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THE SITUATION ROOM
Tornadoes Hit Kentucky; Interview with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul; Interview with Rick Santorum; Interview with Indiana Senator Dan Coats; Limbaugh's Controversial Comments
Aired March 2, 2012 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S THE SITUATION ROOM: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, the breaking news we're following -- mayhem across major parts of the South and Midwest. Another round of monster tornadoes terrorizing the region. And there are already reports of critical injuries. Plus, Rick Santorum slamming the conservative radio talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, for calling a contraception advocate a slut and a prostitute and even worse. Ahead, why Santorum and other Republican leaders now say the comments made by Rush Limbaugh are, quote, "absurd." Stand by. My interview with Rick Santorum. That's coming up.
Breaking news and political headlines all straight ahead.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: First to the breaking news. Huge, huge tornadoes unfolding across major parts of the South and the Midwest. You're looking at these live pictures from Henryville Indiana that you can see the devastation, these homes, these buildings simply destroyed.
And guess what?
This is only just the beginning. The devastation continuing right now. More and more hurricane -- excuse me -- tornado watches and warnings on the way.
Chad Myers, our severe weather analyst, and our meteorologist, has the latest information for us -- Chad, first of all, give us the big picture. Huge parts of the country involved.
CHAD MYERS, ATS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, literally all the way from Ohio to Texas to Georgia to Virginia. But staying with these pictures, because this was the most significant tornado of the day so far. That's not saying that a bigger tornado won't happen. But this was the tornado that, 20 minutes later, would run over the town of Marysville, Indiana. And your quote from the -- from the mayor from Jeffersonville, Indiana said Marysville is no longer there. It is gone. And this is a damage we expected from this tornado. This was, in my opinion, just looking at it from Doppler radar, not a ground truth yet, but at least 180 mile per hour, very close to EF4 tornado, as it rolled over I-65 north of Louisville.
This is about 30 miles north of Louisville proper. And then it moved into and eventually over Milton, where it wiped out the fire station there and continued across the border over the river and into Kentucky.
That right there, my friend, Wolf, is the devastating damage that we expected. You know, as we looked at it here, we hoped that the tornado would miss this town by a mile north or south. But we knew that it probably didn't. The signature of the tornado was right on top of this town. And if we don't find fatalities in this town, with an F4 right through it, in the middle of the day, it will be an absolute miracle, because this, when we -- when we looked at this in the weather office, we all just kind of looked down and said wow, I can't believe this is actually going to go right over this town.
Now, it's not a large town, maybe a mile north to south. But it sits right along Interstate 65.
There's another issue there. When you're driving on the interstate, you don't know that tornado is ahead of you. You don't even know what county you're in, typically.
If you're driving down 65 or up 75 or down 95 into Virginia, do you really know what county in Virginia you just crossed over?
I know there's a sign, but do you really know?
No, you don't. So even if you hear the warning on the radio, you don't know where you are. And people drove right into this tornado on the interstate, I-65.
It then traveled over 65, off to the east, ran right over the town of Marysville, Indiana, and then across and into Kentucky.
I hope this is all we see. I hope this is the -- the worst of it. But I suspect, Wolf, that we're going to see, this is going to continue for a long time. These are aerials out of our affiliate in Louisville, Kentucky. They did take the flight about 30 miles up because they knew that this was going to be the hardest hit town in their viewing area.
BLITZER: And we're getting reports that -- and these are live pictures from Henryville, Indiana -- that a bunch of people are trapped in Henryville High School right now. As I say, these -- these are awful, awful developments. And not far away, Maryville, Indiana, the -- the Clark County Sheriff's Department, Major Truck Adams saying the town of Marysville is, quote, "completely gone."
BLITZER: Now, these picture are so sad, so devastating, Chad. And what's the forecast now?
There are all sorts of warnings and watches underway even as we speak.
MYERS: Yes, 21 tornado warnings issued right now by about seven or eight different states. The most significant one that I want you to know, if you're -- if you're just watching, just tuning in and not hearing about this yet, a tornado warning is in effect for Nashville, Tennessee. The tornado is also -- warning is also in effect for Frankfort, Kentucky. These are pretty big towns and big cities, of course, in the -- in the case of Nashville.
But that was a building right there and probably a home, Wolf. And there's nothing left except the sticks that it was built from. That is a big tornado, winds at least over 150 miles per hour to do that kind of damage to a home.
Now we don't know yesterday whether the tornado west of Nashville is actually on the ground. There's enough rotation that the warning has been issued. But if you live in Nashville, Tennessee right now, or any of the suburbs around Nashville, you need to take cover, because this is a severe weather day. We may get three or four days like this in the entire year, where the humidity is in place, the vorticity or the upper level storm is in place, the cold area is coming in from the west. It's snowing in Iowa right now. That's the cold air that's pushing this warm air along.
And you need to take cover, which means stay away from the windows. Get to the lowest level. If you live in an apartment complex, get to know your neighbor on the first floor. Get out of that third and fourth floor apartment and get to the lowest level you can, even if it's the laundry room on the first floor. You need to get out of there right now, because that storm, with a tornado warning for Nashville, is pretty significant.
But looking at these pictures, this is devastating.
BLITZER: Yes, it is devastating, in Indiana, in Tennessee and also in Kentucky.
Chad, stay with me for a moment.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is joining us on the phone right now. Senator Paul, first of all, where are you?
I assume you're in Kentucky some place?
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Yes. I'm just south of Frankfort, between Frankfort and Lawrenceburg. And it looks like we've got a cell with potential tornadoes almost right on top of us. So we decided the better part of valor was to get off the road. We had some hail coming down. So we're pulled over now at a gas station, hoping that this is a...
BLITZER: Well, when -- in the gas station, senator. Are you in a secure part there?
Are you just looking out?
Because we want you to be safe...
PAUL: Not yet.
BLITZER: Is there...
PAUL: We're sort of waiting...
BLITZER: -- is there a basement there...
PAUL: -- waiting and watching. And, you know, I'm not sure how secure it's going to be here. But we -- there are -- there are some cinderblock rooms that we'll probably get into if the tornado hits.
BLITZER: Frankfort is a huge city. It's an important city in -- in Kentucky.
Is the tornado warning and watch heading directly toward Frankfort right now?
Is that the information you have?
PAUL: Yes. We're just south of Frankfort, but we're right in that pink zone. We're watching it on the news. And that hot pink zone, I believe we're right in that, or very, very close to that. We're between Frankfort and Lawrenceburg, very near the Western Kentucky Parkway. So I think we're pretty close to all that pink zone.
But it's moving pretty fast. They say it's moving 60 miles an hour. So we're hoping within the next few minutes, it will be past.
BLITZER: Well, describe what's -- paint a picture for us, if you're near a window. And I don't want you to go anyplace where it's dangerous, Senator, but if you can, just paint a little picture for us what it looks like outside.
PAUL: Well, you know, it's just sort of an eerie sky, very dark in places, very light in places. And this morning, it was 80 degrees, which is incredibly warm in Bowling Green. So it was over 80 degrees. But it's getting ready to drop to 40 degrees. And it's that temper dif -- temperature differential, I think, that spawns these storms.
BLITZER: Stand by for a second, because Chad Myers, our meteorologist, has a question for you, Senator, if you can be with us for another moment or two -- Chad, go ahead.
MYERS: Senator, I -- I don't know if you have a radar in front of you, so I'm going to describe your situation. Frankfort, Kentucky, right here to our viewers, and Lawrenceburg right here. The Senator right along the -- the freeway, the highway, right there. The tornado vortex signature is down around Alton right now. So lightly to your southwest, moving to the east.
And here is the problem. These storms, for all the people out there, have been moving 50 to 60 miles per hour. You don't have much time to take cover.
Millville, probably, right in the way of this TVS, or the tornado vortex signature on the Doppler radar. There's the red and the green together. That is a bad sign. That's means that's where the rotation is on the ground. This storm has been on the ground for a while. And I need you, obviously, Senator, and all of the -- all the people here from Frankfort down to Lawrenceburg, to take cover now.
BLITZER: So, Chad, give -- give the Senator and the folks he's with right now some expert advice.
What does he need to do?
MYERS: Well, the first thing to do is if you can see outside, you're in a bad place. You don't want to be anyway near a window. That window will shatter and then it will blow in on you and cut you. So even if your -- if your only house that has a secure four walls is a small closet in the middle of your home by the kitchen, that's where you want to be.
Now, when you go and you look up in your house, you don't want a bunch of canned goods on the top shelf, because those will fall down if the house does start to shake. So you have to think about this. You don't want to have a bowling ball. If you're in the -- in the bathroom closet, anything else could be heavy. Make sure that comes down so that you stay on the inside.
Put as many walls between you and the outside as possible. That means if a two by four would shoot through your outside wall, it wouldn't get to you because you're through the other wall. You're on the inside wall of a small little closet, always the safest place to be. And, of course, Wolf, the best place of all would be to be below ground, which would be a cellar, a tornado cellar, a root cellar or just anywhere down below, downstairs.
And if you could get under the stairwell, typically those stairs are the safest place, the strongest place of a house.
BLITZER: All right, Senator, did you copy all that information from Chad?
PAUL: We -- we did. And we're going to be looking for an enclosed room very shortly if the storm gets closer. We have about five or 10 folks here in the store. I don't think we're going to have the opportunity of having a basement. But there are a few enclosed rooms that we're probably going to get to. And It looks it's pretty close to us. But we're still hoping, you know, for the best, that it will disperse and move either above or below us on the map.
BLITZER: Yes. We just want you to get away from that window, because that window could shatter.
So I assume you're inside that gas station, right?
PAUL: Yes, we're inside. And we're still looking at the storm all around us, but still sort of in an eerie sort of twilight at this point, with the storm not quite on us, but all, sort of around us.
BLITZER: We're talking with Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Senator, have you ever gone anything -- through like this in your years in Kentucky or elsewhere?
PAUL: You know, we get tornadoes periodically here. And I also grew up along the Gulf Coast. So I'm familiar with hurricanes, as well, which sometimes spawn tornadoes.
But, yes, Kentucky gets their share of them. And, you know, we've had them hit Bowling Green before. Maybe not quite as much as Oklahoma and Arkansas get, but Kentucky gets her share.
BLITZER: We know if your dad is watching and your mom is watching, you want to make sure that they -- they're reassured that you're OK. They might be watching right now, Senator.
Do you want to say anything to Congressman Ron Paul or your mom?
PAUL: No, tell him I'm on the road like he is. And I'm just glad I'm not in an airplane. I'm always a little more comfortable with two feet on the ground, so. But, yes, I'm hoping that everybody is safe in Kentucky today. And there have been some tornadoes throughout. And we haven't heard yet, but we've got our staff out there, you know, prepared to help people, if we can in any way.
BLITZER: Yes. Well, I'm sure that the federal government is going to try to come in and help out all of you guys in Kentucky and Tennessee and Indiana, Illinois. These storms are not just in the Frankfort, Kentucky area. Unfortunately, they're all over the place.
Please be careful, Senator Paul, and your folks that are with you.
And say in close touch with us, OK?
PAUL: Will do.
BLITZER: And thanks very much.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.
And, Chad, if you're still there, just update our viewers once again on the very latest.
MYERS: Well, I -- I want to just assure the Senator and the people of Frankfort that this is not a maxi tornado situation. There's not an F5 coming at you, like what you might see on the screen next to me here. That was a 200 mile per hour or a 180 mile per hour storm that rolled over north of Louisville by about 30 miles. Just by -- just by the grace that it didn't get down to Louisville. But it did go over Marysville, as well, and then across the river into Kentucky.
But the storm that is into the -- the Frankfort, Kentucky area is not a maxi tornado situation. It's a pretty big storm, but it's not really that much of a tornado maker at this point. It's a gust maker. It's a wind maker. It'll blow the windows, maybe, a little bit. It may shake you a little bit.
But the only place that I would see any significant rotation at all would be down now farther, close to Lawrenceburg, south of about Alton. And it's -- it's not a maxi tornado situation.
Now the other issue is what's going on in Nashville, Wolf, because this is obviously a highly populated area. We've had reports now of golf ball-sized hail throughout the Nashville vicinity, especially south of town. It is moving through rather quickly. There's this little appendage down here, on the south side of town. I'm very concerned about this. This can sometimes lead to a tornado developing right here.
We go across the other side. This would be from about Brentwood off to the east. That's where I would say, I you want to -- need to take cover, you need to get out of everything, you want to be in your basement from Forest Hills, Brentwood and points eastward from there. But from Nashville northward, you're pretty much in the clear from right now.
BLITZER: Chad, don't go too far away. We're going to stay on top of the breaking news. We're going to check in with all of our reporters who are on the scene.
Rob Marciano is out there, as well.
Much more on the breaking news coverage.
Also -- actually, let's listen to what's going on right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The school is just, the major damage to that. And then the school buses and the homes, just major damage down here. It's just really hard to comprehend how strong these winds must have been. But, as you can see, that school bus right there was flipped around and just thrown into the middle of that building right there, Jay.
BLITZER: Oh, you can see that school bus there. What -- what a destruction in Henryville, Indiana. These are live pictures you're seeing. You see that school bus literally destroyed into that structure over there. I assume that's a house or maybe it's a store. And look at those cars, just leveled. Look -- destroyed in the homes and the wreckage. Henryville, Indiana. These are live pictures courtesy of our affiliate, WLKY. You can see the enormous devastation. We're going to stay on top of this story.
Also, my interview with former senator, Rick Santorum, the Republican presidential candidate. He's got a lot to say. We go through many issues. A major interview with Rick Santorum coming up this hour as well.
BLITZER: All right. You're looking at these live pictures courtesy of our affiliate, WTHR, at St. Paul, Indiana. Look at the destruction of these buildings over here, these tornadoes ripping apart huge areas in the south and the Midwest. And there are more tornado warnings and watches underway right now.
We're going to go back to it. We're going to go back and find out what's going on. But I quickly want to check in with CNN meteorologist, Rob Marciano. He's joining us on the phone right now. Rob, it's getting very dangerous where you are in the Chattanooga area. What's the latest?
ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST (via phone): Well, as far as the current weather situation, I'm looking out to my north, and there are some very ominous cloud there (INAUDIBLE) what I assume is another severe thunderstorm. Hopefully, that will stay to the north this impact its own that got tornado, a strong one, and one that was at least 150, if not 200 yards wide, maybe wider, Wolf, that came in through here about 1:00 p.m. local time and tore off this neighborhood.
Forty, 50 at least, homes are damaged if not completely destroyed. Folks in this area are scrambling to get what they can and clear the roadways so that they can get to safe shelter with this next round of storms moving in. I believe you know the numbers as far as fatalities, but to this point, zero. That's what we want to keep it out, but there's 6 to 10 patients at local hospitals.
Rescue and recovery continue to go under way, but Wolf, they think they have made some headway as far as going door to door and recovering and helping out any victims that may have been trapped. So, they're being encouraged right now as it gets a little bit darker here. Nightfall approaches, that they may have gotten all the victims to where they need to be and know that they need to be treated medically and the attention they need as well
BLITZER: Rob, you're on the phone because it was too dangerous to be outside? Is that what I understand?
MARCIANO: Well, no. Actually, we ran into some resistance from the law, the county sheriff's office here wants all the non- essentially personnel, and that would be media, out of all neighborhoods affected. So, we're being rerouted to a staging area and command post, where we'll get our information there and let the workers here, give them accessibility they need. There's a lot of heavy equipment here as you can imagine. The roads here and then (ph), in many cases, completely blocked by huge, huge trees. And at one point live power lines. So, it was quite a work (ph) just to get some of the main arteries open for travel, and there's still a lot of work to be done in that aspect. Traffic is terrible. So, they just -- they wanted few people in this neighborhood, especially as nightfall comes, and the storm has come around. So, we are being rerouted.
That's why you hear me on the phone here. But the pictures haven't changed, and it's going to be a long road ahead once we get through tonight for this community to recover.
BLITZER: Yes, certainly will be. We'll stay in close touch. Rob, thank you.
Joining us on the phone is Major Chuck Adams. He's the public information officer for Clark County Sheriff's Office in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Set the scene over there. I understand extensive damage, Major, where you are, we're showing our views some pictures.
MAJOR CHUCK ADAMS, CLARK CO., INDIANA PUBLIC INFO OFFICER (via phone): Yes, sir. We've got total devastation in the north central part of the county, looks like widespread damage from west to the eastern part of our county. And, we have reported -- we have one fatality reported.
BLITZER: And the circumstances surrounding the fatality, do you know?
ADAMS: I'm not able to comment right now. We have officers on the scene in the Henryville Area. They have called for the coroner. However, you know, I can't confirm whether that's going to be storm related or not. We did have extensive damage to the local high school there in Henryville, which is located about 19 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky.
And, that seems to be where our -- the most concentrated damage is. However, it is widespread. It looks like it traveled for the western part of the county all the way to the eastern part of the county.
BLITZER: Does it look like the storm has passed the area or is it still ominous outside?
ADAMS: Well, it's -- I believe it has passed. I don't know whether we've gotten another squall coming through. I'm not able to watch much of the weather. We have set up a command center there in Henryville. That's going to be our central location. We're inundated with calls with everybody from their damage to electricity to power, the gas lines being -- gas lines getting shut off.
And, right now, we're just doing the best we can with the manpower we have. We've got a lot of volunteers. We're compiling a list here at the office. People from nurses and medical staff all the way to local construction companies wanting to volunteer to help. BLITZER: I take it the power lines in major areas are down as well. It's about to get dark outside. So, if folks are listening, if they have access to what you're about to say, what advice do you have for them?
ADAMS: Well, I just advise them to stay in right now, don't travel around and try to see any of this damage. You know, we've got most of the roadways that are open the best we can, so far, and just try to stay in their home to stay safe. We'll get to you as soon as we can. We are just flooded with calls.
BLITZER: Maj. Adams, good luck to you. Good luck to all the folks over there for (ph) county in Indiana. These pictures are heartbreaking when we see these cars and these buildings and God only knows the injuries to people, and as you say, one fatality in the Henryville area in Indiana. We'll stay on top of the breaking news. Thanks very much, Maj. Adams.
Also coming up, my extensive interview with Rick Santorum. He's got a lot to say on a lot of issues. You'll hear it, you'll see it right here in the SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We'll get back to the breaking news momentarily, but there's other important news we're following, including the race for the White House. You can see the tornadoes there, but Rick Santorum is in Ohio today, making his speech to voters only days before they take to the polls on Super Tuesday. But if Santorum wants to be president of the United States, the surprise candidate will need to be well versed in everything that comes his way, potentially, as the commander in chief.
BLITZER: Senator Santorum, thanks very much for joining us. I appreciate it. I know you got a lot going on right now. I want to go through some substantive national security issues with you, first, beginning with Israel and Iran. And I want you to react to what the president of the United States, President Obama, told Jeffrey Goldberg in "The Atlantic" magazine, and he's just moving.
I'll read a quote from the interview. This is President Obama. "I think that the Israeli government recognizes that as president of the United States, I don't bluff. I also don't, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are. But I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say."
I guess, I want to get your reaction. What do you think about what the president is saying about this threat of Israel and Iran?
RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it's welcome -- welcome to where I think most Americans are, which is that we don't believe that the Iranians should have a nuclear weapon. It would be nice if we actually saw policies from this administration that would follow on with his stated goals, and we're not. I mean, the president opposed to the very end any kind of real tough sanctions on Iran.
He eventually capitulated to his own party, who is pushing him hard to do so. But again, we see him outing (ph) Israel. I mean, the secretary of defense basically saying, oh, you know, Israel is going to attack and then condemning them for doing so. You're seeing all sorts of signs that the president, frankly, doesn't mean what he says. I'd like to see some signs that he isn't bluffing.
BLITZER: If you were president of the United States and meeting next week with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington, knowing how concern the Israelis are about Iran's nuclear intentions, what would you say to the prime minister?
SANTORUM: I would say to the prime minister, there is no distance between the two of us, that we are committed together to making sure that Iran does not become a nuclear power, and that we will work in concert if necessary, depending on what we believe is the best course of action, unilaterally or in concert, but we will consult and work with each other to make sure that we're both on the same page and we are doing -- and effectuating policies that will keep Iran from going nuclear.
BLITZER: Would you discourage Israel from going ahead with a preemptive military strike to give sanctions more time?
SANTORUM: I would work with Israel to make sure that we're on the same page and if Israel is moving forward because they believe that -- and a nuclear Iran is imminent and we can be convinced of that fact then I would cooperate with the Israelis in making sure that that doesn't happen.
BLITZER: Let's move on in the neighborhood to Syria right now. The government of President Bashar Al-Assad is slaughtering thousands of peaceful protesters in his own country. The world is basically doing nothing except condemning it, imposing sanctions, if you will, but unlike in Libya, there's no military, no fly-zone, no blockade. What would you do to stop the slaughter in Syria?
SANTORUM: Well here's another example where if he's not bluffing, I don't know what he's doing. The president said his stated policy is to remove Assad, (INAUDIBLE) go out and say that we believe our policy is to remove Assad then you have to do something about it. You can't just -- it's not like picking a team for the final four. You've got -- you have to have a role to play if you say this is our stated policy and the president has done nothing to move forward and help the insurgents in Syria. And again, if you look at it in context with Iran, Syria is a puppet state of Iran.
I am sure that -- and of course the administration knows this. And one of my concerns is, is the reason the president has been hesitant to get involved with this particular insurgent group was the same reason he was hesitant to get involved in the only other one he didn't get involved, which was Iran and -- because of the nexus between the two and it shows again the president's -- you know tendency to be appeasing of Iran and its allies as opposed to confronting them.
BLITZER: In Afghanistan right now we see a very disturbing development in the aftermath of the mistaken, the accidental burning of those Korans, as you well know. Afghan soldiers that the United States has trained and paid for, they're going out in government ministries and they're shooting American military officers in the back of their heads. What's going on in Afghanistan right now? Is it time to get out of there?
SANTORUM: I think it's certainly a situation we have to reevaluate and we have to put the government on the line here as governor -- excuse me -- President Karzai on the line for this behavior, and have public apologies, public, you know, recriminations with respect to trials and actions on the part of the Afghan government to make sure that the people in this country know that this is something that will not be tolerated by them or by our government. And we have -- I think we -- this is a time we also have to reassess.
Here's the problem, Wolf, is that we have a president who's already said we're leaving and so what's the reassessment in the case of this administration? We're already leaving. And so we're going to leave sooner or we're going to leave a little later? That's been the fundamental problem with Afghanistan from the very beginning. We didn't make the commitment to success, and as a result, everybody's hedging their bets in the region (INAUDIBLE) leading to a much more difficult situation for us to be successful.
BLITZER: That's part one of the interview. We've got part two coming up. We go through a lot of other issues, including his comments calling the president of the United States a snob. Also he's reacting to that Georgetown University law student who's been condemned as a prostitute, a slut by Rush Limbaugh. You're going to hear what Rick Santorum has to say on that. Part two of the interview coming up.
We're also staying on top of the breaking news, the tornado warnings, the tornado watches -- look at this, Nashville, Tennessee they're getting ready for a huge, huge storm right now. We're tracking the deadly storms right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're going to get back to part two of my interview with Rick Santorum in a moment, but I want you to listen in because these tornadoes, look at these live pictures coming in from the storm chaser on the scene for us, this courtesy of our affiliate WHAS. You can see the ominous (ph) skies. You can see this car driving by. You know what, let's listen in to our affiliate for a moment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is one that has a tornado on the ground or did in the Glasgow (ph) area. We see Reed's live pictures right now. We can see the hail pounding their windshield in their car. That generally happens out ahead of a tornado. You'll have some heavy rain, some hail, you may have a little dry slot and then bam that tornado will come. The picture that Reed showed us just a minute ago, they're trying to get into a better, safer position. It looked to me like we had a tornado on the ground just west of Munfordville (ph). Folks if you're watching from Munfordville (ph) --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- tornado, get in your shelter right now -- yes, Reed?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would agree with you now, we are picking up (INAUDIBLE) hail pretty regularly here. And (INAUDIBLE) we are right in the middle of it. (INAUDIBLE) the storm is just about a mile and a half to two miles west of us. I saw the area you were talking about. Let me pan around here and get a better shot right over here --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, control room, let's put us back into a split screen, I want to show the radar so we can see what Reed is now looking at as well. We are -- do you hear that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that is the hail coming down --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, he is in the hail core (ph) right now. Reed, you guys be careful here. Here's Munfordville. Here's that rotation moving right through the Munfordville area. Folks --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are now -- we are getting golf ball-size hail here and we're starting (INAUDIBLE). (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, OK, Highway 31, Reed that rotation is just about ready to pass over Highway 31. You're in the hail core. We can see the -- wow -- we can see the trees and the rain and everything. Reed, you guys need to be safe. Storm tracker --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say -- I would say (INAUDIBLE) over us right now --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes, it is --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is -- we're picking up the rotation, the hail and everything. So folks, Munfordville (ph) heading along I-65, U.S. Highway 31, off to the east of 31, you need to be in your storm shelter right now. We're picking up the heavy rain, the hail, very gusty winds here as that storm passes right over Reed. We can see that. Here, folks, Reed is right here. See this black that you see? That is the heavy hail core.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you go to 3-D, you'll see how high that goes up above his head on TVI (ph) computer, Monty. Look at that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right over the top of Reed right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This storm shows great vertical extent, producing large hail, damaging winds, and even the potential of a tornado. We saw what appeared to have been a tornado on the ground just to the west of Munfordville. Reed is in that hail core. Look --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we've got --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Reed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have some electric lines across the road here where we are. We're seeing some damage here. We're right in the rotation right now, right where you're seeing rotation that's where we are and --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- the roadways you can see it just covered with hail, bottle (ph) size, golf ball size hail. We're kind of running out of the hail at the moment. But Munfordville is getting hammered --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- right directly in the heart of the city.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right, that's where the rotation is over Munfordville, new tornado warning, Northern Green County (ph), Hart County (ph), Western Taylor (ph) County. We have two tornado warnings --
BLITZER: All right, we're going to break away from our affiliate WHAS. You saw the destruction in Munfordville that hail coming down, it was awful. Senator Dan Coats, the senator from Indiana is joining us on the phone right now. Senator, you're in Northern Indiana. What's it like where you are?
SEN. DAN COATS (R), INDIANA (via phone): We've had a rough day, but it's nothing like what they're getting down south and it appears that it's still going on down there. We're still getting reports in that there's some pretty active stuff going on.
BLITZER: So the worst part is in the southern part of Indiana right now, is that right?
COATS: That is correct.
BLITZER: Is it -- based on the information you're getting, Senator, is it getting near the end of the system coming through Indiana or is it going to go on and on and on?
COATS: Well I don't know how on and on it will go, but it's still happening. We continue to get reports of either sightings or tornado-like activity and damages. We have three confirmed dead, a couple of towns with very severe damage and -- but we're still assessing it.
BLITZER: Three confirmed dead in the state of Indiana, is that what you're saying?
COATS: Yes, so far and I hope it's no more, but it's likely there will be additional death and injuries.
BLITZER: Because the reports are just coming in -- tornado watches or tornado warnings are still in effect for a huge part of your state, as well as Kentucky, Tennessee and elsewhere in the South and Midwest. Was there proper warning, as far as you know for this huge storm?
COATS: Well we've had about 24 hours notice that this was -- that we're going to have some pretty violent weather. It probably saved an awful lot of lives, but as you know, Wolf, these storms can be so destructive that sometimes there's just no safe place to go.
BLITZER: Because we got -- we had some interviews earlier with -- elsewhere in Indiana and it's just awful what's going on. I don't know if you've experienced a whole lot of tornado disaster situations like these.
COATS: Well we haven't. We do have disaster response teams. (INAUDIBLE) Indianapolis I think on the way down there now if they're not there already. I've been in contact with the governor's office, so we're putting the response effort in place. But because the activity is still going on and there are probably, there are some more hours of tough situations, we really don't have a full hold on just exactly what's happening.
BLITZER: We've just confirmed, Senator, more bad news, four confirmed dead now in Indiana, not three. And as you suspect, that number could go up. I assume you're in touch with authorities throughout the state.
COATS: We are. We have some regional offices down there, but we're also in touch with authorities, but we're trying not to interfere with the necessary rapid response that has to take place and because it's still ongoing last thing we want to do is get in their way, but the reports coming in are not good. The amount of destruction is pretty significant, and so hopefully there won't be any more confirmed fatalities, but I'm concerned that there might be.
BLITZER: Marysville, Indiana, I assume you know where that is, Senator, a police official told us a little while ago, that town, in his words is gone, gone. I assume that you've heard that --
COATS: That's the -- that's the information we have that Marysville is no longer. And it's not a large town, but of course it's a significant loss to the people there and it shows the extent of the kind of damage you can get from these kinds of storms. BLITZER: What will you do once the dust, as we say, settles and you can begin the cleanup and start getting back to work. I assume you'll ask for some federal relief, some assistance from the federal government. Is that what you normally would do in a situation like this?
COATS: Well first there has to be a declaration by the governor of an emergency. It then has to be confirmed in Washington. But it's fairly routine to do that. The first thing though, Wolf, is to obviously respond to the injuries and the deaths and the destruction that's there. Then an assessment is taken as quickly as possible, passed on up to Washington. I happen to be ranking member on the Homeland Security Appropriations Committee, and so I'm familiar with what FEMA does and all the processes that go. We'll try to kick in with that as soon as possible, but we have to have a governor declaration first that goes to Washington to be confirmed by the White House.
BLITZER: Senator, good luck to you. Good luck to all the folks in Indiana. Earlier we spoke with Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. He was stuck right in the middle of the situation. He was protected at a gas station along the highway. We're going to check back with him as well, make sure he's OK. Senator Dan Coats --
COATS: Well, our prayers and hearts go out. We appreciate prayers from anybody else that's here listening to you, Wolf because it's still ongoing and there's a lot of tragedy happening in our southern part of our state.
BLITZER: It certainly is awful. Senator Coats, thanks very much. Good luck to you. Good luck to everyone in Indiana and throughout the Midwest and the South.
Much on the breaking news coming up, also part two of my interview with Senator -- former Senator Rick Santorum.
BLITZER: We want to check right back with Chad Myers, our meteorologist. Chad, there's new information about these tornadoes coming in right now?
MYERS: Yes, I have a tornado now in the eastern part of Kentucky that I believe would be the strongest tornado of the day. By the Doppler signature what we call a debris ball on the radar, it's the biggest storm. It's the largest tornado that I've seen even including those storms that we looked at into Indiana. Let me take you to it right here.
This is Grassy Creek (ph). This is West Liberty (ph) in Eastern Kentucky. There is a large hook echo here. Here's the main cell. Here's the hail of the storm. But this hook echo on the bottom is a signature of a tornado on the ground and then this big dark spot right through there, that's not even rain, Wolf. That is the radar picking up things that are now in the air because this tornado is sucking them off the ground. It is shingles. It is house parts. It's glass. It's insulation, trees now up in the air because of this giant tornado, at least a couple of hundred miles per hour, 180 to 200 at this point in time. This is a large maxi tornado. I won't call it an EF5 because I don't -- I'm not on the ground to see it. But it's certainly a three to a four without a doubt. Let me take you to where it is because it's a -- it's the biggest storm that we have to worry about at this point in time.
Not a lot of people live here, but we still have -- when you have something that's this big you need to be underground to survive it. That's literally how big this tornado is. We have cells with storms and tornadoes, small ones at least into parts of Ohio. And then down here, though, that cell right there east of Lexington is now going to eventually even move into parts of West Virginia if it keeps going. That's the biggest cell of the day.
You also earlier today had a read on one of the storm chasers, and he was talking about Munfordville and we had -- we had (INAUDIBLE) it said Munfordville, Indiana, but in fact it was Munfordville, Kentucky where he was with all of that hail. He was driving down this road, this cell right there -- that one right there is the one that was causing all of that hail and in fact also causing a tornado that that storm chaser was on live here. I know he was talking to a different affiliate but we were taking that video live -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Chad we'll stay in close touch with you -- much more on the breaking news coming up. Also part two of my interview with Senator Rick Santorum, the Republican presidential candidate. He reacts to Rush Limbaugh's outrageous comments.
BLITZER: Earlier you heard Rick Santorum answer some of the tough questions on national security issues. Here's part two of my interview with the Republican presidential hopeful.
Let's talk about some domestic issues. You know you got a lot of grief by suggesting the president was a snob, a snob for wanting kids to go beyond high school, get some college education, or technical school, get a certificate, get some post-high school education --
SANTORUM: No, no, whoa, whoa, whoa. No, no --
BLITZER: Go ahead.
SANTORUM: No, no, I didn't say that. I was given a long riff about the president mandating things on people. I was talking about the government, the president mandating healthcare. And you know what kind of loans we're going to get and then I went in and talked about the -- you know the issue of him now coming forward with the statement that every child should go to college. And it was this attitude that government knows best. And so I was commenting on the general attitude of as I do in all my speeches of top down government knows best and so I used the term "snob." You know it was a strong term, probably not the smartest thing. But you know what? I don't give prepared talking point speeches written by other people. I got a little passionate there and I used a harsher word than I normally would. But the point was government shouldn't be dictating to people what they do.
People should have opportunities and we should be -- government should be in a position to encourage people of course to do things and upgrade their skills on a variety of levels. But to sort of say people should do this when it comes to four-year college education, I just think was a little over the top.
BLITZER: All right, well, let's talk about this other education issue. You know about this Georgetown University law student, this Sandra Fluke. Today the president actually called her and supported her.
She's getting criticized as you know by Rush Limbaugh who has used some outrageous terms, even a spokesman for the speaker, John Boehner, is saying what Rush Limbaugh is saying is totally inappropriate right now. But let me play this little clip because he's -- Rush Limbaugh is suggesting that by supporting government insurance, paid insurance for contraceptives, birth control pills or whatever, Rush Limbaugh is suggesting she's a slut or a prostitute and then he even goes further. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE TALK RADIO HOST: So Ms. Fluke and the rest of you femi-nazis (ph) here's the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. And I'll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Go ahead. I want you to respond to Rush Limbaugh.
SANTORUM: Well, he's taking -- you know he's being absurd. But that's, you know an entertainer can be absurd. And he's taken the absurd, you know the absurd, you know sort of point of view here as to how far do you go. And look, he's in a very different business than I am. I'm concerned about the public policy of this president imposing his values on people -- on people of faith who morally object to the government telling them they have to do something which they believe is a grave moral wrong.
And government should not be in the business of telling -- when you talk about separation of church and state, you hear it all the time. Well, the real separation of church and state that our founders believed in was that the state cannot tell people of faith what to do and run over their rights. And that's what this president is doing right now. BLITZER: You know, a lot of your fellow Catholics were not happy with your criticism of President Kennedy for calling for separation of church and state. You said when you heard that speech you wanted to throw up. I want you to address your fellow Catholics and tell us how you feel about the former president of the United States.
SANTORUM: Well, when I grew up in a home, I remember you know having a picture of JFK in the house. I was very proud as a Catholic to finally have you know someone who was the first Catholic president. And it was a point of pride for me and continues to be, the fact that this country at that time could elect a Catholic and he was legitimately.
He had a legitimate reason to go and give that speech. And certainly I -- you know I wasn't -- I was two years old at the time. But looking back I -- he absolutely needed to give that speech. The problem is he went farther than he should have. And he did a lot of good things. There were a lot of -- I mean the vast majority of that speech I can agree with.
But there were some very key lines in there that I think has led to a degradation of religious liberty in this country. When a president of the United States says that he believes in an absolute separation of church and state, that's France. That's not America. America believes in a vibrant public square with people of faith and no faith being able to participate lively in the discussion.
And if you go on and read President Kennedy's remark, he talks about he won't -- he won't take any advice from anybody who has any faith. And that's not -- I mean you take advice from everybody, people of faith and no faith. I mean this is -- this is a very, very cold and naked public square is what he was describing. And it was very disturbing to me that he would take -- he would take a legitimate issue and then just take that --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. So there you hear Senator Santorum responding to all of the criticism. We'll have more on this coming up later.
That's it for me though right now. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.