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More Tornadoes Possible for Joplin, Missouri

Aired May 23, 2011 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening everyone.

It is a very difficult night here and a very dangerous night here in Joplin, Missouri. The death toll, as you know, is 116 but that number, frankly, is likely to rise.

The number of missing at this hour is simply not known. It's impossible at this point to know. We're going to try to talk to the mayor of Joplin in just a few moments to try to get the latest information that we can.

There's a lot to tell you about. Now, the affected areas have been declared a disaster area by President Obama. There are crews out even now still looking for people who may be alive, still trapped in the rubble. And the rubble is all around us. It goes for miles as far as the eye can see.

In the location that I'm at, it is just completely destroyed neighborhoods, block after block. All you see on the horizon are broken and bent and destroyed trees. There is lightning in the air. A heavy downpour of rain, which has been going on and off throughout the day, which has been making the search and rescue operations all the more difficult. And now night has fallen.

Again, there -- there very well may be people still alive under the rubble some 28 hours after this tornado struck. This disaster is still very much ongoing. This isn't something that just happened 28 hours ago, a single event. You still have driving rain, bad weather and people who still may be alive out there. At least seven people have been found alive in the rubble so far. The searchers will continue. More bad weather is expected tomorrow.

So again, it is not going to get any easier in the hours ahead. We have complete coverage tonight for the full hour here from Joplin, Missouri.

I want to show you the picture of a young man named Will Norton, who is missing right now. He was driving in his Hummer -- his Hummer H3 with his father shortly after graduation ceremonies from the high school here when the storm hit. He was actually sucked out of the vehicle by the power of this storm. He has been missing all day. His family, obviously, has been desperate.

We've gotten late word now just in the last couple of hours he has been -- he is alive. He has been found alive. He is in a hospital, we're told, but we do not know -- we do not know where the hospital is.

We're trying to -- we're going to get the latest information from his family in just a few minutes.

I want to show you first what we have seen over the last 28 hours here, what the storm looked like when it hit and the aftermath. Let's take a look.


COOPER (voice-over): It's 5:40 on Sunday evening and a monster rakes across Joplin, Missouri.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Strong tornado. Strong tornado.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listen to it. Oh, man (EXPLETIVE DELETED) get in the car. Get in the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) car. Get in the car. Watch out for my laptop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't film. I can't film.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got it. I got it. I got it. I got it. I got it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop, stop, stop, stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Move your head.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got it on video.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop, stop. Stop the car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to stay with it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, we got lightning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go back. Come on. Let's turn around.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it's getting big, big, big.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got it all on video. I got it all on video.

COOPER: As the twister roars toward this convenience store --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, they haven't yet. The sirens aren't going.

COOPER: -- frightened customers huddle in terror inside a dark refrigerated storeroom.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Heavenly father, Jesus, Jesus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're good. We're good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're ok. We're ok. It's --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we're going to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jesus. Heavenly father. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. O heavenly father. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, heavenly father.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love everyone, I love everyone man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes I love all you guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to be ok.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, heavenly father.





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're all right. We're all right.

COOPER: Amazingly, everyone inside survives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got debris on the ground right here. I've got debris on the ground.

COOPER: The massive tornado believed to be three-quarters of a mile wide with winds exceeding 190 miles-per-hour rips a path of destruction four miles long right through the heart of the city.


COOPER: By Monday morning the devastation was clear, buildings on fire. Entire neighborhoods wiped out. St. John's Medical Center with 183 patients took a direct hit. It was unclear if any of the patients were injured during the storm, but the twister hurled x-rays as far as 70 miles, heaved gurneys for blocks and smashed the building's glass facade.

BETHANY SCUTTI, WITNESS: The windows are blown out, debris hanging outside of the windows. Part of the roof -- like the top is missing. I mean, I'm standing behind the hospital and cinder block walls, brick walls, are just crumbled. COOPER: The tornado also struck Joplin High School, just as seniors were finishing graduation ceremonies nearby. Parents and students escaped but the school was demolished.

KERRY SACHETTA, PRINCIPAL, JOPLIN HIGH SCHOOL: I walked around as much as I could to see it. And it just looks like it's just been bombed from the outside-in. I mean, it's just -- it's terrible.

COOPER: The storm left cars and trucks on top of each other. This Wal-Mart, now flattened; this Home Depot, crushed. We don't know how many shoppers were inside the stores when the twister hit. Thankfully residents did have warning the storm was coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By our count we had 17 minutes time between we turned the sirens on and we had the first report of a strike.

COOPER: More than 24 hours later, this remains a search and rescue effort.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We believe that there are still rescues out there. And we want to support the men and women that are on the ground out there literally going foot by foot, searching for folks.

COOPER: More than 1,500 emergency response workers from four states have descended on this city of more than 50,000 trying to find survivors who may be trapped amid the destruction, which spreads for miles.


COOPER: It's just been incredible here the last 28 hours.

I want to show you again the picture of Will Norton. His sister Sara and his Aunt Tracy join -- join me now. You got word that he -- that he was found, but you don't know where he is now. What's the latest?

TRACY, AUNT OF WILL NORTON: The latest word, we heard that he was checked into the hospital. He was alive when he was checked in Joplin, at Freeman. Then they transferred him. But we're not sure where he's transferred. When he was transferred, he was alive. We have no idea other than that. There's been --


COOPER: And you don't know what condition he's in?

TRACY: No we have no idea.

COOPER: So Sara, tell me what happened. You were actually on the phone with him. You are coming back from the graduation ceremony that he had just graduated high school. What happened?

SARA NORTON, WILL NORTON'S SISTER: Well, I was riding with my mom and we were in a separate car. And we're about 30 second in front of them, one block. We pulled into the garage, trees started blowing in. We immediately got our dog, went into the basement and then my dad called and he said, open the garage door. He didn't know it was so serious. And then I just heard him say, pull over, Will. Pull over. And then they started flipping and praying.

COOPER: They were -- they were in a hummer?

NORTON: Yes, in a Hummer H3.

COOPER: And what happened to Will?

NORTON: Well, my dad said -- when my dad gained consciousness he said that he saw my brother -- his seat belt snapped and he was ejected through the sun roof.

COOPER: He was actually ripped through the sun roof?

NORTON: Yes. That's what my dad says, yes.

COOPER: And how is your dad?

NORTON: He's in stable condition. He has broken bones and you know, he got 20 staples in his head but he's -- he's stable. Thank goodness we found him.

COOPER: And where did you hear that -- that Will had been -- had been found?

TRACY: Well, we -- there's a -- there's a Find Will Norton on Facebook, a page, and people have been writing on there and people have been getting hold of Sara and our family and telling different things.

And so every time we hear a lead, we obviously go find it. And then Sara was told today by someone -- another lead, that one of the doctors saw him on the ER roster. That he was checked in before my brother came to the hospital.

But then he was also checked out. He was alive when he was here.

COOPER: And people are being moved around to different hospitals --


TRACY: Absolutely.

COOPER: -- so it's very hard to find people and cell phone communication is really difficult. What is you -- is that his hat?

TRACY: Yes. The Hummer was destroyed. It was in really, really bad shape, and so my family, we went and we found it so we went back today and we've been searching with search and rescue team out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, with their dogs. And my son found this in the car. And this is actually his cap.

COOPER: He had just graduated?

TRACY: He had just graduated within 30 minutes. COOPER: And he's going to go to film school in the fall?

TRACY: Yes, he was accepted to Chatman in Orange, California.

COOPER: So again, I just -- we're showing his picture now. And again, I just want to put out information. If anybody has any information of where to find him, there's a couple of numbers. There's the --



COOPER: -- and then there's a phone number that I think we're putting on the screen right now. I also have my Blackberry, I'm going to let you have, so I don't want get this wrong, 757-751-w-i-l-l. That's 757-751-w-i-l-l.

TRACY: And what we need to know is we really need to have people, if they've seen him at a hospital, if they've seen him anywhere, he most likely has head trauma and he's probably had some facial lacerations. I know going through glass sun roof, I'm sure there's some damage there.

So he probably doesn't look exactly like that. But he is 5 -- he's 6'4" and he's slender, brown hair, blue eyes, slight freckles on his face and on his arms.

COOPER: How are you guys holding up?

NORTON: We're just taking it step by step. We're just -- just doing everything we can to find him. We're just trying to get the word out to as many people as we can and just saying, have you seen my brother?


NORTON: Just taking it moment by moment.

COOPER: Well, we'll continue to put the picture up throughout the hour and try to put the numbers up as well. So I wish you luck. We'll keep in touch with you. And we'll touch base with you in the morning.

TRACY: I want to make sure we thank all the help that has come. We've had some really great people. A friend Steve Lee (ph) who really got out there and helped getting the Tulsa rescue. They brought their dogs in, we've had first responders from Webb City. It's amazing how many people have come to our community to help and made -- actually, we've had contact with a lot of them. And they've helped us so far.

COOPER: Yes. And people are really pulling together. I mean it's --

TRACY: Yes, it's incredible.

NORTON: Yes. COOPER: Yes it is incredible. Thank you very much. Really stay strong.

TRACY: Thank you very much.

NORTON: Thank you.

COOPER: All right, thank you.

Again, we'll continue to follow Will's story throughout this hour, throughout the next hours.

A lot ahead to cover. We're going to talk to the mayor of Joplin in just a moment to get the latest on how many people may be missing and how many people may be in shelters tonight and what needs are the greatest right now.

We'll be right back.


MIKE BETTES, REPORTER, WEATHER CHANNEL: Take a look at this neighborhood. All I can say is it looks very reminiscent of what we saw last month in -- excuse me -- in Tuscaloosa.







COOPER: Wow, some of the images we saw from earlier.

We're with Mayor Mike Woolston, Mayor of Joplin. At this point, 116 is still the death toll, yes?


COOPER: How many -- and I've -- I've heard 17 people is now confirmed to have been pulled alive?

WOOLSTON: That number sounds accurate. I don't have anything that's real accurate at this point.


WOOLSTON: I do know the 116 we have confirmed and I do know that we found earlier about seven folks today. But the number 17 is a fresh number for me.

COOPER: Yes and that's certainly good news that you --

WOOLSTON: Oh, certainly.

COOPER: -- they're going to find more people. Do you -- I mean it seems that there -- there should be more people out there alive.

WOOLSTON: We -- we hope there are people out there alive, certainly. We have a number of apartment buildings, complexes that are completely flattened and so we anticipate finding more people and hopefully we'll get there in time to find them alive.

COOPER: Are search and rescue operations is going on even at night or because the conditions is too --

WOOLSTON: We've had them going on at night, especially during last night. This evening we wanted to get the first search through a couple of the last grids. And then pulled people back in because of the lightning, the storms and having two people struck today we were a little bit leery of others getting injured.

COOPER: You've had two police officers actually struck by lightning?

WOOLSTON: Correct.

COOPER: So that's a real concern. I mean, the weather is really hampering --


WOOLSTON: Yes, it is. And my understanding is this going to be probably Thursday before we have any kind of decent weather we can really get out and work.

COOPER: This is obviously an incredible tight knit community. There are shelters for people but you're seeing most people are kind of being taken in by others and by friends and family --


WOOLSTON: We've had a lot taken in by others and strangers. We've not had a huge number of people in the shelters. And you can just look through here. We think about 2,000 structures are affected and one would think even at an average of one and a half persons per structure, you would have 3,000 people. And with us only having less than 100 in the shelters we -- we know they've got to be taken in somewhere out there.

COOPER: What's the greatest need? What's top of your priority right now?

WOOLSTON: Just carrying on our search and rescue functions. We've had about 40 agencies come in to help us, well over 400 people. That would -- those numbers are from early this morning. We've got SEMA folks in, FEMA folks in, the governor was in town today. And my understanding is while he was here he spoke with the White House, Vice President Biden; and so we've been offered assistance by virtually every agency that can offer assistance.

COOPER: The outpouring of people coming in to try to help is remarkable. And in a lot of neighborhoods you see that crews have been through there pretty efficiently with putting Xs on if nothing was found.

WOOLSTON: Correct. We tried to work through as many grids as we could to -- as efficiently and quickly to make sure we got to people as soon as we could. And we're going to be going back and going through some of those again just to make very sure that we've -- we're getting anybody that might still be there.

COOPER: You've been mayor now, for, what --

WOOLSTON: About 13 months.

COOPER: I mean, 13 months. When you look at -- at this, I mean, what -- what do you first see? What does the future hold?

WOOLSTON: Well, this is just not the type of community that's going to let a little F-4 tornado kick our ass so we will rebuild and we will recover.

COOPER: You don't want to -- this is not going to kick your ass?

WOOLSTON: No, it's not. We've been here before. It's been a long time since we've had one this bad. The destruction probably wasn't quite as bad as this but we've been here before. And we'll rebuild -- we'll rebuild again this time.

COOPER: Have you ever seen anything like this?

WOOLSTON: I have not seen anything this bad, no.

COOPER: Yes. What do you want people who are watching around the world, frankly, to know?

WOOLSTON: Just your thoughts and prayers are helpful for us, particularly those families who are affected with the fatalities. We've got, as I said, all kinds of donations coming in, all kind of volunteers just coming forward to help out. And you know, we just appreciate the thoughts and prayers of everybody that might see this.

COOPER: I passed by a church over there a couple blocks. And it's totally destroyed but the cross is still standing, which is really --


WOOLSTON: Maybe that's a sign.


Mayor, I appreciate your time.

WOOLSTON: Thank you.

COOPER: I know you've been busy. Thanks.


COOPER: I appreciate it.

A lot going on.

Let's talk to Chad Myers. Now Chad, the weather here is just brutal. And it's been brutal all day.


COOPER: And as the Mayor was talking about, I mean, we're worried about tomorrow what the weather holds.


No question about tomorrow night. And even for you, Anderson, after dark, the most dangerous type of tornadoes. Now, for right now, things are going to get better. Literally in the next ten minutes, your rain stops. Probably you'll see the stars in about an hour and a half. It's over for Joplin. Things get a lot better there.

And I know the search and rescue is probably put on hold for the darkness but at least it's not raining now. And maybe that's a little bit of a -- a little bit of respite for some people.

But we've had severe weather from North Carolina tonight, just south of Hampton Roads and right across the bridge, to almost New York City.

A tornado was on the ground north of Allentown, Pennsylvania, for a while about an hour and a half ago. Severe weather across Cleveland, even on up into Ontario. Severe weather rolled through Columbus with damage, through Cincinnati with some wind damage.

So now I'm talking about that six states already. And we're going to keep going because we're not even aware the most severe weather was yet today which was Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and even into parts of Texas. And this is where it's going to fire up again tomorrow.

There is your weather right there, Anderson. You are right there. It's just about over for you. Literally, I'm saying -- 15 minutes and you're done. Now for tomorrow, the sun heats up again. All this rain goes away. But there's all of that humidity that this rain brought down. The sun is going to warm the ground. The humidity is going to evaporate. It is going to be one sweltering mess across the Midwest tomorrow afternoon.

And then in the afternoon and late evening hours, something ejects from Colorado into parts of New Mexico and into Texas. This is an upper level low that's going to just make all of this warm air want to rise in the atmosphere. And when warm air wants to rise, you get these bubbling clouds. There will be severe weather with significant tornadoes.

We had ten tornadoes today. But ten tornadoes that were small; big ones tomorrow Anderson, all the way through the Midwest. Back to you.

COOPER: So Chad, can you show us, Chad, what this storm looked like when it hit? I mean, why -- why was it so bad here? What -- what -- how did it get so strong?

MYERS: Well, the humidity was in place. That was the moisture. There was cold air above it. So, it's just like taking a hot air balloon and turning on the gas. And that's what happened.

J.J., go ahead and hit this. Put this into motion for me, warm air at the surface. The sun heated it up.

Then, there was cold air up above. And that cold air even made that warm air want to go faster into the atmosphere and it just rose straight to 60,000 feet, Anderson, 60,000 feet in the sky. You could not fly over that cell yesterday. And then it began to spin. As super cells do, when they're by themselves, they just -- they want to spin and it happened.

And then just literally five miles west of Joplin, this tornado got to the ground, very small to start with. But then rapidly bigger, literally not even time to see how big it was because at some point in time during this day, there was that so -- so much humidity in the air, this turned into a storm that's called wrapped in rain.

And we'll talk about this probably tomorrow as well because we're going to have more wrapped in rain storms. It will be raining here but it was also raining all around the tornado so you couldn't see the damage being thrown up. You couldn't see the debris being thrown up. All you could see was a wall of rain and people thought it was just raining. They tried to take pictures and they got in the way and 116 people lost their lives.

COOPER: Yes and Chad, we just talked to Sara Norton whose brother Will -- they're still trying to get information where he may be. She actually had a cellar in their home. But you -- if you look at a lot of these neighborhoods, like the place we're in right now, there's no cellar, there's just the concrete foundation. And so there was no place for some people to go. I mean, you need to be underground to get through something like this if you're directly hit.

MYERS: There's no question that there's not a structure built, that I know of, other than a safe house built by safe house companies, that can withstand a 200-mile-per-hour wind. Not just a gust, a sustained wind of 200 miles per hour. And so people were huddled in their houses, they were under their steps, they were in the right places.

But there are not very many basements in Joplin, so they were taken away, when that debris was pushed away by the wind, they were pushed away with it. And that trauma of literally being hit by the inside of your house, that's where most people died.

I think 95 percent of everybody out there did the right thing. They had 20 minutes' notice. They were inside. But some tornadoes you just can't survive them. They are just too big. COOPER: Yes. Chad, I appreciate all the update. It's all good information and it's such important information. Because I mean, when you're on the ground here it is really hard to get information for -- for people here, I mean the cell phone service is spotty, at best. A lot of folks don't have access to e-mail. And so you know, whatever little information people can get, it is very helpful.

We'll talk with Chad again a lot in the next -- well, 24 hours as we track these storms that are anticipated.

We are talking about not having those -- those underground basements in a lot of places. People hiding wherever they could to try to get through this storm.

When we come back we're going to introduce you to some young men who hid in the -- basically a kind of a refrigerated storeroom of a convenience store. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we got hit.




C.J. HUFF, JOPLIN SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT: You know I -- it's indescribable. I don't know what to say other than that. I've never seen anything like it.


COOPER: We've seen so many remarkable pictures that have come out in the last 28 hours or so since this storm hit. Probably one of the most remarkable is some video that was taken on an iPhone by a young man who was with two of his friends driving along. When they saw the storm was coming, they ran basically into a convenience store, into the storeroom in the back.

I want to show you what they saw. It's very dark. But there were about 20 -- 18 or so, 20 other people in the storeroom with them. You can really hear the emotions on people as they -- as the storm hit and as it approached. Let's listen in.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we're going to do it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody get down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jesus. Jesus. O heavenly father. Jesus, Jesus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love everyone. I love everyone, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, love all you guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to be ok.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, heavenly father. Thank you, Jesus.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're all right. We're all right.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay down. Stay down.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is everyone ok?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm here. I'm ok.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ok. I'm trying not to lay on someone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Somebody's on my back.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Am I on anybody? Ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is under me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're ok. We're ok.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is anyone under me, though? Is anyone under me?



COOPER: Unbelievable video. I'm with Isaac Duncan, Brendan Stebbins and Corey Waterman. You actually shot the video on your iPhone.


COOPER: Tell me, you go to the back of the storeroom. You know the storm is coming. You pulled over to the convenience store and the front door was locked.

DUNCAN: Right.

Basically we just had to pull over to the closest thing that we could find which was this gas station. So, we got out, sprinted up to the door and they had locked it so the door wouldn't fling up. We pounded on the door and the clerk came up and unlocked it and we kind of just hurried back to the back of the --

COOPER: How many people were in there at the time?

DUNCAN: Probably about 18.

COOPER: And then how quickly was it that the storm hit?

DUNCAN: Within -- what would you say, probably a minute? The other person ran up to the door -- the clerk ran up, as the storm was getting really close, and unlocked the door for him and saved three people more that ran in. And then within 30 seconds of that, we were all down in the back and the glass was just blowing out of the entire front of the store.

COOPER: Brendan, what was it like for you? What did it sound like?

BRENDAN STEBBINS, TORNADO SURVIVOR: It sounded like 100 freight trains running really close to the building. And then it started to cave in and the first thing that I noticed was just the smell of gasoline from the outside which -- you know, that kind of freaked everybody out.

COOPER: You were worried a fire might break out?

STEBBINS: Yes. And then you know, toward the end when we decided to climb out, you could smell smoke outside so we figured it was time to get away from the building at that point.

COOPER: How long did it last Cory?

COREY WATERMAN, TORNADO SURVIVOR: Oh, like you know, three or four minutes of like, you know, bad, bad hail and debris and, like, that second part where it hits is so -- the sound, the force of that is so loud, that you know, you're just hanging on.

COOPER: Was there a moment you thought you wouldn't make it

WATERMAN: Yes. I mean we kind of like came to terms with that for a second. Kind of huddled with everybody and it was like -- it was a good thing.

COOPER: And what goes through your mind when you're experiencing something like that?

DUNCAN: Honestly, it was very surreal. Like, I'd never felt anything like it. It was almost like a weird calmness. Like, I didn't think I was going to go out in a tornado but I think I'm probably going to honestly --

COOPER: You were actually thinking that?

DUNCAN: Oh, yes. I mean, there were people -- people were getting, you know, screaming out to Jesus, people -- some people were just --

COOPER: In the end it sounds like you're not sure if somebody's underneath you?

DUNCAN: What happened is we all sprinted into this little cooler and packed 20 people in it, so, I mean, there was not enough --

COOPER: How big was the space?

DUNCAN: Ten feet by, probably, you know, seven feet. It wasn't big at all.

COOPER: So, you guys were all pushed up against each other?

DUNCAN: On top of each other.

WATERMAN: Yes. And stacked with beer and all the shelves of all the items are falling on people and glass is breaking.

DUNCAN: Lots of beer was breaking so everyone was getting cut by the glass. Basically the only thing that was remaining from the entire building was the cooler we had jumped in.

You know, a big part of that was the clerk at the store. I mean, he was -- he not only did he run up and unlock the door, but he was the last person into the refrigerator. I mean he's a hero. That guy --

COOPER: Did you get his name?

DUNCAN: I can't --

STEBBINS: I didn't catch it.

DUNCAN: Honestly, I don't think I would recognize anyone that I experienced it with.

STEBBINS: Other than the clerk.

WATERMAN: If we run into him I'll know that guy because he's just cool. Great guy.

DUNCAN: Yes. He did it. Yes. He was a hero that day.

COOPER: So, when you leave, and I mean, it has to be surreal when you walk outside and you see what you've survived. DUNCAN: Well, we sat there for probably 20 minutes kind of deciding what to do because everything had collapsed on us. So, Corey went to the back and a wall that had fallen down, he climbed out. I went next and we pulled everyone out.

When we got out to the side, you could see all the gas from the gas station was starting to run out and you smelled electric fires. So, everyone kind of --

COOPER: What made you decide to turn your iPhone on and record?

DUNCAN: I kind of just record everything. I don't know.

COOPER: You figure, if this is it, you might as well record it?

DUNCAN: Yes. Might as well. Yes.

COOPER: Well, I'm so glad you made it and great thinking to record it. So thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

DUNCAN: Thanks for having us.

COOPER: All right. Thanks.

One of the great reporters who was really first on the scene is from the Weather Channel, a guy named Mike Bettes. I just want to show you some of what he saw when he first came in.


MIKE BETTES, REPORTER, WEATHER CHANNEL: People are just looking for their loved ones. They're looking for family members. If you take a look here at this neighborhood, all I can say is it looks very reminiscent of what we saw last month in -- excuse me -- in Tuscaloosa.

Yes, it -- it's tough. No question about that.


COOPER: Mike Bettes joins us now from the Weather Channel. You got here what -- about ten minutes after the storm?

BETTES: Just minutes. Truly. We were actually chasing for the past two weeks, the project with the Weather Channel and this was a storm we had targeted. That afternoon we were driving from Kansas City and it said, Joplin looks like a pretty good spot today for storms.

We intercepted this storm about ten miles outside of Joplin. At the time, it didn't look that impressive, to be honest with you. It passed right over the top of us. It was a pretty good thunderstorm but there was no tornado. And then as soon as it went passed we decided we would follow it.

At that time it was hail. It was rain. It was blinding. We ended up having to stop. If we hadn't stopped, I think we would have ended up our whole crew right in Joplin. The thing probably would have run right over the top of us. We're very, very thankful that for our crew at least nothing happened to us.

But we came right into town. It was just a chaotic scene when we came into town.

COOPER: You've seen -- I mean obviously you've done this a long time and you've covered just about every kind of storm. How does this compare?

BETTES: Nothing like it. I mean I've covered hurricanes, tornadoes, you name it. I've seen damage like this before but not to this extent, I mean maybe a block or two. This goes on for miles and miles and miles. And I think, you know, the number of people injured in the hundreds, the number of people killed, it just -- it really hits home I think for a lot of people. You can't help --


COOPER: It was very emotional for you.

BETTES: It was, it was. I mean a lot of times we're very -- I don't know. I would say numb to these kind of events because we see them so often but there was a moment where I just took a look at how much of this town had been destroyed and there were people crying, there were people hugging. It just -- at some point it gets to you. And I think I got a little choked up. And just one of those moments you couldn't control.

COOPER: It's also now -- I mean we've had a day of just terrible weather here that's made it all the worse. I mean, sometimes, you know, these storms disappear and suddenly it's a sunny day and people can come home and look for their belongings, search for their loved ones. But here, I mean you have this had driving rain, this lightning. We've got two law enforcement officers who have been hit by lightning.

BETTES: It's made it really difficult, I mean I think, for people to -- you know there's a process to move on, you know, to recover and I think this has hindered that. I think so many people, you know, are out and they want to maybe get back to their home, recover some items and they just can't do it and just prolongs, you know, the agony for that much longer.

But I think we know there are probably going to be more people that are going to be pulled from the rubble. I think the serve-and-rescue has gone on for probably longer than they wanted it to because of the weather. And of course, like you mentioned the police officers -- so, there's still a real danger out there even though the storm has passed.

COOPER: Yes. They're still trying to search some grids, the mayor was saying, but they're going to pull back tonight. Try to give some of these guys some rest and then I guess start searching again in the morning.

BETTES: And they work these long hours. A lot of these guys are working at 12 on/12 off --

COOPER: Right.

BETTES: -- and they're doing it under extreme conditions. And, you know, emotionally, physically it's very difficult for them. And I think just for the whole town in general, I think they're shell- shocked still. So it's going to be --


COOPER: Tomorrow night more severe weather.

BETTES: Yes. I mean I think this goes on for maybe another day and a half, or two days. It may be until maybe Thursday until they see some sunshine again which may go a long way, at least if nothing else, for the psyche in helping them recover that way. But tough to see what has gone on here. It's truly been remarkable.

COOPER: Yes. Well, I know you've been up a long time. I appreciated you coming by.

BETTES: Yes. No problem. Thanks very much. Mike Bettes from the Weather Channel.

Our coverage continues. We're going to talk to a woman from the Red Cross who was on the highway when this storm hit. Her story is just incredible. She saw a tractor-trailer truck basically just flying right by her, helped save a guy.

We'll be right back.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is bad. Oh, my gosh. This is awful. This is -- look at that. That is destroyed, completely.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are you going? What are you doing? Well, I'm freaking out, too. This is ridiculous. Look at that. I don't know where --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was an F-4 or F-5.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was -- dude, the trees, the trees are debarked.


COOPER: We're just starting to have more and more images of when the storm actually hit. We've seen, you know, the results of it all day long. And in a lot of communities, I mean, it really is as far as the eye can see. This storm was about three-quarters of a mile wide, went for about four miles. So, in an area like this, which it's dark now, that's the hospital back there, which got a direct hit but this entire neighborhood, I mean, as far as the eye can see, all the way around, 360 degrees, it's just completely -- completely destroyed.

There's people's possessions all around. This is a postcard that I just found on the floor right here. You can't even see who it's from. This is obviously the remains of somebody's home. You know, as always, it sort of takes a while to kind of figure out what you're looking at. This is actually the floor of the house, the carpet, the shag carpet is still there.

This is actually -- was one of the walls. The only way you can kind of tell is because there's actually an electrical socket. But that wall is gone. That wall has been just pushed over onto some other kind of a wall on the other side of it. Again, this is just one house.

As we were talking about with Chad before, in a neighborhood like this, there aren't a lot of basements so it's just the concrete slab foundation, so people who are living in a home like this didn't have a lot of places to hide in the home itself. They maybe were able to go somewhere else.

We haven't been able to talk to the people who are here and I don't really want to walk around because I don't want to walk on their property.

I want to introduce Marie Colby, who's with the American Red Cross. You were actually on the highway driving a car when the storm hit, right?

MARIE COLBY, AMERICAN RED CROSS: Yes. I was on the highway, turned off onto the interstate. And I was trying to get underneath an overpass, trying to get some sort of protection. We started seeing debris flying around. We saw this whole wall of debris coming right at us.

COOPER: And there was somebody -- a young man who came to -- hiding with you?

COLBY: Yes. There was a guy who was in a car behind us. He got out of his car and tried to lay down in the ditch. When the rain came, it started to wash him away. He stood up, got hit by a couple pieces of debris and came and started pounding on the side of my door, trying to get in. The wind was so strong we couldn't open the door until the eye of the tornado got there.

COOPER: Incredible.

COLBY: We were able to open it, pull him in and get the door shut before the rest of the tornado really hit.

COOPER: And then a tractor-trailer truck got flipped you said?

COLBY: Yes, there were several tractor-trailers. There's one right in front of us that just flipped over. Lifted up completely off the ground and slammed down on its side. The trucker was standing inside the front of his cab. He managed to undo his seat belt somehow. And right after the tornado went by, I got out and ran up to the cab and he was just standing there on basically his window. And he couldn't get out. So, I ended up pulling off the windshield of the truck --

COOPER: You pulled off the windshield of the truck?

COLBY: Yes. It had broken loose a little bit when the truck smashed down and so we grabbed the windshield wiper that were still moving for some reason, and pulled the windshield down off so he could get out.

COOPER: And you basically then immediately went to start volunteering with the Red Cross?

COLBY: Yes. At that point I -- the highway patrolman put a guy in the back of my car and said he needed medical care and we took him up to a triage site. And then I have been volunteering for the Red Cross for a while, and needed to try to find where everything was being set up. Couldn't get a whole lot of information. Cell phones weren't working. We ended up walking clear across town through the debris up to the office.

COOPER: Is this the first sort of disaster like this that you've actually worked on for the Red Cross?

COLBY: I worked a few disasters. Nothing like this. Certainly, not -- I've never been in -- where I'm living and had my home destroyed, had all my friends --

COOPER: Your home is destroyed?

COLBY: Yes, my apartment is gone.

COOPER: Have you been able to get any possessions or anything?

COLBY: I was able to go up to my apartment for a little bit today. And it's not even safe to go inside. The roof's completely off. There's just walls that are missing. There's sections -- it's up on the third floor. There's no way to get into it. It's part of the building that's completely missing.

COOPER: So you're still volunteering even though your own home is destroyed and you may not be able to get your possessions.

COLBY: Yes. It gives me something to do. It gives me a way to help the community, help everybody around me, help the people I care about. And I know that everything that I am doing to help people, I'm going to get the exact same aid, the same help and compassion all back from them.

COOPER: That's really cool.

COLBY: It's -- it's kind of a way of helping rebuild and coming together as a community. COOPER: But I mean, you know, if you've suffered a loss yourself, to be able to -- I mean, to have the strength to not be mired in your own loss but also to reach out and help others, that's extraordinary.

COLBY: I really think it's more just what we have to do. At this point there's nothing we can do but move forward and try to pick up the pieces and go with what we have, be thankful that we're here, we're alive, and we've got each other. And everything else really is just stuff.

COOPER: The -- what do you think the greatest needs are right now? I mean obviously, people can donate to the American Red Cross. And there's a 1-800 number, 1-800-RED-CROSS, right?

COLBY: Right, 1-800-RED-CROSS. Or people can go to the Red Cross Web site, They can text. There's instructions, stuff for that online. And really, there's a lot of different ways people can help.

The biggest need right now is truly in financial donations. We've had just an overwhelming outpouring of material donations. We need now to get some financial donations to be able to help people start piecing back together their lives.

COOPER: Well, it's really an honor to meet you. Thank you so much.

COLBY: Thank you.

COOPER: Thanks for all you're doing. I really appreciate it. I'm sure a lot of people here appreciate it.

COLBY: Thank you.

COOPER: Marie Colby, one of the volunteers at the American Red Cross.

When we come back we'll show you just some of the most horrifying, terrifying moments from the storm and the aftermath. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Let's check in now with Joe Johns, who's got a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, heavy new air strikes on Libya. More than a dozen targeting Tripoli. Smoke seen rising near Moammar Gadhafi's compound. Regime spokesman Moussa Ibrahim saying bombs hit a facility for military volunteers, killing three and wounding 150.

President Obama began a six-day trip to Europe in Ireland today. An estimated 25,000 people turned out for his speech in Dublin's College Green. He also visited the village of Moneygall where one of his great-great-great grandfathers is believed to have been born.

Looked like he was having a lot of fun, but also he had to fly to London, his next stop, early because of Iceland's erupting volcano. Volcanic ash is spreading and could reach British air space tomorrow. Iceland's most active volcano began erupting Saturday after a nearly seven-year lull. Iceland closed its air space over the weekend.

WNBC in New York is reporting that a DNA sample from former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been matched to material found on the shirt of the hotel maid he's accused of sexually assaulting. Strauss- Kahn is under house arrest in New York. His lawyers have denied the charges, and they say there's no evidence of a forced encounter.

Worries over Europe's debt problems drove stocks down today. The Dow plunged 131 points. The S&P 500 and NASDAQ also fell -- Anderson.

COOPER: We'll be right back.


COOPER: That does it for 360. Thanks for watching.

Piers Morgan starts right now.