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Assessing Tornado Damages; IRS Under Scrutiny; Tornadoes, Floods Slam Oklahoma; Interview with Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin
Aired June 1, 2013 - 15:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: It's the top of the hour. Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Miguel Marquez in for Fredricka Whitfield.
Tornadoes rip across the Midwest, leaving huge paths of destruction and reducing homes to piles of sticks. We are now getting a sense of how bad the damage is. Surveyors say EF-3 tornadoes hit Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma last night. That means wind speeds as high as 165 miles an hour. That's strong enough to rip roofs off homes and toss heavy cars around like toys. In Oklahoma, nine people died, including two children. Now crews are dealing with major flooding in Oklahoma and other parts of the Midwest, and thousands of people are still without power.
It hasn't even been two weeks since a giant tornado ravaged Moore, Oklahoma. And last night, people had to run for cover again as tornado sirens blared. Ed Lavandera is live in Union City for us, one town that is dealing with a lot of damage today. Ed, what's it like there on the ground?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK. We are just north of Union City, between Union City and El Reno and this is an area where one of those 17 tornadoes that touched down in the state of Oklahoma made its way through here yesterday. Came up this way and ravaged this neighborhood. These are homes that were damaged. This was really an area that was highly affected by the amount of traffic and the amount of cars that were on the roadway. Very difficult situation there.
I've been talking to several residents who said You know, I was wondering why people here in Oklahoma would jump in their cars. A combination of Friday afternoon traffic, a lot of people trying to escape the path of the tornado as well and then things just got jammed up and clogged on the roadway. So a very dangerous situation and right now, people here are kind of left to clean up the pieces. And we've got volunteers showing up in these neighborhoods already to help these folks and really people bringing trucks and trailers, doing whatever they can to make that initial sweep of their homes, to take away what they can at this point. So that is what they're facing.
There were nine people killed, as you mentioned, in these tornadoes, in these storms here in Oklahoma. More than 70 injured. So again, as one resident just told me a little while ago, who has lived in Oklahoma all of their lives, this has been the most devastating, brutal several weeks of tornadoes that they've ever seen. This is a tornado season people around here, Miguel, will never forget.
MARQUEZ: Yes, I can't imagine they're going to forget any time soon. It's a very rural area this time. Didn't have the massive numbers of people and the population center that these tornadoes hit. Do you have a sense because of that, it's sometimes hard for authorities to get to all these different places. Do you have a sense that authorities have a handle on everywhere they need to be?
LAVANDERA: You know, in the several areas I've had a chance to visit since we've been here in Oklahoma, they have been. We've already seen some power crews and crews cleaning up power lines. A lot of those lines are down and we're seeing sheriff's deputies that have roadways blocked off to prevent looters or at least try to keep these areas secure at night. Because what happens here, Miguel, in the next few hours, as the sun goes down, there is very little light, if any. So you know, looting becomes a big concern.
The gentleman who lives in this house was telling me last night that he slept out here in a truck. He was not only watching his house but was watching his neighbor's homes as well. So you know, when you come out into these areas it gets much darker at night and a little bit more treacherous and unsecure for a lot of people who live around here. Miguel.
MARQUEZ: All right. Ed Lavandera, near Union City, Oklahoma. Thank you very much and I know it's been a tough year for you as well. Thanks.
I want to bring in meteorologist Chad Myers. He's in Oklahoma City. Chad, we're hearing reports there were several EF3 storms that touched down. Is that the sort of storm damage you're seeing out there?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. No question about it. The EF3, somewhere along 130 to 150 miles per hour, not up to the EF-4 damage and certainly nowhere near Moore, what happened there, which was approaching the 210-mile-per-hour mark on some of those houses. And those houses actually we went and explored them yesterday. Clean-up is going OK, but OK is just a relative term.
What the crews are doing to those homes are just scraping the foundations now, the slabs, piling everything up right on the curb, which is literally almost as high as the old house was, and hoping that somebody will come and pick all that up as the city is going to do. But yesterday the storm has developed out in El Reno. The first storm of the day, we were on that very storm that, in fact, got in the way of a couple of storm chasers.
Most tornadoes in Oklahoma and across the country travel a little bit farther to the north east. The storm yesterday traveled south of due east, putting all the people that usually position themselves south of the storm in the way. And then another storm system developed behind that, another behind that. By the time, Miguel, by the time, we were done, we put 210 miles on our vehicle just trying to get away from these cells that kept coming at us and coming at us and coming at us. We would have literally driven 80 miles. Maybe probably less. Maybe 40, had the storms gone in the proper direction to the northeast. We would have sat right there. One storm would have gone by. We would have waited. Another would have gone by and another would have gone by. We would have seen three or four tornadoes in one day but they didn't travel that way. They chased all those storm chasers ought of the way.
And obviously, they chased a lot of people out of the houses, too. Those people were on the roadways, trying to get out of the way of the storm. Luckily, there wasn't an EF-4 on the ground. Because miles and miles of parked cars on the interstate was a really bad idea yesterday and they all would have all been very, very hurt. When an EF-4 or 5 gets done with your car, there's no room left for you in it. So thank goodness there wasn't that big tornado on the ground like there was that Moore day, May 20th.
MARQUEZ: Boy, yes. Thank you very much, Chad Myers for us. Thank you.
In Missouri, listen to not just what people are seeing but hearing as the skies darkened. An I-reporter took it all in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tornado warning. Seek shelter now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUEZ: Now the tornado warnings proved to be all too accurate. Two of them reportedly touched down, one as strong as an EF-3, according to the National Weather Service. Parts of more than 200 roads in the state are closed due to flooding. At this hour, more than 81,000 people are without power. The governor has declared a state of emergency.
The damage from this destructive system stretches into Illinois, the town of Gillespie is about an hour's drive northeast from St. Louis. It's now starting the summer with a major clean-up at its high school, which was damaged from a tornado just four years ago.
Meteorologist Jennifer Delgado is live from the school for us. Jennifer, how are things on the ground there?
JENNIFER DELGADO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, on the ground here, this area here, roughly about 3,000 people of Gillespie suffered some extensive damage. Now just look at this damage, from the high school and gymnasium, you can see the bricks down. Earlier, we talked about the damage here. We do know now that this has been confirmed, it is an EF-2.
Now the damage that you're seeing in the school, now keep in mind, this is built almost 90 years ago. This is a pretty sturdy structure, Miguel. But you see how all the bricks collapsed and kind of moved in that more westerly direction. Well, that's a sign of those storms coming through but in the northeastern part of the town, we do know that seven homes were destroyed and now we're getting new numbers in that 30 of those were actually damaged.
So right now, they're not livable. Now what we do know is no injuries, and that is some good news. Especially, keep in mind, that this was an EF-2, that's max wind of roughly 135 miles per hour.
Now we have the mayor of Gillespie, his name is John Hicks. If you'll step in here for us. We want to ask you, you know, how lucky do you feel for your town did not have injuries especially now that you are seeing this damage out here?
MAYOR JOHN HICKS, GILLESPIE, ILLINOIS: We're especially lucky for us because just last weekend there was a big celebration in the town south of us. Many, many people and next week, coming in Gillespie, we have a celebration. On a Friday night, the town would have been full of people. There would have been very serious injuries, I'm sure.
DELGADO: You just said that you just talked to the National Weather Service survey team. What did they tell you? Now you saw the damage here but it's worse in other parts of the town.
HICKS: Basically told, confirmed an EF-2. And from there, I guess what we can do now -
DELGADO: And tell me about some of the damage that you're seeing in some of those other homes.
HICKS: Some of the homes had roofs lifted off and some of them had them pushed down as if they were stomped on. So the damage is varying from place to place, very intense on Henry and Park (INAUDIBLE) here in Gillespie.
DELGADO: Definitely. All right. Well, we're glad to hear that no one was hurt. And Miguel, you asked me this last hour, you do see the mayor does have an injury. This is not related to the storm here. Thank you for talking to us.
Meanwhile in St. Louis, as you mentioned, Miguel, they had two EF-3s as well as an EF-2. So, yes, Oklahoma got hit hardest. Well, we're also talking about areas like Missouri and Illinois. Now keep in mind, we're moving to June, we typically see about 129 tornadoes. And that's a big drop when we average in May with roughly right around 330. It's been a violent season. With an EF-2 here, and that's a strong tornado. Miguel.
MARQUEZ: Yes, even though it's not the strongest, it knocked down that wall and certainly could have taken lives. Thank god nobody was injured there. Thanks, Jennifer.
And in Arkansas, three people are still missing after this destructive system hit the state on Thursday. Scott County sheriff Cody Carpenter apparently drowned while trying to help rescue two women trapped by flooding inside their home. Search teams are looking for those women and the wildlife officer who was assisting the sheriff. You've heard the story of an Arizona mom who spent a week in a Mexican jail falsely accused of drug charges. I'll talk to a marine who spent four months in a Mexican jail and he says he was innocent.
MARQUEZ: An American mom who was locked up in a Mexican jail for a week is spending the weekend with her family at home in Arizona. Yanira Maldonado was accused of trying to smuggle 12-lbs of marijuana from Mexico into the U.S.. Mexican authorities claim they found marijuana under her bus seat. But a judge freed her after he reviewed a video showing Maldonado boarding a bus, she just had a purse, blankets and bottles of water, nothing large enough to carry that amount of marijuana. A Mexican state official told CNN it appears Maldonado was framed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YANIRA MALDONADO, FREED FROM MEXICAN JAIL: I love Mexico. My family is still there. So, Mexico - it's not Mexico's fault. It's a few people who, you know, do this to me and probably to other people. Who knows?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUEZ: The case of Yanira Maldonado is raising questions whether American tourists are being targeted by Mexican officials. Last August, Marine Lance Corporal Jon Hammar was detained. He and a friend set out on a pleasure trip to Costa Rica to help him deal with the stress after some stressful tours, I'm sure, in Iraq and Afghanistan. He got stopped at the Mexican border near Brownsville, Texas and was jailed for more than four months all because he had an antique rifle used for hunting in his RV.
I believe, Jon Hammar, he joins us live from Miami. John, thank you very much for being here. I believe the shotgun you had, you actually had a permit for. Is that correct?
JON HAMMAR, JAILED FOR FOUR MONTHS: Yes. I registered it on the American side, paid a fee for it, got the registration, then brought it over to the Mexican side and declared it.
MARQUEZ: Do you get the sense that this is isolated? You saw what happened this week with Miss Maldonado. We know your case. Were there other Americans there with you? Do you follow this now? Do you get the sense this is an isolated incident?
HAMMAR: There's a lot of different things going on in the frontera right now where the border of Texas and Mexico meets. But yes, there were other Americans in there. Some of them actually did things wrong, but in my case, you know, I wasn't smuggling drugs. I wasn't doing the normal thing that goes down in that area.
MARQUEZ: Yes, I spoke to your mom early on and I felt terrible for you, because you were going down to surf, as I understand, in Costa Rica, right? HAMMAR: Yes.
MARQUEZ: The four months you were there, certainly much worse than Miss Maldonado had. What were they like? Recount some of the worst that you had in those jail.
HAMMAR: Well, I spent five months inside that jail. The first 2 1/2 months, I was chained to a rack, which was up against the back of a shed wall that was like an indoor/outdoor shed. You know, it was tough, you know. It's not - it's hard to go to jail for something that you didn't do and sit in there and keep your cool the whole time. But I got through it. Sounds like she got through it. And, you know, here I am today. I'm grateful for that, to everyone that helped me out.
MARQUEZ: I bet you are. There's another Marine who disappeared in Mexico, Armando Torres, did you know him?
HAMMAR: This new incident, I did not know him. But I heard about it a couple of weeks back. You know, it's a shame because nobody has heard from him and he's not in a jail. So nobody knows exactly what's going on. At least when you're in a jail, if you die in a jail, eventually somebody is going to find out. Or if something bad happens to you in a jail eventually the Americans are going to find out. But in the street in Mexico, if you disappear, it's very dangerous.
MARQUEZ: Anything - look, I love Mexico. I travel down there a fair amount. But would you go back? Is there anything that you would suggest to people traveling to Mexico?
HAMMAR: I would suggest never travel in Mexico at night. And try to be a good influence on Mexico rather than a bad influence on Mexico, because they need some help right now.
MARQUEZ: How are you doing right now? You got out of the military, you go to have this great adventure with your buddy, you get thrown into a Mexican prison for months on end. How are you doing now? What are you doing with your life now?
HAMMAR: Right now, I'm just kind of getting back to normal. Looking into, you know, different jobs I could do with myself, organize my life and advance to the next chapter.
MARQUEZ: All right. Jon Hammar, thanks for being with us this afternoon.
HAMMAR: Thank you.
MARQUEZ: So you think people are mad at the IRS now? Wait till you see this. Employees learning the cupid shuffle on the public's dime. We're back on with a caught on video moment that you just won't believe.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MARQUEZ: It's another embarrassing revelation for the IRS. A video from 2010 conference has surfaced. It's a dance video starring IRS employees, paid for with taxpayer dollars. As Athena Jones reports, this is not the only excessive expense under scrutiny.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Americans deserve an efficient, effective government that works for them.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As if the IRS didn't have enough trouble already -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Taxpayers have a right to know what they get from their government.
JONES: The agency's inspector general is set to release a report next week about wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars at IRS conferences.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To the right.
JONES: Shining a spotlight on videos like this one, showing IRS employees learning a dance called "the cupid shuffle."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their dream, to become the next great dance sensation. This is their story.
JONES: The IRS said in a statement that the video, produced for a 2010 conference, was unacceptable and an inappropriate use of government funds. The IRS and the government as a whole now have strict new policies and procedures in place to ensure that taxpayer funds are being used appropriately.
The dance video isn't the only one in question. Its price tag of $1,600 is a drop in the bucket compared to the $60,000 the agency spent to produce two other training videos. This 16-minute long "Gilligan Island" themed one -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw a ship. No, really, I saw a ship. Take a look for yourself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gilligan, you see ships all the time. And they're usually just little specks on the horizon.
JONES: And this "Star Trek" spoof.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To boldly go where no government employee has gone before.
JONES: Also shown at the 2010 conference.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Captain, we've uncovered a complex tax evasion scheme using several off (INAUDIBLE) accounts.
JONES: Videos that opened a new frontier of trouble for the IRS. (END VIDEOTAPE)
MARQUEZ: Oh, dear, oh, dear. Athena Jones is on the north lawn of the White House. So how is the Obama administration handling this latest controversy? It seems to get hit with a new one just about every week.
JONES: It does seem like that, Miguel. I can tell you the White House isn't commenting on these videos. But they do say the administration is cooperating with congressional oversight of the IRS. There are at least three hearings next week, involving IRS officials and matters involving the IRS.
I can also tell you that officials here say they have a lot of faith in the new IRS commissioner, the acting commissioner, I should say, Daniel Warfel. He is taking part in a systemic review of the entire agency in order to restore integrity to the agency's operations and Warfel has said that that 2010 conference is not the kind of conference that's going to take place under his watch. And he and other officials have also stressed that new rules and policies and procedures are in place to make sure that that kind of excessive spending isn't still going on, Miguel.
MARQUEZ: Yes, Athena, so many controversies swirling around the White House. Some of them, they say, imagined, some of them perhaps real, perhaps a little bit of both. The White House really not responding. What is the sense on the ground there in Washington? Does it feel like the White House is under fire?
JONES: Well, it certainly does feel somewhat like the White House is under fire. Certainly there's been a lot of attention to many of these ongoing issues, whether it's the IRS, whether it's Benghazi and also this leak investigation. So there's a lot going on, a lot of questions being asked of the White House. But they would say - they are responding. They have put in place a new commissioner at least with this IRS story who is going to be making changes. He's carrying out this review, this 30-day review. It's an ongoing process and he will put in any additional changes that need to be put in place in order to make sure the IRS is doing its job and not wasting taxpayer money. Miguel?
MARQUEZ: Lovely politics. The soup of Washington. Thank you, Athena Jones.
MARQUEZ: Around the world, millions of girls are just trying to get access to basic education. And for many getting transportation to school can be the biggest challenge. Today, we tell you how a girl in rural Peru is overcoming that challenge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EULALIA (through translator): My name is Eulalia. I have six brothers and sisters. Where I live, there are no schools. Every Monday, we ride a motorcycle to go to my school. When my dad is not home, I walk to school. It takes two hours.
EDWIN, EULALIA'S FATHER (through translator): I want to help Olalia her go to school because I want her to have a better education than mine.
EULALIA (through translator): I like math, especially multiplying. During the week, I sleep in the school dorms. For me, it's difficult to be far from my parents. When I'm with my classmates, they make me smile. On Saturday and Sunday, when I'm at home, I do my homework with my mother.
MARUJA, EULALIA'S MOTHER (through translator): She teaches me addition, subtraction, things like that. I can't read very well either, so she shows me how to read.
EULALIA: (through translator): I want to be a teacher.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUEZ: Eulalia. I love that name. CNN's films "Girl Rising" premieres Sunday, June 16, at 9:00 p.m., Eastern.
Tornadoes ripped through three states, Oklahoma took the brunt of the damage. We'll talk to the state's governor in just a moment and get her assessment of the damage and the recovery.
MARQUEZ: We are assessing the damage after storms ripped through several midwestern states last night. In Oklahoma, nine people died, including two children. And this comes as those communities struggle to recover from even bigger twister that touched down almost two weeks ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my goodness! Oh, my goodness!
MARQUEZ (voice-over): More than 600 miles of terror. A massive storm system once again sweeping through tornado alley, from Oklahoma all the way to Indiana.
In Union City, Oklahoma, storm chaser Brandon Sullivan caught a storm and maybe more than he bargained for.
BRANDON SULLIVAN, STORM CHASER: We're going to die!
MARQUEZ: At least 17 tornadoes reported, like this one, in El Reno, Oklahoma.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow!
MARQUEZ: Then, there's this in El Reno, a double tornado turning into a single twister as people narrowly escape. Even the Weather Channel's storm chaser's heavy SUV wasn't spared. A tornado found it and tossed it some 200 yards. Only minor injuries for meteorologist Mike Bettes and his team.
In an area already traumatized by storms, flash flooding in Oklahoma City turned streets into rivers. Some drivers could only stand on their cars waiting for rescue.
Outside of Oklahoma City, cars flipped off freeways. This woman tried to outrun the storm. A state trooper helped her check for debris lodged in her head.
The damage from wind and rain? Massive. This road east of Oklahoma City nearly washed away. You can see the earth beneath it, falling away.
Across a huge swath of the country, power cut to hundreds of thousands. Power lines like this one in Bridgeton, Missouri, on fire or knocked right over. Even before the sun rose, businesses took stock of the damage. Trucks and warehouses badly damaged in Earth City, Missouri.
RICH BIGHAM, S.P. RICHARDS WAREHOUSE MANAGER: One of the tractor trailers blew over, rolled over his car. We've got four or five trucks that are damaged.
MARQUEZ: Driving in towns or highways, treacherous. Not only flooding, but lightning and debris on roads made for slow going across the storm's path.
In Gillespie, Illinois, the high school badly damaged. The hope now? No more tornadoes, in a year where Mother Nature has been unrelenting.
MARQUEZ: Now, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin joins me on the phone from Oklahoma City.
Governor, we are so sorry to hear about the life loss and destruction in your state once again. Do you think the worse is over? Do you think the fatalities and injury numbers will go up any?
GOV. MARY FALLIN (R), OKLAHOMA (via telephone): We certainly hope so. We were just taken by surprise, shock that we could have another storm like this in Oklahoma. We weren't surprised the weather got bad, but we just couldn't believe that we were having to go through this all again in such a short period of time after we had such terrible storms the week before.
But I will say the state is responding well. We're good at handling disasters, we were well prepared yesterday. We opened up our command center early, while the sun is still shining, just a couple of clouds in the skies.
We actually had alerted our Department of Transportation to utilize their electronic signs over their highways, that basically said be aware that there is potential for damaging storms from 4:00 to 6:00 tonight and be on the lookout and keep your radios tuned on and watch the newscasts. Stay off the streets. So, we were telling people.
And the highway patrol, local law enforcement in the various counties that were hit did a superb job going up and down the highways with their lights and sirens on to let people know about storms that can be coming up really quickly. And even employers started letting their employees go home at 3:00, 4:00 in the afternoon and storms started coming down about 5:30 to 6:00 on.
And the biggest challenge we had last night was a lot of people, I think -- as far as we can tell, probably left their homes and were going to just find another bigger, secure building somewhere, maybe those that didn't have storm shelters. So, our major intersect got clogged up as the storm that's coming through, both the east and west interstate, north and south interstate were jam-packed with cars which is just a really horrific sight to see. We were worried about the people in the cars. Sure enough, we did lose nine lives, which is terrible.
MARQUEZ: Governor --
FALLIN: Haven't gotten the details yet on how, but we do know we've lost life last night.
MARQUEZ: Is that a function of the emergency system working too well, that too many people went out seeking shelter and got caught up in it?
FALLIN: I think everyone was just on edge about what had happened in Moore. Of course, the tornadoes that hit yesterday weren't of that strength. They were less powerful, but we just knew the conditions were pretty bad. Wind was blowing very hard.
It was hailing. Some are telling me they had baseball-sized hail. One guy said he had 45 holes in his roof from the hail itself.
So, I think some people left work early. Some were just out, going to local hospitals, libraries, office buildings to get down into basements.
Interesting story I heard, we had about 300 people in the major airport here in Oklahoma City, and all of a sudden, the public came to the airport. I heard at one point, it could have been over 1,700 that actually went to the airport to go underground --
MARQUEZ: Oh, wow.
FALLIN: -- in the parking tunnels. That caused a traffic jam.
MARQUEZ: I want to make sure I understand. Do you think the casualties -- we've seen all the casualties we're going to see out of this series of storms? It won't go any higher?
FALLIN: I don't know yet. I mean, that's all that's been reported that the point in time. We certainly hope that it is. Our thoughts and prayers are with those that lost loved ones. We had about 104 different people who were injured in the hospitals that were coming in. I got a report early this morning of a person that was stranded with the flooding.
The flooding has been a big issue last night and today. It kind of took us by surprise. We had a lot of rain last week.
It's interesting. We've been suffering through a big drought the last couple of years and now we have the opposite problem of flooding around the state. Of course, power lines that were down in the damaged areas.
It's been a challenge, and certainly stretching probably the stamina of some of the first responders right now. But everybody is doing well. Everybody is doing their job. We're going to get through this again.
MARQUEZ: Governor Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, our hearts go out to you. Our thoughts are with you. Very, very good luck to you and all the folks out there.
FALLIN: Well, thank you. We sure appreciate the prayers and we appreciate all the help we got from across the nation. It made a big difference for us.
MARQUEZ: Thanks, Governor. Good luck.
There are ways you can help the victims of this weekend's storms. Go to CNN.com/impact for the latest on Oklahoma and the many ways you can help to make a difference in the recovery. That's CNN.com/impact.
A quick programming note, "SANJAY GUPTA, M.D." that's normally seen right now will be seen tomorrow morning at 7:30 Eastern Time. Sanjay will investigate why more young women and men are suffering strokes.
It's been a mystery for 76 years, the disappearance of Amelia Earhart in her plane. Someone says they may have now found it.
MARQUEZ: It's a grainy image from the bottom of the South Pacific and it may show us what's left of Amelia Earhart's plane. This is it right here. It could clear up a 76-year-old mystery. Of course, we've heard this sort of thing before.
Let's bring in Brian Todd to show us what may be different this time around.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miguel, we've heard about potential discoveries in the Amelia Earhart case for many years. What may be different this time, though, is the size and shape of something on an ocean shelf in the middle of the Pacific. The man who discovered it says this is enough of a hit to go looking again for the traces of the woman who's captivated our imagination for 76 years.
(voice-over): A man who has been chasing the mystery of Amelia Earhart for a quarter century believes this grainy, almost pixelated looking image from the ocean floor may bring us closer to finding her.
RIC GILLESPIE, THE INTL. GROUP OF HISTORIC AIRCRAFT RECOVERY: It's unlike anything else on this whole reef that shows up on the sonar imagery.
TODD: Ric Gillespie is with the International Group of Historic Aircraft Recovery. With a roving submersible, his team captured this, a sonar image. He says this anomaly o an ocean shelf off the coast of the Pacific island of Nikumaroro could be the remnants of Earhart's Lockheed Electra plane. On July 2nd, 1937, Amelia Earhart attempting to become the first person to fly around the globe at the equator vanished off Howland, the last place where monitors lost contact with her. Not a trace of Earhart or her plane have ever been found.
For years, Gillespie and his team have believed that her plane went down off Nikumaroro, about 300 miles southeast of Howland. I held a rendering of what the split up fuselage might look like up against Gillespie's new image.
(on camera): Why do you think the anomaly on the ocean floor matches the fuselage of Earhart's plane?
GILLESPIE: We know how a Lockheed Electra breaks up in a crash. We've studied other crashes and we know that the center section of the airplane is the strongest part, the part that holds together. The engines tend to come off. The outer wings come off. The fuselage breaks behind the wing.
So the size of the anomaly image matches the part of an Electra that hangs together the best.
TODD (voice-over): Gillespie admits there is a chance this isn't Earhart's plane. Still, he's trying to raise $3 million for an expedition to Nikumaroro next year.
(on camera): But there are plenty of skeptics of Gillespie's latest theory and of his work overall. The skeptics believe he has attached himself to the idea that the remains of Earhart's plane are off Nikumaroro and they believe he's flat wrong.
(voice-over): One skeptic, Dorothy Cochrane, curator at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington.
DOROTHY COCHRANE, SMITHSONIAN NATIONAL AIR & SPACE MUSEUM: There is nothing that says this was part of Earhart's equipment. There's nothing that has a number, a designation that would indicate it was part of Amelia Earhart's aircraft. There's nothing that can only be traced to Amelia Earhart.
TODD (on camera): Cochrane points out Gillespie has launched other expeditions to Nikumaroro that have dug up human bones, items common to that era, but that he's never found proof that Amelia Earhart is there. Cochrane and other historians believe that Earhart's remains are somewhere near Howland Island. She says that's based on Earhart's radio transmissions and the fact that she was circling close to Howland Island when she disappeared -- Miguel. (END VIDEOTAPE)
MARQUEZ: Brian Todd, the mystery goes on and on. Thank you very much.
Sheer devastation in the Midwest. See the toll taken by several deadly tornadoes, next.
MARQUEZ: Deadly tornadoes left their mark on the Midwest, from Oklahoma to Illinois. Nine people were killed in the storms in Oklahoma yesterday, including two children. Most of the victims were in cars.
This comes as Oklahoma is trying to recover from a giant tornado that slammed into Moore almost two weeks ago. Yesterday's twisters were smaller but they still left behind plenty of damage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a sombering, you know, feeling, just to see all your stuff, your memories from your childhood just scattered around, you know. Stuff's ruined, trashed, you know?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a very friendly community. The mother of the house here is an American Red Cross volunteer and she also works with some of the communities and she's just seemed glad for the help. So I'm grateful to be here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUEZ: That woman is a volunteer who showed up to help when she heard about the devastation.
Of course, we haven't even mentioned hurricane season yet. It begins today. And experts say it will be an active season in the Atlantic, with as many as 11 hurricanes. But any look forward is haunted by looking back at hurricane Sandy. We've learned a lot from that catastrophic storm.
Here's John Zarrella.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miguel, with the start of hurricane season, forecasters are warning people, all the way from Texas to Maine, to be prepared. Last year's hurricane Sandy certainly reinforced that point.
(voice-over): From Florida to Maine, superstorm Sandy's long reach touched every state along the Eastern Seaboard. Hardest hit, New Jersey and New York. Cities, towns, swallowed up as Sandy's catastrophic storm surge swept ashore.
Many of the 117 people who didn't survive drowned. In the aftermath, federal and local emergency managers are trying to understand why some people simply didn't get the message. Get out.
CRAIG FUGATE, FEMA DIRECTOR: Of all the disasters we deal with, hurricanes are the one that we map and spend a lot of time trying to figure out who is at risk and then get the messaging out there for them to evacuate with time to leave. And then there are still people that remain behind for all kinds of reasons. And that's where we see, unfortunately, the greatest loss of life.
ZARRELLA: One reason may have been because of what Sandy wasn't.
Rick Knabb is director of the National Hurricane Center.
RICK KNABB, HURRICANE CENTER DIRECTOR: There is no doubt that the phrase hurricane warning is more attention getting.
ZARRELLA: But there wasn't a hurricane warning because Sandy, while a superstorm with hurricane force winds, wasn't a hurricane technically when it made landfall near Brigantine, New Jersey, on October 29th.
KNABB: We had a difficult dilemma on our hands.
ZARRELLA: To avoid what they felt would be confusion and misrepresenting the storm, the National Weather Service decided to go with high winds and flood warnings. It's impossible to say whether some lives would have been saved if the attention getting hurricane warning was in place. But if and when there's a next time, forecasters say there won't be an issue. Policy has been changed.
KNABB: The Weather Service can issue or keep up hurricane and tropical storm watches and warnings even if something isn't technically a hurricane or tropical storm anymore.
ZARRELLA: But hurricane forecasters and emergency managers argue, no matter what you call it, people aren't necessarily prepared for the storm threat they're most vulnerable to.
KNABB: Some places are vulnerable to storm surge, some aren't. Some places are vulnerable to river flooding. Some aren't.
FUGATE: Don't focus on the skinny black line, don't focus on the number. Focus on the impacts, what you need to do to protect your family.
ZARRELLA: And do it now. It's too late to figure out a plan when the storm is at your doorstep.
(on camera): This is expected to be an active hurricane season, which doesn't necessarily mean the hurricane will hit the United States, but it certainly increases the odds -- Miguel.
MARQUEZ: When you hear Landon Weeks play the piano, his talents are obvious. But when you see him, you'll be amazed that he is able to play so beautifully. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has his story in this week's "Human Factor."
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Nothing makes Landon Weeks happier than singing and playing his piano. But as you listen to him play, look closely. Something about this 16- year-old may surprise you. Weeks was born with a condition called phocomelia. It's a rare birth defect that mostly affects the development of upper limbs.
LANDON WEEKS, 17-YEAR-OLD MUSICIAN: Well, in my case, it's a fused radius and ulna, their shorter and my elbow is like bent backwards, so it's in and I have two fingers and my slanted thumbs.
GUPTA: And yet there are few things Weeks can't do. He's been zip lining, horseback riding and he's one of a small number of Boy Scouts to earn every available merit badge.
WEEKS: This is drama and you have to like make up like a pantomime thing and like act it out. Let's see. There's cycling. You have to do a 50-mile bike ride.
GUPTA: But playing the piano that's his first love. Weeks started lessons in the fourth grade and today he practices two hours a day and says his dream is to play for audiences around the world.
WEEKS (singing): When I see my arms there's not a thing that I would change because they are amazing just the way they are --
GUPTA: He's already won over local audiences, playing at assemblies around his hometown of Ogden, Utah. He's even gotten fan mail.
WEEKS: Dear Landon, you were -- you were awesome and you are better than anyone in the world.
GUPTA: Weeks says that his short arms are a gift, not a disability and he shares his wisdom with the children he performs for.
WEEKS: Keep going and never give up. And just -- if it's hard just keep trying and it will come to you eventually.
GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.
MARQUEZ: Very sweet.
Storm chasers run into a powerful tornado in Oklahoma and they get a little too close.
A close call that we'll hear more from the storm chaser himself, just ahead.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MARQUEZ: This is what's left of homes that people in Union City, Oklahoma, once cherished. They were now shredded, ripped apart by the series of deadly tornadoes last night. Surveyors say EF-3 tornadoes not only hit parts of Oklahoma, but Illinois and Missouri as well, nine people died, two of them children. Officials now say more than 100 people were injured.
A lot of extraordinary video we've seen of those deadly tornadoes across the Midwest comes from storm chasers. But even storm chases get scared when they get a little too close.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, don't turn, no! No! Brent, if you don't go south, we're going to die!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're fine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back down. Back down. You're good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUEZ: Crazy. That was Brandon Sullivan, driving right near a tornado outbreak. I spoke with him a short time ago about his terrifying experience.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRANDON SULLIVAN, STORM CHASER (via telephone): It definitely got, you know, very intense. Off to my right was a very large tornado. It grew rapidly. You know, actually, in the end, the tornado ended up passing about half a mile to our north, so we were a good distance from it, but it was so strong that the winds ripped apart a barn right in front of us and threw all the debris into our car that you can see.
MARQUEZ: It's just amazing. You've been chasing tornadoes since you were 14, as I understand it. I don't think you ever caught one. Do you want to catch one again?
SULLIVAN: Yes, that's correct, I've been chasing since I was about 14. You know, we've captured a lot of incredible photos. We're usually right there in the action. We definitely got too close yesterday.
Yes, we are going to continue chasing. But next time I'm not going to hold our team from leaving so long. I think we will stop sooner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUEZ: Sensible advice.
I'm Miguel Marquez. I'll be back with you tomorrow starting at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.
Right now, my colleague, Don Lemon, picks up our coverage of the Midwest tornadoes. He's live in his new home, in New York City -- Don.