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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Deadly Tornado Hits Missouri

Aired May 23, 2011 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.

It is a very difficult night here and a very dangerous night here in Joplin, Missouri. The death toll, as you know, is 116, but that number, frankly, is likely to rise. The number of missing at this hour is simply not known. It's impossible at this point to know. We're going to try to talk to the mayor of Joplin in just a few moments to try to get the latest information that we can.

There's a lot to tell you about. Now, the affected areas have been declared a disaster area by President Obama. There are crews out even now still looking for people who may be alive still trapped in the rubble. And the rubble is all around us. It goes for miles as far as the eye can see.

And the location I'm at, it is just completely destroyed neighborhoods, block after block. All you see on the horizon are broken and bent and destroyed trees. There is lightning in the air, a heavy downpour of rain, which has been going on and off throughout the day, which has been making the search-and-rescue operations all the more difficult. And now night has fallen.

Again, there very well may be people still alive under the rubble some 28 hours after this tornado struck. This disaster is still very much ongoing. This isn't something that just happened 28 hours ago, a single event. You still have driving rain, bad weather, and people who still may be alive out there.

At least seven people have been found alive in the rubble so far. The searches will continue. More bad weather is expected tomorrow. So, again, it is not going to get any easier in the hours ahead.

We have complete coverage tonight for the full hour here from Joplin, Missouri. I want to show you the picture of a young man named Will Norton, who is missing right now. He was driving in his Hummer -- his Hummer H3 with his father shortly after graduation ceremonies from the high school here when the storm hit.

He was actually sucked out of the vehicle by the power of this storm. He's been missing all day. His family, obviously, has been desperate. We have gotten late word now just in the last couple hours he has been -- he is alive, he has been found alive. He is in a hospital, we're told, but we don't know -- we don't know where the hospital is.

We're trying -- we're going to get the latest information from his family in just a few minutes.

I want to show you first what we have seen over the last 28 hours here, what the storm looked like when it hit and the aftermath. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): It's 5:40 on Sunday evening and a monster rakes across Joplin, Missouri.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Strong tornado.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, man. Get in the car. Get in the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) car. Get in the car. (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't film. I can't film.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got it. I got it. I got it. I got it. I got it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop, stop, stop, stop.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Move your head.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got it on video.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, stop. Stop the car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. (INAUDIBLE) want to stay with it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, we got lightning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go back. (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it's getting big, big, big, big.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's huge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got it all on video. I got it all on video.

COOPER: As the twister roars toward this convenience store...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, they haven't yet. The sirens aren't going.

COOPER: ... frightened customers huddle in terror inside a dark refrigerated storeroom.

(SCREAMING) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, heavenly father. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're good. We're good. We're good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we're going to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jesus, help (INAUDIBLE)

(SHOUTING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, heavenly father. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! Oh, heavenly father. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love everyone. I love everyone, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I love all you guys. We're going to be OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Heavenly father. Thank you, Jesus.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You OK? You guys all OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Amazingly, everyone inside survives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got debris on the ground right here. I got debris on the ground.

COOPER: The massive tornado believed to be three-quarters-of-a- mile-wide with winds exceeding 190 miles an hour rips a path of destruction four-miles-long right through the heart of the city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God.

COOPER: By Monday morning, the devastation was clear, buildings on fire, entire neighborhoods wiped out. St. John's Medical Center, with 183 patients, took a direct hit. It was unclear if any of the patients were injured during the storm, but the twister hurled X-rays as far as 70 miles, heaved gurneys for blocks and smashed the building's glass facade.

BETHANY SCUTTI, WITNESS: The windows are blown out. There's debris hanging outside of the windows. Part of the roof (INAUDIBLE) missing. I mean, I'm standing behind the hospital and cinder block walls, brick walls are just crumbled.

COOPER: The tornado also struck Joplin High School just as seniors were finishing graduation ceremonies nearby. Parents and students escaped, but the school was demolished.

KERRY SACHETTA, PRINCIPAL, JOPLIN HIGH SCHOOL: I walked around as much as I could to see it. And it just looks like it's been bombed from the outside in. I mean, it's just -- it's terrible.

COOPER: The storm left cars and trucks on top of each other, this Wal-Mart now flattened, this Home Depot crushed. We don't know how many shoppers were inside the stores when the twister hit.

Thankfully, residents did have warning the storm was coming.

By our count, we had 17 minutes' time between we turned the sirens on and we had the first report of a strike.

COOPER: More than 24 hours later, this remains a search-and- rescue effort.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We believe that there are still rescues out there. And we want to support the men and women that are on the ground out there literally going foot by foot, searching for folks.

COOPER: More than 1,500 emergency response workers from four states have descended on this city of more than 50,000, trying to find survivors who may be trapped amid the destruction, which spreads for miles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It's just been incredible here the last 28 hours.

I want to show you again the picture of Will Norton. His sister Sarah (ph) and aunt Tracy (ph) join -- join me now.

You got word that he -- that he was found, but you don't know where he is now. What's the latest?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The latest words, we heard that he was checked into the hospital, he was alive when he was checked in, in Joplin at Freeman. Then they transferred him. But we're not sure where he's transferred.

When he was transferred, he was alive. We have no idea other than that. There's been...

COOPER: And you don't know what condition he's in?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. We have no idea.

COOPER: So, Sarah, tell me what happened. You were actually on the phone with me. You were coming back from the graduation ceremony, that he had just graduated high school. What happened?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I was riding with my mom, and we were in a separate car. And we were about 30 seconds in front of them, one block. We pulled into the garage. Trees started blowing in. We immediately got our dog, went into the basement, and then my dad called and he said, open the garage door. He didn't know it was so serious.

And then I just heard him say: "Pull over, Will. Pull over."

And then they started flipping.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: They were in a Hummer?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, in a Hummer H3.

COOPER: And what happened to Will?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, my dad said -- when my dad gained consciousness, he said that he saw my brother. His seat belt snapped, and he was ejected through the sunroof.

COOPER: He was actually ripped through the sunroof?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. That's what my dad says, yes.

COOPER: And how is your dad?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's in stable condition. He has broken bones. And, you know, he got's 20 staples in his head. But he's stable. Thank goodness we found him.

COOPER: And where did you hear that Will had been -- had been found?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we -- there's a -- there's a find Will Norton on Facebook, a page. And people have been writing on there, and people have been getting ahold of Sarah and our family and telling different things.

And, so, every time we hear a lead, we obviously go find it. And then Sarah was told today by someone, another lead, that one of the doctors saw him on the E.R. roster, that he was checked in before my brother came to the hospital, but then he was also checked out. And he was alive when he was here.

COOPER: And people are being moved around to different hospitals...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.

COOPER: ... so it's very hard to find people. And cell phone communication is really difficult.

What is -- you -- is that his hat?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. The Hummer was destroyed. It was in really, really bad shape. And so my family, we went -- we found it, so we went back today and we have been searching with a search-and- rescue team out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, with their dogs. And my son found this in the car. And this is actually his cap.

COOPER: He had just graduated?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He had just graduated within 30 minutes.

COOPER: And he's going to go to film school in the fall?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. He was accepted to Chapman in Orange County.

COOPER: So, again, I just want -- we're showing his picture now.

And, again, I just want to put out information. If anybody has any information of where to find him, there's a couple of numbers. There's the findwillnorton@gmail.com.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: And then there's a phone number that I think we're putting on the screen right now. I also have my BlackBerry.

I'm going to look now, because I don't want to get this wrong: 757-751-WILL. That's 757-751-WILL.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what we need to know is, we really need to have people, if they have seen him at a hospital, if they have seen him anywhere, he most likely has head trauma and he's probably had some facial lacerations.

I know, going through a glass sunroof, I'm sure there's some damage there. So, he probably doesn't look exactly like that. But he is 5' -- he's 6'4''. And he's slender, brown hair, blue eyes, slight freckles on his face and on his arms.

COOPER: How are you guys holding up?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're just taking it step by step. We just -- are doing everything we can to find him. We're just trying to get the word out to as many people as we can, just saying, have you seen my brother?

COOPER: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And just taking it moment by moment.

COOPER: Well, we will continue to put the picture up throughout the hour and we will try to put the numbers up as well. So, I wish you luck. We will keep in touch with you. And we will touch base with you in the morning. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to make sure we thank all the help that has come. We have had some really great people. We had a friend, Steve Lee (ph), who really got out there and helped getting the Tulsa rescue. They brought their dogs in. We have had first- responders from Webb City. It's amazing how many people have come to our community to help. And they have actually -- we have had contact with a lot of them.

COOPER: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And they have helped us so far.

COOPER: Yes. And people are really pulling together. I mean, it's an incredible...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, incredible.

COOPER: Yes. It is incredible.

Thank you so much, really. Stay strong.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

COOPER: All right. All right. Thank you.

Again, we will continue to follow Will's story throughout this hour and throughout the next hours.

A lot ahead to cover. We're going to talk to the mayor of Joplin in just a moment to get the latest on how many people may be missing and how many people may be in shelters tonight and what needs are the greatest right now.

We will be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you take a look here at this neighborhood, all I can say is, it looks very reminiscent of what we saw last month in -- excuse me -- Tuscaloosa.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Back up!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am!

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Some of the images we saw from earlier.

With Mayor Mike Woolston, mayor of Joplin.

At this point, 116 is still the death toll, yes.

MIKE WOOLSTON, MAYOR OF JOPLIN, MISSOURI: Correct.

COOPER: How -- and I have heard 17 people, it's now confirmed, have been pulled alive?

WOOLSTON: That number sounds accurate. I don't have anything that's real accurate at this point. I do know the 116 we have confirmed and I do know that we found earlier about seven folks today. But the number 17 is a fresh number for me.

COOPER: Yes. And that's certainly good news that they have been able to find more people.

WOOLSTON: Oh, certainly.

COOPER: Do you -- it seems that there should be more people out there alive.

WOOLSTON: We -- we hope there are people out there alive, certainly. We had a number of apartment buildings, complexes that are almost completely flattened, so we anticipate finding more people. And, hopefully, we will get there in time to find them alive.

COOPER: Are search-and-rescue operations going on even at night or, because of the conditions, is it too difficult?

WOOLSTON: We have had them going on, especially during last night. This evening, we wanted to get the first search through a couple of the last grids, and then pulled people back in because of the lightning, the storms. And having two people struck today, we were a little bit leery of others getting injured.

COOPER: You have had two police officers actually struck by lightning.

WOOLSTON: Correct.

COOPER: So, that's a real concern. The weather is really hampering things, isn't it?

WOOLSTON: Yes, it is. And my understanding is, it's going to be probably Thursday before we have any kind of decent weather that we can really get out and work.

COOPER: This is obviously an incredible tight-nit community. There are shelters for people, but you're seeing most people kind of being taken in by others, by friends and family...

(CROSSTALK) WOOLSTON: We have had a lot taken in by others and strangers. We haven't had a huge number of people in the shelters. And you can just look through here. We think about 2,000 structures are affected.

And one would think, even at an average of the one-and-a-half persons per structure, you would have 3,000 people. And with us only having less than 100 in shelters, we know they have got to be taken in somewhere out there.

COOPER: What's the greatest need? And what's top of your priority right now?

WOOLSTON: Just carrying on our search-and-rescue functions. We have had about 40 agencies come in to help us, well over 400 people. That would -- those numbers are from early this morning.

We have got SEMA folks, FEMA folks in. The governor was in town today. And my understanding is, while he was here, he spoke with the White house, Vice President Biden. And so we have been offered assistance by virtually every agency that can offer assistance.

COOPER: The outpouring of people coming in to try to help is remarkable. And in a lot of neighborhoods, you already see that crews have been through there efficiently putting with -- putting X's on if nothing was found.

(CROSSTALK)

WOOLSTON: Correct. We have tried to work through as many grids as we could to -- efficiently and quickly to make sure we got to people as soon as we could. And we will be going back and going through some of those again just to make very sure that we -- we're getting anybody that might still be there.

COOPER: You have been mayor now, for, what, 13...

WOOLSTON: About 13 months.

COOPER: I mean, what -- 13 months. When you look at this, I mean, what -- what do you foresee? What does the future hold?

WOOLSTON: Well, this is just not the type of community that's going to let a little F-4 tornado kick us our ass, so we will rebuild and we will recover.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: You don't want to let -- this is not going to kick your ass?

WOOLSTON: No, it's not. We have been here before. It's been a long time since we have had one this bad. The destruction probably wasn't as bad as this, but we have been here before, and we rebuilt. And we will rebuild again this time.

COOPER: Have you ever seen anything like this? WOOLSTON: I haven't seen anything this bad, no.

COOPER: No.

What do you want people who are watching around the world, frankly, to know?

WOOLSTON: Just your thoughts and prayers are helpful for us, particularly for those families who are affected with fatalities. We have got, as I said, all kinds of donations coming in, all kinds of volunteers just coming forward to help out. And, you know, we just appreciate the thoughts and prayers of everybody that might see this.

COOPER: I passed by a church over there a couple of blocks. And it's totally destroyed, but the cross is still standing, which was really...

(CROSSTALK)

WOOLSTON: Maybe that's a sign.

COOPER: Yes.

Mayor, I appreciate your time.

WOOLSTON: Thank you.

COOPER: Thank you. I know you have been busy. Thanks.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Appreciate it.

A lot going on.

Let's talk to Chad Myers now.

Chad, the weather here is just brutal. It's been brutal all day. And as the mayor was talking about, we're worried about tomorrow, what the weather holds.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: No question about tomorrow night, and even for you, Anderson, after dark, the most dangerous type of tornadoes.

Now, for right now, things are going to get better. Literally, in the next 10 minutes, your rain stops. Probably, you will see the stars in about an hour-and-a-half. It's over for Joplin. Things get a lot better there.

And I know the search-and-rescue is probably put on hold for the darkness, but at least it's not raining now. and maybe that's a little bit of -- a little bit of a respite for some people.

But we have had severe weather from North Carolina tonight, just south of Hampton Roads and right across the bridge, to almost New York City. A tornado was on the ground north of Allentown, Pennsylvania, for a while, about an hour-and-a-half ago, severe weather across Cleveland, even on up into Ontario.

Severe weather rolled through Columbus with damage, through Cincinnati with some wind damage. So, now I'm talking about that's six states already. And we're going to keep going, because we're not even where the most severe weather was yet today, which was Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and even into parts of Texas.

And this is where it's going to fire up again tomorrow. There's your weather right there, Anderson. You -- you are right there. And it's just about over for you. Literally, I'm telling you, 15 minutes and you're done.

But now, for tomorrow, the sun heats up again. All this rain goes away. But there's all that humidity that this rain brought down. The sun is going to warm the ground. The humidity is going to evaporate. It's going to be one sweltering mess across the Midwest tomorrow afternoon.

And then, in the afternoon and late evening hours, something ejects from Colorado into parts of New Mexico and into Texas. This is an upper-level low that's going to just make all this warm air want to rise in the atmosphere. And when warm air wants to rise, you get these bubbling clouds. There will be severe weather with significant tornadoes.

We had 10 tornadoes today, but 10 tornadoes that were small. Big ones tomorrow, Anderson, all the way through the Midwest -- back to you.

COOPER: So, Chad -- can you show us, Chad, what this storm looked like when it hit? I mean, why was it so bad here? What -- how did it get so strong?

MYERS: Well, the humidity was in place. That was the moisture. There was cold air above it. So, it's just like taking a hot air balloon and turning on the gas. And that's what happened. J.J., go ahead and hit this. Put this into motion for me.

Warm air at the surface, sun heated it up. Then there was cold air up above. And that cold air even made that warm air want to go faster into the atmosphere and it just rose straight to 60,000 feet, Anderson, 60,000 feet in the sky. You could not fly over that cell yesterday. And then it began to spin.

As supercells do, when they're by themselves, they just -- they want to spin and it happened. And then just literally five miles west of Joplin, this tornado got to the ground, very small to start with, but then rapidly bigger, literally not even time to see how big it was, because at some point in time during this day, it got so humid, so much humidity in the air, this turned into a storm that's called wrapped in rain.

And we will talk about this probably tomorrow as well, because we're going to have more wrapped-in-rain storms. It will be raining here, but it was also raining all around the tornado, so you couldn't see the damage being thrown up. You couldn't see the debris being thrown up. All you could see was a wall of rain. And people thought it was just raining. They tried to take pictures and they got in the way. And 116 people lost their lives.

COOPER: Yes, and, Chad, we just talked to Sarah (ph) Norton, whose brother Will, they're still trying to get information on where he may be. She actually had a cellar in her home.

But you look at a lot of these neighborhoods, like the place we're in right now, there's no cellar. There's just the concrete foundation. And so there was no place for some people to go. I mean, you need to be underground to get through something like this if you're directly hit.

MYERS: There's no question that there's not a structure built, that I know of, other than a safe house built by safe house companies, that can withstand a 200-mile-per-hour wind, not just a gust, a sustained wind of 200 miles per hour. And, so, people were huddled in their houses. They were under their steps. They were in the right places.

But there are not very many basements in Joplin, so they were taken away. When that debris was pushed away by the wind, they were pushed away with it. And that trauma of literally being hit by the inside of your house, that's where most people died. I think 95 percent of everybody out there did the right thing. They had 20 minutes' notice. They were inside. But some tornadoes, you just can't survive them. They're just too big.

COOPER: Yes.

Chad, appreciate all the update. It's good -- it's all good information.

And it's such important information, because, when you're on the ground here, it's really hard to get information. For people here, I mean, the cell phone service is spotty, at best. A lot of folks don't have access to e-mail. And, so, you know, whatever little information people can get, it is very helpful. We will talk with Chad again a lot in the next, well, 24 hours as we track these storms that are anticipated.

We're talking about not having those underground basements in a lot of places, people hiding wherever they could to try to get these this storm. When we come back, we are going to introduce you to some young men who hid in the -- basically a kind of refrigerated storeroom of a convenience store. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) going to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

C.J. HUFF, JOPLIN SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT: You know, I am -- it's indescribable. I don't know what to say other than that. I have never seen anything like it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: We have seen so many remarkable pictures that have come out in the last 28 hours or so since this storm hit.

Probably one of the most are remarkable is some video that was taken on an iPhone by a young man who was with two of his friends driving along. When they saw the storm was coming, they ran basically into a convenience store, into the storeroom in the back.

I want to show you what they saw. It's very dark. But there were about 20 -- 18 or so, 20 other people in the storeroom with them. You can really hear the emotions in people as they -- as the storm hit and as it approached. Let's listen in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we're going to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, heavenly father. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! Oh, heavenly father. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love everyone. I love everyone, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I love all you guys. We're going to be OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Heavenly father. Thank you, Jesus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You OK? You guys all OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is everyone OK?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm here. I'm OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. I'm trying not to lay on someone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Somebody is on my back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. We're OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) anybody? Ma'am...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is under me. Is...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're OK. We're OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you guys OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is anyone under me, though? Is anyone under me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Unbelievable video. I'm with Isaac Duncan, Brendan Stefetz (ph) and Corey Waterman. You actually shot the video on your iPhone.

ISAAC DUNCAN (PH), SHOT VIDEO OF TORNADO: Yes.

COOPER: Tell me, you go to the back of the storeroom. You know the storm is coming. You've pulled over to this convenience store, and the front door was locked, right?

DUNCAN: Yes, basically, we just had to pull over to the closest thing that we could find, which was this gas station. So we got out, sprinted up to the door, and they had locked it so the door wouldn't fling open. We pounded on the door, and the clerk came up and unlocked it. And we kind of just hurried back to the back.

COOPER: And how many people were in there at the time?

DUNCAN: Probably about 18.

COOPER: And how quickly was it that the storm hit?

DUNCAN: Within -- what would you say, probably a minute? The other person ran up to the door -- the clerk ran up, as the storm was getting really close, and unlocked the door for him, and saved three people more that ran in.

And then within 30 seconds of that, we were all down in the back, and the glass was just blowing out of the entire front of the store.

COOPER: Brendan, what was it like for you? What did it sound like?

BRENDAN STEFETZ (PH), SURVIVED TORNADO: It sounded like 100 freight trains, you know, running really close to the building. And you know, it started to cave in, and the first thing I noticed was just the smell of gasoline outside. That kind of freaked everybody out.

COOPER: You were worried a fire might break out?

STEFETZ (ph): Yes. And then, you know, towards the end when we decided to climb out, you could smell smoke outside. So we figured it was time to get away from the building at that point.

COOPER: And how long did it last for, Corey?

COREY WATERMAN, TORNADO SURVIVOR: Oh, you know, three or four minutes of like, you know, bad, bad hail and debris and, like, that second part where it hits is so -- the sound, the force of that is so loud, that you know, you're just hanging on.

COOPER: Was there a moment when you thought you might not make it?

WATERMAN: Yes. And we kind of came to terms with that for a second, just kind of huddled with everybody and it was, like, it was good, a good thing.

COOPER: And what goes through your mind when you're experiencing something like that?

DUNCAN: Honestly, it was very surreal. Like, I'd never felt anything like it. But it was almost like a weird calmness. Like, I didn't think I was going to go out in a tornado, but I think I'm probably going to, honestly.

COOPER: You were actually thinking that?

DUNCAN: Oh, yes. I mean, there were people -- people were getting, you know, screaming out to Jesus. People -- some people were just...

COOPER: In the end it seems like you're not sure if somebody's underneath you?

DUNCAN: Well, what happened is we all sprinted into this little cooler and packed 20 people in it, so, I mean, there was not enough...

COOPER: How big was the space?

DUNCAN: Yes. Ten feet by, probably, you know, seven feet. It wasn't big at all.

COOPER: So, you guys are all, like, pushed up against each other?

STEFETZ (ph): On top of each other.

WATERMAN: And beer and all the shelves and all the items are falling on people, and glass is breaking. Lots of beer was breaking, so everyone was getting cut by the glass.

And basically, the only thing that was remaining from the entire building was the cooler we had jumped in. And you know, a big part of that was the clerk at the store. I mean, he was -- not only did he run up and unlocked the door, but he was the last person into the refrigerator. I mean, he's a hero. That guy...

COOPER: Did you get his name?

WATERMAN: I can't -- I didn't catch it.

DUNCAN: Honestly, I don't even think I would recognize anyone that we experienced it with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Other than the clerk.

WATERMAN: If we run into him I'll know that guy, because he's just cool. Great guy.

DUNCAN: Yes. He was a hero that day.

COOPER: And so, when you leave, and I mean, it's got to be surreal when you walk outside and you see what you've survived.

DUNCAN: Well, we sat there for probably 20 minutes, kind of deciding what to do because everything had collapsed on us. And so, Corey went to the back and a wall that had fallen down, he climbed out. I went next and we pulled everyone out.

And when we got out to the side, you could see all the gas from the gas station was starting to run out ,and you smelled electric fires. And so, everyone kind of like...

COOPER: What made you decide to turn your iPhone on and start recording?

DUNCAN: I kind of just -- I just record everything. I don't know.

COOPER: If this is it, you might as well record it?

DUNCAN: Yes. Might as well.

COOPER: Well, I'm so glad you guys made it and great thinking to record it. So thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

DUNCAN: Thank you for having us.

COOPER: All right. Thanks.

One of the great reporters who was really first on the scene from the Weather Channel, a guy named Mike Bettes. I just want to show you some of what he saw when he first came in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE Bettes, WEATHER CHANNEL: They are just looking for those loved ones; they're looking for family members. If you take a look here at this neighborhood, all I can say it looks very reminiscent of what we saw last month in -- excuse me -- in Tuscaloosa.

Yes, it -- it's tough. No question about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And Mike Bettes joins us now from the Weather Channel. You got here, what, about ten minutes after the storm?

Bettes: Just minutes, really. We were actually chasing for the past two weeks, the project for the Weather Channel and this is a storm we had targeted. That afternoon, we were driving from Kansas City and said Joplin looks like a pretty good spot to tape for storms.

We intercepted this storm about ten miles outside of Joplin. At the time, it didn't look that impressive, to be honest with you. It passed right over top of us. It was a pretty good thunderstorm, but there was no tornado. And then, as soon as it went past, we decided we'd follow it. And at that time it was hail; it was rain; it was blinding. We ended up having to stop. If we hadn't stopped, I think we would have ended up, our whole crew, right in Joplin. The thing probably would have run right over top of us.

So I mean, we're very, very thankful that, for our crew, at least, nothing happened to us. But we came right into town. It was just a chaotic scene when we came into town.

COOPER: You've done this a long time and covered just before every kind of storm. How does this compare?

BETTES: Nothing like it. I mean, I've covered hurricanes, tornadoes, you name it. I've seen damage like this before but not to this extent. I mean, maybe a block or two. This goes on for miles and miles and miles. And I think, you know, the number of people injured in the hundreds. You know, number of people killed, it's just -- it really hits home, I think, for a lot of people. You can't help but...

COOPER: It was very emotional for you.

BETTES: It was, it was. We are numb to these events because we see them so often but there was a moment where I just took a look at how much of this town had been destroyed and people crying, hugging. At some point, gets to you. I got a little choked up and one of those moments you couldn't control.

COOPER: It's also now -- I mean, we've had a day of just terrible weather here that's made it all the worse. I mean, sometimes, you know, these storms disappear and suddenly it's a sunny day. And people can come home and look for their belongings, search for their loved ones. But here you've got driving rain, this lightning. Two law enforcement officers hit by lightning.

BETTES: It's been really difficult. There's a process to move on, and I think this has ordered it. So many people, you know, are out, and they want to get maybe back into their home, But the cards up -- recover items. And they just can't do it. It just belongings, you know, the agony for that much longer. I think there are probably going to be more people that are going to be pulled from the rubble. I think search and rescue has gone on longer for probably wanted they want it to because of the weather. Unfortunately, like you mentioned, the police officers, they're still trying to search some grids but they're going to pull back tonight, try to get some guys some rest and then I think search tomorrow.

COOPER: Well, I know you've been up a long time. I appreciate you coming by.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (voice-over) They've worked long hours, some are working 12 on, 12 off and under extreme conditions. Emotionally, physically, it's difficult for them. And for the whole town, I think they're shell-shocked, still. It's going to be...

COOPER: Tomorrow night more severe weather.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sara. This goes out here hit. Just saw a tractor trailer truck basically just lying right by her. Helped save a guy. We'll be right back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: for another for two and a half, two days, it may be Thursday until they see sunshine. It may help them-n the psyche helping them that way but tough to see what's gone on here.

COOPER: Well, I know you've been up a long time. Appreciate you from coming by.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our coverage continues. We're going to talk to a woman from the Red Cross who was on the highway when this storm hit. Her story is just incredible. She saw a tractor-trailer truck just flying by her. Helped save a guy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bad. Oh, my gosh. This is awful. This is -- look at that. That is destroyed, completely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are you going? What are you doing? What are you doing? Well, I'm freaking out, too. This is ridiculous. Look at that. I don't know where...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was an F-4 or F-5.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was -- dude, the trees, the trees are debarked!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: We're just starting to get more and more images of when the storm actually hit. We've seen, you know, the results of it all day long. And in a lot of communities, I mean, it really is as far as the eye can see. This storm was about three-quarters of a mile wide, went for about four miles. So, in an area like this, which it's dark now -- that's the hospital back there, which got a direct hit. But this entire neighborhood, I mean, as far as the eye can see, all the way around, 360 degrees, it's just completely -- completely destroyed. There's people's possessions all around. This is a postcard that I just found on the floor right here. You can't really see who it's from. This is obviously the remains of somebody's home. And you know, as always, it sort of takes a while to kind of figure out what you're looking at.

This is actually the floor of the house. The carpet, the shag carpet is still there. This is actually -- was one of the walls. And the only way you can kind of tell is because there's actually an electrical socket. But that wall is gone. That wall has been just pushed over onto some other kind of a wall on the other side of it. And again, this is just one house.

And as we were talking about with Chad before, in a neighborhood like this, there aren't a lot of basements so it's just the concrete slab foundation, so people who were living in a home like this didn't have a lot of places to hide in the home itself. They maybe were able to go somewhere else.

We haven't been able to talk to the people who were here, and I don't really want to walk around because I don't want to walk on their property. I want to introduce Marie Colby, who's with the American Red Cross. You were actually on the highway driving a car when the storm hit, right?

MARIE COLBY, AMERICAN RED CROSS: Yes. I was on the highway, turned off onto the interstate. And I was trying to get under an overpass, try to get some sort of protection. We started seeing debris flying around. Then we saw this whole just wall of debris coming right at us.

COOPER: And there was somebody, a young man who came to -- hiding with you?

COLBY: Yes. There was a guy who was in a car behind us. And he got out of his car and went and tried to lay it down in the ditch. And when the rain came, it started trying to wash him away. So he stood up. He got hit by a couple pieces of debris and came and started pounding on the side of my door, trying to get in. And the wind was so strong we couldn't open the door until the eye of the tornado got there.

COOPER: Incredible.

COLBY: And we were able to open it and pull him in and get the door shut before the rest of the tornado came.

COOPER: And a tractor-trailer truck got flipped, you said?

COLBY: Yes, there were several tractor-trailers. There's one right in front of us that just flipped over. Lifted up completely off the ground and slammed down on its side. And the trucker was standing inside the front of his cab. He managed to undo his seat belt somehow.

And right after the tornado went by, I got out and ran up to the cab, and he was just standing there on basically his window. And he couldn't get out. So, I ended up pulling off the windshield of the truck...

COOPER: You pulled off the windshield of the truck?

COLBY: Yes. It had broken loose a little bit when the truck smashed down. And so I grabbed the windshield wipers, which were still moving some -- for some reason, and pulled the windshield down off so he could get out.

COOPER: And you basically then immediately went to start volunteering with the Red Cross?

COLBY: Yes. At that point I -- the highway patrolman put a guy in the back of my car and said that he needed medical care and we took him up to a triage site. And then I have been volunteering for the Red Cross for a while and needed to try to find where everything was being set up. Couldn't get a whole lot of information. Cell phones weren't working. So we ended up walking clear across town through the debris up to the office.

COOPER: Is this the first sort of disaster like this that you've actually worked on for the Red Cross?

COLBY: I worked a few disasters. Nothing like this. And certainly, not -- I've never been in -- where I'm living and had my home destroyed, had all my friends...

COOPER: Your home is destroyed?

COLBY: Yes, my apartment is gone.

COOPER: Have you been able to get any possessions or anything?

COLBY: I was able to go up to my apartment for a little bit today. And it's not even safe to go inside. The roof's completely off. There's just walls that are missing. There's sections -- it's up on the third floor. There's no way to get into it. It's part of the building that's completely missing.

COOPER: So you're still volunteering, even though your own home is destroyed and you may not be get your possessions?

COLBY: Yes. It gives me something to do. It gives me a way to help the community, help everybody around me, help the people I care about. And I know that everything that I am doing to help people, I'm going to get the exact same aid, the same help, the compassion, al back from them.

COOPER: That's really cool.

COLBY: It's -- it's kind of a way of helping rebuild and coming together as a community.

COOPER: But I mean, you know, if you've suffered a loss yourself, to be able to -- I mean, to have the strength to not be mired in your own loss but also to reach out and help others, that's extraordinary.

COLBY: I really think it's more just what we have to do. At this point there's nothing we can do but move forward and try to pick up the pieces and go with what we have, be thankful that we're here, we're alive, and we've got each other. And everything else really is just stuff.

COOPER: The -- what do you think the greatest needs are right now? I mean, obviously, people can donate to the American Red Cross. And there's a 1-800 number, 1-800-RED-CROSS, right?

COLBY: Right, 1-88-RED-CROSS. Or people can get to the Red Cross Web site, RedCross.org. They can text. There's instructions, stuff for that online. And really, there's a lot of different ways people can help.

The biggest need right now is truly in financial donations. We've had just an overwhelming outpouring of material donations. We need now to get some financial donations to be able to help people start piecing back together their lives.

COOPER: It's really an honor to meet you. Thank you so much.

COLBY: Thank you.

COOPER: Thanks for all you're doing. I really appreciate it. I'm sure a lot of people here appreciate it.

COLBY: Thank you.

COOPER: Marie Colby, one of the volunteers at the American Red Cross.

When we come back we'll show you just some of the most horrifying, terrifying moments from the storm and the aftermath. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, as Chad Myers predicted, the weather is clearing up now. A brief respite. It has been just miserable all day long here.

You know, Joplin is a city of about some 50,000 people. And this storm has hit it hard. Hundreds of people have been injured, 116 confirmed fatalities at this point. Seventeen people have been found alive throughout the day, pulled from the rubble.

According to the mayor, they had been trying to finish off some grids of the search and rescue, but they're going to call it off for the night at a certain point and then start again tomorrow. The hope is that there may still be more people alive underneath the wreckage.

There's really no missing count right now. We simply don't know how many people may be missing. At this point it's -- it's simply not organized enough for us to have that information, for authorities to have that information.

One of the people who, according to his family, is missing, is a young man named Will Norton. He's a -- he just graduated high school, was returning from his high school graduation. Literally got sucked up out of his -- his H3 vehicle, his Hummer 3, and his father was riding with him. His father is in the hospital tonight. He's in stable condition.

Will, according to his Aunt Tracy and his sister, has been found alive, was taken to a hospital and then transferred to another hospital. They don't know where he is. They're trying to get the information. So, if anybody watching this has any information about Will Norton, what hospital he's at, what condition he's in, they would very much like to hear from you. They put up a Web site: FindWillNorton@gmail.com. One word: FindWillNorton@gmail.com. The telephone number they've set up to call is 757-751-WILL. OK. That's the phone number.

If you have any information about the condition, the whereabouts or the status of Will Norton, his family would very much appreciate it. Just one of the people we're trying to help connect with their families.

With cell phone service here it is very, very difficult.

I want to show you some of the more -- just the most incredible images that we've seen over the last 28 hours. Especially images of as this storm approached. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE GREEN, PHOTOJOURNALIST, "WICHITA EAGLE": I was for the most part just kind of closing my eyes and hunkering down. It was very scary. There was -- all I could hear was wind. Power lines were snapping all around us. I'm sure that was happening and -- but for some reason I could just hear the wind. It was just a frightening feeling.

I honestly didn't think we were going to make it, but we did, thankfully. It was pretty scary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My house was shaking. And all I heard was boom, boom, boom. I heard my windows crackling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, gosh, that is a monster tornado.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was really horrifying. And there was not any warning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody get down. Huddle on the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're all right. We're all right!

MITCH RANDLES, JOPLIN FIRE DEPARTMENT: The reports we have, you hear the train coming by, and you know, people are trying to figure out -- maybe some people thought it was a major gas release, any kind of expression they have in terms of what it sounds like as it comes through.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It felt like King Kong was trying to snatch the roof off. The whole building started to shake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is bad. Oh, my gosh. This is awful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know what that was.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is -- look at that.

(SIRENS)

RANDLES: I don't think you can single out any one area. The entire path of the tornado it took through town has just basically devastated the central portion of Joplin.

GOV. JAY NIXON, MISSOURI (VIA PHONE): The place this tornado hit, you know, it knocked out a hospital, Wal-Mart, Lowe's, high schools. It's total devastation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a sad event. Money can replace a vehicle. It's more about the lives that are lost.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The city of Joplin suffered a tragedy, and our hearts go out to those affected in this disaster.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, so many -- so many people right now in need here. Again, the number for the Red Cross, 1-800-RED-CROSS.

And, again, the family of Will Norton would very much like to get some information from him, and the e-mail that they have set up is FindWillNorton -- and word -- at Gmail.com.

We've got correspondents fanned out all throughout this region. Our coverage is going to continue, especially tomorrow, all through tomorrow, as night. First let's check in with Joe Johns, who's got a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, heavy new air strikes on Libya. More than a dozen targeting Tripoli. Smoke seen rising near Muammar Gadhafi's compound. Regime spokesman Moussa Ibrahim saying bombs hit a facility for military volunteers, killing three and wounding 150.

President Obama began a six-day trip to Europe in Ireland today. An estimated 25,000 people turned out for his speech in Dublin's College Green. He also visited the village of Moneygall where one of his great-great-great-grandfathers is believed to have been born. Looked like he was having a lot of fun, but also he had to fly to London, his next stop, early because of Iceland's erupting volcano.

Volcanic ash is spreading and could reach British air space tomorrow. Iceland's most active volcano began erupting Saturday after nearly a seven-year lull. Iceland closed its air space over the weekend.

WNBC in New York is reporting that a DNA sample from former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been matched to material found on the shirt of the hotel maid he's accused of sexually assaulting. Strauss- Kahn is under house arrest in New York. His lawyers have denied the charges, and they say there's no evidence of a forced encounter.

Worries over Europe's debt problems drove stocks down today. The Dow plunged 131 points. The S&P 500 and NASDAQ also fell -- Anderson.

COOPER: Joe, thanks very much.

Our coverage will continue all throughout the day tomorrow and especially on "AMERICAN MORNING" in the morning. I hope you tune in for that on the latest on the search for those who may still be living here in Joplin, who may still be alive underneath this rubble. We'll be right back with more news.