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Possible Tornado in Van, Texas; Tornado Hits Eastland County, Texas; Mississippi Police Officers Killed; Pentagon Elevates Alert Level Against Terror; Cease-fire in Yemen. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 11, 2015 - 05:00   ET


[05:00:19] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, exactly. That's what I was going to say. My boys clearly already cubists.

All right. EARLY START continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: We have breaking news this morning. A possible tornado in Van, Texas. About 70 miles east of Dallas. Emergency officials calling this a mass casualty event. What we know so far, at least 26 people injured, 20 plus structures damaged or destroyed.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri following the storm system for us.

And, Pedram, we know they were going house to house in Van, Texas.


ROMANS: Trying to make sure everyone is accounted for. Everyone at this point is accounted for. There are some injuries. But tell us what we know.

JAVAHERI: That's right. You know, it's a town of about 2600 people. So they were going door-to-door. They've now figured out that everyone is accounted for, as you said. And the excellent news here, because, you know, the First Baptist Church, one of the areas that people rushed towards when this storm -- they issued a tornado warning across this region is 8:55 p.m. last night, 9:00 p.m. local time, the tornado touches down around Van.

And we go in for a closer perspective here, kind of showing you what we have. The storm system, I don't know if we can advance the graphics, guys, if you can hear me but the storm still producing severe weather just east of this region. So as you exit from, say, Van out there towards areas of Laneville, Marshall, eastern Texas, we do have severe thunderstorm warnings in line over this region. And the storm has had a history of producing tornadoes just to the east of it in Little Rock.

From Shreveport up towards Little Rock, there are tornado watches in effect right now over that region until 5:00 local time -- 5:00 in the morning local time. And notice the active line of thunderstorms here. Upwards of 1,000 lightning strikes each and every single hour over the past several hours. So talk about a challenging night to get any sort of sleep here. And as we head in towards sunrise here, of course, the storms really begin rocking and rolling over that region.

But a broad perspective of it, we're watching this storm as it migrates off to the east. We know that some 57 million people now in line for severe weather. And the threat on a scale of 1 to 5 was a 4 towards a danger of severe weather on a Sunday. That has dropped down to about a 2. A slight risk and you take a look, 24 reports of tornadoes across the country on Sunday afternoon. About a half a dozen or so coming out of Texas.

The vast majority turning out of the state of Iowa and also South Dakota. And when you go closer to look at what happened across the northern reaches of this area, of course tremendous rainfall has come down. Dallas points northward up to 10 inches of rainfall has come down in the past 24 hours. And then you work your way to the south around Corsicana, they picked up upwards of nine inches of rainfall.

I know it's difficult to see but you follow this line, that's about eight inches, indicated in purple. Van is at the very end of that. So that is how much rainfall they have seen in recent days across that area of Texas. And tremendous rainfall. Beneficial for some. But of course when you get this much significant flooding threat in line for a lot of people as well.

So we are watching the active weather now push off to the east. Shreveport to Little Rock. The next cities in line that eventually becomes Memphis, Nashville and Indianapolis by the afternoon hours, guys.

ROMANS: Yes. And probably up north, they have a lot of basements, you know, the housing -- farther up north have basements in that part of Texas. A lot of people have basements. They might have a storm shelter. You can build a storm shelter in the yard, but a lot of people don't have basements so that's why it's so terrifying.

ROMANS: All right. Pedram, thanks so much.

I want to tell you we're getting here first pictures right now from that town of Van, Texas, about 50 miles east of Dallas.

ROMANS: Oh my.

BERMAN: You can see right there a building. We just don't know what it was. And the operative word there is "was." Completely obliterated. Again this is our first picture from Van, Texas, where a tornado hit. We heard reports of 26 people at least injured, some 20 buildings like this one destroyed.

At this point we're told that everyone is accounted for. But we are awaiting word on the condition of those who have been injured.

Big weather stories overnight.

ROMANS: Yes. BERMAN: Three powerful storm systems slamming different parts of the

country. There were heavy rains, there were flooding and even more tornadoes.

ROMANS: Yes. the Atlantic hurricane season also doesn't start until June, but guess what, there is a Tropical Storm Ana and it early Sunday made landfall, north of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Heavy rains you see here caused widespread flooding of low-lying areas.

BERMAN: Ana causing rough surf. 12-foot seas that pushed officials to ban swimming in the ocean up the coast all the way up into North Carolina. Once the storm was onshore, it weakened to a tropical depression but it continued to drop some heavy rain.

ROMANS: Much of Colorado digging out from a late season snowstorm this morning. Snow laden branches snapped power lines. Blackened out more than 40,000 homes and businesses. Forecasters now warn of flooding through midweek as the snow melts.

BERMAN: You can see how heavy that snow is. It's just dragging those branches all the way to the ground.

In South Dakota, there was snow as well and a tornado. Blizzard-like conditions hit the Black Hills in the western part of that state. More than a foot of heavy, wet snow. In eastern South Dakota, the town of Delmonte, the storm damaged about 20 buildings. Luckily there were no serious injuries.

[05:05:06] ROMANS: Another tornado tore through the Iowa town of Lake City. Ripping the roof off the local high school with about 100 people inside for an awards ceremony.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There goes the school. There goes the school. That's not Casey's. That's a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) school.


BERMAN: Look at that school. Right up into the air.

ROMANS: Officials say the tornado sirens gave plenty of time to evacuate. No one was injured but there are no classes today at the high school obviously in Lake City.

BERMAN: We've been talking about Van, Texas, where a tornado hit. In Denton County, north of Dallas, rescue helicopters pulled six people from their flooded homes. And in Crum, a swollen creek just swept away cars.

ROMANS: All right. A tornado that tore through Eastland County, Texas, caused one death and a few serious injuries.

CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray is there with the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: John and Christine, we are just a couple of miles south of Cisco. This is west of Dallas and this is one of the areas hard hit by the storms on Saturday. You can see the trees behind just snapped in half. In fact, preliminary reports are saying that it was an EF-3 tornado that came through here and caused extensive damage, three quarters of a mile wide with a path seven miles long.

We are up in a little higher elevation and you can see all of the trees that are snapped. It's clear where the path was. And just a couple of miles in that direction, we have been told that about three homes were a total loss. We can't get to them. We don't have access because trees are down, power lines are down covering the road and we can't get to those.

Unfortunately, one person died in the storms on Saturday. Three others injured. At least one of those people were in critical condition.

Of course we talked to the public information officer from this area. He said they've had tornadoes before, but none have really impacted many structures. This is the hardest they've been hit in this area. And unfortunately more storms in the forecast later today -- John and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Jennifer Gray, thank you for that.

This afternoon, two Mississippi police officers will be honored at a memorial service. Officials say they were shot to death during a traffic stop. The first officers to be killed in the line of duty in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in more than 30 years.

Rosa Flores reports the suspects are already in custody. She has the latest.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, Christine, you know, we hear this from law enforcement experts all the time. There is no such thing as a routine traffic stop and this is a perfect example.

Now three suspects are in custody and two police officers are dead. Now here is what we know from authorities. According to police, what happened here is that Officer Benjamin Deen made a traffic stop, and this involved a vehicle with three people inside. He called for backup. Officer Liquori Tate responded and then investigators say that the suspects shot and killed those two police officers.

Now they also say that the suspects took one of the police cruisers and used it as a runaway car. Now, of course, police later apprehended these suspects. Now here are their names, Marvin Banks and Jonie Calloway, both charged with two counts of capital murder. And then you've got Curtis Banks, charged with two counts of accessory to capital murder after the fact. Now this investigation is in the hands of the Mississippi Bureau of

Investigation. We've learned from authorities that they are scouring through evidence, making interviews, asking people, trying to figure out what happened here. Again, they have not released a motive.

I did talk to Officer Tate's father and he says that he is broken. He had a very close relationship with his son and that the one thing that's helping him at this point in time is knowing that his son was living his dream, because his son's dream, he says, was to be a police officer -- John, Christine.


ROMANS: Rosa, thanks for that. Our thoughts are with those families.

The Hattiesburg mayor's office says a fourth suspect, Cornelius Clark, was arrested Sunday, charged with obstruction of justice.

BERMAN: Happening now, federal officials ramping up efforts to stop lone wolf terror attacks. This coming in the wake of the assault last week in Garland, Texas, by two gunmen who were inspired if not directed by ISIS.


JEH JOHNSON, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We're very definitely in a new environment because of ISIL's effective use of social media, the Internet, which has the ability to reach into the homeland and possibly inspire others. And so our government and our state and local law enforcement are having to do a number of things to address that, which is why FBI Director Comey and I spend a lot of time these days talking to police chiefs, sheriffs, around the country. We did that in a video teleconference just on Friday.


[05:10:03] BERMAN: Federal law enforcement officials say the FBI is increasing its monitoring of suspected ISIS supporters in the U.S. One official told CNN, quote, "We're trying to shake the trees more aggressively."

The Pentagon is also tightening security at military bases in the U.S. from Force Protection Condition Alpha to Bravo.

National correspondent Sunlen Serfaty has the latest.


SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Secretary of Department of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, he said it's because of this online campaign by ISIS that he believes that the threat is greater than in the days after 9/11. Here's what he had to say on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TOM RIDGE, FORMER SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Their appeal to the lone wolves, and we've seen them acting in Belgium and in France and in Canada and the United States, so the threat vectors and the nature of the threats are far more complicated and far more serious today than on September 12th, 2001.


SERFATY: And the Pentagon on Thursday night put all military bases across the country on a heightened state of alert, increasing the threat level at 3200 bases across the country. The concern here is that ISIS is reaching out, recruiting people inside the U.S., to potentially target uniformed military and law enforcement.

The FBI director has warned there are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of ISIS followers inside the U.S. and the FBI has been increasing monitoring of these suspected followers who may be influenced by these recruiters, and have hundreds of investigations ongoing.

Now the Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, he called this a new era in the country. He said because of this, this use of the Internet by ISIS, there could be little or no advanced warning of so-called lone wolf terrorists attacking here in the U.S.


ROMANS: All right. Sunlen Serfaty for us at the White House.

Time for an EARLY START on your money this morning. Asian shares are higher. China Central Bank announced a new interest rate cut over the weekend to boost its slowing economy. European shares are a little bit lower. Some concerns about Greece and its debt situation. U.S. stock futures not moving too much, but Friday, what a day, the Dow jumped 267 points, 1.5 percent.

There's a strong April jobs report, looks like the job market back on track. Stocks have been going up basically for six years. There's been sort of a plateau in recent months. So what will it take to keep the bull running? Jobs report was a good start off so watch some corporate earnings this week very closely. So far fewer than about half of companies have exceeded Wall Street's expectations for earnings.

We'll need stronger results than that to justify stocks near records. And they are very close to records. But looking for what that next impetus could be. A lot of people think this year there's going to be much more mild gains than we've seen over the past few years.

We're following breaking news out of Texas this morning where a tornado has left dozens injured overnight. Plus happening right now a new breakthrough in Yemen. A cease-fire taking hold. Will it last? We are live after the break.


[05:15:59] BERMAN: All right. The breaking news out of Van, Texas. A reported tornado, Van, Texas, is about 70 miles east of Dallas. You can look at some of these pictures of the aftermath right there. Before you saw a building completely destroyed. There it is again.

Officials say at least 26 people have been injured and more than 20 buildings damaged or destroyed. There's a large scale search and rescue operation. Officials do now say that everyone has been accounted for. That is good news. No one is missing at this point at least.

Van is not the only city in Texas hit by a tornado. In Eastland County, a reported tornado killed one person, injured at least three others. Elsewhere, storms spawned by tornadoes dropped some heavy rain from Colorado to Iowa to the Carolinas.

ROMANS: Yes. Wild night out there.

In Yemen, a breakthrough. Houthi rebels have agreed to a five-day cease-fire offered by the Saudi-led coalition that's conducting air strikes in that country since March. It is scheduled to take effect Tuesday allowing humanitarian aid to reach civilians in desperate need.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen monitoring developments from London.

Cease-fires are always so fragile. There's always so much -- a lot of activity right up to the very last minute, quite frankly. But the people there must desperately need that aid.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Yes, you're absolutely right, Christine. Certainly. The U.N. estimates that some 300,000 people have been displaced so far by -- the action that's been going in Yemen over the past six weeks. They also say that some 1400 have been killed. The majority of them civilians. And really these people need everything. There is a shortage of fuel, of course there's a shortage of food and water as well.

And the big problem is going to be the cease-fire, it was only supposed to last about five days, is that a lot of the ports are damaged. So bringing ships in there will be very difficult. Also a lot of the airfields have been damaged as well. So bringing aid in by air could also be a problem as well. Nevertheless as you said this is something that's seen as a very positive step at this point in time in this crisis that has been going on for such a long time.

However, you're also right to point out that military action is in intensifying all the way up to the beginning of that cease-fire. The Saudi-led coalition is saying that it conducted up to 130 airstrikes on Saturday alone. On Sunday, then, apparently the coalition lost a plane. The Royal Moroccan Air Force, which is part of the coalition against the Houthis, has said that one of its F-16s went down over Yemen.

The Houthis and two of their officials have confirmed this to us, say that they shot this plane down. At this point it's not clear what the fate of the pilot is, whether he managed to eject. So there is a little bit of good news with that cease-fire apparently on the horizon. Set to take place, set to take hold on Tuesday. However, there is still a lot of fighting all the way in the run-up to that cease-fire and certainly the people there need aid very, very badly. It's something that the U.N. says is absolutely necessary at this point in time -- Christine.

ROMANS: Yes. Absolutely necessary. Five-day truce scheduled to start tomorrow.

Fred, thank you so much for that.

BERMAN: You've been watching the NBA playoffs?


BERMAN: Extraordinary.

ROMANS: Really?

BERMAN: And last night it was LeBron James delivering a buzzer beater. Not seen here, but a remarkable ending to that game. LeBron James likely saved the Cavaliers' season. Coy Wire -- but wait, here it is. Here it is. There it is. And -- Coy Wire will tell you all about it in "The Bleacher Report" next.


[05:22:55] BERMAN: So two nights after watching Derrick Rose hit a last-second shot to win the game, LeBron James, well, he decided to go ahead and do it himself.


ROMANS: Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Hey, Coy.

COY WIRE, BLEACHER REPORT: Good morning, Christine, John.

Yes, Chicago was up 2-1, as John was talking about in this series. Bulls had serious momentum heading into the game. After that Derrick Rose buzzer beating three on Friday. But they were in trouble late last night.

Down by two, 12 seconds left. Derrick Rose with a sick crossover, drives it a lot, lays it in, ties it at 84-84. Then 1.5 second left, Cavs get one shot for the win. Who should get the ball? That man right there can do it all. Splash on the King James third career gaming winning buzzer beater. Cavs go (INAUDIBLE). Look at that one more time. But after the game, it turns out the last play wasn't actually drawn up for King James. Listen.


LEBRON JAMES, MADE GAME-WINNING BUZZER: To be honest, the play that was drawn up, I scratched it. I just told coach just give me the ball. And you know, either we're going to go into overtime or I'm going to win it for us. It was that simple.


WIRE: Give me the ball, Coach.

Clippers and Rockets game didn't have as much drama, but it did have dunking. DeAndre Jordan had to elevate and levitate and doing his thing, putting on a display. Playing like going to (INAUDIBLE) hoop. Jordan finished with 26 points. Clippers rout the Rockets 128-95, taking a 3-1 series lead. Look to stick a fourth in Houston Tuesday night and end it all.

On to snowball. Check that baseball. Six inches of snow drive down in Denver overnight. Coors Field was covered and crews were shoveling snow all morning Sunday. They even busted out the baby bulldozers to get the game started on time. It was only 40 degrees, but that didn't stop Dodgers' Justin Turner from getting hot. He shellacked this tie- breaking homer in the eight. His Dodgers went on to win 9-5 and hand the Rockies their ninth straight loss.

All right. Here's your feel good story for the morning. It was Mother's Day yesterday, of course, but at the Mets-Phillies game it was this dude, Daddy-o, that stole the show. Take a closer look. He's got his baby boy strapped to his chest.

[05:25:08] So let's watch this again, though. How about this dad, guys? Here we go. Check this out. One handed. Bare handed. Baby- bearing. Pumps up the crowd. And then he goes Arnold on them. Straight flexing on them. You've got to love that, guys. Yes, sir.

BERMAN: That's like an ad for BabyBjorn's.

ROMANS: I'm telling you --

BERMAN: Everything you can do in a Bjorn.

WIRE: Exactly right.

ROMANS: That baby, cool as a cucumber. Doesn't even -- doesn't even pause with the paci. Just keeps going.


BERMAN: That is outstanding.

WIRE: Got to love it.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks, Coy.

WIRE: Hope I'm that cool when I'm a dad. You're welcome, guys.

BERMAN: You will.

ROMANS: You will be. Totally. I could see Coy Wire with a big BabyBjorn.

BERMAN: The front and the back, he can do it all.


ROMANS: All right. We are following breaking news this morning out of Texas. Wow. Where a tornado has left dozens injured overnight.

Look at some of these photos. Severe storms taking their toll across the country. It is not over yet. Millions of people in the path of dangerous weather right now. We've got that next.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: All right. John Berman here with Christine Romans. The breaking news this morning, a possible tornado in the town of Van, Texas. That's about 70 miles east of Dallas.

This is the first picture we're getting from it right now. Emergency officials call it a mass casualty event. But what we know so far is at least 26 people were injured, 20 plus structures damaged or completely destroyed.

Again, these are the first images we are getting from there but we have heard now from emergency officials, there was a big search and rescue operation underway.

ROMANS: Right.

BERMAN: Officials now tell us that everyone has been accounted for at this point. Still, we are waiting for more word on the condition of those who have been hurt.