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Monster Blizzard Aims for Northeast; Thousands of Flights Canceled; Amtrak to Cancel Services in Northeast; Manhunt Continues for Cop-Killer

Aired February 8, 2013 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you for joining us. Both cities in the entire north he's are bracing for this major winter storm. It's going to be bad in some places, including New York City, flurries have already begun.

More than 3,600 flights have already been canceled in the northeast. Residents across the region are being told the stay of the roads and stay home. We have word of a 19 car pileup in Maine.

We have snow, the threat of flooding and the impact of air travel. Let's bring in meteorologist Jennifer Delgado to tell us when the blizzard is expected to hit in earnest.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, there, Carol. We're expecting conditions to get worse into the evening. That's when we're going to see the winds picking up and the snow blowing around. That includes New York as well as areas like Boston and into Providence.

As we show you on the radar right now you can see where the snow is taking over in northern parts of New Jersey as well as regions like Connecticut and Rhode Island. The weather is going to deteriorate because we have two systems that are going to collide and this will provide the nor'easter, our weather explosion.

Snowfall totals around three feet in some location. This is going to give you an idea of the timing of the show. This is going to help you visualize the wind conditions moving through. This is 4:00. Notice they start to get a bit tighter.

As we get later into the evening, that's when the winds will be picking up and it's going to change all over to snow from areas like New York into Boston, some locations roughly three feet of snow.

It doesn't move until about 6:00 tomorrow night. And that means windy conditions even through Saturday. Now this gives you an idea where we're going to see the heaviest snowfall totals. Of course anywhere in purple.

And Boston, where we had Indra Petersons reporting, we're expecting potentially three feet and this must add in the snow drift as well.

Now we talk more about the wind gusts that are going to be happening. In some of the areas they're going to be very close to hurricane strength. And even for Providence, notice those winds -- 53, 52. Well, this is going to be enough to take down some power lines in addition to the whiteout conditions, so that's the other part of the story.

And then when you add in the wind with the cold, you get the wind chill. And the wind chill values are going to be plummeting especially as we go overnight into tomorrow morning.

We're going to stop the clock at 7:00 a.m. It's Saturday. It's an off day. Hope people are sleeping in a little later because look what it's going to feel like - minus 16 degrees. And (inaudible) and in Albany 1, and then Providence and New York, it's going to be bitterly cold there. And that's going to stay the same way through Saturday.

And with the other part of the winds we're talking about the storm surge and the coastal flooding. Anywhere right along the coastline from Maine, all the way down to Newark, New Jersey. We're going to be talking about areas affected that were even damaged by Superstorm Sandy last year. So they certainly don't need to see something like this. Of course, the blizzard warning in red anywhere from Newark all the way up towards Maine.

Look at those wind gusts Carol. Are you speechless? 70 miles per hour and then you add in three feet of snow and then you add in the cold. Just stay home. Make it easy for officials.

COSTELLO: Yes. And try to stay warm because --

DELGADO: Try to stay warm.

COSTELLO: -- doesn't matter if the heat is on.

DELGADO: You're cold.

COSTELLO: Yes. Thank you very much, Jennifer Delgado.

Let's head out to Boston and check in with Indra Petersons. She's standing by. The snow has already begun Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, I am tempted to say conditions are worsening. But I know better because this is going to be nothing like what we're expecting to see as we go through this afternoon when the heavier bands move through and the overnight hours tonight.

But regardless. I am standing here, it's cold. We are starting to get a little bit of that wet snow. As soon as you're wet, it feels a lot colder. Gusts now about 30, 35 miles per hour but the visibility is still great. And again this is nothing like what we're going to see later.

Speaking of visibility, once again, we're going to continue to do this. Let's show you what we're looking at, the Customs Tower. The reason for this is, a lot of times we talk about blizzards, we talk about visibility less than a quarter of a mile. That tower is less than a quarter mile away. We can still see it. So we know conditions not too bad.

However, as we go again through the overnight hours we could see the visibility drop down to zero. So one of the things I've been asking everyone here. It's been a mild winter, right? 15 inches below normal for snow. What do they think about the storm? Are they nervous?

The residents I talked to they're not. They feel confident that the city has everything in place that they need to. And they do. 4,500 units of machinery ready to plow the streets. A thousand National Guards are ready to go. Another 5,000 are on standby and all this is making everyone confident.

Now the airlines already 3,500 airlines have canceled their flights ahead of the storm. And we're now going to be watching as we go through the weekend by Saturday afternoon, this storm will start to kick out of here. Of course, the heavier bands we know are overnight tonight into tomorrow. By the afternoon even when it starts to kick out of here we potentially have two to three feet of snow stacked up here right next to me. You can see drifts over my head and gain, like I said, the winds slowly blowing when the drifts get out of here.

So we're still going to be having very poor visibility. Everyone is going to be hunkering down all weekend long. By noon today, a complete standstill. Everyone is going to be off the street. Even public transportation is closing down today after 3:00 p.m. And it's the fifth largest network of transportation in the United States. So yes, it's going to be quiet, that is if you're not talking about the wind. We're ready for it.

COSTELLO: It's a good thing. And it's good it's a weekend, too. Right? That will make things easier for people.

Indra Petersons, thanks so much.

Let's head to New York City because the snow has begun there, too. The salt trucks on the ready. Alison Kosik is there. She went to the grocery store, stocked up on supplies. Got the last apple. You are ready.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm ready. So are a lot of other people. I've been watching people walk in and out of this whole foods that's right over this way. People are getting prepared. They know how bad it can get, especially after Hurricane Sandy.

Right now we are getting the beginning of it. This is nothing thought because you see all this, we can see the street out here. We can see the pavement. Fast forward 24 hours from now. You're going to probably see this covered in snow if those forecast maps are right.

As of right now it's just a big slushy mess, slippery, haven't seen anyone fall yet. Seen a few umbrellas flip. But that's about it because the wind is picking up.

COSTELLO: OK. We got someone on the phone that we need to talk to right now, Alison because I'm not completely paying attention to you, although normally I would. Kevin Ortiz is MTA spokesperson from New York City. He's in charge of the Long Island Railroad, the buses, the subway and New York City. So, are you ready?

KEVIN ORTIZ, METROPOLITAN TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY (via telephone): We are absolutely ready. We've already deployed a fleet of snow fighting and de-icing equipment that's designed to keep our outdoor tracks and switches and third rails clear of snow and ice.

COSTELLO: So how do you do that?

ORTIZ: Well, this is equipment that includes superpowered snow throwers, jet powered snow blowers and de-icing cars. Again, we deploy to keep switches and third rails cleared of snow. And after a while, once we start to see heavy accumulations then we would make a determination as to whether or not we would need to curtail service.

COSTELLO: How much snow needs to be on the railroad tracks for you to say I have to stop the trains?

ORTIZ: Well, essentially the Long Island Railroad puts it about anywhere between 10 and 13 inches. That's the height of the third rail where again, if you start to get issues with power and safely running trains through that type of weather, we would make a determination as to whether or not we would have to curtail service on the railroads.

COSTELLO: OK. So for commuters, what are you suggesting they do? At what point do they say I'm going to get home because the trains are no longer going to be running.

ORTIZ: Right. Well, in terms of our subways in the city, we plan on running a normal schedule. We don't anticipate any issues with having to curtail service on our subways. On our railroads, both Long Island Railroad and Metro North Railroad, what they are doing is they are running additional trains early in the afternoon to accommodate customers who want to head home early in anticipation of the storm. And we're actually urging our customers to take advantage of this added service earlier in the day because the possibility does exist that evening service once the storm really hits may need to be curtailed as conditions warrant.

COSTELLO: So Kevin how happy are you that the storm is going to hit on a weekend?

ORTIZ: It does -- it certainly does make things easier. You know, we typically see less ridership, lower ridership on weekends and also enables us to, you know, operate additional equipment to get rails clear when there is less service. So it turned out pretty well that this is going to hit on a weekend.

COSTELLO: Kevin Ortiz, thanks so much. I know you're busy. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us.

ORTIZ: You're very welcome.

COSTELLO: We're going to take you now to the airports in New York and Boston and tell you what's up with that. Nothing good. I can tell you that right now.

We'll be back.

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COSTELLO: If you plan to fly anywhere in the northeast from New York up to Maine you better call the airline ahead of time if you plan to travel today, tomorrow or the next day because the airlines collectively have already canceled 3,600 flights and expect them to cancel more.

Let's head out to LaGuardia Airport right now and check in with CNN's Zain Asher. Good morning.

ZAIN ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Carol. And it's not just departing flights that are being affected. Pretty much anybody who is expecting friends or relatives to arrive in New York or the East Coast today will be affected.

I mean just take a look behind me. The arrivals board which is on the left is pretty much virtually all yellow for the rest of the day. So that's letting you know that almost all flights arriving at LaGuardia are pretty much going to be impacted, bringing the total number of canceled flights all the way up to 3,600. And as you mentioned, we do expect that number to increase.

Now looking around me at LaGuardia Airport right now, it is relatively calm. Not too much going on here but as I said earlier, my prediction is that pretty much later on this afternoon this airport will be virtually empty. So anyone planning to travel and anyone expecting relatives to arrive in New York should, of course, call the airline to find out what's going on.

And in terms of when things will resume back to normal, we do know that today and tomorrow at least things are going to be hectic. But after that it's pretty much up to the individual carriers when they're going to resume flights. So it's very important to check with them as well -- Carol.

COSTELLO: So just sit in your home and watch the snowfall until Sunday and then call the airline. And hopefully your plane will be taking off and you can head to the airport and everything will be fine.

Before you go, I want to ask you about train travel, too, because lots of people take the trains in the northeast corridor.

ASHER: I know. And Carol, yes, train travel is also heavily impacted, as I mentioned earlier. Amtrak trains pretty much canceled. Any Amtrak train leaving Penn Station after 1:00 heading north is going to be canceled for the rest of the day. So travelers are definitely going to be impacted negatively by that as well. COSTELLO: Zain Asher reporting live from LaGuardia, thanks so much.

New Hampshire's Mt. Washington Observatory is called the home of the world's worst weather and today's monster blizzard is expected to deliver a whiteout. I talked earlier with weather observer Brian Fitzgerald.

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BRIAN FITZGERALD, WEATHER OBSERVER: We'll be seeing wind gusts by tomorrow evening around 100 miles an hour, which actually is a pretty typical situation for the winter time up here.

COSTELLO: Typical. So give us a few tips because a lot of people in the northeast will be trying to survive over the next couple of days.

FITZGERALD: I would say stay put, hang out. Make sure you're well- prepped at home. Certainly with some of these winds that are going to be along the coast that we're going to see around Portland, Boston, Portsmouth, those areas certainly you're going to want to make sure that you're ready for any sort of power outage.

COSTELLO: So two storms, two weather systems are going to collide. We heard Jennifer talk a little bit about that. Tell us how dangerous this is when this sort of thing happens.

FITZGERALD: Yes, when this thing comes along, I mean certainly there's just going to be a ton of accumulation. Luckily this will be some pretty light powdery stuff and we're just talking about snow, not a lot of ice. But in this situation when you get a lot of snow, very heavy stuff, it can start weighing down on some tree and power lines and certainly on some rooftops if you're getting a lot of snow here.

And this is certainly -- I mean this is the most we've seen in a long time so hopefully folks are remembering how to drive in winter conditions and then also just the fact that you should just stay off the road this evening.

COSTELLO: Good advice. Brian Fitzgerald at the Mt. Washington Observatory. Thanks so much.

FITZGERALD: Yes, you're welcome.

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COSTELLO: And we're just getting word if your kid lives if the northeast and is expecting to take the SAT test Saturday -- I'm sorry -- the ACT test, not the SAT. The ACT test -- forget about it. I'm just going to read off the states who have canceled the tests, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Massachusetts.

If your kid was expecting to take the ACT on Saturday at any of those states, those tests have been canceled.

We're going to be back with a check of our top stories after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: 47 minutes past the hour. Time to check on our top stories. More on the winter storm, by the way, that's headed toward the northeast in just a minute.

But first, Los Angeles police are on the hunt for ex-cop Christopher Dorner. Dorner is accused of killing three people including one police officer and the daughter of another. Right now the search is focused on the California mountain town of Big Bear after a burned out pickup truck belonging to the suspect was found on a road in the area.

New pictures this morning of Ethan, the little boy who was kidnapped and held in an underground bunker in Alabama for six days. In the video which first aired on ABC, Ethan appears happy and healthy. Two days after his release Ethan celebrated his sixth birthday.

Wal-Mart facing claims that it stopped funding gay-friendly organizations after a meeting with the conservative Family Research Council. On his radio show, FRC president Tony Perkins said he met with the company regarding who it gives money to and that Wal-Mart was now on the straight and narrow with the FRC's values. CNN has reached out to Wal-Mart, but we have not yet heard back.

The Secret Service investigating the hacking of Bush family e-mails. According to published reports, the unidentified hacker accessed e- mails, photos and personal information from both former presidents' accounts.

The northeast bracing for a massive winter storms, thousands of flights have already been canceled and long lines at gas stations have been reported as drivers stock up before the brunt of the storm hit later this weekend.

In fact the snow was already coming down in New York, Boston and in Maine. Let's bring in meteorologist Jennifer Delgado. Hi.

DELGADO: Hi there, Carol. You're right. The snow is coming down now. It's going to be coming from two different areas. One from the Great Lakes. Another one right on top of the mid-Atlantic. And this is what's going to be providing all that rain out there changing over to snow. Once these two storms basically marry, well, we're going to be talking about a big snowstorm.

Blizzard conditions moving through parts of the northeast as well as New England. You can see on the radar that snow working in. But more of it is going to arrive later in the afternoon. As we take from you noon all the way to 4:00 notice for New York City, you're going to be seeing that all change over to snow.

For Boston, more snow from you. We have had some live shots coming out of Boston showing you conditions and the winds picking up. As we head into the evening hours as well as into the overnight that's where we're going to see the strongest winds. Right now you're looking at Fenway Park. It's kind of hard to tell when you get that snow moving around and blowing around, well, that's what we call white-out conditions and it's only going to get worse.

Back over to our graphic now. As we move to Saturday, still talking about strong winds that snow finally departs in the evening. But once it does depart we are still talking about three feet of snow. Anywhere you're seeing in purple, of course, that's where we're expecting the heavy snowfall.

Boston it looks like you're going to take the brunt of the storm. When you add in these winds up to 50 to 70 miles per hour -- we're talking winds strong enough to take down power lines. We're talking power outages out there. But, of course, blowing that snow around. That's why officials are saying do not get on the roadways because this is going to lead to blizzard conditions. And that's why we have that blizzard warning in place anywhere in the red that's from Newark all the way up towards Maine.

And in the other part of the story, coastal flooding from areas from New Jersey up towards Maine. It is a bad storm out there and people really need to listen to officials.

COSTELLO: Absolutely. Jennifer Delgado, thanks so much.

DELGADO: Welcome.

COSTELLO: Cliff Cole is on the phone now from Amtrak. Welcome, Cliff.

CLIFF COLE, AMTRAK (via telephone): Hi. Good afternoon. Good morning, actually. The day is running away from me.

COSTELLO: I know, you must be really busy. How is Amtrak preparing for the big storm?

COLE: Well, we actually started evaluating as soon as we heard the forecast on how bad it was going to be. So we took up some conversation yesterday with our transportation and engineering people. And the decision was made midday yesterday to start canceling some service north of New York City as of this afternoon.

So what we're still running now are the Acela express and northeast regional service will come to a halt some time later today if people are leaving Penn Station, the last Acela express train out. It's scheduled to depart at 1:03 p.m. And if you're coming south out of Boston the last train out of there would be the Acela at 1:15 and the Regional at 1:40.

The reason we're doing this is because of the storm that you've all been talking about with the large amounts of snow and the wind. We just don't want to get the trains out to a spot where they may not be able to make it to their destinations. So it's better just to cancel the trains ahead of time and wait for the storm to subside and then get people to where they have to go.

COSTELLO: Yes because it would not be fun to be stuck on the train in the middle of a snowy field somewhere. Tell me like after the storm hits, do you actively try to keep snow from the tracks? Or does that come after the storm stops?

COLE: That's part of the process. We have mechanisms where we can clear snow from the tracks. But depending on the amount of snow that's falling. From the projections that we're hearing, if we're talking about two or three feet of snow, it's going to be very difficult to keep up with that.

But under what we would call normal conditions where you say five, six inches, even up to a foot of snow, we can keep the tracks relatively clear. It's the ice and the wind that usually make things more problematic for us than the actual snow itself.

So we have crews at the ready should we get some tree limbs or actual trees falling on the overhead wires or the infrastructure to clear that up as quickly as possible. That's more of our concern than the actual snow itself.

COSTELLO: So service could be interrupted after the weekend is over?

COLE: Well we don't -- I mean we don't know I mean. So we're going day by day. So right now we have the service operational plan for today, Friday. We're going to look at tomorrow's schedule later on today and make that announcement. So again, we're hoping that we can get service back, you know, as early as tomorrow but that's just a project at this point.

You know the storm still has to play its course and we have to see how it goes. We can't say for sure, but we're going to get it back as soon as we possibly can. The actual good news is that our service from New York south down to Washington is not affected. So anybody that's traveling from New York to points south can still take their trips and we don't anticipate any problems at this point.

COSTELLO: All right, Cliff. I know you have a long weekend ahead of you. Cliff Cole from Amtrak, thank you so much.

COLE: Sure.

COSTELLO: We'll be right back.

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COSTELLO: If you live in Boston, I hope you already know schools are closed -- I'm sure you know about that. Also the subway is set to shut down at 3:30 Eastern time in preparation for this big storm that's heading your way.

CNN meteorologist Indra Petersons is in Boston. Good morning.

PETERSONS: Good morning. Yes, we're starting to get that wet snow. Not really sticking to the ground and we're just starting to pick up on that. You know, the big thing is now, we're talking about these two storms starting to merge.

Let's talk about how that is expected to happen. If you remember the thunderstorms you saw on the southeast yesterday, that started to go up all the way to the mid-Atlantic. So that's that warm moist there. That is combining with that cold arctic air, that cold dry air that was bringing snow to the Great Lakes in the Ohio Valley.

Those two are coming together. We're getting this big nor'easter, this big coastal bomb that's expected to bring snowfall rates of two to three inches per hour.

The question is, what about the timing of this? OK, in Boston as we go through the afternoon, the late afternoon, we're going to start to see some of these heavier bands between 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. Then overnight tonight, that's when we start to get the heaviest snowfall rates out there. Visibility is expected to drop to zero. Winds are gusting as high as 50, 60, 70 miles per hour. We're going to be right here standing here with you for it.

COSTELLO: You'll probably be buried. Stay safe. Indra Petersons, thank you so much.

I'm Carol Costello, thanks for joining us today.

CNN NEWSROOM with Ashleigh Banfield after a break.

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