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Explosion in Middletown, Connecticut; Adopting Children from Haiti; Super Bowl Fever

Aired February 7, 2010 - 16:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. This Sunday as a huge part of the mid-Atlantic tries to break out after a record-breaking blizzard.

Further north, an explosion at a Connecticut power plant. Emergency crews are searching for victims right now at an energy plant in Middletown, Connecticut just outside of Hartford.

Police originally said there were two fatalities, but now say that cannot be confirmed. The mayor of Middletown confirms that there are multiple casualties. Nearly a dozen people have been sent to area hospitals. Let's bring in our Susan Candiotti who is there right now. Susan, what is the latest?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're about a mile away from the site of that terrible explosion. There are described to be massive casualties, but we don't know exactly how many. An official told us that this happened about 4 1/2 hours ago while workers, construction workers because the plant had not yet opened were purging a gas line.

As you indicated, about a dozen or so people were taken to a local hospital, but this is how some people said it felt. And some of these people lived as many as 20 miles away. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of the sudden there was a big explosion, and the flames were higher than the stack itself. It - I never want to see anything like that in my life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It felt like an earthquake, but it was more of an explosion because we were able to see it, visually see the fire and the flames coming out of between the two towers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The flames were shooting up, and it just rocked the whole place. Windows were blown out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The explosion came, and we had pictures on the wall. They were knocked on the ground. And knick knacks and stuff fell on the floor. I thought my house exploded.


CANDIOTTI: Now about 100 rescue workers are said to be on the scene. We are told that they include urban search and rescue units, as well as dogs that are searching for any possible survivors among the rubble. Again you heard the earlier report that there were two confirmed casualties, but police have now pulled back from that.

They are saying they can't tell us for sure how many fatalities there may be at this time. In addition to how many total casualties. And again, it's a very active scene, and we're told that there will be a press conference in about an hour from now. Fred, back to you.

WHITFIELD: And Susan, you mentioned this was a construction zone area, this facility was not quite complete. Is there any indication whether a collapse or anything like that took place as a result of the explosion?

CANDIOTTI: We don't know exactly what caused it other than at the time they were purging a gas line. Told that it took down much of the building. We hope to have photographs. Some still photographs of what it looked like in the immediate aftermath. But a lot of heavy damage to the buildings, and at least the smokestacks I think are still in place, but heavy damage throughout.

WHITFIELD: All right. Susan Candiotti, thank you so much from Middletown, Connecticut on this explosion.

All right. Meantime they're digging out from Ohio to Maryland today after a blizzard of historic proportions. Washington, D.C. got a foot and a half of snow, and Dulles Airport outside Washington had a record-breaking total of 32 inches. More than 26 inches of snow fell in Annapolis, Maryland. And ironically, they had to cancel three performances of the "Disney on Ice" figure skating show in Baltimore.

And remember these steps in Philadelphia from the "Rocky" movies perhaps? Well, instead of running to the top, kids were sliding to the bottom as you see right there on sleds and anything else they can get their hands on. Bonnie Schneider is in the severe weather center. A lot of folks had a lot of fun with the snow and will continue to do so because it's going to be around for a while.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's true and most of it happened on the weekend so the kids can enjoy the sledding. I think that's the most fun of all when you're a kid.

WHITFIELD: That looked like a good time.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, definitely. All right. But for the parents that have to shovel out, so you have your work cut out for you. Check out the snowfall totals. Almost 30 inches in Philadelphia. You saw the pictures of the steps there. Dulles in Washington, D.C. 32.4. You're probably wondering why, that sounds like a lot. This is a two- day snowfall total there. And in Baltimore 24.4. Annapolis 21.5. Atlantic City, New Jersey right on the Jersey shore 19.3 inches. I'd never seen such a high snowfall totals for the mid-Atlantic before. A lot of these are record breaking but right now things have cleared out.

A little bit of lake-effect snow into upstate New York, which is really not a problem. The big storm itself is now pushed out. However, look at this. Current temperatures right now into the D.C. area. Well, we have them right at 31 degrees. So it is cold. It is below freezing. It feels actually a lot worse than that. The wind- chill factor is making a big difference because we still have blustery conditions, and we still have the strong wind-chill factor that we're dealing with. So it feels like it's a lot colder than what it actually is. It feels like it's only 25 degrees.

Take a closer look at the wind-chill factors here into West Virginia into Roanoke and into Charlotte, all feeling very cold. It's a little bit milder down to the south, though, into Atlanta. So that's some good news. I want to talk about much of the situation with the airlines, because many of you might be stuck for the weekend. Take a good look at this. I want you to zoom in here. You can see we have New York City and into Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Maryland. All right.

Here is the latest with the airports. Most of the airports are open. The problem is flights are still not going in and out. Still so many cancellations, still shoveling out. It's going to take a while when you have almost three feet of snow on the ground. At least D.C., we're getting some reports that things are improving. But really, for Philadelphia, for Baltimore, for D.C., many of you will be stuck for today, and possibly by Monday temperatures will warm up little bit.

It's just so much snow, I think that's the biggest problem of getting the runways cleared and getting everybody to their destination. So I guess the only positive thing we can say, Fredricka, is that this is happening on a weekend.

WHITFIELD: Yes, that's right. You know what, are they in the clear though or might there be another system along the way?

SCHNEIDER: I'm glad that you mentioned that because there is a possibility of some changes happening. We are definitely looking at some changes in the forecast. Watch out because there is a brand-new storm system that will be coming in I would say Wednesday and Thursday. I'm going to have one throughout the evening tonight. But the same area could be impacted. Probably not as hard. But after all this snow, can you imagine more?


SCHNEIDER: It's coming. Winter is not over yet. You heard that groundhog. Six more weeks.

WHITFIELD: That's right. Pay attention and learn. All right. Thanks so much. Bonnie Schneider, appreciate that.

All right. So the storm this weekend caused problems for just about anybody who wanted to actually get somewhere. Roads were closed, and driving was very much discouraged. Trains, planes, and buses were also canceled, and it may take quite a bit of time as you heard from Bonnie there before Transportation is back to normal.

Sara Lee is at Reagan National Airport outside Washington. Oh, good thing you're inside. But how is it looking? Are there any travelers inside? Or is it still premature?

SARA LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Barely. Just very few, Fredricka. You know, on any given day, Reagan National Airport handles about 700 flights. And take a look, the board says it all. Cancelled, cancelled, cancelled. Nothing has been moving in or out of here all weekend because of the storm. And I'll show you why.

Let's go over here and take a look at the airfield and the ramp area here at the airport. You can see that they've made some progress, but they've still got a lot of snow here, and the trucks working around the clock since through the storm. The problem with Reagan National in particular is because this is on a relatively small piece of land, only about 800 acres. So they can't just push the snow out of the way like they can at larger airports. They have to actually load it on to dump trucks, and then haul it away.

Another problem they encountered was once they scraped some of the snow away underneath, there was about five inches of ice this morning. So they have been chipping away at that and trying to clear the runway that way. Taking a look down the terminal again, you can see as I mentioned earlier, it's basically empty here. Shops and restaurants mostly closed.

You got a couple of straggler, I would call them wishful thinking travelers that are hoping that they may get out tonight. But the airport's authority says they have to reassess and decide. And it's really not that hopeful that they're going to be getting out later tonight. It's probably going to be more like this - tomorrow morning.

And then you can just imagine after that whole backlog of flights that haven't gotten out, and the residual effects when airports like this close down, that it's going to be a much different picture. And up in Baltimore we're hearing, of course, the same thing. Very much a similar situation. (INAUDIBLE) operating but they are watching.

WHITFIELD: OK. I guess if you can maybe wait until midweek before you try to get in and out of that airport or the surrounding area airports. So what about power outages? Because I understand there were a number of power outages in the D.C. area as well.

LEE: There were. Because if you remember, Fredricka, this snow was kind of heavy and wet. So trees went down. Power lines snapped. They had at the peak maybe about a quarter million people in the Metro Washington area without power during the storm, through the storm. So last check that we had, just a few minutes ago, they told me region wide they're down to about 100,000. Still a lot of customers without power. But certainly they made a lot of progress quickly.

Sarah Lee, thank you so much at Reagan Airport. Appreciate that.

All right. Well, some good news for folks down south in Miami. No snow there. Just one of the most anticipated matchups of all time, Super Bowl fever is in full swing. Will the underdog Saints surprise the Colts on their first trip ever to the big game?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saints, saints all day long.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God, Jesus, Peyton Manning, the rest of the Colts, family, friends, school.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Definitely the Saints.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Colts are going to rock the world.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Saints are going to win hands down.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My mind says Colts. My heart - my heart says Saints.


WHITFIELD: OK. There are more fighting words. Fans are rooting for their teams. So whether your heart is with the New Orleans Saints or the Indianapolis Colts, the big game is nearly here. Just hours away, kickoff for Super Bowl XLIV is just two hours and 10 minutes away. Let's go to Joe Carter, who is in Miami. So you're seeing more blue and white or black and gold?

JOE CARTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, black and gold of course. The who dat nation has invaded Miami. And over the course of the last couple of days, we've seen a lot more Saints fans than Colts fans. And I think a lot has to do with the fact that it's their first Super Bowl in 42 years.

You know, the team for many years was a complete losing team, a losing franchise, and finally these guys have something to celebrate. So they all made the trip.

WHITFIELD: OK, that's good to hear. They've got a lot of places to celebrate. So Drew Brees obviously a big part of the Saints, and he's got a huge following. Is he part of the draw as to why so many New Orleans fans made their way to Miami as well?

CARTER: Absolutely. I think the whole Saints team is an interesting and compelling story and the reason why so many fans have come to make the trip to the Super Bowl from New Orleans to Miami. Of course, New Orleans would be a great place to see the Super Bowl as well. But Drew Brees, the connection there is that just seven months after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the city, it was his decision to sign with the Saints.

And immediately, immediately since he stepped on to that football team, he not only helped the team rebuild, he helped the city of New Orleans rebuild. And his wife and him have a really great foundation called the Brees Dream Foundation. They have raised $4.5 million. They've built athletic fields. They've helped improve some schools there. They've done a lot for the kids in the rebuilding of the city.

So the support is not only within the city of New Orleans, but it stretches to the greater area as well. And we've heard all week long. You heard people say my mind is with Peyton Manning and the Colts, my heart is with the city of New Orleans. We've heard so it many times this week.

WHITFIELD: All right. And of course, you know, folks are going to be watching the game. That's the big draw, the players.

CARTER: Of course.

WHITFIELD: The commercials and of course halftime. So who will we be watching at halftime?

CARTER: Well, you've got a good one, Fredricka. A band who has been around since the 60s. They rolled out plenty of hits. It's the Who. And we had a chance to actually see them perform earlier in the week. They put on a media only event for us. They tuned up their guitars and went to work. We got to hear a couple of songs from them, and they were great.

I mean, a band that has around a lot longer than I have been alive. And I can tell you, I didn't know a lot of their songs, but they sounded great. And people can expect at home to see a really good show.

WHITFIELD: And so by the end of this evening, you'll know all the songs.

CARTER: I hope so. I hope so.

WHITFIELD: Joe Carter, thanks so much in Miami. Appreciate that.

All the best to both teams.

All right. The political landscape, well, it's changing in New Orleans. We'll tell you about the new man in charge and why he has some pretty big shoes to fill.

And let's talk about the job market. It's tough right now. But "Fortune" magazine is out with its list of the 100 best companies to work for, and 22 of those businesses have at least 500 job openings. Currently Google has 1,000 openings, and Del Loitte has 11,000. Before we tell you the name of the number one company on "Fortune's" top 100 list, see if you can guess.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): This software company pampers its employees from head to toe. Where can workers shoot some hoops or get a new hairstyle without leaving the corporate campus? The answer after the break. (END VIDEOTAPE)



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): What company has an on-site gym and a hair salon? Software giant SAS takes the number one spot on "Fortune" magazine's list of the 100 best companies to work for. The firm's North Carolina headquarters also has a free health care clinic, a day-care center, massages, and live music during lunch.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love it! I love it. I wouldn't want to work anywhere else.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A work-life balance is also a priority. The private company offers flexible hours, a 35-hour work week, and unlimited sick time. No wonder it's number one.



WHITFIELD: A look at our top stories right now. There is a new mayor in New Orleans. Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu was elected in a landslide victory last night. He is replacing outgoing mayor Ray Nagin in May. The 49-year-old Democrat is the city's first white mayor since 1979, the year his father left office. His sister is U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu.

And prosecutors are expected to file charges of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of Michael Jackson. Jackson's personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, was with Jackson when he died last June after being given hospital-strength anesthetic and sedatives to help him sleep. Murray's attorneys say he would plead not guilty if charged.

And take a look at this near Boulder, Colorado. I-reporter Zac Mitchell captured these images after two planes collided. Three people were killed. A glider that was being towed by one of the planes disconnected right before the accident yesterday. The glider landed safely, but the two planes plummeted to the ground. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

And a rescue mission or kidnapping? Will the uproar over 10 ten Americans facing charges in Haiti keep others from adopting children orphaned in the quake?

And this is the first full week of February. And here is some of what happened this week in history.


WHITFIELD (voice-over): Ten years ago this week, "Peanuts" cartoonist Charles Schulz died at the age of 77. One day later, newspapers carried his final original Sunday comic strip. 20 years ago in 1990, anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years in prison. He later became South Africa's first black president. 50 years ago in 1960, "Tonight Show" host Jack Paar angrily resigned on the air after NBC censored one of his jokes. He returned to the show a month later.

60 years ago in 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy declared that the U.S. State Department was riddled with communists. That claim launched a controversial crusade that became known as McCarthyism.

170 years ago in 1840, Britain's Queen Victoria married Prince Albert. Most of their nine children would eventually marry into the other royal houses of Europe.


WHITFIELD: All right. More now on that power plant explosion in Connecticut. It happened this morning at the Kleen energy power plant in Middletown. There are conflicting reports on possible deaths. Police originally said there were two fatalities, but now say that cannot be confirmed. But the mayor of Middletown confirms that there are multiple casualties. Nearly a dozen people have been sent to area hospitals.

CNN's Susan Candiotti is at the scene. Susan, what more do we know about the accident that took place and how many may be injured?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in fact officials tell me that there are definitely casualties on the scene, but they just don't have any hard numbers yet. You already talked about a number of people having been injured as well. We do know that there are about 50 construction workers on-site at the time when they were purging a gas line at the plant. And joining us now to talk about it is the deputy fire marshal here Al Santostefano. Al, what was going on? This happened at about 11:30 in the morning, what were the construction workers doing?

AL SANTOSTEFANO, DEPUTY FIRE MARSHAL: They were purging a gas pipe that was coming into the building. And it happened, the exact time was 11:19 when the first call came into the dispatch center.

CANDIOTTI: And then what happened after that? You had to get to the site. It's not an easy one to get to. We hear about flames. We heard about a lot of feeling repercussions and shaking from that. So did you.

SANTOSTEFANO: I live about five miles from the site of this construction. I was sitting in my living room, and I felt the vibration. And I knew something had happened, but I wasn't aware of where at the time.

CANDIOTTI: When fire rescue responded to the scene, they initially saw natural gas flames. What happened next?

SANTOSTEFANO: Well, they had to wait because in that type of incident, you want to extinguish the gas, and then put out the fire that came from that after. So they had to find a point of the gas shutoff, and then they were able to extinguish the flames and then start the search and rescue.

CANDIOTTI: Otherwise it was a dangerous situation for them to approach at this time?

SANTOSTEFANO: Correct. You don't want to extinguish the flame because then you're going to have gas leaking into the atmosphere witch can cause more problems. So you want to cut the source off of the gas.

CANDIOTTI: Do you know how much time passed by the time you were able to get people up close to find any survivors?

SANTOSTEFANO: No, I'm not aware yet of the time. I'm sure it was done in a pretty timely manner. I know they had the flames extinguished in a pretty quick time. I'm going say no more than probably 15 minutes before all that took place.

CANDIOTTI: This is the first opportunity we've had to interview you live to tell us more about this. Can you please confirm, were there casualties at the scene, fatales at the scene?

SANTOSTEFANO: Yes, there were fatalities and quite a few injuries. The numbers yet haven't come down yet. As I said, right now they're in the search and rescue part of this. So they're waiting for that to include before we come up with any solid numbers.

CANDIOTTI: What are you trying to do to see whether there are additional survivors to the 12 or so that are being treated for injuries?

SANTOSTEFANO: Well pretty much it's a slow dig. You pull pieces of material away slowly and carefully. In case there is somebody injured under that. And you don't want to injure the rescuers. So it's a slow process, and they're in the middle of that right now.

CANDIOTTI: But the ability to survive something like this, being up close when natural gas explodes what kind of blast and repercussions are felt that close to an explosion site?

SANTOSTEFANO: Well obviously, the repercussions from that are a lot of times can cause a lot of the injury and then any flying debris. You know, depending on where a person was in the building, what they were maybe behind some type of big machinery maybe that could have shielded them from some of the debris flying, that's all taken into consideration during this whole process. So there is a possibility that this could be someone still alive underneath that debris that's in there.

CANDIOTTI: And to be clear, this plant was not open at the time. It had been under construction. They broke ground for it what, about three years ago?

SANTOSTEFANO: Yes, approximately three years ago they broke ground for this. It's still under construction. They were hoping to be online some time in 2010. CANDIOTTI: Normally, do you know whether more people would have been working instead of the 50 or so, this being a Sunday?

SANTOSTEFANO: Yes, usually on the Monday through Friday time frame there are a lot more construction workers up here at that time.

CANDIOTTI: Such a terrible tragedy for this area. What impact will it have?

SANTOSTEFANO: Obviously, it's going to put the plant behind. Any loss of life is always tragic. It will be felt because a lot of those guys are from this area. Most of the construction workers up there were from this area. So it will be felt in the community, that's for sure.

CANDIOTTI: Thank you very much for joining us. And we can tell you this, that at this hour over at the city hall, the Red Cross is providing grief counseling for family members of those who were injured or lost their lives in this blast.

Fredricka back to you.

WHITFIELD: All right, Susan Candiotti thanks so much from Middletown, Connecticut.

All right. Nearly a month now after Haiti's devastating earthquake, thousands of survivors are still in makeshift tent cities. And if there is criticism that aid is slow to reach those who need it most. In an effort to help the country recover, the U.S. and other g-7 countries are urging international lending agencies to grant new debt relief to Haiti.

The Haitian government is refusing to grant bail for ten Americans charged with child kidnapping. The Baptist missionaries insist that they are innocent. Their Haitian attorney has been fired, allegedly for trying to bribe their way out of jail. He denies that. The Americans insist they were on a humanitarian mission to rescue Haitian orphans. Let's take a closer look now at what and how this investigation just might impact any other upcoming planned adoptions, particularly for children of Haiti.

Kathleen Strottman joins me now from Washington; she is the executive director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: All right. As this investigation unfolds, I wonder how this might directly impact anyone who is in the process of adopting a Haitian child.

STROTTMAN: Well, we're hoping it won't impact those who are in the process because there are safeguards that are already in place. But it is important to note that it is still not possible for a person who is not in the process to begin an international adoption in Haiti. So it shouldn't impact too much at this point. WHITFIELD: So no matter what a group says or an adoption agency might say right now, to try to encourage anyone to begin the process of trying to adopt a Haitian child or being convinced that they can actually adopt any one of these children that have been displaced right now, that's simply not possible, it's not true, it can't happen?

STROTTMAN: That's right. And I really want to encourage those who are watching this interview that there are a lot of places that you can look on the Internet that are reliable sources for that information. First and most importantly, the U.S. State Department maintains regular updates about the status of all the countries that are open for inter country adoption, including Haiti. And that's a good and safe place to be getting that information from.

WHITFIELD: So once you get that information, or you got your fingertips on that Website location, what do you look for in an adoption agency? What is the criteria that you judge to see whether you can make a perfect match between you, the hopeful adoptive parent, and the agency that can help make it happen?

STROTTMAN: Well, one thing is the resource for most Americans, even though Haiti is not a signatory to what is called the Hague Convention on inter country adoption, the U.S. is. and as a result, they have taken the time to accredit over 200 agencies for inter country adoption. And a list of those agencies is also available on the State Department's Website. And so I would encourage people interested in adopting to look at that list and to see it as a resource for them.

WHITFIELD: And what is your concern right now about the many children that have been orphaned or many children who are kind of in a place where they don't really have a place to go. They may not necessarily be connected to any kind of orphanage or any adoption agency as a result of this earthquake. How do you see this kind of playing out? How will these children's needs be best met?

STROTTMAN: You know, it's interesting. While no one would condone the actions taken by those who are now presently being charged, it is understandable why people are seeing the images of these children, seeing them in orphanages, and wanting to do something to help. The fact is that there were hundreds of thousands of children that were living in orphanages in Haiti, and tens of thousands are likely to share the same fate. So we should be doing more to help the government of Haiti move forward with the child welfare system that prevents that, that instead seeks to put them into families where they can be best cared for.

WHITFIELD: And what is your forecast right now? You cannot begin the process of trying to adopt a child in Haiti right now, but when do you suppose that will open up again so that perhaps any of these children who might be looking for a new home can actually find one?

STROTTMAN: I can't give you a definitive time frame, I can say that organizations like mine are working to make sure that the child welfare system is up and ready in Haiti some time soon so that we can make sure that children have an opportunity to be raised in families first and foremost in Haiti, in extended parts of the country, but then also other places throughout the world.

WHITFIELD: Kathleen Strottman, Congressional Coalition of Adoption Institute, thanks so much for your time. I appreciate that.

STROTTMAN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Whether or not you love or don't love Sarah Palin, well certainly everyone can agree she can stoke some political talk. What is she doing right now with the Tea Party, and could another run for the White House be in her future?


WHITFIELD: A look at the top stories right now. Tomorrow is deadline day for the country's eight largest banks. That's when Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and six other Wall Street heavyweights must detail planned employee bonuses. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo demanded the information on executive pay last month, and he says transparency is essential at a time when many Americans are suffering from the recession.

And Toyota USA is expected to resume production tomorrow of vehicles affected by the mass recall. The world's top automaker suspended production of eight of its most popular models because of sticking gas pedals. It now says that it has found a comprehensive solution. Toyota says it will also announce plans soon to deal with braking problems in its popular Prius hybrid as well.

And NASA will try again tomorrow to launch the space shuttle "Endeavour." Clouds scrubbed this morning's liftoff, and NASA called it off with just nine minutes left in the countdown. "Endeavour" and six astronauts will bring a new room and observation deck to the International Space Station.

All right. Let's talk politics now. Sarah Palin is making headlines again after her keynote address at the Tea Party Convention in Nashville. The former Republican vice presidential nominee said today another run for the White House could be in her future. Is the Tea Party movement galvanizing her appeal or vice verse? Let's bring in our deputy political director Paul Steinhauser. So you have to wonder is she motivating the movement or is the movement motivating her, galvanizing her support?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I think it's a little bit of both. Because when she was Republican vice presidential nominee back in 2008, those were some of the same people that were really backing her back then and are backing her now Fred. I was in the room last night. Very folksy address, but the crowd loved it. They ate it up.

WHITFIELD: She definitely outlined or she was asked to outline and then she would outline when she reiterated in her speech that it's important to address the economy. She criticized quite openly this administration. And there was some name-calling as well. But she ended up getting a lot of standing ovation. But there was no fact-checking. STEINHAUSER: Well, the crowd there loved it, but you're right. A lot of people will say there were some factual things wrong with what she said. But that crowd last night, it was electric in that room. One thing, though, she didn't really bring up running for White House last night. In that interview that she taped in Nashville last night that ran today on some of the talk shows, she said she wouldn't close any doors that could be opened down the road that is a possible hint of running for the White House. It sounded like a stump speech last night, a little bit; maybe it's a taste of things to come. Maybe not.

WHITFIELD: So now what about the Republican Party? What is the feeling about the Republican Party and Sarah Palin or this Tea Party Movement? Is it to be considered as one in the same, that Tea Party and Republican Party are hand in hand, or it is something very separate?

STEINHAUSER: Well a lot of the people that I talked to, a lot of the activists, the Tea Party activists at the three-day convention, they said listen, we are not Republicans. We are not Democrats. We are independents. And they said they have no desire right now to form a third party. But they did indicate a little bit that I think they agree more with the Republicans than the Democrats. So they're to the right of the Republicans. That's the thing, they want the Republicans to kind of come see it their way and move more to the right. Very interesting dynamic.

WHITFIELD: She criticized the Obama administration for its handling of the attempted bomber on that American flight in Detroit. At the same time, the White House is responding about whether this person should have had the Miranda Rights read to them or not. Is it smart for the White House to respond to this, or does the White House feel like it has to be extremely transparent about this very issue because of the impending elections?

STEINHAUSER: They have to be transparent. But this is interesting. Terrorism is becoming more and more of an issue it seems. It was not an issue at all in the 2008 elections. You look at the exit polls, less than 10 percent of people said it was important to them. It's up slightly now. But one of the top advisers to Scott Brown, who just won that election in Massachusetts, they said that terrorism and how the Obama administration was treating the attempted terrorist attack on that December 25th flight. They said that was really fueling a lot of the support that they had. And that's interesting also last night. What was the first thing Sarah Palin talked about in her speech? It wasn't the economy.

WHITFIELD: National security.

STEINHAUSER: Exactly. National security, that's where she first went. The story is becoming more and more in play. I think that's one of the reasons you saw the White House defending themselves saying listen, we're doing pretty much what the Bush administration was doing when it comes to trying some of these suspects in civilian court. And they also said we talked to top Republicans right after the December 25th attack and told them that we would do doing this in criminal court. WHITFIELD: All right. Well, we'll see if this is any indication as to whether its national security or it's the economy that helps control people's votes come this fall. All right, Paul Steinhauser thanks so much. You'll be heading back to snowy Washington.

STEINHAUSER: If I can get there.

WHITFIELD: If you can get a flight to land there. Safe travel.


WHITFIELD: Some think of Detroit as a blighted urban landscape, but America's motor city could actually help reshape how you get around.


WHITFIELD: All right. By boat, train, car, or plane, America is a country on the move. What our transportation infrastructure is aging, and it's costly. Could Detroit, America's motor city, serve as a blueprint for future growth? That's actually the concept behind a new PBS documentary.


(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Eighty percent of all federal transportation dollars go to roads and highways. In Michigan, there is even less money for public transit, 90 percent of state transportation funds go to building and maintaining roads. Pressure to change that equation is building on Capitol Hill. Where Congress is preparing to debate a new $500 billion transportation bill, one that could fundamentally transform the way Americans get around.


WHITFIELD: And the director for Blueprint America, beyond the motor city, Aaron Wolf joining us from New York. Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: I'm doing pretty good. So what is it about Detroit? We know that it is the birthplace of American automobile making and the industry, but this documentary really is about that and beyond, that there is a future of this evolution of transportation and it has to do with Detroit.

WOLF: Well, I think there is a future for Detroit, and I think it will happen along transportation lines. Detroit is a place that has invented and reinvented itself over and over again in history of long transportation. When we built the Erie Canal for example Detroit began to thrive as a city. Then it had this great street car system, of course now we all associate Detroit with the automobile and the decline of the automobile industry. But I think Detroit, because of its very decay, could be a canvas upon which we can redesign the notion of a city along transportation lines.

WHITFIELD: In what way? What are the indicators? WOLF: Well, I think one example is the fact that there is so much open space in Detroit. And Detroit now, in large part because of the highways that helped drain the city. Now this open space is being considered for urban agriculture. And they're using public transportation planning to reconcentrate the city along its central corridors.

WHITFIELD: So if I live in Detroit, I've been working for the automotive industry for a long time, but I lost my job, am I going to look at this documentary and say wait a minute, there is hope, there is a way in which I can transition my skill, still be in transportation, but it really is going to be very different, it is not going to be about the vehicle with four wheels, but something else?

WOLF: Well, I think that's the hope. And I think it's really connected to all this discussion right now about revitalizing America's manufacturing capabilities. You know, Detroit is really the heart of our manufacturing heritage. And if we can take some of that expertise, as you say, Fred, along the lines of building cars and begin to build the kind of transportation hardware for a future transportation -- high speed railcars, street cars, which are being put in, have been put in, new streetcar systems in 19 cities, what if we could build those things in Detroit, and Detroit too could benefit from them itself.

WHITFIELD: And what about people who work in Detroit have to say about this concept? Did you get a chance to talk with folks who have some history in transportation in Detroit?

WOLF: Well, yes, we did. And I think one of the reasons why Detroit was such a good setting for this project is because you can really feel the human element. You can really feel the human consequences of some of the tragic things that have happened in Detroit. A lot of people there are incredibly optimistic. Detroit has become an emblem of American decline and decay, but it also could be an emblem of rebirth. I think you see that in the first utterance in the Detroiters themselves. A recent "Washington Post" poll said that 63 percent of Detroiters believe the city is going to turn around.

WHITFIELD: Wow, all right. "Blueprint: America beyond the motor city" airs on PBS beginning tomorrow, correct?

WOLF: Correct. This is documentary is part of a year-long initiative on PBS to look into these questions, to look into infrastructure, to look into the future of transportation as a way of sending our nation down a different path.

WHITFIELD: Director Aaron Wolf, thanks so much, appreciate it and all the best.

WOLF: Thank you very much.

WHITFIELD: Let's talk weather now. The mid Atlantic states digging out from that massive winter storm. Rail, bus, air service, all of it moving very slowly.


WHITFIELD: All right. So the snow has finally stopped, but it's still there. The hard part now digging out. People in the mid Atlantic states are trying to recover from what in some areas was a record snowfall. Up to three feet of snow fell in parts of northern Virginia and Maryland, and officials say it could be several days before all the streets are cleared and power is restored.

And it may not be over just yet. Our Bonnie Schneider is letting us know that come midweek, yet another blast of nasty weather.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's so true, Fredricka. It's hard to believe, but it's coming, not as much. When I say not as much, I mean look at these totals. Now we can really get a good idea of how it all shape upped. In Philadelphia 28.5 inches of snow, Dulles more than that. Baltimore, Annapolis, all through the region tremendous snow and fierce winds. Particularly in Atlantic City we had wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour, blowing about the snow on the Jersey shore. I want to get right to what we're looking at in terms of the threat for new snow.

Right now it's cleared out across the region. But believe it or not, there are already advisories in place. The temperatures are cold enough to support new snow because it's already below freezing in Washington right now, its 31degrees. But as you can see we have winter weather advisories for Tuesday and Wednesday back out to the west. Here is where the snow is right now in Omaha and Kansas City. But look at this.

It's headed towards Minneapolis. And with that said, there is already a winter storm warning in effect for tonight for Minneapolis, extending all the way back out towards Chicago and into Fort Wayne and Indiana. Take a look at the big picture and what you'll find is the threat for more snow, possibly five inches or so with a winter storm watch in effect not right now in Washington, D.C., but for Tuesday and Wednesday, from Pittsburgh all the way to, yes, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. You can see a few more inches of snow in the middle of the week.

Well, here is the good news. The kids are really happy. We have a great Ireport to show you of Daniela in Anondale, Virginia. Daniela said, hey there is 22 inches of snow in my back yard and I want to see if I can swim in it. All right. They put on the snorkeling gear, and they were looking for snow sharks.

WHITFIELD: That is a cute picture. I love that. I've never heard of snow sharks, but that's OK. It's a great photo.

SCHNEIDER: I love it. Only a kid would think I'm going to swim through this. Why not?

WHITFIELD: I like that. That's a lot of fun. All right. Thank you so much. Thanks, Bonnie, appreciate that.

SCHNEIDER: Sure. WHITFIELD: All right. An energy plant under construction is rocked by a powerful explosion. What police say was going on just before the blast in Connecticut.

And this week saying goodbye to a pioneering fighter pilot who flew and made history with the Tuskegee Airmen. Lieutenant Colonel Lee Archer played a significant role in a series of so-called dogfights over German-occupied Hungary during World War II. He is known for shooting down four German planes, three in a single day while piloting a f-51 Mustang with the distinctive red tail of the Tuskegee Airman, the all black American fighter group in a segregated U.S. Armed Forces. A year and a half ago at the opening of the Tuskegee Museum in Alabama, Archer reflected on the social climate during wartime.


LEE ARCHER: We were treated by enemies that we were fighting better than our own people treated us. We understand now that they were succumbing to the culture of the country at that time. I cannot believe that men so brilliant to be in the war college and who led us through the war, the greatest war in history were that dumb. So we assume they submitted themselves to the culture of the country at that time, which said that there was a difference there is a great difference now. But it's still not perfect.


WHITFIELD: Lieutenant Colonel Archer died January 27th in New York. He was 90 years old. This Wednesday, he will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery.