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More Tornadoes Touching Down in States in the South; Candidates Moving on From Super Tuesday

Aired February 6, 2008 - 09:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins. Watch events come into the NEWSROOM live on Wednesday, February 6th. Here's what's on the rundown.

Tornado terror in the south, dozens of people killed. The storm still on the move this morning.

HARRIS: Call it even Stephen. Clinton and Obama split super Tuesday delegates. On the Republican side a clear frontrunner.

COLLINS: Disorder in the markets. Sell-off in Asia. Will Wall Street rally today? The bell will tell this hour in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: And happening right now across the mid-south, look at these pictures. Deadly tornadoes and storms tearing across five, count them, five states. Thousands of people in shock this morning, and many in desperate need of help. The death toll has been steadily climbing all morning. At least 45 people killed across four states. Hundreds more are hurt. Western Tennessee is one of the hardest-hit areas.

Our Ed Lavandera is there in the town of Jackson, and, Ed, if you would, what is the story in and around Jackson this morning?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are on the campus of Union University, campus of about 3,000 students. About 1800 students live in the dormitories. University officials say about 1200 were in these dorms. This is what's left of the men's dorm. Back over here in the background you can see the women's dorm. It is a devastating scene here.

We'll flip back over here the other way, you can see where the tornado ripped on the campus here. Look at that building in the distance. Some of these images we're just now been able to get a clean look at what it looks like here in the daylight. But that is a huge chunk of the rooftop that was ripped apart. We've been walking through this parking lot over here. Dozens of cars either flipped over or the high wind has shifted these cars from one parking space to another. An eerie scene in what has been a devastating night.

Well, we thought we had a tape report there for which I apologize. University officials here say that they are happy with the levels of warnings that had gone out early on in the hours before the storms arrived. They say they were able to communicate to the students here on campus that they needed to seek shelter and be safe.

However, there were still eight students that were trapped inside this -- inside this building. At one point they had to rescue those people out. About nine students had to be taken to nearby hospitals. We're told that those students were being treated. None of those injuries are life-threatening at this point.

And throughout the night crews were working in the darkness, going through building by building, room by room of what was left, making that sure no students were still trapped inside or anyone else might have been missing or had been killed. Amazingly, no one on this campus killed last night as this storm hit around 7:00 last night.

The president of the universities here -- I spoke with him about an hour or so ago, and he said that he was standing in his office window and he could see the shadow of the tornado roaring across this campus.


LAVANDERA (voice over): In Tennessee.

UNIDENTIFIED STORM VICTIM: They just took the house and everything and my horses and my dogs.

LAVANDERA: In Arkansas.

UNIDENTIFIED STORM VICTIM: All I have left is my front porch. The rest of it is gone.

LAVANDERA: And in other parts of the south, many people lost their homes in an instant when killer tornadoes roared through on Tuesday night.

Among the dead, an 11-year-old girl and her parents, victims of a powerful twister that hit their home in Atkins, Arkansas. In Memphis, Tennessee, three people were killed when part of a warehouse collapsed and them. Three more people died in Kentucky when their mobile home park was hit by a storm.

Throughout the region, twisters and severe storms tore through buildings, ripped down power lines, and even caused a gas explosion. In Memphis, people were evacuated from the Hickory Ridge Mall after the roof collapsed from strong winds at the Sears store.

TERRELLE MATHIS, WITNESS: All of a sudden, it starts shaking. Everybody started moving, everything are kind of falling. About 10 seconds, it's just chaos then so quiet.

LAVANDERA: Authorities say the full extent of damage to the region won't be known until later today.


LAVANDERA: And this is a live picture of the clouds roaring over and rolling quickly over the campus here in Jackson, Tennessee. It is an eerie scene. We have been watching this as daylight has broken here. These clouds quickly still moving over. And one of the other interesting things here, as we stand here, the temperatures have dropped dramatically from last night.

It is actually very cold here right now and you can really get a sense of that warm air that was on the front side of this storm and that cold air racing in behind it. And when these two air masses collided, essentially, what triggered all of these storms. And now being on the back side of this area, we can really sense just how cold the temperatures are dropping now at this point.

HARRIS: Well, and Ed, just amazing, your location, and to see the scene behind you. I don't know. Have you had an opportunity yet with your photojournalist to sort of walk the campus and take a look at the devastation up close and personal? Have had you that opportunity yet?

LAVANDERA: Well, we've been asked until daylight broke to essentially stay where we're seen. So we've been able to walk around in this...

HARRIS: Got you.

LAVANDERA: ...general area to get a sense on what's going on. The other reason we've been -- we were asked not to really venture too far, they were using search dogs to go through these...


LAVANDERA: ...building behind us. Our scent, they were saying, would throw off the dogs. They didn't want to confuse the dogs as to what exactly they were looking for. So everything...


LAVANDERA: ...we mentioned, in this parking lot has been kind of cordoned off from us but you know, from the vantage point here, you can just see...

HARRIS: You can see.

LAVANDERA: ...just how devastating, how the impact of this was absolutely dramatic.

HARRIS: Look at Union University there in Jackson, Tennessee. What a sight this morning.

Ed Lavandera for us in Jackson, Tennessee. Ed, appreciate it. Thank you.

COLLINS: In Arkansas, searchers are spreading out into storm this morning looking for more tornado victims.

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe is joining us on the telephone.

Governor, tell us first what you are hearing from your search and rescue crews.

GOV. MIKE BEEBE, ARKANSAS: Heidi, I can barely hear you. We're having a bad signal. The damage in Arkansas is massive and widespread. We have 12 confirmed deaths. A number of seriously injured. We're just assessing the damage, as you might expect, and the extent of it as the sun comes up, but throughout the night, we've had first responders, law enforcement officials, volunteer fire departments, all sorts of emergency workers who have actually been in the various communities across the state, and this storm didn't limit itself to one particular area. It was pretty widespread.

COLLINS: I'm hoping you can hear me a little better now. I also know that you called in the National Guard.

BEEBE: Yes. What we did was, we got a request from one of the localities last night, and so we had dispatched some National Guardsmen to help in search and rescue in one of those areas. Obviously we have more and will dispatch them as the need arises.

COLLINS: Boy, we're looking at some of the video now of Arkansas, where you have confirmed for us here 12 people have been killed. I know that as daylight comes, more searching will go on, the possibility of those numbers could change.

Have you had an opportunity to speak with anyone? Any of the residents? Or what are you hearing from people who are out there talking to them about how people are doing? I'm sure it's an incredible sense of shock.

BEEBE: Yes, but you know, one thing Arkansas is really noted for is the way people rally and pull together and actually the entire communities pitch in and help, whether it's in giving blood or whether it's in helping search and rescue or whatever it might be, and some reports we're getting back is that there's an overwhelming number of folks who are actually engaged in assisting the emergency personnel and the first responders in trying to be responsive to the needs of people. But reports continue to come in in various places across the state about the nature of the devastation and about things that we'll find.

COLLINS: All right. Well, that is -- boy, again, we're still looking at the video here and every time I see it, it's just unbelievable. What about warnings? Were you feeling like you got sufficient warning about this one? And sometimes I know there's just not much you can do.

BEEBE: Yes. The truth of the matter is, we've had reports from a number of people who credit the warnings with saving their lives.


BEEBE: Television stations, sirens and in the various localities and communities were all effective and at least anecdotally we're getting a lot of information in that these people were warned by sirens and/or by the media, radio or television...


BEEBE: ...about the approaching storms and so they were able to take cover. Obviously, as you mentioned, Heidi, there are instances in which even when you get a warning, depending upon whether or not it's a direct hit that may or may not do you much good.

COLLINS: Yes. That is unfortunately just a matter of fact with these types of things. Well, we certainly appreciate your time. I know it's going to be a very busy and tearful day for you, I imagine.

Governor Mike Beebe of Arkansas, thanks so much for your time this morning.

I want to get over to Rob Marciano who has been working tirelessly as we go through the morning here and watch the path now of this storm system. Rob?


HARRIS: We talked to Ed Lavandera just a few moments ago in Jackson, Tennessee. We want to get the entire picture from the perspective of the entire state.

Randy Harris is on the line with us. And Randy is with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

Randy, thanks for your time this morning. If you would, give us the overview of the kind of shape your state is in right now. First of all, how many confirmed fatalities at this point?

RANDY HARRIS, TEMA SPOKESMAN: Tony, our folks, the local responders, are reporting 24 fatalities throughout the state.

HARRIS: Wow. We are looking at pictures right now, and I don't know how much you've been able to do in terms of surveying your state, but we're looking at pictures from Memphis now and some of the areas that we're getting aerial views, just devastated right now. Obviously, the scene there at Union University in Jackson. Sheer devastation. What have you seen and as an eyewitness what can you share with us as to what you have seen with your own eyes?

R. HARRIS: Well, there are various areas of devastation. Of course, Memphis and the Jackson area, around Union University and also in Macon County, was extensively hit from the Kentucky/Tennessee border. We are - the local responders who are out now and as it gets lighter. We're looking and then trying to evaluate the situation, and we'll know a little more as the day goes on.

HARRIS: Are you still in a lot of these areas doing door-to-door searches, house-to-house searches, to try to locate anymore victims?

R. HARRIS: The locals are -- local authorities are out and doing those things, and looking for -- they're both in recovery and rescue operation. So - and as I said, you know...

HARRIS: Yes. R. HARRIS:'s hard to evaluate at night, but as the day goes on, we'll be able to give you a little bit of a report.

HARRIS: That would be great. And I'm just sort of curious as to how your office works right now. It will provide some valuable insight, I believe, to the viewers right now.

Randy, from your position, what are your priorities right now in assessing what kind of devastation your state has experienced and how to deploy your resources?

R. HARRIS: Well, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency coordinates with the local authorities on the needs that they need. We'll try to find out what extent the damage is, and what they need as far as recovery operations and then we will look at our assets throughout the state and try to arrange for those to be of assistance to the local authorities.

HARRIS: Do you have an idea -- I know it's still early and you'd like to get a better look during the course of the day -- but do you have a general idea of the magnitude of what you're dealing with and whether or not you have the resources, at least at this point, early in the process, to hand what you have on your hands?

R. HARRIS: Well, we think so. We've got about seven, eight counties that are affected, had the most devastation, and, of course, the local responders are the ones who are out on the ground, doing the evaluations, and checking things, and we feel like that right now we're able to handle it.


R. HARRIS: There shouldn't be a problem with that. But you know, we'll know a little bit more as the day goes on.

HARRIS: Randy Harris is with the Tennessee Emergency Management.

Randy, we appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

R. HARRIS: You're very welcome.

COLLINS: Want to get to some of the i-Reports that we've been getting in this morning now. Unbelievable pictures, too.

Sharifa Winbush, want to show you some of the tapes that she sent to us from Bartlett, Tennessee. Look at this, it's just northeast of Memphis, and she was driving west on Interstate I-40 around 5:00 p.m. I'm sure you could see that cloud over there in the horizon.

She's barely listening to the weather reports on the radio and right when they said the tornado was spotted in her town of Bartlett, she looked over and saw it. She captured this on her cell phone. Looked pretty bad outside all day long, she said. You could pretty much tell that it was getting bad. A lot of lightning, starting to rain. She says it was very scary, about two or three miles away basically went on, on Interstate I-40. Drove away from it. Got to her house. She said it, you know, just looked like the tip of a triangle.

You can see. She's sort of sped up, it looks like, a little bit. Now passing quite a few cars as she saw that very, very frightening sight to see where when you are driving your car. Not a good place to be either when you spot something like this.

HARRIS: Right.

COLLINS: Just a reminder, too, when weather becomes the news, be sure to send us an i-Report. Go to and click on i-Report or type into your cell phone. Of course, especially on a day like this, please remember to stay safe if you decide to do so.

HARRIS: We want to get to Arwa Damon right now in Baghdad. And we received an e-mail oh, about 45 minutes or so ago that was so disturbing. We tried to get Arwa up as quickly as we could to confirm this.

And Arwa good to talk to you this morning from Baghdad. This is, what I'm referring to is a raid by U.S. coalition forces and a very disturbing find. I'll let you pick up the story from there.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tony what you're talking about that is so disturbing is this propaganda video that the U.S. military picked up during a raid that took place in Diyala province. The raid was targeting a senior al Qaeda operative. Two individuals were killed during the course of the raid, three others were detained and then they found five videos that showed children carrying out acts of terror.

This is believed to be propaganda video that the insurgency is trying to put together to further recruit, make al Qaeda seem appealing to other children throughout this entire country. The military is saying that they believe that the video was not shot at the same location as the raid took place, but it does show children detaining, kidnapping a man off a bike. It shows them conducting raids on a house, terrorizing a family. You also hear the instructor's voice at some point in it, although you don't see him in this propaganda video, telling one child to stay forward, another to stay back, another to watch out for the windows.

Now, the U.S. military says they are releasing this specific propaganda video because it was such a large find, because they found so much material at this site. There are concerns that not the use of children in the insurgency has been increasing but that al Qaeda is trying to renew its efforts to target and recruit other children. In this particular case of this video, the military said that they have no evidence that these particular children were involved in any sort of attack, any sort of act of terror. But they do believe that they were members of what the military called al Qaeda families where the entire family is supporting al Qaeda's efforts.

And now we're seeing this propaganda video out there and we also have from the U.S. military information about a different raid that took place in the same province where they found a script, what they're calling a movie script that also involves children carrying out acts of terror. What the military says is so disturbing and concerning for them is that unless they somehow stop the cycle of violence that is happening here, we just might be seeing the next generation of al Qaeda terrorists beginning to be trained.

HARRIS: I think that's it. I think you've put your finger right on it.

Arwa Damon for us in Baghdad. Arwa, thank you.

COLLINS: Want to get back to the story of the morning as well now. Parts of the south slammed this morning by deadly storms.


UNIDENTIFIED STORM VICTIM: All I have left is my front porch. The rest of it is gone.


COLLINS: Dozens of people are dead. Hundreds of others injured. A live report coming your way next.

ANNOUNCER: CNN NEWSROOM brought to you by...


ANNOUNCER: Live breaking news, unfolding developments, see for yourself in the CNN NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Quickly want to get you back to Rob Marciano standing by at the severe weather now center to talk more about what you see on your screen right there, which is a report of at least 69 tornadoes.

Rob, you said earlier maybe 20 or so may have touched down. We already know at least 45 people have been killed across five southern states. Boy, oh, boy. What's the latest now?

MARCIANO: Yes. I mean the only thing we can say for sure, obviously, is how people have lost their lives. What we did -- the way we get tornado reports in, they come in pretty much as they're seen on the ground, either by storm spotters or by the media or by law enforcement officials, and a lot of times there will be more than one spotting of the same storm.

But nonetheless, you know, if you take maybe a third of them that may be, you know, a good estimate. So still, we're talking about 20 or so storms, or tornadoes that probably touched down from anywhere from Arkansas all the way through northern Alabama and Tennessee getting quite a number of these.


HARRIS: A presidential politics the morning after Super Tuesday. A clear frontrunner for the Republicans. The Democrats, divided. More states for one, candidate more delegates for the other, and still anybody's guess who will win the nomination. On the Republican side, Arizona Senator John McCain now has a commanding lead. He won nine states overall including California. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney won seven and vowed to keep going. But he is meeting with his advisers today. Five states went to former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. He won southern states including Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.

In the Democratic race, Senator Hillary Clinton took the biggest prize by winning California with strong support from Latino voters. She also won in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. But Senator Barack Obama won seven states. He did well in the Deep South with victories in Georgia and Alabama. He also won big in the Midwest and the Rocky Mountain states.

COLLINS: Neither Democrat landed a knockout punch, though. So the fight for the nomination goes on. We expect to hear from Senator Barack Obama in just about two hour from now.

Meantime, live to Chicago and Suzanne Malveaux this morning.

Hi there, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Heidi, I guess you can call it a draw. But all Barack Obama really needed to do, aides say, was to hold his own. He did just that. He won 13 states, also split the delegates with Senator Clinton. The states are a wide cross section from Alaska to Georgia. They are very pleased.

If you take a look at the breakdown in terms of his support, high African-American, independents, young voters as well as a real boost among white men. That was a real improvement there. They are looking ahead here. They say this is a fight over the delegates and that they're in it for the long haul. They believe that the longer Barack Obama stays in the race the better he'll do, the stronger he will become, and they point to one significant factor, and that is the money.

It was January they raised $32 million that month compared to Senator Clinton, $13.5 million. They are already blitzing the states, looking ahead in advertising and they say they're much more comfortable. It was like taking bite-sized chunks, two or three states, and focusing on them at a time as opposed to a whole swathe of 20 states. They believe he'll be very strong in those rallies in the advertising. They believe they can dominate when it comes to spending. They've got lots of money, lots of cash to do that.

Now looking ahead, obviously, he's not going to stay here for long. He's got a lot of road to travel, heading to Washington for some critical votes on the Hill, but then as well going on to Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington state. All of this, Heidi, as you know, is about trying to invigorate, keep that momentum going. And what you're going to see because it's so close, because it's a protracted race, you're going to see more emphasis on wooing those super delegates. You're also going see more emphasis on trying to get those key endorsements.

Let's take a listen to the message.


BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And today on this Tuesday in February, in states north and south, east and west, what began as a whisper in Springfield has swelled to a chorus of millions calling for change. It's a chorus that cannot be ignored, a chorus that cannot be deterred. This time can be different because this campaign for the presidency of the United States of America is different.


MALVEAUX: And, Heidi, we're also hearing a message from Barack Obama, you'll hear it more often now, comparing himself, contrasting himself, to what he believes is going to be the Republican nominee up against John McCain, that he is already contrasting his record when it comes to the Iraq war, when it comes to foreign policy. So he's already positioning himself perhaps jumping prematurely but positioning himself, leapfrogging over Senator Clinton, and saying, look, this is my opponent, John McCain - Heidi?

COLLINS: It's certainly interesting. We knew we'd still be talking about it this morning, now do we?

Suzanne Malveaux with the...

MALVEAUX: Good to hear.

COLLINS: ...Obama camp. Thanks so much. This is (INAUDIBLE).

HARRIS: From underdog to leader of the pack. John McCain savoring his Super Tuesday wins and hoping to keep the momentum going.

Dana Bash live from Phoenix at the airport where McCain will be leaving this morning to fly across the country.

Dana, big night for John McCain last night.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Definitely a big night for John McCain. Certainly it's something that is making him and his campaign very happy. They were on pins and needles, as you can imagine, all day yesterday, because what they were trying to do was get something that they do now appear to have. And that is momentum, Tony.

And let's take a look at the map just to show our viewers where John McCain did well last night. It really was coast to coast. In New York, in New Jersey, in Connecticut and Delaware, there in the northeast, that really was where John McCain did exceptionally well, especially those two states, New York and New Jersey. Huge delegate wins there in those states.

Then moving across the country, Illinois, Oklahoma, of course, where I am, his home state of Arizona. But you know, the -- the states that we really should focus on are Missouri. That, obviously, is a bellwether state. That was a tough, tough fight between John McCain, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, but John McCain got it in the end and, of course, the biggest, the biggest state of California. Not only did John McCain win the state of California but he won it big.

Right now according to CNN, it looks like Mitt Romney is only winning about two of the 53 congressional districts, and that is how California is split up. Two of the 53 congressional districts. So it was a big win for John McCain in California and that is why last night, Tony, John McCain said something that he has been reluctant to say so far, that he understands he is now in command of the GOP field.


JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Although, I've never minded the role of the underdog and I've relished as much as anyone come-from-behind wins. Tonight, I think we must get used to the idea, that we are the Republican Party frontrunner for the nomination of president of the United States.


So at this point, John McCain, realistically, he has about half, maybe a little bit more than half of the delegates. He really needs to officially become the nominee, Tony. But the question now, as we go forward is, whether or not he will become the effective nominee and that will be determined by what happens with the other candidates in the race.

Mike Huckabee obviously had a huge night last night. He swept the south, but the question is what's going to happen with Mitt Romney? He's got nothing on his public schedule today. He's been in meeting with his advisers. His advisers tell us that he is determined -- determine to stay in the race at least until the primaries on the 4th of March.

We'll see what happens as he looks at the map and he sort of combs through the data as he has known to do on the day after big nights like last night. That was a disappointing night, no question, for Mitt Romney.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely. All right, Dana Bash for us in Phoenix with the John McCain campaign. Dana, appreciate it. Thank you.

BASH: Thank you.

Live in the CNN NEWSROOM, Tony Harris and Heidi Collins.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, once again, everybody, I'm Heidi Collins.

HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris. Welcome back to the CNN NEWSROOM.

Breaking news for you this morning. Severe weather in the south, tornadoes, and strong storm still pounding the region. At least, 45 deaths already reported across four states. Hundreds of other people injured. Strong winds, flipped vehicles and let the mini homes in absolute ruins.

Look at these pictures. Some of the worst damage in Western Tennessee. A tornado damaged part of Union University in Jackson. We saw those pictures at daybreak -- just devastating. At least eight students waited out the storm in a dorm room. A retirement home near the school also hit. Storms also damaged parts of the city of Memphis, including a shopping mall and the airport.

Two dozen deaths are reported across Tennessee. Arkansas is the next hardest hit state with more than a dozen deaths. And ten deaths had been confirmed across Kentucky and Alabama. Again, stay with CNN for the latest weather updates with our meteorologist Rob Marciano. We are also getting the latest information from our reporters, obviously, our correspondents and our affiliates.

COLLINS: Dozens of people lose their lives in a night of terror. Daylight revealing incredible damage from that tornado outbreak. We will have coverage all day long right here in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: There you have the opening bell. Just a couple of minutes ago for this Wednesday morning. Yesterday, ouch, pretty nasty day at the close there. Down 370 points for the Dow Jones Industrial Averages. Futures are pointing to sort of a modest rebound. Not really sure exactly what that means. But right now, you can see for yourself, we are to the positive there. About 46 points at 12,311. NASDAQ also up 10 points.

HARRIS: Hey, once again, we want to get you to the severe weather center and Rob Marciano has been continuing to track the devastation of the tornadoes in the mid-south.

And, Rob, it's interesting. We want to keep an eye on what has transpired, but also we want to keep an eye on the path of these storms as they move east.


COLLINS: All right. Rob, thanks so much. We'll check back later on. Meanwhile, we want to check in right now with Arkansas Emergency Management. We have Tonya Roberts on the line. She is with Pope County to be specific.

Tonya, if you can hear me OK, tell us a little bit about what you know about the situation in Pope County this morning?

TONYA ROBERTS, POPE COUNTY, ARKANSAS EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: We had a very serious situation. Tornadoes touched down in the county around 4:00 -- 4:57 p.m. yesterday afternoon. Although, the sirens had gone off to warn people, very serious storms, four fatalities confirmed. Large amount of debris. We have crews now. We have no one confirmed missing, but there were so much damage.

We're just doing a very detailed debris assessment to make sure that no one is missing or no one is injured that we haven't, we couldn't see throughout the night when it was dark. We did have four confirmed fatalities.

COLLINS: Yes, we know that did you. Our condolences, obviously, go out to Pope County and several of the other areas that we've been reporting on this morning. As far as those search efforts this morning, have you been able to talk with any of the crews? I'm just so curious to know, you know, how people are doing this morning. Both residents who survived this and then those who are trying to search through all of the debris?

ROBERTS: Well, our search teams, we have mini teams -- just both on foot and with equipment going through debris. We're also being hampered in the area. Very unusually, we have had winter weather. They're coming on top of this tornado and we have sleet and snow falling.

COLLINS: Right now, you do?

ROBERTS: Right now, on top of the tornado debris. So, that's why we want to make sure we've got these crews working as fast as they can, so if someone unknown was somewhere, we can get to them.

COLLINS: Yes. It's very strange. And we've been learning about that a little from our meteorologists here -- about how rare it is. Looking at some live pictures now, I believe coming to us out of Jackson, Tennessee there. Now, we're back to some video of your area. How strange this is to have the tornadoes this early in February? In the winter season.

ROBERTS: This is actually the second tornado in 2008 that has touched down in our country and caused a fatality. Very strange weather here already.

COLLINS: How do you feel about the amount of warning your area was able to get?

ROBERTS: The National Weather Service did an excellent job.


ROBERTS: The storms were monitored. They went across the state. The sirens went off as soon as the warning of these storms. Too soon as the warnings came in and people out in the community were warned that, with this much devastation, it's unfortunate, the lost lives and damage.

COLLINS: Yes and one of the most devastating stories from your area -- is the little girl and her parents who were killed, and obviously, one other person. So that makes four in your area. We wish you the best of luck. We know it's going to be a busy day and continuing to look at pictures coming in to us live from all across the south. We will follow it very closely.

Once again, Tonya Roberts with Pope County Emergency Management. Thanks so much.

HARRIS: And still to come in the NEWSROOM this morning, Mitt Romney vows to go on, all the way to the convention. We will hear from his campaign in minutes.


HARRIS: We've asked you for your I-reports, if you're in the mid-south and your area has been devastated by the line of tornadoes and severe weather. We have an I-report we want to show you -- from Tina Harris. Wow, take a look at this.

She's actually in Cherokee Village, Arkansas. And that's the photo of this man checking out a propane tank. Crazy shot there. She also reports no real damage to her home. She also describes a scene where the tornado actually took out everything along Highway 63, except the place where she works. It leveled a shopping center a couple of miles from her home. Took out a restaurant, some churches, power line. She's reporting down, for about a quarter of a mile, and quoting here, "It came and it was gone just like that. It was pretty scary."

She actually reported she was unable to vote because of the tornado, and that's a report that we heard a couple of times -- that officials had to actually close some of the polling places in Arkansas, Tennessee, I believe as well, because of the encroaching storms. She had to get home as quickly as she could just to take care of her pets. But thanks to Tina Harris for her story and that I- report.

COLLINS: OK, we want to take a moment now and get back to the other very big story this morning -- and that is the aftermath of Super Tuesday. Obviously, those results came in all night long. Not everything was figured out, but we do want to speak with the Mitt Romney campaign this morning, as well as several others.

He did, in fact, win seven states last night but couldn't quite keep pace with John McCain. Kevin Madden is national press secretary for the Romney campaign. He is in Boston this morning.

Good morning to you on Super Wednesday...


COLLINS: ...Maybe we can call it that. I don't know. It depends on who you are and how you're looking at things, I guess. I want to start, if I could, with some sound from Mike Huckabee. As you are well aware, he was the winner in Georgia, Alabama, West Virginia and Arkansas last night. Let's listen.


MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Over the past few days, a lot of people have been trying to say that this is a two-man race. Well, you know what? It is! And we're in it!


COLLINS: Kevin, he was not talking about your candidate Mitt Romney. He was, in fact, talking about himself and John McCain.

MADDEN: Well, let's look at the delegate count, Heidi. John McCain is ahead but he's not ahead where he thought he would be, on the Wednesday after February 5th. And Governor Romney, I think had a very strong showing in many of these states where we weren't really expected to do that well. And then we had, like you said, we had seven wins in important states. And two of those states are major battlegrounds in the general election.

So I think that's a testament to the governor's growing support, as well as his viability in a general election against the Democrats. I think Mike Huckabee, you know, he was very limited in his appeal. I think, if you look at the states that he's won. Sure, he's doing well on the south -- where he's from. He's doing well with states that had a large proportion of Evangelical voters but he hasn't shown any ability to really go beyond that appeal.

COLLINS: So, are you surprised he's still in the race at this point?

MADDEN: Well, no. I'm not surprised. I think that a lot of folks, Heidi, at the beginning of the year, they look at February 5th as a day where we would know who the nominees were for both parties. And I think, now on February 6th, it's very clear that that's not the case.

So we have a very fluid race right now. We're encouraged by the fact that Governor Romney, continues to get a lot of support from conservatives. And if you look at a lot of these calendars, if you look a lot on these contests, they are up next on the primary calendar. Places like Kansas and Washington as well as Virginia, conservatives play an important role in a lot of these contests. So we're very confident that as we look forward to February 9th and February 12th and 19th, all of these next contests up on the calendar, that Governor Romney, that the calendar suits us.

COLLINS: All right. I want to look at another statistics, though, from the exiting polls if you would. Look with me. This one actually shows voters who said the economy was their top concern. Here's who they supported. As you can see, McCain 42 percent, your candidate 31 percent, and then Mike Huckabee 19 percent. Does this surprise you, because your campaign has focused so much on Romney's strength on the economy and McCain's apparent weakness?

MADDEN: Well, one of the things we noticed, Heidi, is that -- on that issue, Governor Romney's support continues to grow among those that are concerned about the economy. As people learn more about his record as somebody who's had experience in the private sector, as well as his plan for bringing back -- bringing the economy back on track, as well as creating jobs and lowering taxes.

And I think that, you know, as we go through this campaign and we hit these next primary states and we continue to talk about the economy, voters take, again, another look at Governor Romney's record on economic issues. I think that we're going to continue to be competitive on that issue and it's going to be a major source of support for us as we move forward.

COLLINS: I heard Mitt Romney say last night that no matter what, he was continuing this contest, all the way to the convention and all the way to the White House. Is that the case?

MADDEN: Yes. That's because we expect to win. So we're going to be, have to be at the convention. It is true. I mean, if anybody is looking for the governor's mood and they're looking to see what the governor's focus is -- take a look at that speech last night.

You saw a very energized candidate who recognizes that his message is resonating with conservative voters and that a lot of Republicans are going to take a look at this race and say, who is the best candidate that can offer the contrast with the Democrats in November, on issues like the economy, on issues like border security and immigration and who can change Washington? He's the best candidate.

COLLINS: All right. Kevin Madden, national press secretary for Governor Mitt Romney. Thanks so much, Kevin. Nice to talk to you.

MADDEN: Thanks, Heidi.

HARRIS: And we want to get back to the story we've been following throughout the morning here. These severe line of storms, tornadoes, through the mid-south and as you know, Tennessee particularly hard hit. 24 confirmed fatalities in the state of Tennessee alone.

On the line with us right now is Sheriff Bob Barker, Sumner County, there in Tennessee.

Sheriff, thanks for your time. If you could, tell us the story -- boy, how badly damaged, how hard hit was your county?

BOB BARKER, SUMNER COUNTY, TENNESSEE: Just after 10:00 last night, we had one of tornadoes touchdown in one of our unincorporated areas just outside of Galveston to the campground. Hits a residential area and crossed over into some businesses. A historic site, a post office and some other areas that were also hit.

HARRIS: Sheriff, how populated is that area?

BARKER: It's a rural environment in that area, but it is well populated.

HARRIS: How many people are -- we'll get to the fatalities in a minute. How many people displaced, at this time, in that county?

BARKER: In that area, there's probably at least 20 residences and a couple of businesses.

HARRIS: How many lives were lost in Sumner County -- in your county, sheriff?

BARKER: We recovered five bodies last night. Of course, there were several people that were injured and got them medical attention. And then, we started back at daylight, going door-to-door to check all the homes.

HARRIS: Boy. How do you feel about the warning system? Do you feel like you had enough time? You had ample warning?

BARKER: Yes. They had predicted the storms. They came all the way across the state, in the mid-state region. All the weather forecast and the updates were provided.

HARRIS: Sheriff, have you had an opportunity, this is, you're not only the sheriff of that community. You live in that community and I suspect you know a lot of the people who have been impacted by this. So this is a deeply personal story for you as well. Give us a sense of what your thoughts or your emotions are this morning?

BARKER: Well, you know, any time you have these storms that we went through a couple years ago here in Sumner County, on a larger scale, we lost nine people then. Even just the injury alone, it certainly is tragic when you have that.

We had one last night where we located and recovered an 11-month- old child, but unfortunately the mother didn't survive, and was located just a short distance away.

HARRIS: Sheriff, how are you fixed for resources? Do you have what you need?

BARKER: We do. We're very fortunate in our area. All of the agencies work well together. We've got seven cities within our county and we had two other counties that were responding to us, providing assistance. And it was a great team effort. Everyone pulled together.

HARRIS: Sheriff, so sorry about the loss of life in your county and we appreciate your time. We know you have a very, very long day ahead of you. Sheriff Bob Barker, Sumner County, Tennessee. Sheriff, we'll let you get back to your work.

BARKER: Thank you.

COLLINS: Deadly spring-like storms plow into the south. Dozens of people lose their lives. In a night of tornado terror.


COLLINS: We have been following very closely, all morning long, these terrible tornadoes that have hit the mid-south across five different states. 45 people dead at this time. A lot of search and rescue still going on at this moment. Daylight obviously is now in the favor of those crews.

We want to bring in as much as we can throughout the morning. Any eyewitness reports and pictures that we are getting from all across that region. Particularly, now from Memphis, Tennessee. Our affiliate WPTY gathered up the accounts of two men in that area. Let's go ahead and listen for a moment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was very frightening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: What did it sound like? Describe it to us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man, it sounded like just a rushing wind, just started hitting everything, and we just broke out running.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We ran into the hallway, man. The way the mall was made, it was no place safe. Glass is in like every store window. So if it would have really hit, the majority of the people were, it could have been a big mess.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: What are people seeing (INAUDIBLE), tell me all about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man, it's indescribable, because it happened so quick. You know, what I'm saying. It's just like -- all of a sudden, it's right here and people starting screaming, hollering, and everybody just broke out running. There wasn't no time to think or anything else. We had to go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: What was going through your mind when that happens?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was thinking about my mom. I just called on Jesus. And so that's it, man.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: What about the vehicle? When you saw your vehicle, what do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I said, thank God I can replace this glass. The vehicle is still pretty good. So, that's it. But I'd rather have my life than a vehicle any time.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: What had been stolen recently?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stolen in a car theft. Well, when they were stealing all the cars and I have them in the backyard (INAUDIBLE). This was one of the cars as you can note it by the blue tape in the back one and now this is here once again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: You just got your car back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's destroyed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: What did you first think when you saw this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I couldn't believe it. It's devastating.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Were you in the mall? Where were you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I was at work. I was on (INAUDIBLE), when the worst of the storm hit. And it hit real bad out there, too. Major hail, following strong wind, almost blew over our work van. We had to pull up on the curb behind a bank to try to get away from some of the wind and I called her to check on her and that's when she told me, the mall had been destroyed and our car also.


COLLINS: Again, those two accounts coming in to us as eyewitnesses from the state of Tennessee, where we know now, at least 24 people have been confirmed dead in that state. And now you see, on the bottom of your screen there, that number as we expected, went up overall to at least 48 people now dead. We are continuing to update that for you. And again, as all of those search and rescues continue to go on this morning, we do expect that those numbers will unfortunately change.

HARRIS: And look at that radar, Heidi. Eastern, Alabama. The storms just passing the Montgomery area into the Western Georgia and on up and through the Atlanta area as well. Watches and warnings throughout that. That live swap that you see right there. Two big stories this morning.

Our breaking news. Severe weather coverage continuing throughout the morning here on the NEWSROOM. Plus, it has been unnerving to watch. The U.S. says this tape shows boys training to be al Qaeda terrorist.