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THE SITUATION ROOM
Massive Twister Slams Oklahoma City Area; Interview With Rep. Tom Cole
Aired May 20, 2013 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're following the breaking news -- indeed, a massive twister ripping through the Oklahoma City area. Spotters on the ground have described it -- get this -- as two miles wide. And the first images are showing catastrophic damage. It's almost unbelievable, what we're seeing right now -- block after block after block of homes destroyed, shocked residents hugging each other in the streets.
You're looking at live pictures right now. Schools described as completely gone.
This is an area with a significant population. Oklahoma City is a city of more than 600,000. The greater metropolitan area hundreds of thousands more. And this tornado ripping through that area only moments ago. And now there are more tornado warnings on the way.
NOAA's Storm Predictor Center -- Prediction Center -- is in Norman, Oklahoma, not very far away.
The operations chief is Bill Bunting.
He's on the line with us right now.
Bill, update our viewers here in the United States and around the world, what's going on. Because these horrific pictures of the damage and destruction are awful.
BILL BUNTING, OPERATIONS CHIEF, NOAA STORM PREDICTION CENTER: That's right, Wolf. Our worst fears are becoming realized this afternoon. We knew this was going to be a multi-day event. And, in fact, we're seeing yet another day of strong tornadoes in populated areas.
As I left to come over here, the tornado was on the ground doing damage. We certainly hope everyone heeded the warnings. But it's a populated area and we just fear that not everyone may have gotten the word. But we certainly hope that's the case.
BLITZER: Because we we're talking about hundreds of thousands of people potentially impacted, whole blocks and blocks and blocks of populated areas destroyed. These pictures are unbelievably sad.
BUNTING: That's right. You know, here in Oklahoma, we're used to tornadoes in the springtime. But by any measure, the past couple of days have just been extremely difficult.
BLITZER: This tornado that hit about an hour or two ago, how significant is it?
It was about two miles wide.
What category was it, do you know?
BUNTING: We don't, Wolf. It's -- you know, the survey crews will have to get out and take a look at it. There's no doubt that it was a very, very strong tornado. And for the folks in the path, we certainly hope that they knew that the severe weather was possible, activated their emergency plans. And I have to say, for folks downstream or who are in the path of other storms that are developing, this is a very dangerous situation.
Have your plan ready to go, activate it when storms are approaching to keep you and your family safe.
BLITZER: So what do you anticipate -- and that's your job, to give us a forecast -- over the next hour or two?
BUNTING: These storms are going to continue producing additional tornadoes. They'll also produce some very, very large hail, perhaps larger than the size of baseballs. We're also concerned that there may be an enhanced and widespread damaging wind threat with storms as they merge together. And, unfortunately, this is yet another day of an event that will continue tomorrow, from Texas up into the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys, and even continue in the middle portion of the week over the Ohio Valley and into Southern New England. So as bad as today is, this is not over yet.
BLITZER: What's causing these tornadoes right now?
Give us an explanation.
BUNTING: Well, for most of the spring, fairly cool air had covered much of the United States. And so we saw a season that started off pretty active in January and February, got relatively quiet in April. But as the warm waters off the Gulf of Mexico began to send moisture up into the Southern and Central Plains, and these upper level disturbances have interacted with an increasingly unstable atmosphere, we have seen tornadoes now begin to increase in frequency, and, unfortunately, intensity. And climatologically, this is the peak of the tornado season. We'll continue to deal with these episodes of severe weather, I'm afraid, for the next several weeks.
BLITZER: On the left part of our screen, we're showing what the tornado looked like just a while ago. On the right side of your screen, you're looking at live pictures of this destruction near Oklahoma City.
We're used to a lot of tornadoes hitting rural areas, Bill. But once it hits a pretty populated area, the destruction could be so intense. And that looks like what has just happened near Oklahoma City.
BUNTING: That's exactly right. I haven't been able to see much of the coverage in the past few minutes, but our fears are with such a widespread area of devastation, first responders, they do a great job, but they are even taxed to the limits with the magnitude of the damage, you know, and the need for simultaneous rescue and recovery. As the governor said a few moments ago, the first responders here are as good as they come. But this will be a challenging next several hours and few days, I'm sure.
BLITZER: Bill, if you don't mind, stick around for a minute. I want to listen to what the chopper pilot from our affiliate, KFOR, is reporting right now. He's flying over this destruction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the Moore Auxiliary, the Moore public office building, where the school headquarters are housed.
It sounds good, Linda.
BLITZER: That's our chopper pilot from KFOR.
Our affiliate, Bill Bunting, is still with us from the NOAA Storm Prediction Center.
Bill, if you could hear what he was saying, it looks awful, it feels awful. This area, I think you can see what's going on.
Do you know -- are you familiar with this area near Oklahoma City?
BUNTING: I am. It's a highly populated area, especially as you move progressively eastward, toward the I-35 corridor and from there, points east. It's, again, it's just an area where I hope folks knew, you know, damage was inevitable at this point. But we -- we really hope and pray that folks were able to get to the safest places in the buildings that they were in and that they're OK now as the storm passes.
BLITZER: And you think there are more, though, on the way?
BUNTING: Well, there are certainly more tornadoes in store for portions of Oklahoma. As far as that particular area, there may still be additional storms, which will only hamper rescue and recovery operations. But this is not the last tornado that we will see with this weather system over the Central and Southern Plains today.
And as I mentioned, earlier, the threat will just shift just a bit farther east and south as we go into the day tomorrow.
BLITZER: Mr. Bunting, hold on for a moment, because Carrie McKellips of the Newcastle, Oklahoma Chamber of commerce is on the phone.
Carrie, what are you seeing?
Where -- where exactly are you?
CARRIE MCKELLIPS, NEW CASTLE, OKLAHOMA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: We -- I am particularly on Highway 37, just east of our Walmart. And it went through some additions here in Newcastle.
BLITZER: And what are you -- and what's -- what's the damage there?
MCKELLIPS: It's pretty bad. It's about -- the addition that I can see, I have not left where, actually, I was at. But there is a housing addition where there were some homes being built and some homes where people lived in. And it pretty much took all of the homes in that addition.
BLITZER: And are you seeing first responders on the scene or are there fire...
MCKELLIPS: Oh, yes.
BLITZER: -- firefighters, police?
MCKELLIPS: Yes, fire trucks. The Tuttle Fire Department has come in. They've already gone by. Yes, absolutely.
Our city is on it. They've been on it all day, with calling all of our residents, making sure that they are weather aware, as well as our school superintendents; calling and making sure that kids got picked up early from school. So we've been getting calls all day from both.
BLITZER: And where were you when the tornado hit?
MCKELLIPS: I was in the cellar. And we could see it forming right to the west of us. And just about when we felt it was going to form, we closed the cellar door and could hear it above us.
BLITZER: Was there damage to your home?
MCKELLIPS: It was pretty scary.
I'm actually at a friend's house, because we don't have a cellar. But yes, it completely took their barn out. And there's scrap metal everywhere. And it took out most of their trees. It took out their play set. So, yes, there's a lot of damage.
BLITZER: And have you seen injuries since this tornado went over the area?
MCKELLIPS: I have not, because, like I said, I have not left my location. But there are lots of emergency crews out there.
BLITZER: When this tornado was going and you were, you know, hunkered down, it was going over, how long did it seem to last as it went over the building, the home where you were -- where you were trying to hide out?
MCKELLIPS: Well, to me, it seemed to last a lifetime. But I would say probably 15 minutes, maybe.
BLITZER: What did it sound like?
MCKELLIPS: It started off with some light winds. And then you could tell the wind picked up a lot. And then you could hear a lot of banging and clanging. And I'm assuming that it was stuff hitting the top of the cellar door.
BLITZER: And now you're still with your friends in the cellar, is that right?
BLITZER: You're -- so far, you're still reluctant to leave the house?
Everybody says remain hunkered down, is that right?
MCKELLIPS: Yes, because there are still storms coming.
BLITZER: How many people are you with?
MCKELLIPS: Oh, there are one, two -- let's see, there's four kids, three dogs, three adults. My husband is somewhere in the city.
So what is that?
Seven of us. And then our dogs, too. That's a lot of fun.
BLITZER: Yes, that's a lot of friends. Anybody else with you, any of the adults want to join in this conversation?
Do they have anything they want to add?
MCKELLIPS: I don't think so. They're kind of busy with other things, because people keep stopping to make sure we're OK so.
BLITZER: But so far, everyone with you is OK?
MCKELLIPS: Everyone is fine, yes.
BLITZER: All right. That's good to know, Carrie.
All right, Carrie, thank you very much.
We'll stay in close touch with you.
Carrie McKellips of the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce.
She's hunkered down in the basement with some friends. Her husband is elsewhere.
We were also getting the latest from William Bunting.
Mr. Bunting, are you still with us?
BUNTING: I'm here.
BLITZER: All right. You heard her description of what was going on.
I assume you agree, they're doing the right thing, remaining hunkered down at this point?
BUNTING: Absolutely. There are still more storms in the area. It's just best to stay there until you know the threat has absolutely ended. And that may be, hopefully, within the next couple of hours, but better safe than sorry in this situation, absolutely. They're doing the right thing.
BLITZER: We're looking at these pictures coming in right now. We see fires that have developed.
Chad Myers is with us, as well -- Chad, you used to live out in Oklahoma. You know this area well.
Is it normal a tornado rips through an area and all of a sudden, flames develop?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, you know, there could be gas leaks. There would certainly be water main leaks. There will be power lines that you think are dead, but they're not. And they could be sparking, as well. Typically, you don't get too much like this, but when you get a -- probably, Wolf, we're talking EF-3 to EF-4 damage, somewhere between 150 to maybe 200 miles per hour with some of this damage I've been looking at from these aerials, that this is certainly a possibility.
Something else. We talked about Newcastle with the emergency managers a little bit ago. There is another rotating thunderstorm not that far from Newcastle that may very well get toward Valley Brook and Dell City. There's not a tornado warning on that yet. But you see what can happen with these rapidly developing thunderstorms.
There is a severe thunderstorm warning on that cell. And if it continues to rotate or rotates even stronger, it may be upgraded. So Valley Brook, Dell City, you need to pay attention rather quickly; Midwest City, as well. There are more rotating thunderstorms, Wolf. And they will rotate for much of the night. We'll watch them here for you.
BLITZER: We're told, by the way, Mr. Bunting, you're in Norman, Oklahoma, that all the students are being held, all the buses are being held until this tornado warning has passed.
Are you outside or inside, right now, in Norman, William Bunting of the NOAA Storm Prediction Center?
BUNTING: I am inside here in South Norman. Before I left our operation center there at the Storm Prediction Center, a couple of our employees were in touch with their family members, one of whom is a teacher up near where the tornado hit. Everyone was fine. They knew it was coming.
But we are, unfortunately, very close to the areas that were hardest hit here this afternoon.
BLITZER: Norman is a major university town, as well, a lot of students. I assume they're in shelters, they're in bunkers right now, Mr. Bunting, right?
BUNTING: To my knowledge, classes have actually, for the spring semester, have let out. But there were a number of folks on campus, as you would expect at this time of the year. But, again, the early warning, folks knew what to do. And, unfortunately, we get opportunities to put our severe weather plan in action more than a few times a year here.
BLITZER: Chad, do you have a quick question for Mr. Bunting?
MYERS: Well, Mr. Bunting, we knew this was going to be a big three day period.
Did you anticipate this?
BUNTING: Well, we certainly knew the potential for intense tornadoes was high. You never want to see it strike a populated area. In fact, you don't want to see it strike where there are any people. But we know that this area is highly populated. We certainly feared this was possible. And it, unfortunately, seems like our worst fears have happened today. Again, I can't stress enough, I just hope that everyone heeded the warning, had a plan and were able to keep themselves and their family safe.
BLITZER: Look at those pictures of the destruction there on the right part of your screen. You see the left part, those are taped pictures of what the tornado looked like just a little while ago. And look at the destruction. These are live pictures coming in right now.
Let's listen in to the chopper pilot from our affiliate, KFOR.
BLITZER: Unfortunately, he's not speaking right now, but you can see the destruction. You can see the damage right now.
Jeff Piotrowski is joining us right now.
I hope I'm pronouncing your name correctly, Jeff.
You're a storm chaser.
Where are you?
What are you seeing?
JEFF PIOTROWSKI, STORM CHASER: Wolf, right now, we are southwest of Oklahoma City. We're on a large tornado about 40 miles southwest of Oklahoma City that's (INAUDIBLE) damage east of Duncan. That's where that storm is going south of Norman, about 40 miles. And now dropped down to Southwestern Oklahoma. And we've got a tornado on the ground north of Red River. This is going to be northeast of Wichita Falls. It's going to be tracking toward Ardmore and toward I-45 in South Oklahoma. We have got another large tornado on the ground doing major damage (INAUDIBLE). I'm going to be on that trail in about 10 minutes, as it's tracking just south of Hamilton here. And it's going to track toward Ardmore. This is a large, destructive tornado just north of Red River. But the damage done in Oklahoma City is massive. There's people trapped all over the city. And it also hit a school. And there's massive rescues underway in Oklahoma City at this time.
BLITZER: And what you're saying is there's another tornado that you're near, that you're watching right now?
Is that what I'm hearing?
PIOTROWSKI: Wolf, that's correct. I've got -- I've just watched a tornado that just dissipated to my north. It is a large tornado, a quarter mile wide. It did damages on the ground, 25 -- about 25 minutes. Now, it's going south about 50 miles to the next storm down the line. And this trail came out of Wichita Falls.
And I'm now in the -- I'm just about 15 miles and it's coming at me. It's 45 miles an hour. It's a large, mile wide tornado. That's what I'm hearing in our reports. It's rapidly toward my location and I might be on it, probably with live video, within about 10 minutes. It's rapidly coming toward me.
BLITZER: How close are you to it, do you estimate?
PIOTROWSKI: Right now, it's about 15 miles southwest of me. And it's coming in just north of the Red River. I'm in Heliton (ph) and getting ready to track. And I can see the storm. I cannot see the tornado yet, but I can see the storm. It is a large super cell, as we call it. It's producing baseball-sized hail and there's reports of large debris in the air. What the tornado that's tracking toward me at this time.
BLITZER: And how populated, Jeff, is this area where this tornado is moving through?
PIOTROWSKI: It's a very rural area of Southern Oklahoma. It's just north of the Red River, west of I-45. It's already had a number of tornadoes over the years, several large, damaging tornados over the years, just as well as the Oklahoma City. There was a large tornado that went through there (INAUDIBLE).
So at this time, I'm now south of Hamilton (INAUDIBLE) Ringling. The trail is now going to be about 12-and-a-half miles southwest, closing in on me. I still do not see the tornado, but it's rapidly approaching me.
BLITZER: So you're heading toward the tornado or are you trying to escape the tornado?
PIOTROWSKI: No, I'm tracking toward the tornado right now. I'm in a -- I'm getting (INAUDIBLE) as it tracks toward me. And it's going to move right toward I-35. And it's going to start moving toward larger communities, as this large tornado to the southwest moves toward Ardmore and West -- Northwest Ardmore.
But this is the largest (INAUDIBLE) tornado north of the Red River. It's going to -- if it continues on the ground, it's going to get into more populated areas over the next hour. And it looks like at this time, it's going to continue to do that.
BLITZER: And we're looking -- we're showing our viewers live pictures of the destruction in the Oklahoma City area.
Jeff, Chad Meyers is joining us in this conversation -- Chad, I know you have a question for Jeff.
MYERS: This storm, Jeff, is very close to Ryan now...
MYERS: -- heading quickly to the east. It will track to the south of Ringling, probably South of Wilson, and then on over to the I-35. And that's where you talked about, where it does get a little bit more populated.
But this storm is circulating now. I'm watching it on radar. It did pass south of Waurika. That is some good news. It didn't hit that populated town of Waurika. But the continue -- the cone continues to move off to the east in Ringling, probably around 45 minutes away from you. Although it should track to the south, these can turn left and they can turn right. We will certainly watch them for you.
There is Purcell, there's Pauls Valley, there's Lindsay. There's the rotation and Ryan. There's the storm system, right there, this green and the red.
We watch the green and the red, Wolf. It's about the red lights of the taillights of a car moving away from you. And the green lights you see coming at you, those are the headlights. That's the rotation we're seeing here.
MYERS: And our Jeff Piotrowski is right there, just out of Ringling. The tornado on the ground is right there, not that far away -- Wolf.
BLITZER: How many tornadoes, Chad, do we estimate already, within the last couple of hours, have touched down in this Oklahoma City area?
MYERS: Maybe three. The big one -- big one was the Newcastle, across Moore and then finally dying over Lake Stanley Draper. That was the big one. It was the very first one, as well.
This whole line of weather began around Duncan, Oklahoma about three hours ago. One super cell tried to pick up. It kind of died off. Another one along the dry line picked up, as well.
And then they started to catch. And when they caught, they had the updrafts going, the downdrafts going,, everything working. And they weren't battling each other. There were three separate super cells traveling just to the northeast. And the one that picked up the rotation right over Newcastle drove right itself right over Moore.
And here are still, again, pictures of what Moore, Oklahoma looks like right now at this hour. There are three of the cells. There is the cell that came out of Wichita Falls. There is the cell a little bit farther to the north, Pauls Valley. And then there is the cell into Oklahoma City, the same one we're talking about, which could be still making a tornado very close to, I would say east of Harrah, maybe north of McLoud, toward the Meeker area, as well.
These storms are still severe. It's the hot part of the day. It's still 4:00 in the afternoon, a little after that. The hot part of the day is the most severe part of the day, because that hot air wants to rise like a hot air balloon. The hotter the balloon is, the higher it goes. The hotter the air is, the bigger the storm is. And we're still in that hot part of the day -- Wolf.
BLITZER: You know what, I want to listen to our affiliate, KFOR, for a minute. They've got live reports coming in.
Let's listen to this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got some emergency crews here just along 70 -- West 77, as we're heading north. We're going to try to get into it as far as we can and see what kind of damage it's been doing if it's still on the ground. And I do believe that it -- there's (INAUDIBLE) still in contact with the ground, just due to the (INAUDIBLE) the turning that's going on in front of us here.
So folks, obviously (INAUDIBLE) in the Meeker area, you're going to want to be heads-up. This is the same rotation as yesterday. Just be ready to go if you have to. And we urge you, if you're in the path of this storm, you're probably going to want to get below ground into a safe spot as soon as possible -- Mike, back to you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mark, again, you're right there. Now, the important thing we have to pass along to you, for you folks in Meeker, this is a -- what very much appears to be a large tornado. And I don't take that statement lightly, because this is the same storm that produced the destruction in Moore and the South Metro. It's the same storm.
It is cycled. The wind velocities that we are showing are large and violent. So it is a big tornado. You saw Mark Dillard's stream -- that was it in the middle of that darkened area. That could be debris. And it is heading directly for the town of Meeker. And it's only five miles west of Meeker right now. You folks in Meeker, protect your life. Be out of the way, belowground. An interior closer or bathroom is not going to be enough. Storm cellar, basement, safe room. If you're in a mobile home, evacuate that mobile home.
This is a -- what we believe, a large tornado. You see the hook spinning around. It's over Jacktown right now, on Highway 62, and it's heading directly toured Meeker.
I want to go back to Mark Dillard. This is, again, live, and we're talking about a continued threat to life and limb in the Jacktown- Meeker area right now.
Let's go back to Mark Dillard -- Mark, how far south of 62 are you right now?
MARK DILLARD: Mike, I think we're just about full south here. We've got some (INAUDIBLE) rain coming in on me. So it's difficult to tell if it's (INAUDIBLE) and still in contact with the ground. But it's so dark in there. (INAUDIBLE) that's what we're dealing with folks. It's so dark in the very middle of these tornadic super cells that you can almost (INAUDIBLE).
I do have some definition off to my north and east. I can almost see all the way underneath it, I think, Mike, so I'm not so sure that we've got a funnel all the way in contact with the ground. But the winds are picking up just a little bit here (INAUDIBLE) I get closer to the situation. And I do have a lot of rapid rain with it.
So the bottom line is, folks, it's created lots of damage. It's been a long track system so far. (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, let's go to the North Doppler -- BLITZER: All right, we're going to break away from KFOR for a moment. The storm chaser, Jeff Piotrowski, is on the phone. He's joining us.
I know you're driving toward this new tornado that's developing.
Jeff, how close are you?
BLITZER: I think we just lost our connection with Jeff Piotrowski, the storm chaser. But you're looking at live pictures.
Take a look at the destruction. These are -- this is videotape from just a few minutes ago that we're showing you. This is a pretty populated part of the Oklahoma City area. Oklahoma City a significant city, obviously. More than 600,000 people in the city. Hundreds of thousands in the greater Oklahoma City area.
And this is a huge tornado that ripped through this area. This is a school, we're told, that has been leveled. Look at the destruction right now. God only knows the kind of injuries that have occurred as a result of this tornado that was moving so quickly, so powerfully.
Chad Meyers has been watching it -- do we know, Chad, how fast this tornado was?
Was it 200 miles an hour, 150 miles an hour?
Do we know the -- the extent of this tornado that caused this devastation?
MYERS: I don't think we'll know that until tomorrow. The National Weather Service will certainly be out there. They were looking at five separate tornadoes today.
From what I can see -- you know, let's just go through them, because we have time. An EF-0 takes the shingles off a house. An EF-1 takes the shingles and the gutters, maybe one of the four by eight sheets of plywood.
An EF-2, we're looking at now 120 to 130 miles per hour. That takes the roof with it. That takes all of the four by eight sheets of plywood off.
An EF-3 now approaching 160. You lose all the trusses on the roof. You lose the struts and everything that hold the -- the trusses up. Those are all gone. But the home is still pretty much intact.
When you get to EF-4, you lose outside walls. Walls are gone. Now you're approaching -- you're looking at almost a 200 mile per hour storm, 166 to 200 at that four.
But there are still things left inside. There are still a few walls. You may still find the refrigerator. You may still find the bathroom.
And then with an EF-5, as you get over the 200 mile per hour mark, all you find is the concrete slab that's left for the homes.
Not very many homes in Oklahoma have basements. And I know that seems counter-productive, but it's almost impossible to put a basement in a home without dynamite in Oklahoma, because you're right on the rock. And so very few people do that, it is so very expensive to put a basement in a home.
Many people do, though, have storm shelters. You actually cut them out of your garage floor. You cut the concrete and then they do literally blast that rock out, or chip it out, and give you a place to go under where your car would actually park. You drive over that little bit of a doorway that you put in your garage proper.
There's the storm over Meeker. We talked about that a little bit ago. So did Mike Morgan there on KFOR. The storm is rotating. I'm not sure it's on the ground, but you can't worry about that. If there's a tornado warning on it today, you must take cover for Meeker, because these storms cycle rapidly. We can go from nothing or a funnel to a 130, 150 mile per hour storm in less than five minutes today -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Chad, hold on for a minute -- a moment.
Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma is joining us on the phone.
I know you're in close touch with authorities in your home state, Congressman.
What are you hearing about casualties, for example?
Anything specific yet, numbers of injured, and God forbid, dead?
REP. TOM COLE (R), OKLAHOMA: Not yet. And this is actually, you know, my hometown. And that's -- I talked to my wife and I can literally recognize the homes and the businesses. I just saw my cleaners, which is just devastated.
So it's -- but it's early to know. It's never helpful to speculate about -- about this. Fortunately, the warning system is very good. The National Severe Storm Laboratory is located in Norman, Oklahoma. They do an unbelievable job.
And people take these things seriously. This is in Moore, Oklahoma, which is the most devastated area, where I'm from, I lived for over 50 years. This is our fourth time in 15 years, since '98, '98, '99, 2003 and now this.
And -- but this one, boy, just looking what I can judge from the photographs of the film, it's -- it may be worse than the one in '99, which, you know, that took out 6,000 houses, killed 47 people over a broad area, about 1,000 houses in the town of Moore.
So we're talking about extraordinary damage. And, you know, when something like that happens, even with the best warning and people heeding it -- and they do take it very seriously -- you know, there's always the potential, if you've got a direct hit -- for something really deadly.
BLITZER: Yes, it looks awful. I know you're in DC right now, Congressman. You said you spoke to your wife.
Is she OK?
COLE: She is, fortunately. And my son lives a little south of there, so they're coordinating. So hopefully she can -- she's lost power and everything. But, boy, I mean I can just -- this stuff is within blocks of where I live. It's not -- we're not -- these are neighborhoods I walk through when I go out in the evening. So it's -- it's -- we're very fortunate where she's concerned, obviously. But (INAUDIBLE)...
BLITZER: Is she...
COLE: (INAUDIBLE) -- BLITZER: -- is she hunkered down in a basement there?
COLE: We don't have a basement. As your -- as your guy said, we have a reinforced interior room. And that's pretty common. There's a lot of safe rooms above ground. Basements, for the reason that your previous observer said, are very rare in Oklahoma. They're just extremely difficult to build. So a lot of people, though, will have individual shelters and a lot of often they're reinforced concrete rooms aboveground.
BLITZER: It looks like -- I don't know if you can see our video that we're showing our viewers right now. If you're watching CNN, it looks like a -- a mall area that was pretty destroyed, maybe a movie theater.
Can you see those pictures...
COLE: Yes, it's a (INAUDIBLE)...
BLITZER: -- Congressman?
COLE: -- movie theater.
COLE: And it's actually one of the key attractions of the area. It's a magnificent place, and, you know, one of these not just multi- screen, but it's -- it's very unusual, with places where you can eat and have a drink and what have you, and while you're watching your movie. So it's -- it draws people from all around.
But that area is through, just right outside the heart of the town, the old downtown area. But mostly, it will be hitting, you know, this -- Moore is primarily now a suburban city. And so you're just looking at a lot of housing and -- as well as small business damage. And, obviously, the school, West Moore, appears to have gotten hit again. And so it's, you know, you worry about anything, because, obviously, you've got children in school, although, again, they -- most of these places have reinforced interior structures and they take this stuff very seriously, so I don't have any doubt that the right things were done. But oh, my gosh, it's just awful.
BLITZER: Yes. We can see. You can see somebody there being removed, going to an emergency vehicle. These areas -- you say you're from this area, you know these areas. These are live pictures. We're showing, you know, what's going on. And you see some random horses just strolling around...
COLE: I know exactly where that part. It's 134th and Western. I just saw it. That's an old -- it's actually right on -- it's in the city limits, right on the edge of town. And an old family that's literally lived there decades and decades. So it's -- I mean, it's almost since the settlement of the area. You know, it's pretty devastating stuff.
BLITZER: You can see the horses. You can see people wandering around. They're trying to -- I mean you -- you know these areas. I'm going to show our viewers these pictures, Congressman. If you can narrate and tell us where it is, what's going on...
BLITZER: -- since you're -- this is your neighborhood.
COLE: This actually is my neighborhood. Just let me get your station here. But a -- I've got (INAUDIBLE) channels.
BLITZER: Yes, it's right near Oklahoma City. I mean look at this destruction...
COLE: It's surrounded by Oklahoma City on three sides and Norman to the south. So it's a...
BLITZER: Congressman, we know that, for the last 24 to 48 hours, there were a lot of warnings -- tornado warnings. So I assume people were ready for this.
COLE: Yes, they are. Again, this is not unusual for us. This is springtime and that's tornado season, from April through June. And, you know, this is part of an area where 95 percent of all the tornadoes on the planet hit, along the Midwestern part of the United States, from the Canadian border on down. Oklahoma is right at the center of that. It probably gets more damage per capita. Oklahoma and Texas are actually number two and three in the country in disaster relief per capita on an annual basis. And this is the big reason why, this and drought.
So, obviously, in times like this, number one, we've got a really superb disaster -- a civil management system. Albert Ashwood, who's the head of it, was the number two during the Oklahoma City bombing. I was secretary of state and dealt with him and have dealt with him through many of these tragedies.
He's first rate. They know how to respond. The first responders are very well-trained in this sort of thing. And, again, people take it seriously.
But, you know, when winds that are 200 plus miles an hour hit, you can have taken everything seriously and it's still, you know, a potentially very deadly thing and obviously damaging. I mean it's a -- it's going to take a while to recover from something like this.
BLITZER: Yes, because the destruction is going to be huge. Congressman, hold on for a moment.
Our affiliate KFOR is flying over some of the destroyed area. I want you to watch it. There's a reporter on the ground. Listen to this
UNIDENTIFIED KFOR REPORTER: Even right where we're at, I'm shocked when they told me these were horse stalls. It could have been a house. You really can't tell the difference between any of this stuff out here because it's completely wiped away.
UNIDENTIFIED KFOR ANCHOR: We want to come back to you, but we've gotten more information about the schools. Of course, people are very frantic about what happened to the children in Briarwood Elementary and Plaza Towers Elementary. Now we can confirm and know for a fact that at 2:45, a message was sent to parents on the Internet saying, "We are currently holding all students with this current storm danger until this current storm danger is over. Students are being released to parents only at this time. We will notify you by the same method when students are released - when the student release begins."
You need to put this in context. There's no way for these people to communicate down there very much. The Moore administration building, we're told, was also damaged. So, they're going to have difficulty getting word out. We have not confirmed any of this with Moore school administration, but --
UNIDENTIFIED KFOR ANCHOR: We unfortunately think that the kids, some kids were in those two buildings because of the lockdown order and because of what we're getting from our news desk right now. We will, of course, continue to update you on that just as quickly as we can.
Right now, let's go to Lance West who is on the road. Lance, are you getting closer to the damaged area?
LANCE WEST, KFOR REPORTER: Hey, I'm in the neighborhood walking just now. I just talked to a gentleman. What's your name?
TULLY DOSHIER (ph): Tully Doshier (ph).
WEST: Tully. He was at this school. What's the name of this school, my friend?
DOSHIER: Plaza Towers.
WEST: That's Plaza Towers. We are probably 200 yards away. He says he's been pulling out children, third graders. They're in the classroom. I see a lot of people that huddled outside the building. Helicopters are flying in. There's fire and police officers doing door-to-door searches. It's absolute chaos down here. Thank you, my friend. We appreciate you.
It is -- I've never seen anything like this in my 18 years covering tornadoes here in Oklahoma City. This is without question the most horrific --
UNIDENTIFIED KFOR ANCHOR: Okay, Lance. We need to get this information. We understand what you're looking at and how horrific it is, but you are telling us that you have confirmed that children were in the Plaza Tower Elementary School, that the gentleman you were just talking to was pulling out third graders, is that correct?
WEST: That is correct. I'm racing over there as quickly as I can. There's a lot of people trying to help.
UNIDENTIFIED KFOR ANCHOR: All right, Lance. They're pulling third graders out. We hope that of course they were in their tornado positions and that some of them will be okay. Lance is on his way over there right now.
You got to understand when you go down to these scenes and you see this firsthand, not just through the prism of the television, when you're there living it, it is an extremely emotional event for reporters as well as all those involved. And Lance is one of our best reporters, Emmy-award winning reporter. And he's going to get that information for us. But he's human just like the rest of us, and it is a devastating sight to see these kind of things.
UNIDENTIFIED KFOR ANCHOR: Mike Morgan, we're looking at earlier video of the storm that moved into Moore, but that storm is not finished yet. Tell us where it is now.
MIKE MORGAN, KFOR METEOROLOGIST: It is not. It's over by Meeker and our storm tracker, Mark Dillard, still has a tornado on the ground on the northwest side of Meeker. Urgently right now, I have to pass this along to you. With this tornado warning for Garbin County, this is a rapidly developing tornado that could be significant in size. There is a tornado warning in effect for Paul's Valley. It is heading directly for Paul's Valley. BLITZER: All right. If the congressman is still with us, Tom Cole, you were listening to this report from our local affiliate, KFOR, you're familiar with this school, these third graders. You know the area. Give us your reaction to what you heard.
REP. TOM COLE, OKLAHOMA: It's just devastating. I know that school extremely well. It's actually a voting place, a mile and a half from my home. It's surrounding by houses. It's in a classic neighborhood school. Built in the 1960s. Middle class, working neighborhoods and kids.
And it's just devastating. It just breaks your heart. If there's anything wrong with any of those children -- and again, I know the area and I know the people and they'll look after them and they'll do the right things and they'll have done everything they can. They're pretty danggum good at responding in a crisis situation. But gosh, it's almost overwhelming to look at. Again, this is the town I grew up in and lived in for 53 years now. So to watch it go through this is pretty heartbreaking.
BLITZER: It's heartbreaking for all of us. Congressman, you're familiar with this elementary school where they were pulling third graders out. Is there a shelter? Is there an underground shelter? Is there reinforced area?
COLE: No. They would have them in interior rooms and windowless rooms. But there's not a communal shelter or an underground shelter there that I'm aware of. So it's pretty -- again, unusual occurrence. It's fifty years, the first time the school's been hit. But it happens. There's not a lot you can do other than take the best preparations. Get them in the safest place possible and hope for the best. And it's just very, very devastating.
BLITZER: Look at this destruction, Congressman. This is your hometown right now. Are you familiar with this building over here that we're watching?
COLE: Yes. It looks like that's the Warren Theater there at Telephone Road. So you're looking north across Moore. And again, a lot of neighborhoods, a lot of fairly densely packed areas, and you're just going to -- lost hundreds and hundreds of homes.
BLITZER: And we can only hope that the people were protected as this huge tornado ripped apart this area right outside. This is a suburb of Oklahoma City. It's not very far from downtown Oklahoma City. How far would you say, Congressman?
COLE: Oh from downtown Oklahoma City, about six miles. It's almost a straight shot up the interstate. So, very close, again, surrounded by Oklahoma City on three sides. As a matter of fact, some of the areas you've shown, the school district actually straddles Oklahoma City and Moore. It's known as the Moore School District. But it draws on parts of south Oklahoma City as well.
So, some of the devastation you're seeing is within the Oklahoma City limits. Fortunately so far, not further north in an even more heavily populated or through the downtown section. But it's clearly very, very damaging and very devastating event.
BLITZER: Congressman, if you can stick around for a moment, Chad Myers, our severe weather expert is watching - watching what's going on.
Are more tornadoes, Chad, based on all the radar, all the information you're getting, on the way to this area?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I believe there's probably a tornado just to the northeast now of Meeker (ph). I believe there's a tornado heading to Paul's Valley. That's along I-35 south. Probably not far from Ringling, another storm. All these super cells are not lining up. They are one after another.
And when they are super cells, Wolf, they can all rotate at the same time rather than fight each other. And I used this analogy earlier. When we were a kid, we used to have this game called battling tops. And when you put the string around the top and you pulled it and you only pulled one, the top spun forever. But when you pulled a couple of strings and the tops were kind of banging into each other, those tops didn't last very long. One, two fell down.
And that's what happens when you get tornadoes banging against each other. They don't last as long; they're not as big. We had the one top spinning all by itself. It moved right over Moore, from Newcastle and then over Lake Stanley Draper and continued up towards Meeker. This is all the southern suburbs of Oklahoma City. And now there are other tornadoes, other supercell rotating thunderstorms south and north of Oklahoma City proper.
I do have a graphic here that will show you the Briarwood Elementary school because that was such tremendous reporting just done about the third graders being pulled alive from the school. I want to go through it. Oklahoma City proper, Dell City, Midwest City. From here, Newcastle. The storm was here to the west of the H.E. Bailey Turnpike. Across H.E. Bailey right through Moore proper and then across over toward Lake Stanley Draper, Brianwood Elementary, that little spot right there before you get to the I-35. And all of these neighborhoods, every one of those lines, Wolf, that's a street with homes on it. And all those streets are devastated with this very large tornado, probably 150 to 200 miles per hour. At least at a time. We'll have to see if it does get to 200, that would be the EF-4 threshold. This is certainly at that power.
BLITZER: Look at that destruction. I want to listen in briefly to our affiliate KFOR. Watch this.
UNIDENTIFIED KFOR REPORTER: There's another tornado to the left (INAUDIBLE). That white, clear air that's wrapping around (INAUDIBLE). Just to the north of that is where the tornado would be. So Paul's Valley should definitely be taking cover. This is a tornadic storm. You can see the feeder bands feeding into it. (INAUDIBLE) UNIDENTIFIED KFOR METEOROLOGIST: Thank you, Reed. Appreciate that. Now, the important thing to know about this is this is a dangerous storm, and the way the velocities are looking, the way the hook is swinging around, it could produce a significant tornado if it isn't doing so already from Paul's Valley up to White Bead, Paoili (ph) southbound. From there up toward Byers. In McClain County, Byers. There's your time of arrival. Paoli. Byers at 5:06, Stratford, 5:11, (INAUDIBLE), and then down toward Asher by 5:24. So, also up into Pottowattomy County. Southern Pottowattomy County could clip the northeastern corner of Pawnatauk (ph) County as well.
This has all the earmark signs of producing a tornado if it isn't on the ground already at Paul's Valley. Paul's Valley right now. There's also a strong circulation up the road from Paul's Valley between Paul's Valley and White Bead. So please don't take this lightly. Conditions are still prime for additional tornadic activity. Kevin and Linda, we'll get back with you as conditions warrant. Back to you.
UNIDENTIFIED KFOR ANCHOR: All right, and if you were with us within the past 30 minutes, you heard Lance West as he approached Plaza Towers Elementary School. Let's join him again on the phone. Lance, I know this is a very emotional devastating scene you're looking at.
WEST: yes, it certainly is. We are here just five feet away from the school right now. What was apparently the gymnasium, there are firefighters and other emergency personnel doing their best to save -- those are classrooms right there? Okay, those are classrooms and hallways, I'm told. I stand corrected from some of the parents standing out here waiting to get word.
It is our understanding right there are at least 15 children trapped under this debris.
UNIDENTIFIED KFOR ANCHOR: Oh, my gosh.
WEST: There were 75 kids in the classroom? Okay, I'm told the number has just been upgraded to 75 kids were in that hallway and classroom when this tornado hit. Firefighters are standing on what is essentially a large pile of debris trying find these kids that are hopefully still alive. There's a triage center set up on what looks like it may have been a basketball court at one point.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's - we're going to take this in a second live.
WEST: (INAUDIBLE) laying flat. But she's breathing and moving. I would suspect she's maybe a schoolteacher. There are just a host of volunteers. About the worst damage I've ever seen. And you can only pray for the families as they search for these kids who may still be trapped underneath --
UNIDENTIFIED KFOR ANCHOR: Absolutely, and those parents waiting to hear word, my goodness. That's Plaza Towers, right, Lance?
WEST: That is correct. We're at Plaza Towers. And everything within a square mile of this school has been decimated by this storm. UNIDENTIFIED KFOR ANCHOR: Lance, are parents being kept back or are they working to look for their children?
WEST: They are not allowing the parents to get onto the debris pile. Obviously way too dangerous. There are downed power lines, debris everywhere with nails, gas leaks, things like that. But there are parents who are trying to make it in here. We fortunately were able to follow some emergency vehicles and get access, but most of the folks have been stopped a mile back from the destruction zone.
UNIDENTIFIED KFOR ANCHOR: Have you seen children removed from the debris who have been transported?
WEST: We just saw one child and he -- he's standing now. It looks like he's hugging someone, maybe his parent. But we have only seen one child that has been transported. We have seen other people, other victims transported from here in the backs of pickup trucks. There are some four-wheel drives that are maneuvering in. I'm looking at a Jeep right now that seems to have clearance and was able to make it into this are.
OGLE: All right.
WEST: But for the most part it's very limited access for the average citizen to get in here.
They're going door-to-door searching these homes, searching storm shelters. We met a family as they were coming out of their shelter. And they were just devastated. They said that their neighbors were pounding on the door to get in as the tornado came in, and they didn't have the strength to open the door because the wind was so devastating. They don't know what happened to their neighbors.
OGLE: And Lance -- and we want to verify this again. Again, you're telling us that 75 children were in class when that storm hit Plaza Towers, and they believe those 75, they're searching for all of them right now, is that correct?
WEST: That is what I'm being told by one of the rescuers here on the scene.
WEST: That there were 75 people in that building in the hallway, which was the secure place, the safe environment. The tornado shelter, if you will. But the walls are gone. Cinder block walls that are eight inches thick and the roof is completely gone. It basically looks like it just collapsed in on itself. And there are search and rescue personnel on top of this 10-foot mountain of debris going through the piles. We can only hope that they can search and that they continue to yield some positive results.
CAVANAUGH: And we do need some hopeful news, and you did tell us, for those joining us, we're talking about the Plaza Tower Elementary School, 75 children believed, and staff members, believed to be in the school when the tornado hit. They were sheltering in the hallway which was deemed their safe spot. There's no safe spot above ground for an F-5 if this turns out to be that.
But Lance, you were saying that you saw at least one child who came out of the debris and was hugging a parent, or somebody, is that correct?
WEST: That is correct. A young man probably about 8 to 10 years old, I would say.
OGLE: OK. Well, that's a good sign, Lance, if they were all going to be out.
WEST: And the teachers -- I told you about that Jeep, that four-wheel drive, she's being loaded into that jeep right now very gingerly and she will be taken out of here. Also talked to a gentleman by the name of Pat Smith, he has a child in the school. Pulled his child out 10 minutes before the tornado hit and then came back to help in the search and rescue efforts. And he told me that they pulled out 30 kids alive, but the search continues for even more.
OGLE: All right.
CAVANAUGH: OK. So you're saying of the 75 who were sheltered in that school, 30 were pulled out alive? Is that what you're saying?
WEST: I do know that there were 30 pulled out. I don't know if there are still 75 more in there or if we can subtract those 30.
WEST: But I was told that there were some 75 in that area where the storm hit.
OGLE: All right.
CAVANAUGH: Now be very careful with that situation.
OGLE: Right. All right, Lance.
WEST: Yes, I mean, obviously I'm going to continue to get more information from the folks out here. This is all very preliminary.
OGLE: Right. Lance, we appreciate your efforts, as a parent yourself. And for those parents like us watching, it is a very difficult assignment that our Lance West has right now but nothing compared to what those families are going through at this point.
CAVANAUGH: Adam Mertz is on the scene as well, in a different part of Moore. Let's go back to him right now -- Adam.
ADAM MERTZ, KFOR REPORTER: Yes, Linda, we're at Orr family farm. And I just spokes to a couple of people who've been out here. And they say that some people were able to make it to a basement in one of the houses over here. But there were a lot of people who had to ride out this storm incredibly. They rode it out inside of these horse stalls. And one of those people that did this, Lando.
Hi, Lando. Describe for me the moments that this tornado came through here and what was going on.
LANDO, WITNESS: It was just -- it was all windy and stuff before the tornado came. I didn't have -- I had no idea it was coming. Just figured it was just like yesterday. You know, a big storm coming and then all of a sudden it went quiet. And when it did that, being from Oklahoma, I came outside to see, and I seen -- I seen debris flying over that way, and I had a little while. So I tried to let some of the horses get, you know, loose and free out of their stalls so they'd have a chance.
I didn't have very long at all. And I jumped into one of the stalls here and that's what this area used to be. And they collapsed over on top of me and sat a -- sat a pickup truck on top of it and pushed it down -- pushed it down here midway. And it was just unbearably loud and you could see stuff flying everywhere, just about like on the movie "Twister," you know.
MERTZ: So you jumped into his stall and how far did this push you? I mean, where did you start off and where did you end up?
LANDO: Approximately 100 feet it pushed up. So I don't know if your camera can hit or not but there you see the back of a red pickup truck, Dodge Ram, sitting down the subway there. And it (INAUDIBLE) approximately about 100 yards it just slid us down the cement here. You know, it's --
MERTZ: And was it just you in there?
LANDO: It was just -- it was just me. As far as I know, I was going one over here in this barn. So far it seems to be there's one person unaccounted for -- in this barn. Everybody else, you know, was either already gone for the day or stayed over in a different barn, but, you know, I stayed here with the horses all the time. I'm an exercise rider and I'm also the caretaker for Mark Lee.
MERTZ: And that's the thing, if we could walk over here, you were telling me that this right here is basically where you lived. So you not only worked here, this is where you lived.
LANDO: Yes. You know, they used to have the saddles and everything over here. These were tack rooms and this tack room here is where I used to live at. This here, you know, as you can see, my belongings. And then a couple of fans for -- in the shed row. And, you know, it's just lost, lost everything.
MERTZ: What's going through your mind right now? I mean, you just survived something that a lot of people probably wouldn't. You were outside when this happened. You've lost everything. I mean, has it even set in yet? I mean, how are people out here, how are they doing?
LANDO: Well, the main thing is the horses, you know, it's -- these horses are how we survive. You know, it's -- these horses are what bring us our meals every day, what bring us our place to sleep, and we might have one horse left out of all of them. And, you know.
MERTZ: That's the thing when you look out here, describe for people what it looked like before. I mean, what would we have been looking out at here?
LANDO: Well, basically, if you take a look at this here barn, there was four of them, one here, one down there, one right there, and another one down there.
MERTZ: So what we're looking at here is what the barns used to look like. This -- then there were, I believe, six of these out here, is what I was told.
LANDO: Yes, yes, and then this was the racetrack. And there was approximately 80 head of horses or so stabled at this facility.
MERTZ: So where we're standing now would have been one of those - one of those stalls?
LANDO: Yes, where we are standing as you look right here, each little spot that was from here to that what used to be a stall door. There was, you know, two stalls right there and on each side of these were stalls all the way down on every barn. And --
MERTZ: Well, Lando, I do appreciate your time. And certainly, if you need anything, we'll be out here. All right? And just holler. All right? But again, when you look at this, there really is nothing much left out here. Like I said, the Orr family told me that they were able to get inside their house. This is a three-level house with a basemen so the family members, they were able to get down there.
They tell me that they rent out these stalls. So that's why they really don't know how many people may have been out here at the time at this tornado came through here because people kind of come and go as they please. So again, people like Lando who is out here, he works out here, he lives out here, honestly had no idea that this tornado was coming.
It was just his like a sixth sense where he noticed that, you know, everything got quiet and immediately reacted to that.
And Linda, Kevin, more than likely saved his life.
OGLE: Yes --
CAVANAUGH: Well, obviously the case. But we've been on the air since 2:30 giving live broadcasts on the progress of that storm, so please keep in mind that if you know someone in one of these areas affected, please call them and let them know. For some reason they might not be watching television, may not be alerted. It's critical that people have this information so they can seek cover. Obviously, he did, but many others did not.
OGLE: Seventy-one to 100 horses killed out there on that farm.
CAVANAUGH: We need to update the part --
CAVANAUGH: The Plaza Towers Elementary, as well. A lot of focus --
BLITZER: All right. We're going to break away from our affiliate, KFOR. We'll get back to live coverage from there.
Joining us on the phone right now, Paula Price, director of Corporate Communications for the Norman area, the Norman, Oklahoma, area, the Regional Health System.
Paula, we know that two elementary schools were hit. One in Oklahoma City, the Briarwood Elementary School, pre-K through sixth grade, about 700 kids in that school, but the Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma, pre-K through sixth grade, about 500 kids in that school, although we heard 75 were inside when this tornado ripped that building apart.
We don't know what the nature of the damage or destruction. We heard one local reporter say about 30 kids were removed from the area, were taken out OK.
What are you hearing? Because your area includes Moore.
PAULA PRICE, NORMAN REGIONAL HEALTH SYSTEM: It does. Our hospital, Moore Medical Center, is in Moore, Oklahoma, and it sustained significant damage from the tornado, and we are evacuating. We are in the process of -- evacuating the 30 patients that were in the hospital at the time. So those patients are now coming to our other two hospitals, and we don't have all of them here, but we have half of them that have been transported.
We have not received any pediatric patients, although with the tornado it takes some time to get the emergency personnel in and then to get patients evacuated.
BLITZER: What have you heard about causalities? What is the nature of the causalities? How many have you seen at your facilities?
PRICE: We have not seen any causalities at this point that I'm aware of, however it's still early, you know, from the tornado's effects. And we haven't received that yet. However, we as I mentioned have evacuated our patients from our hospital, which all of our employees were not -- none of them were injured, patients are not in critical condition, but they had to be moved from that hospital because of the significant damage it sustained.
BLITZER: And what are their doctors and the administrator at the hospital tell you about the tornado's damage to the hospital and Moore?
PRICE: Well, the interesting thing about it is we received text photos from employees, you know, during tornados we have difficulties with cell phones being able to transmit, so we did after the storm passed, the tornado passed, we had a couple of employees send photos that we could see the damage. We still have personnel traveling towards Moore Medical Center.
There's a significant amount of roadblocked traffic, emergency personnel, so it's very difficult to even travel 10 miles to get to that hospital. So, unfortunately, we only have information about our hospital at this point.
BLITZER: Is that the only hospital in Moore?
PRICE: Well, Southwest Medical Center, which is in INTEGRIS has a hospital probably 10 miles from Moore Medical Center, and that's south Oklahoma City. So they possibly could be receiving patients, as well. I would think they would be.
BLITZER: Were you anywhere near this tornado personally when it ripped through this area?
PRICE: No, I was on the Norman Regional Hospital campus, we were all three hospitals, Norman and Moore, were under a code black alert, which means take cover, so we were dealing with that within our facility of over 300 beds, and so we were trying to take care of the patients and the outpatients and the employees and visitors within our hospital when the tornado was hitting Moore. And the same would be said for the Health Plex Hospital.
BLITZER: We're just getting word from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Betsy Randolph, a spokeswoman, saying people are trapped right now throughout this area and that we're going to see devastation inside this area and we are going to see devastation for days to come. And if you look at the pictures, Paula, you can see some of that devastation.
Right now, this tornado ripping through this relatively heavily populated area, suburban part of Oklahoma City, actually touching Oklahoma City. Right now, this is a heartbreaking story that we're all watching right now. We can only imagine the causalities, the destruction, that we will begin to see over the next few hours.
This is -- have you ever seen anything like this before, Paula? And you've lived in Oklahoma for awhile.
PRICE: Yes, my whole life. And this actually occurred in May 3rd, 1999, as Moore was hit with a -- if I'm not mistaken might have been the first EF-5 tornado. That was devastating, as well. But we will overcome it and we'll be the better for it. So, yes, we've had this before, unfortunately.
BLITZER: Paula, thank you very much. Good luck to you. Good luck to everyone, obviously, in Oklahoma City and the entire area, just devastated by this latest tornado that has ripped through this area. Bill Bunting is still with us. He's the -- with the NOAA storm prediction center in Norman, Oklahoma.
What's the latest information, Mr. Bunting, that you're getting?
WILLIAM BUNTING, NOAA STORM PREDICTION CENTER, NORMAN, OKLAHOMA: Well, unfortunately, Wolf, as I'm here visiting with you, I'm not able to check the latest, but we certainly have multiple tornadic storms in progress. As Chad Myers was mentioning, as long as the storms stay isolated and relatively discreet, they remain potentially very dangerous tornadic storms. As they start to form into lines of storms, then the risk becomes more for widespread damaging winds with embedded tornados, but in the current state, this round of severe weather, this terrible event, is far from over and folks that are in the path of these storms over the next few hours need to take the warnings extremely seriously.
BLITZER: William Bunting from the NOAA Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
Mr. Bunting, thanks very much for your expertise as we're watching the breaking news unfold.
It's now the top of the hour and we want to once again welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from THE SITUATION ROOM. We've got breaking news.