'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Monday, May 20th, 2013
Read the transcript to the Monday show
May 20, 2013
Guests: Jennifer Tabor, Todd Tabor, Bryan Norcross, Ann Dee Lee, Tom Cole, Russell Schneider, Chris McBee
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in Boston.
There`s utter destruction in Oklahoma City tonight. The community of
Moore, a suburb southeast of Oklahoma City, has been leveled after a mile-
wide tornado tore through the region this afternoon.
At least two elementary schools were in the path of the storm. The local
NBC affiliate reports that children may be trapped in one of those schools.
In fact, as we speak, people are digging through the rubble searching for
"The Associated Press" is reporting several children have been pulled out
of the rubble alive.
Our affiliate KFOR is reporting there are four dead so far, including a
mother and a baby.
According to "Reuters", two hospitals have received at least 29 injured in
the storm. Seven are in critical condition.
Well, the National Weather Service says the tornado was at least an E-5, E-
4 perhaps up to E-5. That`s the second highest strength rating. It
carries winds up to 200 miles per hour.
The White House said the president has been receiving updates on the storm
and rescue efforts. The magnitude of the destruction and loss is still
emerging but what is clear at this hour, this is a storm that will go into
The Weather Channel`s Bryan Norcross joins us right now.
Brian, I was watching about an hour ago with your report that possibly
there was going to be another tornado hitting down, that this tornado was
heading towards Paul`s Valley, Oklahoma.
Let me go to Milissa right now. We lost Brian. MSNBC`s Milissa Rehberger
is from Oklahoma right now. She covered tornadoes in the Oklahoma City
I`m trying to figure out what we have facing us later tonight, Milissa.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: It`s going to be a long, tedious,
and very scary effort, Chris, because if they have not turned off the power
to the area, there are power lines down that might still be live. There is
the fear of gas leaks. There is the fear of fires and just general danger
within that debris.
They`ve got about two more hours, maybe 2 1/2 more hours of light there,
which is going to make this a very dangerous job for the brave men and
women that you are looking at right now. They are very meticulously
picking through that and it must be so hard for them, because you know they
just want to rush in. But you can`t. It`s just too dangerous.
So, night will fall, it will get cold and it will be very lonely and very
scary for anybody who is alive in any of this rubble.
MATTHEWS: What is the temperature down there right now? What is it
expected to reach overnight?
REHBERGER: Well, it could be very cold. If you`re stuck under there, 40s,
50s. Oklahoma, this time for the year, it`s like here this time of year.
You never know what you`re going to get. Hopefully, it won`t rain on them.
But it`s just -- it`s very dangerous. They are down there without water
and we have no idea of how many people are trapped, where they are trapped.
Hopefully, because this is mostly a neighborhood of homes, hopefully, most
people were away at work and weren`t even in the area when it happened but
we do know that children and teachers are trapped in that school that they
are concentrating on.
And that is absolutely horrifying, especially for the parents who are being
held back and I can`t imagine what a helpless feeling that is.
MATTHEWS: You know, we`re looking at rubble. It`s so extra ordinary
because usually when you have a flood, it takes days for it to grow and
recede and take as while to receive the damage. All this happened in a
manner of ways.
And we`re looking at -- it`s very hard for us as outsiders and you, of
course, have reported down there for so long. Give us a sense of the
pictures that we`re sharing here. Are these -- is this a commercial area?
Are these supermarkets, malls? Are these residential neighborhoods?
MATTHEWS: You can spot some of the pattern but it seems to have been lost
in the hell that`s been let loose here.
REHBERGER: Well, I tell you, this looks remarkably like the May 3rd
tornado that I covered. I was one of those people that you see walking
through it very, very carefully. It looks the same but quite frankly
This is a suburb -- it`s a suburb of Oklahoma City. It`s full of
subdivisions. That`s what you`re seeing. Lots of homes. You`ve obviously
got schools and churches. There`s a movie theater. There are strip malls.
It`s like any suburban area that you and I have seen. The scary part is
that, you know, Oklahoma, the state is full of rural areas that, you know,
one home sits atop a giant piece of property. This is a very, very heavily
populated area and where this tornado hit, there is simply nothing left.
What absolutely amazed me when I was there on May 3rd of 1999 covering
this, I had never seen anything like it in my life. I just couldn`t
believe how little was left of anything that resembled anything that it
We`re not talking about hurricane damage with a circular motion of 200 to
300 mile-an-hour winds. It truly makes it look like they were stuck in a
I interviewed a man who survived, and he was very, very lucky to survive
because none of these people have basements, and most don`t have shelters.
He survived by hugging his toilet because the pipes go into the ground and
But I sort of drove along with my crew at the time and he was standing
looking like he wasn`t even there on the blank slate that had been a
foundation of his house, that and the toilet were all that was left.
And even if you`re being looking to find your property, what is left on
your property might not even come from your house. It could have come from
down the street. Your house can be a block away. That`s the power of this
And I interviewed that man and he could barely even put his words together
because that`s how shocking it is.
MATTHEWS: You mean the house blew away around him?
REHBERGER: It disappeared. Who knows where it went? And you`ll find --
MATTHEWS: You know, I never thought about this power of 200 mile-an-hour
winds, maybe it will reach an E-5 today in the estimate, but even thought
it`s E-4, it`s around 200 miles an hour. And, as you say, it`s in a
The ability that I heard a couple of hours ago, that they can pick -- it
can pick up cinder block buildings, forget the easy stuff like horses and
people, it can move cinder blocks buildings and throw them into the area.
The power we just don`t know.
REHBERGER: It picks up truck us.
A friend of mine who work for the same station in 1999 was sent down the
road to cover the aftermath of where that tornado first set down. They
didn`t realize that they were driving right into it, because tornadoes like
this, they are surrounded by rain. It`s a mile wide. You don`t even know
it`s a tornado. It looks like a rain storm. You have no way of knowing
until it`s on top of you.
They were heading for down the road, I-40, when they saw a cow fly by. I`m
not kidding. They saw trees and have been uprooted that were in the air,
flying by, and with that they turned around and ran as -- drove as fast as
they could in the other direction. And as it happens, that tornado hit an
overpass, and I don`t know if you`ve heard me say this earlier, people who
were driving took shelter under this overpass, and the cars parked
underneath it were gone a moment later and one woman was sucked out from
under that overpass where she was hiding for her son.
And her son survived, she did not. That is -- I mean, when you have
buildings and trees and cars that are literally picked up into the air and
hurled, who knows how far away, that does show you what they are dealing
MATTHEWS: Milissa, stay with us. I want to bring in Jennifer and Todd
Tabor. They are residence of Moore, Oklahoma, and they were so close to
this today -- Jennifer.
JENNIFER TABOR, EYEWITNESS: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Jennifer, thank you for joining us, both of you.
Sir, can you tell me what it was like to be near? Could you feel the force
of the 200 mile-an-hour winds com at you in a circular pattern?
J. TABOR: Oh, yes. Oh, yeah. I mean, it was just like a strong wind that
was blowing towards your vehicle. We evacuated right before it hit our
neighborhood and when we got out on to the main road, it was so congested
and chaotic, and when we look behind us, we could see this huge, wide
tornado just right there in the middle of the road. I mean, it was like
within half a mile, dare I say, from us.
So, yes, I could see all of the debris. There was a lot of debris.
MATTHEWS: Sir, could you feel the force of the wind? Is this something
that you`re looking at and realizing how powerful it is from a distance?
TODD TABOR, EYEWITNESS: I was actually on my way here. I didn`t actually
get to see it. My wife here, Jennifer, was in it and my daughter, they
were in my truck and we were trying to get away from it. They told me it
was blown truck around real bad on the road, and I were afraid they were
not going to make it away from it.
J. TABOR: -- picked us up and suck us into the tornado.
MATTHEWS: Are you -- Jennifer, are you able to reach your house now? Can
you go to where you live?
J. TABOR: No. We`re about a mile and a half of it right now. We came
from about a mile of it and they told to us go back because of the gas
leaks and the downed power lines. They said it would be quite a while
before we would be able to get into our area.
MATTHEWS: Were you living in the area, both of you, the Tabors, were you
living in that area back in `99 when this struck before? You first, Todd,
were you there?
T. TABOR: Yes, I was off of 59th and center road at the time. I got to
watch that one go by. It was an unbelievable sight. Nothing like that
It`s just something -- you know, it`s amazing seeing that much power and
something that size. This one looked like it`s going to be pretty close to
MATTHEWS: Jennifer, how much leeway did you get to get out of your house?
How many minutes?
J. TABOR: Oh, I`m talking less than five. I mean, when I started heading
south on the next major intersection, it was going by where we turned at.
I mean, it was literally just behind us. I mean, maybe a minute, maybe a
minute to three minutes after I turned to go south, It was going -- I could
see it going by and I could feel the force of it and see the debris
blowing. I was afraid it was going to suck us into it by the time we got
out of there.
MATTHEWS: Is that what happens, Todd, you get sucked into one of these
tornadoes when they are coming along, they can pull you inside, is that
T. TABOR: Yes, they can. There`s a lot of inflow to the tornadoes. Like
I said, I`ve been in a couple and when they pass by, you might be out of
the way of the actual tornado but it`s still sucking in a lot of air and
you get stuff that -- debris is the most dangerous thing that you can run
J. TABOR: There`s a lot of debris going across the road. I was afraid
that we were going to get hit by something huge. There was pieces of wall,
pieces of walls, there was kind of stuff that was blowing the road as we
were trying to get away.
MATTHEWS: Well, Todd and Jennifer, you are some couple of people. I`m
glad to meet you in this circumstance. Not in this circumstance, but
you`re gutsy, it`s so great to have you, it gives us a sense of people all
across this country what the heck is going on over in Oklahoma. Thanks for
Let me go to Bryan Norcross. He`s with us now, with the Weather Channel.
I want to get sense, Bryan. I missed you a minute ago.
Which direction -- is this a dangerous tornado tonight?
BRYAN NORCROSS, WEATHER CHANNEL: No. This storm is essentially
dissipated. Although will are some tornado warnings and severe
thunderstorm warnings in Oklahoma, although nothing of this scale and
actually another storm by Dallas, Chris, and extending northwest St. Louis.
But those are nothing like the scale that we`ve seen here happen in Moore,
Oklahoma, earlier this afternoon.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s get the dimensions for the history books. Is this
an E-5? Is this 200 miles an hour or more? Or is it E-4? Where are we?
NORCROSS: I think it`s certainly 200 miles an hour. The 1999 Moore
tornado was only windstorm recorded over 300 miles per hour. This one
visually looked like that, but until you get down and that was an EF-5.
So, the E-4s are in the low 200, EF-5s are in the high 200s and higher.
The National Weather Service has categorized this as an EF-4 at least,
based on what they`ve seen. But the way they do it, they actually go out
and physically look and see and ask themselves what would it had taken to
twist that steel that way, or to do that kind of damage, and they have to
go down on the ground to categorize it for sure. And we won`t know that
probably until tomorrow.
MATTHEWS: Tell me about the breadth in the track. It sounds like it was a
mile wide. It was 20 miles long. We`re looking at the weather map, which
you`re familiar with and I`m not. The sense that it can pick up cinder
block buildings, that it can throw cars around, trucks around in the air
where they land and they go fly and by you, and where homes bear no
relationship to where their homes were once it has passed, is this
something that a tornado can do at an EF-5 rate?
NORCROSS: Yes. It absolutely can. There really are almost no buildings
that can survive an EF-5 tornado. They wipe buildings clean off their
foundations. Now, we are talking about Moore, Oklahoma. And this may be
one of the best-prepared cities in the United States, Oklahoma City metro
is one of the best prepared for tornadoes that is both in terms of
communications and construction, because as a result of the 1999 Moore
tornado which was that EF-5, and they had a large number of casualties
Four years later, they had a tornado that was very similar and they had
relatively few casualties because they had taken so many steps there in
that community, to upgrade the building codes and upgrade the plans and the
awareness. So, this community is operating with the highest tornado
awareness anywhere in the U.S. So, if anybody can get through this, it`s
these folks here.
But this tornado was wider than 1999 and it went -- it piqued in intensity
right as it went by Moore, Oklahoma. This was not a long track tornado.
It didn`t live very long really, but unfortunately, it all came together as
a spinning top, suddenly righting itself and being perfectly symmetrical at
peak intensity just as it came over at elementary, that Plaza Towers
Elementary, which is just to the West of I-35, crossed I-35, you saw the
damage there on the highway, and the cars that were flipped, even though
they tried desperately to get people off the highway and then moving over
east of 35, across the southern part of Moore.
MATTHEWS: Now, of course, the image is almost like a mushroom cloud. It`s
the image of a nuclear bomb. The image is the funnel that you see forming
in the distance.
It`s dangerous. Is it just too obvious? It`s dangerous when it touches
ground. In other words, if it stays above ground significantly, does that
mean there`s little damage?
NORCROSS: Yes, that`s correct. So, what you`re seeing there, the mushroom
part of the cloud, the part that`s sticking out, that`s a rotating upper
level system. That`s the super cell thunderstorm.
And then sometimes for reasons not completely known, some of those systems
drop a tornado and if everything is aligned perfectly where the air coming
in, the warm air is colliding perfectly with the cold air, and the spinning
of the wind can align itself vertically in just the worst kind of way, the
tornado can come by and be supremely intense. And that happened just
briefly there for a period of perhaps -- I think this whole tornado lived
about 40 minutes but the peak intensity was probably 15 or 20 minutes and
happened to be right over Moore.
MATTHEWS: Explain, if you can, in real life terms, not in movie terms, but
real life terms, tornado alley. The map I was looking at today, late
today, seemed to suggest it comes down vertically north/south. Is that the
route of tornado alley, it comes from Texas on through Oklahoma?
NORCROSS: Well, the traditional tornado alley that we think about involves
Oklahoma and Kansas and, you`re right. And the reason that it`s there is
because the United States happens to be shaped the way the United States
is. And to the west of the Oklahoma City area, the land gradually rises,
rises, rises, you think about Denver, it`s a mile high. It`s over 5,000
feet when you get to Colorado.
And then to the east of Oklahoma, you have the Gulf of Mexico, which is a
source of very warm, moist air. So, out over those plains and that rising
ground, you have dry air and it meets this very moist air and that
combination is unique to the United States. And not that tornadoes don`t
occur anywhere in the world, but this configuration of land and water
actually creates more tornadoes than anywhere in the world because that
doesn`t line up. Most places are caused by something else as well.
But these super tornadoes, these incredible tornadoes like we`ve seen today
only occur really in the U.S. and very rarely elsewhere in the word. China
actually has some as well, but it`s got to do with the configuration of the
U.S. So that`s why it`s a vertical line of this tornado alley that --
where you can get that moist air coming from the gulf, meeting that dry air
that comes in from the west and the high plains.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think we`re going to come back to you later. One last
question is, how does this connect to the history of the 21st century and
the dust fall? Is there a connection between the dust bowl and the crowd
failure (ph) and horror of the `30s that led to the Okies, if you well, the
people who moved to California -- is that all connected to this kind of
weather condition or not?
NORCROSS: Well, not really. The Dust Bowl as we know it from the `30s was
caused by two things. One was, it was a severe drought. There was a
terrible drought. It was terrible drought.
But also they didn`t have good farming techniques at that time, so when the
drought occurred, it made it worse than it would have been. If it were to
happen today, we know more about how to defend against these things and how
to keep the Dust Bowls from happening essentially in the same kind of way.
It would have to be much more extreme today to get the same outcome as
happening in the 30s.
MATTHEWS: Yes, there`s so much weather when it comes, what a state for
Thanks so much, Bryan Norcross. We`ll be back to you, again, with the
Ann Dee Lee is the spokesperson with the Oklahoma state emergency
Thank you very, Ann Dee. Thank you very much.
Give us a sense how we handle this. I`m looking at all of these people in
uniform, hazmat uniforms, going about the concern about the live wires and
all kinds of dangerous situations. What are the night`s dangers that come
ANN DEE LEE, OK STATE EMERGENCY MGMT. (via telephone): The rest of these
are just call I just taken --
MATTHEWS: Ann Dee?
MATTHEWS: Yes, thank you. Tell us about -- we`re looking at the emergency
workers going through the rubble, this frightening rubble tonight, and I
was wondering about live wires, and all kinds of questions.
What are the dangers that prevent people from going back and it seems like
a necessary precaution going back to their homes?
LEE: Well, absolutely. You have the debris that`s left with all kinds of
glass and things that people could be injured with. But also, like you
said, the live wires that -- Oklahoma Natural Gas Company is out in full
force. The Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company is out in full force along
with search and rescue from all over the state have responded. So they are
taking almost every precaution to keep the responders safe and keep people
out of the area until it`s safe for them to return.
HARDBALL: Yes. I`ve never seen anything like this. I guess I`ve seen it
from pictures of World War II where you have block after block in places
like and France and Germany that have been bombed over a period of months
if not years, and this all happened in a matter of minutes today. And yet
I don`t see - when I`m watching the pictures, it`s only (INAUDIBLE)) and
it`s live now -- a sense of people caught in it, where a lot of people that
have successfully evacuated in Moore.
LEE: I would have to say yes. We have known for a couple of days that all
of the elements that you were discussing with the person prior to me were
ripe for bad weather, for severe weather. So and also the television, the
newspapers, everybody you can think of, Facebook, everybody was talking
about the weather.
So for example, school systems did not release children to go home even
though the school day was ended. They kept them safe because schools here
and churches and synagogues and businesses have emergency plans in place
that they practice on a regular basis so that people can stay safe. That`s
why, for example, with all of the storms yesterday, there were only two
fatalities which we regret, of course, but the numbers could have been so
much worse. So that`s how we approach it.
HARDBALL: Well, you seem to be doing a good job given the situation. Ann
Dee Lee, thank you so much. But stay with us through the hour, if you can.
Let`s listen now to our NBC affiliate of KFOR in Oklahoma City.
(BEGIN LIVE FEED)
LANCE WEST, KFOR REPORTER: It looks they`re about to get some victims out
and transport them to a nearby hospital.
KEVIN OGLE, KFOR ANCHOR: All right, Lance, thank you very much. We
appreciate your work, brother, and we`ll be checking back with you.
LINDA CAVANAUGH, KFOR ANCHOR: And we have received word that the
University of Oklahoma will be opening spaces for housing for displaced
families. We`ll pass that number along to you as soon as we can confirm it
and make sure that that`s the number you need to be calling.
ogle: Let`s get an update on some injuries right now. Scott Hines has
that from the newsroom. Scott?
SCOTT HINES, KFOR REPORTER: Hey, Kevin and Linda. Well, it`s still too
early to gauge the extent of many of these injuries. The death toll, we`ve
heard as many as six fatalities right now being confirmed by the state`s
medical morgue (ph) there.
Southwest Medical Center, we just received word from Southwest Medical
Center Baptist`s spokesperson, that they are currently treating 18 total
patients, 9 critical, 9 of those in serious conditions. With the exception
of the two fatalities we`re hearing about, we`ve also heard of at least
four fatalities that our own Meg Alexander witnessed with her eyes earlier.
She confirmed that she saw rescuers pulling a seven-month-old, that baby`s
mother, another man, another woman all dead. They were trying to seek
refuge, we`re told, in giant freezer.
We`ve also received confirmation that other hospitals in the Oklahoma City
metro area are currently treating patients. About 20 people total, 12
adults and 8 children are being treated at OU Medical center and children`s
hospital. That`s according to OU Medical spokesperson Scott Copenbarger,
as well as Norman Regional Hospital and Health (INAUDIBLE) there in Norman,
Oklahoma. We have confirmed that they are also treating an unspecified
number of people with signs of trauma, lacerations and broken bones.
And I think Linda mentioned earlier that back on May 3rd, 1999, most of
those injuries that they were treating or that they saw while they were
treating in the emergency rooms were those puncture injuries, debris flying
through the air, just injuries along those lines.
So again, right now, numbers are starting to trickle in concerning injuries
related to this storm. Death toll, you know, you can only guess that it`s
going to rise at this juncture in the game but, again, six fatalities
confirmed and dozens of others injured, currently seeking medical treatment
at area hospitals. Of course we`re going to continue to monitor the
situation and work the phones and we`ll have more updates for you coming up
throughout the evening.
CAVANAUGH: Mr. Hines, thank you very much. We appreciate you.
Talked before we`re going to come to you Jon Welsh here in just a second,
but before we do, Irish Stogner`s producing our show tonight. We`re
grateful for her help. Irish, can I ask you please to pull up some video
of the actual twister that did this damage? Folks who just are now joining
us may have not seen it because it moved through that area more than two
So if you`ll pull that up, let`s go to Jon Welsh right now in Chopper 4
over the scene. When we were last with you, Jon, you were showing us a
tour of this area. You`re now again over Park Towers Elementary School
where the search continues for what we`ve been told were 75 students and
faculty, teachers, who may have been in that building when the tornado hit.
OGLE: And Jon, it looks like -- here`s the video right now. And you might
describe what you were witnessing and feeling as you were reporting to us
on this gigantic monster.
CAVANAUGH: Jon, we`re seeing video of the storm right now, one of your
shots from earlier. It fills the screen. Talk to us about what you saw.
JON WELSH, KFOR REPORTER: Yes, I don`t have a monitor up here. I could
give you what we`re seeing. But what I recall is we picked up this storm
and Mike kept saying it`s on the ground, it`s on the ground. We couldn`t
really depict it. And then out of nowhere the rain just let up enough that
you could actually see the funnel. And then as soon as we saw the funnel,
you know, that was on the west side -- yes, the west side of I-44 tracking
towards Moore. And it just kept getting bigger and bigger. And about the
river, you could see it was probably a quarter mile wide, and just after
this it seemed like it got instantly a half a mile wide.
And then as soon as it comes up to like, May, I remember Mike said, hey,
it`s crossing May and 149th or 134th and anyway the screen got completely
white. It looked like the wall cloud was just going completely to the
ground. That was all the debris; it was obscuring the structure of the
tornado. It was rotating in it.
It`s coming through Moore, it`s barreling down. I live just on the east
side of I-35, like an eighth of a mile. The neighbors to the - the
neighborhood just south of me, their houses are gone. So the only thing I
can think of, from my perspective, is man I hope my family is in the
shelter where they are supposed to be. And luckily they were.
So I kind of had a little bit of mixed emotions because I`m trying to
provide a service to the public here and tell everybody where it`s at, but
in the back of the mind I still have the safety of your own family. So,
you know, then the storm just continued to track through Moore. It broke
at (INAUDIBLE) Road which was a nice relief for me because I know there`s
nothing out there but just some woods until it crosses Draper. It comes up
to Draper, or just about 164th and it ropes out and then just -- the storm
broke up prior to reaching Draper.
And from there we went back and did a damage path, and just completely
blown away at just how scoured the ground is and how everything is
completely gone. Whole neighborhoods, there`s nothing -- not even little
trees. And all of these neighborhoods had these small -- I say small;
they`re Bradford pears (ph) that are probably 10 or 15 years old, so the
base of them is probably about the size of the bowling ball. Every
neighborhood at least one in their front yard and a couple in their back,
they are gone. All we`re seeing now is just the pads of the house and some
But we stayed on the school here and if you`re back on our live shot, fire
crews have made pretty much a gang line. And what they`re doing now is
they`re picking up debris and they`re passing it down. They`ve gotten
these buckets and water is what we`re seeing a lot of them throwing and
then they`re throwing it down. So it appears that they have a spot in
there that they`re concentrating their efforts on as far as searching for
people. But as far as seeing anybody come out, we haven`t.
I know when we initially flew over the school the very first time, we saw a
bunch of kids running out. So we don`t know how many of them are actually
left in there. I know the number is high with the teachers as well. But
it appears is that they have one area just below to the left of the screen
of that cinder or tahat concrete wall that they`re consolidating their
rescue efforts. And as you can see, they`re just continuing to throw
debris and water and stuff in these buckets, passing them down, and getting
rid of the debris there. Linda?
CAVANAUGH: Jon, we`re looking at rescuers working now in a search and
recovery mode. We showed earlier, as you described it, the storm that
moved through Moore, Oklahoma. It was on the ground for 20 miles. It was
wider than the May 3rd tornado from 1999, which was a historic tornado.
This storm, according to meteorologist Mike Morgan, is three times as bad.
So we are looking at a catastrophic event. One of our cameraman here in
the studio said it looked like an atomic explosion happened here.
OGLE: It certainly does. And let`s go to Lance West. We need to go to
him quickly now, on the ground. He`s near the school and it looks like by
an EMCA (ph) truck. Lance?
WEST: Yes, guys, I just ran down there to the school to talk to emergency
personnel and I have been told by some very reliable sources here on the
scene that this is no longer a search and rescue operation. It`s now a
recovery mission. It is my understanding that there are up to two dozen
children, victims, trapped at the bottom of that school right now.
This is Eagle Drive right here. We understand there could be as many as
half a dozen more fatalities on this street alone in this area. The
emergency personnel have backed out of the school. They`re pulling in more
vehicles; they`re backing people away. And I understand they`re going to
start pulling these tiny victims out of the rubble here shortly.
CAVANAUGH: It`s too difficult, Lance. I`m so sorry.
OGLE: Lance, hang in there. Hang in there my friend. You`ve given me the
information and we appreciate that. And it is so hard when you are there
and you see it and you see the parents waiting and hoping and then hearing
news like that. Two dozen little ones that are now fatalities there.
CAVANAUGH: Lance was saying earlier that he believed from the information
that he was receiving that they were primarily third graders who may have
been in a hall clinging to the walls in hopes of surviving what must have
been terrifying moments for them. Our thoughts are with the families who
are waiting for word and with those rescuers who have the horrific job of
trying to find the little victims in that rubble.
OGLE: Well, apparently they say, I guess, they have been able to locate a
lot of those little ones and they`re going to start bringing them out,
according to Lance`s last report. That is the most sobering news we have
had since this whole thing has started. We were hoping for the best and
unfortunately we know some did escape and that he is wonderful. That is
wonderful. But what we`re hearing now is just gut-wrenching. Twenty-four,
we believe, little victims in the rubble of that elementary school in
CAVANAUGH: One of our news managers, Chuck Musgrove, is 4th and Bryant in
Moore, Oklahoma. He`s on the phone. Chuck, what`s happening in the area
CHUCK MUSGROVE, NEWS MANAGER (via telephone): Oh, Linda, it`s -- I`ve been
watching people walk out of this neighborhood. It`s next to the Veteran`s
(ph) Park. They have be streaming out of here a few at a time and they`re
covered in blood and mud and gripping onto little things like I saw a lady
carrying a box that looked like maybe a wooden cedar box that had a Bible
in, and holding their babies and their pets. It`s a pretty, pretty bad
scene right here. I can`t -- I don`t even know how to deal with where
Lance is, but these people are at least walking out and they`re not - if
they`re not hurt physically, they`re definitely hurt emotionally.
OGLE: Absolutely shattered emotionally as all of those folks are in that
area. And Chuck, have you had a chance to talk to any of them? I know
that`s hard to do.
MUSGROVE: Yes, I talked to a few of them. You know, I`m right by where
Jon was describing. So another quarter mile up the road. I just got to my
house and everything was fine and went straight down there and they`re just
- they don`t know what to say. They are just -- everything is gone. You
can stand at the corner there, where there are probably at least a square
mile of houses. I drive by it every day almost, and they are all gone.
There`s nothing -- there`s nothing left. It looks like someone took a wood
shop and dumped the trash can out in the wood shop and that`s all that`s
left. No trees, nothing.
CAVANAUGH: Chuck Musgrove is one of our news managers. His home is in
that area. We appreciate you checking back in with us, Chuck, and we wish
only well for you and your family and all of those in that area.
We do need to tell you that if you`re just now joining us what you`re
seeing right now is the recovery process at one of the schools that as hit.
Children were inside, they were sheltered inside when this tornado, which
had winds of more than 200 miles an hour, moved over the school. It`s Park
Towers Elementary School.
OGLE: Plaza Towers.
CAVANAUGH: I`m sorry, Plaza Towers Elementary School. We`re told -- we
were originally told that 75 children could be inside. Lance West, when we
spoke to him about five minutes ago, said the number is now believed to be
two dozen children that they`re searching for. It`s no longer search and
rescue. It`s search and recovery.
OGLE: Two dozen little victims there. It`s just -- boy, it`s just hard to
take and -- but we`ll get through this and I know the parents of Oklahoma
will get through it and I know the parents will get a lot of support from
all of the Oklahomans that are hearing about this report right now, like
Oklahomans always do.
Let`s go now to Sarah Stewart, who is also one of our reporters on the
SARAH STEWART, KFOR REPORTER: Yes, guys, we were actually in a neighborhood
here in Moore directly behind the Moore Medical Center back here and we
talked to several parents who were waiting to hear word about their
children at that Plaza Towers Elementary School, obviously just beside
themselves waiting to hear word. And obviously it`s too early; we don`t
know if any of the children trapped inside belong to those families back
there but we have spoken to parents who are just frantic, waiting to hear
word about their children there.
They said, we are in Moore. We`re just north of the Warren Theater here.
That`s where they have the command post set up over there, and then over
here, just to the north of us, is the Moore Medical Center. And then let
me swing you around this way. We were directly back here in this
neighborhood. It`s just to the west, right behind us, the Moore Medical
Center here, and that`s where we spoke with a lot of people. That
neighborhood back there, a lot of people along 6th Street back in there, in
Moore, that rode out that neighborhood, that entire neighborhood is
Fortunately, a lot of the homes in that area do have storm shelters and we
spoke with one man who rode out the storm in the storm shelter, Ricky
Stover (ph), and here`s what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICKY STOVER (PH): We thought we died because we were inside the cellar
door, we locked the cellar door once we saw it coming. It got louder and
the next thing you know is you see the latch coming undone, and we couldn`t
reach for it, and it ripped open the door. And it just -- just glass and
debris started slamming on us. We thought we were dead, to be honest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Yes, a lot of people in that neighborhood echoing those same
sentiments, just an absolutely terrifying experience for them. We spoke
with another family who had several people down in the storm shelter and
they say that it took three men to actually hold down that storm shelter
door and to keep it from just flying off.
And we have not heard of any fatalities in that neighborhood. They were
digging through some of the homes trying to locate people, but I know that
at least two of the homes that they were digging through, they did find
those people well and alive. They had actually left the neighborhood
before the storm and then came back. So they were OK. But just a lot of
people sifting through a lot of rubble in what was just utter devastation
in the neighborhood that`s directly to the west of the Moore Medical Center
out here in Moore.
Guys, back to you.
OGLE: Sarah Stewart, we appreciate it.
CAVANAUGH: Mike Morgan is over in the weather center right now. We`ve
been talking about this storm in comparison to the May 3rd, 1999 storm that
was an historic storm of its own that moved through Moore, Oklahoma. And
Mike, from what you`ve been able to observe.
(END LIVE FEED)
MATTHEWS: We`ve been listening to our NBC affiliate KFOR in Oklahoma City
with that terrible news that two dozen children, 24 children, third grade
kids have died at school. They were given the best treatment they could;
they were kept at school so they wouldn`t be home and more in danger. And
they were kept at the school holding on to a wall. And apparently it was a
direct hit, something you can`t do anything about, a direct hit by this
incredible tornado which was described in that last segment as three times
as bad as the one in `99 which was in itself an F-6.
So this is quite a disaster and we`re seeing the human side of it. And of
course tomorrow`s headlines have sadly been written: two dozen third
graders, these third grade angels, these kids.
Anyway, we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with coverage of the devastating tornado down in
We just got word that President Obama has been in touch with Oklahoma
Governor Mary Fallin.
Right now, we`re going to bring U.S. Congressman Tom Cole. He represents
Oklahoma`s fourth district, which includes the city of Moore. He`s been in
touch with officials on the ground.
Congressman, we have an official number so far of 10 killed. We also get a
terrible report from our affiliate, NBC affiliate KFOR, just a minute or
two ago about the -- it looks like they have given up on those two dozen
kids, those third grade kids that were in the school there.
Do you have any more on that?
REP. TOM COLE (R), OKLAHOMA (via telephone): Chris, this is my hometown.
I live less than a mile from that school.
MATTHEWS: Wow, it`s something else.
COLE: I have for 53 years. I still remember picking up my mom`s precinct
voting (INAUDIBLE) voting place, these schools are.
I`ve been in touch with the governor`s office and people on the ground. I
don`t want to get ahead of the official numbers but obviously it`s very,
very bad. You know, this is our fourth one of these things in 15 years,
`98, `99, 2003, and now this.
This one much worse than `99 in terms of the sheer extent of the
devastation and the loss of life and the community itself. So, we`re just
going to wait to give the men and women and first responders and sadly, we
are pretty good at this. Our police and firefighters are first rate at
You saw that in the Oklahoma City bombing. We`ve got tremendous help, all
the surrounding communities. The governor has activated the National
Guard, and they`re very good. This is a place and a community that knows
how to pull together in the region.
And I appreciate the president reaching out, by the way, so quickly. Not
surprised in a time like this, you know how lucky you are to be an American
because all of the resources and capabilities of the United States
government come in and help you whether you`re in Sandy or Katrina or
Oklahoma City bombing or something like this. We`ll get through it.
But it`s -- the numbers aren`t going to get better. They are only going to
get worse, and it`s going to be a very, very difficult time going forward.
MATTHEWS: I`ve seen a couple of the stoic faces of your people down there.
They are something. We saw the Tabors, we saw another family, we saw one
guy raises horses down there later in the afternoon, later today, in fact.
The power of these people to just take this, is this something in your soul
down there, when you know it`s coming every few years and you just stand up
COLE: You know, I think it is. It`s still, in some ways, a frontier
culture. They are tough people. They are people with a great deal of
faith and they love where they live and they love the people around them.
The kind of people that -- you know, these are people that many of them
lived through the depression, fought through tough times. They are a
hearty breed and they help one another.
It`s -- you know, if you`re in Oklahoma and you`re in trouble, you`ll have
a neighbor that will reach out to you. We think it`s a very special place.
But it does come, you know, with these kind of weather disasters are not
new in our history. They are predictable.
And, you know, it`s not a question of whether but when a community is going
to get hit. Frankly, one of the reasons that we try to be sympathetic to
people in other parts of the country when they are happy to work for Sandy
relief, for instance, I was talking to people from New York, I said,
(INAUDIBLE) representing for the governor, I said, you know, we`re always
going to be there to help because we`re always one tornado away from being
Joplin. I didn`t think it was going to be quite this soon.
COLE: They are tough. And they are, Chris. But again, they are great
friends and neighbors and I tell you what, this isn`t just an Oklahoma
response. This is an American response. It`s what Americans do, other
Americans tough times.
So, we`ve had our share and we`ve always gotten wonderful help from the
rest of the country. I`m sure we will again.
MATTHEWS: You know, to me in Northeastern, it`s a reminder of our country
and our history, this American identity we all have, you think of Dorothy,
you think of Wizard of Oz and the kid hiding in the ground from a tornado,
it`s so American in our culture. You think of the Dust Bowl, and you think
of all that Oklahoma is represented to our country historically. And, of
course, the Cherokee land rush, it`s all about being a kind of, as you
said, frontier`s man, a tough, a stoic person.
Let me ask you, how do you prepare? Do you have underground basements
(INAUDIBLE) a lot of people have been saved here.
COLE: Very little, they almost -- basements are very rare in Oklahoma
partly because of the toughness in the ground.
COLE: Yes, they almost no -- none of these houses will have basements.
Quite a few have safe room, reinforced rooms in the interior, concrete
sometimes, others will have them outback. Shelters are pretty common. A
school situation there, that`s a very common -- you have to remember that
area for probably a square mile around Plaza Towers, those homes are
devastated and teachers made the right call. Those kids were probably
safer in that location with much thicker walls and in an interior wall with
granite and all that.
But you hit it on the head when you said there`s not much that helps you if
you`re above ground, you get a direct hit on an F-4, F-5. We had the first
recorded F-5 in history in Moore in `99.
People are saying, F-5, and that it certainly that. It may be higher. It
will take them a few days. We`re lucky to have the National Severe Storm
Laboratory in Norman immediately south of us, and they give us the best
warning and advice and protection that you could have.
But, again, when nothing like this comes through, you don`t want to be in
front of it and unfortunately somebody is going to be and in this case, it
was a very populated area. These things happen in the country. There are
anomalies, you lose a few barns and you worry about animals but when it
rolls through an area.
This is a thickly populated suburban community. I moved there 50 years and
it was a farm community of 1,500. But it`s about 55,000 now and very well
So, it`s -- when something like this comes through, you can do everything
right, you can prepare, evacuate, and you can listen. But if it`s on top
of you, there`s going to be casualties and there`s going to be
extraordinary damage and that`s clearly what we have.
MATTHEWS: Well, you sound very connected with your people out there.
Thanks so much, U.S. Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma.
COLE: Very fortunate to get to represent people like that. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. Our coverage will continue after this.
MATTHEWS: We`re back, as we continue to cover developments in Moore,
Oklahoma where the official death toll stands at 10 from today`s
Russell Schneider is the director of NOAA`s Storm Prediction Center.
Russell, thanks so much.
I`ve been trying to get a grip on whether we face more damage tonight from
RUSSELL SCHNEIDER, NOAA STORM PREDICTION CENTER (via telephone): Well, I
mean, there are still storms ongoing with potential for addition tornado,
so the storm that went through Moore, of course, has dissipated but that
thunderstorm lives on and is continuing to produce a threat across portions
of the southern Great Plains.
MATTHEWS: Do we have a sense of more coming, this season, the lasts how
long, tornado season? I heard that this is the height of the season.
SCHNEIDER: Yes, this really is the height of the season, particularly here
in Oklahoma. We`re located in Norman, Oklahoma, just a few miles from the
path of this storm. So, it was indeed a local event for us. But we`re
responsible nationwide for tornado forecasting.
This is the peak of the season, right in this area. Springtime is the peak
for tornado season but we can have tornadoes any time of year. And we had
some horrible tornadoes in November, December, all the months.
MATHEWS: We`re looking at unconfirmed damage of loss of life. We`ve heard
a report that there`s some school kids that were killed. We`re waiting to
get that confirmed. We have an official count of 10 killed.
Give me a sense of the gravity of this, the horror of it, because we`re
talking about one I`m told that`s 20-miles in length in terms of its track,
a mile wide, perhaps an E-5, perhaps 200-mile-an-hour winds. Where do you
put it in terms of history?
SCHNEIDER: It looks very devastating. You know, hopefully the death toll
will be reduced from the warnings that we were able to get in place both
days in advance, we were watching this system advance for days, we have
been talking about it for almost a week. And then, tornado watches issue
today, and warnings and tornado emergency issued before the storm impacted
the heart of Moore, Oklahoma.
It`s a devastating track. I`ve only seen the images that you are looking
at. It`s very reminiscent of the tornado that went through the exact same
community, Moore, Oklahoma in 1999, on the third of May, a very powerful
tornado. And we`d just have to hope that the loss of life doesn`t get
historic as well.
MATTHEWS: Well, give me a sense why that would be a similar track, why it
would take that same north-south track through that area. Why we`d have
one in 99, and now, one now along that same track. What would be the
weather reason for that?
SCHNEIDER: Well, the exact path, it`s hard to say. We don`t have a
reason, but this is the exact core of Tornado Alley, this time of year,
year round, if you want large -- if you want to see a large tornado, you
can come right here to Moore and Norman, Oklahoma, and you`ll be very close
to where they occurred the most frequently.
Moore, Oklahoma, has been hit by a number of very powerful tornadoes. I
live just a little down the road in Norman, Oklahoma, and we had a powerful
storm come through Norman just yesterday that produced a very strong
tornado, but fortunately, just after it exited Norman, Oklahoma,
unfortunately, for Shawnee, Oklahoma, there was devastation there
MATTHEWS: Russell Schneider, thanks so much for joining us.
Chris McBee is a storm chaser, making his way to Moore right now to help
with the rescue effort.
Thank you so much for joining us.
You were watching it, what was it like?
CHRIS MCBEE, STORM CHASER (via telephone): I`ve seen a lot of tornadoes
and this is literally the worst one I have ever seen. It was easily a mile
wide. We were probably a half mile south of it when it crossed into the
city of Moore. There was debris in the air, we knew it hit a lot of
residential areas, it was quite devastating.
It was the worse tornado I have ever seen in my chasing career.
MATTHEWS: This term that`s been used as monster, it`s almost like when you
look at it coming, it`s got something like an animal personality to it.
MCBEE: I kind of know what you mean, there`s a point where it seems
monstrous, absolutely. It`s just utter devastation. It`s the worst that
Mother Nature can, you know, can put forth and it`s just an awful thing to
MATTHEWS: So what we`re getting is the information from the congressman
and others that when that thing hits, it hits and nothing stays.
MCBEE: Yes. I mean, with the devastation, I mean there are entire
neighborhoods that were completely wiped out, just like your previous guest
said, it`s very reminiscent of May 3rd, 1999 that bent went through Moore
and wiped houses off of their foundations. It`s just awful to see.
MATTHEWS: Can you tell in your expertise whether it`s an E-5? Is it --
did it look like 300 miles an hour? What did it seem like to you? You
said it was the worse you had ever seen, at least close up?
MCBEE: It was, it was. We won`t know the number, EF-4, or EF-5, we won`t
know until enough damage assessment has been done. But just judging by
what I just saw in downtown Moore I wouldn`t be surprised if it was rated
EF-5 just for the amount of destruction everywhere. I mean, there were
cars and trees. I mean, it`s awful, just untold damage.
MATTHEWS: So tonight, as the people and the experts, the emergency workers
are in there now, we`re looking at their uniforms, their gear right now for
all kinds of danger facing them, electricity, possibly gas, all kinds of
glass around in the night.
This is something -- have you seen something like this before where this
20-mile stretch of civilization has been wiped clean and all that`s left is
sort of the rubble? Have you seen this before?
MCBEE: Really, the only time that we can characterize that would be May
3rd, 1999. That`s a date that really lives in infamy here in central
Oklahoma, just because that was -- I mean that was the strongest tornado
ever recorded and here we are today with a very similar tornado doing
similar damage. It`s just -- that`s really the only other time that you
have that wide, wide swathe of just destruction right through neighborhoods
and everything. That`s really the only other time we have seen it here.
MATTHEWS: So what is it that you do when you chase a tornado? What is
your profession in that regard? What do you try to do?
MCBEE: Well, we try to get footage. We also operated a tour company and
we take people to see tornadoes, just because, you know, people are
interested in it. That`s really what we do.
And, you know, video.
MCBEE: And today we were down there in Moore trying to help those that
were injured and displaced and everything. So we`re just trying to do what
we can to assist at this point.
MATTHEWS: Well, monster is the word that`s going to stay with me. I`ll
tell you, when you watch that thing coming, it has something going on
inside that`s pretty menacing.
Thank you so much, Chris McBee, a tornado chaser.
Officials in Moore, Oklahoma, will be holding a news conference in just 30
minutes tonight. MSNBC`s coverage of the devastating tornado in Oklahoma
continues now with Chris Hayes.
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