tv CNN Newsroom With Jim Acosta CNN December 11, 2021 2:00pm-3:00pm PST
tornado outbreak wrecked towns across six states and likely killed more than 70 people. kentucky governor andy beshear is calling it one of the darkest days in his state's history. president biden has approved an emergency declaration and says he plans to go to the hard-hit areas. >> this is likely to be one of the largest tornado outbreaks in our history. the federal government will do everything, everything it can possibly do to help. >> for many in the storm's path, life changed overnight. especially in mayfield, kentucky. houses, offices, places of worship, all once stood here where you're looking on the screen. now, they don't. nearby hospitals are treating patients with chemical burns and crush injuries. crews have rescued 40 people from what's left of a candle factory where 110 people were working when the storm hit. the governor saying it will be a miracle if anyone else is found
alive. one woman who did manage to escape captured these terrifying moments on facebook live. >> we are trapped. please, y'all, give us some help. we're at the candle factory in mayfield. please. please. y'all -- y'all, please, send us some help. somebody please send us some help. we are trapped. the wall is stuck on me. nobody can get to us. yeah, please. we can't move. andrea, calm down. y'all, please, y'all. pray for us. just get somebody to come and help us. >> and this video shows the
silhouette of the path where the national weather service says a long path tornado may have traveled hundreds of miles from arkansas through central kentucky. so much destruction along the path, but let's begin in mayfield, kentucky where nadia has for hours. what are officials facing at this moment? >> reporter: yeah, the weather conditions is really a number one for first responders. remember, phil, people have been out here for hours going through the rubble, trying to find survivors and having to move a lot of the debris out of the way. it rained and poured last night during the storm is the mud, the ground is really wet. so muddy around here that vehicles are getting stuck. there are a lot of things that prevent them from doing their jobs as quickly and efficiently as possible. now we have the cooler temperatures. usually with these kinds of scenes, we start to see large trucks come in and they bring out lighting equipment because
they'll work through the night to try to find those first responders, but there's power outages all around. you can see behind me, this is a power pole, but there's no pour coming out of this pole. there's debreis all over the ground, which is another hazard. powerlines are scattered across the road and all over the fwrground so there's no power, no running water. a lot of things for those first responders to contend with while they're out here, but there are plenty of first responders out here with the resources and also the national guard is here now as well. they're trained to help in these operations to do everything they can possibly do to help the first responders and to find people alive. now we spoke with the coroner for the county and this has been one of his hardest days to try to go through all of the bodies, keep everyone identified. keep everything on track. notify families. listen to him as he talks about how difficult today has been. >> this is just something that's
just, it just blows my mind. i just, it's just, it's hard to take. and something you just don't plan on ever seeing in your community. there's like 40 that has not been accounted for. whether they're in there or not or made it hope, but some of the staff and everything i guess in the office department said there's 40 that they can't, you know, account for. >> yes, so difficult for him and so many others. you know, when you come out to the scene, when we first arrived this morning, there was a bit of chaos and confusion that was ongoing because there were so many people here trying to help. civilians who came out in the community. people who were looking for their loved ones and friends who actually had pulled people out of the rubble, then you started getting the emergency crews coming and trying to find some order. so they've now been able to put those family members in one location, hoping to reunite them
with their families members and friends. then you have an area staging here where there's people who brought food and water out because there's not a lot of amenities. nowhere's open. no one has power. so you have all these people here who have been working for hours who need those things, food and water, to keep going. people are exhausted. especially since it's been so long since they found a survivor, but phil, they tell us they will work through the night, going through that you believe arubble trying to find every person they believe is unaccounted for. >> can't even fathom both the physical and emotional exhaustion. thanks so much. now, it wasn't until the sun came up this morning that the true scale of this nightmare became clear. that's when more and more footage started coming in. footage showing downtown mayfield, kentucky in ruins. just jaw dropping drone footage. kentucky state senator
westerfield who's also a certified drone operator. thanks for joining us. i've been watching these pictures you shot all day. every moment seems like a gut punch to some degree. when you first put your drone up, what were you expecting to see in terms of the damage here? >> nothing as substantial as what i ended up seeing. just the damage all over mayfield and greater graves county was breathtaking and continues to stun. even as i look down hours later. i didn't appreciate just how much damage there was until the drone got in the air and you can see. in fact, when you get up high enough, you can see the path. as i've said to others, there are just entire swaths of mayfield that just aren't there anymore at all. buildings flattened. and destroyed completely. it just, you described it well. a gut punch. >> have you documented storm
damage before? was there something about this moment that stood out to you when you started seeing what your drone was picking up? >> well, i wanted to see the, to observe for myself, the extent of the damage. i spent part of last night in a basement as well in north christian county along with everybody else in west kentucky wondering whether or not our place was going to be the place that got a tornado. but once the system cleared, i wanted to hit the road and get to mayfield where i had heard most of the damage had been, but even then, we've heard of damage all over from bowling green to where we lost a district judge, to hopkins county and dawson springs. princeton. just all over places around western kentucky. i've never seen anything like this. i've seen strong wind damage that i've captured with my drone in the past. nothing like this. i wasn't prepared for it. someone described it as a scene from world war ii.
bombing raids that you'd see in old footage and that's exactly what it looks like. there's just nothing left of the place. >> you run out of ways to describe what you're seeing because you don't feel like it's capturing it based on the pictures you've got here. >> just a few years ago, you'd need helicopters to get a view like you've gotten in this aftermath. now citizens have the ability to do this with drones. i presume this can be helpful to some degree in disasters like this. have you coordinated with authorities? >> no question. there are drones equipped with heat vision cameras that are used for this very thing, to detect people, leaks, when various kinds of camera equipment. so it has been and can be an incredible resource for first responders, for law enforcement, for builders, for engineers. any number of applications including search and rescue.
so there are opportunities for this to really be a benefit to the people there. the governor was on the radio station here or a show here in kentucky an hour or so ago saying he's got a list of single spaced list of names, eight pages deep, of people that are unaccounted for in kentucky from this storm. so i -- i'm worried that the list, the death toll is going to get much higher. >> that seemed to be his implication in his press conference, too. you've been in touch with people in the mayfield area. this is my biggest question right now. what are they telling you they need? what are they missing right now? what can people do to help them? >> i would direct people two ways. one, donate blood. the governor and local folks and not just in mayfield but, in other areas that were hit, they need blood donations, but particularly there in the graves county area. so if you're in the area or anywhere close, whatever you can do to donate blood, please do.
otherwise, get online. the central government has set up a website for donating funds and resources. and that link, i tweeted it out. the governor's tweeted it out. i think you all put it out there. it's all otwitter. the west kentucky relief fund website. give as much as you can so those resources can go to these families in need. the most jarring thing from today was the image of a kid not much older than our daughter. he was just standing in what was left of his house, just on the outskirts of town in mayfield. and the temperature had dropped this morning. at 6:00 p.m., it was still 64 degrees. within an hour, it had dropped to the high to mid-h40s and was getting colder. and there he stood in what's left of his home, two weeks before christmas. it hits you hard. >> no question. we're all awe struck by the damage, but there's people in these houses, in these communities, that you have to think about. that website you mentioned was
teamwkyrelieffund.ky.gov. kentucky state senator, thanks so much for your time. >> thank you. this deadly storm system left a trail of destruction which will take months to recover from. but the danger still remains for other states as the powerful storm continues to make its way eastward. i want to check in with chad myers. he's in the weather center tracking these storms. chad, i think we've all been blown away by the path over the course of the last night especially. what should we be paying attention to here? >> the potential for wind damage. places like charlotte, warner robbins seeing a big storm right now. not severe threshold, but lesser in the green area. there could be the chance of a storm with a 40 or 60 mile per hour wind gust. this is not the same atmosphere, not the same situation.
there won't be overnight tornados. one or two, possibly, isolated, smaller tornados. not supercells like yesterday. no warning on it, but it's moving that way. even rain up toward philadelphia. nothing severe. l later tonight, it moves offshore. this is just a bad memory. the cold air coming in, you're saying how it's in the 40s. by morning, it's going to be in the low 40s to upper 20s there. tornados on the ground. more warnings yesterday than any day in december history of any year. so we had tornados in the winter. we do. even 23 in december on an average year. most of them are right around the gulf coast. maybe even a waterspout coming onshore, turning into a tornado. not an ef-4 or 5 tornado that we saw last night. right now, the highest we had would be ef-3 near bowling
green. it takes a long time. they have to go and look at so many places. especially in something that's 200 miles long. this is going to take a long time to figure out how big this storm really is and it doesn't matter. the number doesn't matter. people are asking all the time, what is it? it doesn't matter. so many lives were devastated. that's what we need to concentrate on. not ef-4, ef-5, what the winds were. we've seen the damage, the devastation and the lives lost. >> the devastation is what matters. not the numbers. our breaking inews coverage continues in a moment. next up, carvana. oh, boy. carvana just doesn't seem to understand how the test drive works. they give their customers seven days. and if they don't like it, they give 'em their money back. wait, they take the car back? that's crazy! what if it was driven by like a zookeeper? or a mud wrestler? or a guy who's on the outs with the missus and he just needs a place to sleep
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more than 30 tornados reported from arkansas, illinois, kentucky, missouri, mississippi, and tennessee, and more than ownersh 75 people are likely dead. brandon took the drone footage you're looking at now. damage in mayfield, kentucky, and he joins us now by phone. i want to start with, i first got a sense of this this morning when somebody sent me a link to your tweet. it says this about sums it up in 19 seconds. it was almost unbelievable. couldn't even describe what you were looking at. where were you when these storms hit? >> i was actually in arkansas. the storm developed just south of little rock and as it moved east, right along the mississippi river on the interstate 55 corridor is where i first intercepted the tornado. it moved a few hundred yards directly in front of me across the interstate. knocked over a bunch of semis. didn't seem too, too bad at the
time. i knew it was really getting its act together. already did bad damage in arkansas. caused some fatalities, at a nursing home, then in --ville. >> you're not a rookie at this. you've covered many of these. you're an award winning, independent journalist. how does this devastation compare when you finally got a look at things when the sun came up, to other storms you've documented in the past? >> it's high-end damage. we've been in a really strong ef-5 type drought last ten years and there's only a few high-end ef-4 type tornados i've seen that compare with this. there's the possibility this could get an ef-5 rating. it will at least be debated. that will be up to experts, structure types and those sorts
of things, but it's complete devastation. you can't tell what home came from which foundation. trees are oblaiterated. looks like a bomb went off. looks like a scene from saving private ryan. not a scene from a small, downtown area. >> what goes through your mind when you see something like this to this scale, get a sense of what you're capturing with your drone? >> it's weird. i first came in at night. it was like 3:00 in the morning. so you're getting this idea of what you're going to see when the sun comes and you're getting your mind ready for it. so it wasn't a huge shock because i had already driven around and seen the damage. even though it was dark, just using the lights on my car. gave me an idea of what it would look like on a bigger scale, but it never prepares you for when
the sun comes up. it was just a path right through the middle of town, as far as you could see. complete destruction. >> have you seen one of the things that's been shocking for everybody, the length in terms of the track of the tornado. the governor was saying 227 miles, 220 of which were in kentucky. have you been able to get a sense of the track and just the length of the destruction here? >> i'm not sure they're done with that because it was on the ground for quite some time in arkansas as well. so i'm not sure they're done with that survey. but anytime you're talking dozens of miles, it's a long tornado. hundreds of miles, you can't fathom. i've been driving around all day looking at the damage path and probably covered 15%. just such a small percentage of the overall number and you're just trying wrap your mind around it and you can't.
it's like driving from oklahoma city to dallas and still not getting through the path. just unbelievable. >> i can't even imagine. i guess i would ask, how are you feeling after seeing this much direction? i guess it's the job. how are you doing? >> i'm exhausted. i can't -- it's -- caught me off guard with that question. can't really process it while you're out here. when i get home, sometimes i'll go two to three weeks jumping from weather pattern, weather system to weather system. when i get home, i've got to unwind. i've got to relax. i've got to de-stress. if i don't, it catches up to you. it's caught up to me a couple of times in the past where it just eats at you, but you've got to be able to process it. through video, i try to help people with it. i know it helps them process it. helps them see their hometown, see what it's been through, understand what's happened. it also helps aid come into the
town. people see what's going on. they want to help. they feel sorry for the people and want to help. so that's one to have ways it makes me feel good about it, but there's no way you can ever completely feel good about seeing something like this. >> if it helps get the message out, we have it on the screen right now. take care of yourself. thanks so much for taking the time. >> thank you. coming up, our breaking news coverage continues. more than 70 feared dead across several states after a massive outbreak of tornados. stay with cnn for the latest. sore throat. but she had enough. she took new mucinex instasoothe sore throat lozenges. show your sore throat who's boss. new mucinex instasoothe. works in seconds, lasts for hours. it's the season of smiling. and at aspen dental, we make it easy to gift yourself the smile you deserve. new patients, start today with a full exam and x-rays, with no obligation. if you don't have insurance, it's free.
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you're looking live of pictures in illinois where rescue crews are searching for survivors at an amazon warehouse that partially collapsed when the devastating storms hit overnight. two people are confirmed dead and the police chief described the scene as a quote, utter disaster. boris sanchez is at the scene of the collapse and boris, what's the latest right now on the search efforts? >> reporter: well, phil, they appear to be ongoing. we've yet to get an update from local officials and search and rescue teams since earlier in the day, but right now, you can get a clearer picture of the damage. we've seen rescue vehicles come and go. there is a large law enforcement presence and obviously rescue workers are here as well. there's very large moving and construction equipment to help clear out debris.
to get a full appreciation for the extent of the damage here, you just have to imagine this is a large warehouse in an industrial park and an entire section of it is gone. the tornado taking out an entire chunk of building and obviously workers are moving to try to assess not only the physical damage to the building, but also the human toll as well. you noted at least two people here were confirmed dead. we don't have much information about them right now, however, there are several others that are now unaccounted for and as of a few minutes ago, spoke with a couple of people that were here trying to get information about one of their friends who apparently is one of those that is unaccounted for. they said that they last communicated with them at 8:00 p.m. last night. he was here working when the tornado came through. they say they tried to reach out
to him, but apparently, his phone has been disconnected and family members have not been able to hear from him. we are hoping to get an update from officials within the next half hour or so. of course as workers move through this rubble, there are a number of challenges and earlier in the day, we heard from officials who explained some of the obstacles they're facing. here's some of what they shared with us. >> some of the obstacles that we faced since the beginning of this, initially, there was a large amount of water issue there as well as powerlines that needed to be secured before first responders could actually get into the rubble. there's a lot of debris from the concrete that is predominantly a concrete and steel structure. so you have concrete and you have things hanging.
it's quite windy outside. so things are unstable. so they have to shore those things up to they can be safe. >> and phil, when we heard from officials, they gave us an estimate. they said there were roughly 50 people that were here at the warehouse in edwardsville at the time that the tornado struck. of those 50, we understand that 30 people were able to make it out. two confirmed dead. so that gives you an idea, an estimate of how many are still unaccounted for and as i noted earlier with the couple that came here looking for their friend, those are the same story that we are expecting to hear from other folks who are just trying to find out about their friends and loved ones. what is clearly a difficult time. >> no question about it. doing an excellent job giving us a sense of the scale of that building. i didn't quite have an idea of it until we saw those pictures.
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40 years witnessing storms in the area, he's never seen this scale of damage and death. just a short time ago, kentucky governor andy beshear gave an update on the continued search and rescue efforts in his state. take a listen. >> this event is the worst, most devastating, deadly tornado event in kentucky's history. i believe that by the end of today or tomorrow, we will be north of at least 70 lives lost here in kentucky. i think we will have lost more than 100 people and i think it could rise significantly in those numbers. about 1:00 this morning, i was at the state emergency operations center, hearing the reports coming in live. places like my parents'
hometown, dawson springs, which i just came from, and how hard it was hit. hearing about families trapped in a basement and actually thinking they're lucky as long as we can get to them. based on what happened from so many other families. hearing about the amazing efforts of our first responders. so many in this group. we thank you every day. we absolutely thank you today. thank you so much for what you've done for our people over these last hours. i know you haven't slept. i know what that feels like. i know the efforts you've put in. and i know when you were out there, especially in the first part of it, it was incredibly dangerous to you. we have seen people come together from all over the state. all over the country. federal partners like atf and we had the coast guard and down in mayfield and we are seeing people come in from other states and other regions. i just want everybody to know that you are not alone.
today, kentucky is absolutely united. we're united with our people. we're united to find and rescue as many as possible. we're united to grieve. with i think over 100 families that will have lost individuals and we are united, be here for those families in this and every other impacted community. not just today in this week, but in the coming years, so that we rebuild and get those families back on their feet. the devastation is unlike anything i have seen in my life and i have trouble putting it into words. when it was safe to travel this morning, i flew to mayfield. my first stop was that candle factory. 110 people working in it at the time the storm hit. they rescued 40. there's at least 15 feet of metal. with cars on top of it.
barrels of corrosive chemicals that are there. it will be a miracle if anybody else is found alive. downtown, completely devastated. from there. my dad's hometown, dawson springs, population, oh, 2700. they're going to lose a whole lot of people. one block from my grandparents' house. there's no house standing. there's no house standing and we don't know where all those people are. >> incredibly emotional words from the governor there and as he said, rescuers are still looking for people still unaccounted for in the rubble of that candle factory in mayfield. now, the calls for help from inside the factory, they're heart wrenching. including the pleas from this woman, who was ultimately rescued. >> we are trapped. please, y'all, give us some
help. we're at the candle factory in mayfield. please. please. y'all! y'all, please send us some help. somebody please send us some help. we are trapped. the wall is stuck on me. nobody can get to us. yeah, please. we can't move. andrea, calm down. y'all, please, y'all, pray for us. just get somebody to come help us. >> i'm really scared. i'm like stuck underneath the walls. i'll be the last person to get out. but i'm going to be okay.
i'm in mayfield. i work at the candle factory. and they told us not to move because it could cause stuff to fall more and we don't want that. on my legs. i wish i could push. i really don't think i feel them anymore. >> kiana was rescued, but there are 40 that are still unaccounted for at that factory. for those watching and listening and want to help the victims, cnn has compiled organizations that are helping those affected. for more information about how you can help, go to cnn.com/impact. we'll be back in a moment. there you go. all-american club™? did you just turn us into subway® ads? yep! subways got so much new like the new turkey cali fresh, that they couldn't fit it in their ads. so, they bought space on your jerseys. go long italian b.m.t.® the living room slash yoga shanti slash regional office
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this just in. we can now report that tennessee has four deaths related to last night's powerful storms and tornados. a total or six states in the overnight hours. we've been seeing incredible images of the power of these tornados on the ground. i want to bring in someone who rode out the storm. lauren hit in her daughter's basement last night as the tornado hit. can you take me through what actually happened as this tornado came through? >> well, i went to my daughter's
house and we went down to the basement. we kept hearing the timelines of when it was going to happen. i really don't recall exactly what time. sometime maybe around 11:00, we just heard a roar, very loud. it didn't last long. you know, that was when the storm was passing over, the tornado. after we heard that sound, we went upstairs and that's when we discovered you know, the damage to my daughter's home. >> and just is everybody you're close to, your family, is everybody okay? what's the extent of the damage? >> my family is okay. however, i know talking to other friends from town, that i know of nine deaths in our town right now. which is very sad. some of these people i've known my whole life. so the houses can be fixed. but those people are very precious, that's a very sad day. >> i'm so sorry to hear of the
loss. you know, the community itself, what's the process of you know, you see the extent of the damage. obviously hear about friends and in other cases, p family member lost their lives. what's this first day after like? >> it's a very sad day and i think people are just amazed when they come out of the basements or cellars and saw that their home was just missing, just not there. some houses are completely gone. some are just destroyed. you know, we realized a lot of loss. you hear a lot of people talking about how they rode the storm out, trapped in their basement. they're trying to check on everybody. they're going around town. the command center is set up just right above my house. and they seem to be doing a good job of going through and trying to go by the houses. go by the apartments that were
involved one by one to try ensure that if there's anybody there, they can get help. so it's been very well orchestrated and very well organized. i was actually in line to try to get back to my home and a lady pulled up behind me and gave me ten pizzas and asked if i would drop them off at the command center. i know people are willing to help and they're praying. that's what we need most right now is prayers for people to heal. >> there's no question about that. you certainly have my prayers for you and the whole community. what went through your mind when you first -- when daylight hit and you first looked around and saw what had transpired the night prior? >> it's almost hard to believe when you see it. you see it on tv in other towns and places, but i've not ever seen that in my hometown. it's just amazing the devastation that i saw when i went down highway 109 going from
my house in toward town. just the devastation. i mean it's unreal how powerful this storm was and what it did in such a short time really. it will definitely make me think different on tornado warnings. i've really never became real concerned over those. but after last night i definitely will. but it's just -- until you see it in person, it's just amazing what a storm could do to a small town like ours. >> the pictures have been unbelievable. we are so glad you are safe. our prayers are with you and the whole community. lori wooten, thank you for sharing your story. >> thank you. >> we're getting brand new images showing the destruction from the severe storms and tornados in kentucky. i want to bring in cnn's chad myers. the kentucky governor was very clear. he said this is the worst, most devastating, most deadly event in kentucky's history. can you give us an idea of just
how devastating it was? >> the sheer length of the storm itself but also probably being an ef-4 or ef-5 for a time in its path and this town being directly in its path. it wasn't a glancing blow, it went right through the middle. this is the candle factory back in january and february and this is what it was when this company flew over the top of it. there's very little left of anything. down here on the bottom, all the cars that were in the parking lot because they were working the double shift or triple shift because it's christmas. now there's more weather down through georgia, maybe even northern florida. but this is the area that we would expect tornados to be in december, right along the gulf coast where it's warm. we do have one warning right now. a radar-indicated, nothing that we know of. back up to the north there's a little weather coming on by but later tonight and tomorrow this
is completely long gone, into the ocean, bye-bye. but what it does behind this cold front is cold air. what the people here that likely don't have maybe windows or part of a roof that have to live through this, likely no heat, temperatures will plummet down to about 25 degrees in that little town. phil. >> those are the people you're concerned about right now but you toggle back and forth, the before and after images you were showing from the satellite photos. again, we've been doing this for several hours and i still can't get my head around it, chad myers, thanks so much. for many, this time of year is about giving back but the cnn heroes all-star tribute celebrates ten extraordinary people who put others first all day long. it airs live tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. take a look. >> there was no drinkable water. something inside me started saying you need to do something about it. >> i could not allow one additional life to be lost. >> i feel this responsibility to
help these animals. this is what i was put on this earth to do. >> they started calling me the makeup lady. i love them, because i am them. >> the resilience of the children. >> we want to give you your second chance at life. it provides you a way to dream. >> we hope people live through something they did not think they would survive. >> i'm just doing the job i'm suppose to do. >> i want them to know their brains beautiful. you have to love each other across our difference. >> if you believe, you will succeed. >> join anderson cooper and kelly ripa live as they name the 2021 hero of the year. >> welcome to the cnn heroes family. >> the 15th annual cnn heroes all-star tribute, sunday at 8:00 eastern. >> that's one of my favorite parts ever ear year. you laugh a little bit, you cry a little bit but you also have hope. gather up the family, definitely grab those tissues.
but perhaps most importantly, be ready to be inspired. i think at this point we could all use. that does it for me. i'm phil mattingly reporting from washington. i'll see you back here tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. eastern. pamela brown takes over cnn's breaking news coverage of the deady tornado outbreak after a quick break. have a good night.
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destruction and devastation, as a swarm of deadly tornados slam through six states, killing at least 79 people. in kentucky, a candle factory flattened. officials digging through the rubble looking for survivors. >> i just came from there. we're going to lose a lot of lives in that facility. >> families outside of the facility desperate for news about their loved ones. >> i've been looking for her ever since 10:30 tonight. please help me. mean time, in illinois, an
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