May 21, 2013
Guests: Alfredo Corrales, Maria Luna, Viviana Luna, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, Chris McBee, Simon Brewer, Greg Forbes
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in
Rescue efforts in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore are still under way
more than 24 hours after a devastating tornado ripped through the region.
Here`s what we know right now. At least 24 people were killed. That
number includes at least nine children, seven of whom died at an elementary
school stuck in the storm`s path. Nearly 240 others were injured. And
both those numbers could obviously go up in the coming days.
Well, throughout the community, homes were blown away, schools and
hospitals were demolished and neighborhoods lie in ruin, as you can see
here. The weather today, with heavy rain and lightning, slowed the rescue
effort, but more than 100 people have been pulled from the rubble just so
Meanwhile, the National Weather Service just upgraded the storm to an EF-5.
That`s the strongest rating for a tornado, EF-5.
The president declared a major disaster area in Oklahoma today. He spoke
from the White House earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The people of Moore should
know that their country will remain on the ground there for them, beside
them, as long as it takes for there are homes and schools to rebuild,
businesses and hospitals to reopen. There are parents to console, first
responders to comfort, and of course, frightened children who will need our
continued love and attention.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the president also reached out to Oklahoma governor Mary
Fallin. This afternoon, the governor herself spoke about the unbelievable
tragedy in Oklahoma.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MARY FALLIN (R), OKLAHOMA: It`s been a very trying couple of days for
the state of Oklahoma. It`s a sad time for us because we`ve experienced
one of our most horrific storms and disasters that the state has ever
faced. But yet in the midst of tragedy and loss of life, we`ve also seen
the resilience and the courage and the strength of our people. And we will
get through this, we will overcome and we will rebuild and we will regain
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, there`s potential for more severe weather this
evening in northern Texas, Arkansas and parts of Louisiana and Oklahoma.
MSNBC`s Chris Jansing has been on the ground in Moore, Oklahoma, all this
day. She joins us now. Thank you so much, Chris, my colleague. What is
it like down there? I just want to get a sense that we can`t see on the
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR: Yes, it`s hard, really, to put into words,
Chris. As I drove in here, it almost didn`t seem real. It seemed like it
was the set of a movie, it wasn`t possible, that I had never seen and
people who cover storms had never seen destruction like this.
This is what happens with 200-mile-per-hour winds, entire neighborhoods
wiped out. I mean, there you see some folks who are just going through the
painstaking work of looking at what`s left of their house, which isn`t
much, some people just trying to find usually things that are sentimental
to them, like photographs or pieces of jewelry.
But it just goes on block after block after block. We heard stories of
horses -- there`s a lot of farmland around here -- horses flying in the
air. We see piles of cars across the street in the parking lot five, six
deep. There`s even a car on top of the medical center across the street.
The devastation is almost unbelievable.
They are still doing the painstaking work of going through the rubble.
They don`t believe, Chris, at this point, that there are any people
trapped, but they don`t want to rule out the possibility. And they`re
getting calls. They got a call just a few minutes ago. We were listening
on the radio of people think they hear or see something. In this case, it
was at one of the storm shelters. And so they sent people over to check it
So this is going to be an ongoing process here. Obviously, the first thing
they`re doing is making sure that there isn`t anybody trapped, but beyond
that, to even assess the damage and then start to think about rebuilding,
MATTHEWS: You know, it looked like a neutron bomb hit. You`ve heard about
neutron bombs in the old days. I`m sure they still exist, where they bomb
the buildings, they don`t necessarily kill the people through
contamination. Were there people -- I mean, we`ve watched all these
pictures -- what we haven`t seen -- we`ve seen live horses. We haven`t
seen dead horses. We`ve heard about casualties, and we certainly have them
by the hundreds now, but we haven`t seen them on the ground.
Did a lot of people just basically get the word and get out of there?
JANSING: Well, one of the things that happened was that this happened
during the day, and a lot of times, this happens at night and people are
asleep in their beds. And so even though there was only 16 minutes`
warning, people had an idea that it was coming and they were able, you
know, to get to their shelters or get into a basement.
We`re just down the street from a movie theater, and people who were in
there watching a movie described that all of a sudden, all the phones
started to light up. It was a weather warning that people were getting on
their phones. So they all were moved out into a hallway. They were up
against the wall.
And when they walked out of that movie theater -- which, by the way, is
still standing -- everything else they saw around them was pretty much
gone. So that`s what it was like.
But I think they do believe that the fact that it happened during the day -
- and one more thing, Chris, and I think this is important -- you know,
this storm got -- hit this town, this suburb of Oklahoma City, almost
exactly the same way that it hit in 1999.
And the folks who were here in 1999 will tell you that they offered them
the opportunity to get some help to build storm shelters, and a lot of
people did. And the mayor told me this morning that he thinks if that help
wasn`t available and so many people hadn`t built storm shelters, that the
devastation and the loss of life could have been much, much worse.
MATTHEWS: We`ve heard so much from the local people, and it`s got to be
authoritative because it`s their lives at stake, that the ground is too
hard to get through, that the water table is too high. What is the safe
place -- is there a known structure or a known -- I guess, a basement?
What is a safe place to reliably wait out one of these tornadoes when you
know an E5 or an EF-5 is coming your way? Is there a safe place for sure?
JANSING: Well, there are storm shelters. There are storm shelters, and
people went there. Is any place safe absolutely for sure? People will
tell you it`s not.
But the other thing that folks here will tell you -- because you ask them,
Well, if you were here in 1999 and you`re still here again, will you stay?
And everybody I talked to said they would.
This is something you`re brought up with and you learn and you drill it in
school, and many parents talk to their kids about it. And almost
instinctively, when I talk to some people -- one guy was across the street
and decided he had to get home. Instinctively, he knew what closet he was
going to go to, and everything fell around him and he was OK.
JANSING: So is anything 100 percent safe? No. But there are storm
shelters. People have built their own storm shelters. And they do know
where to go. And there are procedures because if you think, Chris, of a
multiplex movie theater and the people that we talked to -- they got into
the hall and everybody seemed to be pretty organized. Nobody talked about
it being chaotic.
That`s pretty remarkable, and I think it speaks to the fact that this is a
place where tornadoes happen and people know what to do.
MATTHEWS: You mentioned schools. Tell me what we know about Plaza Towers.
Last night, we got a report -- fortunately, it wasn`t accurate -- of 24
kids being killed. A local news report apparently was being passed around
by authorities. And it turns out it was less than that.
But the fact that they chose, the teachers, as the smart move -- the safest
move was to keep the kids in a stronger structure, at a school building,
get them against a wall in the safest part of the building and hope for the
What do we know about what happened following that procedure?
JANSING: Well, let me tell you. One of the things that gave me chills --
and there are always stories of heroism that come out of these tragedies,
Chris. One of the stories is of a teacher who got her kids to the safe
place and then worried that the roof was going to come off -- and in fact,
the ceiling did collapse -- had them all go down, and she put her arms
around them and covered their heads.
One of the fathers said that he has absolutely no doubt that she saved the
life of her young students that day. She is hospitalized. He said that
the storm was so powerful, it actually pulled eyeglasses off of the kids.
But there she was, taking care of them.
Another teacher who was at a preschool and the kids were understandably
very upset. Some of them were crying and some of them were yelling. And
they -- she had taught them this song "You Are My Sunshine" and got them
all singing the song so they would stay calm and nobody would try to run
away and they would all be safe.
So I think that`s just more of the remarkable stories. It reminded me so
much of Newtown and the heroism of teachers and how under the most
stressful circumstances, they seem instinctively, and I`m sure through
training, obviously, as well, they know what to do.
MATTHEWS: And so do you, Chris Jansing. Thanks for that great report.
It`s always great to have you on the ground when something good or bad
happens. Thanks so much for being here.
JANSING: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: NBC`s Savannah Guthrie spoke with Rhonda Crosswhite (ph) --
that`s a teacher at Plaza Towers -- I mentioned that school. It`s an
elementary school that Chris Jansing mentioned. When they knew the tornado
was coming, Crosswhite protected her students, as we just heard from Chris,
by lying on top of them and comforting them throughout the deal.
Crosswhite reunited with one of those students during her interview with
Savannah. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RHONDA CROSSWHITE, TEACHER: I was in a stall with some kids, and it just
started coming down. So I laid on top of them. One of my little boys just
said -- he just kept saying, I love you, I love you, please don`t die with
me, please don`t die with me.
I never thought I was going to die. The whole time, I just kept screaming
to them, Quit worrying, we`re fine, we`re fine, we`re fine, we`re fine.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC CORRESPONDENT: I do have a student here who wants to
say thank you to you. This is Damien Klein (ph), and his mom, Brandy (ph).
CROSSWHITE: I told you we were going to be OK!
MATTHEWS: Alfredo Corrales, Maria Luna and Viviana Luna survived
yesterday`s tornado in their storm shelter. They all join us now. Thank
you so much, Alfredo and your family. Tell us your decision to build a
storm shelter. What works and what doesn`t in these kinds of E5 -- or EF-
5, rather, tornadoes, the worst there are?
ALFREDO CORRALES, TORNADO SURVIVOR: Well, I mean, the only thing I can say
about the storm cellars is that that`s the only way to go, especially when
you have a tornado this big. You know, the news, you know, the weathermen
tell you all the time if it`s that big, if you`re above ground, you`re just
not going to survive it. So I mean, really, the only thing I can tell
people is that, you know, the seriousness of having a storm cellar is at a
MATTHEWS: And people have told me in the last 24 hours that it`s hard to
build because the ground is so hard down there. Is it expensive or
difficult to put a shelter in, to dig it in the ground?
CORRALES: You know, I mean, the clay here, it`s just -- it`s red clay, so
the clay is -- the dirt is hard. Expensive-wise, honestly, I mean, it`s
probably a few thousand dollars.
CORRALES: It`s $5,000 or $6,000 the last I knew.
MATTHEWS: And let me ask Maria Luna, your wife, about how you managed to
get the whole family to the shelter in time to avoid horror.
MARIA LUNA, TORNADO SURVIVOR: Well, to be honest with you, I was at work
when all this happened. It was Alfredo, and actually Vivi, my daughter,
that was there by herself at the house. And then Alfredo got home. And
he`s the one that got -- told her to go into the shelter because the
tornado was close.
But me being at work, I was really worried because there were no cell phone
lines. There was no communication. I couldn`t get ahold of them. So I
was really worried about them.
MATTHEWS: Viviana, you just survived one of the biggest tornadoes ever to
hit your area. What are you going to be able to tell people what it was
like, how you got the warning, how much time you had, what it was like
racing to the shelter?
VIVIANA LUNA, TORNADO SURVIVOR: This is something that is honestly
unexplainable. I can`t even begin to tell you how I feel or how I felt
during this whole experience. There wasn`t much time between getting from
my house to the shelter just because the tornado was already so close. I`m
just still in shock as of everything that`s been happening.
MATTHEWS: How much warning did you get?
VIVIANA LUNA: I got maybe about five or ten minutes` warning. Then once
Alfredo got home, he told me to get my butt in the shelter, and that`s
exactly what I did.
MATTHEWS: Alfredo, how much time did you have to get your daughter, or to
get this whole thing organized?
CORRALES: You know, we actually -- you know, we listened to the news the
day before. You know, we had the big tornadoes that hit Shawnee, and the
weathermen basically told us that we were going to have the same type of
outbreak the next day. And so we were already kind of a little bit warned
on that part of it.
And so we kind of knew when the outbreak was going to kind of form and
start up, and we just -- you know, I was at my office with a few of my
business partners, and we just got on our laptops, pulled up the radar to
kind of see where things were going. And they were just getting really
bad, so we made the executive decision to go to my house, where we have the
And it was probably -- you know, from getting there to the house, we
probably -- to orchestrate it all, we probably had less than maybe five
minutes at the most.
MATTHEWS: Good work. Good work for you. Congratulations. I shouldn`t
say that because this is still a horror for the community, but you did the
right thing. Alfredo, thank you. Maria and Viviana, great accounts from
Our coverage of the tragedy in Oklahoma will continue in just a minute.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) stand in front, and I heard the roar of the
tornado. And then I grabbed my dog, and we went and lay down in the
closet, saw the glass breaking and the things crashing and rumbling. And
then the ceiling -- the roof tore off. I could see little holes starting
to develop in the ceiling, and I could actually see the tornado.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Boy, that`s a good account there. Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Local, state and federal officials have been out in full force responding
to the disaster left by yesterday`s tornado. Let`s go back to Moore,
Oklahoma, where Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb is there. He joins us
tonight. Welcome, Lieutenant Governor -- rather, Governor. Thank you for
joining us. Give us a sense, in your authority position right now, what`s
getting done, what you need from FEMA, how things stand in terms of dealing
with this incredible disaster?
LT. GOV. TODD LAMB (R), OKLAHOMA: Well, Chris, it`s absolutely horrific.
You know, you see the images on the television. It pales in comparison to
real life. Absolutely, the devastation is horrific.
I was with the governor yesterday when we were at the emergency operations
center when she spoke to the president. She also made the request to FEMA.
Everything that`s been requested by the state of Oklahoma to the federal
authorities, to the president, and to FEMA -- every request has been
granted. And we`re receiving federal assistance at this time.
MATTHEWS: So how does it work now, just so -- we`d like to get a sense, I
would, of how it works. You call Washington, you call Fugate. You call
Craig Fugate himself, the head of FEMA. How does it work government to
government, state to federal, in these kind of catastrophes?
LAMB: Well, inside the bunker yesterday, shortly after the tornado
completed its devastation here in Moore, Oklahoma, Governor Fallin called
the regional director of FEMA with our emergency management director, Alvin
Ashwood (ph). And then went through a formal procedure of requesting
federal assistance for the four counties that were affected from the
tornadoes the day before and the tornado here in Moore yesterday.
That was the semantics of going through the process. That would allow us
in Oklahoma -- in any state, for that matter, that goes through the process
-- to begin removing the regulation to hire contracts, contract workers,
and remove the competitive bid process so we can seek relief on a quicker
basis for emergencies such as this.
MATTHEWS: I`ve gotten an education on what you do in these situations and
how devastating it can be. Under around the New York City area, in Breezy
Point and places like Staten Island, the Rockaways, where all the
electricity is blown away, where you have people`s homes electrical systems
are blown away, where the houses are declared basically unlivable, and you
have to deal with almost a rock bottom situation, where whole communities
have to be rebuilt, especially the electrical systems, the sewer systems,
the water systems.
How do you do the triage in the next couple of months, in fact, the next
couple of days?
LAMB: Well, it`s the assessment process. And you hit the nail on the
head, Chris. It`s one thing to go through the rescue efforts we`re going
through right now and the recovery efforts we`re going through right now,
the cleanup we`re going through right now. But I`ve talked to many people
and they ask me what are my thoughts.
Well, don`t forget Oklahoma in three days. Don`t forget Oklahoma in one
week. Don`t forget Oklahoma in three weeks. Moore, Oklahoma, where we
are, you have said it many times, I know already, on your program, this is
the third time we have had this go through Moore, 1999, 2003, and
We will rebuild. We`re a strong people. We`re a people of faith and a
people of hope. But it`s going to be a long process to go through the
rescue, recovery and cleanup. And, as you said, power`s out. Electricity
is down. There are water issues right now. There`s a -- there`s a long
road ahead of us, but we will overcome once again.
MATTHEWS: You know, we were -- we were just talking to a family whose
lives were saved by being in a shelter. It didn`t look like a very
expensive shelter, a couple of thousand dollars, Alfredo Corrales told us,
his personal family shelter.
Is that something that -- that should be part of the rebuilding, the
building of -- I know the ground down there is tough. And there`s a water
level problem. But is there a possibility that we can -- you can`t ensure
against this kind of disaster. But is there any way to prepare better than
it`s been prepared, without casting any blame, of course, in the future?
LAMB: No, I understand your question.
I think it`s a fair question and an appropriate question whenever you see
devastation of this magnitude, particularly, as I have said, to the
exponential number of three. I have got a great relationship with
Congressman Tom Cole. I know you have a relationship with Congressman Tom
MATTHEWS: Yes, he`s good.
LAMB: I have known him for over two decades.
He`s a great statesman. And we`re in his district right now. He`s got
boots on the ground. It`s my understanding he`s already arrived from
Washington. He`s taking a tour right now with the governor. And I will
defer to Congressman Cole with any legislation he sponsors on Capitol Hill
and what he thinks is best for his district that has been so devastated
MATTHEWS: I was just thinking maybe tax breaks for people or any kind of
subsidy, because we`re all in this together. And maybe it`s a good thing
to encourage people to do the kind of thing the Corrales family did.
Now, I don`t know. I don`t live there, but you got the situation. Let me
ask you about living in that part of the country, this sort of God be with
us situation, where you know you really can`t save your life. It depends
on the luck of the draw in a sense.
I have been hearing in the last 24 hours that sometimes you can be on the
same street and one house will get blown away and one won`t. What are the
vagaries of the tornadoes? Do they -- they`re not homogeneous the way they
cut through the ground. They seem to cut in almost -- irregularly. You
can`t figure them out. What`s your experience in that regard?
LAMB: The term freak of nature applies no better than the force -- to the
force of a tornado.
I passed -- as I was coming down to Moore this morning about 5:50 a.m., I
passed by a shopping center about four or five stores long, the bookend
stores almost completely intact, but the store in the very middle hollowed
LAMB: And the storm actually passed north to south over the mall.
So my point is, they`re a freak of nature. And you hear about straws of
hay going through stockade fences. That happens. There was a window
knocked out, two tornadoes -- excuse me -- two days ago in a tornado. The
window was knocked out in the shape of a heart in one of our hospitals in
north Oklahoma City in the Edmond area. They`re freaks of nature. You
never know what they`re going to do and how they`re going to impact a
structure or a community.
MATTHEWS: Well, as a lifelong movie buff, I was happy to know -- and I
mean this in all seriousness -- that they had an organized system at the --
one of those cineplexes down there in that area. They were able to get the
people into the most -- strongest part of the movie structure, the cineplex
structure. They got them in the hallway. And everything was done in an
organized, regular, really gutsy way, and it worked. The people made it.
LAMB: It did work.
And I`m -- Chris, as I`m looking at the camera, that is just -- I`m looking
right now at the theater of which you speak to show you how close it is to
where we are standing. I know a father and a son who was going to see
"Star Trek" yesterday afternoon.
LAMB: And they hunkered down in that hallway, and it was a horrific time,
is what the father said.
MATTHEWS: And they got through it?
LAMB: They got through it. They survived and they got through it.
MATTHEWS: Governor, it`s great to talk to you, Lieutenant Governor Todd
Lamb of Oklahoma. Hold in there, sir.
For Oklahomans affected by the tornado, relief organizations are already on
hand to help tonight. And if you would like to help -- and I`m sure you`re
thinking about it -- here`s the number. You can`t forget this one, 1-800-
RED-CROSS, 1-800-RED-CROSS, or go to RedCross.org, RedCross.org.
You can also text Red Cross to 90999 -- 90999 -- from your phone to
automatically give 10 bucks to relief efforts. That`s not a bad thing to
do. The Red Cross is specifically requesting -- by the way, they always do
this -- giving blood, good thing to do. Shows a little guts to do that,
and people need it.
Our coverage will continue in just a minute.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The tornado that hit Oklahoma yesterday was remarkable, for its size,
strength and the devastation it left behind, as you can see. What were the
conditions that coalesced to create such a monster funnel? Look at it
there. Oh. Look at it.
Well, it hit the town of Moore, Oklahoma. It hit so hard and so often.
What caused all that?
Joining me now is an expert, The Weather Channel`s Dr. Greg Forbes.
Dr. Forbes, thank you for being with us tonight.
And, you know, we always like to understand nature, because maybe in some
part of our brain, we think, or our soul, we hope we can have some impact
of protecting ourselves and understanding what God`s plan is, if you will.
This tornado went to an EF-5. What does that tell you? Is this really the
peak of what a tornado can be?
DR. GREG FORBES, THE WEATHER CHANNEL: yes. The enhanced Fujita scale, EF
goes from 0 to 5. So, 5 is the highest. That means it had wind gusts at
least at one location in excess of 200 miles per hour.
MATTHEWS: When I`m looking at it as a -- there it is. This is
frightening. It`s getting wide. It`s getting wider. It starts as kind of
a winding snake, first a fragmented snake, then a complete snake, then this
winding funnel. And then apparently it widens to up to two miles.
What is it that that -- if that didn`t touch ground, would there be any
devastation? Does it have to actually get to the ground visibly to cause
FORBES: Sometimes, for the very narrowest of tornadoes, the funnel coming
down from a cloud will remain there, but if you look down near the surface,
there will be a little bit of a dust swirl kicked up. So that`s where it
Typically, though, those kind that the funnel doesn`t come all the way to
the ground, they`re a little bit on the weaker side. It`s not usual that
you get those to be the EF-5 type. Those more often are the big, wide
wedge kind of tornadoes, like it ultimately was as it came through Moore.
But the tornadoes go through cycles. Sometimes, they begin narrow, get
very wide, and then rope out get very narrow again at the very end of their
MATTHEWS: Well, the ropy part is the scariest part.
Maybe we were taught when we were kids from "Wizard of Oz" that is the
scariest. Let me ask you about the weather conditions that create this.
Can you predict, given certain climates -- not climates, but different
weather fronts hitting each other between the Appalachian Mountains or
whatever and the -- or, rather, the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi
River? Can you predict one of these with any accuracy?
These kind of big outbreaks like this one were foreseen for days in
advance, not the exact location of where they will hit, but the general
area of Central Oklahoma was known days in advance to be the prime threat
day there on Monday.
What happened was big upper air disturbance, cold pocket aloft, up 20,000
feet, 30,000 feet in the atmosphere came east, while at the same time the
Gulf of Mexico moisture was getting stronger and stronger coming in from
the south. So, that meeting up and overlapping of those two kinds of air
masses made for the vulnerable conditions that allowed the explosive
thunderstorms and ones that rotate and produce long-lived destructive
MATTHEWS: Well, without getting into the politics of it, what -- we have a
different climate, it seems. We had a tornado hit Western Massachusetts.
We have had very strange, in fact scary, weather, unpredictable, out of
You know, it used to be you got snow in the winter and the weather changed
gradually until June. Then it got really hot here in July in Washington
and then even hotter in July, a little less hot in August. There was a
predictability to the weather we grew up with.
Is it becoming less predictable? Can you something is called Tornado Alley
now with any accuracy and say you`re safe somewhere else?
FORBES: Well, certainly, what we have learned in research over the years
is that what has traditionally been called Tornado Alley, the North
Texas/Oklahoma/Kansas/Nebraska/Iowa area, has been a little bit overdone.
There is also an extension of that that has sometimes been called Dixie
Alley across the Gulf Coast states. In 2011, those were extremely active,
with Alabama in April 2011 seeing such a devastating outbreak. So part of
the Tornado Alley now that we realize goes from places like Kansas and
Oklahoma, East Texas, and then swings all the way over into Alabama. Those
are where typically the most destructive tornadoes occur.
MATTHEWS: And this time of year, May, is this the -- is this the height?
Is this predictably the height of the tornado season?
FORBES: In an average year, May is the most active, somewhat less so in
April and somewhat less so in June.
But it does vary somewhat from year to year. Thus, the first half of May
this year was very, very quiet, nearly on a record low pace. But,
obviously, now the pace has picked up more toward what we expect in mid to
MATTHEWS: And what do you expect?
FORBES: Well, it certainly looks like the pattern in the next few days is
going to calm down a little bit, relative -- slowly, relative to what we
have seen these last few days.
But given that we are in that prime time now, we have gotten away from
those late-season snowstorms that made a lot of the United States so cold
that it didn`t have the instability. So, it looks like we`re going to be
pretty active now from late May into June.
MATTHEWS: Yes. It`s behind him we`re looking at the pictures now, right,
of the -- let me ask you about the personality, it seems, of these things.
When you study them -- we were using the word monster the other day.
People were. They have almost, it seems like, a personality, these
conditions, if you want to call them that.
FORBES: Yes. Yes, indeed.
These strongest of all tornadoes are, indeed, monsters. They`re so wide
and have so much power and have thrown so much debris within them that it`s
not just the wind force. It`s the force of all the objects that are being
thrown. And those are hitting the next house down and adding even more
force to it.
So, these strongest of tornadoes, ordinary homes are no match for them.
The only really safe place to be in the core of this Moore tornado was
underground storm shelters.
FORBES: And, fortunately, there were a number of those, including the home
we`re at right now.
MATTHEWS: Yes, we were with a family, the Corrales family, that survived
because of that.
Again, the question of climate and climate change, is there something that
you see happening? Now, it could be caused by all kinds of forces, but is
there a sort of climate -- climatic aspect to this, it`s not just seasonal
or that kind of thing, that it is -- is there a cycle going on now, a trend
going on? How would you describe it, if there is one?
FORBES: Well, the jury, so to speak, is out a little bit in terms of the
climate relationship to tornadoes.
My own thinking is that, as the atmosphere is slowly warming, that has
allowed in the cool months warm air to get farther north. We have seen
over the past decade or so a lot of tornadoes at more northern latitudes in
the middle of the winter months that in the past, we were having
So that is my own take...
FORBES: ... that we can have tornadoes in bigger parts of the country
year-round. There`s been some computer model research that suggests that
for the core of the spring and summer, that the kind of wind shear, the
strong winds aloft, actually will be decreasing over the decades, and that
might actually reduce the tornado threat a little bit in prime time, May --
late April, May, June months, or perhaps shift it a little bit farther
north than it typically has been.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I think I can`t ever get over the idea of a tornado in
Western Massachusetts, up where I went to college. The idea of a tornado
in Massachusetts is just un-normal to me.
Anyway, Dr. Greg Forbes, thank you so much for your expertise at this time.
Our coverage of the massive devastation from yesterday`s tornado will
continue after this.
And what were you looking at right -- what you`re looking at right now is a
time-lapse video of yesterday`s tornado. There it is. We`re getting the
full picture as it rips through Moore, Oklahoma, with wind speeds now
clocked at over 200 miles an hour. The tornado was at one point three
miles at its widest. It covered nearly 20 miles in a span of just 40
minutes. That -- look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was able to find pictures, which everything else is
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got out here after it passed, and I just fell to my
knees. That`s all -- all I could do. Me and my fiancee, everything we
owned was in the trailer. And the is -- this is all we got left.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
When a tornado hits, of course, you think people would run away from the
danger. But, these guys, they run towards it. We`re talking about storm
chasers. They document, analyze, and help forecast superstorms up close
and personal, like this one we`re looking at.
Some of them even play hosts to tornado tourists. It might sound crazy,
but people actually pay to ride along with these guys and get up close to
nature at its worst.
Chris McBee is the co-owner of Rapid Rotation Storm Tours. He joins us
from Moore, Oklahoma.
And you might know Simon Brewer right now from the Weather Channel series
"Storm Riders," he`s actively chasing these tornadoes right now and joins
us on the phone.
So, let`s start with Chris.
This turns out to be one of the big ones, EF-5. Tell me how that differs
when you get up to 200 miles an hour, what that`s capable of doing to
property, human, animal life, whatever? Buildings?
CHRIS MCBEE, STORM CHASER: Well, just as you can see, it`s just utter
destruction everywhere you look. There are houses completely ripped off
their foundations. It`s an awful scene here, as you can plainly see. When
you get up into the EF-5 range, that`s incredible damage. That`s how they
categorize that. And it`s just awful, as is obvious on the ground here in
MATTHEWS: We`re looking at kind of a snaking, it`s a little bit wider than
a snaking twisters. It`s one of those that sort of to me is iconic, an
iconic twister. How close can you get to watching that when you take
people to go look at it and hopefully are safe when they do it?
MCBEE: Well, we do everything safely, my storm tour company. A tornado
that large, we would not get very close to with a tour company -- with, I`m
sorry, with a tour group just because it`s just not safe to have people
just in the line of fire like that.
We certainly view it from a far distance, and do what we could to help, you
know, in the aftermath. But when you deal with tornadoes this large, it`s
-- like I said, it`s just incredible devastation.
MATTHEWS: What were you able to do to help people yesterday?
MCBEE: Well, we were in a 15-passenger van and came down here to the movie
theater which is just down here. And they had a triage unit set up. We
asked if we could help with anything. We actually transported some people
out of there that needed to get out of town that had lost their cars in the
tornado. So, we were able to help some people get out of the danger zone.
MATTHEWS: So, going to the movies, apparently "Star Trek" was playing, the
new one. They were huddled apparently in a corridor among the various
movie screens. And they got through it. And then they come outside and
what happened? Their cars were gone.
MCBEE: Yes. Yes. I think that happened to a lot of people. Were just
enjoying a normal day and then this utter destruction just comes through.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Mr. Brewer. Let me ask you about this. When
you`re chasing these cells right now, where are they now? What kind of
dangers are we facing still in the Oklahoma area, somewhere in tornado
SIMON BREWER, STORM CHASER (via telephone): Well, Oklahoma is OK, but
we`re on some pretty big storms in northeastern Texas. And we just drove
through one near Mt. Pleasant, Texas. And it was really blasting some
strong wind. Saw a lot of tree limbs go down. Saw some cars having a lot
of trouble driving. Got some hail.
And there is a chance you can have tornadoes along the edge of this line.
MATTHEWS: Are we at the beginning, the middle or the end of the tornado
season, historically? Simon?
BREWER: Well, historically we`re really at the peak of the tornado season.
This year has been a little what you call slow as far as tornadoes are
concerned. But some large hail patterns got together and now, we`re in a
very active pattern.
MATTHEWS: Again, to you, I asked this earlier. What is -- is there any
difference between what we`re watching now and what we would have watched
30 years ago in terms of the climate? The climate aspect is there a
climatic -- without getting, again, into the politics, is there a warming
situation we`re facing that makes more likely to have tornadoes or any way
it`s influencing these weather conditions? The climate? The heat?
BREWER: Well, as far as tornadoes are concerned, climate really doesn`t
pay any attention to tornadoes. I mean, tornadoes are such a small-scale
Now, as far as tornado distribution, you can make some arguments that maybe
tornado description would be shifting a little further north. But, really,
the same things that come together to make tornadoes aren`t the same things
that come together to make large-scale effects like droughts and flooding
events. Tornadoes are on such a smaller scale than that.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Chris McBee and storm chasing.
Tell me about what you do? I mean, I`m always fascinated by how people
make a living in this country. And all seriousness, tell me about the
kinds of people that want to be tourists, if you will, who really are
fascinated with this weather condition known as a tornado.
MCBEE: Yes, tornadoes are big news, obviously. This is just wall-to-wall
news about tornadoes. But they`re very interesting to people in all walks
of life. We have people from other countries coming to tour and see the
tornadoes with us as well. You know, these people just are -- they`re
weather enthusiasts. They want to learn more about it and they want to be
a part of it. And we try to help them achieve that.
MATTHEWS: So they come in May? When do they come? Is it like selling
Christmas trees? Essentially you better sell them at Christmastime?
Do people come -- I`m dead serious. It`s something I don`t know about. Do
they come and you tell them to come in May? That`s a good season to
possibly experience a historic tornado if that`s what you`re looking for?
MCBEE: Well, I mean, we offer, you know, tours between April and June.
So, yes, there`s a certain time of the year that is more favorable and
we`re right in the middle of that right now. And these kind of things
MATTHEWS: Give me a distribution of where around the world people come
from to see this thing.
MCBEE: We`ve had a lot of interest from the U.K. and Australia mainly.
Some interest from Germany and some other European countries as well.
MATTHEWS: What`s it cost?
MCBEE: Twenty-eight dollars for a week, about $300 a day. You know, we
offer daily and weekly tours. But, yes, I mean --
MATTHEWS: Fascinating, because I`m fascinated now. I guess I can imagine
people building a, you know, not a hobby, that`s lighthearted, but
fascinated by the power of nature.
And when you`re with them and giving them the tour, what do -- what do you
tell them about this power that they`re looking at? This nature at its
MCBEE: Well, really, when we`re up close and personal with the storms,
nature kind of speaks for itself. We`ll explain what`s going on, explain
the weather situation and show them all our equipment. But the tornadoes
can really speak for themselves which is with their power and just really
Mother Nature at its worst.
MATTHEWS: Thanks, Chris McBee. Thanks for joining us.
And, Simon Brewer, thank you, sir, for joining us as well.
Our coverage will continue in just a minute.
MATTHEWS: Well, it has been some 24 hours. You`ve heard many stories of
survival and heroism in the face of yesterday`s massive tornado.
Let`s listen now to the voice of some of those who watched the tornado
close up as it happened and others whose lives were upended in the storm.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REPORTER: The thing is it`s huge. Keep going left, Travis. Keep going
left. Right there, boom there it is. There it is, Mike. On the ground,
REPORTER: It`s right down 19th approaching Santa Fe. We had to bail out
of it because it was coming right at us.
LANCE WEST, REPORTER: I`ve never seen anything like this in my 18 years
covering tornadoes here in Oklahoma City.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see the latch coming undone. We couldn`t reach for
it. It ripped open the door. We thought we were dead, to be honest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just like on the movie "Twister". There was horses and
stuff flying everywhere.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just started grabbing and throwing debris, trying
to get anybody out. And we successfully got people out, just not alive.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: The teacher covered us up on the (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was on top of six kids.
REPORTER: On top of six children.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was lying on top of them.
REPORTER: They`re all OK?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of them are OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was just, we`re listening to them saying, if you
live in this telephone road, you better not get in your house, get
underground. I was like, my dad, he`s going to be outside watching the
tornado. Oh, my gosh.
But, luckily, by the grace of God, he just went in the closet, the only
MARGO MATEAS: I mean, I felt it coming at me. I just held on to the door
and said we will not be harmed. We were not be harmed. And we weren`t.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drive down through here and see eight houses gone. You
don`t know if you`re going to have a house or not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My wife and I, we worked hard for everything we have.
We just now paid off our house. We were debt-free. Had no house payment.
LARRY WHITMORE: I have yet to find my F-150 pickup. I don`t know where
it`s at. And it was full sized 2007 crew cab super crew F-150. I don`t
know where it`s at. I`m going to be OK.
We`re going to get back. We`re definitely Okies. That`s what we`re known
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
"Time" magazine`s Jay Newton-Small has been on the ground reporting since
hours after the storm struck. She`s talked to the people of Moore,
Oklahoma, who`ve seen their homes destroyed and saved their own neighbor`s
The new issue of "Time" magazine devotes, it`s covered the devastating
I guess we don`t have -- I guess we don`t have Jay yet.
But this has been an amazing experience f u up north to cover an area of
the country. I`ve never been to Oklahoma. I think it`s the only state
I`ve never been to. It`s got an incredible history of weather. To think
the Dust Bowl changed so much of American history in the 1930s. "The
Grapes of Wrath" is all about the weather conditions down there and what it
caused to the agriculture and killing of the agriculture for a long period
of time in the Dust Bowl.
And now, this history of tornadoes which were real, it`s very competitive.
This one, an EF-5 which is the worst of the hurricanes you can face, only
matching up to one they had earlier back in 1999. So, it`s clearly in that
same area that we call tornado alley going through the same city, the same
suburb of 40,000-some people in Moore, Oklahoma.
There it is, we`re looking at now, hit again with the same kind of damage.
Luckily, the pictures you`re seeing are not represented by that many deaths
or injuries. The devastation is physical. As I said, it looks like a
neutron bomb blowing away homes, blowing away cars.
You`re at the movie theater. You come out from the movie theater, you`re
still alive. Your car has disappeared into the 300-mile-an-hour wind, in
this incredible situation where people got a warning and they acted on it.
Those people -- most of the people got out of there. They got away. They
got in their cars and moved on. Or they had real shelter like the Corrales
family which had the little refrigerator like shelter they bought for a
couple of thousand bucks and save their lives, the father and the daughter
there. We`ve met Vivian and Alfredo, we saw how they were able to save
their lives by that emergency decision.
And we`re going to come back and talk about this again tomorrow and
throughout this evening.
MSNBC is committed to covering this story well and in human terms without
the politics. I think we`re going to do a great job tonight. So stay with
Thanks for being with us tonight on HARDBALL.
Our coverage continues now on "POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton.
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