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tv   Anderson Cooper 360  CNN  May 24, 2011 11:00pm-12:00am PDT

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good evening, everyone. we are live in joplin, missouri tonight. a town bracing for a storm that's expected to hit any moment. death toll rising here in joplin, missouri to 124, and a staggering number of people unaccounted for. some 1,500 according to one local official. new tornadoes tonight also in our southwest, in oklahoma with fatalities and a tornado watch and curfew in effect here. as i said, that storm expected to hit some time in the next few minutes here. we're hoping to stay on the air. we've moved to a more secure location. i want to show you what's been happening in oklahoma, the storm there, simply unbelievable. this funnel cloud cut a tractor trailer in half. the driver escaped with his life. it was not the only tornado on the ground. at least four people killed west of oklahoma city in canadian county. at one point the national weather service had to evacuate its norman oklahoma storm prediction center.
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here's how a local chopper reported what they saw as a new funnel cloud formed. take a look. >> wow. we got lightning really close. where is it? yeah. >> okay, we got another tornado on the ground. we're going to have to get out of here, guys. we can't stay around here. >> multiple vortex tornado on the ground. where's the location towards the south? >> don't worry about it. >> we're good, we're good. >> we'll be all right. >> here's a remarkable view from reporter david payne. he is from cnn affiliate kfor. >> reporter: there it is on the ground. big elephant trunk. it's getting stronger. elephant trunk tornado on the ground. >> david, from i-40 and highway 102, where sit from you, from i-40 and 102, where is that tornado? >> reporter: take my stream, take my stream. >> begin two.
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>> northwest of i-40. big elephant trunk. elephant trunk tornado, it's just northwest. it's over -- it's north of i-40. if you take our stream, you'll see it in the stream right there. >> unbelievable. david payne is joining us live on the phone. david, how close were you to that tornado? >> you know what? that video was at the end of the chase. the first tornado, which i would love to give you -- i hope you can get some video of this. that was on the west side. you mentioned canadian county, west side of oklahoma city. at that one point, i lost a side mirror off my car today and we were within a couple hundred yards when it was nearly three quarters of a mile wide tornado when it sat down southwest of oklahoma city. an incredible storm. it goes back to what we witnessed in joplin, missouri, the deep south and april 27th and then the last time we had an
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event like this in oklahoma city, may 3rd of 1999. the tornadoes today were violence, long-tracking tornadoes. absolutely amazing, and these storms just went up hard, they were turning and rotating from start to finish and they were killer tornadoes today in oklahoma. >> and to get that close, what does it feel like? people talk about a pressure change. >> right. there is. if you're really close, you often hear the noise that it sounds like. if you're really close, it sounds like -- we're close to the air force base, it sounds like you're standing next to a jet airplane. like you're back by the engine. and sometimes i offer refer to it, when i tell people when i'm doing this, it sounds like a rushing waterfall, like standing next to niagara falls. because a tornado is water flowing at a high velocity, such as niagara falls, but a lot faster. it sounds like that, and your ear also pop sometimes. but they popped big time and you can have ear damage if you're caught inside a tornado.
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our plan is not to do that. what we do is try to bring home the viewer, while they're watching where the tornado is, and you heard me talking. hey, we're streaming, take my stream, i'm talking about live streaming video. that's how we bring the pictures live to the viewer. when you're close to it, it's traumatic, it's chaos, there's drama. it's insane and your main objective is you're trying to tell people this is where it is. if you don't move, you got to get out of the way or go below ground or you're going to die. that's what we're trying to tell people today. this is going to be a horrible day, we knew it. we've been talking about it for a week. it's been a crazy day. i guess now i just talked to the news room. i guess the death toll unofficially now maybe ten here in oklahoma, and they're still trying to find people. there was a lot of tornadoes, big tornadoes on the ground for quite a while today. >> yeah. david payne, i'm glad you were safe and appreciate you talking to us tonight.
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there has been loss of life in oklahoma. joining us on the phone is the governor of oklahoma, we appreciate her calling us, mary fallin. governor, what is the latest information about the situation in oklahoma? >> we're still not out of the woods yet. we still have storms going through the northeast and southeast part of oklahoma. so there's still possible tornadic activity in our state. we're still under a state of alert. what we do know is there was about 14 communities throughout the state of oklahoma that have been hit today by tornadoes and sustained substantial damage. we are very, very sad that we have had some fatalities in our state. we're still trying to confirm the exact number of the fatalities. we know we've had over 60 people who have had injuries and some very, very severe injuries. we have almost 60,000 homes right now without electricity. we have some possible schools that have been destroyed in some of the rural areas.
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you know, we still have a long night ahead of us with these storms and they're trying to make sure we get out and do door-to-door search and rescue to find those who might have survived the tornado. and to send emergency responses -- >> are you able at this point to have people out looking or is some places is it still too dangerous to have search and rescue out? >> no, we do have a lot of people out. it's been incredible the response we've had throughout the state. the big challenge is, it's finally dark and we still have storms going through a certain portion of our state. the storms are heading up towards joplin right now. these are very severe storms. and so it's going to be hard to find those tornadoes when they do come out. hopefully they won't, but they still might. we have a lot of power that's down right now, and that makes it very dangerous for those that are trying to do search and rescue and trying to open up some of the roadways, too. >> and has the national guard
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been mobilized or is that something you're considering? >> we have all kinds of emergency personnel. the national guard is out helping, our highway patrol, our health department, salvation army, red cross, all of our first responders are out across the state. the big challenge for us today, anderson, has been -- i mean, we've had a massive outbreak of tornadoes that's gone on now for the last five hours throughout the state. it's pretty unusual. i've been in office for 20 years. i've been through a lot of these natural disasters, but i've never seen this many in a short period of time. i'm in the state cap ral area right now. and earlier today, we had three tornado sirens go out where i'm located within about an hour and a half, and that's highly unusual. >> wow. governor, i appreciate you talking to us tonight. i am so sorry for the fatalities in your state and i hope the numbers don't increase. governor, thank you very much. >> thank you so much. and we'll send our thoughts and prayers to joplin also.
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>> yeah. thank you. people here appreciate it and they know people around the world have been watching and sending their love and prayers. just starting to see some lightning here in joplin. i's that storm we've been talking about that is approaching. t's that storm we've been talking about that is approaching.t's that storm we've been talking about that is approaching. let's talk with chad myers. chad, what a day it has been. >> it has been. you know, i was trying to in my head when david payne was talking, when the governor was talking, i was trying to add up how many square miles of oklahoma was devastated by tornadic activity today. and david payne's tornado was probably 60 miles long, a half mile wide the entire time. that's 30 square miles of devastated land in one tornado. and they are searching through 30 square miles of land to find survivors here. the storm is still not done. it's still moving through parts of eastern oklahoma. there you are right there, joplin. probably 45 minutes away, if not less, for the lightning.
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lightning always gets there before. so i need you to be careful out there, and the other crew out there, as well. let's take a look at something else going on right now. we're going to take you to dallas-ft. worth. here's ft. worth, here's dallas. a very large cell near the university, park city is here. and also out toward garland. we know some of these storms are rotating, there have been tornadoes on the ground in the metroplex, with damage. don't know how much. it's dark, hard to see. here's one of the chasers we have. this is rick burnie from chaser tv. he's driving through it. we've been watching these chasers all night long on streaming video, the same video that david payne was telling you about a little bit ago. and now to you, anderson. what we have in store for you, joplin, missouri right here, here's i-44. you are only at interstate exit 10 to 12 here at joplin. so there's another 10 miles, you're 30 miles away and this is moving east at 50. that doesn't bode well for the end of your show. we'll be here to take care of you. we want you off the air if
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lightning gets close. we'll >> we're starting to hear i think some thunder rumbling here. definitely seeing some lightning. we're -- chad, we're basically proceeding as if this is going to be a lot of winds, just like with a hurricane. so we're kind of hunkered down on the side of a brick building. our main concern is keeping the satellite truck on air and not letting it flip over in high winds. so we think we're in a good location. we're on facebook and twitter. i'll try to be tweeting tonight. we're going to continue to update the breaking news throughout the hour. up next, victims, survivors, and hundreds of people who may be alive and well but cut off from contact from those who care most about them. all the details from joplin, ahead. ♪ [ male announcer ] in 2011, at&t is at work, building up our wireless network all across america. we're adding new cell sites...
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welcome back. we're live in joplin, just starting to rain here a little bit. a storm expected over the course of this hour. updating the breaking news, though. the tornadoes hitting oklahoma, at least four fatalities so far in the state. you just heard from the governor. it is still very early hours and they have a long night ahead. the local affiliate kfor, a reporter says the official number is higher. the dangerous line of storms moving toward us, a tornado watch in effect here in joplin, missouri. we're in a much more sheltered location than we were in last night. curfew is in effect here tonight for the first time as of 9:00 p.m. local time, just a few minutes ago. this morning, a local emergency official said that 1,500 people are still unaccounted for. 1,500! that's in a city of about 50,000. don't think that all those people -- that doesn't mean just because they're unaccounted that's a death toll, it's not. the number may change when people start coming back. it's difficult to make contact with people.
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cell phone use is spotty, twitter is spotty. a lot of people don't have access to the internet. some of those people just can't get in touch with each other and that's what accounts for some of those. there's 120 bodies right now in the local morgue. 60 to 80 people have no identification or real clue to their identity at this point. it doesn't mean, again, there are 1,500 presumed dead, but hundreds just can't connect with loved ones and vice versa. tonight, we're going to show you the effort to make those connections. we'll show you how you can help locate emma marie hayes. she became separated from her daughter when their house was destroyed. she has parkinson's. she needs medication. she doesn't have her medication. if you see her, call 417-298-7890. also missing, lantz hare. he's 16 years old. he was in a car trying to get home. a friend who was with him is still alive. the window blew out in the car.
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his friend blacked out. when his friend came to, lantz was gone. the number 417-396-6523. 16-month-old skyular logsdon. he's also unaccounted for. his mom was hurt and is recovering. reports are that he might have been picked up by police. there's a lot of speculation and rumors. we're trying to get facts. you're asked to call 417-622-7279 if you have any information. dee ann hayward is also missing. her car was found, the seat belt buckled, there was no blood in the car, but she was nowhere to be found. call 620-783-5710 if you have information about her whereabouts. and finally another name we talked about last night, will norton. he was riding home with his dad from high school graduation. a tornado destroyed the suv he was riding in. if you know anything about him, send an e-mail to or call 757-751-9455.
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we're going to talk with will's aunt in just a moment. some of these stories will hopefully have happy endings. some will not. there's likely to be many bodies and possibly some survivors still in the rubble. here's what we saw earlier today with the search and rescue crew. at joplin's home depot, they have not found anyone alive. they've only found bodies. >> everything we did yesterday were recoveries. and we completed seven of those. >> do you think there are more people still inside? >> we have more information from canine alerts. >> do you think they're alive? >> i think it's unlikely. >> doug westhoff is the task force leader. >> we had people coming by here yesterday to see if they recognized vehicles on the lots from their loved ones. in all likelihood if they were in the store or underneath those slabs and one gentleman knew his son-in-law and two grand kids were in all likelihood in that store. he waited around for the entire
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day yesterday until we made those determinations. >> teams stand by to deal with the recovered bodies, but search and rescue personnel still hope to find someone alive. >> the dogs are trained to search for live people who are trapped or entombed underneath structures like this. this is the job we've been called out to do. >> this task force has four dogs working in joplin. dr. chamberlain's dog is named katie. >> they've got to be naked. if you can see all this debris, if she has a collar or vest on, they can be trapped. i take this off when i send her in. and when i get her ready to go, i direct her into the area. >> many of the fatalities of the home depot have been found near the front of the store. they all ran in, if they were huddled near the front, that would have been the most dangerous spot for them? >> unfortunately. that's where the walls came down. >> they've used heavy equipment to drill through the collapsed walls and check underneath. then they push the walls out of the way.
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this is a wall of the home depot? >> sure. >> you guys have picked up the whole wall. >> what you've got is a piece of concrete, you can see the insulation foam and another layer on top of that. >> this is all insulation? >> absolutely. >> the walls may have collapsed, but oddly the tornado left many of the store shelves standing. >> this was a much more survivable environment here than in the front of the store. >> have you already been through this area? >> yeah, even with the front of the store being inaccessible, we were able to probe in from different places. >> with so much heavy equipment needed, the search is sometimes frustratingly slow. how much are you working against the clock in terms of bad weather coming later today? >> we're working against the clock all the time, both for the survivability profile and the forecast for bad weather. so we're always under the gun for that. we had to shelter our folks a few times yesterday just based on the lightning strikes and the hail and rain and that sort of stuff. just makes it impossible to move around and do it safely.
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>> time is running out, and there's still so much to do. doug westhoff is trying to be optimistic. >> if the space is right, the void is big enough, people can last many days like this. so we're two to three days into this thing. and we're sort of the eternal optimist, anderson. we're going to maintain hope as long as we can. the reality is always creeping in the back of your brain that this is becoming less and less likely a rescue and more and more likely a recovery. but that's the reality of the world we live in. >> by the end of the day, they find one trapped person, but sadly that person had already died. the searching continues, however, even here in joplin amidst all this misery. even here there is still some hope. and there is still some hope. we showed you some of the accounted for a few moments ago, including will norton. he was sucked through the sunroof of an suv. he was in the car with his dad. his dad has been in the hospital recovering. he was on his way home from his high school graduation.
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he van irned, turned up at the local hospital and was then transferred. no one knows exactly where. the sirens are now going off here again. there's been concern all day about an approaching storm. his family went to one hospital. will norton's family went to one hospital. after hearing a patient there who matched will's description. it was not him we're told. chad myers joins us now. chad, we're now hearing the sirens here. can you get a sense of where the storm is? >> the storm has now a tornado warning on it. about ten minutes ago, they issued a severe thunderstorm warning. right here on this part of the storm, anderson, down that southeastern part of the storm, it's beginning to rotate. this part of the storm is going this way. this part of the storm is going this way. and that's enough rotation, especially with what has already happened in joplin, to put the tornado warning out for that storm. not saying there's a tornado on the ground.
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in fact, there probably isn't. this is a doppler radar indicated potential tornado. everyone in joplin needs to be taking cover in some place substantial, some place out of the weather. i'll be here watching it the rest of the night. >> and gary tuchman is at a shelter where hundreds of people have sought safety tonight. i'm told we just lost gary. there's about -- i think gary told me before he left, there were about 400 people at a shelter tonight that they have gone to. and chad, one of the things we've been talking about yesterday is there's -- there's a lot of areas here that have been destroyed, so people don't have their homes to go to. even those homes, they didn't have basements in those homes. they were just built on concrete slabs. >> right. and the potential here is that all of that debris, that clearly is out there, will be picked up by the wind, either in a severe thunderstorm, gusts of 50 or 60 miles per hour or picked up in a new tornado.
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the potential now exists for that tornado, with the warning sirens going, those sirens may not stop for quite some time, anderson. >> and one of the reasons we picked the location we have, not only is it against a brick building, there's not a lot of debris fields anywhere within sight here. no guaranties, of course, but it's still one more precaution to take. i'm told we have gary tuchman on the phone. gary, you're at a shelter. how many people are at the shelter? what's happening now that the sirens are going off? >> reporter: there's more than 400 people, this is the largest shelter in joplin, missouri, and there's a little panic going on right now because police officials and red cross officials just came in the room where 400 people were on cots and said, get out, go into the basement, go into the shelter. we don't want anymore body bags. so you have a lot of traumatized people struggling to get out of bed and run down into the basement shelter. we're kind of the last ones going down there. they're insisting we go down with them. it's a very sad situation. these poor people have been
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traumatized for 48 hours. the shelter is more crowded tonight than it was last night and now these poor people are running down into the shelter to protect themselves. >> gary, there are a lot of people who are sheltering with friends and family. >> reporter: there are a lot of people staying with friends and family, but these are people with no place to go. a lot of these people have lost relatives, there's a lot of grief and trauma. just the indignity of these poor people just trying to run down in many cases, they can't run, they're on crutches and some people are trying to get down in the basement. [ inaudible ] >> gary, you're breaking up. i think you're going down into the basement, which is a wise thing to do in your location. today, we learned that president obama plans to come to missouri on sunday. he said he wants to make sure the people of missouri have everything they need to pull through.
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coming up, at least four dead in tornadoes in central oklahoma. i'm going to speak with the sheriff coming up next. what's next for the storm system. we'll look at that next. a tornado watch here in joplin. you just heard the sirens. and we're going to talk to a man here who -- a veteran who has seen a lot. he served in iraq. we'll tell you how he survived the storm. it's an amazing story, holding onto the faucets in his bathroom. we'll talk to a woman who is talking about rebuilding and she's going to tell you how you begin again, how you restart your life. at least how she is going about doing it. all that ahead, stay tuned. ♪ ♪
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breaking news. a tornado warning in effect here. the sirens started going off just a few minutes ago. they've now stopped. the same line of storms that hit oklahoma are now starting to approach us, or starting to hit us i should say. at least four people were killed in tornadoes and thunderstorms in the central part of oklahoma. joining me is detective chris karager who served four tours in iraq. with the national guard. he's on the police force here. he survived the joplin tornado in his bathtub. when he crawled out of the rubble, he was disoriented. you thought you were back in iraq for a moment, didn't you? >> for a few minutes. >> it must have felt like that.
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>> with the sights, i could actual he see the hospital where from i could see out from my house. it looked like some of the things i had seen in baghdad. >> when the storm hit, you went to your bathroom, right? which is what they recommend. >> i heard the sirens. i looked out and i saw things in the air. i ran straight for the bathroom. i heard things going through the glass windows before i even got there. >> we're showing pictures of what's left of your house. one that your wife took is of the actual bathtub. you just hunkered down in the bathtub, right? >> i got in there, as big a guy as i am, i got in there as much as i could. yeah, there's the faucet that i -- >> you held onto the faucet? >> yeah, as things were going, i felt myself being pulled up in the air and i grabbed -- >> you felt yourself being lifted in the air? >> yeah. >> because the roof is already off your house? >> absolutely. >> unbelievable. what is that like? that has to be terrifying. >> i was kind of numb to the feeling. i was just trying to figure out what i was going to do to keep
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there. i just kept grabbing for the first thing i could find, and that was the faucet. some debris fell on me and kind of held me down. >> and you ended up for a couple hours staying in the bathtub? >> i'm not sure how long it was. >> and you saw a friend of yours in the fire department walking down the street? >> yes. i was peeping my head out there, looking for people. i saw josh anderson from one of the fire departments. i played softball with him and i hollered at him and he kept looking around and found that i was there. and then they got other folks, another detective friend came over trying to get me out. >> gary tuchman is at a shelter with a couple hundred people who are now in a basement because of the storm. just for people here in joplin, what is -- what's this been like? >> you know, everybody is different. i talk to as many people as i can, some people are devastated. some people are trying to figure out what they're going to do next, how they're going to get
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through it. based on my experience going through katrina and helping out there and some of the other things i've done with the national guard, i'm just trying to help comfort them and let them know the american spirit is here. looking out today going through, i saw american flags tied and posted to everything. >> a lot of american flags, yeah. >> the american spirit is there, it's strong. we'll get through this, we just have to bond together. the outpouring of people that have come to help is unbelievable. unreal. >> gary, you're in a shelter right now. how are people doing? is everybody down in the shelter? >> reporter: frankly, anderson, it's a chaotic situation. you have people not in good health. some people who are injured from the initial tornado. we were just getting prepared to do a live report with you when police officials ran into this huge gymnasium, more than 400 people, and started screaming "down to the basement, down to the basement, a tornado has been spotted." and just watching these people here, many of them crying, many of them lost family members,
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some of them lost everything, and now they've been hustled down to the basement wondering what the heck is going on in joplin, missouri. it's a very sad time to see the indignities these people are going through, but it's something extremely necessary as it's a very dire time for the city. >> what's it like to -- you lost your home. we seen the pictures, and yet you're out there trying to help other people at the same time. >> yes. >> how do you do that? >> you know, i've done it for other people, they would do it for me. i've run into former colleagues in the military that are police officers that are down here. all the guys, the local guys that know me have come up. but if it was them, i would do it for them. there's other people out here, we got to get these people help, too. my two hands and back can help out a little bit, that's what i can do. >> it's an honor to meet you. >> not a problem. >> really incredible. your wife did an amazing job taking pictures. must be proud of her, as well.
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>> yeah, she was a -- really helping me get out of there, hollering and screaming. >> thank you very much. >> appreciate it. >> i want you to get home and get out of here quickly. the winds are picking up. >> absolutely. >> wow, amazing. let's bring in a storm chaser. saw five or six tornadoes today, just east of oklahoma city. he joins us now. reed, i know you're in eastern oklahoma. how many tornadoes have you seen in the past few hours? >> well, it's died down for us. we usually shut down after nightfall because it's too dangerous to intercept the tornadoes. we saw five or six throughout the day. the first of which was a violent wedge and we were able to intercept it in our armored vehicle and record some data inside that tornado. >> what kind of damage have you seen so far? >> we haven't seen much of the damage directly. we've just kind of been in open territory.
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we did see one tornado that hit a barn and it just got lofted way high into the air. it was a violent tornado. we heard reports there was one heading straight for our house in norman, oklahoma, that weakened about five miles to the southwest. i was really worried for my friends and family in central oklahoma today. >> and is the area you're in out of the woods right now? >> yeah, right now we're behind the line of storms. here in a little bit we're going to head east on interstate 40 and targeting eastern arkansas and eastern missouri for potentially significant tornado outbreak tomorrow, as well. so this season keeps getting more and more crazy. i hope it doesn't continue. this damage is definitely something we don't want to see. >> yeah. certainly a lot of people in pain tonight in oklahoma and our thoughts are with them, as well as the people here in joplin. reed, appreciate you joining us.
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thank you very much. the winds have started to pick up here and the temperature is dropping significantly. it's now getting chilly here. when we come back, we're going to show you some of the damage here in joplin. it is -- i got to tell you, it's hard to absorb and as one person said, the pictures don't do it justice. also the latest on rescue efforts and another survivor story. the search for a missing toddler, the search for a missing mom, who was in her car when the tornado hit. so much to tell you about. stay with us. ♪ [ male announcer ] in 2011, at&t is at work, building up our wireless network all across america. we're adding new cell sites... increasing network capacity, and investing billions of dollars to improve your wireless network experience. from a single phone call to the most advanced data download, we're covering more people in more places than ever before in an effort to give you the best network possible.
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welcome back to breaking news. a tornado warning is in effect here. again, i want to emphasize the location that we have, we feel very good about, we spent hours select thing location next to a very strong building, protected by winds on two sides. so we also have a fallback location we can go to immediately if events warrant it. ali velshi is at the waffle house where they're getting word a tornado may have touched down. ali, what are you hearing? >> reporter: anderson, we had
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been at the site in the middle of joplin near where you were. and it had been sort of evacuated, because this electrical storm was moving in. we moved to the last place where we had seen people, which was the waffle house. as we approached a full restaurant, which is where everybody was, emptied out, people started moving into the back of the restaurant because they were getting texts and messages there had been a tornado -- the atmospheric pressure indicated it was likely to happen. an emergency worker then told me he had a confirmation of a tornado nearby, and really activity on the street just suddenly dropped. people started heading indoors. even activity on the highway, i'm right on the edge of interstate 44 right now at joplin. and it's dropped dramatically. the skies, as you can see, are lighting up with a good deal of electrical activity. we've gone across the road to a marriott hotel where they have a shelter. we're not in it, but we are
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nearby in the event we need to get into it. we're just monitoring. as you can see, it's starting to rain and stops a little bit and at moments it feels a little more intense than others. but certainly the sky and that thunder we're hearing indicates a bad weather night one way or the other. >> ali, thank you very much. i want to go to chad myers. he's tracking these storms. chad, what are you seeing? >> i can see the rotation on doppler radar. and our meteorologist shawn morris has been on the internet there with sky warn, and that's where that on-the-ground word came from, near neutral which is back here in kansas. you are here, here's joplin right here. ali is at the waffle house. here's downtown joplin and the circulation is way up here. anderson, if i knew you were in trouble, i would tell you to leave. you are not in any danger there. you are just fine. there's the red and the green together.
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this is like when you stand at a -- or sit there at a train crossing and the train goes by you, the whistle sounds different from one way to the other way. the radar is listening for the change in direction of the wind and it found it here as it moved on up toward and even to the west of webb city and joplin proper is absolutely fine right now, even though the warning is still going, you're okay. i only have one other thing to say about that for carl junction. this is where that circulation is going. anderson, this is what you're in right now. there's a much bigger cell, although not rotating yet, still to your southwest. that still may be there in another 30 minutes. >> chad, i appreciate that. that's going to be good news for a lot of people in joplin. a lot of rumors floating around. a lot of obviously -- tensions are high here. again, just because i'm getting some sense that people are thinking we're being irresponsible, we have a fallback location that we can go to immediately. we spent hours finding this
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location and we feel very good about it. we're not looking to take any risk for any reason. gary tuchman is joining us in a shelter not too far from where we are. he's on the phone. gary, that is good news, i don't know if you could hear that from chad, that the activity is to the north of us at this point. and chad, certainly should jump in at any point and tell us if that changes. but folks are still down in the shelter as a precaution right, gary? >> reporter: right. i thish chald chad would come in the basement here with us. there's a lot of crying and praying and authorities telling people they just stay downstairs, do not walk up the steps because a tornado has been spotted nearby, at least that's what they're being told. this is the largest shelter in joplin, anderson, more than 400 people are here, and about 20 minutes ago, people ran into the shelter on the upper level of the gymnasium in missouri state university and started yelling "run down to the basement" and people started sprinting and the people who could sprint. other people were in wheelchairs and carrying oxygen tanks and
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had crutches weren't able to sprint. and they're still scared and we see a lot of tears and we're trying to reassure people, just telling them they'll be okay. they're this the safest place they can be. but it's a very sad scene as hundreds of people, many of them who lost relatives, many who lost their homes, are in this shelter fearing a tornado is closing in on them. >> yeah. gary, we'll continue to check in with you as we continue to track this storm. when we come back, i want to show you how resilient the people here are in joplin. i know that's a word tossed around a lot on tv and becomes a cliche. but some cliches are true. just the strength of people here is inspiring. you're going to meet a woman named sally smith, as she was picking up the pieces of her life and helping out her mom. the question we wanted to ask, is how do you restart your life? her answers ahead.
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joplin has about 25,000 buildings before the tornado hit, half of them were damaged or destroyed. now they're saying about half. according to one estimate, damages could reach $3 billion. piles of rubble, and you see these pictures and you wonder how do you start rebuilding? how do you start rebuilding life? that's kind of what we were wondering as we went around town today and talked to people. here's what we saw. how do you begin to rebuild? how do you decide where to start? sally smith is figuring it out. >> i'm finding stuff over here and finding stuff over there. so i don't know where to start looking. >> we first met sally in what remains of the living room of her mother's home. is this all right if we stand up here? >> yeah. >> so this was sort of a fire -- >> fireplace. and the piano. we had windows, the touch is here. i don't know where the couch is. >> sally's mother, marge, is 80 and survived the storm in her sister's house. she doesn't yet know her home is gone. they are hoping to find some personal belongings to cushion the blow.
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>> the first thing we did is look for jewelry. things my grandmother had given to her, things with sentimental value. then i looked for clothes. now we're just going through pots, pans, plates, things she can use to rebuild her life. >> that's how you begin rebuilding? >> yeah. >> just little pieces here and there? >> yeah, yeah. >> some of her mother's doll collections survived the tornado. sally still can't believe what she's seeing. >> overwhelmed. i told my husband this morning, i'm just overwhelmed. i don't know what i'm going to do. it will work out, it will. but i've never been through anything like this in my life, ever. >> that's the kind of thing you always see on the news. >> and we keep seeing pictures and i keep telling people that doesn't do it justice. >> most of the upstairs of the house is gone. >> this was my bedroom when i was growing up. you could see all the way to home depot.
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>> it's incredible, from the home depot, it's as far as the eye can see all the way around. >> it's just gone. walmart, i mean, you could see walmart. it's just right there. it's gone. >> sally's home survived the storm. but her employer was badly hit. she's not sure if she still has a job. you're wearing a t-shirt that says life is good. >> life is good. god is not going to give us anything that we can't handle. and i know his hand is in it. i've seen too many things. we will be fine. saying goodbye to things is hard. you know, but it's life. we go on. >> you're about the most optimistic person i've ever met in a long time. >> i don't know. i just -- like i said, life goes on. you cannot fall apart over things like this. >> you can't fall apart, and so she doesn't. that's how you rebuild, that's how you restart. you stay strong. you pick up the pieces, and you start one by one.
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our coverage continues throughout the night and tomorrow on "american morning." thanks for watching. our stories continue. our news continues. we'll take a short break. "360" continues when we come back. [ man ] i've seen beautiful things. ♪ i've seen the sunrise paint the desert. witnessed snowfall on the first day of spring. ♪ but the most beautiful thing i've ever seen was the image on a screen that helped our doctor see my wife's cancer was treatable. [ male announcer ] ge technologies help doctors detect cancer early so they can save more lives. bringing better health to more people. ♪ to london starts with arthritis pain... and a choice. take tylenol now, and maybe up to 8 in a day. or...choose aleve and 2 pills for a day free of pain.
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