tv NBC Nightly News NBC April 18, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PDT
on the broadcast tonight, states of disaster. the death toll now over 40 following a rampage of storms that spawned over 200 reported tornadoes. and one state, north carolina, has been hit especially hard. tonight we're back here in the gulf, because it's been a year since another kind of disaster, the bp oil spill. tonight we'll update the damage that was done to an entire way of life, an entire region, and the year long struggle to recover. "nightly news" on this monday recover. "nightly news" on this monday night begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television disaster in the gulf, one year later. this is "nbc nightly news" with brian williams.
reporting tonight from venice, louisiana. good evening, and we are back here in venice, louisiana, tonight. this is the beating heart of the fishing and shrimp industry in this part of the world, and it is hard to believe it's been a year since it was all stopped cold by the bp oil disaster. tonight we'll take a look at how they're doing here one year later. we're going to begin, however, tonight to our north. a natural disaster this past weekend, and here's what it did. call this the anatomy of a storm. it starts in iowa thursday morning. it sweeps across the country, and by the time it was out to sea, staggering destruction behind it. records that may stand for all time in our country. 240 reports of tornadoes. as of tonight 44 people dead across six states. we have two reports to start off with tonight. we're going to begin with nbc's kerry sanders in colerain, north carolina.
kerry, good evening. >> reporter: well, brian, with 22 of the deaths here, north carolina was hit the hardest. one of the twisters came right through here, leveling everything in its path. >> there goes the roof off the house. >> reporter: as many as 35 tornadoes hopscotched across north carolina. >> on the ground, tornado. >> reporter: recarving the landscape. >> a tornado right now. >> reporter: in raleigh a shaw university student captured the chaos as classmates ran for cover. the devastation here is heartbreaking. homes upended or worse, splintered into a million pieces by winds estimated by the weather service to have been whipping at 165 miles per hour. in raleigh, two brothers and a cousin died when a tree came down on their trailer. the 9, 8, and 3-year-olds were holding each other huddled in a closet. >> i'm so sorry they heeded all the warnings and did everything they could and still sacrificed. >> reporter: amid the sorrow,
there is also inspiration. in sanford, north carolina, the assistant manager at this lowe's hardware store turned hero when he ordered more than 100 panicked customers to the back of the store now. >> if any of the employees had hesitated another 20 seconds, we might have been out in the middle of the store when it hit. >> everybody in that building was a hero. >> reporter: north carolina governor beverly perdue toured the damage in colerain today. >> this is catastrophic. >> reporter: 11 residents in bertie county died, including 90-year-old helen white, her picture salvaged today by her granddaughter, morgan. what does it mean to have to hold onto that? >> comfort, memories, sad. >> reporter: another cherished heirloom, their grandfather's american flag. morgan and her sister madison today hung it in the tree they climbed as children. >> they were good people, and they deserve to be represented that way.
i think that this flag is at least a little bit of that representation. >> reporter: this is bertie county, among the poorest in the nation. a quarter of the residents here live in poverty, which is why government officials say state and federal aid will be critical in the rebuilding. brian. >> kerry, thanks. kerry sanders in colerain, north carolina to start us off tonight. that path barrelled and rolled across the country from the plain states to the deep south. it spread a lot of disaster. there were a number of close calls, weather channel meteorologist jeff morrow is also with us tonight from north carolina. jeff, i watched your coverage all weekend long. an incredible intensity of weather. >> reporter: yeah, brian. reports of 240 tornadoes have investigators scrambling. they've already confirmed 150 tornadoes. to put that into context, we
typically see 163 tornadoes for the entire month of april. the rampage went on for days, terrifying tornadoes touched down in 15 states. the harrowing moments caught on tape. >> we got two, three. oh. >> reporter: thursday tushka, oklahoma, not one but several twisters violently spin around each other. >> oh, my god. this is not good, guys. >> reporter: friday, clinton, mississippi, a tornado works across an overpass and blue power flashes light up the sky. >> there goes the roof off the house. >> reporter: saturday wilson, north carolina, a walgreens store is ripped to shreds. >> that's a walgreens right there just explodes. fiberglass, 2 x 4s, everything. >> reporter: it's the deadliest outbreak in the u.s. in three years. at least 44 deaths in six states. >> all the ingredients come together to create the perfect storm. in this case a big upper air disturbance in the jet steam.
it came charging east-southeast, and it met up with moist air in the gulf of mexico. >> in gloucester, virginia, rashard barely escaped. >> it sounded like a train was coming to hit the house. >> wow. >> reporter: in raleigh, north carolina this car still has its lights on, and it's beeping. >> this person must have got out of the car fast. you can hear it. >> one of the things about the tornadoes is they were moving very fast in this case. you had very little time to really be seeking shelter. >> reporter: in boones chapel, alabama the tornado that hit this small town packed 150-mile-per-hour winds. in hard-hit north carolina at least five tornadoes reached similar wind speeds, and that tornado that hit the lowe's traveled more than 60 miles on a fast and brutal path. and, brian, it doesn't look like the nation will get a chance to
catch its breath severe weatherwise. the storm prediction center has a moderate risk of severe weather, including the possibility of more tornadoes, all the way from oklahoma into arkansas into the ohio valley for tomorrow and tomorrow night. brian. >> jeff morrow, the weather channel, with us from north carolina tonight. jeff, thanks for that. now to what brings us here to louisiana. it is hard to believe it's been a year since those first sketchy reports of some sort of big blowout on an offshore rig off the coast of louisiana. the bp disaster as it later became known went on for months, so did the relentlessly depressing underwater pictures. in all 4.9 million barrels of oil discharged over the long 87 days. to this day 66 miles of coastline remain moderately or severely oiled. so how is this area doing now? that is a big question. our chief environmental affairs correspondent anne thompson is back with us again with some answers. here we are again, anne. >> hi, brian. things are tough down here in
part because of the losses you can't quantify like the erosion of trust in officials who spent months underestimating the size of the spill and promises that have yet to be delivered. along louisiana's coastal bayous, nature's breeding grounds. there are signs of spring and sounds of lurking danger. air canons scare birds from sandbars and marshes where the mississippi river meets the gulf of mexico, and oil lies just beneath the surface. a reminder of the deadly explosion that sank the deep water horizon killing 11 men including shelley anderson's husband, jason. for her family life can't be the same. >> i do the best i can. one day at a time. i don't normally plan past a week or two. we just keep moving forward as best we can. >> reporter: across the gulf folks try to recover and cope. oil production is still down 160,000 barrels a day, tourism
losses are projected to reach $22 billion by 2013. >> we're not certain about the future of the gulf. >> reporter: the number on most people's minds is 20 billion, the amount of the claims fund established to make victims whole administered by ken fineberg. >> there have been mistakes. i'm the first to admit it. >> reporter: he says the numbers reveal some success. 300,000 claims paid for a total of almost $4 billion. most were emergency payments. >> why don't you have people helping with the claims processing? >> reporter: today's frustration is over his calculation of final payments, a process some say is slow and doesn't cover all they've lost. can you make people whole? will you make people whole? >> i can't give you back your heritage. i can't restore the gulf the way it was 100 years ago. i can only do what small role i can play in providing you compensation for your current damage. >> reporter: mitch is harvesting oysters again, but sales are
slow. >> if we can get back to 30% of what we normally did, we'll be -- i know it's crazy to say this. somewhat satisfied, because at least we can do something and pay the bills. >> these are the tar balls they're talking about. >> reporter: he met with president obama on his first trip to the gulf and listened to his promises. >> you will not be abandoned. >> just getting our share of it back. >> reporter: now? >> i don't know if there's really much he can do. kick fineberg in the butt and tell him to get off your butt. >> reporter: among the many questions, what's behind the fourfold increase in dolphin deaths. this doctor tracks the strandings in mississippi and alabama, 86 so far this year, 67 babies. >> it is very unusual. it was very concerning. >> reporter: but there are no answers yet. the government won't reveal any results because of the ongoing criminal investigation into the spill. dr. samantha joy of the university of georgia is looking at the effects of a layer of oil her team found on the bottom of the gulf, suffocating the first
links in the food web. >> you cannot expect those kinds of impacts to be clear and apparent in 12 months. >> reporter: one year later so much is unknown, and yet, there still is hope. >> there's no doubt that it will come back and be as robust as it was before. but it's going to take time. >> reporter: now, despite that optimism, the people down here who have generations invested in these waters say they need fast financial help so they can stay afloat and give this to the next generation. brian. >> i want to talk a little bit more about this later on the broadcast, specifically the oil that remains here. anne thompson with us here in venice, louisiana. when we continue from here tonight, speaking of all that heritage, we want you to hear the distinctive voice of one man who sounds a whole lot like this region, and who says it will take a lot more than bp to drive him away.
so when you ask how is this region doing, how are they recovering after a year, it helps to talk to a local pro like the man we spoke with today, dean blanchard. he's only done this one thing in his life. >> until i'm dead i believe every morning when i wake up i'm going to think of bp. the first day i realized that bp wasn't trying to pick up the oil, you know. it was just -- it was a pain in my heart. >> dean blanchard is a fifth generation shrimper whose accent gives away his french-canadian roots. he's owned his business in nearby grand isle since the age of 18 and at one time by his estimation just under 10% of all the shrimp consumed in america passed through his dock. half a million pounds a day, enough to fill a dozen tractor trailers, but not anymore. he had to lay off 65 employees last mother's day when the business went away after the bp spill. >> everything i get up for in the morning is gone. i get up in the morning for 28
years, seven days a week i worked, sir. i go to the same place. i get there and walk in circles. i don't know what to do with myself. >> what percentage of your income has bp made you whole for? >> they've given me about 30% of what i lost. >> and do you think you're entitled to 100% of your losses? >> definitely. will my business ever be the same? i had 100 customers last year, and i could only supply 10. the other 90 will they come back to me if i need them this year, or are they going to tell me to go jump in the lake? i don't know. >> when did you know you couldn't carry this payroll? >> about a week, week and a half after. we all eat breakfast with people that retired from the oil field, and they told me it didn't look like they were going to stop it. so we immediately started cutting back. >> is it still ruined today? >> it's no better than it was before. they haven't picked up the oil. nobody can show me if they did pick up the oil, where did they put it at?
>> but you want people to eat gulf shrimp? >> i've been eating shrimp. this is not our first oil spill. the oil doesn't bother me. they spilled in the first well they drilled out there and in the second one. it's a constant thing we go through. that might be where our flavor comes from. what i'm scared about is the dispersants and the amount of oil that was spilled. i always said if you took the last five nobel prize winners whose only job is to mess up dean blanchard's life and business, they couldn't have done a finer job than bp. >> he's fiercely anti-bp and anti-coast guard. he says the best way to clean up the water would have been to ask the men who make their living on the water. >> these fishermen are the salt of the earth. this is what made america great, is these kind of people, you know. these shrimpers are smart, tough, hard-working people. they're good people. i asked bp to give me a group of 50 fishermen and a couple of welding machines and welders and give us a week, and we'll design
a way to pick this oil up for you. they wouldn't do it. >> what has this done to venice, and what has this done to grand isle? >> it's destroyed our way of life, you know. you know, we always had the best seafood in the world, even though the imports were coming in cheaper, we always could say well, we got the best. now this has tainted our industry. some are scared to eat shrimp. you have two choices. shrimp from the gulf with bp oil in the heads or get pacific shrimp that glow in the dark. take your pick. >> that's the fix consumers are in? >> that's what you're looking at. >> you haven't stopped eating shrimp? >> i'd rather die if i can't eat shrimp. i quit eating for a week, and i decided i'd rather die than not be able to eat shrimp. >> our conversation with the local legend dean blanchard.
here's what he's angry at. let me throw you some numbers. 1,000 square miles of federal waters are still officially shut down to fishing here. up to $515 million in sales, that's a rough probably low ball estimate just in louisiana, and just in louisiana $268 million in lost income for men like him and 11,000 jobs gone away at least for now. we're back in a moment with some of the other news of this day, including the well-known author doing damage control. his book has been read by millions, problem is, is it true?
and we learned today the president and first lady michelle obama are paying a little over 466 grand in taxes for 2010. that's more he's paying out than he made as president. total income of almost $1.8 million, most of that from proceeds from the president's books. some of those proceeds, of course, go to charity. also a shot heard round the world today. the credit rating agency s&p this morning cut it's outlook for the united states of america to negative, highlighting doubts about d.c.'s ability to get the staggering national debt under control. it was a setback on wall street. the dow plunged more than 250 points early on, but then cut those losses to finish down 140 points on the day. the humanitarian and author greg mortenson who wrote "three cups of tea" read by millions said tonight all the experiences he describes in afghanistan and pakistan really happened, though some things have gotten condensed or omitted for the sake of the story.
his publisher said today it will conduct a top-to-bottom review of the book after a scathing report on last evening's "60 minutes" that said it was largely fabricated. in boston jeffrey mutai won the boston marathon today. it was in two hours, three minutes, two seconds. that is the fastest marathon ever run, 57 seconds faster than the previous fastest marathon ever run. as we stand here in the warmth of early season louisiana, along with a little bit of humidity, it's hard to believe they had snow in chicago today, three inches in some places. just winter reminding us it's not quite done but it will take more than that to scare a chicagoan. when we come back from the gulf tonight, how tough is it really to find oil in these waters now a year after the bp spill?
we're back here in venice, louisiana tonight. we had a few moments. i thought we'd talk to anne thompson our chief environmental affairs correspondent. anne, modesty prevents you from saying you could have had your mail delivered down here, you were here for so many months in 2010. can you still see the oil? can you find the oil a year later? >> if you know where to look, yes.
we were down where i stuck a shovel into the marsh, and just turned over a shovel full of the muck, and there was the oil underneath. it's still here. it's not out in the ocean or big rivers like we saw last summer, but it's still here. >> every time you stir it up, rev the prop on the boat, whatever, it's right there underneath the surface. creates plumes and gets it upset all over again. speaking of all over again, what's the potential, god forbid, a thousand times that we're looking at something else, another disaster offshore? >> experts stay it could happen. the government imposed new safety regulations which help reduce the risk of another blowout, but you can't eliminate it. getting oil from deep water is a dangerous business, and it's a risky business. you can reduce the risk, but you can't get rid of it altogether. it's the price we pay for getting oil out of the water. >> anne thompson, one of the heros of our coverage of the spill this past year. that's going to do it for our broadcast for this monday evening. thank you all for being with us.
i'm brian williams reporting tonight again from venice, louisiana. we hope to see you back in new york tomorrow night. for all of our colleagues here, anne thompson and the entire for all of our colleagues here, anne thompson and the entire team, good night. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com right now at 6:00, a carjacking and standoff here in the bay area today puts police technology under the microscope. why some people say it's going too far. also ahead, a small earthquake leads to a power outage and some rattled nerves. we'll have the latest for you. and a sign of the times. the changing face of freshmen in the uc system. the news at 6:00 starts right now. thanks for joining