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Options in Iraq; Ugly Fight for Nancy Pelosi's Number Two

Aired November 16, 2006 - 09:00   ET


Good morning, everyone.

I'm Tony Harris.


For the next three hours, watch events happen live on this Thursday, the 16th of November.

Here's what's on the rundown.

A messy House and they haven't even moved in. Democrats and the ugly fight for Nancy Pelosi's number two. A vote expected today.

HARRIS: Here comes the maverick -- Senator John McCain taking steps today that could lead to the Oval Office.

COLLINS: And stuck in the mud -- crews struggle to create a floating museum, intrepidly, of course.

We're on the scene here in THE NEWSROOM.

Severe weather hammers the South. Power outages, downed trees and wrecked buildings from Louisiana to the Carolinas.

We've just gotten word a tornado has hit several homes near Wilmington, North Carolina. There are believed to be fatalities there.

Meteorologist Chad Myers is monitoring the situation from the Weather Center headquarters -- Chad, tell us now what the latest is on this system.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It was actually just to the west of Wilmington, one of the suburbs of Wilmington. We talked about this storm about 6:00. It was the only tornado warning at the time in the entire country. Focused on the storm. There was definitely a hook to the storm. It was rotating and there was a warning on it.

It has now moved well on up, almost to the Virginia state line.

As I take you, though, to Google Earth -- here's Wilmington, here's the coast. You take 87, Highway 87 out to Riegelwood. And here's the flashing light at Riegelwood, talking about areas either between the flashing light -- and you can see, this isn't just farmland out here. Many houses, lake houses here. And then back out to the west, where Holly Tree Road is, through here, somewhere in this vicinity the tornado ran on through and did destroy quite a few buildings.

We do know there are fatalities. We do not know how many yet. Crews are on the scene. We're trying to get a beeper with them, what we call a phoner, as soon as we can.

Here's some of the video of what happened overnight to the northwest of Charlotte from our affiliate WCNC.

This is Statesville, North Carolina. A lot of wind damage, trees pushed over. There were even six tornadoes reported yesterday. But many reports of wind damage, when the crews go out -- the National Weather Service crews go out during the daylight -- they will actually upgrade that wind damage to tornado damage. There's really no way to know what it is in the middle of the night.

They'll be able to tell whether all the trees fell in one direction or were they twisted around and was there damage from all directions, as the vortex of the tornado causes the damage in a completely different direction than one direction wind -- all right, back to you guys.


All right, Chad, we'll be checking with you for the rest of the show, I'm sure.

MYERS: You bet.

COLLINS: Thanks, Chad.


HARRIS: Options in Iraq -- partitioning, phased withdrawal or sending in more troops -- all non-starters says a top American general. But he does tell Congress changes need to be made.

CNN's Barbara Starr reports.


BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The general in charge of the war in Iraq outright rejected Democratic calls for a timetable for troop withdrawal.

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: At this stage in the campaign, we'll need flexibility to manage our force and to help manage the Iraqi force. Force caps and specific timetables limit that flexibility.

STARR: And then he rejected the call from the Republicans for sending additional ground combat forces.

ABIZAID: I do not believe that more American troops right now is the solution to the problem.

STARR: But Abizaid admitted changes are needed and he recommended a new focus on training Iraqis.

ABIZAID: I am saying we must significantly increase our ability to help the Iraqi Army by putting more troops with Iraqi units in military transition teams to speed the amount of training.

STARR: Abizaid was accompanied by the State Department's top diplomat on Iraq, who opened the door to another current idea -- getting Iran to stop influencing Iraqi Shia militias.

DAVID SATTERFIELD, U.S. COORDINATOR FOR IRAQ: With respect to Iran, we are prepared, in principle, to discuss Iranian activities in Iraq.

STARR: But the CIA director made it clear Iran is far from helpful.

GENERAL MICHAEL HAYDEN, CIA DIRECTOR: The Iranian head appears to be powerful and, I would offer the view, it appears to be growing and Iranian ambitions in Iraq seem to be expanding.

STARR (on camera): General Abizaid warned that time could be running out before Iraqi reaches the tipping point where the violence spins out of control.


HARRIS: Barbara Starr joins us from the Pentagon this morning -- going, Barbara.

STARR: Good morning to you, Tony.

HARRIS: Barbara, beyond what we heard from General Abizaid, what's been the reaction to Senator McCain's suggestion that the U.S. needs more troops in Iraq?

STARR: Well, you know, General Abizaid, like all of the military, they say they don't do politics.


STARR: But they know full well they are in a political environment right now. They know that Senator McCain is pressing for more troops.

What they are saying about it -- and even General Abizaid talked about it yesterday -- sure, he could put in another 20,000 troops, he says, but that would be a very short-term solution, that the size of the military right now is such that they really couldn't sustain a large additional influx of troops into Iraq.

So that's one issue, being able to do it over the long-term. And even if they could, the question, he says, is what would it give you? Fundamentally, the military doesn't think it would change the security situation on the ground inside Iraq to have a lot more U.S. troops. What they still say they want is more Iraqi troops on the streets -- Tony.

HARRIS: CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr for us this morning.

Barbara, thank you.

STARR: Sure.

COLLINS: A political maverick takes a step toward another presidential run. Arizona Senator John McCain setting up an exploratory committee. He files paperwork today. McCain was President Bush's top rival in the 2000 Republican primaries.

Polls show the senator and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani leading the pack of possible GOP contenders.

Add another name to the list of possible Republican candidates. Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson says he's considering a run- for the White House. Thompson also served as Health and Human Services secretary under President Bush. He is expected to form an exploratory committee after the first of the year.

HARRIS: Waiting for a winner to step to the microphones. The Democrats behind closed doors right now trying to settle their family feud. Representatives John Murtha and Steny Hoyer slugging it out. Both want to be majority leader, the speaker's top deputy in the new Democratically controlled Congress.

Senior political correspondent Candy Crowley live from Washington, D.C. now -- Candy, good morning to you.


HARRIS: And how can we -- where is the horse race, in your mind, right now for that second in line?

CROWLEY: Well, you know, I can sort of argue both sides of this coin.

That'll surprise you.

But Steny Hoyer, who is one of those contending for this number two Democratic position, is a pro. He has been in the House leadership. He knows how to work a room. He was considered the favorite early on.

And then along came Nancy Pelosi, who one presumes will be the speaker when the Democrats actually take over in January, and she casted her support for Jack Murtha, who, famously, the ex-Marine who was the first of the Democrats with real credentials to come out against the war.

So, Nancy Pelosi inserted himself into this race, surprised a lot of people and made it a race, after all.

So what's interesting here is that, of course, Nancy Pelosi, very early on, has kind of put her leadership on the line in an early test.

HARRIS: And, Candy, we don't know at this point how much momentum Murtha's candidacy has actually picked up because of this endorsement from Nancy Pelosi, do we?

CROWLEY: Well, we don't. And there's also -- I mean how are members going in going to feel?


CROWLEY: Many of them were going to support Hoyer. Then Jack Murtha came up. So if they look at this and they say boy, this, you know, Nancy Pelosi, who soon will be our speaker, put her weight behind him.

Will it be an embarrassment if we don't vote for Jack Murtha?

Hoyer doesn't think that'll happen. But there's a lot to weigh as they go in there.


Candy, does she need -- does the speaker-to-be, does she need an early victory here?

CROWLEY: You know, probably not really. I think we'll forget this in the next couple of weeks.


CROWLEY: I mean it's an interesting intra-party split here and it's kind of fun-to watch. But in the end, someone will become number two, and I judge by January everyone will have moved on.

HARRIS: Senior political correspondent Candy Crowley for us.

Candy, appreciate it.

Thank you.


COLLINS: We want to get back to the severe weather situation that we are following. Deadly seems kicking up tornadoes, heavy rain and damaging winds all across the South. Deaths reported in Louisiana and now, as we are learning, North Carolina.

And in Montgomery, Alabama, at least two children injured when winds turned a combination day care center and skating rink into a crumpled wreck.

Our David Mattingly live now from Montgomery -- David, what can you tell us about the situation there? DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Heidi, a lot of parents are counting their blessings this morning, their children inside the building you see behind me, absolutely crumpled by yesterday's storm that came through here, leaving destruction for hundreds of miles.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): All across the South, skies blackened and warnings urged people to take cover. A sweeping storm front brought deadly winds and dropped torrential rain from Louisiana to the Carolinas.

In South Louisiana, one man was killed when a tornado hit his home early Wednesday morning.

In Mississippi, eight were injured, six of them when a tornado struck the community of Rocky Branch.

And in Alabama, severe winds and tornadoes ripped up roofs, trees and power lines. In Montgomery, a recreation and day care center with 31 children inside was smashed to the ground.

LIBERTY DUKE: It's not what everyone talks about, the freight train sounds. It wasn't that for us. It was just devastation and it was just that quick.

MATTINGLY: Liberty Duke (ph) led the frantic staff as they climbed through rubble to reach the huddled children, the youngest a mere eight weeks old. Duke's own 5-year-old was among the injured, with a cut on his head.

DUKE: There was some gentlemen that came up -- I don't even know who they were -- that were there as fast as we were and were helping us get the babies out and up over a lot of debris and metal and rebar and just a lot of sharp glass.

MATTINGLY: The cement block and metal framed building was no match for the violent blast of wind. Owners credit the four supervising adults for reacting quickly and taking the children to a safe part of the building before it came crashing down.

DUKE: They did it the way they're trained to. But, above and beyond, they did it because they love their class and their kids and, you know, it was very clear today they would have died for them.


MATTINGLY: And that quick thinking certainly paid off. Of the 31 kids who were inside at the time, only two had to be admitted to the hospital for treatment. The rest of them got out with some scrapes and bruises -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Boy, parents and everyone in that area thanking their lucky stars this morning, that's for sure.

David Mattingly, thank you.

HARRIS: Democrats sharing power. They'll also have to share ideas of how to capture the world's most wanted man.

That story in THE NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Also, life and death Democratic Senator made in seconds using experimental drugs to save lives. A medical controversy in THE NEWSROOM.

And snafu for the Intrepid. The latest efforts to liberate the ship from its muddy berth, coming up right here in THE NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: We want to get you back to the serious situation that Chad Myers is following from the severe weather headquarters there -- boy, Chad, the situation in North Carolina, we're hearing about some fatalities there.


COLLINS: We do have crews in the area waiting on some video to show our viewers, just as soon as we get it, of exactly what it looks like on the ground. But from the maps behind you, they're still dealing with quite a bit of activity.

MYERS: You know what?

It was the first thing in the morning. It was definitely still dark. This backs you up three hours, almost, ago. And just west of Wilmington, North Carolina, is where the touchdown was. It was a clear classic hook echo. It was a clear rotating super cell, all by itself, using all of the energy all by itself.

When you get storms that are in a line, they usually don't produce tornadoes, because they're all fighting each other for energy. They're fighting each other for moisture and for rotation. But now we have another storm on the western side of the same county that had the tornado, which is Columbus County. There, the storm back out to the west as it breaks off from the rest of the cells. Now -- that system now has a tornado warning on it, as well.

Let's get into basically Riegelwood, North Carolina. This is where we know the fatalities did happen this morning. Flying you right past Wilmington, North Carolina, which is just off to the east. Here's Riegelwood. Many areas here -- look at the subdivisions. You can see them kind of based around some of the lakes here. This is not just wide open farmland. There are many roads, many homes through here. And a tornado, we do know, was on the ground for quite some time around Riegelwood earlier this morning.

There are still storms in Florida. There are still tornado watches out there. We don't have any real warnings going on, except that one up in North Carolina, in the same county that had the one earlier. But it is to the south and southwest of where that first storm went by.


COLLINS: The USS Intrepid in trouble. The once mighty warship going nowhere fast, stuck in the mud for 10 days now.

CNN's Rob Marciano is in New York with the very latest on the intractable Intrepid -- Rob.


We're floating on an Army Corps of Engineers boat right next to the Intrepid itself, which, as you mentioned, has been stuck now for 10 days.

They were going to tug this thing out. They were going to tow it downstream. There was going to be a whole bunch of pomp and circumstance worth of this warrior, but all those plans have, well, hit a snag, so to speak.

Pan over toward the bow of the boat, which faces the West Side of New York. There is the West Side Highway. This ship is about 15 feet from where it started last week.


MARCIANO (voice-over): This majestic ship served heroically in World War II, launching air offensives and surviving fiery kamikaze attacks. Then it served in Vietnam. It even used to recover spaceships for NASA.

But last week, the mighty USS Intrepid met its match -- a big pile of mud.

BILL WHITE, PRESIDENT, INTREPID MUSEUM: As you can see behind us, you've got a big barge that's undergoing dredging operations right now to remove the silt underneath the Intrepid.

MARCIANO: After 24 years as a dockside, museum, the Intrepid was due for renovations and was to be towed five miles down the Hudson River. But more than two decades of accumulating silt put a snag in the plan.

WHITE: We need to plow the driveway to get her out into the federal channel.

MARCIANO: And that might take a while, considering the size of the ship. Tip to tail, it measures 906 feet. That's almost as long as the Eiffel Tower is tall. From the bottom of the keel to the top of the mast, it's 17 stories high. It drafts 28 feet, meaning it needs about 30 feet of water to float.

(on camera): Right here, the stern of the boat, how deep is the water?

MICHAEL HERB, U.S. NAVY: Right now, based on some of the sound, it varies, but it varies anywhere from 35 -- there are some spots that are 15, 12 feet so...

MARCIANO: So not deep enough?

HERB: Not right now. But that's why we're digging.

MARCIANO (voice-over): Michael Herb is in charge of freeing the stuck ship. His Navy salvage team is dredging around the clock and he says it could take as long as five weeks.

I asked a member of the Army Corps of Engineers how this ship got stuck in the first place.

MAJ. LEONARD LAW, ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: The problem that they ran into was with the propellers, which, you know, caught into a little bit of the mud at the bottom, and as they tried to pull it out, pushed up a large enough pump of mud to stop the ship from moving further.

MARCIANO: Although the Intrepid is stuck for now, there's no doubt with its history this will be a battle it will eventually win.


MARCIANO: They're just going to have to keep on digging. They have actually released some of the water to lift this boat, or this ship, during the week. You can see the old water line about two feet lower than it was -- than it is now.

The problem with the back of the boat -- of the ship -- is the propellers are about 16 feet high. So they -- as they moved back, four of them, they kind of scooped a little bit of mud, scooped more, and it kept piling up and piling up, like a snow plow would make a pile of snow.

So now they've got, instead of, you know, 25, 28 feet of water to deal with, they've got a big pile of mud that they have to excavate.

So now the Naval team has come in here to try to dig the sides of the ship so that the silt underneath the ship itself kind of sloughs off to the side, and they can eventually free it out.

But it's quite a project, as you would imagine. Five to six of those barges are filled every day. They run-this operation 24 hours a day and it could take three, four, maybe as much as five weeks. They just don't know what's underneath there, Heidi, and we'll just have to wait and see.

Visibility in the Hudson River, especially when you're digging, not all that great -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Well, that's just it. I spent quite a bit of time on that ship and, you know, the water underneath not exactly clear.

All right, Rob Marciano, thanks for the update.

We'll check back later. MARCIANO: You bet.

HARRIS: And, Heidi, this just in to CNN.

The sheriff of Columbus County, North Carolina confirming now five fatalities from the line of storms and tornado that touched down in that area early this morning. The sheriff there, Chris Batten, reporting that at least five people have died in the Riegelwood area. The local hospital there, New Hanover Regional Medical Center, reporting four children and two adults injured, some critically.

The tornado completely demolished a mobile home area and removed possibly as many as five or six mobile homes from their foundation.

Let's talk to one of the reporters for one of the local affiliates there.

Meghan, are you there?

Are you with us?


Can you hear me?

HARRIS: Yes, I sure can.

Meghan, we're just getting this report from the sheriff there, Chris Batten, confirming five deaths.

What else can you tell us?

TORJUSSEN: Well, I know two of those deaths. I talked to a witness here and she says two of her family members are confirmed dead. And she actually couldn't even get into the area because the fire people have closed off this intersection about a mile into Columbus County from Brunswick County here in North Carolina.

Now, they won't let anybody come in or out. All we've seen come in or out are fire rescue trucks. Urban search and rescue came through here. We saw a helicopter touch down. And all we basically know is that a tornado came through and completely leveled brick homes, mobile homes, everything in the area.

We talked to someone that was working for New Hanover Regional Medical Center and she said she was treating some victims.

But the good news is, she said there was a lot of help on hand and everyone that needed medical treatment was getting it. So that's good news there.


TORJUSSEN: Obviously, we're very -- I don't know if you can hear me, because the wind is pretty much blowing pretty hard right now. The weather conditions right now, it's not raining, but we're experiencing some severe wind. And that's really all we know right now.

HARRIS: Well...

TORJUSSEN: And, of course, we'll continue to keep you updated.

HARRIS: Meghan, just a couple of quick questions for you.


HARRIS: We understand that the line of storms -- maybe you can sort of fix a time frame for when the storms started to move through the area.


HARRIS: And we understand that they moved through rather quickly.


HARRIS: Did people on the ground get any advance warning?

TORJUSSEN: We started covering it -- I guess -- yes. I mean they did get some advanced warning. We were reporting that there was going to be some severe weather last night. But it just seemed to be sort of sudden. I mean, we are working our morning show until about 7:00 this morning, and we started covering it wall to wall at around 6:30. And we were responding to, you know, dispatch calls, you know, around 7:00.

So, you know, we got out here as soon as we could.


TORJUSSEN: And it just seemed like it was relatively sudden.

HARRIS: Hey, Meghan, Chad Myers wants to talk to you.


MYERS: Hi, Meghan.

I want to kind of break down where this damage is, because kind of conflicting reports. One says Holly Tree Lane where it goes over Highway 87. But, in fact, that doesn't even occur. It never intersects with Highway 87. The other report says near the flashing light here.

Can you give us a little bit of a better look at -- a feel of what you're seeing on the ground, where the damage is?

TORJUSSEN: Sure. This is what I can tell you. I'm standing on the corner of Old Lake Road and Old Stage Road. Old Stage Road is 87 north.


TORJUSSEN: And it's in Columbus County. And it's about a mile off of -- let's see -- 76, 74 West.

So that's about a mile into Columbus County. And that's, quite frankly, all I can tell you for sure.

The Holly Tree neighborhood is a neighborhood in Columbus County. But we aren't allowed to get into there.

MYERS: OK, very good.

I'm sure that this is going to be a tough day for you there.


MYERS: Please keep you up to date on what you have -- Tony.

HARRIS: And, Meghan, very quickly, I just want to see if I can get a status on how much video have you been able to shoot and how quickly are you able to turn some of that around?

TORJUSSEN: We shot some video.


TORJUSSEN: Basically it's video of the scene that we're seeing right now. I mean we can't actually get into the disaster zone, so to speak. But, you know, we have video of this.


I guess what I'm asking is, if you can, as soon as possible, we're trying to get some of that video so that we can bring it to our viewers. We have a lot of viewers, obviously, with friends and family in that area who would like to get some sense of what the situation looks like on the ground there.

TORJUSSEN: Certainly.

HARRIS: So, if we could, I know you've got your own responsibilities, but if we could get our hands on some of that, we would really appreciate it, Meghan.

TORJUSSEN: We'll absolutely do our best for you.

HARRIS: OK, Meghan.

Appreciate it.

Thank you.

TORJUSSEN: Thank you.

Thank you.

COLLINS: Taken at gunpoint -- scores of people abducted from Baghdad. The fears, the anguish, right here in THE NEWSROOM.

And, and, as always, we're Minding Your Business.

Ali Velshi here now with a preview -- good morning, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Heidi, Wal-Mart's critics are at it again. But now they've got some big artillery backing them up in criticisms about wage and health care.

We'll have more for that in just a moment in THE NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: Well, we have been concerned all morning long about a line of storms moving through North Carolina and we were particularly concerned about the town of Riegelwood. And the news coming out of Riegelwood, at least at this point, not very good. At least five people are dead after, by all accounts, a tornado ripped through the small town, which is about 16 miles west of Wilmington.

The deaths being confirmed by Columbus County Sheriff Chris Batten. The sheriff said several mobile homes were actually demolished, many lifted off the foundations by the high winds.

We will continue to follow the developments on the ground there in North Carolina and bring you the very latest as we get it.

COLLINS: The anti-Wal-Mart movement gets a couple powerful new allies.

Ali Velshi is Minding Your Business this morning -- hey, Ali, what's this all about?

VELSHI: Heidi, there's a group called Wal-Mart Watch. It's one of the, sort of the strongest critics of Wal-Mart. It is union supported, and often the members of Wal-Mart Watch, there's an aim to try and unionize Wal-Mart workers.

But they do -- they are critical of the wages that Wal-Mart pays its employees and the health care that it offers to its employees.

Well, they got a bit of a boost last night. They had a conference call and Senators Barack Obama and former Senator Edwards, John Edwards, were both on that phone call sort of supporting calls for Wal-Mart to increase its wages and increase its health care benefits.

According to the group, fewer than half of Wal-Mart's 1.3 million employees are actually covered in terms of health care and the average Wal-Mart worker, according to Wal-Mart Watch, earns about $20,000 a year.

The interesting thing is Wal-mart has been behind the push to raise minimum wages in the United States, partially because minimum wages being a little higher will help its customer base. A hundred and some odd million people a week go through Wal-Mart. So Wal-Mart wants them all to have a little more in their pocket. But that's the criticism it's facing right now.

What's their reaction to all this? I mean, are they pleased that their people have come onboard, or pressuring them?

VELSHI: Wal-Mart Watch is pleased. Wal-Mart itself gave us a statement saying that they are disappointed that Senators Obama and former Senator Edwards chose to participate in what they call a politically motivated event, that's clearly attacking the wrong company. Wal-Mart said it created jobs, reduces the cost of health care, because it has $4 generic drugs and is a leader in the environment.

COLLINS: I see. So, what is the status of that $4 generic drug?

VELSHI: Well, funny enough, just this morning, Wal-Mart came up with an announcement that it's adding 11 more states to it's $4 generic drug program, and that takes it up to 38 states. They're adding a bunch of them now today. So more people in America are going to have access to this low pay for drugs, $4 is what Wal-Mart is saying. And what they are saying is their workers are also people who pay for those drugs. And so while they may not provide the health care to all of them, they are getting access to cheaper drugs.

COLLINS: Interesting. All right. All right, Ali Velshi, "Minding Your Business" this morning. Thanks, Ali.

VELSHI: Good to see you.

COLLINS: You, too.



HARRIS: And we're following this as well, this just in to CNN, reports of a shooting in Detroit to tell you about. The west side of Detroit this morning, two people reportedly are dead, and three others have been shot after what is described as a random shooting along the Linwood Corridor, south of Joey (ph) Road, if you're familiar with that area. These pictures coming to us from our affiliate in Detroit, WDIV. We understand there is a school in the vicinity, raising all kinds of concerns because the gunman is still on the loose. That is our information at this time.

Our Carol Lin is working on this story in the NEWSROOM. We will get back to Carol In just a couple of moments for an update on the story.

But what we know now is there has been a shooting on the west side of Detroit. Two people are reported dead and three others have been shot. I don't know their conditions at this time. There is reportedly a school in the area causing all kinds of concerns right now. We'll find out specifically if that school is now in lockdown and we will bring you more information on the shooting as soon as we can.

COLLINS: Taken at gunpoint. Scores of people abducted from a university in Baghdad. The fears, the anguish, coming up here in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Democrats sharing power. They'll also have to share ideas on how to capture the world's most wanted man. That story, in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Life and death decisions made in just seconds, using experimental drugs to save lives. A medical controversy. We'll talk about it in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: Want to update you on the situation that we've been following this morning by way of weather. We've been talking about some tornadoes that have touched down in the southern states. Specifically we want to show you some of this video coming in to us about North Carolina. We are also hearing right now from the governor of Alabama. He is live at the microphone now to discuss the situation in his state. Let's go ahead and listen in.

Waiting to make sure his audio level are OK, all of the people who are there. They are checking the volume levels and he will give us an update. Once again, five confirmed deaths in North Carolina. But let's go ahead and listen in to the governor of Alabama at this time.


GOV. ROBERT RILEY, ALABAMA: ... how strong some of these winds are.

If you look at some of the cars that landed in the zone over here, it truly is incredible. If you look at some of the cars that landed in the (INAUDIBLE) zone over here, it truly is incredible. I mean, they must have flown 150 yards in the air.

But the one thing that I gathered from this morning anything else, if you have a plan and you work that plan, you can save lives. What Liberty Buke (ph) and her staff did out here was truly incredible yesterday, what the people in (INAUDIBLE), as far as having rescue. I mean, the people are always going to be there, but she knew what she wanted to do, she knew how she had to do it, and implemented the plan almost perfectly.

You know, it's amazing what wind sheer or a tornado can do. If you look at the devastation not only behind us here, but across the road, it truly is incredible.


RILEY: We will have our EMA people come in today. They will do assist -- they will do a matrix, figure out how much the damage is and we'll have to make the decision after they do their assessments.


RILEY: We'll probably be going down to (INAUDIBLE). We'll probably going into some of the other areas. You know, let me say something. What the mayor and his staff have done in truly incredible, but it's happened all over the state of Alabama, in so many of these communities, we have had volunteers come out, we've had people working all night, our department of transportation employees last night worked all night long. There is not a road in Alabama today that's not open.

So, I just want to thank all the people who have worked so hard. What the mayor and his staff did was truly incredible. They had their people out here. They resolved the problem. The mayor and I were talking a moment ago. When you go through one of these areas, the first thing you realize is the extent of the damage. And it looks almost too large to be able to comprehend or to begin to fix.

But then you begin to notice that everyone is taking care of their own particular piece of property. Everyone is cleaning up in front of their house. And the difference, according to the mayor, between yesterday and today is incredible already. You've got volunteers helping people. You've got neighbors helping people. There is literally just a beehive of activity over around the apartments of everyone coming in and cleaning it up.

We found it in the hurricanes and we're finding it again here. You know, we have some of the most giving and some of the most generous people in the world. And I think every time there is ever a disaster in Alabama, one of the great things about it is to watch the people and how they come together to take care of these problems.

Anyone else? Again, guys, let me just tell you how much I appreciate everything that the mayor, the chief, all of his department, his -- his maintenance people, it's incredible to watch how much has been done in just the last few hours here. And I also want to thank all the people and the specialists, remind everyone, if we spend our time preparing for these types of disasters, you can save lives. If they had not had a plan yesterday in the Fun Zone, if Liberty Duke and her staff had not implemented that plan, we could be facing a tremendous disaster worse than what we have here today.

So, I think it's a lesson for all of us to learn, that as long as we prepare, we can take care of a lot of the contingencies that not only saves lives, but allows us to take care of some of the problems that you see out here today. Thank you very much.

COLLINS: Governor Bob Riley of Alabama looking at some of the pictures now coming in to us of the area around him, but you may remember a little bit earlier in the show -- or perhaps if you missed it, Montgomery, Alabama, we have our David Mattingly there because of the situation that happened with some children at a day care/skating rink where there were 31 kids there, and very frightening situation because of all of the storm damage in the area and tornado coming on through there. Apparently, everybody okay. But I can only imagine how frightened they must have been. Once again, Governor Bob Riley talking to us about the situation in Alabama.

A lot of other weather situations to report. We've got North Carolina. Hearing a little bit about New Orleans, an area there. So it's pretty pervasive across the South. We will continue to follow it. We would like to ask you, as we always do, to get a better sense of what's happening, for your I-report. We do this all the time but we want to remind everybody, to stay safe and don't go out there with those cameras, goodness sakes, if there's a tornado that you see coming. But if you have already done that and have some video or even still pictures we would like to take a look at them and put them on the air here today. We would appreciate that.

HARRIS: Another story we are following, Heidi, takes place and is unfolding right now in Detroit. Carol Lin is following this story for us in the NEWSROOM. And, Carol, this is shaping up -- it's sounding more and more like a shooting spree.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, it does, five people involved Tony. Right now, two people dead. This happened near a day care center and fortunately, that day care center wasn't open yet so none of the kids had arrived. So, that school is now shut down and residents in Detroit are being asked to stay inside because the shooter is still on the loose.

You're looking at the scene, just a short time ago, as video is coming in from this breaking news story outside of Detroit. Again what I said, two people killed, three wounded, one was a 48-year-old woman. Another 58-year-old man died. This all happened, Tony, in a -- about a three to four-block radius. So it does have the -- you know, the characteristics of a shooting spree. And that suspect still on the loose. The Associated Press describing him as a young black man wearing a hooded sweatshirt. WDIV, the local station there, Tony, describes him as 5'9, between 160 and 180 pounds.

HARRIS: OK, and the good news is, the day care center in the area but not open yet?

LIN: Hasn't been opened yet. So, none of the kids arrived. That school is now closed while they conduct this manhunt.

HARRIS: OK. Carol, appreciate it. Thank you.


HARRIS: Anger and grief turned to violence. Take a look at this scene. A brawl breaks out in an Ohio courtroom when relatives of the victim confront the suspect. Details ahead in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: We are following two stories, at least, here today, a very busy day in the NEWSROOM. First to the situation in North Carolina where there has been a deadly tornado. CNN has learned five people dead according to the sheriff there in that area, Columbus County, North Carolina, so we are following that. We have crews heading to the area and we are looking forward to get some video in to show you exactly what's happening.

Also in Detroit, a shooting where two people are dead, the gunman still on the loose, and authorities there warning people to stay in their homes or businesses. Still looking for this fugitive.

You're watching the NEWSROOM. Back in a moment.

Want to get actually straight to Detroit. We have someone on the scene here who is going to tell us exactly what's going on.

I'm sorry, who do we have?


My name is Rachel Bianco. I'm with the NBC affiliate here in Detroit.

We're on Detroit's west side. This happened around 6:00 this morning. We had five people shot, two of them fatally. The fatal shootings happened right in front of this day care center, a 48-year- old woman and a 58-year-old man, fatally shot. You see where the gray car, the driver's side door is open, that's where the woman was when she was shot. We also have three other people in neighborhoods not far from here, just a few blocks, three of them who were also shot by the same man. Police believe this guy is just walking the streets, randomly shooting people. They have an intense manhunt under way, dozens of officers are fanned out across the city. They've got a command post setup. At this point, they have no idea what the motive would have been, nothing was stolen, but again, we have five people shot, two of them fatally. The three who were wounded are expected to be OK. They are hospitalized, and police are hoping to learn information from them, but they're asking anybody who saw anything in this area of Linwood and Pingree (ph) on Detroit's west side to give Detroit's police homicide a call -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Rachael Bianco, thanks so much for the update there. Two people dead, gunman on the loose, apparently just walking around shooting people according to authorities. Very much watching that situation and we'll stay on top of it for you.

We will be back here at CNN NEWSROOM in just a moment.


HARRIS: As Heidi mentioned just a moment ago, just a couple of really big stories on our radar right now, so we certainly want to keep it on your radar as well. Let's start with the situation in North Carolina. At least five people are known dead at this time after a line of severe storms. By all accounts, a tornado touched down in the area of Riegelwood. That community about 16 miles -- just a small town -- 16 miles west of Wilmington. On the line with us right now is Lieutenant Everett Clendenin, who is with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.

Lieutenant, thanks for your time this morning.

LT. EVERETT CLENDENIN, N.C. DEPT. OF PUBLIC SAFETY: Hey, thank you. Good morning.

HARRIS: Well, I have to ask you, first of all, when did you get an indication -- we're sitting on the outside looking in here -- but when did you get an indication that you were about to be hit by a line of storms with a lot of energy attached to it that might produce a tornado or more, and that you needed to really ramp up your operations.

CLENDENIN: Yes, well we've been hearing the warnings last night, but really this morning, right after daybreak, the warnings really started to come in in these communities, tornado warnings were issued. And the storm struck this small community in southeastern North Carolina of Riegelwood, my understanding that a tornado touched down in this community in a neighborhood. It just brought total devastation, totally destroying up to four homes. As we speak, there are rescue efforts going on down there. They're checking through these structures to make sure that everyone that needs help is getting help. And unfortunately, we have confirmed that there are some deaths associated with this tornado.

HARRIS: Lieutenant, our total is five dead. Do you have a different total?

CLENDENIN: I'm hearing two -- of two -- let me say this, we can confirm two, but we are hearing reports that this number will increase. Right now, all I can confirm at the state level is two. The locals are saying more.

HARRIS: Lieutenant, you mentioned just a moment ago, let me pick up on this, that rescue efforts are under way. Are there more people in trouble in Riegelwood and maybe some surrounding communities?

CLENDENIN: That's very possible. Reports that are the locals are going through the structures. It's my understanding that they're actually going through some of the wooded areas, where people possibly were thrown from their homes. We're hearing reports that this may be close to a mobile home park. There may be some structured homes, but also some mobile homes involved in this. Very sad news coming out of the southeastern North Carolina, but we're trying to do everything we can down there to rescue people, give people the help they need at this time.

HARRIS: Is this a situation where mutual aid kicked in, and you were able to sort of galvanize resources from around the community?

CLENDENIN: Yes, that's exactly what happened. We've -- resources have been called in from the surrounding counties, and also we have state troopers down there also assisting with the rescue effort. So everybody is working together to bring this community the help they need at this time.

HARRIS: What kind of resources, what kind of manpower would you guess you have on the scene right now?

CLENDENIN: It's my understanding that they've brought in some heavy equipment to move things around. Also they've brought some rescue dogs in to sniff and to listen, to see if they are people under debris, to see if they need help. So there's a concerted effort down there. People are working together. Hopefully, this thing will wrap up, this rescue effort will wrap up soon, and everybody who needs help will have received help before long.

HARRIS: And do you have power lines that are a risk not only to people in the area but also to rescue personnel?

CLENDENIN: Yes, that is true. It's my understanding that the officials, the utility officials are there assisting with that. We do have utility lines down. We have one of our major thoroughfares through that community, which is NC 87, is completely blocked due to debris, which is also compounding the problems in that area.

HARRIS: Lieutenant Everett Clendenin is with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.

Lieutenant, thank you for your time.

CLENDENIN: Thank you.


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