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Tornado Warnings in Oklahoma; Musicians to Perform Boston Benefit Tonight

Aired May 30, 2013 - 15:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to a very windy Boston, Massachusetts, on this Thursday afternoon here. We're here because it's a very special night for the city of Boston, because in the building behind me, the TD Garden. That's home to the Celtics and the Bruins. Normally you have hockey and basketball fans inside.

Tonight on the stage, Aerosmith, Jimmy Buffett, James Taylor, New Kids On The Block, Boston, Drop Kick Murphys, just to name a few.

I know you're seeing the wind here. Let's talk real wind. Let's talk Oklahoma specifically, because that is our breaking news story at the moment. Whew. That is the breaking news story at the moment. Take a look here at two live pictures. Now we're starting to see the rain fall down.

So, the left-hand side of your screen, this is from a storm chaser there on the road in Oklahoma, on the right side, very, very dark, ominous clouds in Oklahoma as well. That's a picture from one of our affiliates out of Oklahoma City, KOCO.

Tornado warnings in Oklahoma. So far, no tornado has been spotted, but I can tell you as we have been talking to our own meteorologists, that this tornado warning, this could be encroaching upon Moore, Oklahoma. You know the story in Moore, the EF-5 tornado that leveled much of Moore just last week, and also heading toward Oklahoma City.

We have Samantha Mohr in the CNN Severe Weather Center and Chad Myers on the phone watching all of this from Oklahoma.

Chad, let me begin with you. Tell me exactly what you know.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We are now traveling on I-35 South. We have turned to the east to the west. And now we're on Highway 9 moving to the west towards Chickasha, Oklahoma.

As Chickasha, you would be the next in line for this storm that is very close to Anadarko. As the storm moves off towards the north and toward the northeast, that is right in line -- at least at this point, it is right in line with the impact of the Oklahoma City metro area.

Now, we can't tell you whether it's going to be Mustang, El Reno, Yukon, Moore, or Norman. We can't tell you that just yet because the storm can turn left and turn right. They do turn left and right, depending on their rotation and their circulation and how they get pushed by the mid-level winds. But we are -- I am -- as I'm looking to the west, very, very dark clouds all the way down to the horizon with a large blow-off. It's like a -- almost like cotton candy in the middle and then blowing off to wispy, the hair tail, the horse hair feather tails that sometimes we see. We call them cirrus clouds.

And that's a perfectly formed storm right now. We know it's rotating. And I just need everyone in central Oklahoma and even now northeastern Oklahoma up towards Osage County with a tornado warning up near Pawnee that this is a severe weather day that we will look back on and say, wow, I can't believe we had four or five, whatever, tornadoes on the ground at the same time.

I do believe and so does the Weather Service and the Severe Prediction Center that this will be possibly the worst day of the year so far. That doesn't mean the worst day for damage, because there's a lot of there there in Oklahoma with no people, and that's how we hope that this all plays out.

But with the cells still to the southwest of the city, moving to the northeast, if it continues to be by itself, we have a lot of potential damage there.

BALDWIN: So, what should people right now, Chad Myers, be doing?

MYERS: Well, it's too early to consider this a tornado emergency, because there is such a term.


MYERS: There are tornado emergencies, which means a large and dangerous tornado is on the ground heading to such and such city. It's not to that point yet, but you absolutely do -- you cannot turn away from this storm. You can't just go get in the car and say I'm going to go get bread and milk because I may not be -- that is not important at this point.

Gather your children. Get them in one place and get them with you. Get your furniture from the outside inside. It's just one of those precaution days that we know a lot of weather is heading to the major cities. And if you can alleviate some of the damage caused to your house by things that you can do around your home, that can help out, too. That can help you out in your cleanup efforts.

But right now, we're heading into what looks to be a very dangerous storm that could be moving into Oklahoma metro area. That's Oklahoma County, Cleveland County, and all the way points southward all the way down possibly even towards Moore and Norman, but we will keep you advised as it gets closer.

BALDWIN: And, again, we're keeping in mind, I'm mindful of this because I'm here in Boston for the benefit concert tonight -- and there was the benefit concert just last night in Oklahoma City for the folks in the surrounding communities who lost their homes and several deaths, we know, from what happened in Moore last week with that EF-5 tornado. You, Chad Myers, worked in Oklahoma City. You know this area of the country better than most we have at CNN. And for the people who live there -- and I was really struck by this being there last week -- a lot of them are native Oklahomans.

And they are used to the warnings, and many of them, they do know what to do.

MYERS: Yes. No, yesterday, Brooke, I was out in Shattuck, which is almost to the panhandle of Oklahoma, almost touching the Texas panhandle.

And I was just -- we were up there in an eyeglass supply company using their Wi-Fi, and the ladies behind the counter just looked at me and said, make it stop. There's just too many days of this in a row. Make it go away.

And we had this tornado drought for the past four months, up until basically the Moore day. There wasn't that many tornadoes, 250 tornadoes on the ground and there should have been 500. Now we are making up for it just day after day after day, and they are weary. They are storm-weary, and I just don't want people to let their guard down because, oh, we have had so many days I didn't get hit, I didn't get hit. This could be a big day for people of central Oklahoma.

BALDWIN: Chad, stand by for me.

Guys, do we still have Samantha by the -- who can talk us through a little bit of the radar? Let's take a look at that.

Samantha, go ahead.

SAMANTHA MOHR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Brooke. Yes, absolutely, we're talking about these two warned areas that we're really concerned about.

We have that tornado warning on this cell that is moving into Guthrie right now as we speak. It's moving to the east around 25 miles per hour. A lot of rotation showing up on this cell, and it's currently being warned on, so you need to take cover in this area.

And also we have a severe thunderstorm warning on the cell that's approaching Chickasha. You can also see a bit of a hook here on this, so that indicates that we have some rotation in this one as well.

Now, this is the cell we're watching as it moves towards Moore, Oklahoma. And you were talking about, yes, this is the same area that saw the devastation last week, and Moore has now seen two of the costliest tornadoes ever in U.S. history. Two of the top five most costly tornadoes have happened in Moore, Oklahoma. So they appear, once again, of course, to be in -- they're a hotbed of activity, as we well know.

But watching this particular cell working its way, and you can see a new warning just popped up here on the screen, a new severe thunderstorm warning, and you can clearly see the rotation here in this echo. Now, this one to the north we can actually show you. We do have a chaser out there. We can show you the picture here of this particular cell to the north of Moore and to the north. Here's Oklahoma City, so it is due north here right now.

And this is what they are seeing as they make their way. I'm not sure exactly which interstate they are on here, but -- or which highway they are on, but they are definitely moving towards that cell that is warned on. You can see it is a tornado warning. This is the one we have seen a lot of rotation on as well, and this is the one near Guthrie at this hour.

So, it's the folks here in Guthrie, it's the folks in Moore that definitely need to keep -- get ready to take cover at any moment. And when you look at the big picture here, it is really, literally, millions of people stretching from Oklahoma, into Arkansas, Missouri, on up through Illinois, eastern Iowa, and stretching on up into Wisconsin.

So a huge number of people and a huge area of square miles could potentially be affected by severe weather yet this afternoon and evening, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Samantha, thank you.

And just keep in mind, Moore not only -- much of Moore was leveled last week by that EF-5, but it was absolutely destroyed in 1999 and so much of the town rebuilt and many people, you know, that is their home. I'm getting e-mails, including one from CNN employee Marcie Hines (ph).

Marcie -- I'm reading this -- she says she's from Moore, Oklahoma. She's been talking to her friends on the phone who are understandably worried by this round of storms.

We have Kevin Rolfs now on the phone. Kevin Rolfs, I understand, is a storm chaser.

Kevin, if you can hear me, I understand you are southwest of Oklahoma City. Tell me what you're seeing.

KEVIN ROLFS, STORM CHASER: Yes, that's correct.

We're in Chickasha, Oklahoma, right now. The storm itself is probably about five miles to our west, five to 10, and the wall clouds in the last probably five to 10 minutes have really lowered. We're kind of in and out getting a good visual of it here as we make our way through the city of Chickasha.

But the storm itself is very healthy, especially on radar. It looks like it's not going anywhere any time soon. It's not tornado-warned at the moment. I guess its low-level rotation still isn't very strong. But as it continues eastward, it has the potential to become tornado-warned and to put down a tornado.

BALDWIN: OK,two questions I have as you rattled off a couple of terms. So, when you say wall cloud, I want you to explain to people who do not follow tornadoes as intimately as you do, what is a wall cloud? Let's just begin with that.

ROLFS: Well, the wall cloud is, essentially, the structure from which the tornado usually forms.

It's just a lowered area of cloud base underneath the storm itself. And when you see the wall cloud, that's generally -- it's not necessarily a precursor to tornado development, but it's just one of those signs that lets us chasers and anyone else watching know that the storm itself is strong and attempting to acquire better low-level rotation and could put down a tornado.

BALDWIN: OK, could.

And the other word you used, healthy, you said that it's still sitting there, it's not moved, it's not formed into a tornado. When I hear the word healthy, that has a positive connotation, but is that -- that's not necessarily a positive thing for the people there.

ROLFS: Oh, definitely -- absolutely not, healthy in terms of the storm, but, yes, if this storm is moving into more populated areas of central Oklahoma, it is not a good thing. We definitely don't want to see a repeat of what happened last week at all.

But as we're watching it here, like I said, it's not -- it's not really ramping up yet in terms of strength, but it definitely could at any time.

BALDWIN: Kevin Rolfs, we know you're watching. We are as well. Thank you so much for calling in as we're looking at multiple now, multiple live pictures. He describes the wall cloud that is forming under the clouds and then that is from which a tornado can spawn.

Again, tornado warnings as this system is moving, dare I say, toward Moore, that was hit so terribly last week, and also the metropolitan area of Oklahoma City. Chad Myers is on the ground for us in Oklahoma. We're going to check in with Chad after this quick break. Stay with me, because Chad Myers has some new information.

You're watching CNN breaking news.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BALDWIN: Welcome back to CNN.

You are watching breaking news coverage here of severe storms in Oklahoma specifically. I'm here in Boston. We're here covering this huge benefit concert at the T.D. Garden tonight. But let me tell you, there was a benefit concert just last night in Oklahoma City, because you know what happened last week in Moore, Oklahoma, and several of the communities in and around the Oklahoma City area who were hit by multiple tornadoes that leveled so many homes in those communities.

And here we are, I don't want to say again, because no one has seen the tornadoes so far, but I know a lot of people in Moore, specifically, are worried and are hunkering down. We have a number of people that we're talking to.

First of all, Chad Myers, our meteorologist, is in Oklahoma watching these storms. Samantha Mohr is in the Severe Weather Center watching the radar for us and looking at the bigger picture and we're working on talking to some people who have clearly been through this before in Oklahoma and are worried, yet again, of what could happen.

First to Chad Myers in Oklahoma.

Chad, I understand you have some new information. Go ahead.

MYERS: We are following the cell that you talked about with the storm chaser with that lowering, with the wall cloud.

And it's kind of a misnomer. It's really a part of the storm that drops from the main base of the storm, and it just looks like something hanging down, almost a square box hanging down. If you get under it, it's round, but you get it -- from afar, it just looks like a part that lowers to the ground.

And somewhere out of that is where the tornado would form. Right now, the weather service still does not have a tornado warning on that Chickasha storm, because they see rotation up in the mid-levels, let's say 10,000, 15,000 feet high, but because no one lives up there, they are not warning people because of that.

They do not believe that the tornado is touching or reaching for the ground just yet. That's what's called the low-level circulation. When that low-level circulation tightens up or becomes a spin, that's when the warning will go out. We're going to watch it. But all by itself, there's nothing to fight it. I still do believe it's going to get stronger before it gets weaker.

We're also watching the storm up near Guthrie. The storm itself, the hook echo, the couplet, we call it, did miss Guthrie and is moving across I-35. So far, so good on both of these storms. You got storm warnings, tornado warning on the Guthrie storm, severe thunderstorm warning on the Chickasha storm.

And this is going to get to be a big day. This is going to be a deal for people in Oklahoma and Oklahoma City and Moore and possibly even Norman if this travels just off to the east, rather than to the northeast. That would take it towards the Norman area, more than the Moore area. We will keep watching the direction because it's still developing right now, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Norman not too far from Moore, not at all, just mere minutes away.

MYERS: That's right.

BALDWIN: And that is where so many of those -- we know so many of those folks who lost their homes have been living in the dorms, because that's the home of the University of Oklahoma, and O.U. has been generous enough -- generous enough to put roofs over these people's heads, these families whose lives were absolutely rocked last week.

Chad, again, as we're looking at these live pictures, we're seeing helicopters flying, we should say for now, from the affiliates out of Oklahoma City. Let me just -- let me take it back, super-simple question as we're looking at these ominous clouds. How do tornadoes form?


How many hours do you have, Brooke? You know, I got six years of college at Nebraska that taught me all this. There are so many ingredients to making a great soup, and there are great and a number of ingredients to make a tornado.

Just because you might -- you know, let's say you're trying to make a cake. If you add twice as much sugar, it doesn't mean you make twice as good of a cake. it just means you are going to have a mess. And so sometimes these things coming in, the jet stream aloft to turn the storm, the winds at the lower level to -- at a different direction to help twist the wind as this air goes up.

As the air goes up, they believe -- and that's why we're following the Doppler on wheels right now -- we're going to park this Doppler on wheels and shoot right through this storm to see where the tornado is and see if it's coming down. That's probably 15 minutes before we park.

We just went through Blanchard on the way right now to Chickasha to get to this storm that you're seeing the lowering on your TV. And so as the rotation continues to go up, almost (INAUDIBLE) it's in there, obviously, but as the rotation starts in the mid-levels of the storm, eventually, like an ice skater bringing her arms in when she's standing on one skate, if her arms are out, she's spinning slowly.

When they are bringing her arms in, she brings -- she starts to skate very quickly and spin quickly. It's conservation of angular momentum, and that will take me another two hours, but that's all part of how a regular thunderstorm has to be by itself really not bound -- bounced off by any other storm to create the perfect scenario to create the tornado.

And America is the place where there are more tornadoes than anyplace else. We have the jet stream. We have the mountains with dry air to our west. The Gulf of Mexico is the juice, the supply for all of the moisture to make this tornado work, to make these thunderstorms get big, and the cold air can obviously come out of Canada as well.

And I do believe that we're now beginning to see a little bit more rotation on these storms where, if it's not -- you have to get back to Samantha, because my Internet service is getting a little bit sketchy, but we could be getting a tornado warning on that Chickasha storm probably at any time.


BALDWIN: Let me do that. Let me do that right now, Chad. Stay on the phone with me.

Samantha Mohr in our Severe Weather Center there at CNN, Samantha, what are you seeing, how many active warnings out there right now?

MOHR: We have two active warnings right now in the state of Oklahoma, Brooke.

You can see the one that is approaching Chickasha that Chad's making his way towards. That is still -- at this point, it's a severe thunderstorm warning, but you can clearly see that there's a bit of a hook here, which means there's some rotation possibly in the middle levels of the storm, not at the surface as of yet.

This tornado warning further to the north, north of Moore and north of Oklahoma City, the one that has been moving across I-35 in Guthrie, that still does have a current tornado warning on it as well. That one is moving to the east at around 25 miles per hour. And I think we have some video coming out of that particular cell.

Yes, here's a location of one of the chasers north of Oklahoma City on I-35. And this is the view he has. Obviously, he's more in a treed area right now. You can't exactly see the clouds, so we will leave that picture. But as we go to the big picture, you can see just how many people could be affected here, some 323,000 square miles, 43 million people from Wisconsin, down in through eastern Iowa, Illinois, including Peoria. Into Minnesota we go.

Saint Louis could be affected here, into Springfield, Missouri, stretching down into Arkansas, and then, of course, over into Oklahoma City, we have that watch, that tornado watch. All of these marked in red are tornado watches. Of course, they will be in effect into the late evening hours. And the one in Oklahoma City and for central Oklahoma will be in effect until 10:00 p.m., so, as Chad said, things are just really getting going now, and it is going to be a long and very active evening here regarding severe weather and regarding possible tornadoes.

So we're talking some 2.2 million people in the probable zone for severe weather yet this evening, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Two-point-two million people. Samantha Mohr, don't go too far. Chad Myers, stay on the phone with me.

We're going to get a break in as we're following this breaking news. Samantha mentioned two active tornado warnings in Oklahoma, and it's heading toward Moore, many of those neighborhoods in Moore, as you know, hit and leveled. People lost their homes, some lost lives in that EF-5 tornado last week. We have someone on the phone from Moore as they are hunkering down and incredibly fearful again. That conversation is coming up. Stay with me.


BALDWIN: Welcome back.

I'm Brooke Baldwin live here in Boston, but we want to continue our breaking news coverage here of two tornado warnings, two active tornado warnings, in the state of Oklahoma. Got a couple of guests we're going to be talking here as we continue to look at these live pictures, these dark, ominous clouds over the Oklahoma City -- areas outside of Oklahoma City.

Two people, I want to talk to.

First, I want to bring in Bob Fritchie. He is a storm chaser right now talking to me southwest of Moore, Oklahoma.

Bob, if you can hear me, I'm told, as we're looking at these clouds, tell me what do the clouds look like to you in person?


I'm just sitting actually just to the west of Chickasha looking north at a pretty organized wall cloud, basically just a decent supercell thunderstorm with sustained rotation now for a little bit and a pretty nicely organized wall cloud.

BALDWIN: So I don't know if you're cutting out, but again, if you're saying a nicely organized wall cloud, that basically is -- the wall cloud is what you watch, and that is where a tornado can spawn. So if you're telling me it's nice, that means -- what does that mean exactly?

FRITCHIE: Yes, it basically just means that the storm has kind of established itself.

It's organized its low-level features, and it's continuing to rotate. And there's no tornado on the ground at this moment, but if it continues to organize and continues to persist as it moves into a little bit better of an air mass for storms off to the east, it could pose some problems for the -- Chickasha over to the I-35 corridor.

BALDWIN: And when you talk about a tornado forming, Bob, how quickly does that happen? Is it seconds? Is it minutes?

FRITCHIE: Well, when you talk about going from an established mesocyclone to a tornado, it's on the order of minutes.

And there's different -- different signatures that are actually easier seen in radar data than visually that actually descend through the cloud. But looking at it from the ground, from this stage to a tornado, it could be on the order of 10 minutes. It could not happen. It could be 30 minutes. But it appears at this point there's nothing imminent, as in the next five minutes.

BALDWIN: OK, nothing imminent in the next five minutes.

Bob Fritchie, thank you, as you're chasing this storm there in Oklahoma.

I want to bring in Jim Routon. Jim Routon is on the phone with me, because he lives in Moore, Oklahoma. Jim, you survived that EF-5 tornado last week. Thank goodness your home is still standing. I understand you were just helping friends with cleanup today. Where are you right now?

JIM ROUTON, RESIDENT OF MOORE, OKLAHOMA (via telephone): Right now, I'm located just east of Briarwood Elementary on 19th Street and Santa Fe. And we're just down here.

Had several people that -- friends of mine that have lost their homes and we were just down there kind of helping with the cleanup process and cooking some food for the cleanup workers and the utility linesmen and stuff like that.

BALDWIN: So you're helping out. Are you in your car right now?


I'm currently in my car. I just -- we're...


ROUTON: I'm currently in my car with -- actually have one of the -- kind of a girl named (INAUDIBLE) who lost her home, and she's in the car with me.


ROUTON: I'm taking her and my daughter, J.C. (ph), and my two nieces, J.C. and Lexi (ph), over to the church, to Central Church of Christ, to volunteer to help pass out some supplies and medical supplies and food and stuff like that.

BALDWIN: So it sounds to me, Jim, that you have a full car, and you are going on as business as usual, despite what we are reporting with these active tornado warnings and the storm heading towards Moore.

I know -- I mean, I was there all last week -- I know people in your neck of the woods. This is something you deal with each and every year. Are -- are you nervous at all?


We -- I am -- I'm concerned. We do keep an eye on -- on the -- the tornado situation. We were -- I mean, it came within a block and a half.

The one on May 20th came within -- it destroyed homes a block and a half north of my home.

So it's a few miles away for now, so I think we're -- I'm not concerned yet, but if it continues to build and get closer, we will definitely be on more of an alert status and try and probably get closer to a shelter.

BALDWIN: So let me just ask you, at what point do you make that call, Jim? What time do you head to the shelter, and do you have a shelter at your house?

ROUTON: No, we don't. We're on a list to get an underground shelter put in our home, but it's quite a long process, around four to five months backlog on getting those shelters, underground shelters, installed.

But I do have a neighbor that lives about six doors down, five doors down, that's whose shelter we were in on May 20th, and we emerged and found our neighborhood partially destroyed.

And we will definitely -- like I said, we will get one. We'll probably get in his shelter if there appears to be an imminent danger of a tornado.

BALDWIN: OK, Jim Routon, it appears, though, you are continuing on and heading to the church and helping your neighbors clean up. And until you perhaps hear the warnings and sirens and head into the shelter, you are just continuing on.

Jim Routon, thank you so much. We are thinking about you. We are thinking about everyone in Moore and outside Oklahoma City.