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Tornado Devastates Kansas Town; Egypt Conference Wraps Up; Kenya Airways Plane Missing

Aired May 5, 2007 - 07:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN CO-ANCHOR, CNN SATURDAY MORNING: From the CNN Center, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING. It is Cinco de Mayo, the 5th of May. Good morning to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CO-ANCHOR, CNN SATURDAY MORNING: Oh, what a morning it is on this Cinco de Mayo. Good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen. We want to thank you for starting your day with us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We heard the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the basement and just sat huddled in the hallway. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the offices down there, and listened to the outside above us.


NGUYEN: Hard to hear him because, a late night twister has actually left a Kansas town searching for survivors this morning. We're going to talk about the weather. Also this breaking story, we're going to bring it to you all morning long.

HOLMES: Also we've got trouble in the Deep South. We'll have the latest on the washout in southern Louisiana.

NGUYEN: But first let's get you straight to our breaking news today. The devastation from a powerful tornado in Kansas -- the town of Greensburg took a direct hit from this twister. These pictures are just in to us this morning, showing us some of the destruction. Now, dozens of people are injured. Witnesses say at least 75 percent of the town was damaged or destroyed.

HOLMES: Also reports this morning from emergency officials of people trapped in a hospital that has partially collapsed. Search crews also going door-to-door. Residents describe what it was like when the tornado hit.


JEFFRY ALLRED, WITNESS: We heard the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) down to the basement, and we just sat huddled in the hallway, between the bathroom, and the offices down there, and listened to the outside moving away above us. The basement stayed intact and people were all OK and we came out about an hour later to see that everything across the street was gone.

(END VIDEO CLIP) NGUYEN: The street was gone is what he said. Now we're also getting dramatic pictures from tornadoes that touched down in Oklahoma. Look at this. Officials report some damage but no injuries. Now let's get you the latest on these storms. And for that we go to meteorologist Reynolds Wolf in the Severe Weather Center. I want to ask you about this, the major tornado that ripped through. It's called a wedge tornado. Talk to us about what that means.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, a wedge tornado is simply based on the shape of the storm itself. Sounds like a very simple, logical explanation. But it's plain and simple what it is. In fact, we actually have a -- an image that was taken from a cell phone camera. We're going to share that with you right now just off in the horizon. You can see it right there.

Looks like a giant wedge. A very wide tornado, very wide at the base, and I believe that it's estimated or rather guesstimated that it was up to a mile or at least over a mile in width, not unusual -- the tornado that took place in Ardmore, Oklahoma, years ago that caused a lot of damage around Oklahoma state was also a classic wedge tornado. These are very destructive. Impossible to say just from one snapshot that this would be, on the enhanced Fujita Scale, an F-0, F-1, F-2, F- 3, F-4, or F-5. I would say it definitely leans towards the stronger stages to say the very least.

To tell you the story, what we're going to do is we're going to show you not only images like that, we're going to take you back in time with the use of our satellite imagery. This was the situation last night. We had a few storms that were just in the northern plains, come right over parts the state of Oklahoma and into Kansas. But I want you to focus right near the Kansas and into the Nebraska border.

I'm going to put this into motion and just look at this -- just development, the explosive development of that storm. That is what we just saw and sure enough we still have some tornado watches that remain in effect. Now we're going to show you what's happening at this moment. As we speak, we're still seeing a great deal of storm activity near Lincoln; we've got one severe thunderstorm warning just the south of Lincoln, this storm moving to the north and northeast. If you happen to be in the Lincoln area, you might want to take cover.

No tornadoes, no tornado warnings, but still some very strong storms, also (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we're seeing some bow echoes pop up, kind of a bow shape from this cluster of thunderstorms indicating the strong wind that we're going to see with this particular cluster. That's a pattern we're going to see throughout much of the day right into the Central Plains. Certainly something you want to watch out for and certainly something we're going to keep you informed on throughout the day and into the evening if need be -- back to you.

NGUYEN: Let me ask you this, Reynolds, because we're going to be talking a lot about this storm today.

WOLF: Sure. NGUYEN: It touched down what about 9:30 and I guess we're going to look at the positive side of this, at least some folks were up to hear the warnings.

WOLF: Oh, absolutely. You know, just a little bit of warning can make a whole world of difference for many people, for many communities. Last week you'll remember I had the opportunity to go chasing some of these storms. I can tell you firsthand they develop so rapidly. They really, really do.

They can also dissipate very quickly. But any warning is a tremendous thing. I don't know if the warnings that they got were just by local television forecasters. I imagine they were. I don't know if they had tornado sirens in their communities. That is certainly a possibility. But regardless of how word got out, it indeed did and certainly helped a lot of folks.

NGUYEN: Yes, we're going to learn a lot more about those warnings today and just get a number of those injured. So far the good news, we don't have any deaths reported as of yet. Thank you, Reynolds.

WOLF: You bet.

HOLMES: Yes, we're going to get some more of those details now actually from Sharon Watson on the phone with us from Topeka, Kansas. She's a spokeswoman for Kansas Emergency Management.

Ma'am, thank you for being with us. I know you've been dealing with the situation all night. A lot of our viewers are just waking up to it, but give us a sense of just how bad it is in Greensburg, Kansas.

SHARON WATSON, KANSAS EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT (via phone): Well, the staff that we have on the ground there are indicating that a minimum of 75 percent of the town has been impacted. Many buildings simply demolished and leveled, some with a significant amount of damage. The hospital there was partially collapsing earlier in the night, which caused some people to be trapped. But the good news is about 30 people who were trapped there have now been rescued.

Minor injuries reported for those individuals. So that's a positive that has come out of the night. We have search and rescue teams there from Wichita, from Sedgwick County, area, who are assisting. The National Guard has been called out. About 40 soldiers are now providing security to the Greensburg area. And we have communication issues that have been resolved overnight regarding the 911 system, which had been hit, and completely knocked out. We were able to take a communication on wheels unit, and get that 911-system re-established.

HOLMES: And, ma'am, that was going to be certainly one of the major questions about the hospital there, it sounds like that situation turned out a lot better than it was sounding throughout the night. You sound like you have everybody accounted for in that hospital, minor injuries. What about around town? Have people left their homes? I know officials were going door- to-door. Have you pretty much accounted for everybody in town or do you still have some missing? And give us an update on the injuries.

WATSON: Not at this time. We are still in the process of assessing that situation, and making sure that we can account for everyone in the town. And that's an ongoing process. We don't have an exact number yet on injuries but certainly we're monitoring that closely to try to gather all the information as the reports come in.

And once daylight comes, that will help everyone to assess the situation much better. But we have had teams there from throughout the region, local emergency crews, as well as assistance from the state coming in to help and from other areas, as well. Emergency crews from surrounding counties poured into the area to help out because of the medical response needs...

HOLMES: And ma'am, as best as you can describe, you said 75 percent of the town has been touched by this. Are we talking at least from the pictures we're seeing, we see devastation. Is it fair to say that 75 percent of this town has been leveled?

WATSON: It's fair to say that it's -- 75 percent has been impacted and portions of it leveled. And it's more likely you'll find damaged buildings and leveled buildings than ones that are still standing.

HOLMES: And ma'am, have you had problems, as well, I know this hospital is a small hospital and the next closest hospital is not too close, I understand, has there been issues and have you gotten everything you need as far as getting the injured to hospitals that are other hospitals that really aren't that close?

WATSON: Yes. There have been people being transported to other areas, and of course, there has been storms moving throughout the region, so there's been some reports of situations in other areas that we've been monitoring, too. But Greensburg seems to be the area hardest-hit at this time, and we'll continue to get better information as the morning goes on, as to exactly how many people we have injured in that town.

HOLMES: Also, where are people being taken? You were talking about injuries there. But just as far as people who are out of their homes, how are they being taken care of right now?

WATSON: The American Red Cross has set up shelters in the school in Havilland, and also at Barclay College, and we have the National Guard there available to assist with setting up additional shelters as they might be needed.

HOLMES: And as far as warning in this town, it's a small town, do people there get a good enough heads up from the weather reports? Do they have tornado sirens in that town, do you know?

WATSON: The indications are that there was plenty of warning time, that the TV stations there were carrying this, covering it very closely before it happened. So, that may be something that will help us to determine exactly the amount of minimal injuries we hope to see out of this, if enough people got the warnings soon enough. And that's the early indications at this point.

HOLMES: And we're talking here about Greensburg, but no storms rolled through a lot of Kansas last night, but any other areas impacted, maybe not as significantly, but still in a significant manner by storms that went through last night?

WATSON: There were reports of a tornado touching down in Macksville, and also some areas around Barton County, in the Great Bend area that were impacted, as well. But we don't have anything indicating nearly the damage that we've seen in Greensburg.

WATSON: All right, Sharon Watson, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Emergency Management. Ma'am, thank you so much for keeping us updated. I know it's been a long night for you all. And a lot more work to come as you get a better look at that damage when daylight hits, but thank you so much for the updates.

WATSON: You're welcome.

NGUYEN: And we will see many more pictures come in to CNN and as soon as we get those we'll bring them to you. But right now we're getting information flowing in as to exactly how this happened and how many people are affected. And for that we want to show you how this is playing out on the Web, so let's go to CNN's Nicole Lapin with the latest there.

Good morning.

NICOLE LAPIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Betty -- this news of course still breaking out of Kansas. It will be developing throughout the morning, but our viewers who are just tuning in can get the latest right now on-line at That's where you're going to find this special section that's very interesting. It's all about tornadoes.

You can check your knowledge of twisters in this quiz right here. For example, what time of day is a tornado most likely to strike? Well, the answer is between 3:00 in the afternoon, and 9:00 p.m. So Betty that makes sense, because the tornado in Kansas that touched down last night, happened right around that time. Also, be sure to check out the special section on tornado myths and facts.

One big misconception is that small tornadoes are less destructive than big ones. Well, the truth of it is that even a thin tornado can pack such a powerful punch, and cause so much havoc just as much as a larger one. And for more on how tornadoes are classified and also the science behind them you can find all of this information by going to a special section at It's very easy to get there.

And I'm also going to be monitoring the weather very closely. I'll be back later with more from the dotcom desk -- the blogosphere already buzzing. We're going to get a lot more color on what Greensburg, Kansas, is really like. Also if there's anyone with photos, video, anything from the tornado damage, please send those in to us. Just go on-line and go to the I-Report section on, and follow the instructions. Or you can just e-mail us your tornado experience at -- Betty and T.J.

NGUYEN: All right, Nicole. Thank you for that. We'll be checking in with you.

In the meantime, though, a desperate search is under way right now for a Kenya Airways plane that's been reported missing this morning. The airline says it lost contact with the flight soon after it took off from Cameroon en route to Nairobi. There were 114 passengers on board, plus a crew. The Boeing 737-800 included one American.

Now relatives, they are awaiting the plane's arrival at Nairobi's International Airport. They have wept and actually collapsed after hearing the news of this. The head of the Kenya Airways says he can't confirm a radio report that the plane crashed in southern Cameroon.

Now, what forced that massive pet food recall? A whole other story that we've been dealing with, as well -- well that's becoming even bigger. It's now affecting chickens.

HOLMES: Well, are humans in danger in this thing? We'll get in to that here shortly. Plus need to talk about New Orleans. They're seeing rising waters again. How Hurricane Katrina may be affecting flooding today.

NGUYEN: Also, we're going to continue to bring you the latest on the tornado that just tore through a Kansas town. We're going to get a lot more, by the way of video, coming in to CNN. And as the sun rises we're going to take a good look at the damage, plus the injuries. So stay with CNN, you're watching CNN SATURDAY MORNING.


NGUYEN: All right, take a look at this Google map right now. We're showing you Kansas in that red box because Greensburg, Kansas, took a direct hit from a very large tornado. We don't know the extent of that tornado just yet. But we do know that the damage has, according to officials there, pretty much destroyed 75 percent of the town. Now, look at this new video coming in to CNN. This is one of the survivors. Let's take a listen.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) what goes through your mind?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We walked down here, and talked to people as we came, and it's gone. I mean, what went through our mind was how do you rebuild? All of Main Street is gone. Both of our schools are gone. So, that's -- I guess that's what we're thinking, where do we go from here? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was your biggest shock (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just rubble. There's nothing left. It's pretty crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, good luck and thanks for coming over...



NGUYEN: So that is just some of the new video coming in to CNN from Greensburg, Kansas. A city that just really took a direct hit from what they call a wedge tornado. This is a very large tornado that blew through the town. Some folks are saying that it's close to maybe half a mile to a mile wide. We're going to get more information on that.

But T.J., the thing about this storm as we're looking at those who just gathered around, we were listening to storm chaser a little bit earlier, and that person was saying that essentially people were coming out of their homes just walking around in a daze, just confused. Some injured, many injured, in fact, dozens of them injured.

The local hospital, part of that building collapsed. So you have City Hall damage. You have the main area through downtown damage. You have schools damaged. And you have people in the hospital, while parts of that building had collapsed and injured folks are trying to get help. So a lot was going on and a lot is still going on at this hour, as the search for survivors continues in Greensburg, Kansas.

HOLMES: Some little better news, and at least we heard from the Emergency Management folks that some of the injuries, not that serious. And it didn't sound like there were very serious injuries and no deaths certainly reported right now. That is a blessing at this point, certainly seeing some of that devastation. So we're going to be covering that story all this morning, and like you said, as the sun rises and hits that town we're going to get a better idea of the devastation there in Greensburg.

Meanwhile we've got other news certainly going on -- an international conference on Iraq. Well it's wrapped up in Egypt, without a moment many had been watching for -- talks between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Iran's foreign minister. The U.S. and Iran don't really have diplomatic ties, but both nations sounded interested in improving relations, but neither diplomat willing to make the first move.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm not given to chasing anyone. But, I thought that we've had a very good conference here, and the interactions that I've had have been excellent interactions. MANOUCHER MOTTAKI, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: If we see (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and realize an action, and reach to a common agenda, definitely, there is no barrier for talks and negotiation on Iraq.


HOLMES: Rice did talk with the diplomat from another U.S. adversary during the conference, Syria. It was the first high-level meeting between the two countries in more than two years.

Well, what happens now that the president has vetoed the Iraq spending bill? Some lawmakers say the spending bill is urgent, or else our troops will be affected. We'll dig deep into that coming up. Stay here.


NGUYEN: Want to take you live now to Greensburg, Kansas, where the sun is just coming up and we're going to get an estimate of just how badly this town has been damaged from a tornado.

Kim Wilhelm from CNN affiliate KWCH has filed this report. Take a listen.


KIM WILHELM, KWCH REPORTER: Yes, if -- the sun will I imagine be coming up here in the next half hour or so, and you know, that's, I guess, one big point here is that, you know, when this all hit of course it was pitch black out. You know, all the power was out. They did have some emergency lights set up in the triage area where they were trying to get people to the hospital as quickly as they could.

But there's something about when the sun comes up, and when this whole place will turn to daylight that you will really, I think, see the impact of what has happened here overnight. You know, you can walk through the streets and can you see piles of rubble, but, until these folks, I think, have a chance to see it in the daytime, you know, people are still in shock here. They are absolutely in shock all evening and throughout this morning; we've just kind of watched people as they've wandered through the streets.

Of course their first priority making sure their friends and neighbors and family were OK, but really the shock of what has happened I don't think has quite sunk in yet. But as soon as that sun comes up I'm sure we'll have a few more folks -- you know, it sinks in once you actually see everything in the daylight here.

We do know that they have set up a temporary morgue at a local bar here. Again, we have one confirmed fatality, but we are not sure how many more people may have died from this tornado -- Kim.


WILHELM: We have had a chance to talk to a number of people and believe it or not a lot of these folks are not residents here. They have come in. We ran into a gal from Wichita who had heard about this, and drove all night to try to get here to assist in any way. She actually found a little dog who was wandering on the street, and she's an animal lover and her heart was just breaking for this dog, so she had picked this dog up and was trying to find a place to take it to make sure it was OK.

I mean there are stories after stories after stories like this here. We did have a chance to talk to a mother and daughter. They own a funeral home here in town. They said their home was partially destroyed here, that they're just thankful that everybody in their family, to their knowledge, is OK. The funeral home was also damaged.

But she said, you know, just really puts everything in perspective about what's important in your life. Of course you know we all talk about the personal property and here we are this morning talking about what buildings have been damaged and things like that. But she said, you know, when it comes down to it, of course, your family, your friends and your neighbors are what you're most concerned about in a situation like this.


NGUYEN: And that was CNN affiliate KWCH's Kim Wilhelm filing that report for her local station a little bit earlier today. As we look at the video we're going to see a lot more of this today, especially as the sun rises. Again, we've been told by officials that a very large wedge tornado swept through Greensburg, Kansas, possibly even a half mile wide this tornado. We're going to get some estimates on how large it is in the coming days, but I think by looking at the video, especially some of it of the buildings, you're going to see extensive damage.

Officials have even told us that at least 75 percent of the town has experienced heavy damage, and some parts of it even flattened because of this tornado. So we're going to keep a very close eye on this and continue to cover it all morning long. Right now I want to send you over to T.J.

HOLMES: Yes, Betty, we're going to turn to some politics now -- a busy day today for many of the presidential hopefuls. Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani in Charleston, South Carolina, he's giving the commencement address to the Citadel's Corps of Cadets. Also Republican Mitt Romney also doing some commencement work today.

The former Massachusetts governor will be at Regent University in Virginia Beach. Romney, who is a Mormon, may be looking to make inroads with Christian conservatives, also evangelicals. But his address, of course, at Pat Robertson's university, but Romney's people say his speech won't focus on faith. Also on the Republican side, Senator John McCain in Nevada today -- he's been stumping for support in California the last couple of days, the Republican hopeful hosting a town hall meeting in Reno.

Nevada has drawn a steady stream of candidates since announcing that they'll hold early presidential caucuses next January. Meanwhile, we turn to the Democrats now and Louisiana the main destination today. Senator Barack Obama will be there this afternoon. He'll speak at the National Conference of Black Mayors in Baton Rouge.

That's followed by a stop at a charter school in New Orleans. Senator Hillary Clinton also in Baton Rouge today, speaking to the National Conference of Black Mayors, as well. Ahead of her visit a 19-year-old college student has been arrested. The guy you're seeing there, he's accused of planning an attack against Clinton. Richard Wargo is his name. He's being held now on $1 million bond. Police say Wargo was a freshman at LSU, approached a fellow student to help him commit arson against Clinton's Baton Rouge headquarters -- Betty.

NGUYEN: OK, well how is the Iraq spending bill veto affecting our troops? Joshua Levs joins us with a look at that.

JOSHUA LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you've got it. You know it's pretty much the biggest story of this entire week. And if you were paying attention to Washington you kept hearing one word over and over. Urgent, that the Iraq bill is urgent. Well how urgent is it? We're going to take a look at that coming up right here on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.



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NGUYEN: Yes, it is, because they are waking up to destruction in Kansas. Here are some overnight video. We're going to see a lot more today. A twister has torn through a small town. It is a breaking story that we are going to be on, like I said, all morning long. Especially as those pictures start rolling in as the sun rises.

Welcome back, everybody. It's been a busy Cinco de Mayo already. I'm Betty Nguyen.

HOLMES: And I'm T.J. Holmes. Let's get right to that devastation. A lot of folks tuning in to us just waking up. We have been talking about it all morning. But if you haven't seen yet some of the worst damage we're seeing is from Greensburg, Kansas. Dozens of people injured, reports of at least one fatality. Witnesses say at least 75 percent of the town is damaged or destroyed.

And emergency officials say search crews rescued several people from a partially collapsed hospital. Crews also going door-to-door serving for survivors. Witnesses describe taking cover as that twister hit.


JEFFREY ALLRED, WITNESS: We heard the sirens go off (INAUDIBLE) we went down to the basement, and we just sat huddled in the hallway between the bathroom, and the offices down there. And listened to the house be lifted away above us.


NGUYEN: We are also getting dramatic pictures from tornadoes that touched down in Oklahoma. Look at this. Official reports some damage, but believe it or not, despite what you're seeing, no injuries. Going to get the latest on the storms now, and for that we go to meteorologist Reynolds Wolf in the severe weather center.

Help us sort this out, Reynolds. We had a very large wedge tornado that tore through Greensburg. But I understand there were other tornadoes, as well, that touched down.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Oh, you're absolutely right. Here are tornadoes that touched down in parts of Oklahoma. We had quite a few -- hold on one second, bear with me. Take a look at this, Betty. See this? These are all reports that we had from last night for tornado warnings and watches that popped up all across the landscape.

Now we had video one that was near Oklahoma City. Another one, of course, the one that affected Kansas. But there are widespread reports of many tornadoes, some of these possibly formed in places that weren't even seen by people. I mean, there's a lot of wide open prairie in that part of the world.

But the one we're really focusing on is, of course, the one in Kansas. Now the way things stand right now, we still have that tornado watch that is in effect for a good part of both Nebraska, and northern Kansas. That will remain in effect until 8:00 local time, 8:00 Central time.

At this point we don't have any tornado warnings but there's still that potential. What we're going to be seeing are more storms, mainly south of Lincoln right now and just to the southeast. These are intense thunderstorms, not severe, but still strong enough to produce deadly lightning, possibly large hail, and of course there's also the potential for some flash flooding, because many of these storms are forming over areas where the ground is already saturated.

Farther back out to the west/northwest near Ord and back near say, just O'Neill, we're seeing more development. You're going to get a little bit of a break in spots like Broken Bow and back over to Gothenburg. But later this afternoon, we will see more development.

There is the potential that we could see widespread thunderstorms, maybe large hail, damaging winds, but this time a little bit farther east into the corn belt of Iowa, still into portions of the Dakotas, back into Nebraska, and into Kansas. So we're not done just yet.

We do have an image, a great image that was taken just yesterday, a great image of a very scary thing. This was taken by just someone's camera phone. And this was near, of course, Greensburg, Kansas. There's that wedge tornado. Again, wedge, because of just the shape, a wide tornado, possibly up to a mile wide.

And that tells you just about the sheer, I guess, what's the word to look for here? I guess just the devastation that these things can bring. Just in comparison with a hurricane. A hurricane is -- can be up to 100 miles wide or wider and the strongest hurricane is a Category 5 with winds up to 155 miles an hour.

In comparison, the strongest tornado can be double that, up to 318 miles per hour, because of at least on the scale -- the enhanced Fujita scale. So again, although these tornadoes are much smaller, the damage can just be so much worse. And really like a pinpoint, almost like a laser beam as opposed to the shotgun effect you can have with a large hurricane.

Back to you.

NGUYEN: That picture is just frightening, Reynolds.

WOLF: Oh, it really is.

NGUYEN: Just to see the enormous size of this tornado. And we were talking half mile to a mile wide.

WOLF: Half mile to a mile wide. And you know, the thing that's even more compelling about that, that's only one dimension of this. I mean, imagine the sound, imagine the -- you are seeing this in motion. I mean, how terrifying that must be, especially if it's getting bigger moving towards you.

NGUYEN: Now large tornadoes like that, are they slow moving?

WOLF: They tend to be. But these can -- the thing that's so weird about these tornadoes, they can form so quickly. They can dissipate very quickly. Every one is, every single one of these storms is different. All these tornadoes are different. Some remain almost stationary. Some move very rapidly. This one was a slow mover. And that may be one of the reasons why we had so much damage.

NGUYEN: A lot of destruction. Yes, absolutely.

WOLF: Absolutely. NGUYEN: Well, we're going to talk to someone now who saw this thing as it happened. Allan Dietrich is a veteran storm chaser. And he was there watching as this tornado slammed into Greensburg and joins us by phone from Dodge City.

And let me ask you this, we're looking at some video that's coming in to CNN. What did you see when you were watching this massive tornado take effect?

ALLAN DIETRICH, STORM CHASER: Well, unfortunately, maybe we were a little too close to it that we couldn't see the shape in the lightning. And so we just got to see a huge wall, basically. And then after the tornado had passed Greensburg, we -- I belong to a storm chase group that has lots of search and rescue people, firefighters, EMTs. And we were escorted into the disaster area to help search and rescue by the fire chief.

NGUYEN: We're looking at pictures now of the survivors. So far no one has been reported dead. But just look at the damage, you have cars toppled on their sides. I understand many parts of the city were just leveled. I want you to describe for me the damage in the city which I understand is at least 75 percent of that town is pretty much wiped out or heavily damaged.

DIETRICH: Well, you know, most of the main street you couldn't even tell what was there. And you'd find random cars and farm vehicles tossed all over. And you know, the local grocery store was devastated. And it was just, you know, people walking out of their houses, down the street in shock, total shock.

NGUYEN: You described it as people walking down the street like something out of a horror flick, a zombie movie. What were they saying? How bad were the injuries?

DIETRICH: You know, there are a lot of just, you know, scratches and, you know, flying debris injuries. But most people were worried about their loved ones and they couldn't find, you know, their mother or father or grandmother, grandfather or something like that, and so it was kind of hard for them to hook up after the storm.

NGUYEN: Did you get a chance to head near the hospital, where i understand at least part of that building had collapsed?

DIETRICH: We didn't make it into that area. We stayed pretty much on the main street. I know over by the farm -- or over by the grain elevator there was, you know, chemicals leaking and, you know, propane and hydro -- some ammonia were leaking so they tried to keep people out of that area. It was just, it was -- it reminded me of May 3rd, 1999.

NGUYEN: Just sheer devastation. Yes. Let me ask you this, too, just briefly, as we're looking at more pictures of people just corralling in an area just looking, as you mention, just dazed from all of this. You were in the downtown area where a lot of the damage was. Did you see people in a search and rescue mode, did you hear people trapped or at least word of people being trapped? DIETRICH: Yes. In fact one of our -- members of our group, Randy Denzer (ph) from Austin -- he's an Austin firefighter, Texas, and he started up getting the whole ball rolling, and you know, tried to help with command and things like that. And it was just, people were going through houses and cars, and you know, there were animals wandering all over. I was a pretty amazing sight.

NGUYEN: It really is. And we're looking at some more video of that coming in to CNN. Allan Dietrich, who is a veteran storm chaser, joining us on the phone from Dodge City. You watched as this tornado hit Greensburg. And we really appreciate the information that you're providing to us this morning as we take a look now, T.J. , at some more of these pictures. And I know that when the sun comes out we are truly going to see the extent of this damage.

HOLMES: Yes. Probably still hour or so at least away -- maybe a couple of hours from daylight there in town, and before we get some of those other pictures, get a better idea of the devastation there. We're covering this thing of course here. Reynolds is watching it for us in the severe weather center. But we're also keeping an eye on things, seeing how they are playing out on the Web. Our Nicole Lapin, keeping an eye on that for us.

Good morning to you, Nicole.

LAPIN: Yes, good morning, T.J. Nobody really knows the story like the folks on the ground, the folks who live there. So we're going to our affiliate Web site. This is KWCH. And when we go to their Web site, they have live, streaming pictures of what the destruction is like.

Here's a reporter that we heard from earlier. But they're showing us just some of the destruction to some of these small homes and businesses in this area. Also, this is a bittersweet deja vu for folks in this area, because as we've been mentioning, and as you just heard from that person on the phone, eight years ago, on May the 3rd, 1999, there was an F-4 tornado that hit this very same area.

So we have pictures, also on the affiliate Web site from the aftermath of that. So they're reeling with the same type of destruction right now. Also, from their Web site, they are linking folks up with the Red Cross. The Red Cross obviously very quick on the scene. So, people can go to the American Red Cross Web site, that is to get more information on that.

Also, we've been monitoring the blogosphere. And this really colors this story because we're hearing that 75 percent of this town is basically destroyed. And what does that mean for people in this area? Well, we are looking at Patsy Terrell's Web site. She has a blog that is called Patsy's Ponderings. And she's talking about this tornado. Here's a picture of what it was like in her house while this tornado was happening.

You can see, obviously, it was coming in to her home and she's just frightened about the day to come, the day tomorrow, when more wicked weather comes to her area. So we're going to keep monitoring the blogosphere and also some affiliate Web sites to give us more perspective on this story -- Betty and T.J.

HOLMES: All right. Nicole, we appreciate it. Thank you so much. And we will see you shortly. We turn now to another big event happening today. Huge event.

NGUYEN: Much lighter event. Yes, something that people are actually smiling about today.

HOLMES: Yes, and they might actually get rain, I believe, at the Kentucky Derby. It's the day that everybody becomes a racing fan just for two minutes. We'll tell you what you need to watch.

NGUYEN: Or a mint julep fan, right?


HOLMES: Yes. We'll tell you what you need to watch at the Kentucky Derby. Stick around.



HOLMES: Betty...



HOLMES: Betty plays the banjo, actually. You all didn't know that about her. For jockeys, it is their Daytona 500, except on this track, the horse power is the real thing. This evening 20 thoroughbreds will compete in the 133rd Kentucky Derby. The apparent favorite here is a 3-year-old named Curlin who has only had three career races. The colt is looking to become the first Derby winner since 1882 who never ran as a 2-year-old.

Now, as the competitors race for the roses they'll have a royal cheering section. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip will be among those at Churchill Downs tonight. Meanwhile, racing fans are using the legacy of last year's Derby winner Barbaro to help horses today. Going to talk more about that and all things Kentucky Derby related with -- please take this picture of him right now.

What are you doing?


NGUYEN: Where did you get that little...

HORROW: Well, it's a Barbaro tribute, which we'll get to in a second. OK. I'm bringing my props.

HOLMES: Well, that's the first question, is this Kentucky Derby still all about Barbaro? Are all eyes on it because of last year's winner, Barbaro? HORROW: Well, it's not -- look, it's not all about Barbaro. But it has a lot to do with it. Three documentaries, five books. He has even got a limited edition Beanie Baby doll that I'm grooming here. The bottom line though in all seriousness is that they've raised money for equine research, the Jacksons, the owners have staked $3 million for that.

And here's the big stat, you get about 35 million or 40 million casual fans to horse racing before Barbaro. Now you have about 60 million.

NGUYEN: Really?

HOLMES: Now is that going to continue? Or is it just the hot thing right now, and will that -- can that possibly continue and help racing build?

HORROW: Well, you know, Americans like the hot trend, and the bottom line, though, is of the 60 million fans, the surveys say only about 1 million are avid. They've got other distractions. Yes, it's true about $15 billion are bet on horse racing. But people go elsewhere to bet now.

They do the Internet, they go offshore. They don't go to the track. The National Thoroughbred Racing Association has devoted about $60 million for marketing efforts and corporations still love the Derby, $50 million from 50 corporations. YUM! Brands is a good example. They have a "YUM-fecta," Louisville Corporation where you have a million dollars if somebody -- some horse wins by six-and-a- half lengths this year, which is Barbaro's win last year.

Get this, $225,000 for a finish line suite based on Barbaro's time last year, 2 minutes, 1.36 seconds. That's $125,000 a minute. That's good work if you can afford it. Can you guys afford that?

NGUYEN: That is crazy.

HOLMES: You do that math...


HORROW: You guys can afford that, huh?

NGUYEN: Yes, I don't think so. The queen may be able to. And I wanted to ask you about that. Do you think she's going to drum up some excitement around this Kentucky Derby?

HORROW: Well, you know, she might but it's a see-and-be-seen. Like we said, the demographics are fantastic. Churchill Downs did a $120 million renovation. And a lot of people want to come to this. They also want to see if there's a Triple Crown winner. You know, Affirmed won in 1978, that's almost 30 years ago, and we need another one.

We are a star-driven country. We need another star. Maybe it's Curlin. We like the kids. We like the untested. Maybe it's somebody else. We'll know obviously after this week.

NGUYEN: You got your money on any particular horse?

HORROW: Yes, the field, OK? I'm not Kreskin, I'm not going to give you a prediction. I like grooming Barbaro. I like sitting back and watching that two minutes, because this one of those deals, if you blink, it's gone.

NGUYEN: Where is your hat and mint julep?

HORROW: Next time, all right? I got the hat. I wouldn't wear it this morning, not yet.

NGUYEN: Not the bonnet. It's too early for that. Bet you look pretty cute in it, though.

HORROW: Very much, Betty. I appreciate it. Love you, too.


NGUYEN: Mwah! See you later.

HOLMES: Rick, we'll see you, buddy.

HORROW: All right, man, see you soon.

NGUYEN: All right. Well, let's get to something extremely serious today. And we're going to be following this a whole lot. You want to stay here for the breaking news. A whole town has been evacuated as dozens, dozens are injured. We are tracking severe weather in the Midwest. You want to stay right here with CNN SATURDAY MORNING.


HOLMES: You're taking a look here at -- a live look at the radar and then video on the left side that we continue to get in this morning from Kansas, where a massive tornado has apparently done significant damage to a huge part of Greensburg, Kansas. The word this morning is 75 percent of the town has been damaged or destroyed in some way, form or fashion by this tornado. Several injuries reported. And now the Associated Press is reporting at least one person has been killed in that storm that hit Greensburg, Kansas.

It was a rough night of storms, of tornadoes in Kansas. Also, Oklahoma. And right now, as we saw that live radar picture that they are still some issues to be dealt with, with storms. Several watches and warnings, including tornado watches, still in effect for parts of Nebraska, parts of Kansas, but we've been getting the updates all morning about the situation in Kansas where it appeared that the town of Greensburg has been pretty much laid out, flattened.

At least 75 percent of it impacted in some way by this tornado. Several injuries. The hospital, as well there partially collapsed. Several people trapped there. Also some injuries to report from that hospital. But Associated Press this morning reporting that at least one person has died. We're all over this story. Our Reynolds Wolf, as well, keeping an eye on the weather situation. He'll continue to update us all morning. Stay here with CNN.

NGUYEN: It was such a powerful storm. And we're going to get more information on exactly what F-category it was. Although Reynolds is saying it was probably along the higher range. So we'll get that to you as soon as we know.

But in the meantime, let's talk about the Iraq spending bill, because just recently it was vetoed. And later this morning it will be the topic of President Bush's radio address. So how is all of this arguing over war funding affecting U.S. troops? That's a very key question. And CNN's Joshua Levs joins us with a "Reality Check."

Is it affecting them?

JOSHUA LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, that's the question right now. So what we're trying to figure out is the truth behind the word "urgent." If you paid attention to Washington last week, you heard very often White House officials and some people who support the White House's position on this bill saying it's urgent that a spending bill be passed and that if it's not soon, it will affect troops in the field.

So we wanted to take a look at that. Here you go, the "Reality Check." Let's take a look.


LEVS (voice-over): It has been a Washington buzz word in recent days.


LEVS: The president and defense officials say the huge supplemental spending bill requested for the war is needed right away. How urgent is it really? The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service has an answer.

It says the Army could cover its costs until June or July. The Army acknowledges it's covered through June. And even if the fight over spending were to drag on longer, soldiers in Iraq would likely not feel an immediate impact. The military could transfer funds from other efforts.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: So the consequences that we've been talking about on the hill, and internally, really are focused on what happens here at home in terms of delaying construction, delaying some kinds of training, delaying hiring, delaying travel, delaying those kinds of things.

LEVS: Democrats say their bell would provide the money.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER: In fact, it gives the president more than he asks for, for our troops. LEVS: Last year, after President Bush's funding request, the Republican-controlled Congress took 118 days to get a bill to his desk, longer than this Congress. But the White House says the real question is whether Democrats will ultimately send a bill that the president will sign, one that doesn't include timetables for withdrawal. They suggest they will.

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MAJORITY LEADER: So it's incumbent upon us to work together. I don't think it's a question of backing down, it's a question of recognizing reality.


LEVS: Right. And so that's what's going to be coming up this week. The president again is going to be meeting with leaders on the Democratic side and also leaders on the Republican side and together they're going to see if they can come up with a compromise. But what that bill will entail, guys, right now I'm calling that the $124 billion question.

NGUYEN: Yes. Because the original one had a lot of stuff in there that had nothing to do with the war. So we'll see what this other one has in it.

LEVS: Exactly.

NGUYEN: Thank you, Josh. We appreciate that. And CNN correspondents will discuss the war of words over President Bush's veto of the Iraq War spending bill. Plus, who scored and who bombed in this week's Republican debate? Join Tom Foreman in "THIS WEEK AT WAR." That is tonight at 7:00 right here on CNN.

HOLMES: And stay right here with CNN for more on that devastating tornado that hit Kansas.

NGUYEN: How many are affected? That's the big question. We have learned that at least one has been killed in this. We're going to have a live update for you from the ground.

HOLMES: Stay here, CNN SATURDAY MORNING continues in just a sec.



JEFFREY ALLRED, WITNESS: We came out about an hour later to see that everything across the street was gone.


HOLMES: Everything across the street was gone. That after a twister devastates a Kansas community. We are bringing you continuous coverage throughout the morning of this breaking weather story.

NGUYEN: Also want to check this out, because Oklahoma faced down some rough weather of its own. Can Tornado Alley expect more of the same today? Look at that tornado just churning right there. It's in the beginning stages of that. But wait until you see more pictures coming out of this area. We're going to show them to you today.

From the CNN Center here in Atlanta, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING. It is Cinco de Mayo, the fifth of May, and boy, what a rough day it has been so far for those in Tornado Alley.

HOLMES: And I'm T.J. Holmes. We are glad you could be here with us. Let's get you up to date on what happened in that small town in Kansas. Pretty much wiped off the map after a massive tornado. Witnesses say Greensburg, Kansas, looks like something out of a horror movie. Take a peek at this video.

We've been getting new video in all morning. Expect more when the sun rises and we get a better view of what exactly happened to that town. The twister swept through the downtown last night, collapsing buildings. A Kansas emergency management spokeswoman says it either destroyed or heavily damaged three-quarters of the town. That's 75 percent of the town hit.

There is also a report of at least one fatality there. Dozens of people are hurt and the search continues at this hour for more possible victims trapped in the rubble. This is what it looked like when the tornado struck. A storm chaser took these photos, says it was at least a half mile wide. A scary, scary view of this tornado. Two smaller twisters followed in its path.

NGUYEN: Well, many of the storm victims are recovering at a hospital about 50 miles east of Greensburg, and joining me now by phone from Pratt, Kansas, is the spokesperson for the Pratt Regional Medical Center. I believe your name is Kim Stivers or Stivers?


NGUYEN: Hi, Kim, thanks for joining us today. I want you to talk to me about the damage that came through that particular medical center, and what you're experiencing.

STIVERS: Actually, Pratt Regional Medical Center is located approximately 30 miles to the east of Greensburg. We did not receive any damage at our medical center, but the Greensburg Hospital did receive some extensive damage. I believe one of the wings to their hospital was destroyed.

And therefore, there were patients who were there prior to the tornado who were in need of being transferred. They were stable, but yet, needed to be transferred to other hospitals. So on top of that, emergency vehicles were responding to the victims who were injured in the destruction.

NGUYEN: So about how many victims were transported to your hospital?

STIVERS: I believe we saw approximately 55 patients.

NGUYEN: My goodness. And the injuries, were they from the storm or were these people that were in the hospital already for other injuries?

STIVERS: The 55 I speak about is definitely related to the tornado that took place in Greensburg. And the injuries ranged from -- anywhere from cuts and scrapes and bruises to critical injuries, which, I believe we shipped five patients to Wichita, to either Wesley Medical Center or (INAUDIBLE).

NGUYEN: And as far as the hospital there in Greensburg goes, how much damage have you been told? Because we understand at least one part of the building did indeed collapse.

STIVERS: I believe that that was also the report that we received when we arrived at the hospital to respond to the disaster.

NGUYEN: And are they equipped at all to handle any patients at this time?

STIVERS: I believe in Greensburg, no. On top of the 55 patients that we received from the tornado, we also, I believe, took in five other patients that they had already had at Greensburg that had to be transferred out to other surroundings hospitals. I believe Hutchinson took some of those patients as well as maybe Dodge City or Garden City.

NGUYEN: You being fairly close to Greensburg, were you given fair warning of this tornado that was blowing through the area? Did folks get enough warning to get out in time?

STIVERS: I believe so. My family and I were watching the news for at least 15 minutes before the tornado hit, and you know, if they were watching the news, they should have been prepared and had plenty of time to get to shelter. Although one of the patients that I visited with tonight as he was waiting to be treated said that he and his family were at a car wash and just happened to notice a tornado coming and were seeking shelter and didn't quite make it.

And he said the only thing that he could see were bricks flying and he couldn't hear anything, and it was quite devastating.

NGUYEN: My goodness. Just imagine the fear in the midst of all of that. Now, we are learning also, Kim, that from the Associated Press, it is reporting that one person has been killed in this. Are you hearing of any other deaths?

STIVERS: I cannot confirm that number. I just don't know.

NGUYEN: And looking at the devastation, I imagine you've had your hands full. But as folks come in there and talk to you, are you hearing as well that at least 75 percent of the town is pretty much leveled?

STIVERS: Absolutely. The patients that we saw, once they realized that they were going to be OK, they began to think about what they left behind and what they don't have anymore, and many of them didn't even have a home to go home to. So those who did have minor injuries were treated and released. But instead of going home to something you and I would think about, they had to go to a shelter.

NGUYEN: And as you're sitting there waiting for word on more people, possibly, being found injured, I understand that a search is under way for those who are unaccounted for. Have teams been sent to Greensburg to help with the medical situation? Because you're about, what, 50 miles away? That's a bit of a drive if someone is severely injured.

STIVERS: No, we're only about 30 miles away.

NGUYEN: Oh, you're 30, OK.

STIVERS: Yes, and we did send out a team out to assist with triage and patients. And the information they have supplied to us when they got back was that they were pretty much seeing the walking injured. And so those were the people who, of course, got transported first, and who were able to seek help.

But of course, you always have to probably guess that there are people who are still trapped or need assistance that can not get out on their own.

NGUYEN: Yes. That's going to be the big question today, especially as daylight comes up over the town of Greensburg. We really appreciate the information that you've provided us today, and we wish you the best of luck, as I know that you have a lot on your hands. Kim Stivers with the Pratt Regional Medical Center, where folks have been taken from the city of Greensburg after that tornado just devastated that town.

So let's get you more now on the weather situation out there.

HOLMES: Yes. Reynolds Wolf in the severe weather center has been tracking storms. We saw all that last night. It is not over. The storm has been some places, and it's heading to others now -- Reynolds.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Oh, no question about it. What we're probably going to see over the next couple of hours is much of this activity beginning to die down in terms of tornadic possibilities. But then as we get into the late afternoon hours, you're going to have a lot of daytime heating, which is going to increase the instability of the atmosphere.

But still, for the time being, it is fairly unstable, and we still have a tornado watch that will be in effect until 8:00 Central time for a good part of not only Nebraska, but also into northern Kansas.

Now, the strongest storms we have this hour are just right south of Lincoln, also to the southwest of Lincoln, moving through Fairbury as well as the communities of Wilber. Back over to Ord, we've had strong storms roll through there. Same story over in Broken Bow. You're going to get a little bit of a break as soon as this system lifts a little bit more to the northeast. But this doesn't mean, as I mentioned before, that we're done with the possibility of severe weather. As we make our way into the afternoon, it is going to be this area of low pressure pulling to the northeast, moving into portions of Iowa. Still the usual suspects back into Nebraska and Kansas. You may have some storms there.

But I'm thinking the roughest stuff may occur by the late afternoon hours, so we get to 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, 5:00, into the early evening, say around 6:00 or 7:00. We could see another strong round of these storms. It's certainly not time to take it easy at this moment.

Farther to the south, we're going to see also more of that moisture coming in. So another threat that we're going have with this system, not just the possibility of tornadoes and large hail and damaging winds, but there will be that possibility of flash flooding, because much of the ground that we have over the Central Plains has already had quite a bit of rainfall.

We've already seen that in places even farther to the south in the Gulf Coast near New Orleans where they had a lot of rain, then the additional moisture has been causing some runoff. That runoff causing some flooding. So a problem not just in the Central Plains, but also for portions of the Southeast.

Now something else I want to show you, a temperature map. Now, why in the world would this be important on a day where you're expecting storms? Well, because it provides a clear illustration of the two different air masses that are really fighting. Your battle line is right through the Central Plains.

Look, you have got some 50s on one side back in the Rockies, very dry air here. But on this side you've got all of that moist, warm hot air coming in from the Gulf of Mexico, and wouldn't you know it, right where the dividing line would be would put you right into the Central Plains.

That is the big battleground that we have with that cold air from the north, that moist air from the Gulf of Mexico, and right along that dividing line is going to be your best chance of severe showers and storms and possible tornadoes later in the day.

But one more time, as I mentioned, as it stands, the tornado watch still in effect for parts of Nebraska, southward into extreme northern Kansas as we make our way through the morning, and in fact, until 8:00 Central time. That's the latest we have for you. Let's send it back to you at the news desk.

NGUYEN: Yes. We'll definitely stay on top of that. Reynolds, thank you.

HOLMES: Thank you, Reynolds. Also our Nicole Lapin keeping an eye on the weather for us on the Web. A lot of people on the ground, they are able to update their blog, also local affiliates updating their Web sites. Nicole now looking at all of that. LAPIN: Local affiliates, specifically, T.J. they are talking about witnesses in that area describing the survivors as walking around like zombies, and they have continuous, streaming video on their Web site.

Let's listen in to a little bit of their newscast right now, KWCH.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... because number one, they're being told they have to get out of town. They have to obviously try to find shelter, whether at a Red Cross shelter or whether that's going to be at a place where family and friends somewhere out of town, that while the search and rescue takes place. But communication is definitely at a premium.

And again, you are taking a look at video that was shot very early this morning of the deadly tornado. And when we say deadly, we know that there has been one person that has been killed, at least one person. That was confirmed by the CEO at the Western Plains Regional Medical Center.

That was in Dodge City, where one person was brought there. But it was what they considered dead on arrival. They had nine other people who were brought in there, two of those were critical enough that they had to be flown to Wichita. Wichita Hospital says they've seen -- the last number I saw, a total of four people who have been brought in.

Pratt Regional Medical Center has taken the brunt as far as accepting the largest number of patients. We know that at least 55 patients have gone to the Pratt Regional Medical Center from the Greensburg area. Those that were hurt. And also the Pratt County sheriff has confirmed that a Pratt County man was killed last night.

It's still not clear, and obviously, things are focusing in Greensburg, but there was a man who was killed in Pratt County. And it's not clear whether that is a second fatality or whether that is the same one...

LAPIN: So our local affiliate KWCH updating us on the injuries and the fatalities as a result of this tornado in Kansas. We're also hearing stories. We're hearing anecdotes from our local affiliate, and this really colors the story. We were hearing earlier from our affiliate video that there was actually a father and a son guarding themselves with sofa cushions to try to keep clear of the damage.

We also heard the story of a convenience store owner bringing people into the freezer to come in for safety. So a lot of these stories we keep monitoring the Web to get us those anecdotes that really help us with this story on the ground -- Betty and T.J.

HOLMES: Well, you do what you've got to do in a situation like that, and that's one of the best ways to get some of those little stories you are talking about. Nicole Lapin, thank you so much.

Meanwhile, the outbreak of severe weather also produced tornadoes in northwestern Oklahoma, but with less damaging results. You can see one twister forming before it touched down in the town of Arnett last night. It churned mostly through open fields for about 20 minutes before running out of steam.

A second twister formed right after and damaged two buildings and also a home. The storms also knocked down power lines and trees, but there was no other major damage and no one reported injured.

NGUYEN: Well, heavy rain causes big problems in the Big Easy. New Orleans is trying to dry out this morning from drenching storms that rolled through the area. That rain turned some streets, well, look, into rivers. Cars were under water, streets flooded. Power was knocked out in some areas. The downpour sent people running for cover at the Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Well, Baton Rouge also battered by powerful storms. The first night of a weekend festival -- listen to that, was canceled because of rain and street flooding. Some areas were expected to get up to five inches of rain. Now the wave of storms just rolled through southeast Louisiana yesterday.

HOLMES: And remember, we are keeping an eye on all of the severe weather. Again, anticipating more pictures coming into us from Greensburg, Kansas. This is a live radar look you're taking here of storms. A lot of places still not out from under the gun. A lot of watches and warnings still going on right now. Our Reynolds Wolf in the severe weather center keeping an eye on that. And as we get more information on the devastation in Greensburg, Kansas, we will be bringing that to you all morning.

Stay right here with CNN.


NGUYEN: Let's get you an update now on our top story. Look at that red box right there, Kansas, because a devastating tornado that witnesses say pretty much wiped out the town of Greensburg, as we circle in on this Google Earth map for you. The storm, well, it turned most of that community into rubble after it just swept through the downtown area last night.

There is a report of at least one fatality and some 55 people are injured, 16 of them critically. Witnesses say after the tornado passed, dazed residents just emerged from their homes and walked the streets like zombies. A storm chaser who took photos of the twister says it was at least a half mile wide.

HOLMES: And a lot of affiliate reporters, a lot of local stations there on the ground covering this big story there. We've got a report here from KSN, a station out of Joplin, Missouri, and one of their reporters, Josh Witsman, filed this report for us just a short time ago.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JOSH WITSMAN, KSN REPORTER: Well, good morning, Stephanie. We are starting to get some light on this situation here in Greensburg, where the search and rescue operation still continues. Joining me now is Steve Hewett (ph), the city administrator for Greensburg.

Steve, what have we got going on here? Obviously, the town has been evacuated, and we are in the middle of that search and rescue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the search and rescue continues. We want to make sure that we can find everybody. It's an unsafe area right now, so we evacuated everybody. We've sent people to Haviland and Mullinville, Kansas, just 10 miles away. The Red Cross is handling that situation at Haviland High School, Barclay College and Mullinville High School.

Folks who are looking for individuals, family members, they can call 620-672-3651, they should be able to help you. We've had 50 different people have been sent to the hospital at this point in time, and so we continue the search and rescue. We will not reopen the town until we know it's safe for the residents to come back.

And at this point in time, we'll just continue that and hope we do not find any more folks out there. But we continue to search.

WITSMAN: Obviously, probably some panicked families out there that maybe haven't heard from loved ones. Probably the best advice is to go to the Red Cross. I mean, everyone has been taken to shelter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. I would just call that number. You know, they'll try to help you. The folks that may have checked in or were there, you know. You can also contact Pratt Regional Medical Center. That's what a lot of folks at the hospital were sent and some other areas as well.

But you know, just call the Red Cross, and I think they'll help you a lot. And we continue to search for folks that are still trapped. And it was quite a storm. So we continue to work hard today. And hopefully, the light will help us find folks.

WITSMAN: Talk about the damage. I mean, obviously, the town pretty devastated. What was your reaction to first seeing what had happened or what was left behind?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think it was quite shocking, really, and heartbreaking, also. Our complete downtown is destroyed. City hall is destroyed. And then you start to worry about other family and friends. And so you know, on a personal sense, I was also very scared, but my family, we made it through it.

My house was destroyed as well, but we'll rebuild. We'll find ways to rebuild the city. It's going to take time right now, and we need to find folks that are still trapped, and we'll assess the damage and begin to work as best we can to bring our community back.

WITSMAN: All right, Steve, thanks for your time. I know you're busy. And we thank you for stopping by. Now, that search and rescue operation continues at this hour. The National Guard expected to join in as well as agencies across Kansas are making their way here to Greensburg to participate.

Now, at this point, we do know there are some fatalities as a result of this twister, and the search and rescue will be going house by house. So again, Greensburg is closed even to its residents. So try to stay out of this area while crews work.

And, Stephanie, of course, we are expecting a further briefing at 9:00 this morning. We'll keep you up to date and bring you all the latest information.

For now, we are live in Greensburg, Josh Witsman, KSN News.


HOLMES: And again, that's KSNW, that is out of Wichita, Kansas, there filing the report, Josh Witsman for us.

NGUYEN: Well, he did say something that is worth noting, he said fatalities, plural. We've only been reporting so far just one fatality, according to the Associated Press. But we do know that at least 40 people have been injured in this storm, and as daylight comes, we may see many more. And there is the fear that some people could be trapped underneath the rubble.

Again, about two-thirds or -- yes, two-thirds of the town, 75 percent of this town has been heavily damaged, many parts of it flattened. We're going to get a good picture of it shortly as that video comes into CNN first. But stay here for continuing coverage of this large -- we don't even know if it's going to be toward an F-5 range, but it was a wedge tornado, a very large tornado that was about a half mile wide, tore through the town of Greensburg, Kansas. And we're going to have much more on the damage it left behind. Stay with CNN SATURDAY MORNING.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): They jump from bed to bed and swing from chandeliers. They're the gymnasts and athletes from Cirque du Soleil, and their show requires them to stay in impeccable shape.

Besides the physical conditioning, nutrition is a key to maintaining their physique while touring around the world. Cirque du Soleil kitchen manager and Chef Amira Eskanazi travels with the cast and prepares over 300 healthy meals a day.

AMIRA ESKANAZI, CHEF, CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: Things have to be diverse. Two proteins, two starches, two vegetables, a vegetarian.

COSTELLO: Eskanazi buys the food locally, scouting out markets before arriving in the tour cities. Nutrition is her main objective, focusing on green and leafy vegetables.

ESKANAZI: We cook everything, you know, al dente, like crispy, all the vegetables. So we try to keep all the vitamins in.

COSTELLO: And although salad and veggies are a crowd-pleaser, the cast's favorite dish?

ESKANAZI: Meat and potatoes, especially when we set up and tear down. They want hardy food.

COSTELLO: Hardy food and healthy food to keep athletes at the peak of fitness and ready to take the stage every night.

Carol Costello, CNN.



NGUYEN: Want to get you an update on what is happening in Greensburg, Kansas, after a tornado just ripped through that town, damaging about 75 percent of the buildings there. We know city hall has been damaged, the downtown area has been damaged, schools have been damaged.

In fact, part of the hospital in that town has partially collapsed. At least 40 people have been injured. And the Associated Press so far is reporting one death, although local reports say that there is more than one person killed in this. So as soon as we get more information on that, we will bring it straight to you.

But we are getting video coming into CNN and we are also watching the Web for any tidbits of information that may be coming out of Greensburg, and for that, let's turn it to CNN's Nicole Lapin with the latest on what she's finding on the Web.

LAPIN: Well, Betty, we are listening to our affiliate Web site right now, they are streaming live coverage of the area, and we're hearing survivor stories right now. So let's listen in to our coverage from KWCH, right there in Kansas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... where they're going to be able to move things out of roads, because right now there is so much debris in the roads in Greensburg, as we've seen in some of the video. The crews can't get to where they need to get. So it's a matter of first things first and trying to take care of what they need to take care of and make sure everybody is accounted for.

And just to bring you some numbers as to what we are talking about, with when the storm hit last night, in this devastation, they are saying there were at least 50 patients that were transported to area hospitals. We know some went to Pratt, some went to Dodge City, 16 of those were in critical condition. But they say it was not because of a situation where they didn't have warning.

Several people have said they had a warning, the sirens were going off for 20 minutes. I know Lance Ferguson (ph), who was tracking it, said he could see it, and it was passing along information and knew it was heading into the town of Greensburg, passed that information along, and it wasn't anything he could do. It was a very helpless feeling.

We know 55 patients have been taken to Pratt Hospital. We're not clear whether those are -- we know a grand total of 63 hurt in Greensburg was another number we've been given. We know it -- and on top of all this, the Kiowa County Hospital, which was there in Greensburg, 80 percent of it at least has been destroyed.

There were patients who were in that hospital that are now having to be transferred to other facilities. We know the Hutchinson Hospital has been told to expect as many as 20 patients from that. We know the junior high and the high school are very seriously damaged, if not destroyed. We know nine patients went to Western Plains Regional Medical Center, that in Dodge City.

One of those -- we don't know, I believe it's an extra patient on top of that, would make grand total of 10, but one was brought in there and did not survive, was dead on arrival, that person was. We also know that two have been taken, at least, in critical condition, to Via Christi in Wichita. We know there was talk at one point of taking two others, so that would make a total of four if that were the case there.

Pratt County...

LAPIN: And we've been hearing from local affiliate KWCH, updating us on the injuries and the fatalities there, and we've also been hearing stories of heroes already, people coming in from surrounding areas, bringing generators, trailers, trying to help people out of the debris, out of the wreckage. We heard one man actually brought a generator and found a woman with a broken leg, and he saved her.

So they're already likening this to Hurricane Katrina in that area, just based on the sheer damage, 75 percent of the town. So we continue to follow the story and try to cover it as best possible from people on the ground -- Betty and T.J.

NGUYEN: Yes. We're going to hear a lot of amazing stories today. But one thing we did hear in that report, which is interesting to note, 63 people have been hurt in this storm. Again, one dead, as we've been reporting. And as that video comes in, I'm sure it's going to be devastating. What we have so far is devastating.

Much of the town has been leveled, 80 percent of the local hospital was damaged. A part of that building actually collapsed. And many folks are at this point seeking shelter. So as soon as we get more information on this, we will bring it straight to you.

But again, we are watching continuing coverage, breaking news coverage of tornado devastation in Greensburg, Kansas. Don't go anywhere, because we're going to be back with much more.



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