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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Live Coverage of the Devastating Tornadoes Affecting Oklahoma
Aired May 21, 2013 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was just unbearably loud and you could see stuff flying everywhere, just about like on the movie Twister.
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SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Historic, deadly, a massive tornado, some two miles wide, flattening a suburb of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
JONATHAN MANN, CNN ANCHOR: More than 50 are confirmed dead. And that number is rising dramatically. Many were children taking shelter in an elementary school where a search is going on at this very hour.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is heartbreaking. To know we still have kids over there that is possibly alive.
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MANN: Hello to our viewers in the United States and around the world for live breaking news coverage of the devastating tornado in Oklahoma. I'm Jonathan Mann.
MALVEAUX: I'm Suzanne Malveaux at CNN center at Atlanta.
Coming up this hour, we have right now it is midnight in Oklahoma. You are now looking at pictures. This is the search, it is the rescue, and it is the somber recovery that is going on all night long in Moore, Oklahoma. It has now been nine hours since disaster struck a bull's eye of utter destruction right in the heart of tornado alley.
MANN: So many people in Oklahoma have lost so much, specifically, Oklahoma City's southern suburb of Moore where the EF-4 possibly, EF-5 tornado cut a path 20 miles long and two miles wide. That EF scale is the measure meteorologists' use.
Now, we can also just count the human toll. The official death toll is 51, but has been steadily rising. We just received word that 40 more body are being taken to the Oklahoma medical examiner's office. That would bring the toll number of deaths to 91 if those numbers are all right. That is so far. Now, 20 of the deaths, children. Even season reporters are having a hard time looking at the destruction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LANCE WEST, KFOR REPORTER: I have never seen anything like this in my 18 years covering tornados here in Oklahoma City. This is without question, the most horrific -- I have never seen --
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MALVEAUX: It is so hard you can just hear the emotion from people covering the story, imagining what is taking place on the ground. Officials say every effort now is being made to find anyone who is still missing.
Earlier, our Erin Burnett, she spoke with Mayor Glenn Lewis about the search-and-rescue operations ongoing.
MAYOR GLENN LEWIS, MOORE, OKLAHOMA: We have search dogs, search-and- rescue dogs at the scene at the school. We have just been told that all of the students at Briarwood have been accounted for. Briarwood was a school that was hit. They are still working over there with rescue dogs to see if there are any survivors.
Our hospital has been devastated. We have -- we had a two-story hospital. Now we have a one and it is not occupiable. So, it made it difficult for emergency operations. As you can hear me, they're medi- flighting someone right now to the hospital. And I may lose you because my cell phone is just about out of power.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST, OUTFRONT: All right. Let me try to ask you one question before you go then, Mayor Lewis. Those children, what can you tell us about children at plaza towers, I know, I mean, how many of them are still missing? Do you think any are still alive?
LEWIS: We don't know yet. Of course, we always hope for the best. We don't know. I can't confirm how many people were even lost over there. How many people are missing at this point, but we are going to continue to look until every person is accounted for.
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MANN: It is a horrible time for the state.
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GOV. MARY FALLIN, OKLAHOMA: I know there are families wondering where their loved ones are, and right now we are doing everything we can as a state to get as much emergency personnel, state agencies, all the different charities that are out, doing search-and-rescue efforts, trying to make sure that we look under every single piece of debris and every single buildings and along the roads and communities to find anyone that might be injured or might be lost from the storms that have hit the state of Oklahoma.
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MALVEAUX: We want to go to CNN's Gary Tuchman. He is in Moore, Oklahoma.
And Gary, first of all, we are hearing now that the death toll could be rising dramatically. Do you have any sense of whether or not there have been numbers that are updated? And what do you seeing at this hour?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Well, Suzanne, I am outside the elementary school. I have been here for 4 1/2 hours. And unfortunately, I am sorry to report there just hasn't been any good news coming out of here during this search for children who might have possibly survived this tornado here in Moore.
It is private (INAUDIBLE) elementary school. Cameras are not allowed at the site because the road, it disappeared from the other devastation of this tornado. That's why I have been standing here talking on the telephone giving the live reports.
But the search has actually entered a new phase now. There are fewer firemen and women on the scene. That he task of acknowledgement, they don't expect to find survivors. That's the sad news.
It is not clear how many children are unaccounted for. We know that at least seven children, 3rd graders in the school did die from this tornado. We know that there are at least 20 others who are unaccounted for. But, we do believe that some of them ended up in shelters, in a nearby area. So that's the good news. But we do know that parents are missing their kids. We are actually spent the day, part of the evening talking to one man who is sitting there with tears streaming down his face, his 9-year-old third grader missing. He is very calm and serene, as being comforted by firemen and women on the scene. They are just terribly sad in being to see this man suffering the way he is suffering.
But the devastation in this neighborhood, Suzanne, is just unbelievable. I mean, it really remind me of Haiti in January 2012. It reminds me of the northern Japan during the tsunami. This neighborhood where the school is you can't recognize where the houses used to be. It is totally been flattened, obliterated like a bomb just fell on top of it, a very powerful tornado. And what is just so sad and being here at the school for the last four hours, and just seeing no good news, hoping that the doctors and nurses on the site, that we would see survivors. But, what made it really bad, is most of the doctors and nurses, are still some here, most have now left. They had no work to do.
MALVEAUX: And Gary, we want to remind our viewers, of course, that we are live throughout the evening and early morning hours there. Can you give us a since of whether or not, are there still parents going to where you are to the school asking questions, looking for chair children? Is it still an active site or is it fairly dark just a few people trying to make sense of what happened?
TUCHMAN: Yes. I am standing 100 feet from the rubble. Earlier in the evening there were two or three parents there. They were advised to stay away. And they were advised they would get help at nearby community centers. And there was nothing they could see here. But, you think as a parent, you want to run out in the rubble and look. But obviously, you can't do that. It is about practical. It scores of firemen and women searching through the rubble, and not only they have been out for survivors, they haven't recovered any additional body. It is amidst tons of damage.
So, right now we don't see any more parents here. This is not a good healthy place for them to be right. They need help from people trained to give the help. And that is where they are right now. There is no longer at the site.
MALVEAUX: And Gary, I know, it's is dark where, but can you describe what you actually seeing?
TUCHMAN: Yes, no, I mean, they have flood lights on the scene. And what you are looking at you would never know this is a school. I mean it is, it looks like a war zone. I mean, literally. It is a (INAUDIBLE) when we describe damage. But, that's what this looks like. It looks like a war zone. And there are flood lights on the scene, from most of the night, they were part 40, 50 rescuers on the sight, frantically digging. They have then started using machinery, drills, axes, bulldozers, to clear some of the rubble.
Now it's entered a different phase. There are fewer people there. They are looking a little more slowly. There are other people who are looking in the immediate area going through the other rubble, some other houses. Just any of the children may have ended up there. But as far as the active hope that there are survivors in the school; that frankly did not seem realistic anymore. I am sad to say that, sorry to say that. That is the case right now.
MALVEAUX: Gary, are there any officials there who can help parents and neighbors get information about their children, the whereabouts of their children, and, the point at which this investigation, this search is under way?
TUCHMAN: Yes, this area, this is a working area. This is a pretty much an off-limits area. That's why they don't want the parents here. They would refuse parents the right to be here. But, there is no spokesman here. That's why, to be honest with you, for me to get here, because we, obviously wanted to report what was going on, it entailed a two-mile hike to get here. All the roads are closed. And not only are they closed, from, emergency vehicles to go through, some of the roads, and the emergency vehicles because they have been destroyed. I had to hike two miles. So, this isn't a place for news conferences and pronouncements. That would be elsewhere. This is the place for the hard and important work of trying to find survivors which unfortunately hasn't happened yet.
MALVEAUX: All right, Gary, we will be getting back to you as the morning continues on. And as we get more and more information, but obviously, what Gary is saying, very difficult to hear. And that is that the news is not getting better, it is getting worse. As they discover more body and it looks like potentially letting go of some of the hope and the concerns and the hope that perhaps there are children who are alive. He says they don't really think so anymore. MANN: It is heartbreaking, it is dark, it is getting quieter, fewer people at the scene, less hope. We are following the story. The whole country is following the story. U
.S. President Barack Obama signing a disaster declaration for Oklahoma, releasing emergency federal aid to the tornado struck state. He spoke with governor Mary Fallin earlier Monday, telling her Oklahoma is on his and the first lady's thoughts and prayers.
The federal funding Mr. Obama pledged can include grants for temporary housing, home repairs as well as lope cost loans for uninsured property losses.
The National Weather Service has given the tornado a preliminary rating of EF-4. It doesn't mean a lot to the rest of us. But in fact, that means the wind speeds could be 166, even 200 miles an hour.
MALVEAUX: We want to go straight to our meteorologist, Ivan Cabrera, at CNN severe weather center.
And Ivan, give us a sense what were these people dealing with when it finally hit, touched ground?
IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, I mean, and you both made a good point there. The winds really aren't going to matter once this is all done for the people that lost loved ones here. But, we are going to get a category here. It is either an EF-4 or EF-5. And the difference will be is it over 200 miles per hour when it touched ground or is it not?
We have an issue right now. What I want to do is break this down as far as what we have, as far as the current's threat, all right? Right over the area that was affected here in, Norman, certainly in Moore, severe thunderstorm watch is in effect right now. So the rescuers that are out there right now, pulling perhaps people from rubble, they are going to have to deal with some unsettled weather tonight. Perhaps could get a severe thunderstorm there. We do have a watch box out for it now.
We do not expect any EF-4 and EF-5s, in fact that any significant tornadic activity tonight because we have lost one of the key ingredients which is the heat. We are at night time here. So, what happens now, look at the line, you have thunderstorms that develop mainly in a squall line here.
Now, there could be some spin-ups right ahead of the line here. That is why there is a tornado watch that is in effect from Oklahoma and extends all the way up, into the Ohio valley. And, that goes until 5:00 a.m. So, there is possibility of some spin ups here. But, that would be again, the more EF-0 tornados here.
So, we will watch that closely certainly through the overnight hours here. But, at this point the main threat for those monster tornado certainly over. Now, what I want to do is get into the forecast here because we were with you yesterday, round one, round two on Monday here. And now guess what? We have more activity as we head through today.
Storm prediction center, certainly focusing in a little bit further to the east. What happened is we had the same area, get hit twice on Sunday and on Monday. What I think is going to happen for today, is all of that will shift a little bit further to the east here. So, we will watch that severe weather threat certainly at least pushing east away from the hardest hit areas.
So, that is certainly excellent news. But, if you live in places like Wichita falls, Springfield, not good news for you because that is going to be the bull's eye here for potential strong severe weather and today, certainly, a potential strong tornados as well.
So guys, that is the set of what we are dealing with right now as far as the rest of tonight and heading into tomorrow. Three days, maybe fourth one here. Watch that closely of the worst kind of weather this might --
MANN: Ivan, Oklahoma, before we go, I have to ask you because Oklahoma, tornado alley is used to big, bad, deadly storms. This one steamed to be even by that standard, an enormous killer. How different was this? Can you give us a sense of the scale of the storm that hit Moore compared to the ones they see year in, year out?
CABRERA: Yes, absolutely. The map I have in front of you here on Google earth. This map right here is just basically improbable. We have three major tornadic outbreaks here all within about 14 years of each other here. These are EF-4s or EF-5s. The likelihood of them going through the exact same areas here, well, is just astronomical here. But that is what happened. And that is what the folks in Moore have had to deal with. And, of course, the latest being in 1999, I think here on out, things will be compared to the one that hit, yesterday, here, that is yellow track that you see here.
It was on the ground for 22 miles. It, it just, exploded here, went from, an EF-1 or two, and the problem was is that it happened right over the most populated area here where the schools are, where the interstate crosses here. That is where we have the monster develop. That's where we have the EF-4, EF-5, the wedge tornado that is going to be in everybody's mind for a time.
And then, it just fizzled out as it headed to a little further to the east. I saw it myself live with one of the news choppers. It just roped out from a wedge tornado to just a thin rope and then just vanished here. And of course, the devastation it left behind is what we will be covering the next few weeks, months ahead.
Ivan, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
And of course, John, it is hard to imagine when you think, what would it be like, if you couldn't find somebody. One of your loved ones was missing? There is a way you can try to contact them. The Red Cross is now, it has got a safe and well Web site. It is up and running. You can find it safeandwell.org. You can list yourself or search for family and friends. And people are using social media in many ways to try to connect with loved ones.
You can also visit facebook.com/Mooretornadolostandfound. And the big question, a lot of people are thinking about. What can you do? What can you do to help folks out there? If you like to donate to the Red Cross, visit their Web site www.redcross.org or call 1-800-red cross, you can even text as well. So John, I know a lot of people watching thinking, you know, feeling helpless at this moment.
MANN: Imagine, there are parents who don't know where their children are. There are children who were taken to shelters and the last word we have, they can't find their parents. Think of the child who has no cell phone, no means to travel, don't have a driver license and they are wondering where their families. That's where things are, 15 minutes after they are 1:15 in the morning, nine hours and fifteen minutes after the storm hit. That's where things are right now.
MALVEAUX: All right, we are going to take a quick break. We are going to have the latest information on the casualties, the recovery effort, and of course it is dark out there. What can be done this evening and into the early morning hours?
We will be right back.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And everything was coming, and what do we do? Do we have time to get the vehicles? We have pets. Or do we just hunker down? So we grabbed our motorcycle helmets and hid in the closet it and prayed like hell. And luckily the only thing --
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MALVEAUX: It is a remarkable, remarkable story of survival that we just heard as just one of the residents of Moore, Oklahoma.
MANN: Now, they had warnings. They knew that they were in for some heavy weather. But not the explosive storm that actually struck Moore. In some cases, people were lucky enough to just really just get a few minutes of warning time before the monster tornado actually struck Monday.
Unfortunately, though, there are deaths. Right now, at more than 12:15, in Oklahoma, the official death toll stands at 51. But that number, it is provisional, I guess you could say. It is sad to tell you there are 40 more body that have been recovered. That official death toll is therefore expected to climb.
MALVEAUX: Our chief national correspondent John King, he is at a staging area where the search-and-rescue teams there, being sent out here.
And John, we are just, I mean, really, it its heartbreaking. We are getting bad news as the evening and morning hours progress here. Is there any sense of what you are seeing, of the possibility of survivors?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What I am seeing is despair and exhaustion and there is some hope, yes, I am at a Christian church called the Abundant Life church, and the sign is so fitting, it says, when you have had all you can stand, kneel. A sort of fitting thing on this night and a lot of people are kneeling, and sitting and exhausted.
But, there is a staging area and there are some in the community who are still missing loved ones who are hanging out at this community church hoping for word. And several teams of first responders here, I was with several teams from a nearby fire department, they kind of big street and they were organized very quickly into small groups, a half dozen or so. Mostly fire department, National Guard people along with them and others and sent out on what the captain described as a search, rescue, and recovery mission. That is the uncertainty at this point. They are still hoping, after search-and-rescues. But of these teams, our first responders are, also, cadaver dogs. And they are going through debris in buildings, they are following tips. People are coming from the community here. They are talking to police and other first responders and trying to give them idea.
And a community always comes together after something like this. And it is so striking the parking lot is just full of exhausted people who have been out all day, many of them in National Guard units, others in police uniforms, some just volunteers. And they are eating bananas, apples that the Red Cross has brought here. They are lying on the sidewalk outside the church. And it just littered in debris as this, such a horrible of the scene. And it is so typical unfortunately of these kinds of events. That you look across the street, neat little homes untouched t yet, 15 yard away, buildings and trees knocked over and the yard of the school just littered with debris.
And I have been driving around Moore for a couple hours now and that's what it is like, strip malls. Buildings are either shredded or twisted. And it has that horrible, wet, musty smell after tornados.
But remarkably, there are first responders and you can see the exhaustion. They are still policing the streets. They're searching. As I said there are search teams here waiting for any tips to come in. They're going out though conditions, dark, middle of the night. There is eerie lightning above the town. They're going out looking. They'll keep looking until they are told there is no more hope.
MALVEAUX: John, I want to remind our viewers, that we are of course live throughout the morning. And that we are really, getting a sense of what is taking place on the ground in realtime. And I wondered, you know, you mention, you make a very good point. People come together in times of crises, and communities in particularly that hard, hard hit. Volunteers, are people able to get out there? Are they able to do something about this to help the search-and-rescue folks? Or are they saying "stay away. Stay put. It is not helpful. You know, "you have the cadaver dogs out there, professionals out there? Is there anything that the community can do right now?
KING: I really urge people to listen to us and to listen to the local radio and to look at any web sites (INAUDIBLE) because I did talk to the state trooper here who sadly first and foremost said that he expected this, the dispatching of more ambulances here, expecting the death toll to rise significantly overnight.
But, he also said that a pastor of the church also said to me that at the moment, that this site, and I'm always speaking at the site I have been at and two or three other sites here in Moore, they said they have all the volunteers they need now. But, they expect the first wave and second wave to be exhausted by the time tomorrow comes up. They really urging people to check in with their church, check in with the Red Cross, check in with local authorities, depending where they are, and how far away they for the most devastated areas. They certainly well tending and they are so grateful for all the help. What they don't want to do is overwhelm the sites where you have people who have been displaced from the home, who need the food and the water and cots available. And first responders, obviously, as I said, I'm watching, you know, more return now. And the National Guard troops and looking exhausted and a little dazed. But, they're also asking when they come back can they just grab a snack and go back at it.
So when it comes to that I really urge people, especially it is overnight now and it is dark, it is not safe to go into many streets. And so, the first and foremost, people don't want more people to get hurt or lost. A lot of the streets are muddy and full of debris. But in the morning, I think would be a good time to regroup and check and see what will be best if you are trying to help.
MALVEAUX: Sure. And then, fitting you are at a church. And I know a lot of people pouring forth support and prayers at this time.
John, we are going to check back in. We will see you in a little bit.
MANN: So many people want to help. Let you know about The Red Cross number you can use if you want to find out how you can help people affected by the tornadoes. We'll put the number up on the screen for you. We will be back in a moment.
MANN: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the Oklahoma tornadoes. It is 29 minutes after the hour, 9:29 after that terrible storm hit. Here is a quick recap.
Officials are using these overnight hours as best they can., reportedly using night vision, heat seeking cameras to look for survivors. The official member of confirmed deaths is 51. But here is the thing. We are told about 40 more bodies have been recovered. So, we expect the death toll to rise dramatically. More than 145 people are being treated in the hospitals, search-and-rescue efforts are still under way including at the school where they are looking for anyone who might still be trapped.
MALVEAUX: Thousand of buildings are simply gone. To give you an idea of the magnitude of the tornado, debris has reportedly been found 90 miles away. Unbelievable! We have seen the images of devastation. But, it can be hard to grasp, just the size of this disaster zone.
Tom Foreman maps out the damage.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are so many parts of Oklahoma where a storm like this could have gone through and caused relatively little damage. But it hit one of the most populous parts of the state. This suburb of Oklahoma City, is home to about 55,000 people.
And look how densely the houses are gathered around the elementary school we have talked about so much. In this picture alone there are about 350 homes. And that is typical of much of the suburban area. And we know what kind of force they saw there. This is that school, before the storm came through. And this is the same school afterward.
Let's go up here and look at the medical center, also, taken out of commission by the storm. This is the medical center after the storm, the same medical center before, looked much more like this. Just south of that, here is the theater, very popular with local folks there. This is the theater before the storm. This is the theater after the storm.
It is important to look at a few touch stones like this in the storm area. Because we know this from other images we have seen. The real force of the storm came through here, in a mile-wide swath, maybe even more. So between these two lines and just hammered all of these homes in here.
How many people were vulnerable? We are estimating that conservatively in the immediate area here there are 5,000 homes, not all of them were damaged. Certainly not all were destroyed. They were all in the path of this massive tornado. And many, many people are counting their blessings or taking an assessment of the damage right now.
MALVEAUX: We have more on the monster tornados coming up.
MANN: Including a conversation with a storm chaser and CNN ireporter who actually drove towards the killer storm.
MANN: It is 35 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to our continuing live coverage of the devastating tornado in Oklahoma, I'm Jonathan Mann.
MALVEAUX: I'm Suzanne Malveaux at CNN center at Atlanta.
And this morning in Oklahoma, I want to bring you up to date here. This is the latest.
Moore, Oklahoma, search-and-rescue teams working through the night. So far, at least 51 people are officially confirmed dead from Monday's massive tornado. Within the past hour we have now been told, 40 more body have been recovered. So the official death, toll now expecting to climb. MANN: This latest tornado, the strike the Oklahoma City metropolitan area had been rated an EF-4. You are going to hear that phrase a lot. This is what you know. EF stands for Enhanced Fujita. That is a scale developed by a meteorologist named Fujita. What you really need to know and the crucial thing here is EF-4 is the second strongest level on the scale that meteorologists use.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have lost animals. We have lost everything. We don't have anything left. And my parents, I can't get a-hold of them. We have no cell. We, you know, so if they're out there and they're watching, please let them know that I and my family is OK. And we'll make it. We'll be OK. But everything is gone.
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MANN: Let's now turn to a storm chaser who has been tracking the massive tornadoes and the destruction they have left behind.
Brenton Lee joins us online from Newcastle, Oklahoma. Just to let people know, Newcastle, we haven't mentioned it much in the course of this broadcast, right next to Moore. It also saw a lot of the damage. How close were you? And what was it like to see this thing come by?
BRENTON LEE, STORM CHASER: We were initially 200 to 300 yards east of the tornado. It was pretty intense in that area. We saw the rotation. The national weather service was spot-on as far as getting out a warning about 16 minutes ahead of the actual tornado being on the ground. In that location, I mean, it's a normal sound that you hear from everybody explaining it. I mean, it's surreal, but it is the sound of a freight train rolling on.
You know, when it came down, it was just a small EF-1. But as I've said earlier, it was one of the tornadoes that I never seen intensify this quickly. You know, it went from an EF-1 to an EF-3 or four in a matter of about 15 minutes.
MANN: Now, I'm going to jump in with a question about that.
LEE: Go ahead.
MANN: Because what you're talking about is the wind speed picking up dramatically in a way that is deadly. The word we have is that the debris field, the area that wood and rubble and cement and car parts were flying around was two miles wide, maybe two and a half miles wide. Any one of those pieces of debris could have killed you. You are being very calm about this. But how frightening was it to be around? Did you have a sense of all of that material moving around in the air and the wind?
LEE: You know, as the video that you're showing right now, we were about a mile to two miles away from that tornado as it was probably around an EF-3, 140-plus miles an hour. There was debris flying in front of us, in front of the vehicle. You know what? We were in the vehicle, although it's still not exactly safe. We felt pretty safe in the area we were at. One thing while I was shooting the actual tornado out of the car, you know, the inflow of the actual wind going into the tornado was so strong even from a mile or two miles off that it was trying to suck my iphone out of my hand. I was estimating at 60 to 70 miles per hour. The inflow that was that far away from the tornado.
MALVEAUX: Brenton, this is Suzanne. I want to ask you this. First of all, we're taking a look at these pictures. How close were you to the tornado where it had touched down? And how did you know that this was something that was extraordinarily different than what you seen and experienced before?
LEE: Well, initially, we were about 200 to 300 yards from the initial rotation, southeast of the actual touchdown. How I knew it was a little different from the ones we've seen in the past, eastbound yesterday when we saw three tornadoes, this one went from just a small tornado to a fairly large EF-2 and probably a two-mile stretch. Then it just continued to widen as it went further. You know, at about ten minutes past, it actually touching down, it was already an established EF-3, with 140-plus miles an hour. I've never seen one intensify so quickly. And then, you know, about 15 or 20 minutes after touchdown, it was so heavily rain-wrapped, and the actual damage ball on the radar was so large, that you couldn't even see the tornado any more at that point, even with it being approximately a mile wide.
MANN: A dangerous hobby, and on a day when it was particularly deadly.
Brenton Lee, a storm chaser talked to us about watching that storm hit the ground.
MALVEAUX: Covered in dirt without a shirt, a man who works in a horse stable describes taking a direct hit from this tornado.
Lando Hite, I rather hide, says, he was caught in a whirlwind that pushed him in the horse stall he was inside more than 100 yards across concrete. He says intense violence began with just an eerie stillness.
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LANDO HITE, TORNADO SURVIVOR: It was all windy and stuff before the tornado came. I didn't have -- I had no idea it was coming. Just figured it was just like yesterday, you know, a big storm coming. And all of the sudden it went quiet. And when it did that, being from Oklahoma, I came outside to see. And I seen debris flying over that way. And I thought I might have had a little while. So I tried to let some of the horses get loose and free out of their stalls so they would have a chance. I didn't have very long at all. And I jumped into one of the stalls here. And that's what these here used to be. And they clashed over on top of me. And sat a pickup truck on top of it and pushed it down this here cement way. And it was just unbearably loud. And you could see stuff flying everywhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP) MALVEAUX: Now, it looks like he has been through hell. And it has been more than nine hours since a massive tornado destroyed parts of Oklahoma. We are still just learning the scale of the devastation. I want to bring in George Howell. He is live from Moore, Oklahoma, near the site where an elementary school once stood. It is now gone.
George, I know it's dark, it's late. What is taking place around you? What can you see?
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, you know, it is dark now, certainly, but you can still see the glow of what is happening. The search and rescue still under way over there. We know that at least 14 different fire departments are there on the scene. They are doing their best to go through all of that debris, you know, to find survivors there.
And, you know, one thing that we've seen from this particular vantage point from where we've been standing, one by one, we've seen firefighters. We've seen investigators. We've seen sheriff's deputies, police officers, people are filing past us to go into this area to help with the search. They're going in, going out. That's been happening through the night.
Also, police here. They have issued somewhat of a curfew to make sure that residents in this neighborhood leave. They want to make sure that looting is not an issue. You wouldn't think that that would happen in a situation like this. But to be safe, these police departments have issued that curfew to make sure that the streets are clear.
One other thing, Suzanne, that we've seen, and this has been very interesting, and I don't see anyone around now. But we've seen people with flashlights going door to door, house to house. They're keeping up the search, looking for people who may still be trapped in their homes.
Again, earlier today, we saw residents doing that. But, you know, they have all left. Now, it's these different groups. They are working with we believe, we presume working with officials, going house by house, looking for people.
There were also a couple of, you know, some good stories. Obviously, the big story we are focusing on right now is what is happening over there with the search and rescue. But there were family members who found their relatives, parents who found their children.
Earlier today, I spoke with three parents who, as you can imagine, were incredibly thankful to see their kids. Take a listen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thank God that I got there in time to pick up my nieces, my nephews, my son, because I don't know what I would have done if he would have been one of -- I mean, I can't -- I'm speechless. How did this happen? Why did this happen? My son's still -- how do we explain this to the kids? How are they going to wake up tomorrow and everything is missing? The school, these houses, their friends. Nobody knows where anybody is. We can't contact anybody. Hopefully, if anybody is listening, you know, we're OK. I'm from Wisconsin. And if, again, if anybody is listening, my son and I are OK. My sisters, my nieces and nephews, my brother-in-law, everybody is fine. But there is very many people that are left without houses, their cars, everything. Everything is gone. In an instant, everything, everything is gone.
HOWELL: Rosa, I wanted to ask you. I mean, what was it like for you, you know, in those moments after the tornado to come out here looking for your child?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was scared. I was stuck at work. I work at hobby lobby up the street, and we were hiding out, waiting out the storm. And I was told that the kids couldn't leave without a parent coming to get them. So I was scared that my sisters were probably not able to get my kids and communication. So you're frightened for that moment.
HOWELL: Norma, I know that your son wanted to talk to us. Do you mind if we ask him a question?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sure, go ahead.
HOWELL: Julio, what was it like to be in that building at that time?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was scary. And a lot of my friends were still there when I left.
HOWELL: What did your teachers tell you to do? You showed me a moment ago.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go ahead and show him what you did in school.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got and you covered your head with your hands. And all of my friends were hot and sweaty, because we were all bunched up.
HOWELL: And you did that, you did that through the whole storm?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Until I picked them up, they were all -- all the children were down. And as soon as I walked through the building, I mean I was a little hysterical. I was running through the building barefoot and just screaming their names. And each one of my kids stood up, and they came with me.
HOWELL: Maria, what is going through your mind?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I heard that the storm was coming towards us. I heard that it was coming towards the school. I just thought about my daughter. I thought, you know, I have nieces and nephews in there. I had to get them out. And I saw it. I saw it from over the houses that it was coming, that it was about to touch down. I got to get him out. I'm glad that we did get them. Look what is left? There isn't much left. We went through the office. And now these are so many cars just inside the office. It's like well, what happened.
HOWELL: So, you know, when you see parents like that, that's why we want to be especially careful with this verbiage. It is still a search-and-rescue operation. We were told that just over an hour ago. These officials, they're still going in there. They're still looking for people who could be trapped in the rubble. Also here in the neighborhood, we know that they're still going house by house looking for people.
So, you know, as we get any new information on that, we will obviously pass that along. But, you know, I do know that there are parents, there are mothers and fathers who are paying very close attention to every word that we say. So, you know, that is the latest that we have from officials. And we will continue to update you as we get more information.
MALVEAUX: All right. George, thank you very much.
We know it's so important to feel a sense of hope, you know, and optimism, even if it does not look good, until the very end, just to see because you never know if there is a miracle that is going to happen.
MANN: And imagine the contrast. They had just moments to prepare for this storm. And now after those short moments of panic and preparation, long, long hours of searching, hours of shock, hours of grief.
Our coverage will continue. We will be back right after this.
MALVEAUX: Welcome back to CNN's continuing live coverage of the deadly tornado in Oklahoma.
We've been telling you all evening and early into the morning, dozens of people have been killed. This is in Moore. It's a suburb of Oklahoma City. This is amazing. It's a look at how this storm grew in size and strength, just within minutes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Very intense tornado now. We have watched it go from just a very thin rope-like tornado to know what looks to appear to be debris flying in the air from the base, Damon?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MANN: Nine hours and roughly 52 minutes ago. It's 52 minutes after the hour. Our continuing coverage of this is not going to let up. We will be on this story pour the hours and days to come. Now, one of the reasons we are paying so much attention to this tornado is how big it got. It expanded to become more than two miles wide. Most tornadoes just to give you a sense of this are less than 500 yards. . This was a whole other beast.
MALVEAUX: And you can imagine the numbers of people who want to be on the ground, who are trying to help, trying to find who is actually there. Fourteen different fire departments, they are still there on the scene, long into the night, well into the morning. We are watching them. They are searching, essentially, for people who might be alive still under the rubble from hundreds of these destroyed buildings here.
MANN: Witnesses described it all happening very, very quickly, from the moment it formed to how fast it grew. It exploded. It was estimated, as we keep saying, at two miles wide at one point.
MALVEAUX: I want to bring in our meteorologist Ivan Cabrera at the CNN severe weather center.
And Ivan, I mean, we have been watching this hour by hour, minute by minute. And it is hard to understand how this happened so quickly, even the storm chaser said he was shocked when he saw this thing grow before his eyes.
CABRERA: Absolutely. I was home watching it. It went from rope to an EF-4, EF-5 and then a rope tornado in just about 40 minutes. And the damage, of course, has been incredible. One of the things of course you're familiar with the radar that we show you here on CNN frequently. And you're familiar with the colors, right? The deeper the colors, orange means heavy rainfall and sometimes hail.
This should not be here. What this is, is non-meteorological. This is not precipitation. What it is, of course, is non-meteorological targets, which means people's homes, whatever is left of them, flying up in the air. The radar is bouncing off of that material and coming back to us. And it is indicated as that. Because the hail core usually is to the north here. This is where that circulation was.
And, as Jonathan and Suzanne mentioned, at one point, two miles wide, I was watching doors, houses, just spinning around. I mean, the kind of stuff that you see in movies but obviously happening in real life here.
I want to show you the enhanced Fujita scale. We have been talking about this a lot. The winds here estimated, again, anywhere from 166 to 200 miles an hour. The national weather service could come back and say today that it is an EF-5. The damage I've seen certainly would comport with that here. Incredible damage here. Just imagine your car going down the interstate, going three times as fast as the speed limit. And then with the force, of course, that is the velocity that we were dealing here with this feature that moves through this EF-4 or EF-5, incredible.
Now, let's get to where the current situation because we are done with the most severe of the weather, the most dangerous tornadoes here. But we are not quite done completely here. Look at the line that is pouring. This is now a squa line (ph) with strong, certainly winds have could curve overnight including a, by the way, the area that got hit more has been seeing some showers and thunderstorms rolling through. But I think that by the time we get into tomorrow, guys, a severe weather threat is at least going to be east of the area here allowing through the search and recovery.
And for everything else, it is going to be going on and more to continue at least with better weather indeed. But then, we have to worry about our friends the least.
MANN: Ivan Cabrera, thanks very much.
Moore, Oklahoma. This is a city that has endured 1998 tornado, 1999 a killer tornado, category five tornado, 2003, 2013. Four really, really damaging tornadoes, the fastest winds on earth, we recorded in Moore in 1999, this storm was worst.
MALVEAUX: And when you hear the people talk about what they saw, they say this is nothing that they like they have ever seen before. These are people who experienced in dealing with this kind of tragedy. This kind of damage being dislocated from their homes, this is the worst. This is the worst. And I suspect, when daylight breaks, we are going to get a real full picture of much more devastating picture of what we have seen already.
MANN: I'm Jonathan Mann.
MALVEAUX: I'm Suzanne Malveaux. We are going to be back with the very latest on these absolutely devastating storms and tornadoes that have already killed scores of people. This is near Oklahoma city.