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Continuing Live Coverage: Oklahoma Tornadoes; Missouri Governor Declares State of Emergency; Will Rogers Airport Without Power
Aired June 01, 2013 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in for Erin Burnett tonight.
OUT FRONT tonight, the breaking news we are following. A mother and child there dead after a line of powerful tornadoes swept across Oklahoma and Missouri tonight. The area near Oklahoma City that was devastated in the May 20th tornado was in the path of this storm as well.
Missouri's governor has declared a state of emergency in that state. All tornado warnings for Oklahoma and Missouri have now expired. But, but, there are still two active tornado warnings in Illinois right now. Much of the plains and Midwest are also getting a great deal of flooding. Six to eight inches of rain already has fallen in much of central, Oklahoma, causing a life-threatening situation there.
Right now, more than 190,000 customers across the Midwest are without power. Oklahoma City's Will Rogers airport is still without power, as well. All flights to and from the airport have been cancelled.
Also, in Oklahoma, parts of interstate 35 are still shut down. Interstate 40 has reopened. A spokesperson from the Oklahoma highway patrol called conditions on the roads, though, a nightmare situation.
Chad Myers is joining us now on the phone. He's in Oklahoma and rode through this storm, watched it all unfold and got very, very close to the tornado that swept across parts of Oklahoma City's greater metropolitan area.
Chad, where are you now?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST (via telephone): We are on i-35, north of Norman trying to get back into Moore to take pictures of the damage that happened in Moore. We are about five miles south of that city. On a freeway, that should have a hundred cars on it. We are literally doing 10, 15 miles an hour and much lesser than that trying to just sneak our way up very slowly to snake our way, if you will, back on up into this area.
Obviously, we know that is flooding on the roadways. That things are going to very slowly. We are trying to get your pictures as fast as we can. But, all of this traffic was all cause by reports of telling people to go south. Get out of the way of the storm, go south. That's what we understand. And we don't know where those reports came from. But, (INAUDIBLE) or maybe the twitter universe, I don't know how it went.
But, now, all of the sudden, what happened is the typical storm goes to the northeast. It goes to northeast. Today, these storms are going southeast. So, by telling people or just whoever that came from to move to the south, the storms were just following that people that were moving. And so now that the storms are gone, everyone has to go back to the north back to their home. And we're going to have to get to the bottom where ever of where this data came from calling people to get out of here because no one really just get out of anywhere. They were all stuck in traffic. And if this was a major tornado, we would have had a significant number of deaths just by people being trapped in their car with no place else to go because the traffic id dawn zero.
BLITZER: It sounds, Chad, like was almost a panic situation based on what people saw May 20th of the EF-5 tornado that went through Moore, Oklahoma, parts of Oklahoma City that people decided, you know what, we are not taking any chances. We are getting out of dash.
MYERS: And that would have works great. If you were in the line of the storm and the storm was moving to the north, and you knew you were in the way and you dropped out of the south two miles, you would have been out of the way.
The problem is the storm didn't react, didn't go in the direction of the normal tornado. For they just move a little bit to the north of the (INAUDIBLE). This was traveling to the south of the east, so the people that were going south were actually putting themselves in more danger by not staying home in there same place on the roadway. And eventually putting themselves in more danger by not staying home in their safe place getting on a road way and potentially putting themselves vehicle in a very large tornado.
I think one of your reporters; your storm chasers said it best earlier. That this is was badge bullet when we had so many people stuck on the roadway. I have never seen this. I worked in Oklahoma in 1989 to 91. This didn't happen back then. People went to their homes and they stayed there and sheltered in place. This time, they didn't shelter in place.
BLITZER: Yes. We heard that from one storm chaser who said he has been doing this for several years. He has never seen anything like this before. If you get to the bottom of it, who told people to drive away, to get in to their cars instead of staying put. Let us know because that's an interesting part of this story.
How significant are these flood warnings, these floods that have developed, because a lot of water, a lot of rain that has fallen in these areas.
MYERS: Well, I don't think we are even going to get to a hotel tonight, I really don't. I think we're going to be stuck on the roadway here, driving one or two miles per hour because these roads are flooded. They are completely shut down. The managers are saying -- the managers are saying please, don't get on the road. Drive only if you have to. Well, we have to because we trying to get to a hotel, though, we have booked in Oklahoma City. We are also trying to bring you the pictures. I just don't know how that's going to go.
These floods are life-threatening to people in low-lying areas. When you get 10 inches of rain -- we had 10 inches of rain in many areas, from that El Reno area back across into Mustang and into southwest, Oklahoma City. And even northern parts of Moore, six to eight inches of rain there. This water doesn't go very far. It's not like it's going to run off very quickly. This is flat land. And this is clay. The clay does it a lot of water to go very far very fast either.
So this run off is going to be dangerous for people that try to drive it. This is one of those nights, whether service made this up five or six years ago, turn around, don't drown because there could be five to six feet of water in these underpasses. You don't realize there's that much water. You get yourself in trouble, all of the sudden, the car is filled with water and then you have to try to get out and try to abandon and then, what first responders, in the way of getting you out of this. It is very bad. We are not even at the flooding yet. We are at least ten miles to the flooding. And we will try to bring you pictures as soon as we can get there, Wolf.
BLITZER: Chad, don't go away. I know you're trying to drive through and it is congested.
Joining us on the phone right now is Betsy Randolph with the Oklahoma highway patrol.
And I have some questions for you, Betsy, but I want Chad, who's on the road right now. He is probably got a question or two. He is trying to get to Oklahoma City right now. And it's an awful, awful situation. They are barely moving.
Chad, go ahead and ask Betsy a question.
MYERS: Well, we are wondering whether the twitter is being updated by your program so that we can figure out what is actually open and what is actually close. How are you disseminating information to the public on what is not going to work today, what is going to be close, what is going to open, and then maybe when?
BETSY RANDOLPH, OKLAHOMA HIGHWAY PATROL (via telephone): Well, Chad, we do have a facebook page. We haven't -- I haven't been able to update it in quite a while. We don't have a twitter account. And part of that is something we are working on. We are working with our media folks here in the Oklahoma City metro area to get the information out about what roadways are closed. We are discouraging all travel on interstate 40 and interstate 35 in the Oklahoma City metro area. That includes from El Reno on interstate 40, east coming into Oklahoma City, and then north on i-35 from Norman coming north.
In fact, we have asked people from the Purcell area for awhile there, we had our troopers out turning people away and telling them get off of the interstate and go back south on i-35 from Purcell because the roadways were so treacherous. Now we have people that are stranded in the roadways because the water is so high.
MYERS: OK. BLITZER: Well Chad, we are showing our viewers your camera now. Where exactly are you? Tell Betsy, the Oklahoma highway patrol, where you are right now. We see that you are moving not very quickly, but you are moving.
MYERS: Well, we were trying to get back to Moore to assess the damage and what happened across the damage area that was damaged two weeks ago. So, as we looked at our traffic map here on the computer, it said that the traffic was moving 10 or 15 miles per hour and even on some spots here on this highway about 25. We thought OK, we can make 25 miles an hour, in acceptable phase we can do that. But we haven't done that in a long time. And I hope that there aren't just people with cars that are flooded out, you know, in any trouble ahead of us. But that could be the possibility.
BLITZER: We just lost Chad. Betsy Randolph from the Oklahoma highway patrol, are you still with us?
RANDOLPH: Yes, sir, I'm still here.
BLITZER: All right, so give us some advice. Because you saw what Chad was going through? People are out there in large numbers. They are barely moving. What should folks be doing right now?
RANDOLPH: We really are asking them to get off the interstate, whether it's i-35 or i-40, 240, 1-44, the congestion around the Oklahoma City metro area is great. We have a lot of dangers, not just arising water, we have had power lines down across the interstate, scattered across i-40 from El Reno into the Oklahoma City, even past Oklahoma City out by tinker air force base.
So, we are asking folks if you don't have to be out moving around right now, please don't. And if you're already out, you know what a mess it is. Go ahead and exit the interstate, take those back roads, get back to wherever it is that you need to get to tonight, someplace safe hopefully and hopefully someplace where you can listen and watch the weather. We have a lot of stuff going on. We have got first responders that are out, that have been out all evening and probably will be out throughout the night so we can try and find these people that are still maybe either trapped and stranded. We have had a lot of motorist assists and crashes we are still trying to get to.
BLITZER: We are now getting confirmation, Betsy Randolph of the Oklahoma highway patrol of five people who have died result of these storms that have rocked Oklahoma over the past several hours. Is that the number that you have, as well?
RANDOLPH: Yes, that is the number I have. I know that two of the fatalities that we personally worked, and those are the mother and the baby on interstate 40, around Canadian county, and some on road area and that's so heartbreaking. We tried desperately to get that information out, to tell people to listen to the weather forecasters and to heed those warnings. And sometimes those people slip through the cracks. They may traveling on the interstate and drive into the storm unknowingly, not knowing that it's a tornado and not just a rainstorm that they are driving into. BLITZER: You know, one of the concerns that have been raised not only by Chad Myers, our meteorologist, our severe weather expert who is on the ground in Oklahoma right now, but storm chasers right now we've been talking to, they really haven't seen this before. I wonder if you have so many people for whatever reason, instead of staying put, they got into their vehicles, they got into their cars when there was fear of a tornado getting closer towards Oklahoma City and began to drive. This is not something that's widely recommended, is it?
RANDOLPH: Absolutely not. In fact, we have discouraged -- we have pled with people, please, do not get out around move around if you don't have to. Now, we know that when the tornadoes first came through especially on the west side of Oklahoma City, that it was in rush hour traffic. And because of that, people were leaving their places of employment and were trying to get home. And we understand that. We get that part.
But when we say -- when we have had all of our weather folks telling us earlier in the day, look, this is going to be between 5:00 and 10:00 and you need to stay alert to stay alive, I don't know what else we can do to get people to listen and heed those warnings.
Obviously, we know if we have a job, we have got to do our job. We get to our job and then get back home. But we really encourage folks, if you don't have to be out driving, especially right now, because we still have first responders out trying to get to different locations. If we can't get there to help people, you know, that -- it's heartbreaking enough that we have to go to these fatality accidents and these drowning and that sort of stuff. But it's even worse when we have to fight traffic just get out looking around. So, we ask people don't be out on the interstate unless you absolutely have to.
BLITZER: We are just getting this update, Betsey, from Oklahoma department emergency management, the state emergency operations center who has been activated. We are told that the Canadian county emergency management reports several homes damaged and destroyed near El Reno and Union City. We are told that Moore emergency management, Moore, Oklahoma, suburb of Oklahoma City reports a large area of the town without power, as well flooding and down three limps. And we are also told that Oklahoma City emergency management reports localized power outages, extensive flash flooding throughout the city. Minor building flooding and debris from tree and other vegetation, multiple road blocks, wrecks road closures, widely reports police, fire, public works are responding to the calls throughout the city.
It sounds obviously pretty bad right now. So what advice, Betsy, do you have for folks who may be watching who may be in these areas?
RANDOLPH: Well, obviously the same things that we've been telling them all along. Don't drive into the storm. Don't get out if you don't have to. We know that there are people without power tonight. We know that there are people displaced tonight. So, we ask for people to send their prayers heavenward for folks that are still unaccounted for and for the first responders who will work overnight to see that we can get everybody that has survived the storms and get them the immediate medical attention that they need. And then, obviously, for the folks that are affected not only from last week's storm, but from this one tonight, our hope, our prayers are with them and their families and hoping that we can, you know, just -- it's so unnerving when the weather is like this. And the older that I get the longer I live in Oklahoma, the more of a healthy fear that I have for tornadoes.
And our hope is that people will really listen to those weather forecasters saying take need cover. When they say that that means get underground because we know that anything above ground lessens your chances of survival. And so, we really hope that people will heed those warnings, stay off the roadway like tonight and then just be patient as we try to clear up the interstate systems and get the traffic flowing again.
BLITZER: Betsy Randolph who is with the Oklahoma highway patrol.
Betsy, thanks very much. Good advice from you. Good luck to you. Good luck to all your colleagues and everyone in Oklahoma right now.
We are going to have much of the breaking new coming up. We are watching it. We are getting new video from storm chasers. We are going to share it with you. We will be right back.
BLITZER: Five confirmed deaths we are now told as a result of these tornados that have touched down in Oklahoma and elsewhere.
Joining us on the phone right now is Ann Dee Lee. She is a volunteer with the Oklahoma department of emergency management.
Do you have new numbers, Andy, on fatalities, injured, information like that?
ANN DEE LEE, VOLUNTEER, OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT (via telephone): None that I can update you on with fatalities. But I can tell you that the Oklahoma state health department reported 12 storm related injuries. And all of the hospitals are operational and are not reporting any damage. I'm sure those will go up.
BLITZER: I'm sure they will, as well. These pictures have been devastating. What about the people without power, customers without power in Oklahoma, what are you hearing on that one?
LEE: The Oklahoma corporation commission monitors power and utility companies for us. And they report that we have 86,200 customers without power at this time.
BLITZER: Mostly in the Oklahoma City area?
LEE: Yes, that is what I was going to say. The Oklahoma City metro total is right now at about 71,000 out of that 86,000. So the bulk of the people without power are local.
BLITZER: What about flooding? How big of a problem is that right now? LEE: I would say that's a major problem. It's still raining as far as I know. I've been in the basement under the capitol since the storm hit. But as far as I can tell, the storm front is still moving through. No tornado, active tornado warnings at this time. But we still have flash flood warnings and things like that, that are going on. It's important for people to do exactly what Betsy was saying and stays home.
And Chad was right. I don't know where that information came from, for people to get in their cars. But that was absolutely the wronged advice to follow.
What's good is that many, many people, if you look at the number of fatalities, as horrible as they are as having five, think what it could be with all of -- you know, it's a fairly large area in the metro. So we were lucky in many regards that people did listen and stayed home and took shelter.
BLITZER: The pictures that we're seeing of these cars stranded and the floods on these highways, on these roads, it's pretty depressing, when you see what's going on, especially in the aftermath of the tornado that struck on May 20th. It did such damage in Moore and elsewhere. Do you remember a time when we saw one back-to-back destructive tornadoes like these?
LEE: Well, to be honest, I don't have it in my head, but I recall the dates of May 8, May 3, and now May 20th, because may is a big active month in tornado alley. I can say that people who are born and raised here have a plan. They know where they're going to go. Schools know, businesses know, churches know, and people usually have some pretty good idea of where they're going to go. As long as they stay tuned to local TV stations, and of course, now we have facebook and twitter. So information is much more available than it used to be.
BLITZER: If people are on the road right now and they are crawling on some of these highways or interstates and trying to get home, should they still continue to get home or exit and try to find a place to ride this out?
LEE: Well, I think at this point you don't know what road is flooded and what isn't, particularly in the dark. You know, if there's no power or street lights and things like that. They might be safer where they are, and just let traffic slowly go down.
In terms of being on the highways, if you are raised around here, you know where the places are that typically flood. And most people will avoid those places. So, I'm not sure I'm the best one to give you advice on how to get home, but I would think that the best thing you can do is not go into places that you're not particular with.
MYERS: I think that's good advice.
Ann Dee Lee, a volunteer with the Oklahoma department of emergency management.
Good luck to you. Good luck to all your colleagues. Good luck to everyone out there.
Let's stay on the phone. Right now, the storm chaser, Aaron Estman. Am I pronouncing your last name Aaron correctly?
AARON ESTMAN, STORM CHASER (via telephone): Yes, you are.
BLITZER: All right, tell us where you are, and what you saw, what you're seeing right now.
ESTMAN: Well, actually we're heading south on i-35 towards Dallas. That's originally where we're out of. But today, we were near Union City, about three miles northwest of Union City when the tornado actually touched down there and became very violent and very huge very fast. And unfortunately, by the time we heard of a couple of storm chasers getting hit by the tornado, we were evacuating southward into union state, which apparently from what we understand there was a couple of news stations that told people to get in their vehicles and head south, which was very dangerous, because a lot of people, including ourselves, could have easily been killed there in the city. The traffic was just horrendous.
BLITZER: In the years that you have been a storm chaser, I don't know how long you have been doing this, have you ever seen anything like that? Some rumor or somebody saying, you know, get in your car and start driving and all of a sudden there's people panicking?
ESTMAN: I've never, ever heard of that. And a fellow colleague, a fellow storm chaser said today that he's never seen a metropolitan city try to evacuate so fast. That's exactly what we basically saw today. I-35 and the i-44 corridor, which is completely jam packed, to just a stop. And that could have turned out very tragic if the tornado would have went on any of those highways.
BLITZER: It could have been a real disaster. Did you get pretty close to any of those tornadoes this time around, Aaron?
ESTMAN: This time, we were about 300 yards from the wedge when it first touched down. Like we were south of it, we knew where we were, we knew how to stay safe. Unfortunately, sometimes storms are just very predictable, and this one went from an eastward moving storm to a southeastward moving storm. And once we recognized that, we immediately put our escape plan into action and we got out of there as fast as we could.
BLITZER: So, how are you doing now? How are you and your colleagues doing?
ESTMAN: We are all pretty exhausted. This has been a very long day and very scary one at that. So we are all heading home. We are going to see our families and live to chase another day, I guess.
BLITZER: All right, Aaron, thank you very much.
Aaron Estman, joining us, storm chaser heading back to Texas right now. Be careful. We will take another quick break. When we come back, we are going to go back to the CNN weather center to find out where the storm is right now, where it's heading, information you need to know.
BLITZER: Here's the latest information we are getting from Kristy Yager, the Oklahoma City spokesperson, who says that there is flooding all across the metropolitan area around Oklahoma City. They are calling it widespread, major flooding. She says she has heard that they have had between eight and 11 inches of rain. She says the city of Oklahoma City has minor building flooding downtown. There is one inch of flood water in the first floor of city hall. She also says there are apartment complexes in low lying areas with flooding issues. There are five metro brasses stranded due to flood waters, significant developments, no passengers luckily, on those buses. Numerous, numerous accidents.
So, flooding clearly a major issue in the Oklahoma City area, in the city itself, as well as in the suburbs.
Let's bring back Samantha Mohr from the CNN weather center.
What about the storm now, Samantha? Where is it concentrated? We know it moved from Oklahoma, through Kansas to Missouri. But now, it's moving what, into Indiana, Illinois?
SAMANTHA MOHR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, the whole frontal system itself is shifting to the east very slowly, Wolf. So we are going to have to watch a wide area as we head into the overnight and the weekend, as well.
But right now, Oklahoma City, you can see how that line was sagging to the south, starting to lift a bit to the north with storms training one right after the other, dropping heavy rain as they go. That's why we're seeing the flooding situation, because they are going across the same terrain that's already saturated. So, we are seeing some flooding there.
Now, we do still have a tornado warning, just south of the interstate here, north of Canadian. And that tornado warning is -- that cell is moving to the east right now at around 25 miles per hour or so. And I know we also have one up around grove, as well. We have a tornado warning there, too. And that one is also moving to the east. That one doesn't affect quite as many people right around 8,000 people or so.
So, we're watching that area, but it is fairly whirl. We still have some severe thunder storms warnings across Oklahoma City area, and so, we need to be concerned about the heavy rain and gusting, damaging straight line winds out of these storms. We are not so much concerned about tornadoes now in the Oklahoma City area, but still could see some severe thunderstorms and flooding. Because we have seen reportedly some amounts here up around nine inches Oklahoma City area from some of these training cells. And we have flash flood warnings in place here from Oklahoma City, stretching up into Springfield and St. Louis where all the thunderstorms have been throughout the afternoon. And currently, the radar out of St. Louis shows most of the severe storms have moved off to the east out of that radar as range. But still, some heavy downpours, gusty winds and a lot of lightning southeast of town here in St. Louis. But interestingly enough, if you look at the radar, I mean, there was really nothing here at around 5:00 local time. And things just exploded. So you can actually see the inflow boundary here ahead of this system, all of the moisture air showing up on the radar, and then, you can see the outflow boundary, once those storms moved on in. So, that's why we have had all the problems with flooding as the storms just moved one right after another. And they extended from Oklahoma all the way on up here across parts of Missouri. So, you can see just how long that line of severe storms were many reports were in Missouri and eastern Kansas.
And it is interesting, Wolf, we don't have any tornado reports coming out of Oklahoma yet. I think that number will be adjusted once the survey crews get out there tomorrow on the scene. I think they were too busy to really monitor, because we know we saw the one in El Reno and we know we saw the one move into Moore. So I think they will be adjusting that number of tornado reports as we head into the next 24 hours.
By tomorrow morning, we'll probably know. But widespread rainfall, that is the story now with flooding concerns across the region and still have tornado watches in effect, into the early morning hours, in fact, until about 6:00 a.m. local time in Indiana. You were talking how widespread this is. Upper level low pushes to the east with the cold front out of it, the warm, moist air ahead of it. So we're still going to have the threat as we head through the weekend.
Tomorrow, it looks like around the 30 percent chance we could see severe thunderstorms here across parts of Illinois and Indiana. So, we will watch that carefully as we head into the weekend, Wolf.
BLITZER: We will watch it together with you, Samantha, thanks very, very much.
Let's bring in Ben McMillan right now. He is a storm chaser, also an EMT who is south of Oklahoma City right now.
Where are you, Ben, right now?
BEN MCMILLAN, STORM CHASER, IOWA STORM CHASING NETWORK (via telephone): Wolf, we have taken refuge at a hotel in Norman tonight. The interstate northbound from here was almost at a stand fill due to stop traffic, most likely due to the flooding and possible debris that was in the red letter from the earlier tornadoes.
BLITZER: Did you get a sense to see what was going on in Moore? I asked the question because Moore, big chunks of it were destroyed on May 20th in the tornado then. I was there for a few days in the aftermath. And I wonder how badly Moore has done this time around.
MCMILLAN: I'm not sure, Wolf. But one problem you have with a lot of damaged areas that still haven't been cleaned up yet is you have a lot of loose debris. And today, we had high winds move into those areas. Now, I don't know for sure whether or not actual tornadoes hit the more damaged path, but I can tell you with certainty that strong winds impacted that area. And I think that might have caused some issues with all that debris getting kicked up and flying around.
BLITZER: And they lost a lot of power over there, as well. How close did you get to the storm on this day, Ben?
MCMILLAN: We were probably about a half mile away from the tornadoes that first formed south of the El Reno airport. And that it started off as small, stovepipe narrow tornadoes but quickly grew into a half mile to mile wide tornado that moved east from our location and just encountered a lot of homes that were damaged in that area, there were some cars flipped, propane tanks leaking and kind of stop and aide search and rescue that were not able to track the storm any further to that point.
BLITZER: So, you actually got out and helped some people who are in trouble?
MCMILLAN: Yes, we were in the areas were houses were hit. But, we didn't find anyone. They must have been taken to shelter and taking appropriate measures to protect themselves.
BLITZER: Were the homes pretty much destroyed or badly damaged?
MCMILLAN: Some of them were leveled. But most, the really bad damage we saw was in garage areas, you know, structures that weren't as sturdy. And the weather service will most like in the morning, complete some damage surveys to let us know how strong the winds are.
BLITZER: We really not going to know the full extent of the damage until daylight when people crews can go out there and get a better sense of what's going on in the middle of that. Right now, with all the flooding, with all the debris, it's pretty dangerous to even be moving around.
MCMILLAN: Yes. I mean, I don't know what the folks are saying for sure here, but it feels like it's some sort of the state of emergency in the city. There is emergency personnel, still running around everywhere. There's roads closed and that's why we decided to take shelter south of the city and not trying to enter the area that were impacted by the storm today.
BLITZER: Have you been a storm chaser for a long time?
MCMILLAN: Yes. I have been chasing for about 10 to 11 years now. And we actually tracked the EF-5 that hit Moore last week. We are about a half mile, behind it. So, it's just really sad to see these folks that are really dealing with so much have to go through it yet again.
BLITZER: Is that pretty unusual, within 10, 12 days, or whatever, two tornadoes to hit the same area?
MCMILLAN: Yes, it's very rare. I think the Moore area had three or four tornadoes hit nit the last ten years. And then to have two hit in couple in weeks time and is something I've never seen before. BLITZER: Yes. I've never seen that either. And my heart goes out to all those folks. They have been suffering so much. It was heartbreaking to see what was going on in Moore. And then now knowing what's going on even makes the situation so much worse, so much more painful.
So where to you go from here? What's next from you, Ben?
MCMILLAN: We track storms on a daily basis. We go wherever the storm risk is greatest. And tomorrow, we are looking at areas down to Texas. The south central Texas area could have similar storms Oklahoma experienced today.
BLITZER: Yes. And one of the big problems today was somebody told people, get in your car and start driving and that caused a huge, huge traffic jam in major interstates and people will be investigating to see who gave that poor advice.
Ben McMillan, thanks very much. Be careful and good work. Thank you.
Chad Myers is on the phone, our severe weather expert, our meteorologist who has been chasing these storms, as well.
Have you made much progress moving? Because the traffic has been horrendous you were telling us, Chad.
MYERS (via telephone): We did. It did break up a little bit (INAUDIBLE) all the way now in the southwest, Oklahoma City. Not quite up into Oklahoma City yet itself, but we are actually traveling along southwest 44th street, almost around Penn. And what we have notice is, all of the lights are out. Everybody has no power, but also in the most that the street lights are out. Look, every mile, the streetlights are out.
And Wolf, just still don't get it, but there are hundreds of people just driving around. So we get to this intersection, which is obviously now supposed to be a four-way stop, and people don't get it. They don't stop. People running through the red lines, honking at each other, go hey, that was my turn. It's still chaos down here. I don't know why people just don't go home. The power is out. Maybe they want to try to find some place that has power. I don't know, but I just -- this dumb founds me at 11:40 local time, why people are still driving around this town.
BLITZER: But you may be right. Maybe these people are trying to themselves to get back to their homes because for whatever reason, they got in their cars and decided they were going to drive away from this storm, which was not necessarily a great idea.
MYERS: Well, you know, I just digress to this story, whatever the information came from. If you're in a town like El Reno or if you are in a town that's, you know, 150, 250 people and there is a maxi one- mile wide tornado about to come to your town, I don't think it's a bad idea to get everybody out of that town, if you know they are 20 minutes in advance which way they should go. And -- but if you have a major metropolitan area that's just going to make a traffic nightmare, that seems like that may have been bad advice, because everybody got in their car and then, they all got stuck in traffic. And we had five lanes of traffic going south on a four-lane highway and nobody was allowed if you go the other way. The traffic -- it was like trying to evacuate for a hurricane. But you're trying to do this with 20 minutes notice, and when we tell you to evacuate for a hurricane, that's 48 hours in advance. That 20 minutes before a tornado hit --
BLITZER: You know, Chad, we heard from the Oklahoma City spokesperson, eight to 11 inches of rain in Oklahoma City. Are you seeing a lot of evidence of flooding on the streets where you are right now?
MYERS: You know, it's not really bad. We have been trying to drive around. We heard there was some high water rescues going on not 45 far to our south. We drove down there to look at it. By the time we got there, it was gone. The water is receding. I have seen nothing that would be over even the tire part of our wheel. So no, we haven't seen a lot of flooding. We have been right down by the Canadian river. So, you can't get lower than where we were, and we haven't seen a lot of it yet. Maybe it's already gone by, maybe it is already run off, but you know, it's still raining in some spots.
And Samantha will tell you it was still raining in El Reno and those areas there did pick up to 11 inches of rainfall right along that i- 40. And I assume, as we're trying to make our way out there, I'm sure we are going to find more as we go further west.
BLITZER: Chad, be careful over there. We will check back with you shortly. We will take a quick break. When we come back, you are going to hear one of the storm chasers who shot some really powerful, dramatic video. Here it is right now. You are going to hear him explain what was going on. Stand by.
BLITZER: We are following the breaking news involving the latest round of tornadoes hitting Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, now Illinois, Indiana.
Kristy Yager is joining us now. She is the spokesperson for the Oklahoma City area.
Kristy, what is the latest, how bad is the situation in Oklahoma City?
KRISTY YAGER, OKLAHOMA SPOKESWOMAN (via telephone): We had tornadoes throughout the metro area. Tornado damage seems to be minor right now. The biggest threat was flooding. And that was throughout all of Oklahoma City. We are about 621 miles, so it was a big area. And right now, the flooding has subsided in north Oklahoma City, because I'm driving that way right now. I don't know what's happening in south Oklahoma City. But we are very concerned about the damage that that's caused, and we will be out on the ground tomorrow morning doing damage assessments. BLITZER: Because we were told that Oklahoma City, the greater metropolitan area had what, eight to 11 inches of rain in a relatively brief amount of time. Is that right?
YAGER: Yes, in just a few hours.
BLITZER: And so, that's why you got this flooding. Why are so many people still on the street driving around?
YAGER: Well, Oklahoma City is a busy place. We had people in the (INAUDIBLE). We had events going on all over the place at Pacific center music hall and just caught everybody up in those. Once those events let out, people wanted to get home. And it would have been better had they stayed at the facility a little longer to let those flood waters subside.
BLITZER: Do you have any information, Kristy, about casualties, injuries?
YAGER: We have not heard of any in Oklahoma City at this point. But it's probably a little too early to get any information regarding the flooding.
BLITZER: Kristy Yager is the spokesperson for Oklahoma City. Kristy, thanks very much for joining us. Good luck to you.
YAGER: Thank you. We need to break.
BLITZER: I know. I mean, that's a bad situation. Good luck.
Earlier I spoke to Brandon Sullivan, the storm chaser who shot that incredible video near Oklahoma City. We have been looking at the video throughout this evening. I asked him to walk us through where he was, what was going on when the tornado came his way.
BRANDON SULLIVAN, STORM CHASER (voice-over): Well, we were just northwest of Union City, Oklahoma, west of Oklahoma City. You know, we could tell that a tornado was imminent at any time. A tornado formed and it became very large very last. We initially knew it was time to go south. So, we begin moving south.
The tornado actually crosses maybe a half mile behind our cars. But the inflow to the tornado was so strong that it, you know, ripped a barn apart and began tearing debris across the road which has seen in the video. And you know, it smashes into our car. So, basically had no choice but, you know, to slow down and move very slowly as this debris came throwing toward us.
BLITZER: Well, we saw at one point, sudden debris smashing your windshield. What kind of vehicle is this?
SULLIVAN: I drive a jeep patriot. So, it is kind of lighter, smaller SUV.
And as it -- is it armored, is it safe to go through a dangerous situation, a storm like this?
SULLIVAN: I mean, there's no special armoring, you know, I don't have a tank or anything. So, I mean, I guess you couldn't say it's armored, but in my opinion, I don't believe it's really safe to ever been as close as we were, even in an armored vehicle. Flying debris is very deadly.
BLITZER: We just saw it. The wind shield smashed. Were you driving? Were you in the front seat? Where were you when that windshield was smashed like that, and what went through your mind when that happened?
SULLIVAN: Well, I was actually in the passenger seat. My friend, Brett, was driving. You know, honestly, my concern was, you know, I knew we weren't in the tornadic circulation. We were in the inflow, so I wasn't concerned about being picked up and carried away about the tornado. You know, my main concerns were obviously flying debris and, you know, possibly, you know, getting tipped over by the winds.
But you know, (INAUDIBLE). I told everybody in the vehicle to duck down, you know, try to cover their eyes and just to avoid the flying glass and we just had to wait it out there for about 30 seconds.
BLITZER: What was the most frightening moment that you and your colleagues had to endure?
SULLIVAN: You know, the tornado, like I said, it was very large. It turned right and came right at us. You forecast I would say that moment of the tornado coming right at us was probably even more scary than the debris actually hitting my car. At that point in time, when the debris is hitting the car, I knew that we were at least out of the tornadic circulation. I knew I was too wary. I knew was getting some damage to my car, but that was better than being picked up and, you know, possibly slip and carried away by the tornado.
BLITZER: With some other vehicles we saw today were flipped and carried away. There once again, you see your windshield shattered. How long have you been chasing tomorrows like this?
SULLIVAN: Well, you know, I'm only 21 years old, but I have been doing this since I was about 14. So seven, almost eight years I've been doing it for quite a while. But today, was just a wild experience.
BLITZER: Well, it is pretty frightening to see the video. But, you just had a camera attached to your front dash board and just let it roll, was that it?
SULLIVAN: Yes. We have the cameras on the front dash and on the hood. We even had interior cameras. So we were able to capture anything that happens.
BLITZER: Are you OK now, Brandon?
SULLIVAN: Yes, I'm fine. I'm at home and got cleaned up and just ready to have some dinner and relax.
BLITZER: What about your friends? SULLIVAN: Everybody in the vehicle was OK. We are all sitting here, kind of sharing our pictures and videos and just, you know, reminiscing about the day.
BLITZER: Thanks to Brandon Sullivan for that report and for that video. We are going to take another quick break. When we come back, we are going to talk to a CNN producer who was at the Oklahoma City international airport when this huge storm came rushing through.
BLITZER: CNN producer Denise Quan is joining us on the phone right now. She was at Oklahoma City international airport when the weather came through.
What was it like, Denise?
DENISE QUAN, CNN PRODUCER (via telephone): Well, it was pretty surreal. We were sitting in a lounge waiting to board the plane when all of the sudden, the sirens went off and a voice came over the loudspeaker asking us to please evacuate down to the basement at the airport. And so, a bunch of us got herded downstairs into the basement and that's where we waited out the tornadoes.
The first one went by, we didn't hear anything. But the lights did flicker and I think the power for the entire airport went out and we went on generator. They had us down there for 45 more minutes just waiting out a series of what they called Swirlers (ph). And we were down (INAUDIBLE) there hour and a half, two hours, came back upstairs. Of course, all these flights with now canceled and I hear some of the planes had been damages that were sitting on the tarmac. They want to check the conditions of the planes as well as the condition of the runway. And there are a lot of people that will be probably going to be spending a long night into the waiting area of the airport or plane that isn't flying out any time soon.
BLITZER: No time soon. All right, Denise, be careful over there.
Denise Quan, our CNN producer. Thanks to you. Thanks to all of our viewers for joining us.
I'm Wolf Blitzer for reporting.
CNN's breaking news coverage will continue right after this break.