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Deadly Tornadoes in Midwest and Plains; New Phase Search for Flight 370; Crisis in Ukraine; L.A. Clippers Owner Under Fire

Aired April 28, 2014 - 08:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Officials announce a new phase in the search for Flight 370, expanding the search area, acknowledging it could last months. Are they any closer to finding the missing plane?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Making a stand. The L.A. Clippers take the court in silent protest over racist comments allegedly made by their owner.

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

PEREIRA: As widespread anger grows, what will the NBA do now?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Your NEW DAY continues right now.


BOLDUAN: Good morning and welcome once again to NEW DAY.

We begin with breaking news. Unfortunately overnight at least 18 people have been killed in the deadliest tornado outbreak of the year so far.

Just take a look at the video. Look at the devastation. The small town in Oklahoma, Quapaw, flattened by a twister, 16 people are also dead in Arkansas, an enormous tornado, about half a mile wide carving up the northern suburbs of Little Rock. Search teams going block by block throughout the night, trying to find folks and help them.

Chad Myers is live in Mayflower, Arkansas, this morning with a look now that light has finally come up in that area, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We knew it would be bad. Daylight even makes it worse, I believe. Even at half a mile wide, Kate, and this thing was 40 miles long. That's a 20 square mile area to search with all these homes completely destroyed.

Let me take you on a little walk here. This is what a sales lot looks like for a motor home area, but everything is just smashed to bits. There's nothing that's even recognizable except obviously the upside down wheels here. I know we have 18 as the number of fatalities. Looking at the damage this morning, I'm afraid that number is going higher.


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 neighboring Vilonia in ruins.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Downtown is like it's completely leveled. 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: Behind me now is I-40. This is the road that took such damage here, cars upside down, trailers smashed. The most dangerous place to be in a tornado of this size is inside your car.

Just over the hill, that is the town of Mayflower. Back behind my photographer, that is Vilonia. We're going to try to get there later on today, because we know that the storm could have been a little stronger in that area. Reports that there are buildings that are literally missing, Chris, missing. There are more tornadoes expected today little farther east from here, into parts of eastern Tennessee, into Mississippi, maybe Alabama, all the way down to the Gulf Coast, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Chad, let us know what you've discovered. As we often learned, when they're narrower like this, they can be more intense.

You heard what Chad just said, in a car is the worst place it could be. Take a look at this video from certified storm spotter Cotton Rohrscheib. This was just moments before. They were in a thick of an actual tornado. What a story he has to tell of what he survived.

Cotton joins us now from Conway, Arkansas, via Skype.

Cotton, you got us?


CUOMO: So, tell us what happened. One minute you're in the truck, the next minute you're in the tornado. What happens?

ROHRSCHEIB: To be honest, it happened so fast. We were coming down I-40, myself and two other spotters, and we started hearing a lot of radio traffic. And there were talks of the storm coming across Mayflower, which I live in Conway as the crow flies, very close to Mayflower. So, immediately we were concerned to get back toward home. Once we got to Conway, we could see the clouds making up.

As we got closer, about the time we were able to identify the cloud, as you can see from the video, within just a few minutes, it was on us. There were spotters in front of us and behind us. We -- after the tornado came through, we were able to get out and to help some of those guys and help get people out of cars before the first responders got there.

CUOMO: Well, yes, let's get back to the one point you're going over quickly because I think your concentration is on everybody else. You didn't just pass through this tornado, right? What did it do to your truck?

ROHRSCHEIB: Well, it picked us up and we estimate probably 40 yards it skidded us alongside the interstate. Of course, we were all hunkered down inside of the truck and praying. We were very fortunate to walk out of there.

CUOMO: You guys do dangerous work. They can say you're certified. No certification prepares you for being tossed like a toy in a truck, 40 yards you say.

Anybody get hurt?

ROHRSCHEIB: We had cuts and bruises. We were extremely fortunate. We've got a lot of friends in Vilonia and Mayflower that weren't as lucky. Our thoughts and prayers are with them this morning.

CUOMO: What does that mean, not as lucky? You know, we hear a lot about tornadoes and we try to make each one individual in terms of what people are dealing with. What's going on on the ground? ROHRSCHEIB: The first responders got there and really did a great job taking control of everything. We had state police. They were flying helicopters in and everything.

Of course, ambulances, and the first guys that came to us, I'm not even sure where they were from. It wasn't Arkansas. They may have just been on the road.

But they did a really good job of getting to us. The carnage -- we estimate it was a half mile wide, the tornado, if not wider, at the point where it crossed I-40. You know, it was total chaos getting to us, where we were at.

CUOMO: Incredible intensity when you have something that big with that much force on the ground. Everything on its path is going to be vulnerable. What are you hearing about what people are dealing with, what the needs are?

ROHRSCHEIB: We have several friends that, their families lost their homes. We've had friends that were injured. I know the Conway hospital and Little Rock hospitals are all extremely busy this morning with people that are just now getting there, you know?

CUOMO: Did they have time to prepare? Did people get a chance to go to evacuation centers? Were there enough? Did people have in their homes structures where they could shelter in place?

ROHRSCHEIB: Yes. That's another thing I want to bring up. Our meteorologists here in central Arkansas did an excellent job. I mean, they did give people a lot of lee time. In fact, one of the guys that was with me, his son was in a shelter in Vilonia, or his family was there.

So, they had plenty of lead time to get there. The meteorologists and the media did a good job getting the news out there that the storm was coming. It's just -- I think the intensity of the storm kind of cause us all by surprise, just how intense it was.

CUOMO: We know it's so early there. We want to stay away from numbers of who was there and who lost their lives. We're expecting to get more bad news later today.

I know you'll be back out there. There are more storms headed that way, a little different region. If you're chasing, be safe, Cotton. You don't want to keep pressing your luck every time. Thank you for joining us with the report.

ROHRSCHEIB: Thanks. I'm staying home with my family.

CUOMO: All right. Good. God bless you and your family.

All right. So, one of the things we do in these situations is we want to figure out how to help. The story is going to end. But the need does not. If you want to help the victims of the tornado outbreak, go to There you'll find links to eight organizations on the ground and other ways you can get involved. BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And we also have other breaking news overnight in the search for Flight 370. The Australian prime minister announcing a new phase under way in that operation, an expanded underwater search utilizing private contractors, and this new phase could last months.

And right now, the Bluefin-21 submersible is on its 16th mission scanning the Indian Ocean floor looking, of course, for any sign of the missing plane.

Let's get the very latest from Miguel Marquez live in Perth, Australia, this morning. Good morning, Miguel.


Look, this is going to be frustrating for folks to hear, but it's not going to be very quick in finding this plane unless the Bluefin can come up with it. This is going to roll out in several different ways all at the same time. The Bluefin will continue to search north of the area where it has been searching. That was the area of the second pinger.

We understand from the U.S. Navy that they will begin searching probably the area where the first ping was picked up a few days before that second ping. And that is an area of interest as well.

While all of that is going on, and it's not clear the Bluefin-21 can get down to the area where that first ping was picked up, there's going to be a reassessment, perhaps some weeks that will go by before a much bigger search can take place. That search area, some 21,600 square miles, the prime minister promising to search it all if necessary. But they will go back to all their partners trying to figure out what areas specifically hold the best possibility of finding that missing airliner.

Those will be searched first and they will keep going out farther and farther and farther until the entire area. They still believe they're in the right place -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Miguel, thanks for us. Keep us updated throughout the morning if you can.

We also have breaking news from eastern Ukraine, the mayor of the city of Kharkiv was shot in the back by unidentified gunman earlier this morning. Now, at this hour, he's out of surgery, still fighting for his life.

Let's get the latest from Phil Black live in Kiev -- Phil.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, this is potentially the first attempted political assassination, all of this Ukrainian crisis, because as you say, in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second biggest city, that is where the mayor of the city is now fighting for his life. He's been in surgery this morning.

It's expected to remain in this critical state for some days yet. Very much touch and go. He was shot in the back while he was cycling in the city. It is significant.

We do not know if it is connected to the pro-Ukrainian, pro-Russian battle that continues to divide this country. He used to support ousted President Viktor Yanukovych. When he was driven from office, he then threw his support behind the new government. And up until now, he's been very successful with the local authorities at suppressing pro-Russian forces and their actions, stopping them from really getting a foothold there, occupying buildings, consolidating their authority as they have done across other regions in the east.

So, significant because it is potentially an attempted assassination, but also in the event he is driven from office, that is important because it could weaken the resolve of local authorities and allow the pro-Russian forces to maintain, perhaps build momentum in that region, get a stronger foothold. That would be a significant blow to the government in Kiev which is really trying to hold this country together.

BOLDUAN: Seems barely doing that in some cases. It seems a critical day and a very unstable situation.

Phil, thank you very much.

We're going to turn to the growing calls from NBA greats for the owner of the L.A. Clippers to step down. Donald Sterling is accused of making offensive remarks about African-Americans in audio recordings released online. Sterling's own team, as you can see right here, wore their shirts inside out during warm-ups Sunday in silent protest.

Dan Simons in Los Angeles for us with the very latest.

It seems -- it's still dark where you are, Dan. It seems the calls for him to resign are only growing.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kate. Good morning.

Donald Sterling was nowhere to be found during the game yesterday in Oakland. The series now tied at two moves to Los Angeles, the game tomorrow night. It's a series now overshadowed during these explosive recordings.


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, V. Stiviano.

V. STIVIANO, GIRLFRIEND OF DONALD STERLING: People call you and say I have black people on my Instagram and it bothers you.

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

STIVIANO: 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.

STIVIANO: And I took a picture with someone I admire.


STIVIANO: 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, who are African- Americans, because 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, MIAMI HEAT: With comments like that it taints our game. And we can't have it. We can't have it from an owner. We can't have it from a fan, and so on and so on.

MAYOR KEVIN JOHNSON, SACRAMENTO, CA: 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, in the short thunderstorm it's a bit unclear what the NBA can do in this case beyond the steep fine. I'm not sure it would make much of a difference. Forbes estimates Mr. Sterling's worth to be $1.9 billion.

Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: All right. Dan, thanks so much.

And coming up, we're going to continue the conversation. We're going to talk with Dominique Wilkins, a former NBA player and executive for the Atlanta Hawks, and get his take on the situation.


PEREIRA: Sixteen minutes after the hour.

Let's give you a look at your headlines right now.

President Obama says new sanctions will be leveled against some 15 Russian officials in an effort to resolve the conflict in Ukraine. Among the sanctions, travel bans and frozen assets. President Obama now in the last stop of his four-country Asian tour. U.S. and the Philippines signed a ten-year defense pact that allows for a larger military presence on Filipino soil.

In South Korea, three people arrested accused of destroying evidence into the investigation of the owner of the capsized ferry. This as crews continue to search for missing people. The death toll stands at 188 with 114 still unaccounted for.

There's new video showing the captain of the ferry being rescued from the sinking vessel in his underwear. He abandoned ship before hundreds of his passengers, most of them students. He's also been arrested.

Today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is expected to announce a planned vote for raising the minimum wage. The long-stalled Democratic proposal would boost pay to $10.10 an hour. Many Republican leaders are looking to block that measure. They say the increase would ultimately push more Americans to the unemployment line.

That's your look at headlines. Guys?

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, a new location, a new timeline in the search for Flight 370. Will this new mission turn up the missing plane? It's a huge area they'll be searching now. How are they going to tackle it? We're going to ask our experts about that huge challenge, ahead.

CUOMO: And the NBA is reeling from a racism scandal. Donald Sterling, the owner of the L.A. Clippers, is making statements that have no place in society. What about the league? Can it do anything to punish him? Is it bad enough to force him out?

We're going to ask former NBA great and part of the management team of the Atlanta Hawks, Mr. Dominique Wilkins.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone.

The search for Flight 370 is entering a new phase after efforts in the air, on the surface and also under water, they failed to find any wreckage from the missing aircraft. So far search teams are settling in for what's being honestly described as a very long haul. Australia's prime minister says searching this new area could take six to eight months to complete.

Joining us to discuss these new developments and really how you tackled it, CNN's safety analyst and author of "Why Planes Crash", David Soucie, and also, David Gallo, CNN analyst and director of special projects at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. David Gallo, also, of course, was one of the co-leaders for the search for Air France Flight 447.

David Soucie, let me start with you and just get your take.

We knew this was going to happen. If they couldn't find this in the smaller search area that was their highest probability, they were going to have to expand the search area in some way, shape or form. The way it's being described, the area, 60 though square kilometers, that's over 23,000 square miles. How do you do it?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Well, I'll tell you -- there's a couple of options that probably Dave Gallo could speak to better than myself. However, the fact they're moving forward upwards and to the north tells me that there's some validity to the number one ping that they found.

I'm a little surprised by Angus Houston being a little bit negative about whether they would find it on the ocean floor or not because those pings above in the north are valid pings as well. It's just the amplitude may not be as high. So, I'm glad they're still continuing on the ocean floor. I think that's very important to do.

BOLDUAN: And talk to me about the logistics, really, David Gallo. It was easy to understand, you can use one ship, one Bluefin-21 to search a very narrow area. Now you have multiple times the area they need to search.

We might have lost David Gallo.

Did we lose him? David Gallo, we'll get back to you.

David Soucie, what do you think? How much equipment do you think they need to take on. How do you take on this search area and coordinate it all?

SOUCIE: Well, I spoke with David Gallo before. Unfortunately we lost him. What we were talking about is during the Flight 447 there were as many as three of the Remus 6000s out. That area was much smaller.

So, in order to get a larger area, if the northern movement doesn't work there, they're going to expand into the whole arc down there which, as you mentioned, is thousands and thousands of square miles. So, the best way there is to use what's called a deep towed sonar. That side scan, much like the Bluefin, it's towed faster, goes three or four knots, rather than one not as the Bluefin and the Remus does. So, it covers a lot area and the spread is much bigger.

So, while it's not nearly as refined, the information you get back is not nearly as detailed as it would be closer to the ocean floor. This is still a deep towed sonar. That presents challenges in the northern area because you have slopes. You have more jagged type cliffs. So, there's areas in there where you still need the Remus to get down inside some of those cliffs, because as you can imagine, when you're higher up, you can get shadows that an mask what you have an aircraft. BOLDUAN: And I think we have David Gallo back with us. We were talking about the equipment they need to bring in. How do you coordinate it? Where would you suggest, from your experience, they position these assets to tackle in an effective way such a large area?

DAVID GALLO, CNN ANALYST: Yes, Kate, we'd have to know actually what they're bringing the table here. We're looking at an area about the size of West Virginia and probably about as buried in terms of ups and downs, terrains, mountains, valleys and things like that. So, it's gong to take one making some decent maps of the sea floor. I don't think that they've got those yet.

And for us with Air France 447, that was the beginning -- really accurate maps of the seafloor so you can begin to plan what the side scan sonars would do.

BOLDUAN: David Soucie, expectations were high when we searched this first area. They really called it the highest probability area. They really thought they had a strong radius to search. Where do you think expectations should be? How do they set them correctly for this next phase which is going to be months long?

SOUCIE: Well, as Tony Abbott was talking, he said they're going to bring in additional resources, some civil contracting resources. I'm very encouraged by that.

In addition, he talked about going back and reflecting upon, not re- evaluating, but reflecting upon what it was that they did and the decisions they made and the assumptions that they made. I see that as a very positive step.

Remember, the fact that it's not there, as disappointing as that must be for these families, looking forward which as Tony Abbott said, too, he's not in the business of looking back at failures, but looking forward to what could be done. I choose to take that path as well.

So, let's look forward. In that, we know where it's not. That is information, it's good information.

I think as Dave Gallo pointed out the last few days as well, where it's not important as well. So, we can't rule that out. It wasn't wasted time. We need to move forward. I'm still confident that the aircraft is in the area of those pings.

BOLDAUN: And just reinforces the reality which you both have been laying out very honestly for us throughout, this is tough. It's terrain that's not mapped and it's a huge search area and they're working off of very little data, an unprecedented search. But it continues now.

We'll talk about the next steps as we hope to get more information about what assets they'll be bringing into play maybe even today.

David Soucie, David Gallo, thank you guys so much.

Chris? CUOMO: All right. Coming up on NEW DAY, we're going to push two big stories forward for you. First one, pictures tell the story. Lives forever changed in an instant as tornadoes hit several states, blamed for at least 18 deaths. Those numbers are way early. Even more rough weather on the way. We'll take you there as the sunrises on the wreckage.

Plus, NBA legend Dominique Wilkins responds to the comments attributed to the owner of the L.A. Clippers? Is this unprecedented? What does he think the NBA should do about Donald Sterling? We're going to ask him live.