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April 23rd, 2013
08:38 AM ET

Extreme flooding continues across Midwest – Jim Spellman reports


(CNN) - Steady rain was expected Tuesday in some Midwestern states already struck with severe flooding.

Deluges over the weekend left some homeless, rivers at dangerous levels and many in precarious situations.

"The more I see the water come up, the more I'll cry," said Starlynn Winchell, as she stared at floodwaters rushing up against her Spring Bay, Illinois home.

Winchell is one of many people in riverside communities this week inundated with flooding.

At least six rivers in northern Illinois had surged to record levels in recent days after the area was pummeled with five inches of rain. Flooding has displaced thousands and pushed Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to declare 44 counties as disaster areas.

This morning on "Starting Point," CNN's Jim Spellman reports from Illinois on how residents are preparing for another day of flooding in the Midwest.

READ MORE: Extreme flooding hits Midwestern states

Filed under: Flooding • Severe weather
December 26th, 2012
08:58 AM ET

Christmas tornado hits Mobile, Alabama; wife films storm as husband races away

Violent storms moving through the southeast ruined Christmas for many from Texas to Georgia. This "wedge" tornado was seen ripping through Mobile, Alabama. David Saraceno and his family were driving down the interstate en route to visit family for Christmas when they were caught in the storm. He drove while his wife shot a video of the dangerous tornado that tore through Mobile yesterday. He joins “Starting Point” over the phone from Fairhope, Alabama this morning to share his experience.

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Filed under: Christmas • Severe weather • Tornado
April 4th, 2012
11:26 AM ET

A miracle in Texas: Survivors and Dallas Mayor on tornadoes that tore through the state, what's next for cleanup

It was a storm that most never believed could happen. Quite suddenly, more than a dozen tornadoes may have hit the Dallas area Tuesday, damaging hundreds of homes.

The miraculous part: No deaths have been reported.

This morning on "Starting Point," Soledad talks with Dallas Mayor Michael Rawlings, who explained his amazement that no one died as a result of the tornadoes. "We're looking at a miracle," he says.

Also, Soledad talks with eyewitness Jonathan Cook, who described being surrounded by three tornadoes at once. By the end of the show, Parrish Velasco described the danger he faced in capturing intense video of one tornado that passed through Texas.


Photog captures incredible tornado pics

Parrish Velasco on the danger he faced in capturing intense video of one tornado that passed through Texas on Tuesday.


Eyewitness surrounded by 3 tornadoes

Eyewitness Jonathan Cook explains what he saw when tornadoes tore through Texas on Tuesday.


Dallas Mayor: We're looking at a miracle

Dallas Mayor Michael Rawlings explains his amazement that no one died after tornadoes tore through Texas Tuesday.

Filed under: Severe weather
March 5th, 2012
09:17 AM ET

Tornado survivors: We had 'fourteen minutes to take cover'

Sherman Sykes and Maureen Williams, whose restaurant was destroyed by Friday's tornado in Henryville, Indiana, discuss the strength of the storm and the tornado warning they received.

Filed under: Severe weather
March 1st, 2012
02:12 PM ET

Kansas Gov. Brownback to tour tornado damage

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback talks about extensive damage in Harveyville, KS and his plan to tour the area Thursday.

Filed under: Severe weather
March 1st, 2012
01:36 PM ET

Harrisburg resident on neighbors who passed in tornado: 'We were like a family'

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Gregg and Danny Morse, owner of destroyed Harrisburg buildings, discuss residents who lost their lives in the storm.

Filed under: Severe weather
March 1st, 2012
11:29 AM ET

Darrell Osman mourns the loss of his mother in Harrisburg, picks through debris for keepsakes

Darrell and Carolyn Osman lost their mother, Mary, in the deadly tornadoes that tore through Harrisburg, Illinois Wednesday. Her home was destroyed, and bits and pieces of her life were all over the neighborhood she once lived in.

On "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien," Darrell and Carolyn talk with Soledad throughout the show about finding out of Mary's passing, literally picking up the pieces from her home and explain that the only thing getting them through this tragedy is knowing that she's in heaven.


Tornado survivor discusses storm damage

Darrell Osman, who lost his mother in yesterday's tornado, describes the immediate aftermath of the storm.


Tornado survivor: 'There are no words'

Darrell and Mary Osman discuss the loss of their mother, who died in the tornado that ravaged Harrisburg yesterday.


Osman finds photo in Harrisburg debris

Darrell Osman finds family photos in debris after a tornado devastated Harrisburg, Illinois.


Moving on in Harrisburg after tornadoes

Soledad O'Brien asks Darrell Osman about how his family goes forward after he lost his mother in the deadly storm.

Filed under: Severe weather
March 1st, 2012
11:08 AM ET

Saline County Sheriff Keith Brown says '15-20% of Harrisburg community affected' by deadly storms

In Harrisburg, IL this morning, Saline County Sheriff Keith Brown tells Soledad O'Brien about emergency response efforts and the damage caused by yesterday's tornado.

Filed under: Severe weather
REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK: Surveying Harrisburg's path of destruction
March 1st, 2012
05:05 AM ET

REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK: Surveying Harrisburg's path of destruction

Editor's note: CNN's Soledad O'Brien and Rose Marie Arce traveled to Harrisburg, Illinois, Wednesday night to survey damage from the devastating EF4 tornado that killed six people there. Here is what they saw:

We headed into the disaster area, driving northeast from St. Louis, where you could feel the pockets of hot and cold air buffeting each other. Early reports are that six people died in Harrisburg, Illinois, so that's where we are headed.

The storm hit Harrisburg, with winds as high as 170 miles per hour, cutting a swath through the city. The mayor described the path as "three or four football fields wide."

The greatest damage was in southern Harrisburg, in the southern part of the state. About 200 to 300 homes are estimated to be damaged or destroyed, and the Harrisburg Medical Center was also hit. The tornado tore through a wall and left several patients' room open to the elements.

Tornado winds are incredibly powerful and affect every part of the globe. But the United States has historically experienced the worst of them. The rains that come with these storms make the ground fertile and rich, which means they tend to hit the breadbasket of any country – and the United States is no exception. The great irony is they tend to hit at the most beautiful time of year.

In Harrisburg the first sign of the severe damage is the flashing lights from police cars. Along Commercial Street we see a mini-mall, a medium sized strip mall that's collapsed in a tangle of metal and concrete. A massive yellow "Cash Store" sign has collapsed and leans backward into the rubble. Steel supporting beams are the only structures left standing.

Ringed in a semi-circle is a half dozen reporters, along with satellite trucks. The shopping mall has become a center of sorts. We meet the town's mayor, Eric Gregg, in the parking lot, along with the sheriff.

We make our way along the backside of the mall, along a residential road. A lone police car with a flashing light blocks the way into a small street. It's quaint cream-colored duplex apartments have been shattered by the strength of the tornado. Some apartments are standing, their windows intact. But others look like they've exploded, crushed cars still in the garages.

At the heart of the worst damage, where five people died on this street, there is nothing left of their homes. The foundations are empty, not even walls remain. Under curfew the street is dark and empty. Only the brisk wind blows down the road.

Danny Morse owns this housing development. Of the 10 identical homes, about half of them were built in 2005, but the rest were newly built in November. Many of those who died lived in these new homes. He points to the rubble of the farthest house.

"A girl lived there. She was young, 22," Morse said. "She had just moved in in November."

He is a large man, wearing a button-down work shirt and boots. He looks around anxiously, but he's calm: "I just cant believe it."