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AMERICAN MORNING

Southern States Begin Damage Assessment from Tornadoes

Aired March 2, 2007 - 07:00:00   ET

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


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: That is a bus that fell off on overpass landing on Interstate 75 with a youth baseball team from Ohio onboard. And the latest numbers right now, at least five people dead and dozens of others injured. We're going to have more from that scene as well.
First, Miles, let's get updated on the devastation from those tornadoes in Alabama.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: All right. Thank you, Kiran. We'll get back to that in just a moment.

Take a look that scene behind me. This is the parking lot at the Enterprise High School. Aside from the police crews, which are here to keep the cordon in enforced, every other vehicle in that parking lot with severe damage as a result of this tornado, which came through at 1:15 in the afternoon.

If you look over there, just in between where the band room, the building labeled Band Room and the Junior ROTC Building is a collapsed area where some of the teenagers were as this tornado came through. We now know that eight teenagers died as they huddled apparently in a hallway, on instructions. That was per the plan. Everybody here says they got the warning, they followed the plan, and yet the worst happened.

Big picture here is a huge storm; 1,000 miles from Minnesota all the way down to the Gulf Coast, from where I stand. A total of 28 tornadoes documented in the midst of this powerful storm as it swept across primarily Alabama and Georgia, a fatality also in Missouri, as well. The death toll stands at 21; eight at this high school, one more here in Enterprise; nine in Georgia, and one other in Missouri.

We have reporters covering it from all quadrants this morning. Sean Callebs is here in Enterprise with me, Jeanne Meserve is in Americus, Georgia, and Chad Myers is at the Weather Center to tell us what the latest on the weather. There's still some weather to watch this morning and he'll bring us up to date on that. Let's begin Jeanne Meserve, in Americus, where a tornado there -- there's not good place for a tornado to strike. Certainly a high school is not a good place. Another bad place would be a hospital and that's what happened there.

Good morning, Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Miles. This hospital thought it was pretty ready, but this was ferocious weather. Look at this tree. It was completely uprooted and put on its side. Many others in this vicinity were just completely sheered off. This was one angry, angry wind that came through here.

And if you look up at the hospital itself, this is Sumter Regional Hospital, can you see what I'm talking about. Windows are out, Venetian blinds hanging out. We've looked in there and seen ceilings totally in disarray. We went into the emergency room of this hospital. There's water on the floor. There are leaves on the floor. There are signs of chaos because the people had to leave this hospital. They evacuated about 55 patients. A few of them in critical condition; successfully got them to other hospitals.

The head of nursing in the emergency room told me this is exactly the kind of thing they have practiced here, and it was rough, it was difficult, but, she says, it was successful.

If you want to get a real image of how strong the wind was here, look over here. I think you can make out on these cinder blocks here a 2x 4 that is embedded. It flew straight into that wall, and it stayed there. Just another indication of just how violent that weather was here in Sumter County here in Georgia, where two died last night. Back to you.

O'BRIEN: Jeanne Meserve, in Americus, Georgia. Thank you very much.

And we'll have more from Enterprise in just a little bit, but for now more breaking news to tell you about and back to Kiran in New York City -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Thanks, Miles.

That's right, we're following a deadly bus crash in Atlanta, Georgia. It was carrying a Little League baseball team. And the latest information from the scene right now says at least five people are killed, and dozens more injured.

That bus apparently rolled off of an overpass and landed on Interstate 75. The highway closed right now in both directions. The wreck snarling the morning rush hour traffic. There were witnesses who said that at first they thought it was possibly a jackknifed tractor- trailer, calling 911, and then discovering, that in fact, it was a bus that was carrying a bunch of small children.

They say they witnessed young people crawling out of the bus. Many people doing their best to help fire and police on the scene right now getting as many of the injured to many of the area hospitals. But again, the word we're getting from the Atlanta Police Department spokesman is that five people were killed in that bus crash. We'll continue to follow the latest on that.

Meantime, more severe weather. Chad Myers is in the Weather Center with a look at what we can expect for later today.

(WEATHER REPORT)

O'BRIEN: Live from Enterprise, Alabama, this morning. We just spoke to the mayor, a few moments ago, and we got some bad news. We had been earlier this morning that there were perhaps five teens and/or students who were killed inside Enterprise High School behind me here. Turns out eight teens, in fact, died in that tornado yesterday; it came through at 1:15 in the afternoon.

There was plenty of warning. They say that the teachers and the administrators here at the high school did everything right, but it appears in this case it wasn't enough.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN (voice over): It is a mangled mess of broken brick, twisted metal, and shattered glass. Beneath the wreckage, the worst result imaginable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you say you helped carry some of the bodies out?

JOE SINCLAIR, ASSISTED STORM VICTIMS: Two little girls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any idea how old they were?

SINCLAIR: One looked about 12. It's a high school, so -- the other one looked about 16, so -- it's disturbing.

O'BRIEN: Construction worker Joe Sinclair ran to help and had big questions about why kids were still inside at all.

SINCLAIR: There's plenty of warning. All the schools throughout Alabama had dismissal for at 12:30, and I don't know why they kept these kids in school.

O'BRIEN: The media had been reporting tornado threats all day.

MYERS: Want to show you five tornado watch boxes. One for Atlanta, one more Mississippi and Alabama, and then a couple more here, that are on the back side and the north side of the system itself.

O'BRIEN: The tornado warning for Enterprise came from the National Weather Service at 12:47 local time, and one of our viewers captured the sirens.

(SIREN)

Students were about to be let out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were all sitting in the halls, like it was a tornado warning, and we were supposed to get out of school at 1 o'clock, but this happened like just before 1 o'clock.

O'BRIEN: A few moments later, at 1:15, the tornado hit Enterprise High School. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was sitting -- basically, I was sitting in the science wing, and the tornado came through, and the roof caved down on us. A lot of the exterior bricks came in, and hit some of the people around us, a real good friend of mine, a couple of people down, cut her leg.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you are looking for your child or a relative, you need to go over here so the high school can account for you.

O'BRIEN: Hours later people were still unaccounted for, and the fear was the death toll could rise.

BOB FERRIS, ENTERPRISE ASST. SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS: We ask that you continue to pray for our students, and for their parents, and for our community.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Once again, the death toll as it stands right now, just reported to us by the mayor a few moments ago; eight teenagers killed inside Enterprise High School. Another fatality in Enterprise, Alabama, an adult, not here at the school, however.

CNN's Sean Callebs is in the neighborhood immediately adjoining the high school, where there is more damage. And, frankly, they're still trying to assess how much damage there is. There is some worry there may be an increasing toll today as they go through the wreckage.

Sean, good morning.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Miles. It's easy to see how that could be the case when you just walk away from that school and look at the nearby neighborhood -- simply devastated. We're so close to you. We're actually right across the football field that adjoins that band room that simply collapsed. To give you an idea, if you look through this debris, you can see a 30, which appears to be one of the yard markers from the football field.

All kinds of devastation back in this area. Want to talk a bit about the tornado siren warning that went off yesterday just after 1 o'clock Central Time. We were among the first reporters to get here after the damage. And a first responder told me that, yes, the authorities had heard that siren. They were in the process of sending kids home, but once they heard that siren, then they began to usher them in the hallway. And, of course, that is when the very disappointing news came through.

Every storm, of course, has images that stick with you, and I want to show you something here right over my shoulder. You can look and see. A giant SUV silhouetted against the sun peeking up in Enterprise, Alabama. Just flipped and smashed into the side of this home. This home simply devastated. In fact, this whole neighborhood, as you look up and down, all the roofs damaged or ripped off, windows blown out.

We can't even tell if this SUV was from this driveway. It could have been from anywhere, because there are cars all over this area.

Miles, if you think back just Monday I was talking to you from Dumas, Arkansas, the area hammered by a tornado over the weekend. While we were there a worker with the National Weather Service came by to show us the track of the storm, how damaging it was, how high the winds were.

And then he kind of shook his head, and said, "You know, this is the end of February. If we're getting a storm of this ferocity at this time of the year, it doesn't bode well for this tornado season." And certainly those words were sadly prophetic looking at what happened here yesterday.

O'BRIEN: It truly is extraordinary to have storms of this intensity, end of February, beginning of March, and as we say, let's hope it's not just a precursor of more to come and a wild spring for all of us. Sean Callebs not far from where I stand in Enterprise, Alabama.

Let's get back to Kiran as she tracks some other breaking news for us this morning.

Kiran, good morning.

CHETRY: Good morning, Miles. Thanks so much.

Well, up and down the East Coast heavy rain this morning, and in northern New England it's heavy snow. It's part of that same system that dumped up to 16 inches of snow in the Plains. These pictures from one of our I-Report viewers in South Dakota. The interstates there closed. Hundreds of schools canceling classes as well today.

And Iowa declaring a state of emergency after the second major snowstorm this week. State troopers busy all night rescuing stranded drivers, and there are still thousands of people who have no power this morning.

Also happening in America, in Washington D.C., change at the top for Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The commander, Major General George Weightman, fired following reports of poor conditions at a hospital building, where troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan are treated. They have not yet named a permanent replacement.

In Virginia Governor Tim Kaine says he will sign a bill requiring all sixth grade girls to get vaccinated for HPV. It's the virus that can cause cervical cancer. Virginia becomes the second state, behind Texas, to require the vaccine.

And in Georgia, an arrest of a so-called Barbie Bandits. Ashley Miller and Heather Johnson, both 19 years old, arrested last night. Police say they're the duo caught on camera laughing while robbing a bank outside of Atlanta. It could be an inside job. Two others were arrested, including a teller at that bank.

Coming up, we're going to have the latest on another tragic and developing story in the South. This one a charter bus overturning in Atlanta. It was carrying a youth baseball team. We're getting reports at least five people were killed and dozens more hurt.

Plus, the devastation and chaos Enterprise, Alabama. We're going to talk to a father and daughter; they both survived the tornado inside of Enterprise High School.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. It's the most news in the morning, and it's on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Most news on the morning here on CNN with two breaking stories we're following for you this morning. In Atlanta, Georgia, five people are dead and dozens are injured after a charter bus that was carrying a Little League team rolls off of an overpass on to Interstate 75.

Also, officials in Enterprise, Alabama, are just confirming that eight teenagers were killed in that tornado that hit the city's high school. At least 20 people killed in tornadoes across the South yesterday.

It's quarter past the hour now. Chad Myers is at the CNN Weather Center.

(WEATHER REPORT)

O'BRIEN: Good words. Chad, stay with me here.

CHAD MYERS, CNN SEVERE WEATHER EXPERT: Yes.

O'BRIEN: I want you to do some instant damage analysis here. Essentially -- I'm explaining to our viewers, not to you -- the Weather Service comes in after events like this and they literally can look at damage and determine how strong the tornado is.

Take a look at this swathe here. We're standing kind of right in the 200-yard alley way here where the storm kind of came in diagonally. That's a neighborhood over there. Look at the -- Jay, I don't know if you can zoom in and see those cars there -- but the cars in that parking lot, they just look like Matchbox cars that have been picked up by some giant and dropped down.

Now, here's the edge of the school, Chad.

MYERS: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Look at the way that gable has been kind of ripped off there. This would have been a glancing blow. And then come around here, and can you see the kind of damage we have here. We have a big delivery truck over there, completely upended. We have the bus there with serious damage. Then over here, at the edge of the school, in the classroom area you got windows blown out. The whole frame, the whole casement part of the window is blown out. And you see the damage inside there.

Based on all that, I mean, I know I'm giving you the broadest of brush here, can you give me a sense of how strong the tornado was?

MYERS: We believe from what we look at it now, probably the old F-scale between a strong Ff-2 or a light F-3, are now a new E-F or the enhance the Fujita Scale, probably somewhere in the neighborhood of an EF-3 or 4.

Now, Miles, I have a question for you. Do you see anywhere there, where you might believe that bark has been stripped from the tree?

O'BRIEN: Let's take a look over here. We've got trees over here.

MYERS: Yes. There's some that were gone.

O'BRIEN: I don't see any bark stripped off. I see they're upended. They're bent over like matchsticks, but I don't see any bark ripped off. Is that what gets you to the higher F-scale?

MYERS: Yes, yes.

O'BRIEN: When you see that bark ripped off?

MYERS: That gets you into the 4s and the 5s. But I have seen an awful lot of vehicles displaced. And they're going to go out there today's, and they're going to say, OK, there's a Ford F-150. How far did it go? If it went 200 yards, that's a scale. If it went 10 feet and got tipped over, that's a scale.

They're going to look at big delivery trucks, and they have all of these scales now that they can narrow it down literally to between 20 and 30 miles an hour. They will know exactly what the storm is later today.

O'BRIEN: The interesting question will be -- as everybody here said -- we did what we were supposed to do. We took the kids to the halls. Is this just one of those flukes, where it was just no matter where you put people, they just -- it was not a survivable storm?

MYERS: Hey, Miles?

O'BRIEN: That will be the thing to track throughout the day -- Yeah?

MYERS: I heard from someone -- I want you to confirm this because maybe it was unofficial there. That they were actually putting children -- putting these teenagers on buses, releasing them from school, because school was over. Then they got them off the buss and got them back inside the school for protection. If that was the case, they may have saved hundreds of lives of those kids that could have been hit by those inside those school buses.

O'BRIEN: Well, it's a very good point. Very good point. And, yes, that's exactly what was happening.

All right. We'll get back with you and we'll talk a little bit more about this as the morning progresses. In just a little while, we're going to talk with the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and we'll ask him about the response for this. The National Guard has been deployed here. What's the federal government going to do to help out these stricken areas? That's coming up in a little while. We'll be back with more in a moment. Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.\

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: The most news in the morning is on CNN. And we're following that bus crash that was carrying a Little League baseball team in Atlanta, when it overturned. The latest information from the scene; at least five people killed, dozens more injured, taken to area hospitals.

The bus apparently rolled off of an overpass. It landed on Interstate 75. And there's a live picture right now. The highway still closed in both directions. We see the bus still on its side, and we see a lot of fire and police and emergency crews still there on the scene. We're going to continue to follow the story and bring you the latest, but, again, a bus carrying a Little League baseball team crashes in Atlanta.

Right now we'll head to Enterprise, Alabama, where Miles is standing by with more for us.

Hi, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much, Kiran.

We're on the other side of the school right now. Take a look behind me here. You get a real sense, as the sun comes up, of some of the damage here. Just amazing -- and very specific damage. There are houses just on the other side of the field where we stand here that are completely intact. It's amazing how tornadoes can be so capricious in the damage that they cause.

For residents this morning it's just tremendous shot and grief, of course. And I want to talk to a couple of people who went through this a little closer than they would like to experience anything like this. This is Brooke and Mike Schroades.

Good morning to you, both. Mike is a pastor in town, and Brooke was in the school.

Brooke, where were you in the school? Tell me how it all kind of played out.

BROOKE SCHROADES, ENTERPRISE H.S. STUDENT: I was in the choir room, and we had been in the closet -- or, you know, in the hallway, closet wherever we were supposed to be, from about 10:30. And they were supposed to let us out of school at 1 o'clock. They didn't let us out because there was another tornado warning.

So we all were just, you know, waiting to see what would happen. And then we got a call. One of us got a call on our cell phones that said that there was a tornado in Samson. And so I was, like, Samson's right up the street.

So, then we started hearing thunder. I started to hear that sound like a train, you know, from a tornado. And I started screaming. And I was, like, OK, everybody take cover. We all got in the closet. And then in the nearest classroom they got on the side of the wall, and we got in the closet. And the teachers huddled over us. And the doors were flying open and stuff like that, but --

O'BRIEN: That must have been completely horrifying. What was going on through your mind?

B. SCHROADES: I don't remember. Yeah. It was scary.

O'BRIEN: The kids who were killed in this school, where were they?

B. SCHROADES: Some of them were on third hall, and the others, I think, were in the science wing, but not real sure.

O'BRIEN: And had you actually gotten onto buses and were getting ready to leave and then actually got back in the school, or had that not yet happened?

B. SCHROADES: That hadn't happened yet. Because they spotted another one, so they weren't letting anybody leave the building. He was coming to get me, so whenever the tornado was about to hit, he ran into the school.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about this from the parent's perspective. I can only imagine being a parent, with your son or daughter in a school like this. You know there's tornado warnings. You must have been terrified, too.

MIKE SCHROADES: It was a shocking moment because I didn't realize there was a tornado that was following me directly into the school. And the police told me, as soon as I got to the school, get in, get in. We're about to get hit. I ran in, and I took shelter inside of one of the inner hallways and dove on the floor.

Called Brooke to make sure she was secured. And called my wife, because our house isn't far from here either. I made sure that everybody was OK. And then we just got on the floor and just let the storm pass.

O'BRIEN: All right. So, you weren't with Brooke. You were just in another part of the school.

M. SCHROADES: I was in school, coming to get her, to find her. To get her out of school.

O'BRIEN: What was that like for you? Going through that?

M. SCHROADES: I don't know that my chest had ever been tighter in my life. It was -- when I saw it --

(SOBBING) I didn't care about anything else at that point. Of course, since then, I have learned, too, that we do need to care, because Brooke has lost some friends. And they're friends, their parents are friends of ours as well. And so it was a joy to see her. Especially after I saw the kids because I had already begun to work with kids that had been injured, and so --

O'BRIEN: You're a pastor. What words do you have this morning for those who have had this terrible loss?

M. SCHROADES: Well, in the midst of disaster, I can tell you this, that God is still with you and the Lord loves and you cares for you. And we just need to be lifting this community up in prayer.

O'BRIEN: Mike and Brooke Schroades, what an amazing story. We're glad you're here to tell it. We're so sad for all those lost in this town. We wish you well.

Back to you, Kiran.

CHETRY: All right, thanks so much, Miles.

We'll be taking a quick break. When we come back, we'll be talking with the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency about the tornado disaster across several states.

Also, news that we're following, no verdict in the Scooter Libby trial; a week of deliberations. We're going to find out what's going on.

Also, heavy snow and wind slamming the Midwest, moving east. Chad Myers is tracking the storm's path ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Deadly aftermath. New details just in that eight teens were killed in Alabama after a tornado hit their high school. We have new pictures. Miles O'Brien is actually on the scene for us. Also, in Georgia killer tornadoes tearing through that state as well. We have breaking news from Atlanta where a bus carrying a little league baseball team fell off of an overpass on to a major interstate. Five people dead. Dozens of others injured. We're live from Georgia, Alabama, and New York on this AMERICAN MORNING.

And good morning to you. It is Friday.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. I'm Miles O'Brien.

PHILLIPS: Go ahead, Miles.

O'BRIEN: I'm sorry. Good morning. I'm Miles O'Brien reporting live from Enterprise, Alabama. I'm here at the field right behind the school. You see some of the damage here at this high school that was hit. We just heard a little while ago from the mayor. Eight teenagers died as that tornado hit at 1:15 local time. Kyra, good morning.

PHILLIPS: Miles, good to see you as well. I'm here in New York in for Soledad O'Brien, and we're following some breaking news out of Atlanta as well where that bus plunged off of an overpass. Five people killed. We're going to have the latest on that as well. First, the latest on the storm damage in the southeast, and we're going to talk right now to David Paulison, a FEMA director, who is going to be taking a look at everything that's been going on down there and figuring out where help is needed most. Mr. Paulison, thanks for being with us this morning.

DAVID PAULISON, FEMA DIRECTOR: Good morning.

PHILLIPS: Have your crews and teams had a chance to assess some of the damage in Alabama or Georgia today?

PAULISON: Well, first of all, before I answer that, let me just say that we want to express our heart felt prayers of sympathy for the families that lost people in Alabama and Georgia. Our hearts really go out to them and our sympathy does also. The answer is yes. We have teams on the ground already working with the state of Alabama and Georgia to assess the damage. Our preliminary damage assessment teams are already on the ground. Last night we started moving equipment in to assist them, moving food, water and ice in, blue tarps, plastic sheeting, those types of things to work with the state to make sure they have what they need.

How many people do you have out there helping because it seems like a big task on top of all of the damage last month from the central Florida tornado?

PAULISON: We moved in 14 teams in this morning. We had teams move in last night to make sure that -- again, this is a state-run issue. The state of Alabama and Georgia both have excellent emergency management systems. They both have had governors that understand emergency management. So they are on top of it and what we're doing is just making sure we have enough people to assist them, making sure they have the supplies they need to do the job they're trained to do.

PHILLIPS: And what is the situation? How big of an area affected and what are the most immediate needs right now?

PAULISON: I think the most immediate needs right now is just for sheltering people who have lost their homes, taking care of those families that have lost loved ones, making sure that there's people there to assist the state, making sure the state has the things it needs to do its job.

PHILLIPS: You know, it looks like people followed protocol at that high school. Yet, we're hearing today that the number of dead is now up to eight teenagers. What do you recommend for people to do in those types of situations? Is there sometimes when simply even the best laid out plan doesn't help against Mother Nature? PAULISON: I think that's always the case, but they did the right thing. They moved the students to the center part of the school. They sounded the warnings. People in their homes went into their basements and went into their safe rooms. You know, they did the right things and it was just a tragedy that nobody could have predicted was going to happen. The rescue teams on the ground, the urban search and rescue teams have moved in, did an outstanding job of doing search and rescue, getting people out who were trapped. Everything was done that was supposed to have been done and it was done correctly.

PHILLIPS: We understand this has not been declared a natural disaster yet. Will that change today?

PAULISON: We're working with the state right now. Like I said, we moved 14 teams in to assess individual assistance and also public assistance to see if there is enough damage to warrant the presidential declaration. The state has not asked for it yet, but we're going to work with them and do those damage assessments together.

PHILLIPS: All right. David Paulison, the FEMA director. Thanks for speaking with us this morning.

PAULISON: Thank you this morning.

PHILLIPS: And let's head out to miles in Alabama right now with more.

O'BRIEN: Kyra, they're going to have their hands full helping out this town of Enterprise. Take a look around here. As a matter of fact, look. There's the FEMA truck rolling in right now as if on cue. That's the FEMA convoy coming in. We didn't plan that. That's just the way that happened as we finish that interview with Mr. Paulison. There comes FEMA to begin the process, trying to help this group pick up the pieces. But take a look over here, if you can walk with me, Jay, can you get a scene kind of beyond the school. We're on the edge of the fields here and you can see how this tornado came through this neighborhood down there and that's down there where Sean Callebs has been reporting this morning. You can see several houses with serious damage.

Take a look at this tree here, just kind of snapped like a match stick over here. But then this is the thing about tornadoes. You got this tree, you got that tremendous damage. You've got a school where eight teenagers died. Take a look here. This house is perfectly fine. This car is fine. Actually there's a shattered window on the car, but damage just kind of pock-marked through the neighborhood depending on where people are. This is just one scene which really a storm that goes up from Minnesota all the way down to here. Blizzard conditions in Minnesota all the way down to here. Just a line of intense activity, 28 tornadoes, a death toll which now exceeds 20 and many deaths in Georgia and Alabama, one in Missouri. We were just telling you about it as it was taking shape 24 hours ago. Chad said it was extraordinary how strong it was from this time of year. You have to wonder what lies ahead this spring. Kyra. PHILLIPS: All right. Miles, thanks so much. We'll check back with you in a few minutes. Meantime, we're following another breaking story out of Atlanta, Georgia. A charter bus carrying -- at first they thought it was a youth baseball team. Now it looks like it was actually a college university team, not a youth baseball team. But either way, it was a terrible accident. The bus apparently rolling over this overpass and landing on interstate 75, and what we're hearing from fire and police officials at the scene, at least five people killed and dozens of more injured. Joining us chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is on the phone with us this morning. Sanjay, thanks for being with us.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure. Thank you.

PHILLIPS: They said there were multiple injuries, and they were trying to get people -- they actually had to peel back the roof of that bus and try to get as many people out and to area hospitals. What kind of injuries would we expect not only with the crash, but going over an overpass and landing on an interstate?

GUPTA: Well, certainly there's a lot of trauma that can essentially happen with that sort of mechanism of injury. The thing you worry about the most are head injuries. People actually banging their heads and significant abdominal injuries, rupturing a spleen or putting a lot of force on the abdominal cavity. Those are significant injuries. There will be what we call a lot of walking wounded probably as well which is my guess, people who have broken bones, but their heads are OK. They have not hit their heads and they have not caused significant injury to their abdominal cavities which can cause bleeding. I think it's sort of going to be three patterns, head injuries, people with abdominal injuries and sort of the walking wounded. There certainly may be combinations of all those as well.

PHILLIPS: We're hearing dozens is the quote from the Atlanta fire department spokesman. Dozens of people injured, and, of course, they're trying to take them to multiple hospitals. I mean and, of course, hospitals are equipped to deal with this type of emergency, but how do they assess who needs help the most and where they should go?

GUPTA: Absolutely. You know, I have to tell you, while I was waiting for you, I just got put on stand-by as well. I think they're putting all the doctors around here on stand-by. I'm not on call today (INAUDIBLE) trauma hospitals and the standard course of events, obviously, they assess the vital signs, blood pressure, heart rate, things like that to determine if someone is in more critical condition (INAUDIBLE) at the scene.

When someone actually goes to the hospital, gets to the actual structure, they'll probably get a CAT scan very quickly which will just get a cat scan of their head, possibly of their abdominal cavity as well. That will tell if there are any significant injuries, any bleeding that needs to be dealt with more urgently. If not, then they'll probably be admitted to the hospital and observed. If they do have an injury requiring an operation, they'll go straight into the operating room. Hospitals like Grady, which is a trauma hospital, typically have a few operating rooms standing by, quote, unquote. They're all ready. The nurses are ready. The team is ready. As soon as the patient needs to be needing an operation, they'll take them straight to the operating room.

PHILLIPS: All right, Sanjay Gupta on the phone with us explaining exactly how these people would be dealt with once they get to these area hospitals. Thanks so much. We also have on the scene of that bus crash Amanda Rosseter, CNN reporter who joins us on the phone. Amanda, are you with us?

AMANDA ROSSETER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I am.

PHILLIPS: Tell us what you are seeing there. We've heard some different stories this morning about exactly who was on the bus and what happened.

ROSSETER: From what we understand at this point, this happened just before daylight. This is at the intersection of 75 and Northside drive. Anyone that knows Atlanta well knows that 75 obviously a main thoroughfare, very busy on a normal day. This was a tour bus involving a college baseball team from Blufton (ph) University in Ohio and there were 35 on board. That included students and chaperones. We understand at this point there are six of them dead. Nine are serious. And the officers on the scene tell me there are 20 walking wounded.

We understand that when witnesses first arrived at the scene that some of the students were climbing out of the emergency hatch. They were being taken around stretcher as soon as emergency vehicles and crews got here. How this happened? There is an HOV lane that splits off from the main 75 south exit and what we understand at this point is that the tour bus driver may have taken that HOV lane, taken it too quickly, tried to turn too hard and instead of making the right turn and coming back across the bridge, went directly through that guard fence, that curled fence that comes up over the overpass. It is an unbelievable scene here (INAUDIBLE) completely gone and the tour bus is lying on its side on 75 south just below.

There is also another vehicle that we understand was involved. It's a Volvo that has a partly crushed roof. It is about a half mile down on 75. They have been interviewing that driver as well. We do not know at this point if the tour bus clipped that car or somehow there were other cars that were involved that were simply traveling below. They have been taken to local hospitals, to Grady and to Piedmont and, again, six dead. Nine seriously wounded and 20 walking wounded and many with facial lacerations, blood is bleeding from the head and possible internal injuries.

PHILLIPS: Amanda, do we know if they have managed to get everybody out right now? We still see the bus laying on its side.

ROSSETER: Yes.

PHILLIPS: So everyone is out of the bus?

ROSSETER: Everybody is out of the bus, and as can you imagine, the emergency vehicles have completely surrounded it. 75 is completely blocked going south, so on a normal day this is a terrible thoroughfare to try to traverse and this is just making it even worse. There are emergency crews and police officers from Atlanta all around the scene here. They have taken everybody out of here, and they are -- the problem is right now, the crime scene. We have no other confirmation on that. We do not know why, but they are calling it a crime scene so they are now collecting evidence as well. But all of the victims have been taken out of the bus.

PHILLIPS: All right. If they are doing that, then it doesn't look like it's going to be cleared out any time soon. So on top of the tragedy and the human toll, a big mess there traffic-wise as well. Amanda Rosseter, CNN reporter, thanks so much for joining us. Check in with you a little bit later.

Meantime, we're going to continue following our other huge stories today. Chasing the storm, the latest on the damage both in Alabama as well as Georgia. We're also going to meet two women who track tornadoes all the time. There they are right now. They were actually -- yes, they're stuck in a blizzard. They're going to give us their take on what went wrong in Enterprise, Alabama ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back. The most news of the morning right here on CNN. I'm Miles O'Brien reporting live from Enterprise, Alabama. That's the Enterprise High School where, sadly, eight teens died yesterday when that tornado came through at 1:15. We're across the street in the neighborhood. Look at this house, but take a look at what happened here, just one vehicle. There are just dozens of vehicles that have been taken out. I don't know what hit it or whether it was just the force of the wind that knocked that windshield out and sent shards of glass and fragments. There are pieces of tree in there, just one of many insurance claims that will come out of this on this day after in Enterprise where they're literally picking up the pieces.

Let's get a look at not just what happened here, but what's happening right now on the weather. Chad Myers is in the weather center in Atlanta. Good morning, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Miles, been doing a little bit more research on your damage there. Looking at that roof behind you, that was probably 130, 140 miles an hour. I'm thinking the weather service office will probably find wind speeds in there somewhere between 160 and 180 which is strong EF-3 for sure, maybe even into that expanded or the enhanced Fujita scale close to 4. Some of that damage is pretty severe.

The rain showers now have moved off to the east. It's been raining in Jacksonville most of the morning, but what you will notice is that most of this convective activity, most of the colors are now off shore or at least very close to shore. One more storm headed toward Washington, North Carolina. That whole area now pushing off the coast and so will the weather. It is raining in New York. It is raining in Philadelphia, Boston as well. The airports are going to be a mess by this afternoon, and so if you are planning on traveling today by air, you need to either try to get a different flight, an earlier flight, or just take a lot of patience with you because it is going to be a very slow going and it is not the airline's fault this time, not when you have so many airports affected and it is snowing now in Chicago. That will slow down Chicago as well.

Atlanta in the clear, Montgomery, Columbus, Dofin (ph), Alabama, all the areas there in the clear for today. We will see and could see at least a little bit of weather across parts of the Florida panhandle especially north of Orlando between Gainesville and such. Other than that, this is pretty much a done deal for this storm. It is going to be a much colder weekend even as far south as Miami. Some of my friends are heading to Miami this weekend for a little time off. Morning lows could be in the 40s, might as well stay in New York for that. Back to you, guys.

PHILLIPS: Very true. All right. Thanks so much, Chad.

The storms, part of the major system that brought the heavy snow to the Midwest and about a foot of snow fell in Minneapolis yesterday. That's where Melanie Metz and Peggy Willenberg are right now. They call themselves the twister sisters. Normally they're out chasing storms. This time, though, the storm came to them. Melanie and Peggy, good morning.

MELANIE METZ, TWISTER SISTER: Good morning.

PEGGY WILLENBERG, STORM CHASER: Good morning.

PHILLIPS: Now, it's an area that is used to getting some snow, but this really has crippled the city. What's going on there?

WILLENBERG: Pretty much the city is shut down right now. The public schools are closed. Several of our interstates are closed in southwestern Minnesota. All the county roads are closed. It's very quiet on the roads this morning, thank goodness, because the driving conditions are really terrible.

PHILLIPS: I see you guys --

METZ: We haven't seen -

PHILLIPS: Go ahead.

METZ: I was just going to say we haven't seen a snowstorm like this in this area for about 25 years. We've gotten almost up to 30 inches over the past week with the storm we had last weekend as well.

PHILLIPS: All right. I see you guys have your yard stick with you, Melanie. Go ahead and show us just how much snow you guys got with the most recent one.

WILLENBERG: Well, last night 17 inches of snow fell here in Plymouth, Minnesota, which is a western suburb. How much before that, Mel? METZ: Yesterday we had about eight inches, and last weekend we had about another 12 inches in this area. Now right where we're standing we have about two feet and we have seen more than this in other areas, so about 24 inches here in the western Minneapolis area.

PHILLIPS: Wow. You know, as we have been hearing from Chad Myers all morning, this is part of the same system that also spawned the wicked weather down south, the tornadoes hitting both Atlanta as well as hitting Georgia as well as Alabama pretty badly. You guys heard about the situation in Alabama. Were you guys planning on trying to chase some of those storms?

METZ: No. We don't actually normally chase this time of year because the storms move very fast, which they did in that area, and it's very devastating when that happens because tornadoes can hit so quickly, and the storm system down there was very devastating. It's very sad to see it happen. As you know, that system has affected everywhere from up in Minnesota all the way down to Florida. It's been a large storm system that's come through and it's done a lot of damage and it's very sad to see.

WILLENBERG: Huge impact of the storm. The whole eastern half of the U.S. pretty much.

PHILLIPS: It really has. Boy, hitting home in Alabama though. Eight teenagers killed there. Nine people killed at a hospital in Georgia. What is the appeal, Peggy, of chasing a storm when there is so much danger involved?

WILLENBERG: Well, we approach storms scientifically. We really want to learn more about them. Really right now science doesn't know what makes a tornado happen. As much research has been done, we still don't know, so the more we observe them, the more we photograph them, understand the weather conditions that make them form, the better the warning time will be and that's everyone's goal. The beauty of the storm is wonderful to see, but, obviously, the effects are not.

PHILLIPS: All right.

METZ: At the same time -- I'm sorry. Go ahead.

PHILLIPS: Go ahead, Melanie.

METZ: I was just going to say at the same time when chasers are out there chasing these tornadoes, we aren't out there just to see the tornado. We definitely don't want to see any damage, but what we also do is call into the National Weather Service and we try to help warn the towns ahead of time before the storm strikes.

PHILLIPS: Right. You guys are trying to help get to the bottom of it, the mystery of science, certainly. Melanie Metz and Peggy Willenberg, AKA the Twister Sisters, snowed in Minneapolis this morning. Thanks for being with us.

WILLENBERG: Thank you, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: And right now we're going to head back to Alabama and Miles O'Brien. Miles.

O'BRIEN: Let me tell you what's going on here right now in Enterprise, Alabama. Of course, this is the high school and this is just a little taste of the damage right there. Eight students died here we think in a hallway as they were huddling. They had plenty of warning. They were where the plan was where they should have been. Unfortunately, this storm hit right on this spot, might have been too much for any sort of evacuation or shelter plan.

This is the FEMA group here. We were just showing you a while ago as they came in. That truck on the left with the mast that's going up right now is kind of a mobile command center with a teleconference capability. It's got a camera on the top of that boom which can send real-time information, live video capability, much like we are giving you right now, to FEMA headquarters in Washington. So we'll track that for you as well as FEMA continues its response. Meanwhile, in Georgia they got their hands full as well there, nine deaths as a result of tornadoes there. Americus, Georgia, of all places to get hit, the hospital, taking out the fleet of ambulances just when you need them the most. Jeanne Meserve is there now with the latest. Jeanne, good morning.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Miles and you can the hospital behind me there, a lot of structural damage, windows out, facades down. Inside it's a mess with water and leaves all over the floor. The signs of that rapid departure last night, 55 patients or so evacuated out of here, some of them in critical condition. But we're told it was done successfully. Everybody survived and is OK. Although two people elsewhere in the county did die in this twister last night, but it isn't just the hospital.

Look at this car. One example of the sort of damage we're seeing. This tree just right on top of it and you can see the trees just snapped like pretzel sticks, just came right down. And then across the street look at this. Look at that roof, totally gone. This was an optometrist's office over there. He was over there this morning, said he had lived in this town for 38 years, never, ever, ever had seen anything like this in the town. That's what everyone here is saying. They're just slack-jawed. They're amazed. They've come out to look this morning to see what their town is like and they're just incredulous. They can't believe it. Here are a couple here snapping pictures, walking around, taking a look at what the weather did to them in just a few short minutes last night. Miles, back to you.

O'BRIEN: OK. All right. Thank you very much, Jeanne Meserve in Americus, Georgia. Thank you. We're a little bit closer to the high school right now, get a sense of the same sort of damage, different location here. As you see, the shingles ripped off the roofs there. And this morning the cleanup and, frankly, the grieving begins here in Enterprise, Alabama. Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Miles, thanks so much.

We're also following this tragedy we're hearing more about this morning. More details on that terrible bus crash in Atlanta. We have with us on the phone Atlanta police department spokesman Joe Cobb who is now at the scene of that bus crash. Are you with us?

OFFICER JOE COBB, ATLANTA POLICE DEPT: I am with you.

PHILLIPS: Hi. Give us an update, if you can, Joe, on what happened?

COBB: The bus, for whatever reason, was traveling in the HOV lane that exits I-75 southbound and went up a ramp, crossed Northside Drive in Atlanta and went off the bridge embankment on to I-75 below. So far six people have been killed. Twenty are walking wounded and there's nine people with serious injuries. We're told that there were 35 people total on the bus and the bus is from Blufton University in Ohio.

PHILLIPS: OK because earlier they thought it was a little league team. We know now it is a university, a college baseball team when it happen. Do we have any idea on whether -- exactly how the driver went off that overpass?

COBB: Just prior to the exit ramp, the HOV lane continues south on 75 into Atlanta and it splits. The HOV lanes continue south as I said and then the exit lane goes off to the left-hand side up a ramp to a bridge that connects Northside Drive. For unknown reasons, the driver got off the exit HOV ramp and crossed over Northside Drive, hit the bridge embankment and went over the embankment onto I-75 below.

PHILLIPS: How long -- how long is the bus going to be there? You still see emergency and fire crews, it looks like, milling around the area. What are they doing?

COBB: Well, obviously it's a catastrophic scene. We expect I-75 southbound to be closed all day in Atlanta. In fact, it is closed at I-275 north of Atlanta all the way into Atlanta, and we are still treating wounded. We're still trying to extricate people from the bus and just get a grip on the rescue operation before we try to determine why it happened and how it happened.

PHILLIPS: Right. For that you're saying that there's 20 walking wounded, nine serious and everybody has been taken to area hospitals. Is that correct?

COBB: Yes. All the wounded have been taken to Grady hospital in Atlanta.

PHILLIPS: OK, Atlanta police department spokesman Joe Cobb. Thanks for updating us on that deadly accident scene.

COBB: You're welcome.

PHILLIPS: We're going take a quick break. When we come back, we're going to have more on the storms. Miles O'Brien is where eight teens died in a school in Enterprise, Alabama. He is there. We're going to take a look at whether the school followed proper protocol. Could they have done anything to prevent the deaths that happened?

Plus, we're going to have more on that tragedy in Atlanta, the latest on a bus that plunged off of a bridge onto the interstate. As we just heard from the Atlanta police department spokesman, six people dead, nine with serious injuries and 20 others considered walking wounded, the passengers, a college baseball team. You are watching AMERICAN MORNING, the most news in the morning on CNN.

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