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Deadly Tornadoes Ripping Through Texas; Torrential Rains, Wildfires Across Country; Another Controversial Chicago Police Shooting; Reuniting Homeless with Families. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired December 27, 2015 - 06:00   ET


[06:00:16] (HEADLINES)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN HOST: Breaking overnight, a deadly end to the holiday weekend in Texas, storms and tornado ripping through the Dallas area. Look at this video, killing eight people. This is just one of many showing this -- the power of these storms that we've been seeing.

ERROL BARNETT, CNN HOST: And take a look at this couple sitting down to dinner watching the storm.





BARNETT: Just incredible and as you see here, a massive funnel cloud as it moves across the sky. This is in the town of Garland.

PAUL: In Garland, the storm nearly leveled this gas station. Look at what's left here. One person said all they heard was roaring when the storm blew through. We are always grateful for your company. Thank for being with us, I'm Christi Paul.

BARNETT: And I'm Errol Barnett filling in for Victor Blackwell. It is 5:00 a.m. in Dallas Texas. And residents that just now waking up to examine all of the devastation there.

PAUL: Yeah, Sara Sidner in fact is following the details from the New York. Sara, what are you learning this morning?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The death toll keeps rising in this storm so destructive in the Dallas area. Look at that picture there. When you see those light flash and you see that massive tornado coming at people. And some of the people who were killed were on the road. It's hard to get away from these things on I-30. A very big thoroughfare, big freeway there, killed as they were in their cars trying to make it to safety. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: A deadly night in North Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I see it! It's crossing the highway right there! I can see it!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yup, there it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh it's very big. Oh, it's massive.


SIDNER: Fierce storms and tornado swept through the Dallas area. This video captured the tornado as it move to the city of Rowlett.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh there it is.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is big, big, big.

SIDNER: At least five deaths were reported in Garland, Texas, after a tornado hit Interstate 30.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I actually looked at the twister.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible) you were -- okay. Describe it for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's was just a dark -- it's a dark funnel when it was -- and just a big roar. It was really scary. It scared me. I mean I don't scare that easy but I was scared.

SIDNER: Several homes were destroyed. Lawns littered with debris and cars tossed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your daughter's car...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her car is in this garage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's in the kitchen here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's in the kitchen right there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the back of your house, yes it is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. And my husband's car was in the driveway. It's up and around into the alley.

SIDNER: When the storm hit, Lafayette Griffin(ph) huddled with his family under a mattress and prayed.

LAFAYETTE GRIFFIN (?): It was terrifying. It was terrifying. They were terrified. You know, they didn't know if they'll going to make it. SIDNER: The storms are all are part of a severe weather system that devastated the South this holiday weekend with deaths in Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Residents assess the damage in Glenn Heights. This man lost his home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a grace of God, his words, men (ph). I'm really grateful. You know, my wife works not that far from here. If I didn't call her, she would be here and now and my kids would be here too. So, you know, I have (inaudible) is this.

SIDNER: In Sunnyvale, Texas, the front facade was ripped off of this house but Larry Allan(ph) is just grateful he and his family weren't home.

LARRY ALLAN (?): Someone calls and we think your house going to be direct hit. Are you all home, because we are in your house looking for you. So our neighbors came in our house, people around, several streets, who came to look and see if we're actually in the house and we weren't. So, you know, we waited for the weather to calm down and drove over and when we came up, our family, our friends, our church, we're all in the house cleaning stuff up. And, you know, it's amazing how people in this community just take charge.


SIDNER: And as it becomes light, there were about 3000 or more people who are without power. Really tough time as this is a Holiday weekend.

[06:05:02] A lot of folks hanging out with family and getting ready to leave today and going through all of this just after Christmas. Christi.

PAUL: So just to clarify. They're halting search and rescue until daylight hits? Is that right?

SIDNER: Yeah, that's right. And we're almost there, we're getting very, very close...

PAUL: Sure.

SIDNER: the time when sort of day breaks. But the thing with the rescuers as is that they want to make sure that they don't get into trouble, very unsafe. I mean when you look at those pictures, when you see that tornado, you can't see it until the lightning strikes and then it is right up on you. I mean that is a perfect example of how dangerous these storms are. They come at you. You can hear them often before you see them. And incredibly dangerous and has proven to be deadly. Christi.

PAUL: I would think, can -- I mean can you imagine how frightening it would be to be in the dark and yet hear it?

BARNETT: And also consider that, Sara, these things appear without warning and let's -- we haven't even mentioned how unusual it is to have so many tornadoes. This hasn't been the only one, in the month of December.

PAUL: December.

BARNETT: So if you're out with your family hoping to get home or travel this weekend, you've really been hit by this out of the blue for many people, right, Sara?

SIDNER: Absolutely, absolutely. It's just not normal, although these storms have been coming through for several days. Texas is being hit really hard. I heard the sound of tornadoes. I used to live in Texas for several years and I have heard that sound and seen the way the sky changes but at night you can't really see anything until, like I said it, its right up on you.


SIDNER: It is absolutely terrifying and especially hard because this is the day when a lot of people are trying to return home after having a nice time with family. So a lot of people would have been on the road and that's probably why you're seeing some of the deaths there on Interstate 30.

PAUL: Very good point. Hey, Sara Sidner, thank you so much for the perspective. Really appreciate it.

BARNETT: Thanks Sara.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very big. Oh, it's massive!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my gosh, it's big! It's hitting stuff!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at all the vicinities.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The surface (ph) are back here.


PAUL: My gosh, just want to share this video with you again. This tornado really talks to what Sara was speaking about. It's so difficult to see at night until there is lightning that lights up the sky and you can get some perspective about how monstrous this thing is. I can't even imagine driving into this storm. I'm sure if you put yourself in the same position. You can feel for these people. CNN meteorologist, Allison Chinchar with us from the severe (ph) at Weather Center now, because Allison, I know that, we're expecting more of this today?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We are. Yes. And as you were saying, you feel for the people to have to drive through it. Keep in mind all the people that aren't familiar with the Dallas area that are traveling to and from getting from their holiday plans. They don't know a lot of the side streets. They don't know a lot of areas to escape.

So, if you're driving along the road and you see the tornado which it was very difficult to see, at that your only hope of seeing it was when you had lightning flashes like this or when the tornado would hit things like say power lines and you would get power flashes from it. It was the only way that it was truly visible. So, if you don't know the side streets, if you don't know a way to veer off you're not going to have as good of a chance. Let's say the locals would to try to outrun or get away from the particular storm.

Again, what you can see clearly in this image is all of these lights from the cars. Again, you can see the flashes of light that are out there. Again, but that's it. That's all these people had to know that the tornado was there. They do have some cities that have the sirens. That's a good alert for them but they also -- you just kind of had to rely on when the lightning would flash. When the tornado would pick things up and light up the sky. That's it. And as Errol mentioned, it's very rare this time of year.

We do get them in December. We average about 24, but again, that's the lowest of any other month throughout the year. And as we mentioned earlier, we are going to be experiencing an equally severe threat for today. There is no difference from what we had today versus what we had yesterday. The only difference is where the storms are moving and we'll have more of an update on where they're expected to be coming up in the 7:00 hour.

PAUL: All right, hey Allison, thank you so much for the heads up. We are talking of the two storm chasers too here in the next hour. So, do stick around for that. But Allison is going to be monitoring other storms across the nation that will likely impact millions of you today. So we'll be having her on all morning. Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.

BARNETT: Now, consider this. While parts of Texas were hit by that tornado, other spots in the same state were dealing with a snowstorm. And it was massive. Take a look at the scene in El Paso yesterday. Washington State and Miami played in the Sun Bowl clearly not living up to its name.

PAUL: Clearly.

BARNETT: Players, fans there, had to endure blizzard conditions. Remember, this is in Texas same place where we saw those tornadoes. Washington State ends up winning 20 to14.

Meantime, after days of torrential rain, there are new fears this morning in Alabama that some rivers could overflow their levies there. We're going to keep a close eye on this in the coming hours.

In the past week at least 17 deaths have been reported in Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas. [06:10:02] All of them linked to the severe weather and we'll have more on all that severe weather through out the morning.

Incredible scenes on the west coast as well. There you heard high winds fueling this raging wildfire. That fire is still burning in the Solimar beach area of California this morning. And you can see some of the vantage points, the embers there. This is from camera crews. In the middle of the flames you can almost feel the heat. This hellish scene caused by a downed power line, we are now finding out.

The wild fire burned more than 1200 acres of land near major highway. The good news here this morning is that the 101 Freeway or Hollywood Freeway is now reopened and evacuation orders have been lifted. Of course, we are staying on top of this throughout the morning as well. Look for an update and more of this just incredible footage at the bottom of the hour.

PAUL: Also this morning, another controversial shooting by the Chicago Police Department. This time less than 24 hours after the shooting, police are apologizing for accidentally killing a woman.

BARNETT: Plus, Donald Trump versus the Clintons. The night Trump slams Hillary Clinton by citing her husband's history of marital infidelity and alleged sexual misconduct, things are really heating up. We'll bring you the latest on this escalating feud.

PAUL: A scandal this morning for one of NFL's biggest names Peyton Manning. An explosive report accuses the superstar quarterback of doping. He is denying the claims vehemently. Sports is working this story for us some little bit later in the hour. Stay close.


PAUL: Fifteen minutes past the hour in this morning, a Chicago woman shot to death by police so they call it a tragic accident. Family members call it recklessness and say it could have been prevented.


PAUL: Police say 55-year-old Bettie Jones was caught in the crossfire. It happened when Chicago police answered a 911 call early Saturday morning. The father of a 19-year-old college student said his son was threatening him with a baseball bat. His family says Quintonio LeGrier had a history of mental illness.

JANET COOKSEY, LEGRIER'S MOTHER: He was having a messy (ph) situation. Sometimes he'll get, you know, a little loud but not violent. I was just with my son on Christmas. I mean, I talk to him. I told him that he had to control his temper but he wasn't violent.

PAUL: LeGrier's father asked Bettie Jones, their downstairs neighbor and mother of five to open the door for police.

[06:15:02] When she did, witnesses say LeGrier came charging down the stairs with a bat. Police opened fire and both people were killed. COOKSEY: An innocent lady get shot is wailed because the police just was trigger half. I went to the hospital. My son has seven -- seven bullet wounds in him.

PAUL: Chicago police apologized for Jones death saying in a statement, "Upon arrival, officers were confronted by a combative subject resulting in the discharging of the officer's weapon which fatally wounded two individuals. The 55 year old female victim was accidentally struck and tragically killed. The department extends its deepest condolences to the victim's family and friends."


PAUL: This family, we've learned is holding press conference today at 11 Central Time, CNN will be there. With us though, to talk about the situation is Tom Fuentes, CNN Law Enforcement Analyst.

I think it's going to be interesting Tom to find out what was exactly reported in this 911 call, what they knew going into this? But help us understand what it's like when you get a call like this from the police perspective.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST (via Skype): It's interesting Christi, because this is the one situation that you know is so dangerous. You know, when you make a traffic stop and I made, I think, about a thousand when I was a police officer, you don't know what's going to be the situation. Most of the time it's not going to be a problem. But when you get the call to go to a domestic disturbance you know you have a problem. It's only a degree of whether they are just shouting at each other or violent with each other.

And the other thing, most people don't realize, the holiday season is a joyous time for most people but it's also a time of extreme stress. So people with mental illness or problems besides, you know, normal financial problems, you know, are liable to become violent during that. And I went to many and often on Christmas day, families throwing chairs at each other and all types of things.

So when those officers arrived and the witnesses say this LeGrier was coming down the stairs with a baseball bat, you know, then, it's really their worst expectation realized being attacked by somebody with a bat. They admit that it was an unfortunate accident to shoot Bettie Jones and kill her in the process and that's really it's a tragedy that both were killed. But still from a police perspective this is a highly charged, very difficult and very dangerous call to get.

PAUL: Well I know and I want to talk about Bettie Jones in a moment. But Congressman Bobby Rush from Chicago said a taser should have been used or deescalation tactics instead. Why are those tactics not employed more often?

FUENTES: Well, the problem with that is that is easy to say on the outside. To second guess the police officers from, you know, you're comfortable office some place. But when you're responding to this, sometimes in a split second, things go bad and you don't have time to even do something like that. And tasers aren't always reliable when you shoot somebody. Everybody thinks they are a miracle cure but they are not.

And, you know, I could tell you, I went on the call where we saved the woman whose husband was just beating her. We could see it through the front window as we went through the door. And the second we laid hands on him to pull him off, unbeknown to us, she grabbed a fireplace poker and struck my sergeant in the back and broke three ribs. So here, we were trying to save her. So you just don't know how bad it can go and how fast it can go bad.

PAUL: OK Tom, I have a couple of more questions for you. We're going to save that next hour here. So do stick with us and thank you so much as always.

FUENTES: You're welcome.

PAUL: Of course.

BARNETT: Coming up here, the U.S. isn't alone in experiencing severe weather. Parts of England are under a state of emergency this morning. The worst flooding they've seen there in decades. Thousands of people forced to flee from their homes.

Also in Europe, several cities are being warned about possible terror attacks involving explosives or guns. The time frame between Christmas and New Year's Eve, we bring that story to you after this short break.


[06:16:54] BARNETT: In Australia, residents are returning home today and assessing the damage after a bush fire. South of Melbourne destroyed more than a hundred homes on Christmas Day.

In one town, a third of homes were completely destroyed. Firefighters say, the immediate fire threat to the towns is now over but warn the situation is still potentially dangerous because there are still many hot spots.

PAUL: Flooding is a major problem right now across Northern England. That's what you're looking at here. A month's worth of rain has fallen in just days, causing rivers to burst, severely flooding and damaging several villages as you see here. My goodness.

Hundreds of people have been evacuated. Thousands have been left without power. Forecasters say the rain should ease in the next few days. We certainly hope so for them.

BARNETT: And in five days from now it will be official, couples in China will be allowed to have two children. Chinese lawmaker's rubber stamped the new legislation during a meeting today. China's changing this policy due to its aging population. The country is trying to have a younger and more productive work force. The move effectively ends the country's infamous one child policy which is been in placed for the last three decades.

PAUL: It is the last Sunday of the year. And in Vatican City, Pope Francis celebrating the feast of the holy family, a mass devoted to Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The pope delivered a message about the importance of family and praying together.

We're going to have a live report for you from Rome in the next hour.

BARNETT: And space nerds like myself; get near your television right now. NASA releasing this stunning image appearing to show the Earth rising over the moon. The images composed of a series of shots taken by NASA's spacecraft back in October.

PAUL: Just ahead, our breaking news coverage continues on the deadly tornadoes that have slammed some parts of Texas. And people are waking up here soon and wondering how expensive the damage is going to be. We're just waiting for the sun to come up.

BARNETT: And we knew this was coming. Donald Trump versus the Clintons. Overnight, Trump slams Hillary Clinton by citing her husband's history of marital infidelity. We'll bring you the latest on this escalating feud.

PAUL: A new video of Iraqi force in a fire fight against ISIS. Snipers, seen on rooftops. We're going to take you through it with a military expert.

First though, this holiday weekend. We are looking at a man who's reuniting homeless people with their families through a unique movement on the internet. It's this week's Giving In Focus.


SAMUEL JOHNS, FOUNDER, FORGETMENOTAK.ORG: When I see a homeless person, I think about who they are, where they're from, who misses them? I don't get rich up doing what I'm doing, you know. I feel happy for doing good things for people.

It gets really cold up here. I think a lot of people don't understand how cold it can get. It must been so, you know, scary feeling that cold and not having a place to go.

[06:20:03] I created the Facebook group, to help reconnect homeless people to their families.

How you going brother?

When I approach someone to see if they want to be a part of the Forget Me Not Group, I usually have a gift for them. Have like, "Hey, here's something for you. Do you mind if we talk for a little bit?'' I tell him about the group and do you have any messages to send out to any of your family or friends? And the last thing is I need to know if you have a wish for anything.

Sometimes it's -- I wish I can go back home. We've already got out people off the street. When I thought about this concept for this Facebook group, I feel like what we are doing is we're creating a community of people that want to do good things.

LISA SAUDERS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BEAN'S CAFE: Bean's Cafe is a day time homeless shelter and just kitchen here in Anchorage. I first met Samuel when he came down and started drumming, he just wanted to come down and plays the music and engage with the clients.

JOHNS: I better see you all up and dancing, OK?

SAUDERS: He is one pretty regular guy that brings a lot of life and a lot of love and a lot of happiness to our clients.

JOHNS: It's very simple and it doesn't cost money at all. When you see someone that's homeless, treat them like a human being. Don't just give them your change. Give them your heart.



PAUL: Can you imagine? This is a scene captured at a dinner by a couple last night, as that massive tornado, and you only see it there when it lights up the sky. This tornado rips through Rowlett, Texas.

BARNETT: Eight people are dead in yesterday's devastating storms as many as five of them may have been killed in their cars was struck by tornadoes like this one.

And this serious, as many of you are trying to travel this holiday weekends, I want to give you this update. The threat for severe weather, it's not over.

The National Weather Service has warnings for snow and flash floods in several parts of Texas and that we'll have much more on this breaking story at the top of the hour.

[06:30:05] PAUL: New for you this morning, ISIS is being battered in both Iraq and Syria. From Iraq, we have new video to show you of the Deli (ph) street fighting in Ramadi.

Look what's happening there.