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Storms Hit Missouri; Blizzard-Like Conditions In Nebraska; FEMA Storm Response

Aired March 01, 2007 - 10:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Tony Harris. Spend a second hour in the NEWSROOM this morning and stay informed. Here's what's on the rundown.

Marching into March. Strong thunderstorms, a big risk of tornados in the Midwest and the south. The St. Louis area, nature's target this hour.

COLLINS: We'll talk about that, and Gulf Coast schools 18 months after Katrina. President Bush's focus on his New Orleans trip today. He arrives this hour. We will talk live shortly with FEMA director David Paulison.

HARRIS: The wounded warrior project drawing attention to the horrific injuries of war. We're live with a wounded warrior participant this Thursday, March 1st. You are in the NEWSROOM.

It is our top story. Take a look at these pictures now coming out of Ripley County. That is in southern Missouri. Southern Ripley County in Missouri. We've been telling you this story all morning of all kinds of damage from severe weather in the Missouri area.

A tornado warning now, as you can see, in effect. But, obviously, something has already come through that area. This is tape that we're getting in to CNN just moments ago. Some kind of a structure there. Can't say for sure if we're talking about a house or a parking garage. But clearly an area that has been devastated by high winds, possibly a tornado. Don't know that for sure.

But this is the kind of damage, Heidi, that we see oftentimes associated with some kind of tornadic activity. But as you can see now, these are pictures from just a couple of moments ago on the ground there, southern Ripley County in Missouri. Let's bring in Chad Myers.

Chad, help us sort of diagnose what we're seeing here.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's hard to tell whether this was a frame structure, a stick-built home or whether this was actually a mobile home or an off-site built home. But you can begin to see that it looks like those are two by fours. You can usually notice that a mobile home or something that's pre-fabbed probably comes with one by threes in stick walls. It's hard to tell. I mean, it's very difficult, even with a Fujita scale, to tell you what you have if you don't know the strength of the structure in the first place. But this is probably -- and if it was a mobile home, this could probably get done with 100 miles an hour straight-line wind. If this was a stick-built home, we're probably talking somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 to 150 mile per hour winds.

COLLINS: And, Chad, it's interesting too, isn't it. We always talk about this when we see these tornados. Look at, the cars is just sitting there. I mean you see that the glass is blown out, of course, but everything around it, looks like two different slabs of concrete there, maybe two different foundations for a home and a garage. Don't know for sure. But isn't that unbelievable. The car's just sitting there, lit it's barely touched, except fo the glass.

MYERS: Most people don't realize that their garage door is their weakest link of the house itself. And when you begin to blow air into a garage because of a garage door, that will explode the house or explode the garage itself. And so that could be very difficult when it comes to what you can expect or what you're going to see from one storm compared to another.


COLLINS: Yes. Unbelievable. It looked like were you in a helicopter there for a while. But we are following this right to the moment so we've got all kinds of reports coming in to us today. We're just trying to take them and break them down for you.

And, Chad, in fact, you're getting another one right now.

MYERS: This is going to be a significant day. No matter where you are in America, whether you're in -- or the eastern half of America. Whether you're going to see a snowstorm, whether you're going to see the potential for tornados. One person in our crew that's on top of this story now in actually Norman, Oklahoma, at the severe prediction center is our Jacqui Jeras. And she's there to give us the very latest.

Jacqui, kind of an opportune time. You were at a severe weather conference and now all of a sudden you're doing severe weather.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, this is the second time it's happened to me, too, Chad. I'm going to have a reputation. People aren't going to invite me to their conferences anymore after this is happening.

But what an amazing day to be here and see the true experts. You know, this is like the Super Bowl for these guys because events like this only happen maybe a handful of times a year. And we're very lucky to be here because we have exclusive access and can bring you information even before we get watches issued out to the public. These guys have been doing this for years and years and years and today is going to be one of those days where, unfortunately, we may see fatalities where we could see that big F3, F4, F5 tornado on the ground.

Now this is Jack Hails (ph) over here and he is the lead forecaster at the storm prediction center.

And, Jack, there's been an area that we're watching that's not under a watch at this time that you're concerned about. Tell us about that.

JACK HAILS: Well, the area is east of the current watch we have over most of Alabama and Mississippi. And we're concerned now because in that watch area, we've already had a couple tornado warnings. In fact, there's a tornado warning currently out for the Mobile City area itself, and that's in the eastern part of our current watch. And so we expect the conditions to rapidly develop eastward from Mississippi and Alabama into Georgia. So we issued a (INAUDIBLE) discussion just recently to the offices in this area that we're going to likely have to reissue another watch further east to cover the developments already ongoing in the southeast part of the current watch.

JERAS: And what kind of timetable are we talking about? When can people in Alabama, Georgia and north Florida expect to see the severe weather?

HAILS: Well, south Alabama, fairly soon. Next hour or two we are probably going to have a threat. And then certainly north and east into Georgia, the early part of the afternoon and on into most of Georgia before evening. You were mentioning, I think, the possibility of fatalities. We have one fatality already just reported due to tornado that just came in from the office of Springfield, Missouri. At Caulfield City and Howell County, Missouri, at 7:00 a.m. this morning.

JERAS: Now you guys, yes, not only monitor the forecast conditions of what you're anticipating, but you also do things like monitor reports. Tell us a little bit about this computer here. You kind of have to tune yourself to the different bells and whistles that you listen off. They have different meaning.

HAILS: Right. We have a lot of little alarms for about everything that happens. Different alarms for -- that would be a severe thunderstorm warning issued by Lake Charles. Different warning -- audible warning for tornados and watches that go out, different products. So we don't have to always be looking up. We're aware of anything that happens severe weather-wise in the country immediately through the audible alarms. And it help us a lot.

JERAS: Describe a day like today. How does today compare to a typical day at the storm prediction center?

HAILS: Well, every day is different, number one. And this is, obviously, a very big day, it looks like. Though we have anticipated this for a number of days now. And so our products reflect that. And we try to adjust our thinking process so that we try and cover these events well in advance. And so we issued larger watches, we issue longer watches and we put more emphasis on the watches. And we issue tornado versus severe thunderstorm. So really we have the model forecasts and the expertise and the knowledge to anticipate these big days well in advance. It is the smaller days that really give us problems.

JERAS: Yes. Well, hopefully, people are prepared for a day like today because this is going to be a big one. And, Chad, you just heard it, we're going to be watching parts of Alabama, Mississippi and on into northern Florida for severe weather threat as we progress into the afternoon hours.

Back to you.

MYERS: Thank you, Jacqui.

We want to show you now the warning that he was talking about for Mobile Proper. Not that far from Tillman's Corner right now. The storm is moving to the north, to northeast, maybe 45, 50 miles an hour. That's the problem with some of these storms, guys, they are moving so very, very fast today that you're not going to be able to get out of the way.

You're going to have to just duck and cover with these storms. Because if you're stuck in traffic and the tornado his your car, as we usually say, there's no room for you left in the car when the tornado is done with it. So you need to not be in a mobile home, moving vehicle and the like. Some big, big structure.

Thank you to Jacqui for having that great report on. She'll be with us all day long there from SPC.

COLLINS: Yes, unbelievable. A great way to put it, too, Chad. Not enough room for you in the car, so get out.

Real quickly for you, maybe meteorology 101, but just quickly remind everybody the difference between watch and warning so they know what to do.

MYERS: A watch lasts five, six, maybe eight hours. Not usually eight, but it can. And it's going to cover an entire state. If we say -- or if your local weather guy says, there is a tornado watch for Georgia. Well, that's not all that important yet. But what they're saying is that there's the potential for something to develop in one of the storms that's already developing that could cause it to rotate. We have a lot of big-time rotation today. Some of those storms may contain tornados. So you got a lot of "mays" and "buts" and "ifs."

But when you get the warning, when you hear, "I'm warning you," or "this is a warning for the storm," it's only going to be for maybe 35, maybe 45 minutes. It's going to be for a county or a series of counties, especially if you're in a tri-county area. But that's going to only be for a little bit. That means a tornado has been indicated on Doppler radar or somebody is actually out there and they have seen that tornado on the ground. That's the only two ways you'll actually get a warning. So it is a big-time problem for us today. There may be 30 to 50 tornados before the end of the day. COLLINS: Gosh. You know, we talked for a second about the conditions that -- because this only happens maybe a couple of times a year, we were saying. It's like the perfect storm or something?

MYERS: Well, kind of. You get all these ingredients. And if you add your flour and your eggs and your yeast and your water and all that and you get a nice loaf of bread. But you add a bunch of it and you get a whole bunch -- then you get a really big loaf of bread.

Now the problem is, at some point in time, we get these high-risk days and sometimes we call it the kiss of death because you don't get anything to happen because there's too much of one thing or too much of another thing when we anticipate it being a perfect day, a big-time day, sometimes the yeast will get in the way and maybe you put too much in and it doesn't rise or it rises too much and then it flops back down, and so on, and so on.

So there is a recipe for severe weather. And so far today, the recipe is all working out that all the ingredients are there for that.

COLLINS: Yes. Some new video now to into us. This is coming from Linn County, Kansas. We talked with the sheriff there a little while ago. He reported to us lots of structural damage, a power substation completely down. Apparently the tornado there, Chad, hit about 7:00 p.m. last night, which is the good news, whereas before, just a couple weeks ago, we had one that hit, you know, right in the middle of the morning and people were sleeping. At least they may have been a little bit more aware of this one. But just want to make sure that we showed our viewers this new video once again coming in from our affiliate KMBC, Linn County, Kansas, there.

Meanwhile, when weather becomes the news, count on CNN to bring it to you first. If you do see severe weather happening in your area and you can stay safe to go ahead and shoot it, send us an i-Report. Just go to and click on i-Report, or type into your cell phone. Go ahead and share your photos or video with us. We'll put them on the air.

HARRIS: You know, there is no season for tornados. They can happen anytime, anywhere if conditions are right. That said, the peak season for tornados is between May and July for most of the United States.

A couple of more interesting facts here. About 1,000 tornados touch down in the U.S. each year. Did you know that? Most of them last less than 10 minutes.

And here's the biggest surprise we learned. Believe it or not, a tornado forecasting used to be banned in the United States. Prior to 1950, the National Weather Bureau strongly discouraged, and at one point even forbade, forecasters from using the word "tornado." The bureau felt that meteorologists just didn't know enough about them. And that to report them without the knowledge would cause a panic.

COLLINS: Near whiteout conditions in Omaha. Schools shutting down. Motorists pulling over and parking. And what about the airport? For that we turn to the executive director of the Omaha Airport Authority. Don Smithey is joining us by phone.

Mr. Smithey, thanks for being with us. Tell us the situation.


The situation here is that we've got high winds, the temperature is about 30 degrees, slightly below freezing, and low visibility here at the airport. However, the runway visual range is up to 2,400 feet now, and so the airlines have been departing and have been arriving. They are delayed to certain destinations. For example, in the Chicago area. And the interstate highway system has closed I-29 and I-80 at present between -- in close proximity to the airport. So we have suggested that the passengers call their respective airline and double check the schedule. Even though we're departing here and arriving, there may be problems elsewhere with the weather being what it is.

COLLINS: Yes, boy, and, you know, that's really the point to make here. And you, as the Omaha Airport Authority, tell us a little bit about what that means when things are slow, visibility pretty low in your geographical location. What does it mean for maybe flights going through the area and connections to be made and all that? We typically know what happens if we're talking about O'Hare, for example, in the middle of the country. What does it mean when we're talking about Omaha here?

SMITHEY: Well, the biggest problem would be getting to the airport. Once you got here, when we're seeing -- you may experience a delay, but your flight could depart. And what we're, again, asking passengers to do is call that airline. Things can go minute-to- minute.

For example, about five minutes ago, visibility was better than it is just now as I look out my window. The airlines are deicing their airplanes in preparation and they're boarding to depart. However, these conditions could change rapidly. And, however, the forecast, too, is that by noon it's going to move through here, so we should be seeing quite a bit of improvement.

COLLINS: Well, we certainly hope so. And we appreciate your help with all of this this morning too. The executive director of the Omaha Airport, Don Smithey, this morning.

Mr. Smithey, thanks.

HARRIS: And again, this storm system just winding up, as you can see now. We're talking about watches and warnings eventually throughout the day in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia. High risk of tornado outbreak in the south today. Meteorologist Chad Myers coming up in just minutes here in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Powerful storms, tornados. We will talk with the director of FEMA about what happens after the storms. And also about that slow road to recovery along the Gulf Coast after Katrina.

HARRIS: Reading, writing and rebuilding. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Schools are making a turn for the better. Everybody's trying to not go back to the pre-Katrina way.


HARRIS: We will go back to the classroom in New Orleans. You are in the NEWSROOM.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange. That relief rally was nice while it lasted, but it didn't last very long. The three, major averages sharply lower again. I'll have the numbers when NEWSROOM returns.

You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


HARRIS: And once again, very quickly, let's put up as many pictures as we can to try to tell you the story of what's happening across the country. The Plains. Certainly we're keeping an eye on what's going on in the south now.

These are pictures from Linn County, Kansas. Boy, we heard a description of some of the damage there. A lot of structural damage.

As Heidi mentioned a moment ago, a power substation just destroyed. As you can imagine, all kinds of power outages there throughout the south. Throughout the day you can expect tornado watches and warnings from Alabama to Mississippi, Georgia.

So we are keeping an eye on the situation here. And this is a picture in to us from Mobile, Alabama, where there is a tornado warning in place right now. So stay with us here in the NEWSROOM. Chad Myers working feverishly on all of the watches and warnings to bring you the very latest information on this series of actual storm systems moving across the country.

COLLINS: President Bush visiting the Gulf Coast this hour for an update on the recovery from Hurricane Katrina. FEMA Director David Paulison joining us now from the agency's headquarters in Washington with more on that.

But, of course, we have been talking about the weather all morning long, Director Paulison, and we would like to chat with you about that as well. We've got tornados in Kansas and Missouri. What typically does FEMA do at this point very early on to help with a situation like this?

DAVID PAULISON: Well, right now we're monitoring the weather and watching this storm front as it goes through, staying in contact with the states, see if there's any needs that they have. If we do get tornados and we have damage like we had in Florida, we'll move in very quickly just like we did in Florida. COLLINS: What, though, typically do you do to connect with the people, to find out what exactly they may need? I mean I understand the process. They have to go local first. And then if local needs more help, they go federal.

PAULISON: Well, you know, the system that we've used, that you just mentioned, is not what we want to do. We want to go in as partners now, like we did in Florida when we had the tornados last month. We want to make sure - we're talking to the state ahead of time, what are your needs. And let's not wait for one of the systems to fail before we move in. Let's have the state working together with the locals and us working with the state before there's a failure in the system. That's the new theme that we're going to be using from now on.

COLLINS: So you felt like there was great success then with this new process, new maybe chain of command, if you will, in Florida? You had great success.

PAULISON: We had very good success there. Had a lot of damage. We talked to the state. They told us they needed blue tarps, they needed plastic sheeting. We went ahead and moved in food and water and ice just in case they needed those supplies.

COLLINS: What about the warning systems, though?

PAULISON: Well, Florida didn't have any in that particular area and it caused a big problem.


PAULISON: So, you know, we need to look at that very carefully. The communities need to look at how they're going to warn their citizens. We have a great weather service. They're able to predict these tornados now. So we need to start developing a nationwide system being able to warn people when these disasters are imminent.

COLLINS: All right. Yes, definitely, that's the point there.

I want to move on, if I could. We know that President Bush is on the Gulf Coast today for the first time in six months. No mention of Katrina in the State of the Union Address. I'm sure you were well aware of that. Has Katrina recovery fallen off of the president's list of top priorities, in your opinion?

PAULISON: Oh, not at all. Not at all. You know, we meet on a regular basis. The president's constantly asking where we are, how we're doing, you know, where's the money, why isn't it flowing down to the local level? Those types of things.

So it's been on top of the president's mind since Katrina, and I have not seen any backing off at all. Just for the fact that he didn't mention it in his State of the Union Address, I didn't see a lot of significance in that.

COLLINS: All right. So that being said, are you satisfied with the progress of this recovery, particularly in areas like housing and infrastructure?

PAULISON: Well, nobody is satisfied with it until it's done. So to say we're satisfied, the answer is no. You know, we provided a lot of money to the state of Louisiana, to Mississippi and Alabama, too. And . . .

COLLINS: Right. But forgive the interruption, but, Director Paulison, the question was, are you satisfied with the progress? I mean, obviously, no one's going to be satisfied until it's all done and we stop seeing pictures like this. But the progress of the recovery.

PAULISON: No, we're not satisfied with it. We want it to move faster. We want people to get out of those mobile homes, out of those travel trailers, back into some decent housing. These units were not designed for long-term living.

Particularly in the New Orleans area, there simply is no housing for them to move into. So, you know, we're continuing to work with the state, work with the local communities. We want to move these people out of these travel trailers, out of these mobile homes, back into their regular houses.

COLLINS: Our correspondent, Sean Callebs, on the ground there reporting this morning that New Orleans told FEMA it will take $418 million to repair and renovate damaged schools. Officials are saying FEMA has provided $13 million so far.

First of all, I know you can't just hand out money. We dealt with a lot of different fraud cases in the aftermath of Katrina. So I know that there has to be quite a bit of investigation and research done to figure out where the money should go and who should really need it. But is some of that money -- more money going to be going towards this humongous figure of $418 million?

PAULISON: Actually, the total estimate that we have across -- not just New Orleans, but across the Gulf Coast is, particularly Louisiana, was right over $1 billion.

COLLINS: Right. But I'm talking about schools.

PAULISON: Right, I'm talking about schools.


PAULISON: And we have already given the state almost -- in fact, over $800 million of that $1 billion that we've determined is the eligible cost. The problem is, that only about $200 million of that has gotten down to the local level. The state has a lot of the dollars and, for some reason, it is not flowing like it should be.

COLLINS: Well, New Orleans was the major, major, you know, focus of all of this damage, was it not?

PAULISON: Of course it is. New Orleans is the focus. But there's schools all across Louisiana that were damaged. So, again, we have already obligated over $800 million of the total $1 billion that's eligible to the state. The state does have those dollars.

COLLINS: How long is it going to take for them to get that?

PAULISON: Well, that's a state/local issue. We're working with them to find out why the bottleneck is, why the money's not flowing down to the local level where they can start rebuilding these schools.

COLLINS: Oh, boy. I hope so.

Turning now to FEMA. A lot of changes since Katrina hit. And last April you and I spoke, I interviewed you for "The Situation Room." And this is how you rated FEMA on Hurricane Readiness. You said, "I think at this point, if I had -- and I hate to use those number things," I asked you to rate it from one to 10 "I would say we're at an eight. We've got some work to do. We're going to be ready by June 1st to respond to hurricanes."

How would you rate FEMA today, sir?

PAULISON: I think we're probably at a nine. We still have a lot of work to do, but we've made some significant progress, particularly in bringing people in who know how to manage, who have experience with disasters. I think, like I mentioned earlier, when I took over FEMA, we only had two of our 10 regional director slots filled. I now have all 10 of those filled and they're people with 25 and 30 years of experience.

And we're doing the same thing inside of FEMA headquarters. If you're going to come to work for FEMA in a management position, you're going to have to have the experience to do the job or you're not going to come here. I think if my legacy is going to be leaving FEMA with good, solid people who were managers, who have emergency management experience, who have been on the ground and been their and done that.

COLLINS: You think the people of Louisiana would agree with you on a nine out of 10 readiness? I remember that after you said the eight, we had quite a bit of discussion coming out after that and looking at the hurricane readiness and the reports that were released. And there was quite a bit of controversy or conflict, I should say, to dispute that it was really at an eight. You feel confident that people would see you as a nine?

PAULISON: Well, I don't know what they're going to say. I can tell you what I feel as far as what I'm seeing from managing the organization. I can tell you that I think people in Louisiana, and particularly in New Orleans, are recognizing that FEMA is getting the money out of Washington and into the state's hands. I think that was very evident by Mayor Nagin's comments this morning.

So until they recognize that FEMA is getting the money, we are flowing the dollars out. And that's what we do. Our job is not to rebuild the schools or rebuild the homes. Our jobs is provide the money to do that. And we're doing a pretty good job of that right now.

COLLINS: FEMA Director David Paulison joining us from D.C. this morning. And we know it will be a busy day with you and all of this severe weather as well. So appreciate your time here. Thank you.

PAULISON: Thank you.

HARRIS: And still to come in the NEWSROOM, a nearly 200-point dive at the open. Things are improving actually. A bit of a rebound. Wall Street still volatile. Stock market watch ahead in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: And our Gerri Willis is in with us today as well, personal finance editor. Going to talk to us all about some special super secret tips like we always come to you for.


GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Heidi. Good to see you.

Now mortgage lenders are falling on hard times. We'll tell you what this could mean for your monthly payments. "Top Tips" is next.


HARRIS: And quickly now, let's get you to the severe weather center and Chad Myers. Chad, this hour on the half hour, what are you watching?

MYERS: I am watching now the storm that moved very close to Mobile and through the bay, now up toward Baymonette (ph), as the storm continues to travel through the north. Now that's near Mobile, Alabama. The storm is still moving to the northeast at 40 miles an hour, a speed so strong, so fast that you can't outrun that especially if you're trying to outrun it in traffic because basically in the way if you are there. The whole storm itself will eventually get stronger, will eventually move into Alabama, into Georgia, into Mississippi, and it will probably even have more tornados on the ground later on today.

Here's Mobile, here's that storm near Baymonette. Also another very strong storm, not a warning on it yet and I'm not sure why, but it is moving toward Pensacola. If you are in Pensacola or very close to Pensacola, from you all the way down to the shore, it would be a good idea to be taking cover now. There you see from Pensacola at 9:34, that's Central time, that's only three or five minutes away there, three or four minutes away and then up to Ferry Pass, in about 10 minutes or so.

These are pretty strong storms. They are rotating off the ocean which doesn't happen very often. Some of these are actually - we're noticing rotating clock wise and counter clockwise at the same time, two separate parts of the storm. But that's one of the times you can actually get what they call an anti-cyclonic tornado. They don't happen often but this is a day that doesn't happen often, either. So it is going to be a big one. There's Pensacola right there, very strong cell.

Here's the part of the storm that's actually rotating the correct way. But if you notice, there is actually a little rotation going the wrong way on the other side of the cell as well. We can only see it on our Doppler. You can't see it on this but we know it is there.

HARRIS: What a morning so far for you and everyone who is dealing with this. Nice work, Chad. Appreciate it.

When weather becomes a story as it certainly has today, count on CNN to bring it to you first and can you play a role. If you see severe weather happening, be safe about this. Send us an i-Report, go to and click on i-Report or type into your cell phone and share your photos or your videos.

COLLINS: OK. Want to go ahead and check out this, the other story of the day, which it wasn't, but it is. Looking at the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the rest of the market of course, too, but this shows a bit of a picture for you that you can't deny, down 50 points after Tuesday's sell-off of 416. Dow Jones resting at 12,219. Our Susan Lisovicz is on the stock market floor, of course, as usual watching all of this for us, talking with traders, trying to figure out how the day will pan out. An interesting report that came in today, too, that's going to give us a little bit of an idea about manufacturing activity and what that could mean for the market as well. So we'll check in with her on all of that coming up shortly here on CNN NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: And we have Sergeant Kevin Palmatory on the line with us from Missouri. Sergeant, where in Missouri are you calling from?


HARRIS: Moberly. And where is Moberly?

PALMATORY: North central Missouri.

HARRIS: Sergeant, tell us about the damage that's being reported in your area.

PALMATORY: The damage that I've been made aware of we've had a business roof that was blown off. We had at least one hangar at our local regional airport that was damaged and a plane that was inside the hangar was also damaged. A tractor-trailer was blown over on to its side on a truck lot. And then the normal run of the mill, limbs down, trees, things of that nature.

HARRIS: Any reports of any injuries?

PALMATORY: No. There was one minor, very minor injury from the person that was in the tractor-trailer that was blown over on to its side.

HARRIS: We're looking at some of these pictures here. Have you been able to get out and actually sort of survey some of the damage yourself? Are you getting reports from maybe some of your other officers?

PALMATORY: I'm getting the reports from the officers on the street. I haven't actually been out and looked at any of the damage.

HARRIS: And how bad -- how tough a scene are they describing to you?

PALMATORY: It's not that bad, actually. We've been through much worse. In '95 we had a tornado that went through the middle of our city and then last year about this time we had a tornado that went through just south of our city. So we've seen much worse than this. These were straight-line winds that caused the damage.

HARRIS: OK. Sergeant, thanks for your time this morning. Kevin Palmatory with the Moberly police department there in Missouri.

And, right now, time to check in with Gerri Willis. A number of discount mortgage companies are facing tough times, even bankruptcies. Today what to do if your mortgage company goes belly-up. Once again Gerri Willis here with "top tips." She's in New York City. Gerri, what is the first bit of advice? It doesn't sound to me that it would be smart to skip a payment.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No. But a lot of people want to do that. If their mortgage lender is in trouble, they think I'm not sure really sure who to send my payments to. Keep sending them or you're going to get in trouble. Remember those payments are considered an asset to the company. So if a lender declares bankruptcy, those assets will just be sold to another lender. Rest assured, there will be somebody who wants to get that monthly check and you got to keep sending it.

HARRIS: Boy, if your loan is sold to someone else, I'm wondering, your mortgage company goes belly-up, your loan is sold to someone else. How about the rates? Are they subject to change?

WILLIS: The terms of your loan. The terms of your loan should always stay the same. So if you've been promised a specific rate or you've locked in the rate for a period of time, that should stay the same, no matter who holds your loan. Make sure you review the details of your original mortgage agreement. If your lender does sell your mortgage, you should receive a letter from the new company in 15 days. Now this letter should outline the new mailing address and payment schedule. You should also be given a toll-free telephone number that you can call. And you have -- this is great -- you have to get a grace period of 60 days to get your payments to the right place on time. So there is a little wiggle room here, but you're best off working as fast as you can.

HARRIS: Gerri, what if I have paid off my loan and this company goes belly up? What do I do in that instance?

WILLIS: Good question. If you've already paid that loan off and you want what's called mortgage satisfaction documents to prove that you paid it off, well -- and the company is out of business, go to your state attorney general's office. That's where you can find out who to contact, representatives of the company, even though the company doesn't exist anymore. So there is a way to get that information.

HARRIS: That's great. That's great. Now here's where you're great. You always give us the big picture. Take a step back and look at the big picture. What's the big picture in this story?

WILLIS: Well, I got to tell you, it is not that upbeat. Look. Even if you have no problem making your monthly mortgage payments right now, this particular environment going on right now could hurt you. This is part of what's melting down the market right now, is worry over mortgages. That's because lenders are tightening their borrowing standards to curb their risk of defaults. So if you need to refinance, it could get harder if you're just on the cusp of qualifying for a loan. Take a look at your credit history, see how you can improve your score. You may want to refi earlier than you had planned because of the changes going on in the banking industry right now.

HARRIS: Particularly with the sub-prime markets?

WILLIS: That's right. If you don't have fabulous credit and you've got a sub-prime loan, you need to take a look at it right now and figure out, boy, do I need to refinance? Is there anything I can do right now to protect myself?

HARRIS: That is smart. OK. The big open house show coming up this weekend. Give us a little bit of a preview.

WILLIS: That's right! Saturday morning, 9:30 a.m. Join us. The folks from "This Old House" are going to be on and they tell you how to get on the road to green living. They're a ton of fun, great info. What you may not know about hybrid cars. We've got some interesting information. And we're going to start a series on tax tips, can't get enough information about that.

HARRIS: Your carbon footprint.

WILLIS: You have a carbon footprint? Are you making it smaller?

HARRIS: Yeah. I got to do the buyoffs, tradeoffs -- yeah, I've got to do that.

WILLIS: Well, watch the show.

HARRIS: I will. I will Gerri. Great to see you. Have a great day.

WILLIS: Thank you.

HARRIS: President Bush back to the Gulf coast this morning, a region still struggling 18 months after Katrina, recovery and reality in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: And life after war. Wounded troops face a hurdle their comrades don't. We'll meet a disabled vet and learn about a program that helped him coming up in the NEWSROOM.

And once again we are following - the arch, St. Louis, Missouri. But as you know, there is a significant weather story developing through the south of the country now. Storms still forecast for St. Louis and the surrounding counties. That is ominous isn't it? We're going to tell the complete weather story with Chad Myers in just a couple of minutes here in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: Once again we are following a developing story, as you can see, a seven-year-old child killed in an apparent tornado, Caulfield, Missouri. We talked to a woman from there, Heidi, earlier in the NEWSROOM who was telling us about a gas station. She's an assistant manager of another gas station. But she drove by on her way to work this morning, another gas station that had been devastated. She said it was gone. Those were her words, one of those gas station mini-mart combinations. And this reporting, according to the Associated Press, a seven-year-old killed in an apparent tornado in that very same area. We will continue to follow the developments there as we continue to tell this developing weather story throughout the day. Our friends in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, you're looking at tornado warnings and watches throughout the day. We are going to keep an eye on this with Chad Myers in the severe weather center for you.

COLLINS: The blast left him in a coma, then on the long road to recovery. This Iraq war vet is no soldier, but a newsman. And Bob Woodward's story is now being told. CNN's Anderson Cooper reports.


BOB WOODRUFF, ABC: It's been great for me just over this time to recover some way that I have.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bob Woodruff on the set of "World News Tonight" just 13 months after an attack that changed his life.

FROM ABC "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT," JANUARY 29, 2006: My colleague Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt (ph) were on assignment in Iraq.

COOPER: It was January 29th last year. Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt were embedded with the fourth infantry. They were riding in a lead vehicle of a joint U.S./Iraqi convoy both wearing helmet and body armor. They were standing in the open back hatch when the vehicle tripped a roadside bomb. Woodruff and Vogt, who was less seriously injured, were airlifted to a field hospital in Balad (ph) Woodruff went into surgery just 37 minutes after the explosion. Afterwards he was airlifted to a military hospital in Germany. That's where his wife Lee saw him for the first time. She described that experience to Oprah Winfrey.

LEE WOODRUFF, BOB WOODRUFF'S WIFE: The left side of his face looked like a monster. It looked like a Frankenstein experiment. And in order to relieve the swelling in his brain they immediately -- military doctors know to cut the skull. So his brain was swollen out of his head.

COOPER: This is a CT scan of his skull. The dots on the right show rocks embedded in his face and neck. The explosion damaged the part of the brain that controls speech. Woodruff was in a coma for 36 days. When he woke up he couldn't remember his brother's name or the fact that he had twin five-year-old girls. Ironically, Woodruff explained on "Good Morning America" the accident allowed him to spend more time with those twins and his two other children.

B. WOODRUFF: If there is anything lucky in this past year, aside from the fact that I've recovered to the extent that I have, that I've had so much more time to spend with my kids. That has been an absolute gift.

COOPER: Lee, his wife of nearly 20 years, was by his side throughout the ordeal. She says there was only one thing that mattered to her.

L. WOODRUFF: I just want to know, will he still love me.

COOPER: In their just-released book called "In An Instant," Lee describes what happened when Bob woke up. When I pushed open the door to Bob's room, he was sitting up in bed, a giant smile on his face. When he saw me he lifted his arms toward heaven. Hey, sweetie, Bob said lovingly, with a little note of surprise. Where have you been? After months of difficult recovery, Woodruff returned to the ABC newsroom on June 13, 2006. And on "Good Morning America" more than a year after the attack, Woodruff said he is ready to get back to work.

B. WOODRUFF: I want to get back to journalism.


B. WOODRUFF: Any form. Whatever I can do.

COOPER: Anderson Cooper, CNN.


COLLINS: Bob Woodruff faces the same struggle as thousands of other Americans wounded in Iraq, but the troops have a program to help them make the transition to a new life. One vet who got that help is Steve Robison. He's joining us now from San Antonio, Texas. Steve, thanks for being with us today. Sure do appreciate it. Tell us what happened, what your accident was in Iraq.

SGT. STEVE ROBISON, U.S. ARMY (RET): Well, it wasn't really an accident, Heidi. I was out on patrol and the Iraqi insurgents had set up an ambush for my patrol and as we exited one house and prepared to enter another house, they opened fire and took out my legs and my leg was amputated from the injury itself. I got treated in, I'd say, 30 to 45 minutes. I really wasn't sure how long the ride was, but I was conscious the whole time, unlike Mr. Woodruff. I was not an IED, I was actually a gunshot wound.

COLLINS: How has being wounded in Iraq changed your life? I realize the enormity of that question. But maybe start with us when you realized that you had lost the leg.

ROBISON: I realized it immediately. After I had been hit and realized I was hit, I tried to stand back up to return fire and I fell immediately down because I had my left leg below the knee was missing and I realized that when I tried to stand up and fell back down again. The injury has changed my life just -- it has given me more time with my family as well. I was in Iraq for one month before I got injured. My unit was actually extended for four additional months so they spent 16 months in Iraq. And had I not been injured, I would have spent 16 months away from my newborn baby and my wife.

COLLINS: Well, that is certainly one positive side. And we're looking at a picture of your wife right now. How has it changed for them?

ROBISON: For them, I think it definitely tested my wife's ability to deal with me at my worst. Being on pain medication and realizing that you're missing a limb is a very big thing to deal with and being stuck in the hospital and trying to deal with it and get back to the things you used to do before you were ready to do it, it really showed how well she was able to deal with my frustrations and help me through it.

COLLINS: I'm sure it's got to be very tough and Steve, I was down at the dedication of the opening of the center for intrepid in San Antonio at Montgomery medical center as well and I sat there and I listened to General Peter Pace say this and I wanted to share and get your comment on it. He was talking to the wounded soldiers at the opening and he said this -- let's go ahead and take a look at it now. There are those who speak about you who say, he lost an arm, he lost a leg, she lost her sight. I object. You gave your arm, you gave your leg, you gave your sight as gifts to your nation. Do you and other wounded soldiers, other friends that you have there, feel this way?

ROBISON: I think for the most part, yes. I mean initially whenever you're first injured, you're really upset and angry and depressed and don't really know how to deal with it. But after time goes on, you do realize that the loss of your limb doesn't limit you from doing stuff. It may have limited what you can do in the military, but you voluntarily join the military and you know the risks of going over there, so if I had to lose a leg in order to come home and spend more time with my family, then that's what happened instead of me possibly being killed, losing a leg ends up being a much better --

COLLINS: I know you work so closely with wounded warriors. Quickly, before we have to let you go, we've got all of this developing weather. I apologize for that. But Steve, tell us quickly about the organization and how it helps.

ROBISON: The wounded warrior project is a non-profit charity. It is all by personal donations from good-hearted Americans. What we do is we actually get wounded soldiers backpacks when they initially get back to the hospitals that have supplies with them, grooming kits, some civilian clothes, some stuff they don't have to buy for a few months before they can go out and get some more clothes and stuff like that. Later on, their rehab, whenever they're able to leave the hospital and are able to do some activities during the winter, we take them out. We go skiing, summertime we do some rock climbing, some surfing, some water skiing. We do a lot of hunting and fishing trips. We just do a lot of activities to get the guys back to their normal selves to show them that they can still do what they used to do before their injury.

COLLINS: I know this group, very competitive bunch of guys and women as well, very athletic usually too, want to be doing what they have always done. Steve, Robison, we so appreciate your perspective on all of this today. Thanks so much for talking with us, Steve Robison with the U.S. Army and wounded warriors retired from the army, of course.

ROBISON: Thank you Heidi.

COLLINS: You bet. And Bob Woodruff I want to let you know, will be joining Larry King tonight to talk about his recovery. CNN's "Larry King Live" comes your way 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 out west.

HARRIS: And once again, we want to get back to the story that we've been following for you all morning long, pictures coming to us from Linn (ph) County, Kansas. And there you can see a man looking through -- you can imagine what is left of his property, what is left of his home. Wow, the wider view giving you a better look at the devastation there. This is a mostly rural area, as you can see, but a tornado ripped through that area last evening and into the overnight hours and caused all kinds of damage, as you can see. That is the story in Linn County, Kansas. But we will take a moment to tell you what is developing in Caulfield, Missouri.

Caulfield is in southern Missouri. Police officials there say that a seven-year-old child, police officials believe a girl, killed by the storms, a tornado that touched down there in Caulfield. A gas station in that area was destroyed. Several mobile homes, other homes damaged as well. And so we have our first report of fatality linked to these powerful storm cells fire up now with great intensity sound of Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia. Veronica de la Cruz is monitoring the video that is coming in from our CNN affiliate. Chad Myers following as well. We're going to take a break and update this story in full in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: Right now we want to talk to Suzie Stonner. She is with the Missouri state emergency management office. Suzie, thanks for your time this morning. Susie, are you there? All right. We're waiting to hear from Suzie Stonner. She is with the Missouri state emergency management office. We certainly want to check with her on the reports attributed now to the Associated Press that a seven-year- old child, police officials there in Caulfield, Missouri, are reporting that a seven-year-old child, police officials believe a young girl, was killed by the storms that rolled through that area. Suzie, are you there?


HARRIS: Suzie, thanks for your time this morning. Can you confirm for us the Associated Press is reporting, quoting a police official there in Caulfield, Missouri, that a seven-year-old girl was killed this morning by the storms? STONNER: I can confirm that we had one fatality. We've had conflicting reports about the age and the sex of the fatality. I can confirm one fatality and I can confirm four people were injured.

HARRIS: How many people injured?


HARRIS: Four people injured. Tell me, if you would, how you're responding -- first of all, can you set the scene for us, what you're seeing? Some of the pictures we're getting in here to CNN are just amazing of some of the damage. But set the scene for us, if you would, based on some of the reporting that's coming in to your office.

STONNER: Basically, our emergency management county directors are continuing to report information to us on the storm damages. Overnight we had thunderstorms, severe thunderstorm cells. We had hail. We had straight-line winds. The National Weather Service will probably be going out and canvassing the area to determine if we had tornados. We do know that we've got another round of severe weather coming up from Arkansas that will be hitting this entire southeastern Missouri through early this afternoon, possibly as late as 6:00. The storm system that went through the middle part of the state hopefully will be exiting to the east through St. Louis by mid to late morning. We have a lot of severe weather impacting the state coming at us from different directions.

HARRIS: So Suzie, how do you prepare? You may get a window of opportunity here to get additional word to the folks in your state that more severe weather is coming. How do you go about getting the word out to the folks?

STONNER: One of our greatest partners is the National Weather Service and issuing the information, especially people who have (INAUDIBLE) radios are very aware of what is happening in their communities. The local emergency management directors have been on conference calls with the National Weather Service since yesterday, and we're just continuing to update everyone that we can.

HARRIS: Are you surprised by the intensity of these storms so early? We're still talking about the end of February, this being the first of March.

STONNER: That's correct. We've had some very cold weather earlier in the month and we had some nice, warm weather and -- in Missouri the weather changes all the time.

HARRIS: OK and just to sort of clarify once again, let's go over the information that you shared with us at the top of this. There is a report attributed to the Associated Press that you are now confirming that there is at least one fatality in the Caulfield, Missouri, area. Correct?

STONNER: We know that it was Powell County. We have not said Caulfield or anywhere else. We just know that we have one fatality in Powell County, according to the county emergency management director and we have four injuries.

HARRIS: You know how severe those injuries are?

STONNER: I'm sorry, I don't.

HARRIS: That's fine. That's fine. Suzie Stonner with the Missouri state emergency management office on the line with us.

COLLINS: Another story that we are watching today, the third day in a row now that we're keeping a close watch on the action of Wall Street. In just the first few minutes of trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has dropped dramatically, more than 200 points. But it's changing minute to minute, so of course we have Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange now with the very latest numbers. Susan, what gives?