tv CNN Newsroom With Pamela Brown CNN December 12, 2021 3:00pm-4:00pm PST
a massive rescue and recovery effort now underway after violent tornadoes tore a path of destruction through eight states. >> i think it's going to be the longest and deadliest ctornado event in u.s. history. >> dozens of people still unaccounted for. the candle factory completely leveled. >> i would be down there if they would let me. i can't do anything but sit and wait. >> our tfactory was built as a
manufacturing facility. the steel structure, you would have thought it would be one of the safest places, but you can see there was nothing safe about this storm. >> nine people known to die when a tornado hit an amazon warehouse. among them, navy veteran cleveland kope. >> we're reaching out to the families of those we lost. >> reporter: now client experts warning extreme weather is becoming our new normal. >> the effects we're seeing from climate change are the crisis of our generation. i'm pamela brown, in p mayfield, kentucky, completely devastated. here in mayfield, there is still hope for a miracle that search crews will find at least one survivor buried in the rubble of a candle factory.
dozens of people are still missing tonight. this town of 10,000 is among the hardest hit from the factory to the farmland to the once picturesque, i've seen christmas decorations strewn about, mountains of rubble that were once beautiful historic buildings no longer here. the heads of homeland security and fema are in the region today. they are bringing much-needed federal resources. more than 80 people are feared dead, but kentucky's governor says the flood of support has eased the heartbreak somewhat. >> we're grateful for the outpouring of love. it's the best way i can describe it, from all over the country and from all walks of life. i want to thank everybody for standing with the people of kentucky. we feel it. in fact, one of our biggest challenges right now is organizing the amount of people that want to help, want to donate and want to volunteer, but you know what?
that's the best challenge that any of us can ask for. >> and that is so true. i've seen it firsthand here in mayfield, people just want to help. this is such a resilient, tight-knit community. i want to turn to ef anvansvill illinois, about 200 miles from here. debris was removed from an amazon warehouse. the walls of 11-inch-thick concrete crumbled and collapsed. our crew is on the air with those latest developments. let's begin in bowling green, kentucky reeling from widespread construction. rick is there. rick, i know fema teams svarriv there today. what are they doing to help? >> reporter: we've seen fema here, the red cross trying to clear out these homes trying to make sure there are no signs of
life inside, making sure nobody was left behind and going door to door, really, to clear out what's left of these homes. there is so much that this community needs here. it's been just over 24 hours since a series of tornadoes made their way through here in this state, and we've been speaking so much about what happened in mayfield. we can't overlook what happened here in bowling green in this subdivision where we're at. it's really one of the hardest hit in the city. we're hearing these traumatizing stories of survival. we spoke to one man whof was in his car wihen the tornado hit. the roof collapsed on his young children, and by the grace of god, there was a refrigerator that turned over that kept the roof from collapsing fully on his family. we spoke to one man who said it was a container, a trailer from his father's big rig that he feels stopped the force of the tornado from leveling his home.
you look to the right and left of his home, his neighbors just leveled. all that's left is debris. you talk about the volunteers, pamela, the federal response, but there is also a local response. i want to bring in one of those locals here. meg dillingham, you actually flew in from boston to help this community. >> yeah. i grew up here. i'm a native. >> what was it like to see this yesterday? >> i'm in boston and i looked at the video and i didn't recognize the places. >> reporter: there were just devastating people that didn't make it, young children. >> yeah, it's awful.
>> reporter: there are places that are just gone. >> i know. >> reporter: what does bowling green stand for? >> bowling green is a really diverse place. it holds a lot of really puzzle people and a lot of important communities from a lot of places around the world. a lot of hard-working people worked really hard in this community. >> >> reporter: megan, thank you for volunteering. i saw you give a cell phone to police, so i'm sure somebody will be grateful for that. some people will remember this the rest of their lives, pamela. >> i spoke to people yesterday who said this is just like a dream to them. they can't believe this happened to them, to their town, their home that they lost. they now face this massive
rebuilding challenge. i just asked the governor of kentucky if they would be able to incorporate new safety measures in case a storm like this hits again. will you look to rebuild in a way to make sure there are more safety structures in place in the event of more tornadoes? >> every time we build, we want to be more resilient. we don't want to see this happen ever again. when it's all said and done, when they evaluate the power of this tornado, i think it's pretty hard to build a structure that can ultimately hold up to it. whether these structures have been brick or wood or steel, some of these even metal buildings, they're gone. when this tornado hit, it didn't take a roof off, which is what we see in the past, it exploded the whole house. people, animals, the rest just gone. yes, we need to rebuild and be more resilient. yes, there were a lot of
warnings, but this thing is so powerful that i don't think there is any blame. we are just people together trying to move forward. >> reporter: and we keep hearing these incredible stories of survival here in mayfield. i spoke to charles sherilla a short time ago. he rode out the storm by sheltering in his bathtub. so this is your house. where is the bathtub? that's where you were right in there? look at this. you were right in there. >> laying down right there. >> reporter: look, right in there. what were you thinking when -- >> i was just praying. praying that god would take care of me and that my kids and family were okay.
>> reporter: where were your kids and family? >> they were a couple blocks over. it did hardly no damage over there. my best friend across the street had to get me out. >> reporter: he had to get you out of there? >> yeah. because i couldn't see. >> reporter: this basically protected you, though. >> the walls of this house pretty much protected me from the rest of the stuff. but the house was right here. >> reporter: it was over there? >> the foundation shifted all the way up the road. this is the driveway. >> reporter: you live right next to the train tracks. you said it sounded like a train? >> it sounded like a train. i'm just thankful to be alive and thankful for my kid and family and thankful for the ones that did make it and i'm sorry for the ones that didn't make it. again, that's where i was. >> reporter: i'm so sorry you're having to go through this.
>> the only problem i really had, when the tornado hit, the water line busted and i was close to drowning. the water line filled the tub and i almost drowned. i had my cousin get me out. i went over to his house. >> as you see, charles lost his home and among his belongings, he also can't find his medicine that he desperately needs. for residents in mayfield who don't have those important things like medicine, there is a mobile pharmacy i'm told will be en route here to help those residents. we know mayfield is the seat of
maris county. first of all, i want to ask you how you're doing. >> a little bit overwhelmed. that's about the only way i can describe it. >> obviously we're devastated. we feel like we've taken a punch in the stomach. however, we know that other communities have come out of this type of thing before. >> yeah. >> and i'm very confident that we will as well, it's just going to be a long road to get there. >> reporter: i know you're still in the stage of processing everything, and the sheriff lost a deputy that was out at the candle factory. what are you going through right now? >> i talked about devastation. it's that on so many levels. you know, we can't even operate
our business office, we've lost our office, which is minor compared to what a lot of folks are going through, but there's so many families hurting here. they've lost loved ones, they've lost their ability to survive this financially, they can't work, they lost their homes. it's just hard to wrap your head around how serious this situation is here. >> reporter: kim, we talked to you earlier today. you are the clerk at the courthouse seeing all this damage, and it was great the other clerks coming out to help you because this is critical now. >> i had montgomery county show up, franken county, mccracken county showed up to help me. >> reporter: what have you been doing? >> i've been getting a lot of my deeds out, my voter registration. just all of my critical stuff
that i have to have, getting it out and placing it where we're going to be at. >> and some of these documents are 100 years old. >> yes, i started friday and tried to get out afterwards because we didn't know what would happen during the tornado. >> and, sheriff, can you bring us up to speed on the latest at the candle factory? >> i can say there are agencies from other parts of kentucky and even other states that are here assisting in that effort. it's being worked in a very meticulous manner. we have a lot of folks here that are assisting that. they're very good at what they do. and i think we all want it done right and we want it done right the first time for the families of those involved.
i think that effort is going to continue for probably another few days before they'll be -- their mission will be completed out there. >> i've seen your tears well up in your eyes. for those watching right now, what else do you want to add, kim? what do you want people to know? >> i just want him to know that we're all here as a team, and we're going to get through this. just keep your faith and things will get better. it's just going to take a while. >> reporter: it's just incredible to see the resilience of everyone. i'm so proud as a fellow k kentuckian. i saw one young man at the courthouse today, and i was remarking how everybody was getting to work. he said, well, you're from here, you know how we are. and you've pulled together in an amazing way in the face of this.
thank you both very much. for more information about how you can help tornado victims go to c cnn.com. omicron, the newest cases linked to the variant. and chris wallace heads to cnn. >> i want to do something new to go beyond politics to all the things i'm interested in. i'm ready for a new adventure and i hope you check it out. look! oh my god... i want my daughter riley to know about her ancestors and how important it is to know who you are and to know where you came from. ♪ we're discovering together...
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more than 80 people, including children, they fear dead, most right here in kentucky. the governor says more than 1,000 homes are destroyed and dozens of people are still missing. some of the worst damage is here in mayfield. the destruction stretches for blocks, further than the eye can see. i want to bring in the congressman who represents this part of kentucky, james comer. thank you for joining us again. i'm sure you've been getting the very latest updates. first off, what can you tell us about where things stand? >> we still have hope there are people scattered in these homes that we just haven't been able to get the cadaver dogs over. we're still hoping people can be rescued, but obviously we're still having to recover a lot, too. >> reporter: can you give us any updates about the candle factory and what is going on there? >> i was there yesterday with
secretary mayorkas and we toured it. there are still crews going 24/7 trying to recover. there are people unaccounted for that were accounted for. they wanted to go home and check on their families and they go to homes that are no longer standing. it took 24 hours to locate all the people, but there are still a few unaccounted for there. >> reporter: is it still a search and rescue operation or is it a search and recovery? >> it is still a search and rescue. there is hope there may be one or two in there. we all know the temperature, and this is the second day going into the third day, so -- >> reporter: i've been going around mayfield talking to folks, and several people as i walked up to them said, are you fema? they're so desperate for help, and i know you have so many resources from the federal government, the local government. walk us through what is being done to help the good people of mayfield and beyond?
>> everybody is working together. this is a concentration of state and federal. we have a fema station here, too. we met privately with the local officials to make sure we're on the same page and they were telling them about taking pictures and keeping receipts and doing things like that, so i think there is going to be more information and more compliance coming. my office is here until we know that there will be a lot of paperwork. this is not going to be done in a few days, this is going to be several years' worth of clean scleanup, clear of debris. it's going to require a lot of assistance from the federal government. i know senator mcconnell is on board, and we're going to do everything we can to help the people of kentucky. >> and also people who need their medicine, which is something i encountered today. what do you tell them? >> i spoke to the postmaster
dejoy. the post office was completely destroyed and it serves most of this county. they're going to try to go to paducah. i know everyone is trying to pitch in and help, and the locals are reaching out to f pharmacies, trying to deliver medicine. >> reporter: i know you're in and out of homes trying to find survivors, but there is also looking ahead, too, and rebuilding, and what this means, this extreme weather event. i spoke to a woman at fema today, and she told me these extreme weather events are the new normal. i know in kentucky this is historic. in the past you have denied global warming, climate change. does this whole experience, being here, knowing what happened, does it make you reassess your view? >> i care about the environment. i'm a farmer. i consider myself a
conservationist, and i think we're doing things on the federal level to make sure there are no bad actors, no polluters. nobody wants water that is not clean. we recognize there are storms and tornadoes. we just passed the worst tornado in the history of kentucky and the previous one was in the late 1800s. unfortunately, tornadoes did not happen, but it's the role of congress to make sure we're doing things we can legislatively to reduce carbon emissions for the next generation in the environment. priceless memories gone, countless communities in shock. scott jennings joins me next. get e*trade and start trading today. never settle with power e*trade.
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as night falls, hopes are dimming of finding any more survivors. kentucky governor andy bashear is clearly frustrated he can't do any more. >> we have the reports to come in. we'll try to compile and move forward. i know in bowling green that's done by volunteers that create the list, and it was multiple pages, single-spaced with communications down as the real challenge, right? when your cell phones don't work in these communities, exactly how do you find people to truly know how many are missing? again, we're 40 hours in and just the level of devastation does make having the specific numbers i know you want just difficult to have.
>> reporter: meantime, this is what's left of the western kentucky town of dawson springs, homes to about 2,700 people. the governor also has a personal connection there. it was nearly flattened. the storm uprooted trees and reduced homes to rubble. one of my cnn colleagues is dealing firsthand with the shock of the devastation in his home state and hometown, cnn political commentator scott jennings right here with me. scott, you grew up in dawson springs right near where we are right now. your parents' home, your grandparents' home both obliterated. we're showing some footage that you shot earlier today. it is just devastation from start to finish. i do want to emphasize fortunately your dad did make it out safely. how is he doing today? >> he's doing okay, thank you for asking. this footage you're seeing right now i shot from my truck window. that's the street of oak
heights. my dad grew up there, i grew up there, my dad lives there now, and all the three different houses any of us ever inhabited are all destroyed. it's just shocking when you think about the way it looked, the way you remember things from your childhood, and really the way you remember things from a few weeks ago when you visited. i pulled up in my dad's driveway te today, and intellectually i knew it was the right house, but it was so disfigured. the garage was gone, the carport was gone, the trees were gone. i called him, he was about to pull in, and i said, am i in the right driveway? it didn't register for me that this could possibly be the same place. he and i were able to go through some of the rubble. you couldn't get in the front so we had to go through the back. we had to climb through some debris and we were able to pull out some old photos and things that he wanted to save. we were able to do that. honestly, i think he's still in shock and going through his own
stuff. but then you walk outside and look around, and he said earlier today, until you stand here and look at it, it's hard to process, and he was right. when i pulled into town, i'm still shocked by what i saw. >> reporter: yeah, it is like a scene out of a war movie. you can't believe this is what happened in your own hometown, your own home state, for me paz a kentuckian. it is surprising to me just to see the resilience of some people. they said they lost their home but they still had smiles on their face. it's incredible. >> i saw people today that had their chain saws out and they were getting stuff out of their house. they were moving forward. they were trying to figure out how to move forward with the circumstances they had been handed. right behind where my dad lives, and i think i saw it on drone footage as well, there was an apartment complex, and it's hard to look at that and wonder if there were people in there, what happened to them when that thing
hit and flattened that structure. i did talk to some police officers in dawson as i pulled into town today, and i know they had the cadaver dogs and the search and rescue teams out going door to door, essentially. there's still a lot of missing people. i personally heard the names of some folks who lived on that street where i was today that didn't make it. i don't think they've announced all that yet, but if you get up close to it and you see the condition of the structures, some houses were totally vapor d vaporized. some houses were picked up and lifted off their foundation. it's hard to fathom if you've never been through anything like this before, and who has? the historic nature of this, even if you're an avid weather watcher, how could you predict something like this, let alone in your own hometown. my dad is doing okay, and most of my family i've been able to
track down is okay. they're just shell-shocked, and i think they're all trying to figure out what comes next for a town like dawson or mayfield, kentucky are barely holding on. >> reporter: after a pandemic, nonetheless. >> yeah, and the only big building they've been trying to put industry in for years, it's been totally destroyed. you just start to think about the future and what does a little town like this do when you know it's going to take years to rebuild even a portion of this. >> reporter: the good news is the entire country stands behind your hometown, mayfield, and we know the fund that's been set up here in kentucky has more than $2 million raised. we know money will keep pouring in for people in dawson springs, mayfield and bowling green, all
over, really. thank you, scott, i can't imagine pulling up to your childhood home and that emotion that would overtake you. >> it was hard to see, and i have to compliment the governor. i talked to the senator, i cong was just here. it's really impressive and it speaks well of our people that we elected folks who were willing to set aside what you would normally think of as differences and band together for people who are desperately in need. i'm told blood donations are important, so if you want to help, that's a way to do it. >> reporter: people here are struggling just to put their lives back together. new information we just got about the omicron variant, that's coming up next. my patients are able to have that quality of life back. i recommend sensodyne repair and protect with deep repair.
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best way to protect against it. today british officials reported the first hospital admissions from the new strain of the coronavirus. a short time ago, prime minister boris johnson sounded the alarm. >> omicron is doubling here in the u.k. every two to three days. we know from bitter experience how these exponential conserves develop. nobody should be in any doubt there is a tiny wave of omicron coming. >> reporter: but earlier data out of south africa paints a more optimistic picture showing the variant may be less dangerous than originally feared. that could be good news for many u.s. hospitals as many are still trying to keep up with the delta variant. let's talk to ashish jha from the university of public health. thanks for joining us. what have we learned about the omicron variant so far? >> thank you, pamela, for having me back.
what we've learned so far is that two shots of a vaccine are probably not going to be enough to keep you from getting infected with this variant. but three shots, two shots plus a booster, helps a lot. that's number one. number two, i think what we're learning is that this is incredibly contagious. it is going to spread like wildfire across the united states, and we've got to be ready for it. even if it's milder than previous versions, we don't know if it is, we really have to figure out how to manage it in the weeks ahead. >> reporter: what about for kids? do we have a data on how it could impact kids? >> there was some preliminary data early that maybe it's a bit more dangerous for kids. i haven't seen any data that really has panned out on that front. obviously kids five and above can get vaccinated and i think it's you are general that pare -- it's urgent that people do that. but i think kids five and above if they contract it will do
okay. >> that's a relief for moms with kids. commissioner scott gottlieb said covid hot spots should consider mask mandates to help out. what do you think? is that a good idea? >> i do think it's a good idea. right now our health care system is stretched just because we've been at this for two years. doctors and nurses are exhausted. hospitals and staff, we have a shortage of hospital staff. we need to do everything we can to keep hospitals open. i think mask mandates in places with big surges really can be helpful. >> dr. ashish jha, thank you very much. >> thank you, pamela. two sheriff's deputies are sharing their harrowing stories of surviving the deadly tornadoes. >> i believe it was a 2x4 that went through my windshield and then it sucked it back out. >> their cars severely damaged, they still rushed into action to save a little girl. their story, next.
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> welcome back to cnn newsroom. i'm pamela brown live in kentucky, one of the towns with major destruction from a tornado that swept across eight states. there are also stories of selflessness and survival emerging from the destruction. cnn's brynn gingras had people sharing their stories with her also. brynn, tell me what happened?
>> reporter: that particular couple you're talking about, it's a couple with a six-year-old daughter. they got warning about the ststorm coming to them from the news. they decided to take shelter in a storm basement, and i want you to hear from them how they survived this storm. >> me and our daughter were sitting on that pallet. this door here is what kept us alive, basically, along with him because he was holding it with a lanyard, just a lanyard. >> i've never felt anything like that in my life. it felt like there was ten grown men outside this door trying to pull on the hinges. >> reporter: so he's holding the door shut. you're holding your six-year-old daughter. can you just describe it being a mom? [ crying ] >> we were just -- i just told her to close her eyes and she
started counting. she said, like hide and seek, mom? >> reporter: just such an emotional experience. i just lost brynn gingras there, but it really is so devastating. as i've been going through mayfield homes just destroyed and when you go by those homes you hope and pray those children are okay, that they made it out of this alive and it's so traumatizing for mothers like brynn who they interviewed, holding her daughter tight as this tornado proved through. police officers out on patrol when one of the tornados struck their cars, pieces of wood and other debris lodged in the windows including a 2 x 4 that
went through the windshield. one lifted off the ground and spun sideways, both officers, though, lived to tell the tale. shortly after the tornado passed, a scream from late girl kicked them into action which. >> we heard the scream, i grabbed my medic bag and ran to the house. >> deputy was coming to help us, said there was a girl inside bleeding profusely so we ran up with a tourniquet and it appeared that her leg was seriously injured. >> just muscle memory, just, you know, what i knew had to be done. >> the girl did have life threatening injuries but thanks to those officers, she's going to be okay. we welcome those hopeful, inspiring stories but sadly many other stories from the storm that do not have a happy ending ahead, a mother shares her pain of losing her son killed in the
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already getting ready. what's going on, there, vanessa? >> reporter: hi, pam, well the cnn heros just made their way down the red carpet. extraordinary night, honoring 10 of them this evening from around the world. it is a very special evening because it is the 15th year but also a year since we did not have a red carpet, now the red carpet is back, so there's a lot of energy and excitement here. one of those heros who we spoke to a little earlier, david started an organization that connects children with learning disabilities with mentors. he told us, in order to continue their mission they had to change it a little bit during the pandemic. here he was earlier. >> there was a pandemic before the pandemic for kids with learning disabilities. they weren't being seen or heard or valued so sundayly when we couldn't meet in person, we have to find a way they can be seen,
so again, did the virtual meetings, create a space online and we continued that work. so we have a new group called the ld alliance where people can come together and find their allies, sometimes back in person, thank god we can do that again. still behind a mask, but they can feel seen and know their voice matters. >> reporter: now celebrities making their way down the carpet, singer singer josh rog they'll be on stage welcoming these heros, the on the stage tonight with $10,000, and the hero of the night will get $100,000 for their organization, but honestly, pam, they're all heros tonight. >> thank you so much, looking forward to it a little later. and the 15 th annual scene of heros, all-star tribute hosted
by anderson cooper and kelly rupa tonight 8:00 p.m. you won't want to miss that. one café spreading the christmas cheer in their community. a facebook post from a single mother who couldn't afford a christmas tree for her son. the café's owner, she and her husband went out, bought trees, and placed them outside the tree for anyone to have. >> they were gone within an hour and said okay let's get more, and more, then the community said let's donate a tree. hopefully we're helping to bring happiness into their home as well. >> reporter: trees are given oit no questions asked, if you need one, you can take it. next hour of cnn newsroom starts now. >> reporter: massive rescue and recovery effort under way after
violent tornados tornados tore destruction through eight states. dozens of people still unaccounted for after a kentucky candle factory was completely leveled. >> i'd be down there digging if they could let me, but can't do nothing but sit and wait. >> our factory was built as a manufacturing facility, and the concrete walls and steal frame in the structure, you would have thought it could be one of the safest places but ironically as you can see from the devastation there wasn't anything safe about this storm. >> reporter: more than 6 people known to have died in a tornado at the amazon warehouse, among them, may be veteran -- >> we're reaching out to the families of those we lost. >> reporter: now, the top weather experts warn extreme with a weather may be the new normal. >> the effects of climate change
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