JOHN YANG: Tonight on "PBS News Weekend," another round of massive storms unleashes deadly tornadoes across the South and Midwest.
JOANNA MCFADDEN: Someone say it runs to the back.
Me and these two ladies here, we run to the back, we huddled together and we pray for our lives.
JOHN YANG: Then a look at the FDA's decision to allow over the counter sales of the opioid overdose reversal drug Narcan.
And a shortage of both public defenders and prosecutors in Wisconsin is raising concerns about fairness in the legal system.
(BREAK) JOHN YANG: Good evening, I'm John Yang.
The ominous weather forecasts and warnings came true for a large section of the country as a massive line of severe weather wreaks havoc from the deep south all the way north to the Great Lakes.
At least 21 people have been killed and an estimated 85 million people were in the path of the storms.
From two twisters and a wide-open Iowa field.
NO NAME GIVEN: Dude stop.
JOHN YANG: To a funnel captured up close by storm chasers.
The outbreak of severe weather was intense.
The system brought hail and even snow.
There have been multiple deaths in Tennessee to the east of Memphis and in the small town of Wynne, Arkansas which took a direct hit from a tornado.
Residents were left stunned.
NO NAME GIVEN: I'm speechless.
This is no word.
We can sign that.
This never happened down here like this.
For it to happen, and it's not words.
JOHN YANG: In the small town of Sullivan, Indiana, the mayor said parts of the community are unrecognizable.
Cities and Towns big and small were hit hard.
On Friday a tornado made its way through Little Rock Arkansas, population 200,000, sirens blared, warning some residents in the capital city to seek shelter.
Others relied on a signal from nature.
JOANNA MCFADDEN, Little Rock Resident: All the way we knew the tornado was coming, the leaves were swirling.
That's all the way we knew.
It looked like it was standing still.
Someone said run to the back.
Man, these two ladies here.
We ran to the back.
We huddled together and we pray for our lives.
JOHN YANG: Drone footage over parts of Little Rock revealed the scope of the damage.
Roofs ripped off, entire buildings flattened.
Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders spoke to reporters in front of one of the city's fire stations itself in the tornadoes path.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, (R) Arkansas: I've had the opportunity over the last couple of hours to speak with both the Homeland Security Secretary as well as President Biden who have offered a tremendous amount of support, anything that Arkansas needs.
They have assured us that those resources will be here and on the ground.
And we really appreciate their willingness to help Arkansas out.
JOHN YANG: Daniel Cline and his family took cover minutes before the tornado hit.
DANIEL CLINE, Little Rock Resident: We went into a small closet close the door.
Then we heard some distant crashing and then the house started to shake and rumble.
Once we felt it was close, it was maybe 15 to 20 seconds kind of various chaos and then then it was dead quiet.
JOHN YANG: Cline said the damage in his neighborhood seemed random.
DANIEL CLINE: Lots of people were home and they seem to be from what I can gather mostly unhurt.
A lot of close calls of people, trees going through various parts of people's houses and they're missing getting hit by feet.
JOHN YANG: In Belvidere, Illinois the severe weather caused the roof of the Apollo Theater to collapse during a heavy metal concert.
Official said one person died and at least 40 others were injured.
And as the cleanup begins, more than 200,000 people across five states remain without power.
For more on these storms, Walker Ashley of Northern Illinois University.
He's an atmospheric scientist and a certified consulting meteorologist.
I understand you were doing some firsthand research last night, a little storm chasing, what did you see?
WALKER ASHLEY: Well, got on some good supercells in the central part of the state.
Luckily, they didn't produce any tornadoes in the area that I was in.
But unfortunately for the communities, they did get take some pretty big hail, but compared to some parts of the Midwest, I think we made out okay.
JOHN YANG: You've got a recent study about the future of supercells in the United States.
First of all, what is a supercell?
WALKER ASHLEY: Great question.
Supercells are rotating thunderstorms.
They're actually relatively small.
But they pack a heck of a punch.
I always liken them to peanuts.
You know, peanut is a relatively small piece of food, but boy, it's got a lot of calories, a lot of protein, a lot of fat.
And these supercells, although relatively small, produce the lion's share of tornadoes and significant hail that we experienced in the United States.
JOHN YANG: And some of the biggest tornadoes in recent years Moore, Oklahoma, Joplin, Missouri, the southern outbreak in 2011.
You, as I understand your study, you modeled various levels of carbon in the -- over the years to see what would happen, and what did you find?
WALKER ASHLEY: Well, it's just not carbon, we looked at various sort of future projections of the greenhouse gas, right, emission scenarios.
Both this intermediate and pessimistic warming reveal a dramatic increase in the number of supercells across the Mid-South, the Ozark Plateau, the lower Ohio Valley.
So that area of -- let's call it, northeast Texas, eastern Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and stretching over to Mississippi and Alabama, I take sometimes a doubling of the number of supercells.
If you double the number of supercells, the number of unfortunately, the hail and tornadoes could also see a doubling.
Somebody uniquely, though, we actually see a decline into the areas of the western Great Plains.
Some people like to call that colloquially sort of tornado alley, tornadoes, and supercells are still going to go through this area, but maybe at some slider, or maybe less rates as we move into the 21st Century.
JOHN YANG: And to these recent storms that we had, big storms last weekend again this weekend, did they suggest that the future is here?
WALKER ASHLEY: That's a great question.
Climate change is occurring right now.
It is going to accelerate based on the emission scenarios that we're seeing.
There's certainly things that we can do to mitigate that.
And tornadoes are becoming more frequent East.
And that's certainly what our model projections suggest.
JOHN YANG: In the past I've heard scientists say that tornadoes are such small events compared to a hurricane.
It's hard to make the connection with climate change.
Did these projections help us toward making a connection?
WALKER ASHLEY: I think the question is, a lot of times we get individual tornadoes, and people are always wondering, what was that caused by climate change.
And that's really framing it wrong.
What we really want to look at is the contribution to that event by climate change.
And we're not there yet.
On the individual tornado or even the outbreak scale.
We're not there quite yet.
I think we'll get there as to what the relative contribution of climate change is to that individual event.
What we're looking at is kind of climatological trends.
And so we're looking over 15-year periods.
What is the macro sort of statistics suggest, and the evidence is revealing in that we are modifying the basic fundamental ingredients necessary for not only the storms, but the tornadoes, particularly moisture, and something we call instability, or the gasoline needed for these storms.
Those two things are increasing and are projected to go increase even more throughout the 21st century.
So like baking a cake, if you increase the amount of sugar, it's going to be a sweeter cake.
JOHN YANG: Sweet cake that we're not necessarily looking forward to.
Walker Ashley of Northern Illinois University, thank you very much.
WALKER ASHLEY: Thank you.
JOHN YANG: There is other news this evening.
Citing sources the Associated Press is reporting that the sealed indictment against former President Donald Trump includes at least one felony offense.
The specific charges haven't been made public yet, but are expected to be by the time Trump was arraigned on Tuesday.
He's the first former president to face criminal charges.
Federal Judge temporarily blocked the Tennessee law placing strict limits on drag shows just hours before it was set to go into effect.
The first of its kind law bans adult cabaret entertainment on public property or in locations where it could be viewed by a minor.
The judge sided with a Memphis LGBTQ theater groups argument that the statutes overly broad language violates the First Amendment.
Senator John Fetterman is back home in Pennsylvania after being discharged from Walter Reed Hospital where he was being treated for depression.
In a statement, his office said his depression is in remission, and that he was treated with medication.
Fetterman admitted himself for treatment six weeks ago while still recovering from symptoms of a stroke he suffered shortly before his election last fall.
He says he'll return to the Senate in mid-April when Congress comes back from recess.
And Pope Francis has left the hospital today after being treated for bronchitis but not before eating some pizza, baptizing a baby in the children's ward and signing a boys cast.
Asked by journalists how he's feeling, he said, I'm still alive.
Pope Francis is to take part in tomorrow's Palm Sunday service marking the beginning of Holy Week for Christians.
Still to come on "PBS News Weekend," what the over-the-counter approval of an overdose reversal drug means for the fight against opioids.
And why a shortage of lawyers in Wisconsin is raising questions about the legal system.
(BREAK) JOHN YANG: This week, the FDA approved nationwide over the counter sales of the overdose reversal drug Narcan.
Narcan is the brand name version of the generic drug Naloxone, which comes as either a nasal spray or injection.
Overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States responsible for more than 932,000 fatalities since 1999.
And today, it's largely driven by opioid use.
Earlier I spoke with Dr. Andrew Kolodny, Co-Director of Opioid Policy Research at the Heller School at Brandeis University.
DR. ANDREW KOLODNY, Medical Director, Opioid Policy Research Collaborative: I think that the decision to allow Naloxone to be sold over the counter is helpful.
It will make an antidote to opioid overdoses, more available, which is an important thing to do when opioid overdoses become the leading cause of accidental death in the United States.
So I do think that overall this is a positive change.
But many people who die of an opioid overdose do so without an opportunity to be rescued.
And for the people we do rescue with Naloxone.
Most of them are suffering from opioid use disorder if we don't see that they get treatment for their opioid use disorder.
It just have to hope someone's around with Naloxone the next time they overdose.
And Naloxone is helpful, but it's likely to have a small impact.
JOHN YANG: And what do you think would be a have a bigger impact?
DR. ANDREW KOLODNY: We should be doing a better job of both preventing opioid use disorder, and especially in treating opioid use disorder.
If we want to see overdose deaths come down in the short run, we really have to see that accessing effective outpatient treatment particularly with a medicine called buprenorphine, the first line treatment for opioid use disorder, we have to see that that treatment is made much easier for people to obtain, it has to essentially be free.
And if we can make this -- that treatment more valuable, while making it harder for people to continue using fentanyl or heroin or prescription opioids, I think we'd start to see overdose deaths come down significantly.
JOHN YANG: Is the cost of it, our hurdle, yes, it may be more freely available, you may be able to buy it in more places.
But is the price prohibitive?
DR. ANDREW KOLODNY: At the moment there are many community organizations that give out Naloxone for free.
There are states that sponsor programs they are grants that pay for free naloxone.
And all of that has been very helpful, this new product that's going to be released over the counter.
Unfortunately, it does appear as though the manufacturer is going to be charging a very hefty price for the drug.
And that does not seem appropriate.
It looks like the manufacturer is trying to take advantage of the desperate situation we are, we're in in the United States.
JOHN YANG: And how easy is it to use?
DR. ANDREW KOLODNY: Administering Naloxone to someone who's experiencing an overdose is easy.
That doesn't mean that there isn't anything people should know if they're responding to an opioid overdose.
For example, we should tell people that don't just give Naloxone but also immediately call 911.
We should let people know that Naloxone can wear off faster than the opioid that caused the overdose.
And if that happens the patient can stop breathing again and we'll need another dose of Naloxone.
And something we've even seen happening in different parts of the country is we've seen community groups teaching children, how to administer Naloxone to their parents, when they witness an overdose.
So if it's something we can teach children to do, I think that speaks to how straightforward it really is.
JOHN YANG: And what advice would you give people?
Is this something that should be in everyone's first aid kit in their medicine cabinet?
Do you -- would you like to see as many people as possible to be carrying this?
DR. ANDREW KOLODNY: So Naloxone should be available any place where there's a chance somebody can experience an opioid overdose.
So in households where individuals are taking opioid pain medication, even prescribed pain medication are households where someone in the family has opioid use disorder, those are homes that should have naloxone.
But we should also have naloxone in public places.
We should have naloxone in Starbucks because people are overdosing and bathrooms.
We should have it on airplanes, we should really have it very widely available, considering how common it is in America for people to lose their life to an opioid overdose.
JOHN YANG: I presume you want to see this treated as a disease rather than punished as a crime?
DR. ANDREW KOLODNY: That's correct.
And I think one of the things that we've seen over the past 15 years is a greater awareness that people with opioid use disorder are in fact, suffering from a disease or chronic disease rather than a moral failing.
But we haven't yet put that into action.
We haven't really seen a commitment from the federal government to long term funding for opioid addiction treatment.
During the AIDS crisis, for example, there - - the United States decided that if someone was HIV positive, they should have access to antiretroviral therapy, regardless of their ability to pay for it and we created a new funding stream.
We haven't yet done that for opioid addiction.
JOHN YANG: And do you think the administration should be doing more?
DR. ANDREW KOLODNY: So I think that there is a lot more that the FDA and the Biden administration could be doing.
The FDA could be doing a much better job of helping prevent opioid use disorder from better regulation of opioid manufacturers to this day, the FDA is allowing manufacturers of opioid products to promote opioids as safe and effective for conditions where they may not be safe or effective changes that needed to be made for many years.
It would be nice to see the FDA act on them.
The Biden administration could be doing a much better job of expanding access to opioid addiction treatment.
When President Biden ran for office in his platform he had a very nice, detailed plan for making opioid addiction treatment more valuable in the United States.
And yet, we really haven't seen the administration fully act on that plan yet.
JOHN YANG: Dr. Andrew Kolodny, the Opioid Policy Research collaborative at Brandeis University, thank you very much.
DR. ANDREW KOLODNY: Thank you for having me.
JOHN YANG: 98% of criminal cases in federal courts and with a plea bargain instead of a trial, it's a practice that some state puts a priority on efficiency over fairness, and with a shortage of both prosecutors and public defenders at the state level plea deals are frequently used in places like Wisconsin.
Nathan Denzin of PBS Wisconsin has the story.
JUDGE GUY DUTCHER: The cash bail the amount of $2,000.
KURT KLOMBERG: And it's really a problem that is reached a constitutional crisis from both perspectives.
NATHAN DENZIN: State officials are warning of potential miscarriages of justice, as Wisconsin faces a shortage of both public defenders and prosecutors.
KURT KLOMBERG, Outgoing Dodge County District Attorney: If you go to some of these counties like Waushara County or Shawano, it's anywhere from 50% of their prosecution staff that are vacant.
In one county right now, it's 100% prosecution staff vacancy.
NATHAN DENZIN: Kurt Klomberg is the district attorney for Dodge County, where he says staff shortages have been exacerbated by a lack of quality candidates.
KURT KLOMBERG: We're getting very minimal numbers of applicants.
NATHAN DENZIN: On the other side of the courtroom, State Public Defender Kelli Thompson says her office also has staffing issues.
KELLI THOMPSON, Wisconsin State Public Defender: The simple answer is we need more attorneys.
We need more attorneys and staff and we need more attorneys in the private bar for those conflict and overflow cases.
So right now we have -- we have a shortage just in recruitment.
NATHAN DENZIN: Both prosecutors and defenders say the largest gap in recruitment falls in rural counties where open positions are not attracting attorneys.
JUDGE GUY DUTCHER, Waushara County Circuit Court: We currently are a county that has two courts, two judges.
We have a single prosecutor, the elected District Attorney, and two vacant full time prosecutors positions.
NATHAN DENZIN: Judge Dutcher presides over a courtroom in rural Waushara County that has seen attorney shortages increase steadily for about 10 years.
JUDGE GUY DUTCHER: We're smaller counties, we're having difficulty finding attorneys to take cases at times having to go three or four counties removed to find public defender appointments, or public defender availability for people who have a constitutional right to representation.
NATHAN DENZIN: Statewide, a murder case took about 15 months to be resolved in 2021.
In rural Dodge County, it took about two years.
KURT KLOMBERG: Now we're having these delays that go on longer, and that really hurts victims.
It also hurts defendants.
NATHAN DENZIN: Since 2003, overall wait times before decision is reached in felony cases has increased by 85%.
And wait times for misdemeanor cases have increased by 110%.
KELLI THOMPSON: The strain is significant.
The human impact, the emotional, the mental health part of this is significant.
I mean to get those calls from your client to go see your client and to know that they're struggling because they don't have information or their case isn't moving forward, or they don't know what's going on.
NATHAN DENZIN: The main cause of the shortage, a salary that starts low and doesn't increase very fast.
Most qualified attorneys don't want state defender or prosecutor jobs because they can earn more at private firms.
KELLI THOMPSON: Public defenders pay is too low.
And so we need to boost that up because quite frankly, it's hard to keep them when we can't pay them enough to, you know, buy a home, raise their family, pay their student loans.
NATHAN DENZIN: State Attorney jobs start at about $55,000 per year.
While private sector jobs typically start near $80,000 per year.
KURT KLOMBERG: When you're looking at simply saying I can make $25,000 more per year as a starting salary to simply go and do that as opposed to becoming a state prosecutor.
There's a business decision there.
NATHAN DENZIN: On top of lower pay, prosecutors and public defenders often have massive caseloads, Klomberg clambering says it isn't unusual for a prosecutor to juggle 200 to 300 cases at a time.
KURT KLOMBERG: You're always trying to catch up.
And so that -- that also makes the job less attractive.
NATHAN DENZIN: While hiring has been a problem for both offices.
Retention has also become an issue.
This chart shows the number of years prosecutors have spent actually prosecuting cases most fall between one and eight years of experience.
While a far smaller number have more than 10 years' experience.
JUDGE GUY DUTCHER: When I came through the ranks as a young prosecutor, there were literally dozens of very seasoned experienced career prosecutors, I think you see less and less people choosing prosecution as a career.
NATHAN DENZIN: A lack of experience can cause mistakes in the courtroom that can't be fixed.
KURT KLOMBERG: This is also a job where really don't get a lot of second chances.
If you make a mistake, it's pretty much final.
NATHAN DENZIN: In order to make state Attorney positions more attractive to potential candidates, both the state public defender's office and many district attorneys are petitioning the state government for a higher starting salary.
KURT KLOMBERG: The state prosecutor's office did a study recently and the Wisconsin DA's Association which I'm the past president of, is promoting a salary point in the mid-70s.
NATHAN DENZIN: Klomberg says a $70,000 starting salary would likely boost the number of prosecutors to acceptable levels.
NATHAN DENZIN: On the defender side, the state legislature has been asked to increase pay for private bar attorneys from $70 per hour to $125 per hour for in court work and $100 per hour for out of court work.
KELLI THOMPSON: We need to either be at that or above that so that we can continue to take that burden off of the county.
NATHAN DENZIN: Will increase starting salaries would have an impact in the long term, Klomberg and Thompson say federal funds should be used to temporarily raise salaries.
KURT KLOMBERG: There is a limited amount of hams that are available right now because of the ARPA money that has been made available.
But for the most part, it has to be only in extreme situations.
NATHAN DENZIN: As the state legislature is set to meet and decide Wisconsin's next budget funding for the justice system will be at the top of attorneys minds.
JUDGE GUY DUTCHER: There's an expression that often gets used that justice delayed is justice denied and that applies frankly, to everyone who's involved with this type of circumstance.
NATHAN DENZIN: For "PBS News Weekend" I'm Nathan Denzin in Madison, Wisconsin.
JOHN YANG: Now online, we'll look at how a new court ruling could chip away at the Affordable Care Act.
All that and more is on our website pbs.org/newshour.
And that is "PBS News Weekend" for this Saturday.
I'm John Yang.
For all of my colleagues, thanks for joining us.
See you tomorrow.