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After Greensburg's Destruction, Tornado Alley Braces for More Storms; Queen at Kentucky Derby
Aired May 5, 2007 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hear that! Oh no! Those are structures! Oh no!
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VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN ANCHOR: Here's what's coming up next in the NEWSROOM. Dramatic pictures showing the brute force of a tornado that ripped through the heartland last night.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, 1,400 people in this community, and I believe that 95 percent of the homes are gone and all of my downtown is gone. My home's gone.
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ROB MARCIANO, CNN ANCHOR: Another twister all but wiped out this small Kansas town and at least nine people were killed.
I'm Rob Marciano and you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
DE LA CRUZ: And I'm Veronica de la Cruz. Thank you so much for joining us tonight. Rick Sanchez has the night off.
Here is the latest information on the deadly twister that has leveled a town in Kansas. At last word, the storm system is blamed for at least nine deaths, including eight in devastated Greensburg. Dozens of people were injured, 16 critically. According to a town official, 95 percent of Greensburg's homes are gone.
Greensburg was right in the heart of Tornado Alley. Michael Schwanke from CNN affiliate KWCH has the very latest from the devastated area.
Michael, what can you tell us?
MICHAEL SCHWANKE, KWCH REPORTER: Well, right now, what we can tell you is we are waiting on an update from officials here. They really say though there is nothing new. So that leaves us right now still with nine confirmed dead, eight in this county, one in a nearby county.
Talking to emergency management officials in this area who have worked this job their entire lives, they say they have never seen anything like it. To see an entire town like this wiped out, the latest estimate, 95 percent of this town of Greensburg, a town of about 1,500, has been wiped off the map.
Red Cross has, of course, moved in not only to work with the victims and the displaced people, we're told at least 500 people probably in the nearby town here in schools and the area towns around here, but also to try to go in and decide which homes in this area are livable and which homes are not.
At that point they'll go in and decide exactly what those people will need. But if you look at some of this damage, most of the homes have been wiped out, completely off their foundations.
Still posing a challenge for rescuers in this area to get to some of those victims is all of the debris. It's very dangerous for those rescuers. Many of them have been taken to the hospital with some injuries.
We did have a light storm move through just a little while ago. We're still under a tornado threat here. Of course, all of their eyes are on the sky right now.
Back to you guys.
DE LA CRUZ: Michael, Greensburg, Kansas, is right smack in the middle of Tornado Alley. I would assume that the city had warning signs, warning sirens?
SCHWANKE: They did. And those sirens sounded. In fact, we're told the residents here had about 20 minutes to prepare, which is great. A lot of them had the chance to go down to the basement.
What made this storm a little unusual is this tornado hit when it was dark outside. That does not happen very often, so people could not see where it was. They had to go by those sirens. They had to turn on their TVs and watch.
However, we've heard a lot of stories from people who had gone to bed, who either received a call from a friend or heard those sirens go off, gave them just enough time to get down.
But this tornado was so powerful, just because you made it to shelter, just because you made it to a basement, does not guarantee your safety.
DE LA CRUZ: Michael Schwanke with affiliate KWCH, Michael, we appreciate it, thanks.
SCHWANKE: Thank you.
MARCIANO: In your weather center now with Jacqui Jeras. Active day yesterday, 33 tornadoes and some amazing video of one tornado that ripped through Ellis County, Oklahoma. We are going to break that down. But first we want to show it to you in its entirety. Take a look and listen. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Windshield wipers! Turn off the wipers! Don't get in an accident!
Oh, my God. (INAUDIBLE) we're good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, go, go! Jesus Christ! Get in!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shut your door! Shut your door! Shut your door!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, go, back up! Back up!
We're OK! We're OK!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go back (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're good. Hold on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listen to the roar! I got it! Hear that? Oh, no, those are structures! Oh, no! No! Wow! Can you hear that? Don't move!
MARCIANO: That is some of the most vivid storm-chasing video I've ever seen.
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Incredible. Some scary moments at the beginning of that, Rob. That's one of the first things that we really noticed there, is that they were in the wrong position to begin with. That storm was coming towards them. But then once it crossed the street they were doing OK and just they were able to zoom in and just see how tight that rotation was on that.
MARCIANO: You can see and hear the panic in the car. They actually backed it up into reverse so they could get a little bit away from it, because there was a question, you know, is it going to cross that road they're on or is it going to go right up the road into their car? And they're obviously worried about that.
But they were, I mean, some would say, dangerously close, 50 to 100 yards away. But we could really see the -- we could really see the detail of that particular funnel. It was a pretty tight wrap, the condensation funnel, and then the debris field around.
Common myth is -- or misunderstanding of these things is, you know, the smaller it is, the weaker it is, but that's not necessarily the case, is it?
JERAS: Yes, not necessarily. But what a difference between that tornado and the one that hit the Greensburg area last night. And we had some of those still pictures. Take a look at that picture, for example. Look how wide -- that's what we call a wedge tornado. That is estimating we're hearing possibly at much as a half-mile or plus wide. That thing on the ground could cause some major damage.
But the video that we saw, so very tight, that can cause some significant damage, too. Smaller debris path, obviously, but the winds could be equivalent.
MARCIANO: Well, we saw some mature oak trees literally being ripped and thrown behind that tornado. That more -- I guess you would call it more of a rope tornado. And that wedge -- as you see, those wedge tornadoes are always very, very strong and we're seeing the aftermath of it today.
JERAS: Yes. Unbelievable pictures, 95 percent of the town just wiped out.
MARCIANO: And the bad news is, I mean, usually these things come through and boom, the threat area moves off to the east. But this system so slow-moving that's not necessarily the case today.
JERAS: Yes. It's going to take a while to get that system through there. The dry line is still way on off to the west. The tornado threat remains in that county. We'll bring you on over to the map here and show you the watch areas that are still in effect at this hour.
This is going to be ongoing throughout the day today, into the evening tonight and yes, possibly even into the overnight hours. And this is what we call a particularly dangerous situation. The PDS tornado watches. And we've got three of them and it includes you across much of Kansas, on into Nebraska, into Iowa now as well, into the panhandles of Oklahoma and into Texas.
And we've got a number of warnings in place. This is a high threat tornado day, where we have very high confidence that there are going to be large, long track tornadoes just like the one that occurred unfortunately yesterday evening. We only get a few days like this per year, where conditions are so favorable for these very violent tornadoes to develop.
Now, we've seen that situation developing here at this hour, in northern parts of Nebraska, and on into southern parts of South Dakota. We've got warnings in effect for Brown, Keya Paha, and Rock counties, for this cell right here.
There was a report of a tornado on the ground about a half an hour ago. Since has lifted but this cell then has a history of producing a tornado. And, Dave, do we have some breaking information as well? Thank you very much.
Tornado warning remains in effect for Knox County. This is trainspotters reporting a tornado located to the southeast of Niobrara, moving north at 50 miles per hour. People in and near Santee should be seeking shelter immediately. And again, this is for Knox County in the State of Nebraska.
Here we are going to zoom in across the Sioux Falls area. This is to the west of Sioux Falls. And there you can see two different cells that we're talking about. Here is the town of Tyndall. You are under a tornado warning. This is the Knox County one that was in Nebraska, has crossed over the Missouri River and got a tornado confirmed on the ground at this time.
So a very dangerous situation evolving into South Dakota right along the Missouri River. There you can see the confirmed location of the tornado. There's that hook echo that we talk about in the radar signature, and there's the track of the storm moving up to the north.
And this is moving very fast, guys, by the way, up to the north at 50 miles per hour. So this is going to hit and run very quickly. You need to be seeking shelter immediately.
Back to you guys.
MARCIANO: All right. Jacqui, keep an eye on it. It looks possibly more active tonight than it was last night. Jacqui Jeras, we'll check back with you, that's for sure. A little bit later on we're going to tell you -- talk with hopefully that tornado chaser, Reed Timmer (ph). As Timmer's got -- for us got very close to those funnel clouds and put him in a dicey situation yesterday.
We've shown the pictures today and they're worth showing again. We'll do that a little bit later and speak with Reed Timmer himself.
DE LA CRUZ: Hundreds of people from Greensburg, Kansas, have been bused to shelters in surrounding towns. Joining us now from a temporary shelter in Mullinville, Kansas, is Ralph Rojas of the American Red Cross. Hello to you, Ralph. Thanks so much for your time tonight.
RALPH ROJAS, AMERICAN RED CROSS: Good evening.
DE LA CRUZ: Ralph, we understand that the Red Cross has been out surveying the damage. I understand that you are there in a shelter. What is the situation right now?
ROJAS: In our shelter right now we're just taking any folks that are coming in. They've transferred some from Greensburg. Some of them aren't going to be here for very long. They're waiting on other family members to come pick them up and take them to their communities, wherever -- you know, whatever respective communities they're going to go to or some here that have relatives in Mullinville.
So we are -- this is kind of a staging area for those folks, and then we obviously will have some shelter population tonight but we're -- at this point we're not sure how many. We've had probably between oh, 80 and 100, 125 people in and out of here yet this afternoon.
DE LA CRUZ: Do you feel that the town has the resources it needs?
ROJAS: Currently, yes, I think we're doing OK.
DE LA CRUZ: All right. You know, the Red Cross is always warning people to be prepared. We're hearing at this point that there is the threat of more severe weather tonight. What should people be doing right now? What are you doing there?
ROJAS: What are we doing? We're just -- currently we're watching the weather. Obviously everybody knows that we're under another storm watch tonight so we're just apprehensively watching the weather and being prepared to move to a different place in the building.
Should we have the storm come back through, the rest of the folks in the outlying area, I'm sure they're in the same position, everybody's just moving forward with a little bit of cautious optimism to make sure that if, in fact, the storm does happen again, they can head for some shelter. Obviously recent history dictates that we don't know what's going to happen.
DE LA CRUZ: And in the meantime, Ralph, we continue to look at all of the damage, all of the devastation. It's times like this that people really want to reach out and help. How can they go about doing that?
ROJAS: They can help by getting their www.redcross.org, they can jump on that Web site or calling 1-800-REDCROSS, check in the -- with them and seeing what donations and stuff are needed. Primarily those are the two best avenues.
DE LA CRUZ: And on that note, I'm sure there are a lot of people who are worried about friends or loved ones. What can they do?
ROJAS: Yes, they are. We have -- again, they can call the Red Cross number, and get with those folks, and we have a list that we're trying to get online to let people know who is on the list, who has reported in, that we are trying to account for some of the folks if they're coming to the shelters, and the loved ones are calling or trying to find them, then we can give them some information and let them know whether or not we've had people check in, or back to the redcross.org site and then see if they access that. And there should be some information on that coming up.
DE LA CRUZ: Ralph Rojas there with the Red Cross. Ralph, we do appreciate your time. Thanks so much. The Red Cross, as you heard, has some tips that could help you and your family survive a tornado. One of the biggies, of course, having a safe place to gather, be it a basement, inner hallway, bathroom or ground floor closet. And if you happen to be in a high-rise and can't reach lower ground, the best place to be is a hallway in the center of the structure. Always stay away from windows and again, you can find all of those tips online at redcross.org.
MARCIANO: A common myth is to crack your windows when you hear a storm is coming but that doesn't really help. So you want to keep your windows closed and you want to get away from those windows and, as you said, have a good plan.
DE LA CRUZ: Right. And cnn.com/tornado also a really good resource. MARCIANO: All right. Well, coming up next in the CNN NEWSROOM, we always hear about twisters in Kansas. It's the Sunflower State, but is it a tornado magnet? A "Reality Check" coming up.
DE LA CRUZ: Plus, a threat against Senator Hillary Clinton? A student is under arrest.
MARCIANO: And no hotel stay for Paris Hilton. It looks like she is headed to jail. That's next in the NEWSROOM. You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you rebuild? All of Main Street's gone. Both of our schools are gone. So that's -- I guess that's what we're thinking, where do we go from here?
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DE LA CRUZ: I want to take a moment to get you caught up now on the big story of the day. Kansas state emergency officials say the death toll is at nine from a string of suspected tornadoes that tore through the southern part of the Sunflower State late last night. Some 55 people were hurt. A little more than a dozen of those described as critical. Not much, if anything, is left of Greensburg, Kansas. The town official says nearly 95 percent of Greensburg is quote, "gone."
MARCIANO: Well, the Greensburg tornado is one of the worst in recent memory. And with a look at some of the history of tornadoes, some of the worst that we've seen in the U.S. And we've seen a lot, Joshua Levs is with us.
JOSHUA LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, it's good to be here. And can I say actually, you know, as I was looking into this today, trying to learn about the history of tornadoes, I actually got a lot of stuff from your previous reporting. So thanks for letting me copy off of your paper, not that I condone. Don't do that at home.
MARCIANO: Just as long as it's all accurate.
MARCIANO: No, just saying, it's all good. All right. No, but really, this is a serious issue and it's something we hear about a lot in America, deadly twisters. And guess what, we hear about it more in America than anywhere else in the world because it turns out, this is the tornado capital of the world.
LEVS (voice-over): The devastation, the loss, images all too familiar, especially to residents of the so-called Tornado Alley in the Midwest and South. The National Weather Service says the deadliest tornado disaster was in March 1925. It struck Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, killing nearly 700 people.
Almost 50 years later, in April 1974, came the worst single outbreak of tornados in the shortest period of time, the infamous Super Outbreak, 148 across 16 states in less than 24 hours. More than 300 people were killed.
One of the largest single twisters recorded was recent, in Hallam, Nebraska, in April 2004. The National Weather Service says it measured nearly 2.5 miles across, though it killed only one person.
The U.S. experiences about 1,000 tornadoes a year, more than any other country. And the National Weather Service says about 60 people are killed each year. More die in heat or floods. And in recent years, more have died in hurricanes.
But, of course, the impact of a tornado is not measured just in lives lost. Many in Greensburg, Kansas, who survived the latest twisters have lost their livelihoods, homes, everything of sentimental value.
Tornados generally last only a few minutes, but can destroy what people have spent years working for.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the most significant emergency the state of Kansas has faced in a long, long time.
LEVS: And one thing we don't know yet at this point is how much it will end up costing the state of Kansas. We're following the lives really closely, we're following injuries as well as those reports come in. But you know, this has a tremendous economic impact as well.
And Rob, today, when I was looking back at these figures, we found the biggest impact economically from any such storm in history was 1973 in Georgia, which cost in today's dollars more than $5 billion.
MARCIANO: Wow, and of course where they hit is probably the biggest factor as far as that goes. You and I were talking this afternoon about deaths and how the average number of deaths is now coming down as we go on through time. One of the reasons is because of structures are better, but also warning times.
LEVS: Warning systems are improving every year.
MARCIANO: Got the Doppler radar, it certainly helps quite a bit. And the best thing you could have in your house are these weather radios that we talk about constantly here on CNN. You just turn it on, you program it to your area, Josh, and you forget about it. And it goes off when there's a tornado in your area.
LEVS: And some people don't realize, they can just these. I mean, you don't have to special order them somewhere. They're available at a lot of stores that people have in their communities.
MARCIANO: And they're pretty stylish. I mean, you can make this your alarm clock in the morning for right by your bed.
LEVS: And if you're in Tornado Alley, of all places, I mean, definitely, if you don't have one, find one, get one.
MARCIANO: Good advice. Thanks, Josh.
Well, we're definitely going to be keeping an eye on the sky. A high-risk day today. We don't typically get those very often, let alone two really bad days in a row. So Jacqui Jeras is in the CNN weather center, will be bringing you the watches and the warnings as they come down -- Veronica.
DE LA CRUZ: Thanks, Rob.
It is one of the most outrageous stories of the week, a dry cleaner sued for $65 million for losing a pair of pants? What does this mean for the small businessman? A legal expert's opinion, that's coming up in the NEWSROOM.
Plus, forget about the race. The Queen lands in Kentucky for the Derby. We follow her every move down the stretch. Also coming up next in the NEWSROOM. Stay with us.
DE LA CRUZ: Well in just over a half an hour, horses and jockeys line up for the 133rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Horseracing has long been known as the sport of kings, but today it is the sport of queens. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is in the stands. A horse enthusiast, her stop at Churchill Downs is part of a six-day visit to the United States. The queen has quite a busy schedule on this visit. For more on that, let's go to our intrepid royal watcher, Richard Quest, who is in Washington.
Hello to you, Richard.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Veronica. Yes, the queen is now at Churchill Downs. The queen has been seen in the stands, where the Kentucky Derby will be run in, just as you say, a short while. And here are pictures first coming into CNN of the queen as she has been touring the trophy room at Churchill Downs.
This will be of fascinating interest to her majesty. She's smiling. She's really enjoying herself as she goes round on this particular visit, because more than anything else, she does love her horseracing. She has horses of her own. She has an extremely experienced and successful stud of horses, which has won most of the major races in the U.K. So when it comes to horseracing, the queen is an expert and she will very much feel that she is amongst her own people, those who speak horse-speak, if you like.
The question everyone has been asking me is whether it is likely, Veronica, that the queen will place a bet. I asked Buckingham Palace that a short while ago. And while they wouldn't be definitive on the subject, they did suggest that it was possible that she would place a bet, or possibly she will take part in some sort of pool or sweepstakes of others in the royal box, Veronica.
DE LA CRUZ: All right. And we don't know which pony she would place a bet on.
QUEST: I would imagine that it would be more a case of all the names in a hat. Everybody puts some money in and then they all pick a name out. That's what we have seen pictures of the queen doing before. But I'll tell you one thing, the queen will be extremely knowledgeable, even though she doesn't race herself, her horses on the dirt, it's on the turf. She will know what she's looking for and she will have a pretty good idea of which are the realistic winners of the race.
DE LA CRUZ: Hey, Richard, we're looking at these pictures of the queen, as she stops and she accepts flowers. What is the proper etiquette again if you were to say hello to the queen? You don't offer your hand.
QUEST: No, you don't offer your hand unless she offers it to you. And that's simple. If everybody offers their hand, she might be thought of as rude because she can't shake everybody's hand. So as she's walking around, there are people she will shake hands with.
Understand one important thing, it is not a crime worthy of sentencing by something nasty to break protocol these days. For members of the public, by all means, say hello. By all means, offer your hands. Just don't be offended if she doesn't shake back again. The days when you could only, you know, just stand quietly, meekly, they have gone.
DE LA CRUZ: All right. Richard Quest there in Washington, maybe we should curtsy, I think that might be part of the protocol.
QUEST: Well, you would be curtsying, I would be bowing. And I'll tell you what, at some point we should get together to compare to make sure we're doing it the right way.
DE LA CRUZ: All right. Sounds good. Richard Quest, thank you so much.
MARCIANO: Quest on curtsying and bow classes. Post time is coming up in less than an hour or so. Place your bets.
DE LA CRUZ: All right.
MARCIANO: All right. We want talk about, there were some threats against Senator Barack Obama, but now there are some current concerns in the Hillary Clinton camp. That story is coming up.
DE LA CRUZ: Plus, more on the devastation in the heartland. The latest on those twisters that slammed into Oklahoma and Kansas. This is CNN, the most trusted name in news.
MARCIANO: Well, beginning this week, and continuing through the rest of the year, we'll be shining the spotlight on some very special people. Each one has a remarkable story and each is an example of how a single person can turn a personal vision for a better world into action. We call them "CNN Heroes" and our first lives in Brooklyn, New York. His name is Thabiti Boone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dear Mr. Boone, my name is Michelle Dejesus and I'm in the fourth grade. This neighborhood that I live in is not a good scene to me. I see a lot of crime and dangerous things in this neighborhood.
THABITI BOONE, "CHAMPIONING CHILDREN": I'm from east New York, Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York. Like many young people that come from this community, you have no chance. There is no hope, no joy to go to school. My name is Thabiti Boone, and I chose a different path.
My father didn't want to be a father. My mom was too young at that time to take me out of the hospital, so I was stuck in the middle with no direction. My life could have been, I'm angry, I want to fight the world, I have an attitude, but something said, you know what? I'm going to make a difference. I'm going to make it out of here and I'm going to be one of the ones to come back.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Boone, you make learning fun for us. By you coming back, it shows my classmates and me that you care about us and our education.
BOONE: Our young people are in such a crisis of lack of love, lack of interest, lack of hope, lack of heroes, the Read to Succeed program is a unique program that connects sports, entertainment and hip-hop to self-development and success, through the importance of reading. Bam, that's it.
So students have to read on a continuous basis. They have to learn how to do oral presentations, stand in front of the classrooms, develop confidence.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This program taught me and my classmates that we can be anything in life, if we just work hard.
BOONE: You may want to dream to be an athlete or entertainer, but at the end of the day, that may not be what you're supposed to be, but let's have a program that teaches you how to self-discover many gifts and talents.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much. You are like a father to us. We love you so much. Sincerely, Michelle Dejesus.
GROUP: Accept! BOONE: Under!
BOONE: There's a piece of who you are that's connected to when you came from. So if you go and don't come back, you're walking around half dead.
MARCIANO: If you want to learn more about Thabiti Boone's Rise to the Occasion program and how you can help, go to cnn.com/heroes.
JERAS: I'm Jacqui Jeras in the CNN severe weather center. A tornado warning still in effect for Bon Homme County, that is in South Dakota. Trainspotters reported this tornado on the ground before it crossed over the river from Nebraska. The latest on the severe weather, it's not over yet for the people in Kansas either, that's all coming up.
MARCIANO: Active night last night, and could be even more active tonight. Jacqui Jeras in the CNN severe weather center -- Jacqui.
JERAS: Yes, Rob. We're looking at the area in northern Nebraska and southern parts of South Dakota. Everywhere that you see a red box right now, that is where we have a tornado warning in place. And the boxes look a little smaller to you because there are these new polygon warnings so it only shows the part of the county that is being affected at this time.
We're going to zoom in on this cell that we've been talking about here. This is for Knox County and also that's in Nebraska, and then Bon Homme County, this is in South Dakota. And trainspotters did report a tornado on the ground as this was in Knox County. You can see that the center of rotation is now to the north of there.
Meteorologist Dave Henin is working behind the scenes, querying some information, approximately 4,000 people are being affected by this storm. In addition to a tornado, we're likely seeing some very large hail, maybe golf ball-sized hail with this, and it is moving on up to a northerly track.
If you live in Tyndall, you're likely receiving a lot of large hail right now. And that tornado will be moving up into your neighborhood, so you need to be seeking shelter at this time. We'll take you a little farther on down to the south, tornado warnings for Fillmore, Jefferson, Republic, Saline, Thayer, and Washington counties.
This is in Nebraska. And look at all of that live lightning data going on with this too. We are getting a lot of lightning reports and a lot of hail. This is an extremely dangerous situation here for today. Our watches remain in place from South Dakota all the way down to Texas. We have that high risk, as we call it, of seeing tornadoes today, large, destructive tornadoes.
We're also just getting in some new information, by the way, Rob and Veronica, that we may have some assessment on the tornado that touched down earlier in Kansas there. And once we get that, we'll pass that along to you, probably before the end of the show.
DE LA CRUZ: And, Jacqui, before we let you go, can you go ahead and show us on the map exactly where Greensburg is geographically, what it's in close proximity to as far as large cities is concerned?
JERAS: Dave is listening in and getting towards the Greensburg area in Kansas, it's well to the west of Wichita. And that's part of the reason why it took us a while to get to some of the damage. Here you can see Wichita. It is right -- there are some thunderstorms just off to the west of there, if we're able to zoom in a little closer. I believe it's this county right there.
Is that it, Dave, where we have Greensburg? It is the second county from the bottom. Here we go. Here is the county line. I believe it's right in this area here. It's about an hour-and-a-half outside of Wichita.
MARCIANO: And it looks like, Jacqui, right in the realm of that high-risk area that the SPC put out today, so they're not getting much of a break tonight.
JERAS: Right, they are not, very slow-moving system.
MARCIANO: All right. Thanks, Jacqui.
As you know, the severe weather team is going to be keeping a close eye obviously on this situation throughout the night, bring you any of the latest watches and warnings as we get them here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
DE LA CRUZ: All right. Want to get you now to some politics. A 19-year-old Louisiana State University student has been arrested after being accused of making a threat against Senator Hillary Clinton. Richard Wargo is being held on $1 million bond. Police say Wargo, a freshman at LSU, approached another student about committing arson.
Police say the student reported Wargo to the university after a second conversation in which Wargo allegedly made another remark indicating he planned violence against the Democratic presidential hopeful.
Senator Clinton is in Baton Rouge today, speaking before the National Conference of Black Mayors. She criticized the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, and she pledged to funnel more federal aid to the still-recovering Gulf Coast if elected. And other Democratic presidential candidates on the campaign trail today, Senator Barack Obama also in Louisiana. And Bill Richardson makes a campaign appearance in North Conway, New Hampshire. On the GOP side, Rudy Giuliani is in Charleston, South Carolina. Mitt Romney makes a campaign appearance in Virginia Beach. John McCain is in Reno, Nevada. And Tommy Thompson is in Charles City, Iowa.
MARCIANO: And Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is getting a high-profile endorsement. Oprah -- I can never in say her name, Oprah Winfrey reaffirmed her endorsement for the Illinois senator earlier this week on CNN's Larry King.
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LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": You endorse Barack Obama for the president.
OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: Mm-hmm.
KING: That still sticks, right?
WINFREY: Yes, of course.
KING: Can a black man be elected president of the United States?
WINFREY: I believe he can. I believe a black man can and I believe he can.
KING: Do you think he's going to win the nomination?
WINFREY: I'm not here to say whether he will win or not. But I believe -- you ask me, do I believe that he can? I believe that he can. Is it possible? Yes, I do believe that it is possible.
This is my senator, my favorite senator!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
KING: Have you endorsed a candidate before?
KING: What made you do so now?
WINFREY: Because I know him personally. I think that what he stands for, what he has proven that he can stand for, what he has shown, was worth me going out on a limb for. And I haven't done it in the past because I haven't felt that anybody -- I didn't know anybody well enough to be able to say, I believe in this person.
KING: Is there a side of you, the woman side, that would lean toward a Hillary?
WINFREY: Well, I have great respect for Hillary Clinton, and I think I said this before, and it's true that because I am for Barack does not mean that I am against Hillary or anybody else. So the fact that I would endorse Barack Obama and the fact that I would support Barack Obama, I have not one negative thing to say about Hillary Clinton.
KING: Because you like Barack Obama?
WINFREY: I just like Barack Obama.
KING: Are you contributing to him?
WINFREY: I haven't contributed.
KING: Would you?
WINFREY: Well, the truth of the matter is whether I contribute or not contribute, you're limited to how much you can contribute, so you know, my money isn't going to make any difference to him. I think that my value to him, my support of him, is probably worth more than any check that I could write, yes.
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MARCIANO: Oprah getting a little cheap there with Barack. Hey, you don't want to miss this special edition of "LARRY KING LIVE" tonight at 9:00 Eastern. Hosts Anderson Cooper and "American Idol's" Ryan Seacrest look back at 50 years of pop culture and it's all through the eyes of Larry King.
DE LA CRUZ: Fifty years, he truly is the king, Larry King.
MARCIANO: He is the king, that's for sure.
DE LA CRUZ: All right. Rob, want to ask you a question here. So a cleaners loses the man's pants and the customers get a little angry. It's not such a big deal, right?
MARCIANO: Depends how expensive the pants are, and if they are your favorite.
DE LA CRUZ: Well, the cleaners get sued for, get this, $65 million. It is one of the most outrageous stories of the week, and it's coming up.
DE LA CRUZ: Welcome back. We're going to continue with our storm coverage, as you know, a tornado has wiped out the town of Greensburg, Kansas. More on that.
But in the meantime we want to bring you this story. A lawsuit now that boggles the mind. A dry cleaner is being sued for $65 million for losing one pair of pants, and worried that the case may bankrupt his immigrant family. The cleaner is now considering leaving the country.
Carol Costello has more.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): Meet the Chungs, immigrants from South Korea who built a successful business in just seven years and are now on the brink of losing its all.
CHRIS MANNING, CHUNG FAMILY ATTORNEY: They emigrated here with hopes of achieving the American dream. It has turned into an American nightmare.
COSTELLO: The Chungs' nightmare has become not just the talk of the town, but talk across the globe. A nightmare, yes. How many of us can say we're the alleged victims of pair of pants?
Take a look. They could cost the Chungs $65 million.
MANNING: It's incredibly stressful for them both physically and emotionally. They don't understand how one pair of pants can somehow grow into what this has become.
COSTELLO: And, he says, they don't know why Roy Pearson, a judge in D.C., would be so upset over a missing pair of pants that he would file a lawsuit.
It all started in 2005, when the Chungs lost and then a few weeks later said they'd found Pearson's pants. You'd think it would end there. But according to Manning, Pearson claimed these pants are not his.
MANNING: My clients know for a fact that they are his. There are some very significant markings on the pants. Specifically there are three belt loops, one after the other, that my clients remembered whenever they brought -- whenever Mr. Pearson had brought the pants in originally.
COSTELLO: But he says Pearson denied that. The Chungs made him three settlement offers: $3,000, then $4,600, then $12,000.
Pearson said no, then added a twist that has inspired news stories in blogs from Washington to New Zealand. He now claims he has to drive to a dry cleaners farther away from his home, so he threw in the cost to rent a car every weekend for 10 years, then factored in fines of $1,500 per violation, per day. That's the penalty imposed for offenses of D.C.'s consumer protection law.
He multiplied that by three people who own Custom Cleaners. Grand total, $65 million.
MANNING: I think everyone is baffled by the point that he's trying to make.
COSTELLO: And Pearson isn't talking. His attorney did not return our calls. The Chungs left so frightened at their future, they're pondering a move back to South Korea to start all over again.
Carol Costello, CNN, Washington.
DE LA CRUZ: And another hot topic in the legal world, Paris Hilton's jail sentence, she's doing 45 days. Here to talk about both the pants lawsuit and the hotel heiress is former prosecutor, criminal defense attorney B.J. Bernstein.
B.J., thanks so for your time. We do appreciate it.
B.J. BERNSTEIN, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Glad to be here. This may be why we hate Lawyers Day, is what we're talking about.
DE LA CRUZ: Thank you. But let's go ahead and really look at this, what is at stake for both parties, the Chungs and Roy Pearson, the judge?
BERNSTEIN: Well, the Chungs, obviously, whenever you're defending a lawsuit you have to pay a lawyer to defend it and you always run the risk that you can lose and have a judgment against you.
And this is a small business. These clearly aren't really wealthy people and a judgment could wipe them out. Now for the judge who is suing, you know, his problem is, the perception of what I just said, why we hate lawyers.
You know, he could at most -- the $65 million is insane. It's like you and I were just chatting about, how many times have you lost things at the dry cleaners? At $65 million per suit I've lost over the last 20 years of practicing, I think I could retire.
DE LA CRUZ: Let me ask you this. We just heard from the attorney for the Chung family. He was saying that they are so stressed out both physically and emotionally, why not counter-sue?
BERNSTEIN: And that's probably what you're going to see or trying to at least recover their attorneys' fees and get a penalty from the judge for abusive litigation. There are some statutes available when you abuse the system and this case may qualify where it could end up being the judge paying them.
DE LA CRUZ: But hang on. Do you really believe that this case has legs? Don't you think it is just going to get thrown out?
BERNSTEIN: Well, it really should be thrown out, but the Chungs perhaps should recover some money. I mean, you see they've tried to settle this. I mean $1,000 for one item, $3,000 and up to $12,000 to make this go away and it still hasn't? You know, they may be able to get something back.
DE LA CRUZ: You know, I'd be curious to see -- we are such a litigious society. I'd love to see whether or not the judge has been involved in this kind of litigation before.
BERNSTEIN: Yes. I was trying to look up some information, it just shows that he's an administrative law judge, you can't find anything what other type of litigation. But...
DE LA CRUZ: Could he be disbarred?
BERNSTEIN: You know, I don't think disbarment is really likely. Initially this lawsuit, from the reports, he represented himself so he's taking advantage of that he has legal knowledge. And of course, anyone can sue without a lawyer, but when you are a lawyer, I think you have a certain extra obligation to be careful of what you're doing.
DE LA CRUZ: All right. Quickly, we're running out of time. We want to get to Paris Hilton now. What do you think? Forty-five days in jail, do you think that was a fair sentence?
BERNSTEIN: You know, that was a realistic sentence. I thought beforehand this is what she was going to face, because when you're on probation, you're on a short leash. She's already under penalty from the court, and he's not going to give you a second or third break.
Remember, she drove two times, and again, when you're on probation and then you go to a judge and you say, I didn't know, it doesn't put you in a good position to get any favor.
DE LA CRUZ: But I've heard about other instances, like let's take Zsa Zsa Gabor, for instance, she has violated her probation. Instead of going to jail, she paid an $85 a day fine. Could Paris do this instead?
BERNSTEIN: Well, the judge has been very specific. He wants her to go to jail. So unless the lawyer's appeals somehow work, which I really don't think they're going to, I think she's going to be in some very sparse surroundings that she is not used to.
Not to gloat, but there are a lot of people who are saying, you know, this may be the appropriate remedy to show everyone, especially young people, when you're on probation, when you've gotten into trouble, you've got to know yourself. You can't rely on other people.
DE LA CRUZ: I understand you have a blog. You have a blog, right?
BERNSTEIN: Yes, my5th.org, to teach young people about the law. And I blogged last night, this is a perfect example. A lot of young people look up to her. You know, you and I may not be so in on her but they are. And she is a role model. And this is the one time where you have got to say even you, celebrity, wealth, fame, doesn't exempt you from the law. And ignorance of the law is no excuse. Paris Hilton is finding that out.
DE LA CRUZ: B.J. Bernstein is a criminal defense lawyer. B.J., thanks for your time. We do appreciate it.
BERNSTEIN: Thanks, Veronica.
DE LA CRUZ: All right. Rob, let's send it back to you.
MARCIANO: All right. Veronica, we're going to continue with our top story, the tornadoes that went through the Midwest last night. And tonight could even be more dangerous. Those stories -- that most important story is coming up. You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Dorothy Martin is getting her four kids off to school. Recently she was remarried. She is trying to have another child. But since the birth of her last baby she has put on some weight and it's not so easy.
DOROTHY MARTIN, OB-GYN PATIENT: We haven't been successful so far, but we're still trying.
GUPTA: It's not unusual. According the National Institutes of Health, women who overweight or obese often produce too much estrogen.
DR. CATHERINE SPONG, NAT. INST. OF CHILD HEALTH: It affects hormone levels, it can increase a woman's androgen levels, increase her insulin levels and can be part of a syndrome called polycystic ovarian syndrome.
GUPTA: In polycystic ovarian syndrome, the ovaries don't produce enough hormones to stimulate an egg to mature and be released, which causes women to become infertile. Some women with PCOS also make too much insulin which can cause diabetes, and there's even more.
SPONG: The chronic high blood pressure, the diabetes, often arthritis, things like that, also make it more difficult once they're pregnant in maintaining and having healthy pregnancy.
GUPTA: Being overweight can also make in vitro fertilization much harder because the hormone imbalance keeps an embryo from implanting itself in the uterus. Dr. David Downing (ph) tells his patients the best way to avoid all of these problems, lose weight long before becoming pregnant.
DR. DAVID DOWNING, WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER: It's a very difficult thing to do, it is something which is a long-term goal that takes a lot of exercise and practice and restraint and dietary changes.
GUPTA: And those are changes that Dorothy Martin already knows she needs to make.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.
DE LA CRUZ: Want to get you back now to severe weather in parts of the Midwest.
MARCIANO: Once again, the Doppler radarscope is lit up tonight, much like it was yesterday. Jacqui Jeras in the severe weather center with the latest.
Hi, Jacqui. JERAS: Hi. Yes. From Kansas to South Dakota right now, those are the biggest areas of concern. And we just have a new tornado warning which has been issued in Kansas. Here you can see Wichita, this is Pratt County right here, and just to put it in perspective, right here is Greensburg, where we had the tornado that touched down last evening.
So now another possible tornado here. And we actually have one of our CNN weather producers, Brandon Miller, who usually works behind the scenes for us, he's out chasing storms today.
And, Brandon, tell us what you're seeing at this time. Brandon, are you there? Can you hear me? It's Jacqui. I guess we're not able to hear him. But he did say that he saw a rotating wall cloud, a tornado could drop out of that at any time. So we'll get in touch with Brandon and I'm sure he'll call us back if we get anything on the ground.
We also have a brand new watch to talk about, this includes much of eastern parts of South Dakota, clips into parts of Minnesota and northwestern Iowa. The Sioux land area, this is a PDS watch for you now that we're very concerned about. That means a particularly dangerous situation. Look at all the warnings here.
Here is Sioux Falls. Here is Yankton, and this storm here has a history of producing a tornado though. Right now we're not hearing word that it is on the ground. Back to you.
MARCIANO: Lots of action and we're not even into the evening, Jacqui.
JERAS: We're not. We'll be here in the CNN weather center all night long. We'll have cut-ins if necessary. We'll break into programming. And of course we'll have complete storm coverage wrapping up tonight at 11:00 Eastern, not 10:00, a little later.
DE LA CRUZ: All right. Jacqui, we appreciate it. Thank you.
Well, needless to say, it has been an emotional, very, very tough day in Kansas, as well as Oklahoma.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nothing left over there at all.
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MARCIANO: Up next in the NEWSROOM, some remarkable moments coming to you from Tornado Alley.
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