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Wintry Storm Strikes in the Spring; Attacking Iraq; CBS Apologizes for Vietnam Episode; David v. Goliath with Florida Flavor; Kerry Makes Surprise Visit to Afghanistan

Aired March 25, 2013 - 06:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So much for spring. Winter still bearing down over a huge swath of the country right now, and it is not over yet.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And a young girl's survival instinct. How a 9-year-old managed to hike for help through treacherous terrain after a deadly car crash.

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

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

HARLOW: I'm Poppy Harlow, in for Zoraida Sambolin. It is Monday, March 25th, 30 minutes past the hour. Thanks for joining us this morning.

We begin with a brutal beginning to the work week, because the very severe weather. People in six states waking up to a big cleanup. From Missouri to Pennsylvania, millions of people battling rain, snow, and potentially dangerous wind this morning. All that slush making roads disastrous, and treacherous, perfect conditions for fender benders.

Look at the scene in Kansas City, Missouri. It is causing significant disruptions at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. The storm not even done yet, parts of eastern Indiana, and western Ohio are under a winter storm warning through early this afternoon, and that system continues to track eastward.

We've got it covered for you. Our Shannon Travis is in Potomac, Maryland. Jennifer Delgado is in the CNN weather center in Atlanta.

Shannon, you got the short end of the stick in the storm. So, we're going to start with you this morning.

SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Short end of the stick, indeed. Poppy, when we last spoke, I gave you a very unscientific measure of how much snow was actually down here on the ground. I said about two inches. This is definitely about three inches. My finger goes all the way down in there. Just to give you a sense of how fast and heavy it's coming down.

I mentioned also that we're right on I-270. This is a main artery into D.C. Commuters from as west as West Virginia, as north as Pennsylvania, use this to get into D.C. I just want to show you, we've been monitoring it the whole time.

Right now, we're still moving a little bit steady, Poppy, but we have been seeing a number of brake lights suggesting that there is definitely a slowdown at least just ahead of us from over here. Another concern, obviously, is again how heavy this snow is, weighing down on trees and possibly bringing down lines. And we'll give you sense of that.

Look at this. The snow is basically just building up on the branches there, right? I'm shaking it a little bit. But imagine actually shaking onto a power line. So, that's obviously a concern, as well.

Forecasters say that these conditions will continue like this, so they're warning drivers, be careful. Slush, snow, slippery conditions on these roads.

Also, we're hearing about a number of school closings in West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia -- Poppy.

HARLOW: I love your scientific measurements of how much snow. Putting your finger and shaking the three (ph).

TRAVIS: The finger.

HARLOW: Exactly. Thank you, Shannon.

BERMAN: All right. So, these strong storms brought down trees in central Florida. And we're talking about some really big mammoth trees that just toppled over. The roots exposed. Look at that.

So, the question everyone wants to know now is when will spring actually show up for real? Let's bring in meteorologist Jennifer Delgado.

Hey, Jennifer.


You know, that video you just saw coming out of Florida, that's the result of heavy rainfall and strong winds. Right now we're talking all snow from Illinois, all the way over to areas, including Pennsylvania, northern Virginia, as well as into Maryland. Now, the snow it's light right now through areas including Indianapolis.

But let's show you what it looks like. Earlier, we have snow plows blowing through the streets. This, of course, after the region picked up 6.4 inches of snowfall, but many areas have already seen more than that.

Let's head over to the radar and talk about what's happening across parts of the mid-Atlantic. That snow burst moving through northern Virginia also making its way through Maryland. This means we are going to be dealing with snow through the morning hours, as well as through the early afternoon. That's where we're going to see the heaviest stuff coming down.

But this also means areas like south Jersey, you're going to be looking at heavy snowfall. And this is going to mean for slippery conditions, if you're going to be driving this morning, especially up and down Interstate 95.

We talked about some of the snow totals out there. Again, we'll still go one to four for areas, including parts of Indiana. Four to six for regions including Ohio, and that includes Columbus. And then along the mountains, six to 12 inches, really good news for those ski resorts especially for this late in the season. And then for Washington, D.C., we are predicting one to three inches of snowfall. And then for the south shores of Jersey, anywhere between three to four inches of snowfall. For the five boroughs of New York City, roughly one to three inches.

So, no snow relief for you guys there. But as we talk about some of the totals out there, look at St. Louis. They picked up 12.4 inches of snowfall. That is a record. Denver 11.6.

Now despite all the snow out there, we are going to see more delays as we go through the afternoon. That includes D.C. metro, Philadelphia, as well as Indianapolis and Columbus. Back over to you guys.

BERMAN: Not just delays, but major delays.

DELGADO: Major delays. You're right.


BERMAN: All right, Jennifer Delgado, our thanks to you.

Other news right now: Secretary of State John Kerry trying to stop the bloodshed in Syria's civil war as he travels in the Middle East this morning. Yesterday, he met with the Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki, but apparently he made little headway, 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 Assad by allowing armed fighters from Iran to cross into Syria from Iraq.

HARLOW: Well, authorities in Mississippi believe a state lawmaker shot and killed herself over the weekend. Fifty-three-year-old Jessica Upshaw's body was found yesterday in former state representative's home. She served in the Mississippi legislature for nearly 10 years. She represented the district along the Gulf Coast.

BERMAN: An amazing tale of survival by a 9-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. So, the girl, who had only cuts and bruises, escaped. She ran up the hill in complete darkness to a nearby house. No one answered. So she checked on her father again 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: As we said the father did not survive. The girl says they were returning home to Los Angeles after a party. Investigators saying that alcohol played a role in the crash.

HARLOW: 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-examine Dr. Richard Samuels. He claims Arias suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and cannot remember details about killing her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander. The next witness for the defense is expected to be a domestic violence expert.

BERMAN: Despite snow in much of the country a little sign of spring here in New York City. Brooklyn's Luna Park in Coney Island is officially open for business. Politicians and a few others braved chilly weather Sunday to ride iconic rides like the wonder wheel and wooden cyclone rollercoaster. The amusement park's electrical systems had to be pretty much completely replaced after the storm surge from hurricane Sandy destroyed them back in October.

HARLOW: Turning online this morning. Veterans groups want an apology from CBS. The network has given them just that, airing the statement before "The Amazing Race" last night. Listen.


ANNOUNCER: 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.


HARLOW: Part of the previous week's episode was filmed where an American B-52 was shot down during the Vietnam War. Veterans groups said using the wreckage as a prop was offensive. The head of the American Legion has accepted CBS' apology.

BERMAN: Also trending this morning, a battle royale -- the reptile versus the resource officer. A seven-foot gator got a bit too close to middle school near Orlando just as kids were getting out. So, deputy Jessica McGregor, the school's resource officer, decided she was not going to wait for the official trapper. So she got some rope, some duct tape, and she took care of business. McGregor said she learned how to handle gators as a kid. She's going to tell us all about how she pulled this off on "STARTING POINT" coming up on the 8:00 Eastern hour. So stay with us for that.

Look at the alligator flashing his tail around right there.

HARLOW: Absolutely. Tough mama.

BERMAN: All right. So, mystery on a college campus this morning. The FBI joining the search for a missing brown university student. We'll have more from Rhode Island, coming up.

HARLOW: Plus, video that begs the question, how on earth did this happen?

BERMAN: Quite a parking space.


BERMAN: Christine Romans is here to tell us what is coming up on "STARTING POINT." What are we doing?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, what are we doing, John? You're going to be so surprised.

Look, it's spring but it does not feel like it. After dropping a foot of snow in parts of the Midwest, a major storm now moving East. Winter warnings are in effect for at least a dozen states, and a lot of folks are in for a messy commute. We have live team coverage top of the hour.

Then, could Amanda Knox find herself back behind bars, despite being acquitted of her British roommate's murder? This morning, Italian judges will decide if she and her ex-boyfriend will face another trial.

Plus, heart-pounding video. A great white shark skips the bait and goes right for the diver inside this cage. That shark's whole head and jaws inside. There are people in there. Amazingly, everyone's OK. We're talking live with the man who filmed this unbelievable video.

And, my hero, Snooki is here. The reality TV star is talking about life as a new mother. You don't want to miss this. I decided I probably won't ask her about the Cyprus bailout. It was two things --

BERMAN: She's into central banking.

ROMANS: But I'm really excited to talk to her, she's lost I think 42 pounds.

HARLOW: Wow. It's like half her weight.

ROMANS: She's 4'9". I know, she's 4'9", now weighs 102 pounds. She's really proud of herself for losing all that baby weight.

So, we'll talk to Snooki about brand Snooki and all that.

HARLOW: Thanks, Christine. See you soon.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

HARLOW: Well, folks, there will be a public memorial today for Colorado's prison chief and security will be extremely tight. That's because there are still a lot of questions about what or who might have motivated his killer.

Tom Clements was laid to rest yesterday in a private funeral. He was shot and killed on Tuesday in his own driveway. And police believe 28-year-old white supremacist and parolee Evan Spencer Ebel pulled the trigger. He was killed Thursday in a shoot-out with police in Texas.

But it's not clear whether or not he acted alone. That's the big question at this hour.

Our Jim Spellman is live for us in Colorado Springs.

Jim, officials there are taking no chances with so many high profile public officials in one place today, right?

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. They're very reluctant to go in too much detail. But we do expect very tight security.

As you mentioned, the man suspected in this shooting, Evan Ebel, is a member of a white supremacist prison gang called the 211s.

Investigators have been working inside the prison and outside, talking to members of this gang, trying to find out if there was somebody else involved, if there was a conspiracy, if someone had put out a hit on Tom Clements. And that, of course, puts other public officials potentially in danger. They want to be sure that this is an absolutely safe event. We know top law enforcement officials including the people leading the investigations will be here at the memorial today.

Caught in all the middle of this is John Hickenlooper, the governor of Colorado. Not only was he close friends with Tom Clements (ph) who was killed, as a pretty remarkable coincidence, close friends with the father of Evan Ebel (ph).

He really feels that he's kind of caught between all of this. You can hear the emotion when he talks about it. Listen to him speaking with Candy Crowley on "STATE OF THE UNION" yesterday.


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, Poppy, we don't want to forget Tom Clements' wife, Lisa, and their two daughters, they'll be here today. It's been obviously an unbelievably stressful and awful week for them -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Just tragic. Jim, thank you.

BERMAN: Forty-six minutes after the hour right now. Let's bring you up to speed.

Secretary of State John Kerry pointing an accusing finger at Iraq. On Sunday, Kerry met with 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 arms and fighters from Iran to cross to Syria from Iraq.

HARLOW: And authorities in England say, at this point, they have not found any evidence of any third party involvement in the death of a billionaire Russian businessman. Sixty-seven-year-old Boris Berezovsky was found dead in his home on Saturday, found dead in his bathroom. The door to that bathroom 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 the Russian government. He was a vocal critic of Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

And detectives are stumped in the search for a Brown University student who has been missing now for more than a week. Twenty-two- year-old Sunil Tripathi (ph) was last seen around campus on March 16th. He, apparently, left his apartment without his wallet or his cell phone. His family says he's been battling depression.

And the FBI is now helping Providence police search for him. That young man was on an approved leave of absence from Brown.

BERMAN: All right. Check this out. Cadillac on a hot tin roof. Yes, that is the line of the morning, the picture of the morning. It is not hot tin, but still, the driver was heading down a hill near Los Angeles, could not stop, that's when the Cadillac rounded a corner and went airborne.


GALINA WYNN, PASSENGER: As soon as we hit the corner, the air bags deploy. And I don't even see where were going from there because, I mean, the view was obscured. And I just heard that we stopped. I can see -- myself and my husband is very, very lucky.


BERMAN: Very lucky, indeed. 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. Probably surprised, but not hurt.

HARLOW: And it's David versus Goliath with a Florida flavor. Coming up, the bracket busting Cinderella upstart about to take on the NCAA powerhouse.


BERMAN: All right. Breaking news. We've just learned that Secretary of State John Kerry has landed in Kabul. This is a surprise visit to Afghanistan. He's scheduled to meet with Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, at the presidential palace. This is Kerry's sixth visit to Afghanistan since President Obama's first term began.

But it is his first trip there as secretary of state. Yesterday, Secretary Kerry was in Iraq meeting with Iraqi president, Nouri al- Maliki.

So, other news, have you checked your bracket this morning? If you did, I bet you didn't have Florida coast -- Florida Gulf Coast in the sweet 16. Andy Scholes joins us now with the Bleacher Report. Good morning, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Good morning, guys. If anyone had the Eagles winning two games in their bracket, it's probably a good chance they attend school at Florida Gulf Coast, because yesterday, the Eagles did something that no one has ever done that's make the sweet 16 as a 15 seed. It's just their second year of being eligible for the tournament.

Florida Gulf Coast is making it look easy out there. They went on a 17-0 run in the second half to cruise past San Diego state 81-71. The Eagles now head to North Texas where they will take on their home state traditional powerhouse, the Florida Gators in the sweet 16.

Tournament almost lost two more high seeds yesterday. Ohio State's Aaron Craft rescued the Buckeyes with the game-winning three with under a second to go as OSU escaped with the 78-75 win over Iowa State. One seed Indiana was also on the ropes against temple, but Victor Oladipo was clutch down the stretch. This three (ph) a part of a 10-0 run by the Hoosiers to end the game. They hung on to win 58-52 to make their second straight trip to the sweet 16.

The NASCAR, Joey Logano continues to make enemies out on the track, fighting for the lead on the final lap at Fontana. Logano and Denny Hamlin get tangled up. Hamlin crashes hard into the wall. He would have to be airlifted to the hospital but would be OK after the race. Logano's troubles continued as Tony Stewart came after him. The two had to be separated. And afterwards, Stewart didn't hold back his disdain for Logano.


TONY STEWART, #14 OWNER & DRIVER: What the hell do you think I was mad about? Some little (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of the infield. He wants to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) about everybody else. He's the one that drives like a little (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I'm going to (EXPLETIVE DELETED).


STEWART: Thank you.


SCHOLES: Thanks, Tony. Tiger Woods just one round away from reclaiming golf's number one ranking in the world. He currently leads the Arnold Palmer Invitational by three strokes in the final round. Check out this shot from Sergio Garcia yesterday. Ball landed in the tree. So, Sergio climbed the tree, somehow successfully hit it back into the fairway. That tree was not a safe place to be later on as severe thunderstorms rolled through Orlando, postponing the final round until today.

This must be the year of the half-court shot. Last night, a fan was picked out of the crowd at the Thunder game to take a shot for $20,000. He nailed it, gets tackled by Kevin Durant. To see the entire video, head over to

The Miami Heat streak continues. They beat the Bobcats last night for their 26th win in a row. They're now seven wins away from tying the all-time record. The Heat will drop that number to six tonight when they play at Orlando.

BERMAN: Is there any better story than Florida Gulf Coast right now?

HARLOW: No, there's not.

SCHOLES: Can't be. It is absolutely not.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks a lot, Andy Scholes, Bleacher Report.

Next on "STARTING POINT," we are watching for a decision in the Amanda Knox case. Will she be tried for murder again?


HARLOW: And that will do for EARLY START. Thanks so much for joining us on your Monday morning. I'm Poppy Harlow. "STARTING POINT" begins right now.