Return to Transcripts main page

New Day Saturday

Dozens Likely Killed As Powerful Tornadoes Tear Across The U.S.; Over 30 Tornado Reports So Far Across Six States; Dozens Of Tornadoes Leave Path Of Destruction Across Six States; Kentucky Governor Declares State Of Emergency, Deploys National Guard After Tornadoes; Deadly Storm Unleashes Dozens Of Tornadoes Across Six States. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired December 11, 2021 - 07:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Saturday, December 11th, I'm Boris Sanchez.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, Boris. I'm Amara Walker, in for Christi Paul and we begin with breaking news. Active tornado watches and warnings are going up after a devastating night across the Central U.S. and at the Southeast. At least two deaths have been confirmed after dozens of tornadoes ripped across five states. And that number is expected to rise as daylight approaches. Now, this is all that is left of a Kentucky candle factory. About 110 people were in that factory last night when a tornado hit the area. Kentucky's governor says it's likely 50 people died across the state, but he says that number could rise to over 100.


LT. DEAN PATTERSON, KENTUCKY STATE POLICE: We're seeing things that none of us have ever seen before. I went to Hurricane Katrina several years ago and I've seen things now I didn't see then. The damage here is, is indescribable. It's, it's changed the landscape of the, of the city that we that we know, here in Mayfield.


SANCHEZ: Kentucky's Governor Andy Beshear says the tornadoes cut a 200-mile-long path across his state. Right now, thousands are without power. Untold number of homes have been destroyed. And with a state of emergency declared the National Guard is deploying to hard hit areas.


GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): It's been one of the toughest nights in Kentucky history. And some areas have been hit in ways that are hard to put into words. And as we're sitting here today, and this is before daybreak, we believe our death toll from this event will exceed 50 Kentuckians probably end up closer to 70 to 100 lost lives. Remember, each of these are children of God irreplaceable to their families and to their communities.


SANCHEZ: A similar situation in Northeastern Arkansas, a tornado ripping through a nursing home trapping residents and staff. One person died there, at least 20 others were injured. The extent of the damage, the death toll still unknown, a second person dying in a nearby Dollar General Store. That body count likely will go up as the sun rises and they get a clearer picture of the extent of the damage.

Meantime, authorities in Illinois say that at an Amazon warehouse, there were fatalities it's unclear just how many employees were in the building at the time authorities say the size of the building and the type of damage that they're facing, is complicating the effort to make sure that everyone got out safely.

WALKER: Yes, we just heard from a woman last hour who said that her husband dropped off a truck last night and she still has not yet heard from him from the Amazon warehouse. CNN Meteorologist Allison Chinchar joining us now. Allison, it seems like Kentucky was the hardest hit. What do we know about the destruction and the fact that the danger isn't over yet, right?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right. I mean, you had multiple states that were hit in the last 12 to 24 hours particularly from one tornado, it was likely very long lived potentially going over 200 miles. Hey, you can kind of see that white line we've highlighted here for you. But again, all you really have to do is follow these pink and purple boxes. Those were the tornado warnings. And you can see they basically just ride it right along that line starting in Arkansas, going through the south eastern point of Missouri into Tennessee, and then eventually into Kentucky and just kind of sliding along some of the damage specifically from Mayfield, Kentucky.

Here you can see a picture of the courthouse. Notice that little steeple tower right there on the top. Now, after the storm moving through, that tower is now gone. You also have very large trees that were uprooted and knocked down not only in front of this building, but even some of the surrounding buildings as well. And that was just one of the over 30 Tornado reports from the last 24 hours, over 100 total severe wind reports and 20 large hail reports. But yes, as we mentioned, it's not done. The storm system hasn't died off completely. It's still ongoing. In fact, you have four states still actively looking at tornado watches at this moment: Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, as well as Mississippi, and that's where really the focus is.

Even though the storm system as a whole is very large stretching from Vermont all the way back to Texas. The focus point is those Central States, again, of Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. That's where we have the warnings ongoing right now. We have one tornado one active right now this is in portions of South Eastern Kentucky also looking at severe thunderstorm warnings as well as for Tennessee and Alabama. And that's going to continue as that line continues to make its way off to the east. We will detail more of the timeline of what is expected for the rest of the day today, coming up in just a few minutes, guys. [07:05:20]

SANCHEZ: And that's why, as we heard from the head of emergency management in Kentucky, he's asking folks to stay inside even though there's that natural inclination to try to survey the damage to meet with their neighbors. The danger is still out there, as you pointed out. Allison Chinchar. Thank you so much. Joining us now is Mayor Bob Blankenship of Monette, Arkansas. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us this morning. I'm wondering what you're seeing where you are. How you, your family and your team are doing?

BOB BLANKENSHIP, MAYOR OF MONETTE ARKANSAS (via phone): Well, at this moment, we're just currently in a daze I guess you would say we've -- we've always anticipated to the best of our ability to what, what we would do in a situation like this and it was put to test last night in the damage that did to the northern part of our city and the pan -- pointing out our nursing home. Then we've made calls there before but never anything like last night to see the devastation and the, and the sadness and unhappiness of people there and seeing the entrapment of people.

But it's amazing to see the different organizations from different cities come by, our sister cities as we call each other, we work together in the small Northeast Arkansas communities and the safe people rally and come in and help evacuate people out of the buildings and then get them transported to local hospitals. And, and unfortunately, we know of two desks that we've had. I'm not at this point can tell if we're there's anymore this morning or not, I'm not hurting anything.

But we're rallying back we're still without power. Shower units and feeding units will be coming in shortly this morning from different organizations to help us. There's no time limit known, or (INAUDIBLE). When the electricity be offset to covered so much area. But two deaths in our community, and the community just about 10 miles away for (INAUDIBLE). There's one area that they've lost one person. So, it's, it's a lot of devastation that we've not seen and my years of working in emergency services.

I've always had that fear of coming to my hometown, seeing the devastation and other towns through the years, but always, we're just in fear of it hitting here and reality hit last night. And -- but thank goodness, we were prepared by the warning system that our nation has, and by our state and our counties, we activated our warning system, probably 15-20 minutes before it even entered within 20 miles of us. Once our system was set up that when it hits our county, we activate our sirens and give people plenty of time to get into their shelters.

And so, I think that helps to save a lot of lives. But like I said earlier, the, the nursing home is -- those folks that pretty captive and, and they can excuse, get the areas they need to -- I'm sorry. We had several homes that were damaged. Luckily, no one was injured in those and I think is because of the warning and in the grace of our good Lord and above the -- SANCHEZ: Obviously, a very emotional time mayor, and we feel for what you're going through. It sounds like you're starting to get the help that you're going to need. You mentioned the emergency warning system that went off 15-20 minutes when the tornado that hit your town of Monette was about 20 miles away. What's going through your mind in those 15 to 20 minutes as Mayor of that town and obviously as someone who has to worry about other people around him?

BLANKENSHIP: Well, I think the biggest thing is, is hopefully people are keeping up with the weather on the news of T.V., radio, but also to the -- we pride ourselves and try and keep our systems up to date. And everything is in our -- activate our siren systems through the morning system through our police department and patrol cars. Once they start patrolling, they can activate all of our outer outs skirt sirens and, and that is a big plus, I think, in doing that. And like I said before with practice, with practice with practice, but it's totally different when the reality is, is there. So -- but our warning system in this nation is so good.


SANCHEZ: And it sounds like it helped a lot of folks when you first emerged -- I assume that you hunkered down, when you first emerged and you learned about some of the deaths and clearly some of the physical damage, what was your reaction what went through your mind?

BLANKENSHIP: Our family went to our shelter and, and we could hear that, that forces and, and I've always heard people say it's down to like the train or something to that effect. And, and we could hear it raining and we could hear the debris hitting at one point, I thought it was hail, but it was the debris and we then all of a sudden, the change in the sound and I thought it felt rushed.

Right now, so I thought, I don't know what's going to be out there when I like you said when I merged outside, is, is my home going to be here? Is my town going to be here? And to come out and the speed the damages were so minute in my area, but I can see just with our side, I can see the path that storm traveled, and see some of the damage through the lightning strikes I can see some of the damage around me and I think of me.

And then I get a call that the nursing home has been hit, and then the several more houses and in a housing development across the road from that nursing home. There were three homes we know that was destroyed over there and then there several it was damaged over there, and nobody injured.

And so, you have mixed emotions there you have emotions but think oh look at the devastation and then the next thing, you think thank you Lord that that no more people that we're hearing are hurt than they are, so it's, it's a great feeling to know that a lot of people survive this, so --

SANCHEZ: And Mayor, we are relieved to hear that the damage in your area was minimal. Obviously, there are folks that are learning that perhaps their loved ones didn't make it through the storm. I'm wondering what your messages to those people.

BLANKENSHIP: My affiliation through the years and having loved one's friends and family in that nursing home and to see the love and compassion of the workers there but also to see the families as they come. And last night, to do our job is -- is you know as you got to zero in on exactly what you do. But the families coming in and mixed emotions: how's my mom, how's my dad, how's my brother, how's my sister? And to be able to tell them that we all, that we, we've got some entrapment but we've also, we can talk to some of those people.

So, I thank the relief you see on someone's face or the steel the -- the fear of don't have a word that there are folks or something at that time, but it's just -- I really can't tell you. You just have to be in the middle of it to kind of get a feeling of what the people feel. But at the same time, it's a -- you see people rally. I'm just lost for words at this moment. But I'm standing here watching the cameras go over the top of that facility. And from the scene from above, it shows how much more devastation and I thought it was going to be.

There in the background, you see all the emergency equipment and that makes me feel so good to see fellow brothers and sisters from other communities rallied coming happy, even though they might have had some damage in their hometown that they might need to get back to but not as devastating as this one is here even though I know other places have had it worse last month in my town and but like it's just all in all, it's just you just have to call it stop, pause and just say thank you, Lord for allowing the majority of the people not to be injured.

The loved ones be able to hug on them, even though they might have been some superficial wounds on them, but to be able to go up to them and then sitting in the wheelchair wherever we, wherever they were and say that they're going to be OK. That's like that's just what makes America what it is today.


SANCHEZ: Sir, we are glad that Monette was spared the worst of the storms even though our hearts do go out to those that were lost and their families. We thank you for the time this morning. Please let us know if there's something we can do as you start to build back. Mayor Bob Blankenship of Monette, Arkansas, thank you.

BLANKENSHIP: Thank you, Sir.

SANCHEZ: Of course. We're going to keep tracking these storms all this morning, so stay with CNN. We'll be back after a quick break.


WALKER: Right now, search and rescue efforts are underway after a tornado ripped through an Amazon warehouse in Illinois, not too far from St. Louis causing it to collapse as you see there. Officials have confirmed there are some deaths and multiple people who were trapped inside that building but at this point, we don't have the details unclear just how many people we're talking about. Official say, they are doing their best but facing many obstacles.


MICHAEL DOSSETT, DIRECTOR, KENTUCKY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Significant strike, one that may ravel the longest tornado we have, we have a tornado track that runs over 200 miles from southwest to northeast. We have 19 counties that are impacted. And that is just the immediate assessment. We're certainly waiting for daybreak. Our first responders have been out during the event. There have been so many calls for service, so many citizens that were in perilous conditions. So, our hearts go out to, to the families of those who have been lost. And certainly, the rescues are ongoing as we speak.



WALKER: We are continuing to follow our breaking news. Overnight, storms spawning dozens of tornadoes across six states. In Kentucky, the governor says at least 50 people are dead. He expects that number to rise between 70 to 100. I want to bring in now CNN Political Commentator Scott Jennings who is in Louisville, Kentucky. And Scott, we're talking to you because your hometown was one of the towns pretty much destroyed last night. Tell me more What do you know?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR (through phone): Yes, good morning. And, and thanks for covering it. Yes, I'm from Dawson Springs, Kentucky, which is in West Kentucky. And some of the towns you are hearing Mayfield, which is in far Western Kentucky. And then if you go east, you're going to hear the names of towns, one of them is Dawson Springs. And it's a small rural city, you know, dotted around West Kentucky, you have these little towns and Dawson's one of them.

But my dad's there, my sister and my aunt and several cousins, and I've made contact with most of them. But apparently widespread damage: buildings completely destroyed roofs off of houses. And, and certainly some people at least injured, if not worse, based on what I heard from a law enforcement source down there. So, I think what you're going to find as day breaks here in Kentucky is that some of these small towns where, you know, you don't hear their names very often, but their tight knit communities were absolutely devastated last night.

WALKER: So, I'm glad your family seems to be doing OK. You know, Boris a few months ago, spoke with the mayor in Monette, Arkansas, also a very small town there. And he was saying that they had about 15 to 20 minutes lead time, that's when the warning sirens went off. Do you know how much time your family had to take cover?

JENNINGS: I don't. That's a good question. And I don't know, I do know my dad, he doesn't have a basement. But he was able to get over to another person's house who did, so thank goodness, he, he had the good sense to go get it underground. And I was having trouble getting through to him. I think, you know, there were some telecommunications issues. He did finally get a text through to me just a little while ago to let me know he's OK. I spoke directly to my aunt and her daughter, my cousin, their house

was heavily damaged, and she was talking about how, you know, windows were blown out pieces of wood and tree limbs were being rammed through their house and other people's homes. So, I mean, you can imagine how terrifying this is, especially in the dark, overnight. And so, I think this is, this is going to be one of several towns based on what I've heard and what I've heard the governor and others say that are going to, are going to be facing some, some tough, some tough pictures and tough video as day breaks here in Kentucky.

It's, it's hard to, it's hard to think about all the loss of homes and businesses. I've heard several businesses down in Kentucky, West Kentucky, in Dawson and other places are just completely wiped off the map. You know, large buildings and the Dairy Queen in Dawson springs. It's a small town so it has sort of one, one restaurant and it's it was apparently devastated. Things, things like that are going to be rough for people to see this morning.

WALKER: Yes, we heard that exactly from a one of the state police from Kentucky saying that the landscape has completely changed. You know, there is an image that I saw, as we've been covering the story this morning, Scott. And if we can pull that picture up of that beautiful historic building in Kentucky, there was a before and after -- I'm looking at a picture online. Apparently, this is, I don't know if this OK, this is a Paducah. I think there was another picture that I had saw, seen which perhaps this is the correct picture of -- in Mayfield where the tower was torn off. I mean, when you see these pictures of your home state, Scott, I mean, I can't imagine what you're feeling, especially as you mentioned that these are small towns, a very close- knit community.


JENNINGS: Yes, it's hard to see -- that picture, that building in Mayfield, that's Graves County, Kentucky and that's the county courthouse, I think. And if the picture I saw is the one you're looking at and, of course, you know in a lot of towns like this, especially in the county seats in a place like Kentucky, those, those buildings are the most visible and the most memorable in town, right? Because they're the historic buildings, they're often ornate, they have towers or, you know, large sort of features on the top that, that are among the tallest structures in town.

And so, when you see those things come down. It's, it's, it's stark, you know, it's -- when you see something like that your whole life, and then all of a sudden, it's just wiped away in the blink of an eye. It's quite startling. Of course, in Mayfield, too, there are reports of this candle factory, having collapsed and obviously there were a lot of people in there. So, that, that town, it's a, it's one of the most interesting towns in Kentucky, it's in the far west part of the state.

It's actually near another town called Fancy Farm, which a lot of political observers know, nationally as one of the most famous political gatherings of the year, the Fancy Farm Picnic. And so, a lot of people from around the country have actually been through Mayfield, they've been to that area. So, when they see these pictures this morning, they're going to recognize some of the things that they, they may recall from their visits down there.

WALKER: Or they won't recognize it at all, Scott, because we're looking at new pictures right now from Mayfield, Kentucky, aerials that just came in. I have no clue what we're looking at, what this was, all I see is a huge debris feel, fields of just stuff everywhere. I can't recognize if this was a kind of building, what must have been there. And again, as you said, and you gave us great context, Scott, Mayfield, a very small town, I think it's about 10,000 people.

JENNINGS: You're going to find --

WALKER: Actually. So, I'm -- say that one more time. This is the Mayfield Consumer Products. This is the Mayfield Consumer Products Candle Factory. Wow. This is just starting to see if they were people inside. I can't imagine what they have just endured inside this candle factory. And you can see the lights flashing emergency responders there on the scene. But yes, Scott, please give us more context. Tell us more about what you know about this candle factory in Mayfield.

JENNINGS: Yes, well, I only know what I've heard and read so far, which is that there were certainly people inside. And, and I mean, you just, I mean, you know, you can do is pray for, or bet for good outcomes here. Which is hard to do when you, you know, we're looking at the kinds of pictures we're seeing. I mean, it's, uh, it's hard to, hard to fathom what it must have been like in some of the structures that have been devastated.

So, I think it would be best if the proper authorities and the governor and others gave us the, the information but for people like us, who just have friends and family in the area, you pray and you, you make the phone calls that to people you know, and you check on the folks, you know. And, and you also think about the, the fabric of first responders, electrical workers, health care people, I mean, you know, these are, these are small towns, and, and there's not a lot between them, right? So, you, you go from one to the other, and there's just a lot of farmland and other non-developed land out there.

So, it's not like, you know, there's, there's stuff everywhere. And so, oftentimes the, the infrastructure here is centered in these towns, whether that's the hospital or you know, where all the police and fire would be centered, and so on and so forth. So, there's a lot of work to do and a lot of rescues to be made and a lot of phone calls to be made. I'm sure I don't envy any of the work that has to be done, but I sure am grateful for the people who do it.

WALKER: I just want to talk a little bit more about these pictures that we just got in, so this is from the Mayfield Consumer Products, Candle Factory. And what we know about this candle factory is that there were 110 people inside when the tornado hit. This is according to the Governor Andy Beshear. He said this during a news conference about a couple of hours ago. 110 people inside what used to be a factory which has now been completely leveled, unrecognizable at this time. I'd imagine rescue efforts are underway right now. But this is just stunning and shows you the extent of how strong and devastating this tornado was, Scott.


JENNINGS: Yes, I think one thing I'm hearing from people and seeing some of the chatter online already is just the power of this tornado, the amount of debris and devastation that it caused the, you know, the -- up in the air you know, you see the, the fields of where debris and, and materials were thrown so far up into the air and then long distances. I mean it just gives you a sense for just how powerful this storm was. I mean, it's historically powerful.

I mean, Kentucky has had, you know, some tornado events over the years, but this one looks to be among the most powerful we've ever seen. And when you have that kind of power, that can devastate a building like that -- so, you think about, you know, a factory structure, you know, think about, I mean, this is not a -- this is not an economically prosperous area in many places. So, you think about the number of mobile homes that exist, the number of, you know, apartments, the number of west sturdy buildings.

I mean, if this is what happened to a sturdy factory facility, think about some of the individual homes and other less sturdy structures and what they must have endured. So, I think we're going to find damage and evidence of extreme damage all across the state.

And the thing is, you know, what, you're looking at pictures in far west Kentucky. I mean, as we head east, you know, through towards where Dawson, I was talking about, there's -- you know, it's still going across the eastern part of the state.

So, this will be over a several 100 mile area that you'll wind up seeing pictures like this, I'm sure.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): This is just devastating. I -- wow. And I'm just reading online, Scott. I was just googling trying to find this candle factory's web site. And according to Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory's Facebook page, it describes itself as a local family owned manufacturer of candles.

And so, I'd imagine this, again, is a workplace where it may have been tight knit, but this is the aftermath.


WALKER: And we did hear from an emergency management official last hour in Kentucky, who did tell us, Michael Dossett, that the rescue efforts are ongoing right now that the hardest hit areas are indeed Mayfield --- is indeed Mayfield and Graves County where Mayfield is located. This is the western -- southwestern corner of Kentucky, town of about 10,000 people. We know that the Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear has asked for an emergency declaration.

He has been in touch with the Biden administration. They are requesting FEMA assistance, and that the National Guard has either arrived or is on its way to these locations, particularly Mayfield, where, as you can see, a lot of help and assistance is needed at this time.

We continue to cover this breaking news as we're getting new images as day breaks of these deadly tornadoes. Dozens of them that have hit at least five states overnight into Saturday morning.

We'll continue to give you more details. We'll going t take a short break. Back after this.



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): We are following "BREAKING NEWS" this morning. A deadly tornado outbreak across the central United States.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): More than 30 tornadoes have been reported so far in six different states. In Kentucky alone, Governor Andy Beshear says that somewhere between 50 and 100 people are dead, and he expects that number to potentially rise.

Earlier I spoke with the state's Director of Emergency Management Michael Dossett.

Here is part of our conversation.


MICHAEL DOSSETT, EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DIRECTOR, KENTUCKY: This is a tragic day in Kentucky's history. We have had a significant strike, one that may rival the longest tornado. We have -- we have a tornado track that runs over 200 miles from southwest to northeast. We have 19 counties that are impacted, and that is just the immediate assessment. We're certainly waiting for daybreak.

Our first responders have been out during the event. There have been so many calls for service, so many citizens that were in a perilous conditions. So, our hearts go out to the families of those who have been lost. And certainly, the rescues are ongoing as we speak.

SANCHEZ (on camera): And speak to us about that, because when we heard from our meteorologist Allison Chinchar, a few moments ago, she made clear that there may still be some danger out there, not just from the potential for obstacles in some of the debris that we're seeing, but also the weather itself may create some issues for you and your teams.

DOSSETT: We've looked thus far at the tornado tracks. There were four separate tracks. The longest one certainly being 200 miles plus. The system is continuing, it won't exit the state on the far eastern borders until about 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

It certainly has wreaked havoc. This will be one of the most significant, the most extensive disasters that Kentucky has faced and we're one of the top -- the states in the top 10 in a normal situation, but our impact is usually flooding. So, this is a tremendous impact for the Commonwealth. We have already notified our FEMA partners in region four, the governor has signed a letter to the president asking for an emergency declaration. We're asking for power assessments. We're asking for some overhead teams to come in and help us with command and control.

And certainly we have incident management teams on the road heading down to our western counties as we speak.


SANCHEZ: And so, we're seeing as workers comb through what appears to be a massive debris field that is several feet high. This is at Mayfield, Kentucky. Do you know specifically what areas were hardest hit? I'm not sure if you're able to see what we're showing on screen right now, but it looks utterly devastating.

Do you know what may have happened in this area? Where the areas of focus should be?

DOSSETT: Mayfield and Graves County will be ground zero for the Commonwealth. This city took the hard -- the hardest hit. There is massive devastation in that city. We'll be -- we'll be on the way there in several hours after daybreak.

SANCHEZ: And sir, I'm wondering if you've had any contact yet with the federal government if there have been any communications perhaps with the White House, any offers of assistance?

DOSSETT: Absolutely. FEMA Region four is our oversight for federal assistance. We have reached out to them. The governor has signed a letter requesting immediate assistance from FEMA, and that's making its way through the chain and we'll get a response, hopefully, sometime today.

SANCHEZ: And I understand that, as you noted there are search and rescue efforts underway right now. What is your message to folks that are feeling desperate, that are perhaps, trying to get in touch with loved ones, or trying to call their neighborhoods to figure out where their loved ones might be? What do you say to them?

DOSSETT: You know, it's heartbreaking. It's an extremely difficult time. We are not the only state. In this event. This will turn out to be a quad outbreak event with Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and certainly Kentucky.

Our first responders are on the ground and they're doing life-saving efforts as we speak.

The messages is the same. Don't go out unless it's an emergency. Check on your family, your friends, your neighbors. We are rushing all the assets of the -- of our state Cabinets, down to Western Kentucky.

We have Kentucky transportation on the road already with heavy equipment. The National Guard will be there at daybreak. We have all the assets of the state moving in that direction. We have mutual aid, incident management teams moving in that direction. We have a team on the road from Metro Louisville that will assist Mayfield.

SANCHEZ: And you know, this is likely a moment of despair for the residents in that area. Just looking at the pictures, it looks to be a long recovery, a daunting one. On an emotional level, what is your message to people in Kentucky?

DOSSETT: You know, Kentucky is a resilient state and we help ourselves we help our neighbors. So, it is extremely bad now, but we're working to get there and at daybreak, you'll see what we've always seen neighbor helping neighbor. And certainly, our Commonwealth assets will be there.

It is one of the Commonwealth's darkest days, but I assure you at daybreak, you will see individuals in that city and many other cities assisting one another.

SANCHEZ: Michael Dossett, thank you so much for the time. Our prayers are with you, and if there's something that we can do, please do not hesitate to reach out so we can get messages that you need out there. Thank you so much.

DOSSETT: Thank you for the support.


WALKER: And we will continue to update you on these deadly tornadoes. We are also following this week of setbacks for Donald Trump and a new round of subpoenas from the January 6th committee.



SANCHEZ: Millions of Americans across the South and Central United States are in high alert this morning. A tornado watch as you see on your screen remains in effect for portions of Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee.

WALKER (voice-over): This deadly storm system has already unleashed dozens of tornadoes across five states overnight. And so far, Kentucky's governor says at least 50 people have been killed in a state alone, but he expects that number to rise as rescue and recovery efforts continue.

Meteorologist Allison Chinchar in the weather -- CNN Weather Center this morning, tracking this storm. What's the latest Allison? And before we get to her, we have been getting some new pictures of just the extent of the damage. We've been seeing buildings completely leveled. Allison, where is the threat now?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST (on camera): Right. So, it's really just a little bit further east of where it really has been for much of the last 12 to 24 hours.

It's not necessarily a very fast-moving system. Overall, we've had over 30 tornado reports, over 100 severe wind reports, and about 20 large hail reports. Again, this is just the last 24 hours or so. But the threat is not gone.

Now, it is shifting farther east. So, some of those communities that were really hardest hit the last 12 to 24 hours, they're starting to see an end to it. But for other communities, it's really just now starting to ramp back up. You have tornado watches still in effect for areas of Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, as well as Mississippi. Although most of those in Mississippi are starting to come back down to an end.

This system as a whole is huge, it stretches all the way from New Hampshire all the way back towards Texas.


CHINCHAR: However, the main focus when we talk about severe storms has really been in the center portion of this particular storm. That's where we've had the bulk of our tornado warnings, severe thunderstorm warnings for the last several hours.

Right now, we do not have an active tornado warning, but we did just a few moments ago, and they're likely going to continue to pop up and back off, off and on throughout the rest of the day today.

Several severe thunderstorm warnings in effect for Kentucky as well as Tennessee. Here is where the areas we are going to focus for today, for the remainder of the day today, where we feel the best threat for severe storms including tornadoes, including damaging winds, and even some large hail is really going to be in these areas here, especially the yellow portions.

This includes cities like Atlanta, Montgomery, Birmingham, Knoxville, Tennessee, Chattanooga, Charlotte, North Carolina. This is where those lines for strong to severe thunderstorms is going to move through throughout the day today.

Here is a look at that line. The good news is, by the time we get to the overnight timeframe tonight, that system is finally gone, and there's not really anything back behind it.

This bodes well for all of those crews that are going to need to go out and do cleanup, repair a lot of the damage, maybe even some power lines and things like that that are down because again, yes, you have damaged but you also have a lot of trees and a lot of power lines down throughout these communities. And it may be hours, if not days before they can get that power restored to several of these hardest-hit communities.

Here is a look at the line again, as we go through late this morning. This is when we look to see some of the worst of it moving through places like Birmingham, Chattanooga, Knoxville.

Once we get towards later this afternoon, say about 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. Now, you're talking Asheville, North Carolina, Atlanta down towards Montgomery, Alabama.

But again, guys, as we mentioned, by late tonight, the overnight timeframe, this system finally moves out of the area.

SANCHEZ (on camera): At some point, they will need relief. Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.


SANCHEZ: In Kentucky, the governor says at least 50 people are dead and he expects that number will rise.

WALKER (on camera): Yes, I think he put the figure between 70 to 100 as a number of people, in terms of casualties that he expects. We want to bring in CNN political analyst Scott Jennings in Louisville. He's a Louisville, Kentucky, and has family in the state, particularly, in the western part of Kentucky, which has been very hard hit.

We're also joined by his aunt, Lori Wooten in Dawson Springs, Kentucky, again, in southwest Kentucky.

Oh, good morning to you both. First off to you. Laurie, can you tell us what it was like last night when the tornado touchdown?

LORI WOOTEN, RESIDENT, DAWSON SPRINGS, KENTUCKY (via telephone): You know, we were in my daughter's home and ran her movement. And as far as you know, you were just hearing the rain, wind, and then all of the sudden it was just a very loud like a train. And it didn't seem like it lasted that long. But it was just very loud and it's three or four seconds and it was gone.

But then when we got started looking to damage, it was unbelievable what happened in those three to four seconds.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): And Lori, what was going through your mind at the time? I'm sure that you could hear, you know, that noise outside. Were you concerned? Were you nervous? What thoughts were going through your mind at that time?

WOOTEN: We were in a very well-built home. It was built early 60s, in the basement, very secure. So, I wasn't fearful for that. I had my grandchildren with me, so, we were all trying to stay calm. We had several pets.

So, we were -- I really wasn't worried. I felt like I was safe where I was. But of course, I was going through my head thinking about you know what's going on, on the outside? What's my house looks like? But, you know what's happening to my friends, I just retired from the school system, so that crossed my mind. That we were just trying to remain calm for the kids and just kind of routed out.

WALKER (voice-over): So, you were in the basement, Lori, which means I'd imagine that you had some warning. How much lead time did you have? And when you did look outside your home, what was the damage that you saw?

WOOTEN: Well, we were -- like I said, we were at my daughter's house. And my son-in-law called us and said you guys need to get over here. So, we packed up and went. We were there probably about 30 minutes when we've hit.

When we went upstairs, It was amazing. There was probably about a two- foot piece of wood, probably about two to three inches in diameter. It speared the master bedroom at their home and just shattered the window to the -- you know, to the inside.

And then, all of the windows across the back of her house are -- they're all busted. And gutters are hanging off, her ceiling -- I mean the roof there's just -- the trampoline. I mean, every -- there's so much stuff out there and it's hard to know what's theirs and what other people's we found someone's shoe when we were leaving.

And, of course, the power lines are down, so you have to be very cautious trying to go through and see what you can survey at the time.

SANCHEZ: And Scott, this is an area that you know really well. Dawson Springs is your hometown.


SANCHEZ: For folks that aren't familiar, what does it typically like? Tell us about the community.

JENNINGS: Well it's a -- and Lori, good to talk to you via CNN this morning. I'm glad to hear your voice. I mean, you haven't grown up there, it's a tight-knit town, my aunt, as (INAUDIBLE) she just retired from the school system, the school is, you know, it's a -- it's got an independent school district. It's a -- I mean, it's a very local, small town, like, you know, little over 2,000 people live there.

And it -- you know, everybody knows everybody. And were -- travels fast around town when things happen. And so, I imagined this morning, that everybody's trying to check on their neighbors and check on their friends and family, and, and especially those who live in structures that aren't as sturdy.

I just think about, you know, the houses that don't have basements, I think about, you know, there's a lot of mobile homes. I think about the individual housing that may not have been as sturdy to withstand something like this.

My dad lives on a town it was on a street called Oak Heights. And I've heard from a few people over that way that the tornado apparently went right, right through that, that Street, which is a -- is a -- one of the most residential parts of the town.

And so, you know, who knows, you know, who knows what they're waking up to this morning, and what those houses are going to look like and, you know, it's obviously wintertime now, I'm also thinking about all these houses without roofs and you know, they're unlivable. I've -- I'm thinking about where all these people are going to go for the next several weeks or months while their homes are being rebuilt.

WALKER: Yes, that's a very good question. And I'm -- it still stuck with me, Lori, that you guys found this huge piece of wood that has spear through the master bedroom. Luckily, no one was there and you guys are all in the basement.

Scott, just give us context again. So, because we heard from the Kentucky Director of Emergency Management Michael Dossett, who said, Mayfield, Kentucky -- you're looking at pictures of the damage there in Mayfield, would be ground zero when it comes to the worst hit area of Kentucky. Where is Dawson Springs compared to Mayfield.

JENNINGS: But Dawson Springs is east of Mayfield. So, when you -- when you look at a map, and you, you know, if you look at a map of highways, Kentucky is kind of bisected by Interstate 65. So, what we're talking about here is all west of I-65.

Mayfield is in the farthest tip -- western tip of Kentucky. So, where Kentucky touches Illinois, Missouri, and Kentucky down there where the rivers come together, that -- that's where Mayfield is.

So, you start there. And then, as you head east, you start to go through towns and counties and cities, you know, heading east, one of those was Dawson Springs.

But you're going to hear the names of a lot of small towns you probably never heard of, you know, as we -- as we wake up and see the devastation this morning. But this is -- this -- the area we're talking about here, if you just glanced at it on a map would all be the farthest end of west Kentucky. And, you know, it's a heavy agriculture area, a lot of small towns, a lot of coal mining background down there, working-class people, and you know, what's important in those towns, the local schools and, you know, some of the towns that have you know, individual factories like the one we're seeing in Mayfield, the devastating pictures from it.

You know, when you -- when you have facilities like that in a town, they do drive a sense of community. So, you know, the people who work in a factory, like that, or the people who work in the school system, or, you know, that these towns don't have, you know, huge numbers of large employer.

So, the working folks, you know, tend to be clustered around some of these larger factory type facilities.

WALKER: What you're looking at is a drone video of what used to be a candle factory in the small town of Mayfield, Kentucky in the western portion of the state.

WALKER (on camera): Stay with us Scott and Lori, but we do want to welcome our viewers to our NEW DAY. We are following breaking news as we continue to do so of these deadly tornadoes that have hit at least five states overnight, and this morning. Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yes, and the extent of the damage and devastation is still unclear because as you might imagine, it's still dark out. And there are a lot of folks like we just heard from Lori, aunt of Scott Jennings, a CNN political commentator, it was impressive the amount of damage. Her home, torn and battered by wood and trees.

And as we look at this candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky, you have to imagine that the work of rescue crews is cut out for them. Again, we are anticipating hearing from officials this morning as daylight starts to emerge.

But it is clear these storms are devastating potentially some of the worst that areas like Mayfield Kentucky have ever seen.


WALKER: And we're still waiting to hear word on what happened to the 110 people who were inside this candle factory.