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Tornadoes from Oklahoma to Missouri; Tornado Slams Missouri's Capital; Plan to Send Troops to Middle East; China Tariffs Hurt Lumber Workers; American Airlines Commits to 737 Max Fleet. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired May 23, 2019 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Very much.

Now back to our top story, violent, deadly tornadoes struck Missouri overnight. The state's capital took a direct hit. So we have all of the breaking details from the ground, next.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight. At least three people are dead after more than two dozen tornadoes tore through the central United States. Missouri's capital, Jefferson City, took a direct hit from a violent tornado overnight. We're just getting a sense of the damage in Jeff City as we wake up this morning. We've seen pictures of homes ripped to shreds, trees obviously uprooted there. And the region still in trouble this morning as those storms move east.

We are expecting a news conference from Missouri's governor and local officials about 30 minutes from now.

Let's go to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers, who is tracking this system.

[06:35:01] Chad, what do you see?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, still big storms on the ground right now, not tornadoes properly right now but a lot of lightning and still some hail coming down. Overnight, 31 tornadoes reported, but I believe that that number is going to go down because we're going to find that this tornado that did hit Jefferson City, a big tornado, was on the ground a long time and reported many times from different cities. A lot of damage along that swath.

Here we go. Indianapolis, it just rolled through you. Not quite into Paducah or Evansville, but it's on its way. In fact, even New York City, you're going to see storms today. And there is a potential through the keystone state, through all of Pennsylvania, most of Maryland, for a tornado or two today. We think about them in the plains, but, in fact, there could be some farther to the east as that rolls on by. I think New York, Philadelphia, somewhere between 3:00 and 5:00. You need to really pay attention here because tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds, as the piece that did hit Missouri rolls off to the east. And then another piece, John, begins to develop back out west again today. And significant severe weather possible. Higher plains, less populated, though. We're talking Amarillo, Garden City, Greensburg, the area back out to the west of Wichita. That's under the gun for big storms today. But, obviously, a damaging, destructive night last night with tornadoes through all of Missouri.


CAMEROTA: Absolutely, Chad. We're covering it all this morning. Thank you. Please keep us posted for what you see there.

MYERS: WE will.

CAMEROTA: Joining us now on the phone is Mike O'Connell. He's with Missouri's Department of Public Safety.

Mike, thank you very much for taking time for us. I know you have a busy day ahead.

The sun is not up yet in Jefferson City, but do you have a sense of the amount of damage there?

MIKE O'CONNELL, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY (via telephone): Yes, damage is extensive. It's a very bad situation here last night. We know that we have nine people that are in the hospital here in Jefferson City as a result of these storms. No deaths here in Jefferson City.

This was a long track tornado that started in Elden, about 40 miles away, and came on up here. Fortunately, not much damage to this extent in Elden and no injuries there.

And, of course, this has been widespread tornadic activity across the state. In Golden City, which is in southwest Missouri, there were three fatalities there and one serious injury. And then there have been severe storms throughout much of the state overnight and into this morning.

CAMEROTA: We're so happy to hear that there were no deaths in Jefferson City. But the fact that nine people are in the hospital, do you have a sense of their injuries, and were they all concentrated in the same area or scattered around Jefferson City?

O'CONNELL: Yes, there was one section of southern Jefferson City, in the city itself, that was hit the hardest. I don't have any information on just how extensive those injuries are.

CAMEROTA: Are there people who are still trapped at this hour that you need to get to?

O'CONNELL: We've had cooperation from all the local law enforcement agencies, as well as the highway patrol going door to door doing extensive searches. There were people trapped initially. I don't have any reports as to how far they've gone, whether they're doing a second check as well, but they are doing that. And the last I checked, within the last 15 minutes, we had nine people actually transported to hospital as a result of this. CAMEROTA: We earlier had on an interview with a survivor of the

tornado. He's was -- he's a truck driver and he said that he was carrying soda pop. And it was 44,000 pounds of it. And he said that his truck and he were picked up as though it was just a toy truck. His window was smashed. I don't know if you can see -- if you're looking at a screen, but his truck was turned over.

Basically another thing that he told us was that the text alerts -- he did get a text alert but it was really just seconds beforehand or a minute beforehand and it was too late, he was already, you know, staring down the storm. And so are you comfortable with the alert system? Is it functioning well enough for people there?

O'CONNELL: Yes. And so we always recommend, as does everybody, that you have multiple ways of getting alerts. The technology has gotten a lot better over the years. But still sometimes you have short notice. Now, sirens did hit here fairly early. There was a good warning on that. Then they resounded a second time as things got worse.

The National Weather Service had updated its forecast late morning, and this was widely disseminated to the folks that the risk, the threat of tornadic activity was rising.

We are in a period for a couple of days now where there's been forecasts for very serious tornadic activity. And we were lucky on Monday and Tuesday that no real damage to the extent that we've seen today. Now, today, we just did not get lucky.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Mike O'Connell, we really appreciate you taking the time. As we said, we know you have your work cut out for you today. We're thinking of the people in Jeff City and all across Missouri.

Thank you very much.

[06:40:08] O'CONNELL: Thank you very much.

BERMAN: Yes, and as we've said, the light is only coming up now. So we'll really only begin to get a sense of the damage over the next few hours.

A new plan sends thousands of U.S. troops to the Middle East. Is a deployment imminent? That's next.


CAMEROTA: This morning, Pentagon officials will brief senior members of the president's national security team on a plan that could send thousands of U.S. troops to the Middle East to defend against potential threats from Iran.

CNN's Ryan Browne is live at the Pentagon with more.

What do we know about this, Ryan?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, Alisyn, we know that this request for potentially thousands of additional troops originated from U.S. Central Command, which is the military organization that oversees U.S. troops in the Middle East. And they made this request based off what they perceive to be an increased Iranian threat.

Now, there already have been additional military forces deployed to the region in response to Iranian threats, including a bomber task force and a carrier strike group. But U.S. military officials felt that additional forces were needed to kind of deter any possible Iranian aggression.

[06:45:08] Now, it's unclear whether President Trump himself will be briefed on the proposed plans today, but we are told that he would have to sign off on the proposed deployment, which could send thousands of additional troops to the region.

Now, this comes as some lawmakers have expressed skepticism about the nature of the threat, saying that there's nothing new here after reviewing the intelligence. But the Trump administration insists, including senior Pentagon officials, that the threat is very real and that they do see increased Iranian activity that could pose a threat to U.S. forces. But we will see whether or not President Trump does, in fact, green light this additional U.S. military presence.


BERMAN: Obviously that would be a major development.

Ryan, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

BROWNE: You bet.

BERMAN: Hardworking Americans caught in the middle of the trade war. Why the tariff battle between the U.S. and China is hitting the lumber industry hard.


BERMAN: New this morning, as the trade war with China intensifies, the effects of soaring tariffs are making struggling U.S. industries suffer even more.

[06:50:06] CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich talked to worried lumber workers. She is live in upstate New York with more.

This is a real problem for the lumber industry, Vanessa.


The lumber industry has been cut by nearly 40 percent in just the last year because of tariffs. And that is causing sawmills across the country to make some very difficult choices. We're here in Owego, New York, at Baillie Lumber, where they are bracing for new, increased tariffs to go into effect in just a matter of days.


YURKEVICH (voice over): Usually this lumber would be on its way to China, but not during a trade war.

JEFF MEYER, CEO, BAILLIE LUMBER: The longer it goes on, the more permanent and the more irreparable it is.

YURKEVICH: China is U.S. lumber's biggest customer. Tariffs have cost the industry nearly half a billion dollars in just the last year. Now, as trade talks stall, sawmills brace for even higher tariffs next month.

MEYER: If this goes on for 30 days or 45 days, you know, we'll recover. But if this stays on for six months, nine months, 12 months, beyond, there's parts of the industry that I think won't (ph) recover.

YURKEVICH: Sales to China are falling at Baillie Lumber, one of the largest hardwood suppliers in the U.S. They haven't had lay-offs yet, but workers at their mill here in Owego, New York, have felt the pain in other ways.

TOM GEROW, GM WAGNER AT BAILLIE LUMBER: It affects people who own land and trees, all the way to the people that are working in the sawmills, maybe getting less hours, getting a smaller paycheck. That affects the entire community. When you have 130 people at one of the largest facilities in this county, well, then it's a real trickle effect.

YURKEVICH: Baillie owns 22 mills across the country, all in rural communities which typically vote Republican. Owego is in Tioga County, which voted for President Trump in 2016.

GEROW: People really do need to be paying attention to what's going on. And I -- and I don't think that there was a realization that this trade war would affect -- trickle down to these kinds of areas.

YURKEVICH: U.S. hardwood employs 2 million Americans nationwide. As the trade war with China wages on, the industry risks losing its most important customer forever.

GEROW: We're competing with other world suppliers of lumber. And the more we kind of mess it up ourselves with China, those supply chains go other places. And they don't come back very easily.


YURKEVICH: It took the lumber industry nearly 25 years to develop this market with China, and there is no single market right now of the same size and scope to replace it.

And, Alisyn, much like U.S. farmers across the country, U.S. lumber has dealt with really wet weather in the last year, packing that one- two punch in a trade war that has no end in sight.


CAMEROTA: Yes, thank you for reporting on all those challenges so that we can understand it. Thank you, Vanessa.

Well, we're staying on top of our breaking news. There's a violent tornado that ripped through Missouri's capital city, Jefferson City, and authorities will update the press in just a few minutes as the sun comes up. So we'll bring you the latest info.


[06:57:24] CAMEROTA: American Airlines CEO says they are committed to putting Boeing 737 Max jets back in the air once they're recertified by the FAA. The process may be a long one.

CNN's Drew Griffin is live in Fort Worth, Texas, with more.

Drew, what have you learned?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, the FAA meeting with its global partners today trying to show them how this is going to take place, the recertification. But as you said, the biggest break in trust is between Boeing and the pilots that fly the 737 Max.

We're getting a much more detailed look at what happened in November when American Airline pilots met with Boeing, were shocked to learn that this MCAS system was on board that Boeing didn't tell them about. Also shocked and furious to learn they were the backup. And the airline pilots told Boeing exactly what it needed to do, how to fix it, how to set up the warnings, how to change the software and to take the planes out of commission until that was done. Boeing said the plane is safe, keep on flying. We know what happened next. A second crash.

Dennis Taier is with the Allied Pilots Association. He was in that meeting. He's a 737 Max pilot. Listen to this.


GRIFFIN: The American Airlines pilots laid out the solution for Boeing, that Boeing should have taken immediately, after you meeting, back in November. And if that had taken place, I mean, really, Dennis, those people in Africa would not have died.


GRIFFIN: Boeing is actually saying it is going to make all of the fixes that the pilots in that November meeting brought up.

TAIER: Let's -- let's go to this. All of the fixes that we brought up, they're embedded in that new software. And Boeing has added a few, which are like, brilliant idea. And then Boeing has said, with this new software system, this won't happen again.

GRIFFIN: But you said to Boeing, do it now, do it first.

TAIER: Yes. Yes, we did.

GRIFFIN: They didn't.

TAIER: They didn't. And since then we've learned how dramatic and how powerful it is. Even the FAA said this system is very powerful, both in speed and magnitude.


GRIFFIN: Stunning details, John.

We're also learning that the fix that Boeing said was fixed and ready to present to the FAA last week wasn't. The FAA had more questions. That's why there's even more delay. No timetable, none, according to the FAA, on getting the 737 Max back up and flying.


BERMAN: Very little has gone smoothly over the last couple of months for Boeing on this.

Drew Griffin, thanks so much for being there. Appreciate it.

[06:59:58] And thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, CNN "TALK" is next. For our U.S. viewers, destructive tornadoes tear through Missouri overnight. NEW DAY continues right now.