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CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript - Oklahoma Tornado

Interview

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CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Emotions are raw here in Moore, Oklahoma -- people describing this tornado as if it were a monster that came through here. In Joplin they described it as a fist coming flying out of the sky and crushing everything below it.

And now what you see around us, the medical center over my shoulder destroyed; one of the places that was supposed to be more secure. The devastation is obvious here. How they will recover is not. The community is coming together. They are doing all they can. Search and rescue is ongoing.

Now throughout the morning, throughout our reporting on this, we've been trying to stay away from the numbers of casualties. We've been giving you what the government is putting out because that's often how we measure the impact.

But I will tell you this. Much of what they're hearing on the government side as well is piecemeal. It's unproven. It's not fact at this time. And there is a chance -- the likelihood is that numbers get worse as you go through a situation like this. That's common sense. And we've seen it too many times. But it could also go the other way. The reports could be wrong.

And I want to bring in Congressman Mark McBride right now. Congressman can you hear me?

REP. MARK MCBRIDE (R), OKLAHOMA (via telephone): Yes. Yes, I can hear you.

CUOMO: Thank you for joining us on the phone. Yes can you hear me Congressman?

MCBRIDE: Yes, yes I can hear you.

CUOMO: All right. Moore is part of your district. You know the pain here. I don't know if you can hear but I'm discussing right now that what we're hearing about lives lost here is a very uncertain number, is that right? It could go up, it could maybe go down.

MCBRIDE: Yes the last I heard was at 6:00 this morning and it was you know somewhere around 90 to 100. But you know, with the devastation that I've seen with the school and the -- the housing and the subdivisions and stuff, there's you know I don't know that anybody is ready to stick a number on it yet.

I know that I was just in front of the church (ph) at Moore and they've just came in and told a lady that her -- they've found her husband and she was in there crying. So it's you know a really sad time.

CUOMO: And obviously, look, I mean the numbers are meaningless because it's all about the specific loss, every life is precious.

MCBRIDE: Correct.

CUOMO: And not to be foolhardy in hopefulness but just the idea that this is a very fluid situation and what is known should be in quotes because the reality is just -- it's difficult to know anything for sure, isn't that true at this point?

MCBRIDE: Oh yes. It's -- you know, yesterday I was at one place where they were pulling out a body, I guess. I mean the sad thing is there was a little pink -- a little jeep looking girl's toy sitting there in the driveway. I didn't stay there. I didn't know if it was a child or an adult.

But I mean, I was just choking back tears and trying to be strong, you know, and -- and just to see that and think that may have been a child in that debris just you know broke my heart. And then going over to Plaza Towers when I was over there, they were pulling children out of the school there. You know it's just a gut wrenching experience. And my family has lived in Moore since the 1940s and, you know, we've been through several tornadoes here but this is the worst thing I've ever seen.

CUOMO: Why do you say that? What makes this one worse?

MCBRIDE: It's just -- well, you take like the Moore Hospital. I mean it just looks like somebody bombed it. I've never seen a building destroyed. That kind of building destroyed to that magnitude and you know that 7-Eleven in the corner of Fourth and Telephone Road (ph) is not there anymore. And just acres of houses just swept off the slab. I mean there's you know -- if you didn't have a storm shelter, you -- you didn't ride it through because there was no safe place in these homes. There was no closet to get into because there were no closets left.

My mother rode the storm out underneath the stairway in their home and fortunately she survived but it devastated most of the house.

CUOMO: Congressman, what is the deal with shelters, who has them, who doesn't and why? I mean obviously they -- they're not mandated by the state. But help give us some understanding of how it works here.

MCBRIDE: Well, I think we all kind of think we're brave and we stand out in our driveways and watch the storms go by. I will own a shelter after this when I don't have a shelter myself. I -- one of the other -- one of the other Representatives and myself were visiting last night as we walked through the neighborhood of these schools.

You know that's something that we want to see next year you know some legislation so these schools have some place for these children to get to. Because you know these -- these -- the children are -- they're sacred. You know, we need to protect these kids. And I don't know. You can say it's more government interference but, you know, to not have a storm shelter in these schools, it's just we've got to change.

CUOMO: Well that's my -- that's the question. I mean look we are not at a point -- this is not meant as a finger pointing in any way, it's just more of a curiosity, of a confusion. Why wouldn't schools have storm shelters when this is part of tornado alley, when this can happen, not to this degree thank God but bad things happen weather- wise here? Why isn't it part of just the makeup of communities?

MCBRIDE: Oh I just think you know people think they can dodge the bullet. You know, you know, they hit and miss. You know we haven't had a major one like this since '99. We had a little one that came through Moore in 2003. But I think we're just you know we get that, we get lax after one goes through and it's not a big deal.

And you know and there's an expense factor. You know our budget is stretched. You know the education takes a lot of the money for our state. You know 50 plus percent. So it's just -- I don't think it's been a priority but I think after this it will become a priority as we build schools.

CUOMO: I -- I hear you. Just you know when we think about you guys in Washington and what you're fighting over and what money -- where money goes and what it's for and then you're standing down here and seeing the need as so great, I hope that it moves up the list, Congressman, because certainly it would make a difference in so many people's lives in your own community.

MCBRIDE: Right and just to clarify, I am a State Representative. I'm not -- I don't --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Right.

MCBRIDE: Congressman Cole is the Congressman for this area. But -- but this is my -- my district as State Rep so.

CUOMO: Right, right. Thank you for that. Thank you for that clarification. But -- but hopefully -- but hopefully Representative that, you know, it's able to be better the next time but obviously the urgency right now is getting through this time.

MCBRIDE: Right.

CUOMO: The need is obvious everywhere that we look. What do you hear about how it is going in terms of search and rescue and in terms of having the resources? What are you hearing from your people on the state level?

MCBRIDE: We have all of the resources at our fingertips. We've brought in people from 77 counties here in Oklahoma, search and rescue, you know, police officers, sheriff's department, counties, different counties have sent in equipment. We have a staging area at south Moore where all of, you know, the Silver Star, Cleveland County, District 1, 2 and 3 have their equipment set up.

The streets are getting cleared as we -- as we speak so we can get in and see more and I know that the fire departments from the state are here and they're out you know going through the debris and the houses. I've seen a lot of rescue dogs, search and rescue dogs.

So -- so there's a -- we have -- we have a lot of people -- it's amazing. You know Oklahoma is one of those states that when something happens to somebody, they all turn out to help. So it's just kind of a good feeling to know that just in a matter of hours -- I mean, I'm talking convoys of vehicles with lights flashing coming in here from you know cities from far away. So --

CUOMO: Well that's all good news. You know and I'm sorry, Representative, I got ahead of myself talking to you as an official instead of just another man. How is your family? How are your loved ones? Did everybody make it through?

MCBRIDE: My family is fine. My house took just minor damage. I was about a quarter mile south of the tornado. My parents it went right through the middle -- I haven't been there. I just got off the phone with my sister and said it went through the middle of her house. My mother was hiding under the stairway and rode it out. And -- but they are -- they are all fine. So luckily you know we weathered -- you know my family weathered the storm.

CUOMO: Well, you know, as terrible as it is to hear about your mother hiding under the stairs in this scenario as we've been saying this morning, it still puts you on the side of being one of the lucky ones. So God bless.

MCBRIDE: Right.

CUOMO: I'm happy that your family is ok. And thank you for taking the time to talk to us.

MCBRIDE: Oh you bet. You know I'd like to --

CUOMO: And as the need continues --

MCBRIDE: I'd like to be with my family but I've got about 40,000 people here in my district that I got to take care of too. So they're safe. So I'll take care of these people that aren't right now.

CUOMO: Well they are all your family now. They're all your family when they're in need and so -- so get to it, Mark. All of the best to you. Let us know if we can help ok.

MCBRIDE: All right. Thank you.

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