tv CNN Presents CNN May 30, 2011 5:00pm-6:00pm PDT
their sacrifice. it is in the sunrises and sunsets, the birthdays and the holidays, the first dates and the firstborns, all the cherished moments they have made possible for the families they left behind. ♪ tonight, the terrible power of tornadoes and the almost unimaginable impact of one. the one that hit joplin, missouri. the deadliest tornado on record, part of the deadliest tornado season in half a century. it came, it stayed on the ground a very long time, and when it left, it took a large part of joplin with it. >> oh, man! >> stop the car! >> okay.
>> oh, we've got lightning. we need to go back. let's turn around. >> oh, it's getting big, big, big. >> that's huge! >> for those who survived, the scars will always be them. nearly two dozen people, including three young men, took cover in a convenience store in a walk-in beer cooler. one turned on his camera as the tornado struck. the video is dark, but the sound tells a story. >> oh! [ wind blowing ] >> oh, my god! >> jesus, jesus! >> imagine pushing open the door after that incredible experience. elsewhere in joplin, one couple
recorded the scene in their neighborhood moments after the tornado struck. destruction all around them, homes on fire. they called out for the young man's sister and her fiance. >> sarah! sarah! mike! >> of course, there's no end to the heartbreak, but no end to hope either. we met tracy pressler and her niece, sarah norton. they were looking for sarah's brother, will, who was driving home from his graduation with his dad and was sucked out of the sunroof with the suv as the tornado struck. >> we cry a lot. >> yeah, we cry. >> but we have faith, you know, that they're going to find him alive. you have to have hope and you have to pray. and if they don't, we just pray they find him. >> we're going to have more on will norton's story tonight. and also that of lance heir, a 16-year-old who disappeared in the storm, and his father told
he he would drive to every hospital he could. >> until lantze is find dead or alive, i've got to find him. >> reporter: frank wood rushed his family into their storm shelter as a twister struck. >> we got to get in now. come on, bud. it's coming right over us. we're right in its path. >> one beloved member of the wood family, roxy, the dog, didn't make it into the shelter. we'll find out what happened to her, and believe me, you'll want to hear that. all these stories in detail tonight, and witness the courage of people beset by both catastrophe and tragedy. but we start at the beginning. it's 5:40 on sunday evening and a monster rakes across joplin, missouri. >> strong tornado! >> listen to it! >> as the twister roars toward
this convenience store -- >> no, they haven't yet. the sirens aren't going. >> frightened customers huddle in terror inside a dark refrigerated storeroom. >> jesus! [ people screaming ] [ wind blowing ] >> jesus, jesus, jesus. heavenly father -- >> everybody okay?! >> you guys all okay? >> yes! >> we're all right! we're all right! >> amazingly, everyone inside survives. >> i've got debris on the ground, right here! debris on the ground! >> the massive tornado, believed to be three quarters of a mile wide with winds exceeding 190 miles an hour rips a path of destruction four miles long, right through the heart of the city. >> oh, my god! >> by monday morning, the devastation was clear. buildings on fire.
entire neighborhoods wiped out. st. john's medical center with 183 patients took a direct hit. it was unclear if any of the patients were injured during the storm, but the twister hurled x-rays as far as 70 miles, heaved gurneys for blocks, and smashed the building's glass facade. >> the windows are blown out. there's debris hanging outside of the windows. part of the roof, the whole top is missing. i mean, i'm standing behind the hospital, and cinder blocks, walls, brick walls are just crumbled. >> the tornado also struck joplin high school, just as seniors were finishing graduation ceremonies nearby. parents and students escaped, but the school was demolished. >> i walked around as much as i could to see it, and it just looks like it's just been bombed from the outside in. i mean, it's just -- it's terrible. >> the storm left cars and trucks on top of each other. this walmart, now flattened, this home depot crushed.
we don't know how many shoppers were inside the stores when the twister hit. thankfully, residents did have warning the storm was coming. >> by our count, we had 17 minutes' time between we turned the sirens on and we had the first report of a strike. >> 17 minutes, not a lot of time with a monster about to rip through the soul of joplin. the level of destruction was overwhelm withing. not just block after block of rubble, but neighborhood after neighborhood flattened, as far as the eye could see, even from the cockpit of a helicopter. the first job for the first responders was search and rescue. a handful of survivors were pulled from the rubble after the tornado hit, but the level of destruction was so extensive, they were prepared to find bodies. i spent time with missouri task force one, who was searching the home depot. take a look. at joplin's home depot, the search and rescue personnel from missouri task force one have not found anyone alive. they've only found bodies. >> everything that we did yesterday were recoveries, and we completed seven of those. >> reporter: do you think there
are more people still inside? >> we have some indication from our k-9 alerts that, yeah, we have some people underneath those slabs. >> reporter: do you think they're still alive? >> i think it's unlikely. >> reporter: doug westhoff is the task force leader. >> we had people coming by, had indication they were in the store, potentially underneath those slabs. one gentleman knew that his son-in-laws and grandkids were in all likelihood in that store and he waited around all day. >> reporter: mortuary teams wait around, but search and rescue personnel still hope to find someone alive. >> the dogs are trained to search for live people who are trapped or entombed in structures exactly like this. >> reporter: this task force has four dogs working in joplin. dr. dora chamberlain's dog is named katie. >> they've got to be naked. if they have a call heart ollar
on, they can get trapped. i take all of this off when i send her in. >> many of the fatalities at the home depot have been found near the front of the store. >> if they were huddled near the front, that would have been the most dangerous spot for them? >> unfortunately, yes, because that's where the walls came down. >> reporter: they used heavy equipment to drill through the collapsed walls and check underneath, then they push the walls out of the way. >> this is actually a wall of the home depot. >> sure. >> and that was up, and then it fell. and you guys picked up the whole wall -- >> what you've got is a piece of concrete, you can see the inhalatii insulation foam in between and another layer of concrete on top of that. >> this is all insulation? >> absolutely. >> this was a much more survivable environment here than it would have been to have been at the front of the store where those huge concrete walls came down on folks. >> have you already been through this area? >> yeah, even with the front of the store being inaccessible, we were able to probe in from different places.
>> with so much heavy equipment needed, the search is sometimes frustratingly slow. how much are you working against the clock here in terms of the bad weather coming later today? >> we're working against the clock all the time, both for the survivability profile, and the forecast for the bad weather. so, yeah, we're always under the gun for that. we had to shelter our folks a few times yesterday, just based on the lightning strikes and the hail and rain and that sort of stuff, just makes it impossible to move around and do it safely. >> reporter: time is running out, and there's still so much to do. doug westhoff is trying to be optimistic. >> if the space is right, if the void is big enough, these people -- people can last many days like this. so we're two to three days into this thing and we're sort of the eternal optimists out here, anderson. we're going to maintain hope as long as we can. the reality is always creeping in the back of your brain, that this is becoming less and less likely a rescue and more and more likely recovery, but that's the reality of the world we live in. >> reporter: by the end of the day, they find one trapped person, but sadly, that person had already died.
the searching continues, however, even here in joplin, amidst all this misery, even here, there is still some hope. well, yeah, there is still hope in joplin. up next, inside the search for the missing. two teenagers vanish when the tornado hit. their families desperate for answers. we'll bring you their stories ahead. and ahead, a family scrambling for shelter as the tornado gets close, but where is the family dog? >> that's once in a lifetime! you'll probably never see this again. and it's moving fast. >> holy -- >> it's huge. >> they got into a shelter, the dog didn't. you'll want to see how this story ends, coming up. ♪ i thought it was over here...
i'm gary tuchman. more of anderson cooper's special report, "deadly impact," in just a moment. but first, a "360" news bulletin. officials in joplin, missouri, say the list of people missing after last week's devastating tornado is down to 29. the death toll is 142, making it the deadliest u.s. tornado since modern recordkeeping began back in 1950. after visiting joplin yesterday,
president obama was at arlington national cemetery this memorial day, laying a wreath at the tomb of the unknowns. the president also visited a section of the cemetery for soldiers killed in iraq and afghanistan. italian officials say eight generals from moammar gadhafi's army have defected. and robert zuma met with gadhafi, pressing for a cease-fire and peace talks in libya. and sarah palin has started a nationwide bus tour. palin says it's not a campaign bus and she's still contemplating whether she's run for president. today, her memorial day stops included washington, mt. vernon, virginia, and gettysburg, pennsylvania. join "a.c. 360" tonight at 10:00 eastern live from gettysburg. now, back to "deadly impact." this is bad. oh, my gosh. this is awful. this is -- look at that!
that is destroyed. completely. >> so many families in joplin are still searching for loved ones and refuse to give up hope. will norton is one young man who went missing in the tornado. he disappeared while driving home with his dad from his high school graduation. his dad, mark, survived. he's seriously injured, though. the powerful winds of the twister pulled will right up through the sunroof of his suv, according to his dad. his family heard reports that a young man matching will's description was taken to a local hospital and then moved to another hospital. well, will's sister tracked down that hospital and visited the young man, but sadly, it wasn't her brother. >> i'm so sorry, sarah. >> it'll be okay. we've got a lot of people looking, sweetie. a lot of people love him. >> for will norton's aunt tracy and his sister, sarah, the wait, at times is too much to bear. will was driving home from his high school graduation with his father, mark, when the tornado
struck. >> mark thought if they could pull into the subdivision, they could maybe find a place to go, and they only got as far as that median when the tornado literally picked him up and they got wrapped up in this stuff and it was a big mess. i don't even know where that came from. >> what has he told you about what happened when the tornado hit? >> he says that he remembers flipping and being airborne and just -- it just kept going. >> reporter: will was in the driver's seat, his father tried to grab him. >> my brother grabbed him from across the seat to hold on to him. he remembers my nephew just started reciting scripture, one verse after another, which, you know, my brother was a little shocked, but will did it all the way up until when he went out the window. >> what window did he go out of? >> the sunroof. he went up. >> so he was literally sucked out of the -- >> he literally was pulled through the window, while my brother held him. and he was ripped out of his arms. >> reporter: mark was found in this ditch, badly injured, but
alive. there's been no sign of will. >> we've called h hundreds and hundreds of hospitals and right now we kind of just think that he's still out here somewhere, waiting to be found. >> reporter: will's family is urging people to search not just in joplin, but in areas even farther away. >> he could be anywhere between here and springfield, missouri. we're not talking half a mile or a mile, i mean, we're talking miles. that storm could have taken him miles. >> reporter: canine team have said called, some trained to find the living, others to find the ted. >> i think sarah's mom, i think she's having probably the toughest time, as any mama would have. you know, you don't want to think that your kids are gone, it's really tough. >> yeah. >> so, we just ask for prayers from everybody. absolutely everybody, and people that are following it on facebook, we really love you, and just pray. pray for everybody. that's what we want.
it'll be okay. it's going to be okay. we'll find him, baby, we'll find him. >> reporter: steve lee, a retired battalion chief with the joplin fire department, is working around the clock to find will. so they've searched the water now a couple times and haven't found anything? >> they've searched it, they're on their second search, just to confirm it, and that's where we're at there. >> reporter: you're carrying a picture of will? >> yes, i have a picture of will here, in case i ever come up to somebody, i can actually just show them who we're looking for. >> we have faith, you know, that they're going to find him alive. you have to have hope and you have to pray. and if they don't, we just pray they find him. we're a strong family and we're going to be together and we're going to find him. someone's going to find him. a lot of people are looking. and there's a lot of families that are suffering and we hope they find their loved ones too, alive.
>> although the unidentified young man in the hospital turned out not to be will norton, word about him spread and gave some hope to other families that their lost teenage boy might be alive. the anguished family of 16-year-old lantz hare was one of them. his mom says lantz was ripped out of a car. i had a chance to speak with lantz's dad in joplin. he vowed to search until he found his son alive or not. what is the last you know about lantz? >> my youngest son called me, and it was maybe ten minutes after the storm, and they -- him and my ex-wife had been trying to get ahold of him over and over, and they couldn't, and they called me, so i started calling him. and still never got anything. i mean, i called it all last night. i called -- >> you've still been calling his number? >> well, i can't stop. i don't know why.
i do. i stayed up until 2:00 last night and that's all i did. >> called his cell phone? does it ring or -- >> it rang for the first day and a half and now it goes straight to voice mail, but just in case he gets it, i want him to know that his dad loves him. >> how are you holding up? >> i got a lot of strong people around me that pick me up. that's about it. i mean, in something as catastrophic as all this, you don't know whether he's underneath a piece of wood or whether he's in a hospital or where he's at. and we've searched and searched and searched. so i've got to keep searching. >> so you're going to go to springfield now and hope for the best? >> i'm walking away from here and going to springfield, missouri, and then i'm going to kansas city, and then i'm going to witchta, and i'll go somewhere else if i have to. >> you'll check all the hospitals, anything you can? >> well, any that we've had reports that there's a kid that
looks like lantz, i can't just sit here and -- the hospitals tell us that it may or may not or it may be him or -- you know? some of the reports are the bruising is so bad that they really can't tell. well, i can tell you whether it's my son. i can tell. and i will tell. >> and you were asked to give dna? >> i was asked to give dna today at missouri southern, a little while ago, and that right there just said it in me that there can't be no stopping, unless lantz's found dead or alive, i've got to keep pushing. i've got to find him. >> it's important to hold on to hope? >> oh, my god, yeah. if you don't have hope, what are you going to do? look at all this. if every family out here didn't have hope that it's going to be better, i've heard on the radio they're going to rebuild st.
john's. that's hope. you've got to have hope. you've got to have god, you've got to have friends and family, you've got to have all of it combined to get you through this. >> well, thanks for talking to us. i appreciate it. >> thank you. >> stay strong. >> sadly, after i spoke to mike hare that day, we learned that his son, lantz, did not survive the tornado. up next, a brother desperate to find his sister, minutes after the tornado hit. >> sarah! mike! sarah! mike! >> sarah! mike! mike! sarah! >> the frantic search, destruction everywhere they looked. see what happened to them, coming up. plus, we'll talk with the people who went through this. they rode out the tornado almost in complete darkness inside a walk-in beer cooler at a convenience store. ber, producing products that save on fuel and emissions like ecopia tires... even making parts for solar panels
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when you look at this, i mean, what do you first see? what does the future hold? >> this is just not the type of community that's going to let a little f-4 tornado kick our ass, so we will rebuild and we will recover. >> this is not going to kick your ass? >> no. we've been here before. it's been a long time, the destruction probably wasn't as bad as this, but we've been here before and we'll rebuild again this time. >> mike woolston, the mayor of joplin, missouri, the night after the tornado hit. the resilience of the people of joplin will no doubt get them
through the difficult weeks and months and even years ahead. as i mentioned at the top of the program, three quick-thinking young men took cover in a gas station convenience store as the tornado hit. they crammed into a walk-in beer cooler with about 20 or so other people. one of them was isaac duncan. he recorded the experience on his iphone. it was almost completely dark inside the cooler, so you're not going to see much, but what's said by those fearing for their lives as the twister struck, that tells the whole story. >> it's going to be okay! >> i think we're going to do it. [ wind blowing ] [ people screaming ] >> hold on! >> everybody, hang on! >> oh, my god! >> jesus, jesus! jesus! >> i spoke to isaac duncan and his two friends, brendan and cory, about their incredible experience. you actually shot the video on
your iphone. >> yeah. >> so tell me what -- you go to the back of the store and you know the storm's coming, you guys have pulled over this convenience store and the front door was locked, right? >> yeah, we basically had to pull over to the closest thing we could find, which was this gas station, and they had locked the door so it wouldn't fling open. we pounded on the door and the clerk came up and unlocked it and we hurried back to the back -- >> how many people were in there at the time? >> probably about 18. >> and how quickly was it that the storm hit? >> probably within a minute, the other person ran up to the door -- the clerk ran up, as the storm was getting really close, and unlocked the door for him, and saved three people, more, that ran in, and then within 30 seconds of that, we were all down in the back, and the glass was just blowing out of the entire front of the store. >> brendan, what was it like for you? what did it sound like? >> it sounded like 100 freight trains running very close to the building. and it started to cave in, and the first thing i noticed was
the smell of gasoline outside, which kind of freaked everybody out. >> you were worried a fire might break out or something? >> yeah, and towards the end of it, right when we were about to climb out, you could smell smoke outside. >> and how long did it last for, cory? >> like three or four minutes, of like, you know, bad, bad hail and debris and that second part where it hits is so -- the sound, the force of that is so loud that,, you know -- >> what goes through your mind when you're experiencing something like that? >> honestly, it was very surreal, like, i'd never felt anything like it, but it was almost like a weird calmness. like, i didn't think i was going to go out in a tornado, but i think i'm probably going to, honestly. >> you actually were thinking that? >> oh, yeah. what happened was, we all sprinted into this little cooler and packed 20 people in it, so, i mean, there was not enough room -- >> how big was the space? >> you know, 10 feet by, you know, probably 7 feet. it wasn't big at all. and -- >> so you guys are all pushed up on top of each other.
>> on top of each other. >> and all the items are falling on each other -- >> lots of beer was breaking, so everyone was getting cut by the glass. basically the only thing that was remaining from the entire building was the cooler that we had jumped in. and, you know, a big part of that was the clerk at the store. i mean, he was -- not only did he run up and unlock the door, but he was the last person in to the refrigerator. i mean, he's a hero. >> so when you leave, i mean, it's got to be surreal when you walk outside and you see what you've survived? >> well, we sat there for probably 20 minutes, kind of deciding what to do, because everything had collapsed on us. and so cory went to the back and a wall had fallen down and he climbed out. i went next and we pulled everyone out. and when we got out to the side, you could see all the gas from the gas station was starting to run out, and you smelled electric fires, so everyone kind of like got out. >> what made you decide to turn
your iphone on and start recording? >> i kind of just record everything. >> you figure, if this is it, you might as well record it? >> might as well. >> so glad you made it and great thinking to record it. so thank you so much. >> we showed you video at the top of the program that's unlike anything we've ever seen before. a couple emerging just moments after the joplin tornado into what was now their neighborhood in name only. >> you guys okay? >> you guys okay! >> yeah, you guys okay? >> yeah. >> holy crap. >> oh, my god. >> they raced to the home of erin's sister, sarah. a tree across the street was burning and sarah's house is badly damaged. >> sarah! mike! sarah! mike! >> sarah! mike!
mike! sarah! >> i'm going to check the basement. >> okay. >> sarah! mike?! >> mike! sarah! >> you guys down here? >> mike?! >> sis! >> mike! >> kirby! >> sarah! >> mike! >> they must have left. >> i think they're gone. >> kirby! kir kirby! kirby jean! >> we're just going to hope they took kirby with them? all right. okay, come on. >> no one in the basement? >> no, i don't think so. >> sarah! mike! >> they're not down there.
you went down there? >> you can't really see anything. >> kirby is sarah's cat. they didn't find sarah at home, but they did find sarah. i spoke with her and with aaron. >> aaron, what was going through your head? i mean, when you grabbed the camera and first ran outside. had you ever been through anything like this before? >> nothing like this. i mean, i'm not sure anybody has, with what they're saying about this kind of tornado. when we left the house, we had no idea it was like this, though. i took the camera thinking there'd be some downed trees and stuff like that. but by the time we had to abandon the car because of the debris, you kind of realized the severity of everything, and i already had the camera running, so we just kind of had it running as we went out searching, and every block you went in deeper, the worse and worse it got, and the severity of it kind of set in. >> and aaron, you even had trouble figuring out where you were, even though it's a neighborhood you know very well. >> yeah, i've lived in joplin my
entire life. you know, i'd been to my sister's house, obviously, plenty of times, but everything was just so leveled, you had no idea where you were. i mean, even -- with the street signs gone, there was no landmarks, no houses, no trees, no nothing. it was just completely barren. so we just having to ask people where we were, and even the people who lived on those streets, they were so dazed, they had a hard time telling us where we were. so it was a real struggle to find out where the heck we were. >> that's amazing. sarah, where did you ride out the storm? >> we were in the basement of our home. it was an old cellar, i think originally an outdoor cellar, and we were just watching tv, getting ready for dinner, and we heard the sirens go off, so we went to the basement and continued watching tv until we couldn't hear it anymore and realized what was going on. >> and what was it like being in the basement, hearing this storm? >> it was crazy. i mean, actually, the only reason i know that i knew what was going on was because of tv, and people saying, it sounds like a train.
and it dawned on us when i said, oh, it sounds like a train going by, we realized what it was, and when the pressure of our ears came, tit felt like our ears wee going to blow. >> aaron, how'd you finally find sarah? >> well, after we didn't find them at the house, we didn't know what to do, but people pointed us to the walgreens a few blocks away, saying that was where they had a triage center set up. that's where we went, they weren't there, so we just started walking down main street or what was left of main street, trying to get cell phone signal, which was nonexistent. asking people if they'd seen them, yelling out their names, and finally, we just happened to walk into cell coverage and her fiance, mike, got a phone call through to us, that lasted about ten seconds, pretty much saying they had made it to our parent's house, they were okay, and then the phone cut out, but that's all we needed to hear, thankfully. >> wow, that's incredible. and sarah, your cat, kirby, is kirby okay?
>> he is okay. he's a little traumatized, that's why i didn't bring him tonight, but, yeah, he's happy and, you know, ready to be getting back to usual, you know. >> and aaron, i'm told you're getting married in just a couple days, and you managed to actually save the wedding dress. how'd you do that? because i know somebody else who the store where the wedding dress was was obliterated and their dress is gone. >> yes, sir. well, a similar story, we were walking down main street, and this was right after we'd found out they're okay, so now we're just trying to get ahold of our parents and our relatives and our other brother in town, and we come across the alteration store and it's blown up. the roof is half on, the glass is all blown off. so my fiancee, mckenzie, she realized, that's the alteration shop, so she crawls in through a broken window, and i'm waiting outside for her, and she emerges a few minutes later with this big grin on her face, and she's like, this is the only dress that was not on the floor in shreds or soaked, and her dress was still in the white bag,
still hanging on the rack. so in part of the video, you see me walking this giant white bundle, and that's what it is, this ten-pound wedding dress. >> that's incredible. are you holding the wedding in joplin? >> yes, the church we grew up is the first united m ed methodist church, which is also the fema headquarters right now, i believe. >> i'm so glad you found each other and everybody's okay, and i wish you all the best. there are a lot of stories that have not ended happily, so i'm so glad yours has. according to one estimate, the damage could total $3 billion, but jay nixon is vowed to rebuild the city, and a lot of residents echo the governor, they'll rebuild again. timber by timber, brick by brick. how do you begin to rebuild? how do you decide where to start? sally smith is figuring it out.
>> i'm finding stuff over here, but then i'm also finding stuff over there. so i don't even know where to start looking. >> reporter: we first met sally in what remains of the living room of her mother's home. >> is it all right if we stand up here. so this was sort of a fire -- >> a fireplace, and the piano. of course, we had windows and the couch is here -- i don't know where the couch is. >> her mom, marge, is 80 is survived the storm in her sister's house nearby. she doesn't yet know her house is gone. sally is trying to find some personal belongings to cushion the blow. >> the first thing we did was look for jewelry. things my grandmother had given her. >> things that had sentimental value? >> sentimental value. then i looked for clothes, now we're looking for pots, plans, plates, things she can use to rebuild her life. >> that's how you begin rebuilding? little things, here and there? >> yeah. >> reporter: some of her mother's doll collection survived the tornado. sally still can't believe what
she's seeing. >> overwhelmed. i just -- i told my husband this morning, i'm just overwhelmed. i just don't know. i don't know what i'm going to do. but it will work out, it will. but i've never -- i've never been through anything like this in my life, ever. >> this is the kind of thing you always see on the news? >> you see it, and we keep seeing pictures, and i keep telling people, that doesn't do it justice. >> reporter: most of the upstairs of the house is gone. this is your bedroom when you were a kid? >> this was my bedroom when i was growing up. right here. you can see all the way to home depot, so it was just -- >> it's incredible, when you think of it, from the home depot to here, it's literally as far as the eye can see, all the way around. >> yeah. it's just gone. it's just -- walmart. i mean -- you can see walmart. it's just right there. it's gone. >> reporter: sally's home survived the storm, but her employer was badly hit. she's not sure if she still has a job. you're wearing a t-shirt that says "life is good." >> life is good.
god does not give us anything we cannot handle. we will be fine. saying good-bye to things is hard, you know, but, it's our life. we go on. >> you're about the most optimistic person i've met in a long time. >> i don't know, like i said, life goes on. you cannot -- you cannot fall apart over things like this. >> reporter: you can't fall apart, and so, she doesn't. that's how you rebuild, she tells me. that's how you restart. you stay strong, you pick up the pieces, and you start one by one. >> reporter: it's not just in joplin, where so many lives are being rebuild. in oklahoma, a funnel cloud cut a tractor-trailer in half. the driver escaped with his life, the pictures are incredible. i'll have an up close look at the extreme weather there, coming up. and in the same state, a family runs for cover as a tornado moves dangerously close to their home, but their dog, roxy, had to be left behind. the story has a remarkable ending. we'll see you that, ahead. [ waves crashing ]
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that hit oklahoma. this is the deadliest tornado season since 1953. states from ohio to texas have been on guard, and since joplin was struck, there have been dozens of other tornadoes across the midwest, causing death, injury, and instruction. take a look. >> oh, my god. back up. oh, no. stop. oh, no. >> reporter: in this part of the country, where things were bad, they have quickly gotten worse. >> extremely large and dangerous tornado here. very large tornado. >> reporter: at least 16 people were killed in storms that struck parts of oklahoma, kansas, and arkansas. ten of those 16 dead are because of this monster. >> oh, my gosh! >> it's another killer tornado. >> dozens were injured across central oklahoma, many along the interstate 40 corridor, leading out of oklahoma city. watch as this twister swallows this 18-wheeler and completely obliterates it. somehow, the driver in the cab made it out with only minor
injuries. >> i'm coming up to i-40 right now. unbelievable. it's right here. it's a killer tornado. goodness gracious. wow! >> reporter: oklahoma governor mary fallin declared a state of emergency, statewide. >> it's devastating. we've lost everything. >> reporter: meanwhile, in arkansas, at least four people were killed by the storms and another two in kansas. in these stays as well, overturned trucks, destroyed homes are scattered on the ground for miles. more than 500 people have been killed this tornado season. a season that still has months to go. >> i want to give you another remarkable view of a tornado that touched down in oklahoma, from the vantage point of reporter david payne from cnn reporter kfor. >> david, you still with us? >> another killer tornado! it went across highway 80 where it intensify and it almost got us. it intensified right on top of
us. amazing. >> i had a chance to speak with david payne by phone about what it was like. david, how close were you to that tornado? >> well, you know what, that video there, that was kind of at the end of the chase. the first tornado, which i would love to give you -- i hope you can get some video of this, that was on the west side of el reno. you mentioned canadian county, west side of oklahoma city, and at that one point, i lost a side rearview mirror or a side mirror off my car and we were within a couple hundred yards when it was nearly about three quarters of a mile wide tornado when it sat down southwest of oklahoma city. an incredible storm. it goes back to what we just witnessed in joplin, missouri, the deep south and april 27th, and you've got to go back to the last time we had an event like this in oklahoma city, may 3rd of 1999. but the tornadoes were violent, long-tracking tornadoes, absolutely amazing. and these storms just went up hard, they were turning and
rotating from start to finish, and they were killer tornados in oklahoma. >> and to get that close, what does it actually feel like? people talk about a pressure change? >> right, you know, there is, if you're really close. you know, you often hear the noise that it sounds like. if you're really close, it sounds like a -- we're close to the air force base, so we hear jets often. it sounds like you're standing next to a jet airplane, like you're back by the engine. your ears will pop sometimes, but they pop big-time, and you can have, obviously, ear damage, if you're caught inside of a tornado. and our plan is not to do that, but when you're close to it, it's dramatic, there's chaos, there's drama. it's insane, and your main objective is you're trying to tell people, hey, this is where it is, and if you don't move, you've got to get out of the way or go below ground or you're going to die. >> david payne of cnn affiliate kfor.
their homes, all their possessions. it's really unthinkable. i want to take you back, though, to oklahoma, to the city of piedmont, where one family lost their home and thought they'd also lost their beloved pet. ed lavendera tells us what happened the next. >> stay in there, paisley! >> reporter: these are the frantic moments. >> it's coming right over us. we're right in its path. >> reporter: just before frank wood scrambled up the stairs to his balcony and saw the tornadic beast for the first time, staring him straight in the eyes. >> that's once in a lifetime. you'll probably never see this again. and it's moving fast. >> holy crap. >> it's huge. >> reporter: wood rushed his children down into the garage and locked themselves in a rock-solid reinforced safe room, but they couldn't grab the family's dog in time, a boxer named roxy. >> she was basically standing there, just staring at me, and
i'm trying to get her to come in, and basically, you've got to shut the door. >> i thought she was just going to get sucked by the tornado. >> so kind of heartbreaking to close that door and leave her outside? >> yeah. >> reporter: time had run out. >> in fact -- go! we've got to get in now. >> moments later, the tornado strikes the woods' home. >> here's the safe room. >> that's a good thing to have. >> that's a very good thing to have. it saved our lives. >> reporter: this is what the house locked like before the tornado, three stories tall, overlooking 12 green acres. when you look at this house, it's amazing to think that it was once a three-story house. the tornado shredded the top two stories. frank wood's pickup truck was thrown almost 300 yards into a ditch. >> you're completely helpless. it's beyond your control and you just sit there and pray. like i said, we got there on our knees and sat there and it was over. >> reporter: but roxy is nowhere to be found and 8-year-old paisley wood is devastated. we climbed through the rubble to
find the sky is the ceiling. frank wood hunting for anything that might bring a smile to his daughter's face. >> this is her teddy bear she'd got when she had her appendix out about three months ago at children's hospital. >> reporter: but paisley can't stop thinking about her dog. >> paisley cried for -- that was probably the most upsetting things to the kids, out of all of it, was roxy. >> reporter: then a phone call, one day after the storm, and almost two miles away from the wood's home, david franco, an oil rig worker, sees a dog walking around his work site. >> as soon as i saw her, i knew that she belonged to somebody who may be house got destroyed. >> reporter: paisley and her fame jump in their truck and race to see if it's true, if their dog somehow managed to escape tornado's grip. then the moment they'd been hoping for -- >> there, she's coming right now. >> roxy! >> it is roxy. >> thank you very -- ah, here we go! >> bless your little heart.
>> reporter: she survived, who knows how, with only a small scratch on her leg. what do you think of finding your dog? >> awesome! >> you didn't think you were going to see roxy again, did you? >> no! >> reporter: and when you found out she was okay? >> i was very happy. i started dancing. >> reporter: the happy dance? >> yeah. >> reporter: they might not have a place to call home, but they've got each other and roxy too. ed lavendera, cnn, piedmont, oklahoma. >> we've met so many incredible people this week, and we want to thank them all, in many states, for spending some time with us and letting us tell their stories and letting us see their bravery and their courage in the face of really unspeakable loss. thanks very much for watching. stay with cnn for continuing coverage of the tornadoes and especially how joplin, missouri, fw begins the long and hard task of rebuilding out of the rubble. at bayer, we've been relieving pain for over 100 years.
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