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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript: Tornadoes in Mississippi


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But right now, the governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant, is joining us on the phone.

Governor, thanks very much.

I know you've got a crisis going on in your state.

First of all, tell us what the latest is from Tupelo, Mississippi.

We just showed our viewers some very disturbing information coming in.

GOV. PHIL BRYANT (R), MISSISSIPPI: Well, it is troubling. I'm now at our emergency management headquarters. And I just got off the phone with one of our Mississippi Highway Patrolmen, our SHOD team (ph), our response team, is on the ground there at West Jackson and Lumpkin Street. There's heavy damage, obviously. I think several hundred homes, trees down, power lines are down, a gas leak that occurred in an area in West Jackson Street, near Joyner Elementary School. We've got it stopped.

So our efforts now, search and rescue, getting our personal, manpower and equipment into that area and searching for anyone that might be injured.

We have no information regarding any injuries at this time. But that's our first concern. And so I'm just meeting here with our general of the National Guard. You know, we have a National Guard unit there. But primarily, we will be responding with our search and rescue teams as we are now. So we're getting bits and pieces of information that is coming from the Tupelo area.

BLITZER: We saw that funnel cloud going through Tupelo.

Have you confirmed, Governor, that a tornado actually ripped through parts of Tupelo?

BRYANT: It's obvious it was a tornado. Now, we always have concerns about straight line winds or whether it was a tornado. This appeared to be tornadic action in that area, to do that amount of damage. And, of course, you see from the video, it looks like a large, wide area of damage that occurred in that Lee County/Tupelo area. And a second front that may be headed in a similar direction. So that's what we're concerned about now, is trying to judge whether or not we put search and rescue teams on the ground with the threat of another cell moving in that direction.

So a lot going on here at emergency management.

BLITZER: Is it just in the Tupelo area of Mississippi or are other parts of your state clearly impacted, as well?

BRYANT: Oh, other parts. We just got a report just handed to me, a tornado on the ground in Winston County, as well. You mentioned earlier, in and around Yazoo City. I know Madison County in and around the Canton area has got some trees down.

These tornadoes are touching down throughout the state of Mississippi just now, within this front. So we are responding to each and every one of them as we can.

BLITZER: We saw what happened last night in Arkansas, where there were, what, 16 fatalities.

Is it too early to know about injured and, hopefully, nobody was killed?

BRYANT: It is. We've got one city employee in the city of Tupelo that's had an injury. We're providing medical assistance to him now. It is just too early. Literally, I had a -- one of our Highway Patrol units on his cell phone as he was making his way down West Jackson Street, reporting to me about five minutes ago. And so that's where we're at, trying to get crews, emergency responders into that area to find out who needs help and to get them to medical attention as quickly as possible.

BLITZER: What do people in Mississippi need to know right now, Governor, because we knew severe thunderstorms, severe weather was coming to Mississippi. Obviously, once a tornado actually hits the ground, it can be devastating. Speak to the folks in Mississippi right now.

What do you want them to know?

BRYANT: Well, what they need to know is it is not over. There are other cells that are just now moving in the direction of a -- from a southwest to northeast that could have additional tornadoes included in those cells.

So we would not want anyone to believe that if they had -- had received damage from tornado or straight winds, heavy rains in their area. There may be another cell behind that, so they should continue to look for a place of shelter. And if they need immediate assistance, obviously, reach out to their local police departments and sheriff's departments. That will be the first responders on the scene.

But unfortunately, this is going to be a prolonged storm and they need to make sure that they take cover in the event that additional storms should be heading their way.

BLITZER: When you say prolonged, what does that mean, Governor?

BRYANT: It just depends. It's difficult for us to tell them how rapid these storms are moving, but we think well into the everything. Earlier predictions were until 6:00, that there would be heavy damage, particularly in -- as storms that could cause heavy damage throughout that -- coming in, again, from the west, across the Mississippi River from Arkansas.

I spoke to Governor Beebe about a half hour ago and pledged -- and he asked us that we were not utilizing for this storm, we would certainly be on call for assistance. But unfortunately, it looks like we're going to need everything that we have here.

BLITZER: Is FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, contacted?

Are they ready to help?

BRYANT: They are. In fact, they were in a meeting this morning. We began this morning early working with FEMA. And their team was on the ground as of yesterday from here, a press conference about 11:00 today, again warning everyone to be very careful and take these storms very seriously.

Just another note came to me, Lee County -- it touched down in Lee County. A touch down confirmed in Philadelphia, Mississippi. So you're looking at four to five, maybe perhaps half a dozen touchdowns of tornadoes throughout the state of Mississippi now.

So, Wolf, I'd better get back to work.

BLITZER: Governor, good luck to you.

Good luck to all the folks in Mississippi, indeed, throughout the South. We'll stay in close touch with you.

Thank you very much.

BRYANT: Thank you so much.

BLITZER: Mississippi's Governor Phil Bryant.


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