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tv   Nightline  ABC  April 18, 2011 11:35pm-12:00am PDT

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tonight on "nightline" -- tornado fury. powerful tornadoes tear through the country and already it's the worst storm season in 20 years. we look at what may be in store this week and have the dramatic stories of those who narrowly survived. plus, giant panda. 65 million pounds of chicken a year and we eat it up. what's the secret ingredient that keeps so many coming back to panda express? and why do their employees seem so happy? and full throttle tot -- would you let your kids do this? children as young as 5 racing around a track at 60 miles an hour as their parents cheer them
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on. it's tonight's "sign of the times." good evening, i'm cynthia mcfadden. we begin tonight with deadly weather. this april has been one of the most lethal tornado months on record. and there seems to be more severe weather on the way. we'll have more about that. but first, incredible stories of survival. as terrifying as these big storm systems can be, it's astounding how some are saved where almost nothing else is left standing. abc's sam champion has the details. >> the roof blew off the house. >> large tornado on the ground! oh, my god! >> reporter: more than 200 tornadoes reported in three days. leaving a path of destruction from mississippi to maryland.
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15 states devastated by this series of super cell thunderstorms. 45 people killed and countless communities left in ruins. more tornadoes in three days than usually occur in the entire month of april. and we're not done yet. >> oh, my god! >> reporter: severe weather is expected again tomorrow through wednesday morning as a cold front pushes east from the rockies and collides with warm air from the south with more tornadoes plus thunderstorms and even hail. this follows a pattern that has created one of the worst spring storm seasons in history. >> a tornado is not a very common occurrence, even in tornado alley. we do know if we're going to see weather systems of this type, the most likely time of year to see them will be in the springtime months of april and may. >> and as much as the country braces for what's predicted to be another few days of rough weather, incredible stories of survival from the devastation so
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far. first, in sanford, north carolina, a tornado struck here at 3:20 on sunday afternoon. >> i just saw a big giant gray cloud funneling and thank goodness our store managers and everyone, we just jelled together so well, it was just perfect team work. >> reporter: the hero here, mike, the manager who saved at least 100 customers and employees. how did you know that was the right place to go? all of this is glass, right, and none of that back there is? >> well, the only thing that's glass is those two doors. everything else is a brick wall. but we knew just because of our safety plan, you know, we've had a safety plan we have in place, but we knew the back corner, that's the most structurally sound part of this building. >> reporter: he corralled everyone to the back of the building just as the front walls blew in. and one customer shot this video of the survivors during the first few moments after that tornado finally passed over. >> be careful, be careful!
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>> no one, no one, even had a scratch. >> reporter: some saved by quick thinking heroes, others by sheer inexplicable luck. less than an hour's drive north, raleigh, north carolina, and the amazing story of 3-month-old hayden robinson. >> i heard nothing but glass shatter so i grabbed him and i hold him for -- you know what i'm saying, i cover him up, and next thing you know, the whole back side of my trailer came down. >> reporter: his older cousin held on to him tightly, as tightly as he could, but it wasn't enough. >> and the wind just took him, took him straight out my arms. >> reporter: and the wind just pulled him right out your arms? >> took him out my hands. i thought he was gone, thought he was lost. >> reporter: yet when the tornado passed, somehow just several feet away laying on a pile of wood was baby aidan, crying but unharmed. >> i don't know what to call it. >> a miracle.
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>> i mean, this little baby, 3 months old, fine, you know what i'm saying? >> reporter: the severe weather that caused all this damage was almost a perfect combination of three factors. warm air and moisture spreading across the south and southeast, plus a strong cold front moving through the region. add to that, a strong jet stream with fast winds and dynamic wind shifts. the result, a deadly outbreak of tornadoes. >> don't go any further, bro. >> reporter: over 240 reported tornadoed which would make it the worst three-day storm in history. but meteorologists will be out over the next few days to more accurately survey the damage and count the tornadoes. >> as the event is unfolding, we all need as much information as we can possibly get. we have radar, satellites and computer models. we really need ground truth as the event is unfolding. >> tell me you got this. >> i got it. >> we may get 6, 12, 15 reports that in the end result, end
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analysis, will end up as one tornado event. >> reporter: whatever the final tally -- >> anybody home? >> reporter: -- this april has already earned its place in history as one of the deadliest tornado months on record. for "nightline," i'm sam champion in north carolina. >> what about that baby? for a fascinating look at how experts say you can survive one of these vicious storms, visit just ahead, the chinese restaurant chain that seems to be everywhere you look but that's not the only thing that sets it apart. what's the secret behind panda express? ♪ professional driver on a closed course. ♪ do not attempt at home. always wear your seat belt.
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[car horn honks] our outback always gets us there... ... sometimes it just takes us a little longer to get back. ♪ well, it's a choice faced every night by thousands of americans. sesame chicken or beef with broccoli? america's love affair with chinese food goes back to the 1800s and the days of the royal road. well, today, no food court would seem complete without a chinese joint and chances are fair that place will be part of the enormous chain we get to know better tonight. here's john berman.
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♪ >> reporter: what if i told you this jumping and gyrating makes your rice taste better? >> the person that inspires me the most would be my mom. >> reporter: that a good cry can make for a great egg roll? >> hopefully some day i'll become like her. >> reporter: that a morning hike -- >> look how beautiful it is. >> reporter: can sell 65 million pounds of orange chicken? if i told you that, you might say, no way. but the fact is, there is a way. the panda way. >> you know, panda, we're really not selling chinese food. you know? our real purpose is about developing people. >> reporter: andrew chong is the co-ceo of the panda restaurant group. think panda express. the chinese food chain with nearly 18,000 employees. and yes, he sells more than 65 million pounds of orange chicken
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every year. but he swears the key ingredient to this chicken isn't a sauce or a spice but -- >> i think the biggest thing about panda is the people that cares about what they do. >> reporter: you sell a lot of food. >> yes. >> reporter: what's more important here, food or caring? >> caring. >> reporter: but you can't eat caring. >> you certainly can. >> reporter: chong calls all this the panda way. it's really a four point action plan that he demands of all his employees. healthy lifestyle. that's why he took me hiking. continuous learning. developing others. and acknowledging others. >> we discovered life differently. who knows what the positive results are? when you do life certain way, it's bound to give you a higher level of probability to succeed. >> and our guiding values --
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>> reporter: if it all sounds a little touchy-feely, like a giant self-help group, that's because it's exactly what it is. chong is something of a self-help addict. his current favorite is landmark education. a sometimes controversial human potential seminar that calls for personal transformation through revealing everything and creating new meaning. >> my favorite today is probably landmark. i have done a lot. >> reporter: what have you done? >> we have done seven habits. we have done life academy. and the totality is, you know, life is about sort of buffet of learning. >> reporter: he says these programs have been a huge part of his own growth from a chinese imgrant who arrived here speaking no english in 1966 to a corporate titan. he worked his way through college and opened his first restaurant with his wife and
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father in 1973. have you succeeded in life? >> it's a process. you know? there's a lot more to do. there's some areas i've done very well. and some areas i've continued to learn. >> reporter: panda's revenues were more than $1.4 billion last year. not bad. but again, remember, he swears that's not his number one goal. what do you consider to be the most important part of your job? >> give people -- get people to change, change the way they see things. >> reporter: that's why one saturday every few weeks he hosts forums like this at panda headquarters outside pasadena. ♪ after they dance, they call this the zumba, they basically hold a giant motivational self-help session. >> we also have established strategies as well as goals. >> reporter: if these forums aren't enough, there's a scholarship fund to help managers attend landmark training programs.
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they are strongly, strongly encouraged to go. if i want to be a manager at panda, do i have to go to landmark or some kind of self-help group? >> i wish you would. >> reporter: that sounds like a yes. >> yes. >> reporter: is there any resentment? >> i can almost guarantee you that most everyone that goes, they change their mind. okay, they may not go willingly but after they come back they say wow. >> reporter: this sounds like a lot of kool-aid you're asking people to drink here. >> i believe most people here see that as a necessity to be successful in this country. >> i'm really inspired by your energy, your participation, thank you very much. >> reporter: truthfully, at their weekend retreat, there is an astonishing lack of cynicism and a palpable sense of purpose. there's a lot of hugging i understand that goes on. >> it makes people feel good.
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>> reporter: hugging's a good thing. >> good thing. >> reporter: it may work for a healthy workplace environment, though it doesn't necessarily make for a healthy meal. i enjoyed your orange chicken yesterday but i don't feel like it made me lose weight or get healthier. i mean, there is something kind of ironic about the leader of a giant company that makes not fast food but yummy not necessarily unfattening food preaching to his people they need to be healthier. >> well, i think -- i think you've got to have some fun in life. >> reporter: maybe he's right. there is something behind the fact this man sells more than 65 million pounds of chicken every year. and really, it's not his cooking. you don't really know how to cook? >> what i'm doing is different cooking, isn't it? i'm cooking up some good chemistry. >> reporter: i'm john berman for "nightline" in rose meade, california. >> get this, panda restaurant
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group may soon come full circle by opening restaurants in china. next up, why would a parent strap their 5-year-old into a go cart and send them streaming around a track at 60 miles an hour? we find out. when ford swaps your ride, you tend to talk about it. a lot. you've had the escape for a week. i was a honda guy for a long time. the escape actually has great gas mileage. i need something fuel-efficient. it's very important. i'm an adrenaline junkie. i keep a ton of stuff in my car. you have park assist in that, right? you take your hands off the wheel! it's crazy. how's that work on your honda? what honda? swap your ride and get a fuel-efficient ford escape with 0% financing plus $500 cash back. i think we need to try it a little longer. 'bout a year.
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so, just whose idea was it to take 5-year-old kids, many of whom cannot tie their shoes yet, and strap them into go carts that can race at freeway speed? someone who likes kids or didn't? nick watt says it's got to be a "sign of the times." >> burning rubber.
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checkered flags. smell of manliness in the air. speed, fear, groupies. today, we are gladiators. that's me, nick, age 37. my rivals, harry, age 6. alfie, age 8. ben, he's just 7. >> you want a seat belt? >> and we're off, cart racing. kids have always loved to race but now they're getting younger. much younger. we hit 60 down that straight. in britain, they've launched a bambino class. you can start racing age 5. start driving even younger.
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harry was 4. >> first i was scared. >> were you? >> yes. >> but not anymore? >> no. >> ben was just 3 when his dad let him drive a little cart. >> at 30 miles an hour? >> 35. >> what's that? >> lead. >> the carts are weighted with lead because the kids are just too light. and they do crash. ben crashed last month. bad one? >> very bad. ben's cart catapulted and flipped over twice. >> he's back in the saddle but check out the scrapes on his neck brace. why are they doing this? because of this guy, louis hamilton who began his racing career in a cart at their home track age 8. now he's a formula 1 world champion driver. he's worth maybe 40 million bucks and he's shacked up with a pussycat doll. these kids want to be just like louis. they're too young to care about the women and the money but they want formula 1. >> formula 1. >> formula 1.
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>> you all do want to do this? >> yes. >> okay but on the money, parents are spending thousands on carts, helmets, track time. are they investing, hoping for prize money down the road? the parents assure us they are not pushing, all right. is this a case of you sort of pushing -- >> no, no, no, ben is determined to go carting every weekend. >> off the track, they're normal kids playing hide and seek, goofing around. >> they play like normal boys but when they're out on the circuit, they're not their friends anymore, they're out there to win. >> there's the line, out there, first, ben, second, harry, the last man, me, trailing last. just too old to be a contender. i'm nick watt for "nightline" at the racetrack, england. >> that's one form of entertainment i guess. that is our report for tonight. from all of us at abc news, thank you. we hope ll


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