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THE SITUATION ROOM

Tornado Touches Down in Oklahoma; Tornado Aftermath

Aired May 24, 2011 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, let's get right back to the breaking news.

Even as Joplin, Missouri, struggles to cope in the wake of that monster killer tornado, right now, right now, another large violent tornado is reported near Oklahoma City. And there's a very, very real threat that a new severe storm system could soon bring more misery to Joplin.

We just saw an amazing scene from our affiliate KFOR in Oklahoma as a storm chaser came right in the path of a tornado.

Let's go back to our severe weather expert, Chad Myers. He's in Atlanta.

But, Chad, before we get back to you, let me play the video for viewers who didn't see it.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Sure.

BLITZER: This is courtesy of our affiliate KFOR. It was taken only a few moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's another killer tornado. It went across -- Mike, went across Highway 81 as weather intensified. And it almost got us. It intensified right on top of us. Amazing. It's a half- mile-wide killer tornado, just crossed Gregory (ph) Road.

It's now going to cross Northwest Expressway in about -- about a minute. It's crossing Northwest Expressway right now. Right now, Mike, it's crossing Northwest Expressway. It's a massive tornado. It's a half-mile wide, no doubt about it. It looks just like it did an hour-and-a-half ago, deadly, deadly, deadly tornado, Mike, coming down the northwest side of the metro -- back to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, let's bring in Chad right now.

Chad, whenever I see these storm chasers, and you know this particular storm chaser, is it safer in the midst of a tornado to keep on driving, or should you park? MYERS: I am shaking my head at his ability to stay with this storm because, typically, you will get into debris that has fallen on the roadways, and you will be stopped. You won't be able to go any farther.

David Payne (ph) has been doing this a long time, and he is now following it to the east as it goes toward Seward and up toward Guthrie. It was kind of turning to the right, going -- kind of going of toward Edmond, Oklahoma, which would be a little bit farther to the south.

It appears now that Guthrie, the city of Guthrie -- in fact, you would know downtown Guthrie from "Rain Man." That's where the downtown scenes were shot, in Guthrie, Oklahoma, for the movie "Rain Man."

And this circulation is right here called Four Corners, to the south of Cashion. Here's Oklahoma City proper. Edmond, Oklahoma, the TV stations are over here, if you know where all those towers are. And then as this continues to move to the north and to the northeast, there's nothing to slow it down.

These storms -- this storm is still on the ground with a half- mile-wide tornado, making damage as it travels all the way from about 40 miles west of the city of Oklahoma. Now it is north of the city of Oklahoma on the ground doing damage to everything in its path with wind speeds, as David was estimating, at, at least 150 miles per hour.

We know that the storm that moved through Joplin, Missouri, was an EF-4 tornado, estimated to be 190 to 198 miles per hour. There's no reason to believe that this storm at some point in its time being on the ground could not have been an EF-4 tornado.

There will be fatalities. There will be casualties with this storm. There's no way to get out of the way sometimes of a three or a four on the EF scale -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Stand by. I want to get back to you in a few moments.

But I -- we have got a special guest. Hundreds of Joplin residents are still missing. One of them is Lantz Hare. The 16-year- old was in his car Sunday when the tornado struck. His mother, Michelle Hare, has been searching desperately for any information about his fate.

She is joining us now from Joplin.

Michelle, thank you so much. Walk us through what happened. When was the last time you heard from your son Lantz?

MICHELLE HARE, MOTHER OF LANTZ HARE: He was in the car. I was actually on the phone with him when the thunderstorm started. And it started hailing. I was about five miles away, totally out.

And he -- I called, and he said, I'm trying to get home. And I said, is that hail hitting the window? And he said yes. And that was -- the phones went dead.

BLITZER: Now, his friend who was in the car is alive. Does he remember anything of what happened?

(CROSSTALK)

HARE: That's correct.

He remembers they got to the corner where they should have turned left to go to my house, but they could not see anything. I'm assuming my son knew that there was a grocery store parking lot, so he took a right, went up a block, and pulled into that parking lot. And this is all confirmed by the friend.

The next -- the front window blew out of the car. The friend, Jonathan (ph), jumped into the backseat. He said the back window blew out, and that's the last thing he remembers. He woke up in a van, just a -- go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Yes. No, I was going to say -- sorry for interrupting.

HARE: He woke up in a van on the way to the hospital.

BLITZER: Was the -- when they found the car, was it where -- the location, was it where he had parked it?

HARE: It was over a set of railroad tracks about 300 feet, approximately.

BLITZER: Now, today, tell us what happened, because you were told to go to the morgue.

HARE: Yes.

BLITZER: And what happened when you went? They told you your son might be there; is that what they said to you?

(CROSSTALK)

HARE: Well, actually, what they really said was, they went over the list of John Does, because, obviously, now we had a -- we think we had -- somebody reported removing a body basically 20 feet from my car that night of -- matching my son's description. So we went there again.

And, basically, they went through their list of John Does, and there was -- mainly, they tag by location and time, which we kind -- we had now. And they had no one at that location and time. The only John Doe on the list is a -- just a known male.

So, we still don't really -- we don't have any clue that it's him. Obviously, location and description mean a lot. But there's still -- apparently -- we have gotten lots of calls today that there are other kids in -- finally kids that they're saying that are just coming out of surgery still unconscious.

So there's that -- that possibility that he's still in a hospital somewhere. And, of course, this morning, we weren't certain that he still wasn't out there somewhere. So, we went this morning and searched for six, seven hours. So...

BLITZER: Is it possible to go...

(CROSSTALK)

HARE: That's kind of where we are right now. We still don't have any definite...

BLITZER: Is it possible to go to all these hospitals...

HARE: We have to wait.

BLITZER: ... and just look, walk around and see if your son may be there?

HARE: Well, the problem is these hospitals range -- we live, obviously, right in the heart, right in the corner, southwest corner of -- or whatever corner it is. I'm sorry. I'm from Kansas originally.

And people were flown everywhere from Dallas to Kansas City to Wichita to Saint Louis, and all hospitals in between. I mean, you know, that's a trip that would take two weeks to go around and look at hospitals.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I know you have created a Facebook page, too.

HARE: That is correct. My sister-in-law created a page, and then also Lantz's friends, who were the kids that originally found my car, they stayed out all night and all day looking. They weren't going to stop until they at least found the car, so we had a focal point, because, before Jonathan woke up, we didn't know where they were. We knew they had left 28th and Wisconsin and were probably heading across town to my house.

But that was unconfirmed even, until Jonathan woke up and had a little better memory. And that was not until late yesterday afternoon. So...

BLITZER: Tell our viewers something about your son Lantz.

(CROSSTALK)

HARE: Oh, my gosh, he was -- he's amazing. He's a straight-A student, always has been. Everything comes so naturally. He has amazing friends.

He rides BMX. He's involved in the Bridge Ministries here in Joplin, very active, once again, respectful, polite, cares about his family so much. So...

(CROSSTALK)

HARE: ... definitely was an uprising...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Michelle, what can we -- what can we do to help, whether CNN or our viewers how may be watching right now? Is there someone we can do? Because a lot of people would like to help -- help you find your 16-year-old son.

HARE: You know, the one thing I can say is that, since we still don't know anything, just getting his name out there, because somebody may be in that hospital in Tulsa or whatever and know some information that we haven't already seen by seeing this, or they may be somewhere else, or they may have heard from -- they may have seen him on the road.

At this point, just getting it out there, I think, helps, because it's been -- the communication obviously around here has been so sketchy that half the time, you can't even get through to any places, hospitals, get to the triages, get to things like that.

So, I think, most of all, just putting it out there as much as we can. And I think that that also gets people that we do know are involved to move a little faster. Like, the temporary morgue site, instead of making us wait, maybe might say, you know, let's try to push this through or -- or, once again, the hospitals may call back, saying, we have this information, that we thought you would call us back, but now we have seen this, and we're going to call you, or anything like that. So...

BLITZER: We know there are 1,500 people who are listed as missing right now, although authorities say that number -- they're hoping that number will dwindle as folks can get back towards their homes and try to see what's going on, cell phone service obviously not very good.

Did he have a cell phone with him?

HARE: Right.

Yes, he did. After he was disconnected from me, I was never able to reach him again. However, he did get a phone call. He was on the phone with another friend, we believe, when the tornado actually hit the car. The friend, Ryan, says that he could literally hear the swoosh came through and then the phone went dead.

I was not able to re-contact him after the one phone call. Of course, I called -- just repeatedly called and called and called, of course, in between checking on my other son, who was at home at the house alone -- fortunately, no damage to my home. So my other son was fine and safe. But someone was on the phone with him, we believe, when the tornado actually struck the car. So...

BLITZER: We're hoping for the best, Michelle.

Lantz Hare, we're hoping you find him and find him soon.

Can we stay in touch with you?

HARE: Absolutely. Please do. You know, barring the worst, all the support, obviously, my family, friends can get will help, and being in contact with individuals like you always makes -- makes it easier. So...

BLITZER: All right. Good.

Such a nice guy, such a nice young man.

We will stay in close touch, Michelle. Thank you.

HARE: Oh, he's beautiful.

BLITZER: We're praying for him. We're praying for you.

HARE: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Good luck.

HARE: Thank you very much. We're all praying.

BLITZER: Here's an extraordinary image that shows the power of a tornado. This one struck in Reading, Kansas, a day before the killer storm hit Joplin. A security camera records the moment this twister struck. Watch this. You can see the wind. The destruction, it's devastating.

And now, as we have been saying, more tornadoes in Oklahoma, outside of Oklahoma City. The tornado that leveled much of Joplin has now claimed 118 lives. Rescue teams are searching desperately for hundreds upon hundreds of people who are unaccounted for. We're told 1,500 people are listed as missing.

Survivors face an eerily barren landscape where homes once stood. Many families face shattered lives with loved ones lost or badly injured.

Let's go back to CNN's Brian Todd in Joplin for us.

Brian, you have been following one family's very painful story.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have, Wolf.

You're hearing these stories all over the place now. Victims are telling incredible stories of how they survived this tornado. We met one young man who can't speak for himself. So we spoke to his father, who's holding constant vigil by his side.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMES GRIGSBY, SON IN A COMA: Hey, buddy. TODD (voice-over): James Grigsby has been here virtually every hour since Sunday evening, holding a smaller hand, gathering encouragement from every squeeze back or flinch of the leg.

Just even the smallest responses give me hope.

TODD: His son, a 14-year-old Lage, lies in ICU of Freeman Health System Hospital in an induced coma with an open skull fracture.

(on camera): When you see him like this, what goes through your mind, thinking of what he was before this?

GRIGSBY: It really disheartens me a little bit that he's here, but in this state, because I'm used to seeing him happy and so vibrant. He's -- he's a very energetic boy.

TODD: Lage Grigsby was siting in a large pickup truck with his grandmother right here in front of the Home Depot. The tornado picked up the truck, carried it several hundred feet, and slammed it into the lawn mower section. Lage was ejected from the truck, and either hit his head on something or something hit him.

(voice-over): His grandmother, Sharon Lillard, was also injured, had several shards of wood and glass removed from her upper body.

SHARON LILLARD, SURVIVOR: All I could was just pray that somebody would find us quick, because I couldn't do much screaming or anything, because my head was pushed into the seat.

TODD: She had tried to hold on to Lage but couldn't. By the time rescuers got to Lage, he had an open head wound and almost didn't make it.

DR. ARTHUR DAVIS, NEUROSURGEON: He presented -- he had dilated a pupil, which is a serious neurologic problem, indicating that a person is about ready to neurologically die.

TODD: Lage needed six hours of surgery, which removed part of his skull and brain tissue. Now, as he keeps constant vigil over his son, James Grigsby has a tough time reconciling this with the image of a boy who plays soccer, rides horses, and is always on his dad for something.

GRIGSBY: This isn't the young boy who walks up behind me and goes, dad, can I get on the computer? Dad, can I play the Xbox? Dad, can I go and ride my bike? Dad -- and that's not him, to see him like this.

TODD: As he hangs on every movement from Lage, James Grigsby keeps perspective on what's happening outside the hospital window.

GRIGSBY: I know there's probably going to be people out there who, you know, are going to be disheartened by this that, yes, I got to keep my son, and they may not have with theirs. And for them, my heart really does go out, because this is a tragic situation this town has gone through. And I'm one of the lucky ones. (END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: His neurosurgeon says Lage will probably have some paralysis on the right side of his body for quite some time. The doctor says he may get all of his cognitive and intellectual functions back if he comes out of this, but, of course, the doctor doesn't want to raise expectations too high right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It reminds me, looking at the devastation behind you, Brian, when you were in Japan only a few weeks ago. Compare and contrast what you saw there and what you're seeing in Joplin.

TODD: You know, the comparisons are really eerie, Wolf. You look out over this landscape, and it's very similar, everything flattened, nothing really left to pick through, yet, people still coming back and trying to pick through something. It's an interesting intellectual and...

BLITZER: All right, Brian -- hold on for a moment, Brian, because we have got live pictures coming in courtesy of one of our affiliates in Oklahoma.

Look at this. This is a live picture of a tornado that's moving closer and closer and closer.

Wow.

Let's get Chad Myers on to explain.

But let's listen to our affiliate for a moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the possibility of this thing coming your way. It's a stovepipe now, getting a little bit bigger. What direction are you guys driving?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're driving west.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looking to our west/northwest now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. You're on 62. So, that thing, it looks like it possibly has been going through parts of Chickasha; is that correct?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very possible. And like I say, I do not see large building -- well, now it's hit a structure -- or structures. I can see larger debris in the air now.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you guys safe?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we are safe. It's to our northwest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're getting strong RFD now. The tornado is getting larger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Mike, build me a projection on that, will you, please?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm thinking it's probably just about right on I-44 right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. I wouldn't be surprised at that, coming up I-44. So, if you know someone traveling I-44 south towards Chickasha, get them off. Call them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, Gary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. I'm at the Highway 74 at the 74-F spur. I have got damage in the roadway. So, it looks like the southeast side of Cashion may have taken a hit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have got power lines down. I have got trees down where the tornado crossed Highway 74 at the 74 spur.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Appreciate that report, Allen (ph).

We're looking at a tornado live. Can you see that? It's coming in from Rob and Tom down toward Chickasha northeast about 40 on this tornado. Looks like it passed through parts of Chickasha. Rob and Tom think maybe it's on Interstate 44. If it is, it has probably caused some serious problems.

You're listening to us on the radio and you're headed southwest on I-44, get off or turn around, whatever you have to do. If you folks know people that are in the south of Chickasha coming north, don't let them go past Chickasha. This thing is getting larger and larger and larger and larger. And it's a major circulation you see.

Rob and Tom, storm chasers, got it live right there. And it has gone through parts of Chickasha, the way it looks to me, east Chickasha.

Time of arrivals, Amber, there's a pretty big fan on this, but I see a pair of flashes. There you see. You're looking at the tornado live, and this is near Chickasha, Oklahoma, southwest, 40 miles southwest of Oklahoma City.

Amber, 5:27, Amber School 5:27. Bridge Creek School, 5:41. Tuttle, 5:43. Tuttle High School, 5:44. Newcastle, 5:52. Mustang High School, if it maintains itself, northeast 40, Mustang or Mustang Middle School, 5:56. Mustang Middle School, 5:56. Mustang, downtown Mustang, 5:57. Mustang High School, 5:57. And Meadow Park, 5:58. So, we're looking at a large tornado.

BLITZER: All right, I want to bring in Chad.

Chad, you have been listening to it. You know Oklahoma.

MYERS: I do.

BLITZER: You worked in Oklahoma. Where is Chickasha?

MYERS: Chickasha is down the turnpike from Oklahoma City. You would go south. Then you would go south of 40.

I-40 goes across Oklahoma east to west, down the interstate to Chickasha right here. Why this is concerning to the people in Oklahoma City, to Moore, to Norman, is because that is the direction that all of the tornadoes have been going today, from the southwest to the northeast.

This was a storm. We know it was on the ground in south Chickasha, and it has now moved along the interstate, moving right up the interstate into Moore and Norman. If it continues on the path, it could be a big tornado on the ground by the time it gets into those Oklahoma City suburbs.

He also talked about Cashion, Cashion getting significant damage. They have called for more help from Cashion, especially south of Cashion. Here, there's the Four Corners right there, Edmond, the villages, and the -- the Village, and then on up here to Cashion, along just to the east of Piedmont. That was the big tornado that David Payne (ph) was on showing -- if you haven't seen that video, Wolf, maybe we need to re-rack that and play that again.

A storm chaser was -- thought he was plenty way -- plenty far away from the tornado, and then all of a sudden the power lines and power poles broke right over the top of his vehicle. This is not safe today. This is not safe to be out there being an amateur storm chaser with a NOAA weather radio in a car. That does not make you a chaser.

Today is the day to get inside, stay inside, get the pets inside, make sure the kids don't go out, and get in the basement if you have one. Most people in Oklahoma do not. It's so rocky and dirt down there that you can't really dig basements there. so, get inside an interior space in your room. When you hear the sirens going off, it's time to be safe.

Another big day. We knew this was going to be another major tornado day, and clearly it is.

BLITZER: We have just queued up the video. I'm going to play it for our viewers. Actually, this is the live pictures we're getting in near Chickasha right now...

MYERS: Wow, that is getting bigger.

BLITZER: ... courtesy of our affiliate.

But let me play -- Chad had a good idea. We will play that video of what happened just a little while ago in Oklahoma. Look at this. And I will let the storm chaser describe what he's seeing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes, go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a half-mile-wide wedge. It's another killer tornado. It went across -- Mike, went across Highway 81 as weather intensified. And it almost got us. It intensified right on top of us. Amazing. It's a half-mile-wide killer tornado, just crossed Gregory (ph) Road.

It's now going to cross Northwest Expressway in about -- about a minute. It's crossing Northwest Expressway right now. Right now, Mike, it's crossing Northwest Expressway. It's a massive tornado. It's a half-mile wide, no doubt about it. It looks just like it did an hour-and-a-half ago, deadly, deadly, deadly tornado, Mike, coming down the northwest side of the metro -- back to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You know, Chad, if this current tornado moves towards Oklahoma City, that's a major, major urban area, much bigger than Joplin, Missouri, for example.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Folks have to start preparing right now. It could be within the next few hours. Is that right?

MYERS: It is.

And Oklahoma City proper, all the way from Guthrie to Edmond and down to Norman kind of stretches out in a north-south fashion, not so much east and west, but north and south along I-35. And so, as the tornado comes up here, it's certain to hit if it's still on the ground. And it was getting bigger in that last picture I just saw.

It's certain to hit some -- either Moore, Norman, Oklahoma City, or maybe out towards Midwest City and then across. This could be right into downtown, for that matter as it moves off toward the north and toward the northeast right along the Turner Turnpike, right along the turnpike itself here. And there's another storm right there heading into Guthrie.

That's the big storm that I'm very worried about. Is that the storm? Is that truly? That is live. Is that -- this is the Chickasha storm? Yes. This is now not the tornado we looked at 10 minutes ago. This is now what we call a wedge, or maxi-tornado. There will be more than one tornado almost inside of that tornado.

We call it a multi-vortex tornado or something where -- suction spots are spinning within inside that. So that could be a 150-mile- per-hour tornado right there. From that look, that would be an EF-3, maybe approaching an EF-4, but probably only a three as it moves on up. Now it is getting stronger and it is still heading into the Oklahoma City metro area.

I don't want to say the city yet, but anyway -- anywhere from Norman on the south side to the city on the north side. This is a major storm heading up the turnpike. You need to be taking cover now. It will be in Oklahoma City. Probably give it 30 minutes or so. You have that much time to get everything prepared and get yourself in a closet. Get yourself covered. Go ahead and get your motorcycle helmet, your football helmets, basketball, whatever, anything that could protect you from the outside elements if your house is swept away, the trauma of all those houses.

We saw it, Wolf. We saw houses that were just gone. If you're inside those houses, you may be protected a little bit if you have more padding around you. Think about yourself being like an egg. You have to put padding around you, and as these storms move these houses and knock these houses down -- boy, what a brutal day in Oklahoma again.

As we were talking about, OK, this is still miles away, but maybe four hours away. Joplin, Missouri, is up there, and we know how devastated that city already is, with pieces of the town really strewn all over. A 50-, 60-mile-per-hour wind will take those pieces and throw them again, making even more danger.

BLITZER: And I could just report now the Canadian County sheriff in Oklahoma, Randall Edwards, says there are now confirmed fatalities, destroyed homes, a gas leak at the Devon plant in El Reno. That's at Highway 66 and Courtney Road.

Are you familiar with this area, Chad?

MYERS: El Reno was the town that, as the storm moved just to the north of El Reno proper, that -- where that -- where those casualties are -- must have been about a mile north of El Reno.

It would be over here. Keep going in, guys. We can get some more towns in here, Oklahoma city, I-40. El Reno is right there. And the tornado moved from Hinton across I-40. It was literally right across I-40 at El Reno and then made a run at Piedmont. Now it's continuing here.

This is the word Cashion. That's where the other damage is right there. And it is still on the ground moving up toward Guthrie, another very populated area, although literally, obviously, the bulk of the population is here, but the population does spread out north and south from Oklahoma City -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm very worried about what's going on in Oklahoma. All right, stand by for a moment. Anderson Cooper is on the ground for us as well.

Anderson, you see the breaking news out of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City. The area, they're bracing for more tornadoes right now.

And what's it like where you are?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, obviously, people here had been bracing for a storm. We're still waiting to see what kind of weather we're going to get tonight. That's been the real concern, Wolf, here all day long as search and rescue operations have been going on.

Yesterday, they were severely hampered by this driving rain, by the lightning storms. A number of times, search and rescue crews had to be called off the search and just basically seek safety. They're hoping that doesn't happen tonight. They're still looking, trying to hopefully find some survivors who may still be alive underneath the wreckage.

I was at the Home Depot throughout the day today. They recovered one more person from the Home Depot today. They recovered seven yesterday. One person was alive yesterday, but seven fatalities there. And they found one fatality today.

It is very difficult work. They're trying to get through this mass of concrete and steel. They have got canine dogs in. They have got a lot of heavy equipment in here. But it is very slow going, and the weather is a real concern, Wolf.

BLITZER: Anderson, Brian Todd, who was in Japan when you were in Japan, in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, says it's eerily similar, some of the scenes he's seen in Joplin, Missouri. Is that your sense as well?

COOPER: I think you can say that.

I think, in Japan, the search and rescue personnel, there weren't as many of them. They weren't as well-equipped as we have seen here. We have seen crews from all around the country. I was working with a task force from Missouri today.

They're totally self-sufficient. They have got generators. They have got heavy earth-moving equipment. There's a lot of bulldozers already you see going through some of the heavier wreckage. In Japan, you really didn't see that for many days, if not weeks. You saw large numbers of Japanese military poking around with sticks.

And there, the debris was so thick. In Japan, it was often 15, 20 feet because of the tsunami. Here, you have people's possessions which are strewn all about, but the -- kind of the residue of buildings is generally in a kind of location. With the tsunami, it would carry things for miles, and you really had no idea where something might have gone.

BLITZER: Do they really believe that a lot of those 1,500 people who are still listed as missing are going to be found OK? That's the -- that's what authorities are saying, but I'm worried.

COOPER: Well, I have got to say, I think there's just a lot of -- there's a lot of understandable lack of organization at this point.

Communication is very difficult. Cell phone service is spotty. So I think a lot of people just haven't been able to connect with each other. We have seen at the library here, for instance, people trying to use computers to try to connect with loved ones.

But it's hard to find Internet access here. So, I think that -- we have to be careful with that 1,500 figure. Yes, those people are unaccounted for. But it's very hard. We're very early days, and it's hard to try to figure out exactly who was supposed to be here and where somebody might have ended up.

It's certainly an ominous number and a number we have to watch very closely. But there's still hope that a significant number of those people may simply just not have connected with their loved ones yet.

BLITZER: What's encouraging, as you point out, Anderson, is rescue workers are pouring into the area from all over the country right now. Do you get a sense they have the equipment, the wherewithal they need to get the job done?

COOPER: You know, I have been -- we have been driving around all day and we have seen a number of rescue personnel just in different neighborhoods. They do seem organized.

And we have seen a lot of dogs, not cadaver dogs, I should point out, actually dogs specially trained to find living human beings at this point. There's -- a lot of these search-and-rescue teams, they're urban search-and-rescue teams. They're used -- they have a three- or four-day window that they are used to being -- that they use to operate in that they're totally self-sufficient for. And they're really, you know -- they're moving as fast as they can to try to make the most of this -- this window that they have.

BLITZER: And right now in Oklahoma, as you -- as you've been hearing us report the breaking news. More tornadoes, moving closer and closer towards Oklahoma City, Anderson. And as big a city as Joplin, Missouri, is, a city of about 50,000, the greater metropolitan area of about 400,000. Oklahoma City is much, much bigger. I don't know how well-prepared they are, if, God forbid, one of those tornadoes really devastated Oklahoma City. It's a real source of worry right now.

We're showing our viewers some live pictures of this monster tornado. You can see how wide it is as it moves closer. It's near Chickasha right now in Oklahoma City. That's a suburb of Oklahoma City, not far from Oklahoma City. We're watching this very, very closely.

I don't know what's going on in the world, Anderson, right now, but there seems to be disaster after disaster after disaster, and you've been on the scene for, I would say, all of them. COOPER: Well, it's -- it's really -- you know, it's hard to see, obviously, to know that another -- another place right now is suffering and that there's been confirmed fatalities already. It's the worst possible news.

And again, you know, it's not just the size or the speed of the wind here that we have to look at. It's the speed at which the twister is actually moving. That was one of the problems, I think, here in Joplin, that people were saying this was a slow-moving twister around the hospital. It kind of lingered, they said, around the hospital for about a minute or so. So, you know, the longer this storm stays in an area, stays over a city, obviously, the worse it is. That's something, obviously, also we'll be tracking with Oklahoma City.

BLITZER: And you'll be interested to know, our viewers will be interested to know yesterday we'll be reporting that the tornado in Joplin was an F-4. Now authorities have officially said it's really an F-5, with winds more than 200 miles an hour.

Anderson, we're going to be watching "AC 360" later tonight. Thanks for your excellent reporting.

Lots going on right now. We're going to continue our breaking news coverage. The tornadoes moving through Oklahoma right now, getting ominously close to Oklahoma City. Chad Myers will explain what's going on. We'll check in with our affiliates on the ground. You saw these devastating pictures. Much more of our breaking news coverage right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All right. This is the breaking news that we've been following. Look at these live pictures coming into us from our affiliate out in Oklahoma. This is actually taped. But look at how wide that tornado is near Chickasha, which is not all that far from Oklahoma City. Want to thank our affiliate KWTV -- KOTV for these pictures.

This is a monster tornado happening right now, as well, in Oklahoma. The folks out there certainly don't need this kind of aggravation.

We know there are fatalities elsewhere in Oklahoma as well, other tornadoes. They're moving and moving and moving, a very, very dangerous situation unfolding. If you're anywhere near the path of these tornadoes, you've got to take precautions immediately. Otherwise, your lives will be in danger. So move quickly to the lowest possible area in your home's secure areas. You've got to move very, very quickly, because you won't have a lot of time if you're in anywhere close to these tornadoes.

Chad Myers is going to be back with us in a moment. We'll check in. But look at how wide that tornado is near Chickasha, Oklahoma.

Many Facebook pages already are full with heart-breaking pleas for word of loved ones right now, like little 16-year-old [SIC] Skyular Logsdon, missing in that tornado that tore Joplin, Missouri, apart. Lisa Sylvester is here, working this part of the story.

My heart, Lisa, goes out to all these parents and loved ones whose kids are missing right now.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is so heart- wrenching. And you know, Wolf, by some accounts, as many as 1,500 people may still be missing in Joplin. And that number is likely to change, though, as the days go on. But in the meantime, it is agonizing for the people who are looking for their loved ones.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're looking for a loved one?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. We're looking for Mark Lindquist.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): Joplin radio station KZRG takes calls, trying to match people desperate for information with their missing loved ones.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. You guys were looking for Brandon and Carrie Sartori (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, those names came up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Brandon.

SYLVESTER: There's not an official tally of the number missing in Joplin, but one look at the devastated city says it all.

DAVE SCHRADER, AMERICAN RED CROSS: Very few houses, very few buildings were spared. That -- and it's very widespread. I drove probably 20 minutes in my car, and I saw nonstop devastation from one end to the other.

SYLVESTER: Some are turning to social media, post after post on Facebook from people trying to get in touch with family and friends. Skyular Logsdon is a 16-month-old baby. When the tornado hit, his mother wasn't able to hold onto him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She lost him in the aftermath, all of this. And I mean, it's just terrible. And no one's seen him since. The rest of the family is doing OK. We've just -- we've got to find him.

SYLVESTER: The American Red Cross has a program called Safe and Well, where people can post online that they're OK. So far more than 1,000 people have registered.

SCHRADER: It's very difficult to communicate, particularly by phone. The phones are very spotty. So this is an opportunity. There was a need for people to be able to reach out and check on loved ones.

SYLVESTER: Rebekah Lovell was helping look for her boyfriend's 6-year-old daughter, AuShae Avin Farris (ph). The little girl was caught in a house that was destroyed by a storm. Lovell posted this on message on her Facebook asking anyone to call or text.

REBEKAH LOVELL, LOOKING FOR MISSING GIRL (via phone): Its a lot of support I've gotten from people on Facebook, you know, telling me, "Hey, we'll look for her. We'll, you know, let people know that she's out there."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: And this afternoon Lovell did get word that 6-year- old AuShae (ph) was found. She is in a hospital with her mother. But the home that they were in is completely gone, just gone, Wolf.

BLITZER: At least they found her. Thanks very much, Lisa, for that.

We're getting this just in right now. Authorities in Joplin, Missouri, have raised the death toll now to 122 confirmed deaths. That makes this the single deadliest tornado in some 60 years, ever since they started tracking tornadoes in the United States.

They've also announced that the tornado that destroyed so much of Joplin was an F-5, an EF-5. That means the wind speeds were above 200 miles an hour.

Tornadoes with a double dose of terror. The Missouri town of Joplin is in ruins but vows to recover and rise again, even as violent tornadoes touching down right now in Oklahoma. More of the breaking news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news. Look at this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They got shut down. So hopefully, they will get everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at the motion in that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just had a power flash. Hopefully, they will get everybody...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my gosh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... out of there and safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The motion is tremendous. David Payne, are you still with us? Violent tornado coming into Piedmont. David, are you there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Mike, can you hear me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a half-mile wide wedge. It's another killer tornado. It went across Highway 81 is when it re-intensified. And it almost got us. It intensified right on top of us. It's amazing. It's a half mile wide. Killer tornado. It just crossed Gregory Road. It's now going to cross Northwest Expressway in about -- about a minute. It's crossing Northwest Expressway right now. Right now it's crossing Northwest Expressway.

It's a massive tornado. It's a half mile wide, no doubt about it. It looks just like it did an hour and a half ago. Deadly, deadly, deadly tornado, Mike, coming down the northwest side of the metro. Back to you.

BLITZER: All right. Let me just update our viewers on the breaking news. And we've been reporting on; it's now official that tornado in Joplin, Missouri, an F-5, wind speed above 200 miles an hour. That death toll has just been -- just been increased to 122 by authorities in Joplin.

Chad Myers is watching all of this unfold. Let's get to the breaking news in Oklahoma right now. Is it one tornado? Multiple tornadoes? What are we seeing in Oklahoma? And how endangered in some of the urban areas would these folks be right now?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I would say we probably still have three tornadoes on the ground, although the one up near Guthrie is much smaller than it was before when it moved over El Reno and caused some damage to Devin Industry out there.

We still have a tornado, certainly have a tornado on this cell that is very close to the south side of Oklahoma City. And a tornado emergency, which means a tornado, large tornado, has been spotted, and it is moving into your town. That would be Newcastle and Moore, as this hook right there. There's the debris from the tornado that's on the ground.

We've never talked about this in years past because we really, truly haven't had such good Doppler radar. And we haven't had such big tornadoes. If a tornado is on the ground, Wolf, it spins up, and it picks up things. Picks up shingles and boards and everything else and parts of cars. That debris gets up into the cloud. Well, the radar beam actually can see boards a lot better than it can see small rain drops. So when you see a big bright spot right there over Newcastle, that's actually parts of the ground. That's trees and roots and that's shingles in the air that the radar is picking up. And it's called a debris ball, because it looks like a ball. But the debris is what the radar is seeing. It's not even raining there. It's the debris from the tornado itself.

We had one here, a debris ball that came across, and just to the west of about El Reno and into Piedmont, just north of Piedmont, and just missed Edmund. That was a couple of hours ago. There are more cells all the way up and down. Now, that's the north side of Oklahoma.

There's the Red River. That's the south side. Below that is Texas. This entire line waves, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Eight -- eight super cells are all rotating, and eight super cells could have eight tornadoes on the ground at any one time. I know of three right now. There may be others that are just forming or others that are just lifting, but a dangerous night. And then, if I take you over there, that's Joplin, Missouri. And that's just a couple hours away.

BLITZER: So it's possible this severe weather is moving towards Joplin right now? Is that what you're saying?

MYERS: In a few hours. It would probably take three to four hours for it to get there yet. It would have to turn up the turnpike to Tulsa and then over to Miama (ph) into Oklahoma and then even farther up I-44 up toward Joplin, Missouri up there. Another ten miles to Joplin as you get past the Oklahoma state line.

BLITZER: These people are used to tornadoes, but not necessarily these severe tornadoes. Is that what I'm hearing?

MYERS: Yes. You could be used to an F-1. You can be used to 100-mile-per-hour storm, and it's going to take your roof off. It might take some shingles; it will take the barn. It will damage the car with some hail. Everybody will walk out of the house, and the windows will be broken, and you'll be fine. That's -- that's a typical, if you want to say vanilla or garden-variety tornado.

We have not seen these. We are seeing large violent storms with large tornadoes over 150 miles per hour, one after the other, like a big rake just raking across the country. We raked across Alabama. There had been 49. And today we're going to -- I know we're going to add to that number, because there are fatalities already. There were 49 as of yesterday killer tornadoes so far this year. An average year, Wolf, only has 22 killer tornadoes. We've doubled that. The number of tornadoes that have killed people approaching 50, and today will be well over that.

And then, if you keep on going, the numbers are staggering. The numbers have approached, for April, almost 1,000 tornadoes for the years so far. The first three months, we've had like 50. And April had so many more, and now obviously May, the most active month of the year.

BLITZER: We've just been told, Chad, that there's a 9 p.m. curfew in Joplin, local time. Nine p.m. curfew in Joplin, Missouri, because they're worried about the severe weather moving towards their city once again.

Stand by, Chad. We'll get back to you.

We're watching all of the breaking news unfolding. These new tornadoes moving through Oklahoma, moving ominously close towards Oklahoma City. Much more of the breaking news coverage after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It almost got us. It intensified right on top of us. Amazing. It's a half-mile-wide killer tornado. It just passed Gregory Road. It's now going to cross Northwest Expressway in about -- about a minute. It's crossing Northwest Expressway right now. Right now...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Obama is in London right now. He's announced earlier in the day that once he gets back to the United States, he'll be heading over to Joplin, Missouri, immediately this coming Sunday.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar.

You know, the story here is devastating, Brianna, and I'm sure the president and his top advisers, the first lady, they are devastated by what they're seeing and hearing, as well.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They certainly are, and they're certainly keeping an eye on this, Wolf. The president is getting briefings. He began his day this morning with remarks about the tornado damage in Missouri, but after that, this was a day chock full of pomp and circumstance.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): In Buckingham Palace, the queen and Prince Phillip welcomed the Obamas, and so did the newlyweds, the duke and duchess of Cambridge.

It was a day full of pageantry. Obama reviewed the troops with Phillip and was honored with a 41-gun salute. In a somber ceremony at Westminster Abbey, he laid a wreath on the grave on the Unknown Warrior and signed the guest book with the wrong date, it was later discovered, 2008 instead of 2011.

At 10 Downing Street, a photo op with Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife, Samantha. The leaders headed to a local school, a visit to promote education and innovation, where they congratulated youngsters on this invention, a lunch tray that turns into a bowl and a plate.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You guys helped make an idea into reality.

KEILAR: A teacher joked that they're looking for an investor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The fact that -- actually make it real, the new "Apprentices."

OBAMA: Or Donald Trump in the United States. I have -- I have some connection with him.

KEILAR: The president and prime minister also joined forces for a little table tennis. It turns out the prime minister needs some practice.

OBAMA: My first point!

KEILAR: Back at the palace, the ultimate in British protocol: a state dinner in honor of the Obamas hosted by the queen. QUEEN ELIZABETH, UNITED KINGDOM: Today the United States remains our most important ally.

KEILAR: A day of formalities ahead of tomorrow's substance. Obama meets one on one with Prime Minister Cameron before addressing both houses of Parliament. Libya will take center stage as the leaders meet. They will discuss the importance of supporting the rebels Muammar Gadhafi, keeping pressure on the Libyan government with the NATO mission, and the White House says, lobbying European allies for more support.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll talk about the international alignment, international effort that's necessary to support Libya, not just through our military action, but the political and diplomatic support, as well.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: In the president's speech tomorrow before Parliament, he will ask -- in the president's speech tomorrow before Parliament, he will say that the U.S./U.K. alliance is the cornerstone of global security. But a big challenge for the U.S. in Britain as they ask their allies for more help, shrinking defense spending as many countries try to reduce their deficits, Wolf.

BLITZER: And we'll, of course, have live coverage of the president's address before Parliament tomorrow. Thanks, Brianna. Thanks very much.

Ravaged Joplin, Missouri bracing for another round of what could be damaging storms after a deadly tornado tears through Oklahoma. Joplin has inspired people all across the country with its courage, but can it take any more? Much more coming up at the top of the hour on "JOHN KING USA," but first we'll have a quick check of the day's other top stories. Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: First the Missouri, now near Oklahoma City. These are pictures coming in from our affiliate there, a tornado hitting parts of the area not far from Oklahoma City right now. Killer tornadoes. We know there are fatalities in Oklahoma right now.

We'll have much more coming up at the top of the hour. But Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM. What else is going on, Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Hi there, Wolf.

Well, former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak could be executed if he is convicted of ordering police to shoot and kill anti- government protestors. Egypt's general prosecutor's office says Mubarak and his two sons will be tried in a criminal court. They're also charged with wasting public money and using their positions buy lavish resort villas under fake names. The Black Hawk military helicopter that was destroyed in the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound is now back on U.S. soil. The Pentagon says Pakistan retorted (ph) the chopper over the weekend. It's believed that the helicopter was especially developed to elude radar. The Navy SEAL team blew it up after it developed problems so its technology would not fall into militants' hands.

And it was a close call for Iranian hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran's state-run news agency reports there was an explosion at an oil refinery around the time Mr. Ahmadinejad was visiting it. The blast reportedly killed at least one person and injured at least six others. A senior Iranian official blames technical problems for the explosion, not intentional sabotage. Mr. Ahmadinejad was not hurt and even went on to deliver a speech at that facility -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thanks very much. See you back here tomorrow.

That's all the time we have today. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.