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Wintry Weather for Spring; Astounding 9-Year-Old Survival Story; Mother Nature Puts Tiger's Return to No. 1 On Hold; Amazing Race Apologizes to War Veterans; Colorado Prison Chief Killing

Aired March 25, 2013 - 05:30   ET



BERMAN: It is the first Monday of spring. Spring, I tell you. It looks a lot like winter for a big swath of the country.

HARLOW: A 9-year-old girl's survival instinct. A hike through treacherous terrain after a deadly crash.

BERMAN: A dose of reality for "The Amazing Race". Outrage leads to a primetime apology to war veterans.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

HARLOW: I'm Poppy Harlow, in for Zoraida Sambolin. It is Monday, March 25th, 29 minutes past the hour. Thank you for joining us.

And we begin this morning with a brutal beginning to the work week because of severe weather across the country. People in six states now dealing with a very hefty cleanup from Missouri to Pennsylvania. Millions of people are battling rain, snow, and potential danger this morning from wind. All of that slush making roads slick and treacherous. Perfect conditions for fender benders, folks.

Look at the scene in Kansas City, Missouri, causing significant disruptions at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

And the storm is not done yet. Parts of eastern Indiana and western Ohio under a winter storm warning through early this afternoon. The system continues to track eastward right toward us.

We got it covered for you though. Our Shannon Travis is Potomac, Maryland. Jennifer Delgado is at the weather season.

Good morning to you both. Shannon, let's begin with you. What you are seeing?

SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Poppy. It's almost hard to believe this is the first week of spring, right?

As you've mentioned, we're here in Potomac, Maryland where it's been pretty coming down pretty steadily. Me and my cameraman, Eddie, were driving in and it was almost like a blinding whiteout. I just want to give you a sense of some of the accumulation here. Very unscientific, Poppy, maybe about two to three inches. And this is really the non-flashy kind of stuff that's really coming down and sticking together. as you mentioned, you talked about traffic conditions. We're actually right on I-270. This is a main artery that feeds straight into D.C. commuters come from as far west as west Virginia, as far north as Pennsylvania.

This is basically taking them right into the nation's capital. Right now, Poppy, the traffic is moving along pretty well. About 35 minutes from here to D.C. but expect traffic nightmares, basically, once this thing really picks up. Forecasters are warning the flush and snow on the roads, slippery conditions especially on the overpasses and bridges.

So, commuters be warned and be careful. Obviously, again, this is the kind of snow that's weighing down pretty heavy. You can see on this tree right here how the snow, Poppy, is just hanging on the branches there. That's the kind of snow that can potentially bring down tree limbs and affect power lines also.

That's another serious concern. We'll be out here for a while. And I'll keep sticking my feet in the snow, Poppy, to see how deep it actually goes.

HARLOW: Making it look good, Shannon. Thank you.

BERMAN: What a mess it is. In central Florida, the storms brought down trees. And I'm talking about huge mammoth trees, completely toppled over. Roots exposed. Really the question everyone wants to know right now is when will spring actually show up? Why are you keeping it from us? Jennifer Delgado joining us now from Atlanta.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Oh, great. You just make me out like I'm a Grinch or something. Just keeping spring away from you. You know, we're suffering down here as well in Atlanta. We're only going to see a high of 45 degrees, at least, but we'll have some sunshine now. But we are still talking a lot of snow out there.

And snow coming down, as I said, from Illinois all the way over towards Pennsylvania down towards Kentucky as well as into areas including Knoxville, Tennessee. So, what is happening here? Of course, this is a late season snow. And that's why we do have winter storm warnings and advisories in place. Anywhere you're seeing from the west, we are going to potentially see another one to four inches of snowfall.

That includes parts of Illinois, Indiana, as well as into the Ohio Valley. And for regions like Cincinnati, possibly four to six inches of snowfall. Right along the mountains, you, of course, going to be the big winner. We could see potentially a foot of snowfall. And then, for Washington, D.C., we are talking the metro area, about one to two inches in areas to the north and west could see potentially about four, and then, for the southern shore of New Jersey, three to five inches.

New York City, potentially, one to three arriving later into the afternoon. As we look a bit closer into the mid-Atlantic, you can kind of see for yourself a good batch of snow coming down very white, very bright across Washington, D.C. as well as into Baltimore. We'll continue with that throughout the morning. So, be careful on the roadways.

We are talking very slick conditions. Winter storm warnings and advisories for the mid-Atlantic is going to stay in place really until about midnight tonight in some of these locations. As we track this low, and you can see the low out towards the west, we're going to call this kind of a game of Pac-Man. It's going to be basically just swallowed up by the low off the coast, and that's what's really going to be kicking that snow into New York.

But the good news is it's going to be pulling away. It's not going to mean big snow for Boston. New England, you're finally going to be spared. And look at some of these totals out there. We're talking records. For St. Louis, 12.4 inches of snowfall. Let me show what you it looks like across St. Louis.

Here's our video and the video of the St. Louis arch. I know that all too well (ph). You're not seeing much there. The wind blowing the snow around. You also see that through parts of the northeast. Of course, they know how to deal with big snow in St. Louis. They get a lot of that stuff there -- Guys.


DELGADO: Poppy, your boots. They're not going to get a lot of action but one to three inches, they might get a little.

HARLOW: A little bit. A little bit.

BERMAN: All right. Jennifer, thank you.

HARLOW: All right. Well, secretary of state, John Kerry, trying his hardest to stop the bloodshed in Syria's civil war that continues to rage as he travels in the Middle East this morning. On Sunday, he met with Iraqi president, Nouri al-Maliki, but apparently, made very little head way in convincing him to stop allowing the flow of arms and troops into Syria.

Secretary Kerry wants tighter scrutiny of over flights in Iraq. He's accusing Iraq of helping Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, by allowing arms and fighters from Iran to cross into Syria through Iraq.

BERMAN: New this morning, the European Union agreeing to rescue the island nation of Cyprus from economic collapse. The bailout deal is worth $13 billion. It shrinks Cyprus' bloated banking system, and account holders of more than 100,000 Euros at some banks will suffer heavy losses. The plan also calls for the dismantling of popular bank of Cyprus with shareholders and bond holders expected to be nearly wiped out.

HARLOW: Very sad story to tell you this morning. A state law maker in Mississippi suspected of shooting and killing herself in a former colleague's home. That's what investigators suspect this morning. Fifty-three-year-old Jessica Upshaw's (ph) body was found yesterday in Clint Rotensberry's home. Rotensberry is a former state representative. Upshaw served in the legislature for nearly ten years representing a district right along the Gulf Coast.

BERMAN: Amazing tale of survival by a nine-year-old girl after a horrifying accident that killed her father. The California highway patrol says she was with him in an SUV when it veered off California's remote Sierra Highway and rolled hundreds of feet down an embankment. The girl who only had cuts and bruises escaped and ran up the hill in complete darkness to a nearby house.

When no one answered, she checked on her dad again and then climbed 200 feet up a steep embankment where a passerby found her and called for help.


JOE GOMEZ, LIVES IN THE AREA: It's mind boggling that a little girl at that age could do something like that. She's -- wow! She's a survivor.


BERMAN: The father did not survive. The girl says they were returning home to Los Angeles after a party. Investigators say that alcohol did play a role in the crash.

HARLOW: And a key defense witness in the Jodi Arias trial back on the stand today and he could face more questions from the jury. The prosecutor will continue to cross-examination Dr. Richard Samuels (ph). He's the one who claims arias suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder and cannot remember details about killing her ex-boyfriend. The next witness for the defense is expected to be a domestic violence expert.

BERMAN: So, veterans groups want an apology from CBS, and now, they have it. The network aired this statement before "The Amazing Race" last night.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to apologize to veterans, particularly, those who served in Vietnam as well as to their families and any viewers who were offended by the broadcast.


BERMAN: The apology coming after part of the previous week's episode was filmed where American B-52 was shot down during the Vietnam War. Veterans groups said using the wreckage as a prop was offensive. They were also upset with the song the contestants learned that glorified the communist party's victory. The head of the American Legion has accepted the apology from CBS.

HARLOW: And another sign that New York City is slowly recovering from the devastation of hurricane Sandy, Brooklyn's Luna Park that is in the famous Coney Island, folks, it's officially open for business now. Politicians and some hardy souls brave the chilly weather this weekend to hop on iconic rides like the wonder wheel and the cyclone roller coaster.

The amusement park's electrical system had been completely wiped out, had to be replaced after the storm surge destroyed them.

BERMAN: Cyclone is totally scary.

HARLOW: I don't go on any roller coasters, especially wooden (ph) one.

BERMAN: It's fun, though.

Thirty-seven minutes after the hour. Only Mother Nature kept Tiger Woods from returning to the top of the golf world on Sunday. After rolling in a birdie putt on the second hole in the final round of Bay Hill yesterday, a dangerous thunderstorm moved in. It suspended play until this morning. And this keeps Tiger from returning to number one in the world. He will get there if he wins this tournament.

The players barely getting off the course in time. Winds clocked at 62 miles an hour. They took down trees. They also knocked over a TV tower. An inch and a half of rain falling in less than an hour. It left the fairways just unplayable, underwater. The tournament resumes this morning at 10:00 a.m. Tiger holds a three-stroke lead.

I think he's only lost twice when he's head into the final rounds with the lead. So, it's a pretty good chance --

HARLOW: People love a comeback story.

BERMAN: This is quite a comeback.

HARLOW: A mystery on the campus of Brown University this morning. The FBI now joining the search for this missing student. We're going to have more from Rhode Island straight ahead.


BERMAN: A public memorial service for Colorado's prison chief will be held today amid tight security. There are still a lot of questions about what or who might have motivated his killer. Tom Clements (ph) was laid to rest yesterday in a private funeral. He was shot and killed Tuesday in his driveway.

The police believe the man who pulled the trigger, a 28-year-old White supremacist and parolee named Evan Spencer Ebel (ph) who was killed Thursday in a shootout in Texas. But what is not clear just yet is whether he acted alone.

CNN's Jim Spellman is in Colorado Springs. And Jim, really, officials there taking no chances with so many high profile public officials in one place today.

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We expect security to be tight here. When you press officials for details, they're really not giving anything away. They say that's a security concern in itself if they were to reveal their operational methods. As you said, investigation still going on behind prison walls and outside to try to find out if Evan Ebel, the alleged gunman in this case, was working with someone else.

If so, they feel that all this public officials we expect to see here today could be a threat. In the middle of all this, Colorado's governor John Hickenlooper who remarkably was friends with Tom Clements, the man he hired and had to lure away from Missouri to come and be his prison head but also with the father of alleged shooter, Evan Ebel.

Their relationship goes back 30 plus years. So, he's really getting it emotionally from both sides. He's expected to be here today, in fact, closing their office until one o'clock this afternoon so that everybody can come to the service. Here's the governor yesterday speaking to Candy Crowley on CNNs "State of the Union."


GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER, (D) COLORADO: I sort of felt like I was in a -- I was calling it a nightmare but I couldn't wake up from, right? That all these things kept happening to people that I loved and they didn't seem to be connected in any way. To me, the emotional toll has been much deeper than, you know, worrying about security.


SPELLMAN: And, of course, Mr. Clements' wife, Lisa, and his two daughters has got to be incredibly emotional for them. They had a private ceremony yesterday and they'll be here today for the public ceremony -- John, Poppy.

BERMAN: All right. Jim Spellman is in Colorado Springs. Thanks very much.

HARLOW: A student at Brown University has been missing now for more than a week. Detectives in Rhode Island are stumped. Twenty-two- year-old Senil Tripoti was last seen around campus on March 16th. He apparently left his apartment without his wallet or his cell phone. And now, the FBI is helping providence police search for him. Tripotu was on an improved leave from Brown.

BERMAN: New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, putting his money where his mouth is in the battle against gun violence. Bloomberg is shelling out $12 million for ads, targeting Congressional candidates who are against tougher gun control legislation.

His group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, is mounting the ad campaign to combat the National Rifle Association's ad blitz against universal background checks. Here's the NRA'S CEO firing back against the mayors on NBC's "Meet The Press."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WAYNE LAPIERRE, CEO, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: Criminals aren't going to be checked. They're not going to do this. The shooters in Tucson and Aurora and Newtown, they're not going to be checked.


BERMAN: The NRA CEO also said members have been sending small contributions to the organization send a message to the billionaire mayor that he, quote, "can't buy America."

HARLOW: I thought that was the most interesting part of that whole interviewing with Wayne Lapierre saying, you know, can't use your billions to buy your way in this.

BERMAN: He brought up the soda ban. He brought up everything.

HARLOW: Right. Well, folks, an appeal to save your Saturday mail. U.S Postal Service letter carriers rallied nationwide yesterday to keep the current delivery schedule. Congress and the USPS haven't seen eye-to-eye on this issue at all. Congress says, by law, the USPS has to deliver six days a week.

But the post master general is said to be moving forward with cutting Saturday deliveries. We know why this is. The postal service billions in the hole.

BERMAN: So, "The Croods" rocking the weekend box office. The animated Dreamworks Production about a pre-historic families road trip raking in more than $44 million in its first three days in theaters. That is the second best opening of the year behind "Oz." Finishing second with 30 million, the presidential action thriller, "Olympus" has fallen, "A Good Day to Die Hard" rounded at the top three with a, I guess, disappointing $24.8 million.

HARLOW: Just --

BERMAN: I would say $24.8 million. I will be disappointed with that.

HARLOW: I would, too.

BERMAN: But it's probably cost like $45,000 billion to make.

HARLOW: Or gazillion. Yes.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one is worth at least one question. Take a look. How did that get there? The answer straight ahead.


HARLOW: It is 49 minutes after the hour. Happy Monday. Let's get you up to date.

The calendar may say spring, but we are not in spring, folks. From Missouri to Pennsylvania, millions of people getting hammered by wind, rain, and snow. And the severe weather isn't done yet. Parts of Eastern Indiana, Western Ohio under a winter storm warning through early this afternoon. The system continuing to track eastward.

BERMAN: Secretary of State John Kerry is still in the Middle East this morning. On Sunday, he met with the Iraqi president, Nouri al- Maliki, but apparently, made little progress convincing him to stop allowing the flow of arms and troops that are helping to fuel Syria's bloody civil war. Kerry is accusing Iraq of helping Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, by allowing fighters (ph) from Iran to cross to Syria from Iraq.

HARLOW: And authorities in England say they have not found any evidence of any third party involvement in the death of billionaire Russian businessman, 67-year-old Boris Berezovsky (ph) was found dead Saturday in his bathroom. The door was locked from the inside. Police have not determined the cause of death as of yet. He was living in England after a falling out with his own government. He was a vocal critic of Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

BERMAN: So, Cadillac on a hot tin roof. That is the line of the morning. This may be the picture of the morning, too. You don't see this often. The driver was heading down a hill near Los Angeles. He couldn't stop. The Cadillac rounded a corner and it went airborne.


GALINA WYNN, PASSENGER: That's when I saw the air bags deploy. And I don't even see where were going from there. The view was obscured. And I just heard that we stopped. I can see -- myself and my husband is very, very lucky.


BERMAN: What she said (ph). A neighbor used a ladder to help get the couple down. It took a crane to get the Cadillac off. Authorities say there was a man inside the house, but he wasn't hurt. He was probably surprised.

HARLOW: Can you imagine waking up to that?

BERMAN: Is that a cat on my roof? No, it's a car!

HARLOW: A Cadillac!


HARLOW: Well, Miami Heat fans, listen up. Seven to go for the Miami Heat. Lebron James pouring in 32 points and handing off ten assists in Miami's 109-77 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats. That's the 26th consecutive win for the Heat, just seven shy of an all-time record of 33 that was set by the Los Angeles Lakers back in 1971. Miami going for number 27 tonight against the Orlando Magic.

BERMAN: We'll see. They still have seven to go. I think it's going to be hard for them.

HARLOW: You always like the underdogs.

BERMAN: Always. Always. Actually, I just root for losers. I don't know why that is.

Chances are this mother is tougher than your mother. You have to check this out. We will have more on this lady seen grappling with an alligator coming up.


BERMAN: All right. We are taking a look at the top CNN Trends on the web this morning. This one is a good one. A battle between a Florida gator and a Florida deputy. So, the reptile wandered up to a middle school near Orlando just as the kids were getting out of school. Deputy Jessica McGregor (ph), who's the school's resource officer, decided she could not wait for the trapper.

She got some rope and tape and she took care of business. She also says she learned how to handle gators as a kid. I guess, that's a good thing. You would not want to try this as an amateur at home. Deputy McGregor, she will join us live on "Starting Point" coming up at eight o'clock, that's eastern time. That's amazing. Good for her.

HARLOW: Good for her. All right, folks, anything -- anything more exciting than watching Tilda Swinton catch some Zs?

BERMAN: Nothing.

HARLOW: Nothing! The Oscar winning actress is on display at the museum of modern art in New York City. Her exhibit is called "The Maybe." She's done this before in Europe, but this is her first time sleeping in a box. First time, on American soil. She only does it a few times a year and the appearances are unscheduled. I'm going right after the show.

BERMAN: This is her American sleeping debut. Good for her.

HARLOW: Exactly.

BERMAN: Good for her. All right. Twenty grand and a close encounter with Kevin Durant, not a bad birthday weekend for Oklahoma City Thunder fan, Justin Dougherty (ph). Dougherty got a chance to try that half-court shot for $20,000 at yesterday's Portland-Oklahoma City game. You see, he sunk it.

HARLOW: Nailed it!

BERMAN: And talk about a man who has his priorities in order. The first thing he did, he ran straight for his girlfriend. Smart move! Smart move! Then, he went to center court and got tackled by Kevin Durant, that's an even bigger hug. You know, not a bad birthday celebration for this 24-year-old. I think, like a lot of people that hitting these half court shots.

HARLOW: Just a week or two ago.

BERMAN: It's crazy. It's happening all the time. Happy to see it. Good for him.

HARLOW: Good job.

BERMAN: Kevin Durant, very excited there. All right. To check out these trends and other top CNN trends, go to

HARLOW: And EARLY START continues right now.

BERMAN: Whiteout in Washington. A live look right here at the Capitol dome. The calendar says spring, but the scene out size says snow from the Midwest all the way to the Atlantic seaboard.

HARLOW: Amanda Knox in a new fight for her freedom. A court hearing underway as we speak to decide if she will be tried yet again for murder.

BERMAN: Cage match, man versus shark. A tourist terrified when a great white gets way, way too close.

HARLOW: And Cinderella is still dancing. Florida Gulf Coast in the dunk city act headed to the sweet 16.

Good morning, everyone. Happy Monday. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Poppy Harlow. I'm in for Zoraida who's off today.