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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Rescue in Oklahoma; Hurricane Dean Update; Utah Mine Update
Aired August 19, 2007 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RICHARD STICKLER, MSHA: During that period we put off explosive charges on the surface to try to signal the miners, and we also beat on the drill still in the mine. During that monitoring time we did not find any sign of life or any response from the miners.
The video recording that we made in borehole number four did not show any sign of miners or mining activities or any devices or anything other than just the entry itself. There's some rock that came down, it appears it came down when the borehole drilled through into the mine. It looks like there's a 3-1/2 foot void from the roof line down to the rubble that fell, whenever the drill still entered the mine opening.
Looking back into the mine open we could see timbers and also rubble and rocks that has fallen from the rest, and along the rib line in the roof. We are in the process of starting to drill on borehole number five. Borehole number five is going to be drilled at crosscut 133.
When you look at the oxygen levels that we're getting at borehole number 1, between seven and eight percent would not support life. Borehole number four came in, the gas analysis indicates between 11 and 12 percent oxygen in that area. We know that the first night this event occurred the air in this area was forced out, and knocked out or blew out the ventilation walls in the crosscuts out to crosscut number 95. So, we know there was a tremendous amount of force moving in this direction. And with the air analysis that we have, it appears that this area is certainly the oxygen level would not -- support life.
As far as the underground operation, we have a team that met this morning at -- starting at 8:00. I addressed them along with other people that have been on site, here, our ground control experts from tech support in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
We've had three of those individuals on the site. We've reached the experts that have arrived here yesterday, and meeting today. We're giving them all the information that we know about the situation underground with the bump. We're continuously reporting bump activity. Yesterday there were four or five significant events that showed up on our geophone tracking system. So the mountain continues to be active, continues to move, and as the weight causes the pillar failures in one area of the mine, then that weight is shifted to the adjacent pillars, and that process seems to be a migrating out from the original area from where the bump activity started.
With that, that's what I know. I'm going to ask Mr. Moore to add anything he has to update you. ROB MOORE, MURRAY ENERGY CORP, VP: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Rob Moore. I'm vice president of Murray Energy Corporation.
I don't have a lot to add to the comments that Mr. Stickler provided. He's very complete in his report. The results of the fourth borehole are disappointing. Obviously, the air readings there do not suggest that they are sufficient to support life, and they're likely being impacted by the air that we're putting down number 3 borehole.
So, what we found is in boreholes one, two and four, we likely, we know that we do not have atmosphere that will support life. We are moving forward with borehole number five. That borehole drilling will start this afternoon. The depth of that borehole is 2,039 feet. And given the average that it's take to complete boreholes two, three and four, that drilling will take approximately 58 hours, assuming we don't run in to mechanical problems, or difficult geological problems.
Borehole number five, again, will be completed, hopefully, within 58 hours. And given the results we've seen at one and two relative to the air quality, it's likely that we'll see similar results there. But we can't say that with certainty. We'll complete that hole as quickly as we can.
Our thoughts and our prayers and our deepest sympathies go out to the families. To all those families involved in the two tragedies here at the Crandall Canyon Mine.
Take questions at this time.
QUESTION: Neither you nor Mr. Stickler sound as encouraged as you were in previous days. You're using terms such as: this whole area can't support life with the oxygen. You seem like you're more resigned to the fact that perhaps these six miners could have perished?
MOORE: The results of the borehole number four were disappointing. Bleeder entry, we felt there was a good chance that the air would have been pushed back, good air captured...
WHITFIELD: All right, you've been listening to this press briefing out of Utah, Huntington, Utah, very disappointing. That is the word that Mr. Moore, the vice president of Murray Energy Corporation is using in terms of the oxygen readings. Not sufficient to sustain life in the borehole number four. So later on this afternoon, they will begin drilling borehole number five. It may take them 58 hours, he says, in which to get through completion on that hole which would reach 2,039 feet.
We're going to continue to monitor the events there out of Huntington, Utah. Meantime, back to our other top story taking place out of Oklahoma. You're looking at live pictures right now, from our affiliate KWTV, there out of Kingfisher, Oklahoma. Many people who have been rescued in so many different ways, whether it be from the rooftops of their home, and in other cases we saw a couple of motorists who where rescued after their vehicle was overtaken by floodwaters.
You see in that rescue right there, all didn't go well, immediately. They rescued one of two victims there's in the water. She fell back into the water. They were able to go back, retrieve her, get her to higher ground. The same thing happened when they went to go pick up her partner, a male, in that same location. Picked him up, he was barely able to hold on there to the skid of that helicopter, fell back in to the water, and, remember, these waters, which we're talking about 25 feet of floodwaters there, which used to be part of the Kingfisher Creek. Now it seems to span all over the Kingfisher area.
There are a lot of currents in this water, and it's windy, from the propeller of the chopper, it's difficult for anyone to hold on, particularly one who's been involved in an emergency, and it appears like in that case right there, that both of those victims were older vehicles. They were able to go back and get that man and bring him to safety as well.
And now you're looking at another rescue. New video that's just come in of a jet skier who has gone out to help rescue. We've seen a variety of rescues take place conducted by the highway patrol as well as what is believed to be good Samaritans who were able to just get their boats out and about and help.
It's unclear whether this jet skier is part of emergency response team and then pulling in, you can see at the end of a rope, folks who were in that boat. We don't know the circumstances of that rescue, but we're told this was indeed a rescue. There've been a lot of rescues taking place. Why? All this is a result of floodwaters that have come from Tropical Storm Erin -- the remnants of Tropical Storm Erin.
And we spoke to a number of folks from Oklahoma who really didn't see this coming. It caught so many people by surprise. Late into the overnight hours, early morning hours, the water simply rushed in, caught a lot of people by surprise when they got out this morning and got on the roads, or got out of their houses they found themselves in big trouble.
Jacqui Jeras is in the Weather Center and this, we're glad to say, looks like another successful rescue. There are a lot taking place -- Jacqui.
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, just amazing these people are getting out safely and thankfully and the water just still continuing to rise at this hour. You know, the rainfall totals anywhere between five and 11 inches have fallen in this area.
Now, as you can see the sun is shining out there, so things have dried up, but the waters will continue to rise, because all of that water that fell on down is going to run off, try to go within the rivers and the creeks and the streams, and then eventually make their way downstream, obviously. So, it takes a while for that to happen.
The river is expected to be cresting here at the creek, Kingfisher Creek, should be cresting later on this evening, maybe 7:00 or 8:00 and this could be a record flood for them, up to 28 feet, possibly, coming out of its bank and if that happens that could cover up 50 square blocks.
JERAS: Of Kingfisher.
WHITFIELD: That's huge.
JERAS: Incredible. So, things are not improves yet in Kingfisher County, other than things have dried up, anyway.
And this is a 12-hour loop that I'm showing you of Doppler radar. And take a look, right there, right above Oklahoma City, this area, that's where the center of the circulation, as can you just see it, as it strolls on through and look at the intense reds and oranges picking up the radar and that indicate very, very heavy rainfall. We had several inches per hour as it came down, and when all that rain comes down in a very short period of time, it just aggravates things. And as you know, Oklahoma and Texas both, been a little saturated as of late. So, flooding has been undoing for, you know, really months here.
This is a level two radar, as we call it. Interstate 40 was shut down earlier this morning nap has reopened, but as you head east of Oklahoma City, we still have some very heavy rainfall coming down. We could see a little bit of flash flooding yet associated with Tropical Depression Erin, and with those thunderstorms you could see some strong wind gusts, maybe 35, 40 miles-per-hour. So, that's something else that you have to think about here today. Across central and northeastern Oklahoma, you know, it's Sunday afternoon, maybe make it family game night tonight at your house and just stay inside and spend a little time with your loved ones.
There you can see people on the rooftops who have been trying to get out and look how fast that water is moving behind there. You know, Fred, I think I heard you. Did you say 25 feet of standing water, is that right?
WHITFIELD: Yes, yes. That's the number that one officials gave us earlier.
JERAS: All it takes is six inches, depending how fast the water is moving. But six inches could move your car. Certainly could knock you off your feet. So, this is not water that these people want to get into, so they're in a great position in terms of anywhere to be in their house, on top of the roof, that's the place to be. And hopefully we'll get more choppers in there and get these people out of there.
But just an incredible situation still going on in central Oklahoma
WHITFIELD: It really is, Jacqui. And the video that we're seeing now we actually ended up later seeing the rescue of that same, that lonely person there on the rooftop. There you go. The video right there. The highway patrol believed that these were some good Samaritans who simply got their fishing boat out, battled the current, pushed in, just close enough so, bam, right there, the guy could jump off and that was a successful rescue.
JERAS: Wow. The boat didn't tip, there.
WHITFIELD: Yeah. Really, really incredible. I know there are a lot of scenes like that that are playing out of over and over again, and we are simply seeing, probably, you know, on the lower end, a small number of rescues that are being captured live by the news choppers. A lot of other rescue, taking place, as well. We'll continue to follow all of this. Thanks, Jacqui. We'll check back with you.
WHITFIELD: Steve Chapman is with the Emergency Management Department, he's the director in the city of Chickasha, and that's near Kingfisher.
So, Mr. Chapman, are you seeing in Chickasha what we're seeing in Kingfisher?
STEVE CHAPMAN, EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DIR, CHICKASHA, OK: We don't have the extent of flooding that they're having up about 40 miles north of us. We've had some local to moderate flooding in the downtown area and an area adjacent to Lion Creek, here, in town, but not -- certainly not the inundation that Kingfisher's had.
WHITFIELD: Wow, this really is some incredible stuff, and it seems as though most people were really caught by surprise. Did you all have the expectations that the remnants of Tropical Storm Erin could do this?
CHAPMAN: Of course, we'd like to think we're never surprised, but this came up on us pretty quick this morning, and we were, slower to responding to it than we would have liked to have been.
WHITFIELD: And how will you be able to help out, say, the folks of Kingfisher, since you're not sustaining the same kind of damage and emergency situations that we're seeing happening in Kingfisher?
CHAPMAN: Obviously, we will make available any of our resources that the Kingfisher area requests from us.
WHITFIELD: What's your greatest worry about getting to people in need? Because while we're seeing some of those who are in need, victims, et cetera, by way of news choppers, obviously, we're not able to see all of that, and I imagine getting around for even emergency preparedness, to get around to see who has the greatest need, has got to be a huge challenge?
CHAPMAN: That's certainly a challenge, and not every community has the availability of helicopters and other aircraft to do that. We have a Medaflight helicopter that has helped us out with scouting areas and that's been a tremendous asset to us here.
WHITFIELD: Steve Chapman, Emergency Management director there in the city of Chickasha. We're glad you're not inundated with rescue missions and needs that are taking place in nearby Kingfisher, but we appreciate your time and we know that you're going to be helping your neighbors out as best you can.
We're going to continue to watch the developments there out of Oklahoma and continue to follow the enormous number of rescue missions that are taking place as a result of this floodwaters. And then there's Hurricane Dean in the Caribbean, that too a big threat. We'll focus on all that when we come right back.
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WHITFIELD: Hello again, I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta. The folks in Kingfisher, Oklahoma, they're going to need a lot of help because, you can see right here, the floodwaters that have now completely enveloped this area. Rescues just like this taking place. People trap on their roof tops. This rescue, the belief is, these are some good Samaritans who simply got our their fishing boat and battled the current to make it to that house, and helped rescue that lone resident there on top of the rooftop, and then earlier, if you've been with us, in the past hour, we saw an incredible rescue taking place.
A helicopter rescue involving the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. Two people trapped in their vehicle as a result of floodwaters that simply took over their vehicle, a pass per by call them, called for help. Life vests were thrown to them. We were able to bob in the water there until this chopper was able to very carefully and gently lower itself to be pretty close, just within feet, and inches in some case, of these victims and one at a time, were able to pluck the two motorists from the water, but it wasn't so easy.
The first time for each victim resulted in falling right back into the water. The chopper then turned around and was able to retrieve them once again before taking them to higher ground. We still don't know the condition of these two, but the good thing is, is upon rescue and landing there at higher ground, both were able to walk away. So we hope that the extent of their injuries means they were simply just pretty shaken up from a pretty harrowing morning, there. Lots of rescues taking place involving emergency preparedness folks as well as good Samaritans, as we saw a bit earlier. This is a scene in Oklahoma. Meantime, there has been a similar scenario taking place in southeast Minnesota, with floodwaters causing real problems, there. Four reported deaths as result of two vehicles that were trapped in the floodwaters.
Our Jacqui Jeras is in the Weather Center. You're looking at video out of the Minnesota area, the kind of standing water that they're dealing with.
Now, Jacqui, are we talking about the same system, or are we saying these are two different systems? We know at least in Oklahoma, Tropical Storm Erin is being blamed for the remnants. Did it make its way up to Minnesota, too?
JERAS: No, no, not at all. They're totally different systems. Erin in and of itself, right now, is still hitting parts of Oklahoma. Here can you see it, it's pushing up to the north and east, it's heading towards Tulsa, right now. New flood watches have been issued too, by the way, for northern eastern parts of Oklahoma and on into southwestern parts of Missouri. So, still a heavy rainfall and a flood threat, though at this time we're not anticipating it to be anywhere near what they saw in the Oklahoma City and Kingfisher areas, as what's left of Erin is continuing to weaken.
Now, as you take a look across the northern tier of the country. You know, look at that line of all the showers and thunderstorms pushing across the Great Lakes and into the Ohio Valley and into the northeast. And there the Twin Cities are getting additional rain showers at this time.
What's going to happen here, we think, over the next two days is eventually that what's left of Erin is going to kind of get caught up into this system and pull on off the eastern coast. So, right now, two separate systems both causing a lot of trouble. We also a lot of flooding in to parts of Wisconsin and northwestern parts of that state, too. So, we'll keep a close eye on that as that as that system continues to develop.
WHITFIELD: Wow, lots of extreme weather. And Jacqui, we haven't even gotten to Hurricane Dean.
JERAS: I know.
WHITFIELD: Which we will do right after this break.
WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.
ANNOUNCER: You're watching CNN, you're severe weather headquarters.
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WHITFIELD: Hello again, I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Welcome back. What was Tropical Storm Erin is causing a real mess in the area of Kingfisher, Oklahoma. Lots of flooded homes as well as vehicles and some pretty heroic rescues taking place. We'll talk about more of that in a moment.
But first, Hurricane Dean in the Caribbean, already, according to the "Associated Press" being blamed for seven deaths in the Caribbean and now that hurricane is taking aim at Jamaica.
Our Jacqui Jeras is in hurricane headquarters and this storm is a monster.
Are we still talking Category 4?
JERAS: Still a Category 4, winds 145 miles-per-hour and Jamaica just getting in on the action in terms of starting to get to that window of time where the hurricane force winds should be arriving. It's roughly, maybe 70 miles away from the coast right now, and the hurricane force wind extend out 60 miles from the center of storm. So, within the next hour, certainly going to see the hurricane force wind gusts and may see at times sustained winds around that.
The storm is moving west-northwest. The outer -- the eye wall could be scraping the southern coast maybe six hours or so from now. So, that is going to be the biggest concern. It doesn't look like it's going to be a direct hit at this point, which is good news, but the eye wall, that's where those strong winds are going to be, so this could be a very big wind event.
Now, it is affecting the eastern parts of Jamaica. We got some observations out of the Kingston area, and winds there are only nine miles-per-hour, so it's actually still pretty calm here in the big city, but when you get out here towards the eastern tip, you're probably going to seeing some incredible winds of 40, 50, even 60 miles-per-hour and we'll watch for those to increasing now in the coming hours.
Here's the forecast. It's going to be scraping just south of Jamaica throughout the day, today. And as we head into tomorrow morning, it will be approaching towards the Cayman Islands. Still expecting it to stay at Category 4 status. You know, when hurricanes move over land they tend to weaken a little bit, and Jamaica is very mountainous, especially the eastern tip, here, mountains go up to about 7,500 feet. So, it could possibly knock it down just a smidge, but with the eye staying over water, that is the fuel, that's the heat engine for the hurricane. So, that's going to help this thing to stay strong.
The waters are the warmest over here into the western Caribbean and that's why the computer models are saying it's going to bump up to a Category 5, that granddaddy of all hurricanes, 160 mile-per-hour wind potentially, and then we'll watch for landfall likely across the Yucatan Peninsula overnight Monday night and in to Tuesday morning. Though official track now does bring it to the south of Cancun, which would be some good news, but remember, hurricanes rotate counterclockwise, so that's going to be bringing in some storm surge and that puts you in the dirty side of the storm, as we call it, where the strongest of winds are and the worst of the surge is.
Once we get beyond the Yucatan, we'll be watching the Bay of Campeche in the western Gulf, here. Right now most of the computer models aren't even bringing up into Texas, anymore. So, that's some good news. We can't give you the green light just yet, and certainly a chance that we could be impact by this storm.
Here on, Google Earth, we put all those computer models together. And look as this, just a couple of stray ones bring it down towards Brownsville. The big consensus brings it right here, across southern and central parts of mainland, Mexico. And so, we'll watch that as that continues to move in and that will probably be Wednesday into Thursday when we start to feel an impact over there. So, we've got a long ways to go, Fredricka, with Dean, Jamaica just getting started, now. By the end of the week, we should be done with that one.
WHITFIELD: Yeah, well very exhausting along the way. So, Jacqui, is there a pretty good explanation as to why it goes from a Category 4 after leaving Jamaica, picking up fuel becoming a five and then before hitting the Yucatan, back down to a four?
JERAS: Well, when there are -- when hurricanes are very intense, when you're talking about a Category 3, four or five, we consider those major hurricanes -- there are often fluctuations in strength and there are several different things that can change the strength of a hurricane. One has to do with the water temperature. The warmer the water the more likely the storm is to grow. And as I mentioned, this area right out here is where we had some of the warmest waters in the Caribbean, so that means some ramping up could be taking place.
Now, in addition to that wind shear can knock the storm down a little bit. That's faster winds in the upper levels of the atmosphere. Right now we're not really seeing any wind shear, so there's nothing that way to make it go up or down.
And lastly, and this gets a little complicated, so bear with me. I'll try give it in layman's terms as I can. But, we call them eye wall replacement cycles. And we know what the eye of the hurricane looks like. Right? It's just -- you know, that -- the eye is the little around hole and they eye wall is what's right around the edge of that, where the worst of the storms are. Now, the outer bands of the hurricane slowly move their way in and they get stronger as they do so.
Eventually, when the eye wall replacement cycle occurs, an outer band will eventually start to choke off the inner eye wall and a new outer eye wall will begin. Now that initially weakens the storm because the main eye wall where all the strong winds are, it collapses. And so it might start out a little bit weaker. Bumped down from say a 5 down to a 4, but when that outer eye wall begins to strengthen, that will start to close in. It's just like an ice arena, when you got your hands out here, and you bring them in to get the tight wrap. As it does those, those winds will increase. That's when the eye wall replacement cycle gets completed. We might see it up, we might see a little bit down. There's not a whole lot of difference, by the way, between 145 and 155.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Yes that's pretty fierce. Well, we're going to pray for a little wind shear to help knock it down. Knock down the intensity and the speed of this hurricane.
All right. Thank so much, Jacqui.
Much more on Hurricane Dean and the remnants of tropical storm Erin when we come right back.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
Kingfisher, Oklahoma is up to its rooftops in floodwater. It means that there are a number of rescues have taking place. People being plucked from their rooftops of their homes, plucked from vehicles that have been swept away in the rising waters. It's been a real challenging day.
Steve Lupkiss is with the city of Kingfisher. He spoke with reporters as short time ago.
STEVE LUPKISS, CITY OF KINGFISHER: Right now we're facing a lot of water, a lot of runoff, floodwater from the creek. We're trying to handle the excessive amount of water, we had a lot of rain out west of town this morning, hosed the road and had to do some high water rescues up there. All of that water has made it in to Kingfisher and we're experiencing major flooding at this time.
[ inaudible ].
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell us about that.
LUPKISS: I really don't know exactly what they have going on. I know we have rescues west of Kingfisher. We're getting ready, as you can see behind me, ready to go out for a rescue on the north part of town, and a man with a son northwest of here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So I can smell natural gas.
LUPKISS: Yes, we had a gas leak, they had something knock over a gas meter causing a gas leak. You guys reported earlier, we had an oil spill. We don't know the extent what damage that will cause or what kind of environmental issue we'll have. I was told from the State Emergency Management that the Department of Environment Quality is sending a field rep and they're on the way as we speak.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Early in this area that maybe, was the water -- where's it coming from?
LUPKISS: Number one, stay out of the water. Not only is it dangerous because of how fast it's moving, there could be some raw sewage in it. It could make you sick. If you have four-wheel drive vehicles, don't drive through the water. Right now if you drive through the water all you're going to do is cause waves to go in to businesses and homes and cause more damage that we don't need. Get out there in the middle of this, you're one more person we have to worry about trying to rescue.
WHITFIELD: Advice there from a city of Kingfisher official, Steve Lupkiss talking about and really underscoring the dangers of this high water.
Many people know that if you happen to be in this area, don't try to be brave. Don't get your four-wheel drive vehicles out because this water is unpredictable. We're talking about the expanse there of the -- looking at the expanse of the floodwaters there right now. And in some places it's standing water. In other places you've got terrible currents that are just sweeping people away. We saw a rescue of a couple people in their vehicle. Their vehicle overtaken by floodwaters. Successfully they were rescued.
Helping us watch that rescue unfold live here on CNN was Mason Dunn. He was the pilot as well as the reporter from our affiliate there who was taking pictures of it all unfolding live as it happened, and, Mason, this was an incredible rescue. Those two motorists are so incredibly lucky that these rescue workers came along at the same time. They really put their own lives in jeopardy in order to make this rescue successful.
MASON DUNN, KWTV HELICOPTER PILOT: That's true. You know those are friends of mine down there flying that OHP helicopter right there. So in order you know, they don't do this very often. I'm sure it was a learning experience for them, but, you know, once they got the lady, the first person being rescued up on the skid where she could sit on the skid, then that was the way to transport them. But, yes, you're right. These two people were in a pickup truck. You can barely see the top of it in the water. And the helicopter flew over and threw them a couple life vests, and it wasn't long after that that the truck sank, and these people were stuck in the water in the current. Luckily, the currents weren't too strong and the helicopter was able to get back over there and pick them up out of the water.
WHITFIELD: We're looking at a replay of the video. I only emphasize that because any minute now, folks who are just tuning in for the first time are going to see that woman who dropped. Simply dropped right back in to the water. She loses her grip and, oh, that moment I think everybody's heart stopped, because you could see that she was just holding on as best she could, but -- right there. DUNN: Just couldn't hold on any longer, and had let go. So I think my heart stopped, too. I had to gain my composure and wait a minute. I got a job to do here. I didn't know what to say. You know? But luckily, they wasted no time bringing the helicopter back around. Facing the helicopter to the west, which the wind was coming from, and wasted no time in getting that lady back on the helicopter and I think I was commentating right now, this lady's probably never even flown in a helicopter let alone ridden on the skids a mile and a half.
DUNN: Over to where they dropped her off.
WHITFIELD: And thank goodness she was still conscience they came back the second pass to pick her up. You did an excellent job explaining, as we were listening to you live here on CNN, as were you explaining the copilot on the left, the pilot of this helicopter really was blind to the left. Really, relying on his colleagues there, his or her colleagues there, to help direct this helicopter, which really came just inches, the skid came just inches away from the water while the other rescuer tried to reach for these two victims.
DUNN: I had guessed or thought that they were going to have to get the skids a little bit in the water to get her legs up over the skid, and they have a step up there that she can reach up there and grab, and that's what they ended up doing, and after that, it was a pretty safe of a ride back to let her off.
The second person was a gentleman that they pulled out and he had a little harder time, I think. They were dragging him in the water. This looked like a pretty heavy-set gentleman. You can't just pluck these people out, you know. People think these helicopters can have all the power in the world, but they don't. Especially on a day like today, where it was 80 degrees. You already have three people on the helicopter. This helicopter can only hold one more normal-size person. So you know had to give it up for those guys.
WHITFIELD: You forget about the fact, when you've been in an emergency situation like this and I'm talking from the victim's point of view, you're frightened. And not everything works the way you want it to work and sometimes some people panic. Others are non- responsive. And then sometimes, you know, people are downright combative when they become a victim. Especially when you're talking about water. So as a rescuer, you're really not sure what kind of victim you're coming across.
DUNN: That's true, too. You don't know what state of mind they're going to be in. Like I said, these people have probably never had ridden in a helicopter, let alone out on the skids. I've never ridden outside on the skids of a helicopter and I've been flying 12 years. So, you know, I just got to give it up for those guys for doing a great job. That's not easy. They made it look easy. And that's what they get paid for.
WHITFIELD: They were incredible. We were able to hear your remarks when you were carrying it live on your station, KWTV saying, even in your experience of chopper piloting, you'd never seen a rescue quite like this before. So this really was a remarkable, it was unique and thank goodness it was a successful rescue, too.
DUNN: Yes. Thank goodness. Nobody's been hurt out here yet. I take that back. I believe we did have two people that drowned that were stuck in a car out in Kingfisher somewhere. But that's the only two injuries or fatalities that I've heard of so far.
WHITFIELD: OK. And we haven't confirmed that and we'll try to confirm that as well to find out exactly what the casualty rate is here as a result of the remnants of Tropical Storm Erin, which simply caught an awful lot of people by surprise. At what point did your instincts kick in and say let's get the chopper in the air and let's try to get a good per view of the area and see what's happening?
DUNN: Well, believe it or not, I woke up at 3:30 in the morning whenever it was hitting my house, and I couldn't go back to sleep. Turned on our station, Channel 9 here in Oklahoma City and started watching it then. It was about 6:00 that I decided that I would just go in to the station, which I did. And it was about an hour after that. I had to wait for the weather to clear. The weather was -- when I got to the station, basically the eye of the remnants of the tropical storm was directly over the city of Oklahoma City. So basically I had to wait for that to pass, because there were a lot of high winds involved in that. The winds were coming from everywhere. So I didn't think it was safe enough to go then, but it was a little after daylight, I would say eight o'clock that we got up in the air and just started filming. It didn't take us long. We'd go a mile and you started to see cars under water.
WHITFIELD: Really? But that wasn't your expectation, was it? Did you expect that right away as soon as you got in the air you would start seeing you know these kind of emergency situations? Or did you think it was going to be like a needle in a haystack, tough to find?
DUNN: I knew was pretty bad. I'd been up watching it all night and knew where I was going to go.
WHITFIELD: Tell me, where are the most vulnerable areas that you just because you know the geography, you know the area, what were the areas you were going to target in on because you knew they were particularly low-lying or that you knew that the homes were a little bit more remote areas. What's the criteria that you were using as you were trying to ascertain the best places to go?
DUNN: Well, I had been watching the coverage all night. We would even had two or three tornado warnings in the middle of the night. I have a weather radio that actually wakes me up in the middle of the night when that stuff goes on, and that's what happened.
DUNN: And so, then I couldn't go to sleep after that, but it was basically where we knew there was wind damage. We had storm trackers out all night, in the middle of night, doing a great job with their satellite feeds, shooting us back video, live video of what gas on be in certain areas. So I kind of had a good idea from that where I needed to go once I got up in the air, but I tell you once I got up in the air could just go anywhere. Because the flooding and the wind damage and everything is just so widespread around here. It's, you know you don't have to go far to shoot.
WHITFIELD: Mason Dunn, helicopter pilot for KWTV, thanks so much. If you get a chance to see these Oklahoma highway patrol rescue members, a part of that helicopter team, rescue team, give them a huge pat on the back from us as well. Remarkable sequence of events that have unfolded live here on television and thanks to you and your live capabilities there in Kingfisher.
We're going to talk now to one of your colleagues, Rosa Flores, who is there in Kingfisher on the ground. Rosa, what are you learning about how they're able to conduct all of these rescues?
ROSA FLORES, KWTV REPORTER: Well, Fredricka you were just talking about the people that were rescued by air. I just talked to two of their family members and they tell me that they are on ground. They're safe. They talked to them via cell phone because they are actually a couple miles away from here, but they say they are safe. They're feeling a little startled but they are OK.
Now, just like we've seen rescues by air, we've seen them by ground here. The boat that you're actually looking at, that air boat, has brought in multiple people to the ground, to safe dry ground, people with their handbags around their neck, with their keepsakes in plastic bags. Again, people were just trying to get whatever they could to safe ground.
Now, I am told that there is an active search for a couple that's just northeast of this location that you're looking at. Family members have not been able to contact them. So people are a little worried, and rescue crews on their way. That is an active search going on right now.
Now, I think you guys also saw the pictures of the oil that was seeping through a pipeline. I understand the DEQ is on its way to take a look and assess the damage and take care of all that for us.
Another big concern in this area, no electricity. People out there are without electricity, but just like we've seen rescue crews out and about, we've also seen people just helping people. We were out a couple of blocks from here and we saw people taking computers and just belongings and helping each other try to get their keepsakes to dry ground.
WHITFIELD: That's nice to hear. And that always happens in times of need like this, where folks simply help one another. And we saw in some of those rescues what appeared to be good Samaritans who got their fishing boats out to try to conduct these rescues. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself here but I understand after talking to one of the captains at the highway patrol that somewhere between 200 to maybe even 300 people will be out of their homes. Where are they going to go right now? FLORES: Well, there's actually a shelter and a command post in the fairgrounds in this area that is just south of this location. And there we've got Red Cross. We also saw a member from the Oklahoma National Guard there, and just rescue crews trying to get them sheltered, trying to get them food and to dry ground at this point, because the water has been rising since 9:00 this morning.
Now, people were notified at about 9:00 this morning, by something called a telephone tree. And what I'm told it's a computer message that goes through all the phones in this area and it's a recording, but a lot of people didn't get that message, and people might have been asleep, and those people that didn't get the message are the active rescues that are going on right now.
WHITFIELD: When you talk about the one couple, there's an active search for this one couple, northeast of the location where you are. Is the search concentrated on a residential area? Is it their home that they're looking for this couple or is it their vehicle? What do you know about the active search under way?
FLORES: What I do know is that it's an elderly couple and their home is just northeast of this area. And, again, family members have not been able to contact them and so they're worried. Rescue crews are actually on the way to try to figure out if this couple is inside the home and see if they're safe.
WHITFIELD: Do you have an understanding as to how quickly this water rose?
FLORES: Sorry. Could you repeat that?
WHITFIELD: Do you have any idea how quickly this water rose? Like say if people who were in their homes at 7:00 a.m., by 10:00 a.m., already the water was at the top of their sofas? Do you know anything like that in terms of how quickly this all happened?
FLORES: I believe it happened very, very quickly, from talking to residents and emergency management. They tell me that that call that I was telling you about went out by 9:00. By 9:30, the water was rising. By 11:00, it was already as high as you see now. It's about four or five feet. So it happened very, very quickly.
Now, another thing that is a worry to this area, there's a city called Watonga just west of this location. That city is flooded as well and so they're afraid the flooding waters will come this way and, again that would just be more trouble and more frustration for all the people in this area.
WHITFIELD: What do you know about the people from Watonga? Are we talking again about an area that's mostly agriculture, too?
FLORES: That's right. Now, I also know that with the severe rain that we had this summer, it was declared a disaster area. Blaine County is actually the name of county, and Blaine County was FEMA actually declared it a disaster area. Those people were already getting help because of the severe rains we had in May and now they're hit again with more rain. So again, that's definitely a huge concern for all the people in the area.
WHITFIELD: What about the local emergency preparedness, emergency response teams? Are they inundated? Do they feel like they have everything they need in order to cover this area and look for so many folks who are reportedly missing? Or are they asking for help from other jurisdictions?
FLORES: They are definitely asking for help from fire departments, emergency management crews, from all the cities around this area. Like I mentioned, people are helping people. So, all of the other crews from the local authorities are coming together. They're helping, and they're definitely providing manpower, equipment, supplies, we've seen boats from both the Kingfisher fire department and local, other local fire departments coming together and just bringing those resources together get people to safe ground.
WHITFIELD: Rosa, yes, and while you're underscoring the fact there's a lot of different areas. There are a lot of folks helping one another. I have to wonder whether the emergency response teams are a little concerned about that, too, because it also means that folks are putting themselves in danger in order to conduct a rescue, in order to help a neighbor. So are emergency response teams asking regular citizens to, perhaps, hold off on that, or are they encouraging it? Or allowing it to happen?
FLORES: I actually just talked to the emergency manager about that situation, and he did say that he is concerned about residents helping other residents, because they don't know what's in the water. We do know that there's oil possibly in the water seeping through. There could be sewage, any number of things. They are asking people to stay out of the water, to stay in safe ground and, of course, the rescue teams are on their way to save their loved ones.
WHITFIELD: Rosa, before I let you go, you've done a great job, a lot of great information you're passing along. How about for hospital, perhaps even nursing homes? Places where people just can't get mobilized that easily? What kind of support is in place for them?
FLORES: Well, I don't know anything other than just the fairgrounds shelter that that has been set up. I do know aside from the water damage, there's also a lot of wind damage. I know that a nursing home not too far from here was wiped out and destroyed. So that is all I think, in sort of the assessments situations at this point, just because it's so early in the devastation.
WHITFIELD: All right. Rosa Flores, thanks so much with KWTV for keeping us posted. We're going to have much more on our special coverage of the remnants of Tropical Storm Erin and what it has done, to Kingfisher in particular, Oklahoma, and it's also, it also means we're also keeping a close watch on Hurricane Dean, extreme weather all across the board as well as weather problems that have caused some deaths in Minnesota.
We'll have all of that when we come right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: Hello again. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Here's what we're working on throughout the next hour. Massive flooding in Kingfisher, Oklahoma has meant a number of active searches are currently under way. We've been watching other searches and rescues of many people with roads being washed out, homes flood and a lot of folks flood on the rooftops. We continue to watch developments out of Kingfisher, Oklahoma all this a result of remnants of Tropical Storm Erin.
And then a very similar situation, but from a different system in Minnesota. We'll tell you about flooding taking place there, and now you're looking at the radar pictures of a massive Hurricane Dean that is wreaking havoc in the Caribbean, it's threatening Jamaica. Already in the Associated Press, they're blaming this storm on seven reported deaths in the Caribbean.
Much more on all of this straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.
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