states still facing thunderstorms potentially dangerous weather in coming days. Let's go to meteorologist, Indra Petersons, who is tracking that. Where's it headed right now?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's right. We have the threat, even moderate risk of severe weather today. Let's talk of what we saw yesterday. Thirty one reports of tornado damage. You can see the straight line wind damage as well as the system did make its way across. One of these tornadoes was a long-term tornado. You can actually see how far this tornado made its way across. Reports say foundations were having homes and buildings completely ripped down. It was an EF-4, possibly an EF-5.

The National Weather Service does need to go out and survey that damage to indicate whether or not it was of strength. Looking at Mayflower, you see that pink there. This morning, the concern is still there. We're talking about currently tornado watch boxes out towards Memphis, just ahead of Jackson, out towards Alexandria. We're still looking for it to ramp up even through the afternoon. Why?

We have the dry moisture and system making its way across. But notice another moderate risk area is out there. Heightened risk from Huntsville, down through Jackson, and this threat continues even as we go through tomorrow. The system pushes through the country. Overnight tonight, you need to stay aware. We're talking about 55 million people still looking at a slight risk for severe weather. So hardly out of the woods yet.

BOLDUAN: All right, we'll watch it and you'll watch it, thank you so much.

CUOMO: Is the risk going forward the same as it was for what they dealt with last night?

PETERSONS: At one point they did have a high alert. We could see that heighten through the afternoon. Through tomorrow, a slight risk but expansive.

PETERSONS: So nothing to shrug off? CUOMO: All right, definitely never shrug it off no matter what risk.

PETERSONS: At one point they did have a high alert. We could see that heighten through the afternoon. Through tomorrow, a slight risk, just more expansive.

CUOMO: So nothing to shrug off?

PETERSONS: Definitely never shrug it off no matter what risk.

CUOMO: The Australian prime minister has announced a new phase in the operation, an expanded underwater search utilizing private contractors. And he's saying it could last months. Right now the Bluefin 21 submersible is on its 16th mission scanning the motion floor looking for any signs. We have CNN's Miguel Marquez in Perth, Australia. He has more. Miguel, what do we know?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. Look, this is going to be a multilevel effort that could span at best they say, eight months, if they have to go to that larger search. The Bluefin 21 is going to continue to search the area north of the pinger two where it's been searching for the last several days. U.S. Navy telling CNN the next likely area that would be searched is where the first ping was picked up which say few miles north of that. The water gets deeper there. They might other devices to search that area.

If they don't find it in any of those area, the prime minister is talking about going to an area of 26,600 square miles big. To date, they have searched about 150 square miles of that. So it is a massive, massive, undertaking. They are saying right now if they don't find it in the most promised areas that they will be forced to go to a much broader search, which at the very best could take up to eight months -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right, Miguel, we'll delve into that as it comes to NEW DAY. Thanks so much for that.

Well, there are certainly growing anger over racist talk attributed to Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling is accused of making offensive remarks about African-Americans on audio recordings that were released online. Sterling's own team wore their warm-up shirts backwards in silent protest. Several NBA superstars as well as the NAACP say that Sterling should go with those reports.

I want to bring in Dan Simon. He is in Los Angeles bright and early. Dan, I'm sure this is the talk of the town.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Michaela. Well, Mr. Sterling was nowhere to be found during the Clippers tough loss yesterday in Oakland. The team moves to Los Angeles tomorrow night and, boy, things have really gotten explosive.


SIMON (voice-over): The L.A. Clippers took to the court on Sunday, stripping off their warm-up uniforms in solidarity. The team's red T- shirts with the logo invisible. A sign of protest against owner, Donald Sterling, after an edited audio recording surfaced on TMZ sports over the weekend. A man purportedly Sterling making racist comments in a conversation with his girlfriend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People call you and say I have black people on my Instagram and it bothers you.

DONALD STERLING: Yes, it bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people. Do you have to?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You associate with black people.

STERLING: I'm not you and you're not me. You're supposed to be a delicate white or a delicate Latino girl.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a mixed girl.

SIMON: This fiery exchange allegedly erupting after Sterling saw this photo Stiviano posted on her Instagram feed posing with NBA legend, Magic Johnson.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I took a picture with someone I admire.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he happens to be black and I'm sorry.

STERLING: I think the fact that you admire him. I've known him well and he should be admired. And I'm just saying that it's too bad you can't admire him privately.

SIMON: Magic Johnson outraged over Sterling's alleged comments.

MAGIC JOHNSON, FORMER NBA PLAYER: We're all upset. If you're going to be like this, why are you owning a team in the NBA which is, what, over 70 percent African-American basketball players. So I think he should step down.

SIMON: The NBA now launching an expedited investigation as fans, players and officials express their disgust.

LEBRON JAMES: With comments like that it affects our game. We can't have it. We can't have it from an owner, a player, so on.

KEVIN JOHNSON: There's absolutely no place in the NBA family for ignorance, intolerance, reprehensible comments that are unacceptable and not fitting for what this league is all about.


SIMON: Well, Donald Sterling's wife of 50 years -- yes, he is still married. She was at the game yesterday. She told ESPN, quote, "I'm not a racist" and that she does not condone what's on that tape although she does not confirm it was her husband. Now complicating matters is that this story couldn't become even more bizarre, she filed a lawsuit against her husband's girlfriend claiming that she came into some possessions fraudulently.

Those possessions including a Ferrari, a Range Rover and a $1.8 million condo in Beverly Hills. She said those are gifts given to her by Mr. Sterling and that she has done nothing wrong. Michaela, back to you.

PEREIRA: The whole situation is a big mess. Not a lot of love for this guy in L.A., but I'll tell you one thing -- the fans are devoted to the team, hard to reconcile those two things, the team and the owner and the players.

Later this morning, we're going to get some insight from former NBA all star. We have Otis Birdsong, we have former NBA player and current mayor of Sacramento, Kevin Johnson, joining us, as well as Turner Sports NBA analyst Greg Anthony, and former NBA player Dominique Wilkins. We'll get their word on this mess in Los Angeles.

CUOMO: Kevin Johnson says it is a defining moment for the league. It will be interesting to see.

BOLDUAN: And for sports, too.

CUOMO: It's complicated. Not illegal. A question of how do they deal with it.

Coming up on NEW DAY -- homes flattened, lives lost. Tornadoes are just tearing through America's heartland. The risk isn't over yet. We're going show you the devastation and despair. We're going to talk with a storm chaser, watch his account and hear what he saw as these tornadoes touched down.

BOLDUAN: And the next phase of the search for Flight 370. It's going to be a much larger area and it could take up to eight months to cover all of it. What's the plan and what should the expectations be now in this new phase?



TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: We are going from the current phase to a phase which is focused on searching the ocean floor, over a much larger area.


BOLDUAN: A much larger area. Welcome back to NEW DAY.

That was Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott announcing that the search for Flight 370 has now entered a new phase. It's going to expand under water for several months as crews no longer expect to find any debris on the surface of the Indian Ocean.

Let's discuss this very new big development with CNN analyst David Gallo, a co-leader of the search for Air France Flight 447, director of special projects at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. And Shawn Pruchnicki, air safety expert and aviation professor at Ohio State University.

Good morning to both of you.

DAVID GALLO, CNN ANALYST: Good morning, Kate.

BOLDUAN: So, David, we projected this was going to happen once they covered that initial search area. They've now expanded did saying it could take up to eight months to cover. How do you tackle that?

GALLO: Well, you know, it's something we do routinely in the ocean floor, mapping the seafloor. Even with Air France 447, we had about five square miles. And the way we were doing it, it would have taken us about six, seven months if we had to do the entire search area.

So, it's not insurmountable. But the problem is, when you expand the scale, you have to be very careful not to sacrifice resolution for range. Not to try to cover more ground and give up what you see, the detail that you see.

BOLDUAN: How do you do that? What equipment do you bring in, and how much, David?

GALLO: Well, there's different kinds. There's towed sonars as we've talked before. Towed sonars, there's AUVs and I'm not sure what they have on the mix. But it's going to be important to come up with the right plan, right people, right technology getting out there. Time to do serious thinking who does what.

BOLDUAN: And, Shawn, how do you do just that? How do you do some serious thinking about who does what?

SHAWN PRUCHNICKI, AVIATION PROFESSOR: Well, it's just a matter of basically retooling this investigation, deciding that the data points that we had taken us to this conclusion. It looks like that hasn't worked out. So now, we need to go to different areas.

And when you're looking at those different areas as Dave can tell you, depending on the depth and the terrain, that's going to decide the different types of equipment that you're going to bring into the new phase of the investigation.

BOLDUAN: And what does it mean to you, Shawn, when they say they're kind of moving away from military assets talking about bringing in commercial assets? How does that change the arrangement? How does that change the search?

PRUCHNICKI: Well, certainly, there's going to be different arrangements. Different arrangements, financially, is what I meant to say. And that obviously all has to be coordinated. And it involves more people to make that happen.

But what that does also is brings in different types of technologies that might be available at the commercial level that may not be available for the ships they already had. So, with the other ships coming back to Perth in the last day or so, it's a matter of saying, OK, these vehicles. These vessels, no longer possess the capability of new search. We're not looking for the batteries anymore. The pings are definitely gone.

So those vehicles that had that capability, we can excuse them from participating anymore. In fact, their assets are no longer as valuable.

BOLDUAN: And, David, this shouldn't be viewed -- this move of kind of looking into arrangements with commercial organizations that shouldn't be viewed as nations giving up, should it?

GALLO: No, nations aren't giving up. Same with Air France 447. It's just the kinds of people that have the technologies necessary to get to that water depth-in fact, Bluefin being operated by Phoenix International, I think Phoenix International will still be in the mix. At least I hope so.

So, it brings in the academic partners like the Woods Hole Oceanographic, Deomark (ph) in Germany. It just widens the field of possible people who can participate.

BOLDUAN: Widens the field of people who can participate but also widens the field of where they got to search. I mean, they're really opening this up.

One thing that they seem to be kind of turning away from, Tony Abbott also said it's highly unlikely that any debris is going to be found on the ocean surface. Do you think it's smart at this point, David, to call off that search from the air?

GALLO: Well, I think they have to pare it back, because it seems like they're grasping at straws about where to go at this point. It gets really tough to do any serious modeling at this point. But I think, they still keep up some of that.

BOLDUAN: Shawn, any downside, you know, when you haven't really defined the haystack really that well for the underwater search, is there a concern in giving up the air search?

PRUCHNICKI: Well, no, I don't think. I think the air search, in my opinion, is coming to an end, just because of the time delay and the nature of the water that we have in the area. I think it's just extremely unlikely that anything really meaningful is probably going to be found at the surface.

I mean, there might still be pieces out there somewhere. We might have to wait for those to float to shore and be found. I think that, you know, as typically what is seen with these types of accidents, the majority of the wreckage is at the bottom somewhere. And that is really the focus of this investigation.

I think we also have to remember when you're out flying these aircraft, low-level missions, large airplanes, there's risk in doing that. There's inherent risk in just flying any mission. So, if the necessity isn't there, then you have to really wonder is the risk worth it anymore? Because they certainly don't want to lose an air crew over just searching because we just feel like we should be searching. So, this is something that I think they're methodically thinking through risk versus benefit. And I think the benefit is getting extremely low at this point.

BOLDUAN: And they are definitely reassessing it as they enter this new phase where they should be prioritizing and where they should be putting all their assets. We'll see how quickly they get the new assets in place. We'll talk later in the show.

David, Shawn, thank you so much.


CUOMO: Well, David's been saying all along, you have to exercise patience and caution here. It almost always takes a long time. So, you have to bear with them. Everybody wants answers.

Coming up on NEW DAY, the worst tornado outbreak of the year, ripping apart homes, taking lives in Arkansas, Iowa and Oklahoma. We're going to talk to a storm chaser who witnessed the devastation first hand. Wait until you see his video.

And those racist comments attributed to the owner of the Clippers, any chance it isn't him? What can the league do if it isn't true? It's not a crime. So, what will the fallout be? We have key players and NBA greats lining up to give you their takes.

Stay with us.