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Continuing Coverage of Oklahoma Tornado Devastation

Aired May 21, 2013 - 04:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): We're about two blocks from the elementary school that was reportedly hit hard by the tornado. As far as my eyes can see, the homes are demolished. There's debris everywhere, chimneys cracked, houses ripped apart, the outsides of the homes completely leveled. The neighborhood is not standing anymore. It's completely gone.



SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our live, continuing coverage of the Oklahoma tornado. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And we welcome our viewers around the world. It is 4:00 am on the U.S. East Coast, 3:00 am in Oklahoma City, 12 hours since the storm struck. I'm Jonathan Mann.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): Pictures say it all. Just look at the debris flying through the air, these images both breathtaking and heart-wrenching at the same time. An estimated 30 squares miles in ruins in and around Oklahoma City.

We got a truly heartbreaking update. I mean, it is difficult to even hear the news.

We have been telling you about 40 additional bodies en route to the medical examiner's office. Well, CNN has now learned that about 20 of those bodies are bodies of children. Even those who were on the ground, seasoned reporters who cover these kind of things all the time, are having a really difficult time with this.

LANCE WEST, KFOR: I have never seen anything like this in my 18 years covering tornadoes here in Oklahoma City. This is without question the most horrific --



MANN: It's a parent's worst nightmare: two elementary schools directly in the tornado path in Moore, Oklahoma, both of those schools flattened.


MANN (voice-over): Have a look at now some new video in a reunion between frightened students and frantic parents at Briarwood Elementary.

These are aerial shots taken when it was still daylight. Have a look. Just a short distance from Briarwood, this is all that's left of Plaza Towers Elementary School. Police say the bodies of seven children were pulled from this rubble.

Rescuers are still searching through the night for 24 more children, still accounted for. Students who were able to get out say they clung to the walls as the tornado passed over their heads.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): A hospital was also leveled in the chaos here.


MALVEAUX: These are new pictures that are showing the aftermath.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): This is Moore Medical Center; just take a look at this. This center took a direct hit and you can tell from just the cars, the pile of debris, this powerful tornado, it blew out those windows there.

And immediately after the storm passed, emergency responders, they jumped into action, they tried to help evacuate folks; patients were moved to other nearby hospitals. And amazingly no one at this medical facility was killed.


MALVEAUX: And despite the overwhelming scenes of devastation, the mayor of Moore said this city is not going to give up.


MAYOR GLENN LEWIS, MOORE, OKLAHOMA: We're going to continue to look till every person is accounted for.

And it's been a tough day, I can tell you that; the devastation is immense. Most of our big box retailers are still up and running. We do have a couple of the small shopping centers that were wiped out with this.

So we did have five total schools that were in session at the time that were hit. So and -- we're trying just to make sure that they can finish out the school year in the next 3-4 days. Of course, there's a couple of them that will not be able to. And they may cancel school for the whole city, I don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MANN: Hope is fading meantime as rescue workers continue to search for survivors in the rubble in one of the elementary schools we've been telling you about. But they're not giving up.

MALVEAUX: And it's a good thing they're not giving up. Our George Howell, he has been live there in Moore, Oklahoma, near that school, Plaza Towers School.

George, it's hard, right? It's hard for folks not to give up in light of what you have seen overnight and into the morning.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, you certainly know that there are a lot of parents who are watching. They want to know that these investigators are still looking.

What I can tell you at this hour, Suzanne, is that things have slowed down. Throughout the night, we have heard activity across from us. You see the glow over there. That's where this operation continues. But things have slowed down substantially, even on this end.

I can tell you that, you know, throughout the night, throughout the morning, we did see a lot of people coming by; that's happening a lot less and even in the neighborhood guys. Earlier we saw a lot of people going into the homes, trying to search door to door, house by house; that's happening less now.

We know that we as hit daylight, we will again be able to see this expanse. It's an expanse of devastation, quite frankly. We will also be able to see these homes. People will return, some people returning for the first time to see, you know, what's left of their homes, all of that here in the next few hours, guys.

MALVEAUX: George, are people allowed to return to the neighborhood?

Are they allowed to get close to where you are?

HOWELL: At this hour, the police department have somewhat of a curfew. They started that maybe three hours ago, and it was really to make sure that people leave this area.

There were, earlier today, people trying to drive into this neighborhood, looking for relatives, looking for their homes. That's stopped. And it's been pretty quiet. The police pushed people out to make sure that, you know, they could go ahead and start a methodical search of these homes. So no one is around right now, but we do expect people back.

MANN: George, I'm really struck looking at just where you're standing and how little activity there seems to be except in that one direction around the elementary school. I would have thought there would be more work to do, there would be more searching going on.

I'm struck by how quiet, how dead the night is around you, except in the distance where we can see the lights of the elementary school. HOWELL: Right, and that's really the thing. It was so much busier earlier. Here in the last few hours, it has definitely quieted down. We showed you the last hour in a live report; there were a lot of investigators who were leaving the scene.

So, you know, we hope to get some new update from investigators; we obviously heard the number that you guys are reported, that CNN is reporting, that of the 40, we know that 20 are children, whether it's from this particular school or others is still unclear. But 20 of the 40 children, that's -- it's really hard news.

This is just another little thing. But it's an important thing. There are a lot of animals walking around, guys, I mean, there are dogs, that, you know, hungry or looking for their owners; you see a lot of that. It's sad. I mean, it's all just a very sad situation, quite frankly. But as people come back, hopefully, we will hear some more good stories about people finding relatives, that sort of thing.

MALVEAUX: All right, George, thank you so much. We really appreciate it. We know you have been out there for many, many hours, about 10 hours at least, doing good reporting and, obviously, the people in that community are exhausted. I can imagine you are exhausted as well.

And I imagine that we will see in just a few hours, there will be light and we'll get a much better sense of what that community is dealing with.

George, thanks again. We'll get back to you very shortly.

MANN: It's eight minutes past the hour, 3:08 in Oklahoma. And obviously in the darkness there, all of the damage is obscured. But, in Moore, Oklahoma, there is destruction in every direction, rescuers still digging for signs of life under the debris. But in some places what they're finding is heartbreaking. Meg Alexander from Oklahoma's KFOR reports.


MEG ALEXANDER, KFOR (voice-over): It was a race against the clock, desperate rescue crews and volunteers, anyone who would pitch in. They're trying to save those buried under the rubble of a 7- Eleven and liquor store at Telephone Road and Southwest Ford.

MEG ALEXANDER : They're digging, trying to find people. I'm not sure if they found anybody. They just keep walking toward me.

MEG ALEXANDER (voice-over): Some bodies already pulled from the debris. But word was a woman and baby were still missing. It was believed the mother had taken the baby into a freezer to weather the storm.

A dog sniffed out something. A digging frenzy of desperation followed only to unearth a limp baby's body. Moments later, another find. MEG ALEXANDER: This is heartbreaking to say the least right now; we're looking at another body being pulled up here. We believe it's the mother of the 7-month old. At this point we believe the 7-Eleven and liquor store we're looking at a man, two women, and a 7-month-old baby as fatalities at this hour.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just started grabbing and throwing debris, trying to get anybody out.


MALVEAUX: If you are looking for information on someone who is missing, the Red Cross has a Safe and Well website; it's up and running now. It is difficult, I know. You can find You can list yourself or search for family or friends.

And of course, everybody wants to figure out how do you help? What can you do? And people are using social media to try to get connected again. So you can visit If you'd like to donate as well, there are many different ways you can do that.

The Red Cross, visit its website. This is at Or call 1-800-redcross. Perhaps the easiest way is just to text the word REDCROSS to the number 90999 to make a $10 donation. Everyone can do their part. It is a community that is in desperate need of help. We'll be right back.



MANN: Welcome back. It's 14 minutes past the hour and here's another number to remind you about, an estimated 30 square miles in ruins near Oklahoma City following Monday's deadly tornado.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): The storm killed at least 51 people. That is the official death toll right now. But some 40 more bodies are on their way to the medical examiner and at least 20 of those are children.

The massive tornado was estimated to be at least two miles wide at one point. And what you have been looking at, this is a medical center that was just completely wiped out, completely devastated. Earlier, I spoke to Michael Seiden from KOCO. He was at the scene of that medical center. And here's what he told me.



MICHAEL SEIDEN, KOCO: Moore Medical Center, we are told that at least 12 people were transferred to other metro hospitals with undisclosed injuries. We're not sure if they were critical or just minor injuries.

As far as deaths or injuries go in the entire city of Moore, I know that the medical examiner in Oklahoma says she believes at least 91 people have passed away, and we're being told -- we have heard multiple reports that at least 91 of those, 20 are children.

But I want to show you. Take a look right here. This is Moore Medical Center. If you look right there, that is just rubble; that is an administrator building. You have got a lot of office people working in there. You can see it is a mess.

But really what I want to show you, some of the most stunning video. If you take a look over here, it honestly looks like a junkyard. You can just see vehicles stacked on top of each other now. The tornado sucked up these vehicles and tossed them all over this parking lot.

We had some crews in here. They had stacked them up on top of each other so that they could get in here. And if you notice on some of the doors, you'll see that orange X; that was during the search and rescue, investigators going in there. And obviously the X means that they did not find anybody in there.

So right now we have not gotten any reports of any casualties here at this hospital. But, again, at least 12 people transported from this hospital to other metro hospitals in the Oklahoma City area.

MALVEAUX: So Michael, take us back if you will to earlier in the day. So this particular medical facility where you are, how many people were inside of that building at the time that the tornado hit? And how did they evacuate? How did they get them out?

SEIDEN: Well, we're not exactly sure a definitive number of how many people. But this is not only an emergency room; people come here for physical therapy. So you have doctors, nurses, lots of patients here.

This hospital took a direct hit. So we were told as soon as it took a direct hit, obviously emergency personnel, first responders, they rushed here and they started that evacuation process.

We spent, my photojournalist, Brian Dixon (ph), and I, we have been covering this since about 3 o'clock Monday. We started -- we've been in a lot of neighborhoods, really hard-hit neighborhoods.

And just as stunning, if not more stunning than this, are these neighborhoods. We're talking about a dozen homes destroyed, and we're talking to these homeowners who are riding out the storm under their beds, in closets, walking out without a scratch. So it's really an unbelievable story of survival for so many people in some of these neighborhoods right near this medical center.

MALVEAUX: And, Michael, before we let you go, I have to ask you, do they think there is anybody in that medical center now?

Do they feel very confident that they have gotten everybody evacuated, that there is no one who is still missing inside of that facility?

SEIDEN: Yes, everybody has been cleared from this medical center. There is a police presence here. They're just watching some of the vehicles, making sure nobody comes in here, breaks anything or starts going through cars. But as far as this facility, everybody has been evacuated. They have already done a search. No bodies were found. And, again, no casualties are being reported here at this medical center.



MALVEAUX (voice-over): Unbelievable story.

And this is the front page from today's edition of Oklahoma's local newspaper, "The Oklahoman." May 3rd, that was the date 14 years ago that the same area was struck by another very powerful tornado; that storm killed 44 people. However, "The Oklahoman" says that this storm was much worse with a greater loss of life.


MANN: Let's turn now to a storm chaser who's been tracking tornadoes in Oklahoma and the destruction they've left behind.


MANN (voice-over): Have a look at some of the images that were taken by storm chaser and iReporter Brenton Leete in Newcastle, Oklahoma. This is right next to Moore, Oklahoma. We haven't been talking as much as about Newcastle. But he describes what it felt like to be so close to this massive tornado.


BRENTON LEETE, STORMCHASER, TRIPLE VORTEX: It sounds surreal. It's something you never heard before, but it does sound like the explanation of a freight train coming. It was incredible listening. This was shot on my iPhone.

The inflow into the tornado was probably 60-75 miles an hour from where we were filming this. It was basically trying to yank the iPhone out of my hand as I filmed this. It was the most rapid tornado growth that I've ever seen in a tornado. It went from a small EF-1 initiating to an EF-3 or EF-4 in a matter of 15 to 20 minutes. It was incredible and, you know, so devastating.


MANN: Brenton Leete.

We don't want to be alarmist about any of this, but here's something we've definitely got our eyes on, the storm system that spawned the deadly tornado Sunday and Monday isn't over yet.

Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera joins us now to explain what's coming.

I can only hope that it's not nearly as bad what we have been through.

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, well, we're going to have to watch it closely. Northeastern Texas, heading to Dallas, southwestern Arkansas, those areas under the gun today for severe weather. We'll watch that closely for you.

But we have some incredible technology. I want to share some of this with you, because, again, this is the type of radar perspective that a meteorologist sees and your jaw drops, because what we call this is a debris ball.

Normally, this would be just a big hail core. Well, it's in the wrong place for it to be hail; it should be up to the north and east. What this is is pieces of just plywood homes, roofs, doors, whatever you have, non-meteorological targets that are bouncing off the radar beam, coming back to the radar and depicting that.

We're going to go into 3D mode here because I want to show you not only that we have that debris ball, but also how high the debris went up in the air. Look at this, 10,000, 20,000 feet. So the structures that were just demolished were picked up by the twister here and just jetted up into the atmosphere, 20,000 feet.

Of course, that continued to move. And all of that eventually came down and that's where we'd find, again, people's belongings so far away. This is an incredible picture there.

And imagine the kind of updraft that you have to have to get the debris up. EF-4, EF-5, no question about it. So this is what happened here, 22-mile path, on the ground for 40 minutes. It was (inaudible) just incredible devastation. National Weather Service preliminary estimates at EF-4, perhaps over 200 mph. That is a possibility; the damage I've seen certainly supports that. So we'll wait for that.

Two-mile-wide debris ball, I just showed you that. And, again, just incredible that it's the third devastating EF-4-EF-5 tornado to hit the Moore, Oklahoma, in just 14 years.

So yes, guys, we're not done quite yet. This is the watch boxes that are out. Again we have lost one of the main ingredients, the heating. Once we get our sun back later this afternoon, the area that we're going to watch, because the dynamics are going to push a little bit further to the east, that is the conditions that make these tornadoes form right here.

Dallas, again, Northeast Texas heading into Southwest Arkansas, this is the area that we're going to have to watch. The rest of what you see here, sure, we're going to have the potential for severe weather that is strong thunderstorms with large hail. But the spinning winds, the tornado a possibility, it's going to be right in this area here. So we're going to watch that obviously very closely. I was here Sunday covering the Shawnee, incredibly; on Monday, Moore; and now we could have a round three. Hopefully it won't be as bad, obviously, as we had on Monday. But we'll be here to cover it for you.

MANN: People should stay close to the radio, close to the TV, close to the Internet, because this is serious stuff.

CABRERA: Absolutely.

MANN: Ivan Cabrera, thanks very much.

MALVEAUX: We now have a story of how some really lucky parents, they were frantically searching for their children. This is Briarwood Elementary School. They actually found them. Reporter Ali Myer from KFOR, well, she was there.


Families in the Plaza Towers neighborhood walked miles through debris and through traffic to find their children, left with caretakers at nearby day cares and the two elementary schools destroyed by the tornado.

I couldn't get them on the phone. The phone wouldn't get me through. And I thought the worst because (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You haven't seen them yet?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, but I have just talked to them and they're fine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you have no idea (inaudible)?

But do you have any children?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where is your home?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) pile of rubble.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was anyone in the house at the time?

Where were you guys?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) was in the house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was in the house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was in the house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the Bartholomew family. They put everything they own in a travel suitcase. They are walking to find two daughters, a 5-year old and a 9-year old, two little girls who weathered the storm inside the Briarwood Elementary. Mom and Dad are desperate to be reunited with their children.

The two little ones, 7-year-old Peyton and 9-year-old Evan are desperate to find their sisters.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And will you tell me who's at the school?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ashley and Miley.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So his sisters, Ashley and Miley are at the school, according to their mother. All of the children are accounted for. A thoughtful Oklahoma City police officer helped the Bartholomew family with the last leg of their journey, to find those two little girls.


MALVEAUX: Unbelievable. Just a little slice of good news. Two daughters are just fine.

MANN: Every one of the kids at Briarwood Elementary came out OK. No casualties at Briarwood Elementary --


MALVEAUX: And it's just right next door to the other school, where it's just such a different story.

MANN: Thoughts and prayers are being sent from all over the America to victims of the Oklahoma tornado. On Monday night, the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles held a moment of silence for the victims. The Major League teams and their supporters paid their respects just before the start.

MALVEAUX: And country music superstar Toby Keith, he's an Oklahoma native, and he, too, reacting to the devastating tornado. He said in a statement, quote, "This storm has devastated the community that I grew up in. I rode my bike through those neighborhoods. I have family and friends in Moore.

"My heart and prayers go to those that have lost so much. But Moore is strong and we will persevere. God be with you all."

MANN: And in fact, he called into CNN a short time ago; he said his own family was actually in the tornado's path of destruction.

TOBY KEITH, COUNTRY MUSIC STAR: My sister's house got hit. I mean, it's a mile north of my mother's house, on the farm where I was raised. It come a mile north of there. The one yesterday, I mean, people forget that yesterday one devastated Shawnee, 40 miles from it. It came down right over Thunderbird Lake. The one today finished up out at Draper. They're just a few miles apart. I live kind of in between them. But we were fortunate (inaudible) yesterday. I left today. And I knew when we flew out of there, I could see it building back in the southwest.

And it was just, man, it's going to be here for two or three days. You just got to hope that everybody takes cover. We're -- Oklahoma is really good, have great meteorologists, have great weather centers and they prepare you for this. The numbers could be much, much higher. But it's just devastating to see this count, because it just usually isn't this high.

MANN: It's Tornado Alley, people are used to storms. But not to storms like this.

MALVEAUX: And three hours till daybreak, that is when we're really going to get a sense of what is taking place on the ground, the damage, the devastation. And of course, perhaps even some stories of hope and courage as people try to find their loved ones.

MANN: Twenty-seven minutes after the hour. We'll be back right after this.



MANN: Welcome back. It's 30 minutes past the hour, 12 hours and 30 minutes since the tornado struck; at least 51 people were killed by Monday's storm in Oklahoma. But the toll is expected to rise even higher as more bodies are received at the Oklahoma medical examiner's office.

MALVEAUX: And dozens of people have been hospitalized as well. These are actually -- this is pictures of a medical center. This is in Moore, Oklahoma, as you can see, it was just devastated by the massive tornado and incredibly, no one was killed in that hospital, which took a direct hit. In all, an estimated 30 square miles lies in ruins. That is in and around Oklahoma City.

MANN: Our John King is one of the correspondents who rushed to the scene to get as close as he could.


MANN (voice-over): This is a picture that he sent via Twitter.

Look at this, a mud-stained church sign that reads, "When you've had all you can stand, kneel."

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Pretty appropriate at this time, and a lot of folks clearly, parents praying this morning for the safe return of all of those children who were reported missing in the rubble of the elementary school. MANN: We're experiencing some technical problems with the lights here, that's not your set.

But it's even darker where George Howell is live from Moore, Oklahoma, near the Plaza Towers School.

And, George, every time we come to you, it looks just darker and bleaker and more desolate.

Is there much activity around you now?

HOWELL: No activity. Not a lot happening. You know, and that's very different from what we saw hours before. We saw a lot of people that were going in to help with the search and rescue. That's not happening as much. If we can pan over there to show you, take a look. You can still see the lights aglow over there, but even from this distance, you can tell that there's not nearly as much happening there.

And Jonathan and Suzanne, keep this in mind, it was just about this time that these kids were getting ready, you know, maybe waking up, getting ready to go to school. So it's definitely something that I thought of, a lot of people are kind of talking about, we are, you know, now the second day where parents will be coming back, trying to find their kids.

Relatives will be back in this neighborhood looking to see if they can find other relatives who are still unaccounted for. That will continue today. Remember, there were only three or four hours of daylight for people to search for their relatives. So you can rest assured that there will plenty of people back out trying to do that.

MALVEAUX: And, George, we heard sounds; it sounded like choppers that were going on overhead, I assume that there's still quite a number of rescue folks who out there on the scene.

Can you give you a sense of -- are you alone or are there other people who are still trying to pursue and get through some of that rubble?

HOWELL: Well, you know, I mean, I so say that things have slowed down, but there is still activity, there are still things happening, just not nearly as much. You did hear that helicopter overhead. It's been circling all night, from time to time, shining the light on us and shining the light on these different homes just looking for any sort of movement. So that's been happening

Also from time to time, we also see these investigators come through with their lights on, no sirens, many times leaving, sometimes coming into this location. And we have been seeing people going home by home looking for people who could be trapped in the homes, you know, less of that, again, at this hour but that does continue.

MALVEAUX: All right, George, you have been putting in some hours, some time, from my count, about 11 hours or so. I mean, it is really -- HOWELL: It's the job.

MALVEAUX: It is the job. It is the job. And sometimes it is a very tough one.

George, we really appreciate your up-to-the-minute reports on all of this, particularly through the overnight hours there.

And I have to say, we have been seeing these images of the tornado and it's hard to get a sense of just how big, how large this area is, the disaster zone. But our own Tom Foreman, he maps it out for us in pretty good detail.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So many parts of Oklahoma where a storm like this could have gone through and cause relatively little damage. But it hit one of the most populous parts of the state. This suburb of Oklahoma City is home to about 55,000 people. Look at how densely the houses are gathered around that elementary school we've talked about so much.

In this picture alone, there are about 350 homes. That's typical of much of this suburban area. And we know what kind of force they saw there.

This is that school, before the storm came through. And this is the same school afterward.

Let's go up here and look at the medical center, also taken out of commission by the storm. This is the medical center after the storm, the same medical center before looked much more like this.

Just south of that, here's a theater, very popular with local folks there, this is the theater before the storm. This is the theater after the storm.

It's important to look at a few touchstones like this in the storm area because we know this from some of the other images we have seen, the real force of the storm came through here in a mile-wide swath, maybe even more, so between these two lines and just hammered all of these homes in here.

How many people were vulnerable? We're estimating that conservatively, in the immediate area here, there are about 5,000 homes, not all of them were damaged; certainly not all were destroyed. But they were all in the path of this massive tornado, and many, many people are counting their blessings or taking an assessment of the damage right now.


MANN: Find out how you can help the victims of the tornadoes. Visit our "Impact Your World" page at

It is 36 minutes after the hour. We're doing the math as best as we can, trying to keep track of all of the destruction and all of the deaths. At last count, 51 people are known to have died. But that number is not going to be the final one.

And we are certain hoping as well for some stories of recovery as well as hope.

We'll be back after a quick break.





MALVEAUX (voice-over): The pictures say it all. In Moore, Oklahoma, they have been now clinging to the hope that rescuers might find more survivors.

This hour, what we know is that dozens of people have been killed by Monday's massive tornado, dozens more have been hospitalized.

MANN: This latest tornado to strike the Oklahoma City metropolitan area has been rated an EF-4. That's off the enhanced Fujita scale, which is named for the meteorologist who developed it. But the bottom line is it's the second strongest level on the scale that meteorologists use. Numbers like that obviously only can tell you so much. The victims themselves have much more to convey.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have lost animals. We've lost everything. We don't have anything left. And my parents, I can't get hold of them. We have no (inaudible). We have no cell. So if they're out there and they're watching, please let them know that I'm and my family's OK. And we'll make it. We'll be OK. But everything is gone.


MALVEAUX: She is one strong woman. You can just tell. It's going to be really hard for a lot of people here. Oklahoma lies in the middle of Tornado Alley.

The most recent deadly outbreak was in May of 1999, 44 people were killed when an EF-5 tornado ripped through the area. It was the deadliest tornado to hit the city, also the costliest; cost more than $1 billion in damage. Second most deadly tornado hit in June of 1942, 35 people were killed across Oklahoma City.

MANN: Many people are comparing Monday's tornado to the one in 1999 some saying this one was worse. Let's get more from meteorologist Ivan Cabrera.

Ivan, the extraordinary thing is the one in 1999 hit the same spot with the fastest wind speeds -- correct me if I'm wrong -- the fastest wind speeds ever recorded on Earth. That was 1999. And this one was worse?

CABRERA: Absolutely right. And in fact, those winds were by a mobile Doppler unit that was able to estimate the velocity there at those winds.

We talked about the Fujita scale, that's a damage scale, because we don't have anemometers that measure wind in every point on -- in the United States, right? So you have to go out there, assess the damage and by the type of damage, then you can say what kind of winds were involved. And we're not done. It may have been an EF-5. National Weather Service will be out there for later on today.

They just went out there yesterday because the emergency crews had to get there.

This is the amazing thing here. This is the intersection. There is Moore. There is the one from '03. There is the 1999 in red, 14 years ago, and in the yellow indicated there as we head through today.

Let's go and fly in here and show you the exact path here because the timing was also horrific here, because the storm actually, once it developed, it was a tornado, it was weak, relatively weak, and it was moving through essentially farmland here.

It peaked at an EF-4 or EF-5 right through the densely populated area of Moore. Our Google Earth is freaking out here, so I'll get out of that and show you what's important here, which is the forecast. We're not quite done with it yet, again, severe thunderstorm watch boxes are out.

But as the sun gets out there, and as we heat up the atmosphere and things get more unstable, we have the potential for strong tornadoes once again.

Now the key here, it is not going to be hitting again, I don't think, the same area. I'm not saying there's going to be sunny and clear skies in Moore, we are -- the potential is there for some thunderstorms and certainly in the recovery efforts going on there, we don't need that. So there's the possibility. But as far as the worst of the weather, that's going to be further to the east.

By the way, this map that you see here, the storm prediction center out of Norman, Oklahoma, as the office that puts this out under the National Weather Service, they are blocks away from Moore, so the irony here does not escape us here at the weather center.

One of the things we've been missing so far this season and why the tornado season has had a slow start and now certainly making up for it and then some is this warm moist air mass; we have been missing this. The United States has been under the influence of a lot of cold air outbreaks well into the spring, which we normally of course see receding up to the north. And what we get is these clashes of air masses.

That has now happened. That's why we had the outbreak on Sunday, Monday and the potential, again, for today. Northeastern Texas, southwestern parts of Missouri here are going to be under the gun as we take you -- pardon me, Arkansas -- as we head through later this afternoon. So we'll watch that closely. (Inaudible) will be here, Chad will be here, we'll all be here throughout the day to keep you posted.

MANN: Ivan Cabrera, at the Weather Center, thanks very much.

MALVEAUX: I can only imagine how long this is going to last, but certainly as daybreak hits, we're going to get a sense of what we're looking at. Clearly, the devastation, the loss and, of course, the heroism that always comes when you have people in crisis, these communities rising to the occasion. We're just taking a look at just some of the pictures of the very worst that has hit that community in Oklahoma.

MANN: The search for survivors. It's 15 minutes before the hour. Dawn is still about 21/2 hours away. Our coverage will continue after this.


MANN: Welcome back, 10 minutes before the hour and really, a horror in Oklahoma as searchers continue their work through the middle of the night and people await word.

MANN: It has now been more than 12 hours since the giant tornado hit Oklahoma City metro area. Here, now, is a brief look back at -- this is just the first few hours of how this all unfolded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got a tornado on the ground, north of Red River.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As we continue to look back towards the west, this whole area is just completely demolished.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wind velocities that we are showing are large and violent. So it is a big tornado and it is heading directly for the town of Meeker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a school and the school had -- took a direct hit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are at least 15 children trapped under this debris.

What is your name?

TULLY FRASER (PH): Tully Fraser (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tully (ph), even as the -- at this school -- what is the name of the school, my friend?

FRASER (PH): Plaza Towers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's Plaza Towers. We are probably 200 yards away. He says he has been pulling out children. FRASER (PH): Third graders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Third graders. This is without question the most horrific --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a large mile-wide tornado, that's what I'm hearing on reports. It's rapidly approaching my location. The damage done in Oklahoma City is massive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our worst fears are becoming realized this afternoon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my gosh, it's just awful.


MALVEAUX: We have been bringing you live, overnight coverage. We've got incredible pictures of this tornado.

This is from our iReporters as well. This video giving you really a sense of the -- just the huge proportions of this tornado. It was two miles wide at one point. This is another video. This is from iReporter Brenton Leete, shot from a distance. It really gives you an idea about just the intensity of this tornado. The National Weather Service says the damage it caused is the second most severe category.

Another clip from Brenton, winds howling between 166 and 200 miles per hour.

MANN: Moore, Oklahoma, hit by tornadoes in 1998, 1999, 2003 and now 2013, and this is apparently the worst ever. We'll be back right after this.




MANN: If you look at this, you'll want to hug your own children, you'll want to hug your own children hard. This the scene outside of Briarwood Elementary, one of two schools severely damaged by the storm that hit Moore, Oklahoma. But all of the children inside that school made it out alive.

MALVEAUX: And what's even perhaps more amazing, Plaza Towers Elementary School, very close to that school, where so many children were missing and presumed dead.

MANN: As we count the casualties we know that some children, perhaps many children are among the at least 51 people that are known to be dead. After that massive tornado tore through Central Oklahoma -- and that number's going to rise -- because we're told more bodies are on their way to that medical examiner's office.

Dozens of children are among the dead. We understand that it is just -- the news will get worse.

The day began with an urgent warning, the devastation that followed it was fast, it was widespread.

Here's how it all unfolded.


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST (voice-over): These are live pictures of a funnel cloud that has just developed. It appears to be on the ground in Oklahoma City. This all just minutes after the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for metropolitan Oklahoma City, an entire population of 171,000 people.

SPENCER BASOCO, STORM CHASER (voice-over): This type of tornado will just level towns, honestly, this is getting very scary. Right now this storm is -- oh, my goodness, it's almost -- it's three- quarters of a mile wide and it's moving into eastern -- or western sides of Moore. It is coming into this highly, highly populated area.

BILL BUNTING, OPS CHIEF, NOAA: Our worst fears are becoming realized this afternoon. We certainly hope everyone heeded the warnings, but it's a populated area and we just fear that no everyone may have gotten the word. But we certainly hope that's the case.

LANDO HITE, TORNADO SURVIVOR: Just like on the movie "Twister," there's horses and stuff flying everywhere. It's indescribable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And how are you feeling physically? Do you feel lucky?

HITE: I feel pretty lucky. Yes, I feel pretty lucky.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most disturbing picture to me, though, Jake, where this is a school and the school took a direct hit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just heard some lady down the street, she was screaming about the elementary school, so I headed that way, got there and it was pretty much gone. Me and four other guys pulled a teacher out; she was on top of three kids.

The kids were fine. But she was hurt pretty bad. We put her on a door and then put her on top of a Jeep and wheeled her out to ambulances, because there were so many cars around.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're about two blocks away from the elementary school that was reportedly hit hard by the tornado. As far as my eyes can see, the homes are demolished. There is debris everywhere, chimneys cracked, houses ripped apart, the outside of the homes completely leveled. The neighborhood is not standing anymore. It's completely gone.


MANN: Waiting for dawn, hoping against hope for more survivors in Moore, Oklahoma. I'm Jonathan Mann. MALVEAUX: Two and a half hours until daybreak. We will get a much clearer sense as the light comes out just what that community is dealing with.

Thank you for joining us through the late evening and early morning hours. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. Our colleagues at EARLY START are on the ground and they'll have it next.