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Midwest Hit by Killer Tornadoes

Aired May 5, 2007 - 23:00   ET


ROB MARCIANO, CNN ANCHOR: An entire town nearly wiped off the map.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you rebuild? All of Main Street's gone. Both of our schools are gone.


MARCIANO: A devastating tornado destroys a community. And more storms tear across the heartland tonight.

Plus, al Qaeda's number two man shows up on a new tape. Not only he is talking war, but American politics.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This bill will deprive us of the opportunity to destroy the American forces.


MARCIANO: And off to the races with the queen. Churchill Downs rolls out the red carpet for her majesty. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, go, go, go. Jesus Christ! Get in! Shut your door. Shut your door. Shut your door.


VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN ANCHOR: That's what you do when a massive tornado is headed your way. Get moving in the other direction fast. Look at these amazing close-ups of a raging twister that raked western Oklahoma Friday. These are professional storm chasers, but their reaction is pure adrenaline. Incredibly, nobody was hurt. No major damage.

MARCIANO: Wish we could say the same about this massive tornado, which ripped through Greensburg, Kansas, just over the state line. This is a still image from much further away, but you can see that this storm is enormous. It left nearly zero buildings standing and took a human toll as well. Good evening, I'm Rob Marciano.

CRUZ: And I'm Veronica de la Cruz. Thank you so much for joining us tonight. Rick Sanchez has the night off.

Much more from Greensburg in a moment. But first, we have breaking severe weather news to tell you about tonight. Take a look at this. This is Kansas. Near the town of Great Bend just a few hours ago, a clearly formed tornado spinning and churning. We don't know yet if it touched down or if it caused damage or injuries. We're working to get any official reports from Great Bend. It's just one of dozens of tornados reported in the U.S. today.

MARCIANO: Yes, last check off the storm's prediction website. Over 70 reports -- over 40 in just the last three hours. Tonight looks even more active than last night.

CRUZ: Absolutely in the double digits, yes. Let's go live right now to Jacqui Jeras. She is in the CNN Weather Center. Jacqui, what's going on right now?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Can you believe it, guys, Great Bend, another tornado warning again? That's just what's been so incredible about this system is we've had so many reports of ground troops. Instead of just tornado warnings where you don't always see a tornado, we've had the spotters out there, we've had the multiple touchdowns. We've heard Rob mentioned over 70 there. This is still going on at this hour.

The watches remain in effect. New ones have been issued. And these are going to be going on through the overnight hours. So very important that you have your NOAA weather radio on tonight before you go to bed so it wakes you up, so you can seek shelter when those warnings go off.

And some of you have been having them over and over again. Greensburg, you've had warnings go off three different times. Here's the line that's going out across parts of Kansas at this hour. The tornado warnings are in effect for Rice County, Barton County, Ellsworth County, Russell County, and also farther up to the north into Mitchell County.

There are two different areas of concern here of rotation with these storms. We just got word from storm spotters. Nine miles south of Great Bend, which has already has been hit, of a funnel cloud there moving up to the north near the airport at this time.

And then we also have a report with this one farther on up to the north of storm spotters near Ellsworth and Holy Road. That's where a tornado has been reported on the ground as we speak.

Here's the number of reports that we've had through the rest of the day. Every one of these red dots here. That's a tornado. More than 73 now. And you can see how it's so clustered in this main area. This is one of those very rare high risk days. And it's going to be an incredible situation.

I think we've had at least six different cities that I can think of off the top of my head where we've had reports of damage. That video's going to continue to stream in overnight as we get it. We'll bring it along to you. Back to you guys.

CRUZ: Incredible, it really is absolutely incredible.

MARCIANO: All right, Jacqui, we're going to be checking in with you throughout evening, no doubt about that. But right now, we are live in a devastated prairie town tonight. Greensburg, Kansas, torn to shreds. It's about 100 miles due west of Wichita.

CRUZ: CNN's Jeff Flock is on a wrecked Main Street. He joins us now live. Jeff, we do understand there is a curfew in effect. Have you seen anyone on the streets? And where, exactly are you right now?

JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in fact, Veronica, they've swept the streets tonight. So we're no longer on Main Street. We had to move out to the edge of town. This is the edge of the damage, too, inside a restaurant here tonight. Well, I say inside. This was inside before, of course, the roof lifted off of this.

So we're just on the edge of the destruction. The downtown is just that way. And the destruction there is much worse than what we see here. But this is just sort of representative of kind of what we see here in Greensburg, pretty much everywhere tonight.

As we said, this was a restaurant. The walls have come down. We can tell you that we're still at eight dead tonight. They think there is a possibility that perhaps more might be found, more folks might be found. I want to try to get in here to kind of give you some sense of what this storm did right in this location.

As we said, eight dead. They think there may be more in the rubble to be found, more bodies to be found. They do feel, though, as though they've gotten everybody out.

Piano sitting right here. As we said, no roof on this building. Piano sitting here. And tables still set up in this restaurant. It's amazing to have -- and Derrick, we talked about maybe showing folks that there's no roof in this place. If you can do that, go ahead and give them that picture right now. I'm standing amidst the tables here, which are still up and all of that, but no roof on this place.

Maybe you can see, if Derrick comes on back in, the tables are still set here. As we said, this is on the edge of the devastation. In the downtown, much worse. Walls completely down. Some buildings that you wouldn't even know there was a building there. Talked to a fellow who's house, came up out of his basement and it was completely gone. There was nothing but sky. Incredible scenes of devastation. I was in Oklahoma City some years ago. And this is really on par with that was -- they thought was about an F-6. Veronica, Rob, back to you.

MARCIANO: Jeff, looks like somebody who was in that area might be able to survive. But you mentioned downtown completely wiped out. Maybe the warnings would have helped. Maybe they wouldn't help so much when your home is completely gone. What kind of warnings did they have, local TV and radio? Are there sirens in that area? FLOCK: Indeed, they did. And there were excellent warnings, about 20 minutes. A city manager told me 20 minutes the sirens were going before the storm hit. So everybody who could hear the sirens got to the basement. That's one of the reasons they think they've only got at this point eight folks dead in this town, despite that kind of devastation because people had a chance to get to cover.

As you know, in a lot of storms, you don't get that kind of warning. And that's what leads to the widespread loss of life. Quite a story and still unfolding here. And you know, it's an electric environment here tonight. I heard you and Jacqui and the rest talking about what's out here. We've had storms come through here all evening. Winds still blowing. It's an electric environment in Kansas tonight.

MARCIANO: Certainly adding insult to injury with more storms rolling through tonight. Take care out there, Jeff. We'll check in with you later in the show. Jeff Flock for us live in Greensburg, Kansas.

FLOCK: Thanks, Rob.

CRUZ: The governor of Kansas has declared Kiowa County a disaster area and will certainly seek federal assistance. On the phone now from Topeka, someone who spoke to President Bush a short while ago, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius.

Governor, thanks so much for speaking with us tonight. I understand that you have spoken with the president. What has he had to say?

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, KANSAS GOVERNOR: Well, Victoria, I talked to the president earlier this evening. And he assured me that he would expedite the federal declaration, which I signed a couple of hours ago. I got a confirmation from Fran Townsend, the Homeland Security adviser to the president that indeed that paperwork will be processed, they hope overnight. So that's a very rapid and timely response, which we're grateful for.

You already heard the correspondent say we still have a very electric night in Kansas. We've had eight more tornados touchdown tonight. Throughout this state, we've so far have had 11 more injuries. Two of them are quite serious. Two people have been taken to the hospital. And actually here in the capital city, I am -- I'm sitting under a tornado watch as we speak. So we're hopeful that this weather pattern moves on quickly.

But we still have a lot of searching to do in Greensburg to make sure that everyone is found safe and secure. We will have centers set up hopefully by Monday to start the process of people rebuilding their lives. But we're very grateful for the rapid and timely response from Washington. The president may well come out here next week.

CRUZ: Governor, I wanted you to take a listen to this. We have some sound now from some of the folks who have been impacted by this storm. Take a listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you rebuild? All of Main Street is gone. Both of our schools are gone. So I guess that's what we're thinking. Where do we go from here?


CRUZ: Where do we go from here? I'm sure so many people in Greensburg feel this exact same way tonight. What do you have to say?

SEBELIUS: Well, one of the things that we're doing right now is assembling a house of resources. Lots of people are in the town on the ground. And everybody from first responders to all kinds of emergency personnel.

We've already been in touch with a variety of state agencies who can help the process of rebuilding. We'll have folks there from the revenue department so people can get their driver's licenses renewed immediately, that they can get birth certificate and health certificates.

We're in touch with a banking commissioner to make sure that since the local bank was destroyed, folks have a way to go to a nearby community and withdraw money and keep their lives going. We want a one stop service area for citizens set up by Monday, so they can go to one place and see their insurance agent, get their important documents, get a check cut, have social services deal with them.

CRUZ: Yes, yes.

SEBELIUS: The school situation will be a situation we're dealing with, local superintendents. But there are a lot of pieces of this puzzle. The first is some grief and some time to mourn.

CRUZ: Yes, I know. I know it's going to be a long and very difficult road, governor. Governor, our hearts and prayers are definitely with you and the folks there in Greensburg. We appreciate your time tonight, thank you.

SEBELIUS: I appreciate that. Thank you so much.

CRUZ: Let's go in and back up just a little bit. Shortly before the Kansas tornado, we're about to show you an unbelievable piece of videotape now.

MARCIANO: It is one of the clearest, closest, most terrifying looks at a tornado we've seen in a long time. This was shot by storm researchers at in Alice County, Oklahoma. Take a watch and listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turn off the wipers! Turn off the wipers! Don't get in an accident! Oh, my God. OK, stop. We're good!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, go, go! Jesus Christ!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get in. Shut your door. Shut your door. Shut your door. OK, go. Back up. Back up. We're OK. We're OK. Go on back. We're good. Hold on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four miles south of 51.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listen to the roar!


CRUZ: You know, it's almost difficult to watch. It's almost as if I don't even want to know what is going to happen next.

MARCIANO: Well, the good news with this particular twister, it's in a fairly open field. And most of the damage you see is structures where people don't seem to be living, but look at how that vortex just tears across that field like a blender. Just barreling -- like a drill as it slowly moves off to the north and east. Really slow moving. And that's one of the things that aided the storm.

Now watch this, Veronica. Watch while these mature oak trees picked up and just thrown behind it.

CRUZ: Wow.

MARCIANO: Not sure how strong that was, but certainly winds made possibly as high as 150 miles an hour.

CRUZ: Maybe like anF-3.

MARCIANO: Possibly an F-3 with that storm. Not -- you can't just look at how big, how wide the storm is to determine the strength of it. It's a misconception that a storm that's small and concise, looks like that, might not be that strong. But you see what it can do to those trees.

CRUZ: And these storm chasers, they're definitely a whole another breed.

MARCIANO: Well, they are. You know, and I certainly understand where they're coming from. It's a fascinating thing what Mother Nature can do. And unfortunately, with last night's storms, the ramifications and the human toll was taken.

CRUZ: Yes. Coming up next, we're going to be checking in live with our affiliate stations in Kansas as we bring you more coverage of the devastation in Greensburg.

MARCIANO: Plus, there's other news tonight. The latest message from al Qaeda. The terror group's number two man talks about bells, Baghdad, and President Bush.

CRUZ: Also, no Hilton for Paris. Just wait until you see where she has to stay for more than a month. MARCIANO: And a premiere horse race fit for a queen. We'll take you to the Kentucky Derby for all the action and the fashion. That's coming up in the NEWSROOM.


TIME STAMP: 2315:54

CRUZ: Let's take a look at the most popular stories right now on A new al Qaeda video has been released. Al Qaeda's second in command, Ayman al Zawahiri, talks about the veto congressional bill that tied war funding to a U.S. troop pullout from Iraq. Zawahiri says this bill reflects American failure and frustration.

MARCIANO: Dozens of African families desperately waiting for words of their loved ones tonight. It's believed a Kenya Airways jet bound for the Kenyan capital has crashed in Cameroon. The jet took off during a rainstorm carrying 114 passengers.

Also making that list, he calls himself the most blessed guy in the world after getting severely wounded in a car crash last month and spending more than a week on a ventilator. New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine will be back on the job Monday. For more on these and other stories, you can always head to the web. Log on to

MARCIANO: And we'll return to Kansas when we come back.

CRUZ: It's been more than 24 hours since a tornado tore apart a town. But it will be much, much longer before people can ever get their lives back together. We have much more straight ahead. Stay with us when the NEWSROOM returns in just 90 seconds.


TIME STAMP: 2318:41


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's no business. There's no - there's nothing. I mean, Main Street is gone. Bigwell Hospital, there's nothing. There's no jobs.


CRUZ: Homes are gone, businesses leveled, and historic landmarks that stood the test of time were no test for last night's tornado.

MARCIANO: It's hard to imagine the loss the people of Greensburg in southern Kansas are feeling tonight. Josh Wittsman of affiliate KSNW shows us a few sites that town folks treasured.


JOSH WITTSMAN, KSNW NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a landmark in Greensburg, a place where soda came the old-fashioned way. And today, this treasure is no more. GARY GOODMAN, GREENSBURG, KS RESIDENT: It lasted for well over a minute. And that's a long time for a tornado.

WITTSMAN: A minute that left Greensburg forever scarred by Mother Nature.

GOODMAN: Just -- still lightning. Yes, there were no trees, no roofs, no houses. Just gone.

WITTSMAN: Gone too were many of the landmarks that made up this Kansas town.

(on camera): Main Street is ground zero for this twister, evident by the fact a once bustling downtown has now been turned into a pile of bricks.

(voice-over): The winds destroyed everything from homes, to schools, to the well that put Greensburg on the map. The question now, will this Kansas town be able to survive?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a small town. People stick together.

WITTSMAN: In Greensburg, Josh Wittsman, KSN News.


MARCIANO: That's the town of Greensburg, Kansas tonight, what's left of it. 1400 people hit by a massive powerful tornado that nearly flattened every standing structure. Where and how will they even begin to recover?

Let's ask Ralph Rojas. He's with the Red Cross on the phone now from an emergency shelter in a nearby town of Mullenville. Ralph, with most of the structures flattened in the town of Greensburg, how far away from that area did you have to go to actually set up shelters?

RALPH ROJAS, RED CROSS VOLUNTEER: Well, not very far at all. Mullenville is about ten miles west of Greensburg.

MARCIANO: Describe for me, well, the mood of the people in the shelters. And are they filling up? Are you -- do you have room for more people who might need to come in tonight?

ROJAS: Yes, we have room for more people. We're at about 54 right now. And they're coming in and out, depending on their circumstances. Some are staying. And some are just coming in to check on folks to see if their relation is here or something to that effect.

MARCIANO: Do you find in a lot of these situations, many people will be taken in by their family, by their friends, by their neighbors. But in this case, it seems like you can't even do that because you have to go out of town. Are you sensing that everybody that's in your shelter has nowhere else to go? ROJAS: The people that are here currently, yes, they have nowhere to go. There have been some that have come in and waited for family members to come and pick them up. They were bussed out here. So there are family members in the outlying areas or the nearby communities that have come out and picked them up or some friends that they've stayed with.

MARCIANO: Roughly 1400 people in this town. Are we assuming that all -- most all of those people are displaced? And what percentage roughly do you think are held up in your shelters?

ROJAS: Oh, probably here, oh, you're talking about the shelters all together?

MARCIANO: Yes, how many are there, first of all?

ROJAS: Well, there's one here in Mullenville, and I understand there's three over in Havelin, which is east of Greensburg. And I can't give you a number because I don't know how many are over there. We probably have, again, probably about 50 or so here.

MARCIANO: Ralph, you're with the local Red Cross there. Where do you specifically live? And was your home affected by this storm?

ROJAS: No. I live in Garden City, Kansas. It's approximately oh, 90 to 100 miles west of here. And I'm actually out of the Garden City area chapter. I'm the board chair for them.

MARCIANO: Well, nonetheless, you live in the heart of tornado alley. Describe for me the mood of the folks there. I'm sure there is a certain amount of shock with this going through, but is there any sense, remarks of people live there saying, hey, you know, this is where we live, we know this can happen. This was our turn?

ROJAS: Well, obviously, yes, there is a great deal of concern, even in the communities in the area that haven't been hit. Approximately a month ago, we handled a tornado in Colorado, which is about 60, 70 miles to the west of Garden City. Now we're about 90 to 100 miles east of Garden City. So obviously, the temperature and the mood here is pretty somber. There's a lot of apprehension as to, you know, when the next community's going to get hit.

MARCIANO: Quickly, there's certainly some viewers around the country who may want to help. What kinds of things do you need? And how should people go about donating?

ROJAS: Probably the best thing they can do is just jump on the website to and make a donation there. And then with those resources, we can acquire many of the items that we need to help us with their shelter operations and to help the folks that are going to need some assistance and that sort of thing.

MARCIANO: All right, Ralph, our prayers and thoughts are with you tonight. Good luck as the rebuilding process begins.

ROJAS: OK. Appreciate it. MARCIANO: Have a great night.

CRUZ: And again, that website is

MARCIANO: Debris scattered for miles and miles. It's one of the worst disasters in Kansas history. We have more from the devastated town of Greensburg, coming up.

CRUZ: Plus, what you need to know to keep your family safe in severe weather. It is coming up all in the NEWSROOM. Stay close.


TIME STAMP: 2326:55


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, 1400 people in this community. And I believe that 95 percent of the homes are gone. And all my downtown is gone. My home's gone.


MARCIANO: More severe weather has forced rescue crews to call off their search for victims tonight in Greensburg, Kansas.

CRUZ: It is a story that we have been following throughout the evening. Nine people dead in Kansas. Most of them in Greensburg. And right now, another storm is bearing down. But there is little left in Greensburg to destroy. Here's Ann Meyer from our affiliate KSNW.


ANN MEYER, KSNW NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Block by block, the devastation is incredible. You're looking at what's left of Greensburg's Main Street. This was the city's high school.

(on camera): Take a look at this. This is all that's left of Greensburg's water tower. It's simply a twisted pile of metal. As for its best known attraction, the world's largest hand dug well, well, it survived. It's underneath that silver grate behind me.

(voice-over): Search crews have been through every structure, marking each one as they go through to make sure no victims are inside. But with all this debris, their efforts will continue for days to come.

STEVE HEWITT, GREENSBURG, KS ADMINISTRATOR: You know, 1400 people in this community. And I believe that 95 percent of the homes are gone. And all my downtown is gone. My home's gone. You know, my staff's homes are gone. You know, and we've got to find a way to make it work. Come to work every day and get this thing back on its feet. It's going to be tough.

MEYER: While the town deals with the destruction, state lawmakers arrive to begin the process of bringing aid to this broken community.

SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: Our heart goes out to the people of Greensburg. And it's going to take a real effort for the rest of Kansas to get behind this community. That's why we're here.


CRUZ: Well, the governor of Kansas has already declared the area a disaster, but she will get a firsthand view of it tomorrow. We spoke with her just moments ago and she couldn't make it there due to the second wave of bad weather. Plus, she didn't want to take the focus off of the rescue efforts.

All right, let's get you out now to the weather center. Rob has been keeping an eye on some of the affiliate video that we have just received. Rob, what are you seeing?

MARCIANO: This is our affiliate KOCO. It's Koco they call it. And it's video of a funnel cloud in Sweetwater, which eventually touched down. And we did get some reports of damage in that community. The Roger Mills County town there is part of a tornado watch that's been ongoing through the evening. There you can see pretty good definition of that particular funnel. And also some damage there of the roofs in that part of town.

And that funnel very well defined and touching down and spinning and doing some damage in that part of Oklahoma. These again from our affiliate KOCO in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where there were some reports of damage in the town of Sweetwater, Oklahoma earlier tonight.

You know, we talk a lot about warnings, watches. It's easy to get confused. So we want to go through what exactly that means. A warning, a tornado warning is issued when a tornado's either been spotted by a Doppler radar, or by storm spotters on the ground. And we have seen a tremendous amount of storms spotted by storm spotters on the ground. And we have seen a tremendous amount of storms spotted by storm spotters on the ground.

Red Cross is suggesting that you should, you know, plan before the storm comes in. I mean, if you're in a high rise building, and can't get to a lower ground, you want to choose a place and hallway in the center of the building. Certainly want to be away from windows.

Also, have supplies ready on hand because likely, you know, electricity, gas, water could be out for a while. Canned food, a manual can opener, three gallons of water per person, protective clothing and sleeping bags and a battery-powered flashlight and a battery-powered radio would be a good call as well.

And you know, we keep talking about those NOAA -- those NOAA radios which you plug them in with their batteries as a back up, and set them for your county, and they'll sound the alarm while you're asleep. You don't even have to worry about it.

Jacqui Jeras has been worrying about lots of things. She's got new information now on the other end of the severe weather center. Jacqui?

JERAS: Yes, that radar picture right there behind you, Rob, that's the one we saw the video from Sweetwater. This storm is still holding together. It's the same parent cell. And there you can see it on radar. This is Ellis County under a tornado warning. And we did have a report of a touchdown earlier. No damage being reported, but I'll put this into motion for you. And there you can see the storm. Sweetwater is right in this area in here. And there you can see that storm still holding together, as it pushes on up to the north and the east.

And Rob, I'm just going to show this NOAA weather radio that you were talking about because we just think this is a life saver. Tonight you're going to bed, it's going to be dark out. You're not going to see anything. And you will hear this go off. If you don't have one, you really need to have one. Veronica? Back to you.

CRUZ: All right, Jacqui, we know that you've been very busy tonight. We do appreciate it, thanks.

He is in charge of the town, but he's in the same mess as everyone else.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I believe that 95 percent of the homes are gone. And all my downtown is gone. My home's gone, you know? My staff's homes are gone. You know, and we've got to find a way to make it work.


CRUZ: His incredible story is coming up, as we continue our coverage from tornado ravaged Greensburg, Kansas.

Plus, Paris Hilton heading to jail? Why this socialite will soon be behind bars.

And her royal highness enjoys a truly colorful day at the races. Stay with us. The CNN NEWSROOM will be right back.


TIME STAMP: 2335:22


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not going to be another Katrina in regards to housing and assistance and FEMA and law enforcement and everybody else. Already we have emergency people there. Already FEMA has been notified and they're standing at the ready.


CRUZ: Greensburg, Kansas is under a curfew tonight after being torn to shreds by a powerful tornado. MARCIANO: Eight people are dead in that town. Another person killed nearby. Dozens injured. And most of Greensburg's homes and businesses are completely destroyed. The town itself is about 100 miles west of Wichita. But tonight, it's virtually wiped off the map. CNN's Jeff Flock takes us through the devastation.


JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The only way to get the enormity of the destruction is from the air. But the only way to see its completeness is on the ground.

I mean, that -- that bark looks like it has been just ripped clear of the tree.

STEVE HEWITT, GREENSBURG CITY ADMINISTRATOR: Yes, this -- I mean, all over town we're seeing this is typical all over town.

FLOCK: All over Steve Hewitt's town. He's city manager of a community that doesn't really exist anymore.

HEWITT: This was city hall.

FLOCK: This is where you worked.

HEWITT: Where I worked.

FLOCK: The town's center, churches, most of the houses, Hewitt takes us to a place now off limits to all but search and rescue.

HEWITT: Everything's destroyed. The city is destroyed. 95 percent of this city is destroyed.

FLOCK: That includes Steve Hewitt's house, too, the one his grandfather built with his own hands. It kind of looked like this one. He'd show us, but it is completely gone. He was in the basement.

HEWITT: It's hard to believe, you know? It's -- I'm reliving it in my mind right now what we did. I held my son as he cried. My wife was crying. She - you know, we were -- we got close together, but yet it was over, I walked around the corner, I looked up the stairs and I saw nothing but sky. No more house. And I walked up and looked and no more neighborhood.

FLOCK: No more Greensburg. At least not as they knew it.

(on camera): It is difficult to convey just how widespread this destruction stretches and how bad it is. I have not seen one single structure, either home or business in this town that has not damaged in some way. And most of them are like this, completely leveled. You got some warning.

HEWITT: Yes, we had excellent warning. We had -- our sirens went off for 20 minutes plus. FLOCK: That, he says, is the only reason more are not dead, though he doesn't rule out finding more bodies in the rubble. But Steve Hewitt is one of the lucky ones. When we talked, he hadn't slept since Thursday. He has no house, no car, no possessions. Clothes?

HEWITT: No clothes.

FLOCK: What you got.

HEWITT: What I got.

FLOCK: Maybe it was the lack of sleep, maybe it is having nothing left, but what he most treasures, his wife and child, but Steve Hewitt is determined to put Greensburg back together.

HEWITT: It's scary. It's scary. Where are we going to go? But yet I feel like we're going to do it because I just think we're a small community. We all work together. We're all friends. We know each other. It's time for us to come together. We're going to have come. We're going to have to rebuild. We're going to build the city from the ground up because we don't have a city.


CRUZ: And that was Jeff Flock reporting for us.

Now we want to bring you some of the unbelievable sights and sounds from the twisters that ripped through Oklahoma and Kansas. Take a look at what professional storm chasers caught on tape.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no. The structures, oh, no! No. Wow! I got it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We came around that curve right there in our pickup. It wasn't even on the ground. It was like -- if felt like it was spinning. We could see everything flying. And it sounded like diesel engines.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jet engines. You know, it was just horrible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our sirens went off for a good 20 minutes before the electricity went out. And we heard it coming. So we were in the basement under the pool table. Sounds like -- just like they tell you it sounds like. Loud, look a train coming, gas popping.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your ears, your head.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, your head pounds. The walls shake. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After it was over, we just tried to get out as quick as possible. And you know, the entire Bay Street area was wiped out. Ladies trapped in their houses. And it was -- it was horrible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I actually helped get a couple of older ladies that was still in her bed, one of them was, like 92 years old. And she was cut pretty good. And got her out to the ambulance and everything. So I'm just glad we was able to be able someone, you know, help some of the people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people involved with fire and EMS and the sheriff's office, the (INAUDIBLE) folks, all the agencies, they've lost their own homes. And they're trying to deal with that at the same time. So, you know, you've got to be able to give them a little bit of time because in most cases, they're some in shock themselves.


CRUZ: It is absolutely shocking. Let's get you back now to the CNN Weather Center, where Rob and Jacqui are standing by.

Well, what are you guys learning now?

MARCIANO: Well, it has been an incredible night as you know, Veronica. And Jacqui Jeras has been very busy here in the severe weather center. We've had reports of over 70 tornados stretching over six different states. Now we've got watches going well into the evening and into the early morning hours. And this one cell that you've been watching, which is very close to that Sweetwater -- is it the same one?

JERAS: The same cell. Yes, the same one.

MARCIANO: It's still going?

JERAS: It is. And - you know, what's really impressed me, I guess about tonight's severe weather event is not just the sheer number of tornados that we've had overall, but how many ground reports we've gotten, Rob.

You know, you always see tornado warnings, doppler radar indicated. But it seems like - I've had about 80 percent of them that I've seen tonight, have actually been spotters that have seen those tornados. And of course, all that video that we're getting in shows it.

That one isolated cell you see right there, that started out in this area right here. This is where Sweetwater is and caused all that damage. And then continued to move on up to the north and to the east. And there is still a tornado warning on it. And that includes you in Ellis County. This is in rural areas right now. So doesn't look like anyone is being affected at this exact time.

There you can see some of the pictures that we've been getting in of all of the damage. Just so much devastation. It's just been an incredible night.

And these tornados have been touching down everywhere from South Dakota, all the way down into the panhandle of Texas. So this covers hundreds and hundreds of miles.

Now new watches have been issued, replacing the old watches. And these are going to be ongoing through the overnight hours. Now, still a PDS watch as we call it into eastern parts of South Dakota. That's a particularly dangerous situation. Here across Nebraska until 5:00 in the morning. Central parts of Kansas where we have been hit over and over and over since probably 3:00 this afternoon, that PDS watch again, particularly dangerous situation, until 5:00 in the morning. 6:00 in the morning for you in Oklahoma. And then looking at 3:00 in the morning here across western parts of Iowa.

And that's why you need your NOAA weather radio, because this is going to be an overnight event for you. You're going to go to bed. Those sirens may go off. And many of these counties in Oklahoma and Kansas have been hearing those sirens over and over tonight.

Now this is an extreme weather event. This big purple that you see here in the middle of the screen, that's a high risk of tornados. When the storm prediction center issue a high risk, that means they're expecting a major outbreak of severe weather. 20 or more tornados, many of which of those could be F-2 or greater, that can cause significant damage to a home.

There you can see we have a strong low level jet as we call it coming in from the south, transporting all kinds of warmth and moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. We have dry air pushing in from the west. And a strong upper level jet meaning that the winds are moving at different directions at different levels in the atmosphere. And that's why we get tornados on a day like today.

Now what about tomorrow? That high risk goes in effect until tomorrow morning, say 6:00, 7:00 in the morning. And then tomorrow, the storm prediction center thinks this is going to be a much quieter day. Only a slight risk of severe weather. But notice some of the same cities could be affected tomorrow as this is such a slow moving system. Back to you, guys.

CRUZ: All right, Jacqui. We're going to keep watching for any other weather developments tonight and bring them to you as they happen.

Coming up next in the NEWSROOM, where Paris is going next and no, it is definitely not a Hilton. See where she'll be staying part of the summer.

And I wonder if she placed any bets? A big race gets the royal treatment. The NEWSROOM will return after a quick break.


TIME STAMP: 2347:18 MARCIANO: Switching gears here just a little bit. She's used to partying all night, hanging out with her friends. But now she's got more of a restricted schedule and certainly a whole new posse to roll with.

CRUZ: Yes. Sans the bodyguards, sans the Hollywood brat pick, Paris Hilton has been sentenced to 45 days in an L.A. County lockup for violating probation. It sounds like the making of another season of "The Simple Life." but this is definitely and unfortunately for her real life.

Hilton was ticketed for driving with a suspended license. She's scheduled to report to a women's jail by June 5th.

Now Paris Hilton will not be in gen pop, which is short for general population. Like other high profile inmates, she'll be segregated for her own safety, living in a 12 by 8 cell. The cell itself won't have any luxury accommodations. Hilton will have her pick of a top or a bottom bunk, along with a thin mattress, and in cell toilet and sink.

And by the way, doesn't necessarily look like there's any room for a full length mirror. And I don't know if you caught the pictures of her walking into the courtroom the other day, she had her makeup mirror in hand and was touching up and powdering her nose. So we know that she likes the mirror. And you saw the jail cell, right.

MARCIANO: Well - certainly want to look good when you're heading to the big house for 45 days. And it doesn't look like a heavenly bed, that's for sure.

CRUZ: No, no.

MARCIANO: Well, we'll certainly keep you posted on her progress.

CRUZ: Yes. In the meantime, it has been said that she knows more about horses than anyone in England.

MARCIANO: So it's no surprise the queen went to the track today. She went to Churchill Downs where they ran for the roses. That's coming up.

CRUZ: And we're following all kinds of new developments out of Kansas, where it has been a stormy 24 hours. And it is not over yet.


TIME STAMP: 2352:01

CRUZ: It was an event fit for a queen. Queen Elizabeth and husband Prince Philip were among the thousands of fans to converge on the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs this afternoon. Only twice before in 133 years has the derby attracted so many. Somewhere around 156,000 plus people were there, hats and all.

MARCIANO: And as for the superstar at the derby, Street Sense came from next to last to win the race. There you see it. It won the roses. And that's what it's all about or is it about the queen and her hats?

CRUZ: It's definitely about the hats. It's definitely about the hats and the mint juleps.

MARCIANO: Never had a mint julep.

CRUZ: Do you think the queen had a mint julep?

MARCIANO: I don't know. I think she probably maybe whet her whistle on a mint julep. What's the sense of going if you don't do that?

CRUZ: Well, let's get back to the hats for a second. The hats, of course, as much of a draw as the horses.

MARCIANO: Yes, just a few funky, fashionable and in some cases, funny headgear show you at the race today.

CRUZ: What is that?

MARCIANO: Oh, the guys getting into the action.

CRUZ: All right, OK.

MARCIANO: I thought it was just for gals.

CRUZ: Hats off to him. I like it.

MARCIANO: He's one of the volunteers at the race there.

CRUZ: Yes. It is definitely all about the hats. I'm wondering if the queen placed a bet on a pony. You think?

MARCIANO: She certainly - I certainly hope she probably did more than $2 across the board.


MARCIANO: That's pretty cool bonnet there.

CRUZ: I like that one. OK, that one wins in my book. And generally, hats off to all of the volunteers heading to Kansas tonight as well.

MARCIANO: That's for sure.

Well, help is something people in Greensburg, Kansas desperately need. That's for sure. We're going to update the top story, the deadly tornados. That's in the NEWSROOM when we come back.


TIME STAMP: 2336:47

CRUZ: Now we've got some new video just into us. This is from Let's take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we can do it. Be careful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Face the tornado.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Moving to the northeast at five miles an hour. Location is impacted by the storm.



CRUZ: So Rob, how would you describe this? Is this a wedge tornado?

MARCIANO: Well, we've been throwing around the term wedge and rope tornados quite a bit. Rope are the tightly spinning tornados that -- a wedge is something that just looks like the entire cloud crops out of the cloud and hits the ground as a big old wedge. That one looks like it's not quite a wedge yet, but it certainly could become one.

Pratt to the west of Wichita, most of the action, not only last night, but tonight to the west of Wichita in this new video. Once again dramatic video we've had out of Kansas. We've had video out of Oklahoma right on the Texas state line.

CRUZ: Again, just look at the power. I mean, look at all the debris just kind of flying up into the air.

MARCIANO: When these things get dangerous, one, when night falls, and two, when they start to get what we call rain wrap. You can see the windshield wipers going on this storm chaser's car, indicating it is raining around that tornado. And that's one of the reasons it doesn't quite look as clear and vivid as some of the other video that we've shown you.

CRUZ: Right. And rain and hail often signifies there's going to be a tornado.

MARCIANO: Certainly, yes. But we can see tornados without rain. Those are the clearest ones. When we get it - a lot of rain - trying to get wrap, reduce the visibility. And one of the fatalities that was described for us by an official in Kansas tonight was that a sheriff was in -- near that tornado, that was rain wrapped, couldn't see it. And for that reason, he lost his life. Dangerous situation, but the video certainly is amazing to watch.

CRUZ: Yes.

MARCIANO: All right, let's go back to the prairie town in Greensburg, Kansas. Practically all of the 1400 residents there are homeless tonight.

CRUZ: Yes, and this is why overnight tornados shredded nearly every home, every place of business, every church and every school.


HEWITT: You know, 1400 people in this community. And I believe that 95 percent of the homes are gone. And all my downtown is gone. My home is gone.


CRUZ: Nine people in Kansas were reported killed when the storms roared through Kiowa and Stafford Counties. Much of the state remains under a severe weather warning tonight. And weather officials report more than 60 tornado touchdowns across the Midwest on Saturday alone.

MARCIANO: Tomorrow looks to be a little bit quieter. Unbelievable how the same areas that got hammered last night, Veronica, are under the gun again tonight.

CRUZ: Yes, I know.

MARCIANO: That's something you don't see every day.

CRUZ: I know, it is absolutely amazing.

MARCIANO: We will keep an eye on it as things roll through the evening. Still several tornado watches that are in effect through the early morning hours. Tomorrow, as we mentioned, looks to be a little bit more of a quiet day.

I'm Rob Marciano.

CRUZ: I'm Veronica de la Cruz. Enjoy your night.


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