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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Tornado Threat; Search for Missing in Missouri Continues
Aired May 25, 2011 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. We're live in Joplin, Missouri for the third night in a row.
And the story here just keeps evolving here. The horror of what we are seeing here just keeps growing, frankly. There is growing frustration and anger among some family members of those who are missing, frustration over red tape, over confusing answers and contradictory answers from officials that have made it difficult for them to identify loved ones who they feel may be in the morgue or even get information and clear answers. We're going to try to get answers for them tonight and tell you what they have seen and what stories they are facing, the difficulties they are facing.
There's also new and dangerous storms out there tonight, as the deadliest tornado season in half-a-century continues, significant destruction in Bedford, Indiana. Take a look, where a tornado hit just a short time ago, damaging or destroying several homes, no immediate word on injuries. We're keeping an eye on this.
And bad weather all across the nation's midsection. There are tornado watches and warnings now in effect from Ohio all the way down to Texas. I also want to show you a simply staggering piece of video taken by storm chasers of that deadly tornado in Oklahoma. This could be -- could be the closest anyone has gotten to such a powerful twister and survived. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's crossing the road right where (AUDIO GAP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Slow down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out your window. Get out your window.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (OFF-MIKE) take that shed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's behind us (OFF-MIKE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (OFF-MIKE) good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God. Back up. Yes. Oh, no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Just incredible, the tornado yesterday in Oklahoma.
Here in Joplin, 125 confirmed dead, that's the new number as of just a few hours ago, 125 confirmed dead. And, as I said, there is growing frustration about a lack of organization, a lack of coordination, and a sense of any one individual being in charge. We're "Keeping Them Honest" on that tonight.
John King joins me on the phone. Gary Tuchman has also -- he also joins me. He's been reporting that angle.
John, you met a family today who was at -- who was at the morgue for a third day in a row, still can't get any news about their 12- year-old son. Tell us what you saw, what you heard.
JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": Anderson, their emotions are just so raw. Their frustration is so hot. They're beginning to get angry. And they don't want to be angry, because they know these people are trying to help them. But they are beginning to get so, so angry.
They are Tammy and Tony Niederhelman. Their 12-year-old son, a neighbor told them he saw the body and he told them their son is dead -- that's the hardest part here -- and that he stood over the body and waited until an ambulance took it away. But they desperately want to get to the morgue. And they went to this office where they were told to go.
Three days in a row, they have come and filled out paperwork. Three days in a row, they have come and they have brought pictures. Three days in a row, they have tried to get down in the morgue, and they have been told they can't do that. So they tried to bring us inside today, hoping that maybe some media attention would help them.
I want you to listen to just one exchange outside, where they were told yet again, come inside, get in line, come inside, fill out the paperwork, but, no, you can't bring that camera in. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How long is it going to be before anybody tells us anything about any of the bodies? I mean, is it going to be days before anybody knows? I mean, there's people sitting down there, you know, that -- or wherever you guys are hiding them, that their bodies are just...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I can assure you...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like CNN be able to cover the fact that something needs to be done. The government needs to fix the problem.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can assure you that your loved one is being properly taken care of with the utmost respect and dignity, OK? I can assure you of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: John, I don't understand this. People want to know whether their child is alive or dead or if their child is at the morgue. Why aren't they allowed to see who is at the morgue to identify bodies?
KING: Well, they're told simply that the process requires them to do the paperwork first and that they would not let them in.
It's one of the reasons we're told that the governor is sending in extra personnel tonight to help, Anderson. And they went back in. They waited in line again. They filled out more paperwork today. And they were told not today, not tomorrow. They were told it might be as much as two weeks before they get definitive word and be allowed to go to that morgue.
And they are just one. And they say this, too. They say, we're not just arguing for our child. We're arguing for the hundreds of others, who just want a process, just want information, just want to be able to find out whether their son is dead or alive.
COOPER: I don't understand. Wait a minute. They said it's going to take two weeks for them to be able to go to the morgue and find out whether their child is there? I was in Sri Lanka after the tsunami, and they would photograph those people who had died in the storm, and loved ones could just look at the pictures and identify their loved one, if they were able to. I don't understand why that can't happen here.
KING: They said it could be as long as two weeks. And that is the frustration. The family walks out of there shaking their heads, Anderson. They're just shaking their heads in disbelief. And they know they're not the only ones. They know they're not the only ones (INAUDIBLE) roadblock trying to come in here, some new roadblocks (INAUDIBLE).
That is the frustration. They have gone back three days in a row. They say they get a different answer every time. Someone tells them a different process every time. Someone says, we lost your paperwork. Then they're told later, well, we sent your paperwork to the morgue.
I was told tonight by a state official that one of the reasons there's such a delay is because the morgue made a mistake in identifying somebody the very first time out, and then they panicked and they pulled back. And so now they have this process that's been meticulous.
I'm also told that's one of the reasons that Governor Jay Nixon decided just today to send in an additional 20 state troopers to say -- yes, to say, you know, you need...
KING: They just -- they understand the complaints. They understand the frustration. And these families, they just -- they don't want to be mad, but they're just so mad.
And everybody understands, local officials, look, in some cases, they have had their homes destroyed. Everybody is trying their best. But still, it's incredibly frustrating.
Gary, you were out at a place where there were 500 people waiting in line to get a permit to be able to go back to their home and see if their homes are OK.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, emergency officials have their work cut out for them, but there's a lack of creativity and organization and compassion.
COOPER: A lack of creativity.
TUCHMAN: That's an important part of it that we have not seen during other disasters -- 525 people, I counted them. I spent time going down this line.
These are people who wanted to go back to their homes. They were told they have to apply for permits. So they waited in this parking lot, in this line where they had to wait for three or four hours just to get a permit to go back to their homes.
And the skies were threatening. And these people have lost their homes in many cases. Some of them have lost relatives. And they were just standing in this line all day.
COOPER: Look at that line. That's a huge line.
TUCHMAN: No, it was incredible. It snaked around the entire parking lot.
And at this point, when you're -- the pictures you're looking at right now, the skies were getting very gray and it started to rain. But these people had no choice. If they wanted to go back to their home, they were told they had to apply for this permit. And there were four people giving out the permits.
COOPER: It seems like -- I mean, part of it may be that there's search-and-rescue and they don't want people walking around and interfering with search-and-rescue. But, nevertheless, people aren't getting information. It doesn't seem like there's a clear area for them to get information.
TUCHMAN: It's hard to get the information.
But what we have seen during Katrina and during other tornadoes is that, when people want to go back to their homes, they go to the intersection where they live. There's a police officer there. They say, hey, I live in this neighborhood. And it's up to the police officer to judge if this person needs to go back and if they're -- they live in the neighborhood.
And, usually, they're good interpreters of that. Here, they're saying, you have to get the permit or we're not going to let you go back to your homes.
COOPER: John, have you ever seen anything like this since you...
KING: Not -- it changes so constantly. That's why it's so frustrating to everybody.
And the reason I was late for the top of the program is we have been around the neighborhood all day long and we have seen some roadblocks. And we went out and we came back. There are different roadblocks. Instead of the police, it's the National Guard.
And, so, look, they're trying to adapt. This is a once-in-a- lifetime event. There's no question you have to have some compassion for the state officials, but you also would think that they would have more compassion for the families.
COOPER: Right. The priority has got to be the families.
KING: ... identify the missing.
It's 72 hours-plus now, and for the people who -- look, this is the time where they're understanding. Any medical professional is telling them 72 hours out -- you hope there's a John Doe in a hospital somewhere.
But, at this point, their emotions are getting more raw because they understand the personal toll.
KING: But then they're running into this bureaucracy that just frustrates them to end.
COOPER: And let's remember now, 1,500 is the official -- is the number that we were told yesterday by an official of unaccounted for.
We don't have an accurate number. There's no new update on that. So people have no real sense of how many people are really missing. People don't know if their loved one is dead, even though there's plenty of people at the morgue, but they haven't been able to identify them.
There seems to be no official list of who, how many or any kind of central clearinghouse for connecting people with their loved ones whereabouts unknown, among them, Will Norton, sucked from his SUV on the way home from his graduation, his father injured. His father is in the hospital. He's been found.
Will, it was thought, his family believed he had been take to a local hospital and then perhaps moved. Since then, though, they have learned that is not the case. And they have had a number of false alarms. His family has called many hospitals, one after the other, hoping for the best, but the searches continue today for Will Norton. And we went out with his family. Here's what we saw.
COOPER (voice-over): They're searching the ponds in Joplin, Missouri, searching for a teen who never made it home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so sorry for...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It will be OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got a lot of people looking, sweetie. A lot of people love him. They love him a lot.
COOPER: For Will Norton's aunt Tracy and his sister Sara, the wait is at times too much to bear. Will was driving home from his high school graduation with his father, Mark, when the tornado struck.
TRACY PRESSLOR, AUNT OF MISSING TEEN: Mark thought, if they could pull into the subdivision, they could maybe find a place to go. And they only got as far as that median when the tornado literally picked them up and then they got wrapped up in this stuff and then it was just a big mess. I don't know where that even came down.
COOPER (on camera): And what has he told you about what happened when the tornado hit?
PRESSLOR: He said that he remembers flipping and being airborne and just -- I just kept going.
COOPER (voice-over): Will was in the driver's seat. His father tried to grab him.
PRESSLOR: My brother grabbed him from across the seat to hold onto him. He remembers my nephew just started reciting Scripture, one verse after another, which my brother was a little shocked. But Will did it all the way up until when he went out the window.
COOPER (on camera): And what window did he go out of?
PRESSLOR: The sunroof. He went up.
COOPER: So, he was literally sucked out of...
PRESSLOR: He literally was pulled through the window while my brother held him, and he -- he was ripped out of his arms.
COOPER (voice-over): Mark was found in this ditch, badly injured, but alive. There's been no sign of Will.
SARA NORTON, SISTER OF MISSING TEEN: We have called hundreds and hundreds of hospitals, and, right now, we kind of just think that he's still out here somewhere waiting to be found.
COOPER: Will's family is urging people to search not just in Joplin, but in areas even farther away.
PRESSLOR: He could be anywhere between here and Springfield, Missouri. And we're not talking half-a-mile or a mile. We're talking miles. That storm could have taken him miles.
COOPER: Canine teams have been called, some trained to find the living, others to find the dead.
PRESSLOR: I think Sara's mom, I think she's having probably the toughest time, as any mama would have. You don't want to think that your kids are. It's really tough.
So we just ask for prayers for everybody, absolutely everybody. And people that are following it on Facebook, you know, we really love you. And just pray. We will pray for everybody. That's what we want.
It's going to be OK. We will find him, baby. We will find him. We will find him.
COOPER: Steve Lea, a retired battalion chief with the Joplin Fire Department, is working around the clock to find Will.
(on camera): So, they have searched the water now a couple times; they haven't found anything?
STEVE LEA, RETIRED BATTALION CHIEF: They have searched it. They're actually on their second search just to confirm it. And that's where we're at there.
COOPER: You're carrying a picture of Will.
LEA: Yes, I have a picture of Will here. In case I ever come up to somebody, I can actually just show them who we're looking for.
PRESSLOR: We have faith that they're going to find him alive. You have to have hope, and you have to pray. And if they don't, we just pray they find him.
We're a strong family. And we're going to be together, and we're going to find him. Someone is going to find him. A lot of people are looking, and there's a lot of families that are suffering, and we hope they find their loved ones too, alive.
NORTON: Yes. COOPER (voice-over): There is still hope in Joplin, but three days since the tornado, for the families of the missing, it's becoming harder to find.
COOPER: There were a lot of rumors that Will was in a hospital in Springfield. As you heard Will's sister Sara and her mom went to that hospital. They saw the young man who was there. It is not Will.
But that has given hope to another family, a family of a young boy named Lantz Hare, who is 16 years old. Lantz's father, Mike, is actually now on his way to that Springfield hospital to see if maybe the boy who is there is his son. Lantz was last seen with a friend who survived the storm. He may have facial cuts and some sort of head trauma.
I spoke to Lantz's dad, Mike, a short time ago.
COOPER: What was the last you knew about Lantz?
MIKE HARE, FATHER OF MISSING TEEN: My youngest son called me. And it was maybe believe 10 minutes after the storm and they -- him and my ex-wife had been trying to get ahold of him over and over. And they couldn't. And they called me.
So I started calling him and still never got anything. I mean, I called it all last night. I called it today.
COOPER: You have still been calling his number?
HARE: Well, I can't stop. I don't know why. I do. I stayed up until like 2:00 last night, and that's all I did.
COOPER: You called the cell phone. Does it ring? Or...
HARE: Yes. It rang for the first day-and-a-half, and now it goes straight to voice-mail, but just in case he gets it, I want him to know his dad loves him.
COOPER: How are you holding up?
HARE: I got a lot of strong people around me to pick me up. That's about it.
COOPER: What has this been like for you? I mean, what...
HARE: Oh, I mean, how do you put into words that one of your two sons is missing? I mean, in something as catastrophic as all this, you don't know whether he's underneath a piece of wood or whether he's in a hospital or where he's at. And we have searched and searched and searched. So, I got to keep searching. COOPER: Go to Springfield now and hope for the best.
HARE: I'm walking away from here and going to Springfield, Missouri, and then I'm going to Kansas City, and then I'm going to Wichita. And I will go somewhere else if I have to.
COOPER: You're going to check all the hospitals, everything you can?
HARE: Well, any that we have had reports that there's a kid that looks like Lantz.
I can't just sit here. And the hospitals tell us that it may not or may not be him, or, you know, that some of the reports are this, the bruising is so bad, that they really can't tell. Well, I can tell whether it's my son. I can tell. And I will tell.
COOPER: And you were asked to give DNA?
HARE: I was asked to give DNA today at Missouri Southern a little while ago. And that right there just said it in me, that there can't be no stopping. Until Lantzy is found, dead or alive, I have got to keep pushing. I have got to find him.
COOPER: It's important to hold onto hope?
HARE: Oh, my God, yes. If you don't have hope, what are you going to do? Look at all this.
If every -- every family out here didn't have hope that it's going to be better -- I have heard on the radio they're going to rebuild St. John's. That's hope. You have got to have hope. You have got to have God. You have got to have friends and family. You have got to have all of it combined to get you through this.
COOPER: Wow. Well, thank you for talking to us. I appreciate it.
HARE: Thank you.
COOPER: Stay strong.
COOPER: Mike Hare, who is, as he said, on his way to Springfield to go to the hospital there to see a young person who we know is in the hospital, hasn't been identified. And we're going to check in with him throughout this hour to see if he's gotten any word on whether the person in that hospital is his son Lantz. Let's hope, for his sake, it is.
There's no single official list of people who are unaccounted for here, no single place that it seems like that people can turn seeking information or getting information.
One of our producers managed to reconnect -- one of our producers, TV producers, managed to reconnect about a dozen people in the course of making calls and keeping in contact with one man, a private citizen who has compiled a list of his own.
There's got to be a better way to do this.
In the meantime, we're showing you pictures of as many people as we can to try to connect information, so maybe you can help, some viewers can help.
Take a look. Linda Sweeten, she is 51 years old. She worked at St. John's Hospital. She's believed to have been at home when the storm hit. If you have information as to her whereabouts, the number is on the screen, 417-434-0114.
Robert Bateson lived in the -- Robert Bateson lived in the Connecticut Point Apartments. He has got a tattoo covering his back showing a mountain scene. The contact number for him, 417-499-7177.
Also unaccounted for, 77-year-old Patricia Dawson. She was at home on Duly Drive (ph) here in Joplin. If you have any information, call 417-880-0046.
Charles William Writer was last seen at the Greenbrier Nursing Home. He is about 5'10'', weighs about 170 pounds. He has a scar on his chest from open-heart surgery. The number to call for him is 417- 847-3505.
Ida Finley was also last seen at the Greenbrier. She suffers from Alzheimer's. You can call 417-483-0883 if you have seen her or know where she might be.
Sixteen-month-old Skyular Logsdon, someone we you about last night, Skyular was located. Sadly, the little boy did not survive the storm.
However, this woman, Emma Marie Hayes, who we showed you last as well, she was also located. She's in a hospital. She's doing OK and her family is there with her now.
We're going to talk to the governor of Missouri coming up next about these problems, about this frustration, about this lack of organization and what he can, if anything, what he can do about it. We will talk to him coming up in just a moment.
And, later, on tape, a family scrambling for shelter as a tornado gets close, but the family dog was missing. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's coming right over us. We're right in its path.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay in. Where's the phone?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: You want the see how this one ended, believe me. And we will bring it to you ahead on 360.
COOPER: Well, a tornado ripped through Sedalia, Mississippi -- excuse me -- Sedalia, Missouri, just after noon today. Luckily, no one was killed there, just one of the many tornadoes that we have seen just in the last couple of days. Just, it's unbelievable what we have been seeing.
And here in Joplin, there is -- there is just so much trauma here. And, often, adrenaline carries people through for the first couple of -- day or two, but now that adrenaline starts to wear off. And the misery, the reality of what is happening here, and it is just everywhere you turn. I mean, they're searching the ponds for people. It is just grim discoveries all around.
And, as we said at the top of the program, there's just -- there's a lot of frustration here among families whose loved ones are missing, families who -- who have a pretty good idea maybe that their child is dead.
John King introduced you to a couple whose neighbor said he saw the child die and being taken away. They believe their child is at the morgue, but the morgue has now told them it is going to take two weeks in order for them to be able to get in to identify their child's body, two weeks.
And they have already submitted paperwork and come back three days in a row. And they keep getting conflicting answers. And we're hearing a lot of this from a lot of families of the missing.
We wanted to try to find out what is going on, try to keep them honest and try to figure out what can be done.
Earlier, I talked to Missouri's governor, Jay Nixon.
COOPER: There's a lot of frustration. You have heard this. We're hearing a lot of frustration from families who are searching for their loved ones, haven't heard any word, about a lack of organization, about not having a central place to go, about paperwork being lost. What can be done?
GOV. JAY NIXON (D), MISSOURI: Well, the initial response here, especially at the local level, was focused on getting through the debris field and seeing who was living and who wasn't.
That's come to a close. There has -- we have brought in now additional resources from the state side. And we're going to be moving to take over that part of the operation to make sure we can get this information out much more quickly and respectfully to these families that need to hear the information about their loved ones who are -- who have been lost or are unlocated.
COOPER: So you're actually bringing in people from the state to help out with...
NIXON: Absolutely. We have moved troopers off the shifts tonight.
We're bringing our drug and crime control people, brought them in this morning as we saw the beginning of this frustration, to make sure that we were pushing that information. And by tomorrow morning, we will have -- beginning the process to get solid information out to folks.
It's been -- it's been a -- it's almost like the enormity of this tragedy is just getting on folks here. Everybody has been so focused on finding folks and recovering quickly that, now, as we see the enormity of it, it's very important we get this information out. And we're bringing in a lot of resources to get that done. And we hope by early tomorrow morning, we will begin to get those numbers out.
COOPER: John King was talking to a family who a neighbor saw their child die and be taken away. They believe he's at the morgue, but they're being told they can't go to the morgue to find him or to look. Does that -- I mean, shouldn't people be able to go and at least, if there's bodies in the morgue, be able to look and see if their loved one is there?
NIXON: Yes. Unspeakable tragedies like this make a lot of stress on everybody. And that's why bringing in the additional resources, moving this process forward much more quickly -- we spotted that as a need. That's why we're bringing these folks in.
Of course families need to see their loved ones. Of course they need to go beyond what is a rumor to figure out whether their 12-year- old is alive or dead. Of course they need that capacity. And we're going to press forward to make sure that they get that access and get people moving in there in the coming hours.
COOPER: There's also -- our Gary Tuchman found -- which is kind of a different set of concerns -- a line of 500 people waiting to get permits to be able to be allowed to go back to their own home. Are these new workers from the state, will they be able to help out, do you think, speed that up?
NIXON: We will.
But I think it's really important to get through. We found two people yesterday, and I think they're with the dogs getting -- continuing to get some hits in some areas. I think there's a lot of people...
COOPER: So, that's part of that concern and that's part of that delay?
NIXON: Yes. Yes. Yes, you don't want to -- you want to make sure you get the debris field completely cleared. And we also -- with our National Guard, we have not had problems with property missing or people committing crimes. But we have had the solid rule of law here. What is here is going to be here when people come back. That's why I called up the M.P. brigades. That's why we have brought extra troopers in here. That's why we have made sure that people know their goods are safe here.
There's nobody going to come in here and take anything. We're in the Show Me State, but we're not in the take me state.
COOPER: The only -- the number yesterday that was put out by one named official of 1,500 people unaccounted for, is there going to be a more accurate number put out at some point?
NIXON: Yes, there will.
I mean, by tomorrow morning, our folks will have a more accurate number. That number will be smaller than that. As the day has gone on, as we have crosschecked the lists that were there, there were a number of inaccuracies in those lists. And we didn't want to release inaccurate information.
We're checking folks off that list. That number will be substantially, hundreds smaller than that number. We have had good news in the sense that, as we have gone through it, we have been able to identify some folks that they didn't see beforehand.
The bottom line is, by early tomorrow morning, we will begin releasing -- we're just crosschecking those, so that we don't -- so we don't have any inaccuracies. But this process will speed up. We're working all night. We will get that information out in the morning.
COOPER: So, to the families who are waiting, to the families who are searching, you say?
NIXON: As I said today, I brought together all of the faith- based community here. We had about 100 preachers for a meeting.
They expressed the same level of challenges. But, quite frankly, as a community, there's this whole process that folks are going through. And now the next step in that process needs to be clarification of exactly what's going on with their family, where unaccounted people are.
The locals have been stretched to a maximum here. That's why we have brought these additional resources in. You're going to see very much a quickening of the process over the next few hours.
COOPER: How many folks have you been able to order in; do you know?
NIXON: We have got the entire drug and crime patrol. I took one of my troops from highway patrol. We will have 25 or 30 troopers working all night there, plus our Guard folks that will be answering the phones. We will use whatever resources are necessary. We're going to get this information out to these grieving families. And we're going to do so in an expedited fashion.
COOPER: Governor Nixon, I appreciate it. Thank you.
NIXON: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: I talked to the governor after that interview, and he said -- and he even said it in that interview -- you're going to see a quickening of the process over the next couple of hours. And he said, you can hold my feet to the fire on that one.
We're certainly going to be doing that tomorrow, watching very closely, because, again, it should not take two weeks for a grieving family who believes their child is dead to be able to go to a morgue and look for their child. It should not take two weeks.
Again, we're talking about the deadliest tornado season since 1953. That's what we're experiencing right now in Joplin and all around here, watches and warnings throughout the region right now from Ohio to Texas. That's on top of the damage here Sunday and literally the dozens of tornadoes since then. Take a look.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God. Back up. Yes. Oh, no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no.
COOPER: In this part of the country where things were bad, they have quickly gotten worse. In the last 36 hours, there have more than 50 -- that's right, 50 tornadoes -- that have touched down throughout the Midwest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Extremely large and dangerous tornado.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very large tornado.
COOPER: At least 16 people were killed in storms that struck parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Arkansas. Ten of those 16 dead are because of this monster.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my gosh!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another killer tornado!
COOPER: Dozens were injured across central Oklahoma, many along the Interstate 40 corridor leading out of Oklahoma City. Watch as this twister swallows this 18-wheeler and completely obliterates it. Somehow the driver in the cab made it out with only minor injuries. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm stopping because it's coming up to I-40 right now. Unbelievable. It's right here. It is -- it's a killer tornado. Goodness gracious, wow!
COOPER: Today, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency statewide.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's devastating.
COOPER: Meanwhile in Arkansas, at least four people were killed by the storms and another two in Kansas. In these states as well, overturned trucks, destroyed homes are scattered on the ground for miles.
More than 500 people have been killed this tornado season, a season that still has months to go.
COOPER: Well, sadly there's even more, even as we speak. Late reports of new storms. Let's get the fresh details now from Chad Myers.
Chad, where are the storms?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: All the way from almost Buffalo, New York, to Austin, Texas. Not all tornadoes, but we have east of Cleveland to Erie, some wind damage happening there by thunderstorms.
A new tornado watch box that goes from Columbus, Ohio, to Mississippi. This is going to go all night long, and these storms are still rotating. And many of them have been on the ground. We've had 72 reports today, Anderson, of tornadoes. Small tornadoes. This is an outbreak. Don't get me wrong. This is not a small day for tornadoes, but the tornadoes have been small. They haven't been 150. They haven't been 200 miles per hour. They haven't been EF-3s, EF-4s, EF-5s. They have been manageable.
Even tornadoes that we have -- we had one earlier in Sedalia, Missouri, and that was about an F-2. Probably 110 miles per hour.
OK. You know what? There were some roofs that were missing, but no one lost their lives. Everything was still there. If you were inside, you were safe. And that's -- this is a typical day. These are vanilla tornadoes, I guess.
What we've been seeing the past couple of weeks has just been outrageous. Two hundred miles per hour. That's outrageous. And then the F-5 that goes through Joplin, that's just unbelievable size to move through big cities. They could move through the plains and the prairies where there's a bunch of wheat, but we don't get big tornadoes like that in big towns. But this year, obviously, we have.
So from Erie back down to Indianapolis. Indianapolis, you will be seeing a tornado warning for you pretty soon. You'll probably be hearing the sirens. And in the meantime, though, there are cells to the west. There are small embedded little wind gusts in there. Take cover when you hear the sirens. Don't take them lightly. When you hear the see reps, be ready for it. Nashville, probably an hour or so away from you.
Down to Oxford, Mississippi, had debris in the air west of Oxford. That's where the University of Mississippi is. Debris in the air means that a tornado was picking up something and throwing it around. And all the way back down -- all the way back down past Shreveport. There's Dallas, Texas, and there's Austin and Houston with all these severe thunderstorms.
But you could get some hail and some winds. The widespread manner of this is -- that might have been 2,000 miles from Buffalo to Austin, at least 2,000 miles even to fly there. I've never seen weather this spread out, this severe all day, for this, all week long -- Anderson.
COOPER: It's incredible. Chad, appreciate it. Thanks for the update, Chad.
Still ahead, the search for Dee Ann Hayward. She was on her way to pick up food for her son's graduation party when the tornado struck. Her kids join me ahead.
Plus, in Oklahoma, a family that barely made it in their safe room in time last night.
The video shows them running to reach their safe room to save themselves. They had to leave their beloved pet behind. What happened later is unbelievable. We'll show it to you ahead.
COOPER: Well, Dee Ann Hayward is one of the missing. Her son, Caleb, graduated from high school on Sunday. She was on her way to pick up food for the graduation party when the tornado hit. Her car was badly -- was found, badly damaged. Dee Ann was not in it. The family, as you can imagine, is obviously desperate to find her. Here's what her sister, Patty Penn, told John King earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATTY PENN, SISTER OF MISSING WOMAN: She counseled teenage girls, pregnant girls, runaway girls, taught Sunday school. And it just kills me that somebody that good. I know there's another, a million other families out there. But that someone that good, something bad would happen to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Dee Ann's kids, Christina, Caleb and Robert, join me now. How are you guys holding up?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Much better. Just staying strong until we can find her.
COOPER: You've been searching everywhere, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. All around. Even in different states.
COOPER: Different states?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We heard she's been -- they can be as far as like St. Louis or Kansas City or anywhere.
COOPER: What kind of help have you had searching?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lots of people on Facebook, churches and stuff like that, friends and family. I mean everyone.
COOPER: How are you doing? You just had your 14th birthday.
CHRISTINA HAYWARD, MOTHER IS MISSING: Yes.
COOPER: How are you holding up?
CHRISTINA HAYWARD: Very good.
COOPER: Yes? When did you realize that she -- that she was missing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A few hours. I mean, she went for pizza and never came back. It was three, four hours and we knew.
COOPER: And her car was actually found in this area, wasn't it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Real close to here. It's pretty banged up, so we're kind of scared. You know?
COOPER: Of course. And have you checked -- you've checked the local hospitals?
CALEB HAYWARD, MOTHER IS MISSING: Yes. I mean, and the morgues haven't been real friendly, either. It's kind of hard to say the morgues, but they wouldn't really let us in to look at the bodies or anything like that.
COOPER: That's one thing. We were just talking to the governor, asking him, you know, why can't people at least go in? And you know, it's not an easy task, but people would rather know one way or the other.
CALEB HAYWARD: Yes.
COOPER: He said they're going to start bringing in some more people from the state, and they're going to start changing the rules. He said in the next day or so, they hope to get things -- has it been disorganized? Is that what you've been finding?
CALEB HAYWARD: Yes. The first two days have been really disorganized but they've actually started to get some organization going.
COOPER: Is there one central place for you to go and get information of the latest information or anything?
CALEB HAYWARD: Some of the places are somewhat connected but not really.
COOPER: Wow. What do you want people to know about your mom?
ROBERT HAYWARD, MOM IS MISSING: She's just -- we all miss her. She was a great person. She didn't deserve this at all. Any one of us would trade places with her, and we wood.
COOPER: We'll keep doing whatever we can. If there's anything else we can do for you, please let us know. And I know, obviously, if anyone has any information, you guys have set up -- you have a Facebook account. What's the Facebook account?
CALEB HAYWARD: It's just Caleb Hayward. That's pretty much the main one on there all the time.
COOPER: So Caleb Hayward on Facebook. All right. Well, I hope you get the information. And seriously, if there's anything we can do, let us know. OK? Stay strong.
CALEB HAYWARD: Thank you.
R, HAYWARD: Thank you.
COOPER: There, you know -- what can you say? Coming up, we'll have more -- more from here in Joplin. Also, one family's harrowing story in Oklahoma.
COOPER: The tornadoes have robbed, you know, so many people of their homes, their possessions, obviously, not to mention their lives. But what so many people wanted is a reunion with their loved ones. Tonight, an extraordinary story from Piedmont, Oklahoma. Take a look. Ed Lavandera reports.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are the frantic moments.
FRANK WOOD, TORNADO SURVIVOR: It's coming right over us. We are right in its path.
LAVANDERA: Just before Frank Wood scrambled up the stairs to his balcony and saw the tornadic beast for the first time, staring him straight in the eyes.
F. WOOD: That's once-in-a-lifetime. You'll probably never see this again. And it's moving fast. It's huge.
LAVANDERA: Wood rushed his children down into the garage and locked themselves into a rock-solid reinforced safe room. But they couldn't grab the family's dog in time, a boxer named Roxy. F. WOOD: She was basically standing there, staring at me, and I'm just trying -- I'm trying to get her to come in. And David is just, "We've got to shut the door."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought she was just going to get sucked up by the tornado.
LAVANDERA (on camera): So it was kind of heartbreaking to close that door and leave her outside?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Time had run out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In fact, go. We got to get in now.
LAVANDERA: Moments later the tornado strikes the Woods' home.
F. WOOD: Here's the safe room.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a good thing to have.
F. WOOD: That's a very good thing to have. It saved our lives.
LAVANDERA: This is what the house looked like before the tornado: three stories tall, overlooking 12 green acres. When you look at this house, it's amazing to think that it was once a three- story house. The tornado shredded the top two stories. Frank Wood's pickup truck was thrown almost 300 yards into a ditch.
F. WOOD: You're completely helpless. It's beyond your control, and you just -- you just sit there and pray. We got there on our knees and sat there, and it was over.
LAVANDERA: But Roxy is nowhere to be found, and 8-year-old Paisley Wood is devastated. We climbed through the rubble to find the sky is the ceiling. Frank Wood hunting for anything that might bring a smile to his daughter's face.
F. WOOD: This is her teddy bear she got when she had her appendix out about three months ago at Children's Hospital.
LAVANDERA: But Paisley can't stop thinking about her dog.
F. WOOD: Paisley cried for about -- that was probably the most upsetting to the kids out of all of it was Roxy.
LAVANDERA: Then a phone call one day after the storm and almost two miles away from the Woods' home, David Franco, an oil rig worker, sees a dog walking around his work site.
DAVID FRANCO, CHESAPEAKE ENERGY: As soon as I saw her, I knew she belonged to somebody who maybe their house is down (ph).
LAVANDERA: Paisley and her family jump in their truck and race to see if it's true, that their dog has somehow managed to escape the tornado's grip. Then the moment they'd been hoping for.
F. WOOD: There, she's coming right now.
PAISLEY WOOD, TORNADO SURVIVOR: Roxy!
LAVANDERA: It is Roxy.
F. WOOD: Thank you very much. Here we go. Bless her little heart.
LAVANDERA: She survived, who knows how, with only a small scratch on her leg.
(on camera) What do you think of finding your dog?
P. WOOD: Awesome!
LAVANDERA: You didn't think you were going to see Roxy again, did you?
P. WOOD: No.
LAVANDERA: And when you found out she was OK?
P. WOOD: I was very happy. I started dancing.
LAVANDERA: The happy dance?
P. WOOD: Yes.
LAVANDERA: They might not have a place to call home, but they've got each other, and Roxy, too.
COOPER: Ed, that is so nice to -- to see a happy reunion. Just a little bit of good news. We're hearing, you know -- there's obviously so many people, so many stories of those still missing.
You've also been following the story of Ryan Hamil, a missing 3- year-old. What's the latest on Ryan?
LAVANDERA: Well, that story we just showed you in stark contrast to the other devastating story this community is dealing with. A 3- year-old boy, Ryan Hamil, who has been missing since the tornado struck here. Search crews have been looking for him since last night, and they still have not been able to find him.
We understand he was in a bathtub with his mother, a 5-year-old sister and 15-month-old brother. The 15-month-old was killed. The 5- year-old sister is recovering in the hospital.
COOPER: And Ryan's mom is pregnant, right?
LAVANDERA: Right, Ryan's mother is pregnant, due in October. We understand she's also in the hospital, as well, recovering. And from what we've been told by family members, the baby she's pregnant with is OK. They were able to find a heart beat. So for now everything looks fine on that front, as well.
But that family going through a devastating night. Their father was out of town when this happened. We understand he's raced back to be with them at this moment.
COOPER: Ed Lavandera, appreciate all that. Thank you very much.
New storms are also being reported. We're going to check in back with Chad after the break. We'll take a quick break. We'll continue from Joplin in a moment.
COOPER: A lot still happening tonight. Chad Myers joins us again from Atlanta -- Chad.
MYERS: Still some tornadoes around, Anderson. We're going to have them for a lot of the night, and things are going to go bump in the night across for some of these people here from Indianapolis all the way down south, even into Mississippi.
Had tornadoes on the ground in the past hour or so near New Concord in Kentucky, from Oxford in Mississippi, just west of there.
Chico, California. Just about ten miles from Chico, there was like kind of a land spout, looks like a waterspout but it was on land. Small tornado there in California.
And then from Crowder, Mississippi, down to about Arlington, Tennessee.
We're watching now a couple live shots. WRTV out of Indianapolis here, the tower cam shaking just a little bit, also seeing lightning every once in a while. There's a flash in the background. Most of the weather is to the west of Indianapolis, but it is moving into Indianapolis proper. And you're probably hearing sirens, because there is a tornado warning for Indianapolis.
There may be some spin-ups, some small tornadoes, EF-0s, EF-1s, maybe 80, 90, 100 miles per hour. That can still do some damage. But there aren't tonight, so as you go to bed, or as you even keep your weather radio on and go down stairs later on, there aren't tonight going to be storms, Anderson, that are not survivable like the one that you're standing in front of right now. Two-hundred-twenty-five- mile-per-hour storm there in Joplin. Even if you did everything right, it was not survivable for some people. And people who did die were in the right spots. There aren't tornadoes like that tonight.
If they cover -- if you hear the sirens, go downstairs. You're all going to be fine. Just stay away from the glass tonight.
COOPER: Chad, appreciate the update.
Let's check in. We're following a number of stories from around the country, also around the world. Joe Johns has a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it's a life sentence for the man who was convicted of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart. A federal judge imposed the sentence today on Brian David Mitchell. Mitchell kidnapped the 14-year-old Smart in Utah and held her captive for nine months.
A federal judge in Arizona has ruled that accused Tucson shooter Jared Lee Loughner is not competent to stand trial, because he's mentally ill. Loughner will be taken to a hospital for further testing to see if he can become competent. In today's hearing, Loughner had an outburst and was removed from the courtroom.
There could soon be criminal charges against former Senator John Edwards over payments he made to his mistress, Rielle Hunter, who worked for his campaign. The Justice Department has authorized prosecutors to bring charges, but there could still be a plea deal. Edwards' attorney says the government's theory is wrong and says his client did not break the law.
President Obama's six-day trip to Europe included a speech at the British Parliament today. He will visit France and Poland before heading back to the United States, traveling through tornado ravaged Missouri this Sunday.
Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has a new place to stay during house arrest as he awaits trial for allegedly assaulting a hotel maid. He has moved to a luxury townhouse in Manhattan's ritzy Tribeca neighborhood. The three-story apartment has its own gym, home theater, spa and bar.
After 25 years on the air, the last episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" aired today. Winfrey thanked viewers for tuning in each day and said, "It's not goodbye. It's until we meet again."
And frankly, that probably won't be too long from now since she's really not leaving television.
COOPER: Yes, certainly. Joe, appreciate that. Thanks very much.
If you feel so inclined, wherever you are watching this in the world right now, if you feel so inclined and you believe in it, you might want to say a prayer for the families of the missing here in Joplin. There's a lot of folks here who would greatly appreciate it.
We'll have more news at the top of the hour.