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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Death Toll Rises from Tornadoes; Tornadoes Leave Trail of Devastation; Royal Wedding Countdown; Kate Middleton and Princess Diana

Aired April 28, 2011 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: We're here to cover the royal wedding, which is now just a few hours away. We'll have a lot of coverage on that later tonight.

But our hearts go out to everyone back home in the southern United States tonight who lost loved ones, lost homes or simply witnessed the devastation from some of the worst tornadoes ever experienced in this country. This one hit Philadelphia, Mississippi, and there were many, many more hitting half a dozen states.

Alabama, of course, was the hardest hit. The terrifying video last night -- we saw it -- of a tornado bearing down on Tuscaloosa, Alabama, shot by a very brave cameraman for the University of Alabama. Extensive destruction in some places, total devastation and now rescue and recovery.

For that, I want to turn things over to John King in Atlanta.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Anderson.

Breaking news tonight. People badly hurting here, one of the deadliest and most destructive storms on record. New numbers now, at least 294 -- 294 lives lost, countless more injured. Half a dozen states across the South getting hammered, the destruction plain to see -- look here. This is Tuscaloosa, Alabama. This video taken there and destruction, of course, all across the region; it boggles the mind and it breaks your heart.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR WALTER MADDOX, TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA: It's devastating. Our city's infrastructure has been absolutely decimated. We're facing an overwhelming situation in which we're short on men, materials and equipment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: In and around Birmingham, similar devastation. These tornadoes were stronger than usual, cut a wider path than normal and stayed on the ground longer. And as we said they seemed to be everywhere. But Alabama took the worst of it, with at least 207 fatalities there. And as in every disaster, that number sadly likely to rise.

As for the damage, there's concern beyond just homes. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission tonight is monitoring Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in northern Alabama. Reactors were shut down last night when they lost off-site power. Backup generators are now filling the gap. Alabama Power officials say more than a third of a million customers still in the dark tonight.

President Obama has declared an emergency for Alabama and dispatched his FEMA administrator there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can't control when or where a terrible storm may strike. But we can control how we respond to it. And I want every American who has been affected by this disaster to know that the federal government will do everything we can to help you recover.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Recovering in, of course, some very, very trying days ahead.

Reynolds Wolf is on the ground in Tuscaloosa, right in the heart of it.

Reynolds, given the fury of these tornadoes, the fury, are you surprised by the amount of destruction?

REYNOLDS WOLF, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I got to tell you, I have never seen anything like this before. As you know, John, I'm from Alabama, I grew up here. I have also been a broadcast meteorologist for nearly two decades. This -- this boggles my mind. I have never seen anything quite like this, by far, the worst thing I have ever witnessed.

KING: And so, Reynolds, these are super tornadoes. Make the distinction for us. You're the expert. What separates a super from a regular tornado?

WOLF: What really separates a super tornado from just your average tornado is a super tornado is what they refer to on the enhanced Fujita scale an EF-4 or 5, an incredibly powerful tornado.

And what makes it super is that they're so incredibly rare. Most tornadoes are on the EF-0 to EF-3. Many of them don't last very long, they are very weak, they form very quickly then they dissipate within seconds, most of them.

This one was truly one of the exceptions. This is a very, very large tornado that came through here, obviously very destructive, winds in excess of 200 miles per hour. I would not be surprised that by the time the reconnaissance is done by the National Weather Service that this ends up being indeed an EF-4 or 5, a super tornado -- John.

KING: And when you talk about the uniqueness of this, a lot of components, sadly, coming together. Is that right?

WOLF: Oh, absolutely. I mean it was really the perfect recipe for these storms.

I mean you had plenty of moisture coming in from the Gulf of Mexico; relatively warm day, too, which really caused the atmosphere to destabilize. So you needed a catalyst and we had a couple. One was a -- a strong frontal boundary that came through the region. The second thing was the jet stream that also piled in.

And if you happen to be a scientist, if you happen to be a meteorologist, all those elements were pretty easy to see set up in the atmosphere. So the Storm Prediction Center out of Norman, Oklahoma, the local National Weather Service offices were all sending out the watches, the warnings, the advisories. This was something that -- that many people in the community knew about. Local forecasters were certainly sending out the word.

So, again, it was one of those situations where the components did come together. It was the perfect recipe and, of course, it was a very detrimental one.

KING: And -- and Reynolds, you mentioned your experience, you're from Alabama. Almost everybody I have talked to, sheriffs and the like, mayors and the like from the region who have been through so many tornadoes, they also never -- they are all saying never anything like this. Why?

WOLF: It's just something of the sheer power. I mean, we've had tornadoes. One of the first tornado stories I ever covered was the Palm Sunday tornadoes back in 1993 that struck Piedmont, Alabama, killed 11 people in a church. It was a horrible experience.

But as bad as that storm was, it certainly -- the tornado was not that big. It was not on the ground for that length of time.

This is something that just defies really logic. It's hard to believe that there was something this destructive causing this much damage. You have to remember, John, this thing was nearly a mile wide, possibly it may end up being a mile wide for a good part of its duration on the ground on a path that went over 15 miles. That doesn't happen, John, but it did in this situation.

KING: Reynolds Wolf on the ground for us in Tuscaloosa, in the heart of it. Reynolds thanks. Stay safe, my friend.

President Obama scheduled to visit the area tomorrow. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, already on the scene. States of emergency in effect across the region tonight, and again at least 207 lives lost in Alabama, where medical personnel have treated upwards of 1,700 people.

A doctor in Tuscaloosa says his city looked like an atom bomb hit.

We have across the region now; we said the death toll is mounting here in Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, deaths reported in all those regions. And if you -- as you look at the pictures and as you talk to officials across the region, everywhere you turn, in all of these states, people are saying they have never seen anything like it. Why? They say the tornadoes stayed on the grounds longer, they say they were wider, as Reynolds Wolf just told you, and they came through and through these towns, the devastation just crazy here.

I want to move now to Douglas Woodward. He's an emergency room physician at the Druid City Hospital, Tuscaloosa's main trauma center.

Dr. Woodward when this tornado hit Tuscaloosa, you're at home with your family and you took shelter. The tornado missed your house but you had the urge obviously to do your job and spring into action. Tell us about that.

DR. DOUGLAS WOODWARD, ER PHYSICIAN (via telephone): Yes, sir. I was at home with my wife and two children. We were watching the tornado coming on the news channels, so we knew that it was heading for our home.

So we got my son and my daughter Hanna (ph), my son Nate (ph) in out storm room. We watched as the storm approached. You could hear it and seeing debris in the sky and the sky spinning and clouds low to the ground. We wondered if we were going to take a direct hit. It sure looked like that for a moment.

But it passed and then my wife, Angela, who is an emergency department physician along with me, we knew we needed to be at the ER based on the local news coverage. We saw that heavily populated areas had been struck by the tornado so we knew they were going to need all the help they could get, so we made our way to the emergency department.

KING: You say you made your way. You're a doctor of medicine, but a chain saw, you had to use a chain saw to get there?

WOODWARD: That's correct. We live out in the country, so there's plenty of trees you need to cut. So I threw the fuel and the saw in the back of my Volkswagen and took off out of the neighborhood.

And on the road that takes us through our neighborhood, that's where the downed trees were. I initially cut through a few until I was able to cut to an area and I saw the extent of the path. I had no idea the path was so wide. There were large power lines, power cables down. So I put the chain saw up, knowing there was no way I was going to be cutting my way out of there, so I started off on foot.

KING: And tell me what you found along the way, not only in terms of the devastation you got to see, but the injuries, the hurt.

WOODWARD: Yes, there were a lot of homes that I didn't even know existed as they were concealed by the trees previously. But with the trees down, you could see flattened homes, lots of building materials, the insulation, siding, particle board, everything scattered.

And as we got into higher populated areas, there were large -- a lot moderate number of people standing, looking somewhat in shock. But we were able to ask if there were any injuries, me and a couple of gentlemen that I met walked down the streets looking for injured patients. We saw several with deep lacerations, extremity injuries.

Some of them had some pretty significant (INAUDIBLE) and we were able to use T-shirts and cut those up and sheets and things that we found to wrap them up and give them some sort of hemostasis.

But there was one gentleman who was fairly significantly injured. He was pale, clammy; he had what looked like a lower extremity fracture. And we were able to get a head board from one of the beds that had been destroyed and use that sort of as a backboard to get him immobilized because he certainly had a high potential for spine injuries.

So, mainly just sort of a triage there to assess who was sick, who needed immediate lifesaving efforts; nobody fortunately needed anything at that point. At that point, some first-responders started to make it in, and then I was able to free up and start making my way to the emergency room.

KING: Dr. Woodward, we applaud your work, especially amid personal devastation right there in the neighborhood. We will keep in touch with you. Good luck in the days ahead.

Let's try again. Now, we've re-established our connection we believe with the Tuscaloosa mayor, Walter Maddox.

Mayor Maddox, thank you for your time on this tough night for your community tonight. We heard you at the top of the program saying you had neighborhoods that had been removed from the map. Help us now as you have a better sense of the damage. How extensive is it?

MAYOR WALTER MADDOX, TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA (via telephone): It's going to be very extensive.

We're talking hundreds of millions of dollars within the city itself. We now have 38 confirmed fatalities, 900 reported injuries as a direct result of yesterday's tornado and we still have over 40,000 homes within the city that do not have power.

KING: 40,000 homes without power.

How are the efforts going? With the destruction all across the region like this, one of the issues or normally, Georgia might send Alabama help, Mississippi might send Alabama help, but everybody is hurting. Is that causing delays?

MADDOX: Absolutely. We lost our entire environmental services division, including our entire fleet, which has really hampered our relief efforts.

The governor and his staff have been excellent. We have made 14 requests to the state EMA. They have honored all 14 requests, including moving up to 1,000 National Guardsmen that will be on the streets of Tuscaloosa in the next 12 hours. KING: And help us understand your challenge obviously as you look at the devastation around you and we show the pictures to our viewers. So many people have lost their homes, so what is your shelter situation, how many people homeless right now?

MADDOX: Well, we're going to have hundreds, if not thousands of people homeless. And as we extend out of this the next 72 to 96 hours, that's going to be a huge humanitarian issue for us. Right now the city is critically short of men, materials and equipment.

Fortunately, the state EMA is coming to the plate, but we lost a lot of our internal infrastructure during the course of the tornado. We lost a lot of fire units, police units, and our critical environment services unit, which has really crippled our efforts.

KING: You say crippled your efforts. You say the state is giving you help. One of the questions that always comes up after tragedies like this is not only town to the state and then state to the federal. What's your sense of the response and the reaction so far, especially given the scope of the challenge?

MADDOX: I have been very pleased. The governor has been there every time I called him. I know that he's had conversations with the President and the President has been really supportive.

The main thing we will need from the federal government is reimbursement. This is going to cost the city tens of millions of dollars in a very tough economic time. And so the biggest thing we will need is the reimbursements coming from FEMA. State EMA is doing an outstanding job and the governor of giving us the equipment and resources to help our citizens.

KING: Mayor, you're laying out your challenges, the public official. Reflect for me for a moment if you can just personally as you've gone around your community today at what you've seen and what it's done to you.

MADDOX: My heart's broken. There's no way you -- there's no way you can walk on these streets where our -- where we -- where I have grown up, and the 93,000 citizens that I represent, and see the pain in their eyes, the look of what has happened to us. This has clearly been a dark hour for me personally, and for our city.

But I am confident. I believe that we will come out of this stronger and a new day will dawn for the city of Tuscaloosa. We have a resilient spirit here and it's going to be on display for the world to see.

KING: Mr. Mayor, we thank you for your time and we wish you the best and you're in our thoughts and prayers in the challenging days ahead. Thank you, sir.

MADDOX: Thank you, John.

KING: Thank you. In a moment, I'll check in with CNN's Martin Savidge, he's in Birmingham, Alabama. And we'll talk with a woman -- you won't believe this -- she saw her family's home reduced to nearly total wreckage, all except for one lifesaving room -- Anderson.

COOPER: Thanks a lot.

We're going to have more on the deadly storms next. Remember to check in with us on Facebook. You can follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper.

Still ahead: the latest on the building anticipation for the royal wedding here in London, the last-minute preparations at Westminster Abbey tonight and Buckingham Palace.

Also a look at the comparisons between Kate Middleton and Diana, Princess of Wales; the royal watching experts weigh in.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We're in London tonight. The royal wedding set to get under way at 11:00 a.m. local time, that's 6:00 a.m. on the East Coast of the United States. CNN's coverage -- live coverage begins at 4:00 a.m. Eastern time, although frankly we'll be on all throughout the night, even before that.

We have a preview shortly.

First though the breaking news back home, rescue and recovery under way after a brutal pack of tornadoes leveled entire neighborhoods in the South, the death toll rising. Let's get the latest now on the storms.

KING: And Anderson, we want to show our viewers just a remarkable photograph. We'll put it up on the screen here.

It shows the Harrison family outside of what used to be, sadly used to be their Northeastern Alabama home. Nearly all of it as you can see right there is gone except for the safe room right there on the left. See the green door right there? That's where Kevin Harrison, Sarabeth Harrison, their daughter and their infant son all safely rode out the storm.

Sarabeth joins us now by phone.

Sara, when you look at the photo, you're almost paralyzed because it just shows this devastation and you could see the fear you still have on your face there, holding the children. The rubble you're standing on. That's your house, right?

SARABETH HARRISON, TORNADO SURVIVOR (via telephone): Yes.

I mean, we had just come out of the room right there and that was our first -- we were looking at what was left, which was nothing. So yes --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: And I'm watching you and your husband. I can't imagine how tightly you're holding your children there.

HARRISON: Yes, we were very grateful for that room. It saved our lives. I mean, if we weren't there, we would have been gone.

KING: And so take us inside the safe room. Describe your feelings in there. Can you have any idea how bad it is outside?

HARRISON: No. I mean, we -- we go in our room. And then the tornado comes. You just hear the wind really, really loud, just like they say a train. You hear the hail. And then -- and then you just hear the boom, boom, boom, boom, like when the walls were falling down.

And then, your ears are popping, and then it's over and then we're like -- we -- we don't know what happened outside. So, yes, it was pretty scary. I mean, it was fast, but it felt like it took forever.

KING: You say it was fast, but it seemed like it took forever. We're watching this picture of your daughter standing outside on the wreckage and we're seeing these photos. It's just -- the devastation is remarkable. What were you saying to the children while you were inside?

HARRISON: We were trying to keep them calm. I mean, I didn't want them to get scared. We were just like, it's OK, it's OK. And I was making sure their ears weren't going to pop or anything, and just trying to keep them calm.

We were like hunkered over them. I had my daughter and my husband had my son in case -- in case the room did fall. I mean, you never know if they'll hold up. We were hoping it did and it did hold up. But we were just holding them and saying, it's OK, it's OK. They were scared. And so were we. So -- but they -- they were OK.

KING: They're OK because of great parents.

I want to bring the photo back up of you just stepping outside. You say when you're inside you're trying to keep your children calm, as calm as you can and you're not quite sure what's happening outside. When you step through that door and this is what you saw, what went through your mind?

HARRISON: I just thanked God that we were alive and, wow, I was just happy everything was OK. And then I just thought of the neighbors, too, because they didn't have a safe room either. They didn't have a safe room. So we were like just hoping they were all OK. And everybody was OK in our neighborhood.

So we were just thanking God. We were just happy we were all OK. That's all that mattered. Everything else, we were like, it's just stuff. But we were all OK.

KING: That's an amazing perspective.

Sarabeth -- Sarabeth, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts tonight. Wish you in the best in the days ahead and the best to your family as well.

Now back to Anderson in London.

COOPER: Thanks.

We'll have more on the storms ahead on 360. We will also get the latest from here in London where the royal wedding is just hours away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: More of our breaking storm coverage now.

Fifteen people have now been confirmed dead in Georgia. In Ringgold, northwest of here, right along the Tennessee border, both the high school and the middle school so badly damaged, students will have to attend class elsewhere.

Nowhere, though, is the damage worse than next door in Alabama. Parts of Tuscaloosa and Birmingham and for all intents and purposes just wiped off the map.

Martin Savidge spent the day talking to people in and around Birmingham. He joins us now with a remarkable perspective on the devastation here.

Marty, as the night falls now, what kind of spirits are the survivors in tonight?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're in Pleasant Grove tonight, John. And you can see that the lights are on, but those are courtesy of the generator we have.

There are no lights on in the community as a whole. The electricity has been out. Every house here pretty much in this community has a story, especially those houses where people rode the storm out and this is one example of just that case.

In this house was an older gentleman and he was living with his elderly mother. He was deaf, by the way, still is deaf, of course. And as this storm rolled in, they knew that it was coming directly at them. So he quickly acted, got his elderly mother out of the back bedroom, put her into the bathroom here. He put her in the bathtub, he dove in on top of her and then they tried to pull everything on top of them for some sort of protection, as their house literally was torn to pieces all around them.

Take a look at this. That is the ultimate skylight. There is no roof on this home, completely. That was ripped off. The front of the house has been peeled back. It's leaning over into the front yard. And the wall that faces toward the neighbor, well, there is no wall that faces toward the neighbor anymore. But, remarkably, both of them came out with only a few bumps and bruises and scratches. But then two doors down, similar scenario; this time, you have got a woman in her 70s by herself. She doesn't have a basement. She goes to the center of the home. That's what you're supposed to do. Get away from the windows, interior room.

She goes in there. She takes shelter. Her family comes after the storm to look for her, can't find her, can't find her home. And in fact, they looked all night to try to locate her. They looked and looked and it was finally mid-morning when they did find her, 100 yards away. It was her body that they located. As far as her house, they still don't know where that is.

Two different scenarios, two houses apart in the same community. John, and that's the way it went street after street, block after block.

KING: And Marty, as you have been speaking to people in the communities today, what did they tell you about their own preparations and the warnings they received?

SAVIDGE: Well, everybody knew this was going to be a bad storm. Everyone knew that the warnings had been out there actually for about 48 hours. In fact, the schools had let out early. The elementary school let out about 10:00 and the high school, I believe, let out about noon. A number of businesses let their employees go home early all so everyone could prepare.

However, that being said, when the storm finally struck, many people were just simply overwhelmed by its ferocity. This was a storm that was, it's reported, a mile wide and maybe speeds of up to 200 miles per hour.

If you were directly in its path, it didn't matter what kind of safety precautions. You were very much at risk, and in many cases most of those people directly in its face were the ones who died, John.

KING: And help us understand the community where you are, Marty. These are not people of great economic means, are they?

SAVIDGE: No, they're not. I mean, this would be described as a working-class or middle-class kind of community here.

But a lot of people have insurance, or at least those we have spoken to. And that's what they're counting on. They believe that the insurance company is going to come through. So this is not like a flood scenario where many people did not have any coverage of any kind.

Still, that said, trying to make a person whole, trying to make a house whole, would people even rebuild? That question is still lingering in the minds of many. There are a lot of people who right now are so traumatized, having lived through this, they are not quite certain whether they can pick up the pieces here. They might have to do it somewhere else, John. KING: Marty Savidge at the scene for us in Pleasant Grove just outside of Birmingham, Alabama. Marty, thanks so much.

Let's get back to Anderson.

COOPER: CNN will continue bringing the latest on the tornado aftermath as new information comes in.

In the meantime, there's a lot to report from here in London; the royal wedding now just a few hours away. Coming up -- the last-minute scramble at Buckingham Palace, which is right behind me, and elsewhere in London to prepare for the ceremony and those celebrations.

Plus how the bride and groom to be are spending their wedding eve. We got a surprise from Prince William a few hours ago. We will show you that.

Also for Kate Middleton, it is her last night as a so-called commoner. Coming up, the comparisons being made between Kate and Princess Diana. How they're alike and how they're different.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And here in London, the wait is almost over. Just hours from now, about 8, 8 1/2 hours or so, Prince William and Kate Middleton will exchange wedding vows at Westminster Abbey. Today their official wedding photograph was released. By now, you don't have to be a royal watcher for their faces to be familiar.

Prince William, of course, the eldest son of Prince Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales; the world watched him grow up. He met Kate Middleton at university. They've been a couple for years.

We talked about this wedding photo and what -- Isha Sesay has some very in-depth theories about it.

This is William showed up, talking to some crowd a short time before, greeting well-wishers outside at Buckingham Palace.

Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(PRINCE WILLIAM TALKING TO A CROWD OF WELL-WISHERS OUTSIDE BUCKINGHAM PALACE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Part of the wedding procession route he and Kate will travel tomorrow in a carriage. William spent several minutes talking to people in the crowd.

Crowds were also waiting and sharing when Kate arrived at the Goring Hotel today near Buckingham Palace. She'll spend the eve of her wedding at the hotel with her family.

Also, here's exclusive video of another arrival: Camilla, William's stepmother, waved to her crowd of well-wishers outside Clarence House, which is the official residence of Prince William and Harry.

Thousands of people have been pouring into London over the last couple of days, many camping out near Westminster Abbey, all along the procession route. A lot of people clearly very excited about the royal wedding. Here's a look at the final preparations at this hour.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Inside the historic Westminster Abbey, where the couple will say "I do", florists are putting the last finishing touches to Kate's dream wedding, lining the aisle with 20- foot-tall trees and colorful flowers from the royal estates.

Over at Buckingham Palace, more than 1,000 officials and servants are busy prepping for the big parties following the ceremony.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): Buckingham Palace obviously is used to an event, maybe not of this importance, but every year the queen holds numerous investitures.

On this occasion, though, they want to -- they've got two events. They've got the lunchtime reception for 600 held by the queen. The evening party held by Prince Philip -- Prince Charles for the couple for 300 people. That one is likely to go all night. And in fact, the rumor is Prince Harry has also been talking to the chefs about making sure bacon buckies (ph) are ready for breakfast.

COOPER: There are roughly 20 cooks working right now inside the Buckingham Palace kitchen. One of the items on the menu: canapes. And the cooks are tasked with preparing 10,000 of them.

MARK FLANAGAN, ROYAL CHEF: Any canape event is all about the fine detail at the last minute. There's a lot of preparation, but there's lots that we would like to do earlier that we really can't do until, you know, we see the guests coming into the room.

COOPER: With crowds as large as a million people expected, security is a top priority. Five thousand police officers and 35 dogs, responsible for keeping everyone safe, have been preparing for weeks, scouring every inch of London for any sign of trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Check all your buttons. Make sure they're all there.

COOPER: The nearly 1,000 military personnel are busy tonight, as well.

QUEST: They have been told to use numerous parade gloss; they will use spit and polish techniques. They will wash their bearskins and launder to them and then blow dry them so they are pristine. COOPER: Wednesday, they conducted a full dress rehearsal for the royal wedding, minus the bride and groom. Tasked with providing lots of pomp and circumstance, they not only have to look the part but be very precise, as well.

QUEST: It not only takes a lot of practice; it takes a lot of skill. They are not marching up and down here because it's a nice day for a wedding. It's because they are guarding a sovereign whom they're sworn to protect.

COOPER: Final preparations are also being made in the Royal Mews, home to the 18 horses that will be pulling the royal carriages.

CAPTAIN JAMES HULME, HOUSEHOLD CALVARY: Officers' horses and some of the friskier troop horses will require over and above the amount of exercise just before that -- that wedding, just to get the excess energy out of them, just to make sure that they're calm on parade.

COOPER: And then there's the bride and groom, now just hours away from marriage. Late Wednesday, they had their own rehearsal in the Abbey to go over the ceremony. And tonight, Prince William had an intimate dinner with Prince Charles, Camilla and Prince Harry at Clarence House, while Kate and her family are spending her final night as a single woman in the Goring Hotel.

QUEST: There's no doubt that the last 48 hours have been energetic. They've been lively. People have been getting ready. Now is the moment. The wedding is upon us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It certainly is upon us. Richard Quest and Isha Sesay join me, along with Hamish Bowles, editor-at-large for "Vogue" magazine.

Richard, the official wedding, I guess, brochure or I guess, what would you call it, program, has just been released. Any surprises there?

QUEST: Well, in terms of the hymns, the selection, an interesting selection of hymns. Some from Wales, some have the theme of Diana, Princess of Wales. Some are more modern. But what is the overall tone is, as we've seen again and again through this wedding, the mixing of the traditional with the modern.

COOPER: And you've actually -- and the wedding vows have actually now been published and, again, as had been reported, "to obey" is not in there.

QUEST: Yes. Not a surprise there and it didn't say that. Sarah, the Duchess of York, of course, did say that. But it's not a surprise. We've got the -- we've got the whole thing now, the wedding vows, the lot. No surprises. One ring, that's for Kate.

COOPER: Why is there only one ring? Does this surprise you guys?

ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as far as we know -- we discussed this, a couple of weeks back. William doesn't like jewelry was the official line that was just put out. We don't know any more than that. This is a -- this is a ring made of a little bit of Welsh gold, I understand, Richard.

COOPER: But the queen actually gave the gold for this ring, is that correct?

QUEST: It's a nugget of Welsh gold from which royal rings are traditionally made. There's not a lot of it left, I have to tell you. But the queen -- in fact, the queen on their engagement gave it as a gift. There was a moment where she did give them the gold from which the ring was made.

COOPER: Now, Hamish from "Vogue," you must be focused on the dress. Is that your primary focus?

HAMISH BOWLES, "VOGUE": Yes.

COOPER: What -- what have you heard? What do you expect?

BOWLES: It's like a state secret. Actually, in this age of WikiLeaks, I think it's much better than a state secret.

COOPER: It is remarkable that it has not leaked out. Because behind us, which is Buckingham Palace --

BOWLES: Astonishing, yes.

COOPER: -- they've actually been designing the dress in there, sneaking the designer in and out.

BOWLES: Absolutely. I mean, it's miraculous how it happens. And I actually think it's sort of wonderful, because I think we all have the experience of the groom. I mean, we just -- the first time she appears is the first time we see the dress.

COOPER: When -- the first time will we see the dress from the Goring Hotel when she leaves? No. When she steps out of the Rolls- Royce?

BOWLES: Exactly.

SESAY: That's right. And even in the Abbey, there will be screens up, in terms of William and his sight of her, until she goes past those screens. He won't see the dress. It will be a true surprise.

(CROSSTALK)

QUEST: Hang on. I'm going to put a bit of wall (INAUDIBLE). You'll get a bit of an idea what it's like as they go in the Rolls- Royce. There's a large glass part to the Rolls-Royce. So you'll be able to see a bit. COOPER: She'll be in the Rolls-Royce with her father.

SESAY: It will be a minimal view. I mean, if you take --

BOWLES: I think it -- I think it will be expressive. You'll remember Diana when you first saw her in the coach, with the ruffles and it was a little bit of sequins on the veil.

COOPER: I've read with her train in the carriage, Diana, because it was such a large train.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Do you expect something like that for Kate?

BOWLES: I think that will think ahead this time. And I think, you know, we're not going to a meringue. I think we're going to get a very sort of sleek, elegant, modern dress and hopefully something that --

QUEST: Much more like Princess Margaret, of course, at the time.

BOWLES: Princes Margaret had a bouffant, sort of big skirted dress, much as the queen wore, but it was totally unembellished. It was pure lines. It was actually very modern. And I think the royal dressmaker at the time, who was Norman Hart, who made the queen's dress and her coronation dress, his instinct was to do something very embellished and theatrical.

And Margaret, who of course, was marrying Tony Armstrong Jones, who was a "Vogue" photographer, and au fait (ph) with what was happening in the fashion world, as was she, I think wanted something that was much more streamlined. And in a way, you know, this was the brink of the '60s, and it kind of suggested a different attitude.

So I think we're going to get a contemporary translation.

COOPER: One of the things I was reading that I think is very touching is, you know, brides in the United States and around the world will throw the bouquet to bridesmaids. That's not going to happen here.

QUEST: No. No.

COOPER: The bouquet is actually placed back in Westminster Abbey.

QUEST: Well, as Catherine leaves the Abbey, she will, we believe, follow the tradition that was started, incidentally, by Elizabeth, the Queen Mother when she was married in the 1920s, of laying the bouquet on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is in the nave of --

COOPER: I heard she's going to take it in order to have the wedding photos taken and then have the bouquet sent back.

QUEST: That has been done also in the past. The bouquet is then sent.

COOPER: And the reason this tradition was started was because the Queen Mother's brother was killed during World War I.

QUEST: Exactly, exactly. And of course, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was only put into Westminster Abbey in 1920. Her brother had been killed. She did that instinctively and intuitively -- it wasn't planned, we're told -- when she left the Abbey. And that has been a tradition that has been followed by all royal brides since, and we are led to believe it will be the same on this occasion.

COOPER: Hamish and Isha, you both gave the big thumbs up for the official portrait. Yes?

BOWLES: I think it's wonderful. I think, again, it sort of reflects the modernity of the couple. It's a perfect married image.

COOPER: It's Mario Testino.

BOWLES: It's Mario Testino, who did the official engagement portraits, of course, as well. And it's just -- it's a wonderful catch of a spontaneous moment.

To me it really -- it really evoked the iconic pictures that Mario took of Diana, Princess of Wales, which sort of revolutionized the way she'd been photographed. And again, it was -- there was spontaneity to it.

SESAY: And a freshness to it. The very fact that they said they are unadorned in the photo. They're wearing these open-neck white shirts. They're very modern; they're very fresh. It seems like very much a captured moment.

And you know, you laughed, and we were discussing that when you look at the composition of the photograph -- you're about to smirk, and --

COOPER: I'm totally on board with this. I'm in.

SESAY: Stay with me. Kate, OK, is slightly more in the foreground on the photo with William. And as we've seen them in public, actually, just slightly ahead with him, you know, holding back.

COOPER: Is she reading too much into it?

QUEST: I think she's right, but it won't last. It won't last.

SESAY: It won't last.

QUEST: No, because she has to walk behind him eventually.

SESAY: Absolutely. She does. But the point is, in the photograph, there is -- there is a reason it is captured in that.

(CROSSTALK) COOPER: Richard, Isha, Hamish, thanks very much.

Still ahead, the comparisons are inevitable, of course. We'll take a look at how much Kate Middleton and Diana, the Princess of Wales, really have in common, and how their differences could -- could actually help Middleton in the years ahead.

Also ahead, what some people here in London are doing to get a front-row seat for the festivities. They're camping out behind me already; the wedding, less than eight hours away.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I'm not, you know --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And welcome back to our continuing coverage live from London. You're looking at some of the shots of people who have been waiting all day long, and now late at night they are still camped out, even though the temperatures have dropped.

Most brides, of course, can expect to be the center of attention at their wedding. It's usually considered bad form to upstage the bride. But unlike Kate Middleton, most brides don't have to worry their big day might be measured against this, the most famous televised wedding in history. If the late Diana, Princes of Wales, is your husband-to-be's mother, you aren't exactly operating in an expectation-free zone.

Of course, royal watchers have been scrutinizing Kate Middleton for years now, searching for similarities to Prince William's mom.

Here's Randi Kaye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Take a good look at these pictures. Notice anything similar? That's Princess Diana in Milan in 1985 and Kate Middleton at a London fund-raiser in 2008. Both in the same color pink. Princess in training?

We asked the experts at "Glamour" magazine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lots of people ask is Kate trying to dress like Diana? I don't think so. I think this is her style. She is too smart to try to emulate an icon like Diana. She knows she has to wage (ph) her own path.

KAYE: And that's exactly what Kate Middleton is doing despite some remarkably similar outfits. And despite headlines like this one, suggesting Kate is Diana 2.0. Unlike Diana, Kate has a confidence about her, with good reason. She's known her prince for years. She and Prince William attended university together, and they lived together.

Diana and Prince Charles had dated for only six months before he proposed and their interests could not have been more different. The blushing bride seemed so uncomfortable around her prince she earned the nickname "Shy Di".

CNN's Richard Quest covers the royals.

QUEST: There's not that shy mouse, rabbit-in-the-headlight look that we saw with Diana, who finally broke down under the pressure of all of this, even before the wedding, at a polo match.

But there's none of that. Kate is confident because she has the support of William, and she has the support of the royal family, who have learned from their mistakes.

KAYE: Kate also has the advantage of age and maturity. She's eight years older than Diana was on her wedding day. Kate's also five months older than William. Diana was 13 years younger than Prince Charles.

QUEST: She's an educated woman who's been to university. She's had her own life. She has her own friends. She knows what she's getting into.

KAYE: What she's getting into looks nothing like where she's come from. Kate grew up a commoner. Her parents met while working for British Airways. Mom was a flight attendant, dad a flight dispatcher. They later started a successful Internet business that sells party accessories. That newfound wealth allowed them to move into a large country estate and send Kate to Marlboro College (ph), an elite boarding school. Some consider Kate classic nouveau riche.

QUEST: Upper middle class, went to a good private school then went to a good university, and it's there that she met her prince.

KAYE: A very different background than Diana. She was an aristocrat. Her father was the Earl of Spencer. Diana had been around royalty her whole life.

So while many around the world may see great similarities between the princess and princess-to-be, it's clear Prince William has no intention of letting his bride replace the memory of his mother.

QUEST: William also is very clear that Kate Middleton is not Diana 2 (ph). Kate Middleton will not be allowed to become a substitute, if you like, in the nation's eyes or the world's eyes, for his late mother.

KAYE: But Kate Middleton does share one thing in common with William's mother: this diamond sapphire engagement ring, taken too soon from Diana and now worn by England's future queen.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And we're back with Isha Sesay and Richard Quest. And joining me is also CNN contributor and royal biographer Mark Saunders.

It is interesting, I think, for a lot of people in America and around the world who are going to be watching in the next couple hours. I think Diana, Princess of Wales, is going to be very much in people's minds and in their hearts, when they see William, when they see the ceremony in Westminster Abbey, which is where she was buried.

MARK SAUNDERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, what is most astonishing is the resemblance between William and his mother when you -- not just physically, but when you watch him work the crowds. And William does it in exactly the same way that his mother used to.

And I think this is almost -- William is a tribute to the way he was brought up by his mother. She was determined that he wouldn't just be a royal child.

COOPER: And the way he was brought up and Prince Harry was brought up, very different than previous generations of royals.

QUEST: Worlds apart. I mean, right away from being -- if you look back -- let's go back to the queen and you look at the way she was brought up in that very privileged, very rarefied atmosphere, certainly once it became known she was going to go to the crown.

And look at Prince Charles, the schools he went to, the education, straight into the military. Very much reserved, and off to one side.

Diana was determined that her sons were going to have something of real life about them. And that was a pledge that Earl Spencer, of course, famously made during the funeral. You know, "We of your blood family, we'll make sure that you know what real life is like."

SESAY: And you can look at some of the things that William has done since he left university, speaking to that whole idea of leading a normal-ish life. He had a gap year. He went to Belize. He went to Chile. He did time in Africa.

COOPER: Yes, a gap year is where you take a year off.

SESAY: That's in between university and starting your formal life -- post education, formal education. He did all those things, you know, which really are things that boys and girls in London do all the time.

SAUNDERS: But he also, I mean when he was with his mother, when William and Harry were with their mother, they were a team.

SESAY: Yes.

SAUNDERS: And I think that Harry and William have kept that happy band of brothers.

COOPER: Is it true that she used to, when he was a child, call him DDG, "Drop Dead Gorgeous"?

QUEST: Who's that, William?

COOPER: That's what Diana used to call William.

(CROSSTALK)

SAUNDERS: Yes, I think William was always the heartthrob of them. I mean, remember, Prince Andrew was once considered the heartthrob. Wasn't he?

SESAY: A long time ago.

SAUNDERS: For a long time, yes. But William took over the mantle of the heartthrob of the royal family. And Diana always used to feel sorry for Harry. She used to go out of her way to say, but you are as beautiful as your brother.

COOPER: What do you think -- tomorrow, what do you think you're going to be looking for most? I mean, what do you -- what's the moment you're going to be watching?

SAUNDERS: Well, everybody keeps talking about the kiss. Because I remember back in 1981, we didn't think it was going to be the kiss. We thought it was going to be St. Paul's Cathedral, the first sight of the dress. And so consequently, the world's media were there; not so many people were here. But this time around, everybody is prepared. All the angles are covered. It's got to be the first sight of the dress. I remember we were talking about this, three or four months ago.

SESAY: Absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: All angles covered. There are going to be more cameras in Westminster Abbey than at the Super Bowl in the United States. I mean when we think about the wedding of Prince Charles that was really shot with long lenses. This is going to be shot from multiple angles with very up-close shots.

QUEST: Yes, but I think we're used to that now. I think they're used to it. I mean, yes, when the ring goes on, for example, he has had a minor manicure, because, you know, when the ring goes on --

COOPER: William has had a manicure?

QUEST: A minor manicure -- according to rumor, so that at least his fingernails are cut.

SESAY: They've had a bath. Shiny.

QUEST: But the point I'm saying is, you know, they're used to this now, multiple cameras. The queen's golden jubilee, remembrance services, the Queen Mother's funeral.

SAUNDERS: And remember, the queen was the one who initiated the television -- televised the coronation.

(CROSSTALK)

QUEST: Well, yes. Begrudgingly and somewhat --

SESAY: Well, it set a precedent. It set the precedent.

QUEST: Although they wouldn't have the anointing be seen. But that's another issue.

SAUNDERS: But they're not -- the signing tomorrow won't be seen, will it?

QUEST: No. Incidentally, that signing is taking place in the shrine, isn't it? I think that's the shrine.

COOPER: What's the relationship like between Prince Charles and his sons? I mean what --

(CROSSTALK)

SAUNDERS: Fabulous.

SESAY: Yes.

SAUNDERS: Absolutely fabulous. For one thing, when we pay tribute to Diana, we must -- we must be fair. Charles supported Diana all the way because he -- his mother loved him, but he didn't -- he wasn't smothered in love.

Remember the pictures. When he's a little boy, his mom comes back off a long tour, and he shakes her hand. He's a little boy. He wants to jump into her arms.

And you contrast that with those pictures on the yacht in Canada when Diana is with her boys. And Charles completely approves of that.

SESAY: But Charles has been there very much for these boys and they're a tight-knit group. And when you see those pictures, you remember those pictures of them on the ski slopes in Switzerland. And you see the banter between them. There's a real warmth in that bond between the boys and Charles.

QUEST: Which is one reason why the boys do not harbor resentment towards Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. They see the way she has been -- the rest of the world looks at it one way. And they want to know -- for instance, they want to know how can -- the rest of the world asks repeatedly, how can William have given his mother's engagement ring, which was a marriage of such unhappiness? But they don't see it that way.

COOPER: They don't?

QUEST: No. Of course not because they see it as being a marriage between their mother and father.

SAUNDERS: Also remember, Charles and Diana, they agreed, no matter what happens, the boys are not coming in on this divorce, this separation.

QUEST: They did do, though -- (INAUDIBLE). They did, in those years of battle, play the boys in the press, who was going to take them where. Who was going to do what with them? But the boys never became a football in that.

COOPER: And they've certainly been raised up and are very upstanding and are leading very great lives.

Mark, thank you very much for being with us; Isha and Richard as well.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: That's it for 360. I'll see you in a few hours for the royal wedding.

"PIERS MORGAN" starts now.