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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Oklahoma City Will Rogers Airport Evacuated
Aired May 31, 2013 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
We begin tonight with breaking news. Dangerous weather right now again taking aim at Oklahoma. If you have been watching our coverage, you know this.
The national weather service has issued a tornado emergency for the western Oklahoma City metro area. Multiple tornadoes have already touched down west of Oklahoma City. Multiple twisters forming and gaining strength as we speak. We are talking about large and dangerous twisters, at least one with multiple vortices.
Oklahoma City's Will Rogers airport is being evacuated. All of this close to rush hour on a Friday night. A lot of folks on the road. If you are in this area, you should take shelter now, get off the roads, get somewhere safe. Do not wait. More than three million people are in the danger zone.
Chad Myers joins me now from El Reno, Oklahoma with the latest.
Chad, we saw a tornado touching down in El Reno around 6:37 or so local time. What's the situation there now?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST (via phone): Anderson, I don't know if you can see my shot or not, and if the control room can try to find it, I am in miles and miles of traffic. The most frustrating thing you can do if you are trying to get out of the way of a tornado is to go zero miles per hour.
Now, we are well away from the tornado. I think people are shell-shocked to the point that they are getting in their cars and they are driving away from this tornado. And they are in their cars and they are not moving. Now, all of a sudden, you are not protected in a home. You are not protected in your closet, in your bedroom, anywhere. You are in a very vulnerable place, your automobile. A tornado of this size can pick up an automobile and throw it three quarters of a mile easy.
And as we saw today, I went to Moore to see these pictures of cars that were thrown three blocks. And I wanted to do a story about how there's just no room left for you in the car when the tornado gets done with it. And the people here in Oklahoma City need to get off the road, get to a safe place and stop driving around. This is the most dangerous thing I have ever seen. Where I am is completely fine. And my family and all that, I'm eight miles away from the vortex. But for the people who are stuck behind me trying to get out of the way, they are in grave danger. This is a bad idea.
There's another storm to the west of this storm developing as well, south of El Reno, south of where the storm just hit. So, there are going to be two separate tornadoes moving into the metro area in the next hour to maybe even two hours, as the second storm possibly takes over. This is very dangerous.
COOPER: So Chad, we are looking at some of the pictures from earlier near El Reno. Explain what occurred there, what kind of a storm system have you been seeing and are you following right now?
MYERS: We watched the storm, we watched almost four storms. Just take you back. (INAUDIBLE). There were four storms that developed west of Oklahoma City and then they all fought for power. And then they all decided they will all get together. Now, when they all got together, the storm that's on the bottom, (INAUDIBLE), the southwestern storm, got a rotation on it and put down a tornado, and put down a very large tornado. Without a doubt, this was an EF-3, I won't go farther than that because that's normal size large wedge tornado, EF-3. Don't go out there and look for something else later. That's irrelevant.
And then this EF-3 tornado was on the ground for maybe I would say 10 or 15 miles as it moved to the south of i-40, toward and just south of El Reno. And all of a sudden as we were losing our position, we couldn't see it anymore. We got in our car. We started to drive to the east to a new safer position. That tornado stopped rotating where it was and reformed about three or four miles to the east of where it was, and that caught some tornado chasers off guard.
We saw a couple of cars just passing us just now, with all the windows shattered, all the windows blown out of the car, driving toward a CVS. I can only imagine driving into that parking lot trying to get something for the people that got cut by the glass that got blown out of their car.
People are in the way of this tornado. It has turned into a sport that is going to kill people and you need to get off the road as soon as you can, because this is terrible.
COOPER: So Chad, the weather service has issued a tornado emergency. How does that differ than what we've been watching earlier?
MYERS: Yes. This is very important for the people to know, that a tornado emergency means that a confirmed large tornado is headed to a major metropolitan area. And it even can be a town of 5,000 to 10,000 people. That's easy. But right now, we have a large violent tornado on the ground in southwestern Oklahoma City, very close to Will Rogers airport.
It is without a doubt on the ground. I'm looking straight at the radar. I can tell you just because of the way the tornado signature is on this, it has to be on the ground. So now, we have, not only airport, but a large tornado on the ground going into a metro area. That's what the word emergency means. That the news step up. We used to have watch, warning and that's it. Now we have watch, warning and emergency.
COOPER: It's also in the images that we're showing from earlier near El Reno from our affiliate KFOR, it is remarkable just how black the sky is, the size of this storm.
MYERS: That's a great analogy or great observation, because all day today we were saying how humid it was, 74 degrees. You couldn't step outside the car without breaking into a sweat.
COOPER: And this a live picture of that.
MYERS: That's the moisture that was part of the storm that was thrown up 50,000 feet. It's dark because it's thick, because it's big, because you can't see through it. It is a tremendously large super cell thunderstorm that you don't want going through a major metropolitan area but now it is.
COOPER: I'm told the image on the left side of the screen is a live image, I'm told, from KFOR. The image, previously on the right, was from earlier, from El Reno, where a tornado touched down around 6:37 local time.
Chad, I want to come back to in just a moment. I do want to check in with George Howell, who is in Moore, Oklahoma. For a time it seemed almost as if Moore might be in the track line for one of these storms.
George, what's the situation there now?
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Yes. If you can hear me OK, we just went south of Moore so we are out of that zone of concern with this tornado warning. And you know, what we are seeing the winds pick up down here. We are at the southern edge of the storm. And as far as people getting out of the way of the storm, I have seen an orderly movement of cars down interstate 35. People, you know, took precautions early, got on the highway and got out of the way.
Back in Moore, though, I can tell you in that disaster zone, I'm sure you remember being there. You know, all the people day after day were going through all that debris trying to start their lives over.
Early this afternoon, people got out of that area. You can understand why. If this storm comes in, if there is any tornadic activity, you don't want to be in that area. All that debris that can be kicked up, tossed around, you don't want to be there. And you know, certainly, there is a possibility of that, looking at the different warnings that are currently in play. But right now, you know, we are seeing dark skies on one side and we are seeing light on the other. You know, it is definitely a fluid situation out here. COOPER: Yes. The idea of all that debris down in Moore being picked up yet again and tossed through the air. That is obviously a huge concern.
Storm chaser Reed Timmer is in the middle of the storm. He has been tracking all day. He joins me now.
Reed, what have you seen? What's happened? We are trying to make contact with Reed Timmer. Reed, can you hear me? We lost our transmission from Reed.
But obviously, you can tell in the midst of these storms, the communications go in and out.
I want to check in with our Samantha Mohr who is at the severe weather center in Atlanta. She's tracking the storms. Big picture, where are these storms now? Where is the next to hit?
SAMANTHA MOHR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's an interesting picture, Anderson, because as you well know, these storms formed about two hours ago, well west of town, and it almost looks like they just make a big line now all the way from the western flank all the way over east of Oklahoma City.
So, what we basically have are two super cells here that are forming multiple tornadoes. And so, once we get through the original cell, the original super cell which is now bearing down on Oklahoma City, you can see within the next seven minutes or so, so in the immediate future, you need to take cover right now in Oklahoma City. That is the first cell. And then on the back end of this, we have more regeneration taking place in the second cell.
So, once we get through this system, we are going to have to worry about the second system. And here, they are tracking that second vortex here. That second area of circulation. So in Yukon at 7:21, Bethany at 7:32, and to the park (ph) at 7:36.
So, this is a long ongoing event with particularly dangerous tornadoes on the ground. So incredibly dangerous indeed and it's going to be lasting a good long while. It's about 50 miles from the western end of this all the way over to the eastern end, when you measure both super cell thunderstorms together, with all these areas of circulation imbedded within them.
So bad time on this Friday night in the Oklahoma City area and all across much of central Oklahoma.
COOPER: I just want to read out two alerts we have gotten from the national weather service for Norman, 7:04 p.m. local time, tornado one to two west-southwest of Oklahoma City fairgrounds, moving east- northeast. They call it a dangerous situation.
They have also said two tornadoes in Oklahoma City metro at 6:59 local time. The first is southwest of Bethany, moving east-southeast at 20. The second is north of Union City moving east. They are saying for people to take cover right now as we speak. Obviously, if you are in any of those areas or any of the areas in the future track of this storm, you need to be watching this very closely and you need to be seeking cover.
Chad Myers, when Samantha talks about two super cells, for those who don't follow this as closely, she is essentially talking about two different storm systems, right?
Chad is gone.
Samantha, when you say two super cells, these are two separate storms?
MOHR: They are two separate storms that are kind of joined as one. So, they started out as individual circulations. The first one moving out ahead, the second one forming on the back side, and we keep seeing regeneration on the western end of this thing. Look at that. The latest sweep of the Oklahoma City Doppler radar just showed that, and we keep seeing these hook formations on the back end, so it keeps regenerating here.
So, here are two separate cells and we keep getting regeneration on the back end of this thing. That's why it stretches some 50 miles here right along interstate 40, if we measure from the west side all the way over to the east side, it stretches some 50 miles. So since it is moving to the east right now at around I think my last reading was 20 miles per hour, it's going to take awhile for this whole area of super storm thunderstorms to clear out of the area. So it is going to be a very long night here as we continue to see these vortices spinning up within the super cells themselves.
COOPER: And for a storm to be moving 20 miles an hour, is that relatively normal? Is that a slow speed, an average speed?
MOHR: You know, there really isn't an average speed, per se. I would say maybe 20 to 40 miles per hour, if you had to guess an average. If you have a 50 mile per hour storm that is moving at an extremely fast clip.
By the way, we just got word that we have a tornado one mile south of the fairgrounds and visible from the airport, is that what I hear? Correct. OK. So it is visible from the airport itself. This is a very dangerous strong powerful tornado that is moving into the Oklahoma City area from the southwest to the northeast. People are being urged to take cover at this hour in the lowest level of their house, the most interior room of their house, if they don't have a storm cellar. If you have a neighbor or you know someone who has a storm cellar, you may want to become fast friends with them and get inside. Because at this point, you want to be underground if you can be, if you're in the path of this very strong tornado.
COOPER: Should also point out that the women's college softball World Series is being played in Oklahoma City this week. Tens of thousands of people were, 60,000 to 70,000, were expected to be attending this. They are aired on ESPN.
Right now, obviously there's a weather delay at the hall of fame stadium but there were two big games scheduled for tonight. So, you probably have a lot of people in the Oklahoma City area.
The mayor of El Reno, Oklahoma, Matt White, joins me now by phone.
Mayor White, how are things there? We saw a tornado touch down around 6:37 or so.
MAYOR MATT WHITE, EL RENO (via phone): Yes. That's correct, Anderson. We are a little nervous as usual because the last week (INAUDIBLE), Oklahoma.
COOPER: Have you gotten any word of damage or any kind of reports from the tornado that touched down at 6:37?
WHITE: We looked at some things and we haven't got all the reports from the airport outside of town. We haven't gotten confirmation of damage out there. There is significant damage out there. There was a vision of flood outside about a mile outside of (INAUDIBLE). Officers confirmed that everything's OK at this point in time. That's what they told the fire chief.
COOPER: Obviously you all have a lot of experience in this. How much warning did you get this time around of this storm system coming?
WHITE: You know, we really can't brag enough about Oklahoma and especially all of our administration for that matter, all those guys are professionals. We kind of grew up with it around here. They tell you to get underground and you better get underground. We have a lot of warning because of tornadoes we have had over the years. They upgraded our community along with other communities so we are real fortunate to have that.
I will tell you, Anderson, that we are looking at some locations on i-40 where we don't know about some vehicles. That's what we're looking at right now. So, we're trying to find and locate and make sure they are OK. We are concerned with that location.
COOPER: Do most people in El Reno have some sort of storm shelter, some sort of basement or at least know a neighbor who does that they can use?
WHITE: That goes back to the overall frustration I guess because to the Moore because of (INAUDIBLE) school. You know, (INAUDIBLE), Anderson. I think it is very, you know, not everybody has a storm shelter. I think us Oklahomans, I have a basement here in downtown El Reno above one of our historic buildings and we had people from the restaurant, people from the liquor store and people from a church right down the street come in so I think we all -- I think there needs to be more legislation and more emphasis on trying to get these shelters in different areas.
COOPER: Yes. For a lot of folks it's a couple thousand dollars. It's a lot of money and even for schools that haven't been retrofitted, some of the older schools don't have it, as we saw in Moore. You talked about downtown El Reno. Where did this tornado that hit a short time ago? Did it hit downtown? WHITE: No, it did not. It was south of us. It's mainly along the i-40 corridor, within i-40 of course. We are hearing reports like from the fire chief I think it's by the fairgrounds, last time I heard. And Oklahoma City is tracking that way with our community, toward Yukon, into Oklahoma State which is another probably eight miles from us. The storm that we had, Anderson, was the beginning of the formation and it was basically i-40 and south of El Reno.
COOPER: Well, that's certainly a bit of good news there.
Mayor White, I'm going to let you know because I know you got a lot of work ahead of you. We are going to be check in with you throughout the night.
Storm chaser Reed Timmer, we tried to reestablish communication with him. He's been in the middle of the storm.
Reed, if you can hear me, where are you now, what are you seeing?
REED TIMMER, STORM CHASER (via phone): Is this Anderson?
COOPER: Yes. Go ahead, Reed.
TIMMER: Yes. It's Reed. We saw a massive tornado that went right near El Reno. We saw vehicles rolled. They are pulling out injured people out of vehicles south of El Reno. Union City may have been hit. And now, there is a tornado emergency in downtown Oklahoma City. And I'm reporting for KFOR. (INAUDIBLE).
There's a tornado emergency and we're closing in on the southwest side of it and we have trees and power lines down. We intercepted the tornado in our armored vehicle and it ripped the hood off. The hood got ripped off and taken away. We just have a bare engine in the dominator but we're just trying to get ahead of this thing to keep people warned in the path of this storm in Oklahoma City and straight for downtown. We are on the north side of the airport, Will Rogers airport. Big problems tonight.
COOPER: Reed, we understand the airport is being evacuated obviously at this time.
So wait, this tornado ripped the hood off your vehicle? Obviously we have lost Reed. He says he has an armored vehicle. He is an experienced storm chaser, an armored vehicle, and the hood he said has been ripped off. His engine is actually exposed. He is still driving around trying to track this storm near the airport.
CNN's Samantha Mohr is tracking the storm.
Samantha, what are you seeing now?
MOHR: We have been told by the national weather service, Anderson, it's a really dangerous situation with cars stuck here on i- 35. There is a tornado right in downtown Oklahoma City, approaching downtown Oklahoma City. So you need to get out of your vehicle and find safe shelter. If you know somebody who is stuck in traffic on i- 35, give them a call right now. They do not want to be in their car when this powerful tornado comes across the interstate. So they need to seek shelter right now.
COOPER: You say it's coming across i-35. Do you know how far it is from downtown Oklahoma City?
MOHR: Right now, do you guys have any information on that, Sean or Dave, exactly where the tornado is in approximation to downtown? It is very near the fairgrounds and it moving to the east at 20 miles per hour. So of course, densely populated area. And the worst thing you want to do is be stuck in your car, unable to move and trapped when a powerful tornado is bearing down on you. So they're just telling people to get out and seek safe shelter as soon as you can.
We are going to zoom in on it so you can see the circulation here, where it is here in proximity to downtown. And here's i-35. And you can see that rotation is pretty much right on top of it here. And we also have debris vortices showing up on our do-polar radar. So, that means, there's obviously debris being picked up and brought up into the circulation itself. So a very powerful storm. Take cover if you are anywhere near this area and it is moving to the east- northeast at around 20 miles per hour. You just want to take cover and be safe. Lowest level of your home, of course. You want to put as many walls in between you and the outside as you possibly can, Anderson.
COOPER: And for a moment there on the right-hand side. While you were talking we were looking at live aerial images obviously from a chopper over around Oklahoma City, in the area where this tornado is moving in.
Darkness is also, you know, we are getting into the nighttime hours now. The storm which basically has made the skies look like it's been nighttime. But now, it actually is starting to get to be nighttime. That's going to add a whole other layer of concern because you don't see where the debris is, you don't see what's coming at you, and that just makes it all the more difficult for first responders and people who are trying to respond to this storm.
On the left-hand side of your screen from one of the storm chasers, you see an awful lot of traffic, Samantha, on the road. Does it surprise you there are so many folks on the road during this storm system? Because it's been going on for about two hours now.
MOHR: It is very surprising. I think possibly folks were lulled into kind of a false sense of security earlier because it was sunny all day long, for much of the day. They had some clouds but for the most part, they had a nice calm day ahead of this storm. Maybe folks thought, we are OK. But as you well know, in times of severe weather, when you get a lot of daytime heating and we had heat indices up into the 90s because all the moisture was present in the air, dew points into the 70s, that is very tropical air, very uncomfortable to be out working in these kind of conditions with the heat and humidity. So, of course, that just fueled these severe thunderstorms that created these very strong tornadoes. And you can see rotation clearly showing up here on our radar, right here in Oklahoma City as we speak. And we have debris vortices up in the air so obviously there is destruction going on at the surface. Folks do not need to be out in it right now. They need to be seeking safe shelter.
COOPER: And some of the folks who are seeking shelter right now are softball players for this women's softball World Series which is taking place in Oklahoma City. There were supposed to be two games tonight. Obviously, they have been postponed. That's been a big draw for tens of thousands of people to be in the Oklahoma City area.
We just got a tweet from a player on the university of Washington Huskies softball team saying right now at 8:09 p.m. eastern time, saying holding tight in the basement along with all the other teams. All accounted for and staying safe. There is also tweeted out a picture there.
But that is obviously concerning, any time you have any kind of large sporting events where a lot of people, and the picture which I will show on the screen as soon as we can get it. There are what looks like hundreds of players, coaches and affiliated folks downstairs in a long corridor. It is a concrete lined corridor so it looks like a safe area.
But we also know that the airport there in Oklahoma City has also been evacuated. You just get a sense by looking at these radar images, these Doppler images, just the size of these two super cells.
MOHR: Right. And right now, the center of circulation, this powerful tornado, is right in the center of downtown Oklahoma City which of course is the most populated area in the metro area, is the center of town. And that's exactly where we have that circulation right now which means a powerful tornado is making its way right through downtown.
So that's incredibly -- it's the worst place at the worst time here, in the middle of a busy Friday night right in the middle of downtown Oklahoma City, incredibly populated and we do see the debris here in the radar signature itself.
And once again, once this super cell clears Oklahoma City, there is another huge one right behind it and it keeps forming these hook echoes, and then we see these tornadoes being spawned out of that. So one right after another.
Here, we are going to zoom out so you can see just how far back this goes. It extends back at least another 45 miles or so. We were talking about El Reno. It's right about here on the map. And we have warnings right now spanning what appears to be around 30 miles or so. And not just warnings, but we have tornado emergency in place, which is the most -- which is the strongest most devastating type of warning.
COOPER: So Samantha, obviously this is really an important point, you're pointing out that once this storm passes, once this tornado passes, there is another cell going to hit or at least has the possibility to hit. So people, once this passes, should not believe that they are free and in the clear because there is another storm system coming.
I want to show the picture that a player from the university of Washington Huskies Football team tweeted out, just showing some of the hundreds of players and coaches and the like who have sought shelter now for this women's softball world series, which again, two games were to take place in Oklahoma City tonight. And of course, it's not just the players themselves. It is the thousands of family members and fans who have come to Oklahoma City to witness that as well.
Storm chaser Sean Casey joins me now. He is just west of Oklahoma City, saw the tornado crossing. It was too fast, he was following it as it was going to Oklahoma.
What are you seeing now? What have you been seeing?
SEAN CASEY, DIRECTOR, TORNADO ALLEY (via phone): Yes, right now, there was a secondary tornado that's formed behind the first one going through Union City. We are now taking dirt roads and we are getting slammed by the outflow of this storm. So right now, we have got maybe 200 yards of visibility. We don't know where the tornado is. We're just tracking east on these dirt roads right now.
COOPER: So your visibility is down to about 200 feet. Is that because of the storm system itself, or because darkness has come?
CASEY: It's because we have been caught by this storm. We have been caught by this storm and now we are just trying to get out from underneath it so that we can get a visibility of what is going on right now. But right now, we are pretty much blind in the middle of a really massive storm.
COOPER: And I believe what we are seeing on the left-hand side of your screen is what you are witnessing, Sean, correct me, control room, if that's not correct. But -- and I don't know even how you're driving in these kind of conditions. Is that debris flying through the air or what's flying through the air there?
CASEY: It's just wind-driven rain that's just kind of like hitting us right now. It's nothing too bad. We just need to get south of this thing. This storm now is kind of having a southern component and it's catching everybody that was playing around with it to its south, now we are trying to duck out of it.
COOPER: Two different images from two different storm chasing cameras. But again, what you're seeing on the left-hand side of your screen is Sean Casey's image of just the lack of visibility. How easy is it now to try to get out of that area, Sean?
CASEY: We are just on the edge, just where the outflow of that storm is. If we can drive a couple more miles to the south we'll be all right. The storm is actually building again and might be producing another tornado in the next hour or so.
COOPER: We are looking now at an overview shot of the Oklahoma City area. Obviously, a huge concern as Samantha Mohr was reporting, tornadoes right heading toward downtown Oklahoma City. Chad Myers has been chasing the storm now for several hours also joins us.
Chad, the idea of a major system like this, two super cells hitting Oklahoma City downtown, that is certainly worrying.
MYERS: Well, it is, because traffic is at a standstill and that as reporter, Sean Casey, was just telling you that he needs to drop down two miles. Well, I have tried to drop down two miles and it's taken me well over 45 minutes to go two miles. I'm on highway 4 going south. I need to go over the river to get south because we are worried about the cell to our west.
There are cars in all four lanes, now, this is a divided highway, two lanes should be going north, two lanes going south. All four lanes are going south and we are doing about one mile per hour. There are police cars are driving on the shoulder in both directions, sometimes almost running into each other. Going north, some going south with lights and sirens blaring. All these people are now stuck on the highway. We are in absolutely good shape. There is no damage where we are, no danger where we are, but I can imagine that this same exact thing is going on on i-44, on 240, on 35 --
COOPER: Chad, let me just jump in here because have just gotten information from the Oklahoma highway patrol dispatch supervisor, Carey Manky (ph) reporting that there are multiple tractor trailers overturned on i-40 in Canadian county, which is west of Oklahoma City. So, multiple tractor trailers overturned on i-40. That is obviously just going to -- we don't know about any kind of injuries that may be associated with those, whether the drivers have pulled over, had to evacuate from those tractor trailers. But that is certainly only going to add to the woes of what's been happening on the roadways that you have been witnessing, Chad.
MYERS: You know, of all the time I spend saying get in your shelters, stay home, people didn't listen this time. They turned this into I believe a tornado chasing sport, got on the roadways, tried to look at what the tornado is doing and got themselves in trouble. We luckily were well ahead of the storm, saw what was going on with traffic and said we need to move now because this traffic is just going to come to a standstill.
Now, I can imagine behind me, there's no one moving. And now, all of a sudden a tornado is coming over the top of you in a car.
Let me tell you, Anderson, when a tornado gets done with an EF-4 -- EF-5 tornado and you are still in the car, there's nowhere for you to go inside. It is smashed to bits. The roof is down on -- right on the seats. And so, these people that are in their cars that thought they were going to drive away are certainly in trouble.
COOPER: One of these storm chaser, Reed Timmer, who we talked to just a short time ago, who actually has a armored vehicle. He is a professional storm chaser, has been doing this a long time. This storm ripped the hood off that armored vehicle so he's driving with an exposed engine right now. Obviously, gives you the sense of the power of this thing.
CNN's George Howell is around Moore, Oklahoma.
George, are you still in Moore, Oklahoma?
HOWELL: No Anderson, we moved south. We got out of that zone of the tornado warning. So at this point, though, looking at the radar and all the warnings, Moore is now in that tornado warning. So, we are not in that area.
And I can also tell you, no one in those neighborhoods from what we saw. A lot of people got out of the way. And Anderson, you remember being here on the ground day after day, people would go to their homes and try to start that process of rebuilding. That's not happening this evening. And you can understand why.
Right now, what we regrouped and, you know, we are hearing about, you know, the situation just to the west of us and to the north of us, obviously, what is happening in Oklahoma City. So, we are going to hook around that storm and try to go as far north as it's safe to see if there are any reports of damage with local officials here.
COOPER: George, I want to jump in here on that because I have new information on that. This is from KOCO. Parts of I-40 are said to be completely shut down. We just had the report earlier from the highway patrol about multiple overturned tractor trailers. Now they are saying reports of multiple cars flipped, multiple injuries and the highway patrol is urging people to go south if they are on the highway.
That's parts of I-40, according to KOCO, they are saying completely shut down, reports of multiple cars flipped, multiple injuries. I'm just reading this information as we are literally getting it. This is a storm system, which has been changing directions sporadically and that's been surprising folks out on the road, even some of the storm chasers.
It's seemingly following Interstate 40 heading east, the storm has, and now that highway is said to be completely shut down. We've had reports of several, at least several semi trucks overturned. The highway patrol right now is just asking people flat out obviously stay off the highway. The highway patrol is also reporting multiple cars flipped and multiple injuries.
We don't know the full extent of those injuries, the nature of those injuries. Several power lines are also down on I-40 according to this report and also around Cimarron Road. Troopers are urging all people on the highway to get off and go south at least ten miles.
Also, people at the Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City have been asked obviously to take cover. All flights obviously have been canceled. The airport is officially closed. Some 1,200 people are said to be at the airport. You can imagine what that's like.
You trek out to the airport, take a cab, get dropped off, and then all of a sudden the word comes to evacuate the airport. That's obviously going to be a very tense situation there, 12,000 customers right now. Samantha Mohr, who is in our severe weather center, 12,000 customers right now without power across the metro area, mostly in the Yukon area, this thing is not over by any stretch of the imagination.
SAMANTHA MOHR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: No. The Yukon area is what you mentioned, near Mustang, that's where the strongest circulation is at this time. That's the second circulation. So we have the first one that's still working its way just south of downtown Oklahoma City. It's jogged to the south a little bit, but this is a very densely populated area that it's moving into and this is the one that wreaked havoc earlier as it crossed the interstate. We have the second circulation in Yukon --
COOPER: Samantha, I'm sorry, I'm just getting more information. I understand the National Weather Service --
MOHR: It's 90 mile per hour winds moving into Moore. Excuse me, just getting reports of that. You can see this cell right here which has taken a little bit of a southerly direction and is now aimed at that area that was struck some ten days ago or so on May 20th and this next cell moving in. Then we have yet more development on the back side of this with a third defined circulation now.
So Moore is now in the crosshairs of this warning that's in place. I don't know if we can check the skies and you can show me how long it's going to take. You can see it's right here on the edge of Moore, moving in that direction, more of an east-south easterly direction so 90 mile per hour winds.
COOPER: Samantha, let me just jump in here. National Weather Service now reporting a new tornado, where was that tornado? Was it east, did you say, of the airport? Control room?
MOHR: Are you asking me?
COOPER: Just east of Will Rogers Airport, I'm being told, a new tornado according to the National Weather Service just east of Will Rogers Airport.
COOPER: That bulletin came out 6 minutes ago.
MOHR: Yes. That's exactly where. Yes.
COOPER: Can you show it on the map?
MOHR: This is the one I believe that you're seeing right here. That's the one that is near the airport that is moving off to the east and of course, very populated in this region. Here is the track that the Moore system is taking. So 7:37, so we're just about 5 minutes away from this incredibly strong wind. OK, three miles north- northwest of Moore, we do have a tornado being reported at this time.
It is moving right into Moore as we speak. That's why we had those very gusty winds. Did you guys say they were 90 mile per hour winds, confirmed tornado moving in -- moving southeast at 25. It is now northwest of Moore moving right into Moore at 25 miles per hour, producing 90 mile per hour winds.
Obviously, you need to be in the lowest level of your home in a basement or storm shelter. You definitely don't want to be out in it. You need to be in a very safe place as this strong system moves in, a confirmed tornado moving back into Moore, where we have already seen so much devastation in the past ten days.
COOPER: So let's just repeat this. You have a 90-miles-an-hour confirmed tornado moving back into Moore. Is it definite that Moore is in the line of sights of this thing?
MOHR: Confirmed tornado moving towards Moore. It's just west- northwest of town by three miles and is moving to the southeast at around 20 miles per hour. So it is moving into Moore and it has produced 90 mile per hour winds. So it's moving at the speed of around 20.
COOPER: Those are live images you're seeing on the right-hand side of your screen. Obviously, this is a huge concern not only because Moore has been hit already. They have suffered far more than any folks should, but there is an awful lot of debris still all around in areas that have already been hit by Moore. We saw that large track of the storm from more than a week ago. Lot of debris could be picked up, become airborne. We will follow that.
That's the live picture from the Moore area from KOCO. Oklahoma highway Patrol Trooper Betsy Randolph joins us now. Trooper Randolph, what's the situation? What kind of reports are you getting? I just saw one saying there are multiple tractor trailers overturned or vehicles overturned on I-40?
BETSY RANDOLPH, OKLAHOMA HIGHWAY PATROL (via telephone): I'm sorry, say that again?
COOPER: Trooper Randolph, what's the situation on I-40? I understand things are stay standstill and you have multiple vehicles overturned?
RANDOLPH: We do, this stretches from Tinker all the way back to El Reno, the entire metropolitan area Interstate 35 is at a standstill. We are desperately asking people to abandon Interstate 40 at this time. The storm is moving east so if you are on Interstate 40 east of the Oklahoma City metro area, we ask you to get off of the interstate, go south, very far south, even further south than I-240. We're asking folks to get off I-40 at this time.
If you're on Interstate 35 you're in standstill traffic as well coming into the metro. That's from Norman up to the Dallas junction or I-40. We ask folks to get off the interstate, please pay attention. The weather is treacherous right now. The roads are treacherous. We've got multiple crashes on I-40, injuries, trying to get transportation for people that are injured to the hospital. We're asking people please get off the interstate and seek shelter at this time. COOPER: So both Interstate 35 and also Interstate 40, if you are on either of those, you are advising people to try to get off that road as soon as possible and head east of Oklahoma City?
RANDOLPH: That is correct, east and south.
COOPER: Do you have -- how easy is it for people right now to get off those interstates?
RANDOLPH: I haven't even been able to get to that location so I can't tell you how easy it is. From listening to just the traffic of my fellow troopers in the Oklahoma City metro area, I would say that we're in a desperate situation and it's dire right now. People have to get off the interstate.
COOPER: Trooper Randolph, I appreciate that. We'll continue to check in with you. We have National Weather Service now confirming a tornado near Moore. Samantha Mohr just a short time ago saying that is heading toward Moore. Glenn Lewis is the mayor of Moore, Oklahoma and he joins us now. Mayor Lewis, what are you anticipating in Moore right now?
GLENN LEWIS, MAYOR OF MOORE (via telephone): Well, we don't really know. We're sitting in a storm shelter right now and they're telling us to basically take cover. They have blown the sirens again. You guys were just here last week. This is unbelievable. That it could possibly even hit again.
COOPER: This is the worst possible scenario, obviously. There is still an awful lot of debris on the ground, correct?
LEWIS: Yes, sir, there are. We just started picking it up two days ago with the FEMA people. I hope this doesn't scatter it all over again. We just have to start over if it does. Right now, I think everybody is more concerned about the people stuck in traffic on the interstate than anything, I-40 and I-35. I'm looking -- I can see I-35 has basically come to a stop out here in Moore. They're trying to get them off the service roads so they can get wherever but they actually need to go back south where the sun is shining.
COOPER: We just talked to the highway patrol. They recommend people get off I-35, off I-40, head east or south, just get away from this. You can see right now, Glenn Lewis, you can't see it but we're showing our viewers an aerial shot and the highway is just full of car lights. It looks bumper to bumper. It looks like it is at a standstill. That's the worst possible thing. You described it as just unbelievable that another storm system like this, another tornado, could be hitting Moore. How much warning have you had now, how long have the sirens been going off for?
LEWIS: The sirens went off about ten minutes ago, but we have been tracking this for the last hour on television. They have done a really good job of pointing this out. When it got over Oklahoma City, south of Oklahoma City, it kind of split up, there's like three storms going through right now different parts of the metro. I'm afraid Oklahoma City's probably been hit pretty hard. COOPER: Obviously the situation on the highway in Oklahoma City as we have been talking about, there's this Women's Softball World Series taking place all week. There were supposed to be two games tonight. We know players and fans right now are seeking safety underneath the stadium.
Obviously games have been canceled, but there's a lot of concern about -- there you see a tweet that was sent out a short time ago by someone from the University of Washington softball team. You get a sense of how crowded that underground shelter is. Mayor, how big is the shelter where you are right now, how many folks do you have in there?
LEWIS: Just a couple of us and a couple dogs. What we just heard the hockey game, they took about 8,000 people out of that game, went over to the Chesapeake Arena where they could get underground. We know that's just happened in Oklahoma City.
COOPER: Emergency Services are obviously stretched to a really difficult point right now. Not only evacuating the thousands of people, that game, also at the softball game, but you just heard and you can hear the urgency in that trooper's voice, just warning people get off the road. She hadn't even been able to get to the areas because of all the traffic. They do have multiple overturned vehicles. They have multiple reports of injuries.
Again, these are very early reports. I just want to caution we don't have confirmation on the nature of those injuries, how many overturned vehicles, but there have been reports from the Oklahoma highway patrol of overturned tractor trailers and also cars, and multiple injuries. We'll continue to follow that.
Mayor, stay safe. We'll continue to check in with you and our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Moore right now because this is the last thing any of those people have suffered so much need.
Our CNN senior producer, Denise Quan, is at the airport in the basement right now. Denise, what's the situation there? I understand there are more than 1,000 people who were at the airport. Denise, it's Anderson Cooper. I don't know if you can hear me. You're on the air. What's the situation there?
DENISE QUAN, CNN PRODUCER (via telephone): I'm sorry. It's a little spotty reception down here because I'm in the basement underneath Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City.
COOPER: Explain what the situation is there. What kind of shelter situation, how many people are you seeing?
QUAN: Well, I'm down in the basement. I think everybody who was waiting in the terminal for a flight is down here. I'm estimating could be maybe a thousand people, I'm not sure how many flights were affected. But down in this corridor, which is surrounded by concrete, we're all here and about I want to say 20 minutes ago or so, I think the tornado that had touched down passed over us. I also heard -- we didn't hear anything down here and people stayed relatively calm, very calm, in fact. Everybody was told to sit down on the floor and put their head between their knees and people pretty much complied. We're waiting but I think a supervisor was (inaudible) but I'm not quite sure how close the tornado was overhead. We don't have any information down here.
COOPER: Denise, I just want to jump in here. The National Weather Service now, for folks at Tinker Air Force Base, National Weather Service is reporting a developing tornado in the tinker air force base area. So obviously, people who are there need to take cover, need to shelter in place right now. Again, just the headline at this hour is the situation on the highways is dire, according to the highway patrol.
I-35, I-40, I-35 is bumper to bumper, people are not moving. They are urging people however you can to get off that highway, to get off I-35 and I-40 and go south or go east, but get away from these storm systems. Chad Myers, Chad, where are you? Are you on the highway?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST (via telephone): I am on Highway number 4 and that is well west of Oklahoma City, in a very safe position, but also looking at bumper to bumper traffic going two to four miles per hour. We have been doing this now for what seems like at least an hour. We are all the way down to where the turnpike, which is not that far south of New Castle, which is where the first part of the Moore tornado touched down.
All these people, I believe they're in a panic and we're going nowhere. The police are trying to help, but there's four lanes going south literally on a three lane road, almost. People are driving on the shoulder, on the left shoulder. I see police screaming north with their lights on, just trying to make one lane. Another police car would be going the other direction going somewhere else.
I believe from what I'm seeing here has happened on I-35 and I-40 that we will lose a lot of people. There will be fatalities because people stayed in their cars, tried to drive away from this storm rather than get in their storm shelters and stay there. I thought earlier today, we got on the road about ten after three going from Edmond to Norman so we could stay south of the storms. That's what we did.
There was a lot of traffic then. I thought wow, this is great, there's a lot of traffic, people are going home early, they will stay home and that's it. Maybe it's a Friday night, maybe people are going to go out anyway, but people are now stuck in this traffic and they are stuck -- we talked a lot about tornadoes, but this storm also probably has baseball size hail with it, as you're sitting in your car getting pelted by very large hail on I-40, 44.
COOPER: Chad, I got to jump in here. We'll continue to check in with Chad. The governor of Oklahoma, Governor Mary Fallin is joining me now. Governor Fallin, what's the situation? How concerned are you about what's happening right now on the ground? MARY FALLIN, GOVERNOR OF OKLAHOMA (via telephone): I'm very concerned right now. We have massive big storms around our major populated areas around Oklahoma City, Midwest City, Tinker Air Force Base, Moore, Norman. I'm here across from the capitol and it is hailing and blowing and raining extremely hard. Our tornado sirens have gone off several times.
We have -- my biggest concern right now is the traffic that's been out on the highway. We actually put warning signs with our Department of Transportation up on the highway about 4:00 today to be aware of the weather, that there could be a possibility of severe storms, and trying to get people just to go home and stay off the roads.
But looking at our local news stations right now, there's a lot of traffic on our major interstates and I called out the National Guard and our Oklahoma Highway Patrol and Emergency Management director and we're trying to do everything we can to get the traffic just moving in a direction away from the storm. I'm very concerned about the people that might be just in the wind and the hail and possible tornado path.
COOPER: Governor, I spoke to a spokesperson for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol who says it is a dire situation, talking about I-35, I- 40. They are urging people if they can to get off those highways, head east, head south, but they are saying it is bumper to bumper on I-35.
FALLIN: It is. It is. We did put up warning signs early in the afternoon today, when the skies were perfectly clear. They were cloudy but there were no thunderstorms on the radar at all. So we have been telling all day that people need to be aware and we had the signs up.
I think when the storms started moving in about 5:30 or 6:00, it was the time when people get off work, then you got people that are just traveling down the two major interstates that cross Oklahoma, and may not be aware how severe this weather might be. I know a lot of businesses let people off at 2:00, 3:00 this afternoon just to get them home and get them safe, because we knew we were going to have some bad weather.
COOPER: There are reports of multiple overturned vehicles, some tractor trailers, some cars, according to the highway patrol. There are reports of injuries. We don't know the extent of those. Do you have any reports of any update on that?
FALLIN: I have heard there are trucks overturned on our major interstate along I-40, which is a big area that people travel through, right through a major kind of shopping business district. And that was where -- it's kind of a slow-moving storm, which is always a problem. Then it's moving down towards I-35, other storms close to the Moore area.
I know they're getting heavy rain and it's hailing here where I'm at right now in the central part of Oklahoma City. But our big concern is that we've got to get people off the highways, get them safe. If they can get off an exit and just go to some building, get inside a building, especially inside of a basement itself.
That's the best thing because we saw after the last storm people who had cars in parking lots or some that were on the highways. They get tossed around real easy in high winds.
COOPER: Yes. Certainly I just talked to the mayor of Moore who you know very well, Governor Fallin, who said it's just unthinkable that his town could be hit yet again.
FALLIN: I know. We are heartsick about it. We hope this storm passes through and it's just some rain, but we do know that the winds are whipped up pretty good and it's just a loud rumble outside. It was hailing just loud from all the thunder and lightning.
As soon as it's safe to go out, I'm going to be checking to see where we have damage around the state. I know our command center is up and running. I've already talked to them several times. They have everybody in the command center and they're all working together just like they did last week.
COOPER: Well, if anybody can get through this, it's the people in Oklahoma, because unfortunately, you are all too familiar with these kinds of storms. We wish you the best. We'll continue to check in with you throughout this evening. Governor Fallin, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
Candice Looper is a resident in Moore. She is now sheltering in her laundry room with her cat. She joins us now on the phone. Candice, how are you holding up?
CANDICE LOOPER, TAKING SHELTER IN MOORE, OKLAHOMA (via telephone): I'm fine. I've been praying and I've been singing the Lord's Prayer and singing "Amazing Grace" so I'm OK.
COOPER: Do you have anyone else with you or just your cat?
LOOPER: Just my cat.
COOPER: How is the cat doing?
LOOPER: She's upset.
COOPER: So the laundry room that you're in, is that where you traditionally shelter?
LOOPER: I never actually had to in this house. I have only lived in this house a year. But it's the innermost room, it has no windows, it has two exits, and I've got giant couch pillows stacked up on me.
COOPER: Wow. So you actually have pillows stacked up on you?
LOOPE: Yes, seat cushions and pillows.
COOPER: Goodness. Where are you in Moore in terms of where the last tornado hit? I assume your house was OK from the last one?
LOOPER: Yes. I had a lot of debris and a lot of mud. Briarwood Elementary School was on 149th. I'm on 156th. I'm about straight across from the elementary school just that many blocks from it.
COOPER: OK, I know your neighborhood well. I was there just last week at Briarwood. There were some parts of the areas around Briarwood that as you said, the houses were OK, just got real dirty and had some minor damage, but they were spared. Briarwood of course, was completely destroyed, but thankfully all the students in Briarwood and all the teachers were safe. Can you believe, Candice, that another storm is heading toward Moore at this point?
LOOPER: No, I actually can't. No. I'm feeling something. I'm hearing noises and I just felt some water.
COOPER: What kind of noises -- what kind of noises are you hearing?
LOOPER: A little while ago it was wind but now it sounds like rain. But it's really funny being in this room and I actually felt something hit my arm. This room is totally intact.
COOPER: So you don't have any windows in that room.
LOOPER: No, I don't.
COOPER: That's certainly the safest place to be, then. Listen, Candice, we're going to continue to check in with you. Obviously we're trying to track this storm as closely as possible, figure out exactly where it is. But I wish you the best and we will check in with our Samantha Mohr, who has kind of got the big picture of where these two super cells are. How does the storm look at this point? Obviously, a lot of areas of concern, particularly as you heard from the governor what's happening on the highways.
MOHR: Yes. It is a big picture with both of these super cells. They keep regenerating here so they're not weakening at all. They stretch about 50 miles from end to end, if you measure both of them side by side here. We do have that tornado warning in effect for Moore as well as Midwest City, some 155,000 people affected. That is until 8:30 local time.
Here is Moore right here, right along I-35. Of course, Oklahoma City is to the north. Last report we had of a tornado was four miles west of Moore moving to the east-southeast at 30 miles per hour so obviously everyone in Moore sheltering in place, especially in light of what they have been through.
This by the way is the radar coming out of Tinker Air Force Base. They also have a tornado warning in place for them as well. They need to be sheltering. This tornado warning is in effect until 8:30 as well then we have yet another -- I'm sorry. Go ahead.
COOPER: Sorry. You might be just about to say this. I also just got a report from the national weather service of another tornado near Tuttle at 7:48, moving east-southeast at 25 miles an hour.
MOHR: Yes. I believe this is probably the warning you're talking about. This is kind of the back edge of the system that has formed this hook echo here. We do have some circulation showing up on our radar as well so report of that tornado in Tuttle. You can see this area is quite expansive. It's not going to end any time soon. Folks who are sheltering are probably going to be there for a number of hours, into the early hours of the morning potentially.
COOPER: There is also now a National Weather Service serious flash flooding threat over the whole Oklahoma City metro area. They're saying do not drive into areas where water covers the road, again, now, just some tragic news. KOCO reporting in Union City, one confirmed fatality, apparently a person in a car.
So again, this is basically what Chad Myers was talking about with all these people on the road. By the way, KOCO is quoting the Union City Police. So the Union City Police, according to KOCO, our affiliate, has confirmed one fatality said to be in a vehicle. We don't know the nature of how this person was killed.
But again, with all these people on the highway, you heard it from the governor, I-35, Interstate 40, there is just a very -- an awful lot of concern in a lot of quarters in Oklahoma City about what is happening on those highways right now.
The highway patrol urging people and I haven't talked to a highway patrol officer who sounded so urgent as the one we talked to early before Betsy Randolph, urging people if possible, get off those highways whether it's on a service road, however you can, get off them, head east or south, depending on where you are, but you need to get off the highways because it is a very dangerous situation.
Again, we have one fatality now confirmed. Chad Myers said to be in a vehicle in Union City. Chad, the situation now again, we don't know the exact reason behind that fatality. There were reports of multiple injuries before. We don't have a clear picture right now of kind of the impact these storms have had thus far, clearly having some trouble reaching Chad. We'll continue to try to check in with him.
George Howell was in Moore, Oklahoma. George, where did you move? You moved south of Moore, is that correct or west?
HOWELL: We're south of Moore, well out of the way of Moore. That's the good news, because a lot of people were getting on the highway. I can tell now that Interstate 35 definitely, we are not using Interstate 35. In fact, we're near noble, Oklahoma, south of Norman. We're out of the way of the area of concern.
Anderson, I can tell you that looking back here to my left, looking up to the north, it is a solidly black cloud and then on the other side it's light. We're staying right on that line, which is a good safe place, out of the way of the danger zone. But just looking back at the path of this storm, it is a storm that has been over the Oklahoma City area now for hours and has caused a lot of concern, a lot of damage possibly. We're waiting to get confirmation from officials. A lot of people, I can tell you, in that Moore area got out of the way. Those neighborhoods were empty. No one was in those homes. Certainly people covered, took shelter and that is the good news. But again, if there is damage in Moore, there will be a lot of debris flying around from the last tornado that came through. It's not a good place to be right now.
COOPER: Yes. Now a number of people without power believed to be around 40,000 there on the screen. So many areas of concern all across Oklahoma right now. I want to bring -- you know, George, again, we said this before and we talked to the mayor of Moore in this hour, we talked to a resident sheltering in place with her cat. But there is just so much debris still on the ground, though they started to clean up, they started recovery efforts in Moore, there's just an awful lot of debris that could become airborne and that's a huge concern.
HOWELL: Absolutely, absolutely. It's going to take a long time before that debris gets cleared. We were there earlier and you know the difference now from when you were here a few days ago, all the debris is in piles now. They started that process of at least trying to organize it so crews can move it out of the way.
But again, certainly there could be more damage. Certainly the debris there could be scattered about and again, if you're hearing this broadcast or if you're hearing the affiliates, if you are in that Moore area and you have not taken precautions, you need to get out of the way immediately.
COOPER: We're watching the situation in Moore, Oklahoma. We're watching the situation in Oklahoma City itself. We're watching the situation all along I-35, I-40. One confirmed fatality in Union City according to police there. There is a lot happening now. We'll be back one hour from now at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time, 9:00 p.m. Central Time, for all the latest on this storm. Right now, our coverage continues with Piers Morgan -- Piers.