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Tornado Devastates Iowa Boy Scout Camp

Aired June 11, 2008 - 22:00   ET


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: We have got a lot more on tonight's breaking news: tornadoes in Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Kansas, the worst now in western Iowa.
Here's what we know. A Boy Scout camp, the Little Sioux Scout Ranch, taking a direct hi, reportedly with fatalities -- details just coming in from the camp. This is about an hour north of Omaha, Nebraska. One hundred-plus scouts were at the camp, from what we understand. And, again, local media reporting that four people are dead, at least 20 hurt. There is major destruction at Little Sioux. And, obviously, these numbers may change throughout the night.

As for what actually hit the camp, we want to go straight to CNN's Chad Myers, who has the very latest for us.

Chad, what do you know?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Campbell, we do know that a large and dangerous tornado was on the ground very close to the camp about three minutes after it would have gone over the camp. We actually had spotters. This is a little bit of a rugged, rural area.

And you don't think that happens in Iowa, but it does. It's kind of in the Missouri River Valley, where things are a little bit bumpy, and we didn't have good visuals, because it wasn't in a cornfield. There's the Little Sioux Scout Ranch. And I will zoom in for you and we will kind of give you an idea.

This is kind of out in a remote area, not in the Missouri Valley, but in those little mountains that you get just before to the east and to the West of the Missouri River Valley.

And there's the camp right there. You can see the lake in the background, not too many places to camp here. So, we're assuming that a lot of these kids obviously would have been in tents.

So, what are we anticipating now? There are the cells from Minneapolis right on down into Omaha. Whoops. Go back to that. There we go, and then from Omaha right back up into Minneapolis, and down into Kansas. I mean, all the way down toward Salina, Kansas, we have a tornado warning there.

This was just supposed to be kind of a normal, middle-of-the-day kind of thunderstorm day, couple of tornadoes. Well, I'm telling you, I have seen at least 20 tornadoes on the ground tonight in separate reports. Now we're getting storms to kind of line up all together. And lines of storms don't really make tornadoes. It's those separate ones that do.

Also, we're not getting as many tornado reports now, because now it's dark and now it's harder to see them. And in fact now it's even a little bit more dangerous -- Campbell.

BROWN: And let's go back, if we can, to that Boy Scott camp just for a second, Chad, and talk about it a little bit.

You were saying -- we're trying to envision what it's like, whether there are any buildings there or if this is a situation where we are just talking about tents. And these guys, I mean, whoever was there, was there any place really for them to take cover at all? And I know we're just getting reports in, so our information about this is all pretty sketchy at these stage.

MYERS: There were a few buildings. Kind of looks like kind of some mess halls and probably some -- some camp areas, wherever the camp counselors and the scout leaders would have stayed.

But it really does look kind of more like a remote place. And I was hearing from our affiliate in Omaha. This is kind of a rugged- type camp, where the advanced scouts get to go, although we do know, from 13 to 18 years old, once you -- it's probably not that scout and tenderfoot kind of guys that go there, but kind of the little bit of we will call it upperclassmen, if you will. And this is that little scout camp.

Let's go to my graphics again. And I will take you to some of the buildings. This is our Google Earth. I can zoom right on down. I know that there's a building right there. I'm not sure what it is. That almost looks like a Quonset hut. So maybe there's some kind of a storage building for equipment.

As soon as you come into the camp, right there, there's a building, a couple of maybe propane tanks outside there I'm seeing. We will slide you down here. Now we're getting farther in. And then not too many buildings here, a little bit farther down to the road, and finally all the way back to the lake that exists on the property there.

And where we knew that the tornado was on the ground was very close -- a little bit farther to the east here. We actually had spotters watching this storm. I'm going to zoom you all the way out and we will find the town that we know that just about went right over the top of. There we go. And that would be Moorhead in Iowa. We know the storm was very close to that town, making damage as well -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right, Chad, stay with us.

We want to bring in right now Gene Meyer, who is the Iowa commissioner on public safety, joining us at this moment.

And we're just tracking a little bit -- or trying to find out as much as we can about this Boy Scout camp, what may have happened there. Are you able to provide us with any information?

GENE MEYER, IOWA COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC SAFETY: Well, we just know that a tornado touched down at the camp. We have responded there with several state troopers, local law enforcement, search-and-rescue crews with the Iowa National Guard.

Preliminary information is telling us that there were probably roughly 120-some people in the camp, 93 children and 27 youth counselors.

BROWN: And we had been hearing reports that there's a hospital about 20 miles from there; is that right, Burgess Hospital?

MEYER: Well, I'm not familiar with Burgess. Certainly, Sioux City hospitals are a little further than that from there. And, of course, Omaha hospitals, also. And there are plenty of medical people on the ground there.

BROWN: And we had gotten some reports, again, a lot of local reports, that hospitals had there received several patients with injuries, some of them serious. Have you been able to confirm the number of injuries or whether there were some fatalities, which we had also heard local reports that there were in fact a number of fatalities?

MEYER: We know we have four fatalities at this time, but I don't have an exact number of injuries.

BROWN: And Chad Myers was showing us this satellite picture of the camp. Can you describe it for us, that area? Was there any place where, again, people were able to take cover, as far as we know?

MEYER: I really can't help you with that. I have not personally been there and I haven't had the time to look at a satellite photograph yet.

BROWN: Well, let me ask you. I know that you guys have probably been getting a lot of calls from very worried parents. Are you hearing from a lot of people at this hour?

MEYER: I'm sure they are locally. And they're responding to that the best they can, because we're dealing with this incident, of course, then we have got severe flooding all over Iowa going on at the same time.

BROWN: You know, Chad was telling us that they had some reports, but really only late this afternoon, that the storm system is as bad as it's turned out to be. Did you guys have any sense for how bad this was going to be or that the magnitude of these -- the number of these tornadoes, rather, was going to be touching down or headed your way?

MEYER: Well, it's hard to predict the number. We knew from the National Weather Service that we were under tornado watches in most of the western part of Iowa. BROWN: Right. So, did you feel fairly well prepared, I guess?

MEYER: Well, as prepared as we can be. We're responding to this as quickly as we can.

BROWN: Well, and we should mention, too, that not only are you dealing with this disaster, but you have a horrible flooding situation there in Iowa, where a lot of people are waiting for that river to crest as well.

MEYER: Yes, we are. We have been dealing with it for several days and will continue to deal with it, I'm sure, for at least another week.

BROWN: And we're hearing from now -- I should -- hearing now from Chad Myers, again, 32 separate reports of tornadoes touching down, pretty astounding.

Mr. Meyer, we do wish you the best of luck with the situation there. I know you have got a lot to deal with certainly in the coming hours and days.

MEYER: Thank you very much, Campbell.

BROWN: We want to go now to our affiliate KETV in progress and just listen in to their coverage for a moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... what is happening with the Boy Scout camp. We have been asked by emergency management for assistance. We will be deploying trained Red Cross volunteers to our mental health care workers and spiritual care workers to the scene to be there to assist the families, as they await information on their loved ones and to provide support in that community for whatever disaster relief is necessary.

So, we have teams that are ready to leave as soon as the storm lifts here. Meanwhile, there's another Red Cross chapter in Sioux City that is also on the scene.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tina (ph), what are you hearing about the situation there as far as dead and injured? Are they giving you numbers?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We do not have any confirmed numbers from our sources.

Sadly, we do have staff and volunteers here who have children who were at the camp. So, we are -- on their behalf, of course, people are concerned and are doing our best to meet their needs on a personal level, as well as to assist the broader community and all of those families who will be affected by the tragic storm.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So many affected.

All right, Tina Price (ph), you hang in there and keep us posted, OK? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You bet. Thank you for calling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now you're listening to...

BROWN: So, that was Tina Price (ph) we were hearing from, the American Red Cross, who was just speaking there about what was going on at that Boy Scout camp.

And we do want to bring in now Lloyd Roitstein, who is the president of the Mid-America Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

And he is joining us.

And I believe you are in Iowa. Is that accurate?


BROWN: What can you tell us at this hour, Lloyd? What have you been able to find out?

ROITSTEIN: I'm at the entrance of camp. Right now, we're doing a search-and-rescue.

There are hundreds of law enforcement officers and National Guard out here. They're taking the injured to local hospitals. There are four confirmed dead, numerous injured. The camp is virtually destroyed. There's nothing left in there. And so, they're trying to find out what's going on here.

We're getting a list of those scouts and scouters who were here. These were older scouts, 13 to 18 years old, out here for a week of training, and some of our best young men in our community.

BROWN: Oh, I am sure you're hearing from a lot of parents, a lot of family members tonight, Lloyd. How are you all handling the situation?

ROITSTEIN: Well, they're setting up a command post in a nearby community. And, right now, we're just trying to get a list of who's injured and who's not.

And -- and, again, it's out of my hands right now. I'm in with the law enforcement and rescue people. So, we're trying to find out everything for those parents, and, right now, there's a lot of apprehension from our parents.

BROWN: And, Lloyd, describe the camp a little bit for us. I know we could see on a satellite map that there were a number of buildings there, but what's the living situation? Are people living in -- sleeping in buildings? Are they in tents? Or what was it like?

ROITSTEIN: They were all in tents. They were here for training. They were all in tents.

All of the buildings are gone. Most of the tents are gone. As I look at the camp now, the trees are mostly destroyed. All you have got is a lot of property, 1,800 acres of property that's destroyed right now.

BROWN: And I do -- I know there are reports of, as you had mentioned before, of four fatalities that we have heard so far. A number of people have been taken to local hospitals. And I'm assuming a range of injuries here, from serious to minor injuries. Have you had any contact or been able to talk to any of the boys or young men who were there?

ROITSTEIN: None. None. They're not allowing me to talk to anybody right now. Right now, it's in the hands of the search-and- rescue volunteers.

BROWN: And how long have they been out there and at this? We're not quite sure of our time frame here, Lloyd. Do you have a sense for when the tornado may have touched down?

ROITSTEIN: They came here Sunday morning. They were supposed to leave on Saturday morning.

It touched down about 6:30 p.m. Central Standard Time.

BROWN: And was somebody able to call out? Or how were they able to notify people of what had happened?

ROITSTEIN: Cell phones don't work. It's a pretty rural area. Cell phones don't work. They had to go to the entrance of camp out to the main area and give one call, and get the ball rolling.

BROWN: So, Lloyd, once you are able to get into the camp to talk to some people, what's your next step, in terms of -- in terms of notifying people and trying to get information out?

ROITSTEIN: There's a command post in a local community here, Little Sioux, Iowa, where the families can go. And, as we get information, we will tell them. It's going to be a long evening. I can tell that.

BROWN: Do you know how far the search-and-rescue efforts, to the extent, I guess, they have been able to identify where everybody is, since you have numbers in terms of how many people were at the camp, as we mentioned, about 120 people, 93 Boy Scouts there, 93 kids at the camp? Have they been able to get a head count, essentially?

ROITSTEIN: No. They're working on that now.

But the police need my help right now, so I need to go. I thank you.

BROWN: Lloyd, we appreciate your time. Please go do what you need to do.

And we do want to bring in Mike Krysl right now, who is the spokesman for Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City, where a number of the injured are being taken. And, Mike, what can you tell us at this hour?

MIKE KRYSL, SPOKESMAN, MERCY MEDICAL CENTER: Campbell, we received the first two injured juvenile patients at 8:13 p.m. this evening. And they arrived by helicopter.

Mercy Medical Center - Sioux City is a regional level two trauma center. It's the only trauma center of that caliber in western Iowa. We activated our disaster plan this evening. And we are in disaster mode at this time. And things are going very smoothly. We are fully staffed with physicians, surgeons, nurses, and counselors.

And, thus far, we have had three patients come in from the Little Sioux/Blencoe area. And we anticipate two more arriving shortly. Beyond that, it's hard to say at this time.

BROWN: And these are serious injuries?

KRYSL: These are traumatic injuries. I'm not at liberty right now to speculate as to the nature of those injuries.

BROWN: And are you -- have you been notified that they're going to be bringing additional people there to you guys for help?

KRYSL: That information is a little bit ambiguous at this time. We're unclear as to how many more patients we might expect this evening.

BROWN: But they have probably got you on alert there?

KRYSL: Yes, indeed. We are on full alert, and fully staffed, and ready to deal with any situation.

BROWN: Now, how -- I'm assuming you're pretty close to there. I mean, did you -- were you aware of this tornado touching down? And how were you all coping with the situation?

KRYSL: We're doing very well here.

You know, it's about 50 miles away from Sioux City. And, you know, Mercy Medical Center-Sioux City is fully capable of dealing with a situation of this caliber. You know, too many people who work here remember 1989, the crash of United Flight 232 at Sioux Gateway Airport in Sioux City, which was a disaster, a horrific disaster, that was addressed with an amazing community response, and an amazing response from the health care community here in Sioux City.

And, so, we're not completely unaccustomed to dealing with disaster. And I think it's actually going very well. I also think that a number of the injured will also be taken to Omaha, Nebraska, and possibly to other area hospitals. Given the geographic location of the camp, about halfway between Sioux City, Iowa, and Omaha, Nebraska, with so many hospitals in those two communities, it's actually a pretty good situation in terms of the trauma response, because we're not placing a heavy burden on any one hospital.

We're able to disperse those patients to several different hospitals.

BROWN: And, as far as you know, Mike, these -- the Boy Scouts, the people at this camp, they're mostly local folks, right?

KRYSL: I believe so.

BROWN: And, again, as far as you know, this appears to be, if you guys didn't experience any damage or hear about the tornadoes touching down near where you were, that this looks like it caused this damage in a fairly isolated area, essentially where the camp was. There -- you're not getting reports of any injuries from other places?

KRYSL: No, not at this time. We haven't received -- now, there were other tornadoes located -- spotted in the area. There were tornadoes, I know, on the ground to the northeast of Sioux City. I know there were other -- other tornado warnings issued this evening. But, to the best of our knowledge, this was obviously the worst possible situation there in the Little Sioux, Iowa, area.

BROWN: All right, Mike Krysl with us tonight from a local hospital there.

I know you have got your hands full, Mike. We really do appreciate your time tonight.

And just to recap for everybody where things stand right now, a tornado that has hit this Boy Scout camp in Iowa, 120 people, we have been told, 93 of them Boy Scouts, at the camp, ages 13 to 18 years old -- local reports confirming there are four fatalities. And we have confirmed that as well.

There are about -- at least 20 injuries. Many of these are serious injuries, from what we understand. We're going to keep following this very closely for you.

We're going to take a quick break. And we will be back with a lot more breaking news right after this.


BROWN: We are updating our breaking news right now.

There are four dead after a tornado hit a Boy Scout camp. It happened in the Little Sioux Scout Ranch. This is 93 scouts, we understand, were there, about 120 people in all.

Following all the developments with us tonight, our severe weather expert, Chad Myers, who has got the very latest for us.

Chad, what can you tell us?

MYERS: Campbell, this is a remote area. We're talking about the Missouri River Valley, directly from Sioux City and Omaha, Nebraska. And you think, well, that would be a flat area, because it's Iowa.

But, in fact, it's not flat. It's part of the little hills that you get on both sides of that floodplain, which is the Missouri Valley.

Let's go ahead and take a look at the map. And I have put some topography on the map now. And that might give you a better indication, as I fly around and around, of the topography of it itself.

And you don't expect tornadoes to be in a hilly area. Well, it wasn't hilly by the time it got there, because the Missouri Valley is very flat. But, as you take a look, as I spin you around, notice the topography of these mountains, and then obviously the valley there where the lake is inside.

This is the problem or one of the problems with it. If you were in behind one of these mountains, you couldn't see or tell that this storm was coming. Another problem was that this was probably what we call a rain-wrapped tornado, a rain-wrapped tornado. Wrapped all the way around it was the rain, in order to not be able to see the funnel cloud, not like you think about a tornado in "The Wizard of Oz" or in Texas, where you can see it for miles and miles.

This cell, you couldn't. It also moved over into the east of this area. We actually had a tornado chaser on a Web site called Next time there's severe weather, go on that Web site. You can literally see storm chasers live driving down the street, taping and filming this tornado, or tornadoes, whatever they may be, hail, whatever, the wind damage.

They had a guy literally three miles from this storm. And he couldn't see it. He was less than three miles from the tornado and couldn't get an eyeball on it, because there was so much rain around it, and the tornado was in the middle. And it does look like this was a very damaging tornado, probably somewhere bigger than an F-1 or 2 as it moved across that area.

It was a long-lived event. It lasted on the ground for almost 20 or 30 miles. Now, there would have been plenty of warning for this Little Sioux Scout Ranch. I don't know whether the warnings got out there or not. This is such a remote area that, if any sirens, they would be 10 miles away possibly, but obviously a weather radio would have been the thing to have.

And you should have one tonight, too. If you have a weather radio, make sure it's on. And if you don't have one, I want you to buy one that's called SAME -- S-A-M-E. It doesn't go off every county in your state. It only goes off for the county that you program. Those old ones would go off all night long. By the time it got to your county, you would have it thrown it out the window, and it wouldn't be any good.

But the new ones are much better. They are so improved. They will only go off for what you program. If you don't live by a river, then don't program in the flash flood warning. If you do, then make sure that is in there. These are brand-new high-tech machines. And 50 bucks can save your life -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right. Hey, Chad, talk to us, though, a little bit about other areas that may have been hurt -- or hit, rather. I know this wasn't just Iowa, just Nebraska. There were four states, I think, that were looking at tornado warnings all night, right?

MYERS: In fact, now -- yes, I was just looking at that. There was 34 separate reports of tornadoes on the ground today, separate reports of tornado damage.

Now, sometimes, you get a spotter looking from the north, and it says four miles south of Manhattan, Kansas. Then you get another person looking from a different direction, and it may be the same tornado. And, so, maybe this number 34 will come down a little bit, maybe to 20 or 25, but, certainly, a big-event day in what has been just a tremendous year for tornadoes.

We had 24 inches of snow in the higher elevations of Montana today. Now, what does that have to do with severe weather? Last time we had this kind of severe weather, it was snowing in the Rockies. That's the cold air that is still coming out of the north, still coming down south with these troughs. Troughs of low pressure cause bad weather. The troughs moved into the Plains today. The snow was out West. The warm air's in the East. How hot has it been in New York City the past couple days?

That's the heat on the one side. The cold air and the snow is on the other. And right in between, right in this area, is where the severe weather popped up again today. And it will probably be a little bit father to the east, and maybe a little bit to the south tomorrow, but it could be another severe weather day.

We are now in record-breaking territory, if this keeps up, to be the most tornadic year ever.

BROWN: OK. Chad, we are going to check back with you as we have further developments.

But, right now, we want to go to Julie Hong, who is on the telephone. She is a reporter with affiliate KPTM. And she's been talking with some of the parents of the Boy Scouts.

Julie, what are you hearing?


The parents were asked to gather at one of the local churches here in Little Sioux. And, as you can imagine, parents with their heads buried in their hands, some of them pacing.

We have asked a couple of them if they would be willing to talk with us on camera, clearly very distraught, not wanting to talk with anybody, just waiting for any type of list or any type of word whether their child is OK.

Now, we did talk with one mother who was hoping that -- her child has been in the Scouts for years. And she was hoping that maybe his training was enough to hip him weather this storm. But we were told that the campground where there are these cabins were set up, apparently, there's nothing left of the site -- so, a lot of anxious parents just waiting for any word at this point.

BROWN: Yes, and we understand, Julie, that the search-and-rescue operation is still under way there. Are they giving these parents regular updates?

HONG: I think they're still waiting for the executive director of the Boy Scouts to drive up from Omaha. I understand that he was on his way here. So, I imagine they're just trying to survey the damage, get the boys that need -- that are hurt to the hospitals around here.

I can tell you, there have been a lot of ambulances coming in and out of here, a lot of volunteers gathering at the local gym here as well, just waiting for any word, you know. If they could help, they're all ready to step in. But, at this point, no one is near -- allowed near the campsite, as they try and -- to assess the situation here.

BROWN: And give us the number. I mean, how many parents have been gathered there?

HONG: When we started, it was pretty slow-going. But, by the time we had left to try and head up towards the campsite, there were probably close to two dozen parents. So, as they get word, you know, they're very anxious. There's definite tension in that church.

BROWN: And we should just mention, Julie, that we actually spoke with the head of the Boy Scouts earlier. And he was outside of the camp still trying to get in, to get information, to be able to provide for parents, for some of those parents who had been in contact with them.

So, everyone had been kept on the perimeter there for a while, because we do understand that the damage is severe there on the grounds of the Boy Scout camp.

Julie Hong, who is a reporter with our affiliate KPTM, who has again been speaking with parents there, as they wait for more information.

Just to give you a brief recap, this Boy Scout camp has been hit by a tornado. Four fatalities, we have confirmed, at least 20 injuries, and many of these injuries serious. They're still doing a search-and-rescue effort there at the camp at this hour. This is in Iowa, right near the Nebraska border -- a pretty serious situation tonight.

We have a lot more breaking news, including the flooding that's also happening, serious flooding happening tonight in Iowa. We're going to check in with our reporter who is the ground there when we come back -- a lot more breaking news right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BROWN: And you are looking at a radar picture of a seriously bad night in the Midwest. We are following some breaking news now: tornadoes hitting four states tonight, including Iowa, where a twister hit a Boy Scout camp in the western part of the state, four fatalities, many more injuries.

As Chad Myers mentioned earlier, these tornadoes are only the latest unwelcome guest in the region. The other problem is flooding.

And CNN's Sean Callebs is in the path of tonight's storm system with all the floodwaters around him, the weather making it hard to bring you a picture. So, he's joining us tonight by phone.

And, Sean, let's start first with the tornado threat, that system headed your way. What are you seeing and what are you hearing right now?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the weather conditions here -- we talked to you just a couple of hours ago -- they have changed somewhat dramatically. It's gotten much cooler. It's much more windy. You can feel the pressure has gone down.

And it has certainly got the attention of the people in this area, what happened in the western part of this state. Everybody has gone in. They're very worried about this weather system moving into this region.

For the big part of this, there are levees that are keeping the rising waters of the Des Moines River, Raccoon River out from swamping this city. Now, with more rain coming in, more rain to the north, people know that, look, this water has simply nowhere to go.

And, really, what people fear is a replay of what happened back in 1993, the devastating Midwestern floods that really touched a huge portion of the United States. And there are real concerns out tonight, Campbell, that that could happen again.

BROWN: And, Sean, we can't show the visuals again because -- because of the weather where you are. But, as we saw you a little earlier tonight, I mean, that water is coming very close to the top of those levees.

And I understand there were areas that you said people were very concerned, where it was already breaking through, right?

All right. We have lost Sean Callebs by phone. But here's -- we want to share with you Sean's report from a little bit earlier tonight.

Take a look.



SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Home video captures the moment. A three-story house washes away, ripping apart after a collapse in Lake Delton, Wisconsin.

Tim Fromm owned that house.

TIM FROMM, LOST HOME: What used to be, you know, a level lot that went right into the lake, which was level, you know, you kind of look over the edge, and it's 60 feet down, and it's about 250 yards across. I mean, it's just -- it's unbelievable, the most incredible thing I've ever seen.

CALLEBS: Across the Midwest, days of heavy rains have swollen riverbeds, strained levees and left countless communities under feet of water.

And the fear for those who may be next?

MAYOR T.M. FRANKLIN COWNIE, DES MOINES, IOWA: We cannot control Mother Nature. We don't know what's going to happen tomorrow or the next day.

CALLEBS: Officials are calling it the worst flooding in the region in 15 years.

Mandatory evacuations have been ordered in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where the water continues to spill over a 102-foot levee. In Wisconsin, FEMA officials say there are thousands of similar situations. Hour after hour, volunteers are stacking sandbags, hoping they will save that city.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trying to save the place I grew up. I love this town, and I'd do anything for it. Just trying to protect it.

CALLEBS: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is taking no chances, shutting down nine locks along the Mississippi River. It is an extraordinary move, and one that could have a major impact on commercial traffic for the entire country.

Back at Lake Delton, nothing may ever be the same. The relentless rains were just too much, the pressure rupturing an embankment, spilling hundreds of millions of gallon of water over the side. This is what it looks like now, almost completely dry.


BROWN: And that was Sean Callebs, reporting for us from Iowa, where they are worried about serious flooding and on alert there now for, also, tornadoes that may be headed that way.

A deadly night already with tornadoes striking a Boy Scout camp in Iowa right near the border of Nebraska. Four deaths we've confirmed at that Boy Scout camp. As many as 20 injuries, many of them serious, with parents waiting outside the camp as that search and rescue still under way at this hour.

We will, of course, continue to following any breaking weather developments for you tonight, but we do want to move on.

Up next, a big day in politics, a big night of news overall. We're going to have that, coming up for you right after the break.



MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, NBC'S "THE TODAY SHOW": Do you know now have a better estimate of when American forces can come home from Iraq?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (D-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, but that's not too important.


BROWN: That is John McCain on "The Today Show," his remarks touching off a storm of criticism from the Obama campaign.

It wasn't the only back and forth today. Also today the flap over Jim Johnson, former chairman of mortgage broker Fannie Mae and former head of Barack Obama's running mate search committee. He stepped down today over personal finances after the "Wall Street Journal" reported that he might have received preferential loans from Countrywide.

Yesterday the campaign downplayed the story. Today, though, Johnson, who said -- who says he did nothing wrong, also said he is stepping down so as not to be a distraction. Well, lots of luck there.

Here's how McCain's spokesman put it: "Jim Johnson's resignation raises serious questions about Barack Obama's judgment. America can't afford a president who flip-flops on key questions in the course of 24 hours. That's not change we can believe in."

The Obama response, blistering. Quote, "We don't need any lectures from a campaign that waited fifteen months to purge the lobbyists from their staff, and only did so because they said it was a 'perception problem.' It's too bad their campaign is still rife with lobbyist influence and doesn't see a similar 'perception problem' with the man currently running their own vice-presidential selection process."

In fairness, we should point out the man in question, Arthur Culvahouse, is a former lobbyist.

Now, "Digging Deeper" with us tonight, CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, National Public Radio's Farai Chideya, and Marcus Mabry of "The New York Times."

David, this controversy has been picking up momentum for several days now. How do you think the Obama campaign has handled it?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I'm surprised, Campbell, at the outcome. We just talked about this last night. And I thought maybe they could let the storm pass, but Jim Johnson took himself out today. I think this has been a blow for the Obama campaign, a major distraction. It hit them just at the time they were trying to get traction. They were trying to get some momentum built around the economy, and here they now get diverted over this other issue. And it sort of takes some of the glow off, if you would.

But if I may add one other thing, you know, in our desire to bring reform and clean up Washington, sometimes we get too zealous, the pendulum goes too far. So that on the McCain side, you know, he's had five people who have had to resign because they were lobbyists. And we're acting as if every time that somebody is a lobbyist or something, it's evil or unhealthy. And that's just not true. It's unfair to those people.

And now for -- for Obama, Jim Johnson? There's no apparent wrongdoing here. Here's a man who served as chief of staff to Walter Mondale. His peers elected him chairman of the board of the Kennedy Center of Performing Arts, one of the most important institutions in this country. His peers elected him chairman of the board of the Brookings Institution, one of the lead think tanks in this country.

You know, if we're going to take everybody who has commercial ties on either side of the campaign and question anything, any little cloud or any little suspicion and force them out of the politics, I must tell you, we're going to take an awful lot of talent out of politics. And the country will not be better off.

BROWN: I think, maybe -- and Marcus, I'll put this to you -- what bothers people is the hypocrisy more than anything else. And it would be one thing if that were the case, but you have got both McCain and Obama sort of standing up and saying, "I'm different. I'm not typical Washington. I'm going to change the system."

And then they surround themselves with the same Washington insiders. And it conveys the message that -- that there is a degree of hypocrisy going on. Marcus, do you buy that?

MARCUS MABRY, "NEW YORK TIMES": I don't. I think David is actually exactly right. The problem isn't Washington. People go from these jobs in government to jobs in the private sector all the time. Some of those jobs are lobbyists.

We're not even talking about a lobbyist problem here. We're talking about taking a loan, which everyone -- Countrywide, the lender concerned here, is the largest lender in the country. Millions of Americans have...

BROWN: But he got a special deal on that loan. And this is a guy who's got millions of dollars, right?

MABRY: Well, that's the reporting here. First of all, those who get the best loan rates are those with millions of dollars, No. 1.

Secondly, the loan rate we're talking about, while he was actually working for Fannie Mae, which actually buys lots of Countrywide loans, as it does from other lenders. That loan actually was within the window of what people were getting at that time. It was only the loans that came after he was no longer working, actually, as chairman of Fannie Mae, that we actually have loans that actually had deals that may have been sweetheart deals.

But at that point he was not -- no long working at Fannie Mae. So it's very interesting. Everything is kind of convoluted. And as David said, and we forget, those with experience in Washington are the ones most likely to have, you know, different relationships throughout the Capitol.

BROWN: Let me get your take on this. And by running a campaign that's promoting higher ethics, a new kind of politics, does Obama and McCain, who has done this himself to a certain degree, do they set themselves up to be measured to a higher standard?

FARAI CHIDEYA, HOST, NPR'S NEWS & NOTES: I think this is a Americans really are looking for new kinds of leadership, whether it's Republican, Democrat, independent. And they are holding politicians to incredibly high standards.

I also think that Senator Obama has a very specific issue going on.

Christopher John Farley of "TIME" magazine once wrote an essay about the magical African-American friend, which is the idea in movies often, that there's this nice black man who's my black friend, and he's not like other black people. He's so nice.

And I think that some people, some supporters have put Senator Obama in the magical African-American friend box. And therefore, for them there's a double high standard, which is not only that he has to be squeaky clean as it relates to other politicians, but he has to be sort of this super-nice person. Politics is not always nice. We know that.

BROWN: Fair point there, for sure.

And David, let me switch gears and let me ask you about another thing. Democrats pounced today on McCain's Iraq comments. The DNC has already released a video of the comments. Is this an effective way to undermine McCain's strength? What did you -- what did you think generally, also, of just what he said today?

GERGEN: I think he made a mistake. And, you know, it's in line with his argument that we might be there a hundred years. What he's talking about is trying to get people out of harm's way, and then we may have to leave some sort of contingency force there for a long period of time, and he's not -- he doesn't feel pressure to bring that contingency force home anytime soon.

But I must tell you, you know, the Jim Johnson -- one of the outcomes with the Jim Johnson resignation was it stepped on the story. You know, it sort of squelched the story. The bigger story of the day is the resignation of Jim Johnson. So I think that they -- that was another price the Obama campaign is paying for what, I think, has been a flap that goes way -- I don't want to compare these to the Salem witch trials, what's going on in Washington right now, but there is a whiff of that.

BROWN: All right. Hold on, guys. Many, many apologies, because we do have to go to some breaking news and update our viewers on that. But I want to thank our panel tonight: David Gergen, Farai -- Farai Chidaya...

CHIDEYA: Chideya.

BROWN: Chideya. My apologies there.

CHIDEYA: No problem.

BROWN: And Marcus Mabry from "The New York Times," as well. Thanks, guys. Appreciate it.

Up next, we are going to update you on our breaking news: a tornado striking a Boy Scout camp in Iowa. We're going to hear from a Scout official who is at that camp right now. That and more when 360 continues.


BROWN: More now on our breaking news: a tornado hits a Boy Scout camp in western Iowa. There are four confirmed deaths, and at least 20 others have been injured.

And here's what a scoutmaster said earlier to our affiliate KETV.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to get in there and help. We know that other boys, you know, they need to be reassured that they're OK. They're all trained in first aid, for sure. And we're positive that the boys, you know, if there were injuries, they'd know how to handle that.

But, you know, and being in the Midwest, you know, we deal with tornadoes. And we go through tornado drills when we're out at camp. You know, and they already have pre-designated areas, the low spots to go to if there's -- if there is a tornado or inclement weather, so that is, I'm sure, already worked through with the boys before the camp started. That's usually done the first day of a weeklong camp -- so...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What day did they arrive?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they come up here Sunday morning, and they were supposed to be done this Saturday.


BROWN: Again, that was from our affiliate KETV. Earlier we talked with Lloyd Roitstein, who was on the scene. He is the president of the Mid-America Council of the Boy Scouts of America.


BROWN: What can you tell us at this hour, Lloyd? What have you been able to find out?

LLOYD ROITSTEIN, MID-AMERICA COUNCIL OF THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA: I'm at the entrance of camp. Right now we're doing a search and rescue. There are hundreds of law enforcement officers and National Guard out here.

They're taking the injured to local hospitals. There are four confirmed dead, numerous injured. The camp is virtually destroyed. There's nothing left in there. And so they're trying to find out what's going on here.

We're getting a list of those Scouts and Scouters who were here. These were older Scouts, 13 to 18 years old, out here for a week of training, and some of our best young men in our community.

BROWN: I am sure you're hearing from a lot of parents, a lot of family members tonight, Lloyd. How are you all handling the situation?

ROITSTEIN: Well, they're setting up a command post at a nearby community. And right now we're just trying to get a list of who's injured and who's not. And again it's out of my hands right now. I'm -- the law enforcement and rescue people, so we're trying to find out everything for those parents. And right now there's a lot of apprehension from our parents.

BROWN: And Lloyd, describe the camp a little bit for us. I know we can see on a satellite map that there were a number of buildings there, but what's the living situation? Are people living in -- sleeping in buildings? Are they in tents? Or what was it like?

ROITSTEIN: They were all in tents. They were here for training. They were all in tents. All the buildings are gone. Most of the tents are gone. As I look at the camp now, the trees are mostly destroyed. All you've got is a lot of property, about 1,800 acres of property that's destroyed right now.


BROWN: What a terrible night it has been in the Midwest there in Iowa, as you just heard.

But also in other states, at least five tornadoes touching down in the Midwest tonight. Our own Chad Myers in the weather center is following that and other areas that are dealing with this nightmare. We're going to check back in with Chad Myers when we come back, right after this.


BROWN: Updating our breaking news now, a horrible story out of western Iowa: kids at a Boy Scout camp living in tents when a tornado strikes. We have four dead, at least 20 injured. And we want to get a quick update now with Chad Myers -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Campbell, the most serious storm I have for you right now is over Salina, Kansas, right near the Salina Airport. So really just south of downtown. But Salina, kind of a north/south town there. There's the cell right there, a large and dangerous cell.

So far only reports of a funnel cloud not touching the ground, but you have to understand now, Campbell, that it is dark. And a lot of times after dark, tornadoes are not reported, because you just can't see them, and they're not done as well. The tornadoes and the warnings just can't come out quite as much in time as they do during the day -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right. Chad Myers for us again.

And we are going to continue to follow developments next, along with some other headlines. Erica Hill has got a "360 Bulletin" right after this short break.


BROWN: And we are following several other stories tonight. Erica Hill joins us again with a "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: And Campbell, a number of updates for you. We do want to go get you the latest on our breaking news. We can confirm at least four people dead, 40 others injured when a tornado hit a Boy Scout camp in western Iowa earlier this evening.

A search and rescue operation is still under way. Officials say about 120 people were at the camp, 93 teenagers among them. A Boy Scout official tells us the camp was virtually destroyed.

Chad Myers is standing by now in the severe weather center with new information -- Chad.

MYERS: Just want to update you on Salina, Kansas, because we only had funnels reported. But now we know that a tornado did touch down right at I-35 and Water Well (ph) Road.

Now, the good news is that is just south of downtown Salina, just on the outskirts of town. So it did not go right through Salina. But we do know that that storm had tennis-ball-sized hail as it was just west of town, so there probably still is some type of damage in Salina tonight -- Erica.

HILL: We can hope, though, at least, perhaps, it was minimized, as you said, as you can go through town.

Chad, thanks.

We want to get you caught up on what happened on Wall Street today. More losses to tell you about, the Dow falling more than 200 points. The NASDAQ shed 54. The S&P fell to its lowest level in two months.

Concerns about inflation and a possible interest rate hike are taking the blame there.

And the U.S. taking a hard line with Korea in the wake of massive protests opposing the import of U.S. beef. The Korean government hopes to defuse the crisis by renegotiating its trade deal with the U.S. Today the Bush administration said that is not an option, Campbell.

BROWN: All right. We're going to have more on the breaking news coming up at the top of the hour. Four people killed, at least 40 injured, when a tornado hit a Boy Scout camp in Iowa. The very latest when 360 continues.


BROWN: We have got a lot more on tonight's breaking news. Tornadoes in Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and Kansas, the worst now in western Iowa.

Here's what we know. A Boy Scout camp, the Little Sioux Scout Ranch, taking a direct hit, reportedly with fatalities. Details just coming in from the camp. This is about an hour north of Omaha, Nebraska.