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CNN Saturday Morning News
Storms Bring Death And Destruction To Southeast U.S.
Aired April 08, 2006 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone.
There's a lot of weather related news to get to, so let's get started.
This morning, severe storms and tornadoes pummel the Tennessee Valley. A huge storm system is pushing through the southeast right now, leaving behind a trail of death and destruction. Eleven people died in Tennessee.
That makes 35 storm deaths in Tennessee since last Sunday. Severe storms spawned reports of several tornadoes, hail and downed trees in Alabama last night.
Softball sized hail reported in the Huntsville area.
And, good morning, everyone.
From the CNN Center, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING.
7:00 a.m. right here in Atlanta, 6:00 a.m. in Nashville.
Good morning, everyone.
I'm Tony Harris.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: A lot to clean up in Nashville, that's for sure.
And I'm Betty Nguyen.
We want to take you for being with us. We have a lot to tell you about.
Well, CNN, as you know, is your severe weather headquarters. Meteorologist Reynolds Wolf is tracking this storm.
What's the latest on this?
This has been a deadly storm -- Reynolds.
REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It has been. It has been a wild storm.
We had the rough -- the very, very rough times last night. Probably the worst part of this storm was when it came right through portions of Nashville. We've already mentioned that. Some tornadoes just to the north of the city; also to the south of the city leaving damage in Goedwardsville. We had some rough weather also in places like, let's see, gosh, just all over -- just take your pick on Nashville. All around the city we've had some rough times.
And, thankfully, the storm has begun to lose a great deal of its strength.
let's give you the very latest that we have on it. As we zoom in a couple of lines that we have for you, just to give you some perspective of things. Here is Birmingham. Here's Montgomery. A strong, intense line of storms right here is indicated by the orange and yellow, as you see here on the screen. That indicates the greatest amount of density in the atmosphere and the strongest storms.
Atlanta here, still a little bit of cell activity father back, to the northwest of the city. But the worst is over for the time being, as we make our way back over to other parts of Georgia, over to Monroe, southward to Thomaston and closer to the coast.
We're seeing these scattered storms. Let's give you a little more perspective here. Here's Augusta. We've got this one line of storms right here, right along I-20. This is going to be drifting closer to the coast. I would say within 20 to 30 minutes we're going to have these storms rumbling through the Augusta area.
However, as I mentioned, these storms not quite as intense as they were yesterday afternoon, during the late night hours and earlier this morning.
This is a dying system, thankfully, but it is still one that needs to be monitored very, very closely, no question.
NGUYEN: That's definitely what we're going to be done here. You're going to be a busy man this morning, Reynolds.
We'll be talking with you shortly.
WOLF: And -- absolutely. I mean, it is a -- it's something we're going to be seeing throughout much of the morning. By midday, though, it's going to be a much better situation for all of us.
NGUYEN: Well, that is definitely some good news.
WOLF: You bet.
NGUYEN: Thank you, Reynolds.
Well, lives and homes, as you know, just ripped apart. Violent weather tears across the South. For the second time in less than a week, Tennessee was in the eye of the storm. One of the hardest hit areas is Gallatin, Tennessee, northeast of Nashville.
CNN's Jonathan Freed is there.
He joins us now with the latest -- Jonathan, how bad is the damage? JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Betty.
It's bad. It is pretty bad. I was hoping that I wouldn't see more damage like this this week. We were further north, in the northwest corner of this state, Sunday and Monday and Tuesday, as you know. And the sun is just coming up here now. And take a look at what we are seeing.
We're in front of a couple of car dealerships and there are at least 250 cars that have been destroyed here, wrecked, windows blown out, some of them just flipped over. In the darkness when we arrived, Betty, you could have taken this place for a junkyard. Now that the sun is coming up, of course, we have more perspective. And we're seeing that not everything has been damaged, but that isn't saying much.
Take a look at the building over there. I mean there -- it's just twisted metal. There is hardly anything left. And I am standing not far at all -- if you take a look over here -- from power lines that have been downed. And we're keeping a distance from them because although the power is out everywhere and the crews are working to restore power, you never know in this kind of a situation what could spark and what won't.
We have 11 people confirmed dead in Tennessee, eight of them right here in Sumner County, Betty. And the other three in Warren County, which is southeast of Nashville.
I am about 25 miles or so to the northeast of downtown Nashville, which is off in that direction. And the storm moved in that northeasterly track and it just came right through here yesterday afternoon -- Betty.
NGUYEN: How much warning did people have so that they could get out of the way ahead of this storm?
Do you know?
FREED: There was a fair amount of warning based on what I could see. We were -- we were positioned in Memphis yesterday and this storm was heading this way at the same time that the sirens were going off in downtown Memphis. And I was on the 19th floor of a hotel in the city. And I had a perfect view of the Mississippi River. I could see to the south. I could see to the southeast. I couldn't see perfectly to the northwest. But local media, from what I could tell, was doing a very good job at warning people that this was coming and sirens were definitely going off.
So it's fair to say they had at least some warning here.
NGUYEN: Yes, but warning or no warning, hit twice in less than a week, it's been devastating for that area.
Jonathan Freed, thank you.
HARRIS: And Chuck Baird is on the line with us now from the Cobb County, Georgia Fire & Emergency Department.
Chuck, good to talk to you this morning.
CHUCK BAIRD, FIRE & EMERGENCY, COBB COUNTY, GEORGIA: Good morning.
HARRIS: Chuck, when did alarms and sirens start to blare in Cobb County this morning?
BAIRD: It was around 3:00 this morning, about 3:15. We actually -- the weather sirens were activated. At the time, we were under a tornado watch and they upgraded it with the embedded severe thunderstorm warning. And the storm lasted for about 30 to 45 minutes after the sirens sounded and went through the county rather rapidly.
HARRIS: Any reports of -- of damage, Chuck?
BAIRD: No. We've got multiple reports of damage. Most are in the northeast corridor of the county, also right through the midsection of the county, toward the county seat, the City of Marietta. We got a report of a collapsed structure in the City of Marietta, a lot of trees that have been snapped. Power lines are down and crews are out there assessing the damage and getting to people that have been trapped in their neighborhoods or in their homes.
But at the moment, we've got no reports of injuries.
HARRIS: Boy, I heard the sirens in Smyrna this morning, about 3:00, I don't know, inside that 3:00 hour.
Were you responding to the threat of severe weather? Were there reports that storms were actually moving through the area? And did -- were there any reports of tornadoes in the area?
BAIRD: There has been the -- it has been reported there was at least one tornado within Cobb County. We haven't heard any confirmation from the Weather Service at this point in time. We've just been watching, you know, the cal volume increase as the storm passed through.
And, as I said, it went through very rapidly. We had a lot of high winds, really blinding rain and that hampered, of course, some of the response efforts until that started to calm down and we were able to get into the situations and see what we were dealing with.
HARRIS: What do you -- what's first light here? And we're not at first light yet. What are you anticipating? What do you think you'll see once we get to first light here in the Atlanta area?
BAIRD: Oh, currently we're starting to bring crews back into service, the emergency response crews from the fire department and the police department, EMS crews are kind of getting back to normal status.
The emergency management agency here in Cobb County has already got damage assessment teams marshaled up and at 0800 they'll begin damage assessment across the county to determine, you know, what has been hit, how badly and see what we have to do to recover out of the situation.
HARRIS: Yes. Hey, Chuck, just sort of for viewers around the country, just sort of orient them to where we are in relation to -- where Cobb County is in relation to Atlanta.
BAIRD: Cobb County is a contiguous county to Fulton County, which is where the City of Atlanta is, to the northwest on I-75.
HARRIS: Chuck, we appreciate it.
Thanks for your time.
Chuck Baird, Cobb County Fire & Emergency.
Chuck, thank you.
BAIRD: Thank you, sir.
HARRIS: We want to hear from you if you have pictures from this severe weather. E-mail those pictures to us. The address, weekends@CNN.com.
NGUYEN: And all morning long, we're going to stay on top of these storms. A lot of them have moved through the Atlanta area very rapidly. But, at the same time, there's lots of damage in its wake.
So we want to take you now to some local programming here in Atlanta.
Let's take a listen to WSB, the local affiliate.
MARK SARDINO: We have ourselves and what's really funny is last night I just finished the very detailed work in the living room. I had just painted the living room. And, actually, all of the front is covered with tarps, because we've been painting. And it's just so funny, you know, one minute just getting all the trim details important and now the wall's not even there.
UNIDENTIFIED WSB CORRESPONDENT: So what's next for the Sardino (ph) family?
SARDINO: Well, we're just going to live with my parents and god will continue to protect and provide.
UNIDENTIFIED WSB CORRESPONDENT: I must say, you have a great attitude. That's wonderful to see.
UNIDENTIFIED WSB CORRESPONDENT: That is great.
What can you do, right?
exactly. SARDINO: That's right.
UNIDENTIFIED WSB CORRESPONDENT: Exactly.
And so your son -- and how old is your son, who was spending the night at your parents?
SARDINO: He's two and-a-half.
UNIDENTIFIED WSB CORRESPONDENT: Two-and-a-half. And the damage was in his room. And thank god he wasn't in there.
SARDINO: This, oh, it's all over. The trees, parts of the tree just came throughout the whole house. So our room is safe and her room is safe. Is that amazing or what? God is amazing.
UNIDENTIFIED WSB CORRESPONDENT: That is amazing, I must say.
What time did this all happen?
SARDINO: I'm guessing it weeks ago about 4:00 to 4:20.
UNIDENTIFIED WSB CORRESPONDENT: So just literally less than -- about an hour ago?
UNIDENTIFIED WSB CORRESPONDENT: Wow!
OK. So you're in the process of cleanup, I take it?
SARDINO: Yes. We're trying to get all -- all of the clothes out and get everything taken care of.
UNIDENTIFIED WSB CORRESPONDENT: Interesting.
Mark (ph), do you mind if I get a cell phone number for -- from either one of you, just in case you're, you know...
NGUYEN: And you've been listening to the local affiliate here in Atlanta, WSB, talking to a homeowner. I don't know if you got to see the video very much there, but a tree collapsed onto a side of his house. It's totally exposed. You can see inside to the ceiling and apparently that's where his son would have been sleeping had his son been home at the time. So there is a lot of damage in and around the Atlanta area from these storms.
Now, these are deadly storms that rolled through Tennessee, killing 11 people.
We're going to stay on top of all of it for us this morning.
HARRIS: We are your severe weather headquarters.
Stay with us all day for the latest on these storms. Our reporters and meteorologists are tracking the latest developments and as soon as we get any additional information or video, we will bring that to you.
NGUYEN: Well, they are watching the weather and levees in parts of California. Look at this. Officials are bracing for the possibility of levee failures and the threat of more flooding. Rivers are swollen by more than a month of rain. Some are already spilling over their banks and more storms, well, they are in the forecast.
HARRIS: OK, what you're about to see is going to look pretty bad, but things are getting better today in Texas, believe me. High humidity and calmer winds are cutting the danger of more wildfires. They scorched about 40,000 acres in the Texas Panhandle this week.
Rain and cooler temperatures have helped firefighters in Oklahoma. They got the upper hand on a blaze in the far southwest area of Oklahoma City and on two other brush fires.
And a wildfire near Fayetteville, North Carolina forced the evacuation of more than 50 homes at the day care center. But there are no reports of injuries or structures lost.
NGUYEN: Other stories making news across America today.
A US Airways pilot suspected of drinking alcohol before a flight will not face charges. Lax police say they gave the pilot a sobriety test that determined he was not legally intoxicated. The pilot wasn't allowed to fly the plane and the airline says it is still investigating.
Now to Denver. It is looking like the transit strike may soon be over. Bus drivers, train operators and mechanics have overwhelmingly approved the new contract. If it's finalized, workers could be back on the job by Monday.
In Florida, a middle school teacher is facing six counts of bribery for allegedly letting students sit out a gym class if they paid her a dollar a day. The teacher resigned before a warrant was issued for her arrest. Now, a former teacher at this same school was arrested in February, accused of the same scheme.
HARRIS: And right now we are going to listen in to a bit of the coverage provided by another one of our Atlanta area affiliates.
This is WGCL, CNN affiliate WGCL here in Atlanta.
HELEN NEILL, WGCL CORRESPONDENT: This is a semi that tipped over due to the wind. A guy in that truck -- the trucker was asleep. He somehow slept through it to that point, when it tipped over, he had finally got out and -- and started making some calls. There's a Wendy's near the Big Chicken, badly damaged, as well.
So Gene, so many places we're seeing in the darkness and once it gets light, you know we're going to see a lot more.
GENE NORMAN, WGCL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Helen.
And, again, the point is kind of obvious that, you know, these storms hit when people were asleep. So, you know, as people are just beginning to wake up -- and, again, if you've slept through a really bad thunderstorm, what you probably remember hearing is oh, I heard some loud thunder last night and I saw some flashes of lightning and maybe you rolled over and went back to sleep. But then, after you wake up and check around...
HARRIS: OK, just watching the coverage coming from Atlanta affiliate WGCL. That coverage led by Helen Neill and you're looking at chief meteorologist Gene Norman there.
Storms, as you mentioned, Betty, rolling through the Atlanta area. And we have a sense, at least the first line of storms that hit about oh, 3:30, 4:00 in the morning, really severe.
HARRIS: A lot of damage. But it looks like that second line there is certainly not as intense as the first line and perhaps the worst of this is beyond the City of Atlanta. You see some, you know, just some showers in the back, but not a big...
NGUYEN: Plenty of rain out there, yes.
HARRIS: Yes, none of those really bright red cells that we saw so much of yesterday...
NGUYEN: Yesterday, yes.
HARRIS: ... and earlier this morning.
Still ahead, the Southeast, as you can see here, getting slammed with tornadoes, damaging winds, a lot of rain. We'll have a live report from Charlotte, Tennessee. That's straight ahead.
NGUYEN: And a staggering fact for you. This year, we have seen a 400 percent increase -- yes, a 400 percent increase in the number of tornadoes over last year. So, will this severe weather continue?
We're going to get you some answers from the NOAA Storm Prediction Center.
Stay tuned for that.
NGUYEN: Well, good morning.
Tennessee was just pummeled by tornadoes and storms for the second time in less than a week. Some of the worst damage was around the Nashville area.
CNN's Amanda Rosseter joins us from Charlotte, Tennessee, about 50 miles west of Nashville. What is the damage there this morning?
AMANDA ROSSETER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Betty, there's a lot of damage on the ground here in middle Tennessee. And the people here in Tennessee had just five days to recover from last Sunday's deadly storms that killed 24 people in the state, before being hit again yesterday.
Eleven people, again, killed in this state yesterday. In 10 Tennessee counties, tornadoes were spotted. The worst damage just outside Nashville.
ROSSETER (voice-over): This aerial video north of Nashville says it all -- houses obliterated by the power of the storm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A tornado.
ROSSETER: Two construction workers were inside this new home when it collapsed. One of them got out. The other had to be rescued. Near Nashville, two mobile homes, one is blown into the other. Both are turned into a pile of rubble.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just told her I was going to wait it out, to make sure, you know, you see everything was going to be OK. And five minutes later she called back and said everything was gone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The winds started to pick up...
ROSSETER: This couple moved to middle Tennessee after Hurricane Katrina.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was more frightening than any hurricane I've lived through, because I've run from hurricanes and I had no place to run.
ROSSETER: A man used his cell phone's camera to record a tornado in the Nashville suburb of Gallatin. And it was there, at this Nissan dealership, that 250 cars on the lot were totaled. The roof of the building was torn off and windows were blown out.
Twisters weren't the only weather threats. Baseball sized hail was reported in several states, including Indiana.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is unbelievable. Usually when you see hail started, you'll see dings. But it actually hit so hard it knocked the paint off of it right here.
ROSSETER: About 3,500 customers are still without power this morning here in Tennessee. And crews have been working throughout the night to get everyone back on line. But many of the neighbors haven't even been able to get to their homes to fully assess the damage that they have. In Charlotte, Tennessee, I'm Amanda Rosseter.
Back to you -- Betty.
NGUYEN: Amanda, the damage is just devastating look at that, especially on the heels of last weekend, when the storms rolled through there.
Let me ask you, though, as they came in yesterday, are you seeing any calls, still, to people needing help? Anyone trapped inside their homes from these storms?
ROSSETER: Many of the rescue crews have been able to get to most of the people who were -- who were trapped inside. What we saw mostly yesterday were neighbors who were milling about, trying to help each other out, trying to assess what the damage in the entire neighborhood was.
We had some neighbors who were right here going over the hill to help their -- a gentleman over the hill whose mobile home had turned over onto his vehicle. So he had no transportation and no home.
NGUYEN: Um, um, um, just so much to take in and a lot of cleanup to do.
Amanda Rosseter with our affiliate there in Charlotte, Tennessee.
Thank you for that.
HARRIS: We want to give you a sense, Betty and the folks at home, of the damage here in the greater Atlanta area.
This is -- again, these are pictures from our local affiliate, WSB, the coverage from just a short time ago, being led by anchor Tiffany Cochran.
Let's listen in.
Oh, OK. I thought we had some sound on that, but we don't.
But obviously you can see the pictures there. That particular picture there of the damage to one home.
NGUYEN: That tree.
HARRIS: Was that a tree that?
NGUYEN: That's a tree.
HARRIS: Yes? Oh, OK.
NGUYEN: And if you look inside the house with the...
HARRIS: It takes somebody to make that out.
NGUYEN: ... yes, where the white part is. Look at the top. There's a ceiling fan. This tree just collapsed on the house. And I believe this is the same house that we took a live look at a little bit earlier.
HARRIS: No, no, no, no, no. This is the -- this is the picture that you've been watching on one of our routers and you've been telling folks to take a look at this picture because...
HARRIS: Right. Right. Because there's a tree down and you can see the ceiling fan. That gives you an indication of that -- that tree just sort of, you know ...
NGUYEN: And I think we were listening just a little bit earlier to the homeowner as he explained that this would have been a room where his son would have been sleeping in had his son not been...
HARRIS: OK, so now it all comes together.
HARRIS: Got you.
NGUYEN: ... spending a night with some relatives. So this could have turned very, possibly even deadly, had a child been in that room at the time. But just an indication of the damage that we're seeing in and around the Atlanta area from these storms, storms that proved deadly in Tennessee.
HARRIS: And Reynolds Wolf, I know that we had an early line that was the stronger line that rolled through the kind of greater Atlanta area, north Georgia, what, in that 3:00 hour, 3:00 a.m. hour, Eastern time?
WOLF: 2:30, 3:00 a.m. And we're still dealing with a little bit of it through central and south Georgia at this time. But certainly the first line that came through, Tony, that was the strong wind that caused that damage. It's still up in the air as to whether or not the storm that caused that damage was a tornado or straight line winds. But at this point does it really matter?
I mean damage is damage and that's what people in Georgia and throughout the Southeast are dealing with.
I will tell you one thing that we're seeing with this storm as it drifts on through is we're seeing a second batch just to the north and to the northwest of the Atlanta area, primarily a rain event when the second line comes through. But there still is a little bit of fire, mainly north of I-85.
Let's see, here's Auburn, Alabama, Lynette (ph), Lagrange, a few pockets here and there of some heavier storms. But this is in its dying stages, which is certainly some good news. There's still a chance we could get a little bit more activity in the afternoon, but certainly not of the magnitude of what we've had over the last couple of hours or, of course, overnight and yesterday.
HARRIS: Hey, Reynolds, we're going to take a break.
WOLF: All right, man.
HARRIS: But when we come back and talk to you again, I have a question for you -- will this, once we get into the day side heating, is there a chance that this cell will pick up some more energy and we might see some more strong, severe weather, you know, later in the day?
WOLF: And you want me to hold off on that answer?
HARRIS: Yes, we do. Yes, yes.
NGUYEN: We're going to keep them tuned in for that, Reynolds.
WOLF: Fair enough.
NGUYEN: All right, we'll talk to you shortly.
That's a good one, Tony.
HARRIS: Well, you know, I try. I try to do this for a living.
Tornado season off to a roaring start.
NGUYEN: Oh, man.
HARRIS: So will nature give us a break? Or will we see a record-breaking year for those deadly storms?
We'll get some answers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, their Storm Prediction Center, when we come back.
NGUYEN: We want to give you an idea of what's happening here in the Atlanta area as these storms roll through and cause a lot of damage.
let's take a listen to affiliate WSB here in Atlanta.
This is Ryan Young.
RYAN YOUNG, WSB CORRESPONDENT: In several different directions. Signs have been down and then you have thunder. The whole idea is that since we've been out, the lightning and the thunder have been popping. And it's kept us off air. We were able to find an area where we didn't have to put our mast up. But right now what you're seeing is just damage in little pockets of areas, and that's always, when you see tornadoes, it seems like it skips. And that's what we're seeing as we drive around.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, the National Weather Service says they're certainly looking into whether that was a tornado. But certainly those descriptions as people have been calling in all morning, everybody kind of matches the same description, this intense sound they've never really heard before. So it certainly fits the pattern from the descriptions that a lot of the residents experienced in their neighborhoods.
YOUNG: Yes, definitely. You know, to be safe, I don't want to say I'm calling this a tornado, but any time you talk to people, it seems like when you listen to them and you -- and see how frightening those sounds were, it definitely is something very powerful popping through and skipping from neighborhood to neighborhood.
So even if it was just heavy wind, at this point -- you can see the damage here and as soon as we get a chance, we're going to cue up some video and show you what other damage it has.
We've been to at least three homes where the trees have crashed down into the homes and they have just destroyed the roofs.
So at this point there's going to be a lot of cleanup going on and obviously this is just one of the points.
But I tell you, when we send some more of this video in, you'll see what we're talking about.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And, Ryan, it's really remarkable and fortunate that so far we have no reports of anybody being injured.
YOUNG: You know, the one thing that I was happy to hear, a lot of people said they've been watching us through the night, before they lost power. And the whole idea was once they heard these warnings got serious, they took it pretty seriously and they went into the interior of their homes.
For some people, that saved them. The one woman we talked to said she hunkered down in her bedroom and when the tree came down it went into her living room. So, you know, she avoided all the problems. You know, that's the idea. People were taking this very seriously, especially after what happened in Tennessee with all the people getting killed there.
Like I said, when you look at how powerful this storm could have been in certain areas, you can tell that there were some heavy winds like when the -- we've seen railroad crossing arms broken, sheered off in areas around here.
So there's going to be some heavy cleanup around this area. There are more signs that are down and like I said, I'm sure as soon as the first light comes up, we'll be able to show you so much more. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, Ryan, we're anxious to see those pictures that you want to feed in, so we want to give you a little bit of time to do that. And we'll come back to you.
NGUYEN: All right, you've been listening to one of our local affiliates here in Atlanta, WSB Television. And some of the damage there, you can see that billboard that had fallen over, just one of the...
HARRIS: And we still don't really have first light yet.
HARRIS: I mean, you know, it's 7:30. It's...
NGUYEN: And we've seen small pockets of damage like this right here, this tree that has -- part of it...
HARRIS: Oh, boy.
NGUYEN: ... has fallen into a house.
NGUYEN: This is some of the most dramatic pictures that we've seen so far this morning.
Look at that. You can see all the way inside to the ceiling there.
HARRIS: And let me tell you something, trees are forever in the Atlanta area. I mean you can't -- look, you've got to go through all kinds of political stuff to get a...
NGUYEN: Just to cut down a tree.
HARRIS: ... to get a tree cut down.
HARRIS: So these trees, when they grow, they grow and they grow and they...
NGUYEN: Tall and strong.
HARRIS: Yes. And old, OK? So when one of these trees is toppled over, I mean it's a big, big deal, because they're old.
NGUYEN: It causes a lot of damage, as you can see right there.
So the question is, are these storms done? Have they moved through the area on their way out? Or should folks along the Eastern Seaboard here expect more storms to head their way as the morning progresses?
Let's check on all of this with CNN's Wolf Reynolds. He's been watching it all morning long -- Reynolds, what do you know so far?
WOLF: What we do know is that this storm system is in its dying stages. However, it is still packing a punch in portions of Alabama. You see some just to the south of Birmingham, south of Alabaster. Some intense storms also north of Clanton right on I-65. Here's Tuscaloosa, I-20.
As we make our way back into Georgia, some of these extend over into Lagrange. To give you just, again, perspective, as always, the key here, Atlanta things are getting much better for u. A few cells up near Kennesaw but the rough stuff is moving to portions of the southeast.
Now, for places like, say, the Masters, yes, there's going to be, of course, a big golf tournament out there today. We're expecting this line to continue to make its way, again, very slowly to the southeast, eventually moving closer to the Atlantic. And I would say that especially into the mid-morning hours, they're already getting a few trickles of showers in the Augusta area. You can expect some heavier rainfall as this line moves through, not as intense. Nowhere close to being as intense as what we had in the Atlanta area or in many other places, namely into Tennessee, into Alabama, into even Kentucky and Illinois and Ohio, for that matter. But they're certainly going to have a good soaking there on the fairways. And I would say there's the possibility of some into the afternoon, maybe a pop up thunderstorm but more of a gentle storm, if that is possible -- back to you.
HARRIS: That gets us to the question before the break...
HARRIS: ... as to whether or not once we get some atmospheric heating during the course of the day, Reynolds, might we get some more severe weather?
NGUYEN: Yes ...
WOLF: I would say that the possibility of having some big pop up storms? No. Could we have maybe a thunderstorm here or there, just a few minor ones? There is that potential. But when you have a strong line move through a given area, normally that stabilizes the atmosphere. So you don't have as much juice, as much instability to work with.
So there is the possibility, but not quite as likely. It's not going to be a big severe threat area, so to speak.
HARRIS: Got you.
WOLF: You bet.
NGUYEN: Stay on top of that.
Thank you, Reynolds.
Checking in with you a little bit later.
Well, it has been a strong and deadly year for tornadoes, unfortunately. This year, get this, we have seen a 400 percent increase in the number of tornadoes. So will this path of destruction continue? That's the big question.
We're going to get some answers coming up.
Stay with us for that.
HARRIS: Well, the second wave of violent weather to hit Tennessee in less than a week leaves 11 people dead.
Let's get back to Jonathan Freed in Gallatin, Tennessee, one of the hardest hit areas, a few miles northeast of Nashville -- and, Jonathan, OK, we're framing you up there.
I see you've got first light there. And what is first light revealing to us?
FREED: Good morning, Tony.
That is really the question to ask, because we are now fully getting a complete sense of the scope of the damage in this area over here. I'm about 25 miles or so north of Nashville, which is off in that direction. And the storm came at them here yesterday, Tony, from the southwest, which is over on that way, tracking this way here. And it just plowed through these three car dealerships here yesterday afternoon at around 3:00 p.m.
There are, we're told, about 250 cars here that are either destroyed or damaged. And you can see, there's just nothing but twisted metal, Tony, left of the buildings over there.
We talked to one gentleman who worked here and was here yesterday. He said that there were no sirens going off that they could hear. They were aware because of news reports that a storm was on the way.
Some of them came outside and they looked over that way, Tony, and they saw -- they said there's a house that used to be there just over the crest of the hill that I can see. And they said they saw the tornado -- what they described as a tornado -- it has not been officially classified as one yet to hit the house.
Debris flew up and it started moving. They said it changed course at that point. At least it appeared to them that was what was going on, and started moving across the road toward them, at which point they ran inside, you know, to grab whatever cover they could.
And this, this guy told me, Tony, that he bent down in a room and he grabbed onto what he described as a heavy...
HARRIS: Hey, Jonathon.
FREED: ... toolbox.
HARRIS: Jonathon, let me stop you...
FREED: And he said...
HARRIS: Jonathon, can you hear me?
FREED: ... OK.
HARRIS: Let me stop you for half a second here.
FREED: Yes, I can.
HARRIS: And I'm going to have you pick up the story again. But I don't know -- is that interference in your microphone? Is that from our end or is something in your area overhead or what -- is there a helicopter in the area near you?
FREED: There was a helicopter here a moment ago, but it's quiet now.
HARRIS: OK, so, if you would, because we just totally lost you when the helicopter was overhead, pick up the story from, you were talking about having a moment to talk to someone who worked at one of the dealerships.
Great. Glad you told me because you need to hear this story. People need to hear this one.
So, this gentleman was telling me that he was -- they came outside, Tony, when they heard reports of this twister. And, again, it has not been officially classified as one, but based on the eyewitnesses that we're talking to it certainly sounds like that's what it was, at least from their point of view.
So he said he's looking across the road over there, a couple of hundred yards way, at where there used to be a house. He said that he saw the storm hit the house. Debris went flying up into the air, at which point they all looked at each other and said that's it, we're getting inside.
The storm, he said, appeared to change track when it hit the house just over there. It starts moving this way, across the road toward these dealerships. These guys run inside and this one guy that we were talking to, he said he ran into a room. I said could you go underground? He said no. He said he bent down and he grabbed what he described as the biggest thing and the heaviest thing he could find, which was a large tool chest. And he said he was just holding onto it. And he said it sounded like a train. We often hear these things described that way. And he said he felt the hat blow off his head. And it happened quickly enough that he wasn't aware of whether he was really being lifted, but he said his hat went.
The next thing he knew, it was over. He looked up and the roof was gone. He was seeing the sky. And needless to say, Tony, he considers himself incredibly lucky.
HARRIS: Yes. Boy, we're -- you know, as -- as you're telling us this story, we're seeing some of the pictures, some of the aerial views of the area that you're in. And, you know, it just reminds us all, we build these wonderful structures that we live in, these beautiful businesses, brick and mortar. And then a storm, Mother Nature comes through and all of this stuff that we've built with our hands is absolutely no match for the force of nature -- Jonathan.
FREED: You're absolutely right. I was chatting with my wife about that last night as we were making the trip from Memphis up to here. Now, we live in the Chicago area, which is also not exactly a stranger to tornadoes and that kind of thing. And we were understand discussing how it's the randomness of the twisters that can be so maddening, because at least with a hurricane we have advanced warning. You can see the storm forming. It's, you know, it's like a lumbering tank, a big one, that can do a lot of damage, but, you know, there's advanced warning.
And with -- with tornadoes, you have a certain degree of warning, but, you know, you've got the cells, the storm systems, and you never know where that proverbial finger of god is just going to come down out of the sky and point at you.
HARRIS: Yes. OK...
FREED: And that's -- that's the sense that we're getting from people here today, just they're doing what they can to cope with it.
HARRIS: Jonathan, we appreciate it.
Thank you for the reporting you're doing from Gallatin, Tennessee.
FREED: Thank you.
HARRIS: And, boy, you've been all over Tennessee the last couple of days.
NGUYEN: Well, I'm just looking at those pictures, just devastating what they've been through.
NGUYEN: So many have been killed, 11 people since yesterday in Tennessee alone.
We want to get you to what's happening in the Atlanta area because of these storms that rolled through. Here's some video of a tree that fell onto a house.
One of our writers for the CNN SATURDAY and SUNDAY MORNING SHOW actually had to go home today because of some damage.
But we have her on the phone to talk about what she's seen in and around her area.
Carol Carreau is joining us by phone right now -- Carol, I know that you went home a little bit earlier today because of some damage.
Tell me about that damage.
CAROL CARREAU, CNN WRITER: Well, I went running out. You just heard Jonathan Freed say that that finger of god? As I was driving home, Betty, I was driving and driving and it was moderate rain, nothing really spectacular. And I got almost home, which is in the northern reaches of the Atlanta, you know, suburbs in Marietta, almost to Cherokee County. And it was still just moderate rain, nothing really special. So I thought I'd really, you know, kind of jumped the gun.
But just as I got to almost 92 and Sandy Plains, which is where my subdivision is, I saw blue lights.
NGUYEN: And this is north of Atlanta, for those viewers watching...
CARREAU: It's north, north...
NGUYEN: ... who aren't familiar.
CARREAU: Right, north of Atlanta. And right there at the blue lights, all of a sudden there were trees. And a path had been cleared so you could get through that tree and make your way through Sandy Boulevard. But my subdivision was just to the west. I tried to get in. I couldn't drive. I stopped. And I had to pick my way. It took about 20 minutes to walk through these downed trees.
NGUYEN: So you actually had to get out of your car...
CARREAU: Oh, yes.
NGUYEN: You could not drive up to your house?
CARREAU: There's no way to have gone through. There had to have been, Betty, 30 or more giant trees, mature trees, and they were snapped. Just some of them were snapped off in the middle. Some of them were snapped off at the bottom. Some of the younger trees that had more elasticity were bending over as if kind of hanging onto their last breath.
I had to -- literally, I felt like I was mountain climbing in the Sierras, you know, picking my way over, you know, downed trees.
NGUYEN: And this is suburban Atlanta?
CARREAU: This is in the -- a suburban area of Atlanta, just -- Sandy Plains Boulevard, where it hits Highway 92. There are hundreds of homes back here. I made my way through and I got to the first house and I woke the people up. The woman came out and she -- we had to pick her way out of the car -- out of her driveway, so we could get her car out of the driveway. And she drove me about a mile. And that's as far as we could go.
So there was this all of a sudden devastation at the entrance with 30 trees. And we drove about another mile and then there were trees again.
NGUYEN: Did any of them fall onto a house?
I know you're talking about the next street?
CARREAU: She, yes. The woman's house who I stopped at, she had a tree fall at the back of her house. And it just -- it sort of kind of grazed the edge of her roof. So she's got some pretty major leaking. It destroyed her deck, pulled her deck down.
From what I could see as I was -- I had to walk about two-and-a- half miles to get here and make my way through trees. I kept watching and there was nobody out and about. There were lights on everywhere and I looked for trees down, but there weren't any.
Through all the devastation, I have to tell you, there was this weird sense, because there was this very comforting smell in the air.
HARRIS: Well, let me...
CARREAU: It was the smell of Christmas.
CARREAU: It was the smell of pine trees.
HARRIS: Well, let me ask you something, Carol.
Carol, Carol, Carol...
HARRIS: Let me ask you something.
Here's the thing. We all live in the greater Atlanta area and I'm wondering if this was your sense -- because it certainly was my sense last night when the storm started to roll through. You need an act of Congress in this area to get a tree cut down.
HARRIS: I mean you really do.
NGUYEN: You do.
HARRIS: You need arborists, you need -- you need lawyers, you need a team of whatever...
NGUYEN: You have to petition for it.
HARRIS: You have to petition an act of Congress to get it.
So as you're driving out to your subdivision, is that -- I mean, first of all, you're concerned that everyone in your subdivision and your family and everyone is safe and sound. And the concern there is that a tree, you know, which you can't cut down, that a tree has fallen.
Isn't that like the concern as you're driving home?
CARREAU: My concern was a tree. I was -- my -- I have teenaged boys. My husband was out of town. And so my concern -- and I was -- I had -- I was just absolutely terrified there was a tree on the house. And when I got to -- and, as I said, coming here, all the way here there was nothing except rain and a little bit of lightning. But when I got here, literally, right here at my neighborhood, there -- something roared through there. And it was, again, it was about -- not quite as wide as a football field, just plowed through the first half of our subdivision.
Fortunately, that's kind of our, you know, our decorated zone.
CARREAU: It's all trees. And that's where the pool is. So there weren't homes there. But I tried parking several places. There's a church next door and I tried going in there. The trees were all over in there and there was a sign that was battered that said...
HARRIS: Hey, Carol...
CARREAU: ... Sandy Plains Boulevard in Jefferson Township.
HARRIS: Carol, is everybody all right? The kids are all right? Everybody OK?
CARREAU: Everybody's fine here.
CARREAU: We have some very large limbs. I haven't walked through everywhere upstairs to check if we have damage.
NGUYEN: Yes, but the good news is everybody is fine. That was your main concern this morning, despite the obstacle course that you had to go through to get home and find out that, indeed, everyone survived.
HARRIS: OK. Everybody's fine. Come on -- come on back to work.
We need you back in, Carol.
HARRIS: Come on -- come on back to work.
NGUYEN: Can you come on back now?
HARRIS: OK, the kids are fine, everybody's fine, come on back to work.
NGUYEN: And that's Carol Carreau, a CNN writer here on this very show, who was talking to us about the damage there in North Cobb County, which is just north of Atlanta.
As you're seeing right now, some more of the damage in and around the Atlanta area.
HARRIS: Let's send it upstairs now to Reynolds Wolf in the CNN Weather Center.
And Reynolds has a special guest this morning -- Reynolds.
WOLF: Yes, we do.
And we certainly have a lot to talk about.
One thing we, of course, have been watching is this storm system finally moving its way out of the Southeast, but certainly not before delivering an awful punch to parts of Tennessee into Alabama and to Georgia, all the way into the Midwest.
And it has just been the beginning of what has been a very, very rough tornado season. In fact, this year, take a look at this. In 2006, we've had already more than 400 tornadoes reported. But when you compare that with 2005, there were 96 tornadoes already during this same time last year.
So what an amazing comparison this has been. It's far greater this year.
And if you're wondering if the severe weather is going to continue at the same rate, we're going to hopefully find out from Dan McCarthy.
He is joining us from the Storm Prediction Center.
Dan, how are you doing this morning?
DAN MCCARTHY, NOAA STORM PREDICTION CENTER: I'm awake.
How about you?
WOLF: Well, I know you've certainly had an incredibly rough night.
What do you think is the reason that we've seen just this explosion of storms, especially in comparison with what we had just last year?
MCCARTHY: Well, actually, within the last three years, we had this huge low pressure system that was over the Great Lakes, bringing a very cool spring. And that was forcing cold fronts through the Southeast but was not warming up the Gulf of Mexico very well.
During this particular winter, we were very warm and very dry in the South Central and Southwestern U.S. and that spread to the Gulf of Mexico, which kept the skin temperature of the Gulf of Mexico water rather warm. And that's enabling us to get the moisture and the sufficient dew points northward into the area so that when our springtime systems come in, we get this violent weather.
WOLF: Now, Dan, you guys study this 365 days a year, 24-7. You're always monitoring the weather.
What key elements really came into play yesterday to create the rough scenario?
For example, I saw something that I've never seen before in my career, and that is folks -- every single day, the Storm Prediction Center releases a forecast that shows you where thunderstorms are likely, where hail is a possibility, where wind damage may be.
Dan, there was one circle that covered parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee where it showed a 60 percent chance of tornadoes. We're not talking about rain, we're not talking about hail, we're talking tornadic activity.
What elements came together for just that one specific thing to occur?
MCCARTHY: Actually, Reynolds, this was the first time that we went high risk with that 60 percent probability in a day two forecast. So that was really something that really -- the models showed us that we were going to get that low level flow that was going to be directed right in toward the Tennessee Valley. And we had a very strong upper level system that was centered right over Kansas. And that upper level system was going to move around with the new piece of energy that was going to swing around toward that area, somewhat when you look at the kicker when he kicks a football... WOLF: Absolutely.
MCCARTHY: ... this storm system was going to kick right into the Southeast. And when you see those kind of ingredients and those kind of dynamics, that's the kind of weather that we're looking at.
Yesterday, watching radar and seeing the numerous super cell storms and the number of super cell storms and the number of super cell storms that were creating the classic hook echo was just phenomenal.
WOLF: Dan, I hate to really put you on the spot, but forecasters sometimes have the opportunity to do this with each other. I've got to put it to you. Give me the forecast for the rest of the season.
What do you think?
MCCARTHY: Boy, that's really hard. I mean, I've been thinking here about 2004. We had 1,819 tornadoes in which 300 of those were associated with the hurricane season. And here we are sitting at about 452 tornado reports already this year. We're just starting into the tornado season. And usually, when you have a busy March -- and this was like the fifth outbreak we've had just within the last 30 days -- you usually end up with a busy season.
So if the weather pattern continues like it has, with storm systems coming into California and then swinging into the Plains, this kind of activity is going to continue.
WOLF: Dan, thank you very much for your time this morning.
We're going to have you back again for the 10:00 a.m. hour.
And thanks so much for your hard work and dedication. You guys really, really worked so hard for us, to keep us all safe and keep us informed down in Norman, Oklahoma.
And, again, hats off to you. You guys predicted this, you nailed it, and, unfortunately, it did come to fruition.
MCCARTHY: OK. Well, thank you very much.
WOLF: You bet.
Folks, you're watching CNN.
I'm Reynolds Wolf.
We've got so much to share with you in terms of news, sports and, of course, weather.
Keep it right here.
NGUYEN: We want to get you caught up on this storm system that has rolled through. Eleven people have been killed in Tennessee in this latest round, coupled with last weekend. Many people have lost their lives in these spring storms.
Let's get to CNN's Amanda Rosseter.
She's in Charlotte, Tennessee with the latest on the damage there.
What are you seeing?
ROSSETER: Good morning, Betty.
The sun is just starting to come up here in Charlotte and the wind is really picking up. It's kind of chilly out here. And we're beginning to see and hear the signs of the day after, if you will. The neighbors are starting to drive back into this neighborhood, return to their homes. We're watching them pick through the damage and we're hearing chainsaws start up as people try to remove some of these large, uprooted trees from their yards and from their homes.
NGUYEN: All right, Amanda, and talk to us about when this storm system rolled in, about what time of day was it and what kind of warning people in that area got.
ROSSETER: It was early afternoon yesterday, I would say just after lunch, when the worst of the storms, the super cells that we've been seeing on the radar, the big red areas, started to move in and moved across a large path. It moved just across Nashville.
And what we saw was sort of this large path, if you will, from west of Nashville to the northeast part of Nashville. And the northern part of Nashville took the worst of it, an area called Gallatin. Three people of eight -- of the 11 people who are now confirmed dead in Tennessee were pulled from an upscale subdivision there. And some of the worst damage that we've seen came from that subdivision. And we understand that fire and rescue crews still are searching through that subdivision to make sure nobody is trapped inside -- Betty.
NGUYEN: Yes, eight people there. Another three deaths reported in Warren County, which is about 65 miles southeast of Nashville. So Tennessee hard hit by these storms that have been rolling through.
CNN's Amanda Rosseter, thank you for that update from Charlotte, Tennessee.
And, of course, all morning long we are going to keep you on top of the storms, what they've done and where they're heading. It's 7:56 Eastern and we're approaching the back end of this severe weather line, which is moving through Southeastern states. Rain, hail and tornadoes. People are heading out to get a look at this overnight damage. Look at it. I mean it's just -- it's amazing to see that kind of damage.
HARRIS: Yes. And you wonder about that moment of impact, when the storm -- when the storm meets structures. And you can see the end result. But that moment has got to be unbelievable, as Jonathan Freed was talking about. There was a man he talked to who said the storm hit a house and there was debris everywhere.
So much more to tell you about this morning.
We'll take a break and we'll come right back with more of CNN SATURDAY MORNING right after this.
WOLF: Hi, everyone.
I'm meteorologist Reynolds Wolf and this is a quick check on your Allergy Report. And if you're suffering from hay fever, you've got a pollen blues, chances are you may be living right on the Gulf Coast, in parts of Florida, Alabama, even Georgia, Mississippi and into Louisiana.
However, up in the northern tier states, all the anyway from the Dakotas back over to Montana, clear up into the Great Lakes, conditions are not quite that bad for you.
That's a look at your Allergy Report.
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